Q&A: Brian Spencer in Israel

Q: Let’s start with the basics. Where are you, how long have you been there, and when do you plan on leaving (if you decide to leave!)?

A: Tel Aviv, Israel. Arrived July 5. Been here almost 4 months. Scheduled to leave on January 5.

the kotel ירושלים

Brian at the Kotel, also known as The Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel.

Q:What’s a typical weekend like in Tel Aviv?

A: During the weekends, I’m usually soaking up the sun on the gorgeous beaches of Tel Aviv. By night, I’m enjoying the night life with friends in bars and clubs, and seeing live music. That is, if we didn’t decide to pick up and travel the country that weekend. Frequent weekend destinations outside Tel Aviv are Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

Q: Out of all the moments you’ve had studying abroad so far, what is the absolute BEST moment you’ve had? Elaborate! 

A: My absolute best study abroad moment so far was on the holiday of Simchat Torah. I went out with friends in Tel Aviv expecting a normal night out, but we came across a massive group of people dancing in the streets together, singing songs, and carrying and kissing a few Torah scrolls (as per holiday custom). We joined the masses which followed a van through a labyrinth of streets which led us to a concert hall with free admission. Here, a traditional band was playing Klezmer music (traditional Jewish music), hundreds, if not thousands, of people were celebrating together. We danced and sang all night.

Q: What was your “Aha!” moment? At what point did it kind of hit you that you are living in another country?

A: Once I started the intensive Hebrew courses I realized that I was not in America anymore. Everyone here can speak English, and had spoken English to me before I knew much Hebrew. But now that I try to talk to people in Hebrew and they answer back in Hebrew, there’s no question I’m in another country.

Yafo looking into Tel Aviv

Brian at the old city Yafo, Israel, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the Tel Aviv skyline.

Q: If you were to leave tomorrow, what is it you would miss most about your host country?

A: The beauty of this country and the people that live in it. It is a country rich with culture, and everywhere you go you can see it and live it. Not to mention the weather and the beach, which I’m still enjoying here in late October.

Ramat Aviv

Brian and a friend at Tel Baruch Beach in Ramat Aviv, Israel.

Q: What’s the most shocking thing that’s happened so far? 

A: I entered Israel in a quite shocking time. It was the beginning of the war that occurred this summer in Israel. The war lasted 50 days, most of which I was here for. Three or four times a day I had to run to the bomb shelter because the sirens were going off, warning us that a rocket has been shot at Israel and it is projected to hit close to our vicinity. Three or four times a day for six weeks or so I had to race to the shelter. Each time I heard loud explosions, and about ten times I witnessed the actual rockets explode either in the air (thanks to Israel’s Iron Dome) or at sea.

Q: What’s the coolest place you’ve traveled to outside of the town or country you are studying in? What made it so amazing?

A: Outside of Tel Aviv, the coolest place I traveled to has got to be the Dead Sea. It is the lowest point on the earth and there is no other place like it. As many know, it’s called the Dead Sea (in English, Yam HaMelach in Hebrew which means Sea of Salt) because there is so much salt in it that neither plants nor animals can live there. When you go into the Dead Sea you are automatically sprung up by the salt water and you float. It’s truly amazing. Being in the Dead Sea is extremely relaxing and the legend is that the salt and mud from the sea is good for your cosmetics!