It’s Almost December and I’m Wearing a T-Shirt

Greetings from a sunny and 70 degree-ish Jerusalem. Actually, it’s supposed to be sunny with highs in the mid-70’s this week, not to rub it in or anything…

I (Aaron) apologize that we’ve neglected our blog over the past several weeks, but we’ve been quite busy and/or sick, as I will explain.

Since we lasted blogged, we took a trip to the St. George Monastery in Wadi Qelt, traveled to Jericho and saw the Dead Sea, I spent a week with “mild bronchitis,” etc.

Perhaps I’ll begin with St. George’s Monastery.

St. George's Monastery

St. George’s Monastery

We traveled to Wadi Qelt, which is a valley/canyon with a stream bed east of Jerusalem, with our friends (and pastors, bonus), Angela and Martin. They’d been once before, but they definitely felt it was worth a second trip.

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Wadi Qelt

Traveling there gave us an excellent excuse to get out of town, do something different, and do some sightseeing while still only traveling a few miles.

The canyon doesn’t look nearly as tiring as it actually is to walk down and up. When we arrived, we were overwhelmed by a group of Bedoins, eager to sell us jewelry, clothing, food, drinks, or a donkey ride down the trail. One of them actually tried to put some kind of shawl over my head, maybe assuming that “if you wear it, you buy it.” It was a bit annoying, but you can’t really blame the guys when there aren’t really any other means of employment for them.

We made our way down the valley. It’s pretty incredible how the landscape goes from dry, dusty, rocks and sand near the top to green, lush, and plant-covered near the bottom, where there is a small canal of water.

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Martin and Libby forsook the donkey ride

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After many pauses to catch our breath and swat flies (who were attracted by the donkeys’ tracks), we made our way up to the monastery. It was surprisingly big, incredibly pretty and eccentric, and inhabited by some very friendly Greek Orthodox monks.

St. George’s Monastery was actually first established in the 4th century CE, “with a few monks who sought the desert experiences of the prophets, and settled around a cave where they believed Elijah was fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:5-6).” The original buildings were mainly constructed in the 5th Century by a game named John of Thebes, but it was named after a monk who lived there named Gorgias of Coziba (perhaps this was the first person nick-named “Gorgeous George”).

In 614 CE, the monastery was attacked by Persians who swept through the valley and killed all 14 monks living there at the time, razing the monastery and etching a history of martyrdom that still plays a very prominent role in the imagery and identity of the monastery.

Iconography of the slain monks

Iconography of the slain monks (I don’t know how to rotate this)

The chapel in the monastery actually preserved bones of slain monks, and there is an encased corpse of another monk who died there (I’m not sure when or how. I wasn’t really sure how to broach that topic). Apparently some Crusaders tried to rebuild the monastery in the 12th Century, but it wasn’t really rebuilt and inhabited again until the late 1800’s, when Greek monks began living there, which they still do today.

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That is what you think it is. Bones.

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Yep.

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Overall, I feel like we got to see a really underrated gem of a site, and I would definitely recommend adding it to an itinerary in Israel. It’s a short distance away, it’s free, and it includes both beautiful outdoor scenery and rich history.

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One very expensive means of transportation

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Marty and Angela

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After our jaunt to the monastery, we drove to the Dead Sea. We weren’t really prepared for swimming/floating, but we were at least prepared for an opportune photo. Here is our evidence that we’ve “been to” the Dead Sea:

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After those trips, I had mild bronchitis for a solid week. I experienced my first trip to an Israeli clinic, and I was extremely pleased at how quickly I was able to get an appointment (within two hours of my phone call), how quickly a doctor saw me (I was called in five minutes before my actual appointment time), and how easily and quickly I was able to pick up the prescriptions he wrote for me (the pharmacy was downstairs, and I got my meds in about two minutes). Also, it was all covered under my student health insurance. This is the frightening prospect of a country with socialized medicine.

Other Random Items

I finally made one of my first truly international friends here (i.e., not another American ex-pat, though those are fine). Libby and I have been taking Hebrew language classes two nights a week. The people in my class are from quite a variety of places and backgrounds: some middle-aged Russian ladies, four exchange students from China, a young journalist from Turkey, a med student from Mexico, and six or seven Arabic-speaking folks from Lebanon or the West Bank.

One of these classmates, Salech, has become a fast friend. One day I asked him how to say “good morning” in Arabic. I explained that every week, Libby and I walk through the old city on our way to church, and we always pass an incredibly nice old shop owner who says “good morning” in English to us. The first day we were there, he could automatically tell we were lost, and he told us how to get to the Jaffa Gate. As I explained this to Salech, he started smiling and interrupted, “Does this man have this color hair and this color eyes? Is his shop in this area? That’s my dad!”

