Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Food for thought

The first day of the two-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah has been very full. Full of God, prayer, symbolism, food, fellowship--all those good things that start the new year.

  The soul-stirring call of the shofar was sounded in synagogues around the world.

Three friends came to have roast beef lunch at my table. We began with some of the symbolic foods for this day: dates, a round challah (for the cycle or "roundness" of a year), apples dipped in honey with the blessing that asks God to renew us for a sweet new year, pomegranate (may our merit be multiplied like the many seeds inside the fruit), and wine for the Kiddush blessing.

  On this day Jews walk to a river or other body of living water, preferably containing fish, to do the Tashlich ceremony. I am lucky to have a spring and fish pond just ten minutes walk from home.
Following the ancient tradition, I read the proper Psalms and prayers from the prayerbook. Tashlich in Hebrew means "You will cast off." In the biblical book of Micah (7:18-19) it says:
"Who is a God like thee, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? . . . Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of the sea."

Trying to name a year's worth of sins (so many "sins of omission"), I took the little pieces of bread from my pocket and cast them one by one upon the water. The fish surfaced and devoured them in a flash!

Monday, September 29, 2008

A new beginning

(To see the details please click on the photo.)

Jewish life in Israel moves forward according to the Hebrew calendar.
The calendar ends abruptly tonight on (coincidentally) both the 29th of Elul and the 29th of September. With the new year starting tomorrow, we need to hang up a new calendar--for a new beginning.
This makes me think of an inspiring song by Naomi Shemer called
"Hakhagiga Nigmeret (Lakum Makhar Baboker)." Here is a translation:

And sometimes, the celebration's over
The lights go out
The trumpet calls
Goodnight to the violins
The last watch welcomes (kisses) the third (one)
To wake tomorrow morning
And begin from the beginning
Let's wake tomorrow morning
With a new song in our hearts
And sing it in our strength, and sing it in our pain
To hear the flutes on the fresh, free breeze
And to begin from the beginning [Ulehatkhil mibereshit ].

YouTube has a 1976 video of Hakol Over Habibi group singing the song. Click here to hear it.
Again, a good year to you, Shana tova!

Heads up

Tonight is Rosh Hashanah (literally, the head of the year). On the festive New Year's table, usually on the platter with the traditional gefilte fish, there should be at least one cooked fish head. 
This is to remind us of one of the many blessings that God promises in return for obedience to his commandments. Deuteronomy 28:13a says 
"And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail . . . " 

In The Living Torah translation it becomes "God will make you a leader and never a follower."

The Hebrew blessing said over the fish head is 
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה לְרֹאשׁ וְלֹא לְזָנָב
May it be Your will, Lord our God and the God of our fathers, that we be a head and not a tail.

I pray that every leader and every citizen in our world will use their head to make peace and not war in the new year. 
Shana tova, a good and happy year to all!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thank you Paul Newman

Shalom Paul Newman. Rest in peace. Your character Ari Ben Canaan will live on.
The 1960 "Exodus," along with the epic "Lawrence of Arabia," were movies that fueled the fire in my idealistic teenage heart and pushed me to sail to Israel in 1968, with a one-way ticket, disembarking in Haifa.
For the dramatic story of the actual Haganah Ship Exodus 1947 see either Wikipedia (from which the above photo is borrowed) or a Zionist telling of the story here. A great old photo of the Exodus taken from the British ship that intercepted her is midway on the page of a Glasgow website.
Author Ruth Gruber called the Exodus "the ship that launched a nation."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Howdy, stranger

Who SAYS my village is just a one horse town?! (The American idiom is defined here.) This morning, in the quiet of Shabbat in our hill-top moshav, I was surprised to hear a clip-clop of hoofs. I ran outside and saw four strangers riding down our street!

The mysterious strangers smiled and the beautiful horses walked on by. Sigh . . .
I love horses almost as much as I love donkeys.
And today is International Day of the Donkey. Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary (where I volunteered and lived a month in Australia) had a big field day today.
My other T shirt, "Donkey Warhol," is from Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land. Heehaw!

