Holocaust memorial & Mount of Olives

Hi everyone! My latest noteworthy outings have been to Yad va’Shem (The Holocaust Memorial) and to the Mount of Olives respectively.

Yad va’Shem

The name “Yad va’Shem” actually was taken from the scriptures. In Isaiah 56:5, it is written “And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad va’Shem) … that shall not be cut off.” This passage will be the verse of this post, so just look at the bottom for the context that it is found in! (Really, it is a beautiful passage)

This place, this memorial, was really hard to take in. The memorial is well made. There are countless stories, pictures, tales of individual families and struggles, and of the tiny points of light and hope that shone in the abyss. Yet also bluntly portrayed was the reality of what that abyss was, how it came to pass. The type of hell thrust upon these people. Those that stood up for the Jews and those that did not. There are so many stories there, painting through the eyes of real people the world they endured. It was heartbreaking, and honestly hard to get through. You can spend many hours in that place, reading the myriad of stories, watching the videos, looking at the pictures and documents, the artifacts and items recovered. About halfway through, part of me honestly wanted to just leave, because the reality of it was so awful and difficult to absorb. But of course that did not feel right to do. I cried a lot. And a lot of times, I was just screaming inside, as I was reading the stories, the history. I think you would too, if you were there. In the end, I had to skip the last part of the memorial because the friend I was there with was ready to leave. Maybe I will come back to see the rest. This is about all I can say about it, I feel that a more detailed account would not do the memorial justice. Needless to say, if you ever come to Israel, you need to visit this place and let it speak for itself. No pictures are allowed there, but I will include a photo I found online. stringio Within each doorway of this passage are large rooms where everything is kept, and it all connects.

 

Mount of Olives

This was all I did for Easter (I hear some people are calling it “resurrection day” now) pretty much, just skipped classes and walked to the Mount of Olives. Firstly, Google Maps lied because it’s definitely more than a 45 minute walk, not that I’m complaining! Honestly the site was a little disappointing though. The mount is enveloped in a densely packed town, dirty with trash all over the place, and with poor air quality. Definitely a far cry from what I assume it would’ve been 2000 years ago, not that this should be a surprise. But, there is a nice lookout, that overlooks the Temple Mount, the Old City, and some of the surrounding hills. You can imagine that back in the time of Jesus, one would have been able to look out and see the Temple and city below, in the distance.

Also covering all of the side of the Mount are graves, probably thousands in total. I hear that there is a Jewish tradition that the Messiah will come to the Mount of Olives first on the day of resurrection, and so if one had the means, one would get buried on the Mount of Olives as to be among the first to be resurrected. I think that Muslims are buried there too, though I don’t know if their reasons are the same or not. Anyhow, though I came on a cloudy day and the pictures don’t quite do it justice, the view from the lookout was still beautiful. Also, this nice camel guy let me get a picture on his camel even though I didn’t have any money to pay him for a ride! So, have a camel picture too.

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Isaiah 56:

Thus says the Lord:
    Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
    and my deliverance be revealed.

Happy is the mortal who does this,
    the one who holds it fast,
who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it,
    and refrains from doing any evil.

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and do not let the eunuch say,
    “I am just a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
I will give, in my house and within my walls,
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
    and hold fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
    who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
    besides those already gathered.

The Corruption of Israel’s Rulers

All you wild animals,
    all you wild animals in the forest, come to devour!
10 Israel’s sentinels are blind,
    they are all without knowledge;
they are all silent dogs
    that cannot bark;
dreaming, lying down,
    loving to slumber.
11 The dogs have a mighty appetite;
    they never have enough.
The shepherds also have no understanding;
    they have all turned to their own way,
    to their own gain, one and all.
12 “Come,” they say, “let us get wine;
    let us fill ourselves with strong drink.
And tomorrow will be like today,
    great beyond measure.”

 

 

And for those feeling brave, here’s the Hebrew for Isaiah 56:5, with vowels.

5וְנָתַתִּ֨י לָהֶ֜ם בְּבֵיתִ֤י וּבְחֹֽומֹתַי֙ יָ֣ד וָשֵׁ֔ם טֹ֖וב מִבָּנִ֣ים וּמִבָּנֹ֑ות שֵׁ֤ם עֹולָם֙ אֶתֶּן־לֹ֔ו אֲשֶׁ֖ר לֹ֥א יִכָּרֵֽת׃ ס

And my attempt at transliteration: “v’natati lahem b’beiti oo’vechomtai yad vashem tov mibanim oo’mibanot shem olam eten-lo asher lo yikart: s”

 

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Bike trip, and ancient tunnels

Hi everyone! I hope you’re doing well! The weather here in Jerusalem has been near-perfect for the past couple of days. It feels like late spring/early summer does in North Carolina. Anyhow! I thought I’d post a brief story about my bike trip near Beit Shemesh – that’s “House of Sun” in Hebrew I think. Reminiscent of that certain song. It was cool! We hopped on bikes, and rode across mild hills, and at points you could see out over the land, with hills rising and falling in the distance and towns here and there. (I also discovered how out of shape I am!) We saw the ruins of an ancient Jewish town, and along with it an ancient winepress, (interesting to put some winepress-related scriptures in that visual context!) mikvahs, (ritual baths) as well as the ruins of one of what is thought to be one of the first synagogues ever – built shortly after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, as a place to pray – back when people thought the Temple would be rebuilt any day. (I relate this according to what our tour guide told us) Finally, we biked up to this very deep depression in the ground, where a big tree was growing. It turns out that this was an entrance to a network of tunnels that many Jews lived in and did guerrilla warfare out of when they were fighting the Romans close to 2000 years ago. And we got to explore them! To my surprise, the hole in the surrounding rock that we crawled into was barely big enough enter on hands and knees. I would continue to be amazed as I crawled further and further in – there were parts where I had to distort my body to squeeze through, and times when I couldn’t even crawl on my hands and knees, but had to do an army-style crawl in order to fit. And of course, there was no light down there! We had to bring a flashlight. They warned us that it wasn’t for claustrophobic people, and boy, they weren’t exaggerating. There have been times when I’ve wondered if I have a smidge of claustrophobia, and I now know that this is not the case; otherwise there’s no way I would have made it through those tunnels! It was so cool though! At one point, the tunnel opened up into a small cavern, where small triangular slots were cut into the rock wall. Evidently, the Jews who lived there would use them to store live pigeons to eat. We also turned off all the lights, and tried to be quiet for a minute. It was pitch black. Then, we squirmed into a different tunnel than the one we entered the cavern from, and began crawling back. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my phone/flashlights into the tunnel, so I don’t have pictures from inside! Thankfully, the girl in front of me helped me through by sharing her light. It was an incredible experience! It feels hyper-real, as you actually crawl through those tunnels. They seem to stretch on and on. The history seemed to come to life. Even apart from the history though, it was just cool – I don’t think I’ve ever done something quite like that!

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An ancient winepress – the grapes were stomped on in the circular part, and the juice flowed down through branches used as filters into the rectangular area

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Storytime under valuable shade

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Our lunch host explains to us the true conflict here in Israel – the best method of eating these marshmallow balls

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Now to descend into the depths…

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Me, the winepress, and those beautiful hills

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My friend Sha’ul and yours truly

 


LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago. (Isaiah 25:1)

יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהַי֙ אַתָּ֔ה אֲרֹֽומִמְךָ֙ אֹודֶ֣ה שִׁמְךָ֔ כִּ֥י עָשִׂ֖יתָ פֶּ֑לֶא עֵצֹ֥ות מֵֽרָחֹ֖וק אֱמ֥וּנָה אֹֽמֶן׃

Euro-adventure!!!

