Sunday, August 24, 2008

Photos of Nazareth

Nazareth is one of my all-time favorite places. Our tour guide (a German who made aliyah a few years ago) told us that there is a dispute over whether or not a place called "Nazareth" really existed, or how important it was, since the historian Josephus never mentioned it in his works on the Galilee. 
Well, it certainly exists today! Nazareth was considered to be a Jewish city at the time Jesus lived here, our tour guide told us, but today Jewish people live in Upper Nazareth (Nazareth Illit) while Arabs (Christian and Muslim) live in the city itself. Riding by bus to Nazareth from Haifa takes about 45 minutes, and it's an absolutely journey which goes past fields of olive trees. 
Nazareth today is being changed by its location--inside the green line of Israel (future-centered, high-tech) and the past (clothes still hang on lines, women need to dress modestly, and guest houses like the incredible Fauzi Azar Inn still beckon to the past.) 

The places that are a a see are Mary's Well (inside the Greek-Orthodox Church of the Visitation), here I accidentally drank holy water. The church with Mary's Well is very different, structurally, from the Basilica. While both are still Churches, the Basilica has a colder, more isolated feeling, but boasts stained glass windows that make a person of any religion feel as though they're swimming through color. The Basilica of the Annunciation is an easy 15 minute walk from the Well, and also has pictures of Mary that have been donated from country's all around the world. These pictures have the common theme of veneration of Mary, but also reflect the places that they come from. The Mary of Egypt, complete with Arabic writing, sits pleasantly next to a much brighter Mary of Ireland, with Gaelic inscriptions. 
The White Mosque and the various shuks were also a delight! 
Nazareth has for over 100 years drawn Christian pilgrims, so the city caters to tourists, but it's far from a tourist trap. Winding around the back alleys of Nazareth to find the real city and you'll be rewarded. This city has so many sites, smells, and sounds that it's really a treasure for the eyes, nose, and ears:) 
There are so many little stories in Nazareth, that I would strongly recommend getting on a tour so as not to miss anything! 
I posted pictures from Nazareth on Flickr: 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Packing Ect.

-Documentation: A visa to Israel (because even Jewish people can't stay here for 3+ months without a visa--and it's less expensive/easier to get it in the United States!) Some people in my Ulpan haven't gotten them and almost have to go home.

-Medicine: ALL of your perscriptions, while it's possible to get them here, it's a pain.
-Dictionary: An electronic Hebrew dictionary--so much lighter than lugging one to the grocery store/bus station.
-Water: A Water Bottle (like Sigg), but be SURE to buy a Brita here--unless you want kidney stones!
-A pack to squeeze clothes/ect into.
-Maps of Israel.
-Phone numbers of the US Embassy/Consulate.
-The other thing I really wish I had was a pair of light, easy, loose pants. Jeans get sweltering here in the summer/fall, light and airy clothes can just make life 10X better :)
-A short-wave radio! (You can hear Lebanese radio in Haifa!)


Packing-Wow, it really helps to have an ultra-organized mother/father for this task! 

Things You Should DEFINITELY Bring: 
-Modest clothing! (for all seasons) (And shorts to wear under your skirt--once you leave Meah She'arim, you can just whip that skirt off and be cool again!) 
-Comfortable shoes are a must, especially for Jerusalem. I recommend padded sneakers. 
-Bring enough toiletries, especially make-up--make-up is about 3X more expensive here in Israel! 
-Bug spray and sunscreen! 
-A Lonely Planet. 
-A driver's license for renting a car, and extra passport copies. 

Things You can buy without too much expense: 
-Buy towels and sheets here, because they take up so much room. 
-"Hippie"-ish clothes. 
-Flip-flops (I love the Haviannas with Israeli flags--thanks Sarah!) 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

First Week at TAU

Tel-Aviv University is a beautiful, palm-lined campus in Ramat-Aviv. I've spending the year here, living in "Little Tel-Aviv." I choose Tel-Aviv for a few reasons: 
1) Things are open all the time--24/7, there are loads of art museums and artists, it's a "newer" city less history than Jerusalem, but I find it every bit as interesting. 
2) Tel-Aviv is host to far less tension than Jerusalem! 
3) TAU is world-class, as are Haifa, BGU, and the Hebrew U. 
4) Tel-Aviv is  more relaxed, with beaches, beach bums, and people sitting in cafes for hours gabbing. 

Why I Chose Haifa's Ulpan: 
1) I'd heard that Haifa's a difficult city to visit as a tourist because there are few affordable (for college students) places to live. Having a place to live, and a month to get used to Haifa, was great! 
2) Haifa is an amazing city--lined with flowers, trees, and next to the sea. Mount Carmel, with the Baha'i gardens at its base, provided an incredible view! 

A few things about Ulpans: 
-Ulpans are Hebrew-language courses. 
 The TAU Ulpan has been going well so far, but I've found myself missing the organized, more rigid atmosphere of the University of Haifa where there were so many activities that were structured. Haifa took their students on amazing--free-"tiyuls" to places like Nazareth (which can also be a bit daunting to visit on your own), around Haifa, Caesaria, Acco, and Jerusalem.  

Haifa's dorms (Talia) were amazing! I lived in a condo-esque apartment, with a private bathroom, and five wonderful roommates. Except for another American, all were Jewish Israelis, one from Jerusalem, three from the North. Now, I'm living in the middle of the city, with dogs barking, babies crying, and next to HaYarkon Park (one of the most beautiful places in T.A.)