So, some may say that I should be working on homework, but honestly, I’m getting frustrated every evening when I want to update my blog or write to my family and I can’t because I’m about to fall asleep walking back to my room and getting more than 6 hours of sleep with this awful cough before getting up at 7am is a slightly more prudent.
It’s been a week since my last update, so here we go:
Hang on, I have to look back at my calendar.
Tuesday was Jewish Thought and Culture….all four hours of it. It’s an interesting class – don’t get me wrong. *I pause to look over my shoulder. My prof is sitting about 10 ft from me* It is interesting; however, it is also long and some of it I already know from learning some basic Jewish traditions with my dad.
Who knows what we did Tuesday night. Probably homework.
Wednesday was a ton of fun. We took an Arab bus early in the morning from Yad HaShmonah past Jerusalem into Benjamin, the West Bank. I say “Arab” because we normally take an Israeli bus but we were going into Palestinian territory and we wanted to avoid as many rocks getting thrown at our bus as possible. Lol…more on that to come.
Our first stop was the high place of Gibeon, where we had a wonderful view of Israel! Then, we proceeded into the wilderness, and what a bus ride it was! We came to boulders in the road blocking the way up the hill, but we didn’t stop. The bus driver just went in between the boulders and wove us through the wilderness road, around crazy turns and blind curves – even around a curve that was kind of overhanging the road because the rain had washed out some of the supporting dirt under the concrete. It was amazing, and I wish I’d gotten pictures of that spot, but we made it up there safely. Once there, we looked down over a deep rift and St. George’s Monastery. It was gorgeous and I wrote in my field report: “As a writer I love secluded places. They challenge my mind and offer silence and character that breed imagination and produce plots and characters. The land of Benjamin did just that and helped me understand in a new way the powerful purpose of God’s calling various prophets and specifically John the Baptist and His Son Jesus into the wilderness. The silence and solitude affords greater opportunity for man to hear the voice and instruction of the Lord.”
I love Israel because it doesn’t matter where you go, you always feel the affects of being in the Middle East. Even as we sat listening to Randy lecture looking down over the Benjamin wilderness with it’s cavernous valleys and it’s single visible spring, Arab salesmen waited for him to finish then proceeded to try to sell us Arab headwear, jewelry, and postcards. Everything is shekels and “you’re welcome” and “I give you good price.”
We went to Old Testament Jericho after that. That was neat. It was amazing to walk around the remains of the city and learn how small the city really was. I’ve always thought Jericho was huge – all the Sunday school pictures showed it as huge! – but in actuality, it only took us 12 minutes to walk around the base of it. It was neat even then to think about the Israelites walking around the oldest fortified city in the world and even as we blew our small, souvenir shofars (horns) to meditate on the power of God tearing down the whole city. We then stopped and sat and listened as Randy clarified a few things and shared with us a few other Biblical events that happened there as well, one of them being Zaccheus and the sycamore tree.
There were cats there in Jericho…and puppies too. There are cats all over Israel actually – I think I’ve seen about fifty cats since I’ve been here – but the puppies were the first I’ve seen. There was a whole litter, and Lindy, our animal lover, was tempted to go see them closer (they were stuck up in a crag of the rocks about 50 ft from where we were walking).
We had lunch in Bethlehem (great lunch stuff that Becky (IBEX staff) put together for us including a sandwich, an apple, chips/crackers, carrots, and some sort of dessert) and some of us bought falafel for only 5 shekels (great deal!). We then walked around and looked at the shops, bartered and bought various souvenirs. I didn’t buy but I went bartering with a few of the girls Shelsy and Danise and we had a few laughs regarding the way the shopkeeper tried to sell us his items: “I give it to you for half price, because I need the money” and “My mother hand-sewed this” and “I give you good deal because you are good people”….. “What is your name?” lol…. Honestly, so far, Bethlehem is one of my favorite places in Israel. Honestly, there is a church over the spot where archeologists think Jesus was born, so you completely lose the historical, authentic feel that you would have looking at it without candles, incense, and masses going on behind you. However, the city itself was really neat to walk around in and observe. It is a less-friendly city than Jerusalem and less safe, but I liked it just the same.
