Monday, January 26, 2009

Keeping Hope Warm

Last night I was skyping with my Mom and we were both lamenting about the packages she had sent back in October/November that still hadn't arrived. I was missing my new home-made hat and mitts that I hadn't yet met, and the journal my Grandmother got me for Christmas. And, I was more upset for my mother than I was for myself, since she had put so much thought into these care packages. Plus, it wasn't like I was being targeted by malicious postal goblins or anything - I had received two fantastic packages in the meantime from Daniele and Mary. To top all of this off, one of my roomies, Kyle, has also been waiting an abnormally long period of time for a package from her best friend in Chicago.

So, what to do? After chatting with my Mom, I ran into our common area and said to the girls, "We have enough gods among all of us to help us out here." We decided to divvy up: Kyle and Lily (being Jewish n'all) took HaShem; I picked Hermes, the messenger god; and Catherine took St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things. Plus, we talked about the importance of Mary (mother of Jesus, not Texan Mary, although I know she would help/approve!) since MM of J is Our Lady of the Lost and Found (thank you, Diane Schoemperlen). Then I sprang into action: I asked all of my roomies to bring out anything they felt was holy or special and we made a little shrine.

So, I'll give you a run-down of what we've got boosting our request to the 'verse (that's short for 'universe' - thank you, Firefly/Serenity). We have: a crucifix/holy earth from outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, from Bea; the Bumble; a glow-in-the-dark sweetbabyJesus; a stone from Tmol Shilshom and one from Mount Tabor; a clip-on earring that belonged to my great-aunt Elsie (the other stone is in my purse); a ceramic necklace from China; a candle left me by Adrienne; a menorrah from Lily; two Hamsas; Catherine's grandmother's wedding ring; forget-me-nots hand-made by Kyle's best friend, Rachel; the Christmas bookmark/charm thing Daniele sent me; a rosary with the Virgin Mary; an olive-wood ball; a smiley gnome; and a creepy insect-thing specifically to scare away nasty postal goblins. The last thing, of great importance, are the little pink notes that Kyle and I placed amongst our shrine of happy things to represent what we're hoping for: the slips we find in our mailboxes telling us there are packages from back home that we need to go to pick up from the post office.

Ok, now you're thinking a few things, some of them being:
1: T's off her rocker again. (The last time I did something like this was in Spain in a hope for an end to the never-ending rain in San Sebastien. I did a 'spell' where my travelling pal, Anna, and I wrote our wish for better weather on a piece of paper then we burned it in our hostel room. We smoked out our room and the rain just poured harder.)
2: As if this is gonna work. The point was to put all our energy into hoping and sending out that hope, and hope that it would work. As Lily said, "If this works, it'll be a miracle."

Then we lit the candle, we went back to our homework, and we went to sleep. This morning, I got up at 6:30, and went to my 8:30 Biblical Hebrew class. I smiled at the shrine before I left, but didn't think much about it as I translated Deuteronomy 15:12-18 in the Archaeology Library, nor as I thought about what I want to write for my final paper for my Shekhinah class.

Then, I went to my mailbox.

There was a slip saying a package had arrived for me. Catherine and Kyle were mighty excited with me! I did some little dances; we didn't squeal or anything but it was close. I walked to the post office and, along the way, looked out in the direction of the Dead Sea and Jordan, hidden by a haze. I waited half an hour there and made faces at the little girl sitting in front of me with her mom. I got the package: it was sent from my Mom on 28 October. Three months almost to the day!

When I got home I ripped it open, tried on the hat and mitts and sniffed the handcreams. I added the orange and cantelope candle to our shrine, lit all three of the candles now there, and said, 'Thank you.' So, why do I keep hoping? Because that's what I know best how to do, and, well, it works.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Tel Hazor Revisited

Here's the group photo of all the people who were on the dig at its conclusion. Yes, that's me in the pink bandana; we're all filthy and sweaty and squinting into the sun - and happy! Also, check out the promotional video under "2009 Season Information." The opening shot is great with the sun rising over the Golan.

Security Update

The biggest problem I personally have right now is a broken tooth. That's right: it didn't crack, it didn't chip, the damn thing broke. What does this tell you? This tells you that I'm safe. This tells you that I'm being cautious, read: paying close attention to the news, absorbing any information about the situation that classmates are relaying, and heeding the security updates provided via SMS on our pelephones. For example:

27 December 2008: Due to the current security situation please exercise caution and avoid East Jerusalem/Old City.

1 January 2009: Tension will be heightened on midday Friday at the Old City. Please avoid its vicinity.

2 January 2009: Though there have been some demonstrations in Arab sections of the city including Isawiya, the HU [Hebrew University] security department reports that there is no threat or danger.

8 January 2009: Students are advised not to travel to the northern parts of Israel until further notice.

For a little clarification, Isawiya is about half a kilometre away from where I live. It was strange on the Saturday after the ceasefire ended to hear (for the first time) gunfire, and loud explosion-type noises, and helicopters overhead and it wasn't the neighbour's TV turned up loudly. This was real life; this was a reaction to the end of the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel. For the past six months, we, as temporary citizens, have been enjoying a peaceful environment and this whole idea of living in a war-torn country seemed surreal, not real, not the reality of our experience. And here we are, back to the regularly scheduled war. Having said that, I am not in any immediate danger. And this adds to the surreal quality of all this for me, who grew up without any experience of war: I know that Gaza is sending rockets into Israel. I know that Israel is bombing Gaza. I know that this is happening about a two- to three-hour car ride away; I know that if I had really wanted to see the protests in Isawiya up-close, I could have walked down the road. And I am obviously affected by it - how can I not be? - because of my proximity to it, but I am outside it. The violence in not directly in front of me.

So, I know this is happening and this is what I do: I go to class. I do my research. I go out for coffee and dinner with friends. I write. I decide every morning to conquer my fear of the gym. And, there's an immediacy to my decisions now. There's this non-existential awareness of my mortality, even though I am not in the middle of the violence, per se. I pay greater attention than I did before to what's going on, and recognize that I don't 'get it' - I realize that my head is in the clouds over the literary landscape shading the Ancient Near East of the 3rd and 2nd millenia BCE. But here, today, there are so many voices, so many perspectives and so many opinions: I don't understand it all so I listen.