Surroundings

Trip Start Jul 16, 1975
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Trip End Jul 15, 1976


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Flag of Israel  , Yerushalayim,
Tuesday, July 29, 1975

West Jerusalem is modern and Israeli.  On Saturday, everything shuts down for the Jewish Sabbath.  Thanksgiving is just an ordinary day.  So is the 4th of July.  I tried to explain Halloween to an older Jewish man.  He had a real perplexed look on his face.  The conversation never got past, "why?"

Celebrations here revolve around Jewish holidays.  Commercialism?  Advertising?  Luxury?  Religion comes first.  Also survival.  For every Jew in Israel, there are 10 Arabs in surrounding countries that want to destroy their country.  Military service is mandatory for boys and girls after high school.  Everywhere are young soldiers carrying machine guns.  I got pressed against a few on crowded Israeli buses.

I spent 7th grade at a British international school in West Jerusalem.  One project was to write a report about a historical figure.  A related art project was making a figurine of the same person.  After wards, I was carrying mine home on the bus.  An older Jewish man pointed to my figurine and asked, "Ben Gurion?"  No.  It was Ben Franklin.  He never understood.

Why did I pick Ben Franklin?  He invented electricity.  The average wait to get a phone installed in a new apartment here is a year.

My ethnocentrism changed pretty quickly.

During the summer when I first arrived, I went walking in the desert.  What did I find?  Lizards.  So I chased them.  I saw one about two feet long sunning on some rocks outside a cave.  One day I found a scorpion.  So I brought it home in a jar.  Pretty new for a city boy.

One of my profound experiences was on Palm Sunday.  That's when pilgrims retrace Christ's triumphant entry.  So I, along with hundreds of other Christians, carried a palm branch over the Mt of Olives, into the old city and along the Via Dolorosa.  How do you describe it?  It's a strange feeling to re-enact a famous event at its original location.

Eric
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