Monday, December 31, 2012

What's sproutin'?


As the year draws to a close,  let's hope that all the nutty things that fell on us in 2012 will rest a while in the transforming earth and eventually emerge as OK oaks.

This is a-corny post but it comes to wish you a  year full of  new growth and peace.

(Linking to Our World Tuesday)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A monk, pilgrims, and a granddaughter

Psalm 86 for today's PsalmChallenge.
Our host, Robert Geiss in Athens, has a wonderful photo today for Verse 16--not to be missed! 
PSALM 86.   A prayer.  Of David.

Incline Your ear, O LORD, answer me, for afflicted and needy am I.
2. Preserve my soul, for I am steadfast; deliver, O You, my God, Your servant who trusts in You.
3.  Be merciful to me, O my Lord, for to You I call all day long.
4. Bring joy to Your servant's soul, for to You, my Lord, I lift up my soul.
5. For You, my Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in loving kindness to all who call on You.
6. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; heed the voice of my pleas for mercy.
7. In the time of my trouble I call on You, so that You will answer me.

8. There is none like You among gods, O LORD, and there is nothing like You have created.
9. All the nations that You have created will come to bow down before You, O my Lord, and they will glorify Your name.
10. Indeed, great are You and creator of wonders; You are God, You alone.

11. Teach me Your way, O my LORD; I will go forward with your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart to fear Your name.
12. I will praise You, O my Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forever.
13. Indeed, Your loving kindness toward me is great, and You will save my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14. O God, arrogant men have arisen against me; a band of ruthless men seek my soul―men without regard for You.
15. But You, my Lord, are the Deity Who is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness and faithfulness.

16. Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant Your strength to Your servant and deliver Your maidservant's child.
17. Create for me a miracle, for good, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame, for You, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
Translation: Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal.  See also his explanations and the Hebrew original. 
1. An Ethiopian monk prays at the door to their church at the Holy Sepulchre. 
2. Pilgrims softly singing on the way, in the hill country of John the Baptist.  Probably devout Russian Orthodox Christians.  I met them as I hiked today.  They and I were the only ones out in the wilderness. 
3. Libby daughter of Naomi. My youngest grandchild.  At Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo.
All the photos can be enlarged. 
(Added to Delirious Doors meme, too.)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The cling on


Shachar the cling-on cat  dreams of being a Klingon warrior. 
(For Camera-Critters)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Joseph to Egypt, Herod to Israel Museum


St. Joseph warned by the angel
by Dutch painter Govaert Flinck
1658.  Oil on canvas
Israel Museum exhibit "Divine Messengers: Angels in Art"

December 27-28-29 are the days on which the various Western and Eastern churches mark the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

Wikipedia explains the Flight into Egypt:

When the Magi came in search of Jesus, they go to Herod the Great in Jerusalem and ask where to find the newborn "King of the Jews". Herod becomes paranoid that the child will threaten his throne, and seeks to kill him. Herod initiates the Massacre of the Innocents in hopes of killing the child.
But an angel appears to Joseph and warns Joseph to take Jesus and his mother into Egypt.
Egypt was a logical place to find refuge, as it was outside the dominions of King Herod, but both Egypt and Palestine were part of the Roman Empire, making travel between them easy and relatively safe.
The passage from Matthew 2:
When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. 
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. 
And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."
When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
Historically, this massacre may or may not have happened.
But we know that Herod never hesitated to kill,  even his own family. 

Israel Museum is currently creating an outstanding exhibition called  Herod the Great: The King's Final Journey, due to open February 12.
See the short video about its construction.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A shiny black car draws a crowd


Two black cars in Ein Kerem on a Sabbath day. 

Not the kind of car you normally see in Israel.
Which one would be yours if you had to choose?
If you enlarge the photo of the Pontiac Solstice you can find some curving reflections of the village buildings and the Israeli tourists who flock there on Shabbat--for Weekend Reflections. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On the Feast of Stephen . . .

Today is St. Stephen's Day.
It is even a legal holiday in many countries.

Stephen was the first Christian martyr, the Protomartyr.
In the year 34 or 35 he was stoned to death, probably at the Damascus Gate.
Near the gate, outside of the Old City,  a church was built in the 5th century to house his relics.
The Dominican Fathers built a new church over the remains of the ancient one in 1900.

