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Making Connections through the Ulpan

Here I am on this lovely morning watching the sunrise on Yom Kippur – 25 hours of atonement. For me, this is a time of reflection and gratitude.

Decorations in a succah in Jerusalem

At this point in the year, I have completed the Summer Ulpan, an intensive Hebrew language program, at the Aleph or beginners level and will begin the fall semester after Sukkot.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to come to Israel a week early to explore Jerusalem, meet new people, eat great food, and have fun adventures. I learned about Shabbat and Jerusalem’s tradition of honoring Shabbat weekly. Now, having completed the Summer Ulpan, I have had many basic conversations in Hebrew with taxi and bus drivers as well as other Israelis, allowing me to walk through the city with more confidence and grounding.

When I arrived on campus, the difficulty and duration of the ulpan was a shock for me, and I did not think I would be able to continue. But I overcame that first day and ended the ulpan being able to understand and speak Hebrew out in the real world. As an English speaker with a little bit of French under my belt, I was able to push through and, in fact, tap into my French again, which I had not used since high school.

Through the ulpan, I made connections with people I can now call friends and had amazing teachers who were able to get us through more than half the textbook in just under a month. At the same time, I was able to absorb and practice the information learned in class while in the city. Even as this was difficult for me in the beginning, as I was retraining my brain, I came out with an expanded mind.

With this awakening of the language part of my brain, I have also found enjoyment in expanding my knowledge through some interesting books on campus in English, French, and Hebrew.

So far, my experience in Israel has been truly unique and special. I have appreciated all of the friendships and memories I’ve created.

Fun Facts about Jerusalem

  • 874,000 residents
  • 2,000+ active archaeological sites
  • 50+ churches, 33 mosques, and 300 synagogues
  • 60+ museums
  • 1,500+ public parks and gardens
  • Some of the olive trees in Jerusalem are more than 800 years old.
  • There are more than 26 wineries in and around Jerusalem.
  • There are more than 50 Christian churches, 33 Muslim mosques, and 300 Jewish synagogues in the city.
  • Jerusalem hosts more than 30 annual festivals for everything from opera to film and from books to wine tasting, the most in all of Israel.
  • Jerusalem hosts Israel’s second-largest Pride parade, which draws more than 25,000 marchers.
  • Jerusalem has over 2,000 archeological sites.
  • There are 90 hotels in Jerusalem hosting over 9,000 hotel rooms.
  • There are over 6,000 species of plants in the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.
  • Jerusalem has 1,578 public gardens and parks

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