Friday, December 17, 2004


I've been thinking a lot about love lately.  Normally when I get this way I turn into a somewhat removed theorist--waxing hypotheses in a detached, pragmatic way.  Love is such and such, to love is to dot dot dot.  Now I have no theories, no definitions or philosophies or even concrete ideas.  My mind has simply wrapped itself around a short refrain that repeats itself over and over in my head: 

Risk it!  Risk everything!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A little stream of consciousness

I'm getting tired of writing about the things I'm doing here--the parties and the sightseeing, the classes and the papers, what have you.  All these external things--even the extraordinary place where I live--all of these refuse to penetrate at the moment, and I'm left walking around inside my own head.  Not walking.  More like treading water.

I am not unhappy.  I am not even panicky or anxious.  I am just confused.

We only get one life, you see.  We either use it to seek truth, or we give up and start to collect things.  I want to be good, I want to be kind, I want to be pure of heart, but I don't know if I want to look for truth anymore.  Suddenly it seems very, very silly, like investing in something that will never yield any actual result, that will never make any visible impact, that will merely serve as some sort of spiritual pacifier that calms me but doesn't nourish me, eases everything but changes nothing.  I don't want to cling to something because it makes life more bearable or makes me feel like a part of something or gives me a sense of identity.  I want to believe in something because it's true, not just for me but for everybody, and this, this I suspect may not exist at all.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


This has been a rough week.  I'm battling a shapeless little loneliness here, and it's tiring.  I'm having another of those disconnected days--I want to plug myself in somewhere, lean on something for balance, only there's no place, really, for me to go.

Monday, December 06, 2004

It's been a rough week

I went to a party last Thursday night.  It was fun, I suppose, but not terribly.  Anyway, the point is, apparently someone stole my bank card right out of my purse that night.  I had it in a small pocket--I'd left my wallet at home--along with some cash.  The next day the cash was still there, but the card was gone.  At first I figured that I must've taken it out and lost it or something, so I wasn't too worried.  But then last night I checked out my account information online and there were $250 worth of charges that I didn't make.  I spent the better part of the evening on the telephone to USbank cancelling the card.  So I'll get a new one within a week or two, but meanwhile I have no access to cash.  Blech.  Who would steal a bank card from someone's purse at a party?  Am unhappy about the whole affair.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

I am not really here right now

I've mostly been back in Cleveland the past few days since I heard that a friend's stepfather, who I've known for years, passed away.  I've been in this kind of surreal stupor, trying not to think too much about what happened or worry about Sangeeta, trying to concentrate on my work and on my friends here, but I find myself dialing her number quite a bit and she's never home.  I wonder if she would rather people not call for a while, if she would rather be left alone.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

No news is good news

I've been going through a bit of a clumsy spell.  Yesterday I knocked over a chair in the cafeteria, and then later, as I was trying to sneak out of class early, I managed to spill the entire contents of my backpack onto the floor with a remarkable clatter.  These things happen to me sometimes.

Am in the middle of midterms, three down and two to go.  I have no idea how I did on the papers, but I think I did okay on the Arabic test, in spite of all my fears.  Maybe I am learning something after all.

I haven't been up to that much lately.  Went out to dinner the other night, had a few drinks with some friends last night, the usual passing of the days.  But I feel satisfied and full, as if I've lived here a long time; my life has taken on an easy rhythm.  I am happy, I guess.

Israel has also been pretty quiet.  Kati wants me to write more about what's going on here, but the truth is I rarely know.  I read somewhere that attacks on Israelis have gone down 70% since Arafat died, but that strikes me as an odd statistic.  Everything else--moving along, hunkering down for winter, settling.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


It's freezing in Jerusalem.  It rained all weekend, and yet I still braved the streets for Thanksgiving dinner at my friend's house.  There were three enormous tables set up in their living room, around which sat forty or fifty (mostly non-American) friends.  They made everyone say something they were thankful for, but I and the rest of the cynics waited on the balcony until that part was over.  It's not that I'm not thankful or anything, it's just that I knew maybe ten of the people there, and I'm not much for public speaking.

So we ate and made merry, and I endured the usual barrage of American jokes (we killed the Indians after Thanksgiving, we have no table manners, no real know the drill), but mostly it was a really good time.  In the end, Luise and I ended up at Dave's in a really silly mood, and sat laughing and talking about nothing until 3:30 in the morning.  A nice Thanksgiving, in spite of the homesickness that comes with the territory.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I am procrastinating

I am working on this instead of my mini-paper that's due tomorrow, which I have been avoiding all week.  It's a critical review of (part of) Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise.  This shouldn't be so difficult, but I'm at a loss as to how to begin.  My solution: type.  Anything.  Thus here I am, hoping the very feel of keys beneath my fingertips will trigger some kind of reaction in my writing faculty.

Soon I leave to go into town with some girls for dinner.  I don't go out to eat very often, unless you count the cafeterias at University, so I'm looking forward to food I don't have to prepare and/or clean up.  I'm also looking forward to the same thing tomorrow night, when I go to my friend Dave's for Thanksgiving dinner, and don't need to cook anything at all.  Apparently there are like forty people coming, much bigger than my little intimate Thanksgiving last year.

Anyway, suddenly I have an idea.  So off to work I go.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Week five

Went to several parties this weekend.  At the first one, the police came three times before one o'clock.  They always come, and they're always nice, but they pretty much broke up the party.  I didn't mind so much though, as it had suddenly turned into one of those predatory parties where Luise and I were practically the only girls left in a sea of men.  I felt like a little bunny, about to be pounced on. 

The next day, Shimon, Luise's exiled ex-roomate, threw a little get-together at his new apartment, right smack next to the emergency room at the hospital.  We ate sushi and drank banana and vodka shakes.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Yesterday I did barely anything at all.  It was shabbat, after all.  I did manage to finish my Arabic and a little reading, and I made pasta for myself and Luise, who has taken to sleeping over every Saturday night.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


So I wrote the first of my mid-term essays and saved it to a disk to print out at school, and somehow the disk was all messed up and I lost all the corrections and the conclusion to the paper, which I (stupidly) forgot to save to my computer.  It took me an hour and a half to write the entire essay, and it has taken me two days to reconstruct a single paragraph.  I find this extremely annoying.  I literally cannot remember how I ended it before, and cannot for the life of me pull it together now.  Am incensed.  (is that how you spell that?)

So now I have to finish it, as well as some critical review of some Spinoza article.  Hooray.  I feel really loaded down with work this semester.  Arabic is 100 times more difficult than last year, and Hebrew moves so fast I can't keep up.  I'm spinning all around!  But overall, I am too busy to be depressed or anxious most of the time.  I almost feel completely back to normal.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Last Thursday I went to my friend Danai's house in Abu Tor, East Jerusalem, to have the evening Ramadan meal with her family.  Their home was really beautiful, and we ate until our sides hurt.  Afterwards we sat in the living room and drank Arab coffee and talked about everything, with Arafat's funeral playing on the TV in the background.  Only the women were left, Danai, her sister, and two other girls from Rothberg; the men left right after dinner.

Danai's sister read our futures in the coffee grounds left over in our cups, which was quite entertaining.  Apparently I will very soon meet a very tall man, who will love me from the first moment that he sees me.  (Why are they always tall in fortune-telling?)  I will never have a lot of money, but I will never care.  I will attain whatever I go after, but it will take hard work.  All sorts of neat stuff like that.  It was quite fun.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Due to the nature of some of the responses that I have received from my post a few days ago, I decided I needed to clarify a few things.  At the time I was much too angry to form a coherent argument, so I instead resorted to satire, a tool that I find to be (generally) quite effective.  However, it may not be so effective at the time because, unfortunately, there are so many people in the world right now who would whole-heartedly agree with the ridiculous stance I took to mock them.

So, a bit of an argument then.  I suppose I should start with why we have laws.  I plan on being simplistic and non-philosophical here, so excuse my lack of true investigation into the matter.  We have laws to maintain order in society, to moderate and standardize behavior, to protect individuals from each other, and to determine right from wrong.  Fine then.

That being said, there are two different types of law.  There are laws that deal with matters of justice, and laws that deal with matters of morality.  In America, a country founded on freedom of thought, opinion, and religion, basically the right to believe whatever one desires, we divide these laws: the state turns matters of justice into universal law, while matters of morality are (supposedly) left to the individual to decide--Christians follow their moral law, Jews follow theirs, Muslims, Atheists, etc.  All are free to decide what is right and what is wrong.

What then separates a Universal Law of Justice, which is regulated by the state, and an Individual Law of Morality, regulated by one's religion, creed, or conscience?  Precisely this: a universal just law is one that draws the line between the rights of the individual and the rights of those he lives with.  Once his right impedes on the rights of others, it is no longer his right.  Thus, it is legal to hate people; it is illegal to hurt them,  It is legal to have sex with whomever you choose, whether married or not, it is not legal to rape or sexually abuse someone.  It is legal to buy pornography, it is not legal to peep into other people's windows.  I could go on and on.  I will stay away from the "grayer" areas, prostitution, drug use, etc, as they can be argued from either side.

Homosexuality, however, cannot.  There is nothing gray about the right of a man or a woman to be gay, as it obviously does not impede on the rights of anyone else.  It hurts no one, disrupts nothing in society, and is simply not a matter of justice. 

It can, of course, be argued by some that it is a violation of morality, but we have already shown that morality is not to be decided by the state.  It seems to me that Christians in the USA, now comfortably accustomed to being in the majority, have forgotten how precarious this situation can be in history.  I live in Jerusalem, which over the course of thousands of years has been through its share of occupiers, all of them exercising the right to legislate their own idea of morality, and all of them indifferent to the suffering it caused to those who disagreed with them.  Christians in America are not bothered by the idea of legislating morality because, at the moment, they are safe in the knowledge that it will be their morality, but they forget that this may not always be the case.

