This week, we were getting in the Purim spirit!
Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire. Purim is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Israel; it is embraced by the entire country, from religious Jews to secular Israelis, from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, and it has become a time of festivity and celebration far beyond its original religious roots.
We visited the grave of King David on Mount Zion, in a room that bears the inscription “King David’s Tomb.” Mount Zion is located just outside and to the south of the Armenian Quarter and Zion Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City.
We were also given time to walk through the Old City Cardo. The Cardo was the main street in Ancient Roman cities, running from north to south and lined with columns on each side. The Cardo of Jerusalem begins at the Damascus Gate in the north and crosses the city southwards until the area of the Zion Gate.
We walked through the Christian Quarter of the Old City and arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church is where Jesus is said to have been crucified, buried, and then resurrected. Inside, the church was packed with visitors. We explored the different halls and enjoyed seeing and learning about the decorations and displays within the church. We were in awe of the architecture and the mosaics inside. Many students who studied art history in high school were able to tell us some interesting things about the art and history of the church.
This week in our apartment meetings, we learned the story of the Book of Esther. Esther was a strong woman who overcame her fear in order to protect her people. When I read Esther’s story, I admire her spirit; she was not afraid to stand up for her values and save the Jewish people. Each apartment read the story together and then chose a character to portray. We then presented the story of Esther as a play
To get ready for Purim, we baked hamantaschen this week. The students were each given a table with all the ingredients that they would need to bake a batch of hamantaschen, along with a recipe. The students went right to work mixing their ingredients, kneading and rolling the dough, cutting it into circles, filling them, and finally folding them into the iconic triangle shapes that hanantaschen are known for. Once they were all baked (or so we hoped), we gathered back in the Moadon for the tasting. Even though not everyone followed the recipe to a tee (some may have undercooked their hamantaschen, and some may have added a bit too much butter), it was obvious how much work was put in and how creative some of the students were with their cookies.
Although I could no longer feel the tips of my toes, I felt like I was in paradise. As I trudged through the snow, the day after the largest snowfall Jerusalem had seen in years, I marveled at some of the gorgeous snow-covered plants that we have at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. I passed the aloe ferox, or bitter aloe, the 10-foot tall relative of the well-known Aloe vera. I passed dozens of tall eucalyptus trees, replete with small koala stuffies that keep visiting children occupied. I passed the giant tropical greenhouse where I once clipped off a ripe banana to eat with my lunch. And when I felt like I could walk no longer for fear of actually getting frostbite, I arrived at the library, my workstation. I was brought on to the team at the botanical gardens to work with the curatorial team, which is in charge of keeping track of the locations and statuses of all the plants that enter and leave the garden. Most of my day is spent designing the signs that are placed by the plants, logging our seed arrivals in the large bookkeeping database, or working outside in the garden, playing the role of gardener. Of the seven geographic sections: Mediterranean, Southern Africa, Southwest and Central Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia, my favorite is probably Southern Africa. It is certainly the flashiest section, being home to our collection of over 20 aloe species. Who knew there were so many types of aloe? I certainly didn’t. Walking back through the garden at the end of the day, I passed the two quails that spend their day galavanting around the garden, and who I have come to call my friends. I thought to myself, “How lucky am I that I get to spend my days working outside in nature? Shouldn’t we all spend our lives galavanting like quails?” And then I thought, “Wow, how profound. Write that quail line down and be sure to add it to your newsletter paragraph.” I look forward to spending the next few months working with the curatorial team at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to take a walk around the gardens, and please say hi to the quails for me. – Caleb Stutman-Shaw
This week in (th)INK!,we were happy to meet in person as a larger group! We continued our exploration of Purim–which begins Thursday night!
We explored the idea of costumes and dressing up, asking if they conceal or reveal. We then spoke about clothing in general and the difference from when we were in middle/high school and beginning to develop our own sense of style. We discussed how our clothing sometimes expresses a great deal about ourselves and how sometimes we feel limited and confined. It is particularly interesting as this week’s Torah portion, which always comes next to Purim, is a description of the sacred clothing that the priests would wear in the Temple. It was a great session with a few new faces joining us to explore these Jewish ideas and where they meet us in our own lives.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim!