Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Kalevala Day

To our Finnish friends let me say, happy Kalevalan päivä, suomalaisen kulttuurin päivä.
February 28 is the day of the Finnish national epic and Finnish culture.

I just happen to own a copy of that national epic, the Kalevala. (Even though I don't know the language.)
The folk material was compiled by Dr. Elias Lönnrot and was written down, for the first time, in 1830.
The book was published for the first time on this day in 1835.
Prior to that, it was all sung and kept active in the oral tradition.
Typically, two singers would link arms, face to face across a table, and sing to each other, challenging to see who knew more verses.

As explained in an earlier post, the Jerusalem Hills has a nice moshav (village) called Yad Hashmona that was founded by Finnish Christians.
The name means a memorial for the eight, in remembrance of the eight Finnish Jews who were surrendered to the Nazis.
It is very moving to read how the Yad Hashmona website explains that.
They have built a wonderful Biblical Garden that Israelis and tourists can visit.
The sign you see is glass, with the sky and clouds NOT reflected but showing through.
The view over the Jerusalem Hills (or Hills of Judea) goes on forever.
BTW, both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien drew from the Kalevala in their own works.
And this was our tour for That's My World. Shalom!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Praise, even on a van roof

For these joyous photos I selected the "happier" verses of Psalm 9, as a contribution to Robert's Psalm Challenge.
The entire psalm can be enjoyed, in both English and Hebrew, at Mechon Mamre in a more classic translation than the one used below.

2. I acclaim You, LORD with all my heart; I tell all Your wonders.
3. I rejoice and exult in You, singing a hymn to Your name, O Most High.
. . .
11. Those who know Your name trust You, for You do not abandon those who seek You, O LORD,
12. Sing a hymn to the LORD, who stays in Zion; declare His deeds among the peoples.
. . .
14. Have mercy on me, O LORD . . .
15. so that in the gates of the Daughter of Zion I might tell all Your praise, I might exult in Your deliverance.
. . .
The minute I came out of the big blue Binyaney HaUma convention center (site of the Book Fair), I heard "spiritual" techno music blaring over on a major Jerusalem road.
Emerging from the pedestrian tunnel under the road, I was delighted to find two young Na Nachs!
One was on the van roof trancing to trance music ("a type of electronic dance music with repetitive rhythms, aiming at a hypnotic effect").
The other was dancing around a table with Na Nach items: their signature tasseled white kipot, bracelets and amulets, stickers, books.
This newest of the Hasidic sects, a subgroup of Breslover Hasidim colloquially known as the Na Nachs, believes in praising God with joy and making Judaism happy and fun.
The mantra that you see on the van is written or stuck on every public place imaginable. See my collection and explanation of their graffiti at my post The Ubiquitous Nachman of Uman.
More at my label "Nachman."
Wikipedia talks about Na Nach here and in more depth here.
France 24 gives photos and info in "Na Nach Jews: religion, tradition, and techno music."
Shalom and a happy Sunday to all!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bird bath in a hidden oasis

Click on the photo to see the wet bird!
Birds of a feather, the sparrows and I share a secret.
They know this is a safe private place for bathing and I know it is a calm empty place for my picnic.

Finding any spot to sit and eat your sandwich in Jerusalem's small and crowded Old City is not easy.
This little garden just outside the entrance to the Tower of David (the Citadel) seems to be like a secret garden because most of the time no one is there. Except birds.
These birdies are for Camera-Critters Sunday.

Jerusalem stair shadows

Thanks to Israel's strong sunlight, we have many crisp shadows.
Here are two stair-y shadows for Shadow Shot Sunday.

At the Israel Museum, the little inner courtyard next to the Shrine of the Book (of Dead Sea scrolls fame).

Franciscan monastery "St. John BaHarim" (Hebrew for "in the hills") in Ein Kerem.
The sign next to the door says "Byzantine tombs used as olive press and warehouse during Early Arab Period."

