Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sunsets & Little Jerusalem

Tommorrow I will make my 3rd trip to Jerusalem. I hadn't planned to spend as much time as I have there on this trip but a combination of friends and research contact keeps bringing my path to the holy city. Today there is an article in Haaretz on the minature version of Jerusalem during the 2nd Temple period which was just moved from another location and which I got to see 2 weeks ago while visiting the Israel Museum & Shrine of the book. (BTW--Mum, did you ever get that postcard?!)

BTW--My beach trip worked wonders, the writer's block seems to have shifted slightly so I was able to get some writing done on Jewish halacha and technology today. Yeah! I think watching the sunset at the ocean front restaurant at dinner helped bring some inspiration. Photo credit for this one goes to Yael Levanon.

Take me to the Beach!

I had several very frustrating days of writer's block. Have spent much time staring out my dorm window trying to make my mind clear. I gave up yesterday in desperation and called a friend who kindly decided to rescue me from myself and take me for a walk on the beach. Walking along the water's edge I always find bring me back to a place of peace. Here are some pics from our walk.

Monday, June 26, 2006

What a Doll!

I am now the proud owner of my very own 'Fulla' doll. Also called the Muslim Barbie, she is a beautiful young women who is also modestly covered in a long dress and head covering. I had heard about these a few months ago online and then got to actually see one a few weeks ago. Now, as a thank you for reviewing some of the PhD work of a friend, I have my own.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Signs, Signs, everywhere signs...

Yesterday I had a full day getting lost with my friend in the hills of Judea, exploring Soreq cave and visiting the holy sites of the Ein Karem where Elizabeth and Mary met while pregant and where John the Baptist grew up. Yesterday we also came across some interesting signs, which I though would be fun to share with you as well...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Back in Jerusalem...

Today has been an adventure and a return to Jerusalem. First our bus broke down 1/2 between Haifa and our destination, we ended up 30 mins later piling on an already full bus. But I arrived safely, and I always enjoy the journey up through the hills into Jerusalem. My friend Oren met me and we had an interesting afternoon exploring Mea Sherem, the city's ultraOrthdox neighboorhood. The trip required a change of wardrobe into a long skirt, long sleeves and putting my hair up, and Yeshiva girl. We went in search of religious books & CDs for my research and I enjoyed exploring the shops, the busy-ness of shabbat preparations and the smell of fresh Challah. I also got to see a Kosher cell phone up close, which is exciting as I have written 2 papers about them. After buying many things we went a short distance to East Jerusalem and visited the Garden Tomb. It was a buzz with American tourist and we ran into Oren's friend Ariel who works as a tour guide and was showing a group of Assembly of God pastors around. It was interesting to see the tomb and the garden is built beautifully for reflection and prayer. Finally we escaped the heat and tourist for afternoon tea at the American Colony hotel...which ended up being a shared club sandwich and iced coffee. This is my 7th visit to Jerusalem and each time I am surprised by new images I see of lived faith, religious devotion and multiple and often conflicting interpertations living side by side.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

In my room...

I haven't blogged in the past few days as I have nothing new to report. I have spent most of this week in my apartment trying to get some writing done and have made some okay promise. I am staying in the dorms in Haifa which is nice. They are on campus so it is only a 7 min walk to my office. But at the dorms I have DSL, sattelite TV, a patio with great views of Haifa and maid service 2xs a week. In fact I am about to get chased out of my room so she can clean my bathroom and change my sheets. In some ways things are better here than my home in TX, I may never want to leave!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Food, glorious food.

As I mentioned in one of my previous entries, the food is one of my favourite things about Israel. While I could eat fresh pita and hummus every day my friend Yael is trying to broaden my culinary experience. Here are some picture of my favourite new dishes. First is
Jacknu & Milawhe 2 Yemen dishes consisting of fried bread eaten with salsa like dips and slow roased eggs which I am told are often eaten on shabbat. Second is a picture of salads which Yael taught me how to make in getting ready for her Dad's retirement party: fresh tomato salad and taboule.

Meet my friends...

