Monday, April 11, 2011

The staff's first update from Israel

If you haven't heard the UF Hillel staff is in Haifa, here's why: Holy cow! The last 48 hours have been jam packed with traveling to Israel from Gainesville. I want to give you all an update of what we've been doing and share some photos and videos. This is program director Jeff, btw. In case you were wondering... So we left Gville with me, Blair, Keith, Jess, and Dewey in a mini-van. It looked like this: Dewey was a pain in the tuchas the whole way down. We all split up and met at the Miami airport the next day, that's when Josh came. We flew MIA -->JFK 2 hour layover -->Tel Aviv. I wish I could tell you more about that but after a sleeping aid and some complimentary wine I awoke in Israel. Best. Flight. Ever. So we get on a train to Haifa and the 5 of us are talking about our itinerary. A nice english speaking lady joins our conversation, as Israelis tend to do, and after a while we find out Josh went to college with her daughter. Not only that but he also had been to her house several times. Not only that but Josh has a t-shirt that belongs to her son. NOT ONLY THAT but Josh's parents even met her when they lived in Israel. "Its a small country" said Josh. We get to Haifa, check in to our swanky hotel and went out to a superb asian fusion restaraunt a short walk from the hotel. It was like this: As a side note I can't take a picture with Blair without making a stupid face. I'll really try to take a regular one. After dinner we all went back to crash. I woke up the next morning at 5 am to finish a grant for Hillel Intl. I also saw an amazing sunrise over the Carmel Mountain. It was like this:I finished the grant around 7:45-8am and went to Aroma. The best coffee in the world. Oh yea, at around 9 pm I got an email that the grant deadline was extended 4 days. We all met for breakfast in the dining room of the hotel then went to the University of Haifa to meet with the MASA staff. MASA is long-term study/work/volunteer programs in Israel. They took us to Akko, an ancient crusader/Ottoman city to visit with an internship group that works in historic preservation. Here are some pics: These pictures include the Templars Tunnel, outer citadel wall, inner courtyard, and the students working on the preservation. The program is called 'Saving the Stones'. These students preserve this almost thousand year old fortress/castle while gaining incredible work experience. After Akko we went to explore Haifa. Josh had a 5 hour debacle at the mall over getting a phone to use here with his sim card while we toured the German Colony. We ended up eating at an Arab restaraunt, in the German Colony, in Haifa. We talk about how this is a city of amazing and beautiful coexistence, and this is what we mean by that. No Arab-Israeli seperations, no fighting, no "issues". Just lots of good food, great company, and lots and lots and lots of updating our social networks. Let me explain...we all have iPhones. Almost this entire city has free wireless. We are all addicted to social media. Go to Twitter, right now. Look up @bigvorch, @jess_davis78, @israelisoldier, @ufhillel, and @jeffdude. Follow us. It is by far the best way to keep up with us over here. We will tweet back almost immediately to answer questions, post pictures, and share funny videos. To finish up I'll share 2 links. The first is a video. I dared Jessica to eat a spoonful of chocolate cake, ice cream, whipped cream and and olive. Jessica succeeded. Never to be outdone, I up the ante. I eat the cake, ice cream, whipped cream, added a pretzel, and pitted olive. My goal was to eat evrything and produce a clean pit. As in chew it all up together, mixing sweet delicious hot fudge and briny hard olives, while having the dextereity to chew all the meat off the olive, swallow everything except the pit, and deliver it to Jess. I'll let the video speak for itself: Tomorrow morning we are going to a Hebrew class, touring campus, meeting students, and going to a campus fun/social/music jam event. I took about 100 photos today and am slowly getting them online. Stay posted and you'll hear from us soon! -Jeff

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