Friday, July 31, 2009

Finally, pretty benches!

While in downtown Jerusalem this morning for a vision test (to renew my Arkansas driver's license), I was near the Sergei Courtyard and decided to step inside and photograph the old agricultural installations on display.

What a surprise to find the olive presses and grindstones covered with old clothes!
Apparently is was Chofshi-shishi, sort of a Free Friday that happens every few months. You can bring your shmates and used books to give away or you can just take stuff you need for free.

Well, since the agricultural implements were not photographable, I went in search of benches to show Rune at Visual Norway and the other Bench of the Week friends.
Look at these beauties!
I never realized we had any unusual benches in Jerusalem until this mini-meme opened my eyes and made me search for them.

Complete with a pergola and what looks like a stylized cross above.
The Sergei Hostel was built in 1890 for Christian pilgrims from Russia.
But if I understand the sign correctly, the Jewish benches are a rather new addition.

The view from the garden benches is a fountain with lily pads.
I went home happy with the surprise photos (and also with a little bag of free clothes). :D
Shabbat shalom, friends.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tisha B'Av by the Western Wall

Some people stayed the whole night of Tisha B'Av beside the beloved Western Wall.
When the sun came up and peaked over the Kotel, Jews were still praying or sitting on the ground as in mourning, reading the Book of Lamentations.
You too can see the Hebrew and English text and even listen to the Prophet Jeremiah's words being chanted at (just click on Eicha).
Please see yesterday's post for more about this special day.

This wall was not totally knocked down by the Romans in 70 C.E. when the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed. It is the only remaining remnant, not of the Temple building itself, but of the retaining wall of the elevated platform called the Temple Mount.
For 19 centuries it was a Wailing Wall.
Women to the right of the mechitsa screen, men to the left.

These photos are from the 9th of Av, three years ago. But it would have looked the same this morning. Nothing changes much.
Jews have been observing this fast day for over 1,900 years and will continue to do so.
As Yossi Goldman of Chabad writes,
"Jews never had history. We have memory. History can become a book, a museum, and forgotten antiquities. Memory is alive. And memory guarantees our future."
The sun and sky over Jerusalem are for SkyWatch Friday .

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tisha B'Av

The 9th day of the month of Av began tonight.
Our tradition teaches that many major catastrophes have happened to the Jewish people on this date, foremost of which was the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second Temple.
Religious, and some not so religious, Jews will be following the customs of mourning these next 24+ hours, including no food or water.
Many are at the Western Wall right now, sitting on the ground praying and reading Eicha. Many will stay there at the Kotel until morning prayers.
I sat on an old stone floor closer to home, in solitude, reading the pained words of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. In Hebrew it begins, "Eicha . . . " "Oh how . . ."
"How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!"
I see Jerusalem on the distant hill and think of how she suffered. And wonder what future catastrophe she may yet have to endure.
A little more about Tisha B'Av is at my post of last year.
The Hebrew facing English text of this short and moving book of the Bible is here, just a click away. Please, join us.
UPDATE: A website just came to my attention where you can hear it chanted! Click on a chapter for Megillat Eicha at

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Boys busting bulk bags

Remember the family across the street? The ones who brought in bales of straw, who later began making bricks of mud?
(Can you tell B is the letter of the day for ABC Wednesday?)

Now they brought a truckload of bales!
Is that the right English word? In Hebrew we call them balot.
The driver worked the hydraulics while young neighbor boy hooked the chains to the bale handles.
Big brother started bustin' those bulk bags with a knife!

Slit and run!

Oi, be careful, boys!

Those bags can hold 1500 kg.

Beginning to rake the piles flat was the last stage for that evening.
Who knows what will be next??

Monday, July 27, 2009

Imperial Austrian Post Office

Welcome to Omar ibn al-Khattab Square, just in from the Jaffa Gate, in the Old City, in Jerusalem.
The building on the right is the Swedish Christian Study Centre, but from 1857 to the 1890s it housed the United States Consulate.

Next to the Swedes is another old building whose roof you see on the left of the photo.

Since 1965 the Christian Information Centre, run by the Franciscans, is housed there. Drop in to ask about the Christian holy places or hours of prayer services, to get brochures and maps or to buy books, etc. Right now they are hosting a big exhibit about the journeys of Paul, made for the Catholic Year of Paul which just ended.

But as the plaque says, from 1859 to 1914 this same building was the AUSTRIAN IMPERIAL POST OFFICE.
Their international postal service was pretty primitive, but it was much more efficient and trustworthy than the existing Ottoman post.
Following the Austrian's lead, similar postal services were then established by France, Russia, Germany, and Italy.
You can read the fascinating story of the building and the P.O. at the Jerusalem Municality website. Their source, verbatim, is Jerusalem, a walk through time, Yad Ben-Zvi's Walking-Tour Guide.
When World War I broke out, the Ottoman authorities closed Jerusalem's foreign post offices, except for the German and Austrian military mail services, thus ending the Austrian public postal service in the city.
The Post Office used to look like this around the turn of the century.
The photo is from Wikimedia Commons.
Starting tonight the weekly tours will be leaving from That's My World. Click to join a few.
Hope you enjoyed this little tour in the Old City. Shalom!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Date palm trees




Extra Large

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sweet jackal pup!

