Saturday, December 31, 2011

Room for all at the wall

"A Jew, a blogger, and a nun go to pray together at Jerusalem's holy Western Wall . . . ."

No, it's not the opening of a joke. :)
This is just one of my favorite photos, now shared with City Daily Photo's end-of-year Theme Day.

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants.

Have a happy "Sylvester."
Although not so many celebrate the secular new year, Sylvester is how Israelis call the New Year's Eve partying. See the surprising reason why here.

Blessings to all in 2012.

Donkey at rest

The sweet donkey joins me in wishing all the Camera-Critters friends and all my readers a blessed and peaceful new year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The holy sparks

Bringing light to a sometimes dark world.
A sparkler reflected in a nun friend's glasses,
for Weekend Reflections.

Some 400 years ago the mystics of Safed (Tsfat) created a Tu BiShvat seder, modeled on the Passover seder, that celebrated the Tree of Life (the Kabbalistic map of the Sefirot).

That traditional seder ends with the hope:
"May all the sparks scattered by our hands . . . be returned and included in the majestic might of the Tree of Life."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Woodcraft construction kits

Look at all these Woodcraft model kits for sale at the Shuk Machane Yehuda market!

It could be fun to try to put one together.

They start out as a light flat pack, easy to mail.
I'd love to send some to my grandsons, but Australia is very particular about what kind of wood and organic materials come into its borders.
The model kits would probably end up in quarantine or worse.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Like night and day

This is how chanukiot looked last night, after all 8 + 1 candles were kindled.

And early this morning, this is what I saw in a street in Jerusalem!

A sure sign that today is Zot Chanuka, the 8th (last) day of the holiday.
The man was pouring boiling water from his electric kettle to melt the wax.

No longer needed this year, his Chanuka menorah will be clean and ready, come December 2012.

(Jewish days begin at sunset and end 24 hours later, at sunset; so last night we lit the candles for the last "day" of Chanuka.)
For some funny views of my two Chanuka lamps please see here and here.

An army travels on its stomach

And while we are on the subject of soofganiot/jelly donuts, take a look at the (approximate) statistics on how many of them soldiers ate this week of Chanuka!
And that is only at their bases, not at home.

And while you are at the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's blog, you can cast your vote for their Photo of the Year.
I just hope our soldiers will not feel too heavy to move after eating 385,000 soofganiot.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy xanuka

As far as I can figure, [x] in the International Phonetic Alphabet is the sound of a voiceless velar fricative.
Good enough for X-Day at ABC Wednesday, no?
So happy [x]anuka! hehe
Today is the 8th and last day of Chanuka.

In Tel Aviv, on one of the fancy streets, this shop was full of many varieties of traditional fried in oil soofganiot (jelly doughnuts).

But I much preferred these simple free ones because of the nice and friendly Chabad man who was offering them to everyone after they lit the Chanuka lights.
This was at HaTachana, the new complex of shops and restaurants that Tel Aviv recently opened.
It is the site of the old Turkish railway station and freight warehouses, etc.
You can see the brown railroad car in the background of the photo.

"Young Chabad" wishes you Happy Chanuka with their happy sign and joyful Jewish music.

Some of my family responded to the music and started dancing.
Some (secular) men joined in the circle, something the religious would not allow back in Jerusalem.

Monday, December 26, 2011


For PsalmChallenge -- Psalm 40:

1. For the leader. A psalm. Of David.

2. I most surely hoped in the LORD; He bent down toward me, and heeded my cry.

3. He lifted me out of the miry pit,

the slimy bog, and set my feet on a rock, steadying my steps.

4. He put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God. Multitudes see it and stand in awe and trust in the LORD.

5. Happy is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who turns not to the arrogant or to falsehood .
6. You, O LORD my God, have done multitudinous things. Your wonders and Your consideration of us—none can compare with You! I would recite and relate them, but they are more than can be told.
7. You do not desire sacrifice or grain-offering. You opened ears for me: You do not ask for burnt-offering or sin-offering.

