Obviously I have not posted in a while, and it is because my life has been crazy this week. I had two midterms, one paper, and more reading than I care to think about. At any rate, blogging was not my top priority. However, if you go back to the first four-ish posts of my Israel adventures, you will see that I have added pictures! Go enjoy!
For the sake of time and coherence I am going to go with a tactic I have used for catching up in my journal--turning the entry into a highlight reel. Here goes!
1) I turned in my third Old Testament response paper on Tuesday. The assignment was to answer some reflective questions about the temple of Solomon. Based on a poem my father sent me earlier that week, I wrote about how in the dedications of both the temple of Solomon and the Kirtland Temple, it seems that it is not only the temple building being dedicated--the saints who will use it are being dedicated as well.
2) I took two exams this week and did excellent on both. The first was for Israel class (Tuesday) the second for Palestine (yesterday). I way over prepared for both, but as a result the actual taking of the exams was a breeze. I got 22/22 on our Israel midterm and 21/20 on Palestine (yay for extra credit!). Studying for the Israel test was easy, as Ophir gave us a study guide. Professor Bashir did not, so I took the liberty of making one myself and emailed it to all my fellow students, along with a note disclosing that this was for their use if they so desired and to ignore it otherwise. They did not ignore it. About twenty minutes after I emailed it I had a dozen people come up to me and thank me profusely for putting it together. I realized exactly how much worth a study guide might be when, just before I decided to email it, this conversation happened:
Paul: I'm not looking forward to this test. I don't know what to study!
Me: I actually just finished making a study guide. Do you want it?
Paul: How many shekels?
3) I only have one music book out here--my Jon Schmidt "Hymns Without Words." I found myself regretting not bringing my Anna Magdalena's Notebook with all my Bach pieces in it. Then I sat down at a piano and realized that I still had two minuets and a chorale memorized. Who needs music books?
4) We had another AMAZING forum on Wednesday night--this time from an Arab Muslim Palestinian Israeli (sort that out if you can) who is an international reporter. I crowd in too many details about his address--in essence he told us about how things have gone in Israel since Yasser Araphat and the Oslo Accords. It was not a happy story. During the Q&A at the end, somebody asked him about the two-state solution. He says that Israel is currently under a three-state regime: Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. He also says that the two-state solution might have worked several decades ago, but as far as he can see it won't work now--the Palestinians and Israelis have become too intermixed for a division to take place. One thing that struck me particularly was his description of freedom of speech back here. He said that he works for an Israeli newspaper because he knows they will publish what he writes and that he can therefore speak freely. He feels far safer in Israel than in Gaza or Ramala, where he knows reporters who have had police knocking on their door in the middle of the night to arrest them for writing what they did. He said that if he wrote in Gaza what he usually wrote in Israel, by now he would probably have been hung in a public square. Can you imagine? Hearing things like that makes me infinitely grateful once again that I live in a country where I can speak and write freely without fear.
4) I went out into the city on Thursday afternoon for Sukkot as I had hoped. I went with a group over to West Jerusalem to see what was up. It was awesome. There were Sukkot--booths or tabernacles, as you might say--made of wood and palm thatch and decorated with colorful streamers and garlands everywhere you looked. During Sukkot (the feast of Tabernacles) the Jews "dwell" in these booths--and according to Ophir to "dwell" in a sukkah means to eat there, so every restaurant has a sukkah out front for anybody who wants to eat in there. Sukkot is also a time for Jews to gather to Jerusalem, just like in Biblical times. Today this gathering is celebrated by having the groups and guests march through West Jerusalem in a parade, which we got to see. An endless line of people marched down the street, waving their nation's flags, playing tambourines, and singing praise--there was so much color and music I hardly knew where to look. After that we went to a courtyard we saw during orientation where there are a bunch of colorful cushions to sit on--all made of cement. We took many pictures, including some fun glamour shots, reclining upon them and pretending to look comfortable. I also tasted my first Chala bread--the Jewish braided bread--that afternoon. It was heavenly--light and sweet and soft and perfect. We went on a forced march through East Jerusalem to be back to the center by sunset, then stood on the terrace and watched the clouds over the city turn pink. It was a marvelous day.
