Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wedding Bells in Jaffa

I’ve been putting a lot of hours in at the library lately... which equals me needing a little break. Yesterday when I woke up I made a last minute decision to escape campus and do some traveling.

Tel Aviv is one of the major cities in Israel, but I’ve never spent much time there. Both times I’ve been there I went directly to the beach and didn’t see anything else. I found a walking tour of the historic part of the city that looked promising, and the plan was made.

Quick travel tip.. I’ve used this tour company- Sandeman’s New Europe, in several countries. Olimpia found a brochure for their tours at our hotel in Belgium, and since then I’ve done their tours in Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague, Jerusalem, and (as of yesterday) Tel Aviv. The tours are advertised as being “free,” but you’re technically supposed to tip the tour guide. The plus is that you can choose the price. I’ve found their tours to be fun ways to get to know a new city with lots of interesting facts. I would definitely be up for doing more in other cities.

Anyways, after a bus and a train I found myself in downtown Tel Aviv. To get to Jaffa, where the tour was starting, it was a 40 minute walk. I decided to walk instead of catching a taxi so I could see more of the city. That ended up being a dumb decision because it was an ugly area with nothing to see and it was deathly hot. But, I survived... and thanks to my phone didn’t get lost on the way there.

My first stop was to say hello to the beach. It looked very inviting to jump in after my hot and sweaty walk. 

The tour started here at the entrance of Jaffa.

To define what Jaffa is... it’s basically the ancient part of Tel Aviv. For the most part, Tel Aviv is a super modern city. Jaffa was the original place where people settled here, due to the port. The history in Jaffa goes back 4,500 years. Not bad. In the Bible, Jaffa is the place that Jonah left from to go to Tarshish.

I love this fact I learned. The entrance to the old city of Jerusalem is called Jaffa Gate, but the entrance to the old city of Jaffa in called Jerusalem Gate. Not a very picturesque location, but the humor was worth taking a picture of Jerusalem Gate in Jaffa.

Here’s a pretty marble fountain built by an Ottoman sultan:

The old city buildings are all made of sandstone. This neighborhood is now an artists’ colony with lots of galleries and a few museums. Walking through it reminded me of the city of Tzfat/Safed (I even found some touches of blue!).

This random horse was at the entrance to an art museum. Made me laugh.

This house is the supposed location of the house of Simon the Tanner. Peter stayed overnight there and had the vision that led to people that didn’t keep kosher (aka: Gentiles, aka: us) being allowed to be baptized as Christians. This particular building is only about 300 years old, but it’s supposed to be on the same foundations as Simon’s house. Who knows.

I enjoyed learning that there was some French history in Jaffa. Napoleon stopped there and killed 4,000 Turkish civilians (with BAYONETS and not guns, to save bullets) for no reason. Then, hundreds of his soldiers caught the Bubonic plague. Napoleon tried to convince the French army doctors to just kill them because GROSS, plague! Who can be bothered by that. But, apparently the doctors didn’t listen. Isn’t history fun??

What’s even better is that later Napoleon had this painting commissioned of him lovingly touching a soldier who had the plague. Yeah, that wasn’t exactly what happened haha... he must have had a good PR team though.

Something fun during the tour was that we came across EIGHT brides. The tour guide said that the old city and the coast are very popular locations for wedding pictures. He also said that he always enjoys watching brides in long dresses and heels walking up all of the treacherous steep stairs.

He was right, it was fun.

I didn’t get stalker pictures of all of the brides, but I did get some! Why not. I don’t have a TV to watch Say Yes to the Dress, so this was the next best thing.

Little does the bride below know, she’s standing exactly where the blood of the Turkish civilians killed by Napoleon flowed into the Mediterranean, and just across the street from the plague hospital. #debbiedowner #wikibear

Any tour in Israel wouldn’t be complete without seeing some excavations. The tour guide started talking about the definition of a tel and I almost felt some PTSD coming on from how much we had to learn about archeology during BYU Jerusalem.

The hieroglyphics on the arch found buried in this hill say that it’s from the time of Ramses II- pharoah of the exodus.

