Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
[still under construction...]
Egypt = Wow.
Did you know the pyramids are HUGE? And astonishingly close to the city? It was so odd, and impressive, to see them looming behind the cityscape. The skyscrapers were puny in comparison! I can’t imagine how big they would have been those thousands of years ago. It is no wonder that the Pharaohs succeeded in convincing the people they were gods: I would have thought so!
The kibbuts we stayed in last night was nice and clean. They were laid out similarly to most hostels I experienced in Europe except that someone forgot to stock our room with blankets (top sheet only) and the air conditioning was controlled by a remote control we couldn’t find! Brrr….
Thursday, September 17, 2009
You haven’t been on a road trip until you’ve been on a Jerusalem Center road trip. These folks pack in the fun! What could have been a six-hour drive was actually all day because we stopped at every site along the way. First was Beersheba, where Abraham dug the well, Isaac and Rachel first met and Jacob spoke with God. Then, a lookout overlooking the Wilderness of Zin, one of the deserts that the Israelites wandered through after the Exodus. In Exodus 16 the Israelites complain against Moses for taking them to the wilderness…now I know why. That desert is the most desolate thing I have ever seen.
My favorite thing today was the tour we had of a modern-day quibbuts. A quibbuts is a self-sustaining community, where each member is assigned work according to their skills and talents and the money is pooled, therefore providing for everyone’s living expenses and an allowance. It is basically the law of consecration meets full democracy. So fascinating! The woman giving us the tour was so fabulously granola and spiritual. There are a little over three hundred adult members of the quibbuts with a couple hundred children and over four hundred Darfur refugees that they have taken in for a few months. Their major resource is the food that they grow to eat and to sell. The dates they let us try are delicious. The dairy there is amazing as well! They are actually raising cows in the middle of the desert! They hose them down five times a day to keep them cool. It pays off though. The ice cream they fed to us was divine! Literally rivaled gelato…I know, I know. Impossible, right? No. This was a seriously heavenly frozen treat. They have a school, community center, concert hall, gym, and many other facilities. They have cars so that if you want to take a day trip off the Quibbuts you just sign up for one and take it. I could go on for hours; it was so intriguing to me. It is a very rigorous process to apply and be accepted as a member, but they do like internship programs for young adults who want to experience it for a limited time, which I am definitely interested in. Who knows if something like that would ever pan out for me, but I think there is so much to learn about humanity by living in that kind of environment. It has definitely planted a seed in my mind.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
That was the best fieldtrip I have ever been on in my life!
Our teachers took us west of Jerusalem, towards the Mediterranean, to see some very unique Bible sites. Among others we stepped foot in Sorek Valley, where the Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant to Israel and where Samson grew up. We also spent time in the Valley of Elah, where David killed Goliath with one shot from a sling. Not as easy as it may sound! Those sling things are tricky! I was overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of history that that ground had seen. I tried to see passed the bell pepper farm that now takes up residence in part of the valley and imagine how the camps would have looked and the buzz of anticipation that would have been in the air. It was pretty epic. If you could have read my mind, you would have been like, “Wha..?” (That one’s for you, Gabe). I collected five smooth stones from the creek bed to bring home and show to my primary class someday.
We also saw some incredible geographical sites. The bell caves were magnificent! They are these gigantic caverns carved out of limestone and besides being breathtaking they are entirely indescribable, but I’ll try. Dissimilar to the typical picture of a cave they are spacious and well lit through small openings in the ceiling, the streaming sunlight enhancing the yellow of the limestone. Occasionally a pigeon alights from her perch, disrupting the placid rays of sunshine, the sound of her fluttering wings reverberating off every stony surface only to fade to tranquil silence once more. The high ceilings make for beautiful echoes, which we took full advantage of when we sang “For the Beauty of the Earth” as a group. It was glorious!
We saw olive presses and cisterns that were built two-hundred years before Christ and visited a city, Lachish , where the Babylonians built a siege ramp up to the wall and defeated the Israelites. There was a room there that had clay tablets on which the Israelites wrote messages that were being run back to Jerusalem. They’ve taken the actual tablets to a museum but we read the translation and it made it so real. The Babylonians were attacking a neighboring stronghold, Azekah, and when the signal fires went out, the people in Lachish knew they were next. A defeat meant death for the men and slavery and abuse for women and children. We could almost taste the terrible anticipation as the people waited for an attack. The city was built on a tel that the Israeli government has not yet allowed to be excavated, but there are years of history under there! I just stood there overwhelmed with all of the history that I was standing on top of.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Today was rich! We spent the morning hitting Biblical sites for Old Testament. Among others we stopped at the Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Absalom’s Tomb and Dormition Abby (where they claim to have found the Upper Room of the Last Supper). We read the correlating scriptures in each place and it was powerful! We headed home in the afternoon when it really started heating up. There is a little fruit market at the foot of Mount Scopus (the hill we live on) and we stopped today. The man running it was so nice and I got a pomegranate, two pears and a mango for four shekels (almost a dollar). Delicious and nutritious…and cheap! When we got home the plan was to study but I fell asleep (note to self: NEVER study in your room) and slept right through dinner! Luckily I woke up in time to scurry to the concert upstairs.
I love music! Have I ever said that? The concert tonight was a piano trio first half adding a viola the second half making it a piano quartet. The program was Mendelssohn Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op. 49 and Schumann Piano Quartet in E flat major, Op. 47. The musicians were all from this area originally and three of them studied here at the Jerusalem Academy of Music. The violinist was, get this, my age. He is twenty years old and getting paid to give concerts! Inspiring and totally depressing.
I talked to them all afterward and they were so nice! The cellist (twenty-two) told me all about music schools here. She and the others got to do special army service for music. It basically means that they only train part-time and the other half of the time they play for soldiers and study at the Conservatory. Her little sister, a violinist, came to the concert and said that although it was nice to be able to pursue a music degree while all the other kids are doing army exclusively, it made the other half of the day in the army really hard. She isn’t used to compartmentalizing her life yet and she said that it is very tiring switching back and forth.
Bernice (the cellist) took my e-mail and said that she will write me out a little list of good violin teachers in Jerusalem that might be willing to give me a lesson! I told her that I will be starting Bloch’s Baal Shem Suite as soon as the music arrives and she said that I could really benefit from getting different points of view from the Jewish violinists here. I am so excited!
I also talked to the violist, Itamar Ringel, who studied at New England Conservatory. He said that growing up here he took the history for granted. His family raised him holding tightly to the Jewish tradition and that, combined with the political climate, prevented him from learning about the other cultures here. After studying in Germany and America he discovered the richness of learning about others’ beliefs, traditions and cultures and now that he’s back in Jerusalem for a while he spends all the time in can in the Old City. He said, “There is history in every corner of that place, if you have the eyes to see it.” I asked him if it is safe for him in all parts of the city, as a Jew. He said his best security is to wear a fanny pack and speak English. I guess looking like a tourist does have benefits!
We also talked about using music to speak to people. We agreed that every musician’s goal should be to change at least one audience member and that each player needs to find his/her voice in order to do so. Yo Yo Ma is incredible with that. I will always remember seeing him at Brevard last summer and his words, “Although I love music, people are my real passion. I play music to touch people of all races, cultures and generations. That is my quest.” I hope that my time here in Jerusalem will increase my understanding and ability to speak to people in this part of the world. I think the first step to understanding them is to love them and I already feel that happening.
They take the kids in the army on historical
field trips occasionally. I still shocks me everytime
I see girls younger than me carrying those big guns.