Someday I'll have to find the monk who has the key to all these antiquities places that are under lock and key and beg to see them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

3 reflections of the Book Fair

No idea why two big mirrors were standing in a passageway between one hall and another at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, but the mirrors called out to me "We are for James' Weekend Reflections, take our picture already!"
Even the big Russian-language exhibit had a mirror on the wall.
To add to the atmosphere of an old Russian house that the wall was meant to represent, a vintage leather greatcoat was hanging on the coat rack.

As usual, the book fair took place at Binyaney HaUma.
The huge building, now renamed the Jerusalem International Convention Center, is celebrating 60 years of life.
(More about the International Book Fair in the previous two posts.)
Shabbat shalom!

Happy scenes from the International Book Fair

This week's Jerusalem International Book Fair had 100,000 books, with 30 countries exhibiting, and 100,000 visitors were expected during the five days.
As I promised you yesterday, here are some more curiosities from the fair.

Sefer Hazahav! The huge Golden Books list the years and names of donors to the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet leYisrael).
This is more fully explained in my post from the last (2009) fair, along with a glimpse inside the venerable book.

"All roads lead to Italy," I think that's what it says.
And with TWO boots instead of the traditional one boot of Italy's map, I suppose walking those roads is easier.

Germany always has a mega-exhibit of quality books.
But cardboard boxes?! Several stacks of them formed philosophical building blocks.
If you know German, enlarge the photo and enjoy the quotations.

So sweet. The French offered a kid-sized reading corner for little readers.

CDs of Israeli songs, but sung in Esperanto!

Zamenhof, a Jew living in the Russian Empire, published his book about the international language he invented in 1887 under the pseudonym "Doktoro Esperanto" (Doctor Hopeful), from which the name of the language derives.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

400 year anniversary of King James Version

It feels strange for me in Jerusalem to be enjoying the Good Life of culture this week, at the International Book Fair, during a week that has seen so many killed in Christchurch and Libya, and when yesterday evening a Grad missile fired from Gaza exploded in the city of Beersheba.
But I guess we have to make the best of life while we still have it.
Yes . . . well, so the Book Fair is actually a big trade show for authors and publishers, held every two years.
But there are plenty of exhibits, lectures, and discussions for us regular people to enjoy too.
Admission is free and there are little freebies to fill up your bag.  They even give you a strong bag at the entrance! 
Many of the books are for sale, deeply discounted.  

The 25th Jerusalem International Book Fair 2011  coincides with the  400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible.
On display is a facsimile the same size, binding, and type of paper as that of the original first printing of the KJV.
It is very big and looks very heavy!   (Reminded me of my University of Michigan days, shlepping the heavy Kittel/Stuttgart Biblia Hebraica to my Biblical Hebrew class every day, oi.)

Enlarge the photo and see if you can read it.  The print looks like  old German script, no?

So many Christians over  so many centuries kept on translating the original Hebrew.
On display was one poster for each of the versions, starting in 1380:
Wycliffe, Gutenberg, Erasmus, Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew, The Great Bible, Stephanus Greek Text, The Bishop's Bible, and the King James of 1611.
The folks manning the exhibit of bilingual Bibles said to tell my readers that you can get a free printed copy in Hebrew-to whatever your language is and also a free Scriptures CD-ROM.
Back home I looked up the website of this 70-year-old UK-based organization.
Allow me to QUOTE  its stated object:
"God gave the Holy Scriptures to man as the one true source of light.  He chose Jewish writers as the instrument to pen His word and to carefully preserve it down through the centuries.  The Hebrew heritage of the Word of God is real, and a great debt is owed to the Jewish people for this most precious gift.  Out of gratitude to them and in partial repayment of our debt, The Society for Distributing Hebrew Scriptures exists to provide Jewish people worldwide with a free copy of the Holy Scriptures in bilingual format, i.e. in Hebrew and in the reader’s daily tongue."
And you can be sure they tack on the New Testament to the back of every "Hebrew Scriptures" that they give away!
Sorry for that little rant.  Tomorrow I promise to show you pictures from the Fair that are lighter and more fun.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Welcome miners from Chile!


