Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Leavin' on a jet plane

Well I am currently at the TLV airport waiting for my delayed flight to Paris and then onto TX. I has been a hard, interesting and frustrating 2 weeks. I am glad to leave, but feel bad for my friends still in Haifa and that I had to leave my things. Hopefully one day we will be re-united with both!

Pray for the Peace of Israel and the Middle East!

Headling back to the USA...without my stuff!

I returned from Jordan late last night. Petra in short, was remarkable, hot but amazing to see bulding 1000s of years old and the wonderful stone carvings and rock formations. It was also good to turn off to things happening in the north of Israel for 24 hours, but we were quickly reminded at the Jordan - israeli border when we were delayed for 1.5 hrs when our car was searched 3 times and they x-rayed up and all my things 2 times (and I wondered was it really necessary for them to swab/inspect even my dirty t-shirts and underware!) Auyways got back to JLM by 1am tired but happy with my adventure. Unfortunatley I had my flight details written down wrong so we missed the small window of opportunity to return to Haifa to get my things. The bombing started early this morning at 8am so it looks like I will return to the USA but without my things (such as keys, clothes, research materials & souviners). I spent today guying a small suit case and a few last minute things and then trying to tie up the rest of my research obligations here. I am sad and glad to leave. I hope I can return next spring to finish up the unfinished research but we will see...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dead Sea Detour

Greetings from a hotel somewhere near Petra (it was darkwhen I got here so am not exactly sure of my location)!

A funny thing happened on the way to the dead sea...I ended up in Jordan. We were checking out of the spa and I saw a sign at reception about a 1 day trip to Jordan. I have wanted to visit Petra for the last 3 years and since I had my passport and creditcard with me I jumped at the chance. It is nice to get away for a bit longer from the craziness in Israel for a bit. I should be back in Jerusalem by tommorrow night and back online.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Going offline..going to the dead sea

Wanted to let you all know I am going off line for the next 36 hrs. I am heading with Yael to En Gedi Spa on the dead sea so will be offline till mon night or tues am. We both need a break away from the 24/7 news coverage and the trip is a substitute to the trip to petra in Jordan I had hoped to take but now it has been advised is not that safe to do, esp for my Jewish friend.

Will be in touch when I return.

Bon Bons for Peace

That's my new anti-war slogan, or bon bons, don't send bomb bombs!

This was inspired by an afternoon trip to a monestary in the jerusalem mountains with my friend Yael. Beit Gamel is home to a order of nuns take a vow of silence and live a life of prayer and solitude. At the gift store we met a lovey, smiling sister in her 50s who had come to the monestary from France just before the beginning of the second intifada. She was quite talkative for someone who lives a life of silence and she told us a story that at the beginning of the intifada she noticed people who visited the monestary were quite tense and downhearted. She began to make the wondeful dark chocolate truffles to give away and sell in their gift shop. She said chocolate always make people smile and she became known as the sister with the gift of being able to bring people a bit of hapiness through chocolate. Last weekend when the bombings began to intensify her mother superior came to her and said "it is time for you to make your bon bon-truffles again!" I had one and they were wonderful, one of the best I have ever eaten! So I say why don't we send Hezbollah a big box of them and say, if you liked these then lets get together and talk! Yael & I also made a step towards peace with lebanon on our own by getting dinner at a Lebanese restuaruant tonight in the Arab village of Abu Gogsh. The labana cheese with garlic and mint in it was exceptionally nice! So since the saying goes the way to a man's heart is through his stomach why not think of food related strategies for peace...what do you think?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Oopps, Forgot to read the small print

Yesterday a colleague from TAMU forwarded a notices of the latest travel warning put out on Israel. I scanned the email briefly at my friends house but only after returning to JLM did I read it more carefully. And according to it I have been a bad girl today, doing things Americans have been advised not to do, such as:

(1) Not to use public transport between cities in Israel--Well I guess that would have meant being stuck at my friends home in central Israel. Instead I took the train from Biniyamina to Tel Aviv and the intercity bus from TLV to JLM. Both were back with locals and a few foreigners like myself as it is shabbat. There have been no advisements here about intercity public transport and to my knowledge these buses and the trains have never been bomb targets. the only mishap that occurred is that my bag got knocked over and its contents spilled out and somehow in the commotion I think I lost my nightgown. So somewhere on a number 480 bus someone might be now wearing my purple satin nighty! This is a big issue when one only has 3 t-shirts, 2 pairs of trousers and a skirt to their name...luckily yael's family has lent me some clothes to get by on this account

(2) Don't visit central jerusalem.--Well as the central bus station in JLM is in the center of the town this was a bit hard to avoid. Besides the craziness of shoppers and travellers on shabbat as most store close early afternoon to prepare for family and religious gathering all was fine to day in the city center. Actually today TLV was the place to avoid as 3 potential suicide bombers were caught there this afternoon, only a few hours after I was passing through.

(3) American are advised not to take local buses in Jerusalem--Well that would have meant a very long walk indeed. Esp as I was short on cash for a taxi and too worn out to go in search of an ATM. As it was the buses were running late and I had to wait almost 50 minus to catch one that would take me to my friend's house. By the time I arrived back I was hot and cranky and have decided that I was ever made ruler of the world for the day I would institute an international law making it illegal to enter crowded public transport without wearing deodrant!!

Ah well, tommorrow is another day and I will strive to better adhere to these recommendations.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 5 to Day 6...

Shalom, Saalam Alakom and Good morning from hot and sticky central Israel. A awoke to the sound of my friend Asmaa's girls getting ready for their morning swim, just another day here for them. In the north yesterday many cities were hit quite hard and it seems a new type of rocket is now being used in many places. Only 1 hour from Haifa all is quiet. It is amazing the contrast. My plans to do interviews at several internet cafes got thwarted yesterday due to the 3 local ones all being closed or shut down, one only recently. In a way this is an interesting commentary on the state of Internet diffusion in Israel and the Arab sector. My friend said that due to the price of access coming down more people have net access at home and work and there is not a need for internet cafes like there was 1 or 2 years ago. So instead we did some shopping and I did some browsing at local book and media stores, taking picture for my research. I also ended up going to the graduation ceremony of the college where Asmaa teaches, held outside the college and in the couryard of a local Mosque. About 120 students recieved their teacher training diplomas and the place was heaving with people. I enjoyed the expereince, people-wathcing and taking more pictures and learning a bit more about local arab culture. After the ceremony I went scarf shopping briefly with Asmaa and learned how to put on a haircovering and then the family went for shawarmas at a local restaurant. It was delicious and so far my gut has not reacted negatively to this, like it sometimes does, so I am grateful. Then Asmaa and I had a late night research planning session working on the draft of our first research article from the project on methodology. Will hang out here till some time this morning and then head back to JLM. I smell coffee turkish brewing, yeah... time for my caffeine dose!

Day 5 and travelling to the center

Hope some of you are enjoying my blog, it is hard to know if people read it or not...

I am well though I hear some of the official and folks at TAMU are a bit nervous on my behalf. I guess I am becomign a bit infamous around certain circles of the college of Liberal Arts. I keep saying I am fine,but I guess with what people are hearing with news statesdie it is a bit hard to believe. But I am staying with locals and good friends who will not let me do anything that would put myself at risk. Plus I have a praying Mum (who just called me on my cell phone and she said she had a peace about my being here and I trust her motherly and spiritual instinct). I still hope to still get to Haifa before I leave to retrieve my stuff but if things aren't settled I am developing a contingency plan.

So I am now using my unplanned free time to do some ethnographic research for my book project in different religious neighboorhoods in the south and central areas of the country. Today travelled from JLM to the center near Biniyamina. I am now with my research colleague Asmaa who has arrange for me to visit a local interent cafe and talk to some local users. We area also using this time to talk about the plans for our data collection. Am also being wonderuflly distracted by her adorable daughters, the youngest is now dressed in fairy wings and running around the the room proudly shouting a version of the new english phrase I taught her " I flying, I the fly". It is great to have a break from watching/listening to the news 24/7, I am getting a bit overwheled by all the coverage.

