Yours Truly
My corrected email: Marsha.Morman@alumni.brown.edu
My Starting Location: Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem
My Phone:
(if dailing from America) 011-972-57-437-855
Yeshiva: Nishmat (linked here)
Yeshiva Class Hours: 8:30 am - 8 pm, Sunday-Thursday
Time Difference: 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time

Jerusalem - Old City: [The Old City] [The Western Wall] [Church of the Holy Sepulcher] [City of David][Military Ceremony][Franciscan Procession][Videos]
Jerusalem - New City: [Bayit Vegan][Out and About][Haredim][Gaming][Nachlaot][Mea Sha'arim][Na Nach][SCA][Church of All Nations]
[The Garden Tomb] [Tomb of Mary] [Grotto of the Apostles] [Kidron Valley]
Jerusalem - Special: [Succot] [Hag HaSigd] [Siyum] [Channukah] [Purim] [Jerusalem in Snow] [Memorial Day] [Independence Day] [Yom Yerushalayim]
Tel Aviv: [Arrival] [Ramat Gan] [ICon]
Elsewhere: [Mt Meron] [Maale Levona] [Kver Bar Yochai] [Safed] [Hebron]
24 Tamuz 5764, Tuesday, July 13, 2004
I'm home safe and sound, and working hard to get the rest of  the pictures up. Here are some of them.

[Beersheva] [The Dead Sea] [Mount Zion] [Via Dolorosa]
9 Tamuz 5764, Monday, June 28, 2004
So it was either spend my last days in Israel taking more photographs or spend time putting up old photographs. Long story short, you'll all have to wait until I get home to get all the photos, because I was out. You won't be sorry for it.

I'll be back in the States on Tuesday, completing my 10 months in Israel. More on that to follow, when I get back to the States.
3 Tamuz 5764, Tuesday, June 22, 2004
There's a lot of new photography, mainly of sites in the Kidron Valley. Lots of stuff for my Christian readers.

Christian links:

[Church of All Nations] [The Garden Tomb] [Tomb of Mary] [Grotto of the Apostles]

Other links:

[Kidron Valley] [Yom Yerushalayim]
21 Sivan 5764, Thursday, June 10, 2004
Again I must apologize for the lack updates. A lot of things are going on in Israel right now, and I'm racing out to do them. Also, techhouse.org seems to ast times be unreliable.

Long story short, classes end this week in my yeshiva. Yes, I am coming home, at the end of the month. I have a plane ticket and everything, for all of you naysayers who were sure I was going to get married this year and make aliyah.

Check back next week, when I'm off from classes.
5 Sivan 5764, Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Tonight is Shavous, which is one day in Israel instead of two. Nice. Shavous (excuse me - Shavout) is the dairy holiday.  It's the holiday where we all eat lots of dairy really arbitrarily. I seriously think one day someone went, "We should set one holiday to be dairy for a change" and we all went a long with it. Like we needed to remind ourselves that yes, we can make dairy cakes with real cream and eat them on holidays - and yes, we can have actual milk in our coffee after a big dinner.

Off to make macaroni. Good Yomtov to you all.
20 Iyar 5764, Tuesday, May 11, 2004

This week was Lag B'Omer, and next week is Yom Yerushalayim. It's generally an exciting time of the year to be in Israel; I recommend it. Its also warming up quite a bit, which I'm not found of.

Yesterday I was going to the grocery store and there was a funeral on the street. No, I mean, on the street. The body was wrapped in a shrowd on a stretcher, which was on the sidewalk, and there was a crowd of haredim surrounding it. They said some prayers and then marched in a procession down Hapisga Street.

Jewish death customs and funerals are designed to get the body in the ground as fast as possible. In fact, technically, Jewish law prohibits a coffin, and if one must be used, it should be pine, which biodegrades the fastest. American law that bodies must be in coffins is the only reason American Jewry has this custom.

On the less morbid side, Jerusalem is still completely plastered with posters and banners against the disengagement, which was voted down last week. Now, I have friends and rabbis who are settlers, so it's hard for me to come down hard on them - but they are a very, very small percentage of the population, bringing their will to bear with tremendous political activitism and a lot of money from Christian Zionists. On the other hand, they are clearly the future of Zionism and will determine the future of the state more than any other small group.

If Israeli had a hoarding-kitsch culture, those posters would be collector's items in five years.
6 Iyar 5764, Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Tonight is the end of a two day period of morning and celebration. Monday was Memorial Day and today was Independence Day.

The head of my yeshiva, Rabbinite Henkin, said something very interesting. In the States, people celebrate Independence Day on July 4th by having barbeques and watching fireworks. Here they do that too, but here we also have lots and lots of people going to synagogue or the Kotel and earnestly thanking G-d that the State of Israel exists. It is a religious as well as secular holiday (for those religious Zionists).

On Memorial Day, I went to a ceremony at the Kotel, and went to the military cemetary at Har Hertzl. Today, I went to the park, where hundreds of Israelis were cooking food with their tiny barbeques. Not having one myself, I went up to a reasonably kosher-looking guy grilling chicken and asked to buy some from him. He immediately insisted that I take it for free, and handled me some shish kabob and pita.

A lot has been written about Israeli manners. It is true that Israelis are sometimes the rudest people in the world. It is also true that Israelis are sometimes the kindest people in the world. The second thing is just less publicized.

Pictures: [Memorial Day] [Independence Day]
28 Nissan 5764, Monday, April 19, 2004
Today is Yom HaShoah, aka Holocaust Rememberence Day. I went to Yad Vashem with my yeshiva (this was my 4th visit there in my life), but did not take pictures, as I did not think it was appropriate to do today. Every time I go there is some new exhibit added to the permanent collection.

They have in their archives a computer center where you can search for names of those who were killed in the Holocaust. A phonetic search of "Morman" turned up a family named Mirman, who were from the area of Ukraine/Russia that my grandparents were from. They died in a mass grave in the early 1940's.

