Berkowitz Is A Baseball Fan

If work, classes, homework, field trips, and real life didn’t use up all my time, I would have written an update by now. However, if they didn’t, I would have nothing about which to write, so please bear with me as you get another really long update on how life as been at the YadHaShmonah in Israel.

It’s amazing how much God can test and grow you in a short amount of time. This visit to Israel has been amazing. I have to say it has also been very hard. Why do I say that? Because through these first weeks God has been at work challenging me and confronting me with my own selfish pride and lack of trust in Him and my overall self love and disregard for Him. Also, I’ve done a lot of personal re-prioritizing.

I’ve never been a prayer warrior. I try – I really do, but honestly, over the last few years, I have lacked the faith to faithfully spend large quantities of time on my knees. This semester is challenging this apathy. I can’t say the lessons I’m learning here are new to me. In fact, the lessons God has been teaching me have been long in coming and much needed. He continually teaches me how much I need Him in every aspect of my life and how His ways are not my own but so much better.

He remains faithful, and thankfully, has placed in my life some very cool accountability partners. I found three of them just within my own small prayer group here at IBEX. Becky Bange is a faculty member here. As I get to know her, the faith she has in the plans of the Lord and the wisdom she has inspires me to get to know the Lord more. Caitlin Gutierrez has been my prayer partner for a year now. God was very good to put us together, and it’s been neat to continue to spur each other towards love and good deeds. Karen Rader is so fun and so deep. I have known Karen on a casual level since freshman year, but this opportunity to be in a prayer group with her has been one that has encouraged me in the sovereignty of the Lord. He is so good!

From here I have to jump back a little. There’s so much to update you on that I have to zoom back atleast a week to let you know all that we’ve done.

Last Sunday – not yesterday – we went on a long hike with our regional studies class. There are 18 of us in that class, and it is completely dedicated to knowing and going to visit Biblical landmarks. We hiked for hours through valleys, over ridges, and up steep mountain sides, and across streams, discussing everything about the landscape in Biblical times and even acting out some Bible stories for fun.  After this hike I was amazed I didn’t feel too tired but after a good night’s rest, I woke up so sore I couldn’t walk up and down stairs correctly for a good few days. It was well worth it, and I look forward to our next hike.

The Wednesday following this we went to Jerusalem again and got to go the Temple Mount. I have to say that, standing right where the Ark of the Covenant, standing where the temple should have been, and pointing out the probably location of the Holy of Holies, it didn’t seem like we actually standing right where it all happened!!! The modern mosque, the surrounding views – everything had a modern feel (and yes, a Middle Eastern one at that). Thankfully the day was beautiful, and although one of my friends Daniel risked getting us thrown off by doing a cartwheel in front of the gold dome. It was crazy, and I got a great picture of it! 

Speaking of pictures, I have discovered my love of photography. I would say I have taken the most pictures out of anyone here, and about 90% of the time – in class, at a meal, in the library, in the miklat, on trips – I have a camera with me.

Fun things have been happening in the miklat at night, as if they weren’t already.  We’ve …or should I say “they” … have been playing Jenga. You may know it as a slow, somewhat stupid game that sits on your shelf and doesn’t get used. Not in our miklat. Every night, Matt, Daniel, Praus, and Lindy play for keeps. The loser has some sort of awful task. Last Friday Daniel lost, so he had to stand up in Land and Bible class, as soon as Randy said we had a break, and sing and do the motions for “I’m A Little Teapot.” Today, Lindy was forced to go the whole day without talking. It’s late now, and she’s done pretty well – she’s only slipped once and it was a one-word whisper “sorry” to someone she thought she’d hurt. They’ll play again tonight, but again, I’m not sure if I’m going to play. I would have played the other day if I’d known silence was the stakes. Tonight I don’t know if I’d like to lose: if the loser is a guy he must shave his armpits; if it’s a girl, she can’t shave them for 2 weeks. Disgusting! I think I’ll probably wait until we do something else. Lol…After all, I came up with a few of the ideas. 

We memorized Psalm 1 for Regional Studies class. It’s hard to relearn it in a different translation! I already knew the chapter in NASB but we had to learn it in NKJV. I got it perfect on the test though – thank God!

