25 October 2008

Day in Jerusalem

Too many things have happened since I last posted to discuss them all in detail, so I'll give a few highlights from an enjoyable day in the city last week.

This is, if I do say so myself, a rather good picture of the Dormition Abbey. I'm not sure what the original use of the Abbey was, I'm sure there were nuns at some point, however now it is mainly a chapel for worship of whatever Christian denomination owns it, and it also is built over the burial place of the Virgin Mary. Apparently every time the Christians in whatever century it was that they arrived here (Crusade times) found a site they thought was holy they built a church on it. This is no exception, and we were able to go down to the bottom and see what they consider the resting place of Mary. It was unclear as to whether or not photographs were allowed, the guy downstairs did not speak much English, so I waited until he wasn't paying attention to take this picture:
Speaking of Mary, we also got to see the little hole in the wall that is her birthplace. Anyway, also near the Dormition Abbey is the sight of the Last Supper, King David's tomb, and a small Holocaust Museum.

...I would load pictures but my internet is doing weird things, and I need to go to bed so I can get up and study before my Hebrew midterm in the morning. So sorry about the lack of information, however we are going to Jordan Monday through Thursday and I promise to talk about it when we get back. Woohoo Indiana Jones!

13 October 2008

Where is my stick?

We went on my favorite field trip thus far yesterday. Neot Kedumim, Ancient Pastures, a place where we learned about daily life in biblical times.

The idea behind the creation of Neot Kedumim was that people will not understand the Bible if they do not understand the landscape. So, we spent the entire day going around Neot Kedumim and discussing phrases and words commonly found in the Bible (ie. shepherds, still waters, land of milk and honey, the cedar and the hyssop, and bad fruit) and how when we understand what they meant in the context of either herding or farming we can understand the analogies of the Bible so much better.

Our first activity was the art of sheep herding. It definitely takes skill, as well as good leadership. (I was quite tempted to type "leadersheep" but refrained, although I suppose by telling you my terrible pun not using it was moot. Oh well.) Here are some of our group herding sheep. There are some techniques to sheep herding: create boundaries, stay behind the sheep, be calm but aggressive, and make sure to communicate with the lead goat. In this picture they seem to be doing quite well, although all of the groups had some problems. We were supposed to lead them from one circle to another and make them stand in the circles for 30 seconds. The record was to complete the task in 3 minutes, which our guide said was excellent time. I must say, for first time sheep herders I think we did a pretty good job.
So we always have to have an application to our lessons, right? Leadership applications seem fairly obvious: create boundaries (if you let them run amok you aren't leading), stay behind the sheep (lead from the back, give them direction and guidance but let allow them to move forward on their own), be calm but aggressive (don't scare them and have confidence), and pay attention to the lead goat (many leaders have strong people within the group who help them to lead).

Our next big adventure was making an oregano-like spice out of hyssop, salt, sumac, and sesame seeds. First, of course, we discussed what hyssop is. In the Bible it seems to always be paired with cedar trees, "He spoke about the trees, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the rock" (1 Kings 5:13) and we learned why that is. The cedar tree is a symbol of pride, cedars are very high maintenance trees that need lots of water, good soil, lots of care, and really aren't good for anything except shade. Hyssop, on the other hand, is the symbol of humility. It grows on the ground and is quite ugly. It is also used as a spice (like we made) as well as in medicines; whenever someone was cured of leprosy in Bible times hyssop was part of the cure (see Leviticus 14:2-4). This is me, of course, pounding our hyssop spice with a mortar and pestal. Who knew they used those in Israel as well as the Americas?

The whole field trip was really low-key, and I enjoyed the active parts of it. I always like our field trips to see places, but this time it was nice to be able to participate. On Wednesday we will be going to Yad Vashem. I suspect it may be my favorite and hardest field trip of the semester. We'll see.

Never Again

While the Jerusalem Center was being built, James E. Faust (part of the leadership of the Church who was very invested in the creation of the Center) requested that it not only be a place of learning on the inside but on the outside as well. Because of this, they placed three different olive presses on the grounds, as well as hundreds of olive trees. We were fortunate enough to pick the olives last week, and this afternoon we were able to crush the olives that we had picked to make olive oil.

The trees are beautiful. This particular tree is 500 years old and from the Galilee. It was transplanted at the Center in 1987 and as it was dying at the time, the landscaper (who still works for the Center) grafted other branches into the tree to heal it, and it worked. Brother Huntington told us this story and rather forcefully added that it was his favorite tree and we'd better not harm it or fall out of it while picking the olives. Yes, sir. Picking was quite enjoyable even while making sure not to harm the trees, it took 81 students plus four teachers and their wives and the five kids also here about two or three hours each day we picked (we only picked olives for two days) and I'm sure we still did not get them all off the trees. We got a little sticky, and there was a lot of tree climbing involved, but it was super fun. Some of the trees are huge; I sat on the shoulders of a guy in our group who is probably 6'2'' or 6'3'' and I still couldn't reach the top of the tree on which we were working. Of course, if I were taller it may have worked better.

