Tuesday, June 30, 2009

X-ing out your enemy

My word of the week for ABC Wednesday is . . . XENOPHOBIA.
(zěn'ə-fō'bē-ə, zē'nə-) Fear and contempt of strangers or foreign peoples

( This photo needs to be clicked on, for sure! )
In ancient Egypt the custom was to inscribe on a figurine the name of your enemy and appropriate curses. Then in an ancient ritual the figurine was smashed and the curses were activated, in the belief that this would break the enemy's power.
One such clay figurine bears on its chest the name Rusulimum (Jerusalem) and names of other enemy Canaanite cities.
I myself almost fainted when I first saw this display at Jerusalem's Tower of David Museum!!
What an idea! Talk about the power of words . . . Talk about hatred of foreign peoples . . . !
Can you imagine doing such a thing? (BTW, "thing" and "word" are both expressed in Hebrew by the word davar. In the old days, a word was not just a sound you heard. No. A word was a thing in itself, having its own existence, carrying power. And if you know a person's name, you have power over him; you call out his name and he stops and turns around.)
The clay figurine is a copy of the original, courtesy of the Royal Museum of Art and History, Brussels.
The execration (!) text is from Egypt, 19th to 18th century BCE.
1382, from Latin execrationem, noun of action from execrari "to hate, curse," from ex- "out" + sacrare "to devote to holiness or to destruction, consecrate," from sacer "sacred"
1. the act of execrating
2. a curse or imprecation: "The execrations of the prophet terrified the sinful multitude."
3. the object execrated; a thing held in abomination
See also "execration" in Jeremiah's strong words: Jer. 42:18.
Shalom, dear blog readers, and blessings be upon you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Protest in the market

Strange sights this morning in Machane Yehuda open-air market! A man was up on top of the awnings above the bustot, the stalls, putting up protest banners.
The signs say
"VAT on vegetables isn't right and isn't smart!"
"The poor are dying for fresh vegetables!"

In the current economic crunch, the government wants to reach deeper into our pockets, to help the State budget. For instance, by raising Value Added Tax "temporarily" to 16.5% and by imposing VAT on fruits and vegetables!
Very bad news for low-income folks, especially.
Tomorrow the Knesset will vote on the hare-brained idea.
Back home from my morning of food shopping at the lively shuk, I read that Shimon Darvish, chairman of the traders committee of Mahane Yehuda market, and his fellow stallholders would hold a demonstration this afternoon against imposing VAT. They were to be joined by representatives of markets in Ramla, Beersheva, Lod, Tel Aviv's Shuk Hacarmel and Shuk Hatikva, and Shuk Haifa.
To quote the Globes article:
"Darvish says that the government's measure shows that it is cut off from the poorer sections of society. 'I call on the minister of finance and the prime minister to come along with me for a day and to look these people in the eye. They will see the pain and distress of whole families that live on bread, basic cheese, and fruit and vegetables. The markets are the country's biggest soup kitchen. But Steinitz and Bibi don't buy in the market.' . . . "

A Jerusalem Post article states
"Today, more than 60% of produce is sold in supermarkets, which would make VAT collection easier. But the problem of how to impose the tax on produce stands in open-air markets is expected to be a difficult one, as vendors do not have the time or facilities to record all transactions.
. . .
Farmers are concerned that a VAT levy will make fruits and vegetables more expensive and reduce demand."
Nu nu, that's my world here and now in Israel. For looks into other bloggers' places, visit That's My World Tuesday.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A tree to remember

Mystery from last Sunday's post is solved. A previously unknown to me reader kindly sent the answer in her comment.
So, why is this tree on the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University tilted?

Because on July 31, 2002, a bomb inside the nearby student cafeteria killed nine (including five Americans) and injured more than 80.
It was at the height of the Second Intifada against Israel, which was especially severe in Jerusalem.
The terrorist act also injured the Rothberg International School program for a while. Enrollment plunged from 600 undergraduate overseas students each year to less than 100. Many schools in North America banned their students from coming to this "dangerous" place.

