Firstly, many of my family members have requested to see what my hair looks like in this Tel Aviv humidity... Well here you go! It's quite...BIG!
I will never have to worry about having a flat hair day; granted I will NEVER be able to straighten my hair here, but I think I'll manage :-)
Today was a fantastic day in Ulpan. We did a bit more review and have now started reading and comprehension on various texts. When we tried this reading the first day of Ulpan (just 3 days ago) I felt so completely lost. Today, however, I understood almost everything I read, and was able to answer all of the questions. While I will get into what we read soon, because it is so interesting, I have to mention something that was said to me during one of our breaks. After getting my daily iced coffee (I'm already so addicted), I decided to head back to the classroom a bit early to catch up on some emails and do a little self review. I find that I like coming into class a bit early from break because the room is empty and I can just sit back and enjoy the stunning view and a little peace and quiet before the rush of Ulpan starts back up. Anyways, another one of the foreign students decided she would come back too (she is from Poland, but lives in Germany), and we started talking a bit. She asked me "are you sure you are in the right level, you seem to know everything so well", and all I could think was "YAY!". I had felt a little bad because usually I am so quick with languages, and I felt, vocabulary wise, I was a bit behind, but I guess what I was feeling and how I was performing were a bit different. I thank Arabic so much for the fact that I feel so comfortable with grammar; if only speaking Hebrew were as easy as being able to write it and recognize verb forms... I'm really really good at that, however, speaking is a different story. I assured her I was very comfortable in this level, and we got to talking about the other languages she speaks, and the other language I am learning. Overall it was a great compliment that turned into a great conversation, and it help me with my confidence that if I work hard, study, and practice (which shouldn't be hard I mean I live in a Hebrew speaking country), then I will get the hang of the language in no time! I"m a little worried about studying Hebrew simultaneously with Arabic, but I'll cross that bridge when it comes!
Now, about what we read in class today. It was a subject on Judaica that I had NO idea about, and was so fascinated by. It absolutely increased my excitement at the fact that I will be spending the next year and a half studying the fascinating Middle East. We read about something that is found in every Bayit Knesset (Synagogue) called a Gneezah. Basically, whenever a Jew would write something they would start by writing the name of God, and in Jewish custom, you really aren't allowed to throw anything away that has the name of God written on it. Because of this, every piece of paper containing God's name would be placed in the Gneezah until it was full, at which point all of the papers would be collected and a Jewish burial would be performed. Anyways, two women were traveling in Egypt when they came across people in tents selling ancient items. The two women bought some fairly ancient looking pieces of paper and brought them back home to a very knowledgable professor on the Middle East. He saw these papers and immediately travelled to Egypt to collect the rest of them. He now has 13 volumes dedicated to all of the papers he recovered in Egypt that were from a Gneezah in a Synagogue in Cairo from the years (900-1200 A.D.). Among these papers were questions written to the Rabbi in Cairo from Jews all over the Middle East; they found papers from Jews in Syria, Russia, Egypt, Spain, Israel, and Morocco, all written in Arabic, Hebrew, and Yiddish. AMAZING!
This whole region is so much apart of my history, and hearing about this sparked an interest in learning more about the fascinating history of the Jewish people in what is now called "the Arab Middle East". See, it's not so crazy that I am obsessed with everything Middle East, from the places to the languages! I've never felt so strongly about the fact that this is exactly where I need to be, and exactly where I should be. I have so many amazing things to see and to learn, and everyday brings new information that could lead to new adventures and travels! Who knows :-), I'm saying skies the limit, and letting each day unfold without a set plan (life is so much more exciting when you just let it take you where it wants to take you, instead of trying to bend it to your will); who knows what will unfold!!!
Tomorrow I meet everyone who is in my Master's program, and I am so excited to meet the people who I will be surrounded by for the next 12-15 months. After that it is off to the place that holds my heart completely; Jerusalem! I am going with my friend Susanna (who I just found out got a job in Israel and will be moving here permanently! YAY), and we are going to re-live the days we spent in the old city when we both lived there two years ago.
Stay tuned for many more updates :-),