Once you set such a dangerous precedent, you are not far off from destroying the very ideals our country was founded on; in fact you are already beginning to destroy them.  How is it that Christians forget that in certain countries, Christianity itself is "immoral," and that its followers must practice their faith illegally and in secret?  Surely we would call this law an unjust law, as it imposes one group's morality onto another and restricts freedom.  Thus, while Universal Law is truly just law, as it protects rights (by restricting freedoms, yes, but only those freedoms which could harm another), Moral Law, when it no longer is left up to the individual, is unjust.

So how can one possibly argue that the right to marry should be restricted to those whose moral code calls marriage a union between a man and a woman?  Certainly two gay men in love, who desire to make a life-long commitment to each other, should have the right to do so, and have it recognized by the state that claims its citizens have the right to decide their own morality?  I have heard people worry that it would destroy the "sanctity of marriage."  Last I checked, the "sanctity of marriage" was not a person, and therefore doesn't fall under the protection of universal law.  We are free to destroy it at will, as we do every day with our (legal, I remind you) divorces, illicit affairs, and many other things.  I am not arguing whether these things are right or wrong; I believe I have pointed out that this has no bearing on the argument whatsoever.  I am merely pointing out that "marriage" as most Christians view it, is being violated every day, with the protection of the law.  But as long as it is heterosexuals violating marriage as depicted by the Christian Bible, we will tolerate it.  It is only when homosexuals expect the state (THE STATE, mind you, not the church, which I believe does have the right to prohibit gay marriage if it sees that as morally sound) to extend to them the right to marry that Christians start weeping and gnashing their teeth.  They wail and cry--just call it something else, just don't call it marriage, how can you call it marriage?--and their attachment to semantics, to a name, which is not holy at all (it is the act of marriage, I believe, that is holy--it must be, as Adam and Eve are never said to be "married" and somehow I doubt that Christians hold their union to be suspect), blinds them to the suffering they are causing those who disagree with them.  They think they are doing God a favor by "protecting" his morality, when in fact they are hurting him by hurting and alienating those he loves, which includes homosexuals.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A little hopeless

I finally bought my plane ticket home for Christmas.  It was obscenely expensive.  But I know it will be worth it.  I could use a little connection with my hometown, as usual.

I feel as if my state of mind is constantly balanced  on this precarious little peak, arms outstretched, willing itself to maintain some sort of equillibrium.  This balancing is difficult and time-consuming, and often fails, at which point I suddenly find myself plunging into a state of semi-despair, fighting off the most ridiculous sense of hopelessness. 

I have the most extreme emotional reactions to the most mundane of everyday events.  The other day I was the last to arrive to an over-crowded class, and the only seat that was left was all alone in the corner, and I was suddenly overcome with this enormous feeling of isolation.  I had to leave the class, walk around a little bit, remind myself of things.  Then yesterday I got in an argument with a taxi driver about the fare, and it took me two hours to get over the sense of having fallen from a great distance.  It is so strange, being so tightly coiled all the time.  I want to stretch myself out, relax, but I can't.

It makes me think that I will never be able to be completely happy in the life that I've chosen.  I am twenty-seven, single, living in a strange culture; most of my friends are transitory; most everything is transitory.  I need to be living in some small town, where I know everybody, where they all know me, where I can have a nice routine, a couple kids, and a house with a front porch.  I need to put down feet to feel balanced.  Instead I'm running all over the place, collecting degrees, experiences, and photographs, in a constant state of near-panic.

This is probably better.  This life. 

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Those gays

I am so proud of my country right now. Finally we are taking a stand for what is decent, Christian, and American. It's bad enough that the gays are actually allowed to remain in God's chosen nation, now they insist on having the same rights as the rest of us--the God-fearing majority. I am appalled by this. Clearly it is the result of liberal-minded history teachers telling our children that America was founded on religious freedom, rather then telling them the truth--America was founded on the freedom to be a Christian. We fled that sinful England to make a haven for the moral majority, and look where we are now. Look what's happening to our values, our foundation, our very identity!

Thus, with the overwhelming passing of Issue One in Ohio and several other states, I have finally begun to see a glimmer of hope. Hope that one day America will be the country that our parents remember. Hope that one day my children will be able to live in a country of innocence and purity, where marriage is sacrosanct and the gays know their place. But folks, we cannot stop here. If we really want to clean up this country for Jesus, then I submit that we make several more amendments to the constitution--(remember the constitution? protecting the rights of Christians to live in a holy nation, ruled by a Christian? how quickly we forget). So here is my rather modest proposal:

Other immoral acts that should be made illegal:

Adultery: The gays like to point out how very few and how very ambiguous are the verses against homosexuality in the Bible. Well, this certainly cannot be said for adultery, a terrible sin that is constantly mentioned in the Good Book--both Old and New Testaments. God hates the adulterer as much as he hates the gays--so how can we live in a country that condones this behaviour by allowing it to be legal? How can this not be prosecutable by law? I submit policemen to work at every seedy hotel, every casino, office place, bar and nightclub, every fleshpot and sin-ridden place that still exists in America, waiting to catch the adulterer when he strikes, waiting to throw him into jail where he belongs.

Pre-marital sex: Fornication is rampant in this country. Nobody knows how it happened, or why it's so "accepted," but I think I do. Because it's legal. We look to our laws to tell us what is and isn't morally acceptable, and here we have no law preventing--nay, protecting--our kids from committing an inexcusable act.

Drunkenness: Now, I'm not old-fashioned. We all know prohibition was a mistake. Even Jesus drank wine! The point is not to make alcohol illegal, but to make drinking in excess illegal. Saint Paul makes it clear what a sin it is to be drunk, makes it clear that it leads to debauchery, whatever that is. So let the people have their wine, just make sure there's a limit. A moral society must have limits, or sin and the devil will undermine and ruin us.

Reading religious books that aren't the Bible: How can we let our children be exposed to other faiths, faiths that we know to be pagan and godless? At the moment, you can walk into any bookstore and find a copy of the Koran, the Satanic Bible, whatever those Buddhists read--all sorts of nefarious and anti-Christian writings--out in the open for anyone to take home and read, out in the open just waiting to lead Americans astray. I propose a ban on all such anti-God books. I also find certain other books suspect--The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, anything written by a Jew, basically any fiction that contains objectionable references, which is most fiction written before 1935 and after 1959, as well as a lot of the stuff actually written between those years. In fact, as it is hard to judge, all fiction must be considered a threat. As well as any supposed "non"-fiction that includes the evolutionary theory, references to the big bang, reproduction, or a non-geo-centric view of the universe, as well as anything containing discussions of any religion other than the American Religion.

Television: This barely needs an explanation at all.

Dancing: While not specifically mentioned in the Bible as a sin, I go along with the radical Christian unversities that prohibit this exceptionally dangerous act. Maybe it's not a sin, per se, but we all know what it leads to. Let's not kid ourselves. Again I say: outlaw the deviant act.

Well, there are many, many more that I could list--and plan to!--but unfortunately I have to go do some housework, as I am a Christian woman who knows where her place is. Let that be a lesson to the anti-American masses of women who think it's "okay" to be in the workplace while their children raise themselves. Shame on you! Perhaps one day America will return to its better, purer roots and keep us out of the working world and the ballot box, and back in the kitchen where God intended us to be!

Monday, November 01, 2004


Had a Halloween party the other day, complete with pumpkins (construction paper), s'mores (on the gas stove), and hot spiked apple cider (apple "drink"). It was kind of hastily planned, but it turned out okay. I get this hostess-syndrome, and it's hard for me to enjoy my own parties--I'm running around all nervous trying to make sure people are having fun, eating, drinking, still like me. Stuff like that.

Not much else to share at the moment. I'm trying to get a plane ticket home, and it's awful. It's much more expensive then I'd anticipated, and the dates are filling up fast. Ah well. It'll work itself out, right?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Adds and drops

It's Wednesday already. The year has at last begun its crazy spinning, and I am left feeling like suddenly there is no time left for anything. A very different feeling from the past few weeks, but a welcome one.

I have decided at last which classes I am going to take this semester. The official list: Islamic and Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages; Issues in the Rise of the Islamic World; Magic, Science and Religion in the World of Late Antiquity; and the Hebrew Bible in its Near Eastern Historical Context (or something like that); along with Hebrew, Arabic, and hopefully German. Hooray! My cup runneth over.

Tonight a bunch of people are coming over for sushi. Tammy is making it, and she, as usual, has gone all out. I am greatly anticipating the final result of her efforts.

If my language on this blog becomes--shall we say--slightly academic sounding, as in the previous sentence, blame it on the one hundred pages of long-winded scholarly articles I read every day. I am starting to think in that style. I am not amused by this at all.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Carrying on

I feel better today. It's odd to suffer from nameless anxiety after a year of relative calm. Not even relative calm: complete and utter normalcy. I suppose the way I felt last year is the way that normal people feel all the time. When my European friends hear that I was on Paxil, normally they smile, roll their eyes, and say something like "You Americans." And I guess that the steady rise of prescription medication is an American trend. Maybe--no, probably--we medicate ourselves way too much, treating the symptoms instead of the problem. The problem with most depressed Americans, in my opinion: work that means nothing to them, isolation, loneliness, lack of purpose and direction, lack of exercise, and overall boredom. To combat this, instead of changing jobs, joining a gym, and doing whatever it takes to end the feeling of isolation, they take an anti-depressant. I'm sure this happens a lot.

