Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! Today's post is going to be a little bit of catching up since I haven't had the time to post in a while. Its been hard to mark the passage of time here. I don't feel like it should be Christmas already. I think part of the reason is because the holidays that usually help me mark the passage of time are not celebrated here. The other reason is because we haven't had much variation in the weather. In the first week of December we still had temperatures in the 80's.

On December 12th I experienced my first sandstorm! They didn't cancel school so I had to walk in the sandstorm. The winds that day reached forty miles per hour. I arrived at school with sand all over me. I feel like I had sand in my lungs for days afterwards. You probably can't tell but this picture was taken during the sandstorm. Walking to school that day was very different because visibility was reduced. If you look back to one of my first posts titled where I live from July 12th take a look at the picture with the Dome of the Rock on this day I couldn't see past the blue roofed buildings. I had trouble sleeping that night because the winds were really howling. The next day it rained pretty had and we had 20 mph winds. But at least the rain took the sand out of the air. The walk to school that next day was awful because it was cold and rainy. The wind was too strong to use an umbrella. Many people tried though and the walk to school became an umbrella graveyard.

Back to Christmas! Christmas in Israel is very different. This is the first Christmas I've spent in a country that doesn't celebrate Christmas. The only reason I have off is because Christmas eve and Christmas fell on the weekend this year. My semester doesn't end until the middle of January but if you recall we didn't start the semester until October. This is the first time in my life that I've still be in school for the holidays. I took the weekend off I haven't done any homework; I know I'll probably regret that decision this coming week.

According to an article I read in the Jerusalem Post only 2% of the population here in Israel is Christian, that works out to 153,000 Christians out of a population of 7.5 million. Most of the Christians here are Arab Christians. The number of Christians in Israel is shrinking, which I find rather sad since this is the land where Christianity began. So since there are so few Christians it makes sense why Christmas isn't on the school calender here. No Christmas decorations anywhere, no Christmas music playing its a very different experience from Christmas back in the United States.

Going to an international school I also have the opportunity to explain Christmas to those that have never heard of it. For example the students from China have never heard of Christmas, or don't know much about it. China is a communist country and religion is not allowed there. Try to explaining Christmas to someone who has never heard of it and you will discover how strange it sounds. We cut down perfectly good trees and bring them in the house, put lights and decorations on them for a month. At the end of the month we throw the trees away. Better yet try to explain the concept of artificial trees that just sounds stranger.

So this morning when I got up it was a beautiful 70 degrees outside with a clear blue sky. Really the weather today was absolutely perfect. It was rather jarring when I had Christmas music playing that was talking about snow and bad weather. I've watched several Christmas movies this weekend but it still doesn't feel like Christmas.

Claire and I tried our best to make it feel like Christmas. Claire made construction paper snowflakes for our place settings at the table. We had a Christmas meal with corn soup, toasted pita bread with garlic and onions, chicken (yes it had a neck) and veggies.

Everything turned out really well. Problem was we are used to eating small meals here. So we very quickly became full. I still can't get over the fact that they leave the necks on the chickens here. When Claire bought the chicken she asked for a large one, they gave her this one which is about 4lbs. Chickens are smaller in this country.

We also make gingerbread cookies. They do not sell gingerbread mix in Israel so we had to make the dough from scratch. We took turns stirring since the dough was really thick. These cookies have the only bottle of molasses in Israel in them. Okay well it was the only bottle for sale in the store so it might be the only molasses in Israel. ;) I had planned on making apple crumble but I couldn't. Because Israel is in a drought the cows aren't milking as well. There hasn't been any butter in the store, for a while they imported butter from Switzerland but it was really expensive. But for Christmas I guess the other international students beat me too it because there wasn't any substitutes on the shelf either.

And here we have another one of my cats. I've named her Lady because she has wonderful manners. She had lunch with me a couple of times this week. This picture was taken in the courtyard sitting area of our cafeteria. She just came up and sat beside me she never meowed she just waited for me to give her something. She is always sitting perfectly upright like this with her tail curled around her paws. I think she's very cute and she posed very nicely for my picture.

In archaeology class we went to the City of David last week. So you have that post to look forward too. I haven't had time to properly type up my notes from that tour yet so I'm not ready to make that post.

From the last post:
Amanda- I have to stay in Israel for the holidays since my semester isn't over yet. The winter weather has been pretty mild so far. Just that one sandstorm and a couple days of rain. It is usually chilly in the morning we get our high temperature for the day around 1 or 2 in the afternoon then it get chilly in the evening too. Not to bad really its just strange that Christmas day its 70 degrees.

Uncle Joe- I haven't heard of the soldiers referring to themselves as the prickly pear cactus but it might be true. I'll see if I can find someone to ask about it. I'm glad you like my style of writing. Some of the archaeology tours are hard to transfer to blog format there is just so much information.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah began this past Wednesday after sundown it is an eight day holiday. However I only have one day off from school. When I asked about this I was told it was because Hanukkah is not a religious holiday. After doing a little research I discovered that this means it is a holiday that is not mentioned in the Bible. I would like to mention the differences in spelling of the word Hanukkah you will also see it spelled Chanukah both are correct. The reason for the difference is the letter that begins the word in Hebrew is an h sound made at the back of the throat its hard to transfer this kind of sound to English. The picture above is of a Menorah. You can have a menorah with candles or the traditional ones that burn oil. There are eight candles in a row and one candle above the others. The candle above the others is called the shamash ("attendant") candle. You use the attendant candle to light the other candles. First you light the attendant candle then you say some prayers from the prayer book. The brochure we have is only in Hebrew so I'm not sure what they say. Then you light the first candle one additional candle is lit every night until the eighth day when they are all lit. The candles must burn for at least thirty minutes. On Friday evening they must be lit for one and a half hours. The candles are lit from the right side first then moving towards the left.

