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I’m Not in Kansas Anymore

Frankie Salzman - Jerusalem

As I write this blog post, I am sitting in a small village in the north of Israel at a friend’s mother’s home. This is the first weekend that I have spent away from Jerusalem since I arrived in this complex country. It has been a refreshing change of pace to be away from the city I currently call home for a couple days. While my experience so far has been enriching, there are definitely some customs and ways of living that I have picked up on and am slowly starting to adopt.

Starting with the first day of Hebrew class, which feels much longer than only a month ago, I’ve noticed interesting differences with the driving culture here. In America, if you want to cross the street you wait for all the cars to go by and then do so when there is an opening. Here in Israel, at least by our dorms, I have noticed that cars will slow down abruptly and stop for you if it looks like you are waiting to cross the street. Now this isn’t a major discovery that I have found, but it is these little things that I have begun picking up on.

A second cultural difference I have found is the use of phones here in Israel. Not unlike America, many people have them and many have smart phones; however, rather than texting someone when you have a question or for a quick conversation, everyone here talks on the phone. I see way more people having phone conversations walking down the street, riding the bus or train than I do back home. In fact, many employees of stores or business will talk on the phone while they work. Back home, this would certainly not be an acceptable but practice, but here it is simply the norm.

Another aspect of this country that constantly catches my attention is something I actually already knew about from the one previous trip I had taken here the winter of my freshman year, and that is the cats. Similar to the U.S., people here have cats as house-pets. In fact, my friend’s house where I am currently staying does. But, when you walk into his backyard you do not just see his family’s cat, but also four others that came from who knows where. And, if you walk out onto the street, you will see two more cats. Walk five minutes down the road and there are another three. Many people equate the cats here to squirrels back home. But I have never taken a different path to my dorm to avoid a squirrel. In the student village, an apartment complex where many international students including myself reside, there are at least ten cats that live there. Every single day I walk past them rummaging through the garbage, licking themselves clean, or simply giving me the evil eye (I personally believe all cats are just plotting a way to take over the world, but that is for another post). For the people who have lived here for a long time, and even for some of my classmates, the cats are simply an everyday nuisance they barely recognize. But for me, I still become startled at night when a cat comes running out of the bush chasing after another screaming.

Cats lining the alley

The final major difference that I will discuss in this post is my experience going to see a movie in theaters last night with my friend in the northern city of Haifa. This city, the third largest, has one main, gigantic movie theater located in the mall. Containing 23 screens, this theater had many features that are not present back in Indiana. First of all, every kind of movie has two ticket options: the normal (priced relatively the same as back home) and a VIP option (about double the price as the normal). Now I am not entirely sure what the VIP package includes, but I do know I saw a separate concessions stand and I think even separate theaters to view the films.

In addition to the typical “normal” viewing and “3D” viewing, they also had a “4D” option, which my friend informed me meant that the chairs moved in response to the movie. I did not have the opportunity to experience this at the time, but it is now high up on the list as something I wish to do. Another difference is that instead of simply having general admission seating, when you purchase your ticket you actually choose a row and are assigned seats to sit in in that row (something my friends from LA have told me happens there, but this was the first time I had ever seen it). The last major difference here is that instead of leaving out the same door that you walk in at the end of the movie, there is a separate exit that leads to a hallway a floor beneath the theaters. This is a smart measure that Israeli theaters have taken to ensure that patrons cannot simply slip into another movie (a practice I know to be quite common back home).

Inside the Haifa Movie Theater

Israel is an extremely unique country. It combines incredibly ancient landmarks and places with modern design. In many ways the culture is similar to that of America-almost everyone speaks at least some English, American music can be heard everywhere, and they are quite familiar with American pop culture. However, as I have discussed so far, there are some noticeable differences in the way the society functions. Overall, experiencing this is truly beginning to open up my mind to different ideas. This month for me can be summed up well in one word: change. As promised in my previous post, I will finish each blog with teaching a new Hebrew word. This week’s is שינוי, “change.

Frankie Salzman - further his language and culture studies at the source

Hello Jerusalem!

Frankie Salzman - Jerusalem

שבוע טוב!/Shavua Tov! -Hebrew for “good week,” and the customary exclamation of well wishing after Shabbat.

