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Shabbat Shalom, everyone!

Really quickly, I just want to turn your attention towards some administrative features of this blog. First, I have updated the “About” section (look at the top of the page, where you can click on a button aptly labeled “About”). In addition to a short introduction as to the reasoning and progress behind making this blog, you can also find the background for “Exploratorius” and the copyright that applies while using this site (nothing scary, but worth taking a look at). Similarly, the “More Exploratorius” page’s button has also been updated, with links to some of the affiliated blogs I have created. The one for Vietnam won’t have anything before this coming December at the earliest, but I wanted to secure the name of the site. “A Jaunt Around the World – Zambia” is currently quite empty, but that will change in about a week (when my package from home arrives, and I transcribe my journal from that experience into easy-to-follow blog posts). The “Travel Tips” blog is self-explanatory, so take a look if you’re interested. Check them out, and feel free to comment.

Just as an aside, I figured I would update everyone on the sheer audacity of cats around these parts. Not only do they consistently sneak into and around dorms and other buildings, they are also apparently either ninjas or secret agents of some sort. The other night, I was innocently and calmly cutting the leaves off of the tops of some delicious strawberries in the kitchen, while washing them. Once I finished preparing the whole carton for consumption, I simply went over to the cabinet that has the garbage can in it. Being the type of cabinet door that latches when closed, suffice to say that I was QUITE surprised with the outcome of touching that door. I opened the completely latched door, and watched in abject terror as time slowed down, and Surprise Garbage Cat can hissing, spitting, and darting out of that cabinet like greyhounds at a racetrack. Luckily, it left without giving me rabies, but I may have uttered some strong words such as “oh my” or “wasn’t that unexpected. Not too sure how the cat got in there and then latched the door from the inside without opposable thumbs, but he meant business.

Beit Midrash this week was quite enjoyable, particularly given that the topic at hand was “the New Year of the Trees.” This translation of Tu B’shvat, which is one of the 4 Jewish new year holidays every year, celebrates the end of the winter rains and the beginning of the spring. Interestingly, one way of telling when this holiday was at hand is because the very first trees to blossom (almond trees) do so right around this time. The class took its usual course, with Rabbi Pear hurtling through a huge amount of material and perspectives, in order to help everyone not only get an introduction to the topic at hand, but to also allow people to consider and ask questions as well. The theme his discussion ended up taking was one of the environmentally-friendly dictums of the Rabbis and the Torah, one of which I wanted to mention here. In the Torah, it holds that when the Jewish people were besieging a city, they were not to cut down productive fruit trees under any circumstances, so as not to waste. Extrapolated and expanded to fit into today’s context, this is a firm law that ought to have more followers: instead of polluting and misusing the oceans, for example, we would be better off to take care of them and thus extend their bounty.

The next day, on Israeli election day, Scott and I decided to go see the Israel Museum, which was pretty good. Even though the main archaeological hall was closed (until 2010 for major renovations), there were other areas that are still worth seeing. First and foremost, we were entertained by the entrance to the place. The first building had 8 windows for people to queue up at: 3 windows for information; 4 windows to purchase entrance tickets; and 1 window as a “CHECK ALL WEAPONS HERE” type of line. Only in Israel πŸ™‚

Inside, the first attraction was the scaled outdoor model of Old Jerusalem. Like, they chopped down very small pieces of Jerusalem stone, and then landscaped a 30-foot diameter area to match the geography of the city and constructed small houses, hovels, villas, a Second Temple, and so forth, all to scale. They even had Golgotha – a small sculpted stone to look like a skull, to match Biblical descriptions.

Next, we went into the Shrine of the Book, which is one of the photographs attached here (again, thanks to Scott O’Hara). This is where they both store and study the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran, and once inside the oddly shaped building, the 26 shekelim entrance fee becomes worth it. The center of the room is a huge pantomime of a Torah scroll, and it features a back-lit 22-meter long section of the Isaiah scroll, which was found in almost perfect condition. Although I cannot reproduce it for you in text, the British accent of the audio device guide we were given made his rendition of the word “Isaiah” sound something “izzze-yah,” which was entertaining. Similarly, there are fragments and relics pertaining to the Aleppo Codex, which is a famed and partially destroyed copy of the Torah that had been protected for many centuries before its abduction in the mid 1900’s. No pictures from inside, because we were strongly forbidden from taking any.

Finally, we took a walk through the modern art sculpture garden, and those couple which appealed to me are included in this blog post.

We walked up the hill to the nearby Knesset (Israeli Parliament building), and although we were expecting to be turned away, we still wanted to try and get in to see it. As we got within 30 yards of the building, a guard came over and asked if he could help us – as expected, our request to see it was denied because it was closed for the elections. We still got a few photographs of the cool sculptures in front of it, and then walked across the hill to the Supreme Court and adjacent Rose Gardens. Even in the dead of the Israeli winter, there were still a few blossoms that would beat quite a few rose gardens at home, and the Supreme Court itself was of very interesting architecture (for both, see the attached).

On our walk away from the Supreme Court towards the Israeli shuk, we passed near an out-of-place monument. It was a Japanese-style bell erected towards the goal of place in the middle of the 1990’s. Check out the attached photographs, and imagine just how odd it was to crest a hill and see that standing all on its own. Finally, getting close to the shuk from a direction we had never taken, we passed a small plaza of stores with large cement columns holding the roof over a sitting area. Whether according to or in spite of the business owners’ wishes. those columns had been repeatedly covered in graffiti ranging from poorly done all the way to pieces of art. The best couple, in my opinion at least, have been included – I am particularly amused by the Lord of the Rings reference in “VOTE FOR ARAGORN.”

On another note, I simply want to mention how much I enjoy Coca Cola here. My roommate explained it to me – apparently, corn becomes a food that is not kosher during Passover, and the rabbis decided that corn derivatives are therefore also not kosher. This includes high fructose corn syrup, and so the locally licensed producers of the beverage decided to make it year-round with natural sugar. This means that it doesn’t make one sick, like it tends to elsewhere. Instead, it is a thoroughly enjoyable beverage, and I am sure I will miss it a bunch when I leave, because it actually tastes good πŸ™‚

And finally, another odd little cultural thing I wanted to mention was regarding the nearby Aroma Cafe, which I have mentioned a few times before. In addition to their usual, wacky custom of playing video clips from Looney Toons and the old Popeye cartoon with Israeli popular music laid over it, a fellow patron managed to surprise me quite a bit. As otherworldly as this sounds, this guy came into the place and ordered a coffee dressed as follows: baseball cap, sweatshirt with some clothing company’s logo on it, blue jeans and sneakers. Oh, and a very, very well-kept bolt-action rifle that looked quite ready to be used at a moment’s notice. I am torn as to his status – he certainly wasn’t military, as they are all issued only automatic weapons. His demeanor and clothing seemed to suggest he was a Jewish settler coming into town, but my roommate thinks the guy works as security for an Israeli tour company, which apparently arm their guides with bolt action rifles. Yet another thing I will end up getting used by the time I am finished here, and then miss once I am home πŸ˜›


One Comment

  1. I know exactly what you mean with the coke. In Mexico, the coca cola there is made with natural sugar as well (not for the same reason, but they are not allowed to use corn syrup in their drinks ever if I am not mistaken). Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because Farmer in the Deli in Chesterland sells bottles of coke from Mexico for $1.50 a peice. Sure the price is kind of steep but its well worth it in my opinion and it comes in a cool glass bottle with Spanish on it. Are the prices for soda there as outrageous as they were in Europe?

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