To quote the JewishJournal.com link which the reader sent,

"In front of the cafeteria grows an unusual-looking tree: its leaves are hearty and vibrant but its trunk is tilted and its roots jet out of the ground at various angles.
'We have planted a living tree [as a memorial for the bombing victims] which is symbolic,' Hebrew University President Menachem Magidor said. 'Our roots were shaken but, just like the tree, we keep growing and going forward.'
. . . Magidor admitted that the desire to maintain an open and pluralistic feeling on campus, for students of all races and religions, may have blinded administrators to the security risks.
'The first reaction was shock,' he admitted. 'We knew we were not immune, but maybe we thought naively that the campus should be immune.' "
Well, now it is 2009. When I came to the Mt. Scopus campus last week, it was a quick X-ray of my bag, and then I entered a beautiful and relaxed world of students--many Anglos speaking English or accented Hebrew, many Arab students, and even Jewish Israelis. All seemed happy to be students, happy to be alive and free.

The greening

A blessing on your house, O people of Iran.
May justice reign and peace prevail.
Today, Sunday, June 28, bloggers worldwide post in support of freedom-seeking people in Iran. Some of those posts can be seen via City Daily Photo.
Blessings especially to blogger-friends S in Iran and Meead now in Portland.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mt. Herzl as a jumping-off place

This lookout on Mount Herzl has to be the most scenic bus stop in Israel!
You see Yad Vashem on the right, Hadassah on top left, and the village of Ein Kerem in the valley.
Two birds were sitting on what will become the terminus of the new light rail (IF the tram's tracks are ever completed, some year). The train station will be over underground parking, in hopes that Jerusalemites will learn to park and ride.
The bird flew up to sit on the rail. Only in the viewfinder did I realize he had just taken off!
Shabbat shalom to all. And happy Camera-Critters Sunday, already underway, to all who participate or visit our animal meme.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bloggers send balloons

If you are watching the sky on Friday and spot green balloons, think of Iran.
The planned release of the balloons is right now, at 1:00 pm Tehran time (GMT +4 1/2 hours).

Our Iranian blogger-friend posted this message:

"Are you mad about what has been happening inside Iran these days? Well then take a deep breath... blow it all into a Green Balloon... and wait until Friday afternoon to send it up to the sky, wherever you are on this planet. Millions of Iranians inside Iran are planning to paint the sky green on Friday exactly at 1pm Tehran time. The non-violent green movement is being cracked down on the ground, so lets take it to the sky."

I can't find a balloon picture on short notice, so instead here is "Green Void" in Sydney, Australia. Let's pretend it can fly.

I hope one of the balloons (from Mashhad, for instance) will catch the prevailing winds of change and reach us. Tehran is only 1,569 kilometers, 975 miles, east of Jerusalem.
A year ago I saw this distance in terms of how many minutes nuclear missiles would take to reach us. But during this year two young student bloggers have been putting a more human and humane face on their country.

Thank you for that, M. and S. We pray for you and your compatriots.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Evening sky

Some evening pictures from Hadassah hospital (Ein Kerem campus), about 8:00 pm, while waiting for the bus to my village.
Good ones for SkyWatch Friday, I think.
These are the same sleeping cranes you saw from far away a few weeks ago.
My village, with her first lights coming on.
It's just half an hour's walk.

And for the SkyWatchers who missed my funny windsock post, here is another shot of it, at the helicopter landing pad.
A neighboring moshav is up on top of the hill. They and we often have a few helicopter flying over us during the day or night. Not everyone is so lucky to live so close to a world-class medical center. (May we all be well and healthy!)

Gilad Awareness Day

Exactly three years ago our soldier Gilad Schalit was kidnapped when Hamas made a cross-border raid from Gaza into southern Israel. He was 19 then.