But here is where my problem lies: I am working at something that I love, that fascinates me. I have friends who care about me, (mostly) clear and defined goals, and a (decent) sense of purpose.  I am happy. The anxiety that I feel never comes from an actual situation, from something concrete. The hopelessness, the sadness--none of it comes attached with a solution, a cure, or even a reason.

Luckily, it's not that severe. It does get worse in times of high stress, but mostly it's how I described it last night: a constant, dull sort of tug on my subconscious, a feeling that something is not quite right. A bit of obsessive-compulsion helps keep it at bay: when my house is clean, my studies in order, and the dishes done, the tug is less. When everything's a mess, when things go wrong, when I'm running late, the tug gets stronger. And when things in my life are complicated or difficult, the tug becomes an out and out tug-of-war between my rational mind, which understands that this is chemical, crazy, untrue, and my irrational feelings, which tell me that something is wrong, awful, about to be lost forever.

In the past I learned certain ways of controlling this. And when it was so bad that I couldn't control it, I just kind of held on until it passed. And last year, right before I left for Israel, when it was the worst it's ever been and I couldn't eat or sleep or even stop shaking, I finally decided to try Paxil. I've known a lot of people who tried it with no effect, or who went through some really awful side effects, but I responded really well almost right away. I responded so well, in fact, that I convinced myself that it must have been the placebo effect, and went off the drug. Two weeks later I was an absolute mess. So back on I went.

And now, over the summer, I decided to go off it. My life has stabilized, the stress factors are gone, and I was ready to go back to my old methods of controlling and living with my own little insanity. And I'm fine. Most of the time I am fine. But during those weird evenings--when I wake up at six in the morning with my heart pounding and my breath coming in hysterical sips and I am gripped by a pointless panic about nothing at all--on those evenings I wonder if it might not be so bad to be on a drug for the rest of my life.

But those evenings are few and far between, and meanwhile the fact that I feel creative and even crazy again is really comforting to me. So off it I will stay.

There's my explanation for last nights whimperings.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


First day of classes. But never mind. It's all a blur to me, feeling now so acutely that odd sense of panic I used to be so accustomed to. It's just a small thing. A pea beneath a hundred mattresses kind of thing. But there nonetheless. It's like the smallest, barely detectable layer right underneath my skin: it says nothing but negative words--loss, wrong, never. I don't know what I feel, except that I feel alone again. This is not something I entirely reject. Being alone is an amazing opportunity for growth. It's just that I was hoping my days of being alone were coming to an end, and yet it seems that God is intent on wringing me dry forever.

Whatever it takes to need him alone, I suppose. Only: am I this strong that I need this kind of desperation?

Monday, October 11, 2004


So today is one of those days. I find myself, in my loneliness, searching for things to fill up the hours between sleep and sleep: surf the net--one hour; go to the library--three hours; study hebrew and arabic--two hours; watch tv--two hours; read "the story of art"--two hours. That still leaves me with six unused hours. I have options; I can do the touristy thing, go hang out with Gosia, take a walk. But loneliness is a paralysis for me, so I do nothing.

I spent one of these six unused hours talking to Jef, which was, of course, wonderful. He did his best to pull me from my stupor, and meanwhile I nagged him with questions he can't answer. Will all my dreams come true? Will I be happy? Will I die alone? Will I get to have children? He was amused/frustrated/...Jef. I miss him a lot. Difficult to write too much on a website that I know he reads; suffice to say: talking to him made me happy, for a little while.

Ksenia gets home tomorrow, Luise on Thursday, Tammy on Saturday, then school starts on Sunday. So much outside stimulation in rapid succession (is that spelled right?) is bound to liven me up. I should end up with less than one unused hour a day!

Monday, October 04, 2004

I am safe and sound

I came back to Jerusalem last night in a terrifyingly crowded bus. I can definitely tell that I'm no longer taking Paxil, as I was panic-stricken the whole way. The bus seemed to stop every few yards to pick up more people, and while normal Israelis slept or listened to their walkmans, I stared at every face that entered, positive that a suicide bomber was going to take advantage of so many Israelis packed like sardines into one tiny space and blow us all to hell. I miss medication sometimes.

Well, back to my travels. The day after I went to Akko, Dror and his family, who were all on vacation, took me sightseeing around the area. We stopped at a village called Paki'in, or something like that, where Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Druze all live together in relative harmony. We paid a visit to a friend of the family, a wonderfully friendly Druze man who insisted on feeding us his wife's stuffed grape leaves and Kube, salads and potatos, and numerous other treats. After that we went to see an old Crusader fortress that had been rebuilt by the Ottomans--a recurring theme in the North--from the top of which we could see all the way to Haifa. Finally we stopped at what Dror claimed to be the best sweet shop in Israel--nay, the world--where we ate something called ktufa(?), a middle eastern pastry covered with syrup and pistachio nuts. It was extremely yummy.

That night, we joined a bunch of neighbors from the village and ate outside (near the sukkah, but not in it, as it was too small--but that counts, doesn't it?) and made fresh pita on the fire, bedouin style. By this time I noticed a dramatic improvement in my Hebrew, as I hadn't spoken English in two days, and I got along quite nicely in the conversation. Slowly, slowly. Anyway, it was a beautiful night. One with just the right amount of magic.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Tel Aviv

I'm back in Tel Aviv with Tammy's family, getting ready to head out to the beach. I'm itching to get back to Jerusalem, but there's still a week and a half before school starts, so I might as well take advantage of it and travel some more.

My weekend up North was wonderful. I stayed with a family who I contacted through the hospitality club, an organization that I have come to love. Basically, it's a community of travelers who open up their homes to each other. So I e-mailed this guy, and asked him if I could stay there, and stay there I did--for three days. His name was Dror, 26, and I stayed in his parents house with his family. They lived out of the way in a lovely little village, so every day he drove me to the nearest city, where I could pick up a bus to whatever sight I planned to see that day.

The first day I went to Akko, an ancient port town built during the Crusades, and rebuilt and beautified during the Ottoman period. I toured through the old Turkish Bath-house, the ancient fortress, and several Khans, or city squares, built by the Turks. I walked along the city walls and ate some excellent hommous. There was a festival set to begin the next day, so the city was already buzzing. I took many pictures, then headed back to Dror's house for one of the best dinners I've had yet in Israel.

Time to go sit on the beach, so more tomorrow? Okay.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

List-making is free

I'm beginning to sink into that disconnected, fuzzy stage in which I start to lose sight of myself. This happens when there is little to distract me from The Questions. I don't hate The Questions all that much, in fact I try to foster them whenever I manage to go a long time without asking them. It's what they stir up that I can't handle. Following very quickly on the heels of The Questions comes, almost imperceptibly at first, that odd sense of loss. It's like the floating light inside my eyelid when I close my eyes. I can see it out of the corner of my eye, but as soon as I try to look at it directly, it disappears. If I could only put my finger on it, give it a little shape, then maybe I could dissect it and make it go away. But I never can.

Instead, I make lists. I find this very comforting, in an admittedly obsessive compulsive way. If I make enough lists, maybe I'll stumble upon the cause of my nostalgia.

List #1: Things I Should Be Doing That I Am Not Doing

writing in my journal (weblogs not included)

writing anything at all


filling out my application to cambridge

keeping in touch

learning hebrew

reading something other than formula thrillers

calling my professor's sister who lives in jerusalem (he asked me to)

research for my islamic mysticism paper

um...getting out of my apartment

I suppose that about covers it. I feel better already--that's not so long! Now that I've collected it into a neat little list, I barely feel the need to take any action at all.

Last night I had a nightmare that I was on a sinking ship. I was not upset about this at all. In fact I went on a swimming race with someone else from the ship, a guy who was immensely concerned with my welfare. He was faster than me. Maybe he saved my life. Anyway, suddenly I was walking on the sinking hull of this sinking ship, wading through the ankle-deep water. I was talking to Brett. I was trying to convince him to get off the ship, and he was angry at me. I was asking him questions about things I couldn't recall from our relationship. I had an image of him gently taking care of baby birds that I couldn't place in my memory. We argued.

In my dreams he is always so wise, so strong, so much like I remember him. I have attached to him a personality that doesn't exist, that never did. I even know when I did it--back in college when Paul and I broke up and I was heartbroken. I conjured up this new and improved Brett--a safe image since I could never imagine myself being with him--and this idealized image, this edited memory, helped me get over Paul. I never thought it would be this dangerous, never realized that once the little jury in my brain is convinced, it will not be unconvinced of guilt or innocence. As far as my subconscious is concerned, perfection is this man I've created, and he has Brett's face.

So I suppose he's back in my dreams again because of Jef. Breaking up with him was by far the most traumatic breakup I've ever been through. Who better to help me get over it then my own personal hero, invented and given life by me? Only it doesn't work this time, because there's no feet to put beneath the fantasy. The real Brett is married, lesser, bloodless. I know who he is, and he doesn't measure up to the jury's verdict. Which puts me in an odd predicament: an image in my dreams that is strong enough to confuse and hurt me, but too weak to help and heal me as it did before.

Who's sinking on that ship, him or me?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Back again

It's been a long, long time. I'm sitting in my apartment in Israel, completely alone for the first time in three months, and feeling almost beside myself. My parents and Anne both left early this morning, so I feel that extra loneliness that comes with sitting in an empty apartment that was only hours ago overflowing.

I did have two extra days with them, however. My grandfather's flight had just made it out, and my parents were waiting to go through security at the airport, when the municipal workers of Israel announced that they were on strike, and that most government offices would be closed indefinitely, including the ports and airports. So my parents took a taxi back home, and we waited it out for two days until they could make it on a flight. It was a wonderful two days, if not a bit stressful.

