Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beach cat

Resting on the ubiquitous black basalt stones of Tiberias, a meditative cat gazes over the tranquil Sea of Galilee.

I have been in Tiberias doing archaeology two weeks now (one more week to go) and most of the hot days were hazy like in this shot taken at 4 pm.
Only a very few times was the visibility excellent, allowing us to see the kibbutzim on the eastern shore of the lake and roads up to the Golan Heights.
Shalom to all the meme friends coming to visit from Camera-Critters.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Light on the water

The lights of a tourist boat reflected on the calm waters of the Sea of Galilee.
This is a party boat about to dock at the Lido. From the shore I could hear the loud music and the stomping of dancing feet.
Later I will show you the more reverent kind of Galilee boats--the ones for Christian pilgrims.
For "Weekend Reflections," hosted by James in Pennsylvania, half a world away from Tiberias.

Basalt and a bunch of benches

Shalom dear friends!
I have missed you so much while being away these last two weeks doing archaeology in Tiberias.
Fortunately the phone company fixed my Internet connection meanwhile, so I can catch up on your blogs this weekend before returning to the final week of the dig.
Thank you for your patience and your comments!

For RuneE's "Bench on Friday" mini-meme over at Visual Norway (to which you are invited), here is a whole truckload of picnic benches.
They were being off-loaded at the place (whatever it is going to be) across from the hostel where I am staying in Tiberias.
Notice the wall on the right. All of old and older Tiberias is built of this same heavy black basalt stone. The preponderance of it somehow gives a heavy and dark feeling in this strange city below sea level.
So different from Jerusalem of Gold.
Shabbat shalom to you all!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Washing the floor

Shalom dear friends. I have been away (far away) on a dig for six days, without my laptop. And now, coming home for the weekend, I find my modem is not working. So, a few minutes on the neighbors' wireless now is all that is possible.
Hopefully, after another week of archaeology in Tiberias, I'll come home next Friday and the telephone company will have fixed the ADSL connection. Missing you!
Digging is not all pickaxe, turia, trowel, and brush. Sometimes, if you are lucky, it is also washing a mosaic floor with wet rags!
This one is probably 6th or 7th century.
The dig is fun. Nice group of young staff and many volunteers from abroad. Tiberias is very hot, in the 90s F.
Lots more pics next week. Thanks for waiting. Shalom to you all!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Street food

Soon-to-be French fries, known in Hebrew as chips, on the hot sidewalk at 9:46 a.m. waiting for the restaurant to open.
On Agrippas Street, near Machaneh Yehuda shuk, Jerusalem.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Approaching evening

Click to enlarge, please.

A mother hurrying home (or to the shuk?) as the sun sets on Jerusalem's Nachlaot neighborhood.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Leading forward

Leading Forward
"You do not need to attain perfection in order to lead.
You need only to discover which way is forward
and begin moving in that direction."

A Daily Dose of Wisdom from the Lubavitcher Rebbe
-words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman
Tishrei 30, 5770 * October 18, 2009

I will be "following" some young Hebrew University archaeologist leaders northward today, to Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, for a few weeks of excavations.
Some automatic posts will appear but I will check in with you all only on Friday and Saturday, back home.
Tiberias is in the second lowest place on earth (after the Dead Sea). The lowest part of the hillside city, near the Kinneret lake (Sea of Galilee), is 212 meters or 606 feet below sea level.
The temperatures this week are 40 degrees (high 90s F).
A hot time to be doing archaeology.
Hope to bring you some good pictures of the expedition. Shalom!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Waiting their turn

To celebrate her first twenty years of living in Israel, a friend gave a party for all the diverse people who are part of her life here.
The dinner was held in the courtyard of a beautiful old stone house in the neighboring village of Ein Kerem.
The guests included religious Jews and seculars, young and old, nuns and monks, and a Palestinian pastor from Bethlehem.
Conversations flowed in German, Hebrew, English, and French.

But even more fun to watch were the CATS.

They were so disciplined! They stood up tall to sniff the meat but never once jumped up on the serving tables.