Hello all! Let me share my latest big adventure with you all!! My sister and I had the thrilling opportunity to see some of Europe together these past two weeks, before she began an internship in Spain. Who knew we’d make it to Europe together someday! What a blessing! Without further ado, I’ll begin, and divide the post into sections corresponding to each country we visited.

England – London

So first was London! My sister and I met in Heathrow airport, (it was so good to see her again!) and then headed via “the tube” to Aldgate East, an area not far from central London. We checked in with our AirBnB host, dropped off our things, and I believe that’s when we went to Burger King. I know, it’s lame. “You’re in a new

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The sister and I at Burger King

country, please don’t eat American fast food.” But, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be in a Burger King, a restaurant that I don’t even normally eat at in the States. I was almost embarrassingly thrilled to sink my teeth into an American fast food burger and fries. (And Sprite!) I hadn’t eaten a burger in months I’m fairly certain, and anyhow definitely not at an American fast food joint. It was bliss. I also was still in disbelief that we were in London, and also very happy to be with my sister. Such a moment was definitely picture-worthy. Over the next few days, we attempted to be tourists, with some success. We often didn’t reach our intended destination, but basically always found cool things along the way anyways. We saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, (an impressive structure, as well as basically every old building in London) perused a bookshop, found a shopping mall, and discovered the joys of Costa coffee. (I am generally not a coffee person, but the mocha latte there was very chocolaty and addictive.) We had fish and chips, (delicious!) saw Westminster Abbey, the river Thames, and Trafalgar Square. (Including a street performer who breathed fire!) All of the buildings in the historic part of London are breathtaking. ‘Regal’ and ‘majestic’ are two words I’d use to describe them. Towering, huge, grand structures, often times with intricate Gothic style architecture. One can really imagine hundreds of years ago how this was the center of an empire. We perused more book stores, driven by my search for the book “The Aeronaut’s Windlass” by Jim Butcher, which I never did find. I quite like bookstores though so I didn’t mind. The AirBnB host for our last night’s stay was named Alex, and was a really amiable guy. We got to know him some, talking about languages, places and politics. (Yuck.) He even gave us some beer. The weather was somewhat drary for most of our stay, however this allowed me to use my prized new umbrella, (Pokemon themed) so I can’t say I was upset. Once our time in London was up, we took a train to the airport and headed for Cork, Ireland.

 

Ireland – Cork, Kinsale, Blarney Castle and Dublin

Ireland was splendid. We arrived at the airport in Cork, and after a short bus ride arrived at the place we’d be staying, another AirBnB home. (This is a system set up that lets people rent out rooms of their house to travelers. The prices are often good and it can be a nice experience depending on who the host is. We had all good hosts.) Our host, Paul, had a medium-thick Irish accent, and was very friendly. He advised us pretty much every day, readily answering our various queries to the best of his ability, on everything from food to tourist sites. As it turns out, he is returning to school to study botany, which I thought was pretty cool. Anyways, after arriving we got food at a place called “Paddy the Farmer’s”, which was a bar-type place with good food. Their menu had pretty much anything, and they literally were playing “Wagon Wheel” and other American songs, so it felt a lot like America. I had a burger and fries. (100% Irish beef!) Then we went to a bar in the city, a 15 minute walk or so, which was a small and extremely packed joint that evidently also runs a barber shop upstairs during the daytime. We came specifically to that one because Paul had said that on that night there would be traditional Irish music there, which there was! It felt like so stereotypically Irish, like a scene you would see in a movie – a cramped pub filled to the brim with people, live musicians playing classic Irish music, and of course what Ireland is known for, alcohol. I had a apple cider thing which was very sweet. The people there were very friendly, no doubt boosted even further from the already-friendly Irish norm by the influence of alcohol.

The next day we explored the city, checking out stores and yet more bookshops, and as per my custom, I had to get a McFlurry. (I have a tradition of getting a McFlurry in every remarkable place that I go. [much to my sister’s chagrin] Thanks to McDonald’s being literally everywhere, this is pretty simple.) We ate at some cool places, saw more of Ireland, and we were both thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere and people. Ireland, I have to say, feels the most like home out of any foreign country I’ve been to so far. The people are incredibly friendly, the scenery is stunningly beautiful, the restaurants are very reminiscent of America, (in the cases that they’re already not literally American fast food places) and most of all the atmosphere just exudes a calm and relaxed air. After being in Israel for a time, though I do love the place, the feeling in Ireland contrasted quite a lot from the tension I feel when I walk around here. This may all be in my head/perception, but certainly I feel like I must always remain on alert in Israel when I go places. With the regular terrorist attacks I’d be stupid not to. And certainly London can’t be considered a relaxing place, so Ireland felt like letting out a heavy breath.

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Entering the fort

Next, we took a bus to Kinsale, a port town about 45 minutes from Cork. The scenery on the way was incredible. Rolling, lush smaragdine hills as far as you could see. The fields were such an intense green, reminiscent of a scene from a movie. We arrived at Kinsale, and (surprise) it was beautiful! Some shops were closed down because it was off-season, but there were plenty still open. We perused a small local bookshop, which was also home to a friendly dog, and got coffee and a meal. After asking around to see what was good to do in the area, we embarked on a walk, which took us along the coastline, with some beautiful outlooks and scenery, to at last end up at Fort Charles, an old Irish fort. We toured around there, seeing the thick stone walls overlooking the sea inlet in the distance. You could also from the high points see out over the port town of Kinsale from a distance, with its boats and shops. You could imagine many years in the past that boats still docked at Kinsale, when the fort held even greater importance. Eventually we caught a night bus back to Cork, resting until the next day.

Next, we went to Blarney castle, a brief bus-ride from Cork. It was a quaint town, and of course the tourist attraction of the castle was its biggest feature. The castle grounds were gorgeous. A river meandered through the expansive lawn overlooked by the castle, and as we approached we were guided by plaques denoting the details of different parts of the castle as we came across them. The castle itself was towering and grey, (as one might expect) different parts preserved to different degrees. Once we were inside, we climbed the (very) narrow winding stone spiral staircase to the top of the castle, where you could look out over the misty hills and farmland of the region, as well as the river and grounds. This was also the location of “The Blarney Stone” the stone that allegedly gives people the gift of eloquence. Of course there were lots of plaques and different things at the top that played up

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Some scenery from the castle grounds

the story of the stone, claiming that Winston Churchill had kissed the stone before he became famous for his speeches, etc. My favorite plaque was one about George Bernard Shaw regarding the stone. Evidently he had visited here, but did not ‘kiss the stone’, claiming that his gifts in that area were already sufficient, if not somewhat excessive. That seemed about right. Anyhow, they had two older men up there to assist tourists in completing this silly ritual, and they would actually hang you out a couple feet over a long drop to the base of the castle (there were also iron bars guarding the possibility of falling) in order to be able to ‘kiss the stone’. My sister overcame her fear of heights and did this after some time working up courage, and even did it again in pursuit of better pictures of her doing this. I don’t know whether to shake my head or admire her dedication. I originally didn’t plan on ‘kissing the stone’, only wanting to hang off the edge for the view/experience, which I did, however upon my hanging, I was hit with intense and sudden peer (peer?) pressure from the elder gentleman, and gave in at the end. Oh well.

The next cool part of Blarney Castle was their Poison Garden. They had a garden designated specially for the growing of all sorts of poisonous plants, from the Yew tree to foxglove to common poison ivy, one that I have some personal experience with. Each plant had a plaque with its common name, its scientific family name, and a comprehensive description of the parts of the plant that is poisonous, the side effects it induces, as well often relevant historical trivia. IMG_1332It was really interesting, and a rare chance to see and be able to recognize so many poisonous plants together. There’s some nasty greenery out there. Not all of the plants were really visible, because of the off season I presume. Many had cages around them to prevent people from getting close, and of course there was a warning not to touch or even sniff the plants. Once I’d taken a look at everything,  my sister and I eventually headed back to Blarney town, wandering through a more lush, forested part of the grounds on our way out. There was more to see, but we’d seen the main things and I think my sister was ready to go. We picked up a drink at the local grocery store, and waited for the bus back to Cork.

