Almost Halfway

Wow, the past two weeks have absolutely flown by. I can’t believe it. Many amazing things have happened.

  • I went to my first Passover seder.
  • Katy came to visit and it was a really great to see her again.
  • I got my brand new camera!
  • Katy and I saw a large majority of the awesome things we studied in our Jerusalem class.
  • I received a gorgeous bouquet of the most beautiful combination of white flowers I have ever seen, with some chocolates that I refuse to share with the boys, lest they disappear too quickly, and a lovely bottle of wine that we almost broke into the other night. I’m glad we saved it for later.
  • I saw my first Shabbat host family again at an amazing Passover BBQ and they are still equally as amazing.
  • I had a lot of time to work on my mini project for the ICC.
  • I created a professional-looking document using a professional program and I am SO proud of it!
  • I pitched my practicum project to a group of professionals in the Antiquities Authority and they loved it.
  • I visited the head volunteers at the cemetery where I will work and had another great time learning from them and sharing their passion and enthusiasm.
  • I also learned some new things about myself – or maybe became aware of them – and feel encouraged to make a slight change about it. For the better.

Ok, now that I’ve created a little table of contents for you (and have organized all my thoughts!), I will now add photos and expand!

Riikka, our Finnish girl, and I went to a seder with the Ben Ezra family for our seder. Ysrael Ben Ezra is quite the character, let me tell you. Not only a character but a very important figure in Akko, as he is the Architectural Advisor for the mayor. He came to Israel at about the time the State was created in 1948 and built his house in one of the agricultural suburbs of Akko, as many many Jewish immigrants did at the time. I’m guess that at this time he changed his name to Ysrael Ben Ezra. It was a very interesting night and not a typical seder feast. Yes, we went through all the prayers and rituals, but it was very subdued, which I’m told is very unusual. But Ysrael was a very philosophical man and greatly enjoyed philosophizing with Riikka and me, and we learned a lot about Ysrael and his family. The only people at the seder were his wife, Miriam, one daughter and her two children, who are both nearly full grown. The granddaughter is finishing up her initial two years in the IDF and the grandson was about to celebrate his 18th birthday. They were a very lovely family, and Miriam was a fantastic cook. They gave us some kind of rose syrup or jam to take home that they made themselves from the roses in their garden. Apparently this is a very rare and precious thing to receive, so I have yet to break into it! I want to save it! They insisted that we contact them again before we leave and they will give us another jar. Beautiful people.

Then the next day I traveled far and forever to meet up with Katy at the airport. I traveled with James and Khail, who were preparing to hike their way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem! I spent far too much money on transportation because no buses or trans were running for the first day of Passover, but eventually I met up with my dear friend and we made it to Jerusalem and our hotel. The hotel was really nice, located just north of the Old City in an Arab area. I must say that I am really enjoying spending so much time in Arab areas of this country. It is a perspective that I rarely saw before and I am learning a lot. Also, I really enjoy hearing multiple calls to prayer from multiple mosques echoing off the buildings and competing with one another. It’s slightly eerie but very moving.

Anyway, here are some great shots of Jerusalem that Katy and I got to experience. They got jumbled when I uploaded them and I'm too lazy to put them back in order...sorry guys. Haha.

Western Wall

Western Wall Tunnels

So many rooms!

Western Wall Tunnels

Largest single block of stone as part of the construction of the Temple Mount

Cistern in the tunnels
Via Dolorosa

Lahmajoun! A delicious Armenian meat pizza!

Fourth Station

Seventh Station

Tomb in the Holy Sepulchre

Sixth Station

Dome of the Holy Sepulchre

Ceiling mosaic

Beautiful mural

Slab where they prepared Jesus' body for burial

There are many altars and many different kinds of churches: Armenian, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian

Sunset over one of Jerusalem's valley

David's citadel, a.k.a. Herod's citadel

Moonrise over the archaeological gardens

More delicious Armenian food!

Katy and I enjoyed our hotel

Reconstruction of solid gold menorah from the Second Temple

Temple Mount!

Western Wall Tunnels

Armenian Church where the Fourth Station is hidden

Fifth Station

Sixth Station

Outside the Holy Sepulchre

They were saying mass!

Holy Sepulchre

Another possible location for Jesus' burial

Crusader graffiti in Holy Sepulchre

Jewish cemetery at sunset

Archaeological remains of the Nea Church

Dome of the Rock at sunset

Armeanian/Israeli food!

We also rented a car and drove out to the Dead Sea and Masada! Luckily, I booked the car with super duper collision coverage because I did not return the brand new car unscathed. I anticipated as much while driving a car in Jerusalem during Passover and Easter. It was enough insurance and small enough damage that we were completely covered. Yay!

Katy and I had big plans for the Dead Sea area: Ein Gedi, Qumran, Masada, swimming. Unfortunately, our determination to hike the snake path up to Masada and the amount of time it took us to drive out there and the early closing times for Passover (whaaaat???) made it impossible for us to do more than just go to Masada. I really enjoyed seeing Masada through a conservationist’s eyes, despite having been there 4 times before.

We got a Peugeot for our rental car!

I got to drive!


Snake Path!!!!

How naive we were...

At the halfway point, we had to stop and snack

Such a long way up...

Getting closer to the top

Barely halfway...

We made it!

View of Herod's stepped fortress

Reconstruction of Herod's bathhouse

Roman Legion camp when the Romans starved out the Jewish zealots

Yay for the Dead Sea!

It was so crowded

Model of Herod's stepped fortress palace

Driving through the desert at night. We changed in the car after swimming in the Dead Sea as we were driving! hahaha

Here are some BBQ shots. It was delicious. It was also extremely hazy. I recently discovered that it was caused by a massive sand storm from Egypt, the worst that the area has had in a very long time. Riikka, Katy, and I also had a nice bonding time peeing in the park. There were no public bathrooms.

This week we got our hands a bit dirty again working with stone masonry. We learned how to chisel.

Learning the different kind of stone arches and lintels

Benji, Courtney, Laurentiu, and Michael watch intently at our lesson while Ornit translates

Arranging our arch
James watches for measurements

Laurentiu gives Nadine a turn

Khail and Yvonne goof off with the wacky work gloves

But they got serious for the work

Surprise, Michael!

Me, Benji, Courtney

Courtney and Riikka!

Also, here’s a quick screen shot of some of work that is due by the end of this week:

Identifying the building material of the corner of the building in which I'm working!

We leave next Thursday for Masada and Jerusalem, where we will be working on the Western Wall Tunnels! I’m pretty pumped. Next week is also the start of the most solemn time of year for Israel: Soldier Memorial Day, Holocaust Memorial Day, and Independence Day. They are all within a 10 day time span. Something I’m sure I’ll post about.

While we’re in Jerusalem, I’ll begin some serious research into my practicum with the Christian cemetery here in Akko. I am very excited about it.

Well, I must get to work. Today will be full of cleaning and working, working and cleaning. It’s gonna be a pretty crazy week…

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