Friday, July 27, 2007

To Hell and Back---and Baseball!

Literally! Yesterday was the second of our weekly summer trips around Jerusalem. We actually began the trip Wednesday night, with a trip to a burial ground/crypt from the First temple period. In those days, it was customary that when a priest or his family member died, they placed in caves and allowed the disintegrate, and then their bones were placed in a family crypt. It's a little creepy to me, but interesting nonetheless. Thursday we began our day with a really wonderful meditation scharit (morning) service. I'd been studying meditation briefly before I came to Israel, and I didn't realize how much I've missed it until yesterday, laying on the grass, finding both total relaxation and Gd through the service. Then, we began our long (and incredibly HOT---but I'll get to that later) trek through the Gehenom Valley. The word Gehenom in Hebrew literally means 'hell' (thus the catchy name for today's blog title!), though Jews don't really believe in an actual hell. In the time prior to the destruction of the First Temple, it was the place where people came to sacrifice their children to Gd, and apparently, other people came to watch. It's another one of the things that explains the bad deeds the people did to deserve the destruction of the Temple.

After the Gehennom Valley we ventured up (and I mean UP--straight uphill) to the Old City. We went to the Center for Jerusalem in the First Temple Period museum, where we learned about the building of the City of David (in air-conditioning, Baruch Hashem) and watched a very cheesy movie that actually explained a lot about how the city was built and protected from the Assyrians. We then walked to the Broad Wall, which was neat, but I honestly can't remember why it's important--I think by this point heat stroke was starting to get to me---and then had some text study. A small group of friends and I went and ate some falafel in the Old City, went the to Arab shuk, and called it a day. All in all it was a very interesting day, though it was so hot I don't think I learned nearly as much as I could have if it were cooler.

The Broad Wall in the Old City. I need to research it more and figure out why it's so important.

So, let's talk about the heat for a minute. Jerusalem is currently under a heat wave, which means the temperatures hit around 100 everyday and don't cool off very much at night. It's NOT pleasant, certainly not when you're schlepping up the hills of Jerusalem to sit in the sun and have text study. The heat does nothing but make me tired, thirsty and disgustingly sweaty, and coming home to an un-AC'ed apartment doesn't really help much. Sorry to be complaining about it, but you all want to know what life is like here, and as my friend Jen said in her blog the other night, "I'm extremely jealous of your [people at home] AC." I couldn't agree more, and I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Last night, after a very cold shower and many glasses of ice water, a big group of us went to Kibbutz Gezer for...a baseball game! We watched the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox play the Modi'in Miracles! Baseball is not a popular sport here in Israel, so I wasn't expecting much. Upon arrival, we saw a dinky field and a scoreboard from 1868 (or so it seemed) and plastic lawn chairs to sit on--it was very Field of Dreams-esque. The players are from all over the world and are minor-league rejects or Israelis who think they know how to play real baseball. Because of all of this, the game was AMAZING---extremely pathetic baseball (I could have played as well as these guys), good hot dogs, sunflower seeds, and cute, CUTE baseball players. I really couldn't have asked for more. They started the game with Hatikvah (literally 'The Hope', Israel's National Anthem), which was cool to see, and then, in the 5th inning stretch (they only play 7 innings, which was a little bizarre) us HUC students were asked to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"! It was soooo much fun---I just wish I could have recorded it. We came home early, and though many people were going to a bar afterwards, I came home and crashed, which was beautiful after a very long (but good) day.

Erin, Josh, me and Amy at the game---the lighter blue hats are for the Modi'in Miracles, and the Navy hats are for the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. I liked the hat for Modi'in better, therefore I was rooting for them. Sadly, they lost, but a good time was had by all.

The field and scoreboard--it's hard to read, but the yellow sign above the scoreboard is an advertisement for Kibbutz Gezer Olive Oil, one of the products the Kibbutz makes and sells. You can also see the corn fields in the background---I told you it was like Field of Dreams!

Erin and Batya's daughter Carlie, who is the most beautiful baby in the world---she was hot and cranky, so Batya cheered her up by splashing her with water. This pic was taken right after she was splashed. It was so cute.

Today has been a very chill day, which is nice after this crazy week I've had. I went to a little produce market on Azza (not the shuk---I don't think I could handle that on a Friday before shabbat) and stocked up for the week, and here I am. Tonight the cantorial students are going to a Yemenite (I believe) synagogue for services (cantorial students get to go on special synagogue tours that not all students can participate in---it's one of the perks) and then I am going to dinner at my friend Jen's house. I haven't decided where to go tomorrow, but after morning services there is a picnic in the park, which should be fun.

Hope everyone at home is doing well--enjoy your air-conditioning and Shabbat Shalom!

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