Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Holy Sepulchre as workplace


How does it feel to be a floor washer of the holiest Christian site in the world?
I could imagine it as a big honor.

Coming very early one morning to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, before the hordes of tourists descended on it, I was almost alone in the cavernous church.
Only the cleaning man was busy, washing the ancient stones at the entrance. 

His buckets and mops were stashed behind the great door,  on the very steps which lead up to Calvary, to Golgotha.
For more about the Holy Sepulchre see Sacred Destinations or visit some of my previous posts.

Today city bloggers all over the world are posting People in Their Workplace for our City Daily Photo theme day.  You're invited.
(Also linking to OurWorld Tuesday and  Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bedouin girl and camel


A Bedouin girl brings in the family camel.
One of many small Bedouin settlements in the Negev,  Israel's southern desert.

Please enlarge the photo a few times to see them better (photo from a fast-moving bus).

Linking to Camera Critters.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A religious pioneering community in the Negev

This week the blog has been showing you some of the three different types of intentional communities that our group visited last Friday.
They all belong to the Ramat Negev Regional Council in southern Israel.

Here is the Council's "city hall" in the desert.

Our next stop was Kfar Retamim, a religious community/ yeshuv kehilati.
They started small in 2006 and today they are 180 adults and 280 children. 

A member (with his first-born holding his hand) explained to our group how it works.
But why not hear it from this 6-minute video. Enjoy the young woman's enthusiasm!

And more info and a map are here.

I'll be showing you two surprising things at Retamim in the coming posts.
Happy Thanksgiving to the friends in America.
UPDATE: Online info about Retamim.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

15 young families living together in the desert

As I was saying (in the cat selfie post), on Friday my Shishi Zioni group went down south of Beer Sheva to visit and learn about three different ways of living together in the Negev desert:
 1. a kibbutz mitchadesh, 2. a religious yeshuv kehilati (community settlement/planned community), and 3. a mixed religious + secular yeshuv kehilati.

Our bus slowly went up the dirt road to Sheizaf.
Half in jest our guide said not to fear the guard dogs because they were tired from having barked all night.

Our busload of older Israelis numbered just about the same as the current population of Sheizaf which is 15  young couples with 20 little kids.

Each family lives in a caravan, the portable pre-fab houses that were set on the ground in 2012.
Or maybe they are big enough to be considered caravillot.
(The Hebrew word caravilla is a portmanteau of the words caravan and villa.)

  Itai, who was a driving force in creating this yeshuv kehilati/community settlement, spoke with pride about the young people who were attracted from all over the country to come and establish a new place in the sparsely-populated Negev desert.
BTW, recruitment was done via e-mail and Internet. 

Our guide for the morning was Ofir, head of hityashvut/settlement for the Ramat Negev Local Council.
In addition to his help, Sheizaf got backing from Ayalim Association, a 21st century organization whose slogan is "Bringing young adults to live and volunteer in the toughest places in Israel to serve as its newest Pioneers."
This means the Negev and the Galilee. *

See a short video explaining Ayalim's altruistic aims.

Sheizaf is not enclosed within a fence.
At their website you can enjoy a slideshow of the houses and people of the community.

One of the fathers brought up his little son, to the delight of all the grandparents of our group.

Sheizaf is a rare example of a social experiment  deliberately mixing observant and non-observant Jews.
There vision is to grow to 250-400 families and when the kids are ready for school to have a mixed religious + secular education for them.
(The practice in Israel today is for a child to attend either religious school or secular school.)
Good luck to these brave and idealistic young people who chose a far-from-easy life!
*UPDATE: I see Ayalim does good work in central Israel as well.  This article and little video about their new project in Lod just appeared today.  A shipping container village is going up to house the enthusiastic students!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cement to build a nation


I am always fascinated when seeing the Nesher factory from afar.
At night it is lit up like a big city.

