Sunday, July 31, 2011

Museum Tours

I finished up my first summer session last Monday. The final exam took me five hours to complete. I was very brain dead when I got back to my dorm that afternoon. I had the rest of this past week off and I've been enjoying doing nothing. I've been reading a lot for fun. This Tuesday I start my second Summer session which will be another level of modern Hebrew.

I did two museum tours in July that I haven't told you about yet. This is a kind of catching up post before I start my next class and don't have time to post again.

On July 12th I visited the Holocaust memorial museum.  There were no pictures allowed inside. This picture is looking back at the entrance. It is a quote from the Bible "I will put my breath into you, and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil" Ezekiel 37:14

This was a difficult museum to visit. I thought they did a good job honoring the victims. It was a very moving experience. Lining the walkway to the museum is the Path of the Righteous on either side there are trees planted honoring the non-Jews that risked their lives to save the Jewish people. The building itself is modern in architecture with barren concrete walls. The building is underground symbolizing the darkness of what happened. There is no straight path through the museum it zig zags back and forth. You can see the light at the end of the hallway but you can't reach it without visiting all of the rooms. Our tour was about 2 and a half hours but I think I could easily have spent more time there. I thought they did a good job explaining how the Holocaust began. The first step was burning of books, the rejecting of ideas that did not match their own.

I'm not sure I have the words to describe my experience in this museum. It was very moving and something that I think everyone has to experience for themselves. At one point they had a wall with pictures of 15 men who orchestrated the Final Solution. It was frightening to look at these men who looked so ordinary. But what also struck me was how many of them were doctors, men of higher education. Ordinarily the higher education you have the more tolerant you become but that was not the case here.

In the last room is round with shelves from floor to ceiling they contain the stories of the survivors. They record the names of the victims and what happened to them. They have 4 million names but they will never reach 6 million. In some cases entire villages were wiped out there was no one left to tell their story.

One of the more haunting experiences for me was a photograph of an elderly woman. The guide asked us how old we thought she was. Most of us guessed somewhere in the 60's or 70's. The answer was 26 her experiences had aged her that much. That photo is burned into my mind now because I am currently 26.

The name of the Holocaust museum in Hebrew is Yad Vashem. To an English speaker this doesn't mean  anything. Literally translated it means a hand and a name. It comes from the Bible: "I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons or daughters. I will give them an everlasting name which shall not perish." Isaiah 56:5 Translated this museum gives each victim a name and a place that they will be remembered.

The museum has an excellent website you can find here The website has lots of resources including video testimony of the survivors.

On July 19th I visited the Israel Museum. Again no pictures were allowed inside. This museum is huge, this was my second time visiting. My first time was with my archaeology class last fall. Outside they have a large one acre model of Second Temple Jerusalem that is very impressive. But the main draw of this museum (at least for me) is the Shrine of the Book. This is where you can see parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Of course since I study the Bible this was very exciting for me. I couldn't get over how neat the handwriting was and how steady there hand was. Each line was very straight. I can't write straight unless the paper has lines on it. The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible in scroll form. They have a copy of the entire book of Isaiah. However only parts of the collection are on display at any time as they are trying to preserve them. The building they are in is very dark and cold. You can read more about the Dead Sea Scrolls here

Also on display is the Aleppo Codex which is the oldest copy of the Hebrew Bible in book form. This book has a rather interesting history you can read about here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seventeenth of Tammuz

Today is the 17th of Tammuz on the Jewish calendar this is one of the fast days. This day marks when the walls of the city of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans lead by Titus. Today starts the three week mourning period leading up to Tisha B'Av which I posted about last year. You can read more about the 17th of Tammuz here. I also found this interesting article on wikipedia titled siege of Jerusalem there have been quite a few.

In Biblical Hebrew class today we started to translate Psalm 137 which I thought was appropriate since it is about the Babylonian exile. The Babylonian exile happened after the destruction of the first Temple but I thought it was still a good choice to translate for today. I will probably post my translation of that Psalm sometime next week.

