Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Summer Ulpan Is Over And Mechina Is About To Start!

Shalom everyone,

Well, I sit here and type this now with the ability to understand the language of Hebrew (spoken by Israelis i.e. not slow or very clear) very well, and beginning to speak it even better– and why is that? WELL... BECAUSE OF SUMMER ULPAN AT HEBREW U.

With an intensive period of six weeks behind me – of full days of speaking, reading and writing in 'Ivrit' my life, here as a Hebrew U student is slowly, excitingly and very positively turning into that of a local Israeli.

One might want to know what it is like to be in the world renowned Ulpan at Hebrew University, and so I would like to give you a run through of one's average day here on Mount Scopus. If you are like me, and live in the K'far Ha'Studentim you wake up around 730am, take that famous, rather breathtaking walk to the Hebrew U campus – gaining that days inspiration on your way by looking at those priceless views of the old city and surrounding Jerusalem. Walking into school (breathless after that view) you are met by your friends – Jews, Arabs, Christians, Armenians and every religion alike. You take your sweet, sweet walk through the botanical gardens on campus and then enter through the doors of the Rothberg International School at HU. Surrounded by friends from France, Peru, USA, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Korea, you name it – everyone sits in the cafeteria and gets their coffee, tea or iced coffee in order to start the day. Whilst sitting in class – P.S. one is only allowed to speak in Hebrew – everyday has something new to offer, something new to gain and learn. For example, learning a grammatical rule – and for me as a Jew having revelations, such as seeing these rules appear with words in the Siddur that I have read (but never really understood – until now) my entire life. Learning songs that we hear at the Yom Yerushalayim concerts and singing them in class, learning about the History of Bezalel in Hebrew, having your everyday conversations but this day, its in a new and now no longer foreign language.

At break time (usually after two hours of class) the cafeteria is covered with students – the best thing that I notice everyday when I am there? Is the presence. Everyone and anyone who is standing within that cafeteria wants to be there – whether they are studying in Mechina before applying to the main university, taking their semester abroad at Hebrew U or just experiencing their gap year with all the programs that are offered here – they have all worked so hard to be there, thus no matter where you turn someone is smiling with confidence. Another one of my favourite things, is sitting at the tables and on the benches with the other Mechina students, and even though we are no longer in the classroom, we are all continuing to speak in Hebrew – because at the end of the day THAT IS WHY WE ARE HERE! These people that I meet and see in the courtyard everyday have become my motivation, making me appreciate this life of a student at Hebrew U every single minute.

After break #1 you have another two hours of Hebrew class - sometimes a lecture on the History of Jerusalem, given to you by a brilliant professor and yes, you guessed it, IN HEBREW- you might even be surprised by watching Israeli adverts on Youtube, scanning the latest songs, a tour throughout the famous streets of Jerusalem and or even learning new dances – basically within a day of Ulpan at HU ANYTHING can happen. Break #2 comes and goes – with a candy or two in your hand you head back for the last hour and a half of class. On a side note – from a girl who never really used to be a fan of school, the homework given during Ulpan absolutely rocks! I have pondered as to why that is, and well I arrived at the conclusion that when you are sitting in Ulpan you would like to do everything in your power to succeed and therefore see homework as just another tool to help you get to your goal of eventually speaking and understanding Hebrew just like an Israeli.
Here is my little 'shoutout' to my Ulpan class, people who very quickly became my family Bet 2.

Side note number 2 – my goal this semester is to write at least one blogpost in Hebrew – without the help of our dear friend Google Translate – and now after finishing the Summer Ulpan, the odds are looking good! I am officially in level Gimmel (the third out of five levels needed for entrance to Hebrew U)

And so – that, my dear readers, was the daily success of the Summer Ulpan (I kinda wish that I had another one coming up – oh, but wait, Mechina is a whole year of it! YAY)

Now, onto Mechina – having just finalised my schedule I am extremely happy to announce that I will be taking the Humanities track of the Mechina program, which thus means that due to the level Gimmel of Hebrew – my math, history, creative writing courses are all taught in Hebrew. So with four more days to go until the Mechina year begins, I am actually for one of the first times in my life ABSOLUTELY, COMPLETELY, WHOLE HEARTEDLY, MAMASH excited for my first day of school.

As I am concluding this post, whilst sitting at one of the delightful, and rather hipster, coffee shops next to the K'far Ha'Studentim, the winds are about the blow in, my iced coffee is at its last drop and my computer's battery is rather low – I must get back to my apartment.
Fun fact: Tonights schedule for RIS students – there is a Challah Bake at the Jeff Seidel Student Centre tonight in order to start the Shabbat Ruach (spirit) as this weekend's global 'Shabbos Project' is rolling in. This weekend meals are offered, Shabbat is being brought in with dancing, drinks and prayers and is going out with a concert and we, the students here at Hebrew U, are all about to KEEP THIS TOGETHER. (P.S. I am feeling very proudly South African this week, as the idea originated in South Africa with Chief Dr Rabbi Warren Goldstein last year, so naturally I, originally South African, am allowed to brag. Although, I must say that the best thing about the Shabbos Project this year, is that my dream came true and I am keeping it in Yerushalayim.)

Kita (class) Bet 2 - HA MISHPACHA (The Family) 

Here are just a few 'selfies' and photographs to show off our Ulpan happiness. 

My best friend who runs the Cafeteria 

One of the texts that we read! 

My morning as a student of Hebrew U. 

My new reading books - IN HEBREW!

Another one of our texts given for homework

And just one of those mesmerising views from campus! 

SHABBAT SHALOM LE KULAM from the best University in the world. May more people join us this time, next year, and even come sit and type with me here at the coffee shop.

Lehitraot, Cassi x 

Monday, 15 September 2014

And...I AM BACK! This time, however, as an Israeli!

