University of Haifa International School Student Blog
So, its been awhile since my last post, so I want to go through some things that have come up recently. I started University of Haifa’s Study Tour this past week. We began with a couple of lectures, then we went on our first field tour. One of the sites we went to was Nazareth, another, Safed.
I’ll talk about Nazareth first. Naturally, I went in with a bit of the sentiment that I came out of Bethlehem with, but I can say that I had a much better time there, as the time was efficiently spent. The inner courtyard of the Church of the Annunciation houses many images of Mary, each donated from a Catholic congregation from a foreign country. It was especially interesting to see the images from countries in the far east, for example, Vietnam or Korea. Those images, the style that they were created in, were reflections of that country’s traditional style of art. In other words, Mary and Jesus, as the Japanese depicted them, looked Japanese. It was puzzling for a moment, as I was used to the Western depictions. But it made a lot of sense, from a belief standpoint. Whatever a person believes, it’s going to be internalized, and you project yourself into it to make it legitimate. In that sense, I gained an appreciation for my time there that I did not really have in Bethlehem. We went into the church, looked around in the lower chamber, housing the entrance to the grotto. Afterward, we ascended to the main sanctuary, where we had a further look around. There were more images of Mary, again, provided by various countries. I took more of a notice of western nations, and even their depictions varied in ways that were unexpected, such as Spain. Skin tone was something I paid attention to. It’s funny thinking about it, because growing up, I would listen as some of my peers would say things like ‘Jesus was black’. Generally, it was said as a joke, but there was always an edge of seriousness that went along, a kind of truth to it in a way, in a belief sense, because coming out of a minority population, you want that personalization of what you believe even more than those in the majority, because there’s power in it. Whenever I would respond, I’d say something like, ‘That doesn’t make sense, he wasn’t from Africa’. I’m chuckling at myself a bit because it’s funny to think about myself then and now. Whose side was I on then, and now? I certainly never thought he looked Aryan, but it’s intriguing all the same, to think, what was my own self identification in my belief system, and not only that, but in the population of my peers, in my family, in black America? What is it as I type out this blog?
We followed up by going to Safed, one of the holy cities of Judaism. It’s difficult for me to recall what we did there and what we saw. We visited the home of a Kabbalistic artist. That particular part of the trip was intriguing, because we got a smattering of some basic concepts of kaballah, a lot of it having to do with number associations with the Hebrew alphabet. The artwork was an extension of the beliefs in kaballah, and the explanations simultaneously shed light on the beliefs, and the artwork. We also visited a synagogue, one of many in the town. I’ve been fortunate to be able to share words with Jewish friends of mine who have been able to inform me on some of the customs that Jews follow. Paying respects is key. As I get further into study tour, I’m going to do further reflections on Judaism; it’s tough to get into when you’re outside the belief system as a practitioner. I may not fully come to grips with the concepts that I’m encountering until well after I leave, if at all. But this is where I am at the moment, and I’m having a good time.