Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Welcome to Haifa

After about a month on the road, I'm finally settling into my new home in Haifa - and I couldn't be more excited.

As you can see from the picture, it's absolutely gorgeous here, and there's amazing scenery to see just about anywhere in the city For those who don't know, Haifa is Israel's third-largest city, located on the Mediterranean about an hour north of Tel Aviv. It's built on the Carmel Mountain, and I've heard its steep streets going up the mountain remind people of San Francisco.

I'll be here for 3 months, until the end of March, with 3 friends from my program: Brett, Joseph, and Tom. We're living in the lower part of the mountain, in between the Kiryat Eliezer and German Colony neighborhoods, and about a 15 minute walk from the beach. There's so much to do and so many things to see, I almost don't know where to begin with all my exploring.

Haifa is Boston's sister city, and so much of the work I'll be doing is in conjunction with the Boston-Haifa Connection, the organization that runs the partnership between the two cities. Along with two of the people who work on the Haifa side of the partnership, I'm going to be working on communications outreach and raising awareness about all the great programs and events going on across Haifa. Hopefully this will include not only revamping their website and translating it into English, but getting out and taking pictures and videos of different events around town and putting together a more updated promotional video to highlight what the partnership does. One of the reasons I'm so excited about this work is I'll get to meet all the different groups coming from Boston to Haifa during the time I'm here, including different birthright/Taglit trips (we met a group from UMass yesterday) and kids from the same Schechter school where I went from K-8.

I'm also going to have the opportunity to help teach television production to high school students. Here in Israel, students have the ability to choose a major in high school and take extra classes in subjects that interest them. So for students interested in communication, they can take classes in film and television, and I'll be helping out with the technical aspect, teaching them about studio and field production, and how to use different computer programs to edit their video projects. I enjoyed getting to teach TV production during the ITRP summer programs at BU, and I'm excited for the opportunity to be able to use my skills and knowledge in TV to not only teach Israeli teenagers, but also get to know them outside the traditional classroom setting.

I realize it's been quite a while since I posted anything, so here's a cliff's notes version of what I've been up to (you can also see the visual diary of my pics on facebook). After the Livnot U'Lehibanot program in Tzfat, I had the opportunity to take part in the first ever conference on Israel-based education. It was held over 3 days in Jerusalem, and I learned a tremendous amount about the challenges Israel educators face in teaching about Israel. It's so important to me that Jews all around the world, and particularly American Jews, have a connection with Israel. Of course there's the old saying: 2 Jews, 3 opinions, so we're not going to agree on everything, especially when it comes to politics, but there's so much more to Israel than politics, and it's crucial Jewish day schools and Hebrew schools work to do a better job of incorporating Israel education into the curriculum. Especially with the incredibly high rate of intermarriage among American Jews, it's important to foster a connection to Israel and to teach why Israel is so crucial to Jews all around the world.

After the conference, I spent a couple of days with Reut and her family in Netanya - we had a great time wandering around Yafo and Tel Aviv, and watching Home Alone on Christmas Eve! I spent the following Shabbat in Katzrin with Eli, Elisheva, Ma'Or and a whole gang of hooligans, and then Becca came! It’s been a few years since we’ve traveled together, but true to Cohen family tradition, we quickly had gigglefests, and I’m sure there will still be many more along the way.

Becca and I spent the first two days in Tel Aviv wandering around and doing lots of eating. We took advantage of the great weather and a trusty city map to walk all over on Monday, going to Dizengoff Center, the Jabotinsky Institute Museum and the Etzel Museum, the Shuk HaCarmelit, and of course, a café for lunch before making our way to the beach to relax for a bit and meeting up with Ariel for dinner. We spent the next day in Jerusalem, taking a tour of the Kotel Tunnels, the underground extension of the Western Wall located underneath the streets of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, truly one of the most fascinating archaeological findings anywhere in Israel.

We spent Shabbat in Efrat with Ephraim and Batya, which was great. Somehow they hadn't known about my obsession with ice cream, and since Batya was preparing a milk meal for Shabbat lunch, she suggested we pick up some ice cream that we could have for dessert. Ephraim picked up 4 pints of Haagen Daas ice cream and the 4 of us nearly polished off all of them...what a great way to spend Shabbat!

So that's what's going on in a here for pictures from my vacation, and here for a few first pics from Haifa!

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