Like many Passages Alumni and students who have previously traveled to Israel, studying Hebrew is something that has been on the top of my to-do list for quite some time. A few months ago, I decided to take a leap of faith and enroll in a Hebrew Ulpan (a school dedicated to the study of Hebrew) in Tel Aviv this summer.

I spent the past few years studying Russian and was scheduled to complete the intensive Russian Flagship Capstone program later this spring, so I thought this summer would be the perfect time to take on a new challenge and finally begin my Hebrew studies.

In late February, I enrolled in a 4-week course beginning in late June and ending in late July and started the hunt for a place to stay in Tel Aviv for the summer.

Even as the threat of coronavirus loomed and I moved back home to the U.S. from Central Asia earlier this spring, I held on to hope that I could somehow find my way to Israel to study this summer.

When the Israeli government closed its country’s borders to foreign citizens in March, there was no end date to the order in place. Although some speculated that the border would be closed to foreign citizens until this fall, some friends and I remained hopeful that this may end in late June or July.

Late last week, as coronavirus continued to spread in countries all around the world, I finally recognized what I didn’t want to for so long: it was infeasible to make it to Israel to study Hebrew this summer.

Of course I was at first disappointed, not only because I was looking forward to a summer spent catching up with friends and enjoying the beaches of Tel Aviv, but most importantly because I truly felt a calling to study Hebrew and thought this summer was the perfect opportunity to start before I move to Russia for graduate school this fall.

On Friday evening I was up until the early morning hours sending emails to the company whose Ulpan I had enrolled in and researching ways I could possibly study the language virtually.

Though I felt a bit defeated, I also felt an overwhelming sense of calmness and hope. I felt as though the Lord was leading me through the process and that he had something greater in mind.

The very next afternoon I checked my phone and saw a simple text message that brought me to tears.

The text read “Hey, would you like me to teach you Hebrew during quarantine?”

It was sent from a friend I hadn’t talked to in depth for over a year, and there was absolutely no way this friend could have known about my Ulpan plans and the cancellation I had made the evening before!

Not only that, but this friend is the person who first got me interested in modern-day Israel and involved in Israel advocacy. Without her, I probably never would have travelled to Israel with Passages in the first place and most definitely would not have been preparing for a summer in Tel Aviv.

I immediately agreed to my friend’s offer and sat in shock for the remainder of the day.

I started to tell this story to my family and other friends and realized that this was in no way an accident. In the midst of the global pandemic and all of its chaos, I knew that this was a message from the Lord.

This situation has reminded me of the importance of staying calm and trusting the Lord despite our extraordinary current circumstances. I keep going back to scripture, where the Lord says, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10).

Looking back on how this situation unfolded, these words ring exceedingly true for me.

I know I’m not the only student who is having ceremonies, courses, trips, and plans in general cancelled. It seems that a new email or message arrives in my inbox daily about an alteration or cancellation of existing plans. Amidst the chaos, this one simple text from an old friend made all the difference for me, because I know it was more than just a coincidence. 

Although I may be spending the next few weeks on my laptop and FaceTime learning Hebrew with a friend instead of in the heart of Tel Aviv, my choice to learn Hebrew seems more meaningful now than ever before. As we all navigate these unthinkable times, I hope this story inspires you and that such a message of hope finds you where you are as well.

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