After that, Salech invited me to hang out with him in the old city, meet his dad, see his family’s shop, and to show me around. We had a great time. He’s a very bright guy who currently works as a lab tech at a hospital, but he wants to go to grad school in the US or UK to study Emergency and Conflict Management. He wants to work to improve the situation in Israel and Palestine.

Salech has lived in East Jerusalem his whole life, but he doesn’t have citizenship. His sister moved to Jordan to be with her husband, and, after two years away, she can no longer return. I can’t imagine how that plays out during major holidays, but it’s a sad situation, and perhaps all too common. But that’s another topic for a different post (or a discussion in person).

This weekend, we’re going to get together again with Salech and visit his family’s home. I hope to have some picture afterward.

Since our last post, I’ve finally finished my research trips to Tel Aviv. Last week, Libby joined me for a day-in-the-life experience, capturing this photo of my last time in the Histadrut archives:

Victory

Victory

It’s a little hard to gauge how fruitful my first two archives have been, because 65-70% of the material is in Hebrew, and I haven’t yet taken the time to begin translating it. However, I can confidently state that I have literally thousands of photos. So there must be SOMETHING good in there. Just this week, I finally finished sifting through the docs I photographed in June, when I went to the Kheel Center Library in Ithaca, NY, so I will start slogging through these new Israeli documents very soon.

More than anything, a combination of archival research here, living in the actual area of my studies, following contemporary politics and reading about the historical events leading to today, as well as having time to read other historical literature–this has all really, really enriched my project and the way I’m thinking about and framing my dissertation. I think it’s going to look significantly different than if I’d only done research in the US and never set foot here. Actually, that’ a major understatement. My project would look totally different. I’m exciting to start writing.

Finally, we’ve celebrated both our birthdays over the last week or so. I’m now 30 years old, and Libby is still younger than me. We received two awesome care packages in the mail, fully equipping us with delicious coffee beans and the means to turn them into French Press deliciousness. Thanks, friends!

Tonight we’re continuing to celebrate our birthdays by having a few friends over for cake and card games.

We’ll no doubt be posting again soon, because on our horizon are trips to the Israel Museum, the city of Haifa, and Bethlehem.

I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting to mention, but we have to leave something to talk about on the phone or Skype.

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Aaron and the 800,000 Haredi

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Aaron and the 800,000

On Monday, I (Aaron) had my first “what is going on right now” moment in Israel. I’m not exactly sure where to begin, but I think I’ll first give you my perspective during the event, and then I’ll give you the background that I later came to learn.

It began on a bus. I was travelling back from the Tel Aviv area after one of my usual research trips. The 70-ish mile bus ride usually takes an absurd amount of time, 2.5 hours, but this time, it was taking even longer. At one of our first stops, the bus completely filled–the isles were full of people standing or sitting, and I noticed that they were almost exclusively Haredi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haredi_Judaism). In fact, our bus had to turn people away at a number of stops. Interesting…

As we got closer to Jerusalem, the traffic became horrible. Stop-and-go at least 15 or 20 miles from Jerusalem. And I started to notice that the highway was packed with charter buses, filled with Haredi folks. What am I missing here?

Well, about two miles from Jerusalem, in the middle of the highway, every bus came to a complete stop. The bus driver made an announcement in Hebrew, but I gathered at least that he said something about going on foot. Everyone empty out of every bus and began going by foot in the middle of the highway. I didn’t particularly feel like hanging out all night with the bus driver, so, what the heck, I got out and started walking with the crowd.

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When in Rome…er, Israel

Most of the Haredi men exited the bus and either starting peeing on the side of the highway or praying. Police motorcycles buzzed around, trying to herd us off the highway, but no one really got out of the way. Everyone was dressed in the usual white dress shirt, black dress pants, black top hat, long beard, long sideburns, etc., and I was dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and a ball cap. Hello.

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Just a regular guy tryin’ to get by

I texted Libby and found out that a major rabbi had died, and that there was some huge event brewing in Jerusalem. I told her that I’d see her in an hour. I walked in a crowd of thousands on the opposite side of the highway, with a few unfortunate cars trying to get out of town. It was crazy. Helicopters began circling overhead, the police shut down all the major roads, and the highway was shut down because the Haredi were blocking it to practice their late afternoon prayers.

