Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Squares to dig in


City Daily Photo bloggers are now posting squares for our May 1 Theme Day.

Which brings me back to the old funny question, "Why do archaeologists always dig square holes?"
Well, it's part of a methodical grid system to keep track of what was found where, of course.

I was digging in many different squares during many seasons of excavations here at Tel Yarmouth between 1993 and 2007.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The potash train, overhead!


Luckily for the blog, the train was going over just as our bus was going under.
I'm pretty sure it is the potash train.
It transports potash from the Dead Sea Works at Sodom (see some great pictures of the place at through the Negev to Ashdod port on the Mediterranean.
(Linking to Signs, signs and  ABC Wednesday.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Zachor -- remember


Even the benches record sad memories in this area of Yad Vashem overlooking Jerusalem.

Yad Vashem this year is putting a special focus on the fate of Hungarian Jewry, “a tragic example of the swift and ruthless efficiency of the Germans and their local sympathisers during the latter period of the war.”

Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2014
Yom Hashoah  began Sunday evening and continues on Monday.
A heavy day in Israel.
This year the central theme is 
Jews “On the Edge”
1944: Between Annihilation and Liberation

Dr. Dina Porat, Chief Historian of Yad Vashem, writes

 Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance
Day 5754 (2014) is marked by the situation of
the Jews in 1944 – exactly 70 years ago. The
expression “on the edge," taken from Nathan
Alterman's poem “Joy of the Poor," very aptly
expresses the feeling which prevailed that year
among the Jews of Europe, who were in the
throes of a double race on which their very lives
depended. On the one hand, cities from east to
west, such as Vilna and Minsk, Warsaw and
Riga, Belgrade and Sofia, Paris and Rome, were
being liberated from the yoke of Nazi Germany;
the Red Army was advancing, and the western
Allies continued to bombard Germany, their
landing in Normandy tipping the scales still
On the other hand, in the same year,
the Jews of Hungary were sent to Auschwitz,
the Lodz and Kovno ghettos were liquidated,
the last of their former inmates were deported
and murdered, and death marches were initiated
from the liberated territories to the heart of what
remained of the “Third Reich.” It was a year in
which everything depended on the scales of
time, and the Jews remaining in Europe were
asking themselves: will the Red Army from the
east and the Allies from the west arrive before
the Germans come to murder whoever is still
alive? Or, as Alterman wrote, which ending
will come first? Events were occurring fast,
one after the other, raising serious questions
in their wake. . . . 
Dr. Porat's essay continues here, in the Yad Vashem Jerusalem Quarterly Magazine 
See also some short Yad Vashem videos for the memorial day.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Beginner's luck


Early Friday morning I went to the monthly program of Ben Gurion Heritage Institute at Kibbutz Sde Boker.
Before his lecture about bird migration our guide, Meidad Goren, took us down into the spectacular Ein Avdat canyon to watch birds.
It was my first visit and I was very excited.
I was even excited about the hairpin curves of the steep road that led down to the valley floor and to the entrance to the nature reserve.

I was snapping pictures from the bus window at every turn.
Only back home, looking at the downloaded photos, did I suddenly see animals in the center of this one!
What luck!
A baby ibex trying to get up behind mama ibex on the top of a narrow ridge, right there in the middle of nowhere!

You'll have to click on the photo, and then once again, to get it large enough to see the sweet mountain goats.

If ibex come near you inside the canyon, do not feed them.

Oh, and also "do not annoy the wild animals."
: )

(Linking to Camera Critters and to Signs, signs.)

See more about ibex at

What are they thinking?


OK, just one more grandkid picture and then I'll stop.
This photo, taken by my daughter, Naomi, is too touching not to share.

After leaving Israel late Tuesday night and flying for 12 hours, the family arrived in Korea for a welcome 24-hour stay in Seoul.
Looking out their hotel window, are the kids gazing westward and missing Meitar in the Negev?
Or are they facing southward, thinking of the second 12-hour flight that will take them back to their other home in Australia?
(Linking to Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Shalom, bon voyage

I knew their seven months in Meitar would go too fast.
I knew the day would come when daughter Naomi, Guy, Dean, Eyal, and Libby would have to return to their home in Bondi, Australia.

So, through my goodbye tears I sat us down for a rare family photo.
I tried to smile; little Libby was more honest in showing her feelings.

And then the family waved and drove away to the airport. . . .

Faithful readers, thank you for your patience during these months when there was little time for blogging and thanks for looking at dozens of kid photos.
I will now try to get back to finding and posting something (hopefully interesting) about Meitar, the Negev, and Israel  every day.
Shabbat shalom to you all.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Grandma's pride and joy


Wishing joy and blessing to my Christian friends out there on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

My joy this weekend was celebrating granddaughter Libby's 4th birthday together with the extended family,  here in Meitar.

Naomi and Guy, Dean, Eyal, and Libby return to Australia on Tuesday.
It will be a two-handkerchief day for me.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A thought for Mary on Good Friday


Simeon said to Mary ". . . and a sword will pierce your own soul also.”   (Lk 2:34-35)
Update Feb. 24, 2016: About the restoration of mosaics in the Calvary chapel: 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Last supper


This buffet table in a forest was actually for a "birthday party" in honor of an archaeologist friend who had died earlier in that year.

But tonight, it being Maundy Thursday for my Christian friends, the long table somehow looks more like the Last Supper, the one that took place in Jerusalem a long time ago.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for "No entry to flocks!!"


I had to laugh the first time I walked down to Meitar from the eastern desert hills. 
There on the periphery of my town, just before the outermost houses, stood a green sign.
(You can see it between the two utility poles.)


