Israel: The 2019 Golda Meir Fellowship Ceremony

On 11.03.2019, I was honoured to join the Golda Meir Ceremony with the other fellowship recipients. It was held at the fancy Maiersdorf Faculty Club on Mount Scopus Campus.

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The venue

The name Golda Meir conveys various meanings to different groups of people. For me personally, the name is connected to education opportunities offered to students not only from the developed but also developing countries. This is not the first time I have received a university fellowship, but it does not stop me from feeling awed to see how a single institution is willing to invest so much in the education of so many. I am truly grateful for this research opportunity. ❤️

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A short description of the history of the Golda Meir Fellowship Fund at the Hebrew University

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My postdoctoral fellowship certificate

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Can you find my Hebrew name on the list of post-doctoral fellowship recipients?

Israel: Learning Modern Hebrew at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Part 2)

❤️שלום לכולם!

Here are some resources I have found useful in learning Modern Hebrew up to the Dalet Level (Lower Advanced):

  1. Dictionary: Morfix is a free online dictionary that allows translation from Hebrew to English or vice versa.  You can type in any morphology of the Hebrew term, and the search engine will offer you the possible base forms and their meanings.
  2. Grammar: Easing into Modern Hebrew Grammar published by the Hebrew University Magnes Press comes in two volumes, explaining almost every nook and cranny of Modern Hebrew grammar in a clear and logical fashion.
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  3. Vocabulary Builders and Grammar Reinforcements: These three textbooks were composed by our ebullient and knowledgeable teachers, Gali Huminer (גלי הומינר) and Zooki Shay (צוקי שי), from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. They target the students at the Gimel (Upper Intermediate) Level and the Dalet (Lower Advanced) Level. They contain texts compiled and composed from a wide range of resources about the Israeli society. Through them, I have learned about the water desalination process in modern Israel,  I have read and listened to Idan Raichel (עידן רייכל)’s evocative song entitled ממעמקים that fuses the Ethiopian rhythm with the traditional Hebrew lyrics, I have deliberated the advantages and disadvantages of a democratic high school in the Israeli society. הכל בעברית! All these texts, while serving mainly to build our vocabulary and reinforce our grammar knowledge, provide interesting insights into the Israeli history, culture, and society. While the first textbook (Gimel Level) is still at its trial period and is not available for online sale yet, the next two textbooks (Dalet Level) בין השורות. עברית לרמת המתקדמים and הפועל בפעולה. פועל לרמת המתקדמים can be purchased at the website of the Hebrew University Magnes Press.
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  4. More Online Resources: I love listening to this Hebrew podcast entitled StreetWise Hebrew. The host Guy Sharett is from Tel Aviv and is now living in Shanghai. I like how it packs a manageable amount of information about Modern Hebrew and its slang within just 5-10 minutes per week. I also learn a little bit more about the Israeli pop music through Guy’s podcast. The English version is free for everyone, while the Hebrew version, mirroring the English version, costs 5 USD per month. The satirical TV show, “the Jews Are Coming” (היהודים באים), broadcasted by Channel 1 and now freely available on YouTube offers another fun and brilliant way to enhance my knowledge of Modern Hebrew and Jewish history. I appreciate how this group of Jews, rather than denigrating the other ethnic groups, has deployed their satirical humour in a self-critical way. Contextualising the speakers’ perspectives is all important for this show, as some of the Hebrew terms aired in the show would make the audience gasp in horror if they were to be put in the mouth of a non-Jew (e.g., a German). For Prof. Zierler’s insightful review that sheds light on the show’s attempt to bridge the secular-religious schism in modern Israel, click here
  5. Fun Immersion in Israel: There is probably no better place learning Modern Hebrew than in a country where the language is spoken on a daily basis. Our Hebrew teacher once showed us the late Israeli author Amos Oz’s explanation for the “resurrection” of the Hebrew language in the modern era:

הרגע האינטימי הזה, שבו אמר איש לאישה מילים אינטימיות, לא בספר, לא בסידור, לא בבית הכנסת, אלא מתוך צורך, מפני שלא הייתה שום שפה אחרת – זה רגע תחיית העברית

My reason for speaking Modern Hebrew is not as romantic as what Oz has presented. However, I can agree with him that learning and speaking the language arises out of the need or yearning to connect with and understand the people and environment here. Sitting side by side with classmates coming from diverse walks of life can be intimidating, but our common desire to learn the Hebrew language well creates a commonality between us. An understanding of the environment gradually seeps in when we, following the teachers or tour guides to places on- and off-campus, learn to recognise and call out the Hebrew names of the herbs, flowers, trees, buildings, and bus stations. A sense of satisfaction arises when I seem to light up the faces of some shopkeepers with my effort to speak Hebrew and manage to get a discount thereafter 😉 Language seems to be a powerful tool to bind people together.

