Saturday, July 26, 2008


This week was particularly frustrating in terms of work. They are trying to do a trailer and nothing really works, they disregard recommendations from the more experienced “foreign legion” working there and it is just chaos.

The weekend was great though.

I finally visited my family here in Jerusalem. It was great to see them again after decades. The sown side is that my aunt is with a literally crippling back ache, which is giving her a horrendous time. I had back pain last year and can only imagine what she is going through. She can't move nor function properly due to it. Very heartbreaking as she is such a lovely and lively person even in her sickness.

After two very religiously correct Shabbats I decided to accept the invitation of some work colleagues to go down to Tel Aviv with them. The plans shifted during the trip and we ended up in Cesareia. It was a great idea to go there.

The beach is fantastic, the water was nice and warm, the sun could not be better the sand is like the fine sand one finds in Brazil so I felt at home for a couple of hours. I managed to actually do some body surfing. Although the waves are not ideal I could ride one or two.

Right after the beach we went to the ruins of Cesareia which are fantastic. It was a major Roman port and several Roman governors lived there. There is an amphitheatre just by the beach and the ruins are amazingly well preserved, specially of the part where the nobility would stay to indulge themselves in all sorts of things.

One can tell they had a great time there. It is very beautiful.

We came back and I got a bit drunk in one of the few Pubs that dares to open during the Shabbat. Very religiously incorrect...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Another Week

It's been pretty stressful for Libia back home with so many things to do, sell. The company suggested I go back home to help her but they would not cover the days nor pay the ticket, which makes it too expensive specially now that the bank has still not reimbursed the stolen money.

This year was also plagued with expenses, but still there are good reasons to feel guilty.

Last week was another one with virtually nothing to do, I had another drawing lesson with a middle aged tatooed lady who must have had a glorious past.

We all went with to see Kung-Fu Pands which was very funny and kept everyone wandering if we could ever come close to doing something even similar. After that there was the usual dinner and drinking session with everyone talking a lot of rubbish.

The drinking was in I guess the bohemian part of town where probably all the alterative people with tattoos and dreadlocks in town go. It reminds me a lot of the Lapa district in Rio, for those who know Rio.

The big event though was the display of inhumanity by Hizbollah who fooled Israel in exchanging two dead bodies for five terrorists. One of them was convicted for having killed a dad in front of his daughter and then killed her by crashing her skull. He had a hero's reception in the Lebannon. The two dead bodies Israel received were of the soldier for whom Israel had gone to war in order to rescue. Their families had never been told anything about their fate and until the last moment believed they were alive.

Perhaps if I weren't here I wouldn't have felt so bad for the families, but it was a very sad ordeal for them.

Talking of which I have contacted my family here and we have combined to have dinner together next Friday night.

One interesting outing was to the Mea Shearim district, the one of the Ultra Orthodox-Jews, Everyone there is dressed as one can imagine, this was a few hours before the Shabbat so one could really feel the electricity in the air. It probably feels like the ghettoes of 150 years ago, what comes to mind is a favela of not so poor Jews, who must have an enviable sense of community.

One of the books my landlord left here is about the impact of the Haredi on Jerusalem. I read there that because they have a much bigger birth rate than the secular Jews, and usually are not the best of neighbours to people different to them, they are driving many people out of Jerusalem, if you add this to the fact that their vote often decides the tight elections here, it is estimated that in a not to very distant they will take over the city.

Iwhile on the subject, have also been going to the Bible school (yeshiva) where I was invited to last week. They have all the books one can imagine on the subject and the guys there know every letter of the Holy Books.

I had dinner this time at one of the Rabbis' house and it always really something special a Shabbat dinner at a Rabbis house.

The distressful thing however is that I learned last week that having “illicit” relations, I.e. with a non-Jewess, i.e, my wife is placed together with worshiping other gods and murder as crimes punishable by death. That did cause a bit of an internal discomfort, as I heard it several times.. I am glad to let you know that I am still alive.

I've actually been playing basketball once a week, which I'm coping with despite my pre-geriatric fitness.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Shabbat on Mount Zion

The week passed without much happening.

The company seems to have woken up to the fact that I'm earning to do absolutely nothing. I had alrady alerted my immediate supervisor. In the beginning I was trying to give opinions on the production etc.. I've decided just to keep quiet and not getting involved with the mess.

One noteworthy occurrence is that I started with live drawing classes. Very weird for a beginer, a girl comes in takes her clothes off and we're supposed to act as she is just like a vase of flowers or something and get on with the drawing. Don't forget it's been a month that I've been away from my Libia and naked women can be very tempting!!!

