Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Why do some Jews spit on Christians in the Old City?"

Last Tuesday night I went with my friend Jennie down to the German Colony to hear a speech on "Why some Jews spit on Christians in the Old City." It was at a synagogue with the Arch Bishop of the Armenian Church, and a Catholic monk (could have been a friar). And then when I was being introduced to everyone (because my friend was the intern of the organization that was sponsoring the event), but when I was introduced to a man that was wearing a collar, I said nice to meet you Father, and he told me he was not a Father as he was a German Franciscan. It was a little uncomfortable. The entire event was very fascinating and intriguing. In a nutshell, it is mostly young yeshiva boys that are taught to spit on the ground or on anyone that is wearing a cross. A Jewish woman spoke on how the Jewish people should not be doing this as they were oppressed for years, and now this is what they are doing to another culture. It disgusts me as the Jewish people living in this land are so adamant about letting the world know how oppressed they are as a people during the Holocaust and even know, how they are oppressed by the Muslims and Arabs. It is very puzzling to me as to why someone would ever do that, especially a culture that has experienced something like this.

It was nice to be down in the German Colony that night, reminded me of Greenwich Village. It is hard being on Mount Scopus, there aren't any restaurants or anything around us, so we have to either take a bus or cab to go hang out in places. It was uplifting to see all the different restaurants and shops. :) Wednesday was St. Patrick's Day! I woke up late and forgot to wear green! Uh oh! But when we went out that night I was able to find something green to wear. Not a lot of people celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but there were a few leprechauns out! On Thursday I had to go and meet with one of my teachers from Ulpan as I needed to try and retake a test. Wagner only accepts a "C" or higher for a passing grade, and I received a "C-." I was lucky enough that I was only two points off from receiving a "C" so they just decided to change it for me. I am very thankful now that I wont have an F on my transcript. Later that afternoon I went to the grocery store as it was my night to cook. I made spaghetti with meat sauce and broccoli. It was just the guys as Effe and Aviva had other plans. It was weird that night because I thought Sarah (UCSB) was going to be in the apartment as Sarah, Aviva, and Adie were gone for the weekend, but she left a night early for Tel Aviv! So it was my first night alone in the apartment. A little scary. Katie came over and we watched a movie and then I went to bed.

Friday was a slow day. I tried to do some homework. Didn't happen. I watched two movies. I know I should be exploring, but allll of my friends were gone! Either visiting family or on a Shabbot trip! And it was really cold so I didn't want to go outside. Later that evening I went with Effe and her family to a friends house for dinner. It was delicious! There was salmon for the entree, which I'm not a fan of, but I ate a little out of respect. For desert we had a modified strawberry shortcake, and there was Ben and Jerry's ice cream! Yum! I miss the factory! Later that evening Effe and I watched a few episodes of the West Wing. Saturday I had a ton of work to do and I got it all done! Very proud of myself, later that evening we went downtown as Mike was turning 21! We went to a few bars, and I definitely stayed out too late. Ugh, I had to be in class at 8:30 on a Sunday! Usually I don't have class until 12:30, but I had to make up a class as we had to skip one for Purim. What a long day. I didn't feel too well once I came home on Sunday. Very crampy.

On Monday morning, I didn't go to Hebrew as I still wasn't feeling well. I think I had a fever on Sunday, I had the chills through the night. I did make it to my next class as we had a field trip to the Old City again. What a beautiful day out it was! It is just so interesting going down to the Old City and seeing something different each time. We saw about three Bat Mitzvah's. Watching the family's singing and dancing just shows how important this culture and religion really is. I don't think it hit me until I saw how happy the mother's and grandmother's were for the son. There is a true joy in the fact that their child is entering the world as an adult. We were down on the Southern part of the temple mount seeing the Babylonian and Umayan temples. When I sit on the stones, I'm always asking myself how on earth am I here in Israel doing something like this?It randomly hits me about how lucky I am to have an opportunity like this to study and travel in this country. That evening I was looking up information on the trip to Prague, I booked my ticket home, and had French Hill Falafel for lunch! Pretty good day :) Today Hebrew was a drag, but I am studying for a big quiz tomorrow in Hebrew. I'll pack a little later and look up more information. I'm just getting really excited about the trips over break! Next blog will be my trip about Prague! :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Current Israeli Politics

1.) Biden's visit: Vice President Joe Biden was in Israeli for the first time last week and he gave his speech at Tel Aviv University. Ironically, the Israeli's decided to announce their plans to build settlements in the West Bank. This clearly creates tension with the US and now Obama says he does not want be involved as the middle man. Which I can completely understand now. The United States is gaining nothing by being involved this these conflicts. From what I understand, the land that the Israeli's want to build is there land, which makes me confused as to why there is such fuss. But I guess it is on the green line and it is being debated. Anyways, this will be interesting to see what will happen within the next few months.

