Earlier this week was Israeli Independence Day, which is kind of like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day all rolled into one. The festive day kicked off with fireworks the night before, because, apparently, even purely secular holidays begin at sundown the day before in Israel. Our apartment is not far from the Israeli military cemetery in Jerusalem, and we had a beautiful view of the fireworks from our home windows! Then, the following day, we were invited to a barbecue at Rodolfo’s boss’ house near Tel Aviv, and we really enjoyed the socializing, the delicious food, the festive atmosphere and the gorgeous weather! Also, it’s amazing how the whole country erupted into white and blue (the colors of Israel’s flag) for the occasion!
My friend Anh pointed me toward this great video, a “60 Minutes” segment (it’s a partial segment, so it only lasts about 14 minutes) on Christians in the Holy Land. If you don’t know much about the issue, this piece is a great place to start. The situation here is extremely complicated, but this story does a good job of distilling its many facets down to the basics. I am so happy that the American media is finally taking notice of this issue, and reporting it even in the face of pressure to shut down the story. I do have just one complaint, though, as a Catholic. They refer to the Holy Sepulchre as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch’s church, while technically, only a sixth of it is his, since he shares it with five other Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholics. (Read more about that here.) But that’s even more complicated, and maybe a story that should be saved for another day.
As a bonus feature to go with the “60 Minutes” story, they also had a short segment on the Christian village of Taybeh. We have not been there, but we know the name because the only beer brewed in Palestine is called Taybeh. This actually makes perfect sense, because Muslim religious laws prohibit drinking alcohol, so the only village with a brewery is a Christian village. In the story, they cite the fact that more people from the city of Taybeh now live in Detroit, Michigan, than in Taybeh itself. That, to me, was astounding. And heartbreaking.
Rodolfo and I are going back to visit the U.S. soon, because my kid sister is graduating from college! We’re very excited to see our family and friends… and I also have a long shopping list of things that are difficult to find or horribly expensive in Jerusalem. For instance, a tube of A&D ointment (actually, a knockoff version!) is 120 NIS, or $32 USD! Also, I completely ruined my tennis shoes on the Jesus Trail (pieces literally started falling off on the last day), so I’ve been walking everywhere in Converse (because I’m that cool). And don’t worry; the Jesus Trail post will be coming soon!
And one of the first things on my list to buy is a weekly calendar. I bought one here, but there are several things that bug me about it. You know how Hebrew is read from right to left? That also goes for stuff besides words. In fact, those of you familiar with the Israeli teas that were part of the famous tea collection I had in Austin know that even the pictorial instructions on the back of the teabag are read from right to left. Which means that the images read something to the effect of “Enjoy your tea… steep for two minutes… heat water.” Imagine the problems this could cause with a weekly calendar book. The days of the week are in the wrong order, and the book pages turn backward. Which means if someone asks me if I’m free next week, I will most likely turn to last week and check there. It hasn’t actually happened yet, but honestly, it’s only a matter of time. Not to mention that the Israeli year ends at Rosh Hashanah, which falls on September 16 this year. So essentially, the year (and the book) stop in September.
The good news is that it contains sunrise and sunset times for every single day in the year (and for this reason, the calendar is only authorized for use in Jerusalem, according to the inscription), as well as the dates of the Jewish calendar and lots of interesting Jewish holidays I never even heard of before coming here. Except they’re all in Hebrew. But anyway.
Last week at Mass, we had a visiting concelebrating priest; a Franciscan from Oregon who currently serves with a mission in Russia. When he stood up and began to read the Gospel, I was thinking what a lovely and soothing voice he had. Then I realized that it wasn’t exactly his voice that was soothing, but rather the fact that he was literally the first male native speaker of American English that I had heard speak in person since arriving in the Holy Land. It wasn’t that he had that great of a voice, it was just that he sounded like home. I guess that’s how you know it’s time to go back (even if just for a visit).
When we return from the States, we are expecting our very first houseguests in Jerusalem, Beth and Bram! Beth was a great friend of ours back in Austin and she and her husband are now living and working in France, where they are apparently dealing with the same kind of culture shock issues that we are. For instance, Beth recently updated her Facebook status to read: “Dealing with French bureaucracy is like trying to reassemble a clock that was destroyed in a nuclear blast using nothing but a peanut shell and no hands, while being prodded by crazed monkeys.” I nearly died laughing. All I have to say is, Beth, I feel you. And just wait until you get to Israel!
We specifically rented a two-bedroom apartment to allow for lots of guests while we’re here, so each one of our friends should consider coming! If you need more convincing, here is a vintage poster (designed by Eliezer Weishoff, circa 1966) promoting tourism to Jerusalem. In Hebrew, it says, “Jerusalem: All Atmosphere.”
And here’s a fun song I want to share with you, called “Israel by Bus” by 71-year-old Trinidadian ska singer Calypso Rose. (Thanks to my friend Ana L. for sharing this song with me!) I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time seeing Israel by bus in the past few weeks, so this is my current theme song… Enjoy!
Have a wonderful week!
(PS. Visit Conversion Diary for a list of other blogs with Quick Takes.)