Monday, March 31, 2014

Only-in-Israel hazard symbols

The April 1 City Daily Photo theme day is about triangles.

I'm thinking Israel might be the only country that has both of these two  hazard signs:

Old mine fields, whether Israeli or enemy or former enemy ones, continue to be dangerous.
The fence in the photo is in the Golan Heights, not far from Syria.
It certainly kept us dig volunteers strictly on the path as we climbed up to the archaeological site Sussita (Hippos). 

Further south in the same Rift Valley you find alarming triangles showing a person falling into a sinkhole!
Bol'anim, literally something that swallows!
Thousands of them have opened up along both sides of the Dead Sea in recent years as the salty lake dries up and the shore recedes.
UPDATE: Readers are asking about the cause of our sinkholes.
Diminishing water levels in the Dead Sea are causing changes to surrounding groundwater flows.
Diminishing water levels in the Dead Sea are causing changes to surrounding groundwater flows. - See more at:
Diminishing water levels in the Dead Sea are causing changes to surrounding groundwater flows. - See more at:
Sinkholes in this region (unlike in Florida)  are the result of the interaction between freshwater (in the aquifer) and a subterranean salt layer, buried beneath the surface. The freshwater dissolves the salt, creating an underground void  which causes the surface to collapse suddenly.

Learn more about the phenomenon here:
Diminishing water levels in the Dead Sea are causing changes to surrounding groundwater flows. - See more at:
1. Green Prophet has aerial footage of the dramatic sinkholes.
2. Slate has the story from the geologist who was swallowed by a sinkhole and spent 14 hours hoping he would be found.
3. Ynet shows video of the Florida house being swallowed and compares our situation to America's.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Straight to the point


Since you all enjoyed the silk floss tree in yesterday's post, here's a bonus:

Grandson Eyal confronting the shpitsim, the pointy spikes, on the tree. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Still-bare trees and soon a dog park


Every roundabout in Meitar has a different centerpiece.
This one has two silk floss trees with sharp spikes on the trunk.
If you enlarge the photo you can see what looks like big cotton balls hanging from the branches.
So far they are slow in getting their leaves back, but soon the trees will be like the silk floss tree I showed you in August, full of flowers.
In back of the traffic circle is Gan HaZeitim, Olive Tree Park.
Inside it,  the local council is planning to build a dog park.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Time to move the big hand one hour ahead


Time to move the clock forward tonight.
Israel, Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority begin Daylight Saving Time at 02.00.
A Times of Israel article explains how it works and adds that "The period of extended daylight hours will last for 212 days, until October 27 – the longest time period daylight savings time has ever been in effect in Israel."

My little Libby received this nice clock from her kindergarten.
The writing says

Happy birthday
With love,
Gan Ein Mor
In a few weeks Libby will have her 4th birthday.
She has grown up so much in the short seven months the family has been here from Australia.
She quickly became bilingual and loves to speak Hebrew now.
Many thanks to teacher Orli and all the staff of Gan Ein Mor for their loving and patient teaching.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A bad winter for the Kinneret

K is for Kinneret, the Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee.

It is our only fresh water lake and is the source of lots of our drinking water.
But this winter now ending has disappointed us with very little rainfall, especially in the north.
Winter is supposed to be the season the Kinneret fills up, but instead it has actually gone DOWN by 5 centimeters.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

"Happy" Hasidic

 At the Western Wall, April 2012
The funniest Pharrell Williams "Happy" video yet is one made in the spirit of Purim fun--with dancing Hasidim! 
Catch it on YouTube  or go to the original  Jewbellish website where it is called "Happy (Purim) Pharrell Style . . . a little remix from your local Jewbellish crew."
And of course don't miss the nice Jerusalem "Happy"  which I blogged about here.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The memory of trees and of water


An ancient place of water in the desert is now inside  Meitar Forest.
A modern cautious person must have rolled a stone on it to reduce possible danger to hikers. 

Deep . . . 
Today is World Water Day , coming a day after  International Day of Forests.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's a bird, it's a plane . . .


Happy spring!
It is migration season again for millions of birds on the Africa-Israel-Europe route.
The Hula Valley in northern Israel, pictured above (March 2012), is a favorite resting place.

A few days ago a bird collided with the engine of an El-Al jet headed for Tel Aviv.
The plane had to return to Berlin and make an emergency landing.
See more at my post Revitalization of a drained swamp--the Hula.

Linking to Sky Watch Friday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Happy" in Jerusalem. UPDATE: and in the whole world!

UPDATE!  Today, March 20, is the official U.N. International Day of Happiness and United Nations Foundation's  website 24 Hours of Happiness  is updating every hour with new videos of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" song filmed in every imaginable place in the world! has interesting facts about the newish holiday, including "The day recognizes that happiness is a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to approach public policies in ways that improve the well being of all peoples."
The U.N. website about the day is here

Just because Jerusalem can be such a happy place!

Take a look at the video
 "A tribute to Pharrell Williams's song "Happy" from Jerusalem.
A production of Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim."

