Dear Family, Friends, Well-Wishers, Strangers, and Stalkers,
We always knew this day would come, but did we know it would happen so soon? I'm talking, of course, about Rachel's last ulpan class. Oh, also, our penultimate blog post from Israel!
Yes, yes. I know. Calm yourselves. After a little over five months, the time has come to bid farewell to the hummus and embrace, at least for a little while, corn flakes and apple pie. But don't worry, this won't be a long, gasbag, posturing post. Instead we'll tell you a little about our very safe trip to Bethlehem, the land where okay, fine, Jesus REALLY walked and the Virgin Mary REALLY spilled some breast milk, and the long-awaited Shtar concert (fantastiche!) and maybe a few other events from the last few weeks thrown in!
Our venture to B'lehem began at Kever Rachel, where a lovely Orthodox woman coughed in my face after I declined the opportunity to buy a red string bracelet, and Rachel davenned Shacharit. Kever Rachel is a place where woman pray for fertility, or for healthy babies, which is generally what I think they pray for at every tomb but hey, I'm no Pardes student.
Then it was on to Bethlehem! Little known fact, the literal translation in Arabic is house of meat, while in Hebrew it's house of bread! Rachel was beyond excited. There was no trouble at Checkpoint Charlie (thanks to that rare currency of blue gold, aka American passports)and then it was on to the big sites!
Church of the Nativity! Shepard's Field! The Milky Grotto! Some Overpriced Souvenir Shop! (Tim, if you're reading this, look forward to some tasteful olive wood Christmas ornaments this year.) Well, our first stop was Shepard's Field, which was where Ruth and Boaz saw a shooting star, and actually the star was Jesus. As far as I could tell. We'll never know the truth, because it was closed.
Then it was off to the Milky Grotto, where we bumped into King David standing guard outside. Inside was a cool relief from the heat, and we found a chalky sort of cave church where we were told several different versions of the same story. Namely that: This was the place where Mary was breastfeeding Jesus, and a few drops of milk fell to the ground, turning the color of the grotto from a sort of reddish to a chalky white.
From there it was a hop, skip, and holy conception over to the Church and Grotto of the Nativity, filled ceiling to floor with gold-plated religious artifacts, portraits and reliefs of the Man himself, and foreign tourists.
Our kind cab driver met us outside each of these stops (reassuring and stalker-ish, mostly comforting). We invited/begged him to walk with us through the shuk and he seemed happy to oblige. Dafna had some shopping to take care of--Boni, Bamba's Arab step-sister snack food:
We learned that these mannequins' eyes are covered because it's unwholesome to look into the eyes of women.
Guess what? Bethlehemites don't use agurot. Smarty-pants.
We couldn't be happier to re-enter Israel...
We went to see Shtar the other night at Canaan. Shtar is a Hip Hop Orthodox Zionist band Dafna discovered that we now love. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxNTjSGtaAM
"Shtar" means document, or something like that. While my Shtar gently weeps. Check out Dafna's Omanoot comment on their flyer. She wrote that for them!
We forgot to mention it, but Dafna's bday party was awesome. We ate brownies, sang Kanye West songs and played Uno. Our pals came out in full force.
Last blog post is forthcoming: We just made our own hummus!