Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween in Jerusalem

I almost hate to mix "Halloween," with its roots in medieval paganism, and "Jerusalem," with its focus on the spiritual heart of Judaism and Christianity.  I have always felt a bit ambivalent about this "holiday" in the States, drawn to its fun and festivity, but uncomfortable with its sometimes darker side.  But Elaine always hastens to point out that few people see it as a harvest festival anymore, let alone one invoking pagan gods and witchcraft, and making fun of scary things serves a psychological purpose of its own.

So, for better or worse, it is a largely American phenomenon as we experience it, and so being away from home it is something both the faculty children and the students really enjoy . . . and even some of the "adults."

My main objective was to do something familiar for our increasingly home-sick children, especially for Samuel, who has taken to saying, "I miss Christmas at home," "I miss holidays at home," and at last simply, "I miss our home."  So we went out of our way to find some big, white, almost pumpkins and carve them.

Elaine had thought ahead and brought Samuel's knight costume from last year.  And she and the other faculty wives organized a center trick-or-treat, which the students happily participated in.  I think it made them think of their own little brothers and sisters at home.

Roasting pumpkin seeds, just like at home!
Elaine revived an old costume favorite of hers, the Bride of Frankenstein.  Rachel was a Zombie Princess . . . or something.  Dad refrained from pointing out that one of our early compromises many years ago was no ghouls, ghosts, witches, or other "evil" costumes.  This was a lost battle!  I wore black pants and an orange shirt, and that was a festive as I got.  
Samuel came home from trick-or-treating "in the hotel," as he sometimes calls the center, and reported, "Dad, this was the best Halloween yet."  Thanks to everyone that helped accomplish this for our boy---for those who made suggestions on how to find pumpkins (esp. Chad Emmett), to those who sent candy from the states (esp. Dave and Deb Gehris), and to all the faculty couples, families, and students.

For an activity, we had a showing of a black and white, silent classic, "The Phantom of the Opera."  Our Jerusalem Center organist, Mike Ohman, accompanied the showing.

Mike Ohman at the organ

Later there was a party in the Oasis, where we got to see more of the student costumes.  Since this is not a holiday observed in any real way here, they had to be creative.  One pair of girls were an electron and a proton, with Sister Electron busily revolving around the proton whenever we looked.  Some of the students dressed up as each other.  And two people, my colleague Dr. Jared Ludlow and student Michael-Sean Covey dressed up . . . as me.  Wearing the equivalent of my field clothes and my trademark Indiana Jones hat, everyone knew who they were supposed to be.  Jared added a number of signs all over himself with my trademark sayings, such as "Shh! But I love you!"  Michael-Sean kept pulling out a pocket-sized hymn book, and whenever he picked it up to sing, he held it at arm's length, mocking my 46-year-old eyes.  On his back he had taped a heart that said "I love Elaine, Jesus, and the Byzantines.  I felt appropriately roasted.

A double-stuffed oreo!

That black-shirt and hatted man is supposed to be me

Afterwards there was a dance in the gym.  Elaine and I sneaked in late and danced discreetly in the corner, until we were discovered and soon surrounded by a dancing circle of students.  With nothing to lose, we busted out our best 80's moves.

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