Thursday, July 31, 2008

A foretaste

Israel is in the middle of her dry season. It usually lasts from around April until October. Normally the sky is cloudless and not a drop of rain falls. The last rain even has its own name in Hebrew: malkosh. And yoreh is the first rain in the autumn. That's how important they are.
But yesterday we were treated to a cooler day ("only" 28 C), a breeze, and a skyful of gray clouds! YAY!
This photo shows the situation at 8:00 a.m. as seen from my village, facing west, looking down into the Valley of Soreq. That's an electric power station marring the wooded Jerusalem Hills.
I can hardly wait for the yoreh. . . .

There are over 300 skies to choose from over at SkyWatch Friday. Pop over and enjoy or better yet, join the fun and contribute your own sky photo.

Tarring and feathering

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last night addressed the nation, reminded us of all his accomplishments while in office, and announced that he will resign. The police investigation into his alleged financial scandals is in full swing, and this is not good for public morale and is not easy on Olmert, I'm sure. I think he preferred this comparatively dignified way to exit political life; better than going out tarred and feathered.
Olmert's planned departure also spares us the national humiliation of a possible situation of having a prime minister indicted while in office.

The rest you can read about in the media or in the many Israeli and Jewish political blogs.

If you should ever want to hear or see the latest Israeli news in your own language, reported from Jerusalem, just go to and click on Foreign Languages.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More surprises while wandering

Today was going to be my Shuk Machaneh Yehuda market day (after my aborted attempt last Sunday). Again it didn't happen. Where I usually transfer to the second bus there is a Mister Zoll supermarket. I noticed the sale signs in the window: tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, red bell peppers, and onions @ 39 agorot per kilo! That's like 11 cents or 0.07 Euro per kilo. Wednesday only, and with the purchase of at least 150 shekels of groceries. At the market these vegetables cost several times more than this. OK, so forget the shuk today!

So, suddenly having two extra hours before my bus back to the village, I whipped out the camera and went roaming inside the green garden neighborhood of Beit Hakerem.
Again delightful surprises!
Like this man contemplating his head.
And not one, but three, different spots where residents had left their old books outside, hoping passersby would adopt some. I took Cry, the Beloved Country, a 1968 edition printed in Malta.
Don't tell anyone, but I get a lot of my clothes in this same manner. It's so much fun.
Then there was this lovely synagogue which I had to shoot through a locked gate.
This is new too. Apparently the Jerusalem Municipality (see the lion symbol?) is trying to beautify the utility boxes by pasting big photographs on them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A bevy of Bs

Bagels in the Holy City.
Bright balconies of an old guesthouse in Tiberias.

Basalt church and basalt rocks on the seashore of the receding Sea of Galilee.

Blogger behind bars? Bwahaha, no, it is just the cloister of the . . .

Benedictine Monastery in Tabgha.

Balancing bear in the Biblical Zoo, Jerusalem.

Boy (my beloved) on a burnished bear at the Biblical Zoo.

Braille. Click to make this bigger and see that the third sign in this forest picnic place is in braille!

Bucks, aka billy goats, at a goat cheese dairy farm in the Jerusalem Hills.

Big bales (in Hebrew balot) are the way to transport material in construction and archaeology.

Just-baked bread for the HaMotsi bread blessing on our Jewish Shabbat evening.

And for the Christians, the Blessed Sacrament for the Feast of the Multiplication of Fishes and Loaves. On the ancient mosaic floor of the church at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee.

To see what other bloggers are offering up for the letter B this ABC Wednesday please visit or

Monday, July 28, 2008

A sign of the times

On Sunday I gave in to the thrill of exploration and just followed my nose. It led me to this mysterious fence just a few blocks from Jerusalem's Central Bus Terminal.
Inspired by this guy's example I did even better and found an open gate. Pieces of a crane were scattered on the ground and you already know my fascination with cranes from a previous post.
There is a man back there painting them green. I didn't let him see me because he would have thrown me out of the forbidden-entry site. My first time to see a crane up close and I was shocked how thin and fragile it looked.
Digging of the deep foundation for Mishkenot HaUma was about to begin. This prime location makes the project and future apartments some of the most expensive in the whole country.
In 1988 I went back to college to take the 2-year program in Translation Studies at Bar-Ilan University and then worked as an editor and Hebrew-English translator. So these three signs in Translationese made me smile. Each one sounds awkward (not to mention ostentatious).
Hebrew was most economical with only four words.
English needed five.
And French a whopping seven words.

If you'd like to invest in a condominium here, LOL, complete with a "Parisian avenue" inside for upscale shopping, watch the Yair company's short video. And tell me what you think of it, the truth!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Zen moment

A funny thing happened on my way to the Machane Yehuda shuk this morning. Instead of transferring to my usual second bus I decided to walk in the general direction of the shuk (market).
And all manner of surprises were around, waiting to be discovered!
Three hours later I realized it was time to catch my infrequent bus back to my village. I came home with tons of photos but zero fruits and vegetables.