Look what a sweet jackal pup!!
I was coming up from the woods at 7:45 pm, looked down to the olive grove, and was lucky to see the youngster, out all alone. He stood, very alert, just long enough for me to zoom in and turn off the flash and get two shots. Then he dashed off into the thicket to tell Mama and Papa Jackal about the two-legged animal he had seen.
You can read how baby jackals are raised in this article.
It says there that "Family or pack members communicate with each other by a screaming yell and yapping, or a siren-like howl when a kill is located."
I recorded two little sound clips of these voices that you can hear here.
Click on my label "jackal" for more pictures of these wonderful animals.
This is my contribution to Camera-Critters meme. Come and join us.

Friday, July 24, 2009

July inertness

Our meteorologists are in a rut: every single day for weeks now they have predicted 31 degrees C for Jerusalem. That's 88 F. That's in the shade, IF you can find any.

Physical exertion is futile.

Drop in at RuneE's blog Visual Norway every Friday to see our little meme, Bench of the Week. Contribute yours, too. C'mon, plop down on a bench and take a rest from the heat.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day is done

Our hill, one of many in the Jerusalem Hills (aka Hills of Judea), welcomes you to SkyWatch Friday. This is what we see to the west.
Almost wish I had a bugle or trumpet to play the old American "Taps" at such evening times.
The original version was purely instrumental. The first set of lyrics were written by Horace Lorenzo Trim.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar drawing nigh,
Falls the night.
Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.
Then goodnight, peaceful night;
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright.
God is near, do not fear,
Friend, goodnight.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene's feast day today, and many Christians in Israel are in church.

The first Jerusalem church that comes to mind is, of course, the landmark Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives.
From their website:
"Today, the church is the place of daily worship for the women’s convent of St. Mary Magdalene, under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. The sisterhood was established in 1936 by Mother Mary (Robinson), an English convert to Orthodoxy. The convent is a thriving community of 30 nuns from all over the world: Russians, Americans, Australians, Arabs, Serbs and Romanians."
I was surprised to encounter native-English-speaking nuns when I browsed their gift shop. For more about that, please see my post from last July.

This is a Catholic friend and neighbor who was ecstatic to receive this 1787 engraving.
The German below it says (if I understand well) that it is after the original artwork by Cavalieri Celesti that was or is in the St. Johann Nepomuk church in München.

But enlarge the photo!
Is it not a highly unusual depiction of the story in Luke 7:36-50?!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ain't nobody here but us chickens

ABC Wednesday starts again today with letter A.
And strangely enough, what came to mind was one of the first jokes I remember my grandmother telling me as a kid in Chicago.
"Ain't nobody here but us chickens!" is the punchline of the old joke.
It is the answer the farmer hears when he hears a commotion in the chicken coop one night and calls, "Who's in there?!"

Apparently it became a song as well. You can hear all the lyrics sung by a crowd of Muppets in this funny video.

My moshav (a collective agricultural village) in the Jerusalem Hills is on all the sides of a hill, on terraces. Agriculture is impossible. So in the old days the government told the moshavniks in the mountains that they must raise laying hens. Every household had to build and tend a large henhouse, in Hebrew, a lool.
Now the moshavim, like the kibbutzim, are largely privatized. But we still have about fifteen big chicken coops, loolim, in operation. Always big fresh eggs at the little grocery store.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Talitha Kumi

This busy intersection is on King George Street in central Jerusalem.
But when Talitha Kumi was built in 1867 it was in the middle of nowhere.
It was one of the first buildings to be built outside the Old City's protective wall.
It was founded as a home for orphaned Arab girls, later developing into a girls’ boarding school.
These are some of the Deaconess Sisters who cared for and taught the girls.

The photo is from the website of the modern, and now co-ed, Talitha Kumi School run by the Evangelical Lutherans.
In 1961 the School moved to Beit Jala, a Christian village outside Bethlehem, in the West Bank.

Enlarge this photo above to see the peace dove with olive branch, the symbol of the Deaconesses.

These windows, the chimney, and part of the facade were saved when Old Talitha Kumi was demolished in 1980.
The three elements were erected here, 50 meters from the original site.
That we may remember.

The plaque explains that German architect (and explorer) Conrad Schick (who designed so much of 19th century Jerusalem) incorporated European academic style with Eastern motifs for this unique building.

I was surprised to learn from this vintage photograph that the arch with the clock was actually on the upper level.
If you open your New Testament to Mark 5:41, no matter what language your Bible is in, you will probably see the Aramaic words talitha, kumi.
 It means "Little girl, arise."
Dr. Georg Dürr, principal of the school, writes this in his welcome to the nice website:

The name of the institution has been linked with the story of the resurrection of that little girl from the dead, the Evangelist Mark writes: "And Jesus took the damsel by the hand and said to her "Talitha Kumi" which means "Little Girl I say unto thee arise." 
The name itself has turned into a commitment for us. It's a word that calls for life. A word that fills someone's heart with courage and make him look at the future with hope and optimism. We prepare our students to face life with courage and self-confidence. . . .

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The easel life in Jerusalem

Summer is a season that draws our painters out to the Great Outdoors.
This one is painting the Machaneh Yehuda market.
Click on her canvas to enlarge and see one street of our big Jerusalem shuk.

And this woman found a vantage point on the outer side of the Old City ramparts, just past the Dung Gate.
From way up there she would be seeing the Mount of Olives on the eastern horizon.
Robin, at her Israeli blog "Around the Island," invites us every Sunday to show what summer means for us. Take a look at this nice new Summer Stock meme , or sign Mr. Linky and join us with your own summery pictures.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wild cats get friendlier

Seek ye shade where it may be found

The lazy days of summer

Curiosity got the cat

Hello . . . can I come in . . . ?
Lots more feline, bovine, ovine, etc. animals await your visit at our weekend Camera-Critters meme. C'mon over!