Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends
“I Fell in Love with Israel”: A Study Abroad Travelogue
Steven Safran ’94 recalls his junior year in Jerusalem in 1992-93, as part of a series marking the 60th anniversary of Study Abroad at Brandeis.
I first went to Israel as part of the Hebrew language program. I fell in love with Israel, so I returned for my junior year abroad. The trip affected me in so many ways. I learned about Judaism and became comfortable with my place within, or not within, the various communities and traditions. I had an Israeli roommate who taught me about the culture in a very immersed way. I saw ancient ruins, studied other cultures, experienced the country's history, culture, beauty, magnificence, and challenges in inspirational and exciting ways. I met and connected with family.
Probably the biggest gifts I received that year were the friendships I made. To this day, probably my closest group of friends are the people with whom I experienced so many of these adventures together. We did not just experience Masada together, we supported one another through daily life: a trip to the doctor, a bad breakup, meeting one's future spouse, studying for a test, negotiating foreign bureaucracy. We lived a normal year while living an extraordinary year, and that bonded us in ways that we never anticipated. I have made friends in my life. This group, as a group, is perhaps the richest.
I fell in love with Israel so deeply that I eventually moved there, met my wife there, and lived there for five-and-a-half years before returning to the United States with my wife and daughter. I fell in love with all of the country, the good and the bad, in the sense that their challenges became mine, and their successes mine. I still feel that way today, even as I reside in New Jersey.
Perhaps my best memory was going out with my friends to my favorite restaurant where I had become a regular in Jerusalem. I had just come back from 10 days in Russia. I had eaten at this place so many times that I knew the owner and the waiting staff. I brought the owner one of those furry Russian hats. He sent over a free cheesecake, a bottle of wine -- I still have the empty bottle -- and hot chocolate for the non-drinkers. It was an evening of friendship, good food, and Israeli interactions.
Another great memory was taking a bus down to Eilat with my best friend from my year there. We got on a bus and just headed down. On the bus we met some other students. Together we booked a hotel and shared the room and food. During the day, my friend and I went to the beach, went parasailing, visited in an underwater aquarium, and more. We saw amazing things, while experiencing Israeli culture in a day to day way, while enjoying friendship amongst ourselves and our fellow students with whom we shared a room.
I highly recommend studying abroad. When overseas, one develops a second sensibility of how to see the world and oneself. One also develops a better understanding of the United States, its strengths and its challenges.