But look at this! Jerusalem's Gan Sacher park has a bonsho, a Japanese Zen Buddhist temple bell!

There are 108 little chubchiks around the top. And in Japan, Hawaii, etc. the bonsho is struck 108 times on New Year's Eve to eradicate the 108 "Buddhist sins," the blind desires one has created throughout the year. (Or so I learn now via the Internet.)

The plaque under the bell reads:

"The bonsho has been placed here as a symbol of lasting peace over the City of Jerusalem. The concept of the bell was welcomed by the late Prime Minister of Israel Mr. Yizhak Rabin. The project was made possible by the donations of people whose names are listed in the scroll beneath the Bonsho, represented by Mr. Pikihiro Madarame, presented to the City of Jerusalem and accepted by the Mayor M.K. Ehud Olmert. April 1996."

Click on the photo above to read the famous verse from Psalms: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee."


Striking the bonsho is associated with striking against evil. I wonder, then, why we have no wooden beam suspended next to this bell.

In the background is the old neighborhood of Nachlaot, beyond which is the shuk.

Yes, I came home hungry but filled with satisfaction that our Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were open to the lovely meaning of the bonsho and were gracious enough to accept the beautiful bell.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Danger lurking in the night

What prowls in our dark woods?

Lara the Cat: "Uh-oh, is that a jackal I just heard?!" Jack the Jackal: "You bet your sweet life it is, tasty morsel!"

Enjoy bloggers' weekly animal postings

Stonemason in a monastery courtyard

Cutting stone (LOTS of it) the modern way.

The shrill grating sound was grating on my nerves even for the few minutes it took me to walk through this monastery courtyard.
How do these guys stand it all day?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Australian connection

Wait, I can explain. . . why this is not exactly a Jerusalem photo!

My daughter the engineer (whom I recently acknowledged here) has the heart of a poet, the hands of a violinist, and the eye of a photographer. NAOMI took this photo from the ferry as she and my young grandson were returning to Circular Quay a few weeks ago. The white "sails" of the Sydney Opera House against the stormy winter sky were perfect for SkyWatch, I thought; and Naomi agreed.
Judah Ha-Levi was a Jewish physician, poet, and philosopher born in Spain about 1085. His most famous line, about his longing for Zion, is "My heart is in the East, and I am at the ends of the West." Sometimes when I get to missing Naomi and my son-in-law and my two Australian-born grandsons, I feel like my heart is in the South while I am way up North.


To see the new dedicated website for all the hundreds of
SkyWatch participants click here.

Barack Obama to the Western Wall

Photo: AP - Associated Press
Israel has been hosting Senator Obama. At 4:30 this morning he made a surprise visit to the Western Wall for some quiet prayer.

Obama followed Jewish tradition and wrote a little note to God and squeezed it in between the stones. What do you reckon he requested? .

BTW, his name sounds quite good here. Barak was a prophet in the Bible. And the Hebrew word barak means lightning.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A is for Archaeology, Antiquities, Artifacts

For several weeks 35 men and I excavated a very old quarry in an area that today is within Jerusalem's boundaries.

For the final stage we were only 7 workers and 2 or 3 staff.
A sealed burial chamber from the Middle Bronze age waited to be opened and explored.
Canaanites were here!

Here is the archaeologist in charge and our surveyor.

Fortunately I was not required to work underground (but I donned the required hardhat to crawl into the cave for a look).
It was hot and humid down there, and at the beginning the ceiling was very low.

No more than two could work (i.e. fit) in the cave at one time at first.
The men excavated and sent up countless buckets of dirt.
I really admire their strength, courage, and good humor working in those conditions.
The photo below is fun to see full size:

One of the most exciting finds, to my mind anyway, was this stone pommel of a dagger.
In Hebrew: gulat hanitsav.
The hilt of the dagger fit into the center hole and a pin would fasten it through those two little holes.
The pommel acts as a counterbalance to the weight of the sword or dagger and can also be used to bash your opponent.
This one is 5 cm/2 inches across.
And it is some 4,000 years old!

Another cool find is this green toggle pin that people once used instead of buttons to keep their clothes together.

We did many hours of sifting, finding human and animal teeth and bone fragments, potsherds, little pieces of glass. . .

On Monday, our last day at this site, our surveyor did her final measurements

and made her final drawings inside the burial chamber.

Time for a last self-portrait inside, for posterity. :)

Then we climbed the two and a half meters up and out.
(You see the net over our work area that gave semi-shade and the tall crane.)

Soon this area will come under the bulldozers and a tunnel will be dug so the condominium owners in those tall buildings (modern vertical cave dwellers?) will be able to drive to the main road faster.
What we did is a salvage dig.
Whenever new construction is planned, the Israel Antiquities Authority must first come and check to see what is hiding beneath the surface.
It means there is never a lack of work in Jerusalem for fieldworkers like me.
For other bloggers' A words jump over to Mrs. Nesbitts Place and the new website

Patriotic date palm tree

You never know where you will find a flag hanging in Jerusalem. This one is in the quiet garden neighborhood of Bet Hakerem.