Servas Israel Tour – Part II – Fantastic – Haifa and Nazareth

Church of St. Gabriel

Our fabulous Tour Israel with Servas continued.

Day 3 – Wednesday 24 December 2014 

Our morning began with a great breakfast with our Servas hosts: Shoshana and Shmuel.

Shoshana and Shmuel

Shoshana and Shmuel: Yes, that’s a Corvette convertible on her t-shirt and the two of them riding in it!

We were lucky to be handed off to Shlomy, Servas Coordinator Claudia’s husband, and while we waited to meet up with others, he gave us an impromptu tour of Haifa, a city he loves.

The Ba'ha'i xxx Temple Sxxx in the front.

The Ba’ha’i Temple –
Shlomy in the front

We started at the Bahá’í Gardens:

 

“The Bahá’í teachings emphasize that each person is in charge of his or her own spiritual development. <http://www.bahai.org/action/response-call-bahaullah/walking-spiritual-path&gt;.

Bahá’í members recognize and celebrate all religious leaders.

Looking up to the Shrine of Báb.

Looking up to the Shrine of Bab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa comprise a staircase of nineteen terraces extending all the way up the northern slope of Mount Carmel.  At its heart stands the golden-domed Shrine of the Báb,which is the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith.”  From: <http://www.ganbahai.org.il/en/haifa/&gt;

From the Bah'ai steps looking down on the German town orange tiled roofs.

From the Baha’i steps looking down on the German town orange tiled roofs

 

German town in Haifa - established in

German town in Haifa – established in 1869

Haifa church.

A Haifa church

Haifa apartments.

Haifa apartments

Haifa treats.

Haifa sweet treats

Haifa street.

Haifa street

A Haifa hot drink spot.

A Haifa hot drink spot

Falafa's anyone?  Delicious.

Falafa’s anyone? Delicious

Haifa vegetable market.

Haifa vegetable market

Haifa apartment resident.

Haifa apartment resident

In much of the art throughout Haifa is a plea for peace.

“I was born in this city and I have no other homeland but this homeland. I sometimes wonder: ‘When will it be possible to enjoy Haifa’s beauty without fears of wars and bloodshed’.”

In the Museum Without Walls:

Spring, in memory of Kamil Shahade

“Spring,” in memory of Kamil Shehade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artworks scattered along the Art Route explore the themes of tolerance, an Arab-Jewish and multicultural dialogue, and the local heritage of the neighborhood.  The exhibit was inaugurated in 1993 by the Beit HaGefen Arab-Jewish Culture Center, Haifa Municipality, and the Wadi Nisnas Neighborhood Association as a shared multicultural celebration.

Shlomy xxx in the Wadi Nasui xxx district of Haifa.

Shlomy showing us the Wadi Nisnas district of Haifa

 

Art in the Wadi Nasui xxx neighborhood.

Art in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood

 

A gate; a fence - a choice

A gate: a fence – a choice?

Artists at work in Haifa.

Artists at work in Haifa

Wisdom of Crowds –
This exhibition was in Haifa’s  Beit Hagefen’s Gallery.    “The almost absurd starting point of the exhibition Wisdom of Crowds is . . . to find new platforms for a democratic discourse in the public space. . .It calls to replace the eroded values of political, social and cultural life, for a more just, egalitarian and democratic society, and wishes to serve as a catalyst for radical thought about new, albeit imagined, platforms for realizing this claim, tapping into the potential held in the public local sphere” (<http://beit-hagefen.com/slider_more.php?cat23=136&gt;). 
Wisdom of Crowds - event in Haifa

Wisdom of Crowds – event in Haifa

Dialogue - not arms.

Dialogue – not arms.

We left Haifa to join up with our Servas Tour members in Nazareth.

According to the Nazareth website, “The city of Nazareth was a small and insignificant agricultural village in the time of Jesus. It had no trade routes, was of little economic importance and was never mentioned in the Old Testament or other ancient texts. . . .

During the lifetime of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, it is believed the population did not exceed 500.  Nazareth was a small Jewish village where people knew one another, and like Jesus, lived, prayed and studied in the Jewish tradition. They gathered in the synagogue, meeting for prayer and holidays. . . .The New Testament mentions Nazareth many times, referring to it as the home of Mary and Joseph, the town that inspired Jesus during his childhood and early manhood, the place of the Annunciation . . .

From the 1st to the 4th century AD, the small Christian presence in Nazareth was often persecuted for their beliefs. It was only later towards the 6th century . . . that the town of Nazareth became the Christian pilgrimage site it is to this day. During this time, the Byzantines built one of the first churches on what was believed to be the site of the Annunciation. With the arrival of the Crusaders in 1099, an era of growth began . . .  With the defeat of the Crusaders in 1291 by the Muslim army and during Ottoman Rule (1517 – 1917), Nazareth fell into decline. It was only in 1720, when the Franciscans built a new church, that the site of the Annunciation was again revived. In 1955, the church was demolished to carry out extensive archaeological excavations and was finally rebuilt in 1969″ <http://www.nazareth-israel.com/nazarteh-history&gt;.

Nazareth is now a bustling, growing city of about 74,000 and home to the largest Arab community in Israel.  Nazareth has changed from an isolated village of little importance to one of  most important sites for Christians.

Because I was raised Christian (Episcopalian) and now identify as a Quaker, I did expect a spiritual experience especially since we were there for Christmas Eve!

In Nazareth, we walked the cobble-stoned streets of the Old City, visited the famous spring and  Mary’s well, and saw the remains of a cavern believed to be Joseph’s carpentry shop.  And because we were there on Christmas Eve, we got to see what the people living there do to celebrate.

Nazareth Christmas Tree - outside the site of Mary's Well.

Nazareth Christmas Tree – the largest Christmas tree in the Middle East outside the site of Mary’s Well, the Church of St. Gabriel

Mary’s well was the  our first religious site on the Servas tour that afternoon.  The Church of St. Gabriel,  (also known as the Orthodox Church of Annunciation and The Greek-Orthodox Church), is located over an underground spring, which is  believed to be  where the Virgin Mary was drawing water when  the Angel Gabriel said to her,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy,
the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35).

Near the site of Mary's Well.

Near the site of Mary’s Well

Entrance to Mary's Well -Barry filled a bottle of the spring water for me :).

Entrance to Mary’s Well -Barry filled a bottle of the spring water for me :)

The dark interior of the holy site for Mary's Well.

