Study abroad in Jerusalem

Study abroad in Jerusalem
Study abroad in Jerusalem

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Blogger: Aaron Abel

Aaron Abel is a student from Florida, USA. Aaron is doing a Gap-Year Program at Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Mission: Almost Impossible – Mea Shearim

One of the most valuable experiences I had in Jerusalem was actually an assignment from my Issues in Israeli Society teacher.  The assignment was to go into Mea Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, and buy a religious newspaper (extra points for bringing back a rare or extremely-religious paper).  When I came to Israel, I fully expected that Mea Shearim was one of the places I would never enter.  Why would I need to go there? Not only am I a secular Jew from the United States, but I would have stuck out like a sore thumb walking into there.  Nevertheless, Professor Kaplan gave me a reason to go.  Having never walked into an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood before and knowing only a little more than one semester of Hebrew language, I recruited my roommate from New York to go with me to get the newspaper. 
We took the bus over to the edge of the neighborhood, put on a Kippah, and began our search for the newspapers.  We walked by some really delicious-looking restaurants (and some not-so-delicious-looking restaurants), bakeries, grocery stores, Judaica stores, bookstores, and even mini-art galleries.  

However, there were no newsstands to be found.  My friend bought a coke, and we bought a garbage can for our apartment because there were so many stores with cheap items in Mea Shearim.  Along the way, we asked every store-owner where we could find a religious newspaper.  Each one had the same answer, “Just keep walking down a little further that way and go left.”  I really thought at some point that they were all just collaborating to send these naïve Americans on a scavenger hunt.  Finally, after walking just a little further and turning left into another store, we found three newspapers behind the counter.  Success!  We owe a great debt of gratitude to the grocery store cashier, bookstore man, and several random neighbors in the community for helping us make that final turn into the right store.

On the way back to school with two newspapers, a trash can, and bellies full from a home cooked meal at a Kosher meat restaurant, we were convinced that we were probably the only two people from our class who found newspapers in Mea Sharim.  After all, we had spent a good two hours walking around trying to find them.  We were going to be heroes, walking in with our four-days-late newspapers that seemed absolutely impossible to find.  When Professor Kaplan asked to see the papers, though, we were a little surprised when everyone held up the same two types of newspapers that my friend and I had bought.  Turns out, everyone else managed to find a newspaper in Mea Shearim despite the apparent lack of availability. 
The point of the assignment was to learn about the ultra-Orthodox population of Israel so that we could discuss issues in their society and between their population and others in Israel.  While I learned about the ultra-Orthodox in class following our excursion into their neighborhood, the newspaper hunt was more about exploring a part of Israel that I never thought I would enter.  It was uncomfortable at first not knowing what we were getting into, but as we walked around, it became easier to just take it in.  It was one of the first times since the beginning of my program that I really felt like I got out of my comfort zone, and it became one of my most memorable experiences. 

As I write this, I am snuggled up in my bed at the student village, sipping on hot tea with cough drops and a thermometer by my bedside. Unlike my previous, maybe slightly naïve misconception that it is simply impossible to get sick during your semester abroad, I am currently learning that unfortunately, that is not true. However, what are the two things that you want when you get sick? The first is obvious: chicken soup. Thankfully, the chicken soup supply is plentiful here, so no problem with that. The second is also pretty obvious: Home. This might seem problematic at first, as how can any other place truly compare to the one you grew up in? After 2 ½ months of studying abroad in Jerusalem, Israel at the Rothberg International School through Hebrew University, I am here to tell you with confidence, even in my germ-y state, that you can 100% fulfill the second criteria, because being a student at the Rothberg International School makes you feel at home. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Blogger: Patrick Golden

Patrick Golan is a student from the University of Texas. This year he is doing a semester abroad at the Rothberg International School, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

My Experience at RIS
Studying abroad in Jerusalem, Israel has provided me with the unique opportunity to take classes in a city where three major world religions hold sacred ties. In a place like Jerusalem, religion is politics and politics is religion. Learning how to integrate myself into a society that is so heavily influence by religion has been very difficult, yet very rewarding. Living here has enabled me to learn how to really take note of where people are coming from when it comes to tackling on divisive religious issues and understanding why one might view something in a particular way. As a non-Jewish American, I came to Israel in quite a neutral political state of mind. This allowed me to be open to meeting people from all sides of the aisle in regards to the current political situation in Israel and Palestine so that I could develop my own opinion on the matter. Being a narratively driven conflict, I found it to be very pertinent that I met all sorts of people here including Jewish Settlers, Palestinians living in refugee camps, Israeli journalists, and Israeli Political leaders from many different parties. It was very special learning material in class about this country’s historical and political situation, which I could walk outside and see in live action.

This semester I also worked for a nonprofit organization called Jerusalem Peacebuilders that aims to directly connects Israeli and Palestinian youth and adults in their home communities through youth and parent workshops, dialogues in public and private settings, field trips and summer camp, and community meals. I served as their social media and programs intern, while also serving as a teaching assistant for a leadership and peacekeeping course that was taught at a local Arab Muslim school in East Jerusalem.

I have enjoyed studying at the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University where I am taking an extensive amount of courses relating to Radical Islamic Movements, Jewish Philosophy, Israeli History, Hebrew Language Acquisition, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. I have been able to meet students from around the world that have challenged me to remain up to date on political and global affairs. Rothberg also provided us with amazing Israeli student mentors (madrichim) that  organized cultural activities and school trips for us to experience life in Israel on a more authentic and personal level. I was able to see the Dead Sea, Masada, Ein Gedi, and Mitzpe Ramon through these trips, and I was also able to learn a lot about what it is like to grow up and live in this country.

Studying here was such a great decision on my part, and I would totally recommend Israel to any of my friends back in the States as a place to meet amazing people and to truly grow as a person.