Monday, January 29, 2007

Ein Gedi

One of the things I like best about Israel is the country's national park system.

Today M, three friends from work and I drove down to Ein Gedi, an oasis on the Dead Sea with some great hiking trails and some cool archaeological sites. The park is about 400 meters below sea level and has two rivers and four springs on it, as well as a nature reserve. We saw Ibex (sort of like a gazelle) and Rock Hyrax, which look like a beaver without a tale, plus a variety of birds. There is a spectacular water-fall, especially for the desert.

The nicest archaeological site in the park is that of a 3rd century AD Synagogue with beautiful mosaic floors. The mosaics include inscriptions in Hebrew and Aramaic. The inscriptions include the geneaology from Adam to Japeth, lists of donors to the synagogue, and a curse on anyone who reveals the city's secrets to strangers.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Yay Police!

I got good news last night. the Israeli police caught the guys who robbed us at knife point last month, and they both plead guilty. Woo hoo!


We are having some frustrations with the department. My orders are set, so I will definitely be coming back to DC. In fact, I even know the date.

M, on the other hand, is not bidding on critical needs position, so the department put off allowing those positions to be filled until they got enough bidders for Iraq. But the position she bid on said she was the BLC (Bureau's Leading Cadidate), so we were pretty confident. Then a cable came out saying that they had gotten enough bidders for everything but FS-2 positions (FS-2 is a rank...Mary is an FS-3, just below that). They said they would start "open season" for everyone but people ranked FS-2. For those who were ranked FS-2, they were creating lists of people with regional experience and language skills and they would ask those people to "volunteer." If there weren't enough "volunteers," they would move to forcing people to go. And they said they would target "fair share" bidders first, that is, people who have been at relatively cushy posts for 6 years or more.

So open season started the 23rd and M immediately got an email from the position she applied for offering a "handshake" (official job offer). If she accepted, they would send it to human resources, who would get everything done so she could start the job. M immediately accepted.

Not so fast. Her Career Development Officer (CDO) sends an email saying he can not register the handshake because she has been put on one of those lists for a job in Baghdad because of her regional experience and her language skills. Never mind that she is not ranked at a FS-2 and they promised to let people get jobs except FS-2s. Never mind that she is not a "fair share" bidder. In fact, far from being at a cushy post for the past 6 years, she has spent the last five at hardship/danger posts.

She has sent a letter to AFSA (our "union"), who had agreed to the whole postponing of open season (it was supposed to start in November) and this new opening of the season for everyone but the FS-2s because they were told this would keep the department from having "directed assignments" (forcing people to go). But from the tone of the email to Mary, they are not doing what they told AFSA they'd do and they are threatening to direct people to Baghdad. She also sent an email to the position she bid on telling her she had no intention of "volunteering," and they responded that they wanted her and were holding the job. So we'll see what happens. Her CDO said he was reasonably confident that they would not force her to go and that she would have an answer in a week or two. In the meantime, we wait...and we are NOT happy about it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

US Embassy in Athens

If you read the news today or where near a television, you heard that the US Embassy in Athens was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade. I have friends who have served there or will serve there soon...I am really glad no one was hurt.

So many among my friends and family were worried about me coming to Jerusalem, but really, there is no safe place in the world. What bugs me is that practically everyone, regardless on their views on the war, supports our troops. And I agree with them completely. But people are only reminded when these attacks happen that those of us in the State Department also but our lives on the line to serve our country but without the added benefit of being armed. And people will that forget within days after the attack, within hours if no one was hurt.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Back in J'lem

All good things come to an end, and so I am sad to report that our vacation has ended. We are back in Jerusalem.

It was good to get back...the plane ride was one of the most turbulent I have been on but I mostly slept through it (waking periodically as I bounced about!).

We got in last night at about 6, and I made it less than 15 hours before I had to use my car horn again! Sigh. Southern drivers are so polite!

It is nice being back because the cats clearly missed us. What I especially like is how the cats are SOOOO nice to me as a means to punish M for leaving. It is the only time they really like me better than they like her! Of course, I'd have slept better if they hadn't spent the entire night sleeping ON me to make sure I didn't leave again!