The Itch

25 Nov

ImageSo given the crazy security situation in the last few weeks, coupled with trying to get my head around being a student again – I haven’t gotten out of Haifa as much as I’d like. In fact, all my time that I’ve spent on campus in the last two weeks have left me incredibly stir crazy! Yesterday, after studying for two days straight – I was ready to start talking to the walls in my room. I am dying to go explore somewhere – see something new – and leave my books behind for a few days! 

This coming weekend, the International School has organized a camping and hiking trip that will also take us to the Dead Sea. I am strongly considering this – though I’m fearful it might be too cold to float in the Sea. It’s only $100 for two days and everything will be taken care of for us. My other option is going with a few friends to Jerusalem for the weekend but we have a friend’s birthday party on Thursday night that we don’t want to miss. Since Jerusalem basically shuts down solid on Shabbat – it doesn’t make sense just to go for Friday until sunset. We are now leaning towards going to Jerusalem closer to Christmas. We have also heard that Nazareth has a great Christmas market throughout December – we’d really like to experience that. 

I have booked a trip to London and then home for February. We have six weeks off between the fall and spring semesters. I’m so excited to see my friends in London and help celebrate my friend, Elle’s return to New Zealand. After that, I head to Reno for a few weeks to enjoy time with friends and family. 

It seems like this semester has slipped away from us. As a grad student – it’s so easy to get buried in your books and research – you need to make a effort to get out there! Last night over dinner, two friends and I pulled out our calendars and started making plans. Akko, Nazareth and Jerusalem are in our sites before the end of the semester. We’ve only got December and January remaining. Lots of looming deadlines but plenty of time to squeeze in some fun!

Thanksgiving – Israeli Style

24 Nov

Here in the dorms we have several people whose jobs are to keep the students entertained. In Hebrew, they are called Madrichim but they are basically social directors. They organize field trips, they have movie nights and they host meals at least once a month. On Thursday, they hosted an American Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, I am making a “national” distinction given we have Canadians here too who are sensitive that their own Thanksgiving was ignored and given that we walked into the dorm club to find the room had been decorated in an overwhelming amount of red, white and blue.

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Fourth of Ju…wait…Thanksgiving!

It was immediately apparent that our lovely social directors wanted us to feel at home and went to great effort to recreate such a sacred holiday…without actually consulting any Americans. From the strings of flags flying above our heads to the loud country music blaring on the stereo – it was Americana at it’s best. Yet, it wasn’t cheesy – it was touching.

The food was tasty – turkey, rice stuffing, lots of salad (to be expected here), green beans, corn, mashed sweet potatoes, red wine – they even had a version of pecan pie with a shortbread crust, toasted nuts all covered in dulce de leche. Yum! The International School Dean lead us in prayer and a small cheer for the cease fire before we dug in.

I sat with several friends from my department, as well as my roommate, Davie and some other friends. Our little group was composed of people from Canada, Poland, Columbia and from people all across the US – Iowa, Rhode Island, California, Arkansas and of course, Nevada. As we ate, we discussed prior memorable Thanksgivings – I told the story of Thanksgiving when I studied abroad in Germany and last year when I made dinner for friends in London. We talked about our Thanksgiving traditions at home and what our loved ones would be doing for dinner that night. Finally, our little group decided to list out what we were thankful for. There were many mentions of the cease fire, the Iron Dome and tasty, FREE food. I was one who listed the cease fire. As we continued to eat, laugh and grow more and more red cheeked from the free flowing wine – I found myself sitting back and watching everyone interact. Then I realized what I was actually most thankful for this year was this little group. Though I may be far from home and friends and family – I have carved my own little family here in Haifa. These are the people I depend on, who I’ve laughed with, who I’ve cried with and who make my time here so much more fun. I have no doubt that someday I will be sitting at another Thanksgiving table wistfully telling the tale of the time I spent Thanksgiving in Israel surrounded by flags, friends and “America, the Beautiful” blasting on the radio.

