Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Update from Jessica

It's been a long time since I've written (sorry) and the reason for this is that despite everything that you're watching on TV and reading in the newspapers, things in Jerusalem have actually been very quiet and normal. Students still gather in a throng to push each other impatiently as they climb onto the buses, nonplussed about the violence nearby and the implications that this kind of violence has had on the past for the safety of bus-riders. Still there are people on the streets, going about their business, honking their car horns, eating outside next to these strange outdoor-heater contraptions on the chilly Jerusalem nights, joking, laughing, and many of them wearing funny hats. (My friend Anka just purchased a VERY funny hat - it looks like an old fashioned sleeping cap, only it is made out of fleece and she wears it outside and not to bed. Terrific.)

Today at the preschool a student had just come back from being sick for a few days, and the teachers asked the rest of the children to thank G-d together for their friend's recovery. I thought this was sweet and sort of exciting, that the kids could pray such ancient words and understand them (I assumed) as they were in their mother tongue. Later, some kids were playing in the sand and "baking" bread for me to taste, and one did the motzei before trying to shove the sand between my lips. I noticed that he stumbled over and mispronounced the words, "hakotshi lechem m' ha'aretz" just like any old American kid might have done. So maybe these very old prayers which don't sound that much like contemporary speech are just as foreign and strange to the two year olds as the "Pledge of Allegience" was to me when I was a kid "And to the mapudik for which it hands, one nation, under G-d, inderisable..."

In any case, it does seem that "G-d talk" is more a part of secular Israeli culture than it is of secular American culture. "Thank G-d" is not an uncommon answer to "How are you?" even for a secular Israeli. I think G-d is a more accessible concept for Jerusalemites than for, say, New Yorkers, and phrasing things in terms of G-d comes more easily here. I'm not sure if I believe in G-d, but I kind of like the idea of being able to say G-d without sounding very religious. It seems like it would be easier to become comfortable with the concept if I didn't feel so, well, Christian when saying it.

In other news, I've been reading about social constructionism in my Multiculturalism class, and I think it is terrific. I don't want to bore you with it or go on about it, but I just want to say that I get such an emotional high when I read a theory that I completely buy, and that addresses and explains thoughts that I've had before. It is very exciting for me, and I think I'll be considering and reconsidering what I read for a very long time. Also, it's been a very productive few days for me, if a very lonely few days, as I've been pushing myself to get work done while Daniel is away. I've been working on a Hebrew project, a Holocaust paper, and more. I've also started working toward my personal goal of reading my very first whole book in Hebrew. I think that will take a while, but I'm already 20 pages into it, so we'll see. Wish me luck!

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