Saturday, March 31, 2012

Stones but not cobblestones

Cobblestones--today's City Daily Photo theme.

I knew that I love the quaint roundish stones in old European lanes, but Theme Day made me realize I needed the dictionary to learn just what qualifies as a cobblestone.
So, it is "a naturally rounded stone, larger than a pebble and smaller than a boulder, formerly used in paving."
Maybe we don't have cobblestone streets in Israel because we have few streams or lakes that can naturally smooth and round stones into cobblestones?

Instead I give you the Roman Road or Caesar's Way, an ancient way that passes near my village in the Jerusalem Hills.

Whenever visitors plan to visit me in Israel or even just near my village, I warn them to bring serious hiking shoes so they will not feel every sharp stone underfoot.
Even with thick soles, a few hours on the Roman Road is trying.

People from abroad are always surprised how the land of Israel is covered with so many rocks and smaller stones.
I like to think it is because all the millions of Diaspora Jews who have come home to Israel over the centuries, they set foot on holy ground, give a big Jewish sigh, and exclaim the Hebrew proverb, "Ahh, even nagolah me'al libi," meaning "A stone has fallen from my heart!"

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cleaning in a big way

Every year at this time Israelis go into a cleaning frenzy.
Pesach/Passover will start next Friday evening and everything must be perfectly clean and kosher by then.

This poor guy in a cloud of dust sort of symbolized all of us, but on a grand scale.
The whole facade of the huge yeshiva in Jerusalem's Mekor Baruch haredi neighborhood was being sandblasted.
I wonder if they are going to do the dome, too . . . .

This I saw (and heard!) last Sunday, but fortunately we are now in the day of Shabbat.
In fact, it is Shabbat Hagadol.
Everyone must lay down his or her mop, dustrag, and squeegee and have a holy rest.
Shabbat shalom!
The shadows on the wall are for Shadow Shot Sunday 2.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

From church to mosque, by a Jewish architect

Continuing our visit to the Circassian village of Kfar Kama in the Galilee (starting with yesterday's post) . . .

Here is a modern map showing the Caucasus.
But back in the 19th century when the Circassian tribes were slaughtered and driven out by the Russians, most of the area bordering the Caucasus was the Russian Empire.
Ibek, our guide in Kfar Kama, told our group that just last year Georgia became the first country to recognize the genocide of 1.5 million Circassians.

Most of the one million Circassians who survived the expulsion and the massacres ended up in the Ottoman lands, as the Turkish Sultan saw them as experienced fighters and thus encouraged them to settle in sparsely populated areas of the Ottoman Empire, including the Galilee.

The new mosque in Kfar Kama is so unusual, don't you think?!
Maybe because its architect is Jewish!

I read this in the Jerusalem Post :
"The original mosque had closely resembled a Circassian church, said Tehowha [head of the museum]. He told us that Circassians had been Christians until they converted to Islam in the 17th century. Then, instead of building mosques for their prayers to Allah, they continued worshiping in churches. Not surprisingly, when they came to this country, they erected mosques that resembled the Circassian churches. In 1970, however, the [more than one hundred year old] mosque here was torn down and this structure put up in its place. "

Our own guide, Ibek, said the shape of the doors of the new mosque recalls the shape of their former houses of prayer.

He said the white stones in the minaret make it visible in the night.
And the 5-daily calls to prayer are done by a real human, not by a recording.

Please click once or twice and enlarge the photos to appreciate the details.

The mosque is Mamluk style.
The majority of the leaders of the Mamluk kingdom were of Adyghe origin.
(Adyghe, meaning "noble," is what the Cherkessim, as they are known in Hebrew, call themselves. )

We spent several hours in the village and in the museum but this is the only woman I saw the whole time, and I'm glad I did.
The Circassian World News Blog, in an interesting post on Kfar Kama, says
"The village's older ladies are dressed traditionally, while the younger generation is modern to the point of being Yuppified."
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kfar Kama, a Circassian village

ABC Wednesday's K is for Kfar Kama, a village in the Lower Galilee.
What makes it special is that Kfar Kama and Rechania are the only Circassian villages in Israel.

Ibek (sorry if I guessed the wrong spelling) took our group on a tour of his village and also explained fascinating things in their heritage museum (which I'll post about in the coming days).

In the oldest part of town, from Ottoman times, were solid houses and walls of the local black basalt stone.

The newer part of this village of about 2,800 Circassian Israelis looks not much different from a village of Jewish Israelis.

It is a long story about the Circassians and I'll tell you more of it in future posts.

Their language is ancient.
The people arrived here in the 1860s after being forced out of their native Caucasus Mountains, the region where Europe and Asia meet.