They politely waited their turn. Toward the end of the evening enough little pieces of food had fallen on the floor that they could scavenge under our tables.

I'm happy to add these well-behaved cats to the weekly Camera-Critters menagerie.

A reflecting bench

Israel Antiquities Authority, Hebrew University Department of Archaeology, and the Moriah Construction Company yesterday gave a whole day of lectures about current and recent digs in and around Jerusalem. Over fifty of them (digs, not lectures)!
Lectures and some discussion from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm.
That is a lot of sitting.

The best presenters were the three archaeologists with whom I have been privileged to dig in the last few years.

Near the lecture hall I found this piece of art.
Its bench is available for sitting . . .

. . . if you don't mind the strangeness of sitting on a mirror!
This will fit nicely into both our Friday bench meme (see more at RuneE's Virtual Norway) and the reflection meme (visit James' Newtown Area Photo).
Shabbat shalom and bon weekend to all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Holy Basin

Hey, where's autumn??
Jerusalem is having some days of 34 degrees (low 90s F) and even at night it's in the low 20s (low 70s F).
The sky was hazy and hot today at 4:30 pm, close to sunset.
Here we are looking south from Mount Scopus toward the "holy basin," which contains the Temple Mount and the Old City. Enlarge these photos; you will recognize the golden Dome of the Rock.
Over the hills on the horizon starts the desert.

Here is the same view as seen through the window of the Hebrew University's Hecht synagogue.
Today was my first time inside.
What a place to pray for the peace of Jerusalem! It doesn't get much better.
Other skies can be enjoyed today at SkyWatch Friday. Endless variety.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Back door delivery

Unloading the day's vegetables for a restaurant on Agrippas Street in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

M is for Menschelach

M is the letter of the day on ABC Wednesday.

Metal shutters blowing in the wind?

Menschelach to the rescue!
Little people made of iron!
Known by their Yiddish name, these sweet menschelach are collectors items today.

I always kind of feel sorry for her when she has to hang upside down, not needed, if the shutters are shut.
Menschelach were brought to Israel by the Templers .
The Templegesellschaft was a German sect of Protestants expelled from the Lutheran Church in 1868. They came to Eretz Israel in the 19th and 20th centuries and founded settlements.
Jerusalem's beautiful German Colony was built by the industrious Templers, beginning in 1878.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The call to prayer, on video!

Turkey and Armenia have just signed historic accords aimed to end a century of hostility and mistrust between them.
I wish them luck. Today's post for That's My World Tuesday (Klaus' meme is one year old today!) is dedicated to the people living in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.

If you remember an earlier post about the Armenian Orthodox St. James Cathedral, we said that many centuries ago the Ottoman Turks issued an edict forbidding the ringing of church bells in Jerusalem. As a legal loophole, a wooden board or an iron sheet called a simandron (or nakos, in Arabic) cleverly replaced bells to call the monks and the public to prayer.
Ottoman rule ended in 1917 and today Israel has freedom of religious expression. Many church bells ring in the Old City. But in memory of those centuries of Moslem prohibition of the bells, an Armenian monk emerges from the church every weekday and hammers on the simandron just before 3:00 pm vespers.

Try not to be distracted by the two women who cross the church courtyard on their way to buy candles to light during the service. Let's just say that it shows how well "hidden" I was beside a pillar while filming (which is forbidden).
What do you prefer? Did you enjoy the spirited hammering on the simandron, right next to you, or would you rather hear bells up in a tower?

(For more about Armenians in Jerusalem please click on my "Armenians" label below or in the margin.)
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saints and Hansen's in Hawaii and Jerusalem

Mazal tov! Congratulations to Hawaii. Their first saint was canonized in Rome this morning by Pope Benedict XVI.
Father Damien came to Hawaii in 1864. Saint Damien spent many years ministering to the leper colony on Molokai.
But no one tells his story more movingly than Cloudia at Comfort Spiral in her post today.

Nineteenth century Jerusalem also had what were then (mistakenly) called lepers, and they were housed behind this meter-thick stone wall in Talbieh.
Talbieh was not the prestigious neighborhood it is today. It was on the pale of settlement, subject to attacks by bands of robbers.
This one little gate was therefore the only entrance to the compound.