The Current Situation

16 Nov

Well, I had planned to cover the topic of security in Israel at a later date but current events have tipped my hand. I will not get into the politics of what is going on – that’s a far deeper topic than anything that needs to be posted here. First and foremost, I want to reassure you that I am okay and I am safe. Living in Haifa puts me about as far away as you can get from Gaza. We had a mandatory meeting with campus officials on emergency protocols yesterday. The US State Department has been in contact with instructions too. We have been asked not to travel for now and to stay close to campus. Campus officials feel confident that we will be safe here in Haifa but plans have been put into place in case we do need them. In the meantime, they encouraged us to go back to our regular routine as best we can.

I have to say, the mood here is absolutely surreal. Last night, I made a massive pot of spaghetti and fed a herd of people. As we laughed and ate, it was unreal to think that just south of us people would be spending the night in bomb shelters. Despite the fun, everyone kept a close eye on the news too. Around 11 pm, a spontaneous dance party started next door to us and lasted most of the night as people looked for an outlet to blow off steam. For Israelis, this is not the first or last time they have had to deal with this type of situation. There is an air of stoicism about the conflict – like the stiff upper lip of the English during the Blitz of London. At the same time, people are still living their lives. A friend who was in Tel Aviv yesterday when the bomb sirens went off for the first time since the Gulf War in the 90s, was shocked to walk past salons and bars just an hour later and all were filled with people doing their regular Thursday night activities. Though I have to say, most Israelis I talked to yesterday were stunned that Tel Aviv was targeted. This is the first time the center of Israel has been on alert – despite the bombardment Southern Israel has faced for weeks.

Our Holocaust Program Director and many of our fellow students have gone out of their way to reach out to those of us who are international with no family here. Our Director is hosting dinner tonight at her house for us. She said she wanted to do it not only to feed us but to surround us with love and support. Another student offered to let us stay the weekend with his family on his kibbutz north of Haifa. Another classmate contacted me to make sure I had plenty of food and to see how I was holding up. When you are on the other side of the world, experiencing such a remarkable situation, these small acts mean more than you know.

And so we live our lives in Haifa. All watch the news. Many friends in the reserves are preparing to be called up. As I have mentioned before – I have a paper due tomorrow. To honest though, I am having a very hard time peeling myself away from the news to read about the Yugoslavian Civil War – let alone write a paper about it.

Elephants in the room

7 Nov

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There are a few topics that I feel like I’m ready to talk about and should talk about – mainly, I’m talking about some of the elephants in the room. Topics like do you feel safe in Israel? What’s it like being a non-Jew in a Jewish state? What are Israelis really like? You get the idea. I’m not going to talk about all of them at once otherwise I’d have a mega post and you’d be bored out of your mind. Instead, I will pick a topic once in a while and tackle it. Today: what it’s like being a non-Jew in Israel. I want to preface this with – these are my views, based on my own experiences. I have put a lot of thought into this topic and how to approach it without coming across as judgmental. I hope I was successful in this goal.

For the most part people are surprised to discover that I’m not Jewish. That’s because the natural assumption is most people who come here are. Usually, as soon as I identify myself as non-Jewish, the next question is – “Are you super religious?” Again, this is a natural assumption given there are many pilgrims from other religions who come from all over the world in order to be in the Holy Land. This question then leads to the inevitable question of “Well, what religion are you?” Honestly, I never really know how to answer this question – even at home. I grew up in a house where my parents took me to many different churches over the years. I often went to church with friends as a child too and it never mattered if it was Baptist, Catholic or Mormon. The church that I have chosen to attend the most as an adult is non-demoninial. It’s Christian based but it does not have a label and I like that about it. So when confronted with the religious question, I usually just say Christian and leave it at that.  