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the second Temple. The Temple had been desecrated by the Greeks. The Temple was recaptured by the Maccabees a rebel Jewish army. The Temple had a flame that was supposed to be lit eternally. But there was only enough purified olive oil to burn for one day. Miraculously the oil burned for eight days and nights, the time it takes to make more oil. The Maccabees founded the Hasmonean dynasty. The Hasmoneans ruled for 103 years before they yielded to Herod the Great. But Herod the Great felt the need to legitimized himself so he married Mariamne a Hasmonean princess.

During Hanukkah foods fried in oil are traditionally eaten to celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. These dounguhts are called sufganiyot. They are dome shaped on top and flat on the bottom. Inside they have strawberry jelly. I don't really like the jelly though it tastes like they melted a strawberry lollipop. I love the doughnut part even though it tastes very different from the doughnuts made in America. These doughnuts are all over the place right now.

This is from my fourth archaeology field trip. The third trip we went to the Israel Museum and they do not allow pictures so I can't show you anything from that trip. We are at a site called the shoulder of Hinnom. Here we have several burial caves from the first temple period. This site was the topic of my professor Dr. Barkay's thesis project back in the 70's. My professor is pictured here. The area where my professor is standing used to be an enclosed cave but later generations quarried away the stone leaving it open now. The chamber to the right of the picture is a burial chamber. There are three benches where the dead would be laid out along with burial gifts. The circular depressions on the side are carved stone headrests. The bodies would be left for a year to decompose then the bones and burial gifts would be deposited in the repository. The repository is a hole underneath the right side bench. This chamber with the headrests is very important. Inside the repository they found two small silver scrolls that contained verses from the Bible Numbers 6:24-26 and some from Deuteronomy 7. These are the oldest examples of Bible verses ever found. They predate the Dead Sea Scrolls by many centuries. These graves are from the 7th century B.C. the time of King Josiah and the Prophet Jeremiah! Look in the direction of my professors elbow there is another chamber. The benches in this chamber have a groove in them that also has a place for a lid. Dr. Barkay believes this room was used for chemical treatments of the bodies. Since dead bodies are very dangerous they would need to chemically treat them. We have evidence for chemical treatment of bodies in 2 Chronicles 16:14.

Questions from the last post:
Uncle Joe-Yes those are led lights on the model. The model is in a small museum. Normally tourists come into the room and a show starts with a voice narrating the story of the city and the lights turn on to help people follow the narrator. In our case the professor was explaining it to us but they still turned on the lights in the model. The peanut shaped one is the City of David and the buildings in the upper right of that section are the Temple and Solomon's palace. The small section below that is called the neighborhood between the walls. Around this area is the gate between the walls that King Zedekiah used to escape the city. The large square area is called the Western Hill it has no name in the Bible

Friday, November 5, 2010

Western Hill of Jerusalem

This week I had my second field trip in my archaeology class. We went to the Western Hill specifically in the Jewish Quarter to the museum for the first temple period of Jerusalem. We spent over an hour sitting in front of this model of Jerusalem from the first temple period. While this was very interesting for me I don't think I can transfer the information to this blog post. In this class I've learned that a lot the houses in the old city have archaeological ruins in their basements. The building across from the first temple period museum has the remains of a tower found in the late 60's earlier 70's (I can't quite remember). However no one is allowed inside the basement to see it, I think the professor said something about radiation. But it would not have an effect on your health if you were only in there for five minutes. I find this ironic because the building is a school for elementary age girls. So the girls can go to school there but I can't go see the tower in the basement?

Here we have the broad wall this is the same wall I had in my post detailing my first trip into the Old City. However the earlier picture of this wall I was standing "outside" the city of the 1st temple period in this picture I am "inside" the city. This wall was built by King Hezekiah. This is just the base of the wall it's three meters tall. Hezekiah's wall would have been 7-8 meters thick in contrast the current city walls are only two meters thick.

This is a different angle on Hezekiah's wall. The blue thing in the corner is one of the safety bars. The pictures I take during these tours are always taken very fast so I don't always have time to line the shot up correctly. The professor never stops talking and I have to keep writing everything down. Look near the middle of the picture, Do you see those two squares near the modern day brick wall? Those two squares are the remains of a house that the wall cut through. This is one of the best examples we have of the Biblical text matching what we see in the archaeology. Isaiah 22:10 " You counted the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to strengthen the wall. " Being here in Jerusalem is really making the Bible come alive for me.

Archaeologists wanted to leave some of their finds visible even if they couldn't uncover everything. This is a peep hole in the middle of one of the streets inside the Jewish Quarter. This pit goes down 15 meters at the bottom is remains from the 8th century B.C. The street level where I'm standing is Byzantine (4th century A.D. I think). That's all I have from the tour this week. I've been typing up my notes from this tour and the following class lecture this afternoon. I write so fast in this class that part of the fun is trying to decipher my own handwriting. For example I use short hand so I had a lot of CoD in my notes and I was thinking cash on delivery? Then I remember I used the abbreviation for City of David. I had the same problem with my short hand TM not trademark but Temple Mount.

Now for a little section on Life in Jerusalem. I've mentioned the construction on campus before. Well they are still working on improving the forum. This week they were painting the doors, door frames, and the paneling around the windows. There were no signs, no drop cloths and nothing to block off the area where they were painting. Even when I walked back through the area later in the day there were no signs to warn you of the wet paint. While walking through the Old City during the tour I noticed a man painting some safety railings, and once again no signs.

