Monday, April 30, 2012

Baking in the monastery

Down through the centuries a lot of bread has been baked in this oven.

The bricks of the oven's interior make a nice big dome.

Imagine how many loaves had to be baked every day to feed the many monks who sat at this refectory table.

See here and here for more views of the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem's Valley of the Cross.
The fortress-like monastery was built in Byzantine times, probably in the 7th century.
The City Daily Photo group has "bakeries" for today's May 1 theme.
Click here to view thumbnails for all participants.
This room can also be a mini-tour for Our World Tuesday.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Did Crusader knights pray this psalm too?

Up north, on the Jordan River, north of the Sea of Galilee, are the remains of a Crusader castle with an amazing, gruesome history.
The fortress at Vadum Iacov or Jacob's Ford, now known in Hebrew as Ateret, was attacked and razed and burned by Saladin and his army in August 1179.
Some 700 of the defeated Knights Templar were taken prisoner, but the other 800 Christian defenders were massacred.

Their bodies, together with their dead horses, were thrown into a deep well.
The Muslims then made the vaulted roof collapse over the corpses, and the well remained sealed for the next 800 years . . . until Israeli archaeologists re-discovered Vadum Jacob / Ateret fortress.

From 1999 to 2007 geoarchaeology was done at the scene.
Why also geologists?
It was a first-ever opportunity to excavate along the line of a major geological fault.
Sections of the castle's 50-meter-long walls were torn apart by a powerful earthquake in 1202 (and perhaps even more in the 1759 quake).
I was in awe seeing the crack (in the photo below)!

The Hebrew University's website about the research project has several short video clips that show the grizzly story of the battle, as well as what they found at the site.
If nothing else, please watch this one especially:

Can we imagine the Crusaders, while under siege of the Muslims for four fateful days, praying Psalm 60?

That is our psalm for this Sunday's PsalmChallenge, led by Robert in Athens.

For the choir director; according to Shushan Eduth. A Mikhtam of David, to teach; when he struggled with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and Joab returned, and smote twelve thousand of Edom in the Valley of Salt.

1 O God, You have rejected us. You have broken us;
You have been angry; O, restore us.

2 You have made the land quake, You have split it open;
Heal its breaches, for it totters.
3 You have made Your people experience hardship;
You have given us wine to drink that makes us stagger.
4 You have given a banner to those who fear You,
That it may be displayed because of the truth.

5 That Your beloved may be delivered,
Save with Your right hand, and answer us!

6 God has spoken in His holiness:
“I will exult, I will portion out Shechem and measure out the valley of Succoth.
7 “Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine;
Ephraim also is the helmet of My head;
Judah is My scepter.
8 “Moab is My washbowl;
Over Edom I shall throw My shoe;
Shout loud, O Philistia, because of Me!”

9 Who will bring me into the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Have not You Yourself, O God, rejected us?
And will You not go forth with our armies, O God?
11 O give us help against the adversary,
For deliverance by man is in vain.
12 Through God we shall do valiantly,
And it is He who will tread down our adversaries.
P.S. Wikipedia calls the fortification Chastellet and gives its take on the Battle of Jacob's Ford.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Right after the annual ANZAC Day ceremony last week in the Jerusalem War Cemetery, I walked alone between the graves, taphophile that I am.

If you like to wander around cemeteries and read headstones and wonder about the human history below them, you too are a taphophile. In fact you could contribute a post to our new meme, Taphophile Tragics, which Julie in Australia started and graciously hosts.

But wait--actually this post is for Shadow Shot Sunday 2, with a question for the shadow folks there.
You see the crows looking for food in the photo above?

I am curious, in the second photo why is the bird in flight blurred while its shadow on the grass is sharp?

You might have to enlarge the photo to even find the bird.

Sun-induced somnolence

Lara, my favorite feline, enjoying the springtime sun on the woodpile.

Eyes half-closed, she is half-asleep, simply resting and absorbing the warmth (the warmth of the sunbeams and of my friendship).

Hebrew has a nice expression for that state of not-quite-asleep: nim ve-lo nim.
Yet another Lara post for Camera Critters meme.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reflections of life in a Torah scroll


Jerusalem and a Jewish family reflected in a rolled-open Torah scroll.
(And the Torah is reflected in the life of this family and of Jerusalem, too. )

The open scroll is in the Israel Museum's wing for Jewish Art and Life.

Yesterday, for Independence Day, the museum graciously opened its doors for free.
AND, not one of the guards in the galleries yelled at me for taking pictures! Yay!

Their next free admission day will be May 10, International Museum Day.
More reflections from around the world at Weekend Reflections meme.
Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sixty-four years of independence



By chance, I came out of the recently redone galleries of the Israel Museum exactly when the Air Force acrobatics began in the sky.
I don't know which was more breathtaking--the archaeology indoors or the aircraft outside!

The planes seemed almost low enough to fly into the 5-meter-tall polished steel hourglass "Turning the World Upside Down, Jerusalem" by sculptor Anish Kapoor (more about it here).