The dark interior of the holy site for Mary’s Well

Many photos were left for blessings at Mary's Well.

Many photos were left for blessings at Mary’s Well

 

Mary's well.

Mary’s well

Painting of the Annunciation. xx

Painting of the Annunciation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tunnel linking the well to the entrance.

Tunnel linking the well to the entrance

In modern times, Mary’s spring is at the end of the subterranean chamber in the Church of St. Gabriel.

Church of the Annuciation xxx

Church of St. Gabriel – painting of he Annunciation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful painting of the Annunciation.

Beautiful painting of the Annunciation

 

 

 

Church that covers Mary's well.  xx or church of the Annunciation ?

The Greek Orthodox Church, the Church of St. Gabriel,  that covers Mary’s spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nazareth Christmas tree.

Nazareth Christmas tree

 

 

 

 

It was a great spot for people watching.

It was a great spot for people watching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked along the Pilgrim’s Path to the Basilica of Annunciation, the Catholic site that also recognizes and celebrates Gabriel’s visit to Mary.  The Basilica marks the spot for Catholics of the Annunciation.

Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Inside the Church of the Annunciation xxx.

Inside the Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation

 

 

 

Each painting - beautiful and significant!

Each painting – beautiful and significant!

We also saw the White Mosque, built in 1785.  It’s the oldest of the mosques built in Nazareth. According to its website, the White Mosque is now managed and maintained by the al-Fahoum family.  The mosque sends out messages of peace and harmony and seeks good relations especially with the  “different Christian communities in town” <http://www.nazarethinfo.org/OldSite.aspx?levelId=63490&gt;.

The White Mosque - the oldest xxx

The White Mosque

The White Mosque is located in Harat Alghama or the “Mosque Quarter” in the center of Nazareth’s Old Market.

Our Servas guide xxx sharing the history of Nazareth.  Lola from Spain is in front of Adam from Poland.

Iris, our Servas guide, shares the history of Nazareth. Lola from Spain is in front of Adam from Poland.

We ate in the Old Market and got to taste local food and sweets, including baklawa and the Middle-Eastern kenafi or kunafa, a cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup.

At 15:00, we started lining up along the Christmas Parade route, which ran from Paul 6th St to the Annunciation Church (Basilica).

 

Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Adam enjoying the fragrant flowers.

Adam enjoying the fragrant flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another version is that the Palestinians were told to leave by the Arab fighters (so they wouldn't get in the way of the battle).  The history depends on who is telling about the events.

This graffiti on a Nazareth wall says the Palestinians were expelled in 1948 by the Israelis. Another version is that the Palestinians were told to leave by the Arab fighters (so they wouldn’t get in the way of the battle). The history depends on who is telling about the events.

Maria from Poland; Manda from Sweden xxx.

Maria from Poland; Manda from Sweden

 

 

 

 

 

Stepan (the youngest of our group) and his parents,  Irena and Vadimir from Czech Republic.

Stepan (the youngest of our group) and his parents, Irena and Vadimir from the Czech Republic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treats from street vendors.  Adam from Poland, Igor from Russia, xxx our guide, and Olga from St. Petersburg.

Treats from street vendors. Adam from Poland, Igor from Russia, Iris our Israeli guide, and Olga from St. Petersburg

 

 

 

 

Svetlana A. xx found Santa hiding in a van.  :)

Svetlana A.  found Santa hiding in a van  :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting ready for the Nazareth Christmas parade.

Getting ready for the Nazareth Christmas parade

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our group outside the Basilica.

Waiting for the Christmas parade – our Servas group outside the Basilica: Svetlana  A. is in front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Released balloons marked the beginning of the parade.

Released balloons mark the beginning of the Christmas Eve parade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People lined up along the parade route.

People lined up along the parade route.

Gathering for the Nazareth Christmas Parade.

Gathering for the Nazareth Christmas Parade.

 

17:15 – Near the Basilica of Annunciation, we watched the balloon release and the Christmas parade.    We wandered around looking at the parade and the people coming to celebrate.

 

 

 

This guy was in the Christmas spirit; he threw out candies to the parade participants.

This guy was in the Christmas spirit; he threw out candies to the parade participants.

Christian Arab Scouts - march in the Christmas parade.

Christian Arab Scouts – march in the Christmas parade

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Arab  Scottish bagpipers!!   Who would ever guess this would be part of a Christmas parade in Nazareth!

Christian Arab Scottish bagpipers!! Who would ever guess this would be part of a Christmas parade in Nazareth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In his book Green Crescent Over Nazareth: The Displacement of Christians by Muslims, Raphael Israeli notes that in 1918 when the British marched into Nazareth, the city then had a population of about 8,000 – 2/3 Christian and the rest Muslim.  Today, Nazareth, known as “the Arab capital of Israel, has a population made up predominantly of Arab citizens of Israel,  almost all of whom are either Muslim (69%) or Christian (30.9%).

Because the British ruled Nazareth for 30 years, the  numerous bagpipers in the Christmas parade must be one lingering influence.

What can I say?

What can I say? The bagpipes must be a tradition adapted from the British Mandate period.

 

 

 

 

The inflated Santa in the parade yelled out, "Hey, hey, hey!"

The inflated Santa in the parade yelled out, “Hey, hey, hey!”  :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Christmas parade character.

Another Christmas parade character.

 

 

 

 

Arab Christian drummers in the parade.

Arab Christian drummers – girls too – in the parade. :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian parade officials.

Christian parade officials.

 

 

 

At the finale of the parade, we got to see the fireworks as part of the Christmas celebration.

Waiting for the mass to begin at the Basilica after the parade.

Waiting for the mass to begin at the Basilica after the parade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the Nazareth Basilica.

Outside the Nazareth Basilica – waiting for the Christmas Eve mass..

For our Servas Tour, we didn’t go to Bethlehem for Christmas Eve since the town is usually overwhelmed with Christian pilgrims.  Nazareth did have its own special sites, and we got to see and do things we hadn’t expected as part of our celebration.  One surprise was that the Christmas carols, which I love to sing, were sung –  in neither Latin nor English – but in Arabic!  It seemed that everyone participated – especially in the parade.  Santa was there in Nazareth for the young children.

As for the spiritual renewal I expected since we were there where Jesus had actually lived and walked, it didn’t happen there for me.