2.) Rock throwing: three weekends ago, after the services of the Muslims, the radicals decided to throw large stones down upon the Jews that were praying at the Western Wall. This happened again the next weekend, so this past weekend, the Israeli government closed down entry from the West Bank into Israel. They heightened security as 20 officers or soldiers had been injured the previous weekends. It gets tough because the government needs to do something when innocent people are being hurt, however, when the shut down entry, people that depend on income in Israel suffer. It then turns into more anger from the Palestinians to the Israeli's as their survival is being threatened. These issues go round and round and do not get clearer. They sent out a text message yesterday telling us not to go to the Old City for a few days. When I came back from class around 4 there were about 30 soldiers near the entrance to the student village. They were patrolling the entire night. You could also hear the jets and helicopters low to the ground last night. It was a little scary, as you didn't know what was going on.

3.) Class! In my Historical Geography of Jerusalem class we had a field trip planned to the Jewish Quarter today, I assumed it would be cancelled but we went! We had our usual security guard with us, but still how everyone made it out to be as if we were going into a war zone. It wasn't bad at all. It seemed like a normal day except you couldn't walk two feet without running into a soldier. The city was bustling with people. Tour group, after tour group, after tour group kept walking through the Jaffa gate. In 1967 the Arabs had destroyed one of the synagogues and since the Jews had been restoring it. Today was the re-opening of the synagogue and so that area had a lot of media attention. It is odd to think that there is an active, full of life, booming city, within another city.

Sea of Galilee

On Friday morning we left around 10:30 for our one night trip to the Sea of Galilee. We took the local bus down to the central bus station and then from there took a three hour bus ride to the North. Now, Israeli's have never heard of a line before, and just like Greyhound it is first come first serve on the buses. So if you don't get there early, you won't get a seat. Well, here, you have to wait in line, but then you have people come from other doors and cutting in front of you. You have to be very assertive and make sure no one gets in line ahead of you. Because then you have to wait another three hours for the next bus. And it is really hard if you were raised to let the elderly and pregnant step in front of you, but what are you supposed to do when the old women cut through the other door and push you aside? I stood firm and didn't let the woman on. And when I say, stand firm, I had to hold out my arms to touch the bus. It is just ridiculous. So we get on the bus, crowded and we couldn't find seats next to each other. Mike, Aviva, Morey and I were taking the bus as Effe and Jake were meeting us there. I found a seat next to a soldier and was quite lucky. there were two people that just sat in the aisles as they didn't want to wait for the next bus. The bus ride reminded me of the soccer bus rides in high school, where all of our bags were in the aisle and the freshmen had to sit there if there was no room.

It is not uncommon for you to sit next to a soldier as everyone has to go to the Army for two years. I think I was sitting next to one that was in the Air Force, he had a grey uniform on. He had his gun, and he had his clip hanging on the handle on the seat in front of him. The bus ride was alright, I enjoyed however, driving along the highway and seeing the villages in a distance. Specifically the Arab villages as you can see the minarets. Once we arrived a little north of Tiberius we had to walk about half a mile to our hostel. We were staying in the guest house of a kibbutz....it was a regular hostel to me. Although there were six of us in the room, it wasn't too bad. We each had our own bed, bathroom was big and the food was excellent. So now I understood that the Sea of Galilee is not a Sea and is a fresh water lake, but I expected there to be some type of man made beach. No. There were rocks and swamp area that you walked through to get to the clear water. Boy, did it make me miss Echo Lake! We didn't stay in the water too long, but we saw many boats that were replicas of the ones Jesus would have sat in. This was the area where Jesus walked on water. After our adventures in the water we all got ready for dinner and headed downstairs. They had a wide variety of food (no dairy, as it was a meat meal), and then we went back outside. They had TVs in the room, but we all just sat around playing frisbee and what not. We were pretty far from a town, and you couldn't get there as it was Shabbot. Later that evening, we watched Mrs. Doubtfire on Jake's computer...I think it is better to watch it when you are older as the jokes are a lot funnier. It was a good time.

