Sunday, April 24, 2011


I've done a little research into the holiday and I'm suprised at how little I actually knew about this holiday. I also find it interesting that I've never thought to look more into this holiday before moving to Israel. The Last Supper was supposedly a Passover meal. I say supposedly because the Synoptic Gospels have the meal at a different time than the Gospel of John and scholars have been arguing over this for quite some time.

The Passover story is found in the book of Exodus chapter 12. Preparation for Passover actually begins a month before the holiday. The entire house must be cleaned thoroughly. The house must be entirely rid of Chametz which is any food made of grain and water that has been allowed to ferment or rise. All crumbs must be cleaned out of the cabinets and eating is restricted to the kitchen so crumbs don't get into the other rooms of the house. The Chametz that is in the house is to be sold or given away to non-Jews. During Passover they eat bread called matzah which is unleavened. Many families have special sets of flatware, silverware and pots and pans that are only used during Passover. The kitchen has to be specially cleaned for Passover in what seems to me a fairly involved process. Here is an article about koshering utensils for Passover to give you some idea of what koshering involves.

There is a special level of kosher food for Passover. Weeks before Passover started I noticed products in the grocery store starting to have special labels saying they were Kosher for Passover. Even the bottled water I buy has the kosher for Passover label. The picture to the left is pepper flavored Doritos the purple is the special label for Passover. The chips do taste a little different than they have the rest of the year. Passover is one of those holidays that even if you aren't a praticing Jew this is the one time of year you will probably keep Kosher.

Last Wednesday Claire went to the grocery store and came back in culture shock. She told me I had to take my camera with me. So I took my camera into the grocery store, I felt like an investigative reporter. There weren't many people in the store and only one other customer saw me take a picture. They looked at me funny and I smiled and said in Hebrew "I'm from America". They laughed at me shook their head and walked off. To the right we have the alcohol section of the store. The alcohol that is not kosher for Passover is behind the plastic. The sign says "Leavened Food Please do not touch". I found it interesting that Pepsi is not kosher for Passover but Coca-Cola is.

These pictures are all going to look similar since its the same sign and plastic but I wanted to give you an idea of how much of the store is covered up. Pictured here is the cereal aisle. Just in case you are wondering the plastic is taped down so I couldn't just reach around the plastic and take a box of cereal they really aren't selling anything that is behind the plastic. The bread aisle was completely empty. Lucky for me I had a loaf of bread in the freezer from the week before Passover. I think I may have the only loaf of bread in Israel right now.

Here is one of my favorite aisles in the store the cookie, brownie,cakes and candy aisle. So sad to see it all covered up.

So what is a girl with a sweet tooth to do during Passover? I found these cookies available on another aisle. The ingredients list gluten which is in wheat and should be forbidden but I guess it was not fermented since it bears the approved label. I think these cookies might be for a special ceremony. I haven't translated the package because I don't want to know if I'm committing some sin by eating them as a snack. I like the taste of them they remind me of the chessmen cookies I ate when I was younger only less buttery. They were on sale the sign said 1+1 which I've learned means buy one get one free so I got two packages. One has already been consumed however. :)

Not all of the kosher for Passover items have special labels some times the store just puts a label in front of the section. I'm grateful that my hot tea bags are kosher.

This post mainly dealt with the special food I haven't covered the special rituals and meals involved for the holiday. I think I'm going to leave those topics for Passover next year.

From the last post:
Mom- The scaffolding next to the woman's section of the Western Wall is part of some sort of construction/ restoration project. I've heard locals mention that it has been there for quite some time and it makes the woman's prayer section smaller.

Uncle Joe- The lighting in the tunnels was very dim so in order to get my pictures to turn out I ended up having to use the night pictures setting. Unfortunately this made the lighting look yellow. Some parts of the tunnels were creepy but not as creepy as the yellow light makes them look.