Well it has been almost a week since my last blog. I have been busy attending a conference on Jewish Identity, conducting interview with Muslim student on religious use of the internet, playing tourist in lower Galilee and writing like a mad woman a paper for a conference I was suppose to finish 2 months ago. Phew! I wanted to take this blog to introduce you to my 2 good friends and collaborators on my survey research project.

First say hello to Yael, a lecturer in Sociology here in Haifa and PhD student researching community networks in Israel. This is a picture of her from this past shabbat when we were exploring the ruins of Beit Sheraim.

Now say hello to Asmaa, a lecturer in Computer Science in Al Qasami in Baqa al Garbia and a PhD student studying adoption of the internet in the Arab sector in Israel. This is a picture of her at a taken at night at an outdoor coffee shop in Baqa.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pics of Jerusalem

It took me a few days but here are some pics from this past weekend's trip to Jerusalem...
First is a picture of the Church of All Nations, Next is my friend Oren at the Garden of Gethsemane, Then is a picture of me in front of the Valley of Jehosophat & the Mt of Olives and Finally a sunset over Ein Kerem (where John the Baptist use to hang out and where my friend Yael's parent's now live).

Monday, June 12, 2006

And you wonder why they call us "stupid Americans"?

It seem the past few days have been the time for American young people to do silly things in Israel/West Bank.

First there was the teenager from Michigan who decided to secretly fly to Israel and travel to Jericho (in the West Bank) to meet her online love interest from

An then the Jewish-American student from Brown University who is interning at the Jerusalem Post who decided to take at day trip to Nabulus (also in the West Bank) who ends up getting kidnapped for 24 hours.

And people wonder why I try and not disclose my nationality while I am traveling?!

BTW--Don't worry Mum & Dad, I have no plans to do any thing like this, traveling alone to unsafe places is defintely not on my intinerary.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I don't know what I ate...

...but for 24 hours I have not felt so good. I will spare you the details, but let's just say I tried not to be far from a bathroom yesterday! I tried to guess the source of the problem. Was it the baba ganosh in Abu gosh? The pear and prosquito salad at Paradiso in Jerusalem? Or my friend Oren's scrambled eggs? I'm not sure. All I know is yesterday I only ate rice and my cure all for tummy problems, lots of oatmeal.

It is such a shame that I am susceptible to tummy bugs as I love the food in Israel. In fact the when I am introduced to someone new and asked why I was in Israel my friend Yael sometimes responds for me, "she came to eat", which is what I jokingly told her when I landed at the airport. I could eat hummus and fresh pita all day, along with the many salads, soft cheeses and vegetable dishes they serve. I also never knew that cucumbers and tomatoes could have taste, until I visited Israel for the first time in 2003. All that said, I hope my stomach settles soon so I can go back to enjoying these things.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Going up to Jerusalem

Greetings from Jerusalem! I am playing tourist for a few days visiting friend in the holy city. The first landmark my friends insisted on taking me to was the famous...Jerusalem Mall. When we entered the mall one friend jokingly said, oh this is holy ground, we must pray. We then went and paid hommage to "aroma" Israel's answer to Starbuck.

I have been to J'salem 5 times but there are still many thing I haven't seen, so later I went with my friend Oren to the old city. I wanted to go on the stations of the cross pilgrimage led by the francisans each Friday. Somehow we missed the beginning of the tour but still manage to walk the via Dolorssa, visit the Garden of Gessamane, the burial place of Mary & walk near the valley of Jehosphat & Mount of Olives, which was lovely. We made a brief stop at the western wall where I had some time to pray and then manage to catch the last 5 stations of the cross pilgrimage at the end at the Church of the Holy Sepulucre.

One thing I hadn't noticed before is the religious furvour of many of the pilgrims who come to visit the city. This especially noticable at the church where people would kneel, carees & kiss the place where Christ's body was supposedly laid when it was taken off the cross. Some would even lay necklace, cangles or other momentos on the stone slab thinking they might be made holy or absorb some blessing from. "Isn't this like paganism?", commented my secular Jewish friend. I thought, you're right, its kind of idolatorus to focus on anicon or image and treat it as an object ofo worship rather than seeing it as symbol pointing to God.