8. Then I said, “See, I bring a scrolled book written about me.”
9. To do Your pleasure, my God, is my wish; Your teaching is in my innermost parts.
10. I proclaimed justice in a multitudinous congregation; see, I did not seal my lips; O LORD, You know.
11. I did not hide Your justness within my heart; I declared Your faithful deliverance; I did not conceal Your steadfast faithfulness from a multitudinous congregation.

12. You, O LORD, will not seal off Your compassion from me; Your steadfast faithfulness will always protect me.
13. For injuries without number envelop me; my iniquities have caught up with me and I cannot see; they are more plentiful than the hairs of my head; my heart deserts me.

14. Be it Your pleasure, LORD, to save me; O LORD, hasten to my aid.
15. May those who seek to destroy my life be disgraced and abashed one and all; may those who wish me injury fall back in shame.
16. May those who say “Aha! Aha!’’ over me be desolate because of their disgrace.

17. May all who seek You be glad and rejoice in You; may those who are eager for Your deliverance always say, “the LORD be exalted!’’
18. But as for me, I am lowly and needy; may the Lord consider me. You are my aid and my rescuer; my God, do not hold back.
Wading in wet concrete on Mt. Herzl, 2009. It hardened into the foundation for the light rail tracks.

Translation by Rabbi Benjamin Segal.
Hebrew original and an older English translation at Mechon Mamre.

The happy city on the sea

Hello again.
I hope you had a merry Christmas or are having a happy Chanuka.

I am just returning from four days in what seemed like another country.
Tel Aviv is SO different from Jerusalem!

For one thing, they have the Mediterranean.
Water, sand, marinas!
Enlarge the photo and you'll find surfers, even on December 24.

Together with Saturday's strong cold wind there was sunshine (enough to make Shadow Shot Sunday 2 shadows), and people were dancing!

Men and women together, dancing to music!
Definitely not what I have gotten used to in Jerusalem.

The Sabbath dancing circle is here, along the promenade, below hotel row.

I start to understand why Israelis call this fun-loving metropolis "Medinat Tel Aviv," meaning the State of Tel Aviv.
It's like a foreign country.
Like a bubble within the other, starker, reality of the rest of Israel.

(A little beach tour for Our World Tuesday.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The sheltering donkey

A tiny manger scene, made in Peru.
Nothing says Nativity and Bethlehem better than a donkey.

Merry Christmas to all you Christians out there!
And Christmas blessings to James and all the reflection folks at Weekend Reflections.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

A mix of clouds

Strange clouds behind our neighbor mountain caught the last rays of the setting sun.
A sky for SkyWatch Friday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Well balanced

Hello? Did you order a cold drink?
Tuesday was an unusually warm 21 degrees C in the walled Old City of Jerusalem.

Omar ibn al-Khatib Square, just inside Jaffa Gate, is always full of tourists.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Walking the Christian Quarter in search of Christmas things

White Christmas (for W Day at ABC Wednesday) ?
No way.
In Jerusalem today it was hot enough for some tourists to change into their shorts.

Winter warmth is nice so I took advantage of the 20 C temps and went to walk in the Old City, in search of signs of Christmas.

A quite real-looking Santa with a hot sax at the entrance to a restaurant.

Hey, there are doors for Monday Doorways meme too!

"Welcome to my shop, come in," they say.

A modern glass door to a new store in a very old building.

Not surprisingly, the Christian Information Center has a manger scene.

A huge Santa Claus!
In the background is the Lutheran Johanniter Hospiz (the German Hospice of the Order of St. John) with the order's characteristic cross.

A Catholic monk walks down St. Francis Street.
Those little girls' red dresses--would the girls be dressing up as Mrs. Claus?
Chanuka is starting tonight and I'll post some of those photos during the 8-day holiday.
Happy Festival of Lights!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Greek Colony -- some history

The sign for the Greek Colony in Hebrew, Arabic, and transliterated Hebrew.
But not in Greek.