From paganism they converted to Orthodox Christianity in the 5th century.
Influenced by the Tartars and Turks they encountered along the Silk Route through their region, they became Suni Muslims in the 17th century.

Circassian men are the only Muslim group to do compulsory service in the Israeli army (as per the request of their leaders in 1948).

Kfar Kama has the most unique mosque I have ever seen.
They have amazing customs and traditions which they keep alive, perhaps more than many others in the scattered Circassian diaspora.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Looking high and low for inspiration

The inspiration for illustrating Psalm 55 for our Sunday PsalmChallenge was just not coming last week.
Then yesterday the right photo appeared in the Jerusalem sky: this lone man climbing slowly to his solitary crane operator's cabin.
Please enlarge the picture to appreciate his situation.

He was working above the bottomless pit that will someday become our underground train station.

Psalm 55

1. For the leader; with instrumental music. A maskil. Of David.

2. Give ear, O God, to my prayer; hide not Yourself from my plea;
3. attend to me and answer me. I am agitated as I complain, I am in turmoil
4. at the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked; for they bring down trouble upon me and furiously harass me.
5. My heart writhes within me; deathly terrors fall upon me.
6. Fear and trembling invade me; horror overwhelms me.

7. I said, “Would that I had wings, like a dove! I would fly away and [there] dwell;
8. behold, I would flee far away; I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah
9. I would make haste to my refuge from the sweeping, tempestuous wind.

10. O LORD, confound and confuse their speech! For I see Violence and Strife in the city;
11. day and night they make rounds on its walls; Trouble and Mischief are within it.
12. Ruin is within it. Fraud and Deceit never depart from its square.

13. In fact, it is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that; it is not my adversary who deals insolently with me—I could hide from him;
14. but it is you, a man who is my peer, my companion, my friend;
15. he, who together with me shared sweet fellowship; we walked amidst the assembly in God’s house.

16. May He incite death against them; may they descend alive into Sheol! For wherever they reside, evils are within them.

17. But I call to God; the LORD will save me.
18. Evening and morning and noon, I complain and am in turmoil, and He hears my voice.
19. He redeems my life, unharmed, from the battle against me; indeed, many were against me.
20. May the Deity, who is enthroned from of old, hear and humble them—Selah—for they never change; they have no fear of God.
21. He stretched out his hand against his ally, he violated his covenant;
22. his mouth was smoother than butter, but battle was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, but they were drawn swords.

23. Cast your burden on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous man fall down.
24. As for You, O God, You will make them descend to the lowest Pit; those murderous, deceitful men shall not live out half their days. As for me, I place my trust in You.

This translation is by Rabbi Benjamin Segal. His commentary and the original Hebrew text can also be found at his blog. Recommended!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Getting a Pullet Surprise

Look at the size of this chicken egg!
(A normal L size egg is on its right.)

I hard boiled it and what did I get?
A pullet surprise!

The veteran moshavnik in our village grocery explained that this abnormality can happen when a pullet (a young hen) is still a bit confused about this egg laying business.

Or, as Wikipedia explains it in big words, "Double-yolk eggs occur when ovulation occurs too rapidly, or when one yolk becomes joined with another yolk. These eggs may be the result of a young hen's reproductive cycle not yet being synchronized."

Once every household in this moshav ( [former] collective agricultural settlement) was required by the State to have a big hen house for egg production, like the one shown above.
Recently times have changed and this is no longer the case.
When I moved to this village in 2006 about a dozen were still functioning (albeit with foreign workers, not Israelis, doing the work).
Now there are just a handful of loolim, chicken runs.

And the ridiculous thing is that Tnuva Food Industries now has to import eggs from Turkey and other countries.
(This post, worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, is for Camera-Critters.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Steam chimneys and World Water Day

Our group was in Tiberias, and from afar we saw the tomb of Rabbi Meir the Miracle Worker.
(This is another instance of a "holy industry" that grows up around a holyman's tomb, as we saw in the post about Honi the Circle Drawer.)

At the base of Rabbi Meir's hill is an official park, Hamat Teverya National Park.
It is just across the street from the Sea of Galilee.

Hamat's hot springs have been in continuous use since ancient times.
Some 2,000 meters below the surface are 17 highly saline hot springs long renowned for their healing qualities.
The water can reach 60 degrees C or 140 F.
In the photo above you can see the steam escaping through steam chimneys.

Steam also was coming from this opening and water was flowing from the black pipe.
The water is cleaned and cooled to 33-40 C and then channeled north a bit, to the modern spas of Tiberias.