Last fall I went to ICon, the Israeli sci-fi convention, where I heard Orson Scott Card speak. He's a big Christian Zionist, and he had this to say:

"When I was a kid, I was really into history. So I read a lot of history books. I started reading WWII history books, and I was so scared I had to ask my mom - 'How does it end?' And she answered, 'Well, most of the Jews died. But the ones who survived have their own country now, and it's called Israel.'"
10 Nissan 5764, Thursday, April 1, 2004

I'm taking a break to clean for Passover for this update. My computer, by the way, is busted. Dell sent me a new hard drive and my parents shipped it here, but it isn't here yet, so I'm typing from my roommate's computer.

First of all, pictures from Purim.

And, from February, Jerusalem in Snow.

And our visit to Hebron.
1 Nissan 5764

For everyone's information, everything is fine here, but my computer is having a lot of problems and so updates have been limited, and for that I apologize.

Everything here is on high alert because yesterday Israel assasinated Yassin, who was the head of the Hamas terror organization. Of course we expect reprisals, so no one is riding buses or going anywhere. I haven't left Bayit Vegan. People are arguing whether it was the right thing to do or wrong thing to do, but the general feeling is it was the right thing to do. This guy was the Osama bin Laden of Israeli terrorism. There'll be some fallout, and Arafat and Qurei are talking about dismantling the PA for some reason I can't begin to understand. Very interesting time to be in Israel.

Many of you are probably wondering if I'm going to make aliyah. The answer is: Not at this time. While the possibility is open for the future, I have things to do in the States next year, and I would only make aliyah from a position of some economic strength. My Zionist yeshiva rabbis will be disappointed, but so be it.
12 Adar 5764, Friday, March 5, 2004

Okay, my bad. Almost two weeks is a long time to go without an update, but I've been very busy doing various things. Purim is on Saturday night/Sunday for everyone outside of Jerusalem, and Sunday night/Monday for Jerusalem itself. For the unaware (and you could have added me to this category all of two days ago), the day-later business is called Shushan Purim, and it's because during the original Purim, the cyt of Shushan continued fighting the forces of Haman for an extra day, so the rabbis decreed that all walled cities since the time of Joshua have Purim a day later. This referred to Jerusalem, which has always been walled (even if those walls now only cover a small percentage of the city).

There are lots and lots of pictures, but at the moment I have no time to put them up. After Purim. Chag Same'ach to you all.
30 Shvat 5764, Sunday, February 22, 2004

There was another suicide bombing this morning at 8:20 am, in the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem - not far from where the previous bombing was. A bus (the number 14) was blown up. Obviously I am fine. For everyone's information, I am almost never in the area where these buses are regularly blown up. I live on the other side of town and have no reason I can think of to go to Rechavia/German Colony, much less to ride a bus there.

In other news, it is insanely windy here. I'm sitting inside with all my windows shut and I can hear it, to the point of almost waking me up from a sound sleep. Woah.
23 Shvat 5764, Sunday, February 15, 2004

And it's snowing in Jerusalem. And raining. And sleeting. And misting. Oh, and there's thunder and lightening. This is a very screwed up town.

It snowed during the day on Saturday. I would have rushed to take pictures, but of course it was Shabbos, so that wasn't going to happen. The weather changes every fifteen minutes it seems. When I woke up yesterday, it was clear. Then it was raining. Then it was HAILING. Then came the legitimate snow. Then the rain and the hail and then the snow again. All in about three hours.

Around 3 am my roommate and I were both woken up to thunder so loud we thought a huge bomb had exploded in Bayit Vegan. Jpost.com needs to have a warning page that not only tells you when bombs go off, but also tells you when there are loud sounds that are NOT in fact bombs, and what they are.

By the time I got up this morning, most of the snow had melted, or was in the process of melting. Little Israeli kids were running around furiously trying to build snowmen with half an inch of mush. It was amusing.
19 Shvat 5764, Wednesday, February 11, 2004

There was an earthquake at 10:16 am this morning. The epicenter was in the Dead Sea region, but it was felt here in Jerusalem for a few brief seconds. To my knowledge, there wasn't any major damage and no one was hurt. But it is was pretty cool, I must say. Israel is prone to earthquakes because we're between two tectonic plates.

So, obvious, I'm fine.
14 Shvat 5764, Friday, February 6, 2004

Quick update. My parents (and grandma) are in town until Sunday night, so I have been very busy with them. In my brief amount of spare time, I rushed up some [photography] of us.  After putting it together, I noticed there's no photos of dad. We'll have to take a lot of pictures of him on Sunday.

10 Shvat 5764, Monday, February 2, 2004

My parents (and my grandmother) are in town. Currently they're actually up North, on a tour with Rabbi Klar. They're coming back down to Jerusalem tomorrow and I'll spend the rest of their time here with them. Just so you know.


Some new photography is up. The photos are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography.  The older photography from last week's update can be found [here].
I also reorganized the Old City section, so it is easier to navigate.
6 Shvat 5764, Thursday, January 29, 2004

I was woken up by ambulance and police sirens this morning. Around 8:55 am the Number 19 bus was blown up by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. Even though it was in the neighborhood of Rechavia - nearly two miles away - I heard cars racing in that direction.

For everyone's information, I'm fine, and I have never in my life taken the Number 19 bus (even back two years ago when I took buses). It goes through Arab East Jerusalem.
4 Shvat 5764, Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I am not a fan of Israeli hamburgers. They always have all kinds of weird spices in them. You think it'd be easy to make a basic hamburger:

(1) put salt on pan
(2) put meat on pan
(3) fry

But somehow they always screw it up. The best burger I've had in six months I had today, and I cooked it myself.
27 Tevet 5764, Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Time zones prevented me from watching President Bush's State of the Union address, which I feel like I would have watched if I was in America, even though I probably wouldn't have. I miss the days when I understood ANY of the politics of the country I'm living in. There seems to be some scandal with the Prime Minister going on here, or at least people shouting "Scandal!" but that happens all the time, plus more of that deeply unsettling wall-building stuff.  Does anyone else get a bad, bad feeling in the pit of their stomach when they hear about it, but they just can't figure out why?


Some new photography is up. The photos are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography.  The older photography from last week's update can be found [here].