In the previous post we started talking about Jerusalem's Greek Colony.
And once I showed you one of the neighborhood's finest buildings.
But today's pictures show a more typical house.

The writing above the lintel says 1937.
Who can translate the Greek? Help!

UPDATE: Martus and Robert Geiss have come to the rescue. They say it means
Greek Friends-of-the-Poor
Brotherhood of Jerusalem
In the 1800s Christians ( Arab Christians as well as foreigners who came from Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy, England, etc. ) played a major role as initiators of modern construction in Jerusalem, both inside and outside the Old City.

I'll quote from Ruth Kark's excellent book, Jerusalem Neighborhoods, Planning and By-Laws (1855-1930):

"The Christian initiatives in the field of construction stemmed from a mixture of religious and philanthropic motivations on the one hand, and business considerations on the other hand. Both types of enterprise drew mostly upon capital from abroad.
. . .
By contrast [to the Catholics, Russian Orthodox, and Protestants], during the nineteenth century the Greek Orthodox channeled most of their entrepreneurial efforts into acquiring agricultural land (in Nikoforiya), and into economic and commercial activity.
Thus they built hotels . . ., shops . . ., and markets . . . .

Near the turn of the century a number of Greek Orthodox residential neighborhoods began to develop outside the [Old City] walls, especially in the southern part of the city:
the Greek Colony, Katamon, and Abu Tor."

This little tour joins other tours around the globe at Our World Tuesday.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A eucalyptus in the Greek Colony

Wouldn't you say the poor tree is too near the street?

It is a tall old eucalyptus from the early days of Jerusalem's Greek Colony.

The neighborhood was planned about a century ago.
The land was purchased by wealthy lay members of the Greek Orthodox community.
By 1928 the community center and the 45 planned houses were completed.


Of moths and men

For today's PsalmChallenge at Daily Athens, here is the dark Psalm 39.
To the leader: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
1 I said, ‘I will guard my ways
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will keep a muzzle on my mouth
as long as the wicked are in my presence.’
2 I was silent and still;
I held my peace to no avail;
my distress grew worse,
3 my heart became hot within me.
While I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:

4Lord, let me know my end,
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
6 Surely everyone goes about like a shadow.
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
they heap up, and do not know who will gather.

7 ‘And now, O Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in you.
8 Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool.
9 I am silent; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
10 Remove your stroke from me;
I am worn down by the blows of your hand.

11 ‘You chastise mortals in punishment for sin,
consuming like a moth what is dear to them;
surely everyone is a mere breath.

12 ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord,
and give ear to my cry;
do not be deaf at my tears;
for I am an alien with you,
a sojourner like all my forebears.

13 Look away from me, that I may hold back,
before I pass away and am gone.
The psalm in Hebrew, with commentary, is here.

1. Ancient and new graves, Tiberias cemetery
2. "Homo sapiens" at the Australian Museum, Sydney
3. Dean at the same moth and butterfly exhibit

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Welcome to new Shadow Shot team

One lamp that has two quite different-shaped shadows.
I guess it all depends where and what the sources of light are.

Here is another old hanging lamp in the same room of the small Ticho House museum in Jerusalem.
As of today, our shadow group is under new management --of a whole team-- at Shadow Shot Sunday 2.
Tracy of Hey Harriet has been hosting the meme since 2008 and is now "retiring" from that big job. Thanks, Tracy, for encouraging us to search for shadows! Wishing you lots of light.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Fire and water don't mix ?

The candles at the organic raw food center look simple enough,

but the water in the vase does strange things to the reflected flames.

Enlarge the picture and try to figure out what's what.

A puzzle for Weekend Reflections meme.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sources of wisdom

I'm so lucky to live close to nature, in the Jerusalem Hills.
All I have to do is walk across the street and go a bit down into the woods on the western slope of our hill in order to grab a sunset for SkyWatch Friday.

Lately I noticed that some tree trunks there which burned in a small fire some eight years ago are starting to disintegrate.

