They Say It's Your Birthday

Well, it was. And what a birthday it was!

Max really spoiled me and I had perhaps my best birthday ever. We decided to make a last minute mini-trip up to Nazareth. We rented the tiniest car Budget offered and took a lovely drive up north along the coast and then inland to Nazareth. Driving in Israel is a little insane - crazy driving is something that Israelis and Arabs alike enjoy. But to be fair, it's better than Amman and MUCH better than Cairo, city of eminent-death-by-vehicle.

Anyway, we saw some of the sights of Nazareth including the Church of the Annunciation, largest church in the Middle East and supposed sight where the Angel appeared to Mary to tell her of her impending pregnancy. My favorite part of the church were the representations of Mary sent in from all over the world. They had images made of tiles, stone, and paintings from Thailand, China, Scotland, India, Spain, Canada - you name it.

Do you want to know what the United States' contribution looks like?

And why wouldn't it?  This is clearly the most naturally interpretation of Mary... I'm being snarky, but I actually liked it in a crazy-art kind of way.  There is some quotation next to it from something Catholic, I think,  that talks about Mary appearing with a dress like "shook foil".  On a world wide scale I think of America as fairly traditional, so this avant-garde-ness really surprised me.   

But the best part was really our trip to the top of Mount Tabor, where the transfiguration of Jesus in the New Testament happened.  We spent some time in the church at the very top and then snooped around the ruins.  We also caught the most amazing sunset I've seen in my 26 years of life.  It took up the whole sky and drifted down across the Jezreel Valley.  We ate pizza with bacon later that night and all was right with the world.

Mount Tabor from a distance, the view from the top of the Jezreel Valley

Church on Top of Mount Tabor

Here we are on the top of Mount Tabor

Me, doing exactly what I do each time we take a trip  - read the guidebook

A little Video, ignore my gasps. It was that breathtaking!


When in Rome

Ok, here is a little bit more info about our potential Italy gig.  I started applying for things back when I thought we'd be here through the summer and then come back to Israel.  I wanted to travel, make a little bit of money, and get out of our expensive apartment for a few months. 

In my internet searching I came across an English Instruction Summer Camp that takes place in various cities in Italy.  It is a Drama/Singing/Dancing/Crafting camp for Italian youth with very little "classroom instruction" time.  In the morning you do a little bit of grammar and typical "English Teacher" stuff, and then in the afternoon you work on crafts or sports with the kids.  You also practice a short play that will be performed for everyone at the end of the two week period.  Each "play practice" has a grammar goal and a vocabulary focus - it's very neat.  The whole thing is really play" oriented.  The kids ages 6 to 14 as I understand it. 

So I just started emailing this nice woman and a couple of passport photos and applications later - we have a job offer!  Our circumstances have changed a bit since we are coming home, but we can still do the camp for at least 2 weeks (the length of one session) and maybe 4 and get home July 10th at the latest.  So we are still coming home, but if we decide to do this we might come home a few weeks later than we had planned. 

Of course living in Italy while someone else pays for your housing and food is sweeeet, but the best part is that they will pay us.  Both Max and I will be employed so we will make enough to cover our plane tickets home and have some living money when we get home.  This way we won't have to be such mooches:)

So there it is.  We are still deciding if the timing will work out for us, but it's so nice to know that if we are on board, there is something waiting for us.   

We have decided not to apply for Scotland, but if you want to spend 2 weeks to a month in Scotland this summer while managing a hostel in the boondocks you should check out this website.  No pay, but free room. 


We Got Into Italy!!!

I hope we can juggle things well enough to make this work, but both of us were accepted to be English Teachers in Italy this summer! For money!  

Re: Video Upload Problem

What a batch of sugar cookies won't do for your blogger rage!


A Little Night Music Revisited

Max has been practicing with the Jerusalem Acapella Choir once a week for about 4 months now. At least he thinks that's what they are called - the entire rehearsal and most of the songs are in Hebrew. It's done wonders for his Hebrew (he tells me) but it also makes things exciting when he's not sure if the concert is at 6:30 or 7:30 for example. I'm not leading up to a cute lost-in-translation story, I just think it's amazing that he sticks right with it along side genuine Israeli Hebrew speakers.

