Live always at the edge of poetic possibilty, even in the face of severe prose. - Walter Bruggemann

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone. I'm having my own celebration over here in Israel. Of course, I AM the only one having fun. I bought Max Brenner candy, enough with the Israeli salad already. Although I love Israeli salad (chopped cucumbers, tomatos and secret ingredients that transforms the ordinary into the extraoridinary), sometimes healthy living just is not enough. My costume? Well any Israeli can see that I'm wearing my costume every day. I stick out like a sore thumb.

I'd like to introduce you to Dancing with Mr. Bones the newest CD from my good friend and children's entertainer, Marcia Louis. She has kept me entertained for years. It's a great CD just like the rest of hers, so if you have children, grandchildren, great grandchildren buy one and try it out. They'll be delighted. Here's Marcia's website.
Trick or Treat
If you can't get to the links, Dancing with Mr. Bones is available at CD baby and Marcia's website is

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Egged in Your Face?

NOT A CHANCE! Welcome to life in Israel via the Egged bus system. Every time you turn around another Egged bus is barreling down the street, coming right at ya. 4, 4aleph, 18, 32, 183, 444, name a number and there is a bus with that number that can take you anywhere you want to go within Israel. That's if you can speak Hebrew very fast, and understand it even faster, have shekels in your pocket, and have a will made of steel.

Bringing my car was not an option which leaves me hoofing it - which by the way I've done a lot of. So, if I want to get someplace in a hurry, more or less according to Israeli time, I have two options. 1) A moneet (taxi) or, 2) the beloved Egged bus system.

Now I've taken a moneet several times. Once I even had a pleasant conversation with a driver. But you've got to watch these guys. You get in the cab and the driver will say "30 shekels, ok?" Which means in translation, lady if you think I'm putting on the meter you're crazy, I can see from your innocent American face, yeah the one with sucker etched in your forehead, that I can make a few extra shekels off of you.

But they don't know who they're dealing with! Ha, silly him, he was reading my OLD forehead. So now when I get in and he says to me, "30 shekels", I say...."LO! Monay, b'vacashah". (NO! meter, please.) Then I flash a real pretty smile which means in translation, buddy, I've been down this rechov (street) before and I'm not going down it again. You can swindle some other innocent face but not this one anymore.

We have a pleasant but quiet ride to my destination from there.

So that leaves me with the Egged Bus System. Which is fine, mostly. The buses are always crowded with standing room only and are usually on time within a 15 minute range. The system within Jerusalem is rather comprehensive but complex. You can transfer and ride all day if you want to but, who'd want to? Although, I am learning the neighborhoods as I traverse the city on my way to and from classes.

And the ride from Moshav Kesalon into the Central Bus Station? Hairpin curves, up and down all through the Judean hillside, today I almost needed a barf bag. Also today the driver had his head turned talking to a passenger in the first seat as we entered the second of three consecutive hairpin turns. I almost yelled out to this guy to shut up and watch the road. I want to live! But I didn't and we got to the Central Bus Station in tact. No bag needed.

Now I want to say a few words about the bus drivers. I'm sure, somewhere deep down in their collective beings, they must a small cell of compassion for new passengers, but I haven't found one yet. Some have been a little less than rude.

One day I wanted to go to the Israel Museum and I thought I knew the correct number bus. Just to make sure when I began to climb on the bus I asked the driver, "Museum Yisrael"? Now Israel Museum in English is not far off from its Hebrew counterpart Museum Yisrael. Right? Or so I thought. He just looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and began to close the door on me. So I pushed at the door, yelled, "you jerk" and got off. Now I know that a clergy person, or any person for that matter, shouldn't call someone a jerk, out loud, in public. But, I did. So there. No bruises. I felt better.