Today Israel will welcome 31 of the 33 Chilean miners as they arrive in Jerusalem to begin an 8-day pilgrimage of thanksgiving.
The men are accompanied by their wives or girlfriends.
Our Ministry of Tourism is paying for their air fare and expenses.
More about it here:
Jerusalem Post  and Israelity.

Photos are from the opal exposition in Sydney, Australia.
UPDATE:  Now the papers are saying that 23 (and not 31) of the miners arrived.  They are having a wonderful and moving time at the holy places.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Foreign flags fly over the French Hospital

In the previous post we went inside Jerusalem's French Hospital St. Louis.
Today I want to tell you, for ABC Wednesday, that foreign flags fly over the French Hospital!

There's the flag of the Vatican.
Enlarge the photo if you don't believe me.

See the tricoleur above St. Louis? It was flown for le 14 juillet, France's Bastille Day.
And sometimes (or so the guides like to tell) you can even see our very own Israeli flag up there.

I'm pretty sure that the French Hospital is the only Vatican property in Jerusalem whose food is certified kosher by the rabbinate.
Jews and Muslims as well as Christians are hospitalized in this hostel for chronically- or terminal-ill patients, so the kosher certificate is important.

Six Sisters of Joseph runs the hospital together with 25 foreign volunteers and 60 staff.
Sr. Hannah, an Israeli Arab, was very kind in guiding our group from Yad Ben-Zvi.
She even let us see the panoramic view from the roof.

Fortunately we hit the roof AFTER 16.00 hours.

In back of the laundry on the roof you can see another Vatican territory, that of the huge Notre Dame de Jerusalem.
(More about that pilgrim house under my label "Notre Dame.")
Turning to the south you see the New Gate into the Old City.
The photo below is from 2009, when the tracks for the new light rail were still not complete.
This month the trams are making test runs along the tracks. Progress!

UPDATE Feb. 2014: An excellent little video about the hospice just came out.

Monday, February 21, 2011

French Hospital Saint Louis

For our That's My World tour, let's go inside the French Hospital.
It is just outside the Old City, across the street from the New Gate.
You can't get in unless you are part of a rare special tour.

French Baron de Piellat, Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem built the new hospital in the 1880s, complete with "Oriental flourishes" around the wooden-shuttered windows.

Today it serves as a 50-bed hospice for chronic or terminally ill patients of all three religions.
Six Sisters of St. Joseph are in charge, helped by 25 volunteers (mostly from Germany and France) and a staff of 60.
Israel's Ministry of Health and Kupat Cholim pay for the care of the sick.
Catholic Online has a nice article about the devoted staff.

King Louis IX led two Crusades to the Holy Land in 1249-1252 and was taken prisoner by Muslims in Egypt.
The books say he was canonized "for his piety and righteousness."
Saint Louis' statue stands high in the chapel of the hospital named after him.
Baron de Piellat (who paid for half of the hospital), he himself painted the walls of the church with patterns incorporating the cross and the fleur de lis.

The Baron lived in the hospital for many years.
On the walls of the top floor he painted Hospitaler and Templar knights

and shields of the Crusader knights who conquered Jerusalem.
During World War I, before the Ottomans lost Jerusalem in 1917, the Turks covered this hated "Crusader art" with black paint.
De Piellat was not one to give up. He returned after the war and restored his paintings.
He died in his own hospital, Hopital Francais St. Louis, in 1925.
Come back tomorrow for more strange stories about the place. Shalom!
UPDATE Feb. 2014: An excellent short video about the hospice just came out.
UPDATE May 2014: Old frescoes were just discovered inside the hospital!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Out of the mouth of babes

PSALM  8  has some of the best verses ever!
For Daily Athens Robert's weekly Psalm Challenge,  here it is.
1. For the leader, on the gittith. A psalm. Of David.

2. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, You, whose splendor is placed above the heavens!

3. From the mouth of infants and sucklings, You have founded strength because of  Your foes, to put an end to enemy and avenger.

4. When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You set in place -
5. what is man that You have taken note of him, mortal man that You have paid heed to him,
6. that You have made him little less than God, and adorned him with honor and glory?

7. You have made him master over the work of Your hands, all You have laid at his feet:
8. sheep and oxen, all of them, and wild beasts, too;
9. the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, whatever travels along the paths of the seas.

10. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

I hope you will look at the contributions of other bloggers  (or join us, even better!).   If you find there various and very different translations of verse 6, it is because the Hebrew word elohim can mean either God or gods.
מָה-אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי-תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ;    וּבֶן-אָדָם, כִּי תִפְקְדֶנּוּ.
וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְּעַט, מֵאֱלֹהִים;    וְכָבוֹד וְהָדָר תְּעַטְּרֵהוּ

The Sacred Bridge

(photo from

Prof. Anson Rainey, who has been called  "probably the world’s greatest authority on Semitic languages," will be buried at noon today in Barkan.
Israel and the world have lost a great scholar and teacher.
Born in 1930, he got his first degree in Arkansas and came to Israel in 1960.
Rainey converted to Judaism at the age of 50.
His CV, posted at the Tel Aviv University Department of Archaeology website, is an astonishing read in itself.
The culmination of his life's work,  The Sacred Bridge. The Carta Atlas of the Biblical World,  was published in Jerusalem in 2006. 

From the book's blurb: 
“The Land of Canaan, the Land of Israel and early Roman Judea are treated as the southern part of the Levant, and as the focus in Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean history. The Levant is the land bridge between Asia and Africa, between Greco-Roman culture and the coasts of Arabia. As such it has seen the influx of peoples bringing new blood and initiatives to the life of the region. It has also suffered the conquerors’ heel as ancient empires sought to dominate this geographical hub of communications and commerce. The historical experience of the southern Levant, well documented in the Bible and in many inscriptions from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria and Anatolia, has become enshrined in Jewish/Christian tradition … It is therefore more than a land bridge between different cultures. It is a bridge of faith.”

This post is therefore added to the Sunday Bridges meme.

See also blog and a review of  The Sacred Bridge.  Photos of Rainey are here.

Shalom and thanks, Professor Rainey.  Go in peace.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Standing on one leg, hoping for beta carotene


Flamingos in captivity are often  just a pale  shadow of the more vividly colored wild flamingos.
These standing on one leg*  live at  Jerusalem's  Biblical Zoo.

The zoo  website explains:
"The flamingo feeds mostly on pink shrimp and blue algae, which hold the beta-carotene pigment--giving the bird its unique color. In zoos, flamingos are given food with a color additive or vegetables like beets, red peppers and carrots  to maintain the pink color. The birds' color is mostly important for courtship rituals."

* The famous story from the Talmud (Shabbat 31a):
  Rabbi Hillel, when asked by a prospective convert to Judaism to teach him the whole Torah while he stood on one leg, replied:  
"That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah.  The rest is commentary. Go forth and study." 
A post for both Camera-Critters and Shadow Shot Sunday.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A different kind of colored glass window


Faint reflections on the side of one window and spots of light coming from the other window.
In Jerusalem's round Ethiopian Church, the one we have been exploring in the last three posts.
Shabbat shalom.

A smooth and quick transition

What a difference twenty minutes makes!

The last rays of sun reflected golden on  certain windows of Hadassah Medical Center.

By  5:37 the almost-full moon was shining over Jerusalem and Hadassah in a pinky sky. 
Good night to all you skywatchers at SkyWatch Friday.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The people of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

 As promised in yesterday's post about Jerusalem's Ethiopian Church, here are photos of some of the Ethiopian Christians and  icons there.

