Thursday, November 03, 2005
bloggers to the left of me! bloggers to the right of me! and an announcement..
Oh how I love blogging, let me count the ways....

Yesterday there was some kind of panel discussion going at the Livnot campus and who shows up? None other than Mr. If You Will It, himself! We had come close to running into each other during my stay in Tzfat last month, but this time we managed to finally meet in person and talk for a few minutes. Why oh why, didn't I take a picture?? Ok, just imagine Wil Wheaton with glasses and a British accent and voila! you have him. :-) Anyway, I want to send a shout out to IfYouWillIt and say that it was great to finally meet you in person... perhaps we'll meet later in the month ... somewhere else...?

After that blogger meet up I headed off to Tal Bagels to meet with another blogger, John. Arriving at the cafe early I looked for my favourite table (where I can set up my laptop) to try and write a quick post before the meetup. The problem was, a girl was already sitting at my table. Drat! As I walked by she said "Excuse me! Do you have a blog?". Colour me stunned. Why, yes.... yes I do, I said. She said she had recognized me because she read my blog from time to time! HOW CRAZY IS THAT?? I was recognized! So I'd also like to send a shout out to my new friend Yasmin!

So Yasmin and I struck up a conversation for quite some time (she's from California, here in Israel for 2 years of study) and eventually John joined us (that's him in the pic with me. how adorable is he?!) and from there the three of us carried on like old friends for an hour or two. It was great! *sigh* See how the blogging world brings us all together? :-D When parting ways I talked John into meeting up with me today to do a little walkabout in the Old City (of Jerusalem) and some shopping, but we'll get to that a bit later...

Yesterday was a great day in the Livnot program (wow, did I just say that??). The day started with a tour of the Christian points of interest in Jerusalem, including a Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion, a walk in the Christian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Catholic cemetery was an amazing stop as we visited the grave of Oskar Schindler, the (gentile) man responsible for saving more than 1,000 Jews during the holocaust.

Walking through the Christian Quarter is always entertaining as I look over all the souvenirs for sale, ranging from glow in the dark Marys, to crowns of thorn. Some beautiful, most tacky and cheap. Some a little scary.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is always a fascinating stop. The Christians flock by the hundreds and from all corners of the world. French, Italian, Chinese, Greek, German.... it's amazing to hear all these different languages. We toured the usual areas, the hall where the Last Supper was held, the spot when the cross was placed when Jesus was crucified, the tombs where he was buried (there's disagreement over which one is the true one), and the place where he was laid down to be washed before buried (the stone of anointing). Very interesting stuff, and the crowds were mesmerizing as they would spontaneously burst into hymns from time to time. Haunting and beautiful.

After the Christian tour we headed to Yad Vashem; the Holocaust Museum. Honestly, I am not sure there is much I can say about it... it is an extremely difficult place to tour and my eyes welled with tears much of the time. By the end I sat down on a bench and cried as I watched horrific footage of bulldozers pushing piles of bodies as thin as skeletons into mass graves. It will never leave my mind and it certainly broke my heart. We must never, ever, let something like that happen again. Yet we stand by and let genocide happen everyday.... can anyone say Rwanda? Burundi? Darfur? When will we learn, I wonder.

It was an emotionally draining day to say the least so I was pleased to end it on a happy note by meeting IfYouWillIt and John (and Yasmin!). I needed the emotional lift.

Today was a gorgeous day here in Jerusalem, not too warm not too cold. I talked John into meeting me in the Old City to do some shopping, so at 11am we met up at Jaffa Gate and explored the Muslim and Christian Quarter. That John is such a sweetheart and we had a fabulous time. And that boy from North Carolina has learned to speak Hebrew quite well! I was so impressed!

We walked all around and for the first time I went into the Muslim Quarter. I got a bit nervous when I heard calls to prayer being blasted over loudspeakers all over, but felt reassured when I saw tourists in groups going by. It was different than the other Quarters, mostly in the feel of it and the tone. Most disturbingly many of the children I saw were carrying toy guns. MANY of them. Talk about brainwashing them and preparing them young! It made my blood run cold.

Eventually John and I made our way to a restaurant called Papa Andrea's, and it had a rooftop patio. We enjoyed a beautiful view over the city, shining sun and a cool breeze, and tasty food and beverages. To quote John: "This is making me happy!". Hahaha... John, I adore you!

All in all, it was a great day. I spent the morning at the post office and then back at the campus to pack up some of my stuff to ship home. Yes.... I am leaving the Livnot program, ladies and gentlemen. No, I am not heading home. I am relocating my adventures to another country... England. I have an invitation to stay with a friend and so off I go to find new fun and adventure in the UK. I told the people at Livnot yesterday that I am leaving, and tomorrow I officially pack and leave. While I am relieved to be going, I am sorely going to miss the group known as Livnot 169. It breaks my heart to be separated from my new friends but I suppose that would have happened anyway.

It has trickled down to me that the Livnot staff were considering asking me to leave because they didn't like what I had been saying on my blog. Funny that they would choose to just sweep me under the carpet rather than address the issues I was griping about, though I can't say I am surprised. I hate to say it, but that was their usual way to deal with the problem... get rid of the troublemakers wherever possible! I guess they will be happy to hear I am leaving then...

I was going to delve into what went so wrong in greater detail but I have chosen instead to leave it behind me. I am going to Try and remember the goodtimes over the bad. I am not here to slander the program, for I think there is much that is good about it. But I do believe there is much room for improvement, and that will never come unless they are prepared to look within. I fear that is a long time in coming.

If anyone has found this blog while looking for information on the Livnot programs you may email me with questions and I can even direct you to other program members for a range of answers. I will say that my opinion may steer you away from it, but if someone had told me what goes on behind the scenes I would not have walked away from my life for it. I think it's important you gather opinions from several sources, so do your homework and choose wisely.

Anyway, I have booked my flight for Nov 10th. I will stay with my good friend Mulder until then, and will hopefully see another blogger or two before I go. I hope you stay tuned for my adventures in the land of England.. it promises to be very entertaining!