Jesus Hilfe (the Jesus Help Asylum) was established in 1887 by the city's Protestant community.
(Another source says that Jesus Hilfe was the name of the builder.)
It was designed by Conrad Schick, a German missionary and self-taught architect.
The Herrenhut Brotherhood of the Moravian Church ran the facility between 1887 and 1950. Staff came from Europe to care for the patients, who were mostly Moslems, although there were some Christians and a few Jews. The German Deaconess sisters were devoted to treating the suffering ones.

Rabbi Aryeh Levin (1886-1969) was our Jewish version of a saint. He is called The Tsadik (the saintly one) of Jerusalem.
He was one of the few brave enough to set foot inside the hospital.
He voluntarily came to visit the sick regularly, it is said, and especially on Rosh Hashana when he would blow the shofar.

Each floor had access to its own toilet via a bridge.
A cure did not exist back then, so care of the patients was based on the accepted principles of hygiene, fresh air, proper nourishment, physical activity, and spiritual support.
Norwegian Dr. Gerhard Hansen identified the leprosy bacillus in 1879. Since then the disease has been known by the less ominous name of "Hansen's Disease."
In 1948, following the establishment of the State of Israel and the division of Jerusalem between Jordan and Israel, the asylum found itself on the Israeli side of the city. Some of the patients and staff left, moving to an asylum in the Arab village of Silwan.
In 1950 the Moravian Church sold the entire compound to the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Ministry of Health took over the running of the place and renamed it the Hansen Government Hospital.
With the development of an effective cure for Hansen's Disease, patients were gradually rehabilitated and discharged. The last in-patients left the hospital in 2000.
As you can see in the photo, the mezuzah is gone from the doorpost and most of the buildings are abandoned.
Part of the site now serves as an outpatient clinic and learning center for the disease, the incidence of which has dropped significantly.  [See update below!]

Rivka Regev, the daughter of the hospital’s veteran general physician, lives in the compound to this day.
In the old days, the inhabitants tended a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and some livestock for their own needs.
The biblically inspired garden had a system of wells, channels, and four big cisterns.

 See the new plantings?!
Volunteers from Israel and abroad, supported by the Society for the Protection of Nature, hope to "restore the old garden, to cultivate a biblically-ecologically organic sound garden of healing herbs and to invite the community to participate in maintaining the garden through educational activities for school children, the elderly and people with special needs."
Rivka Regev is the living spirit behind the vision of reclaiming the wilderness.
Schick's elegant architectural treasure appears on the list of buildings intended for preservation under the auspices of the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites.
Nothing seems to be moving in that direction yet, but let us hope and pray that "Jesus Hilfe" will be saved.
2 good articles about Hansen's Hospital:
Links about St. Damien: Catholic News Service
Damien Blog with video of today's Canonization Mass
UPDATE: "In 2009, the Unit became the responsibility of Hadassah Hospital ... and the Hansen Hospital has moved to another historic building - Hadassah's  Beit Habriut at 24 Strauss Street. Following a government decision in May 2009, the Hansen Hospital compound - designated for preservation - was transferred to the Jerusalem Municipality Culture and Art activities in November of 2011."
See more at Hadassah's article

Guided tours are available and there are photographic exhibitions inside.
In fact,  photographers who first went in and recorded their impressions with much feeling are the ones who brought public attention to the building's plight and moved it closer toward preservation.
Here is more about the artifacts now on display.

And the most comprehensive and entertaining telling of the Hansen's story is at this blog:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Time to reflect

Reflecting at the fish pond
These sweet monastery pigeons are for James' Weekend Reflections meme and for Misty Dawn's Camera-Critters Sunday.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Simchat Torah


Today was the festive day called Hoshana Rabba. To see the throngs of worshippers at the Western Wall please see my post from last year.
Tonight and tomorrow, immediately following the 7-day Sukkot festival, we have Simchat Torah (meaning "Rejoicing of the Torah"). In the synagogue the annual Torah reading cycle is completed and begun anew. The end of the fifth book of Moses is read, the scroll is rewound, and the first part of Genesis is chanted.
As the Chabad website says, "The event is marked with great rejoicing, especially during the 'hakafot' procession, in which we march, sing and dance with the Torah scrolls around the reading table in the synagogue. 'On Simchat Torah,' goes the chassidic saying, 'we rejoice in the Torah, and the Torah rejoices in us; the Torah, too, wants to dance, so we become the Torah's dancing feet.'"

