Saturday, October 24, 2009

P.S. Elder Holland hugged me

Don't be fooled by the awesomeness of that title.
It was a million times awesomer than that!

Kali sat by him at dinner (no big deal)
We sang for him
He delivered a comforting, uplifting, edifying, beautiful sermon that spoke peace to my soul in such amounts I can't really use written language to explain it
He spent about 15 seconds on me of all people, hugging me, thanking me, and telling me his grandchildren are enjoying my tennis text book
he told Kali he wanted us to sing that at his funeral
And he hugged me.

The tenderest, mercifulest mercy I could have asked for.
Love you!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"His Kippa is a Watermelon!" and other adventures (aka why I want to be Jewish)

How many orthodox Jews does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer: change?

Ha. That joke was told to us by our Judaism teacher who has graduated from rabbinical school twice but never wanted to be a rabbi, and considers himself something of a mixture of every Jewish denomination. He has absolutely no hair on his body and keeps his kippa on with double-sided tape.

While you're trying to work that one out, check out all our neat Judaica as of late.

  • Friday night we welcomed Shabbat at a neo-hassidic modern orthodox synagogue that met in a scout building. The service itself was phenomenal, with the leader totally rocking out and me finding myself being squished between two biddies gossiping away and kissing each other on the cheek, literally right in front of my face.

    • The music was so other wordly to my Mormon-channeled brain. It was beautiful and dynamic; somethimes upbeat, sometimes slow and mournful. All of it, though, was undeniably worshipful. And beautiful. I loved getting up and dancing with the women around the room, though I'm constantly a little bitter that they seem to always have a little more fun on the men's side. I was jealous of the little girls on the other side of the screen jumping up and down with their dads.

    • Best part of the service= a small boy storming up to the front to his mom, throwing down his soccer ball and delivering a heart-wrenching tamtrum in hebrew. I was laughing so hard on accident.

  • This month (the seventh, the holiest) is the month of holidays! We've been so lucky to be here during the most important days of both Islam and Judaism. The week before last was Rosh Hashannah (Jewish New Year!), followed by Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), then Sukkot (A week of tent-dwelling, yiddish singing, street dancing, willow-whacking, all-around family fun!) When October in Jerusalem rolls around,it's party time!
    • Unfortunately, it's also house arrest time. Us poor little J-center students were confined to the center almost exclusively due to the inter-religious tensions that also mark October in the Holy Land. However, we were often allowed in West Jerusalem, so we spent a lot of money on cab fare and ate a lot of nutella gelatto whipped-cream belgian waffles (i.e. heaven). We also ran into many sukkot parties and visited some museums and had some incredible bagels. I always talk about food, huh?

    • "dwelling" in a Sukkah for Sukkot

    With good reason.
    We eat A LOT of gelatto.
    I'm obsessed with Mahane Yedhuda, the marketplace in West Jerusalem.
    I've always had a thing for toasters, so this was especially exciting.
    We went to the beautiful Ethiopian church in West Jerusalem, and I now aspire to live on Ethiopia street. it's all flowers and sweet Ethiopian Priests, and peace.
Another pretty church

Herod's Family Tomb
The park brings lots of fun and also (On select weeks [i.e. one a year]) tons of sukkot parties with live music and dancing and crepes and happy hassidic children! Come with us...

  • Yesterday was a more solemn one, but one of the most imporant (I feel) I've spent in Israel.
 We visited Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Holocaust Memorial Museum. I was impressed with the approach and the feel of the place. I never got the impression that it was rooted in despair and regret and blame like we sometimes experience while studying the holocaust. I did, though, sense a lot of emphasis on hope, on education, on rememberance, and on honoring the heroic acts of Jews and non-Jews that stood up for human dignity and the love of God and his children.
    • The museum was made out of concrete (which is significant because it's a law in Jerusalem that everything be contructed out of limestone, the "Jerusalem Stone."), to stand as something unfinished. Imperfect. A scar. It is literally dangling off a cliff and has a breath-taking panoramic view of the Jerusalem forest and Mount Hertzl.
 The museum experience begins at one dark side with the pre-Hitler years of the European diaspora and progresses to the end, which is a large window pane, letting in the only light. So basically, you slowly make your way towards the light at the end of the tunnel the whole time.
    • Something I really liked is that you can't just walk through the museum. It winds chronologically back and forth with the story of the jews (each room separated by walls and barbed wire), and each time you come back to the middle to the main hall, there's a gap explaining what's going on in the war and with the rest of the world. There you get another glance at the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a super powerful set up, because each time you get back to that gap you realize that the rest of the world is totally pre-occupied. You realize that you're completely alone (And truly you actually feel completely immersed in the story).
      • The first of these gaps showed footage of a giant book burning in Germany before the war started. it was full of actual books from the period, basically anything contrary to Nazi ideology. Basically everything. I liked the quote with it:
"Wherever books are burned, human beings are also destined to be burned."
    • My other favorite quote was in the hall of the righteous among the nations; gentiles who risked their lives to help jews during the war. This was from Pastor Andre Trocrne, one of those brave righteous:
"I do not know what a jew is,
we only know what
human beings are."
That man sacrificed his life.

I loved this story of Boris Saktsier. He ran an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto (? I believe?), and when the children were taken, instead of letting them go alone, he went and perished with them.

The Chlidren's memorial was by far my favorite part. (We couldn't take pictures inside) It was a completely dark room lined in mirrors and candles, with voices reading names and ages of children in their native languages.

Well, We've been learning so much about this Israli-Palestinian conflict and there are a lot of confusing feelings involved with it for me. I'm not sure if I'll ever have it worked out. But I have found myself quite often nonplussed that this nation of people who have suffered so much and felt so alone and displaced could inflict similar pain on the people who were living in their new national home when they made it such. It doesn't make sense, right?
But I know this. The Lord still loves his covenant people of old. He didn't abandon them to the ghettos and concentration camps (like some people say) for condemning Christ.
See for yourself!

"And it [the bible] shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the bible which they receive from them? yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth the salvation of the Gentiles?
O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient convenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. but behold, I will return all these things upon your heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people."
-2 nephi 29:4-5
And neither have we!

Sorry, this ended much heavier than I meant it to be. I tend to ramble a bit. But just know that I love you, family and friends, and I'm jam-packing my brain with so much, and I intend to return a smarter, better girl. (So many commas there!)
Thanks for your love and Shalom!