Soon I'll put up some pictures from our whirlwind tour--a week in Italy and a week in Israel--of which I am told there are almost three hundred in my dad's digital camera. Maybe then I'll have more energy, not being so sad as I am now, and can write all about it as well.

It's good to be home.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Fifteen minutes

In fifteen minutes a taxi will be here to sweep me off to the airport and home. I haven't posted in a long time. It gets hard near the end of the year, when every day looks the same--a cycle of eat sleep and study. Soon I will have so much more time...I am hungry for my country...I am desperate to see Jef and my family....I am going home!!!

Maybe I will see some of you there?

Monday, June 14, 2004

One more week to go

I just realized today that in one week I am going home. It is approaching so fast--which would make me happy if I didn't have so much to get done. Perhaps I shall make a list. Number one: STUDY. I have a sort-of dual study marathon going on--papers by day, snug in the computer lab at school, and Arabic by night. I have let Hebrew fall a bit to the wayside, but it must be done. Number two: Pack up my stuff. This must happen relatively quickly, as the summer tenants will already be here, and no doubt moving into my room, four days before I leave. Number three: meet with my absentee professor. I am supposed to be writing a seminar paper for this man, only I have been unable to contact him for the ENTIRE SEMESTER. He does not answer any of my e-mails. So I shall resort to calling him at home. Tonight. Number four: buy wedding presents for the three or four weddings I am to attend this summer, not to mention overdue birthday presents for a number of important people...Number five: I forget. But I know there is one.

Anyway, Pupik has found a home, which eases much of my stress. He is still here, however, as I have been reluctant to give him up. He cuddles with me every night, and is so adorable as to be nearly heartbreaking.

Also: I see Jef in eight days. Count them. One two three four five six seven eight. Hooray!!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


While most of my days of late have been spent in the library, I have managed to fit in some other, less boring-for-writing-about activities. On Monday, Luise and I hopped the sherut to Ramallah, after having promised Shadi that we would visit him in his new Falafal shop.

The trip across the border was hassle-free. I suppose anyone can go to the territories. It's coming back that's the problem. So it was pretty simple, and dirt cheap to get there. Most of my friends told us we were crazy, including my roomate. It seems that everybody is convinced that you can't visit Palestine without being robbed/lynched/shot or worse. Being pretty sure that this wasn't the case at all, Luise and I went anyway.

A big surprise: most of Ramallah, at least the part that we saw, is beautiful. The downtown area is a bit rundown, with typical willy-nilly traffic, huge signs running up the sides of buildings, and graffiti, but it wasn't all that bad. No worse than certain parts of Jerusalem. And driving out towards Shadi's mall: amazing. All the buildings seemed brand new, white and glistening, the streets were well-paved (having been recently redone after the latest air-strike six months ago, which left them a mess) and clean; there were trees everywhere. Nobody stared at us or harassed us; in fact everyone was kind and helpful. Definitely not what I'd expected.

I'm sure there are parts of Ramallah that display the poverty I've heard so much about, but the West Bank is obviously more prosperous than Gaza, and a lot of Ramallah was built up in the short-lived halcyon days following Oslo. The only mar on the pretty landscape was Arafat's huge compound, right in the middle of the suburbs--a walled in mini-war-zone. Past the walls I could just glimpse the remains of several buildings, and piles of stone and rubble. I kept thinking: inside is the architect of so much suffering. I almost thought: blow it off the face of the earth. But I restrained myself.

We had shawarma with Shadi, and then he drove us around a bit. We saw the theatre where he works, which was really amazing--this little black-box theatre. Shadi's picture was up on the wall in some play or another, along with several awards and posters for previous shows. We met some of his friends, who were all very nice, and communicated quite well with us in broken English.

One man started speaking to me in Arabic, and continued after I told him I was American, convinced I couldn't be. Apparently I look Arab. I get this a lot here. But finally he switched to English, and started explaining to us the map of Palestine on the wall that detailed Israel's separation fence. He pointed to it and said "Israel take all of this," meaning the massive amount of land Israel wants to contain within the fence in order to surround its settlements. But then he started laughing and telling jokes. "Is good, the fence. Our children no get lost. We can let them to play, and they can go as far they want, all the way to the fence. Then they turn around and come home. Nobody get lost in Palestine!" He was really sweet.

After that, we went for ice cream and bought some Arabic books. Then we started the journey back, through two checkpoints--one of which we had to approach one person at a time. It wasn't that bad though, really. But it must be absolutely horrible when there's a long long line.

I hope to go back to Ramallah. Shadi wants us to spend the night sometime, go to a party, hang out all day. No time left this year, but hopefully next semester. We'll see.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Impending heat wave

Apparently Jerusalem is all set to experience a massive heat wave for the next few days. I actually welcome this, as I still get confused when the days are so hot and the nights are freezing. Plus, there's Luise's balcony to consider. We sat out there all day yesterday and studied Hebrew. It was lovely, minus the studying part. Last night we went to see "The Day After Tomorrow," and I rather enjoyed it. I have a weakness for disaster movies--even though they wreak havoc on my fingernails, as they are usually wittled down to nothin somewhere between the hero getting trapped in the New York library and everything on earth freezing in an instant.

Speaking of fingers, I banged mine up pretty good yesterday. A mug fell on it. My pinky. Boy did that smart. The nail is all black now. It would be neato if it fell off, I think. The nail, not the finger.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Ah, computer woes

My poor computer has been experiencing terrible fits of uselessness--freezing up every thirty seconds, shutting down, and various other temper tantrums of the sort, and I've been going a bit crazy. But today, I write.

Have been more diligent with the studies, as the end of the semester nears--speaking with teachers, finishing up research, actually cracking a book every once in a while. Took a break last night, however, to go to a restaurant in the German Colony with a bunch of people to say goodbye to Helen, who (sigh) leaves on Friday. Ksenia and Luise, praise God, got their scholarships, so they'll be here next year...but Helen was only here for a year to begin with. So sad goodbye.

Anyway, back to work.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Shuv Chola

So now I'm sick. The flu or something, who knows. Anyway, I'm bedridden and alone. Everybody should feel sorry for me.

Due to this illness, there is not much to write about. I have been inside my house for the past few days, attempting to sleep as much as humanly possible. I feel a bit better today, so I intend to work on my paper for Early Jewish and Christian interperetation of the Bible. I'm writing about the shadowy figure of Melchizedek, who shows up briefly in Genesis 14 (in two verses obviously inserted later into the text), then again in a strange Psalm, 110, and finally plays a tremendous role in the New Testemant epistle to the Hebrews. It's fascinating stuff, really. I love all the research part. It's the transforming all my research into a coherent paper that troubles me. But I shall endure.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Pupik 2

So the cat has a terrible case of ringworm, and we have to bathe him in this special shampoo every third day for the next few weeks. He's still unbelievably adorable, unless you turn him over and see that all the hair on his underside has fallen off. Anyway, it's just one more thing stressing me out. But I don't really have a choice, unless I want to turn out a tiny defenseless baby into the street. I suppose I can handle the inconvenience for a little while.

School is going well, and the research for my papers is somewhat underway. I found out I only have to do three papers, and a take-home test, which was a source of great relief for me. I still haven't come up with a topic for my Maimonides paper. I meet with my professor tomorrow to throw myself at his mercy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Of cabbages and kings

I got a 76 on my midterm, much much better than expected. Hooray! Thank God I don't get a grade in Hebrew, lest I feel the need to obsess about that class as much as all the others. As it stands, I haven't been satisfied with a 76 on anything since high school.

I am in strange spirits. Feeling weighed down quite a bit, a little sad even. At the same time, life is going along nicely here. The Student party the other night was fun, lots of people and a live band and plenty of beer and dancing. I spent a long time talking with this Druze guy, who explained to me a bit about the mysterious Druze religion before asking for my number. I still have no idea how to react when guys ask me that, especially when I'm not interested. But how can you talk to someone for two hours, dance salsa with them, and politely tell them you'd rather they not call you? Especially when they're nice, and of course you would enjoy hanging out with them again, if only you could be certain they just wanted to be friends.

In another news, I was completely out of money. My bank graciously allowed me to be overdrawn for a while, as I waited for more money to rain down on me from...somewhere. And lo and behold, Dad calls me today to tell me that Uncle Sam has seen fit to return to me four hundred some dollars, no doubt after having seen the pathetic figure of my income in the past year or two. Or three. I always get miracles just when I need them.

Monday, May 10, 2004


I've been fighting a certain lethargy of late, which is why I haven't been posting much. A lot is, of course, going on, but it's unbearably hot today all of a sudden, and I keep putting off the long catch-up that I know is necessary. I finally have pictures from Petra, and maybe I'll even put them in an album at some point-- by tomorrow at the latest.

Two holidays this week: last Saturday was Lag B'omer, midway between Pesach and Shavuot, celebrated with huge bonfires visible in every part of the country. I went to the Katz's, who were having a party, and sat in front of the fire, eating far too much, and practicing Hebrew with their many guests. I particularly enjoy talking to children, who find it very odd that they can speak better than I do and that I often don't understand them.

Tomorrow is Student Day, which means I don't have class, and there's a huge party at the University tonight. I shall be in attendance.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Hebrew Midterm

I have to go take my Hebrew midterm in a few minutes. I am certainly not prepared. Mainly because we don't have a specific book that lays out all that we're supposed to know; our teacher writes up her own pages and lesson plans, and this is just too confusing for me. Especially since I make it a point to miss at least one class a week. So, we'll see how it goes.