Take a look at other animals today on blogs all over the world at Camera-Critters.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday at the shuk

Today I accompanied two friends from Switzerland in a food buying expedition in the Machaneh Yehuda shuk. They did well, considering the market was packed with frenzied pre-Shabbat, pre-Rosh HaShana (New Year) shoppers.
Many professional and amateur photographers were taking pictures and movies of the pre-holiday crowd.
This one looked tired and bored, waiting for her partner to bring the big video camera back to the tripod.
A wagon is about all you can park and unload on this side of narrow busy Agrippas Street. Pita and bread were being delivered to the little place where we sat on low stools outside and ate felafel.
This guy was riding his little crate-moving machine down the street while both eating AND giving advice to a woman driver how to get her car out of a tight parking place.
Chabadniks were out in force. The tablecloth says the Hebrew word for "Messiah." Here passing Jews, usually those "of a secular persuasion," can don tfillin (phylacteries) and tallit (prayer shawl), read some prayers from the prayerbook, say the blessing over the wine, give charity, and do other such mitzvot.
And here is the little poster (as I explained a week ago here) which is posted in bus stops every Friday. It says, inter alia, that candle-lighting time and entrance time of the Sabbath tonight is 5:55 p.m. Shabbat ends tomorrow at 7:06 p.m. Rosh HaShanah begins at 5:51 p.m. on September 29 and ends at 7:02 p.m. October 1. Next week Shabbat beings at 5:45 and ends at 6:57. Times obviously depend on when the sun sets.
Here we go, entering the Sabbath, that "sanctuary in time." And on time. Shabbat shalom, Sabbath peace, to everyone!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lucy in the SKY

No, Jerusalem has no river, no boats, no swans.
BUT . . . tonight, as we speak, Israel finally has Sir Paul McCartney singing at a grand concert in Tel Aviv!!
by The Beatles

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she's gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you're gone
. . .
From Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967 (that wonderful year!)

In honor of our Sky Watch Friday blog!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What is underlying justice?

"How many men does it take to open a manhole?" is turning into a series, it looks like.

I always like to peer down the holes in the crust of the earth and see the hidden secrets of a city's infrastructure. (Is that weird?)

(Please click on the first photo if you want to see the rope mystery.)
As a bonus y'all can see the Supreme Court building.

What do you reckon the guys were doing with all that rope??

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Joel's J's

Today's ABC Wednesday meme in blogland features the letter J.

Jumpin' Jehoshaphat! How to choose just one or two J words when this whole blog is about J's?!
Jerusalem Hills, Jerusalem, Judea, Jewish State, Jews, Jacob, Jesus, John . . . just which photos to judge as fitting??
Jeepers! Hebrew does not even have a sound or a letter J. All these names you see here really begin with Y.

Between the Old City wall and the Mount of Olives lies the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
More commonly called the Kidron Valley, it has lots of olive trees

and LOTS of old graves.

In the short Biblical book of JOEL (3:1-2) God says "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there. . . ."
The prophet Joel is depicted in this statue at Yad HaShmona Biblical Garden:

He is quoting God in Joel 2:13: "Return to me with all your heart. . . and rend your hearts and not your garments."
This verse ends with the words very central to the liturgy of our High Holy Days, the Days of Awe culminating in the Day of Atonement: "Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil."


Monday, September 22, 2008


{ The truck pictures are more impressive when enlarged. Go on, click and enjoy the details! }

The System: Every archaeological excavation needs some form of headquarters in the field.
A lockable place to store the tools and equipment, with a table where the foreman can do a little paperwork and maybe eat his lunch. A shipping container--perfect!

Here's the inside of ours at my latest dig in Jerusalem:

The contractor hires fieldworkers like me and supplies the Israel Antiquities Authority with diggers, as needed, for the IAA's many digs. The contractor also takes care of the logistics (in consultation with the archaeologist in charge, of course).
So on the last day of our dig, right after all the forty workers had boarded their mini-buses to be driven back to East Jerusalem, the truck showed up.

It was an amazing, quick, ONE-man show! He hooked the chains onto the container.

He scampered up, then down, the container as easily as a monkey.

Strapped to his back are the controls for the hydraulic crane.

He leaned on the box to keep the proper angle,

then hoisted it and maneuvered it onto the truck.
And off they drove, one man, one container.
Job done. Such a simple system!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

T-i-m-b-e-r !

As you may have surmised, we completed the archaeological excavation a few weeks ago. It is good to have some time off before the next dig starts. It is still so hot; summer goes on and on. But for the sake of closure, here are some scenes from the final day.