The Backgound

It turns out that the event was due to the death of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovadia_Yosef), a 93 year old rabbi, the chief rabbi of the Haredi and “spiritual leader” of the right-wing religious party, Shas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shas). It’s very important to the Haredi for people to be buried as soon as possible, particularly before sunset, so there was a rush to get to the burial site and have a proper funeral. News reports like this started popping up while I was walking down the highway:

“Channel 2 reports that “tens of thousands” of mourners are on their way to Jerusalem to attend the funeral, but have temporarily blocked the entrance to the city as, with dusk approaching, they stopped their vehicles en masse in order to recite their afternoon prayers.”

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Good luck!

According to the news here, 800,000 people flocked to Jerusalem to attend the funeral, the largest in the nation’s history. It was such a huge crowd, and so chaotic, that some structures collapsed and at least 300 people required medical treatment (http://www.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-closes-down-for-rabbi-ovadia-yosefs-funeral/). One lady went into labor.

Rabbi Yosef was a pretty controversial figure. He was highly influential in Israeli politics, with one right-wing member of the Knesset calling him one of Israel’s “greatest and most important leaders of the last generations.”

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Yosef and Netanyahu

“The revolution brought about by Rabbi Ovadia during his lifetime reached every city and neighborhood in Israel,” Feiglin says. “It extricated tens of thousands from the cycle of hardship and ignorance and ushered them into a world of tradition, mitzva observance, Torah study and prayer. It restored the dignity of hundreds of thousands who had felt disenfranchised, affording them a place of honor, relevance and contribution to society.” Politically, Yosef was called a “kingmaker” in Israeli politics, and Shas is currently the fourth largest party in the Israeli Parliament.

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Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres helping carry the coffin

However, many familiar with his work and words, like Rabbi Rick Block, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the main rabbinic body of the American Reform movement, had some harsh things to say about Yosef. “Sadly, his legacy will forever be diminished by egregious outbursts of intolerance toward Reform and Conservative Jews, as well as non-Jews, especially Arabs. His comments ascribing the Holocaust to Jewish sinners also caused many great pain.”

Some of Yosef’s more infamous remarks were: 

– “The sole purpose of non-Jews is to serve Jews.”

– “Why are Gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat. That is why Gentiles were created.”

– Yosef compared Gentiles to donkeys whose life has the sole purpose to serve the master: “In Israel, death has no dominion over them (Jews)… With gentiles, it will be like any person – they need to die, but [God] will give them longevity. Why? Imagine that one’s donkey would die, they’d lose their money. This is his servant… That’s why he gets a long life, to work well for this Jew. Gentiles were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel.

– In 2001 Yosef was quoted as calling for the annihilation of Arabs, instructing his followers that “It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.” Yosef later said that his sermon was misquoted, that he was referring to annihilation of Islamic terrorism and not of all Arabs. Whether or not that was really the context is debatable.

– Yosef drew criticism from the US State Department in August 2010 following a Saturday morning sermon in which he called for “all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Abbas), vanish from our world… May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel.”

Anyway, as you can tell, he was a controversial figure, both beloved and despised…perhaps par for the course in the Middle East.

For me, it was a pretty unique international experience. I’m just glad I made it home in time for dinner.

(For further reading on the rabbi and his influence in the history of Israeli politics, here’s an article from the Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2013/1007/Rabbi-Ovadia-Yosef-in-his-own-words)

Random Updates

– Our language classes begin soon. I’m very excited to improve my Hebrew skills, and, especially, to see Libby learn some Hebrew

– We have a growing community of friends here, and for that we feel particularly blessed/fortunate

– Libby finally got to have her first falafel in Israel, and it was very well received

– I finished (tentatively) my trips to archive #1 of 3, and I have about 2500 photos of documents to show for it

– One of our next upcoming adventures will to be Wadi Qelt: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._George’s_Monastery_(Wadi_Qelt)

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Yes!

Small Victories

Change for doing laundry

₪15: A lot of change for one load of laundry

One month down. I could dedicate a whole post to all of the cool historical sites we were able to finally see this week, but instead, I think it’s the small victories that most characterize life recently.

It’s a small victory when:

  • We find a new grocery store within walking distance.
  • We have a vague idea where we are or where we’re going.
  • I can guess what someone might be trying to tell me in Hebrew.
  • I successfully navigate the neighborhood laundromat on my own.
  • We pass a new store that sells something we’ve been looking for.
  • Aaron gets to or from the archive near Tel Aviv more quickly than expected.
  • I can give a tourist basic directions somewhere.
  • We know several types of coffee we can order at a cafe.
  • We’re able to strategically acquire the right types of change to do laundry.

