Saturday, February 24, 2018

Magdala's Women's Atrium


Step into The Women's Atrium and be moved.

Some Franciscans were visiting Duc In Altum at Magdala Center, too.

Smartphone + biblical sandals for the friars of our time.

After Jesus "drove out the demons" from Maria Magdalene, she became his faithful disciple.
And Magdala is the town of her birth.  So of course there is a pillar for her.

The other columns are for Susanna & Joanna (Luke 8:3), Martha & Mary (Luke 10:38), Salome (Mark 15), Simon Peter's mother-in-law (Matthew 8:15), Maria Cleophas (John 19:25), and "many other women" (Aliae Multae) who supported Jesus (Mark 15:41).

But the coolest thing here is that one pillar has been left empty, waiting for YOUR name! 

As the brochure explains,
"One unmarked pillar stands for women of all time who love God and live by faith.  Each woman can spiritually inscribe her name as a poignant reminder of her role in the history of humanity."

The baptismal font stands solidly in the middle of the atrium.
The mosaic on this side is called Descending as a Dove, recalling how the Holy Spirit descended while Jesus was being baptized in the Jordan River.

Water flows from the center, making meditative ripples.

Quoting again, 
"The cupola reflects the sky, [seven] stars and sun's rays with a piece of an image from Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of Jesus, found on the 'tilma' of a native Mexican in 1531.  Her folded hands signify the importance of women who accompany Jesus in the mission of extending the kingdom through prayer."

(More about the tilma here.)

The golden Latin phrase encircling the image on the cupola echoes an idea from the letter on the Dignity of Women (#31) by Pope John Paul II.   It can be translated:
In this holy place, 'the Church gives thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the mystery of woman, and for every woman, for her eternal dignity and for the wonders God has worked in and through her in the history of humanity.' 
And one last message from the Magdala brochure (check my photos above to see what is referred to):
Magdala is a crossroad of Jewish and Christian history.  To reflect this, the walls have been painted with the same colors found in frescoes of the 1st century synagogue [i.e. discovered on their grounds and which I'll post about soon].
The mosaic on the floor of the atrium imitates the meander style pattern found in the synagogue.  Upon the floor mosaic stand 8 columns replicating a Byzantine style church.  The columns are inscribed with the names of New Testament women.
The combination of Jewish and Christian artistic elements in the Women's atrium symbolizes the connection between the Judaic and Christian heritages.  For Christians, it is a reminder of the continuity between the Old and New Testaments, and the Jewish roots of Christianity.
In case you missed my previous two posts, you can find my photos of the exterior of this new spiritual center here and about the unique Boat Chapel here.
More about Duc In Altum's side chapels and the downstairs Encounter Chapel and about the antiquities in coming posts.

Lots more about the work in progress at their website, .
(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Boat Chapel on the Sea of Galilee


Continuing our posts on the Duc In Altum spiritual center at Magdala, here is the scene that greeted our large Jewish group when we entered the atrium.
Beyond the baptismal font and behind the glass doors--the unique Boat Chapel.

Mass was in progress so we did not go in.

But still, I could see the priest with his hands over the chalice.
We could see the outline of the boat-shaped altar, as if floating on the blue waters of the Sea of Galilee right behind it.

The 12 apostles on the sides.
And icons of Mary and of Jesus as Pantocrator in the front.

The square box to the right of the boat's cross (or mast and sail) is the tabernacle (where the Blessed Sacrament is kept).
Pope Francis blessed it during his visit to Israel in late May 2014.
Duc In Altum was dedicated in 2014.
On the left of the photo is Mexican priest Father Juan Solana, the driving force behind the whole conception and construction of the Magdala Center, which began in 2006 when he found and purchased these 20 acres of shoreline property for 16 million dollars.

