Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bon appetit


Bordering  Meitar is a big farm field that is tended by a neighboring kibbutz. 
Back in May I stepped in for a closer look, wondering what they had planted  in the endless furrows.

"The field is sprayed. Danger - poison!"
it says in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and I think Thai. 
UPDATE Dec. 15:  From 2015,  new laws reducing the amount of pesticide on fruits and vegetables.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Archaeologist Yuval Peleg z"l


In May 2012 this top archaeologist, Yuval Peleg,  was our guide for a Yad Ben Zvi Institute  tour to the Inn of the Good Samaritan and to the monastery of St. Martyrius.
We learned so much that afternoon.
Here above he is explaining the big rolling (or sealing) stone at the gate.
The Martyrius site was  discovered in 1982 when the city of Ma'ale Adumim was being built.  Now it is right in the middle of town.

To our shock and sadness, Yuval Peleg was buried this morning in his hometown, Ma'ale Adumim.
Yesterday he and several Palestinian workers were  beginning to investigate  a cave near Sebastia in the West Bank when big rocks rolled down the hill and crushed him.

May he rest in peace and may God comfort his young family, now suddenly in mourning.
The profession will miss Yuval and his big smile. 

I could write a small book on my own almost-brushes with death at various expeditions around Israel over the years.
Archaeology, at least for those of us who actually work with pickax and turia,  is a profession fraught with danger.
Maybe that is part of what makes it so exciting.
(Todd Bolen's blog has more links about the accident and about Peleg.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gethsemane at closing time


A few more pictures from my recent short trip back to Jerusalem, these for Skywatch Friday.
Such a blue late afternoon sky above the Mount of Olives!
The golden tiles of the mosaic reflected the setting sun with blinding light. 

I never noticed there is a little mosaic on the side of the facade too.
Enlarge the photo to see it better.
I came at closing time (for a special event) and the usual throngs of tourist groups were gone, allowing one to see and hear much more. 
Inside, the mosaics of the ceiling of the Church of All Nations were recently painstakingly cleaned and repaired and now they sparkle.
UPDATE, Thursday evening:
I should have added this nice video about the restorers.  You will be happy you watched it.
(Linking to Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What would John the Baptist say?

Some pictures for John the Baptist on his birthday! 

Enlarge the photo above and see John baptizing Jesus in the River Jordan.

The gift shop at Kasr il Yahud, near Jericho, is full of souvenirs for pilgrims.

Sometimes I wonder how John would react if he could see the modern version of his desert  baptismal site,  complete with tourist buses,  Israeli army patrols,

refrigerated trucks bringing ice cream to the kiosk,

and groups of young North Americans being dunked by their pastor,
while being photographed and filmed,

to the accompaniment of guitars and songs.
What do you think?
(More blog pictures of Kasr al Yahud here.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Damascus Gate like you've never seen it

If you look at the Damascus Gate long enough, it starts to look back at you.

Here are some of the projections onto the magnificent gate during the Jerusalem Festival of Light.

 A few showed courses of stones tumbling down or fire on the walls, and that was difficult to watch.
May it never happen.

I wonder if this painting with light could be considered momentary murals.
Either way, I send them now to Monday Murals meme.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Olive trees of over 900 years

After seeing the Garden of Gethsemane from outside its Franciscan walls in the previous post, some readers wished to see the inside.

Olive tree trunks' rings are difficult to count.
So recently carbon dating was used to determine the age of these venerable trees in the garden where (tradition says) Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion.

Three of the trees were found to be from the years 1092, 1166, and 1198.
 The study was made by the National Research Council of Italy Trees and Timber Institute and by academics from five Italian universities.

See the pillar of stones supporting this leaning tree?
You can enlarge the photos to see better.
It was 7:45-8:00 in the evening when I was there.

The garden is next to the Church of Gethsemane, properly known as the Basilica of the Agony, popularly known as the Church of All Nations.

These olive trees are among the oldest known to science.
But to the pilgrims who pray there, a century more or less is not what moves them, sometimes to tears.
Here is more about the recent study, and Wikipedia has more about Gethsemane.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The softness of evening


Last Sunday was I think my first time to be on the Mount of Olives after 8 pm.
It's quite beautiful with the Church of All Nations illuminated.
Inside the walls are the ancient olive trees of the Garden of Gethsemane.
The gold onion-shaped domes further up the hill are the Church of Mary Magdalene and the Russian Orthodox convent.

The deep blue sky over Jerusalem is for SkyWatch Friday.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

World Sauntering Day

Grandkids Dean and Libby, 2011,  Australia

Happy World Sauntering Day!
Never heard of this day till today, but I am all in favor of sauntering whenever possible.

The Wiki article about the day explains, "It is simply to walk slowly, preferably with a joyful disposition. Sauntering has been spoken of most notably by many of the naturalist writers in history including Henry David Thoreau and John Burroughs. . .
Its purpose is to remind us to take it easy, smell the roses, to slow down and enjoy life as opposed to rushing through it."