From the last post:
Uncle Joe- No I haven't visited the spring at Gihon, or Hezekiah's tunnel. It is on my list to visit though. I don't think I would get claustrophobic in the tunnel.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Geography of Jerusalem

This will be about my first field trip in Archaeology of Jerusalem class that occurred last Wednesday October 20th. It wasn't really an archaeology field trip but a geography of Jerusalem trip. I'm guessing the professor would like us to know where things are so when we go somewhere we know approximately where we are in the city. I really enjoyed this field trip but this professor is difficult to listen to. He has been in the field of Archaeology so long that he knows so much he just starts talking and you have to write everything down...yes ever little thing he says. He jumps around so at the end of class my notebook is a mess so I have to retype my notes in Microsoft onenote and straighten them out. I also add summary boxes of the points I think he was trying to stress in class. This class is made all the more difficult because there is no textbook. He told us to read everything about Jerusalem that we could get our hands on. I'm not sure exactly how to write this post. I took pictures on the tour but we were really only in two places so most of my pictures look almost the same. Without the aid of arrows to point to the exact features I'm discussing I am forced to rely on my powers of description. This post also serves as a review for what I learned last week.

This picture will give you an idea of where I am at. I am on a hill whose name I can't remember on the south side of the Old City. I am facing north. The black spots at the top of the picture are birds that just happened to fly by. If you look closely there is smoke in this picture but I'm not sure what is burning.(If you click on the picture it will enlarge it) The fire is in what is called the Hinnom Valley. The name of the valley was originally Gai Ben Hinnom which means valley of the son of Hinnom the name of the person who owned the land. This name got changed somewhere in history to Gehennom from which we get the English word Gehenna the hell mentioned in the Bible. This valley became associated with a hell like place because this is where the child sacrifices mentioned in the Old testament occurred. I kind of feel sorry for that family whose name now represents Hell. Parallel to the wall of the Old City facing me is the Kidron Valley. This valley has several names in the Bible its also called the veil of kings, veil of Joel, and the veil of Jehoshaphat. A couple of biblical passages that mention this valley are 2 Samuel 18:18 and Genesis14:17. The monument mentioned in 2 Samuel is no longer here today

This picture is zoomed in from the one above. This is the Azel Valley mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 in reference to the earthquake that occurred during King Uzziah's reign around 760 B.C. The earthquake is also mentioned in the opening verse of Amos. I can't remember if I've mentioned this before or not but when I give Biblical references I'm using the New International Version so the verse numbers might be slightly different if your Bible is a different version.

Look to the right of the Old City you see a grove of trees? Inside that grove is a building with a gold speck that is the Russian Orthodox church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. That grove of trees is part of the area where Solomon built the high places to honor the Gods of his foreign wives mentioned in 2 kings 3:3 and 23:13.

Look outside the Old City walls and see the hot dog shaped hill. This hill is where the City of David was so technically the old city is outside the walls of the Old City. ;) On this hill was the stronghold of the Jebusites (the people David conquered to take over Jerusalem). The Jebusite stronghold was called Mount Zion mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7. This is not what most people call Mount Zion today. The Mount Zion of today was misnamed by Christians in the 4th century A.D. There were other locations that would have been better for his city but David chose this location for one reason, the Gihon Spring without this spring there would be no Jerusalem. There are different stories about how Jerusalem was conquered compare 2 Sam 5 with Judges 1:8 and 1:21. The City of David has the lowest elevation in Jerusalem at its western end it is only 620 meters above sea level. This is important to note because the Temple Mount stands at 740 meters above sea level. You can tell the present day walls of the Old City are not original because the Temple Mount does not have a central location in the city for being so important. Going to the Temple Mount from the City of David you are ascending whereas today as a modern tourist entering the Old City from Jaffa gate which is 777 meters above sea level you actually descend to the Temple Mount. All of the Psalms that have the designation song of ascent are thought to have been sung while ascending to the Temple Mount or making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for example Psalm 125.

For this picture we turned around and walked across the street. I am facing south in this picture. Look out past the cars and the Arab village to the mountains. This is part of the Judean wilderness referred to in the Bible. The desert has a huge impact on the city. It was the boundary between two different societies the herders and nomads of the desert and the city dwellers. There are two different views of the desert presented in the Bible. One is the desert is a place where the human soul can come closer to God like Elijah (1 Kings 19) and Moses who gave the laws in the desert. Jeremiah referred to the desert as a honeymoon between God and his people. The desert is also referred to as cursed by God and a place of sin because making a living in the desert is very hard.

This is a zoomed in picture from the one above. See the mountain that kind of looks like a volcano? This is the location of the Herodium, a palace built by Herod the Great. You can read more about it here. And that concludes your tour of the geography of Jerusalem. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Seeing these locations and matching them up with Bible verses has just helped the Bible become more alive for me. It helps to be able to picture the locations the texts refer to.

I've only officially been in graduate school for three weeks but I have learned so much in this time. I've been warned to be careful with the Bible because it is my main textbook in many of my classes but I can not let it become just my textbook. So far there is no danger of this, I've been more frustrated that I don't know the Bible better to be able to know the references the professor makes to a certain book without looking them up. I need to reread several books of the Bible I'm studying in various classes to have the context of what I am translating. My Bibles are definitely going to be well loved by the time I have this degree. I am still overwhelmed and frustrated by all these ancient languages but at the same time I am fascinated by all of this. I have since discovered that some of the people in my classes that already know these languages so well are actually here working on the second master's degree so no wonder I feel behind them. To be honest it never occurred to me to get two masters degrees before pursuing a doctorate.

I've still been eating lunch in the botanical garden and studying. This cat has been eating lunch with me a few times. I'm not sure if this is the same cat from the last post or not. This look is one that says: "Are you going to give me that bite of your sandwich or keep trying to take my picture? Give me that sandwich!"

