Tuesday, April 12, 2011


What a flashback! It’s feels like yesterday that I was studying in an Israeli classroom discussing the 1948 Israeli War for Independence. Now, almost four years after completing my undergraduate degree – I’m back in class with Professor Yisrael Neeman discussing early Zionist history! Except this time I’m sitting next to the entire UF Hillel staff.

Being back in Israel is always exciting, but to share this experience with Keith, Jeff, Jess, and especially Blair is quite the adventure. We started the day with another delicious Israeli breakfast (although I think one of us here would rather be snackin’ on a McGriddle) and made our way to the University. We were warmly greeted by Marketing Coordinator Ellie Schneiderman and met the staff of the International school. We then made our way to the Law building for Hebrew class! Keith, Jeff, Jess and Blair were sent to the beginners group while I checked out the advanced class. Unlike their class (where they played musical chairs in Hebrew) our class was pretty intense as the students were preparing for a mid-term before the Passover break.

Being in Hebrew class brought me back to when I first immigrated to Israel. All new immigrants are offered a free intensive Hebrew course called Ulpan and I spent nearly 5 months in 2004 studying Hebrew in central Israel. Hebrew classes in Israel are like a mini-melting pot of society. People of all ages, backgrounds, and education level sit together working to master a new language. The class today in Haifa included students from Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Korea, Germany, and the US. There was a doctor, lawyer, and even a nuclear physicist all struggling together. Hebrew class was followed by a great lunch in the school’s cafeteria where we finally figured out how to connect to the Internet (which now means it’s impossible to tear Blair away from her iPad). After we filled our bellies with some tasty Israeli food we met up with two students currently studying at the International School.

They led us on a tour of the campus and let us know what being a student here is really like. These students were awesome and really love studying here. And now – here we are – in class learning about Israeli history! Jeff and Blair are having a hard time staying awake, but I’m loving it! Jess struggled at first but luckily she was able to hunt down a double espresso during the break. We are now listening to a student’s presentation about Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel – a topic that’s close to my heart. Professor Neeman, like myself, moved from New Jersey to Israel and I can think of no better person to impart the importance of Israeli history to a classroom of students. It is important to study and learn about the trials and hardships a young Israel faced in absorbing a large immigrant population, and having it taught by someone who chose to make Israel their home adds a unique perspective. It appears that my journey has come full circle—I left New Jersey for Israel, temporarily left Israel for Gainesville and now I am back in my homeland, sitting in a room full of students, who are building the connection to Israel that is critical for Jewish students to have. Can’t wait to party with the students tonight! -Josh (me in the IDF - 2008)
(Me in 2008)

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