Sunday, May 31, 2015

Orthodox Pentecost today and a video


The Orthodox and Eastern Churches are celebrating Pentecost this weekend.
(Catholic and Protestant Pentecost was last Sunday.)
Here in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the Greek Orthodox clergy's red vestments bring to mind the red tongues of fire of the first Pentecost in Jerusalem.
The prostration goes with the liturgy of the day which has three sets of kneeling prayers for Pentecost.
The first is a prayer of great repentance; the second prayer is a call to the Holy Spirit to help the faithful follow the right path during their life; and the third prayer is to remember those who have gone before.

Some selected lines from the liturgy:
DEACON: For those who incline their hearts as well as the knee before the Lord, let us pray to the Lord.
CANTOR: Lord, have mercy.

DEACON: That He will accept our act of kneeling as incense before Him, let us pray to the Lord.
CANTOR: Lord, have mercy. . . .
DEACON: Again, on bended knees, let us pray to the Lord.
CANTOR: Lord, have mercy. Kyrie eleison.
My photos are from 2009 but not much changes from year to year.
Wishes for a joyous feast day to all the Orthodox Christians!
Sister  Dr. Vassa Larin, an American sister of the Russian Orthodox Church, has eleven minutes of good insights about Pentecost/Descent of the Holy Spirit in this new video (Episode 50!):
(You can also follow her meditations and world travels on her Facebook page, Vassa Larin.)

UPDATE: Here is the entire text of Great Vespers on the Sunday Evening of Pentecost with the Kneeling Prayers, in English, from the helpful website .
UPDATE June 6: Today the Jerusalem Patriarchate put online the videos and photos of the Orthodox celebration of Pentecost.

(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday.)

Friday, May 29, 2015

Rappelling in Makhtesh Ramon


This instructor and those religious girls were about to go over the cliff of Makhtesh Ramon.

 Enlarge this photo with two separate clicks and you can see where they are headed.
It is just a ledge a few dozen meters down.
NOT the whole 500 meters down to the makhtesh floor.

There they go!

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority sign has all the instructions for this rappelling site
Even the number to call at the Visitors Center if you come across damaged clamps in the stone (!).

The ropes, the pack.
Oi, I'm glad it's not my kids down there.
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"In the beginning" -- Beresheet Hotel in the Negev desert


A few days ago you saw the Visitors Center of Makhtesh Ramon.
Let's walk a few minutes along the rim of the "crater" and see what those buildings are on the left of the top photo.

Believe it or not, it's a luxury hotel!
Beresheet is named after the first word in the Book of Genesis; it means "In the beginning."

Here are some of the 111 "cabins."
Each one has a view of the makhtesh ("crater") and some have their own little pools.

I have never been inside (because weekday rates start at $322 per couple per night!).
But this article  says there is no grand entrance to the deluxe hotel,  just this gate, and you enter and park and wait for your golf cart ride to the lobby.
There are indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a sauna and hamam, and the full spa treatment.
 You can see indoor photos in this slideshow (under "Beresheet").

From this side the hotel seems to stick out a lot, but from the crater side it blends in more with the nature.
As their website says, "This exceptional desert hotel maintains a dialog with the surrounding desert, allowing its essence to penetrate every corner ..."    blah blah ... 

Here is the simple sign on the road.
UPDATE Jan. 2017:  Article about the hotel and its relation to the nearby town, Mitzpe Ramon.
UPDATE July 2019: The other "crater," the smaller one, just became a nature reserve:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tilting trees


For ABC Wednesday, T is for tilting trees.
I found these pines leaning only when I came up over the north side of the hill.

On the top they were nice and straight.
You can click twice to enlarge the photos and enjoy the forest. 

On the south side of the ridge, the trees stood tall.
I love wandering in the forests and the desert near my home.

