It has been a month since my arrival to Israel. There is finally almost a routine to my pre-semester life here (Ulpan ends on Wednesday, and the semester will begin officially on Sunday). I wake up and make breakfast with two of my roommates (shout out to Megan and Mel), typically some variation of eggs, vegetables, pita, and hummus. Then we make the fifteen minute walk uphill to campus, where five hours of intensive Hebrew class awaits us. After class, there is either a Nachshon fellowship seminar or a free afternoon to grab groceries at the shuk, visit friends, do homework, or explore the city.
However routine the day can be, I’ve had so many fantastic experiences, I could write a novel already. But I’ve decided to spare you that, so here are the top five:
1. Israeli Basketball Game – If I thought the Florida Gator basketball games were intense, I may have been mistaken. The Nachshon Project took us to see Hapoel Jerusalem play Maccabi Rishon LeZion. Fans on both sides, dressed in either red or orange, were very vocal, singing and chanting and waving their scarves in the air. Each side even had fans with large drums they would bang at any given opportunity. Before the game we met with the “Jewish Jordan”, Tamir Goodman, who told us his amazing and inspiring story that landed him in Sports Illustrated, wrapped in t’fillin. After the game, we met with Tony Gaffney, a Boston native playing for Jerusalem, who got to share with us the love he had developed for this country.
2. Inspiring people – I’ve had the opportunity to meet amazing people, in my fellowship, in my Ulpan class, and in the community. For example, we got to meet with Rabbi Susan Silverman, the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, who is an amazing activist. We chatted with former AP reporter, Matti Friedman; Michael Yakobi, who runs social media for the Israel Defense Forces; and Rabbi Tamar Elad Applebaum, who spoke to us of her journey, her passion for learning, and the community she started in Jerusalem.
3. Weekends away – As much as I adore Jerusalem, the rest of the country is equally exciting to explore. I spent a weekend with some friends in Tel Aviv, enjoying the drastically different atmosphere (and the beach!). This past weekend, the Nachshon fellows traveled to Jaffa, where we got to meet with Jewish leaders from the Orthodox, Masorti (Israeli Conservative), and Reform movements. Next weekend: Eilat!
4. Shokoland Chocolate Festival – During our time in Jaffa, a few of us headed to the Old Train Station in Tel Aviv for my simultaneous chocolate-loving dream and lactose-intolerant nightmare. There were multiple warehouse filled with everything chocolate imaginable—chocolate-covered fruit, chocolate-dipped ice cream, chocolate truffles, chocolate shots (both alcoholic and syringe), chocolate iPhones, and even chocolate schawarma, shaved off a block of chocolate, and wrapped in a pancake.
5. The Old City – We finally got to walk around the Old City and explore. Not only did we get blessed by a Hassidic man (shout out to the future husbands he promised we would find!), Megan and I bought personalized matching silver rings from Hadaya, engraved with a quote in Hebrew that translates to, “Jerusalem reveals itself to those who love it.” Indeed, we have continued to find the beauty and fall further in love with this city, and it has shown us how fantastic it can be.