With a click to enlarge, you will find the four planes over the Knesset.

Appropriate for SkyWatch Friday, I do think.

May our pilots always fly in peaceful skies.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ANZAC Day in Jerusalem today

Many photos today, but I want you to feel as if you were with me at Jerusalem's ANZAC Day Commemoration Service this morning.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
Aussies and Kiwis observe the day on April 25.

But this year the 25th is also the date of Israel's Day of Remembrance for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, so ANZAC Day was commemorated today instead of tomorrow.

Come, enter the Jerusalem War Cemetery on Mount Scopus.

It is one of many many cemeteries around the world for which the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible.

In the Jerusalem War Cemetery are 2,515 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 100 of them unidentified.
On the wall on the sides of the chapel are engraved the names of 3,366 Commonwealth servicemen who fought and died in Egypt and Palestine during the Great War and who have no known grave.

At today's ceremony Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple, a former chaplain and the rabbi emeritus of Sydney's Great Synagogue, read the 23rd Psalm.
To see his medals please enlarge the photo.

After Ambassador of Australia Ms. Andrea Faulkner gave the ANZAC Day address, Lt. Col. Steer of the MFO (Multinational Force and Observers) Australian Contingent read
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
. . .

As H.E. the Ambassador laid the first wreath, one normally strong and motionless-standing-at-attention member of the catafalque party began flexing his limbs and was led away . . .

. . . to be replaced by a nice sailor girl, as a Turk laid another wreath.

The Last Post on the bugle, silence, and The Rouse followed the reading of the "Ode to the Fallen"
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, not the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
The national anthems of Australia and New Zealand and a benediction prayer ended the moving ceremony.

Many groups and institutions had come up to the catafalque to place their wreath.

This year's program featured an old photo of diggers standing in the sand near a row of sabras.
The Ambassador said the one who took the World War I snapshot had written just "Pals" on the back and that this was the beginning time of the Aussie spirit of mateship.

After the official ceremony, Rabbi Apple led many of us over to the 24 Jewish graves for Kaddish and a Psalm.
A second rabbi sang El Malei Rachamim.

All were surprised to find that fresh flowers, a memorial candle, and a black-ribbon-draped Israel flag had been placed at each Jewish grave.

People visited each Jewish grave, read the names, and some put a little stone on the marker in respect.

Then we all walked to the far side of the big and beautiful cemetery to come together near tables of refreshments.

I went back to visit the empty chapel and found this wreath from previous years.
The message stays the same.
For more about the Jerusalem War Cemetery and for previous ANZAC Days, please see my earlier posts here.
This post is dedicated to the Sydney-based cemetery meme Taphophile Tragics.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tools of the trade

My made-in-China watchband suddenly popped a few weeks ago.
Lucky that I caught the watch before it could fall to the street.
I wondered where it could be fixed.

This week, as if by miracle, the person I was walking with through the Old City stepped into a leather goods shop in the Moslem Quarter.
Many leather bags and shoes are sold in the Old City; I think much of the merchandise comes from Hebron, long famous for leather tanning.

I saw the special sewing machine and fished the watch out of my pocket.
The young man kindly accepted the challenge of sewing the narrow little watchband.
He did a great job and I was so happy to have my watch back on my wrist.
And happy that such places and working people still exist!
(That's a little corner of my world for Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lights off, candles on

Happy Earth Day!

Here in Israel 22 municipalities are right now turning off the lights for an hour, from 20.00 to 21.00, as a way to promote Earth Day thinking.

See how some of our IDF soldiers are contributing to a better environment:

The post has a photo of adorable baby owls!

Weekend Reflection friends, please double click on the photo to better catch the reflections.

A psalmist's rage against evil forces

Robert Geiss at daily athens photo PsalmChallenge has somehow brought us all the way to the 58th Psalm, and a difficult one it is.

1 For the leader; al tashheth. Of David. A michtam.

Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge people with equity?

2 No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete out violence on the earth.

3 Even from birth the wicked go astray;
from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.

4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,

5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
however skillful the enchanter may be.

6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
LORD, tear out the fangs of those lions!

7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.

8 May they be like a snail that dissolves as it moves along,
like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.

9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns—
whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.

10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.

11 Then people will say,
“Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
surely there is a God who judges the earth.”

In his analysis, Rabbi Benjamin Segal writes, "For some, the vindictiveness of Psalm 58 is hard to take . . ."

The rabbi quotes Broyles, who, speaking about the psalmist's desire for vengeance remarks, “These biblical images should at least awaken us who live in the comfortable West to the Bible’s realism about injustice and how victims feel.”

1. "The Womb" by Dr. Noni Reina.
2. Statue currently on exhibit at Mamilla by Alexander Metlayev.
3. Snail shells in an old fort on the Roman Road.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What's hidden under the fig leaf?

There I was, standing in the shade of a fig tree, looking down both on the City of David antiquities and on Arab Silwan and contemplating "the situation."

