Saturday, July 31, 2010

Toasted turtle, fried figs

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A sad shot for today's Camera-Critters.
This evening I took a walk around the spring, just ten minutes walk from home.
It looks so different after last Sunday's forest fire.

I found a toasted turtle (dead),

fried figs,

and stripped stones in ancient terrace walls all up and down the hills.
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Sigh . . .
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A lion under the bench



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After clicking on this photo you should see a shadow lion on the stone.
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This lion of Judah, Jerusalem's symbol, is for Hey Harriet's Shadow Shot Sunday.
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The benches are in a little garden inside Jerusalem's old Nachlaot neighborhood.
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I was surprised to see that armrests had been welded onto the benches.
Wonder why. Maybe to help the elderly or handicapped folks get up off the bench after they've been sitting a while?
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I hope they give the metal a smooth coat of red paint.
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Inn reflections

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Friends Kristine and Mark and I looked for a modest place to stay for one night in Tiberias last month.

The pilgrim inn that we found was built in 1907 by ANSMI, the Associazione Nazionale per Soccorrere i Missionari Italiani.
For its first decades the building served as a school for children.
Since 2001 it has been the Oasis San Francesco, and now Oasis Emmanuel, run by the Emmanuel Community which is part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Kristine popped out of her room at 7:00 p.m.
She and her door are reflected in the full length mirror.
The big wardrobe looked so old and mysterious that I dared not open it, fearing I would be pulled through into Narnia. ;)

I did, however, take a look BEHIND the wardrobe and found--no, not a lion--but a nest!

So THAT'S why the pigeon was pacing nervously by the rail, waiting for us to go away.
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At 6:55 a.m. the already-risen sun, playing with clouds, was turning the Sea of Galilee silver.
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As the non-native-English webpage of the Oasis so charmingly says,
"The simplicity of the rooms is compensated for the eyesight overlooking the lake and Golan Heights."
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I was happy to find these reflections for our growing group at James' Weekend Reflections.
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Shabbat shalom.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Like day and night

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The full moon rose at 8 o'clock last Sunday over our neighbor mountain in the Jerusalem Hills.

Just five hours before that same moonrise, that same mountain was enveloped in smoke.
Here you can see the ancient terraces, black and all their vegetation burned.
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Miraculously the forest fire was stopped just outside our village gate (on the right side of this photo).
And the two villages on top of the higher hill were also spared at the last minute.
By early evening it was all over, after 250 acres of woodland had gone up in smoke.
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For SkyWatch Friday. May we, and you, know no more smokey skies, amen!
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(For more about the fire, please see my post from yesterday and from Sunday.)
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So close!

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Three days ago a forest fire began near the spring in the valley just below my village.

Besides burning 250 acres of woodland, it totalled several dozen cars.
Today I found seven burnt cars still there in Hadassah hospital's parking lots.
I imagine these are the older vehicles that lacked insurance.
Their poor owners. What a shock for them.

Look how close to the Hadassah Medical Center buildings the fire came!

They were on high alert, ready to evacuate the patients if necessary.
I fear it never would have worked.
We who work or live in the Jerusalem Hills are surrounded by forested hills and few roads.
If these are on fire you are in big trouble.

A long white chicken coop in my moshav is visible through what was the window of the car.
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The fire was stopped at the very gate of the village.
And the airplanes and firetrucks and firemen contained the blaze at the doors of Hadassah.
I would call that a miracle!
We are so grateful.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bench on the bima, breastplate on the doors

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For B at ABC Wednesday today . . .

--a bench on a bima.
In every synagogue the bima is the raised platform to which people come up to read from the Torah scroll.

Above the holy ark, where the Torah scrolls reside, the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem has a magnificent stained glass window.

It is an Orthodox place, so the men sit here and the women are in the balcony above.

