Monday, March 31, 2008

A unique pot

Somebody in Bet HaKerem had a lot of glue and a lot of patience.

Portable garden

It's a bloomin' wheelbarrow, no less!


Today Christians celebrate the Feast of the Annuciation. When Gabriel appeared to Mary he of course had to say (like all the angels in the Bible), "Fear not."
But since this is a Jerusalem blog, I have no photos of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Also no pictures of archangels, and none of Mary alone. But I DO have something with Gabriel's name on it. Look at this!
A mysterious piece made of ivory and metal, crafted long ago by Yemenite Jews. A gift from the Kabbalistic town of Safed (Tsfat). It says "In the name of God, in the name of Shaddai, Guardian of Israel. . . " and then the names of angels Gabriel, Rafael, Asiel, Shamriel. A kamea? The Hebrew kamea means amulet or charm. In English cameo?
Gabriel said "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" Mary was afraid, confused. How could she understand what he was announcing? But then she said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." This is what I like about Mary--her simple "fiat."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Light for Earth Hour, and after

Earth Hour tonight around the world, with 23 cities and hundreds of towns turning off their lights at 8:00 pm. Wouldn't you know it--Israel, or rather Tel Aviv, had to do her part already on Thursday instead, because of the Sabbath. (Turning lights off or on is considered work.)
Look at this sleek new flashlight! Its solar panel recharges the 3 AA batteries. For about every two hours charged in sunlight the BoGo will give light for one hour. BoGo stands for Buy one, Give one. That's the best part. For every one you pay for, the SunNight Solar company in Texas gives one to a person in a war zone or refugee camp or in the developing world. I believe this sharing mitsvah is what prompted my altruistic son in California to pay for two and mail one BoGo to me.

Do read "The Importance of Light" at
Here is just the first surprising idea there:
"Why does light matter? Two billion people living in the developing world rely on kerosene lanterns, candles, and single-use battery flashlights for light at night. Not only are these options expensive, dangerous, and harmful to the environment, they also negatively impact health, education, and security. Literacy and Education Our lights provide an opportunity for children to read at night and to extend school hours. This is especially important in developing countries where most children spend all day tending crops, taking care of livestock, or working in cottage industries. Kerosene is increasingly expensive, especially given the recent rise in the price of petrochemicals, so many families cannot afford it. Flashlights are even more expensive, and candles do not provide adequate lighting to read. As a result, many children will never learn to read and will be trapped in a life of poverty. Our lights give them a chance at a better life, thus education is one of the strongest pillars in our vision to light the world."

I admire people of vision and of generous heart who come up with ideas like this and ways to share. And thank you too, dear son, for caring about your mama. This great flashlight can be the start of my emergency survival kit for the next big earthquake and/or war.
(Sheh lo nedah.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

My very own Kiddush cup

Good friends came over for Kabbalat Shabbat, the welcoming of the Sabbath. Before the meal comes the Kiddush, thanking God for creating the fruit of the vine. Tonight for the first time we drank the wine from this lovely wooden Kiddush cup, a gift from the friends for my Forty Years Since Aliyah Day. It is designed by Jerusalem artist Yair Emanuel. Other lovely pieces of Judaica crafted by him can be seen at
Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Marking time

Tomorrow our time will be UTC/GMT +3. Daylight saving time begins tonight while we sleep. In Hebrew it's called sha'on kaits, literally, "summer clock."
I hope the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians remember to reset the giant watch that hangs on the iconostasis of their church in the Holy Sepulchre.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The big sky

The grand finale to a quiet day in the Jerusalem Hills.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Herzliche Gruesse

Having studied German all four years of high school and all four years of university, I am obviously fond of the language. But that was in the USA. Here in Israel, German can be problematic. Last week Angela Merkel came to congratulate Israel on our upcoming 60th birthday. Despite the objections and sensitivities of several members of our parliament, the Knesset House Committee decided to allow the Chancellor to address the Knesset in German.
I am happy we have come this far.
Dr. Merkel said good things and got a standing ovation. Oh and by the way, she surprised everyone by opening her speech with several sentences in Hebrew.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Superhero kipa

Here is another Spidey aficionado, my dear grandson, this one in California. I mailed him this kipa bought at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. Can you believe they make yarmulkes with Spiderman on them??
The photo was shot by my son the professional photographer.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My sunshine and light

Today is still Purim! Because Jerusalem and certain other walled cities celebrate the holiday two days (instead of one), and because this year the 14th of Adar Bet fell on a Friday, and because Friday is followed by Shabbat, Jerusalem celebrated Shushan Purim today, Sunday. A rare 3-day Purim.
In this received photo my Number One Grandson dresses up in costume. (In truth, he sports it not only on Purim.) As my daughter wrote in her blog, from Australia, "What boy doesn't dream of having Spiderman as a big brother?"