Nikki- Most of the walls didn't appear to have mortar between the stones but some of the walls did appear to have mortar like the picture from Herod's street level. Either way the walls are impressive.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Western Wall Tunnels

This post is mainly going to be about a tour I took way back on March 11th but haven't had time to post until now. This past Thursday was the start of our two week Passover vacation. Passover is going to be the subject of another post. Like always since we have a break I got sick. It started the weekend before the break with a sandpaper/burning feeling in my throat and developed into a full cold. However I was determined and made it to the two days of classes I have this past week. Though I'm not sure I could tell you what we discussed in Archaeology late Tuesday night. The past several days I've been drinking lots of lemon tea and sleeping at least 12 hours everyday. I'm still stuffed up but I at least feel coherent enough to try to post.

First a little story. Wednesday night I took some NyQuil and went to bed early with the intention of sleeping in late. Around 8am Thursday morning the speaker outside my room made a musical chime that indicates an announcement. I flipped the Hebrew switch in my brain and listened. I caught some of the message. A minute or so late the chime repeats and the message is in English this time. Now at this point I am half awake and still in a NyQuil induced haze. The message was as follows "There has been a water explosion in the student village. The water will be off for the whole day." At the word explosion I'm fully awake and trying to figure out what is going on. It takes a minute for me to remember that this is the phrase they use when there is a problem with the water. I really should go down to the office sometime and teach them the phrase "water main break" that phrase wouldn't be as jarring at 8 in the morning.

Now begins the tour. Here we have the Western Wall which I've mentioned before in this blog. The area you see here is where people come to pray. This was not a typical Friday morning normally there would be more people in the picture but it was raining that day and so there was less of a crowd. What many people don't realize is this section of the wall that people pray at is only 50 meters long. The entire wall is actually 500 meters long you can't see the entire length because of modern buildings. But you can see the entire wall if you go underground.

Here we are a little ways into the tunnels. This picture isn't very good because I was still trying to figure out which mode on my camera would work best for the dim light in the tunnels. I wanted to show this picture to give you an idea of just how big the area is underground. Some of these tunnels are believed to have been used by the priests to get up to the Temple Mount. Many of these tunnels were first discovered by Charles Warren. As I was walking through these tunnels I tried to picture what it must have been like for Charles Warren with only a candle for light and having to dig through centuries of debris to get through the tunnels.

We can't have a tour without a model. Here we have a model of the Temple Mount. Click on the picture to enlarge it. The LED lights show the length of the tunnels underground. That is how far I was able to walk underground on this tour. I was amazed at how extensive the tunnels were.

This is one of the more impressive shots from the tour. I am standing at the top of a staircase. The people at the bottom of the picture are standing right next to the wall. This gives you a little perspective on just how tall the wall is. Notice the area around the people's heads and how it is all one block. That block of stone is one solid piece weighing in at 550 tons! The amazing thing is this huge stone was moved to this location and archaeologists have no idea how they were able to move it. There are two massive stones like this that archaeologists have no idea how they were moved.

Standing at the base of the wall and looking up you can see different styles of masonry with different sizes of stones from when the wall was repaired in various time periods. The guide told us that despite all the different sizes of stones over the centuries this wall has survived several minor earthquakes and has not cracked or shifted.

The next part of the tour we really got to walk the tunnels. This is a picture looking back at the narrow tunnel. I couldn't take a picture in the tunnel because I would have held up everyone walking behind me. The tunnel was very narrow and very short. I'm 5 feet 7 and a half inches tall and I had to duck a little while walking through the tunnel. I do not recommend this tour if you are claustrophobic. I'm a little claustrophobic not the paralyzing kind more of the wow I can hear my heart beating in my ears, I'm breathing a little harder than I need to be kind. But I got over it just for the history that was all around me. Going through the tunnel you could easily see the changes in masonry style.

After emerging from the tunnel we were in a more open area thank goodness. Here I am standing on a street from the time of King Herod. I took the picture up towards the ceiling so you could see how far underground I am. This shows how much accumulates over time and how different places can look years later. The electric fan is not from the time of King Herod however. ;)

Then we walked through more impressive tunnels. This tunnel was used to bring water to the Temple Mount. I think it was carved out by hand. We exited the tunnels by walking back the way we came. Which meant I had to go through the scary claustrophobic tunnel again but I made it.

