Monday, August 31, 2009

Big Theme Day

It's not just big . . . it's COLOSSAL!

The sign calls this strange thing lying in a Jerusalem street a colossal monolithic column.
Today it is between the police station and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. But several thousand years ago this was a lonely place--a quarry.
The column cracked while it was being shaped and was thus rendered useless. The stonecutters left it in situ, still attached to the bedrock--all 12 meters / 40 feet of it.
Perhaps Herod had wanted it for the colonnades of the Second Temple . . . .

September 1 is Theme Day at City Daily Photo. See what the CDP bloggers have posted for our BIG theme.Click here to view thumbnails for all participants
I'm so happy to say "our"! This is my first official participation!
Today is also That's My World Tuesday where blogger friends offer a little guided tour of their corner of the world. Lots to visit today!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ice cream in the street

Ice cream tastes good twelve months a year. But in the summer it's fun to see folks licking away at ice cream cones anywhere they can find to sit.
Enlarge the photo to see pretty tiles on the steps and walls of the ceramics gallery.
The area is Nachalat Shiv'a, founded in 1869. It was the third Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the Old City wall.
To see how it was saved from the wrecking ball, please read the plaque on the wall.
Robin's Summer Stock meme still has a few more Sundays to go before we leave the summer theme. Pay a visit or join us.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Entangled elk

Why am I posting a grandson for today's Camera-Critters?
Well, you see how the thoughtful and careful Australians cover the swing's chains with a stiff coating?
If this had been done at a school in Pennsylvania, it might have prevented a bull elk from getting tangled in the chains of their swing set.
Willard Hill, at his wonderful "Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer" blog, explains it like this:
"Bulls often spar with other bulls, or rub their antlers against trees, etc. It seems likely that this was the cause of the entrapment, as the swing was likely a tempting target and gave a satisfy response to being punched with his antlers, until they became entangled."
If you haven't seen it already, please be sure to see the dramatic rescue of the wild elk, documented by Willard! Click here, then here, and finally here for his three posts.
UPDATE: Oops, I see Willard is now signed in at Camera-Critters. Good! Let's let him speak for himself. :D

The memory of trees

Click to enlarge
This picture above was just e-mailed to my inbox. The Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemet invites us all to donate a tree to be planted at the Kennedy Memorial.

The memorial, circled in this photo taken from my village, is in the Aminadav Forest.
I have hiked up to it several times. It is a quiet place of solitude.
It was built in 1966 in memory of President John F. Kennedy.
Please see the close-up picture of Yad Kennedy in my post of last November.
One tree is $18, probably because 18 is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew letters chet and yod, which together spell "chai," meaning LIFE.
I promise to go up and visit your tree if you plant one.

Arlington meets Mount Herzl

America buries another Kennedy today.
Our leaders say farewell to a faithful friend of Israel.

A touching story was revealed by Prof. Leonard Fein of Boston and was picked up by Israel's Haaretz.
After Prime Minister Yitshak Rabin was assassinated (in 1995), Senator Edward Kennedy dug up some earth from the Arlington graves of his brothers John and Robert, who had also been gunned down. He carried the dirt onto the plane to Israel. After Rabin was buried on Mount Herzl, Ted waited for the crowd and the photographers to disperse. Then, on his hands and knees, he gently placed the American earth onto the freshly-dug Israel earth.
Now the grave is covered by the unusual tombstones which Rabin's widow commissioned from architect Moshe Safdie. Yitzhak Rabin is written in Hebrew on the black marble, Leah Rabin on the white.
May the leaders rest in peace.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Investigating the bench

While on a bench-finding safari for RuneE's Bench on Friday mini-meme, I discovered a lovely place tucked into the shaded streets of garden suburb Beit HaKerem.

Have you ever seen palm trees growing through a deck?!

Simple sturdy benches

with a view to a rock garden, complete with a little waterfall.

The pleasantness of the garden and of the real grass lawn seemed incongruous with the serious and weighty purpose of the place. The sign says National Inquiry Commission.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

White on blue

Blue and white--Israel's colors (like on the flag and in the tallit prayer shawl).
White doves and a blue sky.

Remember the baby bird from last Saturday's post?
These are the baby's parents and the adults who live in my neighbor's dovecot.
Enlarge the photo and you'll see the feathers on their legs, covering their feet.
Happy SkyWatch Friday to all the sky-posters.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Laying a new foundation

Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus,
"Can a man lay a new foundation every day?"
The old man said,
"If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment."
From the wisdom of the Desert Fathers

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Faux flora

This was my first time to see fake grass in Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem you don't see many lawns at all, normally. So the sheer area and deep green of this one caught my eye.
The Optical Center was closed for vacation for the whole of August, so I could not get through the gate to inspect their grass. I wonder if those flowers are fake as well . . .

Israel is suffering from a prolonged drought. This summer the government finally woke up and is trying to do something about saving water. So, no more watering of lawns and watering of gardens is severely restricted.