Pupik is doing very well. He is absolutely adorable, and I miss him when he's with one of his other caretakers. It will be hard to give him up, but I know that I must. He looks so much like Koti it's eerie. I miss Koti, and my parents' threats to get rid of her frighten me! Ah, but they know I would punish them severely if they did. Maybe stay in Israel to get my Phd? Volunteer in Iraq reconstruction? Anything's possible.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Saturday, May 01, 2004


Yesterday I was walking to Helen's dorm from my apartment when I heard a tiny, constant meowing coming from inside the fence surrounding the dorms. I couldn't see where it was; the grass is so overgrown there. I hurried into the complex and around the other side. Unfortunately, there are two fences separating the dorms from the big, bad world, and between them there is a kind of jungle-like no man's land. It was from this unreachable place whence came the ever insistent cries.

My maternal instict also being somewhat overgrown, I started calling to the kitten hiding somewhere in the brush. I called to it for fifteen minutes, and just as I had decided to risk being arrested by climbing over the fence, I saw the tall grass rustle a few meters from the fence. I started calling again, and the rustling moved towards me. I kept calling until a tiny black and white face appeared through the weeds, struggling to climb over a downed telephone pole blocking its path. It was then that I noticed the poor creature's eyes were either missing or permanently shut with a nasty-looking ooze, and it was feeling its way towards me by my voice alone.

It had a hard time with the telephone pole, and stood there crying and trying to get its bearings for a few minutes, then finally took the plunge and slid down the side. I kept calling it and it walked all the way through the remaining underbrush until it found me on the other side of the fence.

So I was basically stuck. Having culled an unfortunate, blind, ridiculously tiny kitten from its lonely misery, I simply had to take responsibility for it. Ksenia, Helen, Ariel and I managed to track down an emergency vet, who promptly cleaned out its eyes--which work fine, but were horribly infected--dewormed and defleaed it, and sent us home with two weeks worth of antibiotics. We couldn't leave it there, as with Israel's cat problem, they have to put down kittens that young that have been abandoned.

So, naturally, we will take care of it. We've already found someone who wants to adopt it, but first it has to be healed and healthy, as she works all the time and can't feed it every three hours. So little Pupik (Hebrew for belly-button, a kind of backwards nickname, as I called him Puppy and thought he deserved a real name) will be with us for two or three weeks. He is more than precious. Three weeks old, and smaller than my hand. Pictures forthcoming.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

I'm feeling lazy

Yesterday Helen and I went to the Knesset (the Israeli government building) for the English-language tour. It was actually quite interesting, learning how everything goes on there, where everyone sits, etc. We saw the Israeli declaration of independence (written on parchment like the Torah), and learned why Israel has no constitution (nobody could agree on anything). Afterwards we went to the Israeli National Library, where we saw ancient Torah manuscripts and a special exhibit on Einstein, but where we couldn't find a single book. Apparently, there are thousands upon thousands and myriads upon myriads, but you don't browse through them yourself. You find them on a computer, submit the info, and in an hour, someone emerges from the bowels of the building with all your books. Fascinating.

Other than that, I haven't been doing too much. I'm kind of in one of those states where I want to cease to exist for a while. I get that way sometimes--just kind lof tired of being alive. I don't mean that all morbidly; it's just that on certain days I'm very aware that I have this many hours to pass before I can go to sleep. All this time, and I must figure out something to do to make it go faster. This happens to me every few months. But it will pass soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Me and a bunny rabbit at the Katz'z house.


Sunday, April 25, 2004


I've got lots to say about all my little birthday celebrations, but they will have to wait. Tonight I head to the Western Wall for the opening ceremony for Israel's Memorial Day, in which its soldiers who have fallen in defending their country and civilians who have died in terrorist attacks are honored. I know it will be a difficult day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Another birthday

I am twenty-seven years old today. My birthday celebrations began last night at midnight, when my friends an I were at the Diwan for a "Vanunu party." Mordechai Vanunu is a rather infamous Israeli figure, having done as many things wrong as possible for an Israeli to do. First, he converted to Christianity. Then, he told the British media about Israel's nuclear capabilities in the eighties. He was convicted and sent to prison for 18 years, only to be released yesterday. So, like good little left-wingers, we went to a party in his honor. And it was there, at exactly midnight, that my nearest and dearest toasted to me with Arak.

When I had imbibed a sufficient amount, I went home and woke Jeffrey up. He answered quite groggily with a mumbled "happy birthday," and I think maybe we spoke for a few minutes? Neither of us remembers much. Eight hours later, he woke me up to wish me happy birthday again, so that the last thing I heard before I went to sleep and the first thing I heard when I woke up was his voice. Not a bad way to start out my twenty-seventh year, eh?

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Sigh of relief

I am done with my papers. When I say that, it is important that you realize that what I mean is I have finished them. They are complete. That is, I am no longer working on them. Meaning, it is over. There is nothing left to do. All work on said papers has ceased. Terminated. Ended.

They came to 19 and 27 pages respectively. They were quite heavy. I was relunctant to give them up almost. They felt so nice in my hands...such a nice dull heft to them. But I put them in the box and walked away. I miss them, a bit. But like I said, I am done. I have turned them in, and I am free.

Thursday, April 15, 2004


I am home again, and my body is all ache. We hiked for what seemed like forever in the hills surrounding Petra.

Petra--how to describe it. The famous "lost city" of the Nabotean Empire, built entirely from the red stone of the Jordanian Desert. To get into it, you must walk over a kilometer through the "siq," a narrow pathway forged between two sky-high cliffs. When you reach the end, the facade of the most impressive structure--the Treasury--is just visible between them. Then you step out into this rocky valley, and there it is, this massive tomb cut from the rock face, with huge corinthian columns and aging Hellenistic statues perched on impossibly delicate ledges. It is huge, bright coral-colored, and beautifully preserved, having been so well protected from the desert wind by the cliffs that encircle it.

From there you can continue on the length of the city, with eroding pillars and hundreds of tombs and temples and caves cut from stone. It is hard to imagine what it must have looked like in its prime--at one time Petra had a population of 30,000 people. Then it was abandoned for 1500 years, inhabited on and off by nomadic Bedouins, until its rediscovery in the 19th century. I have never seen anything like it.

For some of the higher hikes, we did the smart thing and hired some donkeys to take us up the steep steps. That felt a tad precarious, on the back of this wheezing beast as it tripped its way up these narrow rock stairways, with a gaping drop two inches from its hooves. But they got us safely up to the high place of sacrifice, where we saw the alter, complete with gutters for draining blood and sites for burning the bones of animals and the unfortunate virgins whose fathers gained prominence in the communtiy through their sacrifice. From there you could see the entire city, and the red valley spread out for miles.

After several hours in the sun, hiking through caves and ruins, we would eat huge Bedouin feasts of lamb and yogurt and rice and salad and bread, and drink non-alcoholic beer, as Muslim Petra does not serve alcohol in any establishment. Everywhere we went the people would welcome us and talk to us and ask us where we were from. They reacted with indifference to Germany, but every time I said I was American, their eyes would light up and they would say "Welcome! America and Jordan friends!" So perhaps not everyone hates us. Or perhaps it had more to do with the fact that I am an American woman that apparantly most Jordanian men found attractive, as evidenced by the fact that inevitably they asked if Bernt and I were married, if I was looking for a husband, and if I would marry a Bedouin. When I told them I had a boyfriend (and they were always surprised to find that it was not Bernt--why were we travelling together then?) they asked if maybe, since I was not married yet...

One man asked me if I would trade my boyfriend in for a Bedouin. When I said that Jef might not like that, he said "tell him I will give him 100 camels." Jef should be very proud, as 100 camels is quite a lot for just one wife. Hopefully he will not be too upset that I took the liberty of turning down the offer. Another man, who worked at our hotel, insisted on giving me tea and food every time he saw me, and we would have stilted conversations in sign language, in which he asked me several times, if I interpereted correctly, if I would marry him.

Last night Bernt and I were hoping to watch the sunset. We saw a particularly lovely perch on the roof of a hotel high above the city. When we went in and asked the proprieter if we might sit on his roof and order a cup of tea, he said "of course" and proceeded to carry two chairs and a table up to the roof. As we sat there, he brought up, in twenty minute intervals, the following: sweet tea, Arab coffee, mango juice, and cake. When we left a little later, after a spectacular sunset, we asked if we could pay him and he said no, everything was free, welcome to Jordan.

This morning, we sadly said goodbye to Petra, and began the long journey back to Jerusalem. Now I am resting, and planning my next visit to the Hashemite Kingdom.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

I am writing this from the Petra Internet Cafe in Petra, Jordan. Bernt and I arrived here at eight o'clock this morning after a four hour bus ride from Jerusalem to Eilat at the Dead Sea, where we arrived at four o'clock in the morning and spent two hours camped out on someone's front porch waiting for the border to open.

At the border, exhausted, we talked with the Jordanian border gaurds while we waited for a taxi to take us to Aqaba, from where we would catch a sherut to Petra. The border gaurds were friendly and funny. They asked us where we were from, and when Bernt said "Germany," the younger one smiled and said, 'Oh yes! Germany. Hitler!" Which I found hilarious.

Everybody we've met so far has been like those gaurds, so friendly, conversational, interested. Who are we? Where are we from? First time to Jordan? Welcome! We've gotten a free place to stay, free rides, free coffee and tea--the Bedouins being perhaps the most welcoming and hospitable people on Earth. I really like it here. The streets are clean (cleaner than Israel), everyone is polite and helpful. At the coffee shop we just came from we had two waiters--one who worked there, and one fellow patron who translated for him.

As for Petra itself--that will have to wait until tomorrow. I am too tired to do it justice.