So goes the life of a non Israeli trying to be somehow, somewhat like them. OY.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Every Day, and then the Rest

Ramat Raziel, a moshav outside of Jerusalem and close to Moshav Kesalon, had a book swap. There were all sorts of books; children’s books, books on Jewish tradition, thought, and halachah, romance and classic novels, historical novellas, “how to’s”, and even the old and new versions of Gail Sheehy’s Passages. I felt no need to pick that one up; why read about the passages in women’s lives when I’m living them? Some books were old and some new, many had well worn pages with dog ears. After looking at all the books, several times, I found one that I decided to take.

The pages are practically burnt sienna, the cover is a well worn, faded tourquise, the price - only 25 cents, the copyright date – 1949. Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton now belongs to me. I think it’s no accident that the book was left untouched. In fact, always the faithful optimist, I see God’s providence hovering all over my acquisition. Souls need to be fed in abstract and concrete ways and, at different times. Right now, this book feeds my soul.

Merton writes, “Our minds are like crows. They pick up everything that glitters, no matter how uncomfortable our nests get with all that metal in them.” Ah hah, so, all that glitters is NOT gold as they say! Sometimes the glitter is nothing more than bits of scrap metal or tin foil not worth their weight in shekels. Why do we pick junk metal up that can be painful, itchy or scratchy, or worse yet, makes a scars our soul? Have we not eyes to discern the good from the bad, the divine from the profane?

Of course we do, we have the ability, wisdom, and gift of discernment with which God has endowed us. But before we can begin the process we’ve got to be willing to take a big old spoonful of humility. We do need to humble ourselves in a world that loves to boast.

Let’s face it, we don’t need so much in our nests. And for heaven’s sake we don’t need to hold on to the things that hurt us. With God’s help and in God’s name we can hold on to the things that nurture us and demonstrate God’s love for us. Merton’s book is one that I will hang on to for a very long time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

School Days

Classes finally began at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University. I've got some good courses and kind, down to earth professors. It should be a great semester of study. I've met some nice fellow students...even though I could be their ima (mother). My focus for the semester will be on Jews and Christians in dialogue and conflict in the Late Antiquity. Here are some photos of the University and RIS. Hebrew University is located on Mount Scopus.

The above photos are of the RIS building.

This is the plaza leading up the Boyer Building where RIS is located.

Tilted Tree Memorial for those killed in a bomb blast on July 31. 2007. This is in the plaza adjacent to RIS.

Other campus views.

The HU logo and views of Arab villages on the other side of Mount Scopus. When I am in class I can hear the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sunday is the new Monday replacing for me Tuesday, which was my Monday.

So what day is this? I had no problem knowing what day it was in Israel when I was a traveller. But now that I'm living here and trying very hard to carve a lifestyle for myself, I have no clue what day it is. Let me explain...

As a Christian clergywoman I worked on Sunday which is the Christian day of rest, or the Sabbath. So, I took Monday off as my Sabbath. I protected that day from all forms of work. I didn't think about work and I tried very, very hard not to even look at my email. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not so much. But all in all, I enjoyed the day and rested.

Since it is counter-cultural in the US, that is to have Monday off, it posed a problem for me coming back to work on Tuesday. Tuesday was my Monday however for everyone else in the workplace it really was Tuesday. Get it? I was still mourning the weekend's end and was out of the swing of things on Tuesday. And yet, everyone else was busy already and a day ahead of me.

Now that I'm here in Israel, it's all different. Shabbat, the day of rest, is Saturday. You can feel the atmosphere begin to change on Thursday. Paces quicken and people are out and about. Friday seems to be a half day of work for many people and the markets are packed. It sort of feels like being at Stew Leonard's the night before Thanksgiving. Then as sundown comes people hurry home or walk to services at synagogues. Saturday is quiet. Hardly anything is open and a suspension of time becomes a reality.

And then, Shabbat is over. Saturday night, and Israel comes alive once again. Stores and restaurants open and the everyday happens. Sunday is now "Monday". Get it?

On Sunday everyone is back to work. Appointments are made and kept on Sunday. Repair people come to fix the electric; doctor's and schools are open for business. So, by Monday or Tuesday I have no idea what day it is or what I'm supposed to be doing.

