The amount of places, people, religions, and just overall things to learn about in Israel is truly fascinating.
Last week, I went on a day trip to Haifa, a northern Israeli port city set on the slopes of Mount Carmel facing the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Tourist Israel website, some say it’s the Israeli version of San Francisco, which is an interesting yet somewhat accurate comparison! While in Haifa, I visited the Bahá’í Gardens, the Ahmadiyya Temple and a Druze village. The Bahá’í Gardens is located on Mount Carmel and is the most holy site of the Bahá’í faith. Walking down hundreds and hundreds of steps to then reach the gold-domed Shrine of the Báb was quite the time. Let’s just say that had I known I would be walking fully through the gardens (about 700 steps and tons of little pathways), I definitely would’ve purchased a Fit Bit in advance! The two other religions we learned about were also extremely interesting and different from what I’m used to. I love being Jewish and I’m very prideful of my religion but I also love hearing other people’s stories and learning about how their religions play a part in their daily lives.
Upon our arrival back to Jerusalem, a group of friends and I had such a nice Shabbat evening going to services and having dinner at the home of one of the Rabbis of our program, Rabbi Todd Zeff. Although I knew the flow of the Shabbat service and had been reciting those prayers for years and years at summer camp and youth group conventions and with my family, I wasn’t very participatory that night because I just loved looking around and observing everyone else. After services, we joined Rabbi Zeff and his family for Shabbat dinner and had such a lovely night with the most delicious home-cooked meal. I truly felt at home just by being there and being surrounded by such caring and loving people!
The next night, a big group of us in my program went to a concert put on by Shalva, the organization in Israel that supports individuals with special needs that we had previously visited. The concert was adorable and just so much fun. We sang and danced around for hours and had a great night with great people!
We also started a home-made tefillin making project with Rabbi Noah Greenberg, which has been an incredible experience already. Tefillin are Jewish phylacteries, a small black leather box containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. Although I have never worn tefillin, I’m very excited to have my own pair, especially one that I spent the time to make and learn about along the way.
Although these past few weeks have been long days of strictly Hebrew learning, I’ve really enjoyed improving my Hebrew and learning the language in depth. Our intensive Hebrew class, Ulpan, officially ended a few days ago so I’m excited to get going with my normal schedule of classes! After finishing Ulpan, we visited Mount Herzl and Ammunition Hill and ended the day with a gorgeous overlook behind the amphitheater on campus. The day was focused on helping us understand why soldiers put their life on the line for Israel. Going to the army here in Israel is mandatory; people don’t have an option to join the military, they just have to. Aviv Vishkovsky, our tour guide, shared many individual stories with us at Mount Herzl (the site of Israel’s national cemetery) and Ammunition Hill (the site of one of the fiercest battles of the Six-Day Way that is now a national memorial site) about IDF, Israel Defense Forces, soldiers and many others who sacrifice their life for the State of Israel.
Overall, I experienced so much this week, as always. I feel like I truly shifted my lens this time around and saw/learned about things in such a different way than I had in the past; it was amazing!
Stay tuned for more 🙂