This Friday (which is like Saturday for most of you) Max and I woke up bright and early - the crack of 7 am - and boarded a bus headed for Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is the economic capital of Israel, and actually, it is the disputed "real" capital of Israel. Most people in Israel say that Jerusalem is the capital, but most countries and organizations outside of Israel say that Tel Aviv is the capital. The U.S. embassy is in Tel Aviv, but there is a consulate in Jerusalem to kind of ease the tension about it.
Anyway, we met our friend Tal in Dizengoff Square and he lead us around for the day. We spent the morning in the Mediterranean sea and the afternoon eating a most delicious hamburger at a trendy little restaurant called "Moses".
We walked through all of the big streets and saw a famous street performer singing Patriotic Israeli songs and many amazing flea markets. At one such flea market I found a treasure of treasures. This little book was owned by a Polish Jew from Krakow (you can see the city's name on the back of the book). He/She brought it with her when she made Aliyah in 1935, just before WWII. Aliyah is when Jews from anywhere in the world move to Israel and claim their citizenship based solely on their Jewish heritage. Any Jew can do this. Anyway, there are a few songs and a few journal entries written in this book. My heart stopped when I found it.
It was great day.
Here you go Mom and Dad, we are eating just fine. In fact, we are eating Mexican food. Who knew such a thing could come to pass out here?
We've also posted some posters we brought around the house. And lots of Ashmae art. Thanks dear.
"Maxwell said on Facebook that you two are married. We need you to confirm that you are, in fact, married to Maxwell.
To confirm this relationship request, follow the link below:
The Facebook Team"
I'm glad they are looking out for me so that I can reject all of those jokers who claim to by my husband.
This past week I went with W and AX (not to be confused with A - different wonderful new friend) to visit a sister in the ward who lives in Ramallah. It's not really my story to tell, and so I won't - but this sister is not allowed to leave the West Bank (Ramallah) in order to come to church. The Israeli's have put up a barrier wall around the West Bank and Palestinians on the other side are VERY restricted from moving around within the West Bank and certainly outside of the West Bank. It has destroyed their economy, separated families, denied some people access to Health Services and tacked on up to 3 hours to the commute of those lucky enough to get work passes.
Injustices aside (of which there are many) the three of us rode a bus from the Hebrew U Campus out to Ramallah. Just after getting off the bus in the center of the city we walked through a souk with beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables. We settled on a few delicious mangos and a case of figs - my first time eating figs! We brought our treasures to C's house (the sister who lives in Ramallah) and were immediately fed a delicious variation of sticky bread.
After our treat C lead us into the living room where she had a box of broken China. She said something to the effect "When your kids start breaking your nice things you can either cry about it, or save it for a bird bath!" And so we used the China to piece together a bird bath! What could be more fun? My favorite part was when she pulled out the mallet and started whacking away at big pieces of china. Bits flying everywhere and she not even flinching. "We'll clean it later" she chimed.
We had a ball. After finishing the bird bath she fed us an AMAZING meal of roasted vegetables and palenta and we finished it off with our Mangos and Figs.
Hooray for new friends! (You've seen enough of my mug, I'm the one taking the pic)
It was great to make a new friend, and good for me to see more of what things are really like in at least this portion of the West Bank. I wrote this in my journal on the bus ride home
"There is this idea that the Palestinians can just go somewhere else. That they are pretty much comprised of 5 men with camels and tents and don't really have a place here. Or that the people who are there now just showed up last week to ruin the Israeli's party. I just kept thinking 'These are a people. A people who have lived here for decades (a century in fact). They have lives here and schools and gyms and jobs and government offices and a structured society. People need to let go of their merciless ideologies and look at what is real. Palestinians live here and Israeli's live here. It isn't easy, but it's what real. People who say things about those pesky Palestinians getting in the way of Israel's prosperity need to get on bus #18 and ride out to Ramallah"
I was mentally writing this blog post on the way home after it happened. It was kind of a blur, but he had pointed in the general direction of my face and asked "This?" I didn't respond because he had turned his back to get the nice lady with the hair dye a drink of water. So when the clippers made their light-speed jump from my noggin to my chin, I only had time enough to gasp before they blazed a divot through my beard up toward my ear. Now, I was confronted with a choice: storm off and live with a divot or grit my teeth and accept the fact that this dude just hacked off several weeks worth of hard-won beard growth.