For Christians here, churches have services on Sunday mornings but I'm not sure how people figure it attend church and go to work. Maybe there are special dispensations or something like that. Oh wait - I'm protestant.

So it goes for a Christian living in a Jewish homeland. It's a matter of being a minority and adjusting to the dominant culture. It'll work. I love Shabbat and will eventually remember to do my marketing early enough to avoid the crowds.

So, what day of the week is it?

Today is Yom Shlishi, the third day of the week.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


This was today's entry from The Writer's Almanac

What is this dark hum among the roses?
The bees have gone simple, sipping, that's all.
What did you expect? Sophistication?
They're small creatures and they are filling their bodies with sweetness,
how could they not moan in happiness?
The little worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.
Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand that life is a blessing.
I have found them — haven't you? — stopped in the very cups of the flowers,
their wings a little tattered — so much flying about, to the hive, then out into the world, then back, and perhaps dancing, should the task be to be a scout-sweet, dancing bee.
I think there isn't anything in this world I don't admire.
If there is, I don't know what it is.
I haven't met it yet. Nor expect to.
The bee is small, and since I wear glasses, so I can see the traffic and read books, I have to take them off and bend close to study and understand what is happening.
It's not hard, it's in fact as instructive as anything I have ever studied.
Plus, too, it's love almost too fierce to endure,
the bee nuzzling like that into the blouse of the rose.
And the fragrance, and the honey, and of course the sun,
the purely pure sun, shining, all the while, over all of us.

~Mary Oliver

Every Day, and then the Rest

Before I left Connecticut the leaves were beginning to turn to their splendid New England crimsons and gold’s. I picked a few and pressed them because I wanted to remember autumn as I know and love it. I suspected that autumn would be different for me this year. And, it is.

This is a beautiful time of the year here also. The sun is still brilliant yes, but it has the feel and look of a sun that has worked it hardest to provide the deepest and most intense solar rays that it possibly could and now, needs a rest. Dusk and dawn are cooler and a simple breeze whispers to me to put on a sweater. The leaves are dusty as is everything in Israel but they still are content to hold onto their varied hues of green. It’s true though, like the sun, the leaves are tired too and when they clap in the breeze, only brittleness echoes.

Subtly, creation transforms itself into something new. The old will pass. The new will come. We will prepare for winter. It’s a blessing that we can count on this change. This divine change interestingly enough lends predictability to an uncertain world and sends rejuvenation in the face of death. We can let go and look ahead both at same time. Summer concedes to fall, fall slows down for winter, and winter prepares for spring.

The path of God is like witnessing the turning of the seasons. When we walk that path with each step taken, there is one left behind. A step is an act of faith, a belief in the future, and, at the same time a removal of doubt and fear. We let go to embrace the future. In God’s holy name may we traverse each day. In the splendor of the Creator’s seasons may we seek and find beauty and comfort.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Suzane the Elephant

You won't actually see a photo of Suzane the elephant...I don't want you to have a mental image of me weighing, what, a ton? Nor do I want you to think of me with hairy, grey, wrinkled skin. I went to the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem and found my namesake. She was muddy, but lovely. What's fun about this zoo, in addition to being a well planned habitat for all of its animals is that each animal is referenced in the Bible. Everything in Israel is somehow, somewhere connected to the Bible. After the zoo I went to another zoo, a human zoo known as the Jerusalem mall. Eh, hmm, no Biblical reference was evident.

In Israel squirrels are behind glass. There are no squirrels to be found running across the streets or running up trees. Poor Milo. The only true excitement throughout his day, besides curling up on the sofa with me, was to bark his little head off. Good thing I didn't bring him with me, I'd be making a daily trip to the zoo.

Didn't believe me did you.

We saw eye to eye.

Butt ugly.

Cute butt.

