Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Catholic AND Jewish Fun!

Today's post is brought to you by helicopters, bullhorns amplifying a Hebrew voice, and by the smell of BBQ lighter fluid.

First, helicopters and bullhorns.
This is the view from my bedroom window this morning:

The scene was similar late morning/early afternoon on Monday. From my bedroom window, I have a view of the helipad across the street. On the other side of the helipad is the Hadassah hospital, situated between us here in the kfar and the Hebrew University. The helipad is very rarely used. This week, however, it got a lot of action: The Pope arrived in Jerusalem on the 11th, and just left, travelling by helicopter to and from this point. (As I type, the soldiers, police and secret service personnel are packing up and leaving.) Today was a little more sedate than on Monday. In the past few weeks, there was a greater military presence in our little suburb than during the Gaza flair-up in December/January. Leading up to the Pope's arrival, the helipad was decorated with Israel, Jerusalem and Vatican flags; banners of the same were hung from the streetlights. As well, there were more police and more military in that area, especially at night, with their irritating barking dogs. All last week we knew when midnight had arrived because the dogs started barking in a wild nocturnal chorus. Thoughts of yelling at them crossed my mind, but, well, dogs at the end of leashes held by dudes with big guns just seemed too risky a confrontation, even for me. Almost as creepy as seeing snipers on your village's rooftops:

On Monday, Kyle, Jacob, Anna and I (two Jews, one Catholic, and one pagan - all of us pretty excited) watched the arrival from our prime location in our apartment. The different types of security personnel were distinguishable by their attire: police in their navy uniforms; soldiers in their fatigues; and we're assuming the suit and tie guys, one of whom was wielding the bullhorn, formed some sort of secret service. Via bullhorn, in Hebrew, we were first instructed to close our bedroom windows. Then, the kfar was cleared of spectators and Kyle and Anna were made to close their bedroom window blinds, so we all ended up in my room. For whatever reason, I could keep my blinds open. A convoy of four helicopters arrived, the last of which delivered the Pope. We saw his hat. The cardinals were easily distinguishable in their black robes and red sashes: "Oh, there's a cardinal. And, there's a cardinal. And, there's another one." On the streets, traffic - both vehicular and pedestrian - was stopped until the Pope was safely en route to the Mount of Olives. Lily came home in a tizzy, having been one of the people made to wait in the noonday sun on the street: "All this fuss for one old man!"

Second, BBQ lighter fluid:
Monday evening/Tuesday was Lag B'Omer: In the Jewish calendar, there is a countdown between Pesach and Shavu'ot when tradition has it that Moses was given the Torah. Lag B'Omer celebrates several events, and is also called "The Fire Festival" (so Lily tells us) and is celebrated with bonfires and BBQs. In the kfar, many people were out BBQing, and the smell of their BBQ lighter fluid was overpowering - the wind carried it right into my room. I had been invited by Rabbi Yossi to attend this function: "Jewish Woodstock Celebration! Lag B'Omer in Meron, together with R. Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, and thousands of Kabbalah buffs from all over the world!" I did not attend the festival, mostly because it was an all night affair and I had class the next day. Rabbi Yossi suggested I just sleep in class - obviously he doesn't know that I'm much older than my peers and am, perhaps, a more serious student than he thinks. But, our new roomie, Katya, did go to Meron and she said she was disappointed because there was nowhere for the women to dance, only the men. Thousands of people and nowhere for the women. The thing I love the most is how this event was advertised: "Jewish Woodstock Celebration!" The Woodstock-inspired-free-love-drug-taking-hippies-dancing-and-running-around-naked mental images we have don't really go with the Orthodox Jewish, black-clad, modest, women-can't-dance-with-men, in fact women can't dance at all, celebration in Meron.

This advertising technique is not unique here (I will find some more examples for you) but my all time favourite is the food-lure. Everyone does it and I think it's hysterical: Free pizza (and the seven Noahide laws) ! Sushi (learn Torah the right way) ! Free four-course meal (a special message just for you from Jesus) ! Food and religion = the opiate of the people. And a few helicopters, for fun and excitement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting reading - photos were great - I wonder what the world would be like without any religions? Hey, less than 2 months and you will be home! Can't wait to hold you and hug you. Love you, Mom