At that time, 2002-3, I was working as a residential volunteer in a contemplative monastery of Protestant nuns in Switzerland; and in the library was a wonderful book.
It is Touch the Earth: A Self Portrait of Indian Existence by T.C. McLuhan.

These trees reminded me of what Tatanga Mani, a Stoney Indian, said on page 106:
". . . You know, if you take all your books, lay them out under the sun, and let the snow and rain and insects work on them for a while, there will be nothing left. But the Great Spirit has provided you and me with an opportunity for study in nature's university, the forests, the rivers, the mountains, and the animals which include us."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Price tag" attacks

I got lost in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood a few years ago when many parts of Jerusalem were still new to me.
What surprised me that day was that religious kids were playing on swings and stuff in a playground surrounded by three old Arab buildings.
The minaret marked one building as a long-abandoned mosque.

The sign warned not the enter the dangerous building which according to the drawing was liable to collapse.

Even then the doors had anti-Arab sentiments scrawled on them.

A second old building was also locked up.

The third building really raised my curiosity!
Plants growing on the dome.
It was clearly very old and once-grand.

I stuck the camera through the window bars and the flash revealed a neglected interior.

Back home, I could find no information about the place and it remained a mystery for me.
Until today, that is.

Today I read in Haaretz that

The Nebi Akasha mosque, apparently built under the Ayyubid dynasty in the 12th century with additions made under the Mamluk dynasty in the 13th century. It is believed that the mosque was founded on the burial site of combatants in Saladin’s army, though an ancient tradition designates the site as the place where Akasha, a friend of the Prophet Muhammad, was buried.

They also say it was abandoned in the 1948 War of Independence and was recently renovated and turned into a municipal storage facility.

Learning this history was the only good thing to come out of the worrying events of the last few days.
Last night vandals tried to set fire to the mosque (I think it was the newer mosque, the one in my first photo) and sprayed anti-Islam graffiti on it and the second building.

The media did not explain it well, especially the foreign papers; and if you had never been to this small compound/playground, it would be hard to understand.

More about the young right-wing extremists' violence, including an attack on an Israeli (!) army base, can be found here .
The so-called "price tag" attacks.
UPDATE: See here how 15 teenaged students later came to help remove the hate graffiti .

UPDATE Feb. 2013:  Fascinating history of the place from a Jewish viewpoint in the blog "Let us tour Eretz Yisroel." 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mysterious Vs in the bedrock

Photo from the City of David website

A week ago, just in time for ABC Wednesday's V-Day, mysterious V-shaped carvings in the limestone beneath present-day Jerusalem were discovered during excavations.
Archaeologists of the dig are puzzled by the cuts in the rock in the City of David.
They are around 3,000 years old.

The Washington Posts says,
"Israeli diggers who uncovered a complex of rooms carved into the bedrock in the oldest section of the city recently found the markings: Three "V'' shapes cut next to each other into the limestone floor of one of the rooms, about 2 inches (5 centimeters) deep and 50 centimeters long. There were no finds to offer any clues pointing to the identity of who made them or what purpose they served."

Now this is where YOU come in!
If you have seen anything similar anywhere in the world, the archaeologists ask you to contribute that knowledge and help solve the mystery.

Go to the City of David site here and click on the photo to leave your answer.

Or if we just want to have fun and think of funny uses, you can write them in my comments section.
Over 20,000 have replied (not to me!).
For the full story and more photos see
AP article in Washington Post or the Jerusalem Post article.

See ideas about the Vs at Todd Bolen's BiblePlaces Blog, e.g. one of his readers, A.B. Crysler, suggested this:
"The grooves in the limestone were used by the fullers to whiten clothes. II Kings 18:17 - ...they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field. See also Isaiah 7:3 and 36:2."

I had to look up the word "fuller." It means a workman who fulls (cleans and thickens) freshly woven cloth.

OK, good luck!
UPDATE: More speculation from Tom Powers here in Jerusalem
UPDATE 2: At the City of David archaeology conference last night, Sept. 7, 2012, they said that 75,000 answers or speculations were received from all over the world about the mysterious Vs.