Instead, Nazareth was a great experience in people watching and seeing historical and religious sites.  Being in Nazareth was also a good reminder that when you travel, experiences – especially others than those you expect – are the ones to keep you in the moment and help you appreciate what is really there.

We returned to Servas hosts Deb and xxx home.  Shlomy, xxx, Barry, Tagit, and xxx.

We returned to Servas hosts Debbie and Nathanel’s home. Shlomy, Nathanel, Barry, Tarit, and Sudeshna.

Aloha and Shalom, Renée

 

 

Servas Israel Tour – Fantastic

The Tunisian Synagogue in Akko.

It was a wonderful, whirlwind tour of the country hosted by Servas Israel.  Barry and I (and John) have been Servas travelers and hosts since 2002, and many of our best experiences involve visiting with Servas members.

However, the Servas Israel Christmas Tour was beyond our normal experience of staying with people we didn’t know and learning of their lives.  “Servas home stays,” says the website, “provide insight into the political, cultural and social realities that face people of diverse cultures and backgrounds around the world.”  Go to -(https://www.usservas.org/Membership/).  On this tour opportunity, not only did we stay with local families but we were also guided around Israel by people who live there.

We did much and saw much, but it is only now that I’m reporting since I’ve had trouble retrieving my photos and only now are we back home.  So here is an overview of the highlights of the first part of that fabulous 10-day tour.

On December 22, 2014, we started our Israel Servas Tour with an evening gathering in Jerusalem.     Other Servas travelers were from Belarus, Russia, Poland, Germany, Italy,  India, the Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.  Surprisingly, Barry and I were  the only ones from the U.S.

Claudia - our wonderful Servas Israel leader.

Claudia – our wonderful Serves Israel leader.

Servas members from Poland in the front, from Germany behind.

Servas members from Poland in the front, from Germany behind.

Even a lovely couple from Belarus xx were able to participate.

A lovely Servas couple from Belarus–Angelika and Sasha.

The people on the tour were varied and interesting.  One Servas woman whom I was sure was from the UK because of her accent and manner is actually from Sweden.  She says that she’s always been an Anglophile :).  I’d never meet anyone from Belarus – and there were two!  One woman is a flamenco dancer; one young couple have built a community center; one had written a book about his studies abroad.  Everyone was open and friendly.  We got to meet not only Israelis but also others from around the world.

Maria xxx and Roselee xx from xx were the first to introduce their country.

Anna Maria and Rosellee were the first to introduce their country – Italy..

Day 2 – Tuesday – 23 December 2014   Guided Tour to Kibbutz Kfar Masarik – Akko – Haifa We had a really full day starting off at 7:30 a.m. at  Kfar Masarik, one of the first kibbutz – started even before the creation of Israel.  Located in the western Galilee, Kfar Masarik was founded by Czechoslovakian and Lithuanian immigrants in 1932.  In 1937, they were joined by Polish immigrants.  Despite opposition from those who reasoned that the sandy soil could not support agriculture, the kibbutz grew, and  in 1940, the kibbutz moved to its present site and was renamed Kfar Masaryk after Tomás Garrigue Masaryk, the first President of Czechoslovakia.

Maria from Poland and xxx from India - Servas members.

Maria from Poland and Sudhir Kuman from India – Servas members.

The kibbutz post office - with our guide and xxx from xxx

The kibbutz post office – with our guide and Brigitte from Germany.

Kibutz preschoolers.

Kibutz preschoolers.

Kibbutz nursery.  No longer do children spend most of their time away from their parents.

Kibbutz nursery. No longer do children spend most of their time away from their parents.

Our Servas hosts in Kfar Masaryk, Haim and Avraham  told us about the kibbutz: The First and Second Aliyah (immigration wave), the situation in the country and in Europe at the time and the establishment of a pioneering settlement outside the main urban centers of the time, including the many difficulties involved.

The big beautiful trees give the kibbutz a park-like setting that must be quite a change when they started here in 1940.

The big beautiful trees give the kibbutz a park-like setting that must be quite a change when they started here in 1940.

They noted the social structure of the kibbutz work – of sharing and equality, the difficulties in everyday life — family split apart from children, laundry services, dining, clothing, and various members’ decisions.  The guides also said a few words about the present privatization, which is happening with most of the surviving kibbutz in Israel today.

Olga & Svetlana, Servas members from St. Petersburg, Russia.

At the kibbutz, Olga & Svetlana A., Servas members from St. Petersburg, Russia.

10:00 – Our guided tour in Acre (aka Akko) started at an elaborate Tunisian synagogue where we learned basic concepts of Judaism. The mosaic motifs on the walls represent an integrated Jewish Heritage & Holocaust Zionism in a unique place.

The Tunisian xxx

The Tunisian Djerba Synagogue.

While many synagogues are in humble buildings, the Tunisian Djellaba Synagogue in Akko is the only one of its kind in the world; all four stories, within and without, display spectacular mosaics (from Kibbutz Eilon).

The wall, floors, and even ceiling were of mosaics1

The wall, floors, and even ceiling are mosaics!

Angels ??

Biblical scenes.

Biblical stories in mosaics.

Biblical stories in mosaics.

Wall of a study room in the Tunisian synagogue.

Wall of a study room in the Tunisian synagogue.

Outside the Acre walls - with Servas Israel Tour members.

Outside the Acre walls – with Servas Israel Tour members: Manda from Sweden, Kashi Liel from India, Svetlana P. from Russia, and  Sudeshna and Tarit from India.

The Land Gate - Akra

The Land Gate – Acre

Servas Tour members at Acra

Servas Tour members at Acre/Akko.

As we toured Acre/Akko, we learned about its significance during the Crusades, Arab and Turkish periods until today. We  visited the fortress walls, went inside the local ruler’s fortress, remotely viewing the Knights Halls.

Maria and Tomas from Poland                  Maria and Tomasz from Poland and, facing the camera, Imelda from Germany.

On the Eastern Wall rampart.

On the Eastern Wall rampart – Angelika from Belarus is in the foreground.

Stephen ?

Stepan – from the Czech Republic.

Acre Citadel - The Knights Hall

Acre Citadel – The Knights Hall

Regrouping before lunch.

Regrouping before lunch – Marilyn from the U.K. in the foreground

Located directly under the city built above it, a perfectly preserved Crusader city is being unearthed and brought back to life in Akko.