The sun is currently setting here in Jerusalem. That means shortly the busses and light rail will once again be running after the legally required shutdown from Friday night to Saturday night-Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath and the kosher restaurants will reopen for patrons to enjoy a final dinner before the work week begins again tomorrow. In Israel, because of Shabbat, the week is from Sunday-Thursday with the weekend being Friday and Saturday. It’s been a bit odd adjusting my internal clock of how to view the week. Tuesday is now “hump day” instead of Wednesday, TGIT instead of TGIF.

The weekly shutdown of the city during Shabbat is also something I feel one would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Today, I went walking around at the Shuk, the major open marketplace that, during the week is full of people speaking Hebrew, Arabic, English, and other languages from around the world, but today on Shabbat was a ghost town. On the major streets taxis and cars still go by, but the inner streets of the city are quiet.

It is peacefulness that I have not experienced anywhere else. It is not empty but rather intentionally still. But not everywhere is shutdown. The Jewish world may be still here, but the Arab world keeps going. A ten-minute walk from campus and there is a grocery store open as if nothing has changed. It is so interesting to see such difference here. Two separate, unique cultures co-existing in the same place. Jerusalem is truly special like that. Nowhere else in Israel are there Jewish and Arab communities existing like this. The religious landmarks are the focal point of city with a character all its own.

It has been a privilege to spend two weeks here so far. I have gotten to daven, pray, at three different spots in the city, experiencing a variety of religious Jewish life. Some of it has been familiar and comforting to me, others were new and challenging. I have slowly begun to obtain a routine. I begin my day hiking up the mountain I live at the bottom of to attend Ulpan, the intensive Hebrew class I currently have every day from 8:30am-1:10pm, on the gorgeous campus that has breathtaking views of the city. I then eat lunch either in my apartment or grab some falafel on campus (some of the only food I have been able to find that isn’t way more expensive than everything in America). I then do my homework and study for the next day’s Hebrew, and then to bed. Some days I take the light rail to the center of the city and visit the Shuk for pitas, dry fruit, cheese, and whatever other goodies I feel like treating myself to that day. On others, I relax in my room or with others I have met in Ulpan from around the world (my class includes students from America, Israel, China, Korea, France, Mexico, Spain, and Italy). All in all, I’m finding my way.

Figuring out the time difference has also had its challenges. It is 7 hours between here and the Eastern Time Zone of America which means I start my day with a good morning text from my mom as she is heading to bed.

I will try to end every post I have with a little lesson in Hebrew. Today, in honor of my mother, Instead of goodbye I say “בוקר טוב/boker tov” “good morning.”

Frankie Salzman - further his language and culture studies at the source

A New Home

Frankie Salzman - Jerusalem

“Where are you from?” a common icebreaker question simple for some to answer, while greatly complex for others. Personally, it’s always been easy. “Indiana. More specifically Carmel, right outside Indianapolis.” But ask me where “home” is, and my answer will be much more layered.

I am writing this post shortly before leaving for the Rotherberg School at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. After a 10-hour flight from New York I will arrive in the Holy Land at 5:30 AM and begin the next ten months of my life. I am not from Israel and I’ve only ever been there on a 10-day trip for young Jewish adults known as “birthright” two summers ago. Despite this unfamiliarity, this is the place I will be calling home for both my fall and spring semesters.

In some ways, Israel already feels like home to me. It’s the homeland of the Jewish people, a country for those of my faith. I rejoice in knowing that I will be able to experience religious holidays in a Jewish setting. However, there is also a great deal for me still to learn. From the food, to the people, to the weather, Israel is such a different place than Indiana where I have lived my whole life up until this point. The longest I will have ever been away from the Hoosier state before this trip will have been for six weeks, a much smaller number than ten months.

But I am prepared to take on this challenge. I cannot wait to begin making a home out of Jerusalem and Israel. I have a vast list of goals to accomplish-some as small as shopping at the shook (outdoor market) every week for fresh produce and baked goods to grand adventures like visiting the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa. I am excited for the numerous friends I hope to make and the countless memories I will create. I am also giddy with anticipation for the things that I could have never known needed to be on that to do list, and I am stoked to have this platform to dissect, analyze, reflect, and share my journey.

Throughout my life, I have made many places into homes. I have been privileged to have my summers filled with a variety of camps and internships, and at each location I learned how to build a home. Now I have the even greater privilege of constructing a home in an entirely different country, and for the first time in my life I will be able to fulfill the phrase all Jews say at the end of their Passover Seders-“!בירושלים הבאה לשנה” “Next year in Jerusalem!”

Frankie Salzman - further his language and culture studies at the source

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