Written by Sasha Dudding '15
Yesterday for Shabbat, every Dartmouth student and soldier was divided into groups for lunch with a local family. I was with two other students, hosted by a very friendly couple and their 11-year-old son. After saying a few prayers, we began our meal. The home-cooked meal was wonderful, especially as compared to the hotel’s breakfast this morning. We had fresh pita, hummus, veggie quiche, rice with spices, fish, chicken, meat, and fruit salad. We also tried an amazing local desert called halvah, which was made of sesame seeds and coffee flavored. Over the meal, the couple talked about their backgrounds and life in Jerusalem. The woman was born outside of Detroit and moved to Israel shortly after high school, while her husband spent his youth on a kibbutz. They met through a local matchmaker and have been living in Jerusalem ever since. They spoke about the importance of Judaism, which was certainly an integral factor in their own lives. Their son’s school taught religion and Jewish history rather than science, literature, or many traditional secular subjects. It was interesting to learn about their attitudes toward their country and religion, and they were very receptive to our questions. The woman took us on a walk through the neighborhood and the Knesset rose gardens after lunch, along with the family’s adorable dog Daisy.
The lunch was one of my favorite parts of the trip so far. Aside from the delicious food, the conversations we had taught us about local lives and perspectives in more depth than a tour or museum could. Though much of the family’s well-meaning advice was not something I see myself following (move to Israel soon, get married as young as possible, etc), it was interesting to hear their strong opinions. They were also incredibly welcoming and constantly made sure that we felt comfortable and well-fed. Though many Dartmouth off-campus trips run the risk of bringing the “Dartmouth bubble” abroad with them, this was a unique opportunity to escape that bubble and immerse ourselves in the city around us.