We took our group picture on Friday night. It went really well, and we all look great! Check it out on http://www.ibexsemester.com

I babysat in the nursery on Saturday morning for Shabbat service. Caitlin and I had so much fun hanging with the three kids: Eitan (4), Gideon (3 – pronounced Gi-don), and a little girl, Bet-Ami (2). Bet-Ami was very shy and liked Caitlin. I, on the other hand, spent the hour or so wrestling the boys, playing Simon Says, giving horsey rides, and “dying” on the floor. It was too fun, but I think I scared a man who was going to bring in his 1 ½ -2 yr old daughter in because he walked in and Caitlin and I were both “dead” on the floor. LOL oops. We recovered gracefully, and eventually the little girl decided she didn’t want to stay – it’s amazing how much the Israeli people discuss with their infants and how young the kids talk full sentences.

I think I’ve mentioned this before but Rachel, our IBEX volunteer, is awesome. She is basically the liaison between the students and the faculty as well as the secretary, resident director, and cool sister to us girls. I’ve been able to spend a good amount of time one-on-one with her and the more I do, the more fun we have. 

We went to Jerusalem again on Saturday afternoon. We had a ton of fun. We goofed off as we walked through the meat markets – do you know they sell kidneys, intestines, and even spinal cord? – were able to re-find a locked gate we had squeezed through before and do a little exploring with our headlamps. We went down a staircase into an old cistern-type place where we found hundreds of bats – ew! – and climbed up another staircase to find a locked gate out into another area of the same complex. After squeezing out of the original locked gate, we found a doorway/hole in the wall that eventually let us up onto the Rampart’s Walk, a walkway that is on top of the walls of Old City Jerusalem. Normally you have to pay between 8 and 16 shekels (between $2-$4.50) to take the walk, but we found our own way up – for free.  On our way up to the Rampart’s Walk, we found and followed three approximately 10-yr old Jewish boys who spoke minimal English and were adamant that we avoid the use of our headlamps and cameras in observance of Shabbat. They were cute and also helped us avoid some guards. 

We also went back to Jaffa Gate to Christ’s Church, a museum/coffee shop where some of our students were sitting sipping cappuccinos and studying (or so they said – later one confessed she didn’t get much accomplished ). There I met an American guy named Jason from Delaware. He told me he’d been living in Jerusalem for the last few months, working at Christ’s Church 5 days/week with his room and board paid. What a neat opportunity! I have to say I was tempted to look into it, but honestly, I don’t know if I could consider it practically. Oh, well. 

Honestly, the more I live here the more I discover how I love living outside the states. I didn’t realize how spoiled I am in the states – I have all I could ever need and WAY more. I’ve mentioned this before but I like living without. As Caitlin said, we’re actually not even living “without” though, just not with so much frills but all our practical needs met.

On the other hand, as we were discussing over dinner, we all miss American food. I don’t miss American food – Israeli food is way healthier, so I feel so much healthier – but I do miss being non-kosher in the fact that I miss dairy and meat together. Maybe it’s not good for you. Maybe eating kosher is better for you, or maybe it’s the food choices over here that are healthier. Either way, I feel healthy (minus a sore throat that comes and goes rather randomly) and energetic.

We celebrated Matt’s 21st birthday today. Birthday’s are fun here at IBEX. We had a little birthday party for him. He wore a wreath on his head – a Hebrew tradition – and sang “Happy Birthday” to him in Hebrew. Actually, it’s a different song, and we all struggled to remember how it went, but it was fun anyway. The last tradition is that the birthday person gives the first piece of cake to their favorite person of the opposite sex between 17-30 years of age. Matt, of course, gave the cake to his girlfriend Brittany.

I’ve been talking with people back in California over IM. That’s been cool and kinda fun figuring out the time difference. I got to talk to my cousin Jimmy today, which was really cool, but talking to Mandy last night over IM really made my night. She is doing amazingly. I’m so proud of her and so thankful to the Lord!

Thank you to all of you who have or are sending me mail. You wouldn’t believe how much excitement mail time causes, but let’s just say today Caitlin was almost tackled by about 6 people after she got a package from her mom. Yes, we’re like a family here, and the sight of a package means there might be goodies for all of us! 

Well, I’m off now. Yes, this is uploaded late. I typed this up on Monday night but unfortunately our internet was down, so this won’t be uploaded ‘til Tuesday. Have a great one!!!

P.S. Regarding the title of this note, today is Jewish Thought and Culture class, my professor Ariel Berkowitz was suprised to find that Karen and I love baseball. Unfortunately, though, he’s a Red Sox fan. blah. =D

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