Sunday, November 30, 2008

The gathering of the greens

Today, the first of the four Sundays of Advent, the Western Church begins a new liturgical year.
My friends went through our forest and in their garden to gather the symbolic greens for the Advent season.
Wishing a blessed Advent, that special time of watchful anticipation and waiting, to all our Christian friends. May it be a peaceful month leading into Christmas.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

American Indian + Alaska Native Heritage Month

Shabbat shalom, Sabbath peace to you.
Jews are not allowed to mourn on Shabbat, the day when joy takes precedence. And Chabad Chassidim are the masters of putting joy into Jewish practice, every day.
Let us therefore post something happy today.
I was happy to learn from some USA bloggers that November is National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. And believe it or not, there is a way to justify its inclusion in a blog from the Hills of Jerusalem!
Meet Eric of Alaska! He has a one-man hairdressing place in the shopping center of the Beit HaKerem neighborhood of Jerusalem. He grew up in Alaska, met a Jewish woman in California, they married, and they made aliyah to Israel. Now he is the grandfather of little Sabras (native-born Israelis).
I love that story.
Eric is a soft-spoken, gentle gentleman. If you opt for conversation while he cuts your hair, then he has interesting information on all kinds of topics.
Don't you love the decor? Where else in Israel would you find polar bears, antlers, family photos of Alaska natives?!
If you ever need a haircut in Jerusalem, give Eric a call at 02-652-1267. You'll enjoy it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Circles in the sky

The sky over Jerusalem last week.

Looking east from the Tower of David, we see the Old City with the tower of the (Lutheran) Church of the Redeemer and the gold Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, and on the horizon Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. If you enlarge the photo you can make out the arches of the Mormon university just right of the top of the white bell tower.

Same circles in the sky, but here we can see the gray rotundas of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Redeemer Church bell tower. Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus is on the horizon.
Happy sky watching with other bloggers' new photos at SkyWatch Friday, starting tonight.

Turkey or terror?

A blessed Thanksgiving Day to all who celebrate it today.
We don't have this holiday in Israel. I daresay most Israelis have never seen a whole roast turkey and have no idea what cranberry sauce is.

Photo of a Heifer Ranch turkey by friend Kristine S. in Arkansas

Photo from News
But what is weighing heavily on me and all Israelis for the past 18 hours is the chaos and drama going on (and on) in Mumbai/Bombay. Pity on ALL the dead and wounded. But many of the hostages are Israelis. And the Jewish couple pictured above, Rivka and Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, directors of the Chabad House in Mumbai, are reported to be unconscious, with terrorists controlling the house. The nanny managed to carry their child out to safety.
Rivki's father was on the radio this morning, asking everyone to say Psalms, to pray, for the rescue of all. God help them.

The horror of it all drains me of energy. I try to put it aside for a few moments and to post on some neutral or even happy subject, but it doesn't work. It is a dilemma for me as a blogger. Forgive me for often posting gloom. Can any of you give me advice?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sometimes . . .

Sometimes stuff saddens me.
Today I searched for information from our region about International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women. I mulled what to post, what not to post. Sigh . . .
Sometimes you just don't feel like posting anything.
Sometimes sad news comes, like this afternoon, when Patty informed us that Abraham Lincoln was taken to the hospital with a collapsed lung. Abe, the Ohio blogging friend and mentor of all, the no-holds-barred commenter, hardly able to breathe? Such shock, as if he were kith and kin.
Then I did in fact recall the long-suppressed childhood memories of my mother with her collapsed lung struggling for enough air, opening the back door of our Chicago apartment, hoping the freezing wind would give her one good deep breath.
So friends, when we look up at the sky and breathe in the sky-air deeply and easily, let us give thanks and not take it for granted.
Be well, Abraham. You have so many friends out here.
. .
Other, hopefully more cheerful words and photos for letter S are over at ABC Wednesday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Camel at the gate

Welcome to the Jaffa Gate, last rebuilt in 1537 by the Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, during the Ottoman rule.

Just inside the gate the "bagel" seller is always ready to sell you a sesame seed-covered roll with a little folded paper full of za'atar spice to dip it in.