The Old City of Akko is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The walls and fortresses, knights’ halls, churches, synagogues, and mosques are all reminders of the city’s conquerors and religions, from the Canaanites and Romans to the Crusaders, Turks, and British.

12:30 Midday break – lunch at a local eastern restaurant/eatery.

A typical meal - lots of salads and choices - yum!

A typical meal – lots of salads and choices – yum!

Then we got to wander through the Acre markets.

Acre market.

Acre market.

Barry & me - and lots of fish in the Acre market.

Barry & me – and lots of fish in the Acre market.

Shopper

Shopper

Dresses for sale.

Dresses for sale.

Bakalava xxx

Baklava – of all kinds!

Shoppers

Shoppers

Lines for popular restaurants.

Line for a popular restaurant.

Acre shoppers and our Servas group.

Acre shoppers and our Servas group.

Cool Acre walkways.

Ancient Acre walkways.

A wall of Acre (Akka xx)

A wall of Acre (Akko)

Ancient Acre sea wall

Ancient Acre sea wall

The Akko Port was first mentioned in relation to the Greek campaign to conquer Egypt in 527-525 BC.

The port had been built during the reign of Ptolemais II (285-246 BC), transforming Akko into an international port city and the gateway to Israel.  It reached its zenith during the conquest by the Crusaders.  In the 13th Century, Akko became the capital of the Crusader Kingdom in the Holy Land.  After the Ottoman conquest, the port was neglected, reduced to a fisherman’s harbor.

Acre sea wall - now a good spot for fishing.

Acre sea wall – now a good spot for fishing.

The 1269 sermon encouraged a Jewish congregation to make Israel its home xxx.

In 1269, a rabbi encouraged his Jewish congregation to make Israel its home.

St. John the Baptist Church - built in 1737 xxx on the site of St. Andrews Cxx

St. John the Baptist Church – built in 1737  on the site of  the Crusader Church of St. Andrews.

Akkra zzz lifeguard?

Akko  lifeguard?

M and S? - from Germany?

Anna and Thomas from Germany.

Beauty in even a gate.

Beauty and history everywhere – even in a gate.

The old wall; the new city.

The old wall; the new city.

During the British Mandate, the Akko Fortress served as the main prison in the north of the country.  Prisoners included hundreds of members of the underground movements: the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi.  The Underground Prisoners Museum in Akko has a new exhibit describing reasons for incarceration, daily prison life, the  Akko Prison breakout, and the story of the Olei Hagardon (those hanged on the gallows).

xx from India

Sudhir Kuman from India

Juice bar!

Fresh juice bar!

Those who live in the old area - especially the Arabs - will not sell their property at any price.

Those who live in the old city – especially the Arabs – will not sell their property at any price.

View from above the Ba'hai Temple in Haifa to the port.

View from above the Baha’i Temple in Haifa to the port.

Then we drove for about an hour to reach  downtown Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel, third largest in the country, with about 600,000 residents in the area, and home to the Bahá’í World Centre (another UNESCO World Heritage Site).

The beautiful grounds of the Baha'i Temple in Haifa.

The beautiful grounds of the Baha’i Temple in Haifa.

The history of the city spans more than 3,000 years.

Haifa has been conquered and ruled by the Phoenicians, Persians, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs,  Crusaders, Ottomans, British, and the Israelis.

Today, Haifa is a major seaport on Israel’s Mediterranean coast and plays an important role in the economy.   It is also home to one of the oldest and largest high-tech parks in the country. Haifa Bay is a center of heavy industry, petroleum refining and chemical processing.  Formerly it was the western terminus of an oil  pipeline from Iraq via Jordan.

Downtown Haifa connects the past and the present and points to the future.  Our Servas guides noted historical factors that affect the status of Haifa as the northern province and industrial and logistics center.  The cultural fabric of life of Arabs and Jews in Haifa points to a possible realization of future peace for other places in Israel.

Then, instead of joining the other Servas members at Castra – the modern center that combines a shopping and art center, Barry and I finished the eventful day by going with our Servas hosts’, Shoshana & Shmuel, to their daughter’s home for Hanukkah donuts and celebration.

Getting ready to light the Hanukkah candles.

Getting ready to light the Hanukkah candles.

Lighting Hanakkah candles! xx

Lighting Hanukkah candles!

Barry getting tips from XShashonna xxx - the queen of donut making.

Barry (I hope) getting tips from Shoshana – the queen of donut making.

Shoshana's daughter and granddaughter make the donuts too.

Shoshana’s daughter and granddaughter help make the donuts too.

Shmuel, me, Barry, and Shoshana eating Hanakkah donuts. xx

Shmuel, me, Barry, and Shoshana with the rest of the family – eating Hanukkah donuts.

I couldn’t eat  just one :) !

It was a wonderful way to end a varied and interesting day.

The following days would be terrific too.

Shalom and aloha,

Renée

Execution or Possible Redemption? Indonesia Kills Bali Nine Leaders

M and Andrew

They are dead – executed by the Indonesian government 10 years after being arrested on drug trafficking charges in Bali.  Despite global pleas to spare the men, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – and six others: four Nigerians, a schizophrenic Brazilian, and an Indonesian – were killed on April 29, 2015,  shortly after midnight by an Indonesian firing squad. In Bali, the Hindu island of many gods where people believe in karma and the land is lush and beautiful, the Indonesian government is now “clearing out” its death row prisoners – especially foreigners who have drug offenses.

Bali, the land of lush rice fields.

Bali, the land of lush rice fields.

Even before Barry and I left Bali at the beginning of March, I checked the news there with dread every few days to learn the fate of the two Australians. The two, known as leaders of the “Bali Nine” had already been moved from Kerobokan Prison with its 1000 inmates in Denpasar to the island of Nusa Kambangan in Java where Indonesia carries out its executions. By all accounts, Chan and Sukumaran were reformed men. Myuran earned his degree in fine arts; Andrew became a Christian minister. In harsh circumstances, they both developed and grew into good men, who helped their fellow inmates. According to a recent Guardian news report, “At a 2010 judicial review into their death sentences, the governor of Kerobokan prison, Bapak Siswanto, appeared, testifying to the men’s character and positive influence on other prisoners. ‘Instinctively my spirit says, can’t he be pardoned?’ he told judges. ‘Can’t state officials show mercy?’” <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/27/bali-nine-decade-of-turmoil-for-andrew-chan-and-myuran-sukumaran-reaches-a-gruesome-end?CMP=share_btn_fb&gt;.

