Feeling Like A Local

It’s amazing how quickly one can feel immersed and welcomed into a foreign culture. Having been in Israel for two short weeks, it seems like I’ve lived here my entire life.

Ulpan (intensive Hebrew) began last week, and our teachers jumped right in. With barely any introduction or explanation as to what the course would be like for the next four weeks, my instructor was speaking fluent Hebrew to us within minutes of entering the classroom. After only two hours, I was picking up phrases like, “Ma shmech?” (What’s your name?) and “Ani lomedet ivrit” (I study Hebrew).

I must admit, the first few days of Hebrew were extremely overwhelming. Instead of taking baby steps to learn the language (i.e. first the alphabet, common phrases and eventually verb tenses), our teachers expected us to pick up on all topics during the first few lessons. In other words, without knowing how to write certain letters, we were asked to construct sentences and dialogues. Talk about frustrating!
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However, like all things, practice makes perfect, and by the end of the first week I was able to follow along with the teacher and start communicating with classmates. Moreover, the best part about being thrown into a language so quickly is reaping the benefits when you’re out and about. More recently, I’ve been able to talk to cab drivers, reason with salespeople and make small talk with pedestrians in passing. I still have a long way to go, but I feel way more comforted knowing that at least I’ll be able to find the bathroom (Eifo hasherutim?).

In addition to learning Hebrew, my friends and I decided to celebrate Shabbat together this past week. Instead of scavenging around town on Friday night looking for open restaurants (usually sushi or Italian), we cooked a traditional Shabbat dinner before sundown. That Friday afternoon we traveled to a few open markets to buy the freshest ingredients for our feast.
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Using our makeshift kitchens in the dorms (a hot plate and microwave), we had an array of fresh vegetables, salads, hummus and challah. It was delicious!
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Shabbat is a time to reflect on the past week and bond with close friends and family. Seeing that we’ve all become each other’s family, it was nice to take a break from the craziness of everyday life and just enjoy the company (and the chocolate rugelach, of course!).

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