Dublin

We rode a bus to Dublin, unfortunately arriving too late to go on a tour of the Guinness Brewery, an idea we had considered. We booked a room in a hostel in the central area of the city, so that we’d have a place to rest until we left for the airport at around 4am the next morning. I wanted to exchange some American dollars for Euros, and so we checked out a few currency exchange places, which were all closed by then. (It was probably about 7pm or so) We walked a few main streets, taking in the atmosphere and looking at the stores. There were lots of restaurants of all different varieties, there were musicians playing in the street at different places, including a particularly talented electric guitarist. We eventually stopped at a Mexican style restaurant, and had burritos. Sometimes you just want a burrito, ya know? Anyhow, I afterwards talked Megan into going to the nearby McDonalds, so I could expand my McFlurry world map to include Dublin. We picked up some pastries to eat for breakfast early the next morning in the airport, and eventually went back to the hostel. It was somewhat colder in Dublin. That night was sleepless for me, Megan only got a nap, and then we headed for the airport.

Spain – Barcelona, Valencia

Did I mention I always love the view from the airplane? It’s magical, looking down on earth from so high up, you can see everything. And then you can actually be above the clouds, looking out upon that white sea. It’s enough to make you a little disbelieving, that humans can actually fly above the clouds. Right, Barcelona. So, we didn’t actually stay for any length of time in Barcelona, only enough time to catch a lengthy 3.5 hour train ride to Valencia. But, from the train we did get to see some of Barcelona from a distance, enough to know that it’s an enormous city. Or maybe all cities are bigger than I realized. Or maybe the train was just equally slow, and I saw the city for a long time. Regardless! It looked big.

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Everything in plane sight

Additionally, we got to see a lot of pretty countryside on the train ride, mild foothills and pretty expanses of fields used for agriculture. I simultaneously enjoyed the cheesy martial arts movie that was graciously provided us train riders, although I watched it without audio. Thankfully, does a movie (or to a bigger extent, genre – debate ensues) that is already 80% exaggerated fight scenes truly need any sound, dialogue, or plot? Of course not. If that’s what people watched them for, they wouldn’t be an attractive genre. Eventually arriving in Valencia, we were pleasantly surprised (or at least I was surprised) that our hostel was within a mile or so form the train station, an easy walk.

The city is naturally very pretty. The buildings are often made out of what appears to be some white stone, much like Jerusalem, but this stone is a little darker in tint. The place we stayed was just a couple streets from the main square. The main square was a medium sized plaza paved in what I think was marble, or anyways some very smooth and pretty stone, lowered down a couple steps from the surrounding space, with a large fountain featuring statues pouring water. It was flanked on two sides by some restaurants and with streets branching out in every direction, a small decorative orange tree garden to the side, all overlooked by a large historic cath

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Part of the plaza (and my sister!)

edral. In the center of the plaza was an inscription in Latin, which I could only vaguely make out some of. (It’s been a while since I was in Latin) It seemed to be a tribute to some ruler. This plaza seemed to aptly display the essence of the overall feeling that Valencia gave me. The ambiance in Valencia is really nice, its a very pretty place. I think when my sister and I arrived on the first day, we were exhausted from traveling and lack of sleep, and rested for a bit. My sister also began to get sick, so that was no good. After a day or so, we met up with one of the people that Megan would be working with during her 3-month internship in Spain, as well as a guy that the coworker of hers had met in the hostel we were staying at. Together we walked through

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Churros con chocolate. Yummm.

some gorgeous city park area, that separated the old and new city of Valencia. The weather was great, it felt like vacation. I guess it was vacation. Anyhow, then we saw some buildings along the way that were constructed by who I presume is a well known architect. The buildings were of complex and interesting design, and the guy that we met from the hostel was an architect himself, and knew of the designer. From there we continued walking, eventually reaching Valencia’s beach, which was (redundant, I know) also very pretty. We chilled there for a while. I also saw this amazing sandcastle, that a guy had been working on for 10 consecutive days. When I saw it I couldn’t even believe it was real, and walked up to it to confirm that it was not real, only to be stopped by its evident creator, who by now I’m sure was quite used to people trying to touch his painstakingly sculpted creation. I’ll see if I can dig up a picture! Other things we/I got to do over the next couple days include: 1. Having Churrós con chocolate at a chocolate shop, they were heavenly. Freshly made, with real, hot melted chocolate to dip them in. (we bought them at a chocolate shop that advertised their churros)

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The sandcastle

2. Talked to a homeless guy, who is a self-proclaimed Christian, ex-neurosurgeon, filmmaker, war deserter, alcoholic and drug addict. Unfortunately, he seems to be beginning to go blind, and does not have enough money to pay for the corrective surgery. Instead he has ordered a service dog to help him. 3. Had tasty pizza. Odd that the tastiest main course food I had in Spain was pizza. 4. Had tapas, which are basically just mini-sized snack foods, like tiny subs and stuff. I was underwhelmed. They’re so unsatisfying, you have to eat a ton of them to be filled. I much prefer a real meal. 5. Overheard a guy speaking Hebrew on the phone in a restaurant that we’d stopped at, so I (pleasantly surprised) struck up a conversation with him in Hebrew, and made a new friend. Thankfully his English wasn’t better than my Hebrew, so we talked in Hebrew, and somehow managed pretty well. 6. Meet some people from the hostel. People can be pretty interesting sometimes.

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Architecture

 

My sister and I said our goodbyes, and then she left to go get situated at her language camp internship. I set out the next day, taking a subway line to the airport, to return at last to Jerusalem.

France – Paris

….Buuut, I had a layover in France – both on my way to London from Israel, and again on my way back to Israel from Spain. Happily, this let me fulfill my mini-dream of having a chocolate croissant in France. It was an airport croissant, but I’m fully counting it.

Israel – Jerusalem

I arrived safely in Tel Aviv, and took a shuttle to Jerusalem, finally arriving at my home-away-from-home. After so much traveling, it was really nice to be back. It’s great to travel, and it’s also great to return.

 


 

Job 22:29-30

29 When people are brought low and you say, ‘Lift them up!’
    then he will save the downcast.
30 He will deliver even one who is not innocent,
    who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”

Job 33:23-30

23 Yet if there is an angel at their side,
    a messenger, one out of a thousand,
    sent to tell them how to be upright,
24 and he is gracious to that person and says to God,
    ‘Spare them from going down to the pit;
    I have found a ransom for them—
25 let their flesh be renewed like a child’s;
    let them be restored as in the days of their youth’—
26 then that person can pray to God and find favor with him,
    they will see God’s face and shout for joy;
    he will restore them to full well-being.
27 And they will go to others and say,
    ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right,
    but I did not get what I deserved.
28 God has delivered me from going down to the pit,
    and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’

29 “God does all these things to a person—
    twice, even three times—
30 to turn them back from the pit,
    that the light of life may shine on them.

