I’m back online and ready to write a few more entries. Many updates to fill you in on. This is my first time commemorating Tisha B’Av (which started tonight) in Jerusalem. Almost everything here is closed tomorrow, and there is no Ulpan. The day takes on an altogether new meaning when you’re in the same city where the two Temples were destroyed (to say the least!). Fewer secular Israelis, on the other hand, commemorate the holiday. Here’s a poll that talks more about that.
Tomorrow I will be going to Pardes’ day of learning. Topics of lectures include “When G-d is Unjust” “Why Was the Land Destroyed” “Why Learn Job” “Kinot with Explanations” and “Torah Yoga.” I’ll let you know which ones I end up attending. And then I have to study Hebrew like mad, since I was just bumped up to level 3 and have lots more work than before. (More about that soon). Can someone give me an explanation about “smichot” in Hebrew grammar?
Here’s more about our trip to last week’s wedding:
Eric and I made our way to the Binyamina train station on Thursday afternoon where good ol’ Etamar was waiting to pick us up. We first took a cab to the train station at Beit Shemesh, a city outside of Jerusalem. The driver decided to take the quicker ‘back way,’ which entailed our going through a section of the West Bank. It was a brief but memorable excursion. It is a hauntingly beautiful landscape–rolling hills dotted with green bushes and stone walls and barriers and fences.
We passed near the Jewish settlement of Efrat, via a road that was faced with barriers–to prevent the neighboring Arab town from firing at cars–and a tunnel–that also prevented Arabs from taking potshots at passing vehicles. We passed Bethlehem (where I remember visiting Rachel’s Tomb back on my Bat-Mitzvah trip to Israel). For some parts there were barriers along both sides of the road.
Driving through a region marked so significantly by nature and man-made boundaries was both riveting and saddening. While there was a part of me that wished these fences were no longer there, there was also a part of me that was glad to have their protection.
Then we’re back over the Green Line, and you could tell because the hills were now populated with pine trees, pine trees that were planted by the Jewish National Fund decades ago. I was struck by the incongruity of these pine forests with the barrenness of the surrounding landscape. The pine trees don’t quite seem to fit in with this type of environment, and here’s the story for how they got here. Initially JNF planted them because they were seen as hardy and could take root quickly. More recently, JNF has been reintroducing trees which were part of the original biblical landscape.
When we got to Beit Shemesh, the train was just pulling out of the station (oy). So we got on the next one an hour later (slightly grumpy) and finally got on our way to Binyamina. As we approached the Tel-Aviv region, the mountains around Jerusalem gave way to the flat coastal plain area. An Israel completely different from the one we just left.
Stay tuned for more about last week’s wedding…