The glossy brochure shows the Boat Chapel from the outside looking in.
If you are still with me, here is a bonus, some really interesting points from the brochure:

  • "Materials, colors and designs ... were carefully selected to create the sensation of a journey by boat."
  • "The ... altar was crafted from a Lebanese cedar tree."
  • "It is modeled after the 1st century goat discovered down the road from Magdala at Nof Ginosar ..."  [what Israelis call "the Jesus boat," I might add]. 
  • "A relic of Mary Magdalene [brought from France] is imbedded in the top of the altar."
  • "Notice the [apostles'] halos are lightly painted to reflect the ongoing journey they are on as they accompany Jesus. During his public life, their faith in Jesus as the Son of God often faltered and was, as well, strengthened through trials."
  • The image of Judas Iscariot, holding the money bag, appears to be a contradiction among the icons. No halo is painted around his head.  Nonetheless, he is included among the first 12 apostles who were called to follow Jesus .... We can look upon him as a reminder of the frailty of human nature as well as the call to repentance .... It stands also as a reminder of God's unfailing plan amidst the frailty of human freedom." 

So, dear readers, I think we can feel how some very dedicated Roman Catholics have invested much time, thought, prayer, and money in their vision of building, and also writing about, Duc In Altum.

(More in the coming posts.)
UPDATE April 12: Good pictures of the Boat Chapel during Mass for Mary Magdalene's feast day:

(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday and Our World Tuesday.)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Magdala, Duc In Altum

One humble church bell against a mighty sky, and just beyond the eucalyptus trees lies the Sea of Galilee.

Israel is full of old and ancient churches.
It is not often you see a brand new one.
Last week I got to see for the first time the beautiful Duc In Altum!

This special Catholic spiritual center is surrounded by antiquities, over 2,000 years old, including a synagogue where Jesus most likely taught.
Here the famous Magdala stone was discovered!

There is so much to show and tell, I will continue in the coming posts.

In the brochure you can see how the Boat Chapel looks at night, from the sea side, and how the Duc In Altum spiritual center looks on a sunny day.

Lots more is under construction for the lucky pilgrims who will come to Magdala in the coming years.
In the next posts you will see the archaeological park and the interior of the church and chapels and learn the amazing story of how all this began.

Meanwhile, today Jerusalem Hills Daily Photo is celebrating ten years of blogging.
I'm hoping for at least another decade of showing you the beauty of Israel!
Thanks for your visits, questions and comments.
(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday and Our World Tuesday.  And for ABC Wednesday, G is for Galilee.)

Friday, February 16, 2018

An alert Golan Heights cat


A cat on high alert!
Among the ancient stones of Yehudiya-Gamla Nature Reserve. 
It's best to enlarge this photo to see the cat's special stance. 

I'm just coming home from a wonderful few days up in the beautiful Golan Heights and down around the Sea of Galilee. 
I'll get my notes and photos together and start sharing the adventures with you tomorrow.

UPDATE: Just learned that Feb. 17 is World Cat Day in many parts of Europe!  :)
(Linking to Camera Critters.)

Monday, February 5, 2018

On a SPACE high!


Don't you love the banner for Israel Space Week with the astronaut taking a selfie while making a spacewalk?!
That's the Physics Building in back, and that's where I went for the second part of the Annual Event to Honor Col. Ilan Ramon and the STS-107 Crew and Assaf Ramon.
(Please see my earlier post about the first part of the special day.)

On the top floor is the Ilan Ramon Youth Physics Center.

NASA astronaut Dr. Michael Barratt, who had spoken earlier in the day to hundreds of high school kids, now gave a talk to a younger audience, this time with an English-to-Hebrew interpreter at his side.
Just a few of the fascinating things he shared:

  • Aboard the International Space Station for long months, they have to exercise 2.5 hours every day to partially overcome the bone and muscle loss that come with weightlessness
  • Exercise time is like a "sacred time," when no one will bother you, and you can watch the news or listen to music while exercising. 
  • What the astronauts love most is to look out the window.  And take pictures!
  • They are 400 km above earth and make one orbit every 90 minutes. 
  • They all have to know Russian.
  • In the last 60 years 600 people have gone into space. 
  • Not many people know, but NASA is about to start suborbital adventure tourism flights on a large scale. 
  • From 18,000 applicants to the new astronaut class, only 12 were accepted.

I knew I just HAD TO get a picture with this brave man, mainly for my daughter, Dr. Naomi.
I used my minute with Dr. Barratt to tell him that she also loves all things space and once worked for NASA in California and then went on to teach astronautical engineering at UNSW in Australia.
It  was so exciting and inspiring to shake his hand and stand near him!
Astronauts are awesome!