"The company's flagship plant in Ramle near Tel Aviv is one of the world's largest and leading factories in terms of production capacity, advanced production technology and preserving the environment," their website says.
"During 80 years the company has produced 125 million tons of cement, which among other things, has been used in the construction of 4 million homes."
Nesher has three factories in Israel.
"Nesher supplies most of the cement needs of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and also exports cement and clinker."

Clinker? Who every heard of clinker?  Not me.
For ABC Wednesday,  T is for tons and tons of cement.
And I just clicked on Nesher's Hebrew website and found they offer tours for families and groups during Chanuka vacation!
Register at
During the whole year 2013 some 26,000 came to their Visitors Center.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thousands of Chabad rabbis take a group selfie!


It is not often I find something for the Monday Murals meme, so I was extra happy to discover the Rebbe painted on rolling shutters protecting the entrance to a store in Beer Sheva's old section.

The Rebbe is the late great Rabbi Menachem Shneerson, scholar, teacher, leader, and the pioneer of Jewish outreach.
The head of Chabad-Lubavitch movement died in 1994 in New York,  but many of his devoted followers believe he was, and still is, the Moshiach, the messiah.

In the 1950s the Lubavitcher Rebbe, from headquarters in Brooklyn,  started sending out young rabbis and their wives to cities and towns all over America and the world, even the remotest places like Kathmandu.
These idealistic couples open Chabad Houses and offer worship, classes, support, and love to Jews who are far from being observant.
They are called in Hebrew shluchim, literally, those who are sent out.

This week 4,200 of these rabbis are in New York for their International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.
Don't miss these amazing photos of how they take a huge group selfie!
It was taken with a particularly large lens that was held up with a 5-meter-long stick carried by two men.

And equally impressive are these pictures of how the 4,200  pose for the more orderly and formal  annual photo.
They even launched a helicopter-drone to take a video of the mass photo shoot!
UPDATE: This  in today's Times of Israel says it so well:   Thank you Chabad.  Very worth a read.
(Also linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Selfie of a cat


Well! -- this was the first time I ever took a selfie of a CAT!

But there is a good reason why I couldn't get up and stand in front of the cat and take a normal shot.

Yesterday my Shishi Zioni group went to three places in the Ramat Negev region to hear about three different types of communities.  (More about that in coming posts.)
Most of the folks sat down on chairs on one side to hear Itai, a member of Shizaf, talk to us.

I sat on a row of stacked stones on another side.
A cat came from behind to check out the several people on the stones.
I said "Psst psst" to invite her him over.
She He accepted and came for a good snuggle, then settled down right next to me!
The lady on the other side of the cat was not at all happy about our new neighbor.
But I happily laid my hand on the warm, fluffy, clean, purring kitty and tried to concentrate on the lecture and not attract attention.
I just had to,  however, take one discreet selfie of this sweet animal!
Wish I could have taken her him home. 
UPDATE: I am now reading the garinsheizaf Facebook page of the community and learn that the cat is a male named Bentzi and he is their only cat.
(Linking to Camera Critters.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beer Sheva, Bedouins, and a boy


A few pictures for SkyWatch Friday  from today's trip to Ramat Negev. 

The clouds are rolling in and tomorrow should bring thunderstorms and maybe flash floods.

Little patches of sun bring light to the desert.

Please enlarge this photo to get a better look at the sprawling skyline of Beer Sheva contrasted with a Bedouin settlement in the foreground.
And a Bedouin boy walking along the busy highway.
A lucky catch (not intended, not even seen) from a speeding bus! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Drylands, Deserts & Desertification conference today


Today I got to go to the last day of the 5th International DDD Conference -- Drylands, Deserts & Desertification.
This year's theme was Healthy Lands  Healthy People.

You can see the many interesting topics that were covered in the brochure.

The venue was the beautiful Sde Boker campus of Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
Right after the closing session, foreign attendees went straight to free buses to Ben Gurion Airport or to Jerusalem.
I took this one northward to Beer Sheva.

