As I withdraw to my room to start studying for finals, I'm starting to look back at the amazing semester I've had. There are so many lists that I could come up with to commemorate my semester, five favorite foods, five top sites, etc, but since I had already been to Israel before, the five biggest surprises for me is the most important list. I thought I knew what to expect, so the list of my top five biggest surprises I think says a lot about my semester.
1) Israel is all about nature---national parks, beaches, mountains, forests, etc. It's such a small country, but you can literally do everything here, and Israelis are obsessed with getting out and about. From going snorkeling in the south, to going skiing in the north, to going mountain bike riding, you can literally do everything here.
2) Israelis are impatient. They always seem like they're in a hurry. Or at least that's what I thought. Maybe I got used to the fast paced walking environment of DC, but Israelis are really slow walkers. More like they stroll everywhere.
3) Israel is a small country, and if you look on a map of the world you know what I'm talking about. Even if you look at a map of Israel, you wonder how they fit a country of 8 million people into such a small place. And that's what I thought before I got here. But if you exclude the three big cities of Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, the countryside has lots of empty spaces and big houses, not what I was expecting at all.
4) I did not remember how loud Israelis are. It's a fact of life here, if you want something, you have to be loud. But that adds an interesting dynamic to the culture here.
5) Lastly, and I think most importantly, Israel is not all about the conflict with the Arabs. You could get that sense from reading the news everyday, but its certainly not the case in the day to day life of average Israelis. They have jobs and go to school and have social lives, just like everybody else around the world. From studying international affairs and conflict resolution, the fact that this country is not just about the conflict can be hard to forget.