Sabrecca* in Palestine
cognitive dissonance was never so good

After a very intense and food-stuffed Shabbat with the Modern Orthodox (mod-orth?) of the Old City, I went out to a Jerusalem gay bar last night with some yeshiva boys (not mod-orths) and my frum friend Esther's sister, Yael, lesbian soldier barista extraordinaire. Then today I took the #124 bus from the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem to the Bethlehem checkpoint and crossed into the West Bank for a visit to the church of the Nativity (small, elegantly austere and filled with spirit) and then a long day in the Deheisha refugee camp. My heart is hurting and my head is spinning.

I thought Sri Lanka had bizarrely imponderable cultural collisions. I hadn't been here. I go from a discussion with religious Torah-studying girls about shomer negi'ah, a facet of being observant in which men and women don't touch each other in order to preserve the specialness of touch for the marriage relationship, to drinking cheap Golan wine from the bottle in Kikkar Tzion with 19-year-old Oklahoman rabid aliyahboy Yossi, to rocking out to Madonna with cute German aryan-queen dyke Karina, to praying on the spot where Jesus was born (cave, not stable), to watching Palestinian boys practice circus tricks with improvised equipment in a half-finished basement. I can't write about Israel in non-run-on sentences, clearly.

The refugee camp is sticking in my throat. How can I have celebrated a beautiful Shabbat when twenty minutes away children are playing in an empty dirty subfloor and young men are risking their lives to throw rocks at soldiers because they have no other form of protest when their little sisters are shot and their homes are bulldozed? I am sitting in the Jewish Heritage Home, a free hostel for Jews in the Old City to stay at while studying or travelling, listening with one ear to Jerry Maguire on the VCR and simply in disbelief. Jerry Maguire! Are we really all just sitting here, drinking tea and eating pound cake?

So many Israelis will never see the other side of the wall--literally--which is covered in graffiti and murals. They think the Palestinians only want to kill Jews. The state has effectively hidden the Palestine-side art and protests. The plain gray concrete side promises only a bland simple brutality: keep them in.

*thanks to my dear ima


slamming the brakes

...just finished the breakneck dash through Israel's landscape history and politics that is Birthright Israel, and whoa. I contacted the internets only once at that bizarro little gas station ("Extreme Wodka" in a metal tube and twenty kinds of roasted peanuts and mini Eeyore gummi pops) with the free connection. Other than that it was nonstop bus-hopping mountain-climbing madness. I'll tell you about it sometime.

So now I'm going for another week to all the many places we missed and some of the ones we dashed through too quickly. I am subsisting with great (supergreat) pleasure on a wholly chickpea and yogurt based diet, and staring wide-eyed at the beautiful people, and rocking my tiny duffel bag. I am starting to feel like maybe I'm here, a little, and not just flying around with a tiny bus-sized America.

If anyone needs to call me, email my mom and she'll give you the number of the rented cell phone. If you don't know her email, write me and with some luck I'll see the message.

When everyone else left (well, the 3/4 of the group that didn't stay on for more travel) I basically had a mental nervous attack--as if I had drunk five espressos and eaten spoonfuls of sugar and then heard nails on a chalkboard for twenty minutes. It was so physically powerful I was shocked. Ten days' worth of giddiness, wonder, frustration, and the cement of hastily-formed close friendships all comes to a crest rather dramatically and I was literally twitching and aching from the top of my head to my ankles. Also, I'm exhausted from sleep deprivation.

But! I had some fantastic discussions: which was, if not The Point, very central to my sense of Jewish identity. I'll tell you about that too. For now I will go to sleep, with four compadres, on the floor of our Israeli soldierfriend (they send soldiers to be buddies on the trip)'s adorable studio apartment in Tel Aviv. Tomorrow, Haifa. Good night.


Fly Away Home

...or rather, to the homeland. Or is it the Holy Land? I'll settle for the homely land, which I hear it's not.

That's right, I'm flying to Israel tomorrow. As is typical with me and trips, I'm not really believing it, and probably will experience the aha! moment while waiting in customs at the other-end airport. One critical note: I am not checking
any luggage. No one is getting the chance to lose my stuff; that's happened on the last three flights I took.

Meant to write during the holidaze, especially while working insane retail detail in the two weeks before the Christmukkah weekend, but the insanity got in the way. It was all a good time, and feels so so long ago. The holiday week was however brilliant, with four family and friend and beautiful scenery sites visited. The high point: sweatlodge in the snow with Benj, Skelly, Angela and Ross. The low point: losing my luggage en route to Christmas--see above--and thus going to midnight mass in Kathleen's mother's clothes plus my grubby sneakers.

Then I worked on job applications (how can they be so time-consuming? is it dishonest to change your resume with each specific application?) and tried to make some actual money back in the health-food joint and furiously read books about Israeli and Palestinian politics. Furiously means fast-ly and also angrily, here.

And yesterday I ran around trying to do errands and meeting up with a local Lanka scholar (hello, Alan) and kind of spilling my guts. After seeing Pig Iron's fantastic Gentlemen Volunteers with K-Ross, Fire Boss, P-Thrash, and Biggsie Shortie, and eating an atrocious "hoagie," the hard drive crashed and I wept as I cycled home through the empty moonlit streets of Powelton Village.

I have more thinking to do about why I'm tense and upset, but as it was, I came home and made millet-almond pudding and drank some bourbon and inhaled sandalwood until I softened the bands in my shoulders. Went to bed without packing, shame on me. So now, I pack.

Watch out falafels!
Updates from the road: I'll try.