I think we photo-bloggers are already in the habit of sauntering, otherwise we would miss all those nice things waiting to be seen and photographed.
I learned of World Sauntering Day at this nice Jewish Treats blog post, where it is compared to the positive  Jewish character trait known as zreezut (haste).
He says
Jewish living is about balance. One needs to know the appropriate time for z’reezut and the appropriate time for “sauntering.” Indeed, one does not exclude the other. Slowing down allows one to be more aware of others, which may provide a chance to discover new mitzvah opportunities (which one can then hurry to take care of).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lighting up the night


For ABC Wednesday, W is for white women.

This year's Festival of Light in Jerusalem has 27 places of wonderful light.

These dancers in illuminated costumes danced to ballet music in the cool night air  just outside the Old City wall near the New Gate.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Forest fire burning above Abu Ghosh

I just returned to Meitar from a few days visit to my previous hometown in the Jerusalem Hills.

 My bus left Jerusalem at 1:35 and when we  passed Abu Ghosh at 1:50  a really big forest fire was burning!

Apparently they closed that part of Highway One (Jerusalem <-> Tel Aviv) right after.
Dozens of firefighting units and planes are battling the fire.
News says it is around Kibbutzim Maale Hahamisha and Kiryat Anavim and the Israeli Arab town of Abu Ghosh.

This is the turn off to those villages, from Highway One.

The houses of Abu Ghosh.

Now, at 5:55,  news reports the fire has been "contained,"  but it ain't over yet. 

Oi,  I hate forest fire season. 
Good  luck to the folks in the hills.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Not good

Shalom friends.
Sorry that I just can't get into blogging now while all Israel is worrying about the three teenage boys who were kidnapped by terrorists on Thursday night.

You can follow the developments in the Israeli papers:,7340,L-3083,00.html

Let us hope and pray for the best, and soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Struma synagogue and museum

Here is another of the three  Beer Sheva synagogues we heard about during Israel Heritage Preservation Week. 
Last week for Shavuot  I blogged about its beautiful Torah scrolls and the colorful tablets of the Ten Commandments glass door.

The bima, where the Torah scroll is unrolled and chanted, is in the center.

But the pulpit is right in front of the aron kodesh, the Torah ark.

The pews are forward-facing, typical for Ashkenazi synagogues (and not like the ones we saw in yesterday's post.

Arie Raiter, President of the Struma Museum and Synagogue, one of the founding members of the congregation, told us all about the history of the building.

If you look at the photos again, you might see that the front of the sanctuary has like the ribs of a ship's bow and along the side walls are "portals," like windows of a ship.

One story made the biggest impression on me (members of the tour group, Israel heritage lovers, also rolled their eyes):
Once he caught two neighborhood boys throwing stones at the windows. 
He asked them "How can you do such a thing to a synagogue which is named in memory of the holy Jewish martyrs of the sunken ship Struma?!"
But they didn't know what he was talking about. 
He took one to the boy's school and confronted his teacher; to Arie's dismay, the teacher had never heard of the Struma.
He then went to the school principal but  was shocked that even she did not know the Struma.

I think that is when he saw the need to put up explaining signs outside and also to make a library of Holocaust books and a history museum about the Struma on the top floor of the synagogue.

The 1942  sinking of the "illegal" immigrant ship was a tragic and seminal event which shaped the ethos of the not-yet-independent state of Israel.
For the founding generation of Israel it signaled their mission to reach a position of strength so that such injustices against Jews could never again be carried out. 
But it is a modern tragedy that younger generations apparently are not being taught about the Struma and its lesson for us. 

Here is the short version from Yad Vashem Shoah Resource Center:

On December 12, 1941, 769 Jews boarded the Struma in the Romanian
port of Constanta. They had been witness to the massacre of Jews in
Bessarabia and Bukovina, and were desperately trying to escape Europe. The
Struma's first stop was to be Istanbul, Turkey---despite the fact that the
passengers had no visas for Turkey. The boat was hardly seaworthy, and
barely reached Istanbul. When it finally arrived, the passengers were not
allowed to disembark. For ten weeks, they were restricted to the boat. The
Turks refused to transfer them to a transit camp on land, even though the
camp would have been funded in complete by Jewish organizations. In
addition, nothing could convince the British authorities to admit these refugees
into Palestine, because they did not want to set a precedent for similar
On February 23, 1942 the Turkish authorities took matters into their own
hands: they towed the old ship to the open sea, without fuel, food, or water.
Within hours, the ship was torpedoed, most probably by a Soviet submarine
that mistook it for an enemy German ship. All but one refugee drowned.

 But I suggest you read the full story at
or at

And another telling of the Struma history  is more emotional and thought-provoking regarding Israel's future:
(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yemenite synagogue

So during Heritage Preservation Week we got a free guided tour of three older synagogues, all in the Alef neighborhood of Beer Sheva.
In the whole city there are over 200 synagogues.

