Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mezuzot in s-p-a-c-e

Space shuttle Discovery will be launched in less than an hour, God willing. May God bless and keep the brave astronauts. Two mezuzot will go into outer space! Jewish astronaut Gregory Chamitoff said he would place them near his bunk to give him a sense of home as well as Jewish identity. They were made by Laura Cowan, a silversmith and designer of Judaica. She named this mezuzah below "Apollo." Almost all mezuzahs bear the Hebrew letter shin because Shaddai, one of God's names, begins with a shin. Cowan says that the windows on the spacecraft inspired this abstract shin.
Mezuzah actually refers not to the outer case but what goes inside: a small parchment scroll on which a certified scribe (sofer stam) has copied, in Hebrew, two passages from the Torah: Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21.
It is affixed to the right doorpost of the entrance to inhabitable rooms of Jewish homes.
Here is one of the two mezuzot in my home, this a simple one made of olive wood.

Here is the other one below. I opened the parchment for you to see the Shema, the main prayer recited daily, which is written on it. Click on the photo to see it enlarged.
The parchment is then rolled up like a scroll and the case is closed and nailed to the doorpost.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Monastic Sky Watch

The sun disappears into the Jerusalem Hills behind my neighbor, St. John in the Desert monastery. Shabbat shalom to the Brothers and to all of you.

Many more Sky Watch Friday photos from around the world await you at Wiggers World.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hoopoe--our national bird

A national bird! Israel finally has a national bird.
Today President Peres announced the winner-- the hoopoe. In Hebrew it is a duchifat.
The duchifat won 35% of the ballots cast by over 155,000 Israelis.
Voters chose from a list of ten species on the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel website. Interestingly, some 46% of the hoopoe's votes came from Israel Defense Force soldiers.
Israel is a big crossroad for birds migrating between Europe and Africa.
Mazal tov, congratulations, pretty duchifat!

This photo is from the online Haaretz newspaper article of today.
UPDATE: To learn how the hoopoe helped King Solomon see Friday's Jerusalem Post.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sally forth into S

S is for silk, corn silk. I suspect my silliness with the letter S for today's ABC Wednesday is getting a bit corny. Sorry if this stretches your patience. But come, take up your staff and let us sally forth up into the Jerusalem and Jerusalem Hills worlds of S .

Many other bloggers are contributing mercifully shorter S posts today. See them at Mrs. Nesbitt's place.

S is for synagogue and Shomrei Torah

Shomer Shabbat (a Jew who strictly observes the Sabbath and all the rest). The stockings would identify which section of the ultra-Orthodox hareidim he belongs to.
Sidelocks or peot in Hebrew. Streimel, the fur hat worn by certain Hareidim on Shabbat and festivals. Here we waited for a bus on Friday afternoon, before the start of Shabbat.
A shul or shtiebl, the Ohel Moshe Great Synagogue, founded in th 1880s with the financial help of Sir Moses Montefiore.
Another of the first synagogues to be built outside the Old City walls in the 19th century, this one for the Sephardic Jews.

Spiritual S

Saint Peter in the church of the Latin Patriarchate in the Old City. I suspect his feet are shiny from being rubbed by pilgrims. Some statues around the world have this superstition, that touching them brings good luck.

  Sunrise over Ecce Homo convent and the Dome of the Rock mosque.

  Station of the Cross. Simon of Cyrene (and interesting sign).

  Saint Andrew's Church, Church of Scotland, Presbyterian. Slabs of marble from Iona.

  Scriptures, holy.

Holy Sepulchre scenes

Smell of incense wafts up from Franciscan friars at prayer over the Stone of Unction.
Shpritzim! The priest prepares to shpritz the faithful with water in the asperges ceremony.
Singing sister and brothers.
Sisters from Mother Teresa's order.
Sister in silence just outside the tomb.

Staff and sword

For centuries already, Muslims are the keepers of the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
A kawass always walks before the clergy and Christian faithful in procession, tapping the ground in rhythm with his ceremonial staff.


On the big Christian feast days the Arab Scout troops of East Jerusalem are in their element.

They march and their bands add the music, including bagpipes and drums.
These photos are from the Palm Sunday pilgrims' procession of last year.

S scenes from Jerusalem

Silwan Arab village, site of Shiloach or Siloam Spring.
Stranger with shofar at the Jerusalem Hug event.
Security for the warm-up to the "Hug the walls of Jerusalem" event.
Section of the "separation barrier"--a sorry situation.

Archaeological S words

Stepped stone structure at the City of David.
Sarcophagus at Rockefeller Museum.
Sacks of shards awaiting restoration.
Setting up shade on a sweltering day at one of my summer digs.
Swollen painful hand following stings. My pickaxe must have struck their underground nest in that square shown above. Several wasps flew straight into my work glove. Sh--!! is all she could say.

S for sadly dead animals

Squished frog. Camouflauge was too good.

  Serious serpent.

  Snake eggs.

  Skull of ...?

  So sorry, poor jackal. Probably struck by a car.

S is surely for sheep

Sturdy rams.
Knee-deep in sheep.
Sheep of a Bedouin flock near Sha'ar Hagai, main Tel Aviv to Jerusalem highway.
The silence of the sweet sleeping lamb.
Strange sheep in Ein Sa'adim nature reserve. (I spared you the photo of me sitting on a concrete ewe!)