Thursday, February 09, 2006

Eat Dirt

Yesterday we had our end-of-the-semester party for ulpan or Hebrew class. We all met at the Jerusalem City Hall and soon we were on our way to a Benetictine nunnery. One of the students in my class this semester is a nun in a convent on the Mount of Olives. We had our party there!

It's a small convent. There are only 11 sisters there. They all do the typical nun-ish things. Their life is a cycle of work and prayer. They all look very happy and healthy though. It's a sweet, clean and neat place. The convent is built of Jerusalem stone and is surrounded by high rock walls. The atmosphere is that of a fortress - but with a sweet, kind center.

Our host told us that they don't have a TV, although the superior listens to the radio every morning and passes along news announcements. There is a nun affiliated with the convent that lives down the street and she has a TV. When the Pope makes a public address, they are allowed to go watch it on TV. They can talk to their families by phone during their limited free time. They even have internet access with a video chat set up!

Here are a couple of pictures from their roof-top patio. It was so cold and windy out here. One of my classmates, noticing the kite action of the nun's habit, commented on the inspriation for The Flying Nun.

You can see the Dome of the Rock and the Old City walls.

I panned to the right and got a view of the "Golden Gate" and the graves surrounding it.

I moved to the left and took a picture of the promenade where I was the day before. It's the green space on the upper left of the hills.

We got to take a tour of the chapel too. It was neat as a pin. There were huge icon paintings on the walls. I felt like it would have been impolite to take photos inside of the church - so just use your imagination. The nun that was in our class is a painter and one of her works hangs in the chapel. It's amazing! It's about the size of a car in and looks like a classic icon - lots of gold and jewel tone colors. To the left of her painting hangs one that depicts all of Jerusalem. There are images of the various places of worship in Jerusalem - mosques, a synagogue, and churches. Surrounding them are the people of Jerusalem - even a guy wearing a kippa! It was exciting to see this pluralism in this church.

At noon, the nuns gather for prayer. A nun walked into the chapel and began ringing the bell to call the others to prayer. At the same time, a mosque nearby also began their call to prayer.

It was a really windy day and shortly after we left the convent, the sky turned a reddish-brown color and was filled with dirt/dust. It was gross - hard to breathe and see. My hair was covered with dust, my eyes were scratchy, and you could even taste the dirt in your mouth. I tried to take pictures of it, but it just looked like dusk.

The wind storm lasted all night and this morning I awoke to the sound of chain saws. I threw on some sweats and headed out to see what was going on.

Down the street a tree had fallen in the storm.

And dirt covered anything that was outside. Now, we need some rain to wash this all away.


At 2/09/2006 1:02 PM, Blogger Savtadotty said...

Lovely, having your Ulpan graduation party at a nunnery! I hope you get a heavy rain, because a light rain just makes everything mud-spattered.

At 2/09/2006 4:19 PM, Blogger Sam said...

You've been busy! Thanks for all the great pictures and the stories, too.

Hope you and Y are doing well!

At 2/09/2006 10:43 PM, Blogger Adam said...

Thank you for blogging! Seriously, I don't know what it is but I love reading about your life abroad and seeing the photos you take.

At 2/10/2006 11:55 AM, Blogger John said...

SD: It was a lot of fun. We had our party in a cozy room that was decorated with homemade cusions - it had a warm, peaceful feeling.

Sam: Yep, hours in front of the computer - all for my readers!

Adam: Friend, keep reading. This is fun!

At 2/11/2006 12:00 PM, Anonymous Kari said...

Wow, the way you describe everything, I feel like I am there! Thanks for sharing! Your experiences everyday sound so amazing... it's because you make them that way! Enjoy every moment!


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