The Basilica of St. Stephen or Basilique Saint-Étienne is very beautiful.

The paintings are of John the Baptist, Jesus, and Stephen.

The saints hold the scrolls of their inspired sayings.

Inside the peaceful walled compound of the church  is also the monastery and the famous École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem (EBAF).

You can enlarge the photo and read the sign about them.

The Ecole's website has a nice video tour of the whole place. 

There are also four earlier posts about this place, this special place which I always think of on December 26, St. Stephen's Day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas tree in unexpected place

The  Holy Sepulchre is not the kind of church that gets dressed up for Christmas.
I'm guessing that putting up a tree or any decorations in the public spaces would wreck havoc with the old Status Quo agreement among the various denominations in the church.

So imagine my delight and surprise a few days ago when suddenly a normally-locked door in the rotunda opened for a second and revealed a lit-up tree and a creche!
Such a warm glow, even on the wooden door.

I got a shot a split second before a monk came out.
I suppose the room is the sacristy of maybe the Copts.
Hmm, wonder where the stairs lead to . . . .
BTW, I gave you a bum steer in yesterday's post.  It turned out that the televised Midnight Mass for Christmas Eve was from Nazareth and not Bethlehem.  
Hope everyone is having a happy day.
Merry Xmas to all the Xtians!
(Even though that is the Greek letter chi and not an English X,  I link to ABC Wednesday's X-day.  And the door can be for the Israel-based meme Whimsical Windows,  Delirious Doors.)


Monday, December 24, 2012


O little town of Bethlehem is much in world news every Christmas Eve.

source:  Library of Congress 

This photograph of the Church of the Nativity (first built in 339)  is from about 100 years  ago.
You can click to enlarge.
It is from the American Colony photo collection that was recently donated to the Library of Congress. 
See also Christmas in the Holy Land 100 Years Ago with more historical photos of the church and Manger Square, at the wonderful blog Israel's History--A Picture A Day.
Merry Christmas to all of you out there who celebrate the holiday!
Good tidings of Christmas from the place where it all began.
UPDATE: Midnight Mass just now ended.  This year it was televised from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth (not from Bethlehem, as I had wrongly assumed).
Did you watch it on TV?
(Added to OurWorld Tuesday meme.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christian Quarter Christmas decorations

Here in the Jewish parts of the Holy Land you would never know that Christmas starts tomorrow evening.
So for you, gentle readers, I made a trip into Jerusalem today and walked through the Christian Quarter of the Old City in search of red and green of the season.

Right inside the city wall a life-size Santa robot was singing and talking, bowing and waving.

A picture was hung from the New Gate proclaiming "Glory to God in the Ela and on earth peace and happiness in people."
Ela?  I guess that means something like "highest"?
This seems to be a translation from Arabic. 

The baby's halo looks none too comfortable to sleep on.
(All these photos can be twice enlarged.)

The big Palestinian school had a big tree and a big picture near their gate. 
Collège des Frères is one of over 1,000 schools world-wide that is owned and operated by the Congregation of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, also known as the De La Salle Christian Brothers, based in Rome.

Christ Church had a Christmas tree, albeit a rather scrawny one.
Our Keren Kayemet/JNF  distributes Christmas trees to the Christian population of Jerusalem every year just before the holiday.
See my impressions of that happy event here .
More blog pictures of local Christmas 2008-2011 are here.  Welcome.
Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends out there!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Justice and peace kiss

Robert Geiss invites all to try their hand at illustrating the Psalms.
Every Sunday at PsalmChallenge, centered in Athens. 

The illuminations in the Stuttgart Psalter, made in 920-930 in Northern France,  are a feast for the eyes; they are, however, a Christian  interpretation.

For instance, the wonderful verse in today's Psalm 85,  "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other," is illustrated by what is generally thought to be the Visitation (the visit of Mary to Elisabeth that I posted about yesterday).
The verse is so compact in Hebrew:
 חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת נִפְגָּשׁוּ צֶדֶק וְשָׁלוֹם נָשָׁקוּ:  Chesed and emet  meet; tsedek and shalom  kiss.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. Selah
3You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.
4Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us.
5Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?

6Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?
7Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
8Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

9Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
10Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
13Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.
Translation: NRSV.
* PHOTO:  From the Stuttgarter Psalter.  
See also in a more enlargeable format at the DFG-Viewer of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.
As always, Rabbi Benjamin Segal's commentary on the psalm is helpful.