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, Israel & the Middle East...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Day 4 and venturing outside JLM

Before all the troubles began I had made an appointment2 weeks ago to visit a colleague from Haifa where she lives in Bnei Brak. As the chaos has not yet reached the Tel Aviv area I decided it would be okay to venture out of the city. It was a very hot and muggy day and I found public transport a bit frustrating (combined with the fact that I am often "directionally-challenged" in new places). But after several missed buses I ended up making it to the 2nd largest UltraOrthodox neighboorhood in Israel. I had a good meeting talking about the current situation as well as my friend kindly answering all my question about UO communities in Israel and helping clarify the difference between the numerous groups and affiliation found here. As she said, 2 Jews, 3 opinions. I then venture into the main shopping area to do some field research on the Kosher phone and found 2 places that were selling them and was able to talk to the phone reps about the marketing and options available with different versions. Then after some browisng in haredi music & book stores and buying a few mezzah for friends I headed back to JLM (but not without waiting for 30 mins at the wrong bus stop and missing my bus). Finally back in JLM I slowly navigated my way home. Despite the break from watching the news the events in the north were in most people's conversation, on the radio in the bus and conversation at the cafe where I stopped to get some cold juice. Things seem not to be settling down as I hoped, some say it could be 1-2 more weeks if not longer. Sigh! I have decided despite this to visit a friend in the center of the country tommorrow to do the last of ethnographic data collection and then will see where to go from there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A report from Haifa

Below is an email I recieved from Gustavo Mesch, a colleague and my research sponsor in the Sociology Dept at the University of Haifa. He gives some good insights into what life is currently like in Haifa:

Dear friends-
many of you have send me notes expressing concern and support. During the last five days, all the northern part of Israel, including Haifa, have been under heavy bombing and as many citizens of Israel we are closely following the instructions of the military going to underground shelters according to the indications. In many localities citizens have spent days and nights in shelters only to find their houses destroyed. Haifa University is closed and all the exams and classes have been cancelled. Yet the public is not in panic, anddespite the situation is continuing their routines. My wife is a nurse at one of the major hospitals in Haifa and keeps going to work. I came eveyday to theuniversity and try to finish grading papers and research. From time to time my work is interrrupted by the sound of the alert in all the northern area, i go to the shelter and listen to the bombs falling somewhere in Haifa, Accre, Naharya, Safed. My family from Naharya has temporarily moved to our house, butbeyond sleeping at home they go everyday to work in Naharya and Haifa. All my family and friends are safe and well, there is no panic...only understanding of the magnitude of the danger that the Hezbollah has been building up with theclose support of Syria and Iran and the blindness of the internationalcommunity. As always I appreciate very much your concern and hope that this will be a final round of hostilities, for the well being of the people ofLebanon that had suffered enough since foreign forces and countries have usedtheir country as a battleground and for the well being of our people that wish for a long lasting cease fire.
best regards Gustavo

My 2 shekles on the Israeli Situation

We have had a quiet day here. I spend the morning with my friend at the Jersualem mall, shopping for more underware and a clean skirt. It was heaving with people and you would have no idea that a war was happening in the north with all the hustle and bustle there.

I just had an email from my Dad who said he was hearing many conflicting messages in the media and was unsure of the details of what was happening here. From the news I have watched in Hebrew and on foreign sattelite what I hear from contacts living in different parts Of Israel here is what I have been able to piece together chronoclogically about the current situation:

1) Hezbelloh is a terrorist organization that seems to have more power than the "official" Lebanese goverment. There are a militant Islamists and anti-Israel and have been generally upset with Israel since the last major conflcit they lost with them in the 1980s (but in all reality this situation goes back farther than that).

2) Things have been tense in Israel for a few weeks due to the conflict in Gaza (basically sinceI arrived in June). The kidnapping of a solider by Hamas in Gaza at the beginning of July put things at a new tense and adviserial level .