A mourning dove flew over and fluttered next to the tree, not fearing me at all, which I thought strange.
Hearing some commotion inside the foliage, I moved around the tree for a closer look.

A flash photo revealed the nest!
Abba dove was returning to Imma dove who had been minding the nest!

Enlarge the photo and enjoy the sweet eyes of both birds. See them?
(A contribution to Camera-Critters meme.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Inside the Hurva Synagogue at last!

A graceful stairway to heaven for the SkyWatch Friday folks.

Shadow Shot meme friends--see how strange the shadow came out on the wall!

Last week I drehed and drehed on that spiral staircase to get to the very top and capture the shadow of the railing.
Where were we?

At the newly rebuilt (dedicated in 2010) Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City!

Photo: Israel Government Press Office

"Hurva" is the Hebrew word for "ruins" and this is how the synagogue looked in 1967, right after the Six Day War, when we could again enter Jerusalem's Old City.
Jordan's Arab Legion had purposely blown up the famous synagogue in 1948.

The courses of stones that remained standing were incorporated into the rebuilt walls and were left unplastered, for all to see (and to remember).
You can see how the white plaster above marks the line where 21st century masonry begins.

The stained glass and the wall paintings were copied from the originals.
The neo-Byzantine style synagogue was first built in 1864.

Actually it was destroyed twice. Its whole incredible history, international intrigues and all, can be learned at Wikipedia.

The aron kodesh, the holy ark for the Torah scrolls, is two storeys high!

Women are not allowed to pray on the ground floor, which is the men's territory.
But boy, it's a long way down.

Here is the bimah from which the Torah scroll is read during prayer services.

Enlarge the picture and find two men studying together.
May the Hurva never be in ruins again.

See also my post of the new Hurva under construction .
For more details try the articles here and here.
Shabbat shalom.
(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

They made music in hell


It was disconcerting to suddenly come upon this ensemble in the upscale Mamilla Mall last week, as part of an otherwise upbeat Musical Instruments sculpture exhibition.

But it seems more appropriate today because Israel is right now observing Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The official name is Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day and this year's theme is Hayachid vehayachad--My brother's keeper: Jewish solidarity in the Holocaust.

This sculpture's creator is Dr. Martin Kieselstein, who survived five Nazi concentration camps but lost his entire family.
He remembers the Jewish musicians who had to play music at the gate of Auschwitz as the forced laborers went out to work every day.
The artists says that the music gave hope to the prisoners, raised their spirits, and strengthened them.
From the viewpoint of the SS, however, "The orchestra’s primary task was to accompany prisoners marching to and from work, so that the marching rhythm would allow ease of control over the prisoners. "
So it says in a very interesting page about "the elaborate musical scene" at Auschwitz at

The first prisoner orchestra began in 1941 and grew to a hundred--they were non-Jews, mainly Czechs, Soviet POWs, and Polish intelligentsia and resistance members.
The articles says "The orchestra had a high turnover rate. In addition to the generally high death rate in Auschwitz -- musicians were not freed from their daily labour assignments -- there was also a high suicide rate, due perhaps to the emotional pressure of the context. "

It was only in October 1944, when mass transports removed large numbers of non-Jews from the camps, that they were replaced by professional Jewish musicians.
"Some SS officers employed individual ‘musical slaves’, who were required to play or sing whenever commanded to. One such prisoner was the Italian tenor Emilio Jani, whose memoirs are titled My Voice Saved Me. Another was Coco Schumann, who recalled years later that

The music could save you: if not your life, then at least the day. The images that I saw every day were impossible to live with, and yet we held on. We played music to them, for our basic survival. We made music in hell."


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Landing in a cloud of dust

Getting off the bus at Hadassah hospital, I heard a helicopter nearing.
I ran to the corner of the parking lot and was in time for the excitement of the powerful sound and sight!

But instead of a stretcher, some VIPs were brought out and whisked away in a black car.
The unique square license plate must be of some top official. Maybe the President?

I was worried the armed guards might look back and look up and see me "shooting" (photos, of course!).
Then it worried me that they never even noticed me.
But I was relieved to realize that IDF helicopters landing at Hadassah helipad carry important passengers who are alive and well, and not only wounded soldiers and civilians.
(The helicopters being an almost daily part of my world, this post goes to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easter for the Orthodox

I wasn't planning to go to the Orthodox Easter services today.
But somehow I ended up in the Old City, in the Holy Sepulchre, in the katholikon of the Greek Orthodox, in their liturgy.
Here are my favorite pictures (enlargeable with just a click).

A Muslim kawas kept order.

The Patriarch standing before the iconostasis.

The sun sent radiant beams through the dome of the Greek katholikon.

The faithful stood for hours hearing the liturgy.

After the service, people kept asking this young one to stand for a second and "pose." And he did.

Just outside the katholikon, at the tomb of Jesus, Israeli police and Border Guards kept order in
the line of hundreds of pilgrims waiting to enter the tiny chapel.

I especially enjoyed the Magavnik (Border Police) with a kipah under his beret keeping watch over the Holy Sepulchre chapel.