19-year old from Calais studying, living in Israel
reprinted from Bangor Daily News
by Jackie Farwell, of the News Staff
Anav Silverman remembers celebrating Hanukkah at her family's home in Calais, where theirs was the only menorah burning in the small city on the Canadian border.
Now, living many borders away, the 19-year-old sees flickers from the branched candelabra in her neighbors' windows as she walks to get a bite of falafel or visit an Internet cafe.
Silverman is living in Jerusalem, the city of her birth to which she returned in June to work and study.
"I really love the city and the people," she said in a recent telephone interview. "I really feel like I belong here."
The Calais High School graduate packed up in June and left home to work at the Temple Institute, a nonprofit organization in the Old City dedicated to rebuilding the Temple on Mount Moriah.
"I just wanted to be part of this land," Silverman said. "I always felt a close connection to Israel."
Silverman's father met and married her mother, an Israeli, on a visit to Jerusalem. Harold and Rachel Silverman had Anav and her sister before moving back to Calais to rear their family. Annual visits to Israel and Hebrew lessons from her mother fostered Silverman's interest in her home country, she said.
She now follows in the path of young Israeli women recently graduated from school, who choose either to join the Israeli Army or sign up for one to two years of volunteer service. Silverman plans to stay at the institute for a year, then attend university near Tel Aviv to study communications and journalism, she said.
"I'm so busy and I really enjoy the work I'm doing," Silverman said, as other students bustled in the background.
Mainers and Israelis aren't so different either, she said.
"I think the people are the same in a way," Silverman said. "There's a common humanity."
The rainy weather's not much better than snowy Maine, but Mediterranean beaches are just two hours away, she said.
"Jerusalem, it's cold. It can be freezing," Silverman said. "It's really amazing how the climate changes."
In her work as a tour guide at the institute, she shows people from all over the world the sacred vessels and paintings restored and built at the institute that one day are planned for use in service of the Temple.
Made according to biblical specifications, the vessels so far completed include a menorah made of pure gold, a golden incense altar, and the Table of the Showbread, a wood and gold device that holds 12 loaves of the wheat bread, which are replaced every Sabbath. Silverman's favorite is a harp, but most tourists fancy the high priest breastplate, which features 12 gemstones representing the 12 tribes of Israel, she said.
Though most are Americans, the tourists she meets come from all over the world, Silverman said.
"I've given tours to people from Singapore, Ireland and England and of course the States," she said. "Some of them have a lot of knowledge about the temple, some are just curious."
Her typical week is made up of six nine-hour days, she said.
"It's a full-time job. I know what 40-hour workweeks are like now," Silverman said.
Her six Israeli roommates, only one of whom speaks English, are equally busy. The women live in an apartment with no television or computer, but sometimes listen to the radio when they're not working at the institute, she said.
"I'm speaking a lot of Hebrew. It's one thing speaking with your mom," said Silverman, who was fluent in the language when she arrived. "We've gotten pretty close, cooking, going to movies. There's not much free time."
She barely has time to find a television to keep up with the local news, she said.
"I knew more [about] what was going on Israel when I was in Maine," Silverman said. She believes U.S. media ignore much of the news in Israel in favor of bus bombings and other violence.
She feels safe in Jerusalem, Silverman said.
"You never get to see when it's quiet and peaceful. You kind of have to come here to understand it," she said.
The history of the Temple Mount and its significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam and Christianity has been anything but peaceful. The site of the temple's proposed reconstruction is the same location as the Dome of the Rock, the site believed by Muslims to be where Mohammed ascended to heaven.
Her work is simply to spread understanding of the preparations being made for a reconstruction, Silverman said. "It's to raise awareness."
It's a job that takes her all over Israel, performing Hannukah plays and speaking to children. There, her menorah is one among many.
"Israel in general brings people from all over the world," she said. "I feel at home here."
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