I am studying for a Master’s degree in Holocaust Studies. When people hear what I’m studying – they are even more stunned that I’m not Jewish. During our first two days, we had a symposium where the main goal was team building. When it came out that there were four of us in the program who weren’t Jewish – the reaction was priceless. They could not believe that three Catholics and a mutt like me would ever be interested in this topic. This feeling of shock was quickly overtaken by absolute respect. I cannot tell you the number of times someone has gone out of their way to thank me and tell me how amazing it is for a non-Jew to study this topic. This includes people outside of my program too. People are very genuinely curious about this “quirk.” I’m still overwhelmed and honestly, kind of bothered by this reaction. I tell people all the time about how many people I know who are also deeply interested in this topic – none of them Jewish – and they are always shocked to hear this. I’ve tried to explain to people that you don’t have to be Jewish to be interested by a time where humankind & common decency took a left turn to horrific ends. I just have to remember that many people – regardless of their background – see life through a different lens. It’s interesting to realize that just by being here, I’m not only educating myself but also Israelis to a broader world view. 

I will say there are times when I am involved in a conversation or listening in class and I have an opinion about something but I don’t feel comfortable expressing it given that I’m not Jewish. For example, recently we had a reading for one of our classes that focused on the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. This author looked more on the whole of the community and even went on say that there were many victims during the occupation including innocent Germans who were murdered after the war, just for the crime of being German. This lead to a conversation about rather identifying multiple victims, especially Germans, “downgraded” the victimhood of Jews. I did have an opinion about this topic but I did not feel there was a way to express it without coming across badly. I waited until another classmate, who was Jewish, to express similar ideas. Then I felt comfortable saying something. Is this fear of speaking out a product of growing up in politically correct America?  Or is it just an abnormal sensitivity to an issue that only exists in my mind? I’m not really sure. Do I really feel like my classmates would have a bad reaction to my opinions? No, I think for the most part our group is a “safe” place to speak freely. It is my own confusion about this gray area that keeps my mouth closed. Given that I am just finding my feet here – I don’t feel comfortable yet in being able to judge a situation for openness.  

I tend to freely ask questions about anything Jewish I don’t understand and so far, most people are more than happy to help educate me. I have never once been made to feel uncomfortable for asking a question on that topic. The few bad reactions I’ve faced have been focused on my not speaking Hebrew and that has little to do with my faith. 

Overall, I have to say people are respectful and open to the fact that I’m not Jewish. They are genuinely interested in hearing my thoughts about being an “outsider” here, especially since so many people are immigrants themselves and were outsiders in their home countries just by being Jewish. I’ve had some fantastic conversations about that. At times, I do feel like a bit of a curiosity. There is a security guard who works the security checkpoint at the dorms that cannot get over the fact that I’m not Jewish. “Your name is Mary Ruth and you aren’t a Jew?? Are you sure? Jesus’ Mom was a Jew with that first name!” I take his gentle teasing in stride – it doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel like I can speak for anyone that’s in similar shoes but for me – I have no problem being a non-Jew in Israel. It has lead to many interesting discussions, some curious reactions and overall it’s been eye opening in a good way.

Do you have any topics you’d like me to cover? Any questions I haven’t answered yet? Let me know in the comments.

Tel Aviv

6 Nov

Just a pictorial overview of my quick trip to Tel Aviv. You can click on each photo and it will get bigger. There is a description included too. I took the train down Friday morning and stayed until after breakfast Saturday. I would have liked to stay longer but I had a mountain of homework to plow through. I had a great time visiting an old friend from home though. Thanks David for the insider’s view of Tel Aviv!

Another Week Gone

1 Nov

Well, another week has zipped by me. It’s been a good but productive week. I’m amazed by how much Hebrew I’m picking up just being surrounded by it. This week alone I’ve learned (& been using!) the Hebrew words for – excuse me, I’m alright, yes, no and latte (super important!). I keep a running list of words I’ve learned on the notepad on my iPhone so I can refer to them as needed. I’m slowly improving. Each trip to the store or shuk is getting easier. I was overwhelmed my first time at the grocery store but I’m learning my way through the store, learning which employees will begrudingly (at times) speak English to me, etc. I’m feeling okay. Though I had a hilarious encounter at the pharmacy trying to ask if they had flat irons. I was reduced to charades and repeatedly clamping my hair with my hands in an effort to mimic the iron. It was quite the scene. I try to pepper my English with the little Hebrew I do know. I’m a very enthusiastic thanker, I’ll have you know! Ha ha! Slowly but surely…