Nothing fancy, but these little life details are what’s making me feel more settled here. We’ve got a few to-dos over the next month that would qualify as bigger victories, so here’s to hoping the trend continues.

September Updates

Well, we are just about three weeks into our life in Jerusalem. It’s both easy and hard to believe that it’s been that long/short. I (Aaron) think since we spent a long time in Missouri before coming, it feels like we’ve been gone from home much, much longer. I don’t have a general theme or narrative for this post, so I’m just going to give random updates and thoughts on a variety of things.

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Part of my campus

Daily(ish) Routine

Libby and I have finally come up with some semblance of a schedule, which is key for someone like myself. I am the ultimate creature of habit/routine. I have to plan out every day of my life or I feel like I’m wasting it–even if that means planning to do nothing.

Libby’s remote work has transitioned really smoothly. Our apartment has a very nice office, with a very good internet connection, so Libby can look at least semi-professional when she does video chats.

I usually spend half my day working on Hebrew language stuff and the other half working on dissertation material that’s been piling up from my U.S. research earlier in the summer.

Since Libby’s working part-time, and I don’t really have a concrete timeline for work, we have time to run errands together: shopping at the market or a grocery store; trying to get a VISA; laundry; etc.

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Libby at the renovated train station, which is now a nice plaza

I think Libby and I both agree that the evening is the best part of the day(?) here. The sun is really intense, so the first half of the day is best characterized by sweat. In the evening, however, it cools off a lot, the sunsets are beautiful, and we have an awesome balcony on which we try to eat most dinners. Before or after dinner, we almost always go for a walk, exploring the neighborhood or strolling through a nearby park. I think walking through the park–seeing people jogging, playing frisbee or crickett, BBQ-ing or picknicking–definitely makes us feel most like we’re at home.

My First Research Trip

The first research trip was definitely a “trip,” in the St. Charles sense of the word (i.e., that’s a trip, man). First of all, I had to make two bus transfers in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, which is totally foreign to me. Second of all, I forgot to bring enough cash for said bus transfers, so I had to ask around for an ATM. After at least 20 minutes of searching, I finally found an ATM, but by then I had lost my way back to my bus transfer spot. I did my best to ask people in Hebrew where the route could be found, and everyone seemed to give contradictory advice. Sweet. After an extra hour of wandering around, soaking in my own sweat, I finally found the bus, and I realized that I made my journey longer by taking an unnecessary extra bus transfer.

I left my apartment at 6:45 am. I arrived at the archive at 10:15 am. I covered about 70 miles in that time.

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At least the journey is very scenic.

The archive itself was really interesting. It looked more like a kibbutz than a college campus. The library, in which the archive was located, was closed for the day. I was supposed to find this side entrance to get in. I couldn’t find it. I had to persuade my way into the main library entrance. Once they called the archivists and figured out that I actually did know what I was talking about, I entered the archive and discovered that only person person there spoke any English, and it was not much.

Undaunted, I managed to fill out the necessary forms and make my first material requests. They brought out…CD-ROM’s. Yes, almost everything at the archive is digital, yet not online. I did archival research on their computer, taking pictures of their computer with my computer. Screen shots of screen shots. It’s a very interesting system…

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Screen shot of a screen shot = why can’t this just be online?

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised that about 20% of the material was in English, so that should speed some things up. I probably need to make this trip a dozen or so times, so I will get that bus route down pat.

Random Things

We have friends here now. We were introduced to a couple of grad students from the international school. They’re both from the U.S., and they’re super nice. We’ve grabbed dinner together and also had them over for some card games.

We’ve also met a few people from the church we’re attending. They invited us over for some volleyball and a potluck dinner, which was really enjoyable. The host family “has” an outdoor cat named Panda, of whom I will have to take some photos. Panda is the most hilarious, patient, semi-wild cat I’ve ever seen. He makes a great heater in the cold evening weather.

The holidays are stillllllllllllll going. We’re in the midst of Sukkot, which means people party outdoors every night likes it’s 1999 (in Israel). And last night there was some amazingly bad outdoor karaoke. There’s also a park not too far away that’s been hosting one concert or another all week. Let me say that they are very thorough in their mic checks, from 7 am until 12 am. I think it sounds good, man. Don’t worry.

Libby and I are both going to take language courses, beginning some time next month. I’m pretty psyched about improving my skills, and I’m really excited that Libby is going to be learning some Hebrew.