He is not here

The view from above of the rolling stone door of an ancient tomb.
A friend emerges from the entrance of the rock-hewn tomb. It is unmarked and easy to miss, below a little hill in a public park in Jerusalem's New City.
"And very early on the first day of the week the women went to the tomb . . . And they were saying to one another, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?' And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large." . . .
And sitting on the stone was an angel who said, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

E tenebris lux

From darkness, LIGHT .

Alpha and omega

A joyous Easter to Christians everywhere !

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Entering into the mysteries

The full moon rises. The Easter Vigil begins in darkness.

The light is coming

Not much longer now. Soon the bowed-down shall rise up.

From the grave

From a tombstone in the international cemetery which is adjacent to the Templers' Cemetery on Emek Refa'im Street.
I thought its message could be appropriate for this somber Great and Holy Saturday when Christians wait quietly for mourning to be transformed into joy. For them the "day of the entombed Christ" means much prayer, fasting, and watchful expectation.
I can imagine it is a difficult day, being just after crucifixion and not yet at resurrection. To describe the feeling of this day, and of Holy Week, the Greeks needed one special word: xarmolipi. It conveys joyful-sadness.

Touching history

The altar of the Greek Orthodox Chapel of the Raising of the Cross stands over a glassed-in part of the Rock of Calvary. The disc under the altar has a small hole through which pilgrims can touch the rock which held the cross.
It is the 12th of the 14 Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, also called the Via Dolorosa.

Many are the stones in the Holy City who beg to be touched by us.

Stone of Unction

Pilgrims in the Holy Sepulchre dab oil on, and kiss, the Stone of Unction or Anointing Stone on which (tradition says) Jesus' body was prepared for burial.
John 19:39-40 says, "Nicodemus . . . came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes . . . . They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices . . . ."

For Good Friday

And for the Christian friends on Good Friday, one of the "Servant Songs" of Isaiah.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Missed my midnight blogging deadline last night because . . . I was at a Purim party! Almost all of the some 60 or 70 invited adults came dressed in highly original costumes, even me. 
Lots of dancing, mostly to reggae music. The young man confined to a wheelchair rolled into the circle and danced with his upper body, spinning the wheelchair around and around. 
Food and drink was available, but it seemed secondary to the general merriment. 
Then we sat down for a rather unorthodox reading of the Megillah, the scroll of Esther, complete with funny skits. Just like in Esther 8:16, "The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor."
The custom of masquerading on the feast of Purim is an allusion to the fact that the miraculous salvation of the Jews of Persia some 2366 years ago is disguised in the garments of natural causes, luck, and coincidence. God's hand is hidden; his name is not mentioned even once in the Scroll of Esther.
The verses that speak to me most are Esther 4:14 and 4:16. Mordechai tries to convince Esther to risk her life to save her people and says, "And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for just such a time as this?" Esther decides "Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish." 

Chag Purim sameach -- happy Purim! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Remain here and watch with me"

What intense days these must be for the Christians--the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, leading into Easter.
 Tomorrow the drama of the Church will be acted out in the Holy City, in one way or another. 
Washing of the feet of the faithful performed by the superior of the monastery or the priest of the church. Eucharist as part of a seder-like meal. The stripping of the altar. And Tenebrae, ending in silence and near-darkness.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

40 years


"God said to Abram, 'Lech lecha, go away from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you . . . and I will bless you . . . .' "
In March 1968 I did, I left America behind and made aliyah, the spiritual ascent up to Israel.
On today's date, March 18, the good ship Enotria sailed into Haifa port, just as the sun was rising over Mount Carmel.
I disembarked, kissed the ground, and embarked on a new life.
I had never been to Israel except in my dreams, knew no one, had little money.
Fresh out of college, a 22-year-old idealist coming into an idealistic 19 year old country. Population just two million.
We both had a lot of growing up to do.