The choir has about 18 people and they sing mostly ancient choral music, hymns, Jewish songs, and an occasional English/American tune. Last week they had their first concert and it was just wonderful. It was fun for me to see him in his rehearsal before, chatting away with his new friends, as well as on stage again. He remarked that has been since High School that he has sung with a formal choir in a concert (8 years - yowza).

The Man to Max's Right (your left) is Eli (eh-li), the nice Man who gives Max a ride home every week so he doesn't have to endure the long bus ride. The man to the right of Eli is Ofer (oh-FEHR) and he invited us to an amazing Rosh Hashanna dinner at his house a few months ago - there were 7 courses at least. The man to Max's Left (your right) is Amnon, and I don't know much about him except for he kind of looks like Deep Roy. There are women in the choir, just not in the pictures.

The concert was on the evening of December 7th, and I had my first "embarrassed-of-my-gobs-of-technology" moment. I wanted to take pictures of Max close up so I needed my regular lens as well as my zoom lens. And we couldn't let this occasion go by without video taping the event, could we? So the video camera came too...and the tripod. You can't have a sharp super-zoom without a sturdy tripod. I staked out a place in the back of the concert where I wouldn't bother anyone, but as I started to unfold my studio away from home I became so self-conscious! Isn't this something that 30 something Dad's do at their 7 year old's first soccer game? I tried to own it as much as possible, and I don't regret bringing everything because I got great film on top of a few good pictures, but I was glad when I could hide my abundance of image capturing devices and their accompanying equipment. (And you thought I was gadgety before, Aunt Mary!)

Minor embarrassment aside, the concert was great and Max was wonderful. I'm so proud of him for joining this choir - they importance of doing something you love can't be overstated, I think. I have attached a video of a Hebrew Song (...I don't know it's name ) and an English Song (Ride the Chariot) for your listening pleasure. The quality is pretty poor, but you get the idea.

Actually, I am having some uploading problems and instead of pulling my hair out, I'm going to go into my kitchen and make sugar cookies. Hopefully I can post the videos later.


What I've Been Making Part II

I was especially proud of the head band on my little black book (the red and orange stitching on the top of the spine).  I have never quite made one I like because they are a bit tricky, but I was pretty pleased with this one.  The brown book was my first experiment with a glued-in spine on leather and I was pleased with it also.  I've made some notes about what I'll improve on next time because I'd really like to work with leather more.  I've been trying to convince Max that that's why we definitely need to go to Morocco as soon as possible - for the leather. That's  a good reason, right?

Anyway I finished my paper at the crack of 2:00 AM the other night and I still liked it when I was done.  That's something.  The title ended up being "National Consciousness and Conflict: Exploring Archive as Identity in the Middle East".  When I sat down to write I found that I had research coming out my ears.  I narrowed my topic to the Middle East and talked almost exclusively about Palestinians and Jews.  That seemed appropriate considering the circumstances.  I have actually been thinking more and more about doing a Thesis instead of a portfolio at the end of my coursework.  I think this type of thing is something I could fill oodles of pages with.  We'll see.


What I've Been Making...

I'm posting this so that when I finish my 15 page research paper (it's all in my head at this point...don't worry) I will have to post the pictures of the books I've been making.  AND I will feel such public pressure to create more that I'll get right to work after my this paper is due on Tuesday night.

In case you were wondering, my paper is about "Archive as Political Tool" or something to that effect.  I'm writing about Archives as symbols of national or cultural identity and how that leads them to become tools of politics.  I'm also writing about Archives in Wartime - how they are often purposefully destroyed as a symbol of the new minority's oppression.  I'm really lucky in that I've been able to do a few first hand interviews and visit the places I'm talking about.

I'll be talking about Palestinian libraries over the last 100 years or so, specifically the Khalidi library (which I've been keeping a secret for reasons that can't be revealed yet), the Jewish National Library and sundry Jewish libraries, The Iraq National library, and the destruction of libraries in Kosovo during the '90's conflict. 

So, pretty much this wasn't "getting off track", this post was a good thinking exercise for my paper.  But I have made two books since I've been here and a few more will hopefully be born this week and the next.

