Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

It's fall here and memories of costume-making and trick-or-treating have tenderly swirled in my mind all day. What I wouldn't give for some hot wassail and chocolate chip pumpkin bread! I hope everyone has had a great Halloween!

This afternoon I finally met some of our neighbors on Mount Scopus. Aya and her family live a short walk from the center and she invited Marni, Adri and me to come visit. Sher is thirteen and baby-sits all of her siblings and cousins which ends up being about eight little children. Her parents were out shopping so Aya entertained us herself by sitting us down and serving us green apple soda pop. Her sixteen-year old cousin, Sherin, showed up a little while later and went gaga over us. She wanted to know everything about American movies and music but it turns out she already knows lots more than we do! None of them can say “Molly” and so they just call me “Miley” which is great since they love Miley Cyrus and therefore think my name is amazing. I really hit it off with the six-year-old, Aseel, who got her hands on my Arabic phrase book and doodled “Aseel (heart) Molly” all over it. Nice little souvenir. Aya’s mom, Nuha, was delighted to find us in her home and invited us to come shopping with her in the Old City tomorrow. On our way back to the center Marni expressed how grateful she is for the past students in the program who acted in a way that paved our way to having these friendships. It is because of those students that they really trust us in that neighborhood. Let’s hear it for them!

Now I'm off to see what sort of costume I can devise out of construction paper and my limited wardrobe for the JC Halloween Party tonight! I'll let you know what I come up with.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Rainy Day

It was raining today but nothing could keep us out of the city on our free afternoon! There is a big food market in West Jerusalem and on Fridays it is bursting at the seams with people stocking up for the Sabbath. What is it that is so charming about being on a busy street with people shouting on every side in a language that you can’t understand? I shouldn’t love it as much as I do. I did pick up on a few things. My favorite was, “Shalom la” which would be a literal version of “hello there.” Cute.

I stopped by a baker’s stand and placed a few pastries in a bag. I had just picked up money so all I had was big bills. When I finally shoved my bag in his face before the people around me (that’s the name of the game, no lines, just the squeaky wheel gets the grease) he declared, “Two shekels!” I will never forget the look on his face when I handed him my fifty-shekel bill. It was like, “Seriously lady?” After I offered an apologetic shrug and smile he unfurrowed his brows and shooed me off with my change, but he was smiling too.

Next we ran into Shimon, a young Hasidic Jew from New York studying in a Yeshiva here. He wouldn’t shake my hand because he refrains from touching any women outside of his immediate family. It was raining so hard so we stayed with him under the little fruit stand umbrella where he had set up a little box. He was yelling to the crowd reminding them to observe the Sabbath and wear their phylacteries. He told us too, but upon learning that we were not Jewish took it back. “Non-Jews aren’t going to be held accountable for not performing the mitzvot,” he assured us. It was great to ask him questions because he is our age, speaks great English, understands American culture and was really cool and articulate. When we asked him if there was one thing he would change about Israel he said a stronger state. As we bid him farewell two other Hasidic Jews came walking up the streets blowing a little horn to remind the shop-owners of the setting of the sun. I swear that place went from Times Square to ghost town in two seconds flat. It was incredible. We walked home in the dead quiet and I was reminded of Rexburg for my first time here. Idaho and Jerusalem: the only two places in the world where you can’t find a shop open on the Sabbath.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Organ Outing

I had the special chance tonight to accompany Brother Whipple to an organ concert in the St. Savior’s Church with three other kids (his car only seats five). His Russian friend Katyana played a work by Messiaen. It was so thought provoking. She is Jewish but played of Christ so tenderly and convincingly to a bunch of Mormons in a Franciscan monastery. Most of the small audience was made up of Franciscan monks and since Brother Whipple performs and practices there regularly he knows most of them by name. Frater Pietra (Brother Peter) took the five of us up on the roof afterwards to see the city at night. It had rained during the concert and the crisp fall air mingled with a dewy freshness as I drank in the sight of electric Jerusalem. The window of a nearby Greek apartment was open and the simple tune of a recorder floated over the roofs. If I’d had my violin I’m fairly confident that I would not have been able to resist jumping down to the roofs and spilling Hasidic improvisations into the night air! Alas: some other time.

We came home to the Whipples’ apartment and discussed music and olive wood over thick chocolate milk. Does life get better than this?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This reputed to be the largest and most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Europe but I've been to Europe and I never saw anything this cool! These columns are huge!

We were sitting in the South amphitheater when we were greeted by, get this, Jordanian bagpipers! Talk about culture clash! Arabs in Roman ruins playing Scottish bagpipes. It was so entertaining. Apparently the Jordanian army picked up the bagpipe idea and have assimilated them into their culture and the plaid against their headdresses was so fabulous!

There is a hippodrome were we watched a little reenactment of Roman fighting tactics by actors that were all dressed up in Roman armor. The formations were cool and the gladiators were hilarious (I don't know, is pec-flexing considered hard core in the Middle East? Cause we just thought it was hysterical) but my favorite was the chariot racing! I think the chariots just might have been antiques! I literally thought the wheels were going to fly off at every turn! So cheesy, but fun.

Pictures on the way!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I grew up watching Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail in awe of this city built out of a mountain. I was sure that they used tricky angles to make it look bigger and cooler than it was in real life but was I ever wrong! Indiana Jones does not do it justice. Seriously. Petra left me completely speechless. I can't explain how I felt as the narrow ravine began to open and I caught my first glimpses of the treasury. It was epic.

The treasury. My mind had already exploded by this point.

What most people don't realize is that Petra is not just that one facade (which is actually a tomb, mistakenly called the Treasury by grave-robbers) but a whole city! I could have spend a week there exploring. If you are willing to hike up a couple of miles you find the religious center of the city, the Monastery. It is a lot bigger than the Treasury but lesser known because it is a considerable hike to reach it and the details of the building are not as well-preserved.

Hugging the column so you can see just how massive the monastery is!

There are beduins selling goods all over the city and we stopped to get to know some of the friendlier ones. One woman named Gamala talked to Lizzie and I for a while. When we left she insisted on giving us each a little gift to remember her. She gave Lizzie a bracelet and me a necklace. I am so touched by the love and generosity of these people.

Marni gave this little three-year-old boy her water when she found out he had been sitting in the sun all day long.

The bedouin children are so friendly and happy. It was our goal to make each of them laugh.

The other amazing thing about Petra was the beautiful colors of the stone! Every building was a work of art because of the coloring alone. I had one of those moments where I wished I knew everything because then I could truly appreciate it. Oh wait, I always feel that way! I knew it was incredible from a geological standpoint but I didn't know why. But there may still be hope for me: music and geology are not completely incompatible. Dr. Howard Banister studied the tonal properties of igneous rock formations...although I'm not as interested in that as I am in the metamorphic or sedimentary rock categories. I mean, you can take your igneous rocks or leave them. I relate primarily to micas, quartz, felspar. (Big shout out to the Madsen clan.)

Molly's school of geological understanding:
1) this is sandstone, 2) it is beautiful, 3) the color provides perfect lighting for portraits!