Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Religion in the Hills- edited

Hi Guys. So I have now left "Acsent"- the center for Kaballah in Tzfat that I ended up at the other night at 2 am in the morning. I ended up staying there another night- for the sake of finance and convienence- but I am glad that I did- it was pretty interesting.

So after I last wrote I basically just walked around town looking at galleries and winding streets- Tzfat is a pretty beautiful place. It is also known for it's art scene- or atleast once was- and art is definitely still present- though a lot of it is now focused on religion. I also walked around the ancient cemetary- a lot of which was just in ruins- crumbly little stones scattered around. However the really important people- like influencial hassidic rebbe's and such had blue painted stones.

Tzfat is also interesting because it has completley sort of switched hands to being a completley jewish town. Prior to the war of Independance, there were both Muslims and Jews here living reletively peacefully- but during the way there became strict divides in the town- the best example is a huge staircase built straight down the middle of the town dividing the two sides. However, Jews eventually "won" the territory- and now the Arab section is the artists colony- and one of the mosques is used as a gallery.

Went back to Ascent- and took a little nap- and then went to a class that they had at 8:30- the subject matter was to be a surpise because no one could seem to tell me what it would focus on. However- story of my life- I was the only one who showed up for the class- I always seem to get private lessons- so it ended up being me and this old Hassidic rabbi chatting for 2 hours ( an hour more than the class was supposed to be). I really enjoyed it actually. It was interesting to hear about the roots of Kabbalah from his perspective, as well as his perspective on the reform and conservative movements of judaism- which he basically did not consider to be judaism at all. He sort of assumed that I knew nothing about Judaism because I consider myself reform and was not wearing a skirt and stuff- which was sort of weird because I have done some studying- but certainly not as much as him- so I guess it was fine that he reviewed a lot of basics.

I went to another class before I left yesterday- with one other person attending- and looked over the torah portion for the week- and then headed off to enjoy Israel's public bus system once again. The trip was fine other than the fact that it has been literally pouring all weekend. I thought I saw some intense rain in Jerusalem- but this was way more intense. The whole time at Ascent it sounded like there was an ocean beating up against the side of the building- and I think that if I held a measuring cup out the window it would have been full in about 7 seconds. Tzfat is the most elevated town in Israel and the hills made for rivers flowing through the town. No wonder people are religious here. However I guess it is not normal because someone said to me "We have been praying for this kind of rain for years"

So anyways, I was soaking wet and freezing and carrying too many things for the whole adventure getting back to Tel Aviv- and I had to switch busses twice outdoors. So I was pretty glad to get to my hostel last night- and I splurged on a cab from the bus station because I was feeling sort of crappy from being damp and cold all day long.

I am actually staying in this sort of suburb (borough) called Jaffa- which has some cool stuf to explore and has a little bit more of a beach town feel apparently. The hostel is cool- you could sleep on the roof here too- and the kitchen is also on the roof under a little awning. You can see the (turbulent) sea from the roof- as well as a lot of Tel Aviv- so it is a pretty cool location. My guidebook also said that this hostel was named to be #16 in the world by some magazine in the UK recently--- so.... cool. I have been to better I think, but it is still pretty nice-- the roof makes it great.

Its been really great on this trip to see Israel on my own terms. My first trip here was great, but it really was sort of zionist- and there is so much more to the history of this place than one perspective can afford you. I don't know if I wrote about this before- but I was talking about Israel with some of the people I went on that roadtrip in Spain with ( who are all from the UK) and they all sounded to be very pro- palestine- which was interesting. I talked to them about that and they were like " yeah- basically the whole world is pro- palestine except for America". I didn't think that all the things they were saying were wrong ( though some things I did)- I don't necessarily like to identify as pro- israel or not, but it is sad to me how much of the world sees in black and white on this issue.

Israel is such a strange place. In so many ways it is so western. American music plays- there are skyscrapers and boutiques in Tel Aviv, people here are multiracial and diverse-- on the outside sometime it looks like america. But then you see the soilders on the street, or filling the bus, all with guns the size of your arm, or old bullet holes in the walls of Jersusalem, or in the walls of the school in Tzfat- and you remember that things here are really different. And as much as I really do feel safe- my imagination is ready to take me away to the worst in an instant. Like when I saw two armed soilders running down the street yesterday, or when one of the public busses stopped unexpectedly on the side of the road, or even if I hear a loud commotion on the street.
These things have thrown me off less than the first time I was here, which is perhaps why I haven't written about them so much-but I want to be clear that Israel isn't all beauty and mysticism :).

Haha- I remember last time I was here- it was right after the ceasefire had ended on the Gaza strip ( in January), so things were tense-- and the day we were re routed ( for safety reasons) from Tzfat, we went to Tiberias. Anways.. we were all sitting and chatting, when a plane flew overhead and there was a loud boom. I remember I literally ducked- and so did many other people- I might have even yelled or something. Turns out-- it was simply the plane breaking the sound barrier- and nothing to worry about-- but I always think that is a good example of how it can feel to be here. Totally safe until there is reason to think otherwise- and then things can feel very serious very fast.

Anyways...... Update on the foot: Looking better. I think the biospy is helping it heal- so I am feeling hopeful. The doctors are still being slowpokes on the results of the biopsy- but I am going to call them today to see what the deal is.

Anyways- I have a lot of pictures to post, but I don't have the means to do it right now. Will do it soon! More to come!


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