...So I've been making a paper at this point 


My First Wee Christmas Moment

I spent yesterday evening in the Old City with some dear friends.  The three of us strolled down a not-too-crowded, not-too-pushy Christian Quarter road looking at Arabian coin earrings, beautiful scarves, various trinkets...and Christmas decorations!  That's right.  Someone told Apple (not her real name) about a Christmas shop in the old city and it was as advertised, right down to the miniature santa costumes for children.

I'll post pictures of our tiny Christmas tree tonight after Max and I decorate it, but I had a sweet little moment on the bus on my way home.  I took the Arab bus home from Damascus gate and I ended up sitting by a little Palestinian boy, maybe 10 years old.  I always get a little nervous in these situations because I don't want to sully anyone's purity by my wanton Westernness, so I try to be pretty cautious.

I was looking straight ahead when out of the corner of my eye I saw the tall tip of my Christmas Tree that was sticking out of the bag start to wobble back and forth.  I didn't think a lot of it until it happened again, the top moving faster back and forth.  When I looked down the third time I saw the little boy next to me quickly retracting his hand after flicking the top of the Christmas tree with this index finger.  He had a little mischievous look on his face and my Christmas heart soared.  I showed him the Christmas lights and how the rest of the branches could unfolded to make the tree fuller.  I didn't know how appropriate it was to flaunt my cheap Christmas tree around on the Arab bus so I tried to keep it fairly discreet.  He kept leaning over at points in the journey and flicking it before shoving his hand back onto his lap.  

My young amigo almost ruined the moment when he tried to get a little fresh with my knee after flicking the top of the tree one time, but a quick and fierce "la-ah" took care of that.  It wouldn't be Jerusalem without 10 year olds mildly harassing you, I guess.    

I came home to find that my dear Grandmother had sent me a package with a jingle bell door hangar and Christmas candy.  Max and I are going to decorate the Christmas tree tonight and listen to Sting's steamy Christmas album.  What could be better?          


For My Mother - Who Loves Corn

We're Back, In A Big Way

After a near death flu experience, we're back.

And we have great news!

Max just learned yesterday that he has been put on the registrar for the State Department!  My little brother actually read the letter to us over the phone and we couldn't have imagined a better way to find out, Matt.  This means he passed all the background checks, medical checks, and final suitability panel.  It means we almost have a job!  After he is put on the list, depending on where he is on said list, he will be invited to an A-100 training class in D.C.  The class lasts about 7 weeks and then we ship off to...wherever.

It's all a matter of timing at this point.  Max's score is pretty high and with an Arabic language bonus we feel like he has good odds of getting invited to a class soon.  However, he has committed to this foundation that has paid a hefty sum for him to be here in Jerusalem.  So the plan now is to finish the school year, come home to Utah in July and spend a bit of time with our family before heading out to an A-100 class in the fall.  That would be ideal, but we aren't really sure when the class will be after we get home, or how to secure a spot.  Once you're on the list you wait for an invite, and then you wait anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months until the class actually begins.  Max will talk to the HR rep today and see what information he can gather, but we are hoping to put our names on a "hold" list for about 6 months or so.  Maybe in May or June we will "un-hold" and hope that we get invited to the next class in D.C.   

But we are pretty sure that our plans are to come home this summer!  Max will have a year of graduate school under his belt and hopefully the State Department can send him back after a few tours to finish it - at their expense :) 

We must have known good news was coming because we celebrated before learning of this at the local Elvis Diner.  Yes, an American Elvis diner in Abu Gosh - between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  We had Cheeseburgers and Chocolate Milkshakes.  And I even got a take home mug!  It was initially going to serve as our Thanksgiving away from home (can you believe i didn't even cook!) but celebration of more Foreign Service steps accomplished seems like a good reason too.


I don't know, should you be creating weapons?

My Max has the flu.  It hasn't been diagnosed to be of the piggy variety at this point, but he's on bed rest for at least three days.

Last night he woke up in a panic and tried to mumble something to me with serious urgency in his voice.  I couldn't understand him for a few times in a row, and then he paused, collected himself and said

"Under the circumstances, do you think I should be creating weapons?"

