Monday, January 31, 2011


And now, dear readers, we have come to the end of this epic blogging journey. Thank you for sticking with us through the sun, the miles, and the wondrous food of Jerusalem. We're still processing everything that just happened; even though it's all fresh, figuring out what we really think about the past few weeks will probably take weeks or months.

But for now, we're back in the US, properly jetlagged.

-Will (with no help from Jenni)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

flight now 4 hours, 30 minutes late.

We should be leaving today at 15:45. New arrival time: 9:10. The holdup, apparently, was the plane from Newark, but now that it's inbound, we're hopeful the above time will stick.


Flight cancelled due to weather in NYC. Now arriving in Newark at 4:40 PM TOMORROW (leaving Tel Aviv at 11 AM-ish). Those continuing to Williamstown will arrive late Friday night. We should be fine sleeping-wise, but this logistic kerfluffle is going to make things a little complicated for a few of us.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We've been busy--a few more pictures!

Sorry we haven't posted much! We've been walking all over the city and are pretty tired. Here are a few highlights of the last couple days.

The group at the Ophel Excavations at the South end of the Western Wall. 

On Sunday night, we went to a concert at Brigham Young University at Mt. Scopus. The concert hall overlooks the old city. 

We huddled after the was a little chilly. Jenni is a little hidden/comfortable.

The Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem (The Shoah memorial and museum)

The view upon exiting the museum at Yad Vashem.

Robert drew this picture in his journal, which we stole and photographed. The domes with the crosses are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the view from the roof of Ecce Homo.

We've come up with a few new names for the trip:
- Jerusalem: One city, two peoples, three faiths, many cats
- Bob, you're ringing!
- Somebody alert Will
- Please come in! Jesus ate falafel here! 
               (falafel can be substituted with pizza)
- Jerusalem: If there is a hill, we will climb it

Hopefully we'll convince others to post more before we leave! 

---posted by Rachel and Jenni, 5:40 pm on Tuesday in Jerusalem

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Sabbath Day

After going to a synagogue last night and being hosted for wonderful dinners by its various members to the south of the Old City, we are granted a few hours of peace today, until a concert tonight after sundown. Some of us are still sleeping; others have gone outside of the Old City in search of musical synagogues or markets. I and some others may spend some time simply wandering (it's hard to get too lost when you are surrounded by walls) but I'm not sure yet.

But above all else, this is the day with space - to exist, to reflect, and to grow. For me, that means blogging, but all of us are keeping journals of this experience. The theme of the group's shared reflections, if I can come close to summarizing, is that our time has mainly raised more questions than answers - that each new experience reminds us of how little we know and knew. For now, though, we breathe.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Some Snapshots--Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Our group in front of the Dome of the Rock. We visited again on Wednesday with our tour guide, Ali (you'll see him in another picture). Ali talked to us a lot about the asymmetry of Islamic architecture. It seems to also be a characteristic of his photography. 

Wednesday night we went to the Western wall tunnels. Bob said that he could bench press some of the stones. We were so tired that Ben couldn't tell where one stone ended and the other one began. 

Tunnels again!

Wednesday again, at the Dome of the Rock. 

Also Wednesday. This is Ali, our guide. This was an Ottoman well. 

Rugelach at Marzipan, a delicious bakery in the souk. We ate lots of these. Then some girls from New Jersey were very impressed with Robert's knowledge of Hebrew. And some Israeli boys were, too. He would like me to include that he got a discount as a result of his impressive Hebrew. 

---Photos/Captions courtesy of Rachel, Ben, and Robert

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Our days have settled into something of a rhythm:
  • Wake at 6:00-8:00 (later each day)
  • Breakfast from 7 until 8:30
  • 8:30 - into the field until lunch at some falafel place
  • an afternoon session
  • dinner at Ecce Homo at 7, then an evening activity.
Though there are seders and other events that interrupt the flow, we are mostly going for 12 hours a day, with an hour or two break for napping or journal-writing. (My journal is here.) Yesterday, for example, after being promised we would never repeat the Ecce Homo-Western Wall-Temple Mount-Lion's Gate-Mount of Olives-Dung Gate-Church of the Holy Sepulcher-Jewsih Quarter-Ecce Homo-45 minute walk to the Seder and back, we went only to the Mount with Ali, the Muslim Quarter, Home, then the Christian Quarter with Hanna.