Sunday, April 11, 2004


In the interest of remaining connected, I went into the Old City yesterday sans camera and other ecoutrements of memory-preservation, carrying only my Bible and some money for the market. I went back to the Holy Sepulchre and stood by the tomb, watching the long line of pilgrims fighting there way to the door to get inside to get a glimpse of the possible place where Jesus rose from the dead. I read the ressurection story in Luke, then John, then stood there at a loss for the appropriate thing to do.

That night I went back to Luise's (of course) for a fish and rice dinner. We had a sort-of make-shift communion, in that we ate bread and drank wine and I silently remembered, and then sat on the terrace until the sun went down. Later on we went out in search of--of all things--creme brulee, and by God we found it, and it was gooood.

Today I was supposed to be on a bus to Eilat, from which I was supposed to head into Jordan to see the awe-inspiring ruins of Petra. However, unbeknownst to me, Israel went and shut down...well...everything, once again, for the holiday. Hence there are no buses until tonight. But at exactly midnight, Bernt and I will be on our way. And when we return, praise God, we will be able to buy bread again. (Aside: in Israel, during passover, it is illegal to sell bread, or pasta, or popcorn, or even rice. Illegal, mind you. So I have been sneaking it in from the Arab quarter. Shhhhhhh!)

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Via Dolorosa

Yesterday was--again--quite a day. I am emotionally spent. At eleven thirty Ksenia and I headed into the Old City for the Way of the Cross, the procession that travels the route of Jesus to Golgotha. The experience is difficult to describe. The day was hot, a bit fierce even, and we were standing on the border between the Christian and Arab quarters. To our right, the Arab suq was in full swing, with merchants crying out and people making their way through shops full of baklava and jewelry and pottery and sheep heads and underwear and stalls full of almonds and cucumbers and popcorn and multicolored spices. To our left groups of pilgrims stood whispering, leafing through guidebooks or Bibles or maps. And everywhere there were people wandering about in the traditional dress of a hundred denominations: Catholic priests with white collars, Coptic Egyptians in white cotton, Men all in black with pointed hoods, Jesuits in brown robes reminiscent of Robin Hood friars, Polish women with their heads wrapped in scarves clutching crosses, Americans in shorts and tank tops, Ethiopians wrapped in yards of white cloth. It was like a gigantic Christian costume party, and the air was one of anticipation.

Soon the priests formed a line and announced the first station, where Jesus was sentenced, and the long solemn parade began. We were all smashed together, walking slowly behind the line of priests who announced each station as we passed it--here is where Jesus was whipped and beaten, here where he fell the first time, here where Simon volunteered to carry his cross, here where he saw his mother in the crowd. People were carrying crosses, some so large they required four or five worshippers to hold them. We were winding through the market, passing electronics stores and butcher shops and music stores with bootleg copies of "The Passion" for sale. The procession must have been a mile long, and every few yards or so a different group was singing a different song in Latin, Arabic, Russian. I was furiously taking pictures, with the result of feeling even more disconnected from what we were actually doing, but such is the way I deal with things like this. I don't really know how to keep myself from feeling removed.

Finally we made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the site of Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus. While it is disputed, archaeologists generally believe that this is the actual site of the crucifixion. I made my way up to the chapel over Golgotha, and read the crucifixion chapter in John amidst all the noise and chaos. I walked around the church, to the slab where his body was laid out for burial--around which a crowd was gathered--everyone waiting their turn to kneel at the slab and cover it with perfume, incense, rose petals, kisses. Then I walked to the tomb, where ceremony after ceremony was taking place, one after the other, each in different languages, singing different songs.

Somehow I had managed to lose Ksenia and two other friends. I left and wandered the Old City, a bit overcome, and ran into Luise and some others. We had a bit of lunch outside on a roof overlooking the Dome of the Rock and the Holy Sepulchre, sipping Arak with water and generally trying to calm down. The Arak helped, of course, and soon I felt almost normal.

The rest of the day played out in typical incongruous Holy Land fashion, with a birthday party for Luise on the terrace of her house, where we ate shashlik from the grill, drank wine, and danced to Arabic music. At three in the morning, Shadi dropped me off, and I stumbled into bed, called Jef just to hear him say goodnight, and fell promptly to sleep for ten hours. I am tired. I have very few emotions left to feel.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Maundy Thursday

Jerusalem is surreal and particularly holy this week. It is more crowded than usual; in the streets you can hear Christian pilgrims speaking in all sorts of different languages: French, German, Italian, Korean, Swahili, Arabic, Syrian--just a few that I've heard. They walk in solemn groups, cameras flung over shoulders, yellow bandanas or green nametags differentiating one group from another. The Old City was crawling with them yesterday, and yet I didn't get the claustrophobic feeling I usually do when I'm in a place with a million other tourists.

Ksenia and I were in the Old City by two thirty, and our first stop was the Upper Room, or what is reported to be the Upper Room, where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper together the night before the crucifixion. There was a brief service in Italian, and then everyone just stood in silence, staring into this large empty room, most likely picturing the same thing I was: Jesus washing the disciples' feet, Jesus breaking the bread.

After that we went to the other supposed site of the Upper Room, and one of the first churches in Jerusalem, at the Syrian church deep in the winding streets of the Christian quarter. The service was long, in Syrian, and full of chanting and singing, and afterward there was a procession of priests to large drums and bagpipes.

By this time we were hungry, ao we ate at Papa Andrea's rooftop restaurant in the Christian Quarter before heading to the Anglican Church of St. George for a Maundy Thursday Service. It was quite beautiful, in Arabic and English, with a foot-washing ceremony and communion, which I took for the first time in a year and a half. I've been avoiding communion, not quite willing, I suppose, to submit to whatever God might tell me to do if I open myself up to him again, but I took it yesterday. A reaffirmation of something suffocating, I guess.

After the service we walked in silence to Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed in agony, knowing that he was soon to die on the cross. We prayed and sang some songs in the garden, then walked through the Olive Trees that have been there since the time of Jesus. In the Basilica of the Agony I prayed by the symbolic "Rock of the Agony," where Jesus is said to have prayed so hard that he sweat blood. In a strange moment completely uncharacteristic of me, I kissed it. Just in case. Just in case he really did touch this rock. Suddenly I was a true to form pilgrim. Something I guess I don't mind at all.

By this time it was almost midnight and my legs were aching, but we walked through the Kidron Valley on the route that the soldiers took the captured Jesus, and up to St. Peter's church, built on the site of Caiaphas' palace, where Jesus stood in a makeshift trial.

The stairs there are from the time of Christ, and he probably walked up them in chains. In the church we went all the way down to the pit where it is believed he was held. The whole night was unimagineable, really.

I finally made it home exceptionally late, and now I'm off to the Old City again.

Monday, April 05, 2004


Yesterday was the first day of Pesach (Passover), and I went with Tammy and her family to a cousin's house for the Seder feast. Their house was incredible, a bit on the museum side (they had an elevator), and their was one impossibly long table beautifully set for something like twenty-five people. We sat and read the Haggadah (my first time all in Hebrew) and when it was my turn I got all shy and asked to be skipped. There might be rules agains Gentiles reading it, after all.

We dipped the parsely in the salt water, ate of the eggs and the matzah and the bitter herbs, drank the prescribed four glasses of wine, and even sang a few of the songs, albiet somewhat half-heartedly. The funny thing is that most of them didn't know why they did half the things they did, and I, the only non-Jew, knew more than they did. Apparently, once you live in Israel, you've done your part.

It was great fun. We started at eight and ended at eleven thirty, and there was much feasting. I ate until I got sick, but it was all so good. I got a bit tipsy from the wine, but not enough to start speaking Hebrew, but everyone was gracious and spoke to me in English. One of theses days I'm going to have to be brave and use my Hebrew outside of class and taxis. I'm really not half bad--I just clam up or forget everything all of a sudden.

I love this country. I'm thinking of converting.

Sunday, April 04, 2004


It's been a busy few days. On Saturday we went up north, and it was wonderful. We left at eight in the morning, and arrived at Rosh Pina by eleven. Rosh Pina is a small town that was first settled in the late 1800s, built on the side of a mountain. We had coffee and cake and walked through the oldest part of town, with its cobblestone streets and old stone buildings full of art galleries and craft stores.

Here we are in Rosh Pina

After that we drove to the Hula reserve, a huge nature reserve that used to be a swamp. We walked the length of the trail, most of it a boardwalk over the remaining swamp, and saw pelicans and buffalo and lots of turtles. The whole swamp was full of papyrus plants, and maybe I would have picked one and made me some paper if it weren't, you know, illegal.

The Hula Reserve

After that we drove up to the Tel Dan, another reservation that was absolutely beautiful. The Dan River is one of the feeders of the much smaller Jordan River, and also the site of the ancient city of Dan, where naughty King Jeraboam set up an alter to a golden calf. (See 2 Kings) We saw the ruins of the altar and the city gates, then walked through the park. The trail was almost completely made up of stones in the river, so that we were basically walking on the river itself. The trees hung over the trail, so it was like walking through a big green cave. It was beautiful. I took many pictures.

Yesterday Tammy and I ate brunch at a moshav, or farm settlement, in their little restaurant overlooking a field of wildflowers. The food was fresh and yummy and we ate ourselves silly. After that we headed north of Tel Aviv to Netanya, a beach town, and drove to a ranch north of the city, where we went horseback riding on the deserted beach, through cliffs and sand dunes. It was, again, beautiful. I've never ridden a horse on a beach before, but it was all very romantic, as evidenced by the fact that one of the Israeli guys riding with us kept hitting on me, in spite of my horrendous Hebrew. I have discovered it is incredibly hard to speak Hebrew atop a horse on a beach. He didn't seem to mind though, and after we drove away, he pulled up in front of us at a red light and his friend hopped out of the car, walked to my window, and proceeded to hand me a slip of yellow paper with his friend's number on it, saying I should call him. Interesting. We shall see. It was a strange way to be picked up.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Beginning of the holidays

I am now in Ra'anana with Tammy's family, where I will remain for the next few days. I'm having the passover seder feast with her family, and I'm a bit nervous as everyone has to read out of the Haggadah, and my Hebrew may not be up to the task. I will try my hardest, however, and be on my best gentile behavior.