3) Hezzblollah crossed the border and kidnapped 2 Israeli solider and killed several others last week (just about the time I returned from my trip to Sweden). Israel responded with some rockets to Hezzbolahs strongholds which happend to be ingrained in residential area of sourthern Lebanon and Beruit. This defintely raise the concern within the ME and put this event on the radar screen for the international community.

4) Hezbelloh uses this as an excuse to then attack northern towns in Israel with rockets.

5) Since then it has a, you hit us we hit you back, response.

6) Haifa got invovled last thursday when the first katusha rocket landed (see my entry: bomb in hiafa and in the safe room) . Some say the media gave too many details of the location of the hit which gave Hezebollah strategy of how to best attack Haifa in the future. The weekend was spent with Hezbelloah hitting towns in the north inluding Akko, Naharyah, Kiriat Shmona and Tiberians in the Galilee. People in the north entered shelter rooms on Shabbat and many have been there or near them ever since.

7) Haifa suffered a major blow on Sunday (which blocked my return to the north). Israel intensified attacks on Souther Lebanon trying to hit strategic targets but obviously innocent getting caught in the crossfire. Hezebollah seems to be randomly hitting civilan towns and targets (like hospital, housing areas, etc). The G8 make public statements about Israel having the right to defend herself, but should execute restraint. Other countries call for a cease fire. Israel comes out and say it must defend itself agains terrorists. People of Lebannon seem caught in the middle with an offical government that is weak and unable to govern the situation. Hezzbellohs leaders are quiet on their long term goals and whether or not they would consider a cease fire or release the prisoners.

8) Today more air raid sirens sound in Hiafa and in the north. My friend was on the phone with a friend 5 mins after a rocket hit an apartment building on her block. She thenc alled a friend in Hiafa who said he coulld not talk as air raid sirens wer esounding and he had to run to the bomb shelter. Foreingers in Beruit Lebanon continue to be evacuated to Syria or Cyprus. (But no mention of evacuating Americans out of the North of Israel yet). International pressures and talks is pronounced but it hard to tell what will happend or what can be done at this point.

Anyways this is my account of the current situation, all is uncertain!

An alternative view

FYI...My friend Yael recommended to me that anyone looking for an alternative view to mainstream news coverage of the situation here from inside Israel to check out the Debak file website. It leans towards right-wing conservative, conspiracy rhetoric, but they often gets reports out of what is going on before they hit the mainstream news. Though their coverage defintely has to be read as having a distinctive slant.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Day 3 in JLM

I awoke this morning to hear Israeli radio news reports and see my friend busilyIM-ing with friends in the North. "More bombs in the north" she said. After my shower I sat down infront of Sky news to hear the update. Yael joined me and immediately got on the phones, she wa trying to make a connection between old friends to find soem in Kiyrat Shmon which is right on the border a place of refuge from the onslaught. Many of the people in the norther town like Naharyiha have been in bomb shelters for the past 10 days. Also many are sending their kids now to relatives in the south or central part of the country, away from the bombimg. In many ways it all feels surreal. Yael too said this is surreal for her and unexpected, there have not been a rocket attack like this in Hiafa for some 32 years. But it is close to Lebanon about 25 miles and on a clear day I could see the Lebanese border from my apartment balcony at the university.

Last Thursday after the first rocket fell I called Oren from Jeruslaem while still in my safe room asking on advice on what to do in such circumstances. He has a bit of a sarcastic sense of humour and he said smirkly, "the first thing you must do is put on clean underware, what would your mother say if you got hit in dirty pants". He was trying to be funny obviously...That said, no on ever thought things would escalate to this situation. It is hard to see all the things happenign here and seeing all the innocent in Israle & Lebanon being effected and able to do nothing.

