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.


  1. At least it looks like you and Claire had a good meal and made the most that you could of Christmas.

    Lady does look like a proper lady -- Good name for her.

  2. Talking about sandstorms blew up a memory. On the Vicksburg side of the Miss. River you go through a bank of loess. You may remember where they make vertical cuts into the bank to keep down erosion. That kind of formation is compacted sand/dirt from old dust/sandstorms. Since you are having that kind of weather I wondered if you'd seen anything like that kind of formation around? Masada, Qumran or Gethsamane maybe? Kind of odd to go halfway round the world and find geology similar to that of a trip to see folks. Maybe the Israelis need more kudzu and less sabra?

  3. Merry (belated) Christmas! We have "Christmas" here in Japan but its quite different from back home; there are presents and trees but none of the religious meaning behind them. My kids had school up until Christmas Eve, which is apparently the most romantic day of the year here when everyone goes on big dates. They were all shocked when I told them that everything is closed on Christmas in America. And that we don't all eat at Kentuky Fried Chicken.

    We spent Christmas Day at Tokyo Disneyland and we thought of you. We had a good time, its just not how I normally spend Christmas. Hope school is going well for you!

  4. I enjoyed reading your catching up blog post. I can't begin to imagine what trying to celebrate Christmas would be like in a country that doesn't celebrate. Your chicken dinner and ginger bread cookies look delicious. The table setting with the paper snowflakes is beautiful and festive. Tough time to need butter or margerine for a recipe. I take it for granted that I'll find everything I need for a meal at the grocery store.

    I look forward to reading about the City of David in a future blog. It's hard to believe you have been away at Graduate School for over 6 months now. Lady the cat looks so cute waiting for a bite of your sandwich. I hope you don't have anymore sandstorms. One would do it for me. I love reading about your life.