I'm still trying to figure out how to study for all these classes. Right now it seems like I don't have any free time to do anything but study during the week. These past two weekends I haven't done much but study either. To give you some idea of how much work I have I bought a paper last Friday and I haven't had time to read it yet! With graduate school I'm having to micromanage my time more than I've had to at any other point in my life.

From the last post:
Uncle Joe- I believe they figured out the dialects in Akkadian by comparing it to other related languages. While I am homesick I don't think that McDonald's hamburger would taste too good even if it still looks okay. They have McDonald's here too but their food taste different and I can't get a cheese burger because its not kosher.

Mom-I haven't named the cat yet because I'm still not sure if I'm sharing lunch with one cat or two. I'm glad I'm able to make Jerusalem come alive for you.

Kathy- Thank you. Claire and I will get through this together somehow. Right now I think we are still overwhelmed by the amount of homework.

Nikki-Thank you. I don't feel very impressive. I feel more like a fish out of water. I still have the feeling of What was I thinking when I came here? I'm sure it will get better with time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

First two weeks of Graduate School

Graduate school definitely keeps you busy. I was too overwhelmed last week to post. I'm still overwhelmed but I've had time to collect my thoughts to post. The first day of school they were handing out pink and red carnations as well as red apples. I don't know why I couldn't figure that out.

First I'm going to list my class schedule so you will know where I'm at on certain days.
Sunday Readings in Jeremiah 12:30-2
Bibliographical guidance 2:30-4
Monday Modern Hebrew 8:30-10
Biblical Hebrew 12:30-2
Akkadian 4:30-7
Tuesday Modern Hebrew 8:30-12
Biblical Aramaic 4:30-6
Wednesday Archaeology of Jerusalem in Biblical times 8:30-12 12:30-2
Thursday Modern Hebrew 8:30-12
Biblical Hebrew 12:30-2
Akkadian 4:30-7
As you can see its quite a lot of classes. Even if I have several hours between classes I hate going up and down the hill to the student village so I stay at school and try to get some homework done. Most days my backpack weighs about 20 pounds so I'm getting a great workout walking to and from school.

Readings in Jeremiah is kind of obvious its a class about the book of Jeremiah. We will be doing a critical analysis of the text and looking at the Hebrew.

Bibliographical Guidance is a required class. It meets every other week at least so that gives me a little break. This class goes over the important sources the Biblical Studies field and teaches us how to use the libraries on campus.

Modern Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew are also obvious. Remember back in June when I was taking the first year of Biblical Hebrew in a five week crash course? Well it didn't go so well for me so I'm repeating it. I'm not very happy with myself for that one but I really didn't get it the first time around and I want to have a good foundation before I continue.

Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language. It is written in cuneiform script (symbols). Today the symbols are transliterated into English. We haven't started to learn the symbols yet I'm interested to see how hard it will be to learn the symbols. You can read more about the Akkadian language here. I will be learning the Old Babylonian dialect just in case you were curious. Before taking this class I didn't know there was more that one dialect. I just thought symbols were symbols how different could they be?

Aramaic is another Semitic language. Unlike Akkadian this language is still spoken but only in small remote villages. Modern Aramaic is very different from the Aramaic I will be studying this year. I learned that in the Hebrew Old testament there are several sections that are written in Aramaic. The Aramaic letters were adopted by Hebrew. Aramaic is the language that Jesus would have spoken.

Archaeology of Biblical Jerusalem is my favorite class so far. All the other classes I feel behind everyone else. Most people in my masters program have a bachelor's in Biblical studies or Jewish Studies so they have had these languages before where as I have never seen them before. I have had classes in Archaeology before so I know what to expect in this class. Its the one day a week that I feel like I really belong here. This class also goes on tours around the city every other week to see the places we are learning about. We had our first trip this week but it will be the subject of another post.

To keep myself sane and to get out of the building that all my classes are in I go outside to the botanical garden for lunch and on days where I'm there longer dinner as well. As I've mentioned before there are cats everywhere in this country. But the cats in the student village and on campus are some of the most well fed stray cats I've ever seen. This one has found me almost everyday during lunch. She is very loud and persuasive. I usually give her a corner of my sandwich. On this day she ate it and I took out my camera to take a picture and she posed for me. I guess she is used to having her picture taken.

I try to eat at a different bench in the garden everyday so I get a different view. Sometimes most of the benches are taken studying in the garden is very popular. This was the view from one of the benches I had lunch at this week. This one is usually taken because it has a great view.

Another day at dinner I noticed how pretty the sun was coming through the trees so I snapped this picture. Its really sad to eat both lunch and dinner at school. I go to school as the sun is coming up and I leave school after dark. The sun rises here around 5:30am and it starts to set around 5 ish I haven't really payed attention to the exact time but I think we have less daylight hours here.

Remember the construction in the student village from the last post? I think they might have finally finished it. Last week they tore up the tiles at the bottom of the staircase on the right. The dug a twenty foot deep hole that was about ten feet across. The funny part was this hole was right in front of a door leading into the dorm. They posted a sign on it in English 'No Entry'. That sign made me laugh because of all the times to post a sign in English they picked the one time I wouldn't need to read the sign to know that I can't use that door. Unfortunately they filled in the hole before I got a picture of it. So last week when they turned the water off they were making announcements on the speaker about it but only in Hebrew so I had no idea what was going on. I could only catch a few words: "water blah blah blah, 2 hours blah blah working on water blah blah" Not very helpful if you just want to know when you can take a shower so you can go to bed.