Makhtesh Ramon in the desert


Welcome to the Mitzpe Ramon Visitor Center.
Inside you can learn about this unique area in Israel's Mount Negev region.
The new Ilan Ramon Museum is also inside, commemorating our astronaut who perished when the space shuttle Colombia burned up in 2003. 

The Visitor Center perches on the cliff  500 meters above the floor of Makhtesh Ramon.
Click on the photo twice to see the little people.

The Negev desert has three enormous craterlike makhteshim, which are unique to the region: Makhtesh Ramon, Makhtesh Gadol, and Makhtesh Katan.

The Wikipedia article on makhtesh says,
Although commonly referred to as "craters," these formations are "erosion cirques" (steephead valleys or box canyons).
Craters are formed by the impact of a meteor or volcanic eruption, whereas makhteshim are created by erosion.
The word makhtesh is the Hebrew word for a mortar grinder (מַכְתֵּשׁ‎). The geological landform was given this name because of its similarity to a grinding bowl.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Both count 50 days: Pentecost and Shavuot, both today!

It is a double celebration today, with Jewish Shavuot and Christian Pentecost coming on the same day.

Today Jews celebrate Shavuot, also know by its Biblical names Chag HaKatsir, the [wheat] Harvest Festival, and Yom HaBikurim, Day of the First Fruits.
By tradition today also marks the day of King David's birth and death.
But mainly Shavuot is Zman Matan Toratenu, The Season of the Giving of our Torah.
Seven weeks (shavuot = weeks) have passed since Passover.
It took 49 (+1) days of wandering in the desert for God and Moses to prepare the People for the the biggest day in history.
In today's morning prayer service Exodus 19-20 is read.
All rise in silent reverence to listen to the Ten Commandments with the feeling that we all are standing at Mount Sinai.
The scroll of the Book of Ruth is also chanted, in loving memory of David and of Ruth, his Moabite ancestor, the mother of all converts.

In the dim recesses of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a priest and his reflection.
What almost looks like a flame above his head reminds us that this Sunday is Pentecost for some Christians.

The Book of Acts says that the Apostles were gathered together in one place [in Jerusalem's Upper Room] when suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing wind, filling the entire house where they were sitting.
Then tongues of fire appeared and one sat upon each one of Apostles!
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as directed by the Holy Spirit.

Chag sameach, happy holiday  to you, whichever festival you are celebrating today!
(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Kawas ceremonial guards at the Ascension

On their calendar, today was the great Feast of the Ascension for Orthodox and Eastern Christians.
 Jerusalem's Chapel of the Ascension was first built around 390.
It was destroyed and rebuilt by various conquerors many times.
A mosque and minaret were added next to the chapel in 1620 and the entire site remains in Muslim possession.
The main octagonal edicule surrounds the Ascension rock, said to bear the footprint of Jesus as he ascended, forty days after the resurrection.
It is on the Mount of Olives, in the Arab neighborhood A-Tur.
You can see photos of the 2012 celebration there in my posts about  Ascension along with links to information about the holiday and the place.

Today I want to show you only the Kawasim that were at that Ascension celebration.

Since Ottoman Turk times, these Arab ceremonial guards lead the way and clear the way for processions of Jerusalem's Christian clergy, with a rhythmic tapping of their staffs. 

The Kawas is kind of like the Swiss Guard in the Vatican. 
Some of them are Muslims and some are Christians. 

You can see more nice Kawasim in my posts  about a Papal Mass and in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
They are a wonderful part of Jerusalem.
UPDATE April 2021: The story of Shibly Abu Sada, a kawas for 24 years:

UPDATE May 27: The [Orthodox] Jerusalem Patriarchate today published online their photos and videos of their Ascension Day on the Mt. of Olives, May 21.  
Sr. Dr. Vassa has a new and very interesting brief video about making the transition from Ascension to Pentecost.  It is about what/why is Church.

