Friday, May 31

1 Jun

The birds here sing the strangest song. I’ve never heard anything like it. Every morning I wake up to a little bird on the balcony outside my bedroom chirping a tune that is at least three measures long–no exaggeration– and louder than any I’ve heard anywhere else in the world. For the first few days, when I was jet-lagged and adjusting to staying out late and being at the college bright and early, the sound was infuriating. Now it strikes me as the most pleasant way to wake up, a reminder first thing in the morning, often before I open my eyes and confirm that it’s not all a dream, that I’m in this place with beautiful weather, beautiful wildlife, beautiful landscapes, and beautiful breakfasts like this one: 

Image

This was what I ordered at Cafe Chakra, where I enjoyed a quick meal with my two roommates, Marissa and Rachel. In trying this place out, we may have also stumbled upon the one place in town that serves bacon– real bacon. You have to pay a pretty penny for the pleasure, but if you’re ever in Jerusalem and have a hankering for the least kosher thing on the planet, this is the place to be. But enough about that. Let me tell you a little bit about our day, and what we learned.

We began our political science and communication class with Dr. Nirit Topol at 9:00 AM. Well, more like 9:15. We may still be getting acclimated to life in Jerusalem, but running on “Israel time” was something we mastered right away. Nirit began class with a question: is it possible for Israel to be both an ethnic state and also a truly democratic state? We didn’t flesh out the arguments as much as I would have liked, but the general consensus was that it isn’t really plausible. Nirit told us that Israel is the only democratic nation in the world that does not have a constitution– something I hadn’t thought about before, but which didn’t sit well with me. There are a lot of reasons for it, not least of which is the fact that due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is not a set border. The people whose rights would be protected by a constitution would have the potential to be constantly in flux, which could create a whole slew of problems. But what about civil liberties? In Israel, there is no separation of state and religion. How could there be, in this place that David Ben-Gurion declared a “Jewish state in Eretz (land of) Israel?” A nation formed on that premise means that there is a constant tension between between religious and secular Jews as well as the obvious tension between Jews, who are granted the “Law of Return” to immigrate to Israel with very little trouble, and Arabs who do not receive such an open invitation. The name of this trip is “Contemporary Israel and its Complexities,” and our talk just illuminated the fact that the complexity is multifaceted; the tension in Israel comes from within as well as from the countries that surround it. 

We ended our formal class early to visit the Museum on the Seam, Israel’s “socio-political art museum.” It is widely known to have a left-wing agenda, which many of us thought would be interesting in contrast to the Zionist focus that is placed on many of the sights we’ve seen here in Jerusalem. The curator of the installment, Raphie Etgar, was there to talk to us. Hearing from him definitely made the experience more enriching, but the show was only loosely connected to what we’re studying here. It was called “Flesh and Blood,” and was put together to raise awareness of animal cruelty that is propagated by the behavior of humans. Many of the exhibits were graphic and unnerving. A few artists even used real blood to create their works:

ImageAs I said, the main goal of the exhibition was to scrutinize what Etgar said is the “existing harsh relationship between mankind and other animals, and to challenge us to show sensitivity and to face the reality of which the majority amongst us is not sufficiently aware.” What is more applicable to our time here, however, is the broader message that it sent: “It is our duty and obligation to find creative ways to spread the message of change of attitude towards animals, towards our fellow-men, towards the weak and the other.” In a place like this, any sort of call for compassion is an important one– no matter how it is presented to the public. 

When we left the museum, we went separate ways to prepare our dishes for the potluck Shabbat dinner we’d all conspired to have after sundown as one big, happy mishpucha (family). I was in charge of finding tortilla chips for the salsa that Jenna and Eva were making, which is easier said than done in this place! My hunt brought me to three different stores in the hours before the sun went down, which is the busiest time of the week because everyone in town has to pick up everything they need for the Sabbath before the whole town shuts down until Saturday night. I’ll tell you what, though, all the schlepping was worth it. We had a fantastic dinner, and we even said the blessings over the meal in the true Shabbat spirit. We enjoyed an enormous salad, rotisserie chicken, challah bread, pasta, hummus and veggies, and more… and of course, who could forget the phenomenal rugelach and other kosher pastries from our favorite neighborhood bakery, Marzipan. Our revelry (trust me, we were reveling) eventually led most of us out to Ben Yehuda street, where we happened upon our friends from University of Colorado- Boulder and enjoyed a night on the town that included dancing, laughing, and taking tons of very unattractive pictures that should never be viewed by the public, ever. Trust me on that, too.

So today is the day of rest, and I’m taking it quite literally, writing this blog slowly as I sip my second cup of coffee on the balcony of our beautiful Rehavia apartments and listen to that bird’s unbelievable song. Shabbat Shalom, folks. Have an amazing day!

-Kelly Ganon

 

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One Response to “Friday, May 31”

  1. nu2013israel June 2, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    Sounds like you had a nice and restful Shabbat in Jerusalem
    Elan

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