Friday, July 24, 2009

Shabbat Shalom--Time Flies in JLM

Only 4 days left in Israel. As usualy the trip has gone by fast but overall has been worthwhile. This has been my best and most productive visit by fa, but will be glad to get back to my TX to get caught up on sleep in my own bed.

Last week was spent in an intensive writing and resting retreat. I spent my mornings reading, praying and taking naps. My afternoons were spent writing the lit review draft of the research article I am here to work on and writing a grant application I am working on with another Israeli colleague from Hebrew. I was put up in a Hermitage which was a lovely cottage over looking the valley of Ein Karem and from my balcony could see the hills outside JLM and the church of the visitation and a Russian Orthodox Cathedral with its sparling gold onion domes. It was one of the most beautiful retreat spots I have ever been to. Over the course of the week I went to Vespers, prayers and Mass in Italian, Hebrew and French. The nuns were lovely and I would definitely recommend this spot from a most excellent retreat and space for contemplations.

However, since my research collegue picked me up last Shabbat (saturday) it has been all go. Saturday we met up with his cousin Katya who was visiting from Belgium for a quick tour of the north to see their relatives and visit Jaffa and Casearea. Then from Sunday I have done a total of 8 research interview and had 3 other meetings with Israeli scholars. It seems all my first hand research stuff all got schedule in week 3 as it is hard to pin down many of the Israeli webmaster and rabbis I had contacted. The phrase of week was "just 5 mins" as people often reschedule interviews at the last minute or when I tried to call to pin them down they asked me to call back again, and again. Blessed are the flexible. A highlight of the week for me was meeting Eli the Torah scribe in the old city. I wrote in my most recent book some details about Jewish law and craft of writing religious text so it was great to sit down with an trained scribe for over and hour and speak with him about his trade and verify what I had learned from books about the art and requirements. He was also a lovely man so who hand wrote me a beautiful mezzuah scroll and commissioned him to bible verse that I will take home to remember this meeting and experience.

So all in all I have been busy with not much time to blog!

Last night I got to go to synagogue with a new friend & reserach colleague and her family. It was a "modern" orthodox synagogue and one of the most moving services I have ever been in. The whole service is mostly sung led alternatively by a male then female cantors (which is unusual) followed by the while congregations singing. My biblical hebrew kicked in about 40 mins into the service so I was able to join in singing the Psalms (esp. 95-98 which I really love) in Hebrew during the 2.5 hour service. At times it felt even like a pentecostal service (like the "singing" in tongues part one often sees) as the cantor would sing part of a prayer like the shema and then the whole congregation would sing sponteneously in their own tune another part of the prayer.It is the closest thing I have gotten to a proper church service since being here and was grateful for a the space for worship.

Today am off with Oren to Tel Aviv, he is going to a family event and I will meet up with a friend for coffee, then it is back to work as we try to get the article drafted before I leave on Tues pm/Wed am.



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