Between being surrounded by Hebrew, taking intensive German and sitting in on a Yiddish class — my English is suffering. Due to having so many non-native English speakers in our classes I’ve already slowed down my rhythm of speech and automatically switch to less slang and simpler words. I’ve even caught myself doing the classic…”Uhhh…how do you say…?” thing that is nearly universal with all non-native speakers trying to remember vocabulary. You are required to snap your fingers too as you say this, in an effort to engage your brain. I know everyone who works in International Education is familiar with this concept (and have probably done it themselves!). Too bad, I find myself doing this the most when I’m speaking ENGLISH! So all this to say – no making fun of my English.

On Facebook, I mentioned how last week one of our Israeli classmates made homemade hummus and brought it to class. This week, another classmate brought in fresh chocolate chip banana bread (delicious!) and another brought in fresh picked avocados from his kibbutz. We are slowly being spoiled by our Israeli friends! Dinner invitations and holiday plans are being issued left and right. Our local friends are incredibly kind enough to include us in their planning – especially those of us living on campus. We are lucky and we know it.

I had a good chuckle early in the week when one classmate invited me to dinner with her son who is 23. She told me she wanted to invite the younger girls in the group to dinner with him. So I listed out the three girls who recently graduated from college. “And you too since you are young too,” she said. I laughed and said she should invite Victoria too (who only 3 years older than me) if she was being so generous about who was considered young. “No! I want young girls!” When I pointed out that the other three girls were a full decade younger than me and I was closer in age to Vicky – she was stunned. “No! But you have no wrinkles for being so old! You look so young!” I had to show her my passport for proof of my age. For the rest of class, she kept daring the Israelis to guess my age. Guess I don’t need to invest in wrinkle cream yet.

As we have “struggled” through various situations since we’ve been in Haifa my friend, Victoria and I keep finding ourselves saying in jest, “That’s just the Israeli way.” Things just take more time here – even simple stuff like standing in line to check out at the grocery store to more complex stuff like waiting for our financial aid disbursement. This morning, our friend, Nathalie took us to the main bus station to get an annual student bus pass after we were told the bus center on campus isn’t able to issue passes to students. It took over two hours to get our passe, several trips back and forth between the pass office and the main cashier booth, and getting passed through no less than four employees in the pass center. It was a mess but we eventually succeeded in our goal which we could have never accomplished without our ally and fluent Hebrew speaker, Nathalie. At one point, even she was getting frustrated with the hassle of no one knowing what to do with us. Finally, she said, “Aww, that’s Israelity for you!” We have a new term for “That’s just the Israeli way” – Israelity – it’s totally their own version of reality. This concept describes things perfectly! I love it and will use it from now on!

On Wednesday in our Research Forum we had an amazing guest speaker who talked about how her family saved many Jews by hiding them during the war. Her family had 12 members who took part in the Resistance in Holland but they never spoke about it until the 1980s and even then they were very resistant to speak. Each of them had no idea the others were also involved. They have all been honored as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem. Her parents alone took in a Russian family of three and a local dentist and hid them for five years. Keep in mind, they were also feeding six children of their own at the time! Her father was eventually arrested and died on the day of liberation from Auschwitz. One of her aunts took in several children and helped passed them through an underground network to get them to safety. Unfortunately, she only had two hours to tell us stories – I would have listened for as long as she wanted to tell us stories. She and her family were so fascinating. I really enjoyed having her visit us.

Finally, I am headed to Tel Aviv for the weekend to go visit my friend, David who lives there. I’m excited to catch up with an old friend and it’s nice to know that someone from home is so close by. I’m looking forward to getting an insider’s view of Tel Aviv too! I promise to post lots of pictures and tell you all about it.