Sorry this post is so short but I have a test tomorrow. I just wanted to post this on the actual day.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tel Aviv and Jaffa

I took this tour on July 8th. I'm getting better about posting. This trip was really fun but it was so hot out that day and we did a lot of walking. The sun was so bright so all of this combined means I had a migraine headache by the time we got back. The tour started in Jaffa a really old port city. I loved getting to see the ocean.

I loved the winding streets and stone buildings of Jaffa. The guide said that the real estate in Jaffa is pretty expensive.  This picture was taken around 9am I think that's why the shadows are so strong.

Jaffa is mentioned in the New Testament Peter visited here. According to the book of Acts Peter stayed with a man called Simon the Tanner. The picture to the left is the house of Simon. I'm not sure if it is the actual house where Simon lived we didn't get to go inside but it is at least the traditional site where Simon lived. Simon the Tanner is mentioned in Acts 9:43,10:6 and 10:32. Depending on what translation you are looking at it might say Peter went to Joppa. I'm guessing this is because of how the name of the city is written in Hebrew. The same letter is used for f and p the only difference between the two letters is a dot in one of them called a dagesh. I think Acts was originally written in Greek so I can't check to see how they rendered the city name since I don't know Greek yet.

Jaffa was a very important port city in the ancient world several famous figures passed through this town. The Romans came through Jaffa. Richard the Lionheart and many Crusaders came through Jaffa. And Napoleon came through Jaffa there is a statue of him in the picture to the right. In fact there are several statues of Napoleon identical to this one throughout the city.
Our guide told us the story of Napoleon coming to Jaffa. He didn't actually plan to conquer the city. Napoleon sent one solider with a white flag up to the city gates. The problem was the inhabitants of the city didn't know what a white flag meant. So they cut off the man's head and mounted it on the city wall. Napoleon was of course upset so he then proceeded to conquer the city. The only problem was the plague was in the city and a large number of his soldiers got sick.

This picture is looking over at the larger city of Tel Aviv. The picture appears darker because I am standing in the shade of a palm tree. It was really hot.

I have no idea what this statue is supposed to represent but it definitely looks interesting.

I was very lucky to get this picture. Our guide was talking about the history of Jaffa when he suddenly stopped and pointed out this bird. This is the national bird of Israel it's called the Hoopoe. You can read more about it here. When I took this picture the bird was just at the limit of my camera's zoom capabilities so I wasn't sure if it was going to turn out. I had to fix the photo a little in photoshop so the bird was more in the center. I felt like a real photographer getting a wildlife shot like this.

Jaffa is known for its orange orchards at least it was in the past. Jaffa used to have large orange orchards but it doesn't today. However you can still find Jaffa oranges in your local grocery store. The rights to use the name Jaffa oranges has been sold to orchards in Spain and Italy. This orange tree is art by one man who has hung different trees in a similar manner in different cities all over Israel.  Today Jaffa is known for its art galleries.

Because I haven't shown a cat picture in forever. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Jaffa alley cat! Notice his ears are really short all the cats I saw in Jaffa had really short ears. When I first looked at him I thought maybe he had been in a fight and lost part of his ears but his ears are just short.

Church of Saint Peter this church is strange because it is facing west. Most churches face east to the rising sun. I think this church is facing west in order to face the port. I am standing close to the church so you can't see the steeple in this picture.

Inside Saint Peter's church.

A beautiful view of the ocean. The tower is a minaret of a mosque. You can't see in this picture but there are a few rocks out in the surf. The Greek myth of Andromeda and Perseus took place here in Jaffa. The myth says the port was plagued by a giant sea monster and every year they sacrificed the city's most beautiful maiden. One year Andromeda was selected and tied to one of the rocks. Perseus riding on pegasus rescued her and killed the sea monster.

We walked from Jaffa over to Tel Aviv. I didn't take as many pictures in Tel Aviv. When ended our tour in the local craft fair that happens every Friday. I did take pictures of the craft fair. These were puppets on strings. I think they are seahorses. The seahorses appear to be wearing lipstick which I thought was odd.

Colorful hand made toys. Many of the vendors had signs that said do not touch in multiple languages.

This craft fair even had live entertainment. This guy really surprised me. Guess what genre of music he was singing? The answer Italian Opera....and he was really good. When I first heard him I thought one of the stands had a radio playing or something then I saw him. Wow. Notice the guy bending down near the motorcycle....that's a painting on the wall.

Just around the corner from the opera singer there was an escape artist. After getting out of this knotted mess, he had a tourist strap him in a straight jacket.

These ladies were selling a wrap with some kind of cream cheese,pesto and something else in it. It smelled really good but I wasn't hungry at the time.  I hope you enjoyed the tour!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Psalm 23

I've mentioned that I'm taking Biblical Hebrew for the first summer session and I thought it might be interesting to share some of what I'm learning. I was hoping we would get to translate this Psalm as it is one of the most well known. I'm going to post my translation which will be slightly different from the version of the Bible you have since its my own. Remember I'm still learning so my translation isn't going to be perfect.  I'm going to include some interesting notes about the verse in italics underneath the translation.
Psalm 23
1: The Lord is my shepherd; I do not lack.
In this verse what I translated as Lord is actually the Lord's name which is not pronounced. You can read more about this here.The idea of not pronouncing the Lord’s name is common in Semitic cultures. The same thing happened with the Canaanite storm god Adad/Hadad. At some point speaking his name fell out of use and instead they substituted Baal which means Lord.

2:He makes me lie down in green pastures;He leads me to waters of rest places.

3:He renews my life;He guides me in paths of righteousness to benefit his name.

 There is a hint of movement towards the Temple some say this is a pilgrimage song.

4: Though I walk through the valley of darkness,I fear no evil,because you are with me;Your rod and Your staff comfort me.
I know your are probably looking at my translation and thinking"where is the valley of the shadow of death?" Originally scholars thought the word was a compound word combining shadow and death. Scholars later discovered that it was not a compound word but a little used word meaning darkness. However valley of the shadow of death has a much better poetic ring to it so English translations have kept it. 

5:You arrange a table before me opposite my enemies,You anoint my head with oil;My cup is full.

6:Only good and loving kindness will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for the length of my days. 

Of course this is a song that is meant to be heard. Here you can hear it in Hebrew. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hezekiah's Tunnel

I actually went on this tour way back on June 7th but as usual I haven't really had time to type this up. I went on this tour with Christina and Annie they have both finished their studies at Rothberg. Some of the pictures are a little blurry because the light conditions aren't so great and my camera didn't always want to cooperate.

To refresh your memory the story of King Hezekiah is told in 2 Kings chapters 18, 19, and 20. King Hezekiah is also mentioned in 2 Chronicles chapters 29-32.

The Gihon spring was the only source of water for the ancient city. Sennacherib the King of Assyria was coming because Hezekiah had stopped paying his taxes and was in open rebellion. This was the Assyrian army that just a few years earlier had taken the northern kingdom of Israel and sent them into exile. That mighty army was coming for Jerusalem. You can imagine the fear this must have caused. They had some time to prepare. One thing you have to do is protect your water source otherwise the enemies could use it or foul it up so you can't use it. Hezekiah decided to hide the Gihon spring by having a tunnel dug to bring the water inside the city walls. The tunnel was made by two digging teams starting from opposite ends and they met in the middle.

The start of the tunnels tour actually starts in tunnels that were made before Hezekiah's tunnel. I think this one was Middle Bronze age but don't quote me on it. This is the staircase entrance to the water tunnels. What I don't like on this tour is all the staircases are see through. There is a huge drop underneath these stairs. When it was originally used there would have been wooden planks to use as stairs so when the city was under attack the planks would be removed so the invaders couldn't get into the city through the water supply.

This view is from the bottom of the stairs looking up. This shot didn't turn out quite so well but I wanted to include it so you could see the incline of the stairs.

Here is one section of the Middle Bronze tunnel. I think this part was actually a false start and they found the rock too hard to cut through. The lighting looks weird because of the setting I used on my camera.