Even Mayor Nir Barkat makes an appearance along with the Ramah Yerushalayim high school kids.
P.S.  The original with Pharrell Williams where you can SEE the lyrics has been viewed  126 million times on YouTube. 
Yalla, let's get happy! 
(Linking to J-day at ABC Wednesday.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

A boy and a flower


Eyal (6) and I were out walking among the post-rain wildly-blooming wildflowers . . .

when he spotted this still-closed flower with curly leaves.

 He gave it a little kvetch (pinch) just to help it along.

Today, ten days later, I passed and found that same flower fully opened in all its glory!
Enlarge the photo to find happy insects inside.
This is my first winter living in the Negev desert and I am positively surprised by the abundance of beautiful wildflowers.

(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Meitar Scouts do Purim


Meitar's Scout troop put on a Purim carnival today.
This activity pictured above, Aladdin--the flying carpet, was popular.
The boy in white shorts was just being dumped onto the mat after his back and forth ride.
All the wooden framework was built by the Scouts.

There was music and dancing and activity booths all around the basketball court.

I think the Little Mermaid was for face painting.

The kids were well guarded.  Even the bearded guy had an impressive rifle.
The other event in Meitar today was Chabad's Seudat Purim, the traditional happy meal in the afternoon.
I missed that, but hopefully I'll attend next year.
Tomorrow is Shushan Purim, when cities that were circled by a wall in ancient days celebrate the holiday.
See the explanation at
Happy Purim!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What would you be for Purim?


These days kids want to be superheroes for Purim instead of the traditional biblical heroes.
At least here in Meitar in the Negev. 
Dean (10) designed and executed his costume so he would look like Steve, a protagonist in the computer game Minecraft. 
Dean even had the sword.

Here is the computer Minecraft  Steve.
A good resemblance, no?
(Dean wore cardboard leg boxes too, but they sort of disintegrated in Friday's rain.)

See the short video or read about the interesting idea behind Minecraft at their website.
Wiki describes it as a sandbox (i.e. open world) indie game.  Huh?
Oi, I see it's going to take me a lot of research to understand what is behind my grandchildren's games and costumes.
 (Scroll through previous posts to see how they do Purim in Jerusalem.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Let the fun begin


A few days ago all the kids in Libby's kindergarten came out with a shiny red Purim hat.
Libby came straight over to my house and wanted to see how it looked in the mirror, so she climbed up on a shrafraf and was happy with the results.
I was happy to finally get a photo for James' Weekend Reflections meme.

Today (Friday) school kids went to school in their costumes, despite a brief rain.
Libby's group had a Come to Kindergarten in Your Pyjamas day.
Children have Sunday and Monday off so they can continue with Purim fun.
Take a look also at my previous Purim posts, from Jerusalem. 

Purim sameach and Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Things that go boom in the night


More rain today for the third time this week! and the Negev desert is wearing green!
Last night I tried to sleep through a thunderstorm overhead, while Israeli families not so far to the west were trying to sleep in or near their fortified room as Gaza fired rockets (over 70 in the last two days).

In yesterday's post we learned the blessing said when seeing a rainbow.

The blessing upon hearing thunder is:
Baruch Ata Adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam, sheh-kocho ugevurato malei olam.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, whose strength and might fills the world.

The blessing upon seeing lightning is:
Baruch Ata Adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam, oseh maaseh bereishit.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who makes the work of creation.
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rain and a rainbow!


We were treated to welcome and needed rain today and even a RAINBOW!

Libby (in her pre-Purim hat)  and I happily chased the rainbow a few blocks but it disappeared when we reached the edge of Meitar.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֶלוֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם זוֹכֵר הַבְּרִית וְנֶאֱמָן בִּבְרִיתוֹ וְקַיָם בְּמַאֲמָרוֹ
Baruch ata Ado-nai Elo-heinu melech ha'olam zocher ha'brit v'ne'eman bivrito v'kayam b'ma'amaro.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who remembers the covenant and is faithful to His covenant and keeps His promise.

This is the blessing we say when seeing a rainbow.
It is a reminder in the sky of the covenant God made with Noah and all of us that he would never again destroy the world by flood.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Inn of the Good Samaritan and Good Deeds Day

Today was the annual Good Deeds Day in Israel, so . . .

I is for the Inn of the Good Samaritan, on the road between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
Get your tickets here.
Or browse the little gift shop.

Enlarge the photo to read which bodies are responsible for organizing this famous spot into a showcase for beautiful mosaics.
It opened to the public in 2009.

I thought it was nice how they made the entrance sign in the form of an old tabula ansata.
That is Latin for "a tablet with handles" and it was a favorite form for votive tablets in Imperial Rome.

And here is a real tabula ansata displayed at the Inn of the Good Samaritan.
I think it is in the mosaic floor from the church narthex at Deir Qal'a.
My other two posts about the Inn are here
The official Hebrew website has a nice little video.
Its English translation site lacks the video.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Welcome rain, at last

 Clouds over Meitar

After last week's too-early dust storms and  unseasonably hot temperatures (over 30 C),
and after a winter of drought, we finally got a cool day of gentle, refreshing rain on Sunday!