The Bali Advertiser of 21 Jan – 04 Feb., 2015, notes Sukumaran has become an artist and “teaches art to fellow inmates, operates a computer lab and a t-shirt printing room, offering the products for sale outside, with revenue flowing back to the prison.  Chan has become deeply invoked in the affairs of the prison church. Each has apologized for being involved in a conspiracy to import 8.2kg of heroin from Bali to Australia in 2005. . .’We’ve changed,’ Sukumaran wrote. ‘We’ve done so much in the last six to seven years . . . We rehabilitated ourselves with the help of the guards here . . . we were doing good things'” (p. 56).

Andrew Chan’s six-page letter to his 15-year-old self is featured in a new documentary, Dear Me: The Dangers of Drugs, aimed at high school students, in which Chan chastises himself for leading a heroin trafficking ring.  The director of Dear Me,  Malinda Rutter, an Australian, first met Chan at Kerobokan Prison two years ago.  She says, Andrew is “funny, articulate, he is charismatic and has a very caring personality. . . I’m proud to call Andrew my friend.” “I’ve seen the heartache . . . but there are human beings involved and, as a human, you should show empathy and listen to people’s stories.”  . . . The documentary, produced by Wyhldfisch Productions, will be distributed to schools.   (The Bali Advertiser, 04 Feb. – 18 Feb. 2015, p. 57). See a clip: <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/bali-nine-drug-smuggler-andrew-chans-powerful-message-to-australians/story-fnq2o7dd-1227192061969&gt;. For an overview of what happened and photos of the men, go to Michael Safi’s article: <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/27/bali-nine-decade-of-turmoil-for-andrew-chan-and-myuran-sukumaran-reaches-a-gruesome-end?CMP=share_btn_fb&gt;.

M and Andrew

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan – the Bali Nine leaders 

Image from – <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/27/bali-nine-decade-of-turmoil-for-andrew-chan-and-myuran-sukumaran-reaches-a-gruesome-end?CMP=share_btn_fb&gt;.

Bali, the land of many Hindu gods.

Bali, the land of many Hindu gods.

Three appreciative fellow inmates in Kerobokan Prison, Martin Jamanuna, Rico Ricardo, and French inmate Francois Jacques Giuily, wrote an appeal to the warden to go in front of the firing squad for  the Australians.

Having a human birth is an incredible gift.

But are some crimes so horrendous that execution is the only proper response?

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes his experience in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. In his accompanying “Logotherapy in a Nutshell,” Frankl notes, “Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. . . . ” Frankl notes, “Let me cite the case of Dr. J. He was the only man I ever encountered in my whole life whom I would dare to call a Mephistophelean being, a satanic figure. At the time he was generally called “the mass murderer of Steinhof” (the large mental hospital in Vienna). When the Nazis started their euthanasia program, he held all the strings in his hands and was so fanatic in the job assigned to him that he tried not to let one single psychotic individual escape the gas chamber. After the war, when I came back to Vienna, I asked what had happened to Dr. J. . . . I was convinced that, like others, he had with the help of his comrades made his way to South America. More recently, however, I was consulted by a former Australian diplomat who had been imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain for many years, first in Siberia and then in the famous Lubianka prison in Moscow. While I was examining him neurologically, he suddenly asked me whether I happened to know Dr. J.  After my affirmative reply he continued: ‘I made his acquaintance in Lubianka. There he died, at about the age of forty, from cancer of the urinary bladder. Before he died, however, he showed himself to be the best comrade you can imagine! He gave consolation to everybody. He lived up to the highest conceivable moral standard. He was the best friend I ever met during my long years in prison!’” (p. 133-134).

Capital punishment prevents that possibility for change, a chance for redemption and growth.   A life sentence could be the best alternative for protecting others from those who commit horrendous crimes. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran made a terrible choice when they were in their early 20s. Today- April 29, 2015- ten years later, the Indonesian government killed them (and six others whose stories I don’t know). During those ten years, Chan and Sukumaran have grown and made the best of a difficult situation.   And now they are dead. According to an Associated Press report today in Canberra, Australia, “The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said given that Indonesia has asked for clemency for its own nationals facing execution in other countries, ‘it is incomprehensible why it absolutely refuses to grant clemency for lesser crimes on its own territory.'” A 4/29/15  New York Times  article notes, “The mass execution was the second in Indonesia this year. In January, five foreign drug convicts and one Indonesian convicted of murder were shot by firing squads on the island . . .

On Monday, April 27, two days before he was killed, Andrew Chan, married his Indonesian fiancée in a small ceremony at the prison. . .

Shortly after taking office last October, Mr. Joko declared that Indonesia was facing “a national emergency” of drug abuse, and he rejected 64 clemency appeals from death row drug convicts, most of them foreigners. Saying Indonesia had a right to exercise its drug laws, Mr. Joko’s government rejected international pleas to cancel the executions, including from Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations.”(<http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/29/world/asia/indonesia-execution.html?_r=0&gt;).

Ironically, Indonesia has shown compassion for those involved in the 2002 and 2005 Bali Bombings that left many seriously injured and 222 dead, including 92 Australians, 38 Indonesians, 27 Brits, 7 Americans, 6 Swedes and 3 Danes.   All 36 Indonesian terrorists who were sentenced to anything less than life for their parts in the 2002 and 2005 bar and restaurant ­attacks are now free. (<http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/paradise-for-terrorists-36-bali-bombers-that-killed-92-australians-are-walking-free/story-fni0cx12-1226904341271&gt;). “The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict reports that around 100 extremists, especially those involved in the 2002 Kuta bombings and the subsequent 2005 bombings in Jimbaran and Kuta, which killed 20 people, including four Australians and injured 129, including 19 Australians, have been released,” says Simon Thomsen in his 4/29/15 article. <http://www.businessinsider.com.au/its-lucky-the-bali-bombers-didnt-have-drugs-on-them-2015-2&gt;. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that unearned suffering is redemptive, but being in an Indonesian prison for life seems to be a harsh enough penalty for the crime Chan and Sukumaran tried to do.  Because of the Bali Nine, Kerobokan Prison now has programs where they had none: theater, yoga, silversmithing, art, religion . . .

