12 Cities in Israel
By Michael Sahno
So here goes. I have never written a blog before. There is a first time for everything and today I take the first steps into what I hope will be a wonderful journey. I am going to bring Israel to the world.
Now, this may seem a monumental statement, and it is, but first some background. I am a forty- something year-old man who, after serving my second stint in the military and being a stay-at home parent to my wonderful son for eleven years, I decided to go back and finish college. The initial motivation for my return to education was this growing fascination I was developing with the State of Israel. I couldn’t get enough of it.
While still at home, I was teaching myself the Aleph-Bet (the Hebrew ABC’s) and was learning modern Hebrew phrases in an effort to foster this closeness I was feeling with the Jewish Home. I knew though, that in order to become proficient, I needed some professional instruction. This is how I wound up at the Department of Jewish Studies at The City College of New York.
Enter, Dr. Roy Mittelman and Shani Greenstein. Dr. Mittelman who runs the department, whether he likes it or not, became my mentor. I can hear him now saying, “I don’t want that responsibility!”, but without him the world of Judaism that I now perceive could not contain its richness or its color. As for Professor Greenstein, the young Israeli woman who herself graduated from Dr. Mittelman’s program, her gift to me was an Israeli’s Hebrew. A Hebrew that contains life and purpose. She brought me the understanding of an Israel filled with normal people, people with hopes, dreams, wants, needs and loves.
I would be remiss to not include three other professors on Dr. Mittelman’s staff who were instrumental in fostering and developing my love of Israel at City College. Without them, my dream would not be possible. They are Dr. Amy Kratka, Dr. Abbey Kornfeld and Professor Terry Wasserman. Without them, I would not have the confidence or the ability to engage in this project. They are, by far, three of the greatest repositories of Jewish thought and learning in the twenty-first century. And, if you don’t believe me, just spend five minutes with any of them.
Now that all of the accolades and “thank you’s” are out of the way (First, I’d like to thank the Academy...), back to the story. So, after my first year back at school, I decided to commit myself to the Modern Hebrew language and this led me to take a little trip to Israel for something called “Ulpan”, a month-long intensive Hebrew immersion program.
Israel...The Land of Milk and Honey. I was going to the Holy Land! But, wait. Slow down the horses and hold up. I wasn’t going to Jerusalem, “The City of David”, or to Tel Aviv, “The White City”, I was going to Be’er Sheva and it was in the Negev, a desert. I had visions of myself drenched in sweat in a backwater area whose population seemed as unexcited to be there as I imagined I would be. The coincidence also wasn’t lost on me that this was the same desert that Moses had spent forty years wandering with the Israelites. That was ok though, because I knew that there was a train station and I could get to the other places and see the “real” Israel.
First and foremost, let me say that preconceived notions are a fool’s errand because, WOW!!! Was I wrong about Be’er Sheva! It’s a great place! I can honestly say, after experiencing it through the Ulpan Program at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, that Be’er Sheva is my second home. The friends I made, Moti, Michal, Nili and Nitzan (these are the obligatory shout outs), amazing! The food, Hummus, Falafel, Shawarma, and Schnitzel (Ah...The Schnitzel...), delicious! Everything about this town is wonderful. And at the risk of angering football (soccer) fans in the other cities in Israel, Hapoel Be’er Sheva is a great team because the city’s fans are some off the most supportive that I have ever seen. Be’er Sheva, to me, is “The Jewel of the Negev” (I came up with that one).
So, I am going to do is show people this. I am going to go back to Be’er Sheva and show the world what I saw when I went “South” in Israel. “How”, you ask?
I’m going to film it and make a travel show that highlights the “Food”, “Culture” and “Fun” of Israel. I am going to show the world that the Israel that they see on the news and read in the papers, isn’t necessarily the Israel of its citizen’s everyday lives.
So, this August 2017, I am packing my bags and returning to Be’er Sheva to film the pilot for my travel show “12 Cities in Israel”. I am going to grab my friends, put them in front of a camera and have them show me their favorite places and things to do. I have a ton of stuff lined up (no peeking) and I will be posting a travel blog and vlog (ok, some peeking) to keep everyone up to date as we travel and film. So, please sit back and enjoy our work, because we will enjoy bringing it to you.
After having been in the U.S. military, Michael Sahno spent eleven years raising his 13 year-old son. Never one to sit quietly by, Sahno decided to go back and finish college. He was lucky enough to be able to study abroad in 2016 and fell in love with Israel. Now, Sahno is returning this August for a month to film why he loves it and he is going to share it with the world.