Welcome to the Abba Shalom Shabazi Yemenite Synagogue.

 Women sit in the upper balcony and can look down on the men below.
The pews are along the sides, and the reading desk for the Torah scroll is in the center.

The scroll is kept in a  hard case, a tik,  Sephardic-style, in contrast to the Ashkenazi custom of covering the scroll with a soft mantle, a me'il.

This Yemenite congregation has many beautiful Torahs,

all kept in the aron kodesh, the holy ark.
Jews lived in Yemen ever since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
 Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen's Jewish population was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet.
So many of the new immigrants were directed to Beer Sheva that they needed to build two Yemenite synagogues in the city.
More about Yemenite Jews in Wikipedia.
UPDATE! -- In a secret mission at the end of March 2016 some of the last Jews who remained in Yemen  were brought to Israel!  Read the story here.
Only about fifty Jews still want to live in Yemen.

(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Not what you think


I passed this door and wondered what or who was inside.
Maybe I didn't want to know.
All I knew was that the painting would be good for Monday Mural meme. 

Lest you get the wrong idea, that I wander around in the seedy spots of  the older Beer Sheva neighborhoods,  let me defend myself.
Our tour was quickly following our guide down the street to visit some synagogues.
Eighteen synagogues are concentrated on this one street, and within a few square kilometers there are 33 !

The Hebrew writing on the wall here is "Tirtsale," the diminutive form of the women's name Tirtsa.
I thought I would end the post here and let you react to the mystery place. 
But curiosity is killing me.

Oi, would you believe, there is a Facebook page for Tirtsale!
And photos there show the painted woman wearing a dark purple sweater!
It is a tiny shop for vintage clothes and stuff -- "special things for special women, collected with great love from all over the world."
(Linking also to Our World Tuesday  and  Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.  And for ABC WednesdayV is for vintage and voluptuous.)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A feather in his cap


The very idea of having an Invocation for Peace is a feather in the Pope's cap.
It was very moving to watch the interaction of such different leaders of various faiths  live tonight.

Let's see what happens next.

Invoking peace -- live now

Starting now, live coverage of the Invocation for Peace.
President Peres just arrived at the Vatican gardens. 

Watch it on   
original sound

or   with commentary (for what it's worth. Not the most accurate.)

Texts are here:

Let's hope for the very best!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Feast for the jackals?

So there I was, wandering in the desert outside Meitar, all footloose and fancy free (1).
Sometimes when I hike alone and find nothing special to photograph I ask God to send a sign or  just a little token of friendship.

But this one almost knocked me off my feet! (2)
First reaction: Oh, poor goat! 

But what was God trying to tell me?
That he has a bone to pick with me? (3)
That I should go down on bended knee? (4)  (Wait, Jews don't kneel.)
Or did he just want to pull my leg? (5)

Down the road a piece I found shoes and a pair of jeans laid out at the base of the trail marker.
All this was giving me cold feet (6) and I decided to shake a leg (7) and head home.
1.  able to do whatever you want without any obligations
2.  to surprise or shock someone so much that he does not know what to do,
3.  to want to talk to someone about something annoying they have done
4.  to show a lot of emotion when you are asking someone for something, to act like a servant
5.  to fool someone, to trick someone, to joke with someone
6.  to become afraid and hesitant about something at the last minute
7.  to go fast, to hurry
More at
(Linking to Camera Critters.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Left behind


I walked down to the open land just outside of Meitar this evening.
It is vast desert and a little forest you can have all to yourself, especially right before and after sunset.

But why was there a pair of big black shoes and an empty pair of jeans at the foot of the Israel National Trail marker??
Suddenly it felt kind of creepy to be all alone and I turned toward home.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Calder and cranes dot the blue sky


Calder and cranes.

Some Jerusalem sky for a change, for SkyWatch Friday.

Calder's "Homage to Jerusalem--Stabile" was installed on the top of Mount Herzl in 1977.
Who dreamed back then that it would someday have to share the hill with a new-fangled TRAM!
Mt. Herzl is the terminus for Jerusalem's light rail; it's where tram meets bus.

From the size of those new cranes, it looks like the Calder will soon be in the shadow of several highrises.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Walking through the Ten Commandments

Today is the happy holiday of Shavuot, also called the Festival of Weeks, Pentecost, the holiday of the First Fruits and of the reaping of grain.
Shavuot also became known as the day on which God gave the Torah on Mt. Sinai.
It is a mitsvah for every Jew to stand and hear the Ten Commandments read in the synagogue today. 

During the recent Heritage Preservation Week, the head man of  Struma Synagogue in Beer Sheva showed our tour group the Torah scrolls in their holy ark.

And with a big smile he explained that when they were building the synagogue the 1950s movie "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston was popular, and he was inspired by it to design the back wall and door as the two tablets!

You are welcome to see my other posts about Ruth and Naomi and about cheese and cheesemakers, which are also part of the Shavuot tradition.
See more about the Struma synagogue at my other post.
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday  and   Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)