At Hadassah hospital's synagogue the Torah scrolls stand in this Holy Ark.

The ark doors are covered by a parochet.

This very special ark covering was designed and created by American-Israeli artist Aviva Green in 1981-82.

The stylized Hebrew calligraphy says "Da lifne mi ata omed," the exhortation "Know before whom you stand."

The Torah is opened and read on the reading table in the center of the synagogue. Here, too, the artist created a soft sculpture to cover the table, in wool, cotton, silk, hemp, and metallic thread. It can be seen better, without the glass, in a slideshow at the artist's website.

The artist explains in just a few wonderful paragraphs how she came to the ideas for her Two-Piece Soft Sculpture.

And above it all are the twelve glorious stained glass windows by Marc Chagall!
For more about the vitrage work please see my earlier post.
Shabbat shalom and happy Simchat Torah!

Birthday blessings and a bench

Happy birthday dear Dean, light of my life!
Today my first grandson turns SIX. -- Six blessed years of steady growth.

Here he is, struggling with a water bottle, in a kindergarten yard in Tel Aviv.
Dean's family lives in Australia but they came home to visit Israel last March and April.
The Tel Aviv bench is for Visual Norway's RuneE and the friends who meet every Friday to share benches they've found. Join us.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A sukkah with a view

October, but it still feels and looks like summer. SkyWatch Friday visitors have been seeing blue skies at Jerusalem Hills Daily Photo for half a year now. Ho hum . . .
Israel did do one autumn-like thing however, and that was to end Daylight Saving Time two weeks ago already. Night comes so soon now.
The photo shows the 5:30 pm sky, looking east.

(Click to enlarge--the photo may remind you of a Christmas card.)

Last evening I was invited to a big sukkah and to get there I ventured into Abu Tor for the first time.
Now officially known in Hebrew as Givat Hananya, Abu Tor is a neighborhood on the seam.
The 1948-1967 cease-fire line bisected it.
Abu Tor continues to be a mixed neighborhood. Arabs live on the slope and Jews (as well as many international Christians) live on the top.
The photo looks toward the (mostly) Arab (but increasingly Jewish) village of Silwan/Siloam/Kfar HaShiloach.
On the horizon is the Mount of Olives.
The other spectacular views from Abu Tor were Mount Zion and the illuminated YMCA and King David Hotel.
The road below runs through Gai Ben Hinnom, which is Hebrew for the Valley of Hinnom's Son. Gai Hinnom came into other languages as Gehinom or Gehenna and over the years became associated with hell or purgatory.
I didn't go there last night.
Maybe one bright day I will.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


All week we are celebrating the Jewish festival of Sukkot (instructions begin in Leviticus 23:39).
Let us combine it with L-Day at ABC Wednesday.

Lulav! This Hebrew word לולב is the name for a ripe, green, closed frond from a date palm tree.
The man is meticulously examining the lulavim, deciding which one meets his standards and his budget.

Limes? Lemons?
No! These are etrogim. The etrog is the fruit of the citron tree.
Together with myrtle branches and willow branches, the lulav and the etrog make up the "four species" that are required for Sukkot.
You will enjoy reading about their rich symbolism.
While holding the plants together with both hands, you say the blessing and shake them above you, downward, in front of you, in back, and two both sides--showing that God is everywhere.
The leaves of the lulav make a nice snapping sound.
But this should be done inside a sukkah, the temporary booth or hut we put up to "dwell in" during the week of Sukkot.
And, in the Diaspora at least, if you don't have or can't find a sukkah, Chabad will make sure you see their Sukkah Mobile at various obvious places.
The Chabadniks will make sure Jews perform the mitsva of eating in the sukkah and waving the lulav.

