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And, for folks not lucky enough to have spent 5 hours per day, 5 days per week in Winter Ulpan, that’s “shalom” in the formal Hebraic aleph-bet (as they intentionally call it here, as “aleph” corresponds to “alpha” and “bet” to “beta” in Greek).

I haven’t been able to update this blog in a few days, because I made the decision to spend the time between the end of Ulpan and the beginning of the semester proper as a personal, extended Shabbat [Sabbath] to make up for the preceding 6 weekends being spent traveling and exploring without resting. It was a worthwhile choice, as the rest has better prepared me for the academics this new semester holds in store.

First, however, I would be remiss in my blogging duties if I did not mention my first activity this week, early on Sunday morning. Having previously done the gathering of information and research necessary, Scott and I had figured that we would probably be able to get into the Dome of the Rock/onto the Temple Mount if we went early on Sunday morning. Our sources were correct; we went and stood in line next to the large wooden ramp adjacent to the Kotel/Wailing Wall, and eventually got through security without issues. We walked up the ramp, passing by stacks of riot shields and a few stowed weapons, and some heavily armed Israeli guards. I make the differentiation of nationality because the Temple Mount itself has been entrusted to an Islamic waqf, or specially appointed cadre of caretakers. Scott and I disagreed, but I was under the impression that the guards of the Mount itself were also Arabic, but I am not sure. Nevertheless, quickly sneaking past a very large and loud group of French tourists, we made our way onto the Mount itself, and were blown away by what we saw.

The size of several football fields, we were immediately able to see Al Aqsa mosque to our right, and the Dome of the Rock to our left behind a large grove of Cyprus and olive trees. There were several other structures, arches, and domes, and a large area far off to the right under significant renovations (later, I found that this was the location of the so-called Solomon’s stables, which is kind of cool in my opinion). We decided that rather than follow the wave of tourists and locals Muslims to the Dome itself, we would go off to the right side of the Mount. To better explain which location I am referring to, it is the side of the Mount which makes up part of the Old City’s walls, and is closest to the Mount of Olives. We had a wonderful view of the Russian Orthodox church of great reknown, with its golden domes; we were also able to see and admire the Church of All Nations/Garden of Gethsemane and the Dominus Flevit chapel in all their glory from our perch on the side of the Mount. To get to where we were, we had to cross a large, white-tiled promenade with green-poled streetlights, which seemed a bit at odds with the general character of the rest of the area. Once at the edge of the Mount, we decided to walk left (orienting the reader, this pointed us towards the Golden Gate of the Old City). We walked along, and surprisingly, came upon a few large piles of rubble, debris, and other refuse. Like, although there was decades-old stone fragments waiting to be removed from the site, there was also a collection of actual trash: a refrigerator, a few broken chairs, and other things which one would not expect on the Temple Mount/near the Dome of the Rock, as they are such holy sites.

I later looked in my travel guide, and the map of the Temple Mount had a big set of bold lines with the words “OUT OF BOUNDS” around the locations I just described. No signs, guards, or impediments of any kind to us going where we did, so I am not sure if we majorly broke the rules or not. Nevertheless, I look forward to going back with my camera (details in a later blog post), and posting photos and more details here.

As for the first week of classes, here is the list of classes I am taking (with a small detail alongside each):

-Intensive Hebrew language
This is the same as the entirety of Ulpan, except we study for 2.5 hours rather than 5 hours per day, and the pace of class is greatly increased (from very fast to LUDICROUSLY fast).

-Conflict Dialogue: Christians and Jews in the Middle Ages
This class involves students from backgrounds spanning atheism to close-to-Orthodox Judaism, to extraordinarily Reconstructionist Jewish, to moderate Lutheran (c’est moi), to Pentecostal. Definitely a wide array of views coming into this course, and I look forward to it.

-Middle East: Coexistence and Rapprochement
This course, taught by an older Israeli professor, is looking into the conflicts and attempted political peace processes from the Yom Kippur War of 1973 until today. The best two parts of this course include: 1) he has GREAT personal stories like “once, in the 1980’s, I got to vote absentee while in Lebanon after we had taken that ground in a military action” and 2) he has enough of a British accent to make his lectures entertaining but still comprehensible, such as “PRO-cess” and the like. Outstanding.

-Introduction to the Philosophy of Maimonides
In reality, I started off enrolled in “Archeology of the Biblical Text,” which sounded great. As it turns out, the professor was great (albeit not entirely confident with his English), and the material was quite interesting (Late Bronze Age moves of the Israelites into Canaan, and seeing how archeology supports the Biblical text). The deal-breaker was the mix of other students. I am certain that they are all nice, but there was this one girl who just wasn’t making this experience a good one. Like, I understand being inescapably excited about a class, but I draw the line somewhere. Specifically, my proverbial line is drawn BEFORE the point where the class devolves into:

1) Professor makes a MAXIMUM of 3 short talking points in his lecture
2) The aforementioned girl, apparently interpreting his short pause between one point and the next as the end of the lesson forever, doesn’t raise her hand and simply loudly inquires as to details on his previous points. Now, keep in mind, this started all of 7 minutes into class, so the chances that the professor would leave us all hanging for a week 7 minutes into the period aren’t likely. He would proceed to answer her questions, and seeing as how he was already unsure of himself using English, would lose his train of thought and thus set the class back as he looked to regain his place (in no way do I hold him accountable for this). This step also involved said girl making “clever” “summaries” of previous facts from the lecture, almost all of which were utterly wrong and poorly conceived.
3) Repeat as desired (i.e. 1.25 hours), thus driving me slowly but surely insane.

Obviously that wasn’t going to cut it. I hope the Maimonides course is as good as people have told me it is; that would give me 4/4 amazing courses for this semester. Also, I got into the Honor’s Program here which is kind of cool, because I apparently have to present an original piece of academic work done while here… and I am considering something in the realm of theology.

Having updated the blog finally, I look forward to visiting some places this weekend, and give some detail on that in a future post.

(and once I get them, a small introductory gallery of photos will go here, because Scott’s camera died a few minutes into our visit and my camera was mailed from home Monday…


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] in Photographs Attached, Religious-themed, Semester Proper This post is the follow-up to a previous post where I described my visit to the Temple Mount, only that this visit involved 1) good weather; and […]

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