Last week was a jam- packed week with activities every afternoon. I had an internship meeting, spent an afternoon in the Shuk, visited the Israel Museum (must go back soon), and reunited with one of my former Roshes (group leader) from Camp Ramah. Immediately after class on Thursday, my best friend and I headed to the central bus station to board the bus to Haifa for our first mini vacation. After two weeks in Jerusalem it was time to explore some of the other cities that Israel has to offer. While we were on the bus to our guest –house/hotel/hostel, I saw a decorated menorah on the sidewalk and just as I was about to tell my friend how cool that was ( yes, I have a minor obsession with Judaica artwork and yes, I know Hanukkah ended weeks ago), I realized it is totally normal. I’m in Israel. I guess it really still has not sunk in that I am actually in Israel (or even that I am here for school). This weekend allowed me to get out of the so called “Jerusalem bubble”, see some new sites, become more experienced with Israel’s public transportation, as well as reflect on the past few weeks. In doing so, I concluded that my 5 senses: hearing, taste, sight, smell, and touch each continuously play a huge role in my everyday life allowing me to explore, appreciate, and better understand Israel and Israeli culture. With this being said, I present to you my 5 senses of Haifa with bits and pieces of Jerusalem:
Hearing: From the Israeli music in the cafes to hearing Hebrew in restaurants or in passing in the street, I just love every minute of it. While I understand only minimal amounts of Hebrew, it is just fun to be constantly surrounded by the language. I really can’t wait until I have some readings and papers to write so I can go sit in some coffee shops while listening to the random Israeli music playing. I also have encountered a few language barriers with Israelis who don’t speak English and ask me questions on the street. Sometimes I am able to help, but if I’m walking around Haifa with a massive backpack and a shirt that reads “Indiana University”, do I look like a native?
Taste: Well, to say the least, the food here is incredible. After we checked into the guesthouse this weekend, we asked the receptionist for a good restaurant that had some vegetarian options. Please note we were staying on a strip with about fourteen restaurants so when the man gave us the name of a place, I was convinced that they had some kind of deal and he recommended the place to all of the guests. Little did I know, that Fatoush would become one of my top favorite restaurants. We liked it so much that we went back the second night for drinks and dessert. Aside from Haifa, there are no complaints in the land of fresh fruits, vegetables, and endless amounts of eggplant. **One thing, I do miss pineapple. Mom and Dad, bring some in March?
Sight: While in Haifa we walked around many neighborhoods (encountered a strange flea market), toured the Baha’i Gardens, Hafia Children’s Museum, Haifa Art Museum, Artists Home, and the Hafia Museum. The gardens were beautiful and learning about the people of the Bahai faith was also very fascinating. My favorite exhibit from the art museum was by Batia Shani. Read more about Batia and her interesting work here:
All of my touring and sightseeing in Jerusalem has also been great. I definitely have succeeded in leaving the campus everyday to explore. Also, one of my friends from IU has been in Israel the entire year and just returned from his winter break of traveling (hallelujah). I’m so lucky and happy that he is here and can’t thank him enough for taking me on some adventures.
Smell: I can’t get enough of the incredible smells that exist basically anywhere and everywhere that I go. While we were walking around Haifa, I was so close to inviting myself in to some of the nearby apartments as amazing aromas were radiating from their windows. I also love the smells of my morning coffee shop and the walk from the light rail to the Shuk. The sweets and unique spices are very rare and special to Israel and easily enhance my day.
Touch: This might be a stretch, but here it goes. This weekend I was so fortunate to meet so many warm people who helped us out on our journey. This was a last minute trip so not much planning was involved (kind of shocking since I’m a planner, but last week was just so busy). From the mother and daughter who told us a better stop to get off at on the equivalent of the Haifa light rail to the mother and son who invited us to join them at an opening exhibit at the children’s art museum and explained to us what the artist with the 3D printer was saying, and then to the aroma barista who served us coffee before they officially opened (sorry, lock your door if you aren’t open), I was reminded just how many awesome people are in this country. Side note: we did accidentally walk into the home of the guesthouse we were staying at thinking it was the hostel. The family was sitting in the living room eating a fruit dish. Their faces when we entered their house were priceless and it was confirmed that we were not the first ones to mistake their home for the guesthouse. Thanks to the Haddad family for their hospitality.
Overall, this weekend was much needed and very relaxing (even though I returned to Jerusalem super exhausted from the endless amounts of walking and early mornings). When we got back,I felt a certain sense of comfort. It might be that Jerusalem is starting to feel like home, but I instantly felt different than I did in Haifa. I am looking forward to planning some more trips around Israel as well as finalizing spring break plans. Great news- only THREE more days left of Ulpan, ONE week until classes start, and about 4.5 weeks until the parents arrive!!!! That’s about all for now so until next time….xoxo