"The drought tax passed by the Knesset [July 15] is draconic and likely to cause a public outcry that will negate the purpose of the tax to begin with. The fine of NIS 20 [> $5] per cubic meter above quota is three times the average cost of NIS 6.5 per cubic meter, an
unprecedented use of strength by the government to affect [sic] a behavioral change."

The quote is from a media brief by Moreno Meister, where you can learn more about artificial turf use and costs in Israel.

You would think that we would start manufacturing the fake grass. But no.

And the stupid part is that for grass imported from countries with which we don't have certain trade agreements, the government is adding 12% customs. It should be in the national interest to lower prices, not raise them, and thus encourage water saving.
Faux grass is such a new idea for this semi-desert country that the customs folks just didn't know how to classify it, I suspect. Would you believe? They put it in the category of carpets.
More information in the Jerusalem Post article, "Israelis take to artificial turf."

ABC Wednesday celebrates the letter F today. For fun, go see what other bloggers have come up with.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Sorry folks, I'm feeling a bit cuckoo tonight.
I'm having an episode of the dreaded Bloggers' Block.

I suggest you visit the guided tours over at That's My World Tuesday instead.
Or, if you have not seen my post about the mosques yesterday, you might enjoy it, especially the two very special comments contributed by two young Iranian Muslim blog-friends.
Thanks for your patience. I'll be back tomorrow with something on Jerusalem, after a good night's sleep. Good night.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ramadan and the Jerusalem qibla

The new moon was sighted. Ramadan has begun.
Ramadan kareem to all our Muslim blogger-friends.
Coming this year as it does in the heat of summer [as in, Robin's Summer Stock], the holy month must be a great challenge to observant Muslims, who may neither eat nor drink from sunrise to sunset.
This is a copy of part of an old mosque in the Tower of David Museum of Jerusalem History.
The minbar is a stepped pulpit from which the imam preaches.
The mihrab is a niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla, that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying.

But it was not always so.
Like Jews then and now, the earliest Muslims also prayed in the direction of Jerusalem, specifically, facing the Haram e-Sharif (what we call the Temple Mount).
To quote Wikipedia --
"This first qibla was used for over 13 years, from 610 CE until 623 CE. . . .
According to accounts from the prophet Muhammad's companions, the change happened very suddenly during the noon prayer in Medina, in a mosque now known as Masjid al-Qiblatain (Mosque of the Two Qiblahs). Muhammad was leading the prayer when he received revelations from Allah instructing him to take the Kaaba as the Qiblah.
According to the historical accounts, Muhammad, who had been facing Jerusalem, upon receiving this revelation, immediately turned around to face Mecca, and those praying behind him also did so."
And the rest is history.
UPDATE: Sarah of Mashhad (IRAN) Daily Photos
has contributed new information and also personal insights in a comment. Don't miss it!
And now good input is given also by "Green," whom I am sure you all remember.
Thank you, my young friends, for sharing your knowledge and opinions.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A future peace symbol

Meet my new next door neighbor!
It is one of those special white pigeons with feathers all down their legs.
Click and enlarge the photo to see the funny stockings.

I can't find the name in English. In Hebrew, they are something like Timberim, if I heard correctly.

My human neighbor (who is shy and shall remain headless here) is very inventive at building things and he loves animals. He built a dovecot, put it on his roof, bought a few pairs of the fancy white doves, added some nesting boxes, and now the babies hatched!
The adult birds are let out to fly every afternoon. A beautiful sight as they circle around in a group.

Come visit some of the animals of a hundred bloggers over at Camera-Critter Sunday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

On the bench in Kikar Denia

The press and the people this week are asking why we so seldom see police officers literally on the street, outside of their squad cars.

Well, I was so surprised to see two cops outside sitting on a bench that I pulled out my camera.

And if on a bench, why not use the photos for RuneE's little Friday meme, "Bench of the Week"?

The view is the sculpture of people in a boat. For the moving rescue story behind it, please see my post about Jerusalem's Denmark Square.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Heading home at sunset

click for bigger photos

I had a good visit near the coast yesterday, mostly looking out from a relative's balcony at this view--construction of a new wing of Tel Aviv Museum.

The strange tower on the left soars upward out of a 17-floor office building in HaKirya military base.

The bus home to Jerusalem passes the Azrieli towers.
The third, triangular highrise is behind these two.

Just a few minutes on the highway out of Tel Aviv the just-cut hay fields were golden in the setting sun. Fresh hay in big round bales.
I was glad to leave the skyscrapers behind and head back to my beloved hills next to Jerusalem.

Such a small distance across the country from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Less than an hour on the bus. But the two cities are worlds apart.
To look at skies from around the larger world, just click on SkyWatch Friday and be transported.

Hungarian in Jerusalem

Hungarians celebrate August 20 as St. Stephen's Day. Stephen was crowned King of Hungary over a thousand years ago.
This I learned at the always-enjoyable and ever-educational "Every day's a holiday? why wait to celebrate?" Great site, new everyday!
The side chapel that last year sported a wreath in Hungary's colors is in the crypt of the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion.
Can anyone help me with the meaning of the inscription?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


An old man in tattered clothes in Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem was loading his cart with old stuff a woman had brought out to him.
To recycle?
To sell?
To distribute to those in need (even more in need than he)?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Exciting excavations for ABC Wednesday meme.

