Sunday, May 28, 2006

Yom Yerushalayim

Last week we celebrated Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Reunification Day), a commemoration of the unification of the capital city by the government of Israel in 1963. There were huge concerts in the city and fireworks displays, Wednesday night at Gan Sacher (Sacher Gardens, Jerusalem's "Central Park") and Thursday at the Kotel Plaza. A lot of Israeli music talent was represented. Tens of thousands participated in the free, open-air events in the balmy and beautiful early-summer weather. It is interesting to note the mixed views of the holiday amongst various segments of the Israeli population. While some are proud and happy, others are ambivalent or disapproving. Still others are resentful; yet other groups are thankful. Such is politics in Israel, even when discussing national holidays. As they say, "Ein K'mo Yisrael" (There is no place like Israel).

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thoughts for Now

English Comp is over. Finished Thurs, just need to e-mail the teacher one last essay. That leaves me free Thurs nights for the next few weeks. I thought of going out to celebrate, but ended up just taking a long walk about the city. I toured the Wohl Rose Gardens next to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) building. Very pretty. The architecture of the Supreme Court building there is also pretty impressive. The Court's decisions are another story. But there are terraced parks on the roof and a fancy pedestrian bridge to the parking lot across the street that leaves a nice modern and functional effect.

They recently built a new road off Shazzar that should make it easier to get to these gov't buildings. The gov't is working on a general program to consolidate geographically its offices, which, until now, have been scattered about the city. The Drug Authority here, the Bureau of Statistics there, the Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Religion (it's something like that: the 1 Ministry for 3 things that don't belong together; it's something like Sports, Culture, and Religion) in another place. None of these near the Interior Ministry. Anyway, the gov't has tried to buy up property in one place.

Jerusalem visitors, just come. See the whole amazing city; don't leave anything out. There is so much here. I went to 4 Shushan last night. If you haven't heard of it, check it up. Hooked up over there with a cute guy who is studying at Hebrew U. The music was unimpressive, but the dj said it was just for Motzash (Saturday night) that they were playing a more Arabic mix and no American songs. During the week he said the mix is different. I guess more Israeli, some American, we'll see. It's a tiny place, but lively, like I heard it would be. Wow, that's new: accurate reporting.

Stats class in 10 minutes. What else is new? Life's so unpredictable (but in the end it's right/ I hope you've had the time of your life...) yah. anyway, sometimes it's a party, sometimes it's a drag. Stay away from drag queens. And you never know what will come next. You want to change the channel, but you don't want to miss the good parts. And you sometimes end up staring at commercials, and sometimes the people jump out of the screen and eat you. Dunno, it could happen... It wouldn't be a bit stranger than any of the other stuff that does.

Nu, lemme hear som'ing from u. (Ooh, what awful grammar.) Love + Kisses. Just like algebra. What a mood I'm in...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Meron Festival

Egged, Israel's largest bus company, runs a continuous 200+ bus shuttle service on the Jerusalem-Meron route throughout the festival, in addition to increased service from many other cities. Car rental agencies are sold out. Every private tour bus company is booked. Everyone is going to Meron. I hook up with some friends get going.

Four busses at a time pull up to the Jerusalem departure point (Shmuel HaNavi St.) every 5 minutes. They all open their doors simultaneously, and the waiting crowd immediately begins pushing at every door to get on. The busses fill every seat, depart, and are replaced. During the 2.5 hour ride, we pass towns and cities aflame with yellow rays setting sun and, later, the celebratory bonfires that are lit all over the country on this day. The excitement mounts.

I arrived at about 10:00pm Monday night. Hundreds of people filled the walking paths of tiny Meron. People swarmed everywhere. There were the devout making a holy pilgrimage to the grave of a great ancient scholar. There were others just there for the party. Many came to pray. Many came to dance. At every available spot beside the paths and in the surrounding woods campers pitched their tents to spend the night. Free water bottles were distributed at the village entrance. All the homes in the town became virtually public property. Roads were closed to traffic to accommodate the throngs of revellers.