Like, everything

So here’s like, everything I’ve done for the past month and a half or so. (It’s been way too long since I updated, I know)

Hanukkah

So Hanukkah happened, which was admittedly cool. In Israel it’s a big thing as you might imagine. Sufganiot were everywhere (basically, jelly donuts, evidently the standard Hanukkah fare) and I’m sure contributed substantially to country-wide weight-gain. There were Hannukias everywhere (I think that’s the correct term for Menorahs that aren’t the actual Menorah that was in the Temple? Maybe I’m way off base.) Anyways, those were everywhere, there was even a big metal one on top the the security checkpoint at the entrance to the student village. I went to this Hanukkah event at an assisted living home, and unbeknownst to me the other students who came were pretty much all from the music 1935474_10205204739666062_935960525721672326_nschool and had put together a whole mini-concert-singing-shindig, so I volunteered to be the camera guy. But, it was nice nonetheless, they passed out the jelly-donuts (sufganiot) and the other students led the old folks in singing the traditional Hanukkah songs and prayers, and someone lit the first candles for Hanukkah. Also, the school later gave the students who came to the event a sweet Hebrew University mug. (I now have “Hebrew-U swag”, as my contemporaries would say.)

Church/(synagogue?)

I went to a pretty cool messianic service at a place I hadn’t been to before. A couple students from the student village go there, so that’s how I found it. Also, there was free soup afterwards, so you really couldn’t have gone wrong.

Game convention? No?

I also attempted to go to a game convention with another student in Tel Aviv. We caught a bus to the central bus station in Jerusalem, then to Tel Aviv, which I had never been to before! It was really nice. It was still Hanukkah, so we got at least one sufganiah (jelly donut) at a bakery, and strolled through a Tel Aviv shuk. (market, like a huge farmer’s market with things besides just vegetables) We got falafel, which was very good, and I also tried some carrot juice, which is evidently a thing here. It was surprisingly good, the carrots were very fresh. I kid you not, it tasted like liquid carrots. Like I was drinking carrot. Which I guess was exactly what it was, so I suppose that makes sense.

Anyway, soon after, our dreams were shattered (not actually, we took it quite well) as we realized that the convention was not, in fact, in Tel Aviv, but rather on a street with the same name in a (what we thought was) Tel Aviv suburb. Two more buses and about an hour and a half later, we arrived at the actual game convention center, only a couple or so hours late. I got a picture with Israeli Ezio (or which ever Assassin’s Creed main character he was supposed to be) which definitely came as a surprise. You saw all of the usual convention people, cosplaying as all sorts of things, it was interesting. But, now our dreams really were shattered (we handled it pretty well still) as we discovered that the convention was already 700 people over capacity, and they were not letting any more people

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Israeli Ezio

in for the rest of the day. So, we walked around the block and figured out what to do next; try to redeem the trip, or go back to Jerusalem before the entire day was wasted. We went the ‘redeem the trip’ route, which entailed heading to a board game/card shop in what appeared to be a close-by town. 3 buses and 3 hours later, after substantial hassle, we came dragging into the shop at 7:15, my phone on 1% battery, my travel buddy’s at 6%. Thankfully, they held out until we could navigate there. The town was called “Hod haSharon” (“The Glory/splendor of Sharon” I think.) and it was a nice place. There was a multi-colored fountain, a nice city hall with colored glass windows, shops and restaurants, and of course the board game shop. The owners of the shop were very friendly, though their shop was closing in only 45 minutes at 8pm, so after a short tutorial by the one of the shop owners, we played a quick game that we’d never heard of, and my travel buddy, we’ll call him Frankie, (that’s his actual name, I just don’t want to type ‘travel buddy’ anymore) charged his phone. Once they closed, we perused the local shops for dinner, where I tried schnitzel for the first time; it was really good. We also bought more sufganiot. (It’s okay because of the holiday, right…right?) Anyways, exhausted, we finally headed back to Jerusalem. We hopped on a bus from Hod haSharon, when Frankie realized we were on the wrong bus; so we got off. Then, we got on another bus, when he realized that this bus was in fact the wrong bus and the first one was correct! So we got off again, and then backtracked a few bus stops on foot until we got to the one where the direct bus to Jerusalem central station would stop, thankfully in time. I was so relieved when we boarded that bus. At last we caught the final bus from central bus station in Jerusalem to the student village on Har haTsofim (literally “Watchmen’s Mountain” or Scout’s Mountain I think, but in English it’s just called Mount Scopus. It’s where I live.) We had spent almost the entire day on buses, spanning about 5 different bus companies and about 12 buses in total. It was quite an experience. But, I got to see Tel Aviv (briefly), try carrot juice and schnitzel for the first time, see Hod haSharon which I probably never would have made it to otherwise, meet some nice shop owners, take a picture with Israeli Ezio, and had plenty time to talk to Freddie, a fellow nerd. We did what we could!

Dinner with a teacher!

So I have this class called “Famine and Feast: The Bible from Literary and Other Perspectives” and it’s basically a great class. Our teacher invited the whole class over for dinner at her house as the semester neared a close. (Israeli society seems to be a lot less big on the teacher/student division. Teachers talk to students more like other normal people than necessarily superiors, for better or for worse.) Our whole class showed up for the dinner, (a whopping 13 or so people. If only our attendance of regular class was that perfect.) and it was a really good time. We all chipped in for a bottle of wine and some flowers (yours truly was the brave hero who accepted the quest to find and purchase the flowers, and they were a hit!) and she had prepared a delicious dinner. There was carrot soup served with fresh cilantro arranged in the middle of the bowls, there was rice-lentil-onion stuff which was surprisingly tasty, and then the delicious Shakshouka, as well as grilled chicken breast and salad. There was wine and beer, (I had wine, because beer is really not that good. [fierce debate ensues]) and for desert there was these chocolate-bread-ball thingies and fresh strawberries with sugar. Everyone really enjoyed the conversation, and at the end we all told a story we had that related to food. (If you can’t tell, I love food, so this was not hard for me.) I chose to talk about the time when I had ridiculously tasty Tortellini at a friend’s house, eating thirds and probably fourths, and it was so good that I dreamed about it and ate it again in my dream, where it was equally good. (If you’re reading this you know who you are!) There are many other food stories I wanted to tell though. (including the infamous “doodoo-ball hushpuppies” legend/true story/cherished childhood memory)  Anyhow, it was fun and people had some interesting and funny stories. It was truly a very enjoyable night. Plus, me and a couple classmates did 4-step dancing as we were waiting for the bus home, also fun. We attracted some looks, but who cares?

Christmas

So then there was the last few classes of the semester, followed by exams starting. I think there was like a three-week period where I didn’t even go into the city, just stayed in the Student village/school/grocery store area. It was pretty bad. Christmas happened somewhere in here, and I got to do some cool stuff. Me and a few other guys went to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, which was cool to see! It was super decorated. Even though there wasn’t a ton to do, I really enjoyed being there. Crazy to think that Jesus was born there. The next day (Christmas) I went to a “Christmas dinner” as my friend Lawrence, who invited me, called it, although it was actually at lunchtime. Maybe it’s a British thing? Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Comically, the guests who showed up to eat somehow ended up doing most of the cooking, I don’t know how it happened, but we were happy to. Anyhow, we ate, talked, I ate mo

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Bethlehem

re, there was dessert, and then Lawrence read some from the Bible about Jesus’ birth and talked some about the significance of it all. It was good. Got to meet an Israeli guy he invited to. (Interactions with actual Israeli natives in the Kfar are rare, sadly) That night, my flatmate at the time (he since moved to another apartment) had invited 15 or so people over to eat actual Christmas dinner together, at dinnertime, so there was “balagan” (israeli slang for chaos) as they were trying to get everything ready. I pitched in eventually to help cut things and wash dishes. Once everything was ready and people were there, I got the honour of saying a prayer and reading an (extremely) brief passage from Luke 2, with a few words about why Christmas was important to Christians. (Evidently I’m the resident Christian for at least our flat. I suppose I’m happy to own that title.) Anyhow, public speaking tip #1, as Sun Tzu once *cough* wrote, “Know your audience”. They definitely weren’t the type as a whole who are the least bit interested in these sorts of things, so I kept it brief. Anyways, it was a lot of fun, and it was really, really nice to be able to eat good meals and be near lots of people on Christmas day. Made it special and made me not miss home as much. That Christmas dinner is also notably the first Christmas dinner that I’ve had that I’ve been outnumbered by Jews, it was kind of ironic to me. But I’m happy to say I’ve had the experience!