22 Tevet 5764, Friday, January 16, 2004

There hasn't been a photographic update this week, mainly because (a) it's been pouring, and (b) I've had a bad cold and not gone anywhere, unless you count my kitchen as 'anywhere.'

Most tourists come to Jerusalem in the summer, when it doesn't rain - it doesn't rain except between Shmini Atzeret and Pesach, roughly October to March. So your vision of Israel is a hot, dry place, which for half of the year is not entirely true. It doesn't rain much in the Negev, but here in Jerusalem it rains, and the more the better (except when I have to go somewhere. Then it sucks).

In totally unrelated news, I know a lot of people are checking this website, and if anyone knows a literary agent, I need one to represent a mauscript I wrote last year. You can email me dj_clawson@yahoo.com
17 Tevet 5764, Sunday, January 11, 2004

Happiness is being able to the Old City (especially the Kotel) whenever you feel down. This is truly the best year of my life.


Some ink should be spent on my parents. It takes a particular strength of will to send one's child to Israel at this point in time. Though we have not had a serious terror attack in a few months (I would cross my fingers but that's a Christian symbol), it is still a constant threat - as well as the normal worries of having a young woman living on her own in a crowded international city, thousands of miles away from home. I am very grateful, and you should all look at them and admire their faith in G-d, fate, and their daughter to take care of herself.
13 Tevet 5764, Wednesday, January 7, 2004

It was pouring in Jerusalem earlier today - just a wet, miserable day that makes you want to stay in bed, especially when you have to walk everywhere or wait for a cab.


Some new photography is up,all of them from the Old City. The photos are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography.  The older photography from last week's update can be found [here].

6 Tevet 5764, Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The new year is in forty-five minutes and I have no plans - and neither does anyone else in this city, as far as I can tell. Though we do adhere to the Gregorian calender for banking and all that, no one seems to attach any significance to the fact that we're moving into 2004. Maybe I'll turn on CNN or something, but I'm certainly not staying up to 7 am to see the ball drop in NYC.


Some new photography is up. The photos are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography. I also reorganized the Kotel section to make it easier to load.

30 Kislev 5764, Thursday, December 25, 2003

There was apparently a suicide bombing in Petah Tikvah, which is outside Tel Aviv and where a lot of my secular Israeli friends live. Obviously, Mom and I are in Jerusalem and are perfectly safe, and I called around and so are my friends. Just so you all know.


Ironically, my mother and I spent Christmas in a church. We were touring around the Old City and decided it would be nice to go and see if anything was doing at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the holiest site in Christianity by the way (it was just down the road from where we were). Long story short, there was basically only a very minor crowd there, not much more than the average tourist day - very unimpressive for Christmas day. A lot of Ethiopian Christian groups, and that was about it. The whole city is fairly empty - which you wouldn't know from trying to book a hotel (which we totally failed to do for Shabbos) - though it is supposed to pick up in the next day or so. Most of my rabbis and friends are away, in America or elsewhere, because Channukah is a big enough holiday to have off from yeshiva but not of enough religious significance for people to insist on being in Jerusalem for it (like Succos or Pesach). So aside from the tourism (which is limited), this town is rather quiet.
27 Kislev 5764, Monday, December 22, 2003

It's winter in Jerusalem. By that I mean I no longer have to check the weather before putting on my heavy winter coat. I estimate it's around 40 degrees during the day, not particularly cold in my opinion. We finally got the heat fixed in the apartment (sort of - it's a long story), though in my opinion we haven't really needed it. It rains quite a bit, which is good for Israel but bad for someone without a car.

My mother is coming tomorrow, to stay through Sunday night. This is my Channukah vacation, with classes resuming next week. Jerusalem is beautiful during Channukah, with all the menorahs in the windows and decorations everywhere. But I won't go on and on about it. Come to Israel.
21 Kislev 5764, Tuesday, December 16, 2003

As I do live in the Middle East, I suppose people are expecting me to make some kind of comment about the capture of Saddam Hussein. However, there is nothing I like less than totally uninformed opinions, and just because I have a web log does not mean I should give one. I am probably not any more informed than anyone else reading this. As in most matters, I refer you to experts.

I did watch some Israeli news on the subject, and from what me and my roommate gathered between our limited grasp of Hebrew, the main topic was the exact same topic the Israeli talking heads talk about whenever anything happens - Will this lead to more terrorism or less terrorism? (They disagreed) Apparently, the idea that it might not have an affect on Palestinian terrorism has not occure to these people. Honestly, they would ask the same question about piece of news ("The value of the shekel drops. Will this lead to new terror attacks?" or  "The Matrix is the number 1 movie in Israel. Will this increase the probability of terrorism?"). I wouldn't put a lot of weight on it.


So we really have two major 24-hour news channels in English here (and one in what I believe is Hindi, as well as the standard Hebrew/Arabic/Russian/Turkish/French): CNN World (which is based out of Britain, as all the announcers and reporters are British) and SKYnews, which is the British equivelant of CNN, but much, much more intelligent.

I will mention two things of note: First, SKYnews is far superior to CNN. Example: Sunday night, there was an explosion in downtown Bagdad at around 7:30 my time (8:30 pm Bagdad time), which happened to be down the street from where the CNN building (which is why they covered it). It turns out they have this camera out their window that caught the whole thing live, because it happened to be facing it. So as soon as it happens, they go to it live, and the announcers and panelists (who were previously discussing Saddam) were forced to spend about ten minutes looking at live feed of smoke and saying things like, "Do you know what that is?" "I don't know. Do you know?" "Looks like an explosion of some sort. Peter?" "Yup, definitely an explosion. You can tell from the explosive flames." So I turned to SKYnews, which - having no information on the topic - decided to talk about something else.

Second, it's very weird seeing Christine Amapour in her natual setting. What I mean is, when we watch CNN in the States, it's always 7 hours behind, so when she's interviewed (she reports from Israel and is this black-haired journalist with a British accent) she's always standing on some balcony against the night sky. But when she reports for CNN World during the day, she's like in an office and there's daylight everywhere. And I thought she was a vampire or something.
16 Kislev 5764, Thursday, December 11, 2003

I missed my usual Monday afternoon trip to the Old City, because I was at an acupuncture appointment. And man, did I miss it. I had apparently forgotten the joy you can get from just walking around the holy city, much less going to the Kotel itself. It put me in a considerably better mood than I've been in.