What we did was the required salvage dig before construction of yet another highrise apartment building could start. The building contractor, anxious to begin, wasted no time in sending in his crew to cut down the one tree we had on the site.

The thick limbs were sawed up and carted away as firewood.

Our shade netting had been taken down and then the shade of the tree was also gone.
The direct sun was SO hot as we raised clouds of dust, sweeping clean every meter of rock with broom heads.
Stone always has to be swept clean before archaeologists take the final photos.

By noon our guys were literally dancing with joy that our work was at an end.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Transporter beam? Star Trek dog??

Time for weekend Camera-Critters meme, featuring animals from around blogland.

Down in the woods I opened a gate and was surprised to meet this dog in a place forbidden to him, on the wrong side of the wall. He should have been up one terrace, helping the shepherd herd and guard the goat flock that was out browsing.
He knew it and wanted out.
Any Trekkies reading this blog? You reckon the dog was saying, "Beam me up, Scotty!"?

Pomegranate--a symbolic food

This is my friend the pomegranate tree, just outside the window.

In April it began to flower.

In May the first fruit, more green than red, appeared.

In August I found a few split open, hanging on the tree.

Yesterday I picked a big red intact pomegranate, cut it in half,

and ate the seeds for the first time this year.
Nature--what a great system it has for making food!

And I did say the two required Hebrew blessings before eating it: the Shehechiyanu (see below) and "Blessed are You, Lord our God, who creates the fruit of the tree."
The pomegranate (rimon in Hebrew) always ripens just before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This year the holiday begins on the evening of September 29.

About.com explains it nicely:
"On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, we eat a new fruit which we have not yet eaten this season. When we eat this new fruit, we say the shehechiyanu blessing which thanks God for keeping us alive and bringing us to this season. This ritual reminds us to appreciate the fruits of the earth and being alive to enjoy them. A pomegranate is often used as this new fruit. In the Bible, the Land of Israel is praised for its pomegranates. It is also said that this fruit contains 613 seeds just as there are 613 mitzvot.* Another reason given for blessing and eating this fruit on Rosh HaShana is that we wish that our good deeds in the ensuing year will be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate."
(*the 613 commandments in the Torah)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sunset and candles

Days are getting shorter. Clouds are returning to the sky! I am ready for the long hot dry summer to change into autumn.
Here the sun sets behind the next ridge. On Friday evening it is important to know the exact time of sunset, because the two Sabbath candles must be kindled at least 18 minutes before.
Shabbat is a day of rest from any work, and creating fire with a match is considered work.

Candle-lighting times for the various cities in Israel are published in the newspapers and announced on the radio. Notices are printed every week and are hung in public places like bus stops.
Shabbat shalom!

Hundreds of nice bloggers are posting their sky and story today at SkyWatch.
Click on a few of their blogs and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cheese wheels on wheels

Thousands of shekels are riding on these little blue wheels. Click on the photo and read the writing on the rind. Parmigiano-Reggiano 2006 !
The stack of huge cheese wheels caught my eye and I entered the fancy cheese and wine store in the shuk Mahaneh Yehuda market. Photos were all I got, the rest was way too expensive.
They offer cheeses from around the world in a mind-boggling variety. It is exciting just to see them.

Cheesemaking is such an art and such hard and satisfying work. This I know from working a year and a half in the cheese dairy of a sheep farm. Cheese, yogurt, and just plain rich milk from sheep are the best!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"I" is for idioms

In blogland it is ABC Wednesday--take a look.
Here in Israel I invite you to idioms beginning with "I".
It takes a village to raise a child. = It takes many people to teach a child all that he or she should know.

In the swing. = If things are in the swing, they are progressing well.
I've got a bone to pick with you. = I have some complaint to make against you.
In someone else's shoes = It is difficult to know what another person's life is really like, so we don't know what it is like to be in someone's shoes.

In the saddle = If you're in the saddle, you are in control of a situation.
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. = Wishing for something or wanting it is not the same as getting or having it.

In a jam = If you are in a jam, you are in some trouble.
In the driver's seat = In charge of something or in control of a situation.
I'll cross that road [or bridge] when I come to it. = I'll think about something just when it happens, not in advance.

Thanks to UsingEnglish.com for definitions of the idioms.