Then the audience broke up into smaller groups, some to the planetarium, some to creative activities, and me to another lecture.
The young university lecturer opened with a slide of Sputnik, the first satellite.
It launched before he was even born; but I remember the day, Oct. 4, 1957 very well: Our grammar school principal (in Chicago) walked into our homeroom and whispered the news to our teacher, Miss Paskind.  Then with a very grave face the two informed my class that the Russians had beat us to it, and from now on we kids would have to take more science and math courses and to work very hard to be the best!
It was scary for us preteens to hear.  That was during the Cold War mind you, when we American kids still had frequent air raid drills, siren and all.

So in just 60 years we have progressed to the fascinating slide which shows the releasing of dozens and dozens of nano satellites taken up to space with just one rocket.

Next-generation astronauts (maybe) got to see space stuff inside the special glasses.

It was my first time.  haha

Up to the roof just in time to see the blue moon rise over Beer Sheva.
You can see the beautiful new white double helix bridge too!

To the west the sky was still too light.

But soon it was dark enough to enter the observatory, open the hatch, and focus the big telescope on a distant star.
The whole upper dome rotated with a loud creaking noise and the telescope turned with a whir.
Luckily the expert setting it up for our viewing warned the kids in advance.

But even more awesome than seeing the star was gazing at the craters of the blood moon through these two powerful telescopes!

They were set up on the ground near the university's entrance.
Look at the low-tech plastic crate for short kids to stand on to reach the eyepiece!
The young organizers of this big day had thought of everything.  Good on 'em!

Ilan Ramon and his jet pilot son Assaf, both of blessed memory, hopefully were looking down and enjoying this wonderful, moving, inspiring day in their honor.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Friday, February 2, 2018

"God gave burdens, also shoulders."


We interrupt my report about Israel Space Week to post something for City Daily Photo blogger's Theme Day.
The Feb. 1 subject is TIRED. 

When I moved from the Jerusalem Hills down to the Negev a few years ago, I was shocked by the old-style technique used by one of the three movers. 

Mohammad was not an especially big man, but he knew how to use the tumpline method to full advantage.  
Still, at the end of that hot August day, I reckon he was a bit TIRED. 

The whole work of moving house reminded me of the old Yiddish proverb:

I myself used to carry things on my back using such a tumpline while working livestock as a residential volunteer at Heifer Ranch and I found it quite nice.
Read more here:


Meeting a brave astronaut!


A real NASA astronaut!! 
I was so excited to get to shake hands and to exchange a few words with him!

It is Israel Space Week, and yesterday at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev was the Annual Event Honoring Col. Ilan Ramon and the STS-107 Crew and Assaf Ramon. 
February 1, 2003 was the dreadful day when the Columbia space shuttle broke up while approaching landing in Texas, and Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, perished along with his crewmates. 
Six years later the Ramons' son Assaf was killed in a training mission as a pilot in the Israel Air Force. 
Ilan grew up in Be'er Sheva so they have an extra special place in our hearts down here in the south. 

The event began with four astronauts (seen on the screen) greeting us from space--from the International Space Station! 

The round Senate Hall was packed with classes of high school students and several rows of adults.  
Several Israelis speakers gave talks in Hebrew, and then an American lectured in English.
Seen at the podium is Dr. Jacob Cohen, Chief Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center in California. 
He pointed out that anyone 17 years old or younger has grown up while there is a continual human presence in space, i.e. there have been one or more astronauts up in space at all times ever since these kids were born. 

The excitement level rose even higher when the American astronaut arrived and began talking to us and showing exciting movies of launches and landings. 
Dr. Michael Barratt is a medical doctor, a pilot, diver, father of five, speaks Russian, and who knows what else! 
But he spoke in a friendly and humble way and inspired us all. 
On the screen is his Space Shuttle Discovery when they landed after six months in space.
But before that, in 2009, Dr. Barratt went up inside a small Soyuz capsule and docked with the ISS International Space Station, staying there for 199 days; that mission launched from Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. 

After the fascinating talk, to which the kids paid rapt attention, Dr. Barrett stood with each class for photos. 
But still, at the end everyone swarmed him in the center, hoping for a selfie with a real astronaut. 

Finally the University officials whisked Dr. Barratt away, because even astronauts have to eat lunch!  

At 4:00 space-related activities continued on campus and I had great fun! 
But since this post is getting long, let's leave that for the next post.