Winter Trip 2010: Post #4

There is a lot to update here.  The past (almost) week has been busy and a lot of fun.  I’ve really been enjoying myself.  Right now, there is a major storm in Israel with high winds and rain.  It seems that winter has finally arrived (very late and after a long drought) and did so almost over night.

Tuesday

Tuesday I woke up in Jerusalem and then got on a bus to Be’er Sheva. (I feel like I did something in the morning that I cannot currently remember.)  While waiting for the bus , I met some Israeli kids who started asking me about American movies.  It was pretty amusing.  After getting to Be’er Sheva, I met my friend Ella (from Denver and on the Overseas Program at BGU) and we caught up.  I went to a class with her on collective memory and then we went to dinner at a new shwarma/falafel place nearby.  After dinner, we went to a Chanukah Party held by the Overseas Student Program where we lit candles, sang songs, ate food, played dreidle, etc.  After the party I moved my bags into a room in the dorms that they had arranged for me and then went to meet Na’ama who was a counselor on my USY program when I was in Israel in 2005.  We had 5.5 years of catching up to do.

Wednesday

My 23rd Birthday!  It was a good one.  In the morning, I went and saw Ora, my Hebrew teacher from my time at BGU.  I then went to a class with Ella on Talmud stories in which we discussed Chanukah.  Then, we went to lunch at Lemongrass, a Kosher Chinese food restaurant on campus.  After lunch, I checked a few emails and then in the afternoon we explored the Old City of Be’er Sheva and went grocery shopping.  We made latkes (from scratch) and had them with animal shaped shnitzel for dinner.  It was not fancy, but was great fun – especially when this nice lady argued with the person at the checkout to give us a sale price on the shnitzel.  It was a good dinner next to the menorah for the last night of Chanukah.  After dinner, I walked to the BIG and ONE Plaza, malls in Be’er Sheva to explore and then came back to meet Ella.  We had pie and then went out to some of the pubs around campus for a little while.

Thursday

Thursday morning Ella and I went to the Beduin Shuk where we explored everything we didn’t need.  When she left for class, I walked over to the regular shuk and explored there as well as the Canyon HaNegev (The Negev Mall – Be’er Sheva’s big indoor mall).  I then met Ella for lunch and we got bagel toast.  After lunch, I explored the university – they made several changes.  I went back to the Old City and went to The Negev Museum, which I figured was about the desert.  Indeed, that was not the case.  Rather it was a small art museum, but the people were extraordinarilly nice.  I got frozen yogurt at Glida Be’er Sheva and headed back to the university.  I left Ella and went with Inbal, who was the dorms counselor when Iwas at Ben-Gurion.  She now works for Ayalim and I went with her as she showed a potential donor some of the villages in Be’er Sheva.  I saw areas of the city I never knew existed.  She then bought a sofa chair from some guy on the side of the street (pretty awesome) and we went to Ashalim, where she lives in a student village in the middle of the desert.  We made dinner, she showed me around, and I met some pretty cool people.

Friday

We woke up pretty early and explored a bit more.  Inbal then brought me to the bus station in Be’er Sheva and I fought the madness of tons of soldiers to force my way onto a bus to Jerusalem.  On the way back to Be’er Sheva, we passed several Beduin villages and I saw horses, camels, donkeys, and sheep.  Once in Jerusalem, I made my way to French Hill and the Romms where I relaxed, tried to catch up on email, and helped get ready for Shabbat (including making challah!).  We went to some great Kabbalat Shabbat services, came back to a good dinner, talked, and went to bed.

Saturday

We went to services in the morning and then returned to the apartment for lunch.  There is always so much food!  After lunch, we chatted, I read The Jerusalem Post, and took a nap.  When Shabbat was over, the computers came out for a bit and I tried to make some plans for Tel-Aviv.  We then picked up Dvora and Yair from his parents house.  I went along for the ride and had never realized how large Jerusalem really was.  My experiences seem to have always been limited to a few areas of the city.  When we got back, the table was set for a big dinner and apparently it was to celebrate my birthday all together!  They had even made a cake!  I was surprised and very happy.  We talked for a while and went to bed.