But first everyone grabbed one of the delightfully crumpled paper bags filled with a sandwich, citrus fruit, and water.
"Sandwiches on the go"  it was called.
Indeed, the bus soon smelled of tuna and clementines.
It was a good day and a warm day, 27 degrees C.
I learned a lot about the great projects going on in Israel and in the dry parts of the planet.
Idealist people with vision trying to improve the earth and the world. 
UPDATE: The Franciscans just put up a little video report on the conference.
(Linking to signs, signs and to  Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's only a bee suit

No, it is not a hazmat (hazardous materials) suit for ebola.
It's just a bee suit trying to bring customers to the honey table at Beer Sheva street fair.

However, last month medical and security teams at Ben Gurion International Airport did hold an exercise to simulate an arrival of an Ebola patient to Israel.
And Israel is sending clinical aid to the three countries in Africa that need it most. 


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sheepskins on a pillar


S is for stack of sheepskins for sale in Jerusalem's Old City.

For ABC Wednesday.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Build your house wisely [if you can afford a house]


On Friday  Meitar's gym was full of young couples.

As the stacks of booklets prove, it was a lecture and exhibit day on the subject Build Your House Wisely--in Meitar and Carmit, 2014.

Wouldn't it be fun to have a samples case like this full of little floor tiles?

My grandchildren would love to play with such samples.

This is probably as close as I'll ever get to the beautiful (and costly) imported material.
But at least I learned the name Klinker (see about clinkers in Wiki).
Here is a short video becrying the skyrocketing prices of plots for homes in the now being built new neighborhood of Meitar, like three times more than in 2008.
Even if you don't speak Hebrew, you can see our Council Head (mayor) and my town of Meitar.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In line to be milked


Finally, some animals for Camera Critters meme.

Cows (many!)  walking into the milking parlor at the kibbutz in central Israel where I picked olives a few weeks ago.
Enlarge the photo and see one cow facing the wrong direction.
Sign I once saw on a milk truck in America: "Everything we have we owe to udders."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The trip from hell

Sorry to burden you, gentle reader, with three difficult posts in a row.
But I have to get it off my chest,  memories of my short jump back to Jerusalem Nov. 5-7.
Next post will be a happier one, inshallah.

Jerusalemites are on edge now, at the beginning of what some want to call the Car Intifada
 Do see the link!

Plus, I was trying to get home to the quiet Negev on a Friday afternoon--and you must keep in mind that public transportation stops for the Sabbath, from mid- or late Friday afternoon until Saturday night.

When my bus from the Jerusalem Hills reached Mt. Herzl light rail terminus, I saw we were in trouble.
Hundreds of passengers were waiting for the tram that normally comes every five minutes.
The sign was saying "Vehicle stopped, there will be a delay."
Of course everyone starts imagining the worst: maybe there was another car-ramming terrorist attack that stopped the tram on the east side of the city?

Finally, after half an hour, a security guard told us the tram had been stopped at Denmark Square station because of a "suspicious object,"  i.e. a bomb scare. 
That was a relief; we are used to that.
 But everyone was nervously looking at their watch, praying they would get home in time (especially the observant Jews, who do not use mechanized transportation on Shabbat).

When the tram finally came, everyone crammed inside like sardines.
At the next station, another crowd was waiting and our driver had to shut the doors before everyone could get on.
One soldier in a hurry was infuriated that the driver did not let him on, and apparently he "punished" the driver and all of us passengers by standing on the track in front of the train.

The driver got on the P.A. system and said to the insulted young man: "What you are doing is not very nice, move aside or I'll have to call the police."
Meanwhile the driver turned off the power!  It is that moment I dread when it suddenly goes all quiet and the ventilation stops, the moment when my claustrophobia kicks in, when the collective memory of Jews squished together in cattle cars arises.
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine green pastures.

When the way cleared, we finally made it to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station where I was now late for my bus to Beer Sheva.
I finally got to Beer Sheva but of course was late for the connection to Meitar that I had planned and had to sit in the BS Central Bus Station for an hour.