Feel free to let me know which other resources have helped you learn Modern Hebrew. 🙂

Israel: Learning Modern Hebrew at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Part I)

שלום לכולם!❤️

For the past few months, I have been busy with learning Modern Hebrew at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Now, with the arrival of Spring, I am able to share with you my exam results ☺️

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10 years ago, I completed Level Aleph (Advanced Beginners) and Level Bet (Lower Intermediate) at the same institution. Therefore, the Division of the Hebrew Language Instruction here allowed me to jump straight into Level Gimel (Upper Intermediate Level) during the Autumn Semester 2018/2019. At the end of the semester, I just lost a mark in my final exam and achieved the final grade 99%. Thereafter, I enrolled in the Level Dalet (Lower Advanced) Winter Ulpan course. Even though this course was intensive, it lasted only a month, so we were supposed to cover only half of the Dalet materials. However, our Hebrew teachers—Gali Huminer (גלי הומינר) and Zooki Shay (צוקי שי)—had so much faith in the perseverance of me and two other students in the class that they kindly recommended the three of us to take part in the Dalet level test at the end of the course. Having covered the other half of the Dalet materials on my own, I am pleased that I only lost a mark in the listening test and level exam respectively. That means, I have achieved the final grade 98%. Hi, Level Heh (Advanced), see you next semester! 😀

Learning Modern Hebrew at RIS, HUJI has granted me so much joy. The students came from all around the world, the learning activities were diverse and interactive. Most importantly, our Hebrew teachers—Gali Huminer (גלי הומינר) and Zooki Shay (צוקי שי)— were so fun, knowledgeable, and professional. In the next post, I would like to share with you some of the useful Modern Hebrew resources I have learned from them. Stay tuned (המשך יבוא)!

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Announcement: Paper Accepted in HTS Theologiese Studies/Theological Studies

Do you remember my paper on Ezekiel’s Gog of Magog delivered at the SBL international meeting in Seoul last July? I am happy to announce that it has passed the double-blind peer review of HTS Theologiese Studies/Theological Studies (ISI listed, South Africa based)!

One of the anonymous reviewers mistakenly considers me a male, referring to the author of the paper as “He.” But that is okay, as the same reviewer is very kind to say that the paper is an “excellent article” that “should be published.” Another anonymous reviewer comments that the paper is “well-informed” and “refined.”

In any case, writing this paper convinces me even more that biblical learning can often broaden our perspectives in looking at world events.

To whet your appetite to read the upcoming paper, I hereby include its abstract:

The most extensive descriptions of Gog and Magog in the Hebrew Bible appear in Ezekiel 38–39. At various stages of their political career, both Reagan and Bush have linked Gog and Magog to the bêtes noires of the United States, identifying them either as the ‘communistic and atheistic’ Russia or the ‘evil’ Iraq. Biblical scholars, however, seek to contextualize Gog of Magog in the historical literary setting of the ancient Israelites. Galambush identifies Gog in Ezekiel as a cipher for Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king, who acted as Judah’s oppressor in the sixth century BCE. More recently, Klein concludes that Gog, along with his companions, is ‘eine Personifikation aller Feinde, die Israel im Buch Ezechiel gegenüberstehen’. Despite their differences in detail, these scholars, like Reagan and Bush, work with a dualism that considers only the features of Judah’s enemies incorporated into Gog’s characteristics. Via an analysis of the semantic allusions, literary position, and early receptions of Ezekiel 38–39, this paper argues that Gog and his entourage primarily display literary attributes previously assigned to Judah’s political allies

Stay tuned! 😉

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P/S: My other academic papers are available for free download at http://nwu.academia.edu/LydiaLee

Israel: Top 3 Reasons Why an Archaeologist Is Not (but Is Better Than) Indiana Jones!

