University of Haifa International School Student Blog
So, Sukkot break for me, well, felt a bit like a void. That’s the first word that comes to mind because it feels to me like I haven’t been in a true university setting, as far as classes are concerned, since this past spring semester at the University of Florida. So, having a break for these past two weeks has made me a bit stir crazy, because every day has been sort of an add-on day to being away from home. I’ve been here for about three months now, and I have two to go. So, in a lot of ways, when I stroll into my room here in the Talia dorms, it’s like I’ve entered my second home. Like Haifa has become my second city, a home city. It’s something I didn’t expect to happen in my time here. Sure I read all about what they describe as culture shock, and that’ something that’s come up a lot too. But going back home, at least to Gainesville, where my UF is, which in itself is a home away from home, that’s going to be a shocker. Pretty much half a year I’ll be here. I’d say it’s getting to me, but I’ll be stronger, and wiser, for the experience.
So, what did I actually do during Sukkot break? Well, I spent about half of it in Netanya, with a friend that I met during summer ulpan. He’s studying theology at a university there, so I was able to stay with him and his host family. They live in an apartment about a block from the beach front, so going there was convenient and enjoyable. Apparently though, there was a lot of garbage in the water, so I ended up not swimming. There were a lot of people out enjoying their day though. Coming from a city that isn’t beside the ocean, having an easily accessible beachfront is something of an oddity to me, in the sense that there’s this natural pastime that’s right there for you to do, any day that you feel like it. Going to the beach was always a summer thing, a treat that you salivated for in the days leading to summer, and that you savored after leaving. I got some decent writing done while I was at the beach, so the day was great. Besides that, I spent that Friday evening with a messianic Jewish couple. The lady of the house was one of my friend’s instructors at the university, so there was a lot of conversation surrounding religion, from the Christian point of view. I had a good time that night, it was the first time that I was in the presence of messianic Jews. As far as I could tell, the Jewish aspects of the night were in place, in terms of the Shabbat dinner proceedings, within the sukkah, and the fact that the food was served in the sukkah (there were too many people present for us all to eat within the booth). Probably the conversation that I remember most was when I was talking with the instructor’s husband. He was explaining how he and his wife had gone through a legal battle with Jews who had sued them when they found out that they were Christians. It was sort of one of those moments where you realize you are in a completely different society, a society that does things on a completely different level than what you are used to. Basically, the lawsuit was to have the family’s status as Jews stripped from them. In a lot of ways, I was unsure what to think of it. As a Christian, when I look at Judaism, from my perspective, I’m looking at the roots of my faith. I can look up literally thousands of years of history of the Jewish people, and I can say, if they hadn’t survived this or that, I wouldn’t be who I am today, so I have a real sense of admiration there. But then, there’s a major crossroads, of this massive question, about the messiah. There are a lot of people out there, Jews, non-Jews, who don’t really reckon with that issue, but I’ve met some who do, and the split of opinions and beliefs is tough to deal with when you sit and have a discussion about it. But that’s a part of living and learning, and developing a real and balanced world view. So for that, like I said above, I’ll come out the better for, so I’ve got to look at it in that light.
Classes will start today, and will continue to be underway as the semester rolls forward. I’m looking forward to that, and to the bonds that will continue to forge. And, well, to having papers to write!