Out and About

30 Oct

I had a very fun day yesterday exploring the local area. Before I jump into that – I know what you are thinking, “Doesn’t Mary ever go to school?” I promise you I do. I have classes all day Sunday and half day Wednesday. Right now, that leave A LOT of free time. Hence the excursions. But I promise I am still reading plenty and today I’ll be writing a response paper about a book I’ve been reading. It’s not all eating Bon Bons beachside, I promise! I will talk more about academic stuff after I tell you about yesterday.

Yesterday, my friend, Victoria and I took a bus to a small Druze village just north of campus. Since we didn’t have any classes – we decided to check it out. It’s literally maybe a 15 minute bus ride past campus. We had heard that it was a much cheaper place to buy stuff but not many students went that way. We jumped off at an interesting looking stop and just poked around. We stumbled across this store that from the outside looked ramshackled at best. We decided to go inside to see what they had. We discovered the neatest home goods store that was DIRT CHEAP. I bought two gorgeous Morrocan glasses for wine and a tiny handcrafted bowl to hold my earrings. I spent the equivalent of $7. I have my eye on an awesome, cuddly blanket that I may go back for! Especially now that the evening are getting so cool. Afterwards, we were kind of wandering when we could smell some food. We followed our noses to a hole in the wall restaurant above a shop. We weren’t even sure it was a restaurant at first because there was only a sign in the parking lot (a simple sketch of a fish and an arrow) but nothing on the door. Once we were assured it was a restaurant, they escorted us into the main room that had fantastic views of the whole village and all the way down to Haifa Bay. The only one waiter spoke English and he helped us. He explained that they did not have menus in English but suggested we have “a meat and a fish.” We agreed after pointing out we were grad schools and not entirely rich. He promised what he would bring would be very good but not expensive. He also explained that the salad course was free. That was perfect!

We were busy admiring the view when he walked up with our “salads.” He puts on the table eight little boats of various items – marinated zucchini, tuna salad, baba ganoush, roasted eggplant, crab, tahini, carrots in sweet chili sauce and more! Then comes a big plate with homemade hummus and several pitas, along with three mini salads. I would post photos but my internet is being dramatic – I will post some soon! We could have made a meal out of this alone. Then after we gorge ourselves on this – out comes a massive fish (we were able to piece together it was some kind of fresh snapper) and a big steak. It was all so, so good! We ate ourselves silly. After our food fest, the waiter brought us two large mint teas. He went outside, picked fresh mint, put it in our cups and then filled it with hot water. He brought a small plate with a few stems of lemongrass to add too if we liked. Even that was tasty! We were getting worried about how much everything would cost since we hadn’t seen a menu. We were stunned to discover this massive lunch only cost us around $23/person! I know that’s expensive for your typical lunch but I was still full at dinnertime and I have no desire yet for breakfast. He even packed up the leftovers for us to take with us – yay! I will be eating leftovers for a while. We literally waddled our way out of the restaurant. We were too stuffed to explore much more for that day. We headed back to Haifa to relax and do some more reading.

On an academic front – I had one new class this week – The Final Solution. It is being taught by the Senior Historian at Yad Vashem. I liken this to the Senior Art Director at the Louvre teaching art students. We are so lucky!! It’s a great class and I can already tell I will learn A LOT from this professor. He will make us work hard, but it will be worth it.

On Sunday, our Program Director, Yael brought in many people to discuss potential internship sites on Sunday evening. We have so many options! Many of the opportunities required language skills beyond English or Hebrew so they are automatically out for me but there are several I am incredibly interested in. The two I am most excited about are in Jerusalem. We will have funding for our transportation back and forth from Haifa to Jerusalem (or any other internship site) so that will help greatly. They only required a commitment of one full day a week and by bus, it’s a two hour trip each direction to Jerusalem. I can take my readings with me and do homework on the bus too. The first opportunity I am interested in is working with the Oral History Department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They just received 1,500 interviews of people who were children during the Holocaust and instead of being interviewed generally about their experiences – the interviews were conducted by psychologists. The interviews need abstracts done on them. It sounds incredibly fascinating. They have several other super interesting projects going on too that I would be happy to work on but this one really caught my attention.  The second internship I would like to do is working with Yad Vashem in the Righteous Among the Nations department. This is the area of the museum that concentrates on righteous gentiles. They desperately need researchers and transcribers. It’s right up my alley as far as my area of interest. They strongly encourage people with other language skills but I emailed the Director seperately and she assured me that they still had work for English speakers. We will see. I will keep you posted on where I get placed (we get to list our order of preference and when we’d like to intern – the actual placement is out of our hands).