So what can we do?   Support leaders who are against capital punishment. Of course, do not traffic drugs! There are harsh penalties for possessing drugs in Indonesia (and other countries) too. And you can help those still in jail.  The others of the “Bali Nine” have life sentences in Indonesia.  Some  are making the best of a horrible situation.  Si Yi Chen, for instance, has with the aid of Joanna Witt of Yin Jewelry learned and taught other inmates at Kerobokan Prison to be silversmiths; those other men will be able to have good jobs when they are released. Money from the sale of the jewelry they make – the Mule Jewels (the Hope Project) – goes to providing needed nutritious food to the inmates. Go to: http://www.yinjewelryforthesoul.com/giving-back/mule-jewels-jail-project/ You may see something you like – and help people who are changing.

A Mule Jewelry pendant - The Chinese character

A Mule Jewelry pendant by Si Yi Chen – The Chinese character “HE” – which means “peace, together, kind, and harmony.”

Personally, we can look upon others with compassion and the knowledge that they can change. Forty-one more prisoners in Indonesia are condemned to die for drug offenses.

As of 1/1/2015 the total number of death row inmates in the U.S. is  3,019! (<http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-row-inmates-state-and-size-death-row-year&gt;). What are their stories and circumstances?  Shouldn’t they have a chance of redemption?  Can we show compassion?  

If “the mass murderer of Steinhof” can become a person of “the highest conceivable moral standard,” shouldn’t our governments – as civilizing and evolving nations – and we – give all its people (no matter the crime) opportunity for growth and change?”

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were shot today – and stopped from future growth and contributions – RIP.  Blessings to those who loved them, their families – who have also suffered terribly these last 10 years – and  to all those whose stories we don’t know.

Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”

Capital punishment should be abolished worldwide. With much sorrow, Renée

Let's create a world of love, one that encourages redemption.

Let’s create a world of love, one that encourages redemption.

Thought for the Day – from Jane Goodall

“People say think globally, act locally.  Well, if you think globally, it is overwhelming and you do not have enough energy left to act locally.  Just act locally and see what a difference you can make.

We are constantly told to buy more, buy, buy, buy!  But do we really need it?  It starts with trying to live a more sustainable life in the small decisions we make every day,” says Jane Goodall, conservationist –  now 80.

from: National Geographic Traveler, May 2015, p.8.

What needs to be done in your garden, your family, or your neighborhood?  You are needed.

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Aloha, Renée

Barry’s Gleanings: “Runner of a Thousand Days” by Dave Choo

Ryojun Shionuma
Ryojun Shionuma

Ryojun Shionuma  

Image from: http://shionuma-ryojun.jp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/15.jpg

“Runner of a Thousand Days” by Dave Choo

In the mountains above Nara, Buddhist priest Ryojun Shionuma has accomplished astonishing feats of discipline and endurance.

It’s Saturday afternoon, and Acharya Ryojunj Shionuma is having a leisurely lunch beside a cascading Japanese-style garden at The Honolulu Museum of Art’s Spalding House Café. Shionuma, conspicuous in his monk’s robes, is eating light: kale salad and vegetable soup. Tomorrow, along with thirty-thousand other people, he’ll be running the 2014 Honolulu Marathon. But Shionuma is utterly unlike 29,999 of those other people. A Buddhist priest from Sendai, Shionuma was invited by Honolulu’s consul general of Japan to run the race with him. The priest eagerly accepted the offer, thinking that the pair would race as a team, each covering half of the 26.2-mile course. But marathoning, as he found out, isn’t really a team sport.

Shionuma had never run the Honolulu Marathon—nor any road race for that matter. He didn’t train and did nothing to prepare beyond buying running shoes. Yet now, sitting in the café, he doesn’t seem concerned a bout his time or even whether he’ll finish. “I’m not sure, five or six hours maybe?” Shionuma tells me through an interpreter. “I just hope that I cross the finish line before they shut down the race.”

To the casual observer, Shionuma’s cavalier approach toward a race most others spend a year preparing to run seems naïve, foolhardy, even dangerous. But Shionuma knows a little something about tests of endurance. The unassuming priest, who looks ten years younger than his mid-forties, belongs to the Shugendo sect of Buddhism, one of Japan’s oldest, founded in AD 672. Shugendo (literally “the path of training and testing”) is associated with the indigenous Shinto religion, which as deep connections with the natural world. The sect was banned from the Meiji period until the end of WWII because it was considered too primitive, filled with magic and superstition. Its disciples are famous for testing their spiritual strength through feats of physical endurance, often in the mountains.

Shionuma has completed the two toughest of those tests. The first and by far the hardest is the Omine Sennichi Kaihogyo (One Thousand Days Trekking on Mount Omine). Every year during the trekking season (May 3 to September 22), he walked thirty miles a day in the mountains above Nara, hiking from Mount Yoshino to Mount Omine and back again, an elevation change of nearly four thousand feet. “The thousand-day practice is limited to five months out of the year because the trail is impassable during the winter,” says Shionuma. “However, because there is such a big change in altitude, you can experience many different climates during one hike, even during the summer when temperatures reach over one hundred degrees.” Averaging 110 consecutive days of trekking during each season, it took Shionuma nine years to complete the kaihogyo, a journey equivalent to circling Earth one and a quarter times. Only one other person has completed the thousand-day practice on Mount Omine in the sect’s 1,300-year history. Since 1885, forty-six people have completed a similar practice on Mount Heian, near Kyoto, but the Heian hike is shorter and less challenging.

Every night during the trekking season, Shionuma would wake at ll:30 p. m. and recite prayers while bathing under an ice-cold waterfall. Then he would climb the five hundred steps to Yoshino Kinpusenji, the temple where he would begin his trek. He would dress in traditional attire, his all-white robes (the color of death in Japan) fastened by three ropes from which hung a container with half a liter of water, two musubi (rice ball snacks) and a bell to signal his presence to bears on the trail. From one rope hung a dagger. If he failed to complete the course, Shionuma was prepared to use one or the other to either hang or disembowel himself. (Though having completed the hundred days of practice required of anyone wishing to attempt the kaihogyo, he was fairly confident that this wouldn’t be necessary.)

Shionuma would usually reach the summit of Omine by 8:30 a.m., where he would drink some water and eat his musubi before returning to Mount Yoshino. He would arrive back at the temple at around 3:30 p.m., a fifteen-hour round-trip. After a meal of tea and rice, he was in bed by 7 p.m., waking up four and a half house later to start again.