I tried not to giggle at him in his Tylenol PM induced slumber, but it was hard.



Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank and the second holiest city in Judaism.  It is also Holy to both Christians and Muslims as it bears the tomb of Abraham as well as Sarah, Issaac, Jacob, Rebecca, and Leah.   The “Tomb of the Patriarchs” where these tombs are housed is the Muslim “Mosque of Ibrahimi” on one side and a Jewish Synagogue on the other - with separate entrances.  

As you can imagine, Hebron has been witness to a lot of violence and controversy in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.   There is currently a large contingent of what many refer to as “Jewish Settlers” and the town is described as unbearably tense.  The settlers see themselves as reclaiming land that historically and religiously is rightfully theirs, and the Palestinians see them as intruders into their city and way of life.  The violence has been intense coming from both sides and Hebron has gotten a pretty bad rap.  Fairly so.     

We have wanted to see Hebron, but probably would not have of our own devices.  A friend of ours from Bethlehem offered to take us to Hebron almost 2 months ago.  He’s a local, Arabic speaking, Muslim looking man, and tough as nails to boot so we took him up on the offer. 

(Here we are at the tomb of the Patriarchs.  That is me in the funny hooded thing.  Mosque garb - what can I say?  The tombs are all covered in big green covers.  Muslims believe Abraham was the first Muslim)

I have read accounts of Hebron as hostile, scary, broke-down, hellish, and many other things. While I don’t doubt that those accounts have been and are true at times, our short trip went very well. Even though a good portion of the old city was closed down (probably due to lack of visitors) the working portion of the city for locals was pretty busy with people and goods for sale. All I can really say is that on the particular day that we visited Hebron we did not feel threatened or victims of hostility in any way. Any other given day might have held a different outcome, but our visit was informative, thought provoking, and even enjoyable as we visited a small local candy shop.

I feel hesitant to even bring up our moment of enjoyment in a city where a lot of violence and even death have occurred, where daily life is strained to the point of combustion; but maybe that is reason to mention it all the more. People make candy in Hebron. There is a nice old man that makes Turkish delight-ish treats that come in both yellow and pink. He was really embarrassed that I was taking pictures of him and after I caught him in one, he was sure to skedaddle around the corner. But that any semblance of normal life, and something as purely pleasure bringing as candy making and selling, takes place in Hebron was a nice idea to me.


Jordan Revisted, As Promised

It’s like a little Jordan sandwich! We introduced our Jordan trip, got sidetracked and filled the sandwich with other things, and now we are back to the Jordan trip. Bon appetite!

You can read the first part of our trip by following this link. After leaving Hassan’s shop (pictured), we headed for the Al-Pasha Turkish Hammam. The Hammam, as we soon learned, is pretty much a public bath where someone else baths you. You wear your swimming suit…but it’s a little weird all the same. The process is as follows:

1) You shower off your outside muck and then you sit in a ridiculously hot steam room for 15 minutes. I mean, deathly hot. They bring you a cold hibiscus drink half way through, but that didn’t help me much. When Max was finished (they separate the men from the women) he proudly told me that he outlasted two Arabs in the steam room. What a man I’ve got.

2) You take another shower and then sit in a Jacuzzi until a masseuse/scrubber is free.

3) A nice Iraqi man named Fadl/Morrocon woman whose name I can’t remember scoured and scrubbed and peeled away layers of both Max and my skin, respectively.

4) Then you get a massage, on a marble slab, followed by a douse of water over your head.

And that’s a Turkish bath. We felt like Romans of old. The pictures on the web are very ancient looking. We actually really enjoyed our afternoon, but it was still a little bit odd.

After the Hamman we went back to out Hostel that, if you recall, cost only $11 dollars per night. It made us sad. I mean we survived, but….well, click on this pic to see the look on Max’s face.

The next day we spent with Hassan and his family in their living room. I offered up my pitiable Arabic vocabulary, but Max carried on most of the conversation. A few of Hassan’s children speak some English and so we practiced counting to 10 a few times. We were, of course, fed a wonderful Jordanian dish of roasted chicken, rice with nuts and raisins, and Tabbouleh.  This is only part of Hassan's Family, he has 6 kids total. 