A lick and a promise

A cool winter day it was, but my friend Shachar found a welcome spot of warm sunshine in the olive tree. 

She sensed the sun would soon be setting, so she literally gave her grooming "a lick and a promise." 

Shachar seemed quite smug about the results.
Her beauty shines through even better if you enlarge the photos.
(A post for Camera Critters.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mary on a donkey en route to Ein Kerem


Enlarge the photo (click once and then again)  and you will see Mary on the road from Nazareth to Ein Kerem, accompanied by walking and flying angels.
Said to be built over the home of John the Baptist's parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the Church of the Visitation stands high up on the hillside of Ein Kerem.

In Luke 1:39-55  the pregnant Mary visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth and this "visitation" lasted for three months.
When Mary arrived, the unborn John  recognized the unborn Jesus and "leaped with joy" in Elizabeth's womb.
Elizabeth exclaimed, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" and Mary sang a hymn of thanksgiving known as the Magnificat:

Behind the statues of Mary and Elizabeth are over 42 plaques of the Magnificat in different languages.

The modern (1955) church was designed by the prolific and gifted Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The play of sun on the wires


At 3:30 pm last Saturday the last rays of sun made the power lines shine for a brief moment. 
Even a row of insulator posts ( ? -- just guessing) seemed to be suddenly glowing.
It was kind of creepy.
This is the view from the west side of my village's hill.
The Electric Company station sits in the valley.
Sometimes I like to pretend the cables are a ski lift in the Swiss Jura instead of high tension wires.
P.S. A previous post explains how modern Hebrew got a word for modern electricity.
(This post links to SkyWatch Friday.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jerusalem International YMCA carillon


A special treat in the weeks before Christmas is to hear carols right in the middle of west Jerusalem.
They come from the high tower of the Jerusalem International YMCA ( affectionately known in Hebrew as Yimca).

The carillon has 35 bells and was dedicated in 1935.
It is the only carillon in the Middle East.

The heaviest bell is a C tone and weighs 1,500 kilos.
It carries the inscription "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men."

The bells remain stationary but their clappers are moved by handles and a set of cable transmitters and springs.
In the playing room below the bell terrace, the oak playing console has 35 handles and 12 foot pedals, each connected to a clapper.

The YMCA carillon is played by Jerusalem-born Gaby Shefler.
His specialty is arranging Israeli music for the carillon.

To see how he plays and to read more, please enlarge the photo above.
(Click on it once and then click on the photo that appears.)
For more about the grand old Y you can see my previous posts:
"Angels we have heard on high . . ."  and  "YMCA, YMCA . . ."
or click on my label YMCA to see all four.
For fun see the Y staff and friends do a flashmob at the Mamilla mall, partly to the song "YMCA.".
UPDATE: Nice news in the Times of Israel: YMCA kids play at peace in Israel Museum

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Aloha, chaver, dear friend of Israel.

Aloha chaver.
Shalom dear friend of Israel, Senator Daniel Inouye.
Your memory will be a blessing in Hawaii, in America, and here in Israel.

Official photo (2009) from

We are deeply indebted to the Senator for standing by Israel for many decades.
Inouye's latest achievement was to successfully push for funding for our  Iron Dome missile defense system which saved many lives when hundreds of rockets were fired at us from Gaza. 
He visited Israel just last January.  See a nice picture of him and our Prime Minister here.  

In a Jerusalem Post article I learned this: 

Inouye, who lost an arm while fighting in Europe during World War II, and was later decorated with a Congressional Medal of Honor for his service, traced his interest in Jews and Judaism to his rehabilitation in a military hospital in New Jersey in 1945.

Inouye said that in the next bed over was another soldier recuperating from his wounds. When Inouye asked the man about his wounds, the “blonde, blue-eyed officer” said it happened after he liberated a prison camp “where there were ovens, and people cooked in the ovens, and bodies stacked up” like kindling wood.

“I asked him what kind of prison it was, was it for murderers?” Inouye retold the tale in his deep, bass voice.

“‘No,’ he said, ‘they were Jews.’ I asked what crime they committed, and his answer changed my life. He said, ‘Well you know, Dan, people don’t like Jews.’” Inouye said this left a lasting impression on him, and that a few years later, when the honor society at his law school, George Washington University, refused to accept two students because they were Jewish, he said he told the group that if the Jews were blackballed, “then kick me out, too.”