I've had a very hard time this past two weeks. I'm been very homesick I'm been in Israel since June and while I am getting used to life here it is very different from Texas. I'm also overwhelmed with my classes. I feel like everyone else is smarter than I am with these languages. Every class I'm in is like a mini United Nations which only serves to point out the flaws in the American education system. All of the students from Europe are fluent in multiple languages because they start learning them in elementary school. It is much easier to pick up languages when you are younger. Those who grew up bilingual have an advantage. Everyone here has accomplished amazing things. Several have spent the last year studying Biblical Hebrew at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. I have a monk in one of my classes, yes a real monk with a brown robe, rope belt and a rosary. Next to all of my classmates accomplishments and previous knowledge I can't help but think 'Why did they accept me?' And of course with the overwhelming feeling comes the tears and the question of what in the world am I doing here? What was I thinking when I decided to come to Israel? Why did I think I could do this?

I've been trying to calm myself down and remind myself why I wanted to come to Israel. I want to learn these ancient languages so I can translate the documents myself. I want to be able to translate the Bible from the Hebrew into English. I don't want to have to rely on anyone else to know what the Bible really says. To be honest it is part of my search into religion. I believe this is what I am meant to do in life. This is the first step of my plan in studying where the Christian religion came from. Here in Israel I hope to gain a Jewish perspective of the Old testament. I've always studied the Old testament with a Christian mindset and I want to know how the Jewish people interpret the Old testament.

Music has always been one of the ways I calm down. Lately I've been listening to a podcast National Geographic Weekend. On the podcast they interview the National Geographic explorers about their projects. Some of them have done some amazing things that seem like they should be impossible to accomplish and that gives me courage for my studies. It also makes me hope that someday I can be a National Geographic Explorer and inspire others to try the impossible. I've been listening to music that is inspiring and uplifting. One song in particular that I have been listening to frequently over these past two weeks is This is your life by Switchfoot. The key part of the lyrics is a question: Are you who you want to be? I'm not yet but I'm working on it. Well that got a bit more philosophical than I intended it to be but it is something I've been thinking about a lot this week.

From the last post:
Nikki- Thank you I'm glad my cooking looks good. I have messed up a few things but when I mess up I don't take pictures. I'm still learning so I still make some interesting mistakes when cooking. :)

Amanda-I really liked Pride and Prejudice I now understand all the references to Mr. Darcy. Now I also understand why all of the sequels and prequels have been written by so many people it was a good story. I finished The Count of Monte Cristo last weekend it was part of my attempt to retain my sanity by reading something in English. I liked Monte Cristo better than Pride and Prejudice. The characters were complex and Mr. Dumas really got into the characters motivations. The plot also had a few twists that I wasn't expecting. Monte Cristo is a very long book but I would recommend reading it. I've shown the para para video to a few people here too. I wish I still knew all of those dances but I haven't practiced para para in quite a while.

Uncle Joe- No I didn't figure out why they wouldn't sit next to me at the post office. I don't have TV in my dorm so I don't know what kind of cartoons they have here. I love the Japanese anime though.

Uncle Sam and Aunt Lynda- I'm glad you are enjoying my blog. I'm going to try to keep it updated.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Misadventures in Israel

So I haven't really been doing anything exciting over the break. I've mostly been studying, reading books on my Kindle and cooking. This post is going to focus on some more everyday life stuff.

This picture is from just before the last Ulpan session ended but it didn't really fit in with the topic of my last post. They started on some construction projects on campus specifically knocking out what appear to be perfectly good walls. The first occurrence of this I don't have a picture of but I'll explain it. Everyone that walks to school has to enter in through the same gate and most walk through the forum(student center) in the morning. Along the path that everyone has to take from the gate through the forum there were two men taking down a wall during the time of heaviest foot traffic through the area. This wall also contained a glass window. The two men were not wearing protective goggles or face masks. The area was not coned off there were no drop cloths hanging from the ceiling to stop flying debris. No signs to warn you that you were approaching a construction area. Just two guys with sledge hammers pounding on the wall with glass shards and sheet rock flying through the air. About thirty feet from this was an open cafe where people were calmly sitting enjoying their morning coffee and pastries. I thought this was odd but quickly moved passed it to avoid injury. The next day I had to take a picture of a second wall being knocked out. Same as before no protective gear or signs. The two men were wailing on the wall when it must have occurred to them 'Hey there is a vending machine on the other side of the wall maybe we should move it. ' I was surprised they hadn't moved it before starting on the wall. Another day towards the middle of the forum they were jack hammering up some of the tile. A cafe very close to the site was still open and people were sitting there enjoying their drinks. I don't think I could enjoy coffee with the sound of jack hammering so close by. I guess they must not have lawsuits for liability in Israel. I know that doing the construction during the Ulpan makes sense because there are less students on campus but I think they could have started after the morning classes began and less students were passing by.

I have another example of construction this time at the Student Village right outside my building. The hole has been doubled in size since this picture was taken the tree has been snapped in half and almost all of the vines are now gone. And the whole is full of water. Outside the door to my room there is a speaker in the ceiling. I wondered when I moved in what the speaker was for since we clearly did not have a sound system in our apartment. Several mornings over the break there has been a chiming sound followed by an announcement in Hebrew then in English. I was proud of myself for understanding the Hebrew before the English was given. Basically all they said was in twenty minutes we are going to turn off the water for a few hours. But when they made the announcement in English they still used the Hebrew word for water and minutes. So if you had just arrived here you wouldn't know what they were talking about. I do appreciate the warnings that they are about to turn off the water but having the speaker also feels a little big brotherish to me.