I kept my cool and the drawings came out better than I expected although compared to the guys who have been doing this for some time I suck big time.

I had decided that this Friday night would be the first one that I'd go to a Synagogue and try to have dinner with an Orthodox family. Apparently it is a very common thing for them to invite people, Jews and non-Jews, for the Shabbat meal.

The tourist information office provided me with a phone number, it was answered by a boy that seemed more like an answer machine, and it sounded that I'd be yet another stupid tourist being marveled by trivial everyday stuff for them. The address he gave was pretty far away and looked pretty dodgy in principle so I decided not to go.

Instead I went to the Old City to yet another session of photography. I am beginning to feel like someone in that joke:

  • Do you like photography?

  • Yes, I love it!!!

  • So why don't you learn it???

The place I decided to go was the location where King David was supposedly buried which is literally on top of Mount Zion.

I had been there before with the tour guide, so I knew there was a Synagogue there etc.. One of the guys comes up and I ask him about the service etc... he turns out to be the guy responsible for the computer graphics/video stuff of the centre and the Yeshivah (Rabbinical School) that runs the place. We start to talk, he's has a skinny American who very probably has a hippie past, and voila... I am invited for the dinner and the service.

The place also has a Holocaust memorial, so after what was a pretty emotional conversation I went to photograph it, and was invited by another member of the staff for the dinner and service.

So there you go, a Shabbat Service on Mount Zion!!!

The service was pretty chaotic. Everyone seemed to be doing their own thing most of the time. Everything is much more un-ceremonious than one would imagine, there is singing and dancing, women are separated by a curtain, there were children coming in and out and kicking around a ball.

I was very nicely welcomed, the guys obviously understand their holy scriptures and know exactly what to do, so there were moments where I was like a fish out of the water. But all and all it was great, probably I will be going back to accept the invitation for studying a bit with them in night sessions.

The dinner was not at all posh: plastic glasses plates and cutlery, but the atmosphere was great.

Another nice thing was that there are two Brazilians studying there, the first ones I find here. It was great to chat away in Portuguese.

Orthodox Shabbat dinners can take hours, there is a lot of praying, drinking, ritual hand washing, traditional singing, etc... but this one wasn't the longest.

After dinner we decided to go for a stroll to the Wailing Wall, we stayed there remembering Brazil and talking about Jerusalem. Both of them are probably still in their late twenties and are very religious but for an amateur Scripture student like myself it is interesting to talk to people who live this on Mount Zion 24/7.

As we are going back, the gates are closed. The Old city is under yellow alert, two Israeli policemen have been shot and no one can leave the Wailing Wall. We must have stayed there for three hours, the Hassidic Jews were dancing in a hall by the Wall, a bunch of others arrived to do a midnight prayer which apparently has great Kabbalistic resonance, some people simply went to sleep.

Finally we were allowed to leave and at one point it seemed the exit of a football game, the police were only allowing small groups out, and some naughty Haredi Jews were trying to escape the order and force themselves out.

I have discovered that many Orthodox don't like the “zionists” read Israeli Jews who are not religious but who get shot defend ing the Haredim... Crazy stuff.

The only other noteworthy observation is that today, Saturday, there was a car procession passing in front of my window, it was for a Palestinian wedding. They were making a LOT of noise by over accelerating their cars and putting the music very loud. It seems a popular way of the young wealthier Arabs to express their anger and call attention. I had seen similar scenes before, cars driving by an Israeli crowd with music at full blast with the guys sticking their heads out of the car defying the people.

A mixture of testosterone, frustration and foolishness...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More pictures

These are more personal ones, there are some of my journey, the flat I am in, of jerusalem and of the trip to the dead sea where I made a fool of myself playing capoeira.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Eventful Weekend

While still recovering from being digitally stolen a lot of money (still no sign of life from the Bank) I set out for another photography excursion in the Old City with the relief that the company was kind enough to pay me some of my first salary in advance and in cash.

I went as a proper tourist: with my camera a "gringo" looking shirt and a hat. The root this time was away from the tourist market zone: I began by the Christian quarter. This is the quietest quarter after the Armenian one. Hence not many pictures from it.

The Old city is surprising because some places seem pretty much run down and uninteresting from the street but if you know where to go you just need pass through a door or corridor to get to a wonderful building or garden. In other words you have to know where to go, which is not the case at present.

After the Christian Quarter there is the Muslim Quarter, it is different from the other ones because it is much busier and it is used by the Palestinians as a normal market place where you can find anything you want, the commerce is local, definitely not for tourists.

Obviously one stands out from the crowd there.