Now if Yerushalayim could just fix my computer (which crashed several times, and is still only passably operational), that would be great.
7 Kislev 5764, Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Finally got internet working in my apartment, after getting the run-around from every company involved. Lots of new photos, and most of the photography pages will be reorganized in some fashion. So check back.


A week has passed and a lot has happened. I've settled into my new apartment, and hoping to have my first in-Shabbos this Shabbos. School is good (and hard, as always) and I'm finishing up my applications to graduate school. Last week was Thanksgiving, and there was no official thing going on in the yeshiva for it, so I went to a medieval feast with the SCA in Jerusalem. Last Shabbos I was in Safed, which as always was both beautiful and disgusting. Safed is dirty place. I'm not a huge fan. But it was a nice time with my yeshiva friends and the rabbi, so I can't complain. Channuka vacation is coming up, and I don't have plans per se, but we'll see.


Remember when I used to define "tons and tons" of pictures as like 40? Those days are over. There's like 200 new photos, and I haven't even put them all up yet, because I'm exhausted. Some are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography. I warn you, there are a lot of them, so the page may take a long time to load.

28 Cheshvan 5764, Sunday, November 23, 2003

So I have a new apartment, and it's great. Lots of space, very clean, nice roommates. The only thing it's lacking is internet, which due to endless hassles will not be installed until next Sunday, so I am reliant on my yeshiva dorm line right now (which I still have the keys for). So updates on this page will be sporadic for about a week, and then I'll get some serious pictures up.

In a stroke of bad timing, my phone also died last night, so I was both phone-less and internet-less for a period of about 20 hours, and I had to pretty much miss class and blow the day going to Talpiot (a neighborhood on the other end of Jerusalem) to get it fixed. The phone was pretty busted (note to self: do not drop phone in sink again) but according to my plan they had to replace it free of charge with the same phone number, though I did lose my address book.  Oh, and the new phone has tooth marks on it, like the previous owner was chewing it. Great.

Tomorrow is a big Ethiopian holiday of some sort, and there will be a celebration in the yeshiva. Pictures up next week.
21 Cheshvan 5764, Sunday, November 16, 2003

Some people have requested to hear the small eulogy I gave at my grandfather's funeral, after the rabbi's.

     The Israeli cantor and Broadway singer Dudu Fisher has a routine he does where he sings about his Zete, a stereotypical Jewish grandfather from the old country who’s first language is Yiddish and who would put young Dudu on his knee and tell him stories of persecution. The audience would of course nod their heads in recognition.

     When I first heard this routine, I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t have a Zete; I had a Grandpa.

     Grandpa Franklin was the quintessential American. He had a house in the suburbs, a wife of 57 years and two children. His value system came from boy scouts and his patriotism was derived not from memories of pogroms but from a home-bred love of his homeland. But this identity went side-by-side with his strong identity as a Jew, which he expressed in his own unique way, like by running guns for the Haganah before Israel’s independence.

    He was an active person. He loved to sit and talk but he loved even more to go out into the world and do tremendous things for it. If something needed fixing, he would try, even if he had never seen that particular piece of electronics before. He built me – and I encourage you all to see it at our house – a beautiful dollhouse with his own hands. He expressed his love for his family and his grandchildren and his friends through actions that we can remember today. He was a volunteer on the first aid squad for over two decades. I remember even years after he had retired from it, he would sit in his house on Smull Avenue and listen to the radio transmission on the squad’s frequency to see if there was any trouble or if they needed any help. He loved to move around and have projects to work on, which was why living on a house boat was so perfect for him for so many years, because he always have work to do.

    It is not enough to say what he did in his life – it is more important to say why he did it. Edward Franklin went about every task with a deep and profound sense of duty. His reasons were never selfish or self-serving. Every aspect of his identity – as a father and grandfather, as a husband, as an eagle scout, as an American and as a Jew – was tied up in a deep sense of responsibility he felt towards the world. Sometimes he would do things purely for this reason and no other. I remember him sitting in synagogue – not swaying back and forth, but instead sitting like a pillar, so absorbed in what was his duty as a Jew. This intensity and focus on duty and responsibility is the essence of who Grandpa was. He was so dedicated to the world around him, to improving it. He took one of the major lessons of the Boy Scouts to heart – “Always leave a place better than it was when you found it.” And I think the world is better for all of us because Edward Franklin was here.
12 Cheshvan 5764, Friday, November 7, 2003

I'm back in New Jersey for my grandfather's funeral and week of shiva.


Tons of new pictures are up. Some are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography. I warn you, there are a lot of them, so the page may take a long time to load.

7 Cheshvan 5764, Sunday, November 2, 2003

I spent Shabbat at a friend's house from the SCA (a medieval reenactment group). She lives about an hour north of Jerusalem, in a town who's name I forget. Anyway, it was near a lot of Arab villages, so there was a lot of security and barbed wire. Here's an interesting little fact: the Arab and Israeli villages are color-coded. The Israeli street lamps have an orange hue, while the Arab lighting is more of a bluish-green. So when you look out at a landscape at night, you can tell which cities are which. I suppose this was instituted for security reasons.


So everyone who joined a year program in Israel is, like me, about two months into it. Currently our yeshiva is getting a lot of visitors, women who are yeshiva hopping - they are going from place to place looking for the right place for them, because the place they chose is not the right fit.

I am inclined to explain what I mean by "the right fit." Obviously, not every religious girl is the same. Some of us enjoy learning philosophy, some Torah, some Talmud or law texts. Different yeshivot (the technical name for a women's yeshiva is a midrasha) have difference emphases. But it's more complex that yet, more than likes and dislikes. We are, at least in my yeshiva, from a variety of different backgrounds. Most midrashot in Israel are geared towards women who have been in Hebrew day school all their lives and come from very religious families. These women already have a considerable knowledge of Judaism and are here merely to further continue their learning. There are a certain (smaller) number dedicated entirely to convincing women who are non-religious to become religious - my previous yeshiva was one of these. And then there are an even smaller number who are largely dedicated to continuing the education of women who were not raised religious but have decided at some point to become religious, like myself (we are called ba'al teshuvahs).