This next story wasn't very amusing when it occurred but now that some time has passed I'm able to laugh about it. I had to do my laundry specifically I had already washed my laundry and needed to dry it only one of the dryers was still open. So I tossed my clothes inside and turned it on. After checking the lint trap which is always a good idea in a university laundry mat people often forget to clean it out. The dryer was only on medium heat. When I came back thirty minutes later something was clearly wrong. Several of my shirts had caught fire in the dryer and had holes burned through them. Several other shirts and my bed sheets had scorch marks on them. And yet seeming to defy the laws of heat transfer (the actual scientific name escapes me at the moment) the waist band of all my jeans was still wet. I took the shirt that was in the worst shape and headed down to the dorm office. After waiting in line for a few minutes I told the woman that dryer number 16 needed to be repaired as it had caught fire and burned my clothes and I showed her my burned shirt. She glanced at it and looked me straight in the face and said "Yes this happens." I was dumbfounded what did she mean by that? Do dryers frequently catch fire in Israel? Are the dryers in the student village really that dangerous? She gave me the number of the company that runs the laundromat and sent me away. I called the number but they didn't speak English and that was the end of that. I did go back to the laundry mat and no one has placed any kind of sign on dryer 16 to warn that it has the tendency to catch fire. I haven't added a sign because I don't know how to write this information in Hebrew. I was folding up my laundry and complaining about the scorch marks and just to show you how much of a geek I truly am one of the things I said was "I'm going to look like I've been singed by mage fire!" I guess that qualifies as geek ranting. In my defense I was at the time reading C.L. Wilson's Tairen Soul series where the villains are mages and are know for the devastating fire attacks. If you like fantasy series you might want to look into the Tairen Soul series its currently four books long with the fifth one coming out at the end of October. The first book is called Lord of the Fading Lands.

My next adventure is the Post Office. I have a mailbox in the student village but its very small. So if I get a package it can end up one of three places. Sometimes it will end up at the housing office desk you will have no way of knowing its there except going to check every few days. It could be sent to the Post office on campus but that would be too convenient and make too much sense so they usually sent it to the Post Office that's about half a mile away from the Student Village. They are supposed to put a slip of paper in your mailbox to tell you that you have a package but sometimes they don't and you just have to go check to see if they have a package for you. So if you are going to send a package you have to let me know so I can look for it. In writing the address its best to write in print and do not abbreviate things like street or building. A lot of people can read English but not everyone here can read cursive. And don't bother to sending anything by priority mail the only person its priority to is you. Its also not a good idea to send things during the High Holy Days (Days of Awe) which consist of all the holidays of my last few posts. Because of all the holidays the Post Office is shut down so many days it takes forever for things to get here. I got a package slip in my mailbox so I set off for the post office. There are some great views along the way so I brought my camera along.

Here I've gone out the South gate of the Student Village up the street to the grocery store and turned the corner and walked about ten minutes to get this view. I'm walking along one of the ridges on the mountain and its hard to gauge distance. You can see homes towards the right of the picture. In the upper left corner you can see the buildings of the Student Village.

In the center of this picture is the famous tower of Hebrew University.

Here is a closer view of what the houses in this neighborhood look like. Notice the solar panels and hot water heaters on the roof.

Along the way there is some interesting graffiti. This one kind of reminds me of Pablo Picasso.

This one looks rather familiar like I might have seen graffiti similar to it in the States. I don't remember where though.

This last one was rather large. I couldn't take a picture of it from across the street because cars were parked in front of it and would have blocked most of it.

So I reached the post office. In Israel the color of the post office is red and there mascot looks like Hermes shoe ( a sneaker with wings sprouting from around the ankle) which would make sense since Hermes was the messenger of the Greek/Roman pantheon of gods. However I'm not sure that is what the symbol is supposed to be given that this is a Jewish state. There is an armed guard outside who checks your bag before letting you in. You take a number and sit down and must like the drivers license office you sit down and wait for your number to come up. They open around 8:30am and I got there around 11am. The number I pulled was 917 luckily they were on 890 something. To work in the post office in Israel is difficult because I think you have to know three languages. Everything in the post office was written in Hebrew, Arabic and lucky for me English. I took a seat in the corner by the door since they were saving money and the air conditioner was not on the seat by the door was much cooler. As I sat waiting I began to notice something interesting...where certain people would and would not sit or specifically who they wouldn't sit by. Women sat by other women and sometimes would remain standing if they had to cross in front of a man to get to open seats. At one point all of the chairs were taken except for the one next to me. Several men came in but none of them would take the seat next to me. When my number came up I handed the lady my package slip and she went and brought me my package. If I didn't have the package slip I would have to show my passport in order to pick it up. So I had my package and began my walk back to the student village. It took me a few minutes to notice but people were giving me a pretty wide berth walking down the sidewalk. I had a couple people cross the street rather than walk past me. I guess it was because I was carrying a box and you never know what I might be carrying. I was just thinking of the contrast between Israel and America. Back home no one would think anything of me walking down the street with a box in my hands here it is noted.

Yesterday I walked up to school to show a new student around and to buy a few school supplies. The street leading up to the University is lined with parking meters. On the way back to the student village there was a parking meter guy going down the street and checking to make sure everyone had paid. I normally wouldn't have noticed him but I did because he had a gun on his belt and several extra clips of ammunition. It just struck me as odd that a parking meter man would need to be armed? I'm still not used to the presence of so many guns everywhere.

As I mentioned above I've done a little cooking over the break. Since I'm still learning I've very proud of everything I make that turns out well. This is German potato salad. Skin and boil the potatoes. Chopped up one white onion and saute it in a half cup of white wine vinegar add mustard,salt, pepper and a little sugar. Saute until onions become clear then mix into potatoes and let it sit for a while to absorb the flavor and top with parsley. I will take this time to mention that I've had to learn to think about the altitude difference between Texas and Israel. I had to boil the potatoes for about an hour before they were soft enough.