Support for his family and public pressure for his release take many forms, like this motorcyclist's banner.
For the story on the protest tent in Jerusalem please see my earlier post.

At the tender age of eleven, Gilad wrote a story in Hebrew about a shark and a fish who strike up an unlikely friendship and learn to live together despite their differences. When the Shark and the Fish First Met has been published as a book.
Do you have three minutes? Then you can hear the whole book, with its message of peace, being read by children around the world, in many languages. On YouTube.
And please hope and/or pray that Gilad will soon be returned, alive, to his family, before another year passes . . . .

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy birthday St. John

On the Church calendar June 24 marks the Nativity of John the Baptist.
 He was born right here, in the Hills of Judea (aka the Jerusalem Hills), so we have many churches and monasteries with his name within easy walking distance.
You can see young John on the priest's vestments, holding and beholding the lamb.
Two years ago today I walked down to St. John in the Desert convent to see (and photograph) the special prayer service for the feast day.

Afterwards we were invited to the refectory to feast on good food and drink. To celebrate!

Visiting Spanish-speaking Franciscans clapped and sang to the music of the guitar out in the courtyard.
It was a happy time, a real birthday party.
More about the prayer and the place in my post of last June 24.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Welcome to ABC Wednesday.
Windsock without wind

Windsock with wind
The sign says "Entrance to helicopter landing pad. No parking!"

At Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Kerem.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Romancing the stones

Several hundred Jerusalem-lovers congregated along the outside of the Old City wall yesterday, joined hands, and gave the city a big hug.
I missed the event, but I was at the first annual Jerusalem Hug in 2007 so here you have those photos.
(All photos can be enlarged with a click)
The warm-up started at a park across from the Jaffa Gate. Dancing in the drum circle.
Hmm, yesterday was the summer solstice too, wasn't it.
It was hippie heaven.
You heard many languages, but not much Hebrew or Arabic.
One lone didgeridoo attracted the camera people.
This nice donkey and his owner ply the tourist route every day. Here, at the New Gate, a happy blond lady sat on the donkey and sang the Christian hymn "Jerusalem, Jerusalem."
As the fife and drums played, folks joined hands and made their way down to the Damascus Gate.
A few of the peacenik organizers gave some words of blessing.
Here's the top of the beautiful Damascus Gate (missing in the previous shot).
Then it was over. But many lingered for just a bit more of the drum beat and to savor a few more minutes of a feeling of solidarity, brotherhood, and peace. Until next May. . .
To see an article with pictures of this year's Jerusalem Hug, please see Ynet.
Other bloggers are posting views of their world today at That's My World Tuesday. You are welcome to participate or to visit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


A funny thing happened on the way to the lecture "Augustine on Jesus the Jew" given by historical Jesus scholar Prof. Paula Fredriksen today.
I noticed this tree!
Well . . . how could you NOT notice it? Any idea what the story could be?
Peeking out from behind the tree was the iconic tower of the Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus. High on the ridge, it is a landmark on the horizon, visible from many parts of Jerusalem.
I wonder what happened to that tree . . .

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A salute

We raise our hand and lift our head and heart to those who march in protest today.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lod's treasure

RuneE over at Visual Norway posts beautiful benches every Friday and invites us to do the same.
On my bench of today are soldiers waiting for a train at the Lod railway station.
Lod is a city between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, near Ben-Gurion Airport.
Lod has been much in the news this week because . . .

because of its incredibly beautiful 1,700-year-old mosaic! It was discovered in a salvage dig in 1996. But because money could not be found for its conservation, it was covered over with dirt again.
(All 3 mosaic photos are by Niki Davidov, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.)
Made around 300 C.E., the mosaic is one of the biggest and most magnificent mosaic floors ever found in Israel. Just imagine, ~9 x 17 meters, that's 180 square meters! No people in it, only ships and animals.
The great news is that grant money from America was given and last week the mosaic was re-exposed, after 13 years! It is being lifted up and will go to the lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority for restoration and preservation.
The project will take about two years. Meanwhile a nice park will be built. The mosaic will then be exhibited in situ for the general public and the residents of the area. The citizens of Lod are proud of their mosaic and want it back.
Before they get it back, however, part of the mosaic will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Please note that photos are by Niki Davidov, from the Israel Antiquities Authority website.
Unfortunately I was not able to get to Lod to see the mosaic on Thursday and Friday, when it was open for viewing for just two days.
More information at the IAA website here (where high resolution versions of the photos above can be downloaded) and here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mending wall