You can see a pretty church in the background... and that was our next stop! It’s a church built in honor of St. Peter, and is one of the only churches in the world that faces west instead of east, in order to face where Peter was martyred (Rome! You should all know that). Besides the Simon the Tanner story, another Peter Bible story that takes place in Jaffa is the raising of Tabitha from the dead.

This is the lighting difference between my camera and iphone. I think they’re both pretty!

Besides excavations, walking around in Israel also isn't complete without seeing a bomb shelter or two. It's the short white building.

Going along with the theme of the day, after the tour ended I came across an outdoor Jewish wedding. The guy with the microphone was singing something that gave me major Fiddler on the Roof flashbacks.

On the way back, I was smart enough to take a taxi instead of walking the two miles back to the train station. All in all, I’m glad I got out of my dorm and got to see some new things... even if that meant that I procrastinated being productive :)

For one last bonus picture, this is the scenery across the street from campus. A few days ago I walked way too far in order to take this. Campus is surrounded by the Carmel National Park and mountain range.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Eid Mubarak!

I’ve been back in Israel for about a week and a half now! For the most part it’s been very uneventful as I slept off my jet lag and basically just went back and forth to class. Until yesterday... when I actually did something worth sharing.

For one of my classes we had a seminar in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem. We spent the morning and afternoon hearing some lectures about the Holocaust in Russia. I decided to make it a full day in Jerusalem and stay overnight there. 

One of the reasons I wanted to stay was that I knew I would be there on the second last day of Ramadan. I wanted to see some lights and decorations and party like I just ate for the first time after fasting all day. 

So after the seminar, I dropped my stuff off at the hotel and headed to the Old City. I love the feeling of coming up to the walls of the Old City!

Even though I’ve spent a lot of time there, I always find random things that make me smile in the Old City.

Like harp players in Jaffa Gate.

Or this quintessential tourist family.

Or Jewish mannequins.

After hanging out a little bit in the Jewish Quarter, I ventured into the Muslim Quarter hoping to catch some Ramadan action. I wasn’t dark yet, but it looked promising for when it would be.

I found a place to hang out outside Damascus Gate to wait for sunset. My parents were a little concerned about me wandering through the Muslim Quarter after dark alone, so I took this picture to show them who I chose to sit by while I was waiting for dark haha.

No, they weren’t actually about to shoot anyone. They were just doing some kind of salute or something.

I was also sitting by these palm trees. It was a good location to hang out and people watch.

If you’re not familiar with what Ramadan is, Muslims don’t eat or drink anything all day from sunrise to sunset FOR A WHOLE MONTH. When Ramadan falls in the middle of summer, like it has for the last few years, that has to be really tortuous in the hot Middle East. I would probably die.

Where I was sitting, a lot of families started to gather in this park type area to have picnic meals together. It was fun to watch people get happy as it got darker and it was almost food time.

When it was finally dark enough, I went back through Damascus Gate to walk the Old City streets and find some lights!

What I found out was that the streets leading to the Temple Mount (which has Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque) were the ones that were the most decked out.

It was pretty cool! It reminded me of when we went to the Jerusalem Festival of Lights with BYU.

Here’s a deserted Jewish Quarter street that I saw on my way out.

Right outside of Jaffa Gate, I came across a mass outdoor spinning class. I mean, I guess the Jews haven’t been fasting for a month, so they needed to burn some things off. You can't really see it, but there were at least 100 people simultaneously biking together.

Saying goodbye to the Old City.

I saw one last cool site on the way to my hotel. A fun little display in West Jerusalem. NOT Ramadan related :)

It was a fun, quick day back in Jerusalem. I always leave Jerusalem happy, even though I can also always feel the burn in my calves the next day from the hills. It's great to live just a two hour bus ride away from this place.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Un-pausing Life

Guess who's back in Israel! This jet lagged person writing this, that's who! 

I can't believe I haven't written anything since the beginning of April! That points to my boring existence of the last few months. However, there have been a few exciting events since then.


But even if most of the last few months have been uneventful, there are a few noteworthy events that deserve to be documented on the blog.

1. The knee surgery.

The reason for having to come home, and the reason that I almost DIED of boredom in April and May. On the plus side, I now have a functioning knee and everything went well. But back to complaining. 

I learned a lot. Such as that physical therapists are as sadistic as dentists. And that it's not fun at all to have unlimited TV watching and being lazy time if it's your only choice for months. 

But, I got through it! It's crazy to think back at what I couldn't do just a month ago. Like walk.

2. The road trip.

Well, connected to that... the arrival in America of my official chauffeur (okay, a little more than that too) was also an event. David got to the U.S. in the middle of May, and was a great help to alleviate my boredom.

A few weeks after he got there, he volunteered as tribute and offered to drive me to the Mall of America. If you're unfamiliar with that excellent institution (shame on you), it's the biggest mall in the country and is located just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. What David got out of it was checking another state off of his bucket list. What I got out of it was being in shopping heaven for two days. It was definitely a very fun mini-vacation!

3. The friend time.

And by friend, I'm referring to one particular friend. My pool of friends that actually live in the same geographical area as me is basically non-existent. My friend Elvera came home from BYU for a little while- ironically also because of a knee surgery, although not her own.

We had fun going with David and her cousin to a Norwegian festival and some botanical gardens in the Madison area and then to downtown Milwaukee on a different day. Good times.

4. The sister wedding.

One of the most fun parts of the wedding experience, in my opinion, was the 'rehearsal' dinner the night before the wedding. A lot of the family and some close friends met up there in Chicago the day before. We didn't actually rehearse anything, but we did have fun listening to family members share stories about Jenna and Cabren. 

The next day was D-day- the wedding day!!! After the grand entrance of the newlyweds, we took a lot of pictures that made my stiletto-d feet start to die. Sadly, my high heel endurance is still quite up to my usual standards. But my shoes were still worth it. And so was waiting around to take pictures! We got some good ones.

After eating lunch, we all headed back up north to Wisconsin. I think I speak for everyone in my family that we were all already exhausted by that point, but the party was just getting STARTED. 

There were another million pictures taken before the reception, taken by this gentlemen:

(Props to my Aunt Cyndi for capturing the bow-tie man- it's an inside joke haha)

I think everything at the reception turned out great! The decorations were nice, the food was good, and the cake was AMAZING. Let me reference one of my favorite things from Pinterest, and then maybe you can guess the flavor of the cake.

There were a lot of fun things to do at the reception. I can't even list them all because I'm too lazy. One of the most entertaining parts was watching my extended family go crazy on the dance floor. Who knew the Bishops had that in them.

All in all, it was SO FUN and everything turned out wonderfully. It was such a happy day. Yay Jenna! Love you <3

5. The Bishop family reunion:

We have them every 2 years, and since I missed the last one while I was doing BYU Jerusalem, I was happy to get to attend this one! I don't remember the exact count, but somewhere around 30 people from my mom's side of the family all convened in Wisconsin Dells. 

Here's everyone before our duck tour. Note my grandpa raising his hand as he attempts to make it in the picture.

There was a lot of swimming, game playing, a slightly frightening family talent show, and a day at Noah's Ark. Later in the week some of us did a Sprecher's factory tour. Best root beet ever!

6. The 4th of July:

The last 2 years I haven't been in town for this, so I liked having my traditional Germantown holiday this year. We went to the Menomonee Falls fireworks on the 3rd, since Jenna and Cabren had to leave to go back to Utah the next morning. On the 4th, me and David went to the Germantown parade, which I find adorable because it is semi-lame in its small town-ness. Later that night, all of the Bishop crew headed over to the Chausows' house to hang out and watch the fireworks from their backyard. I was proud to see that the Germantown fireworks were slightly better than the Falls ones. #gtownpride

It was fitting to spend my last day in America celebrating America! On the 5th I began the long trek back to Tel Aviv. After about 24 hours of traveling, I made it. Now I'm gearing up for what looks like it will be a busy semester.