Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tzippori, Nazareth, and Safed

Today was our first field study day in the study tour, meaning we left campus to go and see some of the sites we are reading about for class with our own eyes.  As liberal and unique as the educational experience at Brown can be, living in a place with so much history just a short bus drive away makes for a completely new and hands-on type of learning.  We met up at the buses at 7:30am and planned to be out until 7:30pm, so I was understandably both excited and a little nervous that I might get tired or cranky.  Good news is, I remained pretty enthusiastic and perky despite the long hours and hot weather, probably because the tour was so interesting and covered some places I had not seen before.

First, we went to Tzippori.  For a little historical background, when the Jews rebelled against the Romans, leading the the destruction of the Temple, many cities fought against these Hellenized forces.  The Jews were even winning after the first year, but a rabbi in Tzippori said enough was enough, he wanted no more war or bloodshed, so when the Romans landed on banks near his city, he went to them immediately to surrender.  As such, when the Romans defeated the Jewish forced, they laid waste to every city except Tzippori.  The surrender was looked upon as an act of cowardice by other Jewish cities at the time, but because it survived, so did the remnant of the Jewish people, including a rabbi who would work to codify Jewish teachings while they were in Diaspora.  This led to the development of the Talmud.  Today, religious Jews see this not as an act of cowardice but as a wise move and even an intervention by the hand of G-d.

Aside from learning all of this history, at the actual site we got to see the work of years of archeological digging in which the city was uncovered and used to verify certain historical theories.  We got to see where the people of the town lived as well as the prominent citizens and a famous mosaic.  We learned about how mosaics are made and the tremendous amount of time, effort, and skill that went into even the simpler ones during that period.  It made me think about how quickly we want things built and created today in our culture and the immense amount of patience it took to work on a piece of flooring for, let's say, fifteen years.

Next, we drove to Nazareth, which is where Mary was informed that she would give birth Jesus.  The Church of the Annunciation was built there (using Christian, Jewish, and Arab labor).  It was very pretty, and all different countries had shipped pictures of Jesus and Mary to the church, each making both of the figures look like people of their nationality.  There was Korean Jesus and Spanish Jesus and Thai Jesus and more...basically Jesi galore!  The whole thing was a great symbol of global connection and inter-religious cooperation.  It is also the center of the feminine side of Christianity, with Mary emphasized (because Jesus's mission was in Bethlehem, not Nazareth).

After, we went to Safed, which I have toured around twice already.  We learned about Kabbalah, but there wasn't a whole lot of new information that I learned.  Still, it is a beautiful city and I love the feeling I get being in such a spiritual place with so much religious history.  Finally, we got on the bus back home and I called my grandparents and then made dinner with a friend.  I made hamburgers with avocado, rosemary potatoes, and garlic green beans (I was told I write a lot about food, but oh well, I like to include the little things I guess).  It was delicious but now I have to write a journal entry for class about the trip today.  Good night!

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