Ottawa Jewish Bulletin Article: “Semester At Hebrew U ‘A Defining Point In My Life’”

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Ottawa Jewish Bulletin header - semster at Hebrew U

Elana MoscoeBy Elana Moscoe
for Canadian Friends of Hebrew University

When asked why I chose to study in Israel for the semester when I’ve been there so many times before, I’ve answered that I wanted to take this time to really experience living in Israel, and there was no better way to do that than to study there.

This past semester, I had the opportunity to study in the heart of the country, at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This journey has made a significant mark on my personal growth, academic journey and Jewish learning.

There is nothing like waking up in the morning with a bird’s eye view of the entire city from my bedroom window, or seeing the Old City in the distance on my walk to school.. I’ve had the chance to meet people from all over the world, who are all studying in Jerusalem for different reasons, and I’ve gained new perspectives on the significance of this place to so many people. These are the people whom I felt challenged by in my classes, and who have allowed me to grow and to dig deeper into the many layers within this region.

The intensive Ulpan at the beginning of the semester and the Hebrew language courses throughout my time at Hebrew University really helped me improve my Hebrew, but I learned I still have a long way to go. The small class sizes and engaging professors allowed me to focus on topics relating to Judaism, to Israeli society and to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in ways I would not have been able to do anywhere else. History came alive in field courses, which allowed me to explore the history of this city with my own eyes as I saw the archeological layers beneath one another within the foundation of Jerusalem.

Outside the classroom, I took advantage of an incredible variety of programs, in particular, the Hillel Beit Midrash program that meets once a week and allows students to tackle any topic in Judaism with a learning partner. I also participated in a new program called THRIVE, an academic program in its first year that provides the “Ultimate Israel Experience” for a select group of students, which includes monthly Shabbatons and weekly classes to explore different facets of Israel. THRIVE became the centre of my experience and community.

The semester flew by and left me with the itch to travel an to continue to explore my Judaism. It has pushed me to struggle and grapple with Israel and Judaism, and helped me to find meaning in new places. The semester has challenged me to push beyond my comfort zone, to build a community and to explore new elements of myself. This journey has clearly been a defining point in my life.

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