The gate opens into the enchanting Old City of Jerusalem.

The only chance to get a photo of Jaffa Gate without tons of people is just before sunrise.

Once in a while a camel will be sitting just outside. Jaffa Gate is the only opening in the western part of the Old City wall. So what you see behind the camel is the western, Jewish part of Jerusalem, sometimes called the New City.

I didn't see the Arab camel "driver" anywhere around when I walked by. This father just started piling his kids on the (fortunately!) patient animal.
For a short history of the Jaffa Gate you can click on BibleWalks.
And there is a really cool 3-D panoramic presentation of the gate and the Citadel here!
(That's My World Tuesday is a growing new meme where friendly bloggers give you a free tour of their local world. Join us, it's fun!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The first wildflower

The vegetation is still brown and dry after the long hot dry summer. And still no rain in sight.
But down in the woods the first little wildflower has just pushed through. It gives hope!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yahrzeit of John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy was killed on this day, 45 years ago. Thanks to blogger Webradio in France for posting JFK's photo today and reminding me.
Our Yad Kennedy was built in 1966 with funds donated by Jewish communities in the United States. It is 60 feet /18 meters high and has the shape of a tree stump, symbolizing a life cut short. The mountaintop memorial is made up of 51 columns, each bearing the emblem of a state of the Union, plus the District of Columbia.
At 830 meters above sea level, it is one of the highest places around Jerusalem. The panoramic view in all directions is breathtaking. It is very quiet.
Also breath-taking, literally, is the climb up the mountain. What you see in the center of the photo is my village, my starting point for the hike.

I always seem to reach the Kennedy Memorial after it has closed. But I think that inside is a bust of the President and an eternal flame.
When the shocking news of his assassination came, I was just a freshman in university in Chicago. He had been a big inspiration to us college kids. May his memory be a blessing.

Horses at the Old City wall

A horse standing alone in a trailer next to the Citadel of Jerusalem?!

Na . . . not a real live horse. But a bit of a mystery.
I was with a fast-paced guided tour group and could not go over to investigate.
Four hours later it was gone.

Maybe he came to visit his brother, the statue just outside the Tower of David Museum of Jerusalem History.

Here Richard the Lionhearted faces Saladin!
More about Crusaders in the Holy Land in yesterday's post.
To see bloggers' live animal photos you can visit Camera-Critters meme.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Knights then and now

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed honorary knighthood on our president yesterday, appointing him Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George. Since Shimon Peres is not a subject of the Commonwealth, he (thankfully!) did not have to kneel upon receiving the honor and he may not use the title "Sir."
He is the first Israeli to be knighted. Mazal tov, congratulations Mr. President!
Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO ([Israeli] Govt. Press Office) in today's Ynet
All this business of titles and honors is quite foreign to modern Israelis.
And knights?! The last time we had knights in the Holy Land is when Europe's Crusaders came riding in, killing and plundering.
They massacred the Jews as well the Muslims of Jerusalem.
Their kingdom here was short-lived, from 1099 to 1187.

(Click to enlarge for easy reading.)

The exhibits are in the wonderful Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem.
From their website:
The orders of knights combined two Christian ideals: chivalry and chastity. Four such orders were based in Crusader Jerusalem: the Templars, the Hospitallers, the Teutonic Knights and the Knights of St. Lazarus.
The orders, each in its own way, took responsibility for the safety and well-being of pilgrims, and the treatment of the wounded and the lepers. Some of the orders provided an important military force to defend the kingdom as a whole.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Darkness at Noon

A dark sky at 1:00 p.m. yesterday, but no rain for the past week.
Tons of earth have been removed from this construction site on prime real estate near the Knesset. In fact, last July I posted these same cranes, but they were lying on the ground, being painted. The fancy-shmancy residential Mishkenot HaUma will be built here.
You might find some brighter skies over at SkyWatch Friday. Hundreds of them.

High and dry

Jerusalem weather is still good for laundry-hanging. Gray sky but still no rain. A pleasant 20 degrees C, 68 F.