The photo shows my teudat zehut, my identity card.
We have been together forty years.
Citizen of the State of Israel--this indeed is my identity.
This is the promised blessing. Thank you, God, for showing me the way home.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Little Donkeys of God

A funny thing happened on the way to Bethphage . . .

My two Sister friends were taking me to see, for my first time, the Palm Sunday procession. The walk up the Mount of Olives to the pilgrims' starting point at Bethphage is very steep. Near the Garden of Gethsemane the sisters and I stopped to rest and admire the wildflowers.
We were quite alone among the olive trees and the goats. Silence and peace all around.

Then I caught sight of a sleeping donkey (!) and could not help but be reminded of the story in Mark 11:
And when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it you will find an ass tied, on which no one has ever sat; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord has need of it,' and he will send it back here immediately."
Suddenly the donkey awoke as if out of a dream. He quickly got up and began walking. And he was headed straight toward the double arches in the city wall! This is none other than the Gate of Mercy, which Christians call the Golden Gate, the Gate Beautiful.

In Jewish tradition this is the gate by which the messiah, mounted on a white donkey, will enter Jerusalem. To prevent this, the Turkish Sultan Suleiman blocked up the gate some five centuries ago.

But sealed gate or not, our donkey must have heard his marching orders and nothing was going to stop him.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Procession of Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday afternoon everyone gathers on the Mount of Olives and then begin a joyful procession all the way down to the Old City, entering the city walls through the Lions (St. Stephan's) Gate, and gathering again at the old Crusader church of St. Anne. En route there is singing and dancing and waving of palm fronds and olive branches. Oh, and lots of security.

My pictures from last year can be seen small on the slideshow or big at .

And a link to the previous post's photos:

Palm Sunday in the Holy Sepulchre

Happy Palm Sunday to the Christian friends!
Last year on Palm Sunday I experienced all the colorful and diverse worship services of the many different faith communities within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The ancient church was packed with pilgrims. This year my claustrophobia got the better of me, and I chose to stay closer to home for this festive day.
Enjoy the slideshow. For bigger version of the photos you can go to

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Palm Sunday preparations

In a still-quiet lane of the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City a man prepares palms to be carried in procession by the throngs of pilgrims tomorrow, Palm Sunday.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Uncovering our past

My dig! Be sure to click on the photo to see it in all its full-size grandeur!
A year ago I had the privilege of working here, at the salvage excavations at the Western Wall Plaza. Last night I was watching the news [via Internet since I have no television]. Suddenly my dear former (and future) boss, archaeologist Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, appeared on the screen, announcing important and exciting new discoveries! Yay!
A rich sealed layer of finds was revealed from the latter part of the First Temple period, i.e. the end of the 8th century BCE up to the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE. Artifacts such as a seal bearing the name Netanyahu ben Yaush; animal and fertility figurines; and
a vast amount of pottery vessels, including three jar handles that bear LMLK stamped impressions. An inscription written in ancient Hebrew script is preserved on one these impressions and it reads: למלך חברון ([belonging] to the king of Hebron).

Furthermore, and maybe more importantly, quoting the Israel Antiquities Authority,
"This is actually the first time in the history of the archaeological research of Jerusalem that building remains from the First Temple period were exposed so close to the Temple Mount - on the eastern slopes of the Upper City. The walls of the buildings are preserved to a height of more than 2 meters."

I love doing archaeological fieldwork, working hard with a good team, and I dearly love Jerusalem and the Kotel! So maybe it's time to get back to my job already.
Here in my picture you can also see the Western Wall, the other salvage dig behind the old ramp up to the Mughrabi Gate, and Al-Aqsa mosque up on the Temple Mount.