Am really excited and grateful to be able to join the one week archaeological trip to Tel Burna, Israel (02.06.2013 -07.06.2013). It was organized by one of our post-docs to a site directed by two Israeli archaeologists. Having exposed myself to lots of wind and sun, dirt and dust, pickaxes and trowels, work and fun, I can proudly announce that I survive! 😀 Based on my brief participation in the excavation and preliminary analyses of the pottery, my survival provides me the chance to share with you why I think a real archaeologist is not (but is better than) Indiana Jones! Here are my top 3 reasons:

1.  Excavating Sites: Unlike Indiana Jones, we don’t get to fly a plane without gas, we don’t drive a monstrous tank at full speed across the grand canyon, we don’t jump around on top of the trains heading to more dangers. Jones can always find troubles and cause dramas within 3 minutes. By contrast, we are more loyal and reliable than Jones in that we are basically fixed at our excavated areas for the rest of the mornings. Our most valuable means of transportation to get to the destination are our feet, which help us to climb from the bottom of the tel to the top of our amazing excavation site: a Late Bronze or Iron Age settlement situated at the border between ancient Philistia and Judah!

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# Morning climb to our excavation site

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# Panoramic view of the surroundings in the morning

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# Everyday we woke up early enough to say hello to the beautiful sunrise

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# Setting up big black tents to create extensive shades over the excavation areas

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# Area A: The area where I worked in the mornings for one week 😉

2. Collecting Data: Unlike Indiana Jones, who sets out on a treasure hunt, striving for just one artifact, e.g. Ring of Osiris or Dragon Ring or Knife of Cain, the archaeologists try to collect as much artifacts as possible. The more artifacts you have within a specific locus (Latin for “spot” or “place”; a term used by archaeologists to designate the smallest functionally definable area), you have more chances to reconstruct and get closer to the ancient past. Mr. Jones needs knifes and guns to kill monsters and bad guys all the time. What the archaeologists need are pickaxes and trowels to dig and dig and dig and dig… Sometimes they need the floatation machine to collect ancient seeds (I was privileged enough to witness this process last week~) Take a look below at our precious:

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# Our precious include NOT the fragment of Noah’s Ark, but a piece of Philistine pottery! (washed and found by one group member)

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# …NOT a Dragon Ring but a whole loom weight! (excavated at Area A – Iron Age by one team member)

Image  # and Goat Jaw Bone, wow ! (Found by another member from Area A Iron Age)

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# …Not lots and lots of gold, but lots and lots of broken pottery handles and sherds (my precious find on day 3~)

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# Check out this really cool and gigantic floatation machine that collects ancient seeds!

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# The coolest thing about the archaeologists is that they really care and cherish what they find, just like I have a fond memory of my first washed pottery basket 🙂 Doesn’t matter what the others think, it is the most beautiful basket in the world ;p

3. Group Work: Unlike Indiana Jones, who is probably best characterized as a lone wolf, that leads him to so many romantic encounters on a one to one basis, the archaeologists cannot live and work alone! We cannot do anything and it won’t be much fun without sticking together:

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# Listening to the nice and patient director’s analysis in the pottery reading session, while washing some of the pottery sherds, under the big green tree of our kibbutz. Twice in that week, we also attended lectures. Thus on last Wednesday, a biblical scholar from Bar-Ilan University provided a most intellectual and interesting talk on Sennacherib in Judah, according to the accounts in Isaiah and 2 Kings, taking into consideration some of the archaeological evidence. Last Thursday, our research team went on stage to present an overview of our group project on Monotheisms in Late Biblical Texts. Everyone of us provided an overview of our independent work (5 mins each). Then one of our post-docs, who was more experienced with archaeology, gave a longer talk about figurines in Yehud. Since I was standing at the border between Philistia and Judah, I thought it was appropriate for me to draw the audience’s attention to the Philistine oracle in Ezekiel 25, which forms part of chapter 1 in my dissertation 🙂

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# Yay to girl’s power!

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# Cheers to Area A K9 team!

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# Prost to our Göttingen team!