I made this page. Maybe you'll find it interesting, maybe you won't. Most likely, you'll wonder how I'm getting any of these books home.
1 Cheshvan 5764, Monday, October 27, 2003

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Jerusalem is a city where you can just walk somewhere and happen upon an important event. This is especially true in the Old City. I went in today to pray at the Kotel and as I was walking in I saw a procession of monks from Jaffa Gate, so I followed them and took pictures. They're [here]. Enjoy.


They need to outlaw thunder, cars backfiring, and construction in this city - anything that makes noise that sounds like an explosion and makes you leap for cover when you're walking down the street.
28 Tishrei 5764, Friday, October 24, 2003

Tons of new pictures are up. Some are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography. But there are a lot pertaining to Succot, so I dumped them straight into the new [Succot] section.

24 Tishrei 5764, Monday, October 20, 2003

Classes restart tomorrow. People have asked what I did on my vacation. Well, I went into town a lot, I went to Tel Aviv, and a lot of the time off was on Shabbat so I couldn't do much. Anyway, I did a lot of running around, and I'm totally exhausted, so I'm going to bed.
20 Tishrei 5764, Thursday, October 16, 2003

I'm finally back in Jerusalem. Tel Aviv was nice, but very jarring, what with taking cabs and being lost and carrying all my stuff around and looking for kosher food and a succah ... etc etc. I had a very nice time at Ala's, and at the gaming convention, and there are pictures from both [here]. Nothing else to really report, other than that Simfas Torah is tomorrow night, and classes restart on Monday.
17 Tishrei 5764, Monday, October 13, 2003
_Bircas Kohanim

I always get a little choked up at during the Priestly Blessing.

This I suppose deserves some explanation. The Priestly Blessing is the only real remanent of the temple service that we continue today without the temple. In Israel it's said every Saturday morning and during most festivals, but in the rest of the world it's only said on specific festivals. What it is is this: We have always kept track of which Jews are from the priestly tribe (the Kohanim, which is where the last name Cohen comes from - it means priest) and which are from the Levites, who were the priests' assistants. Everyone else is considered to just be a normal Israelite. Kohens and Levites gets special honors during services, even though it has been two thousand years since our last temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Should it be rebuilt (speedily and in our time!), they would theoretically go back to their positions in the temple service, the priesthood of the Jewish people. But today, all we have is the Priestly Blessing. First, the Levites in the crowd wash the hands and feet of the Kohens present. Then the Kohens go to the front of the room, put their prayer shawls over their heads, and bless the crowd. It is traditional not to turn entirely away, but not to look directly at them as they bless you with their hands forward - you turn your head away or put it in your prayer book.

So why is it such an emotional experience? Well, it reminds us of the temple service that we have lost. Our priesthood is disgraced, and returned to living in the secular world like everyone else. We are in exile. We can no longer offer sacrifices to G-d. It's a very sad time, but always we remember the temple.


Tons of new pictures are up. Some are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography. But there are a lot pertaining to Succot, so I dumped them straight into the new [Succot] section.


There are actually two short videos up, each a couple megs, in .avi format. Sorry there's no sound, but I'm using my digital camera and it can't do sound. Get your [videos] here.
13 Tishrei 5764, Thursday, October 9, 2003

Someday, I'll get tired of taking pictures. But that day is not today. Tons and tons of new pictures are up. They are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography. The general procedure is: new photos go to newphotos.html, then at the next update they are bumped to newphotos2.html, then bumped into regular categories. So you have two updates to see a set of pictures before they are sorted.

12 Tishrei 5764, Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Sorry for the delay in updates, but it's been Shabbat, then Yom Kippur, then the Tech House server was down, then my internet was dead. I had a very nice Yom Kippur at Jenny's place in Old Katamon, and now I have two weeks off, which I'm largely spending working on various web projects and playing video games, and next week I'm going to Tel Aviv.

I'm typing this to the sound of hammering. This Friday begins Succot, the festival of booths (or as Christians call it, the Feast of Tabernacles). According to the Torah, G-d commanded us to take one week of the year and dedicate to remembering our time in  the wilderness of Egypt, when we lived under the covering of the divine storm cloud, and to build booths (succot). There are all kinds of laws about what a succah (a single booth) must be made of and how it must be built - it must be so high and so wide and the walls made of wood or cloth and the stop must be made of schath, which could be any number of types of greenery. In New Jersey, our succah has cloth walls and the schath is bamboo poles. The succah must be constructed before the start of the holiday, so everyone is building them as I type. There are new photographs up of people building their succot, and there will eventually be a whole section of photography dedicated to the holiday. There is a law that a Jewish man must eat all of his meals in the succah during the holiday (women are exempt) so in Israel all of the kosher restaurants build succot in front of their shops (you can't build a succah inside either) so people can eat there.


Tons and tons of new pictures are up. They are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography. The general procedure is: new photos go to newphotos.html, then at the next update they are bumped to newphotos2.html, then bumped into regular categories. So you have two updates to see a set of pictures before they are sorted.

8 Tishrei 5764, Sat., Oct. 4, 2003
_Haifa Attack

There was a terrorist attack today in Haifa - at the moment, they say about 20 people were killed in a restaurant. Obviously, I was in Jerusalem and I am fine. I didn't even know about it until Shabbat ended ten minutes ago and I checked CNN.com. Just letting everyone know.
6 Tishrei 5764, Thu., Oct. 2, 2003

Tomorrow starts a two week vacation for the holidays. Now some people have asked - Wasn't Rosh Hoshanah last week? Why doesn't your vacation start then? The answer is: Well, there are four weeks of major holidays in the month of Tishrei:

Week 1 - Rosh Hoshanah (2 days)
Week 2 - Yom Kippur (1 day, exactly ten days after Rosh Hoshanah)
Week 3 - Sukkot (1 week of holiday, with 1 days of Yom Tov on the first day, exactly 2 weeks after Rosh Hoshanah)
Week 4 - Shmini Atzeret and Simfas Torah (both in the same day in Israel)

Now, Sukkot is a week, so we have to have off for that week. But they only want to give us 2 weeks off, not 4, so they give us Sukkot and an adjacent week.