I think the little one was taking a break from the 4:00 p.m. prayer service going on inside.

Monks and nuns live inside the church complex.
It is called Dabra Gannat, which in the Ge'ez language means Mount of Paradise.
The  high wall surrounding the compound was added in 1897.
An Israeli website says that the Ethiopian monks (in this church and those who live on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre)   " live, as it were, on an island where their lives change very slowly--an island to which they have been drawn through faith and where they have found a degree of contentment. Asked why he had come to Jerusalem, one elderly monk at first seemed to fail to grasp the question. Then he burst out 'because it is Jerusalem' -- an answer he felt quite sufficient, as indeed it is."

The  FolkArt Gallery site says
"The purpose of Ethiopian art is to describe in color, the drama of the gospels. The icons have been used for devotional purposes, both as objects of power and as votive offerings. They are believed to be permeated with the spiritual presence of the saints and in particular of the Virgin Mary. Prayers made to an icon are offered directly to a specific saint or to the Virgin herself. The icon can elicit either a blessing on the righteous or punishment to wrongdoers."

 Some of the church's icons are hundreds of years old.
Many of them show Ethiopian saints like this one, an old desert monk called Abba Samuel.
He lived among large wild animals and learned their language.   He is usually pictured being transported on the back of lions.
I read that Ethiopians  believed that it is possible to receive a promise of protection for anyone who invokes Abba Samuel's name.

Saint Aregawi (Argawy) founded a monastery on a high butte surrounded by steep cliffs, which to this day is accessible only by rope.
A friendly python helped the saint ascend and descend. 
Or so I read online today.  I think this is the painting of them.

St. George, Ethiopia's  national patron saint, is  frequently depicted rescuing a princess from the dragon,  which represents evil.
Do you think that's a princess on the back of his saddle?
George is considered the special friend and messenger of Mary, so their icons are often  positioned to face one another.
A good article to read about the story of the Ethiopian Christians in Jerusalem is at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
If  any of you in the USA would like to visit an Ethiopian Orthodox church, Betsy Porter gives this partial list:

- New York City:  Church of the Savior (meets at Riverside Church,
- Washington, DC:  St. Mary of Zion Ethiopian,
- Los Angeles:  St. Mary of Zion,
- Oakland, CA:  Mekane Selam Medhane Alem Cathedral,
- Dallas, TX:  St. Michael Ethiopian Church,
If you do, let me know!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Inside the Ethiopian Church

In the previous post we saw the exterior of the Ethiopian Church in central Jerusalem.
Let's take off our shoes and go inside.

It is rare in Jerusalem for a church and its sanctuary to be round, but this circular pattern is used in most of the principal churches in Ethiopia.

The high dome is a starry sky filled with angels.
(You can enlarge the photos.)

Here is a seraph!
The 6-winged seraphim are described in the Prophet Isaiah's marvelous vision

At the center, behind a circular partition, stands the inner sanctuary.

The priest puts on his vestments

and can then enter the chamber, called the Holy of Holies.

The outer wall has a few benches, like this on which the monk is sitting and reading (probably the Book of Psalms).

 But like most Eastern Orthodox churches, the Ethiopian Church is devoid of any permanent seats.
Worship is done while standing, or maybe a little sitting on the floor too.
The prayer can go on for hours so many regulars  use these long staffs with carved chin rests for support.
Shepherds in Ethiopia use similar sticks while watching their flock.

This particular folding chair also had warm house slippers under it.

On my first visit to this church years ago, it just happened to be prayer time.
With a handful of Ethiopian women, I stood and listened to the priest chanting from inside the Holy of Holies.
But I have read that music--singing, and even dancing--in an integral part of their worship.

Maybe tomorrow we can look at some of the paintings and  people in the church.

See more posts about this church here.
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)