Currently…

27 Oct

So as of today, I have been away (away is a term preferred by a good friend, he hates for me to say gone) for ten days. I am no expert on Israel by any stretch but I thought it would be fun to summarize my general feelings about how I’m feeling right now. For ease of collecting my thoughts, I’m going to use a style I’ve seen several other blogs use and that a friend recommended as a writing exercise – it’s best called “Currently.” I might do this exercise once in a while just to check in with where I am and what I’m feeling.

Currently…

feeling… a little quiet — I have a lot of reading to get through today so I’m trying to keep to myself so I can focus and get it done.

reading… four chapters of a book called “Prague in Black” about the siege of Prague during the Second World War. Okay, I’ll admit to catching up on favorite blogs and websites between chapters too.

researching… potential thesis advisors and what research has already been done in my area of interest. In case I’ve never said it – I’m most interested in the underground resistance, especially non-Jews who saved people from the Nazis or as they are referred to here in Israel – the Righteous Gentiles. I also have an interest in smaller minority groups who were also persecuted – Freemasons, Girl Scouts (did you know they were targeted? Yeah, exactly), and others.

longing… for some barbecue! Outside of the rainy, stormy weather we had yesterday – it’s been perfect barbecuing weather. I’ve been dreaming of tasty grilled burgers and beer brats.

laughing… at my friend, Victoria who was desperate for red meat yesterday so she went to a hamburger place near campus before Shabbat. She smuggled a slice of cheese into the restaurant to put on her burger. She said she was so jumpy and nervous that she couldn’t go through with it. She ended up having the waiter pack everything up for her and took it home so she could enjoy her “homemade” cheeseburger with no guilt!

looking… forward to learning more about internship opportunities tomorrow. I didn’t realize they were available to us. Though I don’t understand how we can do an internship at Yad Vashem (THE Holocaust museum in Israel) in Jerusalem when it’s a two+ hour train ride each way. I’m curious to hear more though.

eating… some fantastic fresh wheat bread packed full of pumpkin seeds that I bought at the shuk. It goes great with the cherry jam I bought there as well. It gets equally as well with cheese too! Shoot, now I’m craving grilled cheese sandwiches. Guess I know what I’m cooking for lunch!

hoping… that our crazy busy day tomorrow doesn’t kill us. Ha ha! On Sundays we have class from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Last week, it was broken up by a city tour. This week, we have a two hour break for a campus-wide ceremony honoring the death of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

contemplating… rather to do a thesis or the comprehensive exam. I thought I had mostly decided on the thesis but after having an extensive conversation with two friends last night after Shabbat dinner, I am rethinking my choice. I also peppered a good friend in the US, who is also starting her Master’s program, about which she chose and why.

drinking… more of my decaf instant coffee. I’m too cheap to get rid of it. And the more I look at it, the more I’m not entirely convinced that it is decaf. Maybe I should drink a ton of it and see if I get jittery. Ha ha!  I have also fallen in love with lemon mint drinks here. Always done fresh and so, so good!

missing… the friends and loved ones back home. Someone go pet my cat for me, please. And give my parents a big hug.

listening… to someone outside of my window softly playing their guitar. It instantly made me think of GC as soon as I heard it.

