A whirlwind.

Wow. It’s hard to even process the fact that a week has already passed. The only way to describe being here, and everything that’s happened over the past few days is a whirlwind. We’ve been going nonstop: adjusting to a new routine and time zone, learning and sometimes getting new information thrown at us faster than we can write it, and seeing/experiencing new yet simultaneously ancient places. Some highlights…

Arriving & settling in: Words can’t describe how great it felt to arrive in Hod HaSharon, unpack, and sleep.  Campus is beautiful and cozy, and my roommates and I get woken up by birds chirping every morning. Speaking of roomies, I love mine, and our whole April session group is awesome as well. There are only 21 of us and we’ve become super close super quickly, which I’m grateful for because I came not knowing anyone previously. I can’t wait to get to know everyone even better!

Living independently: Ask me how much money I have left in seven weeks, and we’ll see if I succeed in budgeting. Just kidding..I think.  Budgeting is tricky but I’m slowly learning.  For example, dining hall food isn’t delicious, but it’s great for saving money! However, we have gone out into town several times already, and tried smoothies, falafel, and visited a couple different grocery stores for snacks and other small things.  Hod is the cutest town and I really want to find time to explore it more. Speaking of, I’m also expecting to leave Israel with excellent time management. Between classes, going out for dinner, homework/studying, and hanging out with friends in the dorm, there have actually been so many things to do, even during every second of free time I’ve had so far. At least it means I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow every night.

Class: Yes, contrary to popular belief, I am actually going to school in Israel.  No, I’m not just taking a two month vacation from school.  But it’s a little different on AMHSI …We have Israeli history class for four hours a day! Not as bad as it sounds. Our teacher Benjy is so enthusiastic about everything, and makes class really engaging.  History and Judaism are two of my favorite subjects, so unsurprisingly Israeli history is such an interesting class. And the best part…twice or three times a week we take a bus somewhere in Israel and continue our lessons in THE EXACT PLACE where they happened. Sure, it means I have to do things like take the Hebrew bible with me on hikes, but it’s what makes the Muss program so unique, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Speaking of traveling…

Tel Gezer: Our first tiyul (“trip” in Hebrew) was to a manmade hill.  Sounds boring, but when it was excavated, archaeologists discovered layers of civilizations built on top of one another, with the oldest layer being the ancient city of Gezer.  There were shards of pottery everywhere, and we tried our hardest to search for handles of cups, rims dishes, and ancient Hebrew scripture.  Gezer is so ancient, that it existed as a Canaanite city at the time of Abraham. Abraham was the first Jew ever, so, yeah, I’d the city of Gezer is old. These Canaanites were so smart: in this city they’d built a very large water system, and walls which were used for defense during wartime and places for prostitutes to live (according to scripture) during peacetime. Tel Gezer was a great way to kick off our trip.

Gilboa: Several days later, we embarked on our first real Israeli hike. First, we had class overlooking a beautiful view, while we learned about the stories of Samuel and Saul.  I still can’t believe I’m going to get to learn in the places I do.  The hike down the mountain was gorgeous, but hard.  We were all sore the next day, but at least our next stop was to natural thermal pools in Gan HaShlosha (an Israeli national park).  A barbecue and swimming was a great way to spend the hot afternoon.  Next, we drove to Jerusalem, and got off the bus blindfolded.  Once we were able to see again, we were met with a breathtaking view overlooking one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  To finish off for day, we drove into Jerusalem and spent the night in a youth hostel.

Sataf & Jerusalem: We woke up early the next morning, and drove to Sataf.  There, we learned about agricultural techniques that the Canaanites used, such as water tunnels and terraces.  Then, we drove back into Jerusalem, where we spent the remainder of our day.  We explored the City of David, walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel (fun fact: we wouldn’t exist without these tunnels), ate a delicious lunch from a market, and had a chance to visit the Kotel (another name for the Western Wall).  All the while, we were learning about the story of King David, which is actually full of plot twists.  (I highly recommend reading the Tanach if you’re looking for a thriller.)  We ended our packed day by having “Dinner on the Streets” on Ben Yehuda street.  Jerusalem is so rich with history and culture, and I can’t wait to go back later on in our program.

…so, yeah.  I’d still call it a whirlwind.  But it’s been an absolutely amazing week, and I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be here.

Shalomie homies, I need to go study for my Israeli history test.

~Ari

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Shalom!

Welcome to the blog, friend/family member/stranger.  If you don’t know me, I’m Ari.

I’m about to study on Alexander Muss High School in Israel for eight weeks, or two months.  (They’re interchangeable so use whichever one feels longer/shorter, depending on how soon you want me to come home.)  I will be spending a lot of time on the Alexander Muss campus, in Hod HaSharon (thirty mins outside of Tel Aviv).  But throughout my trip, I’ll be traveling all over Israel, as I somehow manage to learn thousands of years of Israeli history in eight weeks. (slightly skeptical but really intrigued)

I have no idea what to expect, but as long as I come home having eaten copious amounts of falafal and shawarma, and having made some great new friends, I will be pretty satisfied.

Follow @thatisraelicool on Instagram for more pictures, and follow the blog below to get notifications to your email when I post.  Thanks for sticking around as I go on this really exciting adventure.

~Ari