Semester Abroad: Spring 2013
As I got off the plane in Tel Aviv, I remembered one quote from the Torah: “One who walks four steps in Israel, his sins are forgiven.” One, sins came flooding into my head. Two, I’m going to need more than four steps.
I had never imagined spending five days in this country, let alone five months. As I settled into my apartment in Jerusalem and began intensive Hebrew courses, I cursed the part of me that desired a culture shock like this. By the time the four week language course was over, I could make my way around Jerusalem without a problem. I had also learned where to buy the freshest and cheapest produce, how not to wake up at 4am with the call to prayer, and how to tell if those noises were gunshots or fireworks.
The many Jewish holidays in the spring meant many vacations. One vacation took me to Jordan to see the ancient city of Petra and sleep in the Wadi Rum desert. Another took me to a four day hike from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee. Still another had me following the Jesus Trail, a 50 mile hike from Nazareth to Capernaum.
After class I would explore the Old City: the Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa, the Temple Mount. I would walk the ancient paths, imagining what they would have looked like a hundred, a thousand, two thousand years ago. I explored museums, entered as many religiously significant sites as possible, and bargained for nearly everything I bought. Weekends took me into Palestine: Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah. I experienced the most beautiful hospitality, the most innocent children, the most loving people. I felt as though I was living in an alternate universe for five months: everything was so significant, everything had a larger meaning and purpose; who was I to have been given this privilege?
My semester in Jerusalem was so much more than a semester of college. It’s cliché to say that your life changes when you study abroad, but that’s truly what occurred. I saw the beauty of the human race right in front of my eyes, displayed in so many people from so many walks of life. I never imagined I could fit so many experiences and so many emotions into a mere five months; these are something I will carry with me for my entire life. If this phrase is any foreshadowing, my right hand will never forget her skill. “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill.”