Repost of the “Right Time”

I am finally making plans for my trip to Israel and England this Winter Break.  It is unlike me to have bought a plane ticket without solid plans, but I did so as to not pay double the price.  Now, I am in contact with friends to develop my plan.  I came across the following post on my Facebook profile.  I got home from studying abroad on December 26, 2008.  I wrote the post on December 28, 2008.  As I think about where I am going to be in Israel, this post certainly brings back memories.

I am hoping for a great trip, without the worries this post describes.  Hopefully, new memories will be made and I can rekindle old friendships.

Coming Home at the Right Time or the Wrong Time?

by Joel Portman on Sunday, December 28, 2008 at 12:51pm

I got home from Israel on December 26. On December 27 Israel launched a retaliatory operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip for its rocket bombardments against Israeli citizens, including 80 rockets in one day. Hamas’ rockets can now reach Be’er Sheva, the city I was in.

Here is an email I got on the security situation from the Director of the Overseas Student Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev where I was studying:

Dear Students,
The semester is over and some of you have left Israel, others are still here for a while. As you probably have heard, a little more than 24 hours ago the Israeli Airforce began its bombardment of the Gaza strip. This is the first phase of a military operation that is intended to restore normalcy to the Jewish towns that are adjacent to the Gaza Strip. As I write this, casualties on the Palestinian side are upwards of 230, the vast majority of which are men in uniform. On the Israeli side there has been one casualty in Netivot and 4 injured there. There is no indication at this time as to the extent of this operation. The range of Hamas rocket attacks have expanded their range to include areas that have previously been unaffected: Towns of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rahat and as of this morning Beer-Sheva too, are now in the Home Front Command “at risk” category. This is not a cause for extra or new alarm, but for those of you who are still in Israel it requires the following awareness and know-how: If you can plan to be elsewhere in the country for the upcoming week (Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv or their suburbs) it is advised. If you are in Beer-Sheva or any of the other abovementioned towns and you hear a waving siren or a “code red” (“Tzeva Adom”) or big explosion search out and enter the nearest designated sheltered area (a “miklat” or “mamad” or “ezor mugan”). Most likely everyone around you will be hurrying to these locations. In their absence, go to internal rooms with fewer windows or staircases. Do not stay in a bathroom when a siren is heard. After five minutes it is permitted to leave the protective areas if no other instructions were given. To those of you who are still here I suggest all to get familiar with the instructions posted (in English) in the Home Front Command website at: http://www.oref.org.il/934-en/PAKAR.aspx There is good reason to be alert and informed, but there is absolutely NO reason to get anxious or panicky. If you are still here you have noticed that the Israelis around you are calm and they stick to their daily routines.

I urge you all to contact your parents and maintain in regular contact with them as they most likely are being informed by international news agencies (CNN and the like) which tend to paint a disproportionately dire picture of Israeli reality at times like these.
Feel free to contact me, Tzipi, Hila or Inbal with any question you may have.

All the best,
Shlomo

If you are interested in updates in what is going on, check out:
www.ynetnews.com
www.jpost.com

 

Brooke Depenbusch

Hmmmmmmmmmm

December 28, 2008 at 1:03pm
  • Kerrie M. Rueda

    Just glad you’re safe and sound. Looking forward to hearing about your amazing time in Israel.

    December 28, 2008 at 1:32pm
    Miles Brennan
    For the sake of science we need to test the association between your presence and peace in the Middle East: Accordingly, fly back to Israel, and see if the shooting stops
    December 28, 2008 at 4:12pm
    Tabi Southall
    Glad you’re safe Joel
  • December 28, 2008 at 6:17pm
    Barney Katzerman
    im at the airport now. Nitay and I went to the old city, apparently there were riots going on while we were there and didnt know it.  Glad to see your home. its really not as bad as it sounds, but a lot of ppl dont want their kids in uniform…
    December 28, 2008 at 6:45pm
  • Tess Cromer

    Wow, that’s intense…I’m so glad you are safely home.

    December 29, 2008 at 11:32pm
  • MASA Blog Post

    As I wrote yesterday, I have written a blog post for MASA about my experiences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.  The article has now been posted and is available here.

    Blog Post for MASA/JAFI

    As I have posted before, I studied abroad in Israel from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  The Ginsberg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering studying in Israel.  Be’er Sheva may not be the usual destination, but it is a great city and BGU is consistently ranked the top university by Israeli students.