But you know what?   When I finally shlepped my heavy backpack into the last bus to Meitar and slumped into the plush seat, the mood inside the bus was totally different from the tense Jerusalem mood.
The bus driver was singing and whistling along to the good old Israeli pioneer songs on the radio.
I even hummed along.
A crazy old man in the back of the bus started shouting complaints about something to the driver.
The driver carried on driving and answering the man with humor and patience, looking at him in the rearview mirror.  And singing.
I secretly gave him a thumbs-up and he winked back to me.  God bless him.

After five hours on the way I came home, so happy to be home in the desert!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Will ugly dragon's teeth save our lives?

So in the previous post I was telling you that I made a short trip back to my old place in the Jerusalem Hills.
And that I arrived Wednesday (Nov. 5) evening, shortly after yet another case of a Palestinian driving onto a tram platform and running over  people. (See the video if you dare.)

I was thinking as I waited for my bus: why doesn't the Jerusalem Municipality set out some dragon's teeth like the British did for blockading Jerusalem streets during the British Mandate.
(BTW, if you follow the link to dragon's teeth, that is one of my photos contributed to Wiki under my username DiggerDina.)
And here is a 1946 photo of British dragon's teeth in actual use in Jerusalem. 

Forty hours later, when I returned to Mt. Herzl tram and bus station to start traveling back to the Negev,  big concrete blocks had indeed materialized!

The new betonadot were strategically placed to prevent any terrorist ramming-car from driving full speed up onto the people platform.

Well, at least they are apparently  good to lean on while you check your cell phone.
Jerusalem Jerusalem, I cry for you, my beloved city.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tension at the tram station

For SkyWatch Friday watch a twilight sky over the Jerusalem Hills change color.

The Calder statue, Homage to Jerusalem--Stabile, sits high atop Mt. Herzl where the artist intended it to be.

Half an hour later, at 5:26, it was almost night.

I was still standing at the tram and bus station, waiting for my connection, for way too long on that bloody November 5.
A white police van, blue lights flashing, was sitting half on the platform.
Just a few hours earlier, a terrorist had killed several people by plowing into them with his white van at another light rail station on the east side of Jerusalem.
We the public, dependent on public transportation, felt nervous, like sitting ducks, wondering if we would be the next targets in the wave of vehicular terrorism sweeping over Jerusalem's tram stations.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

R is for rebar


While I was waiting for my ride to Latrun monastery, this heavy-laden truck stopped for a red light.
Maybe it was not loaded with rebar exactly, but close enough.
I can't resist saying, for ABC Wednesday:
R is for reinforcement steel rebar rods! 
UPDATE:  I am surprised that rebar is new to many readers.  Here in Israel you can't walk more than a few blocks without seeing rebar in its various uses.   But then, we build only in stone and concrete, not with wood like in Europe.
To see examples of rebar's uses, see my posts:
1.  The First Station (of the train, not of the Cross) 
2.  Steam Chimneys  see how workers bend rebar
(Linking also to signs, signs.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day, Beersheva War Cemetery


If Armistice Day had come just a bit earlier than November 11, 1918,  there would be mercifully fewer gravestones in Commonwealth cemeteries in the world.

Just in little Israel alone, thousands and thousands of foreign soldiers are buried or commemorated in British war cemeteries in Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, Ramla, Haifa, and Gaza.

The Beersheba War Cemetery contains 1,241 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 67 of them unidentified.

Among the crosses, a star of David for a British Jewish officer.

 More about the cemetery from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
By October 1917, General Allenby's force had been entrenched in front of a strong Turkish position along the Gaza-Beersheba road for some months, but they were now ready to launch an attack with Beersheba as its first objective. On 31 October, the attack was carried out by the XXth Corps . . . on the west, and the Desert Mounted Corps on the east. That evening the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade charged over the Turkish trenches into the town.
The cemetery was made immediately on the fall of the town, remaining in use until July 1918, by which time 139 burials had been made.
It was greatly increased after the Armistice when burials were brought in from a number of scattered sites and small burial grounds.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)