Back outside the tunnels it was still raining. I took this picture while we were waiting for the bus to come and pick us up. The stones on the ground at the bottom of the picture were pushed off the top of the wall by Roman soldiers in 70 C.E. while Titus conquered the city and they have been there since then.

Other than being sick I'm enjoying my break so far. I've been using the time to read for fun. I'm currently reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I'm enjoying it so far.

From the last post:
Akkadian is a very old very dead language. You may remember studying Hammurabi's law code in school. The whole eye for an eye thing? That law code was written in Akkadian. Akkadian was the lingua franca of its time so many important documents and literature was written in Akkadian. You can read more about it here

Friday, April 1, 2011

So its Spring now

Wow I haven't posted in a while and midterms are next week. Grad school is difficult for me and as always school comes before the blog. I have several posts planned in my head I just haven't had the time to write them down. Next week starts midterm exams so we are already halfway through the semester and I haven't even posted about what classes I'm taking. So first things first my schedule for this semester:
Monday 8:30-10:00 Modern Hebrew
10:30-12:00- History of Israel and Judah through the Assyrian Sources
12:30-2:00 Biblical Hebrew
4:30-7:00 Akkadian
Tuesday 8:30-12:00 Modern Hebrew
6:30-8:00 Archaeology
Wednesday No classes
Thursday 8:30-12:00 Modern Hebrew
12:30-2 Biblical Hebrew
4:30-7 Akkadian
As you can see some of the classes did not change from last semester. The Archaeology class this semester is taught by Dr. Ben-Ami however this class does not include tours. Dr. Ben-Ami did say that we would have one day of excavations in the City of David! I'm really looking forward to that. The History of Israel and Judah through the Assyrian sources is particularly enlightening. In that class we are discussing the book of Kings in the bible. We compare the information in kings about a certain ruler then check the sources we have from the Assyrian empire at the time. In some cases we are able to fill in more information that the writer of kings left out. Sometimes the sources add more information that we wouldn't otherwise know. Not all of the kings are also mentioned in the Assyrian sources but the ones that are mentioned are interesting. The text book for that class is called The Raging Torrent by Dr. Mordechai Cogan who is also my professor. I love the title if I just told you the title I bet you would never guess its a history book.

I want to mention a Jewish holiday that I had March 20th and 21st off from school. This holiday was called Purim. I had heard of Purim before coming to Israel but I didn't know it was a holiday still celebrated today. Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the Persian Empire more specifically Haman. The book of Esther is read and people cheer when Mordechai and Esther are mentioned and boo and the name of Haman. Traditionally people dressed up as Mordechai and Queen Esther but these days Purim is more like Halloween with all the different costumes. I think candy is given out based on the candy displays that appeared in the grocery store before the holiday but there is no treat or treating that I know of. I don't have any pictures of the holiday because I used the days off to write a paper.

Earlier today I was on campus for a seminar by the Accordance Bible software company to learn how to use my new software. The campus is mostly closed down on Friday so I was rather eerie walking through the abandoned hallways and closed down cafes. After the seminar was finished I wandered around campus taking some pictures. It was easier with no one that would look at me strangely for taking pictures. I was mainly taking artsy pictures of plants. There are some very interesting looking plants on campus and I have no idea what they are called.

This was more impressive looking earlier in the semester now it's a little wilted.

This is a view of the pathway that runs through the middle of campus.

I'm rather proud of this picture. I managed to capture a bee on the flower. I got away without being stung by the other bees in the area.

I believe this one is lavender. I love the color. This was a brief tour of the plants around campus. I haven't taken pictures of the plants in the botanical garden yet. I'm planning to do that soon.

Earlier today there was an earthquake off the coast of Greece. We felt a little tremor here too. The building shook for a few seconds. A few minutes later Claire came in to ask if I had felt the building shake too. I was tempted to look puzzled and say no, but I admitted I had felt the building shake too. :)