Tag Archives: Tel Aviv

Updates

4 Dec

It’s a rainy day in Haifa today but still lots going on. All this rain is killing my motivation so I figured it’s a good excuse to update my blog. This will be a random update of sorts so bear with me as I jump all over with topics.

  • I had an interview today with a potential internship organization. Apparently, I did okay since they hired me on the spot. I will be working with the Oral History Department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I will be working on a brand new archive of testimonies they just received. I will be writing abstracts on testimonies of people who were children during the Holocaust. Instead of being regular interviews – they are actually psychological interviews. I will be working on the testimonies from Haifa and then once a month, I will go to Jerusalem to work in the archives on campus. The lady that interviewed me also offered to be my thesis advisor if I wanted. I am thrilled to pieces at this placement, as only a Holocaust scholar could be. She is emailing me my first testimony later this week.
  • I have been floating many ideas for my thesis and several big papers I have coming up. I have been all over the map with ideas lately. Being immersed in a topic like this is so fascinating and at the same time I’m constantly distracted by another potential topic. The focus on children during & after the Holocaust has been a new interest since arriving here. To give you an idea of the various things I have been thinking about – here is a simple list of topics I’ve thought about in just the last few days: the railway system as a tool for the Nazis, persecution of freemasons, non-Jewish Poles killed by the Nazis and psychology of the resistance. So. Many. Possibilities. The hard part is finding an angle where I can use my English. My German is still shaking enough yet that I couldn’t rely on it for reading original documents. Thus, I need documents that have already been translated or another way to focus my interest.
  • I’ve been talking to many very homesick friends here this last week. So far, I am still hanging in there. I miss people more than I miss home. That means pack your bags and come visit me, people! Ha ha! The harder thing to deal with for me is new levels of communication. It sounds obvious but when I’m home I can talk or see people whenever I want. Being here – with the time difference & busy schedules – it makes it harder to connect with some people. I’ve been learning the tough lesson that not everyone is willing to make a effort to keep in touch. I try not to take it personally but it is a hard pill to swallow.
  • Our program is giving all the students a Christmas/Hanukkah present next week. They are taking us to see Cabaret in Tel Aviv on the 15th. I’m really looking forward to it. And I’ll apologize to everyone now for all the singing I will be doing once all those songs get stuck in my head…!
  • Hanukkah starts on Sunday so we have that day off from classes. A classmate is planning a big party for all of the international students. Hanukkah is not that big here, as it is in the US. It’s a minor holiday here. The Arab neighborhood begins their Holiday of Holidays this weekend which will help me find my Christmas spirit. As of now – it doesn’t feel like Christmastime whatsoever. Except for the Christmas tunes I’ve been rocking out to as I study.
  • I’ve reached the halfway point of my first semester and it feels like time is flying by. It also feels like I’m quickly running out of time. Now that I have an internship to add into the mix and we start volunteering tomorrow – busy, busy! I have to write three very big papers for various courses this term so even though I’m leaving campus for several weeks between semesters – I will still be working on school. No rest for the wicked.
  • Yesterday, I was interviewed for a new promotional video the University is doing for our Holocaust program. It was fun to do but watching the playback was painful. I felt like a fool seeing myself. We will see how it’s all edited and then I’ll decide if I’ll post it here later.
  • I am hoping to escape Haifa this weekend since I wasn’t able to leave last week. The weather might be a hindrance though given it’s supposed to keep raining from now until next Tuesday. Since a few friends (& family!) mentioned worrying about me and where I head – I’m not going to say where I’m going until after I return. Don’t worry Mom & Aunt Helen – Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria are definitely NOT on my list! And honestly, I’m not ever going to travel somewhere that I feel is unsafe.
  • And finally, I had a very funny moment at the grocery store recently. As I previously mentioned, sometimes the deli and meat counter at the grocery store can be a bit intimidating given my limited Hebrew. I have slowly worked out who speaks English and who doesn’t. One day, I decided I wanted to make spaghetti with a bolognese sauce so I needed ground beef (mince to you Kiwis & English reading along). I knew from past experience the butcher was a very cranky man who spoke no English and who didn’t appreciate my lack of Hebrew. I had yet to recover from our last encounter when trying to buy chicken. There may have been charades involved. Which although amusing to the lady giggling next to me…had zero affect on Mr. Grumpy. He rudely shooed me off until I could find someone to help me translate what I wanted. I was filled with anxiety knowing I’d have to face him again but my love of good spaghetti outweighed my fear. I carefully researched the word in Hebrew for ground beef and 500 grams then painstakingly wrote it down. I had two classmates approve it first before heading to the store. As I approached the counter, I see it’s a new butcher who I’ve never met before. I hand him the paper and stand, biting my lip, waiting for him to shoo me off too. He squints at the writing – brings it closer to his nose, holds it at arms length, then brings it in again. I’m starting to panic and begin fishing my iPhone out so I can google translate the word again. Finally, he looks up and says, “So you want some ground beef?” in a perfect Brooklyn accent. *sigh* Oh Israelity…

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.

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.