I also made apple crumble cake. I think the least healthy thing I've made so far. The topping is flour,butter and brown sugar. Chopped up the apples into wedges put them in a mixing bowl pour lemon juice over them, this is so the cinnamon will stick. It's supposed to have a whipped topping but we don't have a mixer so I couldn't make it. Put it in the oven to bake for 35 minutes at 176 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I used a temperature converter on the Internet to figure it out.

This is a popular kids treat this is what the kids ask/whine for at the grocery store. I'm not sure how to transliterate the name into English so I'm not going to try. They are creme filled little nuggets they come in chocolate and vanilla.

Claire is the one who pointed out this line of brownies to me. Each one has a rather offensive cartoon drawing of an African woman whose hair color matches the brownies on the package. The blondies packages have offensive looking white women on them but I haven't tried them yet. When I do I'll post pictures. You know I have to try them all just to get pictures of the packages, for my followers of course! You see what I'm willing to do in the name of an interesting blog post. The brownies were really good though so I it won't be much of a sacrifice.

As far as my reading goes I've been on a classics run this week. I've read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and I'm now working on The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. These two novels are on my bucket list of reading. Which is a list of mostly classics that I want to read in my lifetime. Of course once school starts back up I probably won't have as much time for reading as I would like. The fall semester starts this coming Sunday October 10th. I am planning on doing a post listing what classes I'm taking this semester. However I'm going to wait until after the add/drop period just in case my schedule changes. Wow! This was a very long post if you've made it this far thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Sorry I meant to get this post up at the start of this holiday but I came down with a cold. I've been spending the last few days in bed reading and watching movies. Plus I had to do a little research to figure out what exactly this holiday is celebrating.

Sukkot officially began at sunset last Wednesday September 22 and will end at sunset on September 30. This holiday is also known as the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths. Booths are called Sukkot one booth is a succa. During this holiday everyone builds temporary booths that they will live in for the week. The booth must have at least two walls and you must be able to fit a table and chairs inside. The roof must be made out of organic materials you have to be able to see the stars through the roof. For the week you eat all of your meals inside the booth and you sleep in it at night.However if it is raining the Rabbis do not require you to sleep outside. You can find mention of this holiday in Leviticus 23 starting at verse 33. This section says it is a holiday celebrating the harvest of crops. The living in the booths is a reminder of the temporary shelters that the Israelis lived in the desert when God brought them out of Egypt. It is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 17 starting at verse 13. The final mention I found of this holiday is in Nehemiah 9 starting at verse 13. Biblically I think this was the time of year to read the Book of the Law of God out-loud. I think this probably means Deuteronomy or Leviticus. If you would like to look up my Bible references online I recommend Bible Gateway this website will allow you to look up the sections mentioned in the translation of your choice.

Today the theme of Sukkot is humility. Since most of us are no longer connected to the harvest directly. It is a holiday of being thankful for what you have for this one week everyone is equal living outside in booths. Now it is common to read the book of Ecclesiastes because the holiday is near the changing of seasons. It reminds you that your time on this Earth is short and every moment counts. Even if you buy the more expensive branches for the roof of your succa they will still die in seven days. I've been told Sukkot are kind of like are Christmas decorations in that people leave them up long after the holiday has passed. Near the start of the holdiay Claire and I were walking back from the grocery store and we passed by this parked car. The car had a large bunch of branches tied down to the top of it, like we do with Christmas trees the similarity made me smile. Unfortunately I was not carrying a camera with me at the time so no picture.

This is a good place to discuss the separation of Church and state in Israel...or rather the lack of separation. I knew coming here that Israel is a Jewish state but I didn't think about how that was going to effect me in school. For example in Ulpan we learned about the Western Wall and the practice of writing prayers on pieces of paper and placing them in the cracks in the wall. For homework that nice we had to write a five line prayer in Hebrew that could be placed inside the wall. The assignment was not optional. I guess I'm so used to church being separated from school this kind of assignment would never be given in a state university. Now Sukkot is kind of similar. The University built a succa in the botanical garden pictured at the left.

The student village also has its own succa. I guess I'm not used to school sponsoring religious holidays. This is my first experience being a minority in a religious sense. Israel is the first time I've experienced a country whose government officially celebrates religious holidays. Now I know in the United States we try to keep religion separate from government but the official holidays follow the Protestant Christian calender. It just feels so strange to me to have these holidays and have to research what they are celebrating.

Claire left for an adventure in Europe for the next 11 days. So I'm going to be by myself for a while. Hopefully I'll shake the rest of this cold soon. I would like to try a few more recipes out before starting school for the fall.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Yom Kippur

This past Saturday was Yom Kippur also known as the Day of Atonement. It is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Yom Kippur is another fasting day no food or drink from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. You are not allowed to bathe, use deodorant or perfume, no marital relations and you can not wear leather shoes. Traditionally you wear white clothing. Here in Israel everything is closed on Yom Kippur. No one is allowed to drive so on Yom Kippur you could walk down the middle of the highway if you want to. This holiday is from the Bible you can read about it in Leviticus chapter 16 and one verse in Exodus chapter 30. Yom Kippur was the day the high priest would enter the holy of holies. One goat would be slaughtered on the alter as an offering to God. A second goat would symbolically be burdened with the sins of the people of Israel and released into the wilderness this is where we get the term scapegoat. Today the Holiday is celebrated a little differently since there is no Temple. People go to the Western Wall and purchase a live chicken. You take the chicken by its legs and swing it over your head I think this symbolically transfers your sins to the chicken but I'm not sure. The chicken is then sent to the slaughter house and will be used to feed the poor. You can also do this with an envelope of money equivalent to the price of the chicken. The money then goes to purchase a chicken to feed the poor.