We haven’t done much sight seeing, yet, so we don’t really have photos to share. That’s my new mission for the next week, though. I plan to take some pictures of the Mahane Yehuda Market, as well as the Old City and Gan Sacher Park in the week(s) to come.

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Random photo of Mahane Yehuda

I miss watching baseball dearly.

What are some other things we could blog about that you would like?

The High Holidays Continue

So here we are, 11 days into our journey. Much like Aaron said in his last post, September is the month of the Jewish High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 4-6) and Yom Kippur (Sept. 13-14). Although it’s not considered a High Holiday, this year Sukkot, a harvest holiday of sorts, is also in September, from the 19-27.

This week, Yom Kippur began on Thursday evening and lasted until the end of Shabbat, on Saturday evening. So this was another quiet week. About 99.5 percent of all stores and businesses are closed during the holiday, but we were thankful to be settled in our apartment (and with groceries!) for this one.

On Sunday we moved into our apartment, which we’re subletting from a local student who’s in the U.S. for the year. Therefore, early this week, Aaron spent most of his time running errands to help get us settled in our apartment, looking for things like groceries, SIM cards for our cell phones, a fan, and a few other little things. Thankfully, our apartment is already nicely furnished, which meant that this week was quite a bit easier than it could have been otherwise.

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Aaron at a shopping area in the German Colony

I resumed working, albeit remotely, on Monday. I’m working part-time in the afternoons, which means that I overlap with my colleagues as they’re coming in for the morning. Thankfully, the Internet was already connected in our apartment, so I was able to jump back in without a hitch. Four conference calls down, many to go.

It’s been an extremely hot week (highs in the mid-90s every day and no air conditioning), so the best part of our days has been venturing out to our patio every night around 6 p.m., after the sun has gone down. It cools off just a bit, and we eat dinner outside. With Yom Kippur going on, we’ve been hearing echoes of lots of chants or songs from a nearby temple/synagogue/shul. And once it cools off a bit, we’ve also been going on walks in the park nearby, shown below.

Sacher Park

Last but not least, we were thankful to connect with some fellow English-speakers twice this week. One day we met up for fish and chips at the market with some fellow grad students who share some mutual friends from Wisconsin. And today, we ventured out to a church in the Old City, where we met what felt like just about every single person in the English-speaking congregation. We look forward to continuing to get to know people here.

The Dowdalls Have Landed.

Well, I don’t have a whole lot to tell you about, but I have a whole lot of time to tell you. You see, Libby and I have arrived in Israel smack in the middle of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Hebrew New Year, and it’s a two-day-long holiday.  For Libby and I, it means that almost everything is closed. And the day after today (the second day of Rosh Hashanah) is shabbat, so there won’t really be anything open then either. Basically, it’s a really good thing there’s a cafe nearby that’s open.

So we’ll have to wait to move into our place, set up cell phone and bank accounts, do our first grocery trip, etc. That’s why I have this time to give you a recap of our journey here and the first couple of days.

The Epic Flight

The longest I’ve ever flown was maybe three hours. On Wednesday, we had a 2.5 hour flight from St. Louis to New Jersey, then a 10(ish) hour flight to Tel Aviv. If ever I was jealous of the first-class section, it was when we walked past their plush, roomy, reclining chairs with essentially their own personal home entertainment system. Economy class was not so plush.

I couldn’t decide whether or when to sleep on the flight, so I watched free movies that, if I ever actually paid to see, Libby would give me a really hard time(think “GI Joe 2” and the new “Die Hard”).

I think we each slept some, but we were still pretty disoriented when we arrived. However, I got pretty excited as soon as we broke the cloud cover, and I could finally see Tel Aviv.

The bus ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was shorter than I expected, and I was taken back at how rugged the landscape is. I knew it was rocky and hilly, but I don’t think I really knew. There are some crazy, perilous looking roads and bridges in some areas just north of Jerusalem.

The Epic Sleep

Libby and I were determined to stay up until 5pm yesterday, then all bets were off. No naps. Whatsoever. Then we would sleep as long as humanly possible.

So far, I think Libby’s plan was a good one. We’re almost on normal people time, or at least normal for us time. I think we might stay up until 8pm tonight!

Anything Else

We’ve only eaten at one cafe and our hotel’s lobby, so I can’t really speak with any authority, but we definitely still like the idea of Israeli cuisine. We’ve gone three-for-three with awesome salads, and we’ve already had a delicious pizza. That’s huge for us. Pizza is at least a once-a-week necessity.

