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Shalom from Jerusalem

I spent last summer in Amman, Jordan, where my interest in and desire to understand Islam led me to a short-term study abroad program with CIEE. I learned some colloquial Arabic, took a class about Arab studies, and stayed with an Arab-Christian host family. I documented my reflections about that experience on this blog, and in short, Jordan captivated me. I got the travel bug, and I decided that I needed to do a longer study abroad program before I graduated from my undergraduate program.

Having had an experience in a primarily Arab-Muslim country, I knew that I needed to live in Israel and study Judaism to get a fuller picture of religious, social, and political issues in this region. I found Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School online, and I was immediately impressed with the religious studies program. I applied, got into the program, and now I’ve suddenly been in Israeli for about seven weeks.

For the first four weeks of my stay, I participated in the Undergraduate Ulpan, or intensive modern Hebrew language course. The class took the wind right out of me since we moved swiftly through the textbook, but my Biblical Hebrew certainly helped me stay afloat for a while (thank you, Dr. Blake). I know that the Ulpan will help me with my textual studies of Christian and Jewish Scripture. I also hope to have a working command of conversational Hebrew before I leave.

After the ulpan ended, Rothberg’s regular semester classes started. My classes include Feminist Judaism, Ritual and Belief in Islam, From Jewish Jesus to Christianity, and more Hebrew language. I am already feeling the challenges of these topics, but I find a strange comfort in this kind of humility. My whole being is ready to learn from my classes, peers, professors, and experiences in Israel.

In the coming weeks, I will give more details about the trips and lessons that I learn from my time in Israel. For now, I will be getting back to my extensive readings, eating more falafel, and preparing for some day trips within the country. I hope that you will enjoy learning about Israel as much as I am.

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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