So Terry is away on an evaluation trip for the coming two weeks; he left Saturday night and will be back next Friday. So far we're coping pretty well; V keeps saying things like "Where's Owl? He will come back very soon to see us." On the other hand they got lots of Mama-time on Sunday and slept fairly well last night, so we're good on that score.
Here are some excerpts from Terry's first e-mail recounting his trip, in his own inimitable voice:
[Someone took him out for ice cream in downtown Jerusalem]…it was all open walkways, cool old city streets and modern malls built in a very outdoorsy grape-viney fashion. So a cool combination of modern convenience coupled with Arabic architecture and Jerusalem history. Plus awesome views.
In downtown Jerusalem there's this beautiful open, green space and lots of casual walkers enjoying their lives - and just over the hill out of sight are the Palestinian settlements clustered behind high fences of razor wire. Downtown are the Jews and the Israeli Arabs and out of sight are the majority of the population crammed into these little barren hillsides - and getting more crammed as religious Jewish settlers encroach bit by bit on the "good bits" of the Palestinian territory.
As we were driving back from the airport (an hour's drive) I kept thinking "why? HOW is this type of thing allowed? - it's insane": I told that to a passing Israeli and he said "oh, you're right - we never realized. Okay, we're fixing it all now. Sorry about that". I felt good that I could make a difference - all it takes is an external consultant coming in and pointing out the obvious :)
Okay, that didn't really happen. But it should have…
In terms of environment, it's a lot more deserty than I expected. Well, we know the Middle East is desert, but still. Driving back from the airport - I kept thinking "hot and rocky - with lots of olive trees everywhere". However, the olive trees are a lot more scraggly and toughened than the ones we see in Albania. Kind of like they are dug in and holding on by the skin of their rootlets in a hostile environment.
There's also more open space than I expected. There are a LOT of people in Israel in terms of population density, but they are heavily concentrated to make better use of limited resources - it's cheaper to maintain people clustered tightly together in terms of services. So you'll have these barren hills and then "poof" a thick cluster of apartment blocks of a settlement...and then "whoosh" back to barren hills again.
There's LOTs of light. That clear desert sky and light that's really cool. Also, because it's desert, it's hot during the day, but at night it gets cool and comfortable. So the time we were out for ice cream - everyone was out walking around and hanging out as the cool of dusk set in. I really like that kind of scene.
Food wise - it's awesome - everything Arabic - humus, olive oil, pita bread, cheeses, falafel, etc. So I was pretty happy on that score too.
Walking around the old walls of Jerusalem was kind of cool. Lots of history there and I kept imagining Christ from the Mount of Olives (where WV headquarters are) saying "oh Jerusalem...." I can't remember the rest of it, but something like "you're great, but you suck". [Ed. note: Luke 13:34 [NIV]: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"]
So that's Terry's Impressions of Israel/Jerusalem for you. Further updates as events warrant!