Monday, August 29, 2011

Night Tour of the Old City

I took this tour way back on August 8th which was Tisha B'av. I wrote about this holiday last year. If you want to refresh your memory you can read about it here. We visited a lot of the same places as the tour last year but I enjoyed having a different guide explain things.

We visited the Holy Sepulchre. Just before we got there the guide stopped us and pointed to a gate. The gate lead to the mosque of Omar. During a siege of Jerusalem in which Omar's army captured Jerusalem, Caliph Omar came to accept the surrender of the city. Omar was invited to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre but he refused. He did not want to endanger the Christian site because everywhere he prayed would be turned into a mosque. I found this story interesting because of the sensitivity it shows for other religions. One of the other students asked a very interesting question at this point. "If the Muslims respected other faith traditions, Why did they build the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount?" The answer is because at the time there was nothing but ruins on the Temple Mount it was being used as a garbage dump. So building the Dome of the Rock there was seen as honoring the holiness of the site.

Several pictures I took on this tour are almost the same as last years.  This is one of the alleyways of the Old City. I think it would be rather creepy to walk these streets alone at night.

Here we have the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.

Here we have a replica of the menorah used in the Temple. It is not an exact replica because we don't have enough evidence to be certain. This menorah is made of a mixture of gold and zinc where as the Bible says the menorah must be made of pure gold. However pure gold won't hold its shape so we have no idea how they made them. They light this one during Hanukkah.

This is the door to one of the many Yeshivas in town. A Yeshiva is a place where Jewish men go to study the scriptures. You can read more about Yeshiva here. The picture is at a strange angle because there was a streetlight there if I took the picture lined up properly the door was a huge glare. I think this door is beautiful.

From the last post:
Uncle Joe- The cats do come in the buildings and sleep on the benches sometimes.  I am not sure if they do low budget horror films here. I have limited exposure to Israeli cinema. We have watched a few films in my modern Hebrew classes.
As for correcting wikipedia there is a Hebrew version of wiki so native Hebrew speakers might not look up Tel Aviv on the English site to see the mistake.

Friday, August 26, 2011

End of Summer Session II

Summer session two was the first half of level Gimel. Gimel is the third letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Gimel is kind of like the hump level of Modern Hebrew. After completing Gimel you can sign up for classes in the main university that are taught in Hebrew. The level is very challenging with lots of homework. Many nights I would be so tired I would have to go to bed and get up early the next morning in order to finish my homework. I have the next week off then I continue with the second half of Gimel in September.

Over the next week or so I hope to be able to post about some of my adventures from this past month that I was too busy to post about. This morning I went to the store and got a copy of the Jerusalem Post. This newspaper is in English you can check out its website here. This would be a good time to mention that in Israel since the weekend is Friday and Saturday; getting the Friday paper is the equivalent to the Sunday paper back in the states. There is no Saturday paper that I'm aware of because the stores are all closed on Saturday. I'm looking forward to have time this coming week to read for fun.

Hebrew University has had mandatory vacation from August 16th-29th. They had this last year but I don't think I ever posted about it. What this means is during the vacation only Rothberg International School was holding classes. So going through security in the morning they look at your ID more carefully to see the international logo. There was no reason for students not part of the International school to be on campus during this time.

When they say vacation they really mean it. This is just through to entrance from the pedestrian gate. The lights are off in the forum (student center). Normally this cafe is busy in the morning. Sometimes they have the radio on playing some music. You have the sound of the coffee machines. The smell of fresh pastries to tempt you on your way to class. When you're used to all that activity the silence is very strange. This picture is a little brighter because of the light from the skylights. Even though the skylights look more like alien spaceships coming in for a landing in this picture. The black machine to the right of the picture is a cigarette vending machine. I haven't see one of those since I was little. A lot of people smoke here. They don't have any anti-smoking campaigns or surgeon general type warnings.

This is a little further into the forum. There is another closed cafe ahead. To the right there is a staircase leading down to the second level. The lights were not on down there either. However there were workers down there. The sounds of drills and hammers and voices shouting floated up from the dark stairwell.

You might remember this area from a previous post. This is where they were knocking down the wall last summer. Some of these vending machines talk to you when you make your selection and put in your money. It can be rather frightening to have a vending machine speaking Hebrew to you if your not expecting it. Notice the machine in front of the plant. Mentos are popular over here. I've never noticed a mentos machine like this at home but then I don't really like Mentos so I might not have seen them. I had to lighten this in photoshop so you could see the vending machines.

This is the main hub of the forum. There is another cafe to my right. Normally this area would be filled with people. Not as many during to summer as the main semester but still there would be people. I did not alter this photo so the lighting is a little strange.

This picture I'm standing in the same place as the picture above I just turned a little to the left. It really is creepy being in a place normally filled with people that is so empty. I felt like I was in a low budget horror film and someone was going to jump out at me.

Questions from previous posts:
Uncle Joe- Tel aviv sprouted from Jaffa. Two Jewish neighborhoods were started in 1887 and 1891. Tel Aviv was the third in the area, 1909. Tel Aviv was named after the city in Theodore Herzl's book Altneuland (old-new-land). Tel is a word describing something very old and Aviv is the word for Spring (new life).

The Dead Sea scrolls and the Aleppo codex are housed in the same building. The building was designed after the shape of the top of the jars the Dead sea scrolls were found in. That's why the building has such an odd shape.