Mon 5 Jan 2009
Well, it’s definitely been a couple of weeks. So here’s the update.
The strangest thing about Christmas in Jerusalem is how normal the day felt. Stores were open, people were all around. No Christmas lights, or Silent Night on an endless loop. To be honest, it didn’t feel like Christmas at all.
Since Chinese food is hard to find, and the movie theater is far away, we decided to fore go the usual Christmas Eve festivities. So what to do instead? Well, Jess and I ended up doing different things, but in the same line of though. So what did we do? Well…we went to Midnight Mass. Ironically, in Jerusalem it seems like a cool thing to go to Midnight Mass and see how Christians celebrate. In the states, I would probably never go to Mass. Figure that out?
Well, Jess went with her friend Nikki (grew up Catholic and converted to Judaism about 4 years ago) to a service in the area, while I went with a few people to Bethlehem to see how Christmas is celebrated in the city where Christ was born.
I’m not sure what I expected in Bethlehem. First off, it’s in the West Bank. We needed to bring our passports and go through a security checkpoint to get in. Once across the fence, the entire landscape changed. We went from nicely paved roads, nicer buildings, and Hebrew signs, to very rundown, dirty, and Arabic signs. It was a bit of culture shock, and it was only about 30 minutes from where I live!
We got there a few hours early and they had this whole concert set-up. The weird part of it was, they had a lot of the groups were singing in Spanish. Huh? They would say all of these pro-Palestinian lines at the end, but again it was in Spanish, so nobody was really listening until they said something like ‘Viva Palestinian!” and then everybody would cheer.
Around midnight, we tried to get into the services, but tickets had been sold out for weeks. This is the service that a lot of the big wigs show up to. Supposedly Abbas was there. Outside of the building were a ton of dignitary limo’s with flags from all different parts of the world represented.
We were able to go into the Church of the Nativity by entering the ‘Door of Humility’. Basically it’s a door that is about 4 feet high, so you have to bow to enter or exit. From there, we were able to go to an alcove and listen in to the services, which we did for a few minutes. Unfortunately, we had no clue what was going on, so it wasn’t that impressive.
The most interesting part was just walking around and watching the people. Palestinians were walking around in Santa outfits handing out pro-Palestinian rhetoric. People were there to celebrate, others were there for the free music and festive atmosphere. It was a cold night, and tons of people were walking around selling two from what looked like the tea kettle from their house.
Jessica on the other hand, went to the entire midnight mass, and probably had a much more interesting experience since she was able to get the play-by-play.
New Year’s Eve
So one of the students organized a New Year’s Eve celebration for any of the students that wanted to join. She rented out a bar, organized the open bar, decorated the place, and bought snacks. The theme? Prom. So you know what this means? In the mighty words of Barney….SUIT UP! So everyone got all gussied up in the finest clothes that they brought to Israel.
Ever weeks of trying to get up the courage, I finally was able to ask the girl I was interested in if she wanted to go to Prom with me. Thankfully, she hadn’t been asked yet and said yes. So Wednesday night finally came along, and I showed up to pick up my date in my finest suit. There was much dancing and hanging out with friends, and midnight came and went.
Overall, a very fun evening. To top off the evening, we caught up with almost all of Jess’s family on Skype.
Packing and Finals
So this week is Finals for Jess. She has had 2 ten page papers to finish, one oral exam in chanting Torah, and 4 additional tests. Needless to say, she has been a bit stressed. As of right now, she is over half done as she handed in both papers, took both the oral exam, and one of the written exams. I’m just tired thinking about all of the work she is doing. Right now, her and a friend are studying Hebrew in the main room.
We are also leaving for Africa late Thursday night (Jess’s last final is Thursday morning). So this week, I’ve been finishing up work and trying to remember where I placed all of the things that I want to make sure to bring with us to Kenya and Tanzania.
This will probably be the last post for a little bit. If we have the opportunity, we’ll try and post while we are traveling, but if not…there will be a long post when we get back with hopefully a ton of pictures!