But JLM not a bad place to be stuck. Yael's parent's home is the nicest place I have stayed in Israel, they have a huge house with view overlooking the hills of Yad Vashem and the valley near Ein Karem. Yael's granfather was a well known Israeli artist so the top floor looks more like a gallery than a home, the have a 2 tier garden so it is a beautiful place to take refuge. ALso Yael is one of my research collaborators so we are able to do work here together which is good.

I have had many emails from friends around the world who are a bit concerned about me , it is nice to hear that they care. I promised in the letter I had to write to get leave of TAMU that I would be safe and not do anything silly and I will live to that. It is my 4th trip so I know the country and I am staying with local who are in the know so that is good as well. Besides I have a praying Mum and have seen God's hand move in several times in the last 3 days to protect me and my friends so all is well with my soul.

Will report more later today.

Day 2 as a refugee

My friend & research colleague Yael arrived safely from Haifa last night (also bearing my laptop computer so most of my reserach is safe, phew!) and we stayed up late watching the news and talking about the situation. It seems Haifa has gone from a feeling of curious about what was going on at the first rocket arrival on Thursday to caution at the weekend to caution yesterday with the 2nd attack to now being in shut down migled with fear. The university is offically closed, and the web site in Hebrew "demands" that everyone should stay away and stay at home. I haerd today that they have closed the unviersity dorms and set peopel home to their families, and the foreign students have been bused to Jerusalem to stay at Hebrew Univ dorms. So I guess no matter what I would be here for the time being.

I have used my time here to build my research social network of Jerusalem contacts. This morning I had coffee with a professor from Aberdeen, Scotland that I have only known online who has invited me to be on a panel at SSSR in October. She suggested we meet in the German Colony at a cafe that was bombed by terrorists during the 2nd Intifada, "they never bomb the same place twice" she said (you gotta love matter of fact Jewish logic!) Our conversation got interrupted by a camera crew who had descended on the cafe to do an interview with some local political figures and foreign commentators on the situation. From my eavesdropping it sounded like they thought Hezzbollah needed to be stopped and if they would not listen to international pressure to stop bombing Israel and hand back the hostages, then Israel had no choice but to respond. And so it goes...

After my friend's expereince yesterday, compounded by 3 weeks of little sleep due to her PhD data collection, her mum had booked up both into a therapist for massages today. In the middle of my massage the 3rd set of rockets fell on Haifa. No one was killed, but an apartment building was destroyed. So it is uncertain when we will return to Haifa at this point, I went underware and toiletery shopping this afternoon for necessary supplies. At least I am a refugee who has a credit card!

The researcher side of me find this a very interesting situation. Especially watching the news coverage. It is interesting that most of the inital picture from many of the bombs sites don't come from TV cameras but from video fooltage capture via video mobile phones. In the background of all the news report standing behind the journlist you will also see people taking camera phone pics or you see them calling their friend and waving, obviously to say "hey I am on TV right now can you see me" (which seems to drive the journalists a bit nuts). Also you see the incorporation of blog commentary into the news reports. Last night they did a news featurein Israel chanel 2 news which had some images that people had emailed into the news station coupled with commentary from a female blogger in Lebanon on the situation there (the report was in Hebrew so I can't be more specific about the details). Also it is interesting that Israeli television also use Al- Jazerra footage in its reports of what is happeing in Lebanon. As far as foreign news goes, Sky has been the best about giving balanced detailsl and more full coverage of the situation. CNN has been too blase and general and the BBC I have found is too keen on making overarching statements like everyone in Haifa is full of fear and locked indoors (not true, yes there is a sense of fear but I've talked with people today and they are very calm though are staying close to buildings) and everyone in Israel is behind the Israeli government's decision to invade & Bomb Lebanon (except they forgot to note the 2000 person demonstartion in Tel Aviv yesterday of people who are calling for Israel to stop their invasion negotiate with Hezzbollah and push for a cease fire).

As far as Jerusalem as a safe place, well this is Israel after all, so all is uncertain. About an hour ago a suicide bomber was discovered (in time Thank God) headed into the center of Jerusalem with a backpack of explosives. But this is an isolated incident and thigns are pretty business as usual, though the security presence on public transport and in shops seesm to be a bit more keen.

