Tag Archives: Yad Vashem

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).


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.