We learned today from one of our professors that there are five steps to olive oil making: 1) Gather olives. Check. 2) Separate the olives for pickling and for oil. In biblical times each family would have had an olive press and there would have been at least one member of each family who was an expert olive separator. We did not separate the olives. 3) Crack or break the skin so the oil can come out.

The cracking is done in this machine. It took five people to push it around, and it took probably 15-20 minutes to get the olives cracked enough to move onto step four. It was fun to move the wheel around, and it was really interesting to watch it rotate; it doesn't roll like you would imagine it too, but rather it sort of scoots along in an awkward non-circular shape that is probably not describable. We had someone going around behind with a shovel scraping the olives down into the middle so that they would get crushed, a lot like the idea of scraping the sides of a mixing bowl when you're making a batter of some sort. And, as I'm sure you can see, it was quite messy.

So once the cracking is complete, the next step is 4) Crush the pulp, which has been gathered in baskets. This part was even more messy than the cracking, we picked up all the olive pulp with our hands to put them into the baskets (which were also disgusting because they had been full of olive pulp previously). Unfortunately, the olive juice appears to stain as well, so some people will now have clothing with Jerusalem stories permanently dyed into them. So it goes.

There were two different olive presses that we used once all of the pulp was into the baskets. They do the same thing, put so much pressure onto the olives that they squeeze out the olive oil, they just have different methods to the same end result. As you can see, we put the baskets of pulp underneath the large corkscrew-like log (I'm sure it has a name, I just don't know what that might be) and then we would rotate it so that it becomes compressed and the olives release their oil. While Brother Skinner was telling us about the olive oil process prior to going out and experiencing it ourselves, he told us that on good harvest years the oil will for a few seconds turn red as it is first coming out of the pressed olives. It only happens with the very first olives and only for a small amount of time, and then the oil will turn back to it's golden color, but he said he has seen it. I was not in the first group to crush olives today, so I do not know if this occurred with our olives this year.

Step is to 5) Let the oil settle. There is water in the holes that catch all the oil and they told us that by tomorrow morning the oil and the water will have separated (we all know that oil and water go through this phenomenon I hope) and they will be able to take the oil off the top. Anciently, people used the olive oil for cooking, cleaning, lighting, heating, and healing, as well as many other uses. We too use oil that frequently, but it is no longer limited to olive oil.

Field Trips are so much cooler than they were in 4th grade

I apologize for my lack of postage the past ten days, and the only excuse I have is three field trips, three midterms, and several Jewish holidays right in a row. However, I hope to redeem myself in the next two hours before dinner.

As I mentioned, we went on a few field trips the past week and a half, and I would like to discuss portions of them. Last Monday and Tuesday we had an all day field trip and then a half day field trip, so we were busy. We visited several Old Testament sites and were able to discuss events on location, which is always cool. We saw where Sampson grew up, Lachish (the second most important city in Judea, and the one that was always conquered second to last when first the Israelites, then the Syrians, and then the Babylonians -- Jerusalem being the most important, of course), and the Valley of Elah where David slew Goliath.Oh look, there's the valley.

The hill to the left of the photo with all the trees is where the camp of Israel would have been, and the hill behind it that is partially obscured would have been where the Philistines and Goliath camped. Visualize them shouting threats at each other across the valley, and Goliath coming down for 40 days and none of the Israelites were brave enough to face his challenge. Being a class excited about participation as well as intellectual discussion, we also went down into the valley and got to sling (sling? Is that the correct verb? TO SLING: sling, slung, have slung. Interesting.) stones into a farmer's field. Poor farmer.

It's really hard to do. Well, not entirely true, slinging stones was very difficult for me to do. Some people were really good at it; some were worse than me and we tried to stay as far away from those individuals as possible so as not to get nailed in the head by a baseball-sized rock. I no longer doubt the validity of the account in 1 Samuel, Goliath could certainly have been killed by a stone to the head if the slinger were strong and accurate enough, and if he had a decent sized stone. Thank goodness I will never be battling the Philistines or 9 foot tall giants.

The next day we crossed the border into the West Bank and went to Jericho. Crossing the border is interesting, Brother Huntington (our director) said that sometimes they stop us and ask for passports and sometimes they don't. They didn't, the soldier (who looked younger than me, and I have been mistaken for 17) just talked to the bus driver for at most 30 seconds and we went through. However, any of the Israeli members of the staff at the center are not allowed to go across the border, which means they cannot come on any field trips to the West Bank.

