Cougar Perspectives 2020
Important links below!
Cougar Perspectives is a 10 day fact-finders trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The purpose of this trip is to educate Jewish and non-Jewish University of Houston student leaders about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The trip departs from Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, December 30 and returns to Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on Friday, January 10. (The first day of classes is Monday, January 13.) Cougar Perspectives is offered by Houston Hillel and is limited to 25 University of Houston student leaders of all backgrounds.
Cougar Perspectives is offered by Houston Hillel, a Jewish student organization that was established at UH in 1947. The trip will deepen your knowledge about one of the world's most discussed regions. Participants will meet with intellectuals, grass-roots activists, politicians and decision makers from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and will take part in dialogues of co-existence. Trip participants will visit cities and sites in the Palestinian Authority and Israel (including adjacent to Gaza) considered central to all three major religions, and will receive a unique opportunity to learn about the history and current issues of one of the world's most debated conflicts.
Thanks to Houston Hillel, Cougar Perspectives is a heavily subsidized trip, including round-trip airfare, hotels, travel throughout the trip, and most meals. Participants will be responsible for the following expenses:
All food prior to arrival in Israel and after departure from Israel, most lunches in Israel, and more than half of the dinners in Israel.
Ground transportation to and from Bush Intercontinental Airport, whether you will be in Houston for the summer or in another city.
Other personal expenses, such as passport fees and souvenirs.
A $200 non-refundable deposit.
Remain at the University of Houston as a full-time student for at least one academic year after the completion of the trip.
Complete a post trip evaluation.
Also, we hope that you will:
Participate in a meeting or two prior to departure.
Be willing to reconvene on campus to discuss your experience.
The trip will be led by Nofar Salman, Houston Hillel's Israel Fellow, and Ellie Rips, Houston Hillel's Springboard Innovation Fellow.
Emergency contacts during our trip.
Before we leave for Israel you can contact Kenny at 713-459-5642 and , and Nofar at email@example.com.
Nofar and Ellie will share their Israeli cell numbers with you when you arrive in Israel. You can use WhatsApp to contact Nofar and Ellie at their mobile numbers.
If your family or friends outside Israel need to reach you, Nofar or Ellie while you're in Israel they can contact Nofar and Ellie with WhatsApp and their email addresses. In an emergency interested parties can also reach Rabbi Kenny Weiss at and 713-459-5642.
Arriving at Bush Intercontinental Airport
Please arrive at Bush Intercontinental Airport by 5:00 pm - which is 4 hours before the flight departs. Look for Nofar and Ellie near the Turkish Air ticket counter.
Do not check in for the flight before meeting Nofar and Ellie. You will check in as a group.
Application forms - You should have already completed these forms, but here are the links if you want to review them.
Please make sure you have signed and dated this Waiver.
You can email your signed (in pen or electronically) waiver to Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cell phone sim card
Use this link to reserve a sim card for your phone at your own expense. WiFi is available throughout Israel, and WhatsApp is a great tool for connecting with trip participants and people back home, but you might appreciate cellular service. We will pick up the sim cards upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. Of course, you're welcome to bypass the sim card and instead set up an international calling plan with your mobile provider.
Click here for a suggested Packing List for our trip.
You can bring one suitcase and one carry-on. Click here for Turkish Air Luggage information. Try to bring as little as possible! A backpack is a great carry-on because you'll want a backpack to carry around during each day of touring. You do not need to limit yourself to a carry-on size suitcase, but remember that you need to schlep (carry) your own luggage throughout the trip. Keep in mind that we will not have access to laundry services.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Can I drink the tap water in Israel?
Absolutely. Tap water in Israel is safe and delicious. And, you will also find bottled mineral water everywhere. (It’s important to make sure you drink a lot during the summer in Israel.)
Can I choose not to have an Israel stamp in my passport in case I travel to some countries that don’t recognize Israel?
Yes, just let the passport officer know.
Will I have easy internet access?
Most hotels in Israel have free Wi-Fi available for hotel guests. Many cafes and restaurants offer a complimentary Wi-Fi service. Since September 2013, both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offer citywide free Wi-Fi networks.
What is the currency in Israel?
Israel’s currency is the Shekel; you’ll find it abbreviated as NIS (New Israeli Shekel). This summer one shekel has been worth 28 cents.
What credit cards are accepted?
You can use your ATM card to obtain shekels at ATM’s throughout Israel. You can also use American Express, MasterCard and Visa cards at most Israeli hotels, restaurants and stores. Before the trip, remember to notify your credit card companies and bank about your upcoming trip!
Should I purchase Shekels before the trip?
You don't need to. ATMs are all over the place.
What taxes can I expect to pay in Israel?
The VAT (Value Added Tax) in Israel is 17%. It’s already included in most prices in Israel. VAT is waived for tourists at hotels, tour companies and car rental agencies. Like in Europe and elsewhere, tourists can receive a refund of the VAT they paid on purchases when departing the country through the refund program. The purchase amount in one tax invoice, including VAT, must exceed 400 NIS in order to qualify for a refund.
When do I tip and when can I bargain?
If you pay by credit card in a restaurant in Israel the credit card slip typically does not allow you to include a tip. Therefore, you should leave a tip in cash. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped. You can bargain in open air markets but not in stores or restaurants.
Is everything closed on Shabbat in Israel?
Shabbat (the Sabbath) is the Jewish holy day of the week observed every Saturday. Shabbat starts at sunset on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday evening.
All public offices are closed on Shabbat, as are banks, most stores and businesses. However, throughout Israel there is a growing number of shops open on Shabbat. In most cities, public transportation (trains and buses) do not operate on Shabbat. Most non-kosher restaurants are open on Shabbat. Radio and TV broadcasts operate as usual.
Are all the restaurants in Israel kosher?
Not all of the restaurants in Israel are kosher. Places offering kosher food usually display a kashrut certificate granted to them by the local rabbinate. Most hotels serve kosher food, as well as some restaurants, but there is no binding law.