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Right, so exams. And research paper – I wrote a research paper on Israel-Japan foreign relations throughout the years, from 1948 to present day, which was surprisingly interesting and I thought I did a pretty good job, if I say so myself! I like my teacher too, he’s good. It helps that he’s also interested in this subject, and even wrote a paper about it, which I of course got to use to help construct my own. (harhar) Exams happened, I finished exams and finally turned in my paper on the 31st, and then invited my friend Jonatan over for new years eve stuff. We played word games with scrabble tiles, and once 12:00 hit we had sparkling pomegranate stuff that I purchased for the occasion, as well as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which is stocked in my freezer more often than I care to outline for you all. (The chunky monkey flavor is actually really tasty. But I’m afraid it’s making me chunky too!) That night I also helped revise the philosophy paper of this guy I only vaguely knew from the dinner party, who evidently saw me in the through the window from outside and decided to stop by. (I live on the ground floor) His paper on The Matrix and philosophy was of course due that night at 12, but at least he didn’t have to suffer alone, right?

Anyhow, I think that’s the highlights of the past while, up till pretty darn current. I guess I should mention I’ve been reading an interesting Chinese comic (Manhua) called Douluo Dalu, as well as the English fan-translation of the web novel it originated from. Thanks for reading everyone!

 

Habakkuk 6:8

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Acts 2:43-47

43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving in Israel…+Wedding?

What a night it’s been! I hope you all’s Thanksgiving has been wonderful, and full of turkey and fellowship, and turkey. And pie. I might not have had anything to do for Thanksgiving, which would’ve been sad, but thank God, they have a Thanksgiving dinner for the international students here at Rothberg!!! (plus I got a deal on it, saved ~$30, cost me $12.5) It was wonderful. There was a two-course meal, with buffet stuffs. There were a bunch of students from Rothberg, many that I know, and so we ate, talked, drank, and there was a live band (WITH A SAXOPHONE and a trumpet!) that was rocking, and also a DJ. So everyone danced, and I’m proud to say that I danced too. It was a lot of fun. And the live music was good!!! I’ll see about posting a clip I took of it. There was all sorts of dishes, some I was familiar with, some I had no idea about but that tasted great, and some I recognized, but with a twist. Food of the night: Yam Soufflé with caramelized onions on top. Try it! It was surprisingly really good. And of course, no Thanksgiving meal is worth its name without turkey. (sorry vegetarians – tofurkey is OK too)

Did I mention it was a blast? It took what could have been a pretty sorry holiday away from home and made it the best it could be here in Israel. (Where Thanksgiving is only celebrated by the Americans) Honestly a great night. I also got to of course talk with my classmates, strengthen some friendships, and it doesn’t hurt that my table won a trivia contest and all got 50 shekel ($12.5) gift certificates to a Jewish bookstore. Ok! But it doesn’t end there. I went to say hi, as the party was dispersing and everyone heading to the buses back to our apartments, to 3 students I knew. Turns out, they were heading to a wedding!

The wedding was open to the whole public actually, so they were going and I couldn’t pass up such a wonderful opportunity. An Israeli wedding! We were late, so we didn’t get to see the ceremony, but there were still a LOT of people there lingering and singing and dancing. The story is tragic though… The father (a Rabbi) and the brother of the bride were murdered by terrorists two weeks ago in Hebron… (http://www.timesofisrael.com/hundreds-attend-funeral-of-father-and-son-killed-in-terror-attack/) They were on their way to a pre-wedding celebration. In order to make a statement, they opened up their wedding for anyone to come, in Jerusalem. Hundreds were still there by the time we got there, after things were dying down. I’m really glad I was able to go, both to see and experience this and also to show my support for there family in the face of their loss. I think it’s a cool thing they did. One of my apartment-mates showed up at the wedding at an earlier time and said there were over 1000 people there, and showed me a video where they were chanting “Am-Yisrael” and it looked like the place was packed. When we arrived, we could see indoors the pictures of the two family members and candles burning for them, and a large poster full of signatures, well-wishes and comforting things written for the family. Then outside there were people with drums playing to the beat, people chanting and clapping and dancing. Israeli flags were commonplace. Jews were everywhere. It felt really special. I actually recognized one of the songs they were singing to be a psalm, they were singing it together and dancing and playing drums. In honor of the family that lost their loved ones and still courageously moved forward and began a family of their own, that psalm will be the verse for this post.

They sang more, but this was the chorus: Psalm 92:2

It was beautiful.

Str Translit Hebrew English Morph
5046 [e] lə-hag-gîḏ לְהַגִּ֣יד To declare Verb
1242 [e] bab-bō-qer בַּבֹּ֣קֶר in the morning Noun
2617 [e] ḥas-de-ḵā; חַסְֽדֶּ֑ךָ Your covenant loyalty Noun
530 [e] we-’ĕ-mū-nā-ṯə-ḵā, וֶ֝אֱמֽוּנָתְךָ֗ and Your faithfulness Noun
3915 [e] bal-lê-lō-wṯ. בַּלֵּילֽוֹת׃ by night Noun

Bluegrass in Jerusalem?

I think a quick update is in order. Perhaps I would have already made one, if I had done many interesting things. Overall, it’s been a standard college existence for the past little while, with papers and midterm week happening. I sporadically meet talented piano players in the piano room in Rothberg school, which is cool, and yeah really I haven’t done much lately.

The one perhaps noteworthy thing that I did do, as the title suggests, was attend a bluegrass concert, that a friend of a friend was playing in. (A friend of a friend from back home; in fact, the person also hails from the most lovely state of North Carolina.) It was indeed a weird feeling to walk into a discreet building (I got lost trying to find it) somewhere on the streets of Jerusalem, to hear bluegrass music, southern accents and “Take Me Home Country Roads”. (Bluegrass edition) But it was altogether refreshing, and reminiscent of home, even though ironically that’s not the music I listen to at home. Thanks for reading, more to come when there’s more to say!

Too bad the quality isn’t better, filmed by yours truly!

1 Kings 19:4-9 (about Elijah)

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Recent highlights (pictures to come!)

Sometimes it just hits me, that I’m half way around the world, in Israel, in Jerusalem, the land of my spiritual forefathers and the physical land that the Bible takes place in. That the hills I look out on were once traversed by Abraham, ruled over by David, and dwelt among by the people of Israel that I have read so much about. It’s a special and wonderful thing. Today I had one of those moments. Truly I am blessed and undeserving to have the privilege of being called by my King to be here. So thank you, God.

Also, thanks to you all, my readers! Hopefully the details of my life-happenings here won’t bore you unduly! In today’s post, we’re going to be talking about classes, Krav Maga, green Doritos (important update on that front), Michael Oren, and more!

So classes here are going very well, I enjoy them all. Particularly noteworthy is my Food and the Bible class, which is really cool. We discuss places in the bible where food is used, what its purpose in the text is, and then proceed to discuss the deeper matters of life that food can be a conduit for, as well as the different ways food can be used to make statements, etc. Basically, it probably won’t help me out a ton career-wise, but it’s super interesting. Plus those who know me know that food and Bible are both great things in my book.

Also, recently I feel like my Hebrew is really improving in big strides, which is encouraging and of which I’m very grateful. I’m beginning to see the realization of that dream. (at least the start of it 🙂 )

Okay! Very notable is a a Krav Maga course I’ve started attending, along with a small group of other Rothberg students, which is great in several ways. I’ve missed martial arts, and it feels great to involved in learning again. The classes are very practical, (with the reality of terrorists here, it has to be) as well as pretty cheap (about $10 a 90m. class) and also I get to form some deeper friendships with some fellow students. (and generally the ones that show up at Krav Maga are a cut above the average students anyways). So I’m thrilled with that.

