Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Day in the Desert

Yesterday we drove about an hour south of Jerusalem into the Negev Desert for a full-day field trip. In Wisconsin you see cows on road trips, but on this trip I kept seeing camels on the side of the road :)

Our first stop was the Sidreh weaving center in the Bedouin city of Lakiya.



Bedouins are an Arab ethnic group that were formerly all nomads. Now most are settled in towns, such as Lakiya. Bedouin culture is very patriarchal and discourages education, especially for women. The Sidreh weaving center is part of an effort to empower the women there. They learn how to weave and also business skills like marketing to sell the rugs they make. The owner of Sidreh said that before she started this project, women weren't even allowed to leave their houses. Now because of this project, you see lots of women on the streets.

The next stop was Tel Be'er Sheva. Basically it was a small pile of rocks. Okay, it was a little more than that. It just wasn't that exciting to me. Here's the view:




Be'er Sheva is a biblical site where Abraham hung out. This was not the town he lived in though; it's just on the same site or very close to it. Not something you see every day, but mostly when we were there I was just preoccupied with how hot it was. Plus it was VERY windy, which in the desert means that dust is constantly being blown in your eyes and mouth. Yum. And we have long lectures about archeology from our professors while we're at the site. The coolest part of Be'er Sheva was getting to go deep underground into an ancient cistern. Going down the stairs:


The last site of the day was Tel Arad, which is also remains of an ancient city. By the way, when the word 'Tel' is front of the city name, that means that everything we see used to be underground. All of these walls were excavated and uncovered by archeologists. 


Hey, what do you know...more ruins of rocky walls!

We were definitely in the wilderness.



This site was a little cooler, because it was bigger and there was more to it. There were also remains of an ancient Israelite temple. The main temple the Israelites were supposed to go to was in Jerusalem, so archeologists aren't sure if the temple in Arad was used to worship God or pagan idols (or maybe both!).

And here's what you've all been waiting for. Me posing with some sheep.


I bet you can see how the wind destroyed my hair if you look closely enough. 

So, basically it was a long day in the desert. I found out I'm not really that interested in crumbling walls from thousands of years ago. Maybe I should be, but I'm not. But I heard from one of our professor's wives that this was the only boring field trip, so I think that now I'm safe.

Tonight is the start of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost in English). It celebrates receiving the Torah, the law, from God. To celebrate Shavuot, synagogues stay open all night and hold services and lectures. I wish Mormons more holidays. Jews are really good at having a lot of them :)  

Our Jewish history professor, who is Israeli, suggested a synagogue for some of us (that actually speak Hebrew) to go to tonight so we can witness Shavuot. We'll see how much Hebrew I remember at 1:00 in the morning...

Today we had our Turkey orientation to find out more about that trip. We leave in less than a week! I'm really excited for to go. How many people get to celebrate their 24th birthday in Troy?

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