Friday, January 30, 2015

Talmida tova

New picture at the top! Taken on my latest visit to Jerusalem.

So, what do I do here? A lot, right now. It's the last week of the semester and everything is crazy. Obviously, I should be writing this instead of being productive.

I wanted to write a little bit about my classes and daily life here. I'll start with the classes. Usually when I tell people that I'm studying the Holocaust, they wonder what type of classes that involves... Here's what that involved for our first semester!

The Final Solution: this was the main 'Holocaust' class for the semester. We studied the persecution and extermination of Jews in depth. I learned a lot. We had to write a few shorter papers and I have a 30 page seminar paper due in June. Yes, even though the class is ending this week. I'm going to write about the differences between the ways French Jews were treated v. immigrant Jews were treated that were living in France (Guess who the French police were willing to help deport?).

WWII: Class about the military history of WWII. It was kind of similar to the WWII history class I took at BYU- we even used the same textbook. For my final paper I'm researching Charles de Gaulle's relationship with Churchill and Roosevelt (Spoiler alert: they both hated him). 

Research Methods: Different lecturers from different fields (psychology, anthropology, all sorts of things...) came to talk to us about their disciplines, researching, and the Holocaust. Basically, I didn't really learn things in this class. Some of it was interesting, but not really that useful for me.

Research Forum: Like the last class, different people came every week. We heard from a few Holocaust survivors, some documentary movie directors, and an archeologist who is working on excavating the Sobibor concentration camp. This class was usually pretty interesting! 

German: I took a beginning German class. It was ridiculously easy but kind of fun. Most of the rest of my class is scared of our teacher, but I've had French it didn't phase me. Madame Thompson, anyone?

Yiddish: This class I audited and just did for fun. And it was!! It's a fun language, and where else could I learn it? I think I'll continue with it next semester.

That sums up the classes I took this semester. Some other things that keep me busy are an internship and a volunteer program.

My internship involves developing and teaching lessons about the Holocaust for a local school here in Haifa. Me and 5 other people from my program are each teaching a lesson. The kids are in 5th grade. We're in the lesson planning stage right now, and we'll start teaching in the spring. My lesson is about... you guessed it... France. I'm doing a lesson about Jewish children who had to pretend to be Christian and were sheltered by priests and nuns. This was pretty common in France. Yeah, I like France. Do you sense a theme in all of the projects I'm doing? It's nice to be able to choose things to research that I'm interested in. And cool to be able to put on my teaching resume that I've taught in two foreign countries!

Also as part of our program here, most of us volunteer with an organization called Amcha that helps Holocaust survivors. I go every week to visit with Cipi for about an hour. She's 80 years old and from the Czech Republic. It's always entertaining because she's full of energy. Usually we just talk about light-hearted things like fashion (she is a fashionista haha), but she's also started to tell me about her experiences during the war. Holocaust survivors won't be around for much longer- so this another cool and unique experience of being in Israel!

Currently, I'm doing a Hebrew Ulpan- which is an intensive Hebrew class. It feels so good to be learning Hebrew again! It's my favorite language après le français. Our class is 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for a month. We're already finished with the first week, and I already feel like I've learned a lot. One of the most interesting things is that out of our class of about 20 people, there are students from Sudan, South Africa, Iran, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, England, France, Mexico, and Canada. I'm sure I'm forgetting someone. There's only one other person from the U.S. (and ps...she happens to be a Chicagoan who loves the Packers, what are the odds of that?).

I've been enjoying my time here so far! Actually, I'm not enjoying this week because I've been so busy with homework...but in general, yes! After this 1.5 month semester break, I have two more semesters and I'll be done at the end of August. 

Well this post wasn't so exciting and full of travel stories and pictures... but don't worry, I have some amazing travel plans coming up in less than a month! 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Solo Jerusalem

As part of our program, we spent last week in Jerusalem! From Monday-Thursday, we attended a seminar at Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum). Every day we listened to lectures about different aspects of the Holocaust, as well as getting to go through the museum a few times. We heard a LOT of interesting things... it was kind of a lot to sit through 5 lectures a day about something depressing, but for the most part I really enjoyed it! 