Shalom Everyone,

I am so blessed to be putting these words into a blog post...well, what can I say, quite a bit has changed since I last wrote something on this dear blog...

Such as:

- On August 11th 2014, I at 18 years old, flew nine hours away and moved to a foreign country. I am now no longer South African Cassi-Lee Gewer, but instead Israeli Cassi (Cussi- for those who would like to pronounce my name Israeli-style) -Lee Gewer. In other words - I MADE ALIYAH, AND MOVED TO ISRAEL.
- My next milestone decision that was made, was my choosing to become part of the world renowned Mechina (Preparatory) program at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I.E. for the next year of my life, I have the privilege of learning Hebrew as well as preparing myself to take the Psychometric Exam which will hopefully result in my becoming a student of the Israeli campus of Hebrew U (the one I spend all my time in, i.e. the cafeterias, the million page filled library, the frozen Yoghurt kiosk, the stationary shop, the book shop, the free coffee, tea and hot chocolate stand... etc)
- I have a new (very motivating and determined) goal which is to speak for at least of half my day in Hebrew and eventually becoming fluent within one year - the goal is slowly but surely becoming successful. I now am able to speak to Israeli's without them changing to English as they hear me speak in Hebrew, as well as me being able understand what they have to say, without them having to slow down! I do owe a huge shoutout to my Ulpan (An Intense Hebrew Learning Program) teachers and the staff of the Rothberg International School. For more information be sure to email and speak to Carmel Krawitz!
- I made one of the biggest changes to my wardrobe and purchased a very Kibbutz-styled pair of "Sandalim" (You guessed it, 'sandals')
- My very broad scope of global friendships has now expanded, having friends from Madrid, France, Peru, Paraguay, Korea, Belgium and many more places around the world.
- I now have a Teudat Zehut number - which is an Israeli ID number!
- I now am no longer a foreign student at Hebrew U but AN ISRAELI STUDENT (This is my dream come true, what a blessing)
- I have had a Shabbat in Bat Yam - what a beautiful Shabbat, definitely a highlight out of all the places where my Shabbatot have been spent.
- One of the more frightening changes in my life what the fact that I left a country on June 30th 2014 which was in a state similar to peace and returned to that same country on August 11th 2014 while it was in war. There is nothing as special as uniting with a country during a time of destruction and loss; something that Israel can offer to an individual is a feeling of national, religious and ideological pride. One more shout out to Hebrew University for ensuring that the safely for all its students came first.
- I experienced my first 'Tzeva Adom" (Code Red) which is a Bomb Siren...while I was in the shower. What can I say - that sure is one way to meet one's roommates and immediately bond with them while huddled into the bomb shelter (which just happens to be my bedroom).  Thankfully all was fine, handled incredibly well by the Student Authority at the K'far Ha'Studentim, and the bomb was intercepted over Jerusalem.
- On a lighter note, one other thing that has changed is my apartment, as well as my roommates! Still absolutely living and loving the life!

- Well, one thing that has not changed, is my infatuation with this country, this city, this university, the culture, the atmosphere, the people and of course the presence that fills the air here.


Last 'Selfie' as a South African 

First 'Selfie' as an Israeli 


Nothing like having family to welcome you home!

Nothing like Israeli Coca-Cola! 

Moving Day. Before: 


The sweetest home there is! 

 Israel Is Beautiful 

I sit and type this from Mount Scopus, one of the hills of Jerusalem, in the country of miracles and the place of outstanding achievements. THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU WHO FOLLOWED CHAPTER ONE OF MY JOURNEY LAST SEMESTER, I NOW INVITE YOU TO JOIN ME IN CHAPTER TWO! Together let us see the Art of Jerusalem, however, this time through the eyes of an Israeli!  

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Last Days Of The Rothberg Semester Have Come And Gone

The last days of the Rothberg Semester have come and gone.
And last night six of us were able to take part in something extraordinary. It goes a little something like this:
At 2am this morning, while the Jerusalem wind was blowing at full capacity, while the clouds were moving at a very fast pace and while the stars were shining at their brightest voltage, my five friends and I went up to the roof, sat in a circle and decided to share with each other in what way this semester has impacted each of us individually.
Well RIS and Hebrew U - all I can say is כל הכבוד out of the six people on that roof - every single one of us agreed on the following things:
Lifelong and eternal friends have been made.
Acceptance has been everywhere you go.
Religion and/or faith have been able to guide us.
The Hebrew language has been able to make us feel as if we have resided in Jerusalem for years.
We have each, in some small or large way, found a part of ourselves that we were searching for constantly in our past.
We became independent overnight.
We have learnt from others who we thought we could never have learnt from.
We all have a home anywhere around the world.
No matter political, religious or social views - we are all there for each other and will not let those factors blind us.
We sat there, held hands, shed tears but the most evident emotion there was complete contentedness and pure happiness, all represented by the dozens of smiles.
Six or nine months ago - we were all strangers, from different continents, different hemispheres - this morning we were all able to see how we are now, family.
I would like to share this with everyone because no activity was organized, nothing was planned, no one was forced to stay or sit there. We were just six students sitting together wanting to reminisce over the past few months spent together here in Jerusalem with Hebrew U.
We, everyone, have lived the dream and we will all continue to do so.
HEBREW UNIVERSITY AND RIS AUGUST 2014. I just cannot wait!

Yom Yerushalayim - what a day to spend in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Yom Yerushalyim consisted of:

- A morning at Aish Ha'Torah
- An early afternoon at the hairdresser
- A picnic at Gan Sacher
- An evening learning Hebrew

The day in the life of a student living and loving to study in Israel!

Some photographs from the day:

South Africa Represent #We<3YouMadiba 

 The end result …we are a little bit blonde.