One big old eucalyptus tree in the narrow lanes of Nachlaot, one of the first Jerusalem neighborhoods to be built outside the Old City walls.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

GA '08 in Jerusalem this year

The 2008 General Assembly (GA) of the United Jewish Communities/Federations of North America celebrated Israel's 60th anniversary, with the theme “One People, One Destiny.”
These are the Americans and Canadians who contribute their money, time, energy, moral support, and love to Israel all year long.
I got to attend their closing session this morning. The real, registered, paying GA delegates numbered 4,579.
Several floors of the convention center were full of booths exhibiting the good things Israeli Jewish society is doing. I filled a free tote bag with free literature, pen, candy, keyring, calendar, and a DVD. I even scored a T-shirt from a favorite organization. And delicious rogelach at coffee break time.
Who says we don't have trick-or-treating here?! ;)
It was my first time to see our government leaders in person. Prof. Stanley Fisher, Governor of the Bank of Israel, spoke about the current challenges to our economy. Opposition Leader Benjamin Bibi Netanyahu said that he would like to "weave an economic peace for the ordinary Palestinian" and to incorporate Egypt and Jordan in economic development of our region.
On the big screen on the stage you see the topic of the second plenary: TIKKUN OLAM.
A central pillar of Judaism, it means "fixing the world," or healing the world, making it a better place. Shari Arison stressed that our mission of tikkun olam must begin with personal transformation, inner repair work.
Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni stressed that the character of Israel must remain a Jewish state and that the nations should accept it as such. My favorite line from her speech: "And a Jewish state is not a monopoly of Jewish rabbis! It is what each and everyone feels inside."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rails in roads

A lucky day! Just in time for my "Rails in Roads" post for ABC Wednesday "R" day a strange machine materialized, one I'd never seen before.
It is part of the on- (and on- and on-) -going Light Rail project this blog has been showing lately (e.g. yesterday), which Jerusalem's disapproving new mayor calls "the Blight Rail."

From what I could Google, I think the long machine is a slipform paver.

It advances on crawler tracks. Unfortunately, nothing was moving when I was watching. The workmen were sitting, watching the crazy woman taking pictures of a machine.

It goes in the direction of the wet concrete (to the left here).

A bunch of those black metal thingies ("rail fixings" maybe?) were piled in the crate. So I assume that with computer technology they are placed directly in the wet concrete slab, hopefully at just the right spot.

The concrete must dry for 3-4 weeks.
Jerusalem is having unseasonable warm (low 20s C) and dry weather.
Is that why they cover the fresh concrete, so it won't dry too fast?

Opening a beach umbrella in the middle of Herzl Boulevard?!

Just a block to the west of the slipform paving machine, this is how it looked in April.

Same place in July.

And the rails as of today.
They stretch all the way west to Mount Herzl, the starting point of the Light Rail, where we have the red Calder stabile, the beginnings of a train station, and the new underground parking for future tram commuters.
The Light Rail will zip across spread-out Jerusalem, up to her eastern suburbs, God (and Hiz Honor the Mayor) willing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Growing pains

Welcome to Jaffa Road, the main artery in the heart of Jerusalem.
But for months now this artery has been clogged.

You see the train in the mural on the building? This is how the tram, the Light Rail will look, IF the track-laying is ever finished.

Let us survey the situation.

To the anger of the merchants whose stores line the street, the sidewalks have been fenced in and potential customers are hard-pressed to navigate the narrow space.

Public transportation is reduced to one lane, in one direction only.

If something like this heavy dump truck has to come up and merge into traffic, your commute across town can last a LONG time.

Part of the Jaffa Road traffic is diverted to the parallel Prophets Street, itself just a narrow 2-lane street with even narrower sidewalks.
If you saw my Thursday post, you may remember that the new mayor has threatened/promised to review the feasibility of the Light Rail project with its new Bridge of Strings and to replace them with cheaper, more effective alternatives IF he can find any.
Oh give me a break!! He wouldn't stop all this in the middle, would he?
We are all invited to visit other bloggers' worlds at the new and growing meme, My World.