From September 8, 2008
Life here is very exciting. I am learning some really great things in
my classes. In my old testament class we learned that a better
translation of the first three words of Genesis is "In A beginning"
instead of "In THE beginning." Think about that for a while. We also
watched this movie about Islam. I think it opened many peoples eyes.
The most poignant passage explained that Christians are judged by what
we preach. (Jesus said some pretty great stuff, right?) Throughout
history Christians have done some pretty terrible things, often in the
name of God. (Spanish inquisition, etc.) But we, generally, are not
judged by our actions. But Muslims are always judged by what some of
their people have done and very few people understand what Islam and
the Qua'ran actually teach.
Here in Israel we have our Sabbath on Saturdays. So yesterday, Sunday
I went with some new friends to explore the old city, where I had my
first hands-on experiences with the people here. The first was
changing money. There is a nice merchant here who happily changes
checks into shekels for any BYU student. His name is Aladdin.
(pronounced not like the cartoon character, but like Allah + ding
[minus G]). When I handed him my check he said, "Stephanie, you are
very beautiful, but you know you cannot date boys here when you are
with BYU, ....but you can date... your checks." and handed my
date-less check back to me. Later, when I asked him for something
smaller than the 50 shekel bill he had given me he ripped it in half,
handed it to me and started boisterously laughing, before handing me
five 10-shekel pieces and taking back the remains of the ripped bill.
Needless to say I was a little terrified of the city.
I was not deterred, of course, even after my first bartering
experience. Luckily I had read a couple tips on bargaining online
before coming here. Apparently this makes me the bartering guru in the
Jerusalem Center. While I was looking at a necklace a merchant swept
me into his store in front of a mirror. The necklace was really
pretty, but he said it was 300 shekles. (just under 100 dollars!) I
didn't think there was any way I could bargain it down to something I
would really pay. Instead of insulting him by saying I would only pay
30 shekels I said, "Yes, it is very beautiful, but I only have thirty
shekels to spend on jewelry. (Not applying the price to his particular
necklace.) Immediately prices started to drop. 190 to 140 to 80 to 50,
and we finally agreed on 45 shekels! (twelve dollars!) I guess I am
The Israelites love their pop rocks. Everywhere I look I see different
brands of poprocks. You can even find poprocks embedded in bars of
chocolate. You heard me, pop-rock chocolate. Please don't think that I
would pause for a second before buying a bar if this, because I
certainly did not. It is delicious and I will have many bars of it in
the coming months.
Today in my first Arabic lesson our professor taught us a bit about
the culture. If a person has an important question that needs
answering (the example he gave was should I go on a trip or not) they
catch a pigeon and set it free, if it flies to the right the answer is
yes, Go on the trip, if the bird flies to the left, you should not go.
This was not only interesting, but also helped explain why small Arab
boys try to sell me pigeons in the market place.
Lots of love from Yisriel.