There is a different between hag and yom tov. Yom Tov is a full holiday, which has all the restrictions of Shabbat, except you can cook and carry. Hag is a festival, when the normal restrictions don't apply, unless it is also Yom Tov. Rosh Hoshanah, Yom Kippur, and the first and last days of Sukkot are Yom Tovs. But the middle of Sukkot is only a festival, so you can do things like travel and drive a car and use electronics, which you can't do on Yom Tov.

Complicated enough? I won't even go into all of the individual laws for each holiday.


A few new pictures are up. They are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography. The general procedure is: new photos go to newphotos.html, then at the next update they are bumped to newphotos2.html, then bumped into regular categories. So you have two updates to see a set of pictures before they are sorted.

3 Tishrei 5764, Mon., Sep. 29, 2003
_Fleeting Moments

I went picture snapping in the twenty minutes before Rosh Hoshanah. The Sabbath and the holidays are an island in time, when things exist for our eyes alone, and cannot be captured and reshown, because cameras are forbidden. Magical things will happen while walking down the street, and you will be able to describe it later, but the effect is lost. It's also neat to see some of the Hasidim dressed up in their Shabbos robes, which are not worn during the week. I spent the holiday in the neighborhood of Nachlaot, which was I think the first neighborhood built outside the Old City walls in the early 1900s, so that's where most of the pictures are taken. They are linked [here].


Today is a fast day. It's not Yom Kippur yet (Yom Kippur is ten days after Rosh Hoshanah), but it's a minor fast day known as Yom Gedalia. It's actually only a half-fast, from dawn until dusk, instead of the full 25 hour fast. I always feel guilty during a fast because I'm medically exempt from fasting. I know that according to Jewish law it's actually a commandment for me to eat (for my health) and that I technically shouldn't feel guilty, but happy that I'm fufilling a commandment. Still, it's just a knee-jerk reaction to feel bad as I eat my bread and water and my friends starve themselves.

There are some interesting laws of eating on a fast day. First, you should only eat as much as you're required to eat, which for me is a normal amount of food, and you should only eat what you're required to eat, not cakes and cookies or anything. There's also a law forbidding you to eat in front of other people, even if your friends know you're exempt from the fast, out of courtesy. There are some rabbis who say you eat a bite, then wait nine minutes, then eat again, but I do not hold to this stringency.

_Traffic Lights

The traffic lights are slightly different here. In America, we have green-yellow-red, so when you see the yellow you know to slow down because it's about to turn red. In Israel, you have green-yellow-red-yellow, so you also know that you have to get ready to speed up because it's about to turn green.
27 Elul 5763, Wed., Sep. 24, 2003

Tons and tons of new pictures are up. They are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography, and then will be put into regular categories at the next photographic update.


Jerusalem is the sort of city where strange and moving things can happen, by chance it seems. You can walk down the street to buy some yogurt and see something special and beautiful and intensely spiritual. There are so many moments that I try to capture on camera for all of you, but nothing compares to being here.

It just so happens that I was in the Old City for a meeting of the Jerusalem chapter of the SCA - the Society for Creative Anacronism - and I decided of course to finish my trip with a visit to the Kotel (the Western Wall) to say Ma'ariv (evening prayers) before going home. As I walked down the steps from the Jewish Quarter to the Kotel square, I saw that a large portion of the square had been sectioned off, and there were hundreds of Israeli soldiers and people with cameras. I hung around, and eventually figured out that it was a swearing-in ceremony for all the new draftees. At first I was almost completely distracted by a man in white who was praying at the wall, who seemed to me the very image of a mystic, or the Messiah should He have arrived. He was wailing at the Wall while the ceremony went on in the background, and as he went to leave I asked him in Hebrew if he was the Messiah or the prophet Eliyahu. He smiled at me but didn't answer, walking away. No one else in the crowd gave him a second glance, not even the tons of Hasidim who were also ignoring this military ceremony.

I took a lot of pictures, though most of them didn't come out because it was fairly dark. I also took a short video of the swearing in of the soldiers - they handed the new soldier a gun and a copy of the Tanack - the Hebrew bible, containing the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. He put the bible to his brest and then went back in line.

After the ceremony I finally went to say Ma'ariv, but they were playing Israeli pop music on the loudspeakers. Even though synagogues are typically noisy, if you've ever been to the Kotel you know that it's a very silent place, especially in the women's section. The Ma'ariv service contains the Shema, one of the holiest prayers, and it is forbidden to say the Shema if you are distracted, so I had to wait for about ten minutes until they shut off the pop music. The music was playing, soldiers were posing for pictures and chatting with relatives, but at the Wall itself women were praying, or trying to. The woman on my right was crying into the Wall, which is actually a fairly typical scene. There she was, in a state of hysterics, praying to G-d with all her heart and soul, and twenty feet away secular Israelis were chattering away. Israel is that sort of place.


To my knowledge, there is any one phone company in Jerusalem, which is called Bezeq. And since no one has cable TV but everyone has phone lines, we all get DSL for internet connections, which means we all have to work with Bezeq. This is a problem if you actually want your DSL installed for a reasonable price and within a reasonable time frame. Example: When the appointment was booked, I was distinctly told Tuesday, the 23rd. When I called later to see if they had any cancellations, they reminded me the appointment was on Tuesday, the 23rd. And finally, on Tuesday, when I called to ask where they were, they promptly told me the appointment was for Wednesday, the 24th, and that it was my word against theirs about when the appointment was. I don't think this would be quite the same if they had, say, a competitor.
25 Elul 5763, Monday, Sep. 22, 2003

Tons and tons of new pictures are up. They are all temporarily listed on the [page] for the latest photography, and then will be put into regular categories at the next photographic update.