Big buildings, bound together.
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The Great Synagogue is on the right. The two tablets on top remind us of the Ten Commandments.
Enlarge the photo and see if the doors remind you of the breastplate of the High Priest from the days of the Temple.
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Hechal Shlomo, former seat of Israel's Chief Rabbinate, is to the left.
That is where we saw the hundreds of Persian carpets ready for auction in yesterday's post.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

My flying carpet experience

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I was walking down King George Street in central Jerusalem yesterday, minding my own business (well . . . as much as any photo-blogger can).
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While passing, I glanced into the open door of the tall monumental Hechal Shlomo building, place of a Jewish museum and of many Jewish organization offices.

I did a double-take; couldn't believe my eyes; rushed inside!

There were Persian carpets everywhere, hundreds of them!

Suspended from the railings,

strewn on the stairs,

slung on benches,

and sometimes even stacked ten-high on the floor!
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I climbed three storeys, taking pictures of gorgeous handmade and Persian carpets on each floor.
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No one was around. No one to ask what this was.
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Finally I found a flyer announcing that the 324 carpets would go on auction July 29.
Estimated values went from a few hundred to over 10,000 shekels.
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You can click on the groups of numbers at the auctioneer's website and see each individual numbered carpet and a brief description of it. (Ironically, for blogger Sarah, who has showed us so many Persian carpets in their and her native country, this website may be the only way to see them because all our blog photos are being filtered there.)
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Everything is from the collection of Eli Sasson Carpets, located in Herzlia.
Eli Sassoon was born in Isfahan. He immigrated to Israel in 1963 and carried on the carpet business has family had begun in Iran.
In his beautiful brochure he describes a carpet as "the clothing worn by a place."
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I was intriqued by the many motifs and ancient symbols used in these carpets.
You can see them at his website.
This cute Tabriz round carpet, only one meter across, struck my fancy.
Maybe because it was the only round one I stepped across.
Not that I could ever buy a Persian carpet . . .
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But the surprise discovery of this treasure of artistic tradition was enough to make me feel like I was being transported--on a flying carpet!
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Luckily this was my world this week for That's My World Tuesday.
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Burning!

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A forest fire is burning just outside two sides of my village!
It started down in the valley, near our spring and spread to Hadassah hospital.
Cars were damaged in the Hadassah parking lot before the fire could be controlled.

The neighboring moshavim/villages up on the mountain were being evacuated as of 3:00.

I walked closer to take pictures and could see the flames and hear the shouts of the fire fighters in the forest right above the gate to our moshav.
They have such pitiful old equipment.
Two planes are helping.
But now there is a new moked, a new fire starting up near Kennedy Memorial and Khirbet Sa'adim.
This in the photo is where I take walks in the evening. Our beautiful nature is now black and smoldering.
The buildings on top of the hill are the periphery of my village, near my house. The fire came that close!
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Over 500 dunams of natural woodland have been destroyed in the past few hours.
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It is a hot and windy day.
Pray for us!
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UPDATE: Now, at 8:30 p.m., things seem quiet and under control, thank God.
Radio is now saying it burned 1000 dunams (= 247 acres) of trees (mostly planted by the Keren Kayemet/Jewish National Fund).
Careless, thoughtless visitors to our spring caused this emergency by making a bonfire. grrrr!
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The whole world is a narrow bridge

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A narrow bridge over the flowing spring-fed waters of Ein Gedi,
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Back in the 18th century, mystic Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught
"Know! A person needs to cross a very narrow bridge, but the most important thing is not to be afraid."

And till today we sing the song:

The whole world
is a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge
. . .
And the main thing to recall
is not to be afraid,
not to be afraid at all.

In Hebrew:

Kol ha'olam kulo
Gesher tsar me'od
Gesher tsar me'od
Gesher tsar me'od -

Kol ha'olam kulo
Gesher tsar me'od
Gesher tsar me'od -

Veha'ikar - veha'ikar
Lo lefached -
lo lefached klal.

Veha'ikar - veha'ikar
lo lefached klal.

If you'd like to get swept up in the enthusiasm of the singing, here is a little video on YouTube.
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

College cats

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What an ingenious way to provide clear cool water to the many cats that roam the Hebrew University campus!
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If you click on this photo you can just see the cat's tongue licking the water trickling out of the ancient pithos.
The jar is slightly, cunningly, slanted.
It is filled with broken up old roof tiles (like those on the ground), I guess so if some heavy bird were to land on it for a bath, it would not tip over.
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On these boiling hot summer days, a good water source for animals in so important.