These are iron buckets that have a very interesting story behind them. In the early 1900's there was an Englishman named Montague Parker who started to hold seances with his friends. They believed they were talking to the spirit of King Solomon who told them where his treasure was located. Parker raised lots of money and came to Jerusalem to start looking. Luckily he asked Father Vincent who was knowledgeable in archaeology for help. Father Vincent directed Parker to dig in areas that needed further exploration one area was the water tunnels. Montague Parker was digging in the water tunnels clearing out debris when part of the tunnel collapsed. No one was hurt but Parker's iron buckets and his glasses were buried and found by more recent excavators. Montague Parker was actually chased out of town on horseback by angry Muslims. Parker was caught excavating on the Temple Mount after dark, he is the only man known to have excavated there. Unfortunately the reports of what he found have been lost.

Now to the part you've been waiting for...Hezekiah's tunnel. These stairs lead down to the tunnel itself. Standing at this point you can hear the water rushing below. Hezekiah's tunnel still has water in it. I wore shorts and I still had to roll them up in order to not get wet. A flashlight and water shoes are necessary for this part. There are no artificial lights in Hezekiah's tunnel without the flashlight it's pitch black. It takes about 45 minutes to walk through the tunnel. In some places there is water dripping on you from the ceiling.

The entry to the tunnel you can see the rushing water at the bottom of the picture.  This is a good point to mention that the water is very cold because it's under ground. I would not recommend this trip in the winter.

This was taken a ways into the tunnel. I found it interesting that the ceiling height varied. Sometimes it was just a little above my head while other times the ceiling seemed to be about 12 feet above me. I don't know why the height varied so much.

Yours truly in the tunnel. This was the low ceiling section. Ironically I didn't feel claustrophobic in this tunnel maybe because I was prepared for it to be small. We arrived shortly after it opened so we were the only ones in the tunnel and I walked in front I guess that helped.

Another picture from inside the tunnel. As we were walking through I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the builders of the tunnel. They would only have candles available for light and they would have been working in a tight crawl space moving the rock debris out behind them. I imagine they would have worked day and night since the Assyrian army was coming for them. The workers would know that if they didn't finish the tunnel on time their city might be doomed. I imagine they were thinking about the fate of the northern kingdom of Israel that the Assyrians sent to exile. They likely worried that the same fate might be fall them.

I made it out of the tunnel. For years this was mistakenly identified as the pool of Siloam.

A few years ago archaeologist discover this...the real Pool of Siloam.  The waters are supposed to have healing powers...want to jump in?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Study Abroad: The Flight Over

 You can take the group flight that the school puts together but I decided not to. I wanted to get here a week earlier so I could adjust to the time difference and get settled in before having to start classes. You can’t check into the dorms until two days before the semester starts however but there is a nice hotel across the street from the student village and there are several good hostels in town. When booking your flight make sure you won’t be arriving in Israel on a Friday or Saturday because it will be harder to get around on those days.

I prefer getting an aisle seat so I can get up and walk around whenever I want to. The window seat might be nice but it loses its value if you need to get up and the two people blocking you from the aisle are sleeping. For carry ons I have a rolling laptop bag. It has a convenient slot to put the laptop in that allows for easier access to it at security checkpoints. I found it easier to navigate the airports because it rolls saving your back. I put this bag in the over head compartment.  You are also allow a personal item for me this was a shoulder bag used as a purse it was small but I put the things I might actually need to access during the flight in there. It was small enough that it allowed me to use the space underneath the chair in front of me to stretch my legs in.

I definitely recommend you take a neck pillow one of those horse shoe shaped ones. They will help you sleep on the plane by keeping your head from bouncing around so much. I have one that has a blanket inside the case, then it has a beach ball liner that inflates for your pillow. Added to an eye shade and set of earplugs I was able to sleep without giving myself neck cramps.  Wear your heaviest pair of shoes on the plane this will save you a little bit of weight in your luggage. You might also invest in a pair of airline socks. Airline socks help stimulate the circulation in your legs which reduces swelling and soreness of the ankles during the flight. These socks are actually designed for people with poor circulation in their legs. You can buy them at Walgreens and CVS.

Make sure you have your acceptance letter and other important documents in your carry on for easy access. I like to have a small pill case with Tylenol (for headaches caused by screaming babies), Dramamine(for motion sickness), and Benadryl (to put me to sleep) Take the Sheruit from the airport to the school.