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My experience studying in Jerusalem at the Rothberg International School

By: Esme Verity

I arrived in Jerusalem on the 1st of September 2014. I arrived early so that I could complete the Ulpan. The Ulpan turned out to be one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. For three weeks, 6 days a week, from 8.30am until 1pm we had intensive Hebrew. The entire lesson was in Hebrew, which was terrifying, but it turned out to be absolutely extraordinary. You stop being scared because there just isn’t time for that. It was absolutely amazing what we learnt in 3 weeks. Normally in an academic environment it would take months to learn what we did in such a short time. This is due to the unique learning system of the Ulpan. I would definitely recommend it.

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Due to the large number of Jewish festivals occurring in October, we had most of the month free to explore Israel and some of it’s neighbors. This gave me a great opportunity to bond with my roommates and explore the country we had chosen to live in for the next few months. As a flat of five girls we decided to go to Jordan and we had brilliant time exploring Petra and Wadi Rum.

I spent the rest of my time exploring Israel. I had the opportunity to go to Haifa, Tel Aviv and Acre. All were wonderful cities with much to offer.

When term started, work began pretty swiftly. At Rothberg International School I decided to carry on with Hebrew, also taking a class on the Holocaust, Hasidism and Jewish philosophy.  Jewish philosophy was by far the most rewarding class. As a historian, wrapping my mind around philosophy was a challenge but one that was definitely worth the effort. The teacher was excellent, even inviting us to his home to celebrate Hanukah. All the teachers that I had were wonderful, with my Hasidism teacher also inviting us to him home to share a Shabbat meal. This I think represents the Rothberg school: everybody was welcoming and accommodating to all students, from all walks of life.

Israel is an incredibly interesting place to live and study. When I told many of my friends I was to study in Jerusaelm they were surprised and worried for me. I arrived just after the war in Gaza and tension was high. However, I did not feel like my life was ever in real danger. The Rothberg School was very supportive and conscientious when it came to our safety.

I would definitely recommend Jerusalem as a place to stay, learn and experience. To have any understanding of the conflict present in Israel you need to be there and see it for yourself.

In the future I plan to carry on my studies in Jewish History and the conflict in the Middle East.

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