I made a landmark discovery – green Doritos are not only available here, you actually can buy them in the States! Evidently it’s a flavor called “Sweet Chili”, or so I heard. I can’t guarantee it tastes the same, since they definitely use different ingredients here. (probably because the food industry here actually has standards) And I definitely won’t guarantee its good for you. They’re also highly addictive – but if none of that bothers you, definitely try it.

I also had the pleasure of going to here Michael Oren speak to a group of university students nearby. For those who don’t know (I didn’t), Michael Oren is the Israeli ex-ambassador to the United States, and is currently a member of the Knesset, which is like the Israeli parliament. He talked about the strong ties that connected the US and Israel, like democracy, our strong religious ties, and our economic relationship (I might be forgetting one also) as well as the latest threats to that bond. When explaining to the students this connection of belief, he cited several really cool examples. One time, if I remember correctly, he was negotiating with a governor of Texas and needed funding for something. When he came into the man’s office, the man had a Bible open on his desk. He pointed to where it was opened to, and said what was written: (paraphrased) “Those who bless Israel are blessed, and those who curse them are cursed.” He then asked him how much he needed, willing to generously help. He obviously believed those words. He also talked about President Truman, (to my memory) about how during his presidency Israel was wanting to become a nation but searching for support. The position of America was a big deal. All of the president’s advisers, the CIA, everyone agreed and said to him that supporting and recognizing Israel as a sovereign Jewish state was a bad idea, would cause trouble, was unwise. Truman ignored them all. He said, perhaps to the Israeli ambassador, “I am Cyrus”. For those who don’t know, Cyrus was the Babylonian ruler who, when the Jews were in exile there, gave them the permission and his blessing to go and return to their homeland in Israel, and to rebuild the Temple. It was because of Truman’s faith that he saw things this way, and if he hadn’t felt this way perhaps things would have been a lot different. Only hours after Israel declared its statehood, Truman was the first to recognize it. To a small, fledgling state like Israel was at the time, an act like this by the leader of a superpower country would not be quickly forgotten, and to this day he’s honored for that. Oren emphasized that no other country has this kind of connection to Israel and the Jewish people. Truman definitely had his flaws, and some later decisions of his would perhaps not paint as    rosy a picture, but this is how Oren presented it, and it did happen. Anyhow, he was a great speaker, very knowledgeable and experienced. I really enjoyed hearing him speak, and I think everyone there did. Plus there was free Chinese food, which I gratefully had two heaping plates of. That never hurts.

Since my wallet was stolen in Jordan, I’ve been waiting for my new debit card to arrive in the mail. Due to some unknown shenanigans, it still hasn’t arrived, so I’ve been living frugally (at least frugally for me). An unexpected side effect is that I’m learning to cook, because when I don’t go to the grocery store, I end up using things that I already have to make stuff. I made some vegetable fried rice, which, considering who cooked it, turned out excellent. This will be good for me!

There’s been a couple of events in the student village that I’ve gone to this week as well. One was advertised as “Israeli kids’ games with the Madrichim” (RAs), and so Gilad, a fellow student but also Madrich, told us about his childhood some, and about some Israeli games. Evidently there’s one called “Egel” or “Calf”, that he’s not proud of having played as a teen, but evidently it’s a thing they do here. Evidently, the kids draw a circle, someone is picked as a “calf”, and they have to hop on one leg inside the circle. They are safe in the circle. Evidently, they are supposed to catch someone else and then that person becomes the new “calf”, except when the person leaves the circle to attempt to do so, all of the other kids do violence towards them. In Gilad’s frank terms, everyone beats the s*** out of them. Gilad’s hand was broken during one such game when he was younger also. Stuff is intense here in Israel I guess. Speaking of, I was in class the other day, and these loud bangs kept happening like gunshots from outside, and when everyone turned to look, there was smoke rising in the distance. “That’s tear gas”, one of the more experienced students says. “Oh, ok. They must be having a riot over there or something. You have to get used to that.” Our seasoned teacher commented, and then proceeded to continue the lesson unfazed. “Only in Israel,” I thought. Anywho, Gilad ended the session with his favorite game, which turned out to be “Mafia” with an Israeli name. It’s a great game, even if everyone already knew about it. Oh well, it was still hilarious, especially with Gilad forgetting things, even the Israeli names of things that he was supposed to be teaching us, and emphasizing proudly throughout the game “I am the Mayor!!!” It was a certainly unique version with him leading, it was a blast. I like Gilad. (I felt really bad, we were going to have dinner one time a while back, and I slept through the time we were supposed to meet…yikes.) The event had food too which was good as usual. Bagels and spreads, this time. I haven’t had a bagel since I’ve been here I think, so that was good.

The other event in the “Kfar” the student village this week was just live music and cheap beer, which is evidently what people call a party. I don’t see how you can have a party without food, but that’s just me. It wasn’t bad, an interesting change of pace anyways, got to “socialize” with a few friends. I don’t like that word. Whatever. What was pretty amusing was the band’s rendition of Britney Spear’s “Hit me baby one more time”, rendered in a thick Israeli accent, with intense drumming, bass, and an extremely lively/metalish solo on electric guitar. They were into it, for sure!

I got to go to an event (I forget the technical term) at my friend from UNC Colin’s home, where a whole lot of Jewish rabbinical and Yeshiva students were meeting, where there were drinks and everyone was passionately debating and discussing the part of the Torah where God commands Abraham to leave his land, his place of birth, and the house of his father and go to the land he promised to his descendents. It was really cool.

I need to wrap this up, so in other news the weather is at last changing to winter, (“horef” in Hebrew) and the rainy season. A friend and I laughed that the steady good weather had seriously impacted our conversation skills, because there was nothing to talk about haha. Also, I’ve been listening to music, doing some homework, and reading the English translation of a light novel series from Japan that I had previosuly watched the anime adaptation of, and I’m enjoying that. (wordy I know.) Overall, it’s been a good time recently. I hope all of you are doing well!

Thanks again, God bless! Shalom 🙂

Psalm 101. Of David.

I will sing of mercy and justice;
To You, O LORD, I will sing praises.

I will behave wisely in a perfect way.
Oh, when will You come to me?
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.

I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will not know wickedness.

Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor,
Him I will destroy;
The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart,
Him I will not endure.

My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land,
That they may dwell with me;
He who walks in a perfect way,
He shall serve me.
He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence.
Early I will destroy all the wicked of the land,
That I may cut off all the evildoers from the city of the LORD.

Sukkot and Jordan

I’m long overdue for a blog entry. A lot has happened. For one, the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, an 8-day celebration, happened. Sukkot is a really cool holiday, one of my favorites, and I definitely missed being at home for it. I did however get to see the lunar eclipse, which was visible from Jerusalem (sorry to the many of you back home who had overcast skies) and it was really cool. Unfortunately because there was only dim red light from the moon, it was scarcely captured at all by my camera. By the time it ended I figured I’d already stayed up all night, so I might as well see the sunrise, which I did. I also found out that gas stations are sometimes open during Shabbat, so if I ever get in another tight spot without food, I can always eat that!

