Welcome to the first edition of the Sunday Seven! Every Sunday I will be sharing a few quick thoughts and stories that don’t quite merit a whole post. This concept is borrowed from one of my favorite blogs, Conversion Diary by Austin’s own Jennifer Fulwiler, who calls it the Seven Quick Takes Friday. The reason why I’ve chosen to not complete these posts on Friday is that, in preparation for the Jewish Sabbath, Friday in Israel is the first day of the weekend, like Saturday in the U.S. and in many other places throughout the world. Sunday here is a work day, and a good time to recap anything interesting that came up over the weekend. For more Quick Takes from Jennifer and other bloggers, visit Conversion Diary!
And, of course, Merry Christmas! Rodolfo and I spent Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, where we were blessed enough to attend the midnight mass at the Church of St. Catherine, in the Basilica of the Nativity… More on this later! There’s a quick peek from the BBC on this page; we were, as they say, among the “lucky few of the thousands of visitors to Bethlehem [who] got to join Midnight Mass.” Thanks be to God! Then, after Skyping with our families and other loved ones in faraway locales, we finally poured ourselves into bed at 5 a.m. A Christmas we will never forget!
Also, in the spirit of our new home, we have been celebrating Chanukah in addition to Christmas. We bought a menorah that is eight times more awesome than any menorah I’ve seen, because it has little doors that open like a synagogue’s Torah cabinet AND… it has burnt orange candles. Hook ’em!
Something interesting that has come up in our time here so far is the fact that far fewer people speak English than we originally anticipated. This has led to a scramble to learn Hebrew post-haste. Unfortunately, the local language school is full until February, so in the meantime we’re listening to podcasts, teaching ourselves numbers and learning how to read a completely foreign alphabet. But in our dealings with Hebrew and the advent of the Chanukah season, we have discovered a really interesting disparity between Hebrew and Yiddish words. That is, words that find their way into English to describe certain bits of Jewish culture are actually Yiddish and completely unintelligible to Hebrew speakers, even English-speaking Hebrew speakers. For instance, a “dreidel” is a “sevivon” in Hebrew. A “yarmulke,” or skullcap worn by observant Jews, is a “kippa” in Hebrew.
And, most confusing, the nine-branched Chanukah candelabra that is called a “menorah” in Yiddish (and English) is called a “hanukkiah” in Hebrew. Actually, “menorah” in Hebrew refers to several kinds of manmade light sources, from a candelabra to a chandelier to a simple electric lamp. It also refers especially to a specific menorah, the special menorah that lit the temple in ages past (see photo here). What it does not refer to is the nine-branched Chanukah candelabra, the “hanukkiah.”
Also, in our quest to self-teach Hebrew, we began looking up YouTube videos regarding pronunciation and, in the inevitable rabbit hole that is YouTube, ended up here…
Speaking of YouTube videos that help with pronunciation, we also happened upon a really cool resource for hard-to-pronounce words used in English, as well as a number of common words, at http://www.youtube.com/pronunciationbook. For example:
However, be careful of the suggested videos, since some of them are from this deceptively similar parody site at http://www.youtube.com/user/PronunciationManual. For example:
Here’s a photo of our Christmas Tree!
It’s a little myrtle tree we bought at one of about three Christian shops in the Old City. It’s only about waist-high, but it’s so festive! The florist wrapped it in crepe paper like a gift, and then we folded origami stars to decorate it! Then, last week’s package from my mom included red glitter stars, a strand of mini lights, a strand of silver pearls, a little snow owl to tuck in the branches and some gifts to go underneath it! So cute!
The paper stars are easy and fun to make. Learn more at Annekata.
Wishing peace and joy to you and yours this holiday season. Repeat the sounding joy!