Tag Archives: Shabbat


13 Jan

Breakfast at a favorite cafe in Jerusalem. Notice the salads!

Things I love about Israel:

  • Amazing salads. Salads are so pervasive here – they are even served at breakfast. I am 100% behind this concept. I’m talking about more than just the standard Israeli salad (tomatoes, cucumber, lemon juice), I dream of Bulgarian feta, fresh sweet peas, red onions, assorted greens and my new favorite spice – za’atar.
  • Massive breakfasts. Do you enjoy leisurely brunches where you graze for ages as you chat with friends? That’s pretty much any breakfast outing here. Whereas England is defined by the Full English Breakfast (something I have been DYING to have – soon!), Israel has it’s Israeli Breakfast which consists of many, many plates and bowls full of tasty things. Everything from Israeli salad to tuna salad to cheeses to fresh fruit. Don’t forget the basket of assorted fresh bread! And most restaurants automatically include a hot drink or juice of your choice with your meal. If you can walk away from an Israeli breakfast hungry – you fail at life.
  • Mint Tea. I love tea with only fresh mint in it. No tea bag needed.
  • Juice! My new personal favorite is a half orange juice/half pomegrante. So so good. Though give me a fresh squeezed lemonade with mint and I’m a happy camper too.
  • Okay, okay – there really is more to Israel than the food. Despite all my food talk. And photos. The People. As I mentioned in a previous blog post – I love the upfront, direct nature of Israelis. They are not a meek people. There is a popular allusion here that native Israelis are like the local plant, sabra (prickly pear). They are tenacious and thorny on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside. It is very true. It may take you a little while to make friends but once you do – you have a friend for life. They are emotional and not afraid to show it. They are all about touch – guy friends hug each other openly. A hand is almost always placed on a friend as you chat. There is a very strong sense of community here – unlike any other place I’ve ever lived. 
  • Shabbat. Though it can be a real pain to have everything shut down from sundown Friday until sunset Saturday – I really enjoy the concept of taking one day a week to stop, enjoy your blessings and eat with family and friends. Though I’m not Jewish – I enjoy the ritual of the lighting of the candles, blessing the bread and wine too. 
  • History. The history, the grandeur of the past can be seen everywhere you turn.  And, at the same time, you realize that you are a part of the history that is unfolding before your very eyes.
  • The Hebrew phrase – yiyeh b’seder. It translates to “it will be okay.” This is the Israeli response to just about anything life throws at you – Missed the bus? Yiyeh b’seder! Your dog died? Yiyeh b’seder! Rocket fire? Yiyeh b’seder! 
  • Cheesy pop music. I love that the randomest cheesy pop music is played everywhere. One day while having breakfast with a friend – the cafe went from Michael Jackson to Backstreet Boys to Wham. And no one batted an eyelash. Unfortunately, all this assorted music usually leaves me with silly songs stuck in my head at all times. 
  • Sports. I think it’s fantastic that a simple soccer game is more than just a group of guys kicking a ball. It’s politics, international relations and diplomacy all wrapped in 90 minutes. When a local team plays on an international level – it doesn’t matter if it’s soccer or basketball or what – the whole country stops to cheer them on. They are routing for the country of Israel as much as the boys out on the pitch.
  • Finally, I love this once in a lifetime experience. And I love even more, that it’s not over yet.


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.


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?

First Day

19 Oct

The view of the Mediterranean Sea from the classroom our symposium was held in. It was kinda distracting…

I had an early start this morning since we had a symposium at 8:30. It was basically an extended meet and greet ran by a lady who has a PhD in Genocide Studies. It was a very interesting day! The event was held in the tallest building on campus, Eshkol Tower…which also happens to be on the opposite side of campus from my dorm. At least I got to see most of campus on my walk over. Though I’m pretty sure I took the least direct route possible. It looks like a nice campus but I bet it looks differently during the week since most things were shut down for the weekend (weekends are Friday, Saturday here).

Today’s symposium was our first opportunity to meet the other students in our program. It is a very diverse mix of people. We have people from Israel, Poland, Belgium, Scotland, Canada, Columbia, Norway and the US. The ages range from 23 to the late 60s. We were told that there were nearly 300 applicants for this program but they only picked 30. Your guess is as good as mine on how in the world I made the cut! All but three of us are Jewish and I’d say a third of the students are international students like me. It appears only four of us are living in the dorms – the rest are either Israelis who commute or they have found their own housing through various websites.

We did several activities today – mostly centered on getting to know each other better and investigating why each of us are here. As you can imagine, many students have family members who survived the Holocaust. But there are just as many like me – who did not have family involved. The areas of interest are very broad and I’m sure will lead to great discussions in our classes.

The differences in our personal histories and the history taught to us was very clear early on. It was interesting to notice how people responded to these differences too. Unfortunately, it was a few Americans that handled these differences the poorest. Of the six Americans, four are fresh graduates from college (read: the youngest on the program). They were deeply offended when our professor talked about Winston Churchill leading the Allies in victory. They insisted that Roosevelt was the leader. They refused to hear anything different even when the professor pointed out the honest fact that England was in the war two whole years before the US joined. One very vocal girl threatened to walk out if this professor was going to continue “bashing Americans.” Outside of that it was a great day.

At the end of the symposium, we had to pack up very quickly to leave since Shabbat starts at sunset. Our professors and the building staff were anxious to leave in plenty of time to get home to their families. The Director of our program was very distraught to discover that most of the international students did not have anywhere to go for Shabbat dinner. She plans to arrange a place for each of us next Friday. That should be fun.

Back at the dorms – it appears that we only have four flatmates in our flat. I met another flatmate last night – Ariel, a Jewish girl originally from New York City but in the process of settling in Israel. All of us are Master’s students – Davy is studying Maritime Civilizations and the other two are doing Creative & Arts Therapy.

My bags are mostly unpacked though I definitely wouldn’t say I’m fully settled in. I’m planning a trip to the stores tomorrow night once they open after Shabbat. It just needs little touches like a bathmat, something for the walls, a small rug next to the bed. Simple stuff. And hangers are desperately needed for the closet! My room is kinda smelly (smells like feet!) and I brought a yummy smelling candle but I need matches. Though we were originally told we couldn’t hang anything on the walls – it’s clear that it’s a free for all for hanging whatever we want. I wish I would have realized that and packed more personal stuff. I do have several photos of friends and family which will be going up by my desk…as soon as I get some tape!

Tomorrow is mostly a free day – though the Social Activities Director is hosting breakfast and an Israeli movie in the dorm clubhouse. I’ve made plans with two of my flatmates to go shopping tomorrow…and to get my cell phone sorted out. Outside of that, I plan on reading the rest of my first week reading assignments and organizing my planner. Whew! I know – wild and crazy Mary! Don’t worry – I’m sure I will find some fun very soon.