And now onto more exciting things... I stayed a few extra days after the seminar to have more Jerusalem time. Because it’s kind of a cool city, you know? 

On the last day of the seminar, I showed some girls from my program the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

On Friday morning I did some shopping. This was my first time being alone in Jerusalem! I love shopping alone and taking my time.

Entering the Old City:

Old City markets:

From my time in Jerusalem last year, I knew about this place where you can go up on some rooftops and have a cool view. I happened to be up there at noon when all of the church bells started going off!

Famous churches-

It was also pretty close to Dome of the Rock, but there were sadly some things blocking what would have been a great view.

View of JC from there as well-

After that I got some lunch in the Jewish Quarter before things started closing for Shabbat, and then crossed to the other side of the Old City.

My next stop was St. Anne’s Basilica. It’s a pretty place by Lion’s Gate with a church, garden, and some ruins. The ruins are (allegedly) of the Pool of Bethesda, a site where Jesus healed someone.

This whole site is owned by France, so I got to see l’un de mes drapeaux préférés! The church is from the Crusader era.

The ruins looked pretty because they were green! I NEVER saw this color green during my first trip to Israel in the summer.

On a related note, while I was visiting the church, it started pouring rain outside (the cause of the green!).

Every Friday, Franciscan monks lead a procession down the Via Dolorosa while chanting Catholic-y things and explaining the Stations of the Cross. It’s supposed to follow Jesus’ path from Pontius Pilate’s palace to the Crucifixion. I was planning on doing that because I’ve only done it once, but I guess monks aren’t into getting rained on because they cancelled it due to the weather.

Oh well. Here’s the beginning of the procession, the Church of the Flagellation.

I headed back across the Old City to Jaffa Gate, and in the process got extremely wet. There aren’t very good drains, so I was basically wading through water... and the streets are too narrow to use an umbrella. I was planning on sticking around in the city and going to the Western Wall, but instead I decided that I just wanted my warm hotel room and dry socks and called it a day. It was cold, what can I say.

On the way back to the hotel, I learned that when it rains ultra-Orthodox Jews unashamedly wear plastics bags on their heads to protect their fancy hats. Some of them have hoods like the guy on the left, but I saw LOTS of plastic bag hats this week. I decided this guy deserved to have his picture taken because he rudely bumped into me. Justice haha.

On Saturday morning, I went to church at the JC and REALLY enjoyed going to church with more than 10 people like I normally have to haha.

After church, I went on a guided tour of the Mount of Olives. I didn’t spend a lot of time there during my study abroad, so it was fun to have a chance to go back and visit places that I’d only seen once or not at all.

The first place we went to is supposed to be the site where Jesus ascended to heaven. The best part is that you can even see Jesus’ footprint hahaha. I was super tempted to take off my shoe and see how my foot size compared to Jesus,’ but I didn’t know if everyone would think that was appropriate...

Besides the footprint, the other interesting thing is that this site used to be a church, but was converted into a mosque. Why? Because plot twist: Muslims (sort of) believe in and respect Jesus as a prophet. So typically in history, whenever Muslims conquered and reconquered the Holy Land, they didn’t destroy Christian churches, but just casually switched them over to mosques.

Just down the road from there, we came across a HUGE Israeli flag. Our tour guide said that this is the house of the only Jewish family that lives on the Mount of Olives. Apparently the land has been in their family since the Ottoman era. All Jews were kicked out of East Jerusalem after 1948 while the Jordanians controlled it. The family moved back in 1967 when Israel took control of all of Jerusalem. They are NOT wanted in the neighborhood, and according to the size of the flag don’t care about being wanted in the neighborhood. At least 10 armed soldiers protect the house at all times, and their car has to have metal mesh on all the windows for when people throw rocks at them. The tour guide said this very nonchalantly.