After use in the baths, the water is conducted to a Mekorot Water Company facility within the national park and from there to a channel that conveys it to the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee.
I noticed Mekorot was building something new there last week.

The worker bending rebar, and the black basalt ancient wall behind him, made me wonder which would last for more centuries--the metal or the stone.
Legend has it that when the sick begged King Solomon to find a cure for their ailments, the King ordered legions of demons to go down deep underground near the shore of the Sea of Galilee and heat the springs.
He then struck them deaf so they would never hear of his death and stop heating the springs.
And so the demons carry out his command to this very day.
Today, March 22, is U.N. World Water Day, although they concentrate on fresh water.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Taking a breather

I could have used a few deep breaths from those "medical oxygen" cylinders in the cart at Hadassah hospital yesterday. We were having another very unhealthy dust storm.

Instead I laughed at the scene of the guys chatting because it brought to mind the idiom to take a breather (meaning to take a short break from one's activities in order to relax).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A mopping-up operation

Today three workers were mopping the floor of the new atrium (although the "Caution" signs and the puddles did not deter many).

Just a few days ago part of the new hospital tower of Hadassah was dedicated.
Patients are already moving over to the Urology floor.
The grand dedication of the whole building is planned for October.

Here's how the same atrium looked last November!

I blogged then about the tour inside the construction area, led by the chief engineer (here and here).
It's quite a place and quite a pace!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Honi the Circle-maker

This religious boy with the fluffy peyot (side curls) took care of his little brother while his mother was inside praying; this was the first thing we saw when our tour group arrived at the site.

Tradition has it that Ḥoni the Circle-Drawer is buried in this tomb, not far from the graves of two of his grandsons.
Today it is near the town of Hatzor HaGlilit in the north of Israel.
The signs at the door directed men to the left and women to the right.

We reached a locked gate but the holes were just big enough to stick my lens through.

The camera captured the distant burial cave with its burning memorial candles.

Outside in the courtyard, a circle reminded us of the famous story.

See a cute animated video of Honi here.
Wikipedia explains it well:
"When God did not send rain well into the winter ..., he [Honi] drew a circle in the dust, stood inside it, and informed God that he would not move until it rained. When it began to drizzle, Honi told God that he was not satisfied and expected more rain; it then began to pour. He explained that he wanted a calm rain, at which point the rain calmed to a normal rain.
He was almost put into cherem (excommunication) for the above incident in which he showed "dishonor" to God. However, Shimon ben Shetach, the brother of Queen Shlomtzion, excused him, saying that he was Honi and had a special relationship with God."

Wiki also explains that "During the 1st century BC, a variety of religious movements and splinter groups developed amongst the Jews in Judea. A number of individuals claimed to be miracle workers in the tradition of Elijah and Elisha, the ancient Jewish prophets. The Talmud provides some examples of such Jewish miracle workers, one of whom is Honi ha-Ma'agel, who was famous for his ability to successfully pray for rain."

Honi was a zadik, a righteous man.
But zadik is sometimes translated "saint."
Then you get into terms like patron saints, pilgrimage, veneration of saints, intercession, devotees, shrines . . .
Remember, we are talking about Jews now, not Catholics.

The book Jews in Israel, contemporary social and cultural patterns talks of a "renewal of saint worship" in this country in recent years, citing Honi and others as examples.
If you look at the tombs of the zadikim in the North and South, you see how a whole "holy industry" has grown up around each one.
And pilgrims come by the busloads.
This is not the Judaism I grew up with in America; it is new (and strange) to me.
(A post for Taphophile Tragics, Our World Tuesday, and Monday Doorways.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Revitalization of a drained swamp--the Hula

On a cold and rainy day last week our tour guide took us to the Agamon Hula Ornithology (Bird Watching) and Nature Park.
It lies in the Great Rift Valley and is north of the Sea of Galilee.

At the big Visitor Center were some of the quiet modes of transportation permitted in this special nature reserve, like this family bicycle complete with a baby seat in the middle.

Our group of 37 would go in a safari wagon, seen here from the back.
The man on the tractor doubles as driver and guide.
At sensitive places he whispers into the microphone.

It had been raining a lot and we had to ford this flooded spot on the track.

A few rays of sunlight broke through and painted the distant hills of Naftali a bright green.

And created a rainbow too!

We sighted our first birds up over the papyrus.

A flock of small birds looked so pretty against the dark background of clouds and mountains.

Finally we came to the Crane Observatory where the standing cranes made a nice reflection for Weekend Reflections and Camera-Critters.
Go ahead, enlarge the photo, enjoy!