UPDATE: A video from the site at but with a caveat: this is not where the walkway is planned. That is a different dig, nearby. And no one ever said the walls found were of the Temple itself. I wish the news media would get things right.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Moses' birthday

How is it to know God face to face?! Deuteronomy 34:10 says "And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face."
Today, the 7th of Adar, is the birthday of Moses. Moshe also died on this date, on Mount Nebo.
This picture of him is in the church of the monastery. I wonder why his tablet has "Shema Yisrael" written on it instead of the more often depicted Decalogue. Any ideas?
Here, at least, he has a halo instead of the horn that Jerome's mistranslation of KRN stuck on his head.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Donkey door

While walking to an appointment in central Jerusalem today, I stopped to look at the tall doors of the legendary Bikur Cholim Hospital. The artist, who was a teacher in the early days of the Bezalel Academy of Art, fashioned the symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel. My favorite is the donkey, of course. In Genesis 49 Jacob blesses each of his sons with the blessing suitable to him. "Issachar is a strong-boned ass (chamor garem). . . ."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jacob sheep


Are there days you too feel like this ewe? She lives in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.
With all those horns, it must be a Jacob sheep. It's an ancient breed, thousands of years old, named after the patriarch Jacob.
In his bargain with Laban, Jacob used highly original methods to achieve spotted lambs and kids. In fact, the story in Genesis 30 is thought to be the earliest record of selective breeding. Give it a read or a reread--you're sure to get a kick out of it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Give it a whorl

The new neighbors across the street are into permaculture.
Today their young helper built this fascinating garden spiral.

Can you believe, I had never seen such a thing (guess I've been away from Heifer Ranch too long); so I was all questions.
Here's what I learned.
This method combines many permaculture design principles. The base is rubble; this will give some air movement beneath the mound. The height of the raised bed and the placement of the stones create a range of niches and microclimates which can sustain many different kinds of plants.

This one might become an herb spiral. Come back later to see what's growing.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

How Green Was My Valley

The now-white almond trees and the white boulders and terrace walls give some "relief" from the ubiquitous green of the valley.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The women of Jerusalem

Happy International Women's Day to you and to these representative women of Jerusalem.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rest in peace

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how many of your children will we have to bury?? Two of the eight boys gunned down last night in the library of their yeshiva were laid to rest today here in the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives. Together with the blood-stained holy books they were studying. God comfort the mourners in Zion.
But still we say Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Old-new ways

Today I joined a serious Tanach Tiyulim tour to learn about the enigma of Elijah the Prophet.
Our bus headed north to Mount Carmel. First stop was Ramat Hanadiv, the memorial gardens and crypt of the benefactor Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The day was warm, the admission was free, and hundreds of both Arab and Jewish school children and many families were enjoying a visit.

But what impressed me most was the woman in the beautiful embroidered dress and her way of carrying her purse. It is indeed the easiest way of carrying and hands are left free.
My fellow Heifer Ranch volunteers will remember seeing me transporting livestock feed using this ancient technique. We just cut a big plastic barrel in half, strung a rope through it, and the rope went just above my forehead, with the load easily carried on my back.
Who knows?! Maybe, inspired by the grandmother in this picture, I will get the chutspah to transport groceries or a backpack down the main street of my village with the aid of a tumpline strap on my head.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Rakefet metsuya

The rakefet is especially loved among our spring wildflowers, with her shy face turned earthward and her favorite growing place being under a rock. But these cyclamens took root INSIDE the high stone wall and can look out over the valley below.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


A cloud was hanging in our valley early this morning. Mist is so mystical!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Torah in the shuk

I love to buy fruit and vegetables in Mahaneh Yehuda, Jerusalem's huge outdoor market. But this was the first time I happened by at just the right time to see a prayer service going on in the shuk's little synagogue. The men had just finished reading the Torah and were returning the scroll to the ark.
In ancient times Mondays and Thursdays were market days, when farmers would bring their produce to the city and residents would gather to buy and socialize. For their benefit Ezra the Scribe instituted the practice of publicly reading part of the weekly parasha from the Torah on these two days, in addition to Shabbat. And so it continues.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Row on row

One of the many, too many, sections of the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
They read like a history book of Israel's first sixty years. Walking among the graves, even on a tranquil day when almost no visitors are there, is difficult.
There today, right now, the Dan-Gur family is burying their firstborn, their only son, Eran z"l. He was one of the soldiers killed yesterday in Gaza while trying to stop the barrages of rockets being fired onto our civilians.

How hard it is to blog about pretty things here in the still-quiet Jerusalem Hills when just some 35 miles/55 km to the west the killing and maiming and terrorizing on both sides of the border is in full swing and escalating from day to day. God, let the craziness end!