Cats feel safe and right at home on the Givat Ram campus.
Plenty of food left over from the students' picnics on the lawns; plenty of migrating and stay-at-home birds to try to catch; no beasts of prey; and only friendly people around.
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Everyone sitting under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.
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Sounds like a Biblical prophetic vision come true!
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For the friends of animals and animal friends at Camera-Critters Sunday.
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Listening and learning

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Kristine and Mark didn't notice they were covered in little checkerboard shadows that were just right for Shadow Shot Sunday.
My visiting friends were too engrossed in listening to the audio guide.

This is what they were looking at and hearing about--the Holyland model of Jerusalem as it may have looked in the year 66 C.E.
The model now resides at the Israel Museum.
The museum's white Shrine of the Book, of Dead Sea scrolls fame, is visible just behind the model.
The square building on the left horizon is Israel's Knesset
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Please click to read about the model.

Visitors stand and gaze in wonder at the size and majesty of the Second Temple.
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bringing heaven down to earth

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On Monday the Israel Museum will open its doors (ALL the doors, not just a few like now) to the public after three years and one hundred million dollars worth of improvements to the 20-acre campus.

I was there just a few weeks ago and you still saw construction everywhere.
Hope they finish on time.
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I don't know WHAT the workmen were doing to or adding to Picasso's "Profiles," which has been in the Billy Rose Art Garden since 1967.

Behind the Picasso you can see Robert Indiana's "Ahava," our Hebrew counterpart to his famous "LOVE." (More about it at my Valentine's Day post.)

Look, something new!
The guard would not let me get any closer.
The sky--on the bottom!
Bringing heaven down to earth for SkyWatch Friday and Weekend Reflections!
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And the guard leaning back on his chair, legs crossed, just sitting and . . . well . . . guarding.
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The 5-meter-tall polished steel hourglass was commissioned from the London-based Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor (who as a teenager came to live in Israel a while and whose mother was Jewish, BTW).
He also made what Chicagoans like to call The Bean.
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"Turning the World Upside Down, Jerusalem” reflects and inverts the Jerusalem sky and the Jerusalem landscape.
This is likely a play on the duality of the heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem.
In Hebrew we say Yerushalaim shel ma'alah, Yerushalaim shel matah, literally--Jerusalem of above and Jerusalem of below.
This new sculpture really turns our world on its head!
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The New York Times explains how the Israel Museum is changing the way things will be shown to us. It is a whole new approach.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Silk screen on porcelain Pictures in Stone

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Would you believe? This little (now white) house is where former President of Israel Yitzhak Navon grew up.

The plaque on his house in the old Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot says so.

Here, you can enlarge it and see him, the smallest boy in the 1925 photo.
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Talk about roots!
Former President Navon is descended from Spanish Jews who settled in eastern Europe after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and later moved to Jerusalem in 1670!
His mother's side, the Ben-Atar family, came from Spain to Portugal to Morocco; and finally to Jerusalem in 1884.
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Gilboa street (with the Navon house showing on the left) shows the tell-tale convex paving, meaning a cistern is below.
The little square at the end has the opening to the cistern, now sealed off.
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Navon loved his neighborhood so much that he wrote a play about growing up there.
Bustan Sfaradi (Sephardi Orchard) became a famous musical.
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Sir Moses (Moshe) Montefiore gave money to build the Ohel Moshe section of the Nachlaot quarter, and it is named after him.
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And guess where Montefiore was born!
In Italy, in Livorno!
This I learned from Italian blogger VP. You will enjoy his post http://livornodailyphoto.blogspot.com/2010/05/moses-montefiore.html
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As photo-bloggers, you will be pleased to know that dozens of such signs now adorn the neighborhood.
"Picture in Stone" is a project of Lev Ha-ir Community Center, which gathered family photos and historical testimony from those who lived or live there.
Photos of the original settlers, who left the security of the Old City in the late 19th century for the insecurity of New Jerusalem, are attached to the walls of homes, at the entrances to courtyards, and near the historical locations of schools, hospitals, orphanages, cafés, and more.
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By the 1970s the houses and the society were disintegrating. Lev Ha-ir began a process of restoration and gentrification.
And I believe the Picture in Stone contributed much to the pride of the place.
Nachlaot is now a charming and sought-after place to live, especially for artists, musicians, and--as one funny article claims--especially for "God 'n granola-inspired young American Jews, who lend parts of the neighborhood a feel of a Torah-inflected commune."
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The special technique of silk screen on porcelain is durable but expensive.
I heard from a tour guide who was showing her family's Picture in Stone that the families paid for them.
Even better! Good for them! Thank you!
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Appropriate for Av 9

