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.