And while I'm blogging about animals I want to tell you about the jackals on the moshav. The first night that I was in Israel, the sun began to make its beautiful descent over the hillside. It was dusk and I first heard what sounded like a dog howling. Then, a few more joined in. All of a sudden there were several jackals making all sorts of sounds, cries, yelping, at times it sounded like an out of control fraternity party. They would only make noise for a few minutes at dusk. But these nocturnal critters were just warming up. Sometimes during the night they would begin all over again. At first it was rather scary to hear them but I got used to it and actually looked forward to hearing their call. Web sources say that they mate for life but are secondary predators, meaning they're not quite as bad as lions and tigers and bears. I saw one who was out just before it got dark...he looked at me and I at him; we went our separate ways.

Photo of jackal downloaded from the web.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Goose of death
Kinneret with Golan in background


Friday, October 12, 2007

Every Day, and then the Rest

The sun is quickly setting on a very beautiful day in Jerusalem. People are rushing home from the souk with flowers and challah and will light candles very soon. Shortly I'll be leaving to have dinner with a friend whom I haven't seen since 1970 - graduation from high school. My, a lot of years have passed and I know that a lot has happened in our lives. How could it not? We were not close friends back in the day and yet, here we are meeting for dinner in the holy city of Jerusalem.

It's odd that a place can bring different peoples from places all over the world together for a chat, a cup of coffee, a discussion over current politics or the latest trends, or a friendship or an encounter, a rest. The psalmist was right, "Jerusalem, built up, a city knit together, to which tribes would make pilgrimage, the tribes of the Lord."

Whether we like it or not, we are tribal people. Let's face it. We are people bound together by love, loyalty, theological belief or passion, by ritual and heritage. Sometimes we are suspicious of the other tribes and there are times when we carefully align ourselves. We are tribes of the Lord, not tribes for the Lord. Therein lies the difference. We think we are tribes for the Lord and are not content being tribes of the Lord.

But the divine knitter is at work, and never drops a stitch. Jerusalem calls. When Christians and Muslims make pilgrimage and Jews make alyah, Jerusalem becomes a complex and holy place.

God loves us all. God created us all. Can we not all enjoy this remarkable place together in our own tribal ways?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Goose Bites and the Golan Lights in the Galilee

Well now, camping was an experience that I'll not likely have in the too near future. I never was a camper, in fact, I've only been camping once before. But, hey, this year is about discovery...yes? So Yael and I packed up the kids and the car and set out for a campground called Amnun. We drove out of the moshav around Jerusalem, out into the desert waving to the camels and Bedouins as we passed by. We drove through a check point and through the West Bank, out of another checkpoint, uneventfully. We were headed north to the Kinneret. The Kinneret Lake is the Sea of Galilee (yup, that very same one). Two hours later, we arrived.

Amnum is above Tiberias, above Capurnaum, and above Tabgha. It's at the northernmost part of the Lake. The weather was hot and humid and hazy. I almost thought I was back in St. Louis once again. But the scenery was quite different. The campgrounds were quiet because the Jewish holidays are over now and the children are back in school. The lake is lovely and the water was perfect. We were with three other mothers with small children (OY!!) I was exhausted watching them. It reminded me of how thankful I am that my kids are adults now and can pack their own damn backpacks and go to the bathroom on their own.

We really didn't do much of anything except swim and eat. The kids were to small to hike or go on any special tours of the area. Across the lake you could see the Golan Heights. Of course because it was so hazy it was hard to see much during the day, but in the evening the lights on the heights appeared. That was fun to watch them pop out as the sun set in the other direction. The stars popped out too and it was quite a show. I saw a shooting star, Yael saw one too. Each morning sun rose over the Golan Heights and that too was really spectacular....the first morning. After that, it really was "old news".

There was a goose on the campgrounds. We noticed that he was milling around as we were unpacking and he visited all of the tents. He even followed us down to the water and watched as we waded in. After dinner, and after the little ones were finally sleeping the adults sat around to talk. The goose, who obviously is more used to people than his own species, sat down right in the middle of us and fell asleep. The next morning he was down at the water's edge make goose sounds as the sun rose over the Golan. His tai chi was not humorous.

