Study abroad in Jerusalem

Study abroad in Jerusalem
Study abroad in Jerusalem

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Nick Meisl is from Rome, Italy. He was a student at the PBI (Pontifical Biblical Institute) Program at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This talk was given at the end of the program.

End of semester talk

"You are so lucky!"  This was always the response from my family and friends whenever I spoke with them about my time in Jerusalem. When they said this, initially I would want to answer with some explanation of how I have also had to study hard during this semester, but, in the end, I have to agree with them. We are all very fortunate to have spent this period living in Jerusalem and studying at the Hebrew University. We have just had an experience that many would dream of having but for various reasons will never get the chance. In preparing this talk, I asked my fellow classmates to share with me their highlights from this past semester. I would like to share some of these favorite experiences with you now. In Dr. Wazana’s class on Joshua, we spoke a lot about the triad of People-Land-God. I would like to relate the highlights of my classmates according to these three categories but with God replaced by teachers. Try not to read too much into it!


During our stay in Jerusalem we have had the opportunity to make connections with many interesting people from diverse backgrounds: Jews, Muslims and Christians.  For those of us who participated in the summer Ulpan, being in class with students directly out of High School helped remind us that we are not so young anymore!  As we spent time with our classmates, we began to learn something about their cultures, experiences and stories.  One strong experience for me happened at the closing party for our Ulpan program to which students were invited to bring a dish of food that represented their background.  One young woman in my class proudly brought in some fresh flat bread that her mother had baked for us over a charcoal fire early that morning.  She even showed us pictures of how it was made.  I was touched by the effort her and her family made to help us experience something of their culture.  We also had fun and humorous times with our classmates.  Someone reminded me of the time in one of our classes in which the Professor spent well over 40 minutes explaining a paper and its main points to us.  At the end, a student asked whether the professor agreed with the ideas in the paper. To this the professor responded, “I hope I agree with them! I wrote the paper!”  Many have remarked that we currently live in a world in which people are becoming more and more divided.  Because of this trend, I think that our program, in which we have been able to make many new connections with people from diverse backgrounds, is so very valuable and worthwhile.


Many of us have mentioned how wonderful it has been these past months to visit places we have wanted to visit for years: the old city of Jerusalem, Galilee, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea and so many others.  Jerusalem itself is an incredibly interesting city.  When I walked around the city, I often feel a kind of sensory overload that results from the blending of sights and sounds in a city that is sacred to different groups.  In one day, it is possible to hear the call to pray, a siren signalling the beginning of Shabbat and church bells intoning a Marian hymn.  While walking just a short distance through the old city it is not uncommon to see ultra-Orthodox Jews, Coptic monks and Muslims on their way to Al Aqsa.  We were also impressed by the nature and landscape of the land in all its diversity.  The stark beauty around the Dead Sea.  The long beaches around Tel Aviv.  The green, peaceful area surrounding the Sea of Galilee.  The dramatic hills and mountains in the Golan. 


While studying at the Hebrew University we have had the opportunity to be instructed by some truly talented teacher.  All had a great passion for their subject, impressive grasp of the material and the ability to transmit their knowledge to us.  Perhaps most impressive was the dedication our teacher showed to us their students.  One example that a classmate shared with me illustrates this well.  In class he was asked to read some of the works of Dr. Alexander Rofe.  Later in class he shared with his teacher how great it would be to meet Dr. Rofe in person.  Well, sure enough, his teacher not only invited Dr. Rofe come to the class, but he accepted the invitation!  During this semester, our teachers helped us not only to grow in knowledge but also to deepen our desire to study the Hebrew Bible.  For this we are very grateful.  On behalf of our group, I would like to thank all our teachers who instructed us this past semester.  In addition, I would like to express my gratitude to the rest of the staff at Hebrew University who helped organize this semester and guide us.  Without you we would all probably be still stuck at the airport!

On our first day of class with Prof. Fassberg, he gave each of us Hebrew names. In addition to being a fun activity, I think this is quite symbolic.  Names, as we know, are not just words, but rather express a real connection to the person who has the name.  As we leave Jerusalem, we bring with us our Hebrew names.  We are now connected to Jerusalem in a particular way.  The city and its people will from now on hold a special place in our hearts.  I think I speak for all of us when I say we hope to come back soon!  Thank you!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Blogger: Nessa Geffen

Nessa Geffen is from New York, USA. She studied at Hunter College in New York and was a student in the Spring Semester Study Abroad 2009 Undergraduate Program at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Micah Bookman is from Miami, FL. He studied at the University of Wisconsin and was a student in the Spring Semester Study Abroad 2009 Undergraduate Program at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Story: Was it love at first sight? 

Not exactly.
There is no doubt though that from the first time we met in Jerusalem, in the winter of 2009, there was a connection. It all started on the steps of the Beit Shmuel youth hostel when Nessa reluctantly let Micah help her with her bags. The next morning, as Nessa was getting ready to leave for the first day of study abroad orientation at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew U, with her friend Patti, they spotted Micah sitting alone eating his breakfast. When they asked if he wanted to share a ride to campus, he took a long look at his food and mumbled, "But I'm not done eating."
As our relationship developed during our time at Hebrew U, Nessa knew that there was something special going on. Micah, typically, was oblivious. Luckily we were a part of a great group of friends that stayed close, and were able to see each other several times the next year. When Micah went back to Israel to serve in the army, Nessa made a point to see him whenever she was there. Whether hanging out on the beach in Tel Aviv or in a Jerusalem coffee shop, we were always happy to be together and reminisce over old times.

We never could have imagined what was yet to come though. In April 2012, Micah was in New York for the funeral of his grandmother Lillian Bookman and reached out to Nessa. That short time together sparked a deeper connection that had us both wanting more. (Maybe it was the pastrami sandwich for breakfast that Nessa treated Micah to). After months of talking daily, Nessa visited Israel in October 2012 and there was no more denying it, we were in love. (Maybe it was the army uniform Micah was wearing when he picked Nessa up from the airport).
After 9 months of a long distance relationship, two years of living together in Jerusalem, and 9 months of living together in New York, Micah finally proposed! :) 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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.

Accidental Discovery

Some of the best experiences I have had while studying abroad at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem were the ones that I did not expect.  One time, I hopped on the 68 bus from the central bus station to get to school, but it was going the other way and I ended up at the other end of the city headed to the other Hebrew University of Jerusalem Campus.  It was certainly a memorable experience riding through places in the city I never knew existed while I made my way back to the right campus. 

Since things with the bus didn’t work out so well, I decided to try walking. After going to the Israel Museum with some friends on Saturday, we decided to walk to dinner instead of taking a taxi.  There is still much debate among us over whether we got lost or “took the long route” to get the restaurant, but we discovered a whole new part of Jerusalem on the way.  We found a huge park, and I finally realized where everyone in Jerusalem went on Shabbat.  

There was a mix of secular Jews, Orthodox Jews, and even some Arab-Israelis sitting on the grass, playing sports, and eating food.  In these two instances, I really did not expect to gain any meaningful experience in the beginning, but I came away with a better idea of the transport system and geography of Jerusalem.