So I sat and took my divoting like a man, parting with 50 shekels for my trouble. I have since come to terms with the minor setback and, as you can see below, things are coming along like they should.
But just to be on the safe side, no haircuts for a while.
I also got a call from the librarian at a different international school (where I applied to work but missed the deadline) and she needs a volunteer, at least in the short term.
So, I will see what happens. Some of them might conflict and I'll have to make some decisions. One pays - but only short term, another one pays but it's not really what I want to do, and the one I most want to do doesn't pay but it could turn into something. I'll just see how things go and decide later.
On Sunday evenings at the BYU Jerusalem Center, they have these lovely little concerts featuring some of the best classical and contemporary musicians to be found in Israel. Brooke and I, with our Hebrew U friend Brandon in tow, walked across Mt. Scopus and arrived at the Center last night precisely at 7pm. This is the time that that numbers for potential stand-by tickets are passed out. Good thing we got there just as we did, because the line extended out past the gate with people hoping to get into the empty seats before they ran out.
After getting our number (high 50s, not a good sign), we proceeded to the long balcony behind the main stage area where there are exhibits in cast iron that show what Jerusalem looked like during the times of Solomon, Herod, the Byzantines and the present day. At 7:45 (15 minutes before the concert was was to begin) we hiked up into the Language Resource Center which doubled as a waiting area for the stand-by tickets. And we waited. Patiently.
They called for people with numbers up to 50 and then left the room. I was sure we would be turned away (the program looked very fun and it was obvious other people felt the same way). Finally, the nice woman came back and asked for tickets going up to 60 and we got our three and booked it into the auditorium.
The night's program revolved around a quartet of two oboists, a French horn soloist and a pianist. Although none of the performers belonged to the same orchestras or ensembles, their synchronization and blending was seamless. It had been a while since I'd heard classical music for more than just a few minutes (it brought back happy memories of sitting in a booth at the Classical 89 studios, enjoying the selections as I announced and played them).
Our seats were close to the stage, about eye-level with the performers. The gorgeous view out of the windows behind the performers (for which no photograph can adequately do justice) truly was distracting, for two reasons in particular. First, it is now the month of Ramadan, where observant Muslims fast during the daylight hours and then have a big party each night when they can eat again. To mark this Eid or holy feast, there are colorful, blinking lights hung all over the Old City and intermittent fireworks are sent off following the sunset. While all of that was going on behind the performers, the moon was setting in the western part of Jerusalem and, apropos for Ramadan, it was a perfect waxing crescent. It descended, getting lower and redder as it dipped behind the buildings in West Jerusalem. And the second distraction? The windows behind and around the performers make perfect reflections of them and it was very easy to pretend that there were identical performances occurring outside the concert hall, one hovering ghost-like above the Old City and another occurring surreptitiously in the bushes just south of the performance hall.
The first performances of the evening was of JS Bach's First Trio Sonata, written right after his move to Leipzig and at a time when he was expanding further out from his usual, liturgical compositions. The two oboists and the french hornist were on hand for this section of the concert.
The next piece was Carl Reinecke's Trio for oboe, horn and piano. Obviously, the pianist of the evening was brought out and one oboists beat a hasty exit stage right. Then Schumann's very sweet Three Romances for Oboe and Piano sent the french hornist off-stage. And then we heard Bartok's 6 Romanian Folk Dances for Piano, leaving only the pianist on-stage, somewhat lonely by this time, I'm sure. She brought out the two oboists back out for a very lovely Trio Sonata in C Minor by Johann Joachim Quantz, another favorites of the Baroque period. The pianist bid the audience farewell before the last selection, Beethoven's Variations after Mozart, based on (I believe) a short setting from Don Giovanni called "La ci darem la mano."
The J'lem Center really knows how to put on a good show. We are looking forward to the next few concerts (Spanish and South American music for guitar next week, followed by an a cappella group the following week and then a chamber orchestra the next) and then we'll start the fall season on October 4th with the Israel Kibbutz Choir. We arel looking forward to a year of Sunday Evening Classics.
