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This week signals the action-packed end to Ulpan Hebrew, but not for long, because we have class again next week, albeit with more variety of subjects and less time spent in each.

Yesterday, in the middle of class, one of this week’s activities included going a an all-Hebrew tour of parts of the campus. Although skeptical at first, we went with the substitute teacher and began to learn about Mount Scopus before becoming a campus, the various important landmarks we could see from the top of the hill, and so forth. The best revelations, in my view, were that from various points around campus, we could look off into the distance and see things such as the mountain where Moses probably looked upon the Promised Land and then expired; (if it had been a clearer day) the Dead Sea; and the breathtaking horizon that is the edge of the Jordan Rift Valley.

On the campus itself, we learned about the affluent Lord Grayhill of England, who came and built a large villa on the hill and subsequently drew other people to live there as well. We also learned that in an odd parallel with American University, a building has retained its original name and not its original purpose. As with the AU “HISTORY” building that is actually Hurst, the “Einstein Center of Mathematics” is actually the “Harman Institute for the Study of Contemporary Jewry.” The big difference between the two is that AU’s was named based on a plan for building the campus that failed to be adhered to, whereas the Einstein Building was so named in the hopes that one Mr. Albert Einstein, a Zionist, could be convinced to come teach at Hebrew University (but to no avail).

Finally, we also learned that in the plaza where several students and staff were killed by a terrorist attack several years ago, something astonishing happened. In addition to killing those innocent people, the explosion knocked a lot of the surrounding landscaping around, including tilting some trees to extreme angles. Against all odds, one of those trees continued to grow and bud, even while repairs were effected on the plaza and the memorial stone facade to the low wall was put into place. As a result, and in order to preserve a poignant image, said tree was actually secured at its extreme angle, had dirt and a retaining wall put around its partially uplifted root system, and has a steel cable preventing its weight from causing it to fall. It is still growing today, and I love the defiantly hopeful message of this simple, living memorial: although people will be hurt and sometimes killed, even those things or peoples which are injured can still regrow and get back to a state of flourishing.

Other than that, today was the multi-part oral examinations for Ulpan, hence the title of this post. We had to compose and deliver a dialogue with a partner, as well as memorize several passages from the textbook and be able to answer questions about them individually. As has been the pattern of Hebrew language classes here thus far, we somehow were expected to go through nearly 4 hours of class prior to the exams, which we did in fact do. Much more interesting, and less work-intensive, was the appearance of a rainbow early this morning over Mount Scopus. As Gili explained to us, this ‘kashat beshamayim’ (literally “bow of the sky”) was much bigger and bright than they usual see. It was certainly very, very close to the Rothberg school, so we got to admire it from a close perspective. I suppose that occurrence is one of the lesser known benefits to having your university on a very tall hill; when your mountain is covered in clouds a lot of the time in the winter, you’ll get some spectacular rainbows.

Today was also our last day of singing as a large group of Aleph-level Hebrew students. As we knew the words well by today, we were able to sing effectively and in some cases, even on key. That small accomplishment, however, pales in comparison to the dancing that took place today as an accompaniment to the music. The teacher invited several students onto the stage to dance, not thinking it would necessarily catch on. She was quite wrong. Muktar (spelling is not right on this one, in all likelihood), an older student Hebrew student of at least 45 years, went up with two 20 year-old students from the US, and they began leading the group with hand motions during the slow part of the song. Once the crescendo and increased tempo was reached, however, Muktar took to his craft quickly. Encouraged by the rhythmic clapping of the crowd, he began what seemed to be a slightly modified rendition of traditional Jewish dancing, and it was adored by the students singing in the auditorium. Quite the memorable experience, and an unexpected one at that.

Other than that, tonight holds studying for Thursday’s final Ulpan written exam, starting the first draft of this intended theological paper of mine (more on that as it develops), and catching up on all the sleep I lost last night, due to being up studying until 3:45 am 😛


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