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Sam-I-Am Violin on the streets, fundamentalist Judaism, planting organic vegetables, and the like.

Jesus Saves! And Esposito Scores On The Rebound

ISRAEL | Wednesday, 9 January 2008 | Views [4417] | Comments [7]

Zip-lining. Lebanon is behind us, Kiryat Shmoneh is in front. I chose to hold the lotus position as I descended the Manara Cliffs.

Zip-lining. Lebanon is behind us, Kiryat Shmoneh is in front. I chose to hold the lotus position as I descended the Manara Cliffs.

Spaceman Shmuel, Intrepid Explorer of Orthodox Judaism.

Actually its really hard to learn in a yeshiva without committing to the Orthodoxy. I'm finding this out the hard way. My level of emotional stress has been way high these past few days, I have to grab onto a piece of secular life in order to regain my sense of comfort. I wonder how long the 6 cd's I brought with me will last before I get sick of them. On the plus side, I think that just as Torah is considered by many to a bottomless fountain of knowledge, Radiohead can so too be considered an infinite source of wisdom.

I'm on the rooftop of a yeshiva building in the old city. Being a grizzled veteran of Boston winter has not made me any more comfortable in this harsh Jerusalem climate. Show me 95 degree heat, I'm ready to bask.

I got back yesterday night from the Golan Heights and the Galilee up north. I got to do a lot of stuff that I wouldn't be able to do on my own and without a car. So I'm pretty thankful.

The Golan is beautiful except for all the barbed wire and landmine warnings.

No it actually is beautiful, on a clear day you can see the Hermon, highest mountain in Israel and covered with snow, perched at the very top of the country knocking on Syria and Lebanon's doors. It all used to be Syria's land actually, until they got housed by the Israelis repeatedly. I was told that Eli Cohen, the great Israeli spy in Syria, suggested to the Syrian army the strategy of planting eucalyptus trees on the plateau of the Heights and shooting from their cover. Cohen then instructed the Israelis to shoot at the trees. The trick appears to have worked.

There are a lot of destroyed bunkers resting broken among the sparse trees. There is also an abundance of free-range grass-fed cows, and grape orchards, wild mint, and wild boars. I also saw the mighty Jordan river, and let me tell you something, it's not so mighty, at least not up North.

Oh, my lord, I almost forgot, by far the most ridiculous and amazing experience was going to Hamat Geder, which is a mineral hot springs just off the shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Since we were on a religious trip, the only night we could go was the once-weekly Mens Only session on Sunday night. Wall-to-wall Chasidic men in 95 degree pools smelling like hard-boiled eggs. It was very relaxing, though religious Jews often have better things to do than take care of their bodies. When I hang around people who are so driven and faithful and ascetic, it makes me think they are almost inhuman. But then they take off their shirts and put on their swim trunks, and the human frailty of it all is VERY apparent. Also there is, as rumored, no such thing as waiting in line in Israel. It took some serious effort to get the jacuzzi jets.

So now I am here in Jerusalem again, and thankfully the holiness of this place has not worn off. The ancient arches and dim lanterns are still amazing to behold. It is hard for me to go to class without coming to the conclusion that if I don't follow the 613 Mitzvot I am going to burn in Gehenna, but I am talking to a lot of interesting, and frequently, laid back men,young and old, and am spending a lot of time contemplating Orthodoxy and Liberalism and those utopias/dystopias I read in college. This morning I took a personal day and walked downtown, running into an Italian-Jewish Art Museum and writing a bunch in my journal over cappucino after wandering in the rain. This is what makes me happy. I need to do more of this.

Tags: fundamentalism, golan heights, israel, landscapes, religion




I've been to this caudron of hardboiled egg yokes you speak of. a lesser man such as myself might have balked and made pepe le pew motions. It was ferocious smelling in there. However being that my physique rivals one of a professional Helman's mayonaise taster it is clear that I wasn't cut out for that type of "spa". Also I'm not one to forceably take my turn in anything, let alone sulfuric acid. But Kudos. The idea of no lines is both thrilling and completely moronic.

  sam penard Jan 9, 2008 10:24 AM


Hi Samuel:
I love reading your blog - actually it is the only blog I have ever read. Clinton and McCain won the primary in New Hampshire today and it was 60 degrees! Continue to enjoy, explore and experience all you can on your adventure. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Your blogging allows all of us to share it with you but not get in your way. Love Amy

  Aunt Amy Jan 9, 2008 12:59 PM


Sam, speaking of Phil Esposito, if you are ever in the far north of Israel you've got to go skating at the Canada Centre in Metula. I'm not sure why, but the idea of hockey in Israel is very exciting to me.

  Chris Hu Jan 10, 2008 3:23 AM


If you're into the appalling humanity of it all, you should also try the shower room at the Dead Sea. Definitely scarred me as a child.

Have you been to Sami's or Sima's yet?

  Michael Greenberg Jan 10, 2008 10:39 AM


Hi Samuel,

After reading your most recent diary notes, I'm recalling my last trip to Israel about 30 years ago. Grandpop and I had traveled north to the Lebanon border where we could look down into that country. There were caves to explore where waves had worn away the walls (over the past two thousand years.) Incredible!!!

Have you visited the King David hotel in Jerusalem? Are you planning to go to Masada? Any chance you will go slumming in the "shuk"?

Our weather here is unseasonable. Can you believe that the temperature today (January 9) was in the 60's? I love it.

When do you leave the yeshiva? What are your plans?

Keep sending notes re your Israel adventure.

Luv, grandma

  Grandma Jan 10, 2008 4:02 PM


Sam, great blog! How long will you be in Israel? I'm heading over sometime this winter/spring...and would love to see you. Love, Shirley

  Shirley Jan 12, 2008 6:39 AM


Sam, I truly am enjoying your adventures. I spent a 'fruitful' summer on Kibbutz Shamir picking apples in this same area (Golan Heights). You are definitely having a better experience:)
Love, Cousin Sue Ellyn

  Sue Ellyn Idelson Jan 22, 2008 9:09 AM

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