So back to Jesus. Our next stop was the Pater Noster church. It commemorates the giving of the Lord’s Prayer. Accordingly, the Lord’s Prayer is displayed in about 150 languages.. including some very random and interesting random dialects. I was excited to find Alsacien!

Our tour guide recited the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew and talked about how in recent scholarship people think Jesus was actually probably speaking more Hebrew than Aramaic. He would have known both, but in his time Hebrew was more commonly spoken by the common people than Aramaic. Fun fact: a few months ago Netanyahu and Pope Francis argued about this. Anyways, I obviously haven’t researched that... but I like to think what the tour guide said is true since I speak Hebrew.

These pictures are from starting to walk down the Mount of Olives. You really can never have too many pictures of Dome of the Rock. Not possible.

The next church we went to is called Dominus Flevit- meaning ‘Lord wept’ in Latin. It’s supposed to be the spot where Jesus prophesied that the temple would be destroyed- hence the perfect view of the Temple Mount. Jesus was standing on the Mount of Olives and looking at the temple while saying the prophecy. Of course, in Jesus’ day the Temple of Herod was standing where the Dome of the Rock is now.

Most churches are built facing east, but in this church the altar faces the Temple Mount to commemorate Jesus’ prophecy- and also so you can take exciting pictures of the altar cross and the Dome.

From Dominus Flevit, you can see the Russian Orthodox church of St. Mary Magdalene. We didn’t go inside, but I’ve been inside already so that’s cool.

Our next stop was the Garden of Gethsemane site. There’s an olive tree grove and a church. 

The last stop on the tour was Mary’s Grotto. It’s a Greek Orthodox church (in a cave!) with the graves of Mary, Joseph, and Mary’s parents. And by their ‘graves’ I mean the things that this particular church says are their graves.

I kind of like this little place because it looks so ancient and there’s all these crazy lanterns everywhere. It would be a fun place for a Halloween party. Although I assume that would be considered inappropriate. 

That concludes my Jerusalem sightseeing for the weekend! After my tour I made my way over to the bus station and headed back to Haifa. Sadly, now vacation time is over and it’s time to work on some final papers. My first semester here is almost done!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Legen...wait for it...

...dary!  (yeah, we've been watching some How I Met Your Mother)

After my Christmas break in Wisconsin and a not so great, exhausting travel day (delayed flight, lost luggage) I eventually made it back to Tel Aviv! 

And guess who was there waiting for me... David! And he even told me he was coming, because who would just show up in a country randomly, right?

We took the train back to Haifa together. It was kind of a stressful train ride because we had to find him a new hotel for the night. Because of my delayed flight, he missed the check-in time for his hostel. Thankfully, the trains in Israel have wifi, even though it's glacially slow. When the train got to Haifa (after midnight), we split up for the night to get some sleep. I was definitely in need of sleep.

I was supposed to go to class early the next morning, but that just didn't happen. I didn't get to bed until around 2am, and that was after missing a night of sleep the day before while I was flying. I didn't wake up until 1 the next day.

A little while later, David met up with me on campus. We hung out there a little bit, and then I had to go to a class that night. Afterwards, we adventurously made falafel in the microwave. By the way, this was on New Year's Eve! It wasn't the most exciting New Year's Eve ever, but we did watch a fun movie and were able to stay awake, so there's that.

The next day was our Haifa sightseeing day. We started out by heading to the Bahai Gardens for a tour. It was fun to get to do that because I'd never been inside before. We were able to get some awesome pictures!

The tour involved going down 700 stairs! Much better than going up 700 stairs :)

Then we had to stop back at campus so I could be reunited with my precious luggage. It was a happy reunion, although kind of annoying that it interrupted our day.

The rest of the day demonstrates my failure as a tour guide haha. We planned to stop by the beach, even though it was getting dark out. Sadly, we ended up on the wrong bus. The beach plan was discarded, and we just headed to the German Colony to get dinner. We spent a lot of time riding buses. Oops. I still don't know Haifa very well. As of Christmas break, I had been here for less than 2 months...

However, it was fun once we got to the German Colony neighborhood! There's a beautiful view of the gardens from there, and there were Christmas lights!! Well, maybe they were actually "holiday lights" haha. 

Dinner was great. After dinner there was some more stress including a blocked credit card and not being able to find a taxi. And jet lag. But once again, everything worked out. We met up early the next morning to go to JERUSALEM!

Maybe waking up at 5:30 in the morning the next day wasn't the best idea, but I managed to get up. Sadly, I was sick though :(   And I never get sick. I think it was the sleep deprivation. We slept through most of the 2 hour bus ride to Jerusalem.

I think I was a much better tour guide in Jerusalem than in Haifa. I still remembered my way around, yay!! I was so happy to be back! I was just there for stake conference, but I hadn't gotten to actually go to the city. We dropped our luggage off at the hotel, and then went straight to the Old City.

Wait, actually first we made a pit stop at this lion. I had to pay homage to the fun we had here on Lauren's birthday.

The first real thing we did was the Ramparts Walk. You get to walk on top of the Old City walls, and it's a fun way to get some lovely Jerusalem views!

After that we wandered back through the Old City. We did some souvenir shopping and stopped at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Yes, Kaitlyn... if you're reading this.... I was thinking of you. I hope my tour of the church lived up to yours!

We got some lunch in West Jerusalem, and then chilled at the hotel for a little bit before going to the Jewish Quarter for Shabbat. We sat by the Hurva Synagogue for a few minutes and then headed to the Western Wall.

You're not allowed to take pictures at the Western Wall once Shabbat starts, so this is as close to the wall as my pictures go. Here's one from when we were on our way there and back.

And one with a view of the JC!

Seeing this place on Friday night is something everyone that comes to Israel needs to do! It's such an interesting glimpse into Judaism. I love it there! David thought it was pretty cool too. We did some people watching and observed lots of praying, singing, and dancing. I tried to convince him to dance but it just didn't happen haha.

Walking back through the Old City after dark was cool! We were never allowed to be there after dark as BYU students. Here's a deserted Jewish Quarter street.

I was barely awake by the time we got back to the hotel, so we called it a night early. That is, after wandering around for a long time trying to find a restaurant that was open on Shabbat.  #jerusalemprobs

The next morning we took a taxi to the BYU Jerusalem Center to go to church. I thought it would be basically empty there because the new students haven't arrived yet, but it turned out being more full than usual with a ton of tour groups.

After church we stopped by the Western Wall again (after finding some falafel that tasted a lot better than the microwavable version we'd eaten a few days ago). I'd never been there on a Saturday before! It looked just like any other day, it wasn't crazy like it is on Friday nights. Our next stop was Zion's Gate, to visit a few churches.

We went to Dormition Abbey and St. Peter in Gallicantu. It was fun to see some Christmas decorations still up at both places, and to read the French on the walls of St. Peter's. 

As we were leaving St. Peter's it started POURING rain. We had an umbrella but we still got soaking wet, especially our feet! We ended up having to take refuge inside Dormition Abbey and visit it again haha.

When the rain let up, we went to the Garden Tomb. It was still a little drizzly and gross outside... but I guess I prefer that to the HOT 90 degree weather we used to sightsee in during the study abroad. 

We treated ourselves to a taxi ride back to the hotel, where we then blow-dried our socks. Yep. We got to relax a little before he dropped me off at the bus station so I could head back to Haifa (since I have class Sunday morning). It was kind of funny that he was the one to see me off when I'm the one who lives in Israel, but that's how it worked out!

David flew back to France the next morning. The Marissa and David adventures are on hold for now... but they are to be continued next month in... wait for it.... France and Switzerland!!!

And as for Jerusalem adventures, I'll be back there on Monday! This week for school we're attending a seminar for 4 days at Yad Vashem (Jerusalem's Holocaust museum). I would say 'should be fun' but that would be a little awkward to say about a Holocaust conference. But I'm always happy to have the chance to go 'home' to Jerusalem.