During his nine years of hiking, the priest had to sidestep countless venomous pit vipers, avoid wild boar, navigate around landslides, weather several typhoons and once had to face down an angry, charging bear. (He had neglected to wear his bell that day.) However, it was often the little things that posed a threat to survival. Because he wasn’t allowed to receive medical care during the thousand-day practice, injuries, illness and even insect bites could be debilitating, even potentially lethal. “Oftentimes I would brush up against a bush or tree and cut myself. I carried antiseptic with me and made sure that I treated the cut early and often. I knew that even a small scratch could lead to a serious infection,” says Shionuma. “The pit vipers were always a worry, but they were easy to avoid when you came upon them. The ticks and horseflies weren’t.”

Shionuma first learned of the thousand-day practice when he saw a television documentary about a monk attempting the Heian kaihogyo. He was only in middle school at the time, but there was something about the monk’s struggle that the young Shionuma found inspiring. To this day Shionuma doesn’t know why he became so enamored with the ascetic practice or why he was so intent on making it his life’s ambition at such a young age.

Having grown up poor, Shionuma was no stranger to struggle and deprivation. His mother was chronically ill and often bedridden. His father was mostly absent and inattentive when he was around. During Shionuma’s second year in middle school, his father left his wife, son and mother-in-law to fend for themselves. Relatives and neighbors helped feed the family, and the young Shionuma pitched in where he could: He would collect the discarded metal balls from the floor of the local pachinko parlor and eventually became skilled at the game, trading in his winnings for rice, shoyu and miso.

Shionuma says that his mother and grandmother were his sources of strength and inspiration during the toughest parts of the thousand-day practice. One of those came at about the halfway point, when he had contracted a stomach ailment that prevented him from eating or keeping down what little food he could eat. After several days of illness, he woke up one night an hour late, weak and delirious. He stumbled through his preparations, and shortly after starting his hike he collapsed and lost consciousness. However, drifting in and out, he felt a warm sense of calm. “I had no sense of pain or distress or discomfort,” he says. “I felt like I was encased in a protective sphere, and I hoped that time would stop and I could remain like that forever. However, there was another voice inside of me that said that if I didn’t get up and start walking, I would die there.”

Shionuma then saw his life flash before his eyes. He remembered the day his father left; he, his mother and grandmother huddled around a space heater and cried; how they vowed that they would somehow manage without his father. He remembered how they sometimes didn’t have anything to eat, how friends and family would bring them food or clothing.   Mostly, he remembered his mother and everything she had done for him, how she told him on the day he left to join the temple that life is filled with adversity and disappointment. He would have to learn to “eat sand,” she’d said, and move on. Still lying on the trail, Shionuma grabbed a handful of dirt and put it in his mouth. “It was really awful, but it immediately brought me back to consciousness, and I took off with a great burst of energy and went straight up the mountain,” he says. “From that time on, my physical condition improved.”

Shionuma completed the thousand-day practice on September 2, 1999. The night before, he had gone to sleep anxious. He was worried that he would wake up without the desire and enthusiasm to do the hike—an irrational fear, given that it had never happened before. Neither did it happen that last morning; he completed the hike just as he had 999 times before, without fanfare or celebration. “I only had the sense that the practice had ended; no more, no less,” says Shionuma. “Climbing those mountains wasn’t the ultimate goal. I had things to do. Completing the practice was like graduating from college.”

Shionuma, apparently, wanted to go straight from college to graduate school. Immediately he began training for the second-toughest test in Shugendo, the Shimugyo, or Fourfold Renouncing Practice. By comparison with the thousand-day practice, it’s a quickie. Only nine days. But nine days during which one is not allowed to sleep, eat, drink or lie down. According to Shionuma, about half of the practitioners who attempt the Shimugyo die trying, so he spent a year preparing. He says that fasting was the easiest of the four aspects to complete; during his nine years of the thousand-day practice, he’d become accustomed to surviving on very little food. Sleep deprivation was also not difficult to overcome, again because of his experience with the thousand-day practice. Going without water for nine days was another matter, the most painful physical and psychological test of the four, especially because one of his daily rituals was to carry and offer buckets of water to the Buddha. Even today Shionuma shudders when he recalls what extreme dehydration felt like.

Shionuma says that the fourth and fifth days, when he was at a physical and mental breaking point, were the hardest of the Shimugyo practice. Practitioners are allowed to rinse their mouths out with water during the second half of the practice. Shionuma had understood that this would occur sometime during the fourth day; however, he was told that he couldn’t do it until the fifth. Instead of protesting or despairing, he persevered. When he was finally allowed to rinse with water, he felt rejuvenated, just has he had when he ate dirt on Mount Omine. Unlike the subdued ending to the thousand-day practice, when Shionuma finished the Shimugyo a crowd of several hundred—many of them from Sendai—was waiting for him. After a lot of water and a simple meal of nuts and cooked vegetable, he was carried back to his quarters in a sedan chair.

The extreme practices of Shugendo are not about physical achievement but spiritual realization.

Shionuma says that completing the Shimugyo and the thousand-day practice has reinforced his belief in some of the central tenets of Buddhism: “When facing difficulties, throw yourself at adversity without anger and be humble. Facing hardship is the ordinary condition of life,” he says. “If you are single-minded in facing your difficulties, then mysteriously the situation will appear to you from a different and liberating angle” (my emphasis). After completing the Shimugyo in 2000, Shionuma decided to leave the mountain temple and return to Sendai. Today he is the head priest of Jigenji (Merciful Eye) Temple in a small village outside Sendai. There he prays, teaches, farms, writes books and welcomes pilgrims. He also speaks throughout Japan and around the world (including in Honolulu the day before the marathon). While much of his talk centers around his travails on the trail, his over all message is that anyone can have a similar experience in daily life. “Awakening is found in ordinary experiences, the change of the seasons, the difficulties of human relationships. It’s a gradual transformation” (my emphasis). Shionuma says that the thousand-day practice left him with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility. Hiking the trail day after day, week after week made him realize his close connection and obligation to others, and he wanted to continue his practice among people, not alone in the mountains. “No one exists just by themselves. There is no such thing as doing it alone.”

Unless it’s a marathon, of course. Shiomuma finished slow and steady at 7:03:57. He ate no dirt, just a banana or two and a lot of Gatorade. Not surprisingly, he plans on running the race again in 2015.

