University of Haifa International School Student Blog
So we’re a few days into the Passover (Pesach) Break (Spring Break essentially) and it’s been a busy week. As I type this I am on a plane to Dusseldorf, Germany before I arrive at my final destination in Madrid, Spain. I’ll be spending the break visiting my family that I haven’t seen in ten years. I’m absolutely ecstatic because, even though I’ve been to Spain before, I have come to the realization that I have been traveling (and will continue to travel) alone and been handling myself well and that I’ll have the opportunity to explore without the constraint of a strict itinerary. The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity, but have also been incredibly fun and exhilarating. The break officially began on Wednesday, but for the first two days I just got a head start on the homework I was assigned over the break and my midterm examinations, so that when I return from Spain I won’t have a mountain of homework awaiting me. On Friday, I was invited by a member of the University of Haifa’s staff for a Passover Seder Dinner with their family because I had never been to one before. I was previously familiar with the story of the Israelites and their quest for freedom from the Egyptians. So I thought I’d have an idea of what was being celebrated. I was correct in that I knew which event was being celebrated, but I was really interested in the family’s particular ceremony on how to celebrate and remember Passover. I especially thought it was awesome that every type of food had a special meaning behind it (For example, non-leavened bread, or Matzo, because the Israelites didn’t have time for their bread to rise because of their hurried preparation to escape from slavery). It was a really enjoyable evening for me. Their kids had fun with their cousins and got into trouble with their grandmother and it reminded me of when I was a kid and used to get excessively rambunctious at family gatherings. I returned to the University that night tired, but happy.
The next day was all about preparation for leaving. I had planned on spending Easter Sunday in Jerusalem because that is something I have always wanted to do, like the millions of religious pilgrims that have flocked to Jerusalem in years passed. I had packed my bags (just a small backpack and a duffel bag with my things) Saturday and I took the first train to Jerusalem that night. I actually got lucky with my Jerusalem plans because initially I could not find a hostel with an open room available in the ancient holy city so I was afraid that my Easter plans were not going to happen this year. I say this because I called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and was told to arrive several hours early if I wanted to have a spot in the Roman Catholic mass and I wasn’t going to be able to do that if I didn’t have a place to stay the night and be able to wake up early and get ready. My roommates, who lives in Jerusalem when not at the University of Haifa, offered me a place to stay for the evening. I was extremely grateful for that, but then he went above and beyond that. He also picked me up at the train station and went with me early in the morning (we woke up at 4:30am after we had barely gotten to his house past 2:30 in the morning) around Jerusalem showing me things I would have probably not seen without his help. I got to see the sun rise over Jerusalem, the Western Wall before sunrise when it was nearly empty except for a few people arriving for early morning prayers, the Dome of the Rock, and then we got to the Church. It was about 5:45 and the mass, which was going to be in Latin, would begin at 8:00 and we were not even the first people there. We walked around taking pictures and seeing the area before finally sitting down in our seats. The mass began right on time, but by that time having a seat was pointless because of the amount of people in the church. We just stood up to be able to see and hear what was going on. For what it’s worth, the mass was beautiful and definitely worth the wait and anticipation. It was my roommates first Catholic Mass so that was nice to be there for that as well. From there, we went to look at the old city some more before we left to catch some lunch which inevitably became ice cream and crepes, because why not? Lunch was excellent. After that we took the bus back to his house where his extremely gracious and kind family were waiting to take me to the train station. After confirming about a million times with several other passengers that I was on the right train to Tel Aviv and to the airport, I made it through a very thorough investigation by the Israeli security and went to my gate to read before boarding my flight. My original plan was to sleep on the plane, but since I was a kid I have always been so excited about flying I can never sleep. I’m also the guy who prefers the window seat because I love to look outside and see what I’m flying above. That being said I’m due for an almost eleven hour layover in Germany so I hope to find something fun to do before I got to Spain (Madrid, Cordoba, and A Coruña). I’ll update everyone soon after I return from my trip.