They drive crazily in Bethlehem. Actually, let me rephrase that. They drive crazily in Israel. The streets are narrow, and the drivers seemingly inexperienced, so you have to watch your back and your neighbors’ backs so you don’t end up run over. Don’t worry; it’s not like we’ve had any really close calls. I’ve only been pulled out of the path of an oncoming call a few times. Lol. Honestly, they are crazy but you learn to watch out for them.
After Bethlehem, we drove to the Herodion, the remains of one of Herod’s many palaces. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all ornate and amazing, but the view was. From the top of the tel (manmade hill), we could see huge portions of the country and understand why Herod would choose such a location for his palace. We ran across some huge cannon balls and went down into a cistern while there too. From there, we went to Solomon’s pools in another area off of the Way of the Patriarch’s (a general north-south pass). There we had to make sure to “mind the gap” (as Randy would say it) because it’s a rather unfriendly area where friends of IBEX have run into trouble before (someone got their car burned and rolled into the pools while they were off having a picnic). We took just a short time looking at the gorgeous pools, and I have to say, all the trees and green grass reminded me of Colorado or something (not that I’ve been there… ). Lol – definitely not the Middle East.
Thursday, Valentines Day:
Many of you have asked if we celebrate Valentine’s Day over here. As a whole, Israel does not. However, we at IBEX did.
Let’s just say our Valentine’s Day started on Wednesday night when one of our girls (who shall remain anonymous) made a Valentine’s for one of our guys (who has also remain anonymous) to resolve a bet she’d lost a few weeks earlier. We were in the miklat as she made it, completely with pink and flowers and vine and hearts and a real flower on the front and lipstick kiss next to her name. She didn’t kiss it, but the one who did shall also remain anonymous – let’s just say I had to put the lipstick on him for him and it was awful. lol
On Thursday, the guys began the day with using the cheesiest pick-up lines on Rachel, our IBEX volunteer. LOL…. The lines ranged from: “Is your dad a thief? ‘cause someone stole the stars and put them in your eyes” to “If you were a McDonald’s sandwich, you’d be the McGorgeous.” The day went with about ¾ of our guys making comments like that to her until it culminated into a short skit at dinner. LOL…Rachel said it was the most memorable Valentine’s ever.
On Thursday night, we hung out in the miklat, studying together for the Land and Bible test we had on Friday morning. We studied and goofed off and even got into some really good spiritual conversations with topics ranging from drinking, whether or not darkness was created, how long a Christian can go without sinning, the possibility of Christians being jealous without sin, whether or not girls should get tattoos, the difference between academic knowledge and wisdom, did Jesus ever make a mistake and still not sin, etc. It was great. Matt initiated a lot of the conversation and it was basically he and I and Lindy and a few others I can’t remember right now.
Friday was classes. I feel like I don’t talk about classes a lot. They are great, I promise. I just don’t know how much you’d like to hear about the Byzantine period of history, and the 6 parts of the Mishnah. Let me know if you want more academic news.
Friday night was Kabbalat Shabbat, as always. That night we had a family who moved from Washington to Israel in October with us. The husband and wife brought 10 of their 13 kids ages 28 to 3. Wow, now that’s a large family. Mr. Rojas spoke for Friday night chapel and the family sang us a few songs. They were really cool. I especially liked their 28-yr old daughter Sarah and their 25-yr old daughter Renee. They seemed pretty cool. Their younger girls were really cute too.
We went to their church on Saturday. It was interesting and definitely not the best church I’ve ever been to. The pastor talked rather generically and I think he used one verse the whole time to speak on the topic of respect and prejudice. Oh, well.