That evening we strolled around Downtown Amman looking at the King Abdullah (the first) Mosque. We weren’t allowed in at that time, but outside was pretty impressive.

The trek home was absolutely awful. We got to the Jordanian border ok, but the bus trip across the bridge and subsequent experience at the Israeli nearly put us over the edge. I think I’ll let old man Stoneman tell you about this in the next post though.

 Downtown Amman

King Abdullah Mosque

Hassan in his shop.  He showed us a piece he is submitting to Dubai for a conference in a few months.


Such Beautiful Things!

Penguin books has a new collection of classics covered in cloth with fabulous prints.  I'm speechless!


Oh yeah, I have a job

I have been working for an American NGO in the Middle East that teaches English to Arab speaking people.  It has been wonderful for me in so many ways.  My 6 week course is actually almost over and I'm quite sad about it.  But here is a bit from an email I sent to a friend telling her about it.

I am teaching an ESL class to 8 Palestinian Adults in East Jerusalem also. It has brought me more joy than I could have hoped for. I thought it would be more stressfull than it was rewarding or enjoyable for me, but I am finding it easier and easier the more I do it and I absolutely love my students. I have two High School boys that I want to kidnap and take home because they are so smiley and adorable. I also have one 40 something man and 5 middle aged women. Two of them wear the headscarf and the other three exhibit varying degrees of conservatism.  

I have made particular friends with 23 year old Ala’. She has been married for just over a year and has a little baby girl named Malek. She has actually started bringing me treats, which I have to figure out how to curtail without insulting her honor. I’ve decided to really try learning Arabic in earnest and after this class is over we are going to meet up once a week so she can help me with Arabic and I will help her with English. 

I feel like I’m actually doing something tangible to help the Palestinian people. Having a voice matters so greatly in this debate and the more people I can help express themselves to their leaders and the world in a language better accepted by the world, the more their voices will be heard.  Voices are ultimately the antidote to violence.  The “you love who you serve” bit couldn’t be more true. I am even getting paid, but when I ride out of Beit Hanina every Sunday and Wednesday I just want to wrap my arms around it and make the future’s of these people easier and more hopeful.

I also want to add a small note about the terrible tragedy at Fort Hood.  I have seen a disturbing development in the media as some try to make the connection between this troubled and deeply errant Muslim to the entire Islamic faith.  Some have suggested, with a wink and a nod, that Islam was the catalyst for this tragedy.  Violence of this nature is always senseless and to suggest that it represents a truth about the effects or intent of Islam is simply untrue.  People suffered greatly and their families will continue to suffer, but we would be wise to avoid making ill conceived assumptions about Muslims throughout the world.

We're Churchin' it Up

on the Barry Gibb talk show

Here are the details of our nerdulous date this weekend. Previously in the week I visited some sites with a friend and we learned that the St. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter was 1) very cool and 2) hardly ever open. They told us that it would be open the next day between 3:00-3:30, so I thought I’d bring Max…for a date.

We got to the church at about 3:10 and it’s a good thing because they closed the door not 5 minutes after we arrived. Actually, they told everyone that they had to leave the church and that it was closed, but I noticed a group of tourists huddled around a black robed priest in the corner. They didn’t appear to be going anywhere and with this priests blessing, so we sneaked over and tried to fade into the small group. I only got nervous once when I looked back an saw the giant wooden doors were closed shut behind us. Whether or not we had intended to, we had become committed to this group and this mini-tour. I scoured the group looking for a tour guide looking person who would certainly turn around when the priest was done and ask us for a lot of money. (He would be the one who looked sweaty and bored with the giant flag tucked into his backpack for tourists to see in the crowd.) Turns out there was no such order to the group, and after an almost whispered explanation of the church history we were let out of the medieval church into the sunny courtyard.