From HanaHou! The Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines, Vol 18, number 2, April/May 2015.

People are amazing!

Thankfully, we don’t have to do Shionuma‘s feats to know his insights.

Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

Thought for the Day: It’s Enough

Spring Flowers :)
Spring flowers and a cat in the home of friends. I'm thankful.

Spring flowers and a cat in the home of friends. I’m thankful.

If the only prayer you ever say

in your entire life is thank you;

it will be enough,”  said Meister Eckhart

P1060770(via Harvey in MN – thanks)

For my family, friends, travels, and home, I’m thankful.   And, of course, you readers. :)

Aloha, Renée

Thought for the Day: Inner Growth

P1050071

Spring is the season of new growth and new life. . .

P1050071Human beings are perhaps unique among the Earth’s inhabitants.

Our most significant growth takes place inwardly.  We grow as we achieve new insights, new knowledge, new goals.

Let us raise our cups to signify our gratitude for life, and for the joy of knowing inner growth, which gives human life its meaning.

Together, with raised cups, let us say: “L-Haiyim!” – “To Life.”

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for Passover

– from “A Humanist Haggadah for Passover” by Machar Congregation <haggadot.com>.

Aloha & Shalom, Renée

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Surprised by Israel – Part II

Caesarea sunset.

The Old City is an integral part of Jerusalem, but I was surprised to see bullet holes in the walls.

Old City Jerusalem wall.

Old City Jerusalem wall.

Bullet holes are visible in the Old City Walls - these likely from the shelling in the 1948 war to establish Israel as its own country.

Bullet holes are visible in the Old City Walls – these likely from the shelling in the 1948 war to establish Israel as its own country.

Buskers are here too.

As in many cities, you will find street performers.  We heard "Fiddler On the Roof" several times. :)

As in many cities, you will find street performers. We heard “Fiddler On the Roof” several times. :)

You’ll find street art, hip cafés, smokers, religious pilgrims, fashionable women, and  lots of cell phone users.

Café outside the Old City Walls.

Café outside the Old City Walls.

You’ll find many high-end shops.

Well-crafted goods (expensive) are everywhere in Jerusalem.

Well-crafted, expensive goods are everywhere in Jerusalem.

Danny is getting his favorite olives from a favorite Arab shop.

With Barry watching, Danny is buying wonderful olives from a favorite Arab shop.

You’ll find friendly Israelis and Arabs interacting .       You’ll eat tasty new dishes.

Schm xxx with fresh squeezed orange juice and toast = xx

Shakshuka with freshly squeezed orange juice and toast.  Thanks, Danny!

Israel is composed of intertwining Jewish, Arab, and Christian communities.

An Arab community near the Christian Visitation Church.

An Arab community near the Christian Visitation Church.

You’ll find water sports in Israel.

Paddle boarders in Haffa.

Paddle boarders in Jaffa.

Jaffa boardwalk.

Jaffa boardwalk.

It’s warm in Israel – even in December –at least while we were there.

While Ruth was working, Danny showed  Barry & me highlights of Jaffa.

While Ruth was working, Danny showed Barry & me highlights of Jaffa.

Yoga on the beach.

Yoga on the beach.

Fishing is also a choice.

Fishing is also a choice.

You’ll find old buildings:

In Jaffa - an old passageway and buildings.

In Jaffa – old passageway and building.

Renovated buildings – the outside must conform to the original building facade :

Jaffa dwelling.

Jaffa dwelling.

And new –

Jaffa building

Jaffa building

You’ll find music festivals:

The beautiful Sea of Galilee - setting for the Jacob's Ladder Festival.

The beautiful Sea of Galilee – setting for the Jacob’s Ladder Festival.

Jacob's Ladder Festival - Folk and Blues.

Jacob’s Ladder Festival – Folk and Blues.

Music on the stage - and off.

Music on the stage – and off at Jacob’s Ladder Festival.

The young get tips at the festival too.

The young get tips at the festival too.

There’s everyday life:

Basketball kids on a kibbutz.

Basketball kids on a kibbutz.

Airbnb on the Golan Heights xx

Airbnb on the Golan Heights.  Barry, Ruth, and me with our great Airbnb hosts.

We saw jet trails and lights in Jordan from our Airbnb on the Golan Heights. You’ll see school kids on field trips.

At ancient ruins near the Golan Heights xx

At ancient Jewish ruins in the Golan Heights

Ruins from xxxl

During the 4th-8th centuries CE.  Ruins from ancient Qasrin: Talmudic Village and synagogue

You’ll find good wines:

Wine is now an important part of Israel's production. xxx

Wine is now an important part of Israel’s production.

Wine tour and tasting at the Golan Heights Winery.

Wine tour and tasting at the Golan Heights Winery.

Winery tour.

Winery tour.

Golan Heights Winery gate.

Golan Heights Winery gate.

Arab villages in Israel are very interesting.  Ruth and Danny took us to Abu Ghosh village to enjoy the great food.

We loved the Abu Gosh xx food - with Ruth and Danny.

We loved the Abu Ghosh food – with Ruth and Danny.

“His pot of gold gives sparkle to the whole town,” said The New York Times  in a piece about Jawdat Ibrahim.  (<http://www.nytimes.com/1999/06/16/world/abu-ghosh-journal-his-pot-of-gold-gives-a-sparkle-to-the-whole-town.html&gt;)

Jixxx 's Illinois State Lottery winning of 22 million has changed the life of the Abu Ghosh village too.

Jawdat Ibrahim’s Illinois State Lottery winner – This article is posted in the Abu Ghosh restaurant.

A poor Arab among second-class citizens, Jawdat Ibrahim (one of six children whose father died when Jawdat was 4)  fled his childhood home of Abu Ghosh to live with his uncle in Chicago.  He became a tow truck driver, rescuing cars buried in Midwest snow storms – and then he won the Illinois State Lottery in 1990.  With his 22 million U.S. dollars,  not only has Ibrahim  opened restaurants and provided scholarships in Abu Ghosh, but he also sees himself as an emissary of peace – a bridge in Arab/Israeli relationships. As well, he has fun.  Mr. Ibrahim organized Abu Ghosh residents to make the largest ever plate of hummus, winning recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records.  Ibrahim donated the tasty hummus first to Israeli soldiers and then to schools, hospitals, and needy people.

Largest hummus created by the Abu Ghosh village.

Largest hummus created by the