Fieldwork woes, and Sukkot around the world…

Dear readers,

Yesterday was a bit of a crazy day.  For those of you who don’t know, I have been in discussions with the Israeli Ministry of Education here – apparently, one of the organizations I am researching works under the purview of the Ministry (MoE), so [as I discovered in August when I arrive here] I need their permission in order to conduct observations of group activities – part of what my research plan includes.

Anyway, I got an email yesterday from the MoE that required some telephone follow-up, and during the telephone call, the MoE official I spoke with suggested that I have been working in a problematic manner and may have to destroy all of the data that I have thus far collected.  Well. My heart stopped for a second – I mean, it’s not that I have collected that much data, but the whole premise of this conversation was basically to tell me that I actually needed MoE approval for all of my fieldwork, not just for my observations, and that any data I may have collected thus far, since it was done without MoE permission, is not usable and must be destroyed.

After a few deep breaths I tried to calmly explain my perspective to the MoE official – which may or may not have succeeded.  This morning I sent off a whole new set of paperwork to the MoE Chief Scientist’s office in an attempt to rectify the situation.  We’ll see if it works.  In the meantime, here’s what I have to say: pice mille felicabron.  You know what I’m talkin’ about.

Yesterday was also an opportunity for me to see my roommate, who has been gone day and night during the last week during the holiday of Sukkot, which is the focus of her own dissertation project.  She had a rare morning off, and the two of us decided to head to Tel Aviv University, which was hosting a festival exhibit of Sukkot from around the world.  I brought my camera with me so that I could show the Sukkot to you as well – each was accompanied by a short description of the Jewish community in the country (or of what has happened to what was once a Jewish community there).  Here is a sampling of what we saw:

Representing Brazilian Jewry, the 2nd largest Jewish community in South America

A Sukkah representing Uzbekistani Jewry, titled "The Sukkah of Peace"

This Sukkah is built in the image of Sukkot that were built in the southern villages of Morocco before the Moroccan Jewish community largely immigrated to Israel after 1948

A Sukkah built in the tradition of the Jewish community of India. Note the many colors.

Decorated in the tradition of Ethiopian Jewry, most of which immigrated to Israel in three secret airlifts in the 1980s

Representing German Jewry and Jews who returned to Germany after the fall of the Former Soviet Union

An "Israeli" Sukkah, which according to the explanation at the festival is supposed to represent the connection between the community, natural resources, and the centrality of the natural area. According to my roommate, this particular Sukkah is not considered "kosher" because the tree around which it is built provides shade. To be a kosher Sukkah the shade must come only from branches placed upon the booth itself.

Representing American Jewry, the 2nd largest Jewish community outside of Israel. This particular Sukkah is one of 12 that were exhibited at Union Square in New York City as part of "Sukkah City," an international Sukkot project exhibited for the first time this year.

Today it is back to interviews, planning interviews, and transcribing interviews.  Sukkot ends tonight and I am hoping to see my roommate again soon…

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