5) Thursday night was the center's informal talent show. I am on the talent committee, so I've been looking forward to it for a while. The head of our committee, Michael Stallings, has been making announcements at forum for the past two weeks, calling himself the "Tyrant of Talent" and telling everyone that we, his minions, must sign up for the talent show so that he could look good by proxy through our talents. He was the MC, fittingly enough, and did an awesome job keeping the acts smooth and the audience laughing. There were some great acts. A couple of guys turned on parts of the Star Wars movies with the sound off and inserted all the lines and sound effects themselves while it played. Sarah Townsend played Jon Schmidt's "All of Me" blindfold. One girl brought up ten audience members and impressed us by precisely locating each of their belly buttons through their shirts. I performed, too--storytelling. It was AWESOME. I told my usual crowd pleaser--"The Three Sacks of Truth." I had a scary moment going into the forum and realizing that it was a very big space and I had never practiced in it. It went great, though. I made everyone come sit up close and spun my tale as I always do. They were all enchanted. I even made Katie laugh, which is saying something--she was my guinea pig last year and has probably heard it more than anyone. The kids were absolutely enthralled and laughed hysterically at all the right parts. I've never told it better. I've already had several requests from the parents of those kids and from my fellow students to come and tell bedtime stories. I can't wait--I have more where that came from.
6) Yesterday night I attended synagogue with a group of students and Ophir. Two of Ophir's children came, too--including little Yamima from Passover. We attended a reform Synagogue, which was a little more modern than the orthodox ones. We sang the prayers to the Rabbi beating a rhythm on the table--including a few special prayer for Sukkot. I followed along in the prayer book and sang every prayer, right down to the last "Amein." I sat with Liesel on one side and an elderly Jewish woman on the other, who helped me find my page sometimes when I got lost. She thanked me several times for coming to pray with them and warmly assured me that we were welcome here. Honestly, the synagogue felt a whole lot like a normal LDS ward. I could just picture all of those women sitting beside me in Relief Society. It was wonderful to come and worship with them for the evening.
7) This week's Friday Night Movie was "The Incredibles." I quoted along a lot. "You can't! It's impossible! So quick ask me now before I can become sane..." Or this one: "You tell me where my suit is woman! We are talking about the greater good!" "Greater good?! I am your wife! I'm the greatest good you're ever gonna get!" And also: "We're dead! We survived but we're dead!" It was excellent.
8) I tried out for a volleyball team and signed up for the ping pong tournament (which I lost at). I am also going to teach some sign language to anybody who wants to learn this afternoon. Nobody can accuse me of not being involved around here.
9) Yesterday there was a riot on the temple mount. Muslims threw rocks at provocative radical Jews, whereupon the Israeli police responded with stun grenades and the like. We heard the bangs and saw the grenade smoke from the center. There were some demonstrators near the center later on as well, so we were told not to go out on our balconies and not to do anything stupid like trying to take pictures of the demonstrators. Everyone was kept safe.
10) The restrictions were lifted this morning and we were able to go out. I went with a big group over to the Garden of Gethsemane. Thanks to some smooth talking from Michael and some Italian from Will, we were able to go into the private garden. I walked about for a while and sat beneath the olive trees, thinking and pondering and praying. I also joined a group that was singing hymns. It was a peaceful, beautiful hour we spent there. We went home by way of Orson Hyde Park, which was also beautiful. I am now enjoying the afternoon here at the Center. We are all looking forward immensely to General Conference tonight. I never looked forward to it as a child, but now it's like waiting for Christmas morning. Just a few more hours and we will hear to words of the prophets!
More soon! I love you all! Please comment or email me--I want to hear from you, too! Ma'salaama!