As you can see from the above, I hope that I have convinced you that being an archaeologist can really make you a better person than Indiana Jones 😉 Anyway, I really enjoyed my archaeological adventure in Tel Burna and will highly recommend this experience to anyone who is interested. For more information, here is the blog from the Tel Burna Excavation Project:

http://telburna.wordpress.com/

Israel: The History of Jerusalem in the Tower of David

ֹLocated at the entrance of the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, the Tower of David contains a highly recommended museum. Deploying a variety of illustrations, the museum narrates the transformation of Jerusalem from the Canaanite period (around 3200 BCE) to the time of the establishment of of the State of Israel (1948). What I have written below is cited and modified from the official website of the Tower of David Museum and from the explanatory placards during my visit of the museum in September 2008. All photos (unless otherwise stated) were taken by me.

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According to the official website of the Tower of David Museum, the citadel has no connection to King David, and the modern name is a result of misinterpretations that can be traced back to the Byzantine period.

1. Canaanite Period (3200 BCE)

On the basis of one Egyptian Curse on Jerusalem (19th century BCE) and several clay tablets discovered from the Egyptian royal archive of Tel Al Amarna (14th century BCE), the earliest available names of Jerusalem seem to be Rusalimum and Urusalim, a Canaanite region under the patronage of the Egyptian pharaohs.

Canaanite Period (3200 BCE)

An Egyptian Curse on Jerusalem and a Letter from Jerusalem

A Goddess in Canaan: The depiction of the goddess shows strong Egyptian influence, typical of Canaanite art in this period. Gold-plague from Lachish, 13th century BCE. Enlarged Copy. Original on display at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Abraham and the King of Jerusalem

Abraham and the King of Jerusalem: According to the biblical tradition, Abraham met with the king of Salem: “…Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine… and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth’ ” (Genesis 14:18-19) Stylized representation.

2. First Temple Period (1006 BCE)

According to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, King David “went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land” and “captured the stronghold of Zion, that is the city of David” (2 Samuel 5:6-10). His son and successor, Solomon, built the great First Temple (1 Kings 6:1-38).

Let me pause here for a moment and interpose one archaeological reference to David, which I found to be on display in the Israel Museum:

“House of David”: The ruins of Dan in northern Israel revealed a remarkable find: a fragment from a stone monument (stele) erected by King Hazael of Aram approximately 2,800 years ago. Victory monuments of this kind, in which a king ensured that his triumphs would be remembered by future generations, were common practice; what is unique about this fragment is its mention of the Davidic dynasty. In the inscription, written in Aramaic in the 9th century BCE in the same ancient script used for Hebrew at that time, Hazael boasts of killing seventy kings, including “Joram son of Ahab of lsrael”and “Ahaziah son of Joram, a king of the House of David (of Judah). This is the only archaeological evidence so far of the biblical king David.

The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar came and destroyed the First Temple in 586 BCE. Most of the Jews were then exiled to Babylon. Beginning with the line “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion,” Psalm 137 laments over the traumatic experience of the captivity. Interestingly, the experience “by the river Chebar among the exiles” also allowed Ezekiel, a prophet of priestly descent, to encounter the glorious visions of God (Ezekiel 1:1).

גלות בבל - The exile to Babylon

גלות בבל – The exile to Babylon

The unforgettable exile to Babylon is also retold beautifully and melancholically in the highly acclaimed Night Spectacular Show in the Tower of David. When night dawns, the walls of the Tower of David become the backdrop where the stories of Jerusalem come alive via a variety of visual and auditory wizardry. I have watched the show and will highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of Jerusalem. For a preview, you can watch this official video on youtube:

3. Second Temple Period (515 BCE)

When the Persians overthrew the Babylonian empire in 538 BCE, Cyrus the conqueror allowed the Jews to return and reconstruct the Second Temple, which was completed in 515 BCE. According to the biblical account, Cyrus issued an edict:

Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. And every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2-4; cf. 6:2-5; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23).