Our safari wagon sat quietly for a while, but when we inched forward, the cranes knew their limit and took off.
It was exhilarating to see and hear these big birds fly right past us!
Twice a year 500 million (!) waterfowl, birds of prey, and song birds from 400 species fly over this area on their great migration between Europe and Africa.
As the brochures says, "The crane is the king of the Hula. In the autumn more than 100,000 cranes fly over the Hula Valley and a quarter of them winter here and fill it with their cheerful uproar."
In the pre-State years many pioneers in this region got malaria from what was seen as "the malaria-ridden swamps of the Hula" and in the 1950 the Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemet drained the lake.
Back then, projects like this were seen as part of the great Zionist endeavor of "redeeming the land." (See a good explanation here.)
However, the mistake of tampering with nature in the Hula Valley soon became apparent as newly dried underground peat deposits ignited into smoldering fires that defied all extinguishers' efforts and rendered much of the area unsuitable for cultivation.
And phosphates and nitrates in the earth were washed into the Sea of Galilee, polluting its water.
So the JNF/KKL went back and reflooded part of the valley in 1995 and annexed it to an existing nature reserve.

This is what some Israelis sarcastically call "redeeming the land from the redeemers."
For more details see Wikipedia and/or the Hula Reserve page.
The park that you see in my photos even has a Facebook page called Agamon Hula.
More about my 4-day guided tour in the North in the coming days.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Skywatching through the palms

Shalom, I'm back!
Have been up north on a 4-day guided tour, gathering photos and new knowledge for you and me.

Every evening when the bus pulled into our base, Kibbutz Degania Bet, there were a few blessed moments to unwind in a hammock before dinner and a lecture.

In the evening silence I skywatched as clouds drifted by and the sky turned pink above the date palm trees of the Jordan Valley.

Stay tuned for more pictures soon.
Shabbat shalom!
P.S./Update: The first photo was taken by blogger Reader Wil.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

See-through in the sun

A monk hurrying through the shadows of the Jerusalem's Old City lanes, past doors closed for Friday.
For Shadow Shot Sunday 2 and Monday Doorways.

The bloody sword of Doeg

For PsalmChallenge here is a dramatic painting illustrating Psalm 52.

You can enlarge the photo below and read the text in English and Hebrew.

I saw this beautiful copy of The Book of Psalms at a hotel art gallery (see more here).
In it each of the 150 psalms are illustrated by a different artist.
The story of Doeg the Edomite referred to in our psalm is recorded in I Samuel 22.
In his flight from Saul, David was given refuge and supplies by Ahimelech, a priest at the city of Nob. A herdsman named Doeg reported this to Saul, who subsequently ordered the massacre of all the priests in the city.
None of Saul’s servants would carry out the order except the informant himself.

16 And the king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father's house.” 17 And the king said to the guard who stood about him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled and did not disclose it to me.” But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord. 18 Then the king said to Doeg, “You turn and strike the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. 19 And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword.

I Samuel 22

Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy Shushan Purim

It's not every day that you see and hear religious boys being so exuberant on the city streets.

But today was Shushan Purim in Jerusalem, and these boys, some in costume, were fulfilling the mitsvah of being extra happy (and showing it) on the holiday of Purim.

They were walking along the Old City wall, in the direction of Jaffa Gate.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Homeward bound

H is for homeward bound.
My little Libby of the flowers and my daughter, Naomi, were here for a few nice weeks.
Right now they are homeward bound, to home in Sydney, Australia.
They should be landing right now, and I'll give a sigh of relief when they are back on earth.

They took off Monday night Israel time and arrive now, Wednesday morning Sydney time.
That's a lot of flying.
Australia is wonderful, but it's so awfully far away . . . .
For ABC Wednesday.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Masada Museum

This artist or scribe seemed to be painting or writing something on the sign outside the new (2007) Masada Museum.

It was very touching for me to go through the semi-dark exhibits for the first time.
Standing alone in the museum next to the life size statues, I felt very close to the people, both the Jewish zealots and also the Romans.
I even started to whisper to a few.

The end of the route and the end of the story was a lit case showing the 12 ostraca, the sherds with names written in ink, the lots by which were chosen the last rebels who would die by their own sword rather than become slaves for the conquering Romans.
This was the part that brought me tears, remembering them and all the 960 men, women, and children who chose death up on the fortress of Masada.

So it was a nice and needed lightening of heart when I exited and saw the guard dragging the outside statue guy in through the door just before closing time.
It made me laugh.
Here is a nice 5 minute video about Masada National Park.
(A post for Our World Tuesday and Monday Doorways .)