Let's hope and pray for more.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What is it?


Beer Sheva's Old City is a strange mixture of crumbling "old" early 20th century Ottoman Turkish buildings, renovated houses, and new structures.
But this castle-like place is the strangest place I've seen so far.
In September it was still being worked on.
I'll have to go see what it turned out to be, if I can find that little street again.

The Municipality has started investing in renewal of the Old City.
Let's see if it will attract more visitors and shoppers.

Beersheba ca. 1900
Photo by American Colony-Jerusalem Photo Dept.
(Collection is now in the Library of Congress)

 Some history from Wikipedia:
The Ottomans, who had controlled Palestine since the 16th century, took an interest in Beersheba in the late 19th century.[7] At the beginning of the 19th century, European pilgrims to Palestine described Beersheba as a barren stretch of land with a well and a handful of Bedouins living nearby. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Ottomans built a police station in Beersheba in order to keep the Bedouin in check.[8] 
They built roads and a number of small buildings from local materials which are still standing today. A town plan, created by Swiss and German architects, called for a grid street pattern,[9] a pattern which can be seen today in Beersheba's Old City. All houses built during that period were of one story, and the two-story police station towered above them. 
Most of the residents at the time were Arabs from Hebron and the Gaza area, although Jews also began settling in the city. Many Bedouin abandoned their nomadic lives and built homes in Beersheba.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday and  Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Happy Women's Day, daughter.


International Women's Day today and the 2014 theme is Equality for women is progress for all.
My daughter is all for gender equality.
Naomi finished her compulsory IDF army service, then went on to become a mechanical engineer, continued to a PhD in biomedical engineering, and lately even began teaching aerospace engineering at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
AND she can pilot a light plane.

May all the world's women have such opportunities to learn and to enjoy whatever professions they dream about.

Here in the photo Naomi shares a quiet moment with an Israeli ibex.
(Linking to Camera Critters.)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Women's World Day of Prayer, this year Egypt

Grandchamp, Switzerland, 2006

Tomorrow (Sunday) is International Women's Day and the 2014 theme is Equality for women is progress for all . 

But did you know?  Today is Women's World Day of Prayer!
Or so my sister-friends at the contemplative monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland informed me.  

The 2014 theme is Streams in the Desert and it was prepared by women in Egypt. 

The World Day of Prayer is a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year, and who, in many countries, have a continuing relationship in prayer and service.
• It is a movement initiated and carried out by women in more than 170 countries and regions.
• It is a movement symbolized by an annual day of celebration – the first Friday of March – to which all people are welcome.
• It is a movement which brings together women of various races, cultures and traditions in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.
Through World Day of Prayer, women affirm that prayer and action are inseparable and that both have immeasurable influence in the world. The motto of the World Day of Prayer is “Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action”.

More about the idea and how it started at Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Monastery of St. Gerasimus

 H is for heresy, hesychasm, and hermit.
Today is the feast day of St. Gerasimus.

Since my visit to the old old monastery of Gerasimus near Jericho two years ago I have posted much about the beautiful Greek Orthodox  place in the desert.
In honor of his feast day, here are some more photos.

Saint Gerasimus and the animals.

The church.

I think it is the Father Abbot supervising a tree pruning.

 The mosaic workshop.

Another of the many desert hermit monks who practiced the hesychastic asceticism.

A repaired crack in the church wall, result of an earthquake.
The Jordan Valley is part of the Great Rift Valley, prone to quakes. 

Skulls and bones of monks down through the ages.

A modern cafe-oasis for thirsty pilgrims and tourists who like to visit this monastery.

The surrounding desert.
(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday and  ABC Wednesday.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

The old bench in bright sun

The old bench at the entrance is about the only thing in the dim and cavernous Church of the Holy Sepulchre that ever gets direct sunlight.

Here is the bench as seen from Calvary, one flight of steps up.

More about it at .
Since moving to Meitar in the Negev desert last August I quite miss being about to roam around the Holy Sepulchre and the Old City at will.
UPDATE: Read the fascinating story of the two Muslim families entrusted with the key to the Holy Sepulchre since 1187! 
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Huge gathering of Jews in the streets of Jerusalem today

Haredi Jews in Jerusalem's Old City

Hundreds of thousands of religious Jews are flocking to Jerusalem today for a huge prayer rally protest against legislation to draft the haredi young men into the army. 
See my previous post for more about it.

Ynet adds "Inside the haredi community there were calls from rabbis ... to attend the rally, and the community's leaders gave a rare permission for women to attend – but on separate streets. All boys from the ages of nine and older were also called to attend."

It probably has never happened since the Israelites gathered at Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and probably will not happen again today,  but the Talmud says that a special blessing should be recited when one sees 600,000 Jews gathered together in one place:
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם חכם הרזים
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe,
the wise One who knows all secrets.

(Rashi interprets this to mean that that only Hashem knows the secrets that each of these individual people think.)

Meanwhile 4,500 (some say 3,500) police and "ushers" are assigned to try to keep order in today's huge gathering.
Times of Israel is having a live blog to update us as it happens.