Took a mental trip through the Co-op in Givat Tsarfatit this morning... I woke up missing Israel so much that I just had to try to recapture a bit of it for myself. Of course, I had to change the date and season because I know that the Co-op would be closed on Shabbat and who really wants to picture a walking trip in Jerusalem in the middle of February. So it's a beautiful spring afternoon and I get ready to be checked by the shomer at the door, open my back pack and answer, no, no weapon on me today. Then I get out my keys for that little metal thing that lets me unlock a shopping cart to use in the store; I think it came free with a pack of AA batteries.
To my right I see lovely fruits and veggies, not quite as amazing as the shuk but still more colorful and full of flavor than most in the States. Let's see what's in season and pick out a few. Oh, there's some leeks, I wouldn't have known what to do with those in the past but Annie taught me how to make leek soup so now I do! Persimmons were also something I"d only heard of in tales like, "you look like you've been sucking green persimmons, however, when they're ripe, how wonderful! The eggs are over here too, no one bothers to refrigerate them in the store.
Down the first aisle are all the packaged cheeses, humus and milk. Gotta have some of those! I can never get into buying milk in a bag though, so I'll stick to a carton of milk and make a mental note of how much weight I'll be adding to my load as I go since I
ll be carrying these up the hill and stairs to the house. I never understood my grandmother's stories of walking up hill both ways to school in the snow when she was a kid but after living in Jerusalem I can completely relate to that. I walk past the Bamba but with a smile. I don't really eat it much but something about the thought of puffed peanut flavored Cheeto-like snacks always makes me happy.At the back is the meat counter. Three and half years in the country and I rarely got up the courage to try to order fresh meat in Hebrew. Sad.
The middle aisles get a little fuzzy but I know I'll want tea bags for hot tea, some Turkish coffee - to get me going in the mornings, and a variety of soup packages and other basics. The last two aisles have more yummy goodies. An excellent selection of inexpensive wines for the Shabbat meal and amazing braided challah loaves - no plastic packaging here! Fresh bread! And finally I go through the frozen section, I fell in love with a Yemenite bread called Malawach. You throw it in a frying pan with a little olive oil and watch it puff up, top it off with slices of hard boiled egg, some grated tomato, salt and pepper and sometimes a bit of melted cheese and you have one of the best meals ever. I think traditionally it doesn't have the cheese and is a breakfast food but leave it to the Israelis to adapt and expand it into an anytime, anywhere all-purpose meal. They're great at things like that.
I didn't even get into all the different kinds of people I'd see there. Foreign students, like I was, elderly Russian-Israelis shuffling around, soldiers, moms with three to four young ones hanging on her shirt-tails, business people grabbing a piece of fruit, a roll and bottle of juice and Arab families all making their way through the same cramped aisles. I loved to count how many different languages I could pick out in one setting like that. It was usually at least four or five.
Then it's time to pay and bag your own groceries. It seems like a high price until you divide the four shekels to one dollar, at least that was about what it was at the time. Then I'd pack as much as I could into my tik to carry on my back and the rest would be divided left and right as I make my way out to return the cart and get my keys back out of the slot when I lock the cart back in place.
Then a decision, do I wait for the bus, which would only carry me down the hill and under the overpass anyway, leaving me to walk up the hill to the house, or do I just walk? Oh, right! It's a beautiful spring day here in Jerusalem so I'll walk!Also, then I don't have to be as concerned with who else and what else might be on the bus with me.Then again, I think the number 4 bus was only ever blown up once so it's not too big of a risk.
So that was my shopping for the day, I think I'll leave it here and since it's a mental trip won't worry about schlepping all the stuff home. I'll just get there and enjoy the smell of jasmine and the company of all my dear friends who I'm sure will come over in the evening to enjoy a great meal, excellent conversation and perhaps a game of Settlers of Catan. Then we'll sit on the mirpeset , enjoying the breeze that arises every evening and the incomparable views of the city of the great King.
I sit here and look around my, mostly packed, room and realize that this is the last night I will spend in this room, my room, in Jerusalem. Actually, it isn't even night anymore, it's more like 2am. Last night I said goodbye to two people I've known since my very first days here in the Land. It was a fun time of acting like the night was just like any other night we might have hung out together. Only after they left did it really hit me what I'm leaving behind here.
Tonight was filled with goodbyes to a variety of people I've met over the last several years. We went out to a couple of places in town and then took a mid-night stroll down to the Old City and to the Western Wall. It was a beautiful evening filled with what I'm sure will become lovely memories of fun times with friends here in Jerusalem.
In 25 hours the van to the airport will arrive. I know I have to go and I know it's the right timing. It just doesn't make it any easier.
The streets were filled with people on foot, kids on bicycles rather than cars and buses from the evening of Sunday the 1st till the evening of Monday the 2nd. The Day of Atonement brought a halt to almost every function in the country. Even most of the TV stations were off the air. The religious in the Land went to great lengths to ensure that not one drop of water nor piece of food would touch their lips. The whole evening and following day was spent in the Synagogues, in prayer for forgiveness. To hope to ensure that their names would be written in the book of life for it is on this day that the book is sealed.