It’s really weird to walk around the city right now, because the only people out and about are coming from or going to a holiday service. Otherwise, there are hardly any cars, no buses, no light rail, and every store is closed. Almost everyone is wearing dressy, synagogue clothes. I think I may have stuck out in my jorts, Cardinals t-shirt, and Cardinals hat. Maybe.

I promise we’ll have more interesting things to talk about very soon, but I wanted to let everyone know that we’re here, we defeated jet-lag handily, and we’re doing just fine.

What Are We Doing?

It’s been a long, though generally enjoyable, month for Libby and me. We moved out of our apartment in Madison on July 30, stayed with a friend for 2.5 weeks, and now are staying with family in St. Louis, gearing up for our journey to Jerusalem. Living out of our suitcases is getting a bit old, but we’re soaking up every last bit of time with friends and family.

We’ve been preparing for our stay in Jerusalem for a while, so it’s old hat for us. However, I realized over the last few weeks that every person I talk to requires a re-explanation of what we’re doing, how long we’re going to be there, where we’re going to live, etc. Therefore, I thought it’d be nice to post something before we go, to give you all a better idea.

1. What are we doing?

I (Aaron) will be conducting research for my dissertation project. What is my dissertation project? Well, broadly speaking, I study U.S. foreign relations. More specifically, I study U.S.-Israeli relations. Even more specifically, I’m going to try and reframe the way we look at the history of U.S.-Israeli relations–where those relations first were located, on what common values, interests, and actions they were based, how they’ve changed over time, and, even, what we mean when we talk about “foreign relations.”

I’m looking at “foreign relations” in terms of both American and Israeli labor organizations, and in terms of state-to-state relations. Which were more established first? How and why did this change over time?

More specifically, I’m looking at these relations outside the context of the Middle East. I’m looking at a different arena, to see if there’s something different we can learn. Therefore, I’m studying U.S. and Israeli labor organizations’ programs, policies, and actions in sub-Saharan African during the early cold war era (think 1950s and 1960s).

So, I’m doing research for this project in Israel. I got an academic-year-long fellowship at the Hebrew University. However, I won’t actually be taking any classes. I’m finally past the stage of taking classes. Instead, I’ll be going to libraries and archives in Tel Aviv and Jersualem. Israel’s dominant political party during the 1950s and 1960s was Mapai, and there are archival documents from their party in Tel Aviv. The main Israeli labor union, the Histadrut (“Hista-droot”), has a collection of documents in Tel Aviv, as well. Finally, I’ll spend whatever time is left after those archives doing research at the Israeli State Archives in Jerusalem.

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The Histadrut continues to represent Israeli workers today. This is a photo from their Facebook page.

So my typical week will probably look like two or three days of taking the bus to Tel Aviv, taking photos of documents all day, and then riding back to Jerusalem. Two or three days a week, I’ll try to translate those documents. And two or three days a week, I’ll save time to explore the country with Libby.

2. What is Libby doing?

Libby gets to keep working, at a reduced workload, for her job with the Chemistry Department. She can speak more to this than I can, but we are incredibly happy she gets to keep a job she loves and that she has a good amount of stuff to do while I’m plugging away.

3. Where are we living?

We’re very fortunate in that we’ve connected with an Israeli graduate student who is moving to Wisconsin for the school year. He’s part of the same graduate exchange, so he’ll be in Madison roughly the same time we’re in Jerusalem. He loves his apartment, and wants to hang onto it, so we’re subleasing from him. He’s leaving it furnished for us, which is a huge bonus.

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This will be our balcony. It might be bigger than the rest of our apartment.

We’ll be living in Jerusalem, in the heart of the new city, pretty centrally located near the main market, the biggest park, and a plethora of falafel and hummus hubs. Our apartment will be smaller than in Madison, as every apartment seems to be in Israel, but we’ll still have a lofted bedroom area, a little kitchen and living room area, a small sort of work-den, and a very large balcony with a beautiful view of the city.

4. What else?

We’re set to fly out of St. Louis next week, and we’ll arrive in Israel after a lengthy 10-ish hour trek across the Atlantic. We’re staying at a bed-and-breakfast for a few days, while we get accustomed to jet lag, as well as being on the other side of the planet. When we arrive, it will be the multi-day holiday, Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year. I hear that most things will be closed, but hopefully not everything.

I don’t plan on posting again until after we’ve settled in there, but perhaps Libby will get an urge to make this blog look more professional and fancy, and she’ll write something. I dunno.

I hope this explains things a little better! Lahitraot!