Saturday morning we thought we had to be out by 10, but the gentleman at the front desk told us we could keep our things in the room until 5. Perfect! That way we wouldn't have to carry all of our things with us when we went for a hike. The hike ended up just being Mike and I as everyone else wasn't properly prepared and thought it was too hot. Mike and I walked probably two miles one way along the highway to the Mount of Beautudes, where Jesus gave his sermon on the mount. We had to cut through some thick grass and then walk along a farmers land. We saw a huge (!) black snake slither in front of us. Once we got to the top of the hill, they were closed for a few hours while the monks prayed, we walked down the hill to the Church of St. Peter, and the Fish and Loaves Church. There were a ton of tourists and many wanting to know where we were from. I wish I knew more about the Bible and Jesus' life to fully understand more of the things I am seeing. On our way back as we passed one of the bus stops ( and when I say bus stop, a wooden bench with roof on the side of the road, no taxi stand, no nothing. Middle of nowhere.) we walked in the shade and the smell of Camp Farnsworth camp back. Memories of being called Jellybean and living in Tall Timbers flashed before me. When we got back to the hostel I ran into the water. I was overheated. I floated for a while and thought about where I really was. The north is very quiet and picturesque. Many of the mountains reminded me of Northern France and a little bit of the White Mountains. On our way back to Jerusalem, the ride seemed to take forever. When we stopped at the rest stop, only one store was open as it was still Shabbot, I'm really starting to become irritated with so many things being closed...oh and the bathrooms at the rest stop! You had to pay a schekel and take your toilet paper in with you. Weird. Once we got home around 9 pm, I had a little reading to do for my class on Sunday.

Lo anglit!

Last Wednesday I went up to Pisgat Ze'ev to have lunch with Karen, I had to take a cab up there, and I spoke in Hebrew to him! I mean I only said "kenyon Pisgat Ze'ev" which is the mall there, but he turned the wrong way and then I told him where to turn...in Hebrew! I find that it is much easier to converse with people rather than taking my tests. Our teachers will randomly give us a word, and then throw it in the word bank. Meh. On the way back from having lunch with her I also spoke Hebrew to another cab driver. It feels satisfying :) On Thursday Aviva and I went to campus and booked out trip to Prague!!!!! Woot woot! So excited, we leave next Thursday! After booking the trip, I went and had lunch with Yoel at the Sports Center. (Fantastic egg sandwich!) I updated him on my classes, my trips and what Karen and I had spoke about. So my plans for Pisgat Ze'ev will now be to meet with people in the community, have lunch or dinner with them and then simply write about it. Karen was very clear that she does not want me volunteering my time for something that is not meaningful to me. I wanted her to know that I am very committed to keeping the relations between the college, and Staten Island alive with Pisgat Ze'ev. She said that there are more opportunities for me to come after Passover.

After lunch with Yoel, I spoke with Greg and Jeremy for a few hours. It was nice to talk with them and get updated with a few things. Jeremy and I talked about life in the Middle East and how he is adjusting to his situations in the Army. Aviva and I were planning on going down to the Old City to grab dinner, but she took a nap and we ended up getting Falafel at French Hill. French Hill falafel is so tasty. I like going there because they put enough hummus in, they have pickles, andddd it is 9 schek! People, that is 2 bucks for a whole falafel! After our falafel we weren't ready to just go back and sit in the apartment, so we went down to Ben Yahuda for a waffle! We had a falafel and waffle night! Haha. But this waffle place is the size of a bathroom and you can put any type of toppings on that you want. One humorous thing was that it was all Israelis working there, but they were listening to oldies and Elvis. And they loved it! What are they odds! After having our delicious and filling waffles, we stopped at a pharmacy and got a few random things. The odd thing here is that they have Clinique, Chanel, Estee Lauder, counters in the drug stores. It is convenient though as I needed something from Clinique and they don't have a Macy's or anything like that here. Once we came home, the rest of the girls were asleep and we needed to get to bed as we were leaving for the Galilee in the morning.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lazy Weekend