The silliest part, though, was that after dinner, we went to the Western Wall, and then took a tour of the Western Wall tunnels, which actually butt up against Ecce Homo. However, because the exit from them on the north side of the city isn't used at night, we then had to walk all the way back to the Ecce Homo underground.

For me, the Western Wall tunnels were an amazing experience, showing how deep this city actually is.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


We climbed through the Kidron Valley up to the Mount of Olives, which gave us a great view of the city. Clearly, we're a very photogenic group (note: this was post-chocolate...Bob has been carrying around a bag of Hershey's and periodically bribing us to behave)

Mid-Climb--before we reached the top. We have tired feet. 

This morning, our guide (Ophir) took us up to the Temple Mount. The golden dome is the Dome of the Rock: an iconic view of Jerusalem. We didn't get to stay as long as we had planned because they were clearing it for mid-day prayer, but we will go back tomorrow. 

FOOD! (Delicious. Enough said.)

p.s. the picture at the top of the blog is no longer from Google Images--this is what we saw today!!!

(posted by Rachel and Madeline, 5:15 pm in Jerusalem)

Monday, January 17, 2011

View from our Roof

The Ecce Homo

Rarely does one's hotel or residence merit its own Wikipedia Article, but that appears to be the case with where we are staying. It's very hard to describe the convent; like many buildings in Jerusalem, it's not built usually because of the unusual circumstances of its site, most notably the Roman arch that falls from the street into the sactuary.

The Ecce Homo has two halves on either side of one of the Old City's famous alleyways, with much more on the Western half. There are two floors of classrooms and other spaces, topped by a large terrace (on the "second floor," since Jerusalem sensibly calls the floor on the ground the "ground floor" and the floor above the "first floor.") However, the second floor has its own set of rooms connected by an outdoor hallway that's next to the terrace; the roof above these rooms is also accessible, meaning that the third floor roof is alos available. To complicate things further, one can climb up or down a few set of steps from the 3rd floor roof to reach two additional terraces.

The roof is also broken up by the dome of the chapel, and by the gap where the alleyway is (there is a small bridge on the terrace that crosses it in one stop, and the first floor connects across as well in a different spot). Still following me? It's doubtful, but I guess the overall point is that the building is complicated, beautiful, and peaceful, with a wonderful breakfast to boot, which I will now return to. :)

Ways people have confused our races/ethnicities thus far....

  • To Candace: "Are you related to Obama?"
  • To Ivan: "Jackie Chan!" (Ivan is from Mexico)
  • To Irtefa: "Namaste" (Indian greeting)
We took a brief waking tour of the city. The group is resting before a tour of the convent; I just know that I'll do some harm to my already confused circadian rhythm if I even come close to sleep.

We're Here!

Ecce Homo is now home! We're living for the next ten days in Jerusalem and hope to use the better than anticipated computer/internet facilities for some solid blogging.

Before we head off for a walking tour of the city, a few notes and observations for fleshing out later:
  • Passports can, in fact, get lost within the gate area of Newark Airport.
  • Israeli Passport Control can and will hold you for a solid 45 minutes without reason or explanation, regardless of where your passport is from.
  • The Old City is absolutely TINY.
  • Walking through the walls of Jerusalem gives a strong feeling of pilgrimage, even if its only from a bus at the bottom of the hill.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Welcome to our class blog!

Hello families and friends,

As our class prepares to leave early this Sunday morning for Jerusalem, we're learning both about the important themes of our studies and the amusing details of our journey. For example, fanny packs came included with our international rent-a-cell-phones...but we've also been discussing the ancient history of the city, the connections of the three major faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) to this incredible place, and the significance and power of memory in creating a sense of holiness.

We're so excited to get going! As of now, the plan is that one (or more!) of us will be posting each day during our trip. Rachel has volunteered to help upload photos, so hopefully those will be available too!

Madeline and the crew: Cantor Bob, Will, Ivan, Ben, Robert, Rachel, Candace, Zehra, Irtefa, and Jenni