The rest of the weekend included visits to the Shrine of the Book & Israel Museum, dinner out at the Arab village of Abu Gosh, watching the latest X-men movie at the cinema'teque. Stay tuned for pictures...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

3 Things you won't see in aggieland...

I moved into University housing last night and am now fully a part of the University of Haifa community for the next 2 month. Here are some of the things I had forgotten about that you won't see in aggieland...

1) Guns in the classroom. Yes, we have to Corp, but they don't carry guns to class. Here students who are on duty soldiers in the special forces are issued guns that they must have with them at all times. That mean they take it to class, the library, that bathroon, etc. I asked my friend if she thought it was okay to take a picture of one of them. She said yes, but that then they would have to kill me. I wasn't sure if she was joking, so no picture today.

2) Security check points. To enter any building on campus you must go to a check point where a guard will search your bag and use a metal detector wand to swipe you to make sure you are not carrying explosives. This is not only on campus, but in most public building, malls, and even grocery stores.

3) Smoking...everywhere. Israel is not as militant as the USA when it comes to non-smoking policies. Of course there are no smoking areas, but there are also smoking lounges in many of the building. I passed one professor office today and saw what smelled like cigarette smoke coming out from under their door!

Monday, June 05, 2006

An Office with a View

I moved into my temporary research home at the The Caesarea Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Foundation Institute for Interdisciplinary Applications of Computer Science (C.R.I.) today. I was so excited to see that I have a window (my office in Aggieland is nice, but feels like an enclosed box). If you look out the window one direction you can see the Mediterranian on the other direction you see the Carmel National forest stretching out below.

What do you think of my view?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Lost...not in translation!

This is my second attempt to type this entry!

Today was my day at Haifa University. I spent 2 months here in the spring of 2004, so it was nice to get reintroduced to my memories of the sights and sounds. I had forgotten how strong the coffee was at the campus café (it makes an espresso from Starbucks in the states seem very weak, wow!) and how beautiful the views are from the university grounds on the first peak of Mt Carmel, overlooking the city of Haifa and the Mediterranean Sea.

Though my Hebrew has slightly improved since my last visit, I still spent the day not understanding 95% of the conversation that was happening around me. I spent 4 hours of my day in my friend Yael's pol sci Research methods class for 2nd year students. While I could identify the concepts she was discussing, such as the difference between validity & reliability in survey as how to form a Letcher scale question, the nuance of the student's discussion and her explanations were totally lost to me. In the 2nd half of the class they even discussed the research survey I had drafted on religiosity and patterns of technology use, my reason for coming to Israel, I was still lost 80% of the time.

Nonetheless it was a great time for people watching. Israeli students are much different than their American counterparts. Most are in their mid-20s or older, having survived 2-3 years of compulsory military service required as soon as they graduate from high school. So on the outside they appear more mature and reflective.

Now I am sitting at a computer that insists on translating all into Russian. And though my Russian is definitely better than my Hebrew (1/12 years of study during my BA) still I am at a loss. Couple that with a Hebrew key board that insists on typing right to left and I am unsure how this will all type out in the end.

Ach well, that's the fun part about traveling and researching internationally, being willing to give up control and the need to totally comprehend your communicative surroundings!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hello from Haifa!

Well its been 6 months since my last blog, so about time to update everyone on what's going on. I survived my first academic year in Texas and am still smiling which is important.

The school year ended 2 weeks ago and now I am sitting in my friend Yael's flat in Haifa, Israel. I will be in Israel for 2 months for a research project on religion & new media. I arrived on the eve of Shavout so we have had a 3 day holiday. Shavout fesitval of first fruits and the giving of the Torah. Though as I was staying with a secular friend we had more of a postmodern celebration. On Shavout night we ate much cheese (which is something everyone does I take it at this time) and had a 8 episode marthon session of watching Deperate Housewives. Over the hoilday I also helped my friend clean and decorate her new flat, visited a Druze village and a wonderful carpenter/artist shop, had a lovely walk over a suspended bridge in the Carmel mountains, ate much hummus and was treated tonight to kanafe (a version of bakalva with layered with melted cheese and swimming in syrup) in the Wadi-Arab neighboorhood of Haifa.

Tommorrow will be my first day at the University of Haifa! Will keep u posted on my work and adventures.