Tomorrow Tammy, Yoni and I head up to the Golan Heights in the north, one of the most beautiful places in Israel. It's up close to Lebanon, the area siezed in 1967. We're going to hike around a bit, maybe have a picnic. Hopefully the weather, which seems to be a bit two-faced these days, will cooperate--because I also have big plans for the beach on Sunday. We will see.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Druze Village

Yesterday my Arabic class took a field trip. They chartered a bus for us and we drove up north to a Druze village in the Galilee. It was absolutely beautiful, the real milk-and-honey deal, perfect except for the cement wall to the right of the highway.

We went to an olive farm, and the Jahsan family gave us a tour of their factory, and we all loaded up on fresh olive oil to take home before heading out to eat at a hummous restaurant. We stopped at another village and took a walk through the hillside before heading home. It was a long day, tiring, but very fun.

Arabic Class Trip!

Eating Olives!

I am also halfway done with my second paper. I've been plodding through, despite my efforts having been hindered by my computer's sudden decision to quit. Well, just Word quit. It no longer exists somehow on my laptop. So I have to go to the computer lab, which is actually better as I work without distraction.

Tomorrow is my last day of class before Pesach break. Hooray!


That's all.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Lots going on

It's been a busy couple of days. As far as school is concerned: I have only to write the conclusion (arguably, for me, the hardest part) and my Ancient Near East paper will be complete. I finally finished the outline for my Jewish Classical Texts paper. I got a 43% on my first Hebrew test, which was much higher than anticipated, owing to the fact that I am a year's worth of Hebrew behind (not to worry--last semester I failed the first four tests until I caught up). Arabic has come to a standstill; my capacity has been reached. I absolutely love my seminar courses, and finally my brain feels thick again.

Other stuff: On Thursday, I went to Yad Vashem (literally: a memorial and a name), the Holocaust Memorial. We spent two and a half hours wandering through the history museums, the separate memorials, the hall of names, etc, and it was quite difficult. None of this is new to me, but it's fresh and raw every time I have to face that time in history. I'm sure you've heard about the eerie children's memorial, but nothing compares to walking through that dark hallway, where mirrors have been set up behind eternally lit candles giving the affect of infinite points of light in a pitch black room, where two voices slowly read off the names and ages of the Holocaust's one and a half million child victims. It was quite an intense visit, and left me pretty incapacitated for the rest of the day.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Do I have a sleep disorder?

So I'm still having nightmares every night. I have no idea why. They're not necessarily scary nightmares, but I'm always feeling some sort of negative emotion: fear, worry, anger, stress. I'm always in a situation over which I have no control, and I am always powerless, usually alone. It's horrible--mainly because I don't ever feel rested. I wake up remembering vividly all these dreams I had during the night, and I feel like I ran a few miles, not like I just woke up. Which means that I'm always tired.

And here's the strangest part: one of the results of this anomaly is that I still have to take a nap during the day, even if I slept eight hours, because I just can't make it. And, when I take these naps during the day, the dreams are even worse. I don't know how to explain it except to say that I don't quite fall all the way asleep. In my dream, I wake up in my bed, but I can't move my body. I am paralyzed. I want to reach over and see what time it is, but I can't move. And then, when I do manage to get out of bed, my movements are sluggish and take all this energy. Then suddenly I'm back in my bed where I started, and the whole process starts over again. I also really wake up several times, and have the same problem: I can't move. And yet I know that this time that I am actually awake, and that I am too tired too move. So I drift in and out of consciousness, experiencing varying degrees of paralysis, until finally I wake up and I'm breathing in these huge hysterical gulps, which is pretty frightening.

Okay, that last part only happened today and is not a regular occurance, but it's still odd. And the rest of my day is colored by it--suddenly I feel a bit surreal, a little out of place, off-kilter, what have you. And more tired than ever. Yuck.

There is more to write about, but I am exhausted, and think I shall sit upon my couch and do nothing for a while.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


Ariel Sharon was at my school today, which was pretty annoying if you ask me. Policeman, soldiers, and security gaurds were everywhere, as were makeshift blockades cutting off entire sections of the campus--the result being that I had to walk around in circles for twenty minutes, unable to find a way out, until I finally snuck out well below the campus in the tunnel used by buses to whisk students off on their journeys home. When I finally came out into the fresh air, I enjoyed a pleasant breeze from the far too close army helicopters patrolling the skies. Delightful, really.

I didn't get to see Sharon, don't even know what he was doing there. I just saw the results of his presence, including a spontaneous protest against the assasssination of Yassin. All in all, every day here is surprising. And it appears that Spring has finally come. There's not a cloud in the sky, if you don't count the black smoke of burning tires wafting from the Palestinian territories.

Monday, March 22, 2004

I don't have any answers

At five o'clock this morning, Israel assassinated the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Achmad Yassin, in an airstrike as he left the mosque where he was saying morning prayers. He and some seven of his bodygaurds were killed.

Thousands and thousands of Palestinians marched at the funeral, crying and vowing revenge in the usual colorful terms--declaring that Sharon had "opened the gates of hell" and that they will not stop until they "cut off his head." Yassin was the founder of Hamas in 1987, jailed by the Israelis shortly thereafter, released in the late nineties in a peace aggreement with Jordan, and had already survived a previous assassination attempt in September.

All the students at Rothberg got an e-mail today warning us to steer clear of--well, pretty much everywhere--for the next few days at least. We talked about it endlessly in stilted Hebrew during Ulpan, and everyone has a different opinion.

I couldn't say what my opinion is. Certainly I believe this man was horrible, a hateful man who sent countless people to their deaths in the name of Islam, promising them however many virgins they get in the afterlife or whatever while he went on living quite comfortably. But even so, before I came to Israel, I was dead set against Israel's assassination policy, which flies in the face of democracy. Capitol punishment without a trial. But then again, the greatest democracy on Earth invaded a whole sovereign nation without trial or legislation, so there goes that argument. Apparently democracy has its limits?

But then again, it's different here. To many people, this is a war. In a war, the rules of democracy don't apply. Whether or not I see it as a war...I'm too close to it to make a just decision. It's too easy to stand on either side, when the reality is probably somewhere in the middle. I know that Hamas doesn't want a border at the green line, no matter what their rhetoric. I know that once they get it, terrorism will continue until Israel is no more. I also know that that will never happen. Israel is not going anywhere. The result: this.

I'm more scared than usual. Mad at everybody. Frustrated that I can't get at what is true here. All I know is that I'm going to lay low for a few days. See what happens.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

I hate shabbat

I'm feeling a bit down today. I've decided that I hate Shabbat. Everything is always closed; my roomate is always in Tel Aviv; all my friends are out of commission with schoolwork; and I am all by myself at home all day long. It's not entirely bad, as my apartment is now clean and my paper is only a couple of pages away from being done, but I am so lonely that I just want to sit on the couch and do nothing. No. I want to sleep. I'm too lonely to watch TV or even exist. I wish we had power switches and we could just turn ourselves off for a few hours to make days like these pass faster. Blech.

Th Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the shooting last night, and apologized for their error--they accidentally shot an Arab. Oops. Sorry everyone, thought he was Jewish! Our bad! He was a twenty-year-old student at my school, out jogging on a quiet evening. They drove by and shot him in the head and in the stomach. Apparently they mistook him for a "settler" (as all of West Jerusalem is considered a settlement to them).

I am a little bitter about it all. I'm sad to say this country is turning my dovish heart into a hawk. How can you be liberal when some idiot might shoot you on your evening jog? Of course I have to remember to maintain some sort of perspective, but I'm in a bad mood to begin with.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Luise evenings

I had a (relatively) quiet evening tonight. I was lazy all day long--sleeping, day-dreaming, calling Jef--leaving my work for other days. Finally I pulled myself together and hailed a taxi to Luise's. We got stuck in a huge traffic jam, which ended up being a soldier check-point. The radio was on in the cab, and with my small knowledge of Hebrew I managed to pick up a few words: Terrorist attack. This evening. French Hill. We spent ten or fifteen minutes in a long line of cars, finally waved through after a few brief questions from heavily armed soldiers. Turns out a young man was shot in the head while he was walking around in my neighborhood, in fact right near the post office where I walk to pick up my packages. There were police and army everywhere. I don't know if they caught the guy, or how they seem so sure it was terrorism. Odd to think how much I'm hoping it turns out to be crime. Please let it just be a harmless criminal murder. Don't let it be that terrorists have taken to shooting pedestrians down the street.

We live in interesting times.

The strangest part: the rest of my night was quite normal. Luise and I went out to dinner, then to a bar for a drink, and headed home. My taxi driver taught me proper Hebrew on the cab ride home, and now here I am. I'm feeling rather tired and think I will go to bed. History goes on down the street, and I worry about my paper, the dishes.

Interesting times indeed.

Thursday, March 18, 2004


I'm having serious trouble concentrating. Must be Spring Fever. So I've been doing all sorts of things to keep me from having to work on my paper. The other night I made dinner for a bunch of friends, and it actually turned out pretty well. I'm surprised to learn that I can cook. Perhaps I have other latent talents I never knew about. I was always convinced growing up that I was a child prodigy in something, I just could never figure out what it was. Maybe I should start trying a bunch of different things until I finally hit upon my genius. Because, while I am pleased to discover that I can throw some tomatoes and onions and chicken together and somehow make it taste good, I'm pretty sure that cooking is not it.