Jericho was cool on multiple levels. The Old Testament one, of course, is in regards to Joshua. Quick refresher for those of us who aren't up to speed on our Bible stories, after the Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years and Moses dies, the Lord tells Joshua (new prophet) that they can enter the promised land. To do this, they must conquer the city of Jericho, but the Lord wants to do it His way which was to have the priests walk around the city once every day for six days, and on the seventh day they walked around seven times. At the conclusion of the march, they were supposed to blow the shofars (rams horn) and the walls fell down. They killed every living thing inside the city except Rahab and her family because she protected Joshua's spies when they came into the land.

Would you like to see the wall that came crashing down? Oh here, I think I have a photo of it. I'm standing in front of the wall, and the break that you see would have been where the gate was. If I remember correctly, this would have been part of the inner gate (they had an inner and outer wall as it offers more protection, although I suppose if God wants the walls to come down it doesn't really matter how many of them you have). Oh, and since I suspect the question might come up, I have not been listening to Megan's ipod (thanks Megan!) at all of these cool sites. The reason for the earphones is that our teacher always has a microphone on to talk to us so that if we're spread out at whatever site it might be we can still hear the information regarding the location and we don't have to try and crowd 40+ people in a very small space. It's a nice use of technology.

The other super interesting thing about the Old Testament Jericho (there is also a New Testament Jericho site, as well as Jericho where people currently live) is that it looks out onto a refugee camp. Coincidentally, it is the same refugee camp where our director, Brother Huntington, went to study during his PhD work; he spent several years with a few other students studying the refugee situation after the Israeli War of Independence, and one of the camps he went to was visible from Jericho. Some refugee facts for you:
  • There are 5.5 million Palestinian refugees in the world and only 4 million Palestinians living in Palestine (West Bank and Gaza).
  • Although settlement between Israel and Palestine has been discussed, part of the problem is that the Palestinians want either the option for the refugees to move back to their land or complete compensation. Can you imagine a country the size of Israel -- or any country for that matter -- compensating 5.5 million refugees?
  • Many of the refugees have the option to move out of the refugee camps but refuse because they have more international mobility as refugees, and if they no longer have refugee status then the refugees have a smaller voice because the numbers will go down.
  • Refugees receive an excellent education. That's one thing the U.N. does well, they come into the refugee camps and set up schools for kindergarten through ninth grade, and they are very good schools. We could see the school clearly from our view at Jericho. It is the building with the blue U.N. flags flying.

03 October 2008

JC Prank

I have ten minutes until class and thought I would share an amusing anectode. At least, I think it is amusing.

Tuesday night we had a "girls night" here at the Center, involving movies (She's the Man), nail polish, loud giggling, and stories about boys. Actually, really only one story about a fiancé back home. The boys were not allowed, of course, so for two or three hours they were off doing who knows what.

After girls night I went to check my e-mail, so I did not return to my room until all my roommates had gone back. I arrived to find one roommate pulling her mattress off her bed and the other two (along with two or three other girls) yelling quite loudly about things I did not understand. When they calmed down enough to talk somewhat coherently, I discovered that three of our four beds had been turned around. Now, why is this such a big deal? Well, each of our beds has a large drawer underneath, where I keep things like pants, pajamas, my flute, etc. The beds that had been turned had their drawers facing the wall, so we could not get into the drawers. It took a while to get the beds turned back as they are rather heavy, and we really don't have that much floor space on which to move them (see earlier post with bedroom pictures). However, we moved all three back as they should be and contemplated why someone would want to turn our beds, and why they only turned three of the four. Because of girls night and the bed situation, we did not actually go to bed until almost 1:00AM.

At 2:00AM I was awakened by an unusual buzzing/beeping sound. I could not figure out what it was, but it sounded as though it was underneath the bed next to mine. My roommate woke up as well, but we could not place the sound and as soon as it stopped we went back to sleep. However, about 5 minutes later it started again and we realized it was some sort of alarm. I got my headlamp and we lifted her bed and looked under it, but could not find anything. We waited for it to start a third time and then thought to check inside her drawer -- and way in the back of the drawer was a cell phone with the alarm set for 2:00AM. I immediately turned to my dresser to get my own cell phone and see if it too was set, but could not find it. We discovered that the phone inside her drawer was actually my own, and upon further searching found another phone in my own bed drawer with the alarm set for 3:00AM. By this time a third roommate was awake, and we spent a while searching for the other two phones. We found one untouched, although I am unsure as to why that was, but the fourth went undiscovered until its alarm sounded at 4:00AM, waking three of the four of us.

Thank goodness for free days and sleeping in until 10:00.