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For today's ABC Wednesday let "A" be for Av, for today is Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av.

As we saw in the previous post, this is a sad day on which many Jews fast and mourn the destruction of ancient Jerusalem and of her First and Second Temples.

Recently I explored the Romema neighborhood with its grand old houses, begun in 1921.

Something about this building--maybe the open door with the star of David or the sunlight on the old tiles or a sense of mystery--beckoned me to enter and go up the stairs.
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The house seemed to be shared by four families now.
Four apartments.

But what surprised and moved me even more was what I found on the wall, near the ceiling.
The Hebrew on the tiles translates to
A REMEMBRANCE OF THE DESTRUCTION [i.e. of the Temple]
IF I FORGET YOU O JERUSALEM, LET MY RIGHT HAND FORGET HER CUNNING [Psalm 137:5].
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The famous Psalm 137 illustrated!
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"By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
'Sing us one of the songs of Zion! . . . ' "
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This is so appropriate for today, Tisha B'Av, the day on which the Temple was destroyed and following which many of Jerusalem's Jews were taken to exile in Babylon!
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When I returned home from Romema, I Googled and made yet another moving discovery!
Aviva Bar-Am wrote this about this same house:
"Following the fall of the Second Temple, sages of the period declared that every new building must carry a reminder of that destruction: an unpainted area measuring one cubit by one cubit . . . . Many religious Jews take this edict literally and leave an unplastered or black square on their walls. The picture you see embedded into the wall of Fishman-Maimon’s residence--ceramic tiles showing the River of Babylon, harps and weeping willows--[is one of these]."
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Furthermore, our Museum of Italian Jewish Art shows an example in carved marble and says,
"Writings of this kind were common in Germany and Poland, while in Italian synagogues, as well as private houses, part of a wall was usually left unplastered in order to remember the destruction of the Temple."
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So . . . we remember and do not forget.
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UPDATE 2014: 
Another nice explanation is here, at Jewish Treats.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Titus at the gate

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Soon Israel goes into collective mourning.
Restaurants and places of entertainment will be closed tonight.
Tomorrow the stock market will not open.
Observant Jews (at least those whose health permits fasting in this heat) will not drink or eat from 7:42 p.m. Monday until 8:15 p.m. Tuesday.
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All this is to remember the calamities that befell the Jewish People over the past several thousand years on this very day, the 9th of Av, Tisha B'Av.

Chief among them is the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. and of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.

This diorama in the museum of Hechal Shlomo shows details of how the Roman troops commanded by Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian, storm the city walls of Jerusalem in the year 70.
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The figures and war machines are all in miniature, so please click the photos to understand the detail.
See the siege tower and the catapult?

The battering ram battered the gates.
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Actually the Romans worked from February until August, breaching the first wall and the second wall, and finally entering the city in order to burn and raze the Temple.

Josephus writes that during that siege of Jerusalem General Titus, at one point, crucified 500 or more Jews a day. So many Jews were crucified outside the walls that "there was not enough room for the crosses and not enough crosses for the bodies" (Wars of the Jews 5:11.1).
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Sigh . . .
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All this happened 1,940 years ago but it is still part of our world, for That's MyWorld Tuesday.
Someone wiser than me once said that Jews have memory, not history.
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(For less gruesome pictures, please see my posts about Tisha B'Av at the Western Wall and reading Jeremiah's Lamentations by candlelight.)
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