Anyhow, the rest of Sukkot was really low key, probably a little too qu12074972_10204757623968449_1538392615761167707_niet to be honest. I did get to go out with my friend Collin, who went to school at UNC with me, and some of his apartment-mates, where I discovered just how jam-packed downtown Jerusalem can be at night.   To my astonishment, on my way there, I discovered a REAL Domino’s Pizza (American) not a half mile down the same street from the (Israeli) “Domino Pizza”, which is definitely not copyright infringement, nope definitely not. I also found a copy of the book “Eragon” in Hebrew, which I am thrilled about, and actually cooked a real meal. (Stir-fried veggies and rice)

*Sigh*. Then, I went to Jordan with a friend who had invited me. Honestly as we were crossing he border, I had a bad feeling. “What am I doing?” I thought. Within 12 hours of being there, my wallet was stolen, and my friend and I quickly found out that almost no one there speaks English, and if they do it is almost always quite poor. My wallet was stolen at around the same time as my friend and I were arguing on the street with a taxi driver; who was trying to overcharge us while simultaneously “not knowing” the places we wanted to go, even when we gave him VERY conspicuous nearby landmarks as reference points. He mentioned taking us to some hotel, which we didn’t want to go to, and at some point I discovered that my backpack was partially unzipped (it had been on my back) and my wallet was gone. (I hear that taxi drivers sometimes have deals with hotels to take people there even when they aren’t instructed to. Regardless, I don’t think there was a single taxi driver we interacted with there who wasn’t a con artist. “You’re a westerner, AND you don’t speak Arabic? You look like money to me.”

SO by this point we were pretty done with taxi drivers, and it was already much past dark. We wandered around the city, trying to ask for directions, and we did meet some helpful people, and eventually made it to the police station. They sent some people to go with us to where it was stolen, and looked at the nearby mall’s security cameras, but didn’t find anything, and nor did I expect them to at this point. Some of the officers found us amusing, some were mocking, and most didn’t speak English anyways. Many people in Jordan, the police officers included, would ask where we were from. “America” I’d say. They’d always respond “Welcome, welcome.” But I never felt it was sincere.

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Yonatan sporting a turban

After the really long ordeal with the police and the wallet, we set out for the hotel, vaguely following google maps, which we had to use without its GPS function because there was no service in the area, if I recall. We walked miles, got lost, got un-lost, I ran out of water, we couldn’t find the hostel we were looking for – it was crazy. Finally, our feet aching and it being close to 2am, we relented and let a taxi driver take us there. He charged us 3 Jordanian Dinar, a substantial amount, after which he drove us right down the road maybe a half mile and dropped us off. My friend, disgusted by how much he had just overcharged us, refused to pay the 3 dinar and said he would give him 2 instead. (Still generous) The driver paused for a second, smiled a little and said “Okay.” Not even mad. He knew he was still eating our lunch anyway. So we finally got in at 2am-ish to the hostel. I just wanted to go back to Israel.

We discovered the hostel was run by an Arab Christian, who was very good to us, and the prices there were very good. (1/20th the price of another hotel we had seen) The hostel ended up being one of the bright points of the trip, and we used it as our home base for the duration of our trip. So after that crazy first night, things were more uphill. My friend was having to pay for both of us at this point, since evidently we were going ahead with the trip anyways, and I now owe him a substantial sum of money. I’m very glad he was with me though, without him I’d have been in a heap of trouble monetarily. We saw lots of Roman ruins, talked about life and God and beliefs, ate very little, and spent the nights at the hostel. We also got to see a castle built on the second highest mountain in Jordan, constructed to withstand the crusades. Pretty cool. Finally, after 3 or 4 days, we were headed back to Israel. We got breakfast that last morning. On our way back to the hostel to leave, a random older man walked by us on the sidewalk as we waited to cross the street. Our eyes met, and as he passed us he spit on my friend. We just stared after him in disbelief. He didn’t even turn back. In my head though, nothing was going to stop us from being back in Israel in 3 or 4 hours, especially not some hateful old man, and I definitely wasn’t going back to a Jordanian police station again, for what would’ve been the 3rd time. It wasn’t worth responding to no matter how you look at it. So we returned to the hostel, and used a well-priced service the hostel offered which took us back to the border. I was just praying we’d make it back over the border without any problems. Thank God we did. (and also thank God my passport wasn’t among the things stolen, and also that neither of us was hurt. THAT would’ve been bad.)

Now that I’m back in Jerusalem, I think you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to any other middle-eastern country other than Israel. It just did not feel like there was a place for me in Jordan. I wasn’t at ease there, nor do I think I should’ve been. Even with the unrest and stabbings currently happening in Jerusalem and Israel now, I’m very glad to be here and not there. I distinctly remember a few days after returning here, meeting an Israeli man. “Where are you from?” he asked. “North Carolina, in America”. “Ah, welcome. You are very welcome.” he responded with a warming smile. And he meant it.

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Sunrise after the lunar eclipse

Life is good. I was thinking, America and Israel are similar in some ways, one of which being that they are both countries composed of, in a large way, immigrants. I’ve also been thinking lately about the purpose of life and about what happens when our lives end. (Heavy stuff I know. I’d almost feel wise or something saying so if the introspection hadn’t have been brought on by an anime I watched. And cried during. Okay embarrassment time is over)

Classes started a couple days ago, and it looks like it’s going to be a good semester. I got to meet 2 new apartment-mates, who both seem like nice people. I can’t complain! I’ve got food to eat, I’m getting to study Hebrew, live in Jerusalem. God is good. Thanks for reading!!!

Psalm 136:1

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
    For His mercy endures forever.

The end of Ulpan and Yom Kippur

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Terasita, “Carlos” and I relaxing after Ulpan at Aroma Café

So today (Thursday September 24, 2015) was my last day of Ulpan, and also exam day. I gave it a darn good shot, and I can sleep well with that. I’m gonna miss Ulpan! My teachers were amazing (shout-out to Or and Shlomit!) and I learned so much Hebrew in such a short time. And the time has really flown. It’s really hard to believe I’ll have been here for a month in a couple of days. After the exam I had the pleasure of going to Aroma café with two of my friends from my ulpan class, Freddie (“Carlos”) and Terasita. They even treated me to a meal. It was wonderful, and a really great way to end the Ulpan. Beautiful day, friends, good food, and my first “Ice Chocolate”. (That’s the brown drink pictured below) While I’m not 100% sure what it was, nor was I when I ordered it, it tasted every bit as good as it sounded. I said goodbye to Freddie and Terasita, and glad to be done for a while, I ambled back to the “Kfar haStudentim” (Student’s village). (I think I decided just now to start calling it the Kfar when I talk to people). I grabbed a shower, watched a couple episodes of my favorite anime, Fairy Tail, and took a nap.

In other news, Yom Kippur was yesterday, (The Jewish “Day of Atonement”) and though I had intended to fast because I had wanted to and had thought it would be a good exercise to refocus, I must admit that I caved this year and ate and drank after a bit. I did take a Sabbath day (Day of rest) however, which was nice. I read some Scripture, and worked on a drawing I’ve been, well, drawing lately. Maybe when it’s finished I’ll post a picture. (No promises!)

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“Ice Chocolate” drink pictured in bottom right. Mmmmm.

So also coming very soon is Succoth, the “Feast of Tabernacles”, or basically the “Feast of Tents”. It’s one of my favorite holidays, along with Passover. It’s been a happy festival in my experience. Basically, God told the Israelites to live in Sukkot, or “tents”, to remember the time that God made them live in Sukkot after he brought them out of Egypt. I’d also say it is to remember when God lived among the Israelites, in the Tent of Meeting, during that same time. It lasts for 8 days, with the first and last day of the feast being Sabbath days. Traditionally, this was also a pilgrimage holiday where many Jews would travel to Jerusalem. I had the opportunity to travel to Jordan with an acquaintance from my Ulpan class during the upcoming break, but it seemed a shame to me to not be in Jerusalem during this holiday when I have the opportunity to be. So I chose to stay! Hopefully I will find something to do. For those who don’t know, there will also be a total lunar eclipse (a “blood moon”) during Sukkoth, and a “supermoon” at that. (the moon will be at its closest point all year) It’s the fourth of four such eclipses in the past 2 years, a “tetrad”, all falling on Jewish holidays. This is a rare occurrence, and some say that it is a sign of things to come. To my understanding, in the past when this phenomenon has occurred, it has coincided with big events concerning Israel and the Jewish people, such as the founding of the state of Israel, the 6-day war, and the Edict of Expulsion of the Jews from Spain way back in 1492. Maybe the Messiah is coming back soon…

In light of this:

Genesis 1:14-15

14 God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to divide the day from the night; let them be for signs, seasons, days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the dome of the sky to give light to the earth”; and that is how it was.

