The highlight of my trip so far was definitely my inaugural tour of the Biblical Zoo. The facility is absolutely breathtaking, and I haven't even seen the whole grounds yet. I was welcomed by my advisor, Shmulik, and brought in through the main gate. Right inside the gate is a truly awesome view: a giant lake with Siamang Gibbons on an island in the middle:
We didn't linger there though, I was rushed to the other end of the zoo so I could watch some of the team tranquilize and pack up two Arabian Oryx to be shipped to a breeding facility and their later release. I later learned that the Jerusalem Zoo is extremely active in their role as a conservation institution, both on the education side of things, and in breeding and release of endangered or functionally extinct species. Here I am posing with some of the Oryx herd pre-knock-down from the boardwalk above their habitat:
On the other side of the boardwalk was the most impressive Savannah exhibit I have ever seen. White Rhinos, Ostriches, Masai Giraffes, Maribou Storks, and a subspecies of Kudu all in one exhibit. Oh, and did I mention - a Hippo! Her name is Zelda and she is very old, but remains more than content to wallow in the large pool while the other creatures roam around on land.
I was almost equally excited to see their Collared Peccaries - with piglets! These even-toed ungulates are closest related to the pig family, though they themselves are not considered suids - but check out that little one - sooooooo cute!
Later on, when looking at the Kangaroo exhibit, I was informed that the rocks the Kangaroos live on are actually ruins of an ancient barn over 5,000 years old!
Last before the zoo closed, I poked my head into the reptile house. This little crocodile had a huge exhibit with a pool, but decided to wedge himself into this little corner. Typical...
On the Thursday before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, my group volunteered for an organization that puts together boxes of food for families in financial need. The New Year is an important holiday here, and is a cherished time to feast with your family. I really enjoyed helping Shachen Tov (Good Neighbor) prepare these mini-feasts for families in need; I was happy to do my part for those who could use a hand during the holidays.
Later in the evening, we went to a concert at a club called "Yellow Submarine." Those of you who know me well might have an idea of how excited I was walking through a lobby painted yellow with portholes - you guessed it - very.
The band was eclectic, but rockin', and despite how tired I was I danced the night away!
Ulpan (my hebrew lessons) have been moving along well. I would not expect to be fluent after three weeks in Israel, and I am not, but I do feel as though I am making great strides. On the day before the start of the High Holy Days our teacher, or "morah," took us on a bit of a field trip. She told us we were going to Yamin Moshe, and taught us how to ask for directions. She then told us to ask and find it. "Slicha, ata yodea ech olechim la Yamin Moshe?" The people in Israel are very nice and are usually more than happy to help someone find their way, so it didn't take too long. We even happened upon a playground en route!
When we finally arrived, there was a stunning view of the "old city," otherwise known as what was for many years "Jerusalem." This is where the temple mount and the western wall are located.
The neighborhood itself was also gorgeous. Below you can see a fountain and courtyard in between some of the houses - how would you like this view out of your living room window?
Our field trip wasn't complete until we all did the hokey pokey in hebrew in a local park - I'm sure we were quite a sight to the locals...