This would be a good time to mention the Haredim. The Hardedim are an ultra orthodox sect of Judaism. The men wear all black suits and black hats all the time no matter what the weather is. You can see their outfits here They have standards of dress that make them distinctive. They also wear black because the are in mourning for the loss of the Temple. On Yom Kippur they all wear white this is the only day they dress in white. Here in Jerusalem they live in a neighborhood called Me'a Sharim. If you want to walk through this neighborhood you have to be dressed to their standards of modesty. If you go into their neighborhood and they don't think you are dressed properly they will throw rocks at you.

This is an outfit similar to what the women wear in these conservative neighborhoods. Only married women have to cover their hair. Hair is considered an adornment. Some women shave their heads and wear a wig. Sometimes it looks like everyone has the same hairstyle but its just the same wig. Short strawberry blonde with side bangs. I was suprised how much the head scarf aged me. I look much older with my hair covered. The strand of pearls is worn on Sabbath or holidays. However on Yom Kippur and other fasting days jewerly is forbidden. Women in this community do not make eye contact with men they are not married to or related to. To make eye contact with these men is very offensive to them. You can not speak to a man you are not married to or related to.

Claire is wearing an outfit similar to what the teenage girls in the conservative communities would wear. Again girls don't have to cover their hair until they get married.

I just finished my final exam for the first level of Modern Hebrew. I even wrote an essay in Hebrew I think I'm able to write like a first grader in Hebrew now. :) I now have a few weeks of vacation before the fall semester starts.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Birthday Celebrations

Last night Claire had a small get together planned for my birthday! Underneath the English letters is Happy Birthday in Hebrew.

Claire managed to find a gluten free cake mix for me. She added six sparkle candles to the cake not the full number because we didn't want to set off the smoke detector. They were trick candles and it took me three minutes to blow them all out.

Here we have the card and chocolate bar that Anna K gave me. Notice the all important cow on the wrapper.

Sonja and Yujin brought me flowers and a pomegranate.
They hand made a card for me.

Claire also helped add to the collection of cows with Cow capsule stickers! They are made in Korea but the sayings on them are in English. Most of what they say doesn't make any sense. Each sticker has a little cow or something with cow spots on it that moves around in the sticker. My favorite one says Happy Virus! I don't think they had anyone check the English before making them. Cow capsules gotta collect 'em all!
My birthday party was unique I got the Happy Birthday song in 10 different languages: English, Hebrew, Finish, Korean,Russian, German, French, Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese. That is one of the benefits of going to an International school!
Uncle Joe- Yes my quote was from Mulan. It wasn't coffee it was actually English Breakfast tea. I haven't been to any of the antiquities shops yet but I did hear about them when I took Biblical Archaeology. I think the pomegranate you are referring to was later declared to be a fraud.
Nikki-You peel the eggplant then soak it in water for three minutes, take it out and dice it. Then put the diced eggplant back in the water to soak for another two to three minutes before sauteing.
Jennifer-I'll mark the date on my calendar. ^-^

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rosh Hashanah

Sorry for not posting sooner. Last week was Rosh Hashana or the Jewish New Year. Everything shut down Tuesday afternoon. Rosh Hashana began last Wednesday after sundown and Thursday was New Year's Day. All the stores were closed and the city buses were not running. I don't think the stores were open on Friday morning but I didn't go out to check. Its a totally different way of celebrating holidays that just wouldn't go over well in America.

To celebrate the Jewish New Year Claire made honey cake sorry I didn't get a picture of it. You are also supposed to eat apples with honey and pomegranate. I decided to try a pomegranate since I've only had pomegrantate juice previously. Before cutting into a pomegrante make sure you are wearing something that you don't care too much about. Pomegranate juice is pink and it stains everything it touches. From this point you pick out the seeds and eat them. I think they are kind of bitter tasting so I don't know if I will eat a pomegrante again. Pluse I stained my shirt and I was trying to be careful!

I've continued my adventures in cooking! Here we have my attempt at salsa. It was good but I put too many chili peppers in it so it was very hot. I made the mistake of holding the chili peppers while cutting them so my fingers were burning. After coating my hands with olive oil the burning stopped. The capsaicin is fat soluable in case you ever need to know.

Next I tried Beef hash. Diced potatoes with garlic
onions and beef with scrambled eggs on top.

Here we have vegetable spaghetti! Eggplant,tomatoes, zucchini, red onion, and garlic sauteed in olive oil topped with parmesan cheese.

This is the best thing I've made since coming to Israel!

This is eggplant dip. Eggplant and garlic sauteed in olive oil, add lemon juice, salt, pepper and parsley. Its best when served warm but it still tastes good cold.

I discovered this little gem in the school bookstore. Dancing Cows! I don't know why but a lot of merchandise in the store features these cows, clipboards, stickers, notebooks, and greeting cards. I have no idea where these cows come from but they make me smile. I think I'm going to collect stuff with the dancing cows.

As some of you are aware today is my birthday!
Today I am 26 years old! To the right we have my breakfast from this morning that my roommate Claire made me. "Here's you breakfast! And it's happy to see you!" Trivia question what Disney movie is that from? My friends here have helped make this a special day with well wishes. My classmates sang Happy Birthday to me in Hebrew! Anna K. got me a card and a chocolate bar! The chocolate bar's logo has a cow on it so she is helping me collect the cows. ;)
I also wanted to thank everyone that emailed me Birthday wishes. Thank you for helping make my day special while I'm out of the country. Today is also Grandparent's Day back in the United States. Happy Grandparents Day! Another point of interest today Daylights Savings time in Israel ended so we have fallen back one hour. Just something to keep in mind if you are trying to get in touch with me on the phone.