Look! Another Sukkah Mobile parked outside the Coliseum in Rome!
The last two photos are borrowed from Chabad, with thanks. Thanks for all they do.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kurdish Jews' Saheraneh festival

I had never heard of the Saheraneh until I came (3 years ago) to live in a moshav built by Kurdish Jews.
Yesterday I went to big Sacher Park in Jerusalem to see what it's all about.

Saheraneh is a yearly outdoor festival which our Kurds brought with them when they made aliyah to Israel from Kurdistan.
The region known as Kurdistan includes parts of Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Syria, and Turkey.

In preparation for the afternoon and evening prayer, two Torah scrolls were brought in joyful procession through the crowds.
Here above you see men from the dance troupe in native costume leading the way.

Rhythmic hand-clapping to welcome and accompany the Torah scrolls.

First time for me to see the Torah decorated with colorful women's scarves.

The traditional Kurdish wooden horn. Look at the guy's cheeks!

I must say, the loud drum beat adds much life to the Torah procession.

Finally they were brought to the stage.

In a kind of Hoshana, the dancers did what I know as a traditional Arab debka.
The bearded man with a flat hat and scarf is the oldest Kurdish rabbi. He gave a short and nice talk.
 Beforehand, while the elder had been sitting, people came to him, bowed and kissed his hand; and he put his hands on their head and blessed them.
There is a lot of respect for the elders in this community.
For more about Kurdish Jews see this article.
There are over 150,000 Kurdim in Israel.
Their national association's website is in Hebrew but it offers a sample of the music.
The weekly That's My World Tuesday list of bloggers' links to different worlds will be awaiting your visit tonight. Visit and enjoy our world's great diversity!
UPDATE Oct. 20, 2014:  An article about this year's Saharana and thoughts about the Kurds fighting for their lives against the Islamic State.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sister birds . . .

Our neighbors the Franciscans have a feast day on Sunday. It marks the death and burial of St. Francis of Assisi in 1226.

St. Francis on the keystone of the arch

This year the OFM, the Order of Friars Minor, celebrate 800 years in the Church.
St. Francis wrote his Rule and founded the order in 1209.

A monastery dove in the church window
It is said that when Friar Francis preached to the birds he encountered in nature, not one flew away.

"My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you . . . you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly. Therefore . . . always seek to praise God."

--from the "Fioretti" ("Little Flowers"), a collection of legends and folklore about Francis that sprung up after his death

On the bus

Just for fun, I whipped out my camera and tried to get a picture of friends as their bus pulled away at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. I was shooting into bright sun.
The result surprised me.
What a jumble of reflections!
James at Newtown Area Photo has just opened a Reflections meme. Let's all get together at his blog and reflect. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009


Oi veh, what happened to this tourist sitting outside a cafe in Jerusalem's Alrov Mamilla Mall?!

Enjoy more benches every Friday over at RuneE's Visual Norway.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The four species market for Sukkot

(all photos are clickable)
A purple tent under a blue Jerusalem sky.
The sky is for SkyWatch Friday. The tent is for the yearly Shuk Arba'at Haminim.

Arba'at haminim are the four species of plants needed in order to make the blessings for the holiday of Sukkot, starting Friday at sunset.
For the whole next week Jews are supposed to dwell in the sukkah (or at least to eat our meals there). The temporary "booths" are to remind us of the wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, way back when Moses was leading the people out of Egypt.

The market for etrog, lulav (palm fronds), and myrtle and willow branches is very much a man's world. The religious men understand what the Jewish halacha law requires for each of the four species in order to make it perfect.

They were concentrating so hard on examining each leaf that they seemed oblivious to me, the only female, wearing the frowned-upon [for women] jeans and T shirt.
I shot from the hip. It was not an in-your-face aiming and shooting.
I love to watch Orthodox Judaism in action.
There is information about Sukkot, the sukkah, and the special market in my posts from last Sukkot here, here, and here.
Let's pray the rain will hold off for another week. No one wants their beautifully decorated sukkah getting all wet.