In the Tower of David Museum, we have a replica of the Cyrus cylinder (the original is kept in the British Museum and is dated to around 538 BCE), which seems to confirm the rather open and benevolent attitude of Cyrus towards his varied foreign captives. Speaking of the Mesopotamia, Cyrus in the cuneiform cylinder declared:

Cyrus cylinder © Trustees of the British Museum

Cyrus cylinder © Trustees of the British Museum

… I returned the (images of) the gods to the sacred centers [on the other side of] the Tigris whose sanctuaries had been abandoned for a long time, and I let them dwell in eternal abodes. I gathered all their inhabitants and returned (to them) their dwellings. In addition, at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I settled in their habitations, in pleasing abodes, the gods of Sumer and Akkad, whom Nabonidus, to the anger of the lord of the gods, had brought into Babylon (cited in COS 2:315)

Subsequent years witnessed the rise of the Hellenistic power (332 BCE), the revolt of the Maccabees (167-160 BCE), the reign of the Hasmoneans (140-40 BCE),  and the march of the Romans into Jerusalem (63 BCE). Hostility had raged on between the Jews and the Romans under the rule of a series of procurators, until it came to a head in 70 CE, when the Jewish revolt led to the destruction of the Second Temple. The blazing desire for an independent Jewish state persisted even after then, and culminated in the Bar Kochba revolt (132-135 CE). This time, the Jews were banished from Jerusalem. The Emperor Hadrian razed the city and rebuilt it as Aelia Capitolina.

The Emperor Hadrian

The Emperor Hadrian: Hadrian, one of the most enlightened of the Roman emperors (117-138 CE), transformed Jerusalem into a Roman colony. It was called Aelia Capitolina, derived from his name (Publius Aelius Hadrianus) and that of Jupiter Capitolinus, the patron deity of the new colony. During Hadrian’s reign, all traces of Jewis life were erased from the city. Replica. Original on display in the Israel Museum Jerusalem.

4. Byzantine Period (324 CE)

Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. St Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, visited Jerusalem in 326 CE, identified many sites as the Christian holy places, and sparked a prodigious amount of the building of churches and basilicas on these sites. One of the most notable outcomes of this building campaign is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which remains a popular attraction to many Christian pilgrims.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo courtesy of a friend.

The courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I am the girl with the pink bag 🙂 Photo courtesy of Christopher Choi.

The church compound is believed to contain sites where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. Different Christian communities (the Greek Orthodoxy, the Franciscans, the Armenian Apostolic Church)  strictly regulate their own usage of the common areas inside the church. Most interesting is the church’s enforcement of the Status Quo, under which, according to the Wikipedia, “no part of what is designated as common territory may be so much as rearranged without consent from all communities. This often leads to the neglect of badly needed repairs when the communities cannot come to an agreement among themselves about the final shape of a project.” Since none of the communities controls the main entrance, two Muslim families have been entrusted to hold the keys of the church, a tradition that can be traced back to 1187. You can check out the story of the key here. If you look closely at the photo taken above, you will observe a ladder standing on the cornice in front of a window. This famed “immovable ladder” testifies to another insteresting case generated by the Status Quo within the church. For the history of this ladder, check out this comprehensive article here.

5. My brain became so overwhelmed with the information absorbed at this point of my visit that I did not take any more pictures during my tour of the other corners of the museum, which displayed the history of Jerusalem in the Muslim Period (638 BCE), the Crusader Period (1099 CE), the Ayyubid Period (1187 CE), the Mamluk Period (1260 CE), the Ottoman Period (1517 CE) and the British rule (1917 CE). Luckily, brief summaries of the periods can be found in the official website of the Tower of David Museum. So I won’t repeat them here again. The only thing I wish to point out is that Jerusalem in modern Arabic is called al-Quds, a name derived from Bayt al-Maqdis, Bayt al-Muqaddas (בית המקדשׁ in Hebrew, “The House of the Holy” in English) that can be traced to the 9th century CE.

Having gone through all these stories of Jerusalem from different historical periods, I am reminded of one playful poem of Yehuda Amichai:

העיר משׂחקת מחבואים בין שׁמותיה

ירושׁלים, אל־קודס, שׁלם, גˊרו, ירו

לוחשׁת: יבוס, יבוס, יבוס, בחשׁכה

בוכה בגעגועים: אליה קפיטולינה, אליה, אליה

היא באה אל כל אחד הקורא לה בלילה לבדו.

אך אנו יודעים מי בא אל מי

The city plays hide-and-seek among her names:

Yerushalayim, al-Quds, Salem, Jeru, Yeru,

Whispering [her first, Jebusite name]: Yevus, Yevus, Yevus, in the dark.

She weeps with longing: Aelia Capitolina, Aelia, Aelia.

She comes to anyone who calls her at night, alone.

But we know who comes to whom.

Last Updated: 17th June 2017