enjoying… the tradition of Shabbat. Last night the dorm Social Directors hosted a Shabbat dinner for the international students. They sang songs, explained the various blessings and served tasty food. Yes, it is a bit of a pain that everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) shuts down from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday but I do admire the concept of stopping in your hectic schedule to just enjoy the quiet and being thankful for what you have. I like the thought of preparing for your Shabbat meal – a large meal with friends or family – for days in advance rather it’s cooking or buying pretty flowers for the table. Granted, I do not observe Shabbat in the traditional way by not engaging in restricted activities like cooking or working. However, I just appreciate the thought of taking the time to enjoy a meal and the company of loved ones amid a typically crazy week. This a concept I hope to bring home with me.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

26 Oct

It’s a dark and stormy day here in Haifa. We had so much thunder and lightening last night – it didn’t make for the most restful sleep. At one point, there was such a loud clap of thunder that shook the building – I jumped out of bed and ran into the doorway because in my sleepy state, I thought it was an earthquake. The funny part was – two of my flatmates jumped out of bed too. We had a lovely 2 a.m. chat about the weather. Ha ha!  We currently have no power, though it flickers once in a while.

Outside of the rainy weather, all is well in Haifa. Yesterday, I went exploring with some friends. I ended up buying two pillows since the single one they provided when I checked into the dorm was incredibly flat! The two extra pillows were so nice last night – my new mountain of pillows was just what I needed. They were worth every penny!

After all our exploring most of the afternoon, my friend, Vicky and I went to a Halloween party hosted by the Haifa Young English Speakers group I joined before leaving the US. It was a fun group and we enjoyed meeting so many new people. The guy who hosted the party is actually headed to Reno tomorrow for a friend’s wedding! It’s amazing how small the world is.

Tonight the dorm social directors are hosting a Shabbat dinner for all the international students. I’m looking forward to seeing what Shabbat is all about. They are going to teach us the prayers they do too. It should be a nice evening. Outside of this, the majority of my weekend will be spend reading and catching up on homework. Fun, fun. What are you up to for your weekend?

Big Decisions

25 Oct

Things are going along well here. Yesterday, I had my first Research Forum (basically a program touchstone where they bring in guest speakers, we can talk about our thesis, take field trips, etc) and my first German class in 15+ years. Our German teacher seems fantastic. She teaches language in an entirely different way then I’ve ever been taught a language. I really enjoyed her class and I think everyone else did too. There was lots of laughing and joking but don’t get me wrong – she rammed in a lot of German too. 

Part of what we talked about in the research forum was about the decision rather to do a thesis or a final exam. I’m currently on the thesis track which means less classes now but requires working on a thesis at the same time. We also have the option of picking a subject of focus and taking a massive intensive test on it. That means more classes now and more papers due in each class. Basically, the thought process is if you ever want to go on to get a Doctorate, it’s best to do a thesis. If you just want the MA, than a final exam is fine. Honestly, I am still debating what to do. At the moment, I’m leaning towards the thesis track because I will be able to research, in-depth, the topic of my choice. The big catch though is we have to find a professor here at the University of Haifa who is willing to supervise us. It’s OUR responsibility to find and approach the professor. If they are too busy or uninterested, it doesn’t matter if they are the only professor working in their subject field, if they turn you down – you can’t do a thesis on that subject. It’s a bit worrisome. We have until August to decide which track to do but obviously, I need to make my decision MUCH sooner.

I think I will take this month to research my area of interest, see what has been done in the area, find if there are any professors on campus who have researched in that area and go from there. If it looks doable – I will stick with the thesis. It’s only a 70 page thesis – not including bibliography. The thesis proposal alone is nearly 15 pages. Given that for the thesis track – we also have to do two seminar pages of 30 pages each on the course of our choice, which can be focused on the subject of our choosing – it would be possible to have most of the thesis finished before ever leaving campus. I would have until November 2014 to turn in my thesis, however, I’d hope to have it completed much sooner! Decisions, decisions!

One thing I’m really looking forward to in the Research Forum is learning about internship opportunities on Sunday. I am very interested in doing an internship. They are bringing in a ton of people to talk to us about what’s available. In two weeks time, we will find out more information about volunteering, which is required for one of my scholarships. I think I will definitely be busy but I am looking forward to the challenge and finding my groove.