(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Desert safari trucks


Desert safari trucks for adventure tours in the desert.
These two were parked in the small town of Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev.
(S for safari for ABC Wednesday.)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Electrifying color


Passing in my bus, I always enjoy  seeing this bonus splash of color in the Negev.
I always wonder who made it.  And why? 
Maybe just for decoration? 
Or to mark the side entrance to the small town Omer?

(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Happy Jerusalem Day!


Here's looking at you, Jerusalem!
Happy Jerusalem Day today!
Photo of the Damascus Gate into the Old City, during the Light Festival in June 2014.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ascension Day in Jerusalem


Happy Ascension Day to the Catholics and other Christians celebrating it today. 

This is the ancient Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives.

The Eastern churches will be celebrating Ascension next Thursday.
To learn more about the ancient chapel and the holy day please read this article.
You are also welcome to revisit my posts about the Orthodox Ascension prayers of 2012.

UPDATE: The Franciscans just published an article describing their worship at the Ascension Chapel last week. 
UPDATE May 27: The [Orthodox] Jerusalem Patriarchate today published online their photos and videos of their Ascension Day on the Mt. of Olives, May 21. 
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Women of the Negev


Two young Bedouin women crossing the highway, heading in the direction of Tel Sheva.

Tel Sheva, or in Arabic Tel as-Sabi, is a Bedouin town twice the size of Meitar, my town.
(Linking to OurWorld Tuesday.)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dogs in the desert?


"Dogs are permitted in the national park only when leashed.
Do not release your dog!"

The breathtaking view from the Ben-Gurion Heritage Institute at Sde Boker in the Negev.

Down in the canyon is Ein Avdat National Park.

Information about the park is here
(Linking to signs, signs and  Camera Critters.)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ben-Gurion stands on his head


This morning the usual group went down south to the Ben-Gurion Heritage Institute at Sde Boker for this season's last Shishi Zioni session.
We saw two presentations on the subject "Movies and Internet social media as instruments of social change."

This little statue by Dina Babay is part of an exhibition there. 

On the Institute's brochure is the iconic photo of David Ben-Gurion standing on his head at Herzlia beach in 1957.
It is juxtaposed with the equally famous photograph of "The Old Man" proclaiming the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The caption above says something like "The man who turned worlds upside down in order to stand a nation on its feet."

In this 2009 colored ink print by Moshik Lin the tables are turned: here it is the map of Israel that is upside down.
I think B-G would appreciate the humor because he always stressed that our southern desert, the Negev, should have top priority; and indeed he himself retired to Kibbutz Sde Boker and is buried there.

You can read here all about the exhibition “David Ben-Gurion and his Legacy in the Mirror of Israeli Art."

Ben-Gurion's "personal trainer"  who slowly slowly got him ready to do the headstands was none other than Moshe Feldenkrais (the famous founder of the Feldenkrais Method for mind-body improvement). 
What I didn't know was that Feldenkrais was recruited in London in the early 1950s and brought to Israel to work as a rocket scientist!
Read the fascinating story in Haaretz.
Shabbat shalom.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bird of paradise


A bird of paradise.

The plant itself is really big, here in the inner yard of Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva.
The pictures are from over a month ago; I suppose these Strelitzia flowers are no more.   Spring is way too short in the desert.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Night hike to a Byzantine-era cistern!


A cistern from the Byzantine period, right in my town's backyard, near the Meitar Forest!
Some 1,500 years ago people (farmers? monks? villagers?) collected and stored rain water  down there in a big plastered cistern.

I edited the first photo lighter so you could see the nice handwork, how the folks carved out the stairs and entrance in the soft chalk.
But actually we were out there in  the dark, after 8:00 pm!

The group of about 20 was fortunate to have our neighbor, Dr. Zeev Zivan, as our gude.
The hike was part of the worldwide Jane's Walk  global festival of citizen-led free community walks.
Here Zeev was explaining the blaze for the Israel National Trail.

The whole walk to the wilderness was only an hour and a half but we were blessed to witness both sunset and moonrise.
I came home exhilarated, feeling lucky to live so near the desert and its ancient history!