- I didn't make it to the the library the other day because I went out to Ramallah (in the West Bank)with some of the sisters in the branch to visit another sister in the branch who is not allowed into Jerusalem to come to church because she has Palestinian Citizenship (more on that later).
- Our dear neighbor took me to some stores in her car where I got lamps and rugs and a new dish rack and all sorts of things that are making our house feel like a home
- We have AMAZING friends/neighbors/branch members all around us. I can't believe how blessed we are to come into such great people - every one of them.
- We found a website that will let us continue watching The West Wing, so we can finish the series afterall.
- Max and I listened to a little presentation followed by a Q&A from one of the Policy Aids to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister (yowzer).
- I emailed several libraries in the area to see if I could volunteer.
- We are really figuring out how to use the bus system here
-Max is in the kitchen doing the dishes right now - what could be nicer?
In other news, I think I'm going to go tour the Archives at the National/Jewish library tomorrow. Slowly, slowly, slowly...I'll sneak my way in.
For those of you who skipped over the history part of my last post - Ha, Ha! Here it is in a different form. There's no escaping the history here in Jerusalem...or on my blog either :)
Even though we were climbing stairs, Max did a good job of minimizing the bum shots - good work love.
On Wednesday of last week Max and I walked down to the old city (about a 45 minute walk) and did a mini tour of the Christian Quarter starting with the Via Dolorosa (the path that Christ walked (even though he probably didn't)) and ending in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Quarter. Once a week the Franciscan Friars carry them on a
procession down the Via Dolorosa. Pilgrims also do the
same thing at different times of the year.)
The most fun part for us was when we found a small, narrow staircase leading to the top of the Sepulchre where the Copts and the Ethiopians have their chapels. A little side note about these two fellas: Evidently the Ethiopians had control over this area in the 1700's, but at one point many of them were killed by a plague that swept through Jerusalem. They were asking Ethiopia for more assistance when they were essentially overtaken by the Copts and the Copts had "control" over the area until about 1970. In 1970, while the Copts were down in the Sepulchre praying the Ethiopians snuck up and changed all of the locks , thus taking back control of the area. In 1970! And these are religious men! It's absolutely fascinating, and it's not the only story like this.
inside the Sepulchre. This particular station is controlled
by the Greek Orthodox Church and they were actually having
a service when we got there. It was reallydark and people were
singing/chanting and one womanwas wailing/sighing mightily
in the corner. That lighted area is next to an alter with a hole in the
ground. You can reach your hand through the hole in the ground
and touch the hill they think was Calvary. )
Anyway, there is a still a small Copt presence up there and we went into a small chapel that lead through a dark and scary cave/hallway ending in Queen Helena's Cistern. Evidently, Queen Helena is the mother of Constantine and the woman who first came to Jerusalem to discover and indicate where the Holy sites were. This cistern helped to supply water to those people building the Sepulchre.
"I asked for the 'men' to sing together, not 'man.' We've only got one doing it!" she said, all in Hebrew of course. Then she stepped away from the piano, walked to the edge of the stage and pointed out at me.
"Excuse me sir, what is your name?"
"Well, you're going to have to represent the rest of them for this verse." She turned and walked back to the piano and started the song and, sure enough, my brothers in song bailed and it was just my voice that sang.
Boi ve na-of kemo tzipurim
Boi ve nahav kemo yeladim."
I got some good applause and maybe a few catcalls. Orna, the songstress who put me on the spot, made a show of pointing to me when the song was over and luckily my beard covered most of the blush.
After the sing-along, I went and introduced myself and she wanted to know what I was doing with my voice now that I was in Jerusalem and I said that I wanted to find out about choir and performing arts groups in the city. She gave me the number of a music director of a school in town and said I should mention Orna when I called to ask about auditions and the like. So here's hoping I can get on the scene in J'lem with some singing. At least then I'll expect it.
Max and I went to the Mehane Yehuda Shouk today for some grocery shopping and all around lallygagging. The shouk is an outdoor shopping center with much cheaper prices than the regular stores - if you don't mind food that everyone's hands have been all over, you are in good shape!