Sleep well and I will keep you posted!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Waiting and Praying

I am settling into my refugee status at my friend's parents home in Jerusalem. I was a bit stressed this morning after getting the news of the situtation from my friend in Haifa and the charge to stay put, especially when hearing sirens and chaos in the background during our mobile phone conversation as she was fleeing her aparatment to the safe room at a friend's house. I have been told the katush rockets that Hezbollahs is using are not as dangerous as compared with other rockets. Most of the people who have been killed have been the result of direct hits and they say they have a loud scream when they are coming your way so you can hear them coming and have at least 5 seconds to respond, which is somewhat comforting. People in Haifa have been instructed to stay in doors, and they say a siren will sounds if other bombs fall and then you will have 1 minute to get to a safe room. Because Israel has a citizenry where most peopel have served in the military they are a bit more matter of fact about the conflict and take things in stride, the idea expressed by several I have spoken to is that we have been here before, we know how to respond. But still from what I hear Haifa is at a bit of a stand still.

I think the not knowing of what is happening is the hardest part. I have been listening to the news reports in Hebrew which give me a sense of what is going on, but as my hebrew is not that good I have had to rely on reports from the Jerusalem Post & Haaretz online to get the spedific details. As far as I can tell no new bombs have hit Haifa since this morning. The few profs I have had contact with this morning that were at the University when all this came down said things are fine there and that the Univ has been unaffected, except for a sense of ugency about it all. Everyone that emailed me said for me to stay put. So who know how long I will be here, only the days ahead will tell. Boy, I wish I had packed more underware for my weekend away.

On a personal note this sure does throw a wrench in my survey data collection and I am guessing my university in the USA is going to be a bit hesitant about letting me come back next year for the follow-up study which is a bummer!

Despite this all I have used my extra time here to connect with a few Hebrew Univ folks, and had a great meeting with Menahem Blondheim today talking about Orthodox Judism and the Media. I learned a lot about the structure of Orthodox synagogues in Israel, like the fact that the sermon does not play a significant role and sermon like commentary shows up in special synaoguge pamplets or newspapers instead. WIll blog more about this in my other blog When religion Meets New Media.

Please keep praying for the peace in Israel and widsom for those in goverment/the military during this time.

A Longer Weekend in Jerusalem

Just wanted to let you know that if you are hearing the news about Haifa that I am still fine. I am still in Jerusalem at a freinds' parents home and looks as if I will be here for another day or so because of the recent rash of bombs. I was getting ready to head to the bust station for haifa when I got a phone call from my friend who was fleeing her apartment, she said she had heard about 20 bombs going off.
They have cancelled all the public transport to the north of the country. She just called me frome a bomb shelter at another freind's house she said the situtation is quite tense and serious here. My thought are ery much for her safety and the other in well as wishing I had packed another pair of underware and my computer with me! Will keep you posted.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Shabbat in Jerusalem

For those who are reading and concerned I wanted to let you know that I arrived safely in in Jerusalem. Plans to do sightseeing in the golan near Israel's the northern border have changed (though I have always wanted to be a foreign war is probably not the time to try and live that dream). Instaed I am going to do some hiking in the Judean desert with a friend and keep things low key. I'll stay safe and keep you posted Shabbat shalom.

Haifa update...all is currently quiet on the northern front

Well it sure is an interesting time to be living in the north of Israel. Residents of Haifa have been directed to stay in safe rooms/shelters for today due to the tense situation and bomb treats from Lebanon. The university is quiet, but that is very typical for a friday and the start of shabbat. A friend has invited me to go to see her family in Jerusalem and I am happy to leave haifa for a few days in hope that things calm down a bit here. The atmoshere here is subtly peaceful but uncertain. Amidst it all I am calm and getting a lot of journaling and writing done. Will keep you posted how things develope.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