From there, we went to a non-kosher pizza place in Jerusalem, which was amazing, then walked around and bought Jewish scarves. That is certainly a story. Savannah and I found scarves we liked. They weren’t at Shaaban’s shop, where we like to buy things because he gives IBEX a great deal, but they were what I wanted, so paying 20 shekels didn’t seem too bad to me. After all, that’s a little over $6 for a nice scarf! Well, Jared was with us, and knowing that Shaaban would have given it to me for 15 shekels (about $5) he wouldn’t have it. He told me to offer 15. I told him I had, but had been turned down yet was still willing to pay 20. He told me no. I don’t take that price. I fight for my 15 or I walk away. Inside I was thinking “but I want this one…” but I didn’t argue. When the kid shopkeeper came back, I argued for only 15 shekels but he wouldn’t listen. Finally, Jared offered for 2 for 30 shekels (still 15 each) but he wouldn’t agree. So, Jared said we should walk away. Reluctantly, we did. We were about 10 feet away when the guy agreed to two scarves for 35 shekels. Jared said I could get it (lol) so Savannah and I walked away with very cute scarves – I’m wearing mine now – and I haven’t forgotten that I need to pay you back, Jared.
I love that aspect of this group. We are like a big family. It’s not uncommon for me to look over and someone’s wearing my sweatshirt and I’ve worn a few different people’s sweatshirts, coats, socks, etc. It all blends together after a while.
Back to bartering, life here in Israel involves a lot of bartering. On Wednesday, when we were in Bethlehem, we stopped at a store where that sold ornaments and nativity scenes and various other extremely expensive souvenirs made out of olive wood and a stone that is native to Bethlehem. I was talking to one of the sales people about something I was looking at, and John came up behind me and stood with me to make it more intimidating and help with the bartering process. We laughed afterward when he realized what he was doing in a store with set prices and no ability to barter. Lol..oh, well. I appreciated it.
On Saturday night, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we played Battle of the Sexes. It wasn’t the board game (that’s a stupid game) but our own rendition complete with guy vs. girl competitions. One of the most competitive games involved getting our whole group on a small mat and sending up one representative to get specific instructions from Bill. Then the person had to run back and give us instructions. Whichever team got the task completed first, won the match. It was hilarious and we got great pictures. I have to say the funniest part was our outfits. The girls wanted to do something fun, so we used our scarves and wrapped up our heads like Bedouin women and all wore black shirts to match. The guys, on the other hand, went all-out. By the time they were done, two of them (Daniel and Whit) were wearing shorts too short for them and four others (Matt, Peter, Jared, and Joe) were wearing girl pants (two of which were mine and another was my roommates). It was awful and hilarious as the same time. LOL. I don’t think I ever want to see those guys in hip-huggers again. Lol
On Sunday and Monday, we did one of my favorite parts of this trip so far: excavations.
Early Sunday morning, we got up and boarded the bus for the City of David on the south east corner of Jerusalem. Once there, we worked with an archeologist and his team of 40 people digging up lots and lots of dirt, pottery, and bones. We all walked away dirty, sweaty, and sore, but honestly, it was so fun. The first day Chelsea and I worked with two Israeli guys. A-al was a 24-yr old Jewish guy, and Leo was also Israeli, but he was definitely a seeker. In fact, he wasn’t even bothered by the Muslim guy who was doing his prayers towards Mecca about 25 feet from us. He found it “fascinating” or something like that. Overall, the days there were amazing. The physical work made me realize more and more how much I like hard labor. First of all, I feel healthier. Secondly, I feel justified to sit and write in the evenings if I’ve worked hard all day. We’re allowed to go back and work there anytime we want. Of course, we’d have to put in a full day’s labor. A good number of us want to go back and work there. We loved it. I learned a lot too. I know that sounds silly but I did. Most of it had nothing to do with excavation but it is always good to learn things.
And yes, I do have a new phrase, or rather, one word that continues to stick: “Oi.” Yesterday I said it after I had to lift a really heavy bucket in the bucket line while excavating (we made a conveyor belt of people to move buckets of dirt out of the excavation area). One of the Israeli guys looked at me and said, “That was a Jewish ‘Oi!’” I explained that I say it at home. He asked if I was Jewish and I said I was on my father’s side. He laughed and then had to tell the people near him in Hebrew that I said “Oi” and that I was Jewish….random. lol
Well, I’m off for now.
I hope I didn’t bore you with my life here. =)
Until next time,