As you may or may not be aware, I'm growing a beard during my stay in Jerusalem (with Brooke's consent, no less) and I think you ought to have a look at its mighty growth over the last few weeks. I'll keep you updated as to its exponential lushness, but be assured: it is freakin' awesome.
Here's Week One: kinda patchy, but a good foundation
Now for Week Two: great things are in store, as you can see
And finally Week Three: taken today, but looking timeless
"Hello Brother W., W.R. says hello"
And the man said "Well, you're Max S____ I recognize that voice."
He totally recognized Max from his radio voice! Isn't that hilarious? He went on to tell Max that he didn't look like what he thought he did from hearing his voice. Max's beard is pretty bushy and amazing right now and his shirt was a little wrinkly due to lack of hangars - I'm sure he looked like a wild man out of the jungle to this man.
"I thought your face was longer, more angular. And that you were about this tall" he says, holding his hand up to the bottom of Max's chin.
I don't really know what to do with the implications that Max sounds like an angular short dude, but recognizing his voice was pretty sweet.
From Brooke's Journal August 5 and 6
"I have been in touch with a sister in the branch for a time now (whom we will henceforth call A) and she has been a great help to me. I woke up early on the 5th (because I went to bed at 7 the day before) and found an email waiting for me that said she and another sister from the branch (We will call her W) were going to the Old City to get some things If I wanted to come.
So I met A, her two kids J & J and W, her three kids B, M, and S, and her husband J at A's apartment which is only about 1.5 minutes away from our house. What a blessing. The 8 of us got on an Arab bus (4 shekels) and headed for the old city after a bit of a wait at the bus stop. I still can’t get over how brave these moms are. Not only have they brought their small children here, they are trucking them through the old city which is a crowded, hot, crowded, busy, some times scary, crowded place. These are amazing women.
The day was pretty successful for me as I came away with the following:
Spoons, Forks, Cooking Utensils and a Broom
50 NIS (New Israeli Shekels)
Comforter, Sheets, Duvet Cover, tiny pillow cases
Amazing Falafel and Water
Super Sharp Fancy Knife (you only need one)
342 total Shekelege
$87 US dollars
I learned to ride the bus, met some new friends, ate really good falafel in the Old City, and got the comfy bed I needed to make everything ok. It was a very good trip.
When Max got home he told me all about his first day at school and we decided to take a little nap before dinner. Worst idea ever. We slept and slept and slept until I woke up at about 2:30 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. I think our jet lag is better now, but that day was doozy. "
" After Max went off to school (which he is loving) I set about cleaning the house. I got most of the way through and even scrubbed the bathroom floor on my hands and knees. It feels a lot more like home, but I’m still not sure what to do about our prison-like kitchen. I’ll figure something out.
After Max came home we had a light lunch salad of arugula, tomatos, cucumbers, and homemade honey Dijon dressing. It was delicious. They evidently eat a lot of salad in Israel. At 5 pm we met up with a group of students led by Max’s “Madrich” (his denmother) Ronin. The tour was about 5 hours and took us through modern Jerusalem, and the Jewish parts of the city. We visited the Shouk “Menahe Yehuda” and learned that we can buy a lot of things cheaper their than at our local grocery store. (And things are probably even cheaper at the Arab souk in the Old City.) I’m glad to have options for groceries that will lower our bills.
We walked through Ben Yahuda street, and Jaffa and Agrippa street. It was really eye opening to see the modern Jewish parts of the city since my experiences has been almost exclusively Arab and almost exclusively the Old City. We went through Mamilla and some of the other pricey neighborhoods in Jerusalem. It was a great, if very long tour. "
"At JFK we rode the airbus to our new gate and waited patiently with a group of Hasidim we spotted in the airport. Hasidim is the plural term for a Hasidic Jew. There was quite a group and most of them, I would say, were younger. Max suspects they were New York Jews heading to Jerusalem and it appeared to me it was their first time. At the airport in Vienna the men put on their prayer shawls and prayed in the direction of Jerusalem as Max told me Orthodox Jews do whenever they “go up to Jerusalem”. I tried not to stare, but it was so fascinating. I’m going to have to figure out what I feel like is the most appropriate way to observe religious observers. They are all over the place so you can’t really avoid them, and I want to be able to learn as much from their observance as I can, but I also want to be respectful of their exchanges with God. It’s one of the areas of my photography that I don’t know how to deal with. Do you ask the man at the western wall if you can take his picture and hope he acts normal (or doesn’t give you a dirty look), or do you take his picture sneaked behind the corner, or do you just stand out in the open and take his picture like a big gawker? I don’t know yet.
