Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bizzubit...as they say

Text by Lizzy '12 and photos by John G.

Today (Monday, 3/19), like the rest of our days so far, has gone by so fast that I certainly won't know where I am when I wake up tomorrow. The day started off bright and early when some adventurous souls left our hostel at the crack of dawn to go to the temple mount during one of the arbitrary allotted periods of time when it is open to visitors. Plagued by jet lag, I didn't join the group for this experience, but from what I've heard, it will be worth the return trip for the view of Jerusalem from one of the holiest places on earth. 

By 9:30, our group had packed and lugged all of our baggage up the steps of the Arab Quarter and out through Damascus Gate (not a small feat, I might add). While we waited for our bus driver, who seems to be chronically five minutes away in typical Middle East fashion, we observed a custom that I see as representative of the culture of Jerusalem. One by one, shopkeepers seemed to emerge from the Old City to claim delivered packages that lay waiting for them outside the gate. Based entirely on an honor system, shopkeepers came and took what were theirs and only theirs. It's just funny to me to think about what would happen if New Yorkers attempted this...

The bus took us fifteen minutes outside the Old City to the Israel Museum—a museum that holds a collection that spans from the Mayans to Monet, but also holds an amazing amount of Israeli and Jewish art, as well as significant modern art exhibits. Oddly enough, our tour whizzed by one of Monet's Water Lillies and a few Picasso's sketches. We also spent some time exploring synagogues, and I especially enjoyed one that had been reconstructed from India. One particularly moving piece to me was a backlit sculpture that essentially dropped sudden gushes of water in a way that it formed words from popular daily search engines on the Internet. In streams of water, I watched the words Santorum, Israel, Kony, and Obama disappear as fast as they formed. I could go on about art pieces we saw, but that would take forever.

After finishing our tour, we met with the director of a program at the Israel Museum that offers both Arab and Jewish students the opportunity to come together to learn about and make art. He spoke about the profound impact on numerous alums of the program, and I believe we all truly appreciated the work the program is doing.

Then, it was off to Ramallah—about a 15-minute drive through a single checkpoint. We hopped off the bus and went into the PACE headquarters where we were reunited once more with our guide, Adel. After a brief discussion, we drove five minutes to the Ramallah Friends School, where our host siblings were awaiting our arrival. I immediately spotted my host sister, Jessica, and she led me into the school's library. After a brief tour and some introductions, we split off (although I believe a large group stayed together at a cafe).

Jessica and I, along with four other girls, headed to their favorite restaurant. Our conversation ranged from everyone’s love of Adele to the different political status of each girl. Jessica is shy and perhaps more reserved than the rest, but she is incredibly sweet, and we're getting along very well. Dinner was at home with her older sister, her sister's fiancé, and her mother and father. I'm practicing my Arabic very frequently and I think they're surprised by how much I can understand.

Now I am lying down before bed under an electric blanket because it is absolutely freezing! Across from me is a handwritten quote taped up to the wall: "The only people who fail are those who never attempt anything new." Bizzubit (exactly)...as they say.

View from Austrian Hospice

Bram and Leitzel waiting for the bus to the Museum.

Students waiting among items dropped off for shopkeepers outside the Damascus Gate.

Students visited the Israel Museum and met with Eldad, a program director, who hosts workshops in which Palestinian and Israeli children create art together.

Students at the Israel Museum

Qalandiya check point on our way to Ramallah

Wall near Ramallah

We arrive at the Ramallah Friends School and students met their host brothers and sisters. 

Downtown Ramallah at night