    The Overseas Student Program (OSP) is also sponsored by two quasi(?) governmental organizations, MASA and the Jewish Agency For Israel.  These groups encourage students to come to Israel and even give scholarships to do so.  I was recently contacted to write a blog post for them about my experience.  It will be posted in the near future and perhaps may also be printed in a Jewish newspaper.  Here is the article:

    In 2005 I traveled to Poland and Israel with United Synagogue Youth (USY), one of two Jewish youth groups I was a part of, along with BBYO.  The five weeks I spent in Israel were some of the best of my life.  But it wasn’t enough.  I wanted more and I knew I would have to return.
    I spent five months studying at Masa Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  I attend the University of Denver where approximately 70% of the undergraduate students study abroad – so I knew I would be spending part of Junior Year in another country.  What country that would be was an easy choice.  I knew that I had to be in Israel.  The question was what school.  My options were pretty limited because of the University of Denver’s quarter schedule.  Nevertheless, I knew that there were ways to get around this.
    I was trying to decide between Hebrew University in Jerusalem or Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva.  I wanted to have the opportunity to explore Judaism while experiencing the “real” Israel.  I wanted to learn Hebrew and I knew that English was pervasive in Jerusalem.  Much to the surprise of almost everyone I knew, I chose Ben-Gurion.  It ended up being a phenomenal choice.
    I loved every minute of classes at Ben-Gurion.  Be’er Sheva is an amazing city, regardless of what anyone says.  The people are amazing.  Our first night there, about 30 lost Americans stood on the street corner trying to figure out where we were and how we could find someplace close by to eat.  A student came up and offered to make us pancakes.  We got to know him well over the next several months.
    I kept a blog for the summer to share my experiences and stories with anyone who cared to read them.  I made the following observations in my first real post:
    • There are a lot of stray cats (and some dogs) in Be’er Sheva.
    • The Israeli students are actually finishing up their semester with the next few weeks being their final period. Their schedule got messed up with two different (one professor and one student) strikes this past year. Many of these students will be moving out of the dorms. Their new semester will not begin until mid-November.
    • The school week in Israel is Sunday – Thursday. It is going to take some getting used to.
    These observations seem laughable now that I have spent time in Be’er Sheva and Israel for as long as I did.  There were so many meaningful things that happened.
    At home now in St. Louis, Missouri for the summer, I have been experiencing an extremely hot and humid summer.  The heat is familiar from Be’er Sheva, the humidity, not so much.  St. Louis is missing the sand though (which really gives the city some character).  The other day I was working in a building looking out at the sun and blue skies.  Someone mentioned spending time at the pool over the weekend and I flashed back to the days of Ulpan, when we would spend the afternoons at the pool, across from Mayonot Gimel.  We would swim, tan, or play volleyball and matkot (Israeli paddleball) with the Israeli students.  We were always welcomed and we began to feel part of the Israeli society.
    Back in Denver, I began to get involved in Israel advocacy and programming with student groups and formed relationships with StandWithUs and other organizations.  I took classes on the Israeli-Arab conflict and wrote my honors thesis on Israeli communities rising from discrimination to power.  As part of a liberal international studies program, I often found myself defending Israel, but I was always happy to do it.  I had immediately been a part of the controversy mix, returning to the United States just before my Israeli dorms were evacuated after being hit by a rocket from Gaza (don’t worry, there were no injuries).
    I knew that I would not be able to see everything that I had wanted to see during my five months.  I knew I would want to go back.  What was surprising though was how much of Be’er Sheva I did not experience.  Sure, I traveled and explored, but I always figured, “Be’er Sheva only has 200,000 people.  How much can there be here to do?”  Apparently, a lot.  I always said I would return to visit those small museums, but never did.  Hard as I knew it would be, I wanted to get up early on a Thursday morning to go to the animal auction at the Bedouin Market.  I missed it.  That is my only regret.
    My Masa Israel experience was amazing.  I would never have given it up for anything.  Now, I know that I need to return.  I hope to do so this December (when I can once again eat way too many sufganiyot! – jelly donuts).  Until then, I will think of Israel often.  See you soon!

    As you can tell, they edited it. 🙂 Once it is posted to their blog, I’ll be sure to share the link.