I work from time to time at digs in Jerusalem (as a paid fieldworker, not an archaeologist).
This one was at Holyland Park.
On top of a high hill we uncovered Canaanite shaft tombs from 4,000 years ago.

Canaanites were buried in small caves at the bottom of the entrance shafts, with jugs of provisions "for the journey."

Skulls and skeletons.

Beautifully shaped, unusual piece of pottery.
For more pictures and stories about the exciting excavations, please click on the ARCHAEOLOGY label below.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rabbis vs. swine flu

Looks like a boring job. But somebody has to do it, . . . right . . . ?

Behind the glass doors, you put your bag through the X-ray machine and then walk through the metal detector. Then you're free to enter the Western Wall Plaza and approach the Wall.
Well, unless you are wearing pants or skirt or sleeves that are too short. Then this [what I call] "prayer police" woman will nab you and have you put a "modesty scarf" over the offending bare skin. Orders of the Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places.
Some other rabbis in Israel have been busy coming up with highly interesting ways to fight swine flu before it reaches biblical proportions. We already have over 2,100 verified cases and nine have died.
1. The top Sephardic rabbis urge us to start a 24-hour fast tomorrow at sunset. If you can't last a whole summer day without water or food, they say half a day is OK.
And if that is too hard, you should a ta'anit dibur. I had never even heard this term before. Literally translated, "a fasting from talking." Jews taking a vow of silence??
More about it here.
2. Some fifty rabbis and "kabbalists" armed with ceremonial trumpets took to the skies over Israel a week ago to battle the swine flu virus . They circled Israel chanting prayers and blowing shofars ( rams' horns) in an Arkia airplane.
Full story here.
3. Many people touch the mezuzah on the doorpost when they enter a building (even a hospital) and then kiss their fingers. (See my earlier post for more about mezuzot.)
Doctors are being asked if this is wise right now. Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said "If a specific order is given in the matter, the mezuzah must be kissed from the air, to ensure that the custom is not forgotten."
4. The Alter Rebbe of Ger has told his Hassidim to stop their old custom of toasting from one communal cup. Anything to discourage the spread of what rabbis prefer to call H1N1 (swine--feh!).
Sei gesund! Be well!
Believe it or not, this is the state of my world these past few weeks and I dare to share it at That's My World Tuesday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Italian Festival in Jerusalem

Summer in Jerusalem means lots of free culture, music, entertainment in the streets.

Every August the Museum of Italian Jewish Art puts on a 3-day festival in their courtyard.
See my last Friday posts for more about it.

Gates opened at 6:00 pm and the crowd grew as the sun and the temperature went down.

The chocolate booth was my favorite. The flag of Italy on fine Belgian chocolate. :)

And tall bottles of chocolate liqueur. Yum!
The roving commedia dell'arte actors raised a big smile from the chocolate girls.

All manner of pasta. Four packages for fifty shekels.
Another counter was offering bowls of steaming pasta in sauce.

Near the Italian-language book stall was a table full of wooden Pinocchio figures.

The pretty young opera singer was accompanied by harpsicord and cello.
I mostly heard the music from inside the museum (entrance having been reduced to only ten shekels, about $2.60).
Part of the museum is a functioning synagogue with furnishings from the Conegliano Veneto Synagogue, built in 1701 in the small village between Venice and Padua.
More about that in a future post.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The falling-asleep of Mary

To the Marys, Marias, and Miriams -- a blessed name day to you.
To Christians who are celebrating the Assumption of Mary, a happy feastday to you.

From the day's liturgy at the Dormition Abbey, in Latin and German, with the lovely traditional Gregorian chant notation. Enlarge the photo and see if you can sing along. :)
August 15 fell on a Sabbath and since Israel's buses rest on the Sabbath, I could not get into Jerusalem today to observe the celebration of the Assumption of Mary.
You are, however, welcome to see the pictures from my year-ago posts here and here.

Weird little creature

What IS this?! Does anyone know its name?

Its head is on the right.
I stepped outside my house and saw it inching its way forward like a worm. Touched it with a twig and it curled up into a ball.
All those leafy-like things are part of the animal (I learned to my surprise)!
So is it a caterpillar, you think?
All creatures great and small are posted every week at Camera-Critters Sunday. You are invited.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Commedia dell'arte in Jerusalem

Italian Festival -- Art and Pasta
the poster says.

It was my first time to see the 3-day festival put on every summer by the Museum of Italian Jewish Art.

Masked and costumed actors interacted with the crowd.

Their funny antics were billed as Commedia dell'arte.
I'm reading now that this kind of improvised drama started in 14th century Italy.

More pictures from the event tomorrow.
But now, Shabbat shalom, Sabbath peace to you.