I'll admit that even though I've been very religious for two years, I had no idea what Selichot where before they were mentioned in class. Some things just pass under your radar. Selichot are the psalms we say leading up to Rosh Hoshanah. Sephardi Jews start saying them the whole month before, but Ashkenazi Jews only say them for the ten days before Rosh Hoshanah. The big deal is that they're said very late at night, like 12:30 pm, because it's 2/3rds in to the night that the aspect of G-d that is grace and mercy is most prevelant in the world.  Attending Selichot is not someone women are obligated to do, but I went the first night for the experience and hope to go some of the other nights.


They sell milk in bags in Israel. Yeah, I can't figure that out either.


My Hebrew is slowly improving, enough so that I understood a conversation between a cab driver and my friend Aviva. Here are some key phrases, should you ever be in Israel:

Ma? - What?
Effo? - Where?
Cama Zeh - How much is this?
Ani lo yoda'at ivreet - I don't know Hebrew (feminine).


I realize now my passing references to the layout of Jerusalem may be confusing to anyone who hasn't lived here. Allow me to expain: Jerusalem is essentially divided into two categories: the Old City, and the New City.

The Old City is the pre-1920 Jerusalem, surrounded by Ottoman walls which were built on top of the old crusader walls. It's about the size of a few football fields, and it's split into four quarters plus the Temple Mount. This is a recent division. Between 1948 and 1967, the Old City was under Jordan's control, not Israel's. When it was retaken in 1967, the government divided it into four living quarters: Jewish, Armenian, Christian, and Muslim. Then there is the Temple Mount itself, Mount Moriah, where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, where both Jewish temples stood, and where the Dome of the Rock mosque currently is.

The New City is everything else, and is divided into neighborhoods. Jerusalem is constantly expanding its borders across the hills. Har Nof, the neighborhood I lived in two years ago when I studied in another yeshiva, is only about 15 years old - before that, it was wilderness. Here's a list of some of the neighborhoods, and what they're known for:
  • The Center - the center of town, where many shopping areas are, and is especially prone to terrorist attacks
  • Arab East Jerusalem - called that because it's an Arab neighborhood. It is highly unsafe
  • Mea Sha'arim and Geula - two Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods especially populated by Hasidim who don't support Zionism or the State of Israel, but are also very holy. (Also a great place to shop because everyone is broke because they sit in yeshiva all day and study, so the prices are low)
  • Nachlaot - a sort of hippie/Sephardi neighborhood near Mea Sha'arim. Many people from my yeshiva live there, including the Rabbi Weisberg
  • Rehavia - the neighborhood I pass through on the way to the Old City. A mixed religious-non-religious place
  • Bayit Vegan - my home (in my yeshiva). A haredi (ultra-orthodox) neighborhood.
  • Har Nof - my old home, where my previous yeshiva is located. Like Bayit Vegan, Har Nof is haredi and affluent - most of the inhabitants are American immigrants who have more wealth than born Israelis.
This is not all of the neighborhoods, just the ones I can say something about.
20 Elul 5763, Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2003
_Getting Around the Holy City

Jerusalem is built on a hill. Even more accurately, Jerusalem is built on many, many hills. Legend has it G-d created the world starting with the Temple Mount, which now houses the Dome of the Rock and was once the site of the Holy Jewish Temple. The rest of the Old City is on the adjacent hill, and the New City is spread across many, many hills nearby. So, should you want to walk say, anywhere, it's all up and downs. Plus, the New City seems to be fairly poorly designed, so it's easy to get lost or be stuck weaving down a hill to a dead end.

I made these happy diagrams to help illustrate my point:


Actual Map Hilarious

_Peeping Toms

One of my roommates came home last night to say that she caught a religious boy spying on the girls from my school walking on the street. He had binoculars and everything. She looked him straight in the eyes and he wasn't even embarrassed. It may be an Orthodox neighbhorhood, but boys will be boys  - even in the holy city.

18 Elul 5763, Monday, Sep. 15, 2003
_Hello from Jerusalem!

I still don't have an internet connection in my dorm (it's being installed September 23rd) but I'm currently wired into the office DSL line, thanks to the good Rav Weisberg.  

Things are going well. Jerusalem is much as it was two years ago, so I find everything very familiar. I visited Har Nof today, where my old yeshiva (Neve Yerushalayim) is located, on the way to the mall, and there are a lot of new buildings up. Jerusalem is constantly under construction. The neighborhood of Har Nof didn't even exist 20 years ago.

I live in Bayit Vegan, which is a suburb of the city, very off-center and about two miles from Ben Yehuda Street and the Old City. It's a religious neighborhood that has little in it but yeshivot and some overpriced pizza shops. I rarely go off campus because it is expensive, as I am only taking cabs. I usually go to the Kotel (the Western Wall) on Fridays, so drop me a line if you'd like me to place a note in the wall.

For my Fantasy Gaming Society friends out there, I got in touch with Jerusalem's gaming society last week and went to a boffer practice (photos included in the gaming section). I'm starting a tabletop RPG in my yeshiva, which should be very interesting because the party will be entirely women, since no men are allowed on campus except rabbis while they're teaching.


All the photos are new. Check 'em out. Any future photos will be noted in my web journal so you know when to look for them. (And thanks to Mom and Dad for the digital camera)

_Sounds of Jerusalem

In the religious communities of Jerusalem occasionally a car will drive by with a loudspeaker playing a recorded message in Hebrew. Sometimes it’s a charity drive or a political message, but usually it’s a funeral announcement, which I’m assuming gives the times for shiva, when people can go visit the relatives of the deceased and comfort them in their house of morning. One woke me up in the morning, around seven a.m. I think.

I can also hear sometimes (though I’m usually asleep) the shofar blowing through my window. I’m one house over from the synagogue where they sound it every morning. This is the month of Elul, the month before Rosh Hoshanah, and each morning we blow the shofar (a ram’s horn) to confuse Satan. As the story goes, when we blow the shofar on Rosh Hoshanah as is required, the Accuser appears before G-d and starts telling Him all the sins of the Jewish people. To confuse the Accuser, we blow the shofar every day the month before, and he supposively shows up to talk to G-d each day, so by the time we get to Rosh Hoshanah when G-d begins to seriously judge us, what the Accuser (Satan) says is old news, and G-d ignores him.