Leviticus 23:23-32 deals with this holiest day of the year and despite most peoples beliefs it does not say one must abstain from all food and water. It does however, command a practice of 'self-denial'. I looked up the root for the word - it has to do with humbling oneself before God, making oneself poor in His sight and can include fasting along with this. Also, interesting, I thought was that the the word translated 'atonement' is actually plural. What, if any, significance this may have I'm not sure of. (but will keep looking) I did also find where it seems the practice of no food and no water comes from - the book of Jonah. When the people of Ninevah repent and call out to God, the king calls for this type of fast. It is even imposed on the animals. I'm certianly not claiming that it's improper to hold this kind of fast - my annoyance is only when people don't know why they do what they do or believe in reasons and traditions as Scripture that are not actually written. -Know why you believe what you believe and why you do what you do!- (yes, I'm still working on this too)
The book of Hebrews also deals some with atonement and Jesus as High Priest who entered the heavenly sanctuary and offered Himself once and for all as the sacrifice for our sins and does not have to continue doing this as He is "not like other high priests that had need to offer sacrifices day after day first for his sins and then for the sins of the people"(7:27) I just thought this was awesome.
I am rarely a person that feels a need to go to a certain place or location in order to pray or feel closer to God. Tonight, however, I discovered this strong need for such an experience. The opportunity to join a friend at the Kotel, Western Wall, here in J'lem presented itself and I found myself rushing out at 9 in the evening to make my way to the bus stop that would get me near the Old City in order to wind down the narrow passages through the Christian, Armenian and Jewish quarters. Then past security and all the Muslims out partying because it's the month of Ramadan in which they fast all day and feast all night. Once near the Wall I encountered the myriads of Jews out praying because it's also the Days of Awe between the New Year, Rosh HaShana, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonment, which means it's the time for some serious repentence and getting your life straight before God's judgement is passed on the year.
There is something special about having the center of the religous world in your own backyard. To sit before stones that were in place when Jesus walked these streets, to know that the Temple once and will again stand in the very mountain on which you sit. To pray where so many have called out to God and where God calls out to the people. It's so easy to lose that sense of awe when you live here. Wish I could say I had a special visitation tonight and now know that every problem in my life and every question I have is solved but I can't say that. I do know however that no matter what, He is still with me and will still love me despite my continual screw ups and lack of faith and I find that this is enough.
The journey home brought with it the season's first rain here in the Holy City. Rain is many times a symbol of God's blessing and mercy and begining of times of refreshing and cleansing. May it be that once again.
this latest little adventure was delayed due to a cold... having recovered I bring to you this update: Last Thursday there was a conference at the City of David Excavations which is located just outside the current Old City walls, down in the Kidron valley. It is the location of Jerusalem from David's reign (II Sam 5:9) and is also talked about in II Chronicles 32. The Shiloach inscription that was found at the site related back to vs 30 " This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the City of David..." The point is that part of the events included a tour of the underground water systems. We actually walked along where Hezekiah's men redirected the water and crawled through the tunnels that they used. Best I can do is point you the the web site the foundation has built. It's pretty amazing. City of David website
Here's a couple of pictures. One taken inside a naturally formed cave along the water route and the second is of the outside near the site looking up towards the Mount of Olives. The gold roofs you see are on the Russian Orthodox church.
Har El I did have the opportunity to go on a short camping trip. 12 of us went to a site outside Jerusalem near Beit Shemesh called Har El. It was a really nice time. A short break to clear the
head and just do something different usually helps me get refocused.
the group biked to the site from the city and half of us drove. I was able to
do a lot of the planning and set up which is something I greatly enjoy. We were
near Beit Shemesh at a beautiful lookout point over the surrounding valleys. We
could see the vineyards below us laden with grapes ready for next week's
harvest. This year's wine is expected to be of especially good quality. The
weather was beautiful so we built a fire, cooked chicken, and the great rice
dish in something the South Africans called a "poykey pot" (I'm SURE I didn't
spell that right but it's basically a cast iron pot that you set in the fire). Later
we enjoyed the multitudes of starts that were out as well as some good
conversation and music.
We have clouds! For J'lem in the summer that's amazing. Instead of the glaring blue skys that allow the full strength of the sun to pound on you all day long, a sky full of clouds makes life nice and cool. Since there's no rain here in the summer I hope this cloudy day is the harbinger of refreshing fall showers heading our way soon!
What would you
do if you had a big bully in your neighborhood who hates you for no reason other
than the fact he can't bear seeing you alive, sends his buddy to vandalize your
house and property, and hurt your family, so you hit back at the bully's pal.
Your other neighbors tell you, "OK, we sort of understand why you're hitting
back at the buddy, but don't hurt him too much because it's not fair to hit
back harder than he hit you" and all the while, the big bully keeps
his distance but keeps threatening, "Just wait, I'm going to wipe you out and
when I'm finished with you, I'll get your neighbors as well?" and all the
other neighbors have to say, "Oh, that's not nice."
What if your
name was Israel and the bully was named Iran and the bully's pal was named
Hizbullah and your neighbors lived in a neighborhood called the
What would you
(got this in an email today - have no idea who wrote it, but LOVE it!)
It's come to it at last. I'm in the midst of the last course I will take here. The outcome of that course ...well I won't think about that today. Still working on staying in the present. Doing today's work and letting the rest stay in the future.
My trip home was highly odd yet great in it's own way. The jet lag upon my return to J'lem hit me with a vengence though. Perhaps I'm finally recovering from it though. Then again the heat here hasn't helped either. We're in the midst of those few weeks in which I really which we had air conditioning and I've very thankful that the libraries and university does. Hoping that thought will keep me in the library this week!
The other main story here is of course the war, or now cease fire which no one is happy about. Don't get me wrong we're all glad that there's no fighting (or very little) at the moment. However, the conditions for the cease fire and the fact that nothing seems to have been accomplished by it all is very frustrating. They still have the Israeli soldiers! Anyway, it's all craziness.