But anyway, the dinner was nice; we alternated between Hebrew and English--felt very cosmpolitan, very ex-pat, very Hemingway. Well, except that we were speaking Hebrew. Unfortunately the dishes are still sitting on the counter while my paper collects dust. Ah well.

Last night I went for dinner at Luise's, then we got into her nieghbor Shimi's car and drove down to Talpiot for a CD release party. I had to pretend that I was Sabina, who was sick, so that our names would be on the guest list. I was instructed not to speak, because Sabina is, after all, German, and while I am picking it up a bit, I don't quite speak it just yet. Inside the band was playing some kind of electronic something-or-other, with a little light show and a small screen on which an odd loop of English words was playing. Butter. Contract. Bubble. Mister. Mouse. Coupon. It was very odd. I danced a bit, and ended up talking to another German all night, until we took a cab back to Luise's and I crashed in a heap on her bed.

Now I'm home, staring ruefully at the dishes and the notes for my papers, nursing a little hangover, and writing in this blog. I am happy. The sun is out. If I'm not careful, I'll end up calling Jef and talking for an hour like I did yesterday, just to hear his voice. I definitely have Spring Fever.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

A brief and total beauty

The other morning I heard this strange trilling noise coming from my shower. It would go away, then I would hear it again. It sounded like some kind of bird, but not any I'd heard before. Finally I climbed up onto the tub and peeked out the tiny window above the shower, and found myself face to face with this enormous, beautiful hawk perched on the ledge outside the window, literally inches from me and staring me straight in the eye. But when I moved to adjust my own precarious perch, it flew away. Still, that kind of thing doesn't happen every day now, does it.

I am skipping Hebrew today. I have a quiz in Arabic and must needs study. I did get an A on my Arabic final, but it was a low A and I am determined to do better. I shall lock myself in my room and read Arabic till I see squiggly script everywhere I look. I shall speak only in Arabic, even with my rather limited vocabulary...(happy, university, eat, drink, student, apartment, friend, guest)...One needs very few words to effectively communicate. I do not, however, possess the correct font to write this blog in Arabic, so unfortunately you will have to continue reading it in English. I also just realized that I'm not sure if I spelled the word "possess" correctly. Posess? Hmmm.

Friday, March 12, 2004


I wish my roomate stayed in Jerusalem on the weekends. I think I need human contact in the morning before I can do anything productive. Otherwise I just end up drinking coffee, surfing the net and talking to myself, while my work sits untouched and my apartment sinks into messy oblivion. I can't even do the dishes without a bit of conversation. How did this happen to me? Ah well.

Speaking of human contact, I've called Jef every day this week. We are supposed to be taking some time off so I can get my act together, and he's behaving very nicely with enviable self control. I, on the other hand, am apparently addicted. I cannot stop! We must speak! When I wake up in the morning, and again when I go to bed at night. Sometimes I can resist the urge, but last night, after two araks (a dangerously deceptive drink) there was simply nothing I could do. The phone was in my hand...I was dialing...and suddenly, there he was! Just like magic!

I really like this one. I might keep him.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

It's finally the weekend

For some reason I am really stressed suddenly. I know I have until April to finish my Mesopotamia paper, but I feel so pressured to get it in as soon as possible. The thing is, I am so accustomed to literary papers, being an English major and all. I like being able to trumpet my opinion, using unconventional evidence, as well as the text, to "prove" my stance on a relatively small aspect of a single work. With this type of paper, I am spanning millenia, in a subject on which I am definitely not an expert, dealing with actual fact, as well as interpretations of fact, tens of scholarly opinions, and with very little right to my own opinion at all. The result is that I have no idea what I am doing here. I am playing it entirely by ear. Twelve pages thus far by ear, twelve more to go. but I have noticed, unlike the papers of my past, that simmered inside me for two weeks, finally to boil over in a matter of hours into something hand-in-worthy, the longer I take with this one, the better it gets. But also, the longer I take with it, the more work I have every day as the assignments in my new classes build up. I know I had to deal with an unusual situation last semester, and that it won't always feel this way, but I feel rather submerged--and who knows when I'll get to breathe again! ARRRGGHHH.

An aside: I added a new photo album or two from my recent experiences with Jewish security and Jewish holidays. I also finished (finally) the long overdue Christmas album. Check 'em out, down and to the left.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Purim Sameach

Yesterday was Purim, a holiday I have come to love. Certainly the most festive of Jewish holidays, it celebrates the saving of the Jewish people by Mordechai and Queen Esther, who approached her husband, King What's-his-name, on their behalf when Haman had convinced him to have the Jews destroyed. Instead, it was Haman who was put to death on the very gallows he had built for the Jews.

Hence, the happy, carnival nature of Purim. Purim is celebrated on the fourteenth of Adar all over Israel, and on the fifteenth of Adar in Jerusalem (due to the fact that residents of walled cities were to be killed a day after everyone else, I forget why) On the secular calender, this usually falls in the end of February, or the beginning of March.

The rules concerning Purim: Everyone must be happy. It is actually a commandment. It is also a commandment that people give gifts to friends, alms to the poor, and hear the Megillah, or the Esther scroll, read at synagogue. One is to eat a great feast, and many people dress up in masks or costumes, as Esther hid her Jewishness from Xerxes. It is also an actual rule that on Purim, one must drink until one can no longer tell if one is cursing Haman or blessing Mordechai.

So, the entire weekend was one long party, with people dressed in strange costumes on the street, making lots of noise, and gleefully obeying the drinking statute. Last night we all had a great feast, started early due to the fact that the feast must be during the day, and were all quite comfortably obeying the drinking rule by seven. We painted our faces with bright colors, got all dressed up, and made great plans to go to several different parties, none of which actually came to fruition as we couldn't bring ourselves to leave the fun in our own apartment. Eventually, however, the party moved on, and I headed home to my own place where there was currently another party in progress. The drive home was wonderfully surreal, with large groups of Hasidic and ultra-orthodox Jews weaving and stumbling their merry, drunk way through the streets, sidelocks swinging, dresses trailing through the dirt, hats off heads and into hands. Everyone was happy, even the soldiers and policeman stationed every few feet or so.

I feel so happy and full these days. I truly feel like I am home, like I have made a life for myself here. First semester was difficult--adjusting, dealing with homesickness, trying to make my home feel like home, but now I have finally gotten past all that, and have really...settled. I am aware of this happiness all the time, as I have this tendency to suddenly and without warning separate myself from everything going on around me and mentally assessing my situation. Stop, look around the room, and yes--I am happy. Then come back to brain and start to live again. All is well.

Friday, March 05, 2004

The Propaganda Machine

This morning I went to see the "separation fence" with some other students from my University. I assumed that the trip was sponsered by my school, and it would just be a small group of us going to see it and discuss it. Turns out it was part of a huge tour planned by the Israeli government for foreign students in Israel. There were over a hundred students, mostly American Jews still in college, and they shepherded us into a building, passing out fliers titled Saving Lives: Israel's Security Fence, and led us into an auditorium, where the fence was vigorously defended by members of the Israeli government, and where Natan Sharansky addressed us and encouraged us to get involved in student activism in support of Israel when we returned to our home countries. He himself was freed from a Russian prison after thirteen years due to political pressure from "students and housewives."

In spite of the obvious propaganda being hurled at us, I did manage to learn some interesting facts, such as the fact that 97% of the barrier is chain-link fence hooked up to an electronic surveillance system, meaning only 3% is actual ugly cement wall--not something I would have thought from the media's portrayal. Also the fact that since the security fence was built around Gaza in the nineties, not a single suicide bomber has passed through the fence to attack Israel (a sort-of exception being the two bombers of Tel Aviv's Mike's Place who passed through the checkpoints with British passports--the point being that they didn't get over the wall). These were interesting and convincing facts, and in truth, I am not entirely opposed to the wall (much to the horror of my more dovish friends, I'm sure), but I certainly did not like being fed this information in such an obviously slanted manner.

After the speeches, we set off in several buses to view the fence from Gilo, a neighborhood in southern Jerusalem. Here it is merely a fence, barely obtrusive on the landscape, and the soldier in charge of the security fence (not separation fence) in Jerusalem spoke to us, spouting more facts about dead Israelis and the drastic steps Israel has had to take to protect itself.

After this, we headed to Abu Dis, an Arab neighborhood near Mount Zion, one of the most disputed areas home to a huge concrete wall that looked to me over fifty feet high. We were most shocked to find when we got there that Israel had placed bus number 14, destroyed last week in a suicide bombing, right in front of the wall as a grim justification for its existance for all the Arabs to live with every day. (Another such bus was shipped to the Hague, Israel's only contribution to the International Court discussion of the fence). So here we were, staring deep into the bowels of this decimated bus, with all its twisted metal and blown out windows and seats stripped from their places, where seven people died a mere week ago. It was a bit more than I could take.

I was looking around at the Army Jeeps and the soldiers checking the IDs of the Palestinians passing through, at the graffitti scrawled on the wall (no to another wailing wall...from warsaw ghetto to Abu Dis ghetto...paid for by America...etc), and then at all the students, crowding around the bus, cameras flashing, people posing in front of the was hard to keep my thoughts straight. I was angry with Israel, angry with the Palestinians, angry with the students. I don't know why. Maybe because I find it so impossible to get to the truth here, when I'm surrounded by so many arguments from both sides--I just don't know what's right. Of course this wall is horrible, awful, should be taken down, but then again, if it works...if I can take buses here one day...not worry about blowing up...things are so much more complicated than either side is willing to admit.