Last Wednesday night a few of us went to a smaller bar downtown. Nothing too special. The french fries were amazing! The music was great, mostly american, and enjoy going to places that have more than two selections for wines. On Thursday morning the plan was to go to the Tank Museum, but we didn't realize how far away it was so we went to the zoo instead!!! I was so excited. I haven't been to a zoo in a few years. People joke that since it is the biblical zoo that there are two of every animal. Ha! Jake, Jon, Morey and I spent about three hours there. There were some other kids from Rothberg that we ran into. My favorite were the monkeys. So adorable, also, there were little like groundhogs that I fell in love with. Too cute. Thursday was my night to cook, so I we had chicken sandwiches and a salad. Later that night I stayed in with both Sarah's and we watched I Love You Man. I was just so exhausted, I couldn't go out. Friday afternoon I finally started doing some reading. Had a lot to catch up on. I also watched the season finale of Burn Notice. Thank you Megavideo. Morey invited us down that night for Shabbot dinner. I made another kosher mistake when I set the Andes mints package down on the wrong side of the counter. Ugh, I'll never get used to all of this. I stayed in on Friday night with Hannah and Adie and we watched Love Actually. I really felt like I needed a weekend to recover from Tel Aviv. Being in Tel Aviv just wiped me out, I hadn't felt like myself all week. I think Saturday was another lounge day and then Saturday night we had a party for Robert's 21st Birthday. (Sarah-UCSB's boyfriend) We hung out and played typical college drinking games, it was his choice for everything. Didn't feel too well that night :(

Earlier on Saturday night Adie's mom came! It was so weird because Sarah (Bates) had a few friends from home staying with us and one of them knew Adie's mom! When her mom walked in she looked at him and was like I recognize you from somewhere and he told her mom that he dropped her Hebrew class at BU because it was too hard. What a small world! Freaky moment. On Sunday I had class and Adie's mom made us dinner. You would have thought the way we all ate was as if we hadn't eaten in six weeks. It was comforting for her mom to want to cook for us. The food was delicious. At the beginning of the week I was trying to plan to try and have Uncle Eric come with his girlfriend Faezah to come and visit. Too much confusion, miscommunication, and it ended up with him decided not to come. Howeverrrrrrr, that means that now I will be in Prague for three nights! :) I went to the travel agent and told them that I wanted to go somewhere that weekend, and it worked out! Anddddd, when I return from Prague two days later I will be leaving for Rhodes for six nights! I am so excited for Spring Break! I leave for Prague in exactly two weeks!

In my Historical Geography of Jerusalem class we went to the City of David on Monday. I enjoy having a small, intimate class as our professor can speak more to us rather than having to stop at designated areas for speeches. We spent about three hours walking around the City of David, which was the original city of Jerusalem. The Old City of what we know today was added on during the Second Temple period. Yesterday (Wed.) I had lunch in Pisgat Ze'ev with Karen to talk about my community service. It has basically turned into me going to different homes throughout the week of different community members and then writing about it. She really wants me to become integrated with Israeli life and see how connected the Jewish community is. Today I had lunch at the Sports Center with Yoel and updated him on the past few weeks. I will be spending the beginning of Passover- the Sadir, which is the first day of Passover with him and his family, and family friends. Tonight Aviva and I will be going down to the Old City for a little bit I think, I haven't been down in a while.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beginning of Classes

Classes I am taking: Hebrew, Arab Israeli Conflict, Historical Geography of Jerusalem, and Peace Building and Conflict Resolution. Classes are going really well so far. Hebrew is a much slower pace and I feel that I am finally (!) catching on. I have only had the Arab Israeli Conflict class once, and so far it is really interesting, I haven't had an in depth class about the conflict, and this class focuses in on how documents play a role. Whether the documents created a disagreement, or the documents were created after. I enjoy reading the documents and then discussing the cause or effect. The Historical Geography of Jerusalem is the bombbb!!!!! haha. No seriously, it is great. I love how it is a geography class and I know all the answers....go fertile crescent :) (thanks dad!) So in this class we will have lecture one week and then the other week we will be going down to the Old City and also the City of David which was the originally city of Jerusalem. It is fascinating to learn why the gates are positioned they way they are in the Old City as that is how the five valley's run through the area. The first class was an introduction about the history of the city, and most of the lecture was based off of the Bible. My teacher was pulling versus left and right. I was a little skeptical at first as to how much of it I should believe. But the Bible was the only written document back then, so I'm just going with the flow. But I really really enjoy this class so far.

So the Peace Building class- it got off to a chaotic start because there were more than 25 students signed up for the class. The teacher wanted us to tell her why we want to be in the class and then she chose 25 students. I was chosen (I also went up and told her that Yoel said hello, so that might have had a little pull- :)) and class went as planned last week. Then yesterday many students who were not in the class were upset and went to the director. So there are more than 25 students, and she was just very flustered yesterday. Class was cancelled today, and it just seems a little awkward. The class itself is off to a slow start but there is a lot of ground to cover. I am truly excited to see where this class leads as I want to see how this can relate to Human Rights and Genocides.

I don't get how we can fit all this course material into such a short period! Spring Break is three weeks away! :) But so far, I'm enjoying the classroom environment and just need to stay focused to keep up with the amount of reading I have.

