I am emerging out of an 9-day run with the flu here and life has felt like being on house arrest. At moments, I’ve had to remind myself that I’m in a different country since most of my interactions have been with my family and no one else. This has coincided with a change in the weather to Fall/Winter. My default clothing option is sandals and shorts, but it looks like they will be retired for a while now (so sad). It is getting chilly and we’ve been receiving some rain. Sacramento rain comes all day sometimes for days, but here, it comes down hard then stops, almost like a Florida summer-afternoon pounding without the humidity. Most days have been nice from my isolated perspective and my outdoor explorations consist of looking out at the Palestine sunbirds and bulbuls in our front yard.
Unfortunately, my health prevented us from going to Tel Aviv for the Fulbright Thanksgiving dinner. However, my outrageously hard working and talented wife and daughter put together a Tday dinner the next evening with friends. I have been catching up on some shows on Netflix (like the genius of Fargo and Better Call Saul) in my sickness and doing some writing and reviewing. I am proud of two of my graduate students, Rebekah Berkoetter and Robin Shin, finishing their Master’s theses and presenting their exit seminar next week and I’ve been cranking through thesis and seminar drafts.
There's the old joke about why the whole plane is not made from the same material as the black box...I was called into Sacramento County Jury Duty. Prior to to living in Sacramento, I had never been called to this duty, but like clockwork, I get called every other year. I tried to get excused for being out of the country, but noooo...I immediately received an email saying "when will you be back?" I am happy to be a good citizen and will be doing it in May. However, the same efficiency and aggressiveness of the jury program should be used for all the rampant problems of Sac County (increased crime, crumbling infrastructure, and homelessness).
We will be starting our “nomad phase” next week. We have to be out of our apartment for the month of December and will be fittingly nomadic in this land and beyond. We will be taking a trip to Italy for 10 days. When we return, we will be having family visit and will be traveling. Fodder for future blogs…with pictures!
When we go camping and lay out in the evening as the stars emerge from infinite space, it is an awe of this world. How insignificant…how small…what a short time we get to walk on this rock (don’t worry, I will not continue with a philosophical reflection). I experience this same awe also with time…geologic history of rocks and the landscape, evolution which has shaped and resulted in all of these cool species with which we get to share this planet (don’t worry, I will not continue with a philosophical and conservation reflection). Now, I’ve been experiencing this on an almost daily basis with all the archaeological/historical sites we’ve been visiting, most recently Akko/Acre and Tel Shikmona. I am no historian…maybe a bit of a natural historian…and could not capture the historical complexities of these sites (in fact, I’m trying to find books on these locations rather than websites). Here are pictures and some links of these locations.
The first gallery is from our day trip up to Akko/Acre: history1, history2
The second gallery contains pictures from a day trip to Tel Shikmona:
and the Stella Maris Monastery:
I wanted to point out one thing, OK are you sitting? We do not have a car! People respond as if we told them that we flap our arms and fly around Israel. Since arriving here, we have done a great deal of walking (today was a peak for me with 3 miles on my run and then 7 miles on our day trip to Tel Shikmona, but I'm paying for it now) and use public transportation. We take buses mostly and trains periodically for the longer trips. This is an abrupt 180 from life in California, where our cars rule the day. We have and will rent cars on certain trips, but we feel a certain freedom now without a car and get by no problem. Maybe this is also an unsolicited testimonial of the public transportation system here.
Ok, it has been too long since my last post. The guilt mounted and here is the product. I have found myself getting lazy and just posting some pictures to Facebook without any commentary ...I highly recommend Bonnie’s most-excellent blog: (https://israelihappening.weebly.com) for details over the past few weeks (and keep reading it, they're great insights and pictures). I've been busy starting to do some work around here: went out into the field (some pictures to the right), gave a couple of departmental seminars (University of Haifa and Ben-Gurion University), writing, reviewing student work, etc. One of the sites I was taken to by Nadav Pezaro and Valentina Rovelli (awesome post docs of the Blaustein Lab) is a 2000 year old archaeological site of a Jewish town. Now, the salamanders are breeding in the old wine press areas. Old walls, columns, and burial caves are also found here. In this blog I wanted to highlight the history we’ve encountered, the natural and human history.
We went a day early to Tel Aviv before the Fulbright orientation. We had a great time walking around and stayed at an excellent hotel with a music/vegan theme (pics at the Carmel Market to the right). The orientation consisted of a morning of hearing informative talks from US embassy personnel and then embarked on a 2-day field trip with the whole Fulbright cohort. We headed south to the Negev for a jam-packed trip. We toured an agricultural and solar panel facilities and then walked the Ben-Gurion Tomb near Sde Boker. We stayed that night in Mitzpe Ramon and did a great night hike by the Ramon Crater, an unusual geologic location. The next morning, we hiked the Ramon Crater, just beautiful! We then had lunch in a Bedouin camp, where we heard about their life, culture, and had an excellent lunch. The difficulties between Bedouins and the Israeli government, along with the forced shift in their nomadic way of life, was disheartening and reminded me of the Native American tribes in North America…I’ll leave it at that…the afternoon was spent at the Avdat National Park, the ruins of a >2000 year old city, one of the most important along the Incense Route. Two weeks later on Halloween, I traveled back to Sde Boker to give a seminar in the Desert Ecology Department of Ben-Gurian University of the Negev. Hadas Hawlena was an awesome host and took me down to Ein Avdat National Park for a hike through the canyon along a stream to a waterfall. One of the ways out of the canyon is straight up on steps and ladders to the top.
The day after my trip to Sde Boker, we left for northern Israel. Please see Bonnie's blog for detailed description of this trip. It was a very diverse trip pushing and pulling us in many directions: hearing the shelling and gunfire of Syria to walking through beautiful ruins (Nimrod Fortress), natural beauty of Snir Stream, and a combination of the complex history and natural beauty of Banias and Arbel National Parks and the Sea of Galilee, lowest freshwater lake y'all! I'll have award Banias National Park with the most interesting natural/historical location that we visited.
This blog will follow my experiences as a Fulbright Scholar in Israel (University of Haifa) during the 2017-18 academic year. Also check out the family blog for another perspective.