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Chelsea Feuchs

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Marc Chagall's tapestries in Chagall Hall in the Knesset

After finishing final exams and celebrating the end of the semester, I decided to spend some of my winter break exploring new sites in Jerusalem. Although I learned a fair amount about Israeli politics over the past few years, I had never actually been inside the Knesset (parliament) building. A close friend recently started working there, and I was excited to learn from her on a guided tour.

The tour began with relatively basic questions, pitched to a public group with vastly different levels of background knowledge:

When did the State of Israel declare its independence?...

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Young woman in profile with a ponytail and sunglasses wearing earbuds

Katonti mi’kol ha’hasadim u’mi’kol ha’emet she’asita et av’deha. (I am unworthy of all the kindness and the truth that You have steadfastly shown Your servant.) These are the opening words of a song by American-Israeli musician Yonatan Razel. They are also, not coincidentally, the words spoken by our patriarch Jacob in Genesis 32:11.

Razel, a Haredi composer, often transforms the words of our tradition by setting them to music. This passage comes right before Jacob encounters his older brother, Esau, for the first time since stealing his blessing and fleeing home. Fearing imminent...

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Young children gathered around watching a woman read from a Torah scroll

On a recent Wednesday, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) first-year students gathered together for Israel Seminar. One day every week we focus on a different aspect of life here, viewing the country through historical, political, and sociological lenses. That week, we focused on Haredim, traditionally observant Jews often referred to as ultra-Orthodox in the U.S.

Although many people view this group as a monolith, there is a huge variety within and among the Haredi community. Some neighborhoods are plastered with signs decrying the influence of...

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Side view of grocery cart containing produce, bread, and several other items

Thursday afternoon has become my favorite time to run errands. The stores are jam-packed on Friday mornings as people bustle around the city preparing for Shabbat, and I prefer to beat the rush. Although I still get bumped with the occasional shopping cart, I feel far less claustrophobic and can usually find someone willing to explain the difference between two spice mixes that look identical to my untrained eye.   

This past Thursday, I pulled my safta (grandmother) cart through the aisles of Osher Ad, the Israeli equivalent of Costco. I couldn’t resist the massive bottles of...

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A group of friends eating a casual dinner together

Although I have been living in Jerusalem since August, only in this past week has my schedule achieved some semblance of normalcy. This is because the fall holidays do not simply affect one day at a time in Israel, rather they impact entire weeks.

There are plenty of similarities in religious observances for Jews around the world – on Rosh HaShanah we eat apples and honey, on Yom Kippur we fast, on Simchat Torah we dance – but here the whole atmosphere of the city changes as life slows down to make room for reflection and celebration.

During Sukkot, the final push in this...

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