Max and I listened to a BYU professor, Dan Peterson, give a lecture not too long ago about his Islamic Translation series and as he spoke of how to interact with other faiths he said to always leave room for “Holy Envy”. He spoke of Holy Envy as a way to observe the goodness in other faiths that you might want to adopt into your own worship. (The other tenant, he said, of respectfully and most fairly learning about other faiths was to go first to its believers – the third I can’t remember…) In the airport I was struck with their fierce observance of what they believed was asked of them by God. It’s a feeling I’ve had ever since getting here, that perhaps I could do more to perform what I believe and have it always in the forefront of my concerns. I don’t mean perform as in display my discipleship at every street corner (as some would argue many people in Jerusalem do) but to be diligent about studying the scriptures, more fervent in my prayers and more observant of my blessings. It’s a really good thing."
"I forgot to mention that after we got off the plane in New York, our first stop, my overstuffed carry on bag burst at the zipper. That’s right, just burst. I carried an open faced sandwhich of crap around with me the rest of the trip. We didn’t loose anything (that we know of) so all turned out well. We actually started to think things like that were funny at this point, which was good because the bag debacle only got worse. "
"I was pretty good about making “manifests” for all of the stuff in our luggage, and as it turned out, we almost needed them. We pulled off our small green bag right when we showed up at the baggage carrousel, but then we waited and waited and waited without any sign of our other three bags. THREE. Like I mentioned, at this point we were so glad to get there and not terribly worried about our stuff for whatever reason that we thought it was reasonably comical. Who looses 3 of their 4 bags? Why not all of them? Why not just one? Anyway, we made a claim for them and headed to the street where we boarded a “sherut” ( a shared taxi) that cost of 64 shekels to get to the central bus station of the old city. In hindsight the loosing of the bags was actually a boon for us – I don’t know how we would have carried our five carry one bags plus 4 giant suitcases on the taxi and then through the streets and then up the hills to our apartment. The airport found our bags the next day and delivered them to our house. If I could have requested that things be delivered that way I would have, so it was just another one of the tender mercies we’ve encountered in our brief time in Israel."
" We arrived at the Holy Land Hotel, just outside of Herod’s gate into the old city hungry and tired. But more hungry than tired. We both took showers, strapped on our walking sandals, and headed for the old city. For whatever reason there are only a few gates that tourists generally enter the old city through. It’s not that you can’t go in the other gates, they just aren’t always safe and people don’t usually do it. It’s interesting to me that the guidebooks don’t mention that…I think they should, but anyway. We skipped past Herod’s Gate, that is used primarily by the Arabs , and entered the Old City through Damascas Gate.
(I drew you a picture)
Max and I ate diner at Pizzeria Basti where I had a cheese pizza with onions and Max, my brave one, had the lamb kebabs (and to date, our stomachs have been just fine believe it or not. Maybe we’ve grown an immunity…) After a much needed snack we felt like we had enough energy to explore a little bit. After wandering through the Muslim quarter for a while we remembered that there is an elaborate ceremony when they close the door at night to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where many in Christendom think that Christ was crucified and buried. They have built a large elaborate church around the holy spots and many different sects have claimed different parts of the church. At one point the fighting in the church was so bad amongst the different Christian sects (Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopan, Syrian, etc) that in 1192 Salaadin (a conquering Arab ruler) gave the responsibility of closing the church at night to a Muslim family, without a dog in the fight as it were. A descendant of one of those families has closed the door ever since and we had heard mention of a giant key involved.
