Learning New Things

It has been a hectic two days here in Israel! On Wednesday I went to Yafo which is a port city about 15 minutes outside of Tel Aviv. Yafo’s “claim to fame” is that it was mentioned several times in the old testament–King Solomon imported cedar wood from overseas and the cedar came thru the port at Yafo. Also, when Jonah was escaping God’s will, he got on a boat at the port in Yafo before being thrown overboard and swallowed by the whale. Many of the towns here were gated/walled towns back in the day. The town outside of the old city wall was a bit dirty and not so impressive. There was a flee market and some small shops around town. However, the scene was completely different inside of the city gates. Old Yafo is absolutely beautiful! The view is fabulous! The cobble stone streets and small alley ways definitely gave the town a quaintness that I didn’t expect. The highlights included the “Wishing Bridge” where supposedly if you touch your zodiac sign while looking at the ocean and making a wish, your wish will come true (I crossed it twice, LOL). I was also impressed by the Ilana Goor Museum, which is actually her house with some great, modern artwork inside.

On Thursday morning I went to Haifa, which is about an hour north of Tel Aviv. The day was almost a bust…I left Tel Aviv at about 9:30 am, but grossly underestimated how long it would take me to get there via public transportation. I didn’t get into town until about 1:30pm, about an hour too late for the public (English) tour of the Baha’i Gardens (which you can only enter with the tour) and too late to go to another town close by. I went to the Haifa visitor center–and they told me that there was another Baha’i Gardens tour at 3pm but it was in Hebrew…but at least I’d get into the gardens. So I trek all the way up there to find out that the tour was actually at 2pm…but they did let me in to the top level so I could see the gardens. The grass is perfectly manicured and the flowers are beautiful. The gardens are on the side of a mountain, contain about 18 levels, and apparently is one of the holiest sites for those of the Baha’i faith.

After that, I went to the Mane Katz Museum–which was very very small and featured lithographs of several stories–and I still can’t decide whether I liked it or not, LOL. After the museum was the zoo–where I saw flamingos, white striped tigers (cool), camels, and some random other animals… and then headed back to Tel Aviv.

So in Israel, the weekend is from Thursday night to Saturday (Sabbath is Saturday) and the workweek begins on Sunday morning. It’s still taking me some time to get use to–but definitely very interesting. So Thursday nite, Shara and I head out to a “hip hop” club in town. Now, let me say, the music was VERY good…although it was all about 10 years old, LOL. We were jamming to En Vouge, Biggie and Diddy…they did play some “recent” Justin Timberlake and actually one of Mariah’s new songs (Obsessed).

At the club, I was approached by a group of Ethiopian girls (there is a small but distinguishable African population here) who were either trying to figure out if I was one of them or just wanted to be nosy, LOL. I met a guy who was convinced that I was his future wife and declared that we would get married and I’d have four kids (which I politely tried to explain would be difficult unless I started yesterday since I’m 32 LOL)…and we met another guy (from Mexico with a thick accent) who apparently had been drinking since noon and was traumatized because the cleaning woman in the club walked in on him while he was using the bathroom and got pissed because he was “missing the target.” The woman told him “you pee too strong!” (Imagine someone saying this in the best Speedy Gonzalez accent you can imagine…and repeating the phrase over and over and over and over again.)

While out and about, I’ve been trying my best to learn some key Hebrew phrases. Of course I know “shalom” which means hello; i learned “slikha” which means excuse me; and i learned “la’heim” which is a toast meaning here’s to life…and of course my favorite phrase of all… “bul bul catching” which means man with little balls, LMAO! (You know I have to get my laugh on and make others laugh too!)

Friday (this morning) we went to the market and got ready for Shabbot (sabbath) in Israel. Shabbot lasts from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. During that time, people celebrate in various ways–Shara invites friends over for dinner and fellowship. In Jewish tradition, there are a list of 39 things that one is prohibited to do during shabbot. (http://www.answers.com/topic/39-categories-of-activity-prohibited-on-shabbat)

To accommodate for modern times, the list has been extended. There are books and scholarly sources that explain exactly what is allowed and not allowed during shabbot. One of the books I read today explained how to deal with non-jews during shabbot and what you can and can not ask them to do. (For example, you cannot ask a non-jewish person to do something for you that is forbidden during Shabbot, but if you make a statement and the non-jew infers from the statement and does the act of his or her own free will, it is ok. So Shara can’t say to me “can you go buy some wine for me” but she could say something like “We are out of wine.” And since I know that she does not exchange money on Shabbot, I can infer that I should go and get more.

People observe Shabbot in a manner that is comfortable for them. Of course the goal is to obey the list of 39 prohibitions, but people observe in different levels depending on how strict they observe. Some people will not exchange money, some will not turn lights on or off (because it could ignite a fire), some will not operate vehicles, etc.

Sooo, Shara hosted Shabbat dinner for about 10 of her friends. She finished cooking before sundown (in accordance with Shabbot rules) and once everyone arrived, we did the ceremony for Shabbot (which included reading a prayer, a special washing of hands, and eating bread with honey–usually the bread is dipped in salt–but this Shabbot is the begining of a holiday–Succot (which I’ll explain in a later post) so honey is used instead.

We had a great great great time. Lots of wine, great food and great conversation. Very low key, but very spiritual, which reminded me of what the sabbath is suppose to be about (family, friends, fellowship, and a day of rest in commemoration of the Lord’s day of rest).

So now, we are chilling on the couch, talking about universal health care (and why Americans are so hesitant to pass it–WITH the public option) and relaxing.

I am on the way to Nazareth and Galilee tomorrow. Shara will still be observing Shabbot so she won’t be joining me even though she has the day off, but we’ll catch up tomorrow nite, after Shabbot, to hang out.

Definitely enjoying the country–and learning so much about a different religion/culture!