28 March 2008

24 March 2008

The other Friday night, as I was walking to a dinner I was invited to, the full moon was as bright as the surrounding lampposts. At times, the white light reflecting off the near-perfect disc illuminated entire street blocks. Walking past the iconic building housing Belgian Consulate, rabbits were romping through the estate’s backyard. Cadbury bunnies, huge grass-eating long ears that looked out of place amidst the palm trees.

Easter Round One has come and gone, swelling the town with sun burnt Catholics and Protestants. The ongoing language and culture gap between tourists and the natives takes on a new dimension, with old Spanish women screaming at the Sephardi grocery cashiers. This year the pilgrims with wooden crosses on their backs were met with drunken Jews celebrating Purim. A calendrical quirk made the Purim festivities in Jerusalem last close to four consecutive days, though not tiring out the more hardcore rabble-rousers. “Purim bombs,” makeshift fireworks that create a lot of noise, gave palpitations to everyone in a 10-mile radius throughout the weekend. With a heightened security alert, the last thing one wants to see is some overweight yeshiva kid ignite one of these bombs and hear its explosion ricochet through the alleyways. Last night, studying in my apartment was met with heckles in New York English from across the street: a group of yeshiva kids, continuing to fulfill the Tradition of getting intoxicated on Purim, were waiting for a ride. They blocked cars in the street, screamed expletives in an otherwise quiet residential area until midnight, and just as I was reaching to call the Police (my fraternity with Americans has very finite limits), I realized what was going on. The very drunk kids were trying to get their passed-out friend into the car, and hopefully to a hospital. This country can be a kind of Disneyland for many, with the words “Promised” and “Holy” connoting a sense of invincibility.

Spring is slowly creeping in, with the street block by the Prime Minister’s residence smelling like roses (ironic), and campus the other day perfumed in jasmine.

09 March 2008

08 March 2008

The ritual wiping away condensation from the windows has temporarily given way to the ritual of keeping the blinds closed until it gets dark outside: a type of heatwave called a sharav has enveloped the country. There’s very little wind, grey skies, and very hot temperatures. One avoids being outside during a sharav like the scene in The Ten Commandments when the 10th Plague creeps through Egypt, symbolized by green-tinted smoke: you don’t wanna be outside breathing in this stuff. Those who do venture forth into the pestilence use clothes as a shibboleth: the locals, knowing that winter isn't over and hotter weather has yet to arrive, are still in long sleeves and jackets; the out-of-towners think anything above 60 F is cause for wearing flip-flops and shorts.

After a long day at school on Thursday, I got a ride into Tel Aviv to catch the bus back to Jerusalem. As my carpool got into Tel Aviv, we learned that there was a terrorist attack at a yeshiva near the main entrance to Jerusalem. Coming from a class in terrorism, we compared this attack to one that occurred at a yeshiva several weeks ago near Jerusalem, as well as the phenomenon of shootings on college campuses in the States.
Although we haven’t had to deal with an attack for some time now, the onslaught of rockets on Sderot is a daily dose of depression; that HAMAS upgraded their supplies by sending GRAD missiles into the city of Ashkelon is cause for a bit more anxiety. Then the attack on the yeshiva happened and the buzz of seven million anxious citizens reenters the atmosphere.
The bus ride back was packed with exhausted soldiers and passengers rattling away on their cellphones. As we approached the suburb of Mevasseret Zion around 10:30 PM, traffic going towards Tel Aviv was at a standstill. No one was going into town, and as we wound our way up the road to the main entrance, we found out why: all traffic was diverted to the new bypass road, enveloping the cabin of the bus in silence as the hills reflected the blue strobe lights of police cars. Soldiers and police patrolled street corners downtown on Friday. People were out and about, but not in the numbers they have been in recent days.

The rains come back in a day or so; the alarm of the downstairs apartment owned by absentee Americans continues to get tripped by voracious alley cats; and we’ll all wake up tomorrow to confront together whatever version of BizarroWorld the Middle East and this living experiment called The Jewish State have to offer.

06 March 2008

03 March 2008

No sooner did the last semester end than the new one began. A combination of a one-test-per-week policy and the only-in-Israel phenomenon of retaking a test for a better grade create a virtual lack of a winter break vacation. For the last several weeks my brain has schemed to escape through one of the various orifices in my head, almost getting out through one of my ears the other day. While the classes I’m taking this semester are incredible and the professors are outstanding, I find myself oscillating between watching clips of American “junk TV” online to for the numbing effect, and episodes of The West Wing for the redemptive effect.

The endless look for a job has come to a stop for the meanwhile, having started a job in the retail world at one of the few stores out there I respect for their merchandise and business practices. I’m still sniffing around for something more in line with my previous employment experience and current academic pursuits, as one of this degree’s pluses is its ability to work and go to school 1-2 days per week, but bills have to be paid and customers have to be satiated.

More to come as my head slowly defrosts.