I can't read Arabic, but the Hebrew warning, literally translated, is


I laughed, imagining sheep and goats in handcuffs standing before a judge.

What I cannot imagine is a flock invading clean, orderly Meitar and starting to poop and graze in the parks and the now-lush gardens of residents.
The faded and bent old sign must be a throwback to 29-year-old Meitar's earlier days.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday and to Signs, signs.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palms of Meitar on Sunday


Well, this is the closest I got to palms today.
Now that I live in Meitar I miss being able to see the Palm Sunday processions in Jerusalem.

The most I can offer you is this Franciscan Media Center video of today's worship with the palm branches inside the Holy Sepulchre.
Or you are welcome to visit my Palm Sunday procession posts and slideshows from past years.

Holiday greetings to the Christian readers on this special day today.

Tomorrow, Monday evening, we Jews will sit down to the seder and start the week of Pesach, Passover.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Stop and smell


My little Libby in the wadi, a flower among flowers.
For several generations now, Israeli children have been educated to let the wildflowers grow and never to pick them. 

But the photo did remind me of something our President Shimon Peres said in his Shabbat greetings on Facebook today.

Peres just returned from a very friendly official visit to China.
There, he writes,  he learned two wise sayings.

First:  The hand which offers a flower will be graced with  pleasing fragrance.

The second:  Be quick to open your eyes but slow to open your mouth.
P.S. Click once, then once again, on the second photo.  What strange multi-colored flowers, no?!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The desert says good night


The other evening, around 6:00 pm, I felt a pretty sunset coming on.
 So I walked a block down to the end of Meitar, stepped out into the desert, and looked all around.
To the west the sun was quickly sinking.

To the northeast,  fingers of pink clouds reached out of the South Hebron Hills.
A hand stretched out in blessing, before the fall of night?
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Learning the land on foot


    Starting point

Bright and early Friday morning hundreds of Meitar pupils set out on the 23rd annual Meitar hike.

Granddaughter Libby's pre-kindergarten class sat down for breakfast, and their teacher, Orli, used the time to teach them how to look for animal footprints and droppings and try to guess which animals had been there not long before them.

A general orientation of what's out there.
Meitar at the bottom.
Straight west on the middle line would be Lakiya [Bedouin town],  then somewhere on a bare hill the Negev Brigade [Palmach] Memorial.

Going from 10:00 to 2:00 on the "map"--
Hura [Bedouin township],    the Bedouin diaspora [i.e. unrecognized settlements],   Omer [Jewish town],  Beer Sheva [big city]
and to the right:  Sansana Forest,   the Green Line,   Sansana [a Jewish settlement just over the Green Line in the West Bank],    Ramabin Tribe [or clan].

See the area on a real Google map here.

 Border Police were stationed along the route, making sure the kids did not take a wrong turn.

I was surprised to come upon antiquities, only partly excavated a long time ago, it looked like!
Will have to find out more about that. 

The whole hike in the desert was only two and a half hours, and then we descended down to little Meitar, home.
It's great to have the South Hebron Hills / Northern Negev nature right in our backyard.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Bezeq shalom, how can I help you today?"


In the previous post we talked about the exciting new discovery of beautiful mosaics and a Byzantine monastery at the entrance to Hura, our neighbor to the east.

Yesterday's 23rd annual Meitar March took hundreds of school kids out into the Negev desert surrounding our town and I got to see Hura for the first time, albeit from a distance.
Click on the photo once and then once again and you'll be able to see its several tall minarets and many multi-storey buildings.
Begun in 1989, just a few years after Meitar, Hura is now much bigger than us in area and population.
Israel's Bedouin population doubles every 15 years.

In reading Wikipedia about Hura and about Negev Bedouin I learned that in 2012  Bezeq, Israel's giant telecommunications group, opened a call center to provide assistance to Internet customers. 
Where? -- in the Bedouin village of Hura!
Where exactly?  -- in the mosque!

Al Arabiya News has a nice article and a short video about this. 
Here is part of it:

Because of their traditional, patriarchal lifestyle, persuading husbands and fathers to allow wives and daughters to go to work was not easy and the best way to allay fears was overcome by housing the call center at the mosque.
”The girls felt safe when we told them that they will work under a mosque. They were so happy because a girl feels she is in a safe place, like in her house and her village. Now we have two shifts, morning and evening and the girls work until 23:00, and we could only get this because we operate from the mosque,” said Naifa al-Nabari, vocational coordinator for Rayan Center.
Al-Nabari added that there were plenty of well educated women in Hura and other towns in the area but that until now almost all had become teachers. Working in customer service was a new departure.

A Ynet article adds that "The center is managed and operated by 50 Bedouin women, but it is expected to employ more women in the future. It offers assistance in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

6th century Byzantine monastery discovered, right next door!


This treading floor of an ancient winepress, half-covered by stones and fallen pine needles, was just sitting nonchalantly, unmarked,  in a little forest near the Israel Trail here in the northern Negev.
If our hike guide had not known where to find it, no one would have seen it. 

It's just another simple white floor made for grape-crushing many centuries ago.
Ho hum . . .

In contrast, however, a really exciting discovery was announced this week!
A 6th century Byzantine monastery with gorgeous mosaic floors!!!
It was found when road work was begun for Meitar's close neighbors, the Bedouin town of Hura. 

You can read the Israel Antiquities Authority's press release about it.
Scroll down to almost the end and click to download  their high resolution photographs.
You'll be glad you did!
UPDATE:  The link to the 41 MB zip folder of pictures  is

Some features of the mosaics are unique,  like the leaf motif.
And the green and yellow tesserae may have come from the Judean desert; they have not been  found in any other Byzantine ruins in Israel.
Who knows what else is waiting to be discovered right "in our own backyard"!