Inouye dated his concrete connection to Israel back to 1951, when he was a salesman in Hawaii for Israel bonds. He quipped that he was the first person in his state to buy an Israeli bond, and still has it framed in his office, along with a mezuzah on the door and “menorahs all over the place.”

“There was a time I considered conversion,” he said.

“But I decided not to because my mother was such a devout Christian, she might not get over it.”

 Through all his accomplishments, starting with his enlistment at age 17, not long after Pearl Harbor, Daniel Inouye remained a humble man. 
 According to a statement from his office, he was asked recently how he wished to be remembered.
 "I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK," he said.

I almost fainted reading about his act of heroism in battle in Italy, April 1945.  
Read his own telling of it in the Atlantic

For ABC Wednesday, W is for World War II hero. 

Rest in peace, dear Senator Inouye.  Aloha, chaver.

UPDATE: See also blogger friend Cloudia's 2-post tribute at Comfort Spiral (she actually lives in Hawaii).
She has a moving video of Inouye telling about how his father took leave of him before he went off to fight the war.  [The war, I might add, of the country that mercilessly put Japanese-Americans into internment camps.]
The video is a lesson for us in honor, sacrifice, honesty, bravery, leadership.
Also recommended: A loving op-ed by a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, DC.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Old City garbage collection


See his eyes? 
The driver seems to be thinking, "Ya zalameh! Am I going to clear those hanging dresses?"
If you hear the garbage tractor coming, you had better squeeze over or duck into one of the bazaar shops.  Give him room!

There he goes, with the second worker sitting on top.
Jerusalem's Old City streets were not built for cars (let alone garbage trucks).
See also my post Old City vehicles.
(This quick view in the Muslim Quarter is linked to  Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Even the bird finds a home

For Sunday's PsalmChallenge, graciously hosted by Robert Geiss of daily athens photo.

(My photos below can be enlarged with a click and then another click.)

1. For the leader; on the gittith. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.

2. How lovely Your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
3. My soul longs, even wastes away, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing with joy to the living Deity.

4. Even the bird has found a house, and the swallow a nest for itself in which to set its young—near Your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
5. Happy are those who abide in Your house; forever they praise You.  Selah.

6. Happy is the man whose refuge is in You. Roadways in their heart,
7. those who pass through the Valley of Baca, covered by the early rain, regard it as a spring, even as pools.
8. They go from rampart to rampart, each appearing before God in Zion.

9. LORD, God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob.  Selah.
10. Behold our shield, O God; look upon the face of Your anointed.

11. Truly, better one day in Your courts than any thousand [elsewhere]; I choose to be at the threshold of God’s house over residing in the tents of wickedness.
12. Truly, sun and shield is the LORD God; the LORD bestows favor and glory; He does not withhold His bounty from those who go with integrity.

13. O LORD of hosts, happy is the man who trusts in You.

Translation: Rabbi Benjamin Segal.  See also his notes on the text.
1.  Psalm 84 from the early 9th century Stuttgart Psalter!!
2.  One of many springs in the Hills of Jerusalem.
3.  A "shield of David" (magen David) entitled "Mah tovu" by Helene Jacubowitz Mamilla mall.
4.   The Second Temple,  in the Holyland model which is now at the Israel Museum.
(The Temple goes to Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors meme.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

From Herod to Adam


Christian neighbor-friends invited me to dinner yesterday evening.
Chanuka candles, Sabbath candles, and Advent candles all together  made lots of happy light--and even reflections for Weekend Reflections.
That was before we heard the news from America, from Connecticut.
More appropriate now are  memorial candles, so many of them.
 Sigh . . .
It being so near December 28, the Christian Feast of the Holy Innocents, their prayer  came to mind for today, this awful day:

"We remember this day, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents . . . Receive, we beseech thee, into the arms of thy mercy all innocent victims; and by thy great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish thy rule of justice, love, and peace . . . "           
 ---Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Holy Innocents

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cloister watch


 For readers who asked what one would see from the bench in my previous post, I'll add a few pictures.
Basically you see the four sides of the cloister of the Church of the Redeemer.
They surround a small courtyard with a few trees and flowers, and some ancient archaeological elements are strewn around.
Enlarge the photo to find the opening to the old cistern.