Purim Weekend!

Last Wednesday was the start of my Purim weekend, my roommate Sarah(CA) went out with a bunch of people to this bar where a few kids from Rothberg were DJing. It was a fantastic night, a ton of people from school and great music. Thursday was a lazy day, Aviva, Jon and I walked up to campus to buy tickets for the Purim part on Sunday night. Aviva bought a few things for her costume (she was going as Scar from the Lion King). We came home and watched that Zohan movie. It was hilarious, very stereotypical of what people in Israel are like. I was able to catch onto all the little jokes after been here for a month and a half. That Thursday night I packed for Tel Aviv and did a little homework so I wouldn't have to worry about it all weekend. On Friday morning we left for Tel Aviv. Aviva, Maggie, Morey, Jon, Mike and I took a sheruit (large cab) to Tel Aviv and met Effe at the apartment. We rented out an apartment for two nights and it was two blocks from the beach. It was a great location. We fit seven people in an apartment for four, we were a tenement family for the weekend, ha! The weather was not so great, but there were breaks in the rain and we were able to walk along the beach and such. I really enjoyed Tel Aviv as it reminded me of New York, it was more modern, things were shut down on Shabbot, there were dogs instead of cats, (!!!) and it had much more of a young city vibe. On Friday night Morey went with some family to have Shabbos dinner while the rest of us walked to the Port and had dinner at Moses'. The best dinner ever. I had a cheeseburger....with bacon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I cannot tell you how excited I was, I called Mom and Dad right away and told them that I had one. I would go back to Tel Aviv right now just for the burger. After dinner we went back and got ready to go out. We went to a few clubs and walked around different parts of the city. It was a fun night and it was my first trip to a gay bar. Interesting.

Saturday morning we got up and walked along the beach to the old city of Jaffa. It was a stretch, but it was nice to be able to walk in the water, the sun was coming in and out all day. We had a nice lunch at a small restaurant and then headed back. A few people took naps but I was all over watching the Olympics. I was really excited to have a TV as we watched a lot of different events, skiing, bobsledding, ice skating! It was very relaxing. Effe and I walked around to find a place to eat and see what was beginning to open as Shabbot was ending. We ended up going to this Italian restaurant right across the street from our apartment. I had lasagna with meat!!!! I swear Tel Aviv had been waiting for me for a month. I inhaled the lasagna. When we got back and were getting ready we were watching the news as the earthquake in Chile had just hit and they had the warning about the tsunami hitting Hawaii. We all went back to the Port to find a club to go to. Now Purim is a holiday where everyone dresses up as it is Halloween back in the States. We didn't dress up in Tel Aviv, but wow, the amount of people that were out and their costumes. It was madness. There were so many different clubs, but we ended up at one called Old something. We chilled there for a bit and then headed back.

On Sunday we had to check out and we headed back to Jerusalem. Taking the bus is really easy to do and it isn't a long ride at all. When we got back I unpacked and my clothes wreaked of cigarettes. I'm really getting tired of how everyone smokes everywhere. I took a quick nap and then started getting ready for the Purim Party in Jerusalem. My costume was a toga, it turned out really well to my surprise as I didn't know what I was doing that morning. We had a few people over before we headed out, it was fun to get ready with everyone and see all the different costumes. One of Sarah's friends was a cat in a trashbag. Ha! It was great, the costume wasn't the best, buttttt the idea was great. (Little cat story, so I was taking the trash out and I started to throw the bags in the dumpster and I heard rumbling so I knew it was a cat so I stopped for a second and out of no where this cat flies out of the dumpster right next to me, I started screaming and whipping around the trashbags. Traumatizing. :) ) Once we arrived at the Jerusalem theater, it was a stampede to get in. People in Israel have never heard of a line or wait your turn! I'm really starting to get annoyed with this. There were thousands of people there waiting to get in. I have never in my life been to a party this big, nor even see pictures. There were multiple dance floors and you just kept walking around and around just seeing all the people and their costumes. The music was great and the played YMCA! I was with a group of kids from school and so we knew the song and got really excited and this guy next to us looked at us with five heads as he thought we were crazy because we were so excited! Haha. Aviva and I headed back kinda early, around 2 I think. I was so tired, I'm not used to three nights in a row of partying. I was pooped. (We had Sunday and Monday off from school, so I had a five day weekend.) On Monday I got up and immediately did some laundry. I couldn't take the smell, I had a ton to do, about four loads. The rest of the day was lounging, did a little reading. Overall, Purim in Israel was outstanding.