In the safe room

We have been instructed to go into our apartment safe room. Luckily for me it is my bedroom which is also where I have internet access. Safe rooms are part of the building regulations since the 1990s, and are suppose to be air/gas tight (though I can't figure out how to seal off the outside window with its attached metal cover seal) so I guess I am set. Also my room has views over the central and north half of the city of Haifa so if anything happens I will have a great view! It is strange to hear the CNN report in the background talking about Haifa being a war zone and hear things are strangely calm though uncertain. We keep getting announcements over the dorm intercom system in English, directed I think towards the american students that are studying here for the summer who seem to be a bit freaked out by this all. I am mainly bummed because this has completely blown my concentration for the journal article I am suppose to be finishing tonight! I hope all stays this peaceful!

Bombs in Haifa

It's 8.40 pm here in Israel, and in case you are listening to the news about the bombing in Haifa I wanted to let you know I am fine. It occurred down town and I am up on the hills in the Univ. Lots of plane are flying overhead, but I was taking a nap when it happened and heard nothing. Honestly I would not have know that it had happened if I had not turned on CNN a few mins ago and just caught the headlines. Things are quiet here at the univ, students are milling around still int he dorm courtyard and someone is even playing tennis courts that my apartment overlooks. Though I think this means my weekend hopes to visit a seaside town near Lebanon are cancelled now! Prayers of protection are appreciated but don't worry. All is fine here for now.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Leaving Sweden

Hello from the Stockholm airport! I have had a full but great 6 days in Sweden. The conference was in a cute small town on a lake. We had great food and I got to eat Ruldolph (reindeer). The weater was unseasonably warm and a bit stifling at time but hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones made it worthwhile. I jsut spend 2 days with my friend Mia who loves in Stockholm seeing the sites and catching up. I am exhausted but am glad for the opportunity. Oopps their are calling my plane, gotta go!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hello from...Sweden?!

Surprise. I have jumped continentas and am now in Northern Europe. I have come to Sweden to attend the 5th International Conference on Media, Religion & Culture. It is being held in the town of Stigtuna, which use to be the residence of the King of Sweden. It is a lovely little town on a lake/loch. I arrive after 13 hrs in transit and met up with a friend and colleague from hailfax, Nova Scotia at the airport. We traveled by taxi to the conference center and then talk a lovely walk around the town and watched the Portugal-France World Cup game (well didn't make it to the end, I ran out of energy and headed to bed). I am actually staying at a hotel which is a 5 min walk from the conference site, but is equally as peaceful and lovely called Stora Brannbo. I am looking forward to cataching up with many international colleages including those I have seen so far from Finland, New Zealand, Britian, Australia and of course the USA.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It's the 4th of July?!

I honestly forgot it was the 4th of July. It wasn't until an American student I was interviewing at Bar Ilan university wished me 4th of July that I remembered that it was today. I haven't been in the USA on the 4th since 1998 so it is easy for me to forget. Any ways it was not much of a holiday here, but I had a good day. I spent most today at Bar Ilan University interviewing religious Jewish students on their beliefs and uses of the media. After maneuvering through public transport in Tel Aviv to Haifa I decided to treat myself to a special meal at a beach front restaurant. Now I am back at the dorms packing for a trip to a conference in Sweden, I will be off line for a few days but will come back with more stories to share!

Monday, July 03, 2006

One more meal...and you'll be Jewish

I had an interesting Shabbat. I spent the weekend with a research colleague and his family to see what life is like for an Orthdox family in a religious neighboorhood for shabbat. From the moment the community gates closed at sunset for the next 24 hours life slowed down several notches and the rythmn of the day moved from shaul (attending synagogue) to long family meals and prayer, lots of times to chat and rest, to more food, to shaul, to more food to walk and to still more food. I love how life slowed down and the focus was on family and faith. When I told a secular friend about my experience he said, ah well one more meal in a religious home and you'll truly be Jewish! It was also amazing that minutes after shabbat ended the community was restore to normal busy-ness. We were still singing and lighting the final shabbat candel when the phone rang and car could be heard buzzing outside. It was a great expereince.