Joel 2:28-32 (Better in context, as always)

28 “And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls.[c]

Rosh Hashana and Mr. Itzhak

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Sandstorm Sunset

This post will cover a respectable stretch of time, I’m almost caught up!

Rapid-fire notes: I have located a piano, I’m surviving and beginning to thrive in Bet level Ulpan, and I haven’t ventured back into the city really other than for groceries. I’m lame, I know. SANDSTORM TODAY!!!…. and the next day, and the next day. According to a friend of mine back home I looked like a neo-nazi with my shades and my bright red scarf tied around my mouth for air filtration. Safety first, looks much later, right? I’ve been back to services at the messianic place. Worship is still my favorite part. This was the once-a-month service in English, so I had the treat of understanding everything said. I didn’t necessarily agree with all that the guy said, although he had a good overall message I suppose. Friday evening, I got to pray with some Jews and a rabbi to bring in Shabbat, they were very welcoming. They gave me some sort of “one religion” pamphlet talking about Noah and I was rather skeptical about it. I see where they’re coming from but don’t like where they’re going with it haha.

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Colin, me, and an ice-cream cone on its last leg

I also found a quiet and mostly secluded place to practice martial arts should I be inclined to do so. Also, I met with Colin! Colin is a friend of mine from UNC who was in my Hebrew class, who graduated and is now studying rabbinical literature at a Yeshiva here. We got Ice cream that was reallllllllly yummy and perused various Kippa shops, including the legendary “The Kippa Man” shop. (A kippa is the small head covering that many Jews wear) It was great to see him!

ROSH HASHANA!!! Shana TOVA to all. (Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year!) I went to the messianic synagogue again with Noach and a new friend, Yonathan. There was a special service with blowing of the shofar (A horn made from….a horn. Of an animal) and trumpets. I was kind of miffed that one of the leaders’ wives as well as my friend Noach were disdainful of a group that came to see the service that day. She said something about how the place is not a tourist attraction, which I get, but at the same time I think people should welcome guests and make them feel at home, not worrying about what you are to them. You never know what people are actually thinking.

Later, I saw an invitation. There was an old man, a holocaust survivor, in Jerusalem who couldn’t leave his home because of a medical condition but didn’t want to spend the holiday alone. Itzhak is his name. It was posted on the Rothberg Undergraduate facebook page, and I quickly sprang on the chance to be with him. What an opportunity! It just seemed right. I contacted the correct person, and the meeting was set up. There was another interested student, so we were in contact also. We were instructed to bring something to the dinner by the 3rd party guy who was setting our meeting up, so I brought round halla bread from the shuk, as round halla is evidently a Rosh Hashana tradition. I also went to the grocery store and made my first attempt at making matzo ball soup. It turned out better than perhaps could have been expected considering my culinary skills and supplies at hand, though a far cry yet from a native’s, which I later had the pleasure of eating at Itzhak’s home. Anywho! The other interested student, named Lawrence, Yonatan (a person in my Ulpan class who told me he wanted to come at the last minute) and I showed up at Itzhak’s house Sunday night (September 13th, 2015)   (Rosh Hashana Eve/beginning) at 7pm, situated in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and ate. We met him, as well as a man from Congo who was somewhat “kookoo” as the Israelis say. And I guess Americans say too. He smoked marijuana (though not while we were around) and drank, and talked about voodoo and about how he was a Jewish Christian Voodoo guy and many other questionable things. He as friendly enough though, and it seemed that Itzhak was kind of like his adoptive father who had opened his house to him. In addition we met the Congo man’s girlfriend, whom I don’t have much of an impression of, and Itzhak’s caretaker, who was a large and kind lady who seemed to take good care of the man.

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Sunset on the way to Mr. Itzhak’s home

It was strange, because when we got there, they told us to eat, and Itzhak just watched us eat, or even left the table for a time while we ate. He said he’d already eaten. I think this must be middle-eastern hospitality, and we were definitely not accustomed to it. He did not speak English, so it was an all-Hebrew chat. This was somewhat of a conversation block, though not nearly as much as it would have been were it not for Lawrence, who is at Dalet-level Hebrew whereas Yonathan and I are mere Bet-level students. (Bet is level 2, Dalet level 4) There was vodka, wine, and probably more. Thankfully we managed to get water, or something non-alcoholic. Wine is something I’m fairly fine with, Vodka is much more “adventurous” than I want to be. There was so much food of so many different kinds. It was a feast. He invited us back for breakfast the next day, and also dinner the next day. We obliged, though Yonathan had other plans.

So Lawence and I came back for two more meals on monday, during which he invited us back for breakfast the next day. (now Tuesday) By this time the Congo man and his girlfriend had set out for Tel Aviv, so it was just Itzhak and his caretaker and Lawrence and I. At breakfast here was hardboiled egg, cabbage salad, tomato, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, cucumbers, coffee with milk, bread; there was so much food. Evidently this man was in Germany during the holocaust, a young lad about 5, and the partisans hid him in a forest. Evidently the partisans had hidden in the trees with guns and so the Nazis didn’t come there. Eventually he came to Israel before it was established as a state, and had been here since. He was a taxi driver, if I understood him correctly, and he has one daughter and maybe 5 grandkids? I may not be correct about the grandkids. They sent Lawrence and I off with a large bag stuffed full of yogurt, cottage cheese, two large hunks of regular cheese, and 4 cakes, two for Lawrence and two for me. They made sure we had refrigerators, and then sent us off with this all. How could we deny them? We did not dare to be rude. Itzhak invited us back for dinner, so we came back for one last meal tonight, Tuesday September 15, 2015 and ate with him.

There was, as always over these 5 meals, a feast prepared. 2 types of slaw-like cabbage salads, chicken, potato cooked in a style reminiscent of the south and of home, (greasy round slices that are soft and tasty) little crunchy cucumbers which were present at every meal I think, along with tomatoes. There were pickles, a sauce I didn’t even get to try, bread, lemonade, it was crazy. And Itzhak always made us eat more if we stopped eating, until we had to tell him we couldn’t eat anymore when we were absolutely stuffed. His hospitality was incredible. He said that God had blessed him, with all this food. He said he had 3 Frigidaires, and so much food. So he had given some to us; a lot, actually. Lawrence and I both are not Jewish, and Itzhak learned this but treated us no differently. He was so kind and accepting and his hospitality was just incredible. A good man. I’m very grateful that God had allowed me of all people this wonderful opportunity to spend time with this man and be invited into his home and talk and eat with him.

Encouraging words to me…

Psalm 113 (As in many translations of the Scripture, the Name YHWH is replaced with Lord or LORD.)

Praise the Lord!

Praise, O servants of the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord!
Blessed be the name of the Lord
From this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its going down
The Lord’s name is to be praised.

The Lord is high above all nations,
His glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
Who dwells on high,
Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?

He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
That He may seat him with princes—
With the princes of His people.
He grants the barren woman a home,
Like a joyful mother of children.

Praise the Lord!

Habbakuk 3:17-19

17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God[c] is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.