But the church! It was really something. Armenia was the first nation to officially accept Christianity and they did what every Christian group of old did, they went to Jerusalem and claimed them a holy spot. The church is said to reside on the tombs of both St. James the brother of Jesus and St. James the Apostle. Two James’ – what a coincidence! It existed in various states starting in the 5th century, but the current edifice dates to the 12th century with 18th century additions. It is a great cavernous, lamp lit cave of a church and quite stunning. There are, of course, several gaudy alters and golden d├ęcor covering most of them; but the floors are covered with blue and white tiles and simple rugs fill the nave instead of benches. The ceilings are draped with medieval oil lamps called “ganteghs”. Pictures aren’t allowed (nor is putting your hands in your pockets or crossing your legs – I was told to “sit properly” by a surly young priest) but I found a few on the internets.

After our short time in the St. James Cathedral we hurried through the quarter to the Church of St. Marks. I have mentioned this church before, but what I didn’t tell you (or Max for that matter) was that nice Justina told me that they hold services every Friday night at 5:00 in Aramaic, the language that Jesus most likely spoke in his daily life. I covered up my head and wore long sleeves at the behest of Justina who motioned to my bare arms below the elbow and told me to dress a little nicer next time.


Really, Yahoo Reviews Cathedrals Now?

Christmas Music Revisited

Things I still bought after my last post:
Bing Crosby/David Bowie: Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth

Barnaked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan:  We Three Kings/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Josh Groban: Ave Maria & Oh Come all Ye Faithful with the MoTab (I succumbed!)

Neil Diamond: Oh Come, oh Come Emmanuel (What's Christmas without the Diamond?)

Barbra Streisand: Jingle Bells

The Holly and the Ivy: Ripon Cathedral Choir - Max asked me to find a version with "4 to 12 voices" and I did.  So picky that one.

Kings College Choir: A few gems on the recommendation of a good and musically savvy friend.

Riu Riu Chiu: When the King Singers sang it with the MoTab.  One of my favorites!

Mormon Tabernacle Choir: Some of my favorites with Audra Mcdonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Renee Flemming

Warm December: Brushfire Holidays, Vol 1. - A collection of songs (new and old) by independent-type artists like Mason Jennings, Neil Halstead, Jack Johnson and Rogue Wave.  Really cool.  

Things I didn't buy because they were lame: 
Hall and Oats:  Oh Holy Night

Bob Dylan's Christmas Album:  It's a big commercial 'to heck with you' - it's Awful (capital A)

Things I'm Thrilled About:
Sting: If On a Winter's Night- it's a collection of Old English tunes.  So great.

Things I'm Disappointed In: 
 Prepare your gasps...James Taylor's Christmas Album was less than impressive to us.  His version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside' is Calypso madness  and creepy to boot.  Maybe it will grow on us, but it didn't feel fresh or hearken back to the classic Christmas tunes of our childhoods.  oh.

And I think I've prematurely spend my birthday money on Christmas music.  But what a way to spend it, right?

Things I Already Have that I'm Pumped About:
 Martin Sexton: Welcome to the Camp - a folky Christmas album with only a little bit of indulgence (Welcome to the Camp?  Come on)  One of my favorite Artists and one of my favorite seasons.   


Someone Take the Computer Away from Me!

I just spent $40 on Christmas music from Itunes in 5 minutes!

(If you are wondering what I bought....John Rutter's Christmas Album, Sarah McLachlan's Christmas Album, James Taylor Christmas and Sting's Old English Christmas Album.  Most Merry of Christmases)


Week update...well, the fun stuff

This week I pretty much stayed cooped up in my house...and almost lost my mind.  By the time I finished homework and such it was too late to go out and I just laid in my bed being excited about all the things I wanted to go out and do, but also be frustrated that I hadn't gone out that day.  I was so busy because I actually did all of my homework this week!  I know, novel.   But today I got to shake a leg in the old city with a friend and it was one of my favorite wandery days.  I feel like I'm "seeing the sights" but also "getting down with the people".

These are some of the people I met today:

Hadda and her mother were making date cookies to sell at the Arab Orthodox Society Holiday Bazaar tomorrow.  I made eye contact with Hadda as we were walking down the road through the open front door and she invited us in.  We sat in her kitchen for a short while exchanging what little Arabic/English we knew (respectively) and she kept thrusting blobs of brown date past at us to eat.  I might be sick tomorrow, but it was certainly worth it.  Max and I are going to drop by the Bazaar tomorrow and see if we can find her.