Towering above is the bell tower, the tallest in the Old City.
For a closer view of it see BibleWalks, or  see it here lit up by dynamic illumination during the annual summer Jerusalem Light Festival.

This church, built over ancient ones, was completed in 1898.

The dome of the Redeemer Church is also visible from the cloister.

And the little patch of sky above it is going to this week's SkyWatch Friday.
Shabbat shalom, happy 7th candle of Chanuka, and happy new moon/Rosh Chodesh.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tall wall of stacked stools


Come have a seat in the cloister of the (German Lutheran) Church of the Redeemer, die Erlöserkirche.
The cloister and the courtyard are a little oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of the bustling Old City.

They sure found a decorative way to stack  stools when they are not needed!
More about the Redeemer Church in my earlier post and at

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nobel Prize winners

Well, the Nobel Prizes have all been awarded for this year.
Wouldn't it be a great miracle if next year's Peace Prize could go to someone in the Middle East?

Meanwhile, if you walk up the ramp at one entrance to the Hebrew University Mt. Scopus campus, you  pass photos of the university's many Nobel Laureates.
Or in Hebrew, ha-Nobelistim.
Including  Prof. Albert Einstein.

The best part is the big question mark hanging at the end.
How many students and teachers passing by dream of seeing their photo there someday?
(A post for the meme Signs, Signs.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Home-made Chanuka treats

My daughter in Australia  is a lot braver than I am.
In the kitchen and everywhere else.
She actually chose to make soofganiot from scratch

 with the help of Libby,

Eyal, and Dean.

Ta-da! Perfect  jelly doughnuts-soofganiot for the holiday!
I didn't get to taste these Chanuka vittles but I did get vicarious pleasure from Naomi's three photos of the family in action.
(Today is V day at ABC Wednesday.)
Previous posts about soofganiot:
Floating in oil An army travels on its stomach, and Happy [x]anuka.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mezuzahs in the malls


If  these are the days you are looking for a silly, I mean unusual gift, how about a mezuzah *  in the shape of a Muppet or a superhero or bearing your favorite college team's name?

I saw them in the window of a gift shop here where the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall meets Jaffa Street.
Since the advent of the tram last year, most of Jaffa St. has also become a pedestrian mall.
Just don't forget and stroll onto the tracks because the tram will honk at you.
*Properly speaking, the Hebrew word mezuzah (meaning doorpost) refers to the handwritten parchment scroll inside the outer case.

Read all about proper mezuzahs at my post Mezuzot  in s-p-a-c-e
(A post for Our World Tuesday.)
Happy 3rd candle of Chanuka tonight!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sing and spread light

Let's sing some holiday songs, light some candles, eat, and fill the world with AHAVA (love) !

Happy Chanuka!

Sculpture by Ruth Agmon, exhibited at Mamilla mall.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

God help us

Psalm 83 today for the weekly meme PsalmChallenge.
1. A song. A psalm. Of Asaph.

2. O God, do not be silent; do not be mute; do not be quiet, O Deity!
3. For Your enemies rage; those who hate You rear their heads.
4. Against Your people they plot craftily, conspire against Your treasured ones.
5. They say, “Come let us wipe them out as a nation; Israel’s name will be remembered no more.”

    (photo credit: AP/Hasan Sarbakhshian,
      in The Times of Israel

6. Indeed they have conspired as one, making an alliance against You—  

7. the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites,
8. Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre.
9. Assyria too joins with them, serving as an arm for the sons of Lot.       Selah.

10. Treat them as You did Midian, with Sisera, with Jabin, at the brook Kishon—
11. they were destroyed at En-dor; they became fertilizing refuse for the ground.
12. Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
13. those who said, “Let us take as our possession the pasturelands of God.”
14. O my God, make them like tumbleweed, like chaff before the wind.
15. As a fire burns a forest, and as a flame sets the mountains ablaze,
16. so pursue them with Your tempest, terrify them with Your windstorm.
17. Fill their faces with shame, so that they seek Your name, O LORD.   
18. May they be abashed and terrified forever, may they be disgraced and doomed.
19. May they know that it is You whose name is the LORD, You are exclusively supreme over all the earth.
Translation by Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal.  See also his notes
A map of  Israel and the surrounding countries: see Atlapedia.