Jerusalem, for obvious reasons, is the kind of place where you hear a car backfiring or a siren and you are immediately worried there was a bomb, though there hasn’t been one since I’ve arrived.

_An Army of Religious Women

A classmate of mine’s mother is ill. This came up when we were in class, and a rabbi asked her how she was doing, and she admitted she was under a lot of stress because her mother was currently in surgery. The rabbi immediately stopped the class and we all said tehillim (psalms) for her mother.

After the two bombing attacks last week, the entire school took a break from the schedule to say tehillim. In short, if someone you know is ill or in trouble, you should really tell a religious woman, and she’ll get an entire community to pray for you.


So the neighborhood of Bayit Vegan is right near the highway that one takes to go to Tel Aviv, and there’s two signs to get onto the highway, one that says “Begin South” and one that says “Begin North.” Now I thought for the longest time that this meant that this was where you began going north or south, which I suppose is true. But in fact, as I discovered when I happened to be looking at a map, it’s that the name of the road is Begin, named after Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin (pronounced “BAY-gin”). If there’s a moral to this story, I don’t know what it is.

_An Average Day

7:30 am – Alarm goes off. I shut the alarm off.

7:31 am – I fall back to sleep.

8:28 am – I wake up and realize I have one minute to get to class on time.

8:30 am – My 8:30 Hebrew class begins while I eat breakfast.

8:50 am – I finally show up to Hebrew class and try to explain in Hebrew that my alarm clock sucks.

9:30-11:00 am – Chavruta (partner) learning, where I am given a passage of Hebrew text by the teacher, and sit in the library and try to translate the passage with a partner. I spend most of the time wildly and incorrectly guessing at the meaning of the words until my partner looks them up in the dictionary.

11:00 am – 1 pm – Shiur (class) with a rabbi or rebbetzin. I space out through most of it.

1 pm – 2:30 pm – Lunch. Scarf down meat and rice, then go to my room and contemplate playing hooky for the rest of the day.

2:30 pm – Shiur (class) on philosophy or something. Not paying attention.

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm – More chavruta. I try not to space out too much, as my partner is depending on me to randomly try and guess words.

4:30 pm – 6:00 pm – Shiur, usually about Jewish law. I actually pay attention, as I find things like the fact that you can only tie a knot on Shabbos that you can untie with one hand really, really interesting.

6:00 pm – Go to merkolet (convenience mart) and blow money on overpriced pudding.

6:20 pm – 11:30 pm – Free time, or night classes. Generally the first one. Maybe go to a movie, but usually sit in my room and write fan fiction.

24 Av 5763, Friday, Aug. 22, 2003
Still in America. Buying lots of video games, as I have a new laptop and American video games are hugely expensive in Israel.

Some people have asked, What is a yeshiva? A yeshiva is a religious institution, where you study Torah (bible) and Talmud (bible commentary), and some Halacha (Jewish law) and religious philosophy.

Here is a sample of an average day:

8:30am - 9:30am - Hebrew Ulpan (Class)
9:30am - 12:30am - Chumash (Torah)
12:30am - 1:00pm - Halacha (Jewish law)
1:00pm - 2:30pm - Lunch
2:30pm - 3:00pm - Assorted philosphy of famous rabbis
3:00pm - 6:00pm - Talmud
6:30pm - 8:00pm - More Talmud

For the unfamiliar, the Torah is the first five books of the bible, the five books of Moses. The Talmud is a commentary on the Torah in two parts: the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Gemara is a commentary on the Mishnah. So you have: Torah, and it's commentary the Mishnah, and it's commentary the Gemara. There are commentaries on the Gemara. The Mishnah is also not the Torah's only commentary. All of this is designed to drive me insane.

People have asked what I'm getting out of this, and the answer is not a degree or anything. Religious Jews study Torah (and commentaries) because we should, we have to, it brings us closer to G-d. This is studying for the sake of studying.

In more mundane news, I'm leaving on Monday and I will try to update before I leave, but I may not be able to update this page for a while, until I get some sort of steady internet connection. I will be managing to check email every few days, so you can drop me an email if you want.
21 Av 5763 - Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2003
My schedule as it stands:

August 25th: Departure from New Jersey
August 26th: Arrive in Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, travel to Jerusalem
August 26th - July 2004: Jerusalem

The flight is 10 1/2 hours. The current plan is to stop in Tel Aviv and see my cousin Alla, and then go on to Jerusalem. The apartment in the Old City fell through so I am starting the semester living in the dorms at Nishmat. Nishmat (my yeshiva) is located in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem, about half an hour's walk from the Old City.

For those of you (which would be most of you) unfamiliar with the layout of Jerusalem, there is a very good simplified map that can be found here.

A lot of people have asked: Are things more expensive in Israel? The answer is: Yes and no. Israelis are generally poorer than Americans, which drives prices down, but anything that has to be imported from Europe or America is very, very expensive. So CDs, fashionable clothing, English magazines and books, etc are all very expensive, much more than in America. Things made in Israel, like food, Hebrew magazines, and shampoos are much cheaper than American standard prices. Going to the movies is about the same: 7-8 dollars.

Another question: Do you get American movies? Are they in English? Answer: Yes and no. The dubbing process takes several months for various reasons. So what they do is the first-run movies, the ones that are going to be hits, they bring out almost immediately - about 2-4 weeks after they premiere in America - in English, with Hebrew subtitles. The second-run and lesser-known movies they bring out several months later, dubbed into Hebrew. The exception to the rule is kid's movies, which they have to dub. Those they dub fairly quickly - When I was in Israel two years ago, Shrek was dubbed into Hebrew about a month after it came out in the states.

Israeli movies also have an intermission, which is nice if you need to use the bathroom. It's whenever the film turns over - meaning the exact center of the film. So Laura Croft can be in the middle of a sentence and BAM - Green screen that says "Intermission!" This is so Israelis can take a smoking break, since no one in Israel can go an hour without a smoke.