So while I am taking my pictures suddenly a boy, who must have been not more than twelve, passes by running and punches me in the "family jewellery" luckily his aim was not precise. Some guys saw it and had no reaction, neither to laugh at me nor to ask if I was OK. I just looked at the guy shredded my shoulders and went on my way.

In general one does not get hostility, but one can't say that they are friendly either, the immense majority just gets on with their life.

After the incident, I head on once again to the wailing wall, this time it is empty because it is not Sabbath yet, so I get more "attention" from the Orthodox people hanging around there. As I am giving my contribution for the maintenance of the site this Haredi starts begging me for money, disgraceful really... he is fat and keeps telling me in Hebrew that he needs to buy food for his family, I should have told him to bugger off but I didn't, he almost drags me to the front of the Wall does a dodgy prayer and then starts the begging again, I just had to give something to get him out of my face.

When I am leaving the site, this other Haredi approaches me this time it is not for begging he wants me to put on a Teffilin, I told him I had already done this earlier in the morning, the expectation of him to ask for a "contribution" is contradicted when he says his organization does not do this. But two minutes later another one approaches me, asks me where I am from, the next question is if I can give him a "contribution", with this one the courage to tell him to bugger off surfaced...

From there I head off to the Jewish quarter where I know there is a great burger place, on the way I see this Palestinian kid being carried down the street by some soldiers, he must have been a suspect of participating in some terrorist organization, if it were a criminal thing it would have been the police taking him. His face told that there was in deep trouble ahead. While it was shocking (I have seen similar scenes on Ipanema beach when they caught kids from the favelas stealing the rich people at the beach) I can understand that Israelis don't have many options regarding terror groups.

Please don't tell me that the solution is giving land back to the Palestinians. Israel withdrew from Gaza recently and after just a few weeks they "commemorated" their freedom by sending rockets. They are poor??? where does the money to buy these missiles come from???

The issue of terrorism is much more complex than land negotiations and Palestinian statehood, but discussing this is not the finality of this blog...

Anyways... after the delicious burger I sit down in the shade to relax and look at the pictures I had taken, this old woman comes up to begging for money, I said I had none (which was true) she gets into a fury and starts yelling at me in Hebrew, calling me "dreck" which means excrement, or shit if you will, she point at her heart saying she has heart and probably that I don't, I just tell her that I don't speak Hebrew and that I don't have any money. She probably thought I was Israeli and was putting on an act, some people nearby started laughing... what a day!!!

On Saturday we had a guided tour of (guess what....) the Old City, the guide was excellent, he has done a film about Jerusalem which I recommend:

After the tour I must have spent at least four hours organizing the house and putting things in to boxes. The good thing is that it is starting to become liveable in terms of having a family of three in the house, I am looking forward for my two "girls" to arrive. The decision of staying has been taken.

I will publish the new pictures very soon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Israel Blues

Just as you thought this would start getting into place and boring two not so nice things shook up my stay today July 02.
The first thing was a crazed Paletinian dude who decided to drive through a check point and kill as many Israelis he could with his tractor right here in center town Jerusalem. He managed to turn over two buses injure tens of people and kill four of them. The police ended intervening and shooting him in the head.
There were Palestinian appologists saying that the "poor guy" was out of his mind because of the "ocupation" and the police acted too harshly in killing him. I mean, what is this? blaming the Jews for when the Jews get killed?? these kind of things make me go madder than I already am!
The way the Israelis take it is similar to the way brazilians react to news of some crazy stuff that happens there, oh... I know someone who was in a much worse situation... There is no way out to this situation.. Welcome to Israel... all that sort of stuff...
With tough words being directed to Iran and this happening at the same time one gets the sense that one is in a country under seige but one also gets the sense that the people unite when in danger and there is a very strong common sense of national security and getting together, which is almost ancestral in Jewish history and is part of Israel's DNA.
The other this was more personal and even more disconcerting. I discovered that someone, sowhere here in Israel cloned my debit card and stole a respectable sum out of my bank account. Add this to the fact that that I was ripped off by the Airline coming here and you get a good reason for being pissed off.
Anyways I phoned the bank and they have cancelled my card, they actually did block it at the time and I actually phoned them up to unblock it. This makes me just a bit hopeful because they said that if it is proven it as fraud they will give me back the money.
The card has been cancelled so I am in that frightful situation of being in a foreign country without any money and without a card to pay for things.
I phoned the HR manager a bit late at night in a mixture of a need to talk to someone and of panic asking her to pay at least part of my salary in cash, she said it was fine so at least there is a releif in this aspect, and as I told her, better this than being tragically run over by a truck when you are walking inocently down a Jerusalem street.
I take this a bit philosophically, perhaps it is a way to pay for some of my sins, or bad karma, hopefully things will get better after this.