OK, so that's ok. But then he wasn't funny anymore. He was constantly at our sides and stood eye to eye with the toddlers. He liked to scare the daylights out of them. He'd look at them and he would then begin to make a move toward them and the babies would start screaming at the top of their lungs.

We brought plastic chairs into the water a couple of times a day to sit and watch the kids play. The goose had the goose balls to swim right up to us and dip and nip at the chairs. At one point he climbed on my lap. I KID YOU NOT!!! When I tried to get him off he opened his beak and clamped down on my wrist. I was able to release him from that grip only to grab hold further up my arm even tighter. The kids and mothers thought this was hilarious. I suppose it was if you're not the one getting goosed. He didn't break the skin but I've got a pretty black and blue mark about two inches long. Now I know why Jesus walked on the water. A moving target is always more difficult to catch.

All in all it was a good time, but Toto, there's no place like home.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Gone Camping...back at the end of the week

Finally Photos

A blurry Torah, Simchat Torah, Castel
Simchat Torah at CastelMen dancing with Torah, Simchat Torah Eden kissing Torah Yael and Eden

Torah's at Castel, Simchat Torah Sukkah at the children's center at Kibbutz Tzuba

Yasmin picking clementinas
At the organic farm
Cluck Chicken Coop...

View of house above, below chicken coops

Sukkah, Yasmin and the view

Pomegranate from the moshav

Friday, October 5, 2007

Every Day, and then the Rest

I took a long walk this morning on the moshav. It’s very hilly so I sat down on an outcropping of rocks to rest and do a little thinking. It’s always a good exercise, to think. The name of the moshav where I am living is Kesalon. It gets a mention in the book of Joshua.

The allotment for the tribe of Judah, clan by clan, extended down to the territory of Edom, to the Desert of Zin in the extreme south….then it ran up the Valley of Ben Hinnon along the southern slope of the Jebusite city (that is, Jerusalem)…..then it curved westward from Baalah to Mount Seir, ran along the northern slope of Mount Jearim (that is, Kesalon), continued down to Beth Shemesh and crossed to Timnah.

How important it is to have boundaries. As I sat, I tried to imagine the hillside as it must have been during the days, of Joshua and the tribe of Judah. In one sense they were isolated and protected by the terrain. They could carry on with their lives, planting and picking, laughing and praying following the commands of God sustained by the fact that they had land of their own in which to cultivate and call home. A place to live.

The tribe of Judah had a place, and in that place they could relax and enjoy the Sabbath rest. In fact, today in Israel, the country, the Jewish people rest, that is it's a day set apart from all of the other days. It's a way of living and not a choice. Hard to explain. I think that this is what God had in mind for us all.

Each Friday before Shabbat begins I will post a reflection of a theological sort. They all will be under the title, Every Day, and then the Rest. blog will be a travelogue and then a reflection.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Simchat Torah

I'm trying hard to get pictures up so that you all can have a look at my world view now. Somehow it's taking a little longer to figure this out. I used to be able to download and now I can't. What's up with that?

This has been another couple of filled days. In each day there is a new discovery. Yesterday we walked around the moshav and took a look at the loolen (chicken coops). On Kesalon they keep thousands of chickens, sometimes three in a small cage (no comment). The chickens are used only for their eggs that they produce. That's why so early in the morning I can hear thousands of chickens clucking. They are laying their eggs. Ahh, the sounds of birth.

As we were walking back home Yasmin asked if we could go to Synagogue that evening. It was Erev Simchat Torah. So Yael said sure...well in the meantime Eden needed attending to so Yasmin and I threw on our skirts and went to Synagogue. That was an experience. A three and a half year old and a non-Hebrew speaking-sort of, non-Jew going to an Orthodox Synagogue on Erev Simchat Torah. We almost walked into the wrong door until a little boy outside told us to go around to the women's side. We climbed up the stairs to the second floor behind the meheitza (that's a curtain). We peeked through the curtain to see below. Lot's of davening and singing and praying. We thought we were going to see some dancing with the Torah but, it didn't happen. More on dancing Torah's in a minute.

