Sunday, January 27, 2013

Best Bananas in the World

Heveinu Shalom Alacheim!  I had my first Hebrew language class Tuesday, so I’m now on my way to ordering a bagel in West Jerusalem.  Because, unquestionably, learning to do that is my first priority.  Is bagel a Hebrew word?  I’ll give you all updates as this project develops.  I really do love being mistaken for a native Israeli, but it’s hard when I travel with my fanny pack-wearing peers.  Might as well just throw on their Hawaiian shirts and socks with sandals while they’re at it!  Stupid Americans (said with a French accent, or else it doesn't count)!

We watched the first Indiana Jones movie last week.  Special effects from the 80’s + Harrison Ford’s hairy chest + some seriously bad writing = my kind of Friday night!  The man has some serious whip skills and when there’s a whip, there’s a way! (for those of you who haven’t watched the animated version of The Hobbit, get on that.  Most critics wouldn't call it a "classic," but I have to disagree.)

Lizzi & me at the DOME
Sunday, we visited the Dome of the Rock for the first time.  It's open from 7:30-10:30 A.M., so we were only there for about 45 minutes.  You can bet it that was enough time for about 200 jumping pictures- aka my worst nightmare since I am always that one person with an ill-timed jump.  I can't wait to go back multiple times because it's beautiful.  And, there's more than just the actual mosque itself- there are gardens and other beautiful buildings in the enclosure.

Following some shopping, we went on a walk around the ramparts of the Old City.  The first 20 minutes were cool, but there's a limit to how long one can reenact fight scenes/pretend to duel (hint: it's more than 2 minutes and less than 4). After the rampart walk, we headed over to West Jerusalem.  Somehow, we got sidetracked and ended up staying in the Jewish Quarter for a few hours.  The fact that it's a meeting place for the army may have been a factor.  Another reason I need to learn  Hebrew- there are some fiiiiine Israeli soldiers here.  I'm sure I'll learn a lot of Hebrew in a 100 level language class.  At least enough things to say on a first date (fingers crossed)!
Back when we liked the ramparts

Hey, look! It's the JC (Jerusalem Center)!
Monday, we visited the Negev, aka the southern part of Israel.  The majority of the year, it is hot and dry.  Lucky for us, there is some greenery in the winter since it is the rainy season.  Of course, by green, I mean I spotted a grand total of 3 weeds.  (Speaking of weed, a Palestinian vendor tried to convince us that parsley was “mariguana.”  Psh yeah, right- I’ve seen [trailers for] Pineapple Express!)  The sad thing is that already all of the excavated ruins are starting to look the same, like the European cathedral effect.  It’s all just a sea of sand and exposed bricks and who even knows what’s real anymore and where even am I and have I really eaten 100 pitas since being here?

Ahh, Bikini Bottom the Negev
We actually stopped at some great sites in the Negev, like a Bedouin weaving center.  They gave us hot tea and we sat under a shady tent passing around the (nonexistent) hookah pipe... now THAT would be a story to write home about.

Our second stop was at Beersheba.  Sure, Abraham lived there, but more importantly, we got to wear hard hats.  I don't mean to sound conceited, but highlighter yellow and my pasty white skin is a match made in heaven.  We wore the hard hats to walk through an abandoned underground water system.  Can you imagine drinking out of an enclosed water system that collects water infrequently?  And I thought I would die without my Brita water filter! (Insert “Princess Tess” comments here.)

Into the depths of Beersheba's water system

Ruins at Beersheba

Tel Arad- a major fortress and small Israelite temple have been excavated here
The other night I finally played in a volleyball game.  I did my best to “pretend” that I was really unfamiliar with the game.  I asked one teammate what “setting the ball” meant.  He then volunteered to be on the other team.  Maybe he was upset that I'm more into coming up with team cheers than winning?   GO TEAM PITA!!!!

One more sports story- I was shooting hoops the other night (no, that is not a typo.  This one time in 5th grade someone told me he wasn't the worst athlete he'd ever seen, and I’ve been riding that wave of confidence ever since.), and a boy gave me tips on how to shoot better.  Thanks so much- unsolicited advice is my favorite!  Good thing he coached me, since I'm really working hard to make it to the WNBA.  In fact, I just found out you don't shoot the ball with both hands, so I'd say I'm practically there!

Yesterday, we went to different sites near Jericho.  We saw the tower in Jericho (from 9000 BC), the Spring of Elisha, the Mount of Temptation, and the road where Jesus walked from Jericho to Jerusalem.  Jericho is the lowest city (and possibly oldest) in the world!  When our teacher asked which superlatives Jericho is known for, somebody said it has the best bananas in the world.  Yeah, that's definitely not true and my teacher had never heard that.  But now, I'll always associate Jericho with the best bananas in the world!  While there, we sang “Under the Sea” (in four-part harmony, natch) and saw the excavated Tower of Jericho from 9000 B.C.

"Joshua fought the battle of Jericho"

That's how you play a trumpet, right?
Elisha’s Spring came next.  Unlike many of the other Bible sites that are only rumored to be the real sites, Elisha’s Spring is the real deal.  Less cool than it sounds, though.  People frantically snapped pictures of the few drops of water that came out of the spring.

Later, we stopped at Herod’s Palace.  You can’t go to the actual site, so we stood on an higher and extremely windy hill- pretty sure rat's could've live in my hair afterward- to look at the site further away.
Ze palace
The place where Jesus walked from Jericho to Jerusalem is called Wadi Qelt.  It is a huge canyon that houses a few Bedouin encampments and the St. George Cathedral.  It is also most likely the road where the story of the Good Samaritan occurred and where Jesus was tempted after his 40 days of fasting.  We reenacted the story of the Good Samaritan and I was the star- that’s the lawyer, right?  From Wadi Qelt we could see both Jericho and Jerusalem.  It may be my favorite site we have visited.

Wadi Qelt

Those two towers in the distance are Jerusalem!

Pretending to walk from Jericho to Jerusalem...posers
 I realize my updates are few and far between, so I am reluctant to share some bittersweet news.  We’re going to Jordan (!) Monday through Thursday of next week, and I don’t think I’ll have access to Wifi.  So, you can keep checking the bloggy blog, but I make no promises to post until a week from now.  I’ll return with an abundance of pictures and wonderful stories (Petra and Amman and Jerash, oh my)!

Shabbat Shalom!