A moshav is a collective agricultural village. Today, Israel's moshavim are largely privatized.
My moshav nestles in the Jerusalem Hills, also known as the Mountains of Judea.
The public buildings are on top of our hill. Then, in about 7 or 8 concentric circles, the houses and chicken coops of the moshavniks (members) cling to the sides of the hill.

Enlarging the photos will help to clarify the text.
Just like with the ancient agricultural terraces that fill the hills that surround Jerusalem, each terrace (or level) of houses in the village has to be supported by (modern) stone terrace walls above and below it.
The village was founded in 1949 so our terrace walls are only 60 years old.
In the wake of our winter rainy season, my next-door neighbor's wall collapsed into the street!

A few weeks later I saw several young men rebuilding the wall. To my surprise they were not speaking Arabic. I'm glad there are still a few Jews who retain the knowledge of terrace wall construction.
I would love to try it!
This post was prompted by Petrea's post about a mysterious wall she found in her town, Pasadena, California. The lively comments there include Robert Frost's wonderful poem "Mending Wall."
The skies above the village will be my contribution to SkyWatch Friday. Pay a visit to some other bloggers and their sky. Enjoy.
WHAT are they feeding this cactus?!?

In the "garden suburb" neighborhood of Rechavia in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Doors of imagination

V is for valise
as seen today, much to my surprise, in a lovely residential street of Rechavia in Jerusalem.
More V words aVailable over at ABC Wednesday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Those magnificent men in their flying machines

This strange sight caught my eye as I was leaving the Old City last Monday, via Jaffa Gate.

(Click! The photos are more fun when enlarged.)
Two men below and two men above were slowly, cautiously pulling on ropes while calling out advice back and forth across the moat.
Their contraption was swaying above the dry moat of Jerusalem's Citadel.
You never know what you will find when out taking pictures in Jerusalem!
I had to hurry to my bus back to the village and left without understanding what it was I had seen.
Two days later we learned that the first-ever Light Festival was opening in the Old City. Aha!
By then the bird and the flying machine were safely hung up and and also lit up, being appreciated by big crowds of "light art" lovers.
The brochure says this kinetic sculpture by Nitzan Rafaeli is an amusing tribute to motion and light--"Leonardo meets Newton, Newton meets Tinguely."
(Jean Tinguely is the Swiss kinetic artist [whose fantastic creations I saw in his museum in Fribourg].)
At night she turns from white to blue to white. The bluebird of happiness!
Another installation from the Festival shines in yesterday's post.
That's my artistic world this week. Visit the other bloggers posting today for That's My World.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Light art in Jerusalem!

Free art!
The first-ever Jerusalem Light Festival is taking place from June 10-16 at almost 30 locations around and in the Old City, featuring artists from Israel and abroad.

Just outside Jaffa Gate are Gil Teichman's dynamic light cubes, "Miskhak HaKubiot."
Click to enlarge!
Leave it to the Israelis! This father couldn't resist setting his toddler on top of a cube. It was weird seeing her glow orange color.
This particular light art installation made a pleasant place to hang out--or hang OVER.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Kittens everywhere

There is a fresh crop of kittens at my friends' house down in the woods.
Can you say the Hebrew word for kitten? It's fun. ha-tal-TOOL
That first letter is like ch, a gutteral.
They are feral cats but come for the free food.
For more animals from every corner of Blog Land, visit today's Camera-Critter Sunday.
Shalom and meow to all.