Today we visited friends on Kibbutz Tzuba. It's a beautiful kibbutz and because today was Simchat Torah lots of people were out enjoying the sunny weather. We ate in the cafeteria and then walked around the kibbutz and picked walnuts, lemons and what was left of the pomegranates. There are approximately 250 people who are members of the kibbutz and their main forms of industry are Kaf Tzuba, a kid's amusement park, a factory that makes windshields, and a hotel. There are several places on the kibbutz property with antiquity caves and wine presses. Very cool.

Not to miss the dancing Torah's.... at 7:30 we drove over to Castel which is a small town around Messeveret Ziyon, which is close to Moshav Kesalon. Castel is a community of Sephardi Jews who have immigrated from Kurdistan. This celebration was more of a cultural celebration since it was actually after Simchat Torah just ended at sundown. And what a celebration. It was outside and everyone could go up to the Torah's to see them and kiss them. Then, a man got up on stage and began singing about the Torah in the most joyful and happy way to a live Sephardi band. The men started and dancing and then, all of a sudden all of the Torah's were up in the air and the were twirling around and around. Everybody was so happy and the women began dancing a little too. And what is a celebration without fireworks? Of course there were fireworks, right above our head. Everyone should be so happy to read the Torah. So ends another day.

For those of you who don't know. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Simchat Torah, literally rejoicing in the Torah, is a holiday that ends Sukkot. It's important because the last few pages of Deuteronomy have been finished and they will begin to read Genesis all over again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ahhh, Israel

Who would have ever thought that last week I would be living in quaint New England with the trees just beginning to show their glorious color, and this week...the Judean hills of Israel. You just never know where life will take you.

My flights were just fine, getting to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv was just fine, traveling from Jerusalem to Moshav Kisalon was a little hair raising I must admit, but, just fine. In fact life is just fine right now. It's actually all that I expected.

The moshav is outside of Jerusalem about 25 minutes or so heading, um, southwest. It's nestled in the Judean hills so when I look out the back I can see terraced hills with all sorts of vegetation. The hills are terraced naturally and, with old, old stone wall terracing similar to the New England stone fences but not so much.

The sounds around the moshav are not like Jerusalem! In the distance I can see huge chicken coops and every morning they are clucking their little brains out. I can also hear a rooster or two very early in the morning. Then, sometime, midday, the sound disappears and I can just hear birds or every now and then a dog. The greatest surprise is hearing jackals during the night. I can't quite tell if they are crying, laughing, kevetching or what. They're loud but they don't last for long.

We are finishing up the holiday of Sukkot so the country has been on holiday, kids are off of school and there are special festivals. On Monday we went to a festival at Liberty Park in Jerusalem. Street performers, an Irish band, fairies and giraffes on stilts, a circus with acrobatics, food, and even an Israeli hip hop dance troupe...what greater welcome to Israel than this.

Yesterday we packed a lunch and went to an organic farm and picked fresh vegetables. We ate fresh edamame, plum tomatoes, sunflower seeds right from the dried sunflower. Really good. Everyone seems to be enjoying the holiday time as all of the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are coming to an end.

If you don't know, Sukkot is a pilgrimage festival that commemorates the forty years in which the ancient Israelites spent in the wilderness following the Exodus. Families now erect sukkot on their balconies or in their yards out of wood or tarps or plastic sheeting but the roof is made of palm branches. It's a little hut like thing that is decorated inside with hanging fruits and vegetables. Ours has children's paintings on the walls and a dancing apple and banana hanging from the ceiling. Meals are supposed to be eaten in the sukkot during Sukkot. The very religious Jews even sleep in their sukkot. We've eaten a few meals out there overlooking the hills. Uh, no sleeping.

What better way to begin a year in Israel than to be a part of her rhythms.