We found the church about 45 minutes before closing and we were able to briefly go inside the church. We had been there last year during the day and it was magnificent, but hot and crowded and sunny. At night it’s so much more subdued and less crowded. We were able to go in the holiest place in the church this time ( the line was too long last time) and we were able to see the place where they say Christ’s body was laid after he died. We waited outside on the steps for a while and at about 8:30 a young Muslim man came out to close one the two giant doors. At 8:45 he came back, rapped on the door with the heavy knocker, put out a ladder and closed the single open door halfway. At 9 pm he came back out and closed the door, climbed the ladder to a key hole type thing, moved a type of metal rod into a secure slot , climbed down the latter and handed it through a mini door at the bottom to a priest inside, and signaled that the show was over. It wasn’t quite as elaborate as I’d heard, and I didn’t exactly see a giant key, but it was still an impressive piece of ritual to behold.
We dragged ourselves home after that through the dark streets of Jerusalem. It is really different at night. And we can’t believe how safe we feel. Our time in Jordan really acclimated us to this region and when we didn’t have BYU rules of death insisting on our demise at every turn we actually really enjoyed ourselves. We are still being cautious, but we are having a bit more curiosity this time around."
Max registered for classes and everything else this morning while I sat outside and read Karen Armstrong's "Jerusalem". It was kind of a surreal moment. Armstrong is amazing, but kind of thick sometimes and hard to read, but whenever I thought I was just going to take a brake and do something mindless I said "I'd like to be the kind of person who read this and understood it" so I kept going. The University issued us cell phones, so now we can be in contact with one another when we are apart.
Max is off at his orientation and I ventured out a little bit to find the grocery store. It had a few towels, cleaning supplies, water, TP, and other various immediate necessities. A dear LDS couple that has been living hear for a year is going to show us around a little bit tonight or tomorrow so we can get the rest of our stuff. Max has said on several occasions to me "I've always relied on the kindness of strangers" in a southerny accent. It's true. We've been relying on a lot of strangers to help us find where we need to be.
So far things have been really great, even though today had a few rough moments. It's just hard to move into a new place when you are already dirt tired and you don't even care about the yucky state of the student dorm mattresses before you flop down on one for some shut eye - without the sheets! But we just ate some burgers (delicious) and I think I've got some umpf left in the day to clean a few things here and there. Just to make things livable.
Lastly, I joked with Max about asking Hebrew University for a room with a view of the Old City. The housing woman wasn't hugely helpful along the way and so I thought it would be funny to suggest to Max that we make this extravagant request. Of course he didn't, but I noticed today that if I reach my head just outside my window this is what I see:
After filing a claim about our bags we had a very smooth ride on a shared taxi or "Sherut" to the central bus station in Jerusalem and then a nice Taxi man drove us to our Hotel in East Jerusalem "The Holy Land Hotel". Even though we were on the verge of death due to lack of sleep at that point (I slept the entirely of all 3 plane rides, I don't know how that adds up...) we girded our loans and went into the old city for dinner and a little walk about.
I'll post more about that later, but the bottom line is we are safe and sound AND Max just got off the phone and they FOUND OUR LUGGAGE! Which is fabulous news. I had been so worried about how we were going to get all of our stuff in one car to our apartment and how we were going to cart it all around at the same time and POW, problem solved with a little bit o' lost luggage. The airport is going to deliver our bags to our house at about 3. That's a spot of alright, I'd say
I took this video this morning (we are 9 hours ahead) right on our balcony. I opened the blinds when we got here and was face to face (kind of) with the Dome of the Rock. Amazing.
This morning we left for Jerusalem.
After a bit of a rough morning - all of our bags were overweight (but we consolidated to have only one of them over the limit in the end), we were told we could carry on 4 bags PLUS our guitar but at the gate a most unsympathetic flight attendant told us we had to check one more bag (bringing our checked total to 5 bags - but so far we haven't had to pay the extra baggage fee. Max always tells me not to voice things like that, but I don't believe in that... so there), and carrying what feels like our whole house on our back we are in Austria.
Our longest leg, 8 hours, just ended and we slept the whole way. We still feel a bit ooky, but I think that will pass. In New York we encountered a large group of Hasadim and our philosophy has been to follow them wherever they go. So far so good.
We've already had many surreal moments and I'm sure they will continue. We'll keep you posted! We love you Mom and Dad (both sets, respectively) and will call soon!