I didn't get Mr. Painterman's name, but he showed me how he stencils and then paints his Armenian Pottery before glazing and cooking it.  Actually, I asked if he "cooked" it and he said yes,  but after I left I realized that you "fire" pottery.  "Amateur hour!"  Anyway, his shop was really neat and he let me take a picture only if he didn't have to look up.

I have literally been waiting for months to take this picture.  I saw this man (who I call CobblerWobbler in my mind, for no reason at all) on one of our very first visits to the old city and I wanted so desperately to catch him "in the act" as it were. The time never came because of the light, I was without my camera, there were a lot of people, I was too shy and many other reasons.  Today it wasn't very crowded and when I saw him fixing what looked to be one of these girl's shoes (or maybe there mother's) I sneaked out my camera and took this picture.  Well worth the wait.

His shop is just wide enough for him and his sewing machine to fit in the mouth of...well, a cave in the old city.  Rad.

Not a person, but an awesome thousand year old book that Justina at showed me at St. Mark's Church (alternate "last supper/Pentecost location, home of Mother of Mark, baptismal sight of the Virgin Mary, and self proclaimed "First Church in Christianity").  I'm not sure if it's the 4 gospels, or just the gospel of Mark.

A donkey.  Don't worry Burt, you are still our number one burro.   

In other news, I have the world's nerdiest secret date planned for Max tomorrow.  Sshhh, I'll tell you about later....but it involves Aramaic!


"And David danced before the Lord with ALL his might": Day 6

Tsfat/Safed was amazing.  We were only there for one afternoon and a crazy evening.  I'll let these pictures we took of Safed-ian street dancers do the talking. 

And that's it for our trip. We had a marvelous time and got to see a lot of Israel's North. ...and C.J.'s beardy Jewish twin dancing on the streets in Safed.


A Spin Around the Sea of Galilee: Day 5

Moving on (regarding our trip up north).  After studying the map for a bit we decided to take a spin around the Sea of Galilee. Tiberias is on the south western side of the lake and we decided to make a counterclockwise journey around the lake before heading up to Tsfat. After driving for a while we passed the “Yardenit Baptismal Site” where many claim that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. If you know me, I’m not very big into the “place” frenzy here in Jerusalem. What matters to me is that Christ lives and his gospel is real, but Max and I had a particularly moving experience at the baptismal site.

It wasn’t overly crowded like in the summer and we got to see a few smaller groups doing their baptism thing. We saw a group of what looked and sounded like evangelicals (some speaking Portuguese Max pointed out) all dressed in white getting baptized by the water’s edge. Some of them jumped out of the water yelling “hallelujah”, others cried, and still others were emotional but a little embarrassed about being so public (and so underdressed – those white shields do not offer a lot of coverage…).

There was a very small moment taking place just in front of us where a Dad took his teenage girl into the water to baptize her while the mother looked on. Very sweet.

But perhaps my favorite was a small group of three priests of the Greek Orthodox Church who were swimming around in the river just after baptizing a couple. Most of the Greek Orthodox men I’ve seen around the city are very serious, very reserved, and very “hard” looking. In Jerusalem they where they long black robes and black hats and they usually have very long beards and long hair. Their buildings here are very ornate and filled with gold everything – they are usually constructed in caves and crusader constructions, so the spaces are often times dank, dark, and mysterious. But these three priests had their shoes off and were swimming around in the river with such joy. They were talking to each other and splashing a bit. When they got out of the water, black garb soaking wet, they sat around and read a few scriptures, sang a few beautiful songs, and “shot the breeze” as much as someone in their position can. It was the first time I have seen the seriousness and over dramatic decorating I associate with the Greek Orthodox give way to something that looked more like Jesus would have been doing in this spot so many years ago. I still can’t get over the sight of their bare feet, kicking around in the water and then being propped up on the stones around the river’s edge. It donned on me that maybe this more relaxed attitude is a product of being in the Galilee instead of Jerusalem. People are always talking about the tension in Jerusalem, and it doesn’t really bother me, but perhaps it imbues the religious stalwarts of Jerusalem with an added level of intensity.