As I made my way through the crowd along the winding path towards the focal point, the tomb of the Rashbi, I passed people in hassidic garb, people in t-shirts and jeans or cargo pants, men in suits, women in dresses of all colors, boys with rainbow colored skullcaps, teens with the white skullcaps of the"na nachs", others wearing the pin of the "mishichists" in their jackets. Some stood in the road collecting charity, others set up shop on the side of the road selling various books, food, or souvenirs. The music became louder. Large tents offered free meals. I approached the entrance to the cave. Here, the crowds were denser than ever. Floodlights lit the myriad posters hung all about the cave entrance. I pushed in along with the crowd, towards the tiny spot where everyone hoped to reach: the exact spot where the Rashbi is buried. Now is when the claustrophobia can begin: There is no way out, but in. The crowd behind propels you forward, blocking off the entrance. There is no choice but to reach the exit on the other side

Just inside the building is a large open room, a kind of hallway. All men here, there is a separate entrance for women. I am carried with the crowd through that room and into the next, a high-ceilinged room with a balcony overlooking it from all sides. This room is filled with pulsating music and dancing. It is hot and crowded. Cold drinks are available along the wall from 2 free soda fountains, but the room is so packed with people they are difficult to reach. The band plays from the balcony above. Eventually, visitors push on the next room. It is a tiny hallway about 5 feet by 10 feet, and holds something like 70 people. Don't ask. But I really enjoyed it. Found a cute guy to follow and enjoyed being pressed tightly against him.

This hallway opens into a large room with low vaulted ceilings painted white. Normal regulations would probably limit occupancy to 200 people, but there must have been 1000 inside. We were packed in so close here I lifted my feet off the floor and was supported by the crowd. The airconditioning was blasting many times stronger than what you would usually need for a room this size, but with this many people we would all have suffocated without it. Literally. The building predates A/C, so the air was piped in by big silver pipes along the ceiling. So close, yet so far. The crowd pushed toward the goal, that corner of the room which is the site of the Rashbi's actual grave. All 1000 people tried to force their way to the corner. Once you got there, you had to fight again to leave. Bodies shoved up against bodies. All grinding and gyrating against one another in their quest for that elusive corner. Awesome. Did I hear someone say frottage?

After touching the corner wall, I hightailed it out of the cave. Outside, there were several large bonfires and a wide open space filled with thousands of people dancing. I hung out here for a while, then made my way to the pool. A little-known but most valuable amenity, a tiny 2 foot by 4 foot pool just big enough for one person to clean and cool off at a time sits just inside the cave builing. Many people are embarrased to enter the nude-only pool, so it creates a cozy enclave eerily apart from the masses outside.

Refreshed and feeling like a new man, I went to the food tents for a bite to eat. Stopped at another small, quiet cave on the way. After some more dancing, meeting people, eating, and another round at the "gravesite struggle" I walked to the busses and took one back to Jerusalem. Returned here at 8:30am after 14 hrs of crazy fun.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

We Is Back! (New Edit)

Hot Dog. I dropped one of my study partners so I'd have more time for homework. The upside is I also have more time for blogging, travel, and fantasy baseball.

Major festival in the village of in Meron this week. Meron, a small village of population about 75 will host 100,00 visitors on the 24 hour round-the-clock festival of Lag Baomer (May 16), when revellers will stream in from around the country and around the world. The festival marks the end of a month-long period when most religious Jews refrain from listening to music and taking haircuts. It celebrates the end of a historical plague as well as the publication of sacred books by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai just before his death.

It is quite an experience. More to come.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cost of Living

Okay, sorry folks. Looks like this blog is going on hiatus. Not joining the Bloggspot Cemetery, I still hope, but I've got too much to do to keep up posting daily. I should stick something up once in a while. Banks, dicks, posts, etc. You know. (Sorry :~&) If anyone would like to continue hearing about "wazz goin' ohnn," let me know by Comments or e-mail. Love Life!! See yaaaaaaaaaaa.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Living Life (Instead of Dying It)

Busy busy. Working hard. I don't have time to finish my paper properly. Hope the teach. will understand and give me the A anyway. Why? Dunno, 'cause I know how do do it. I'm just too busy. Got an apt. It's not beautiful and I didn't get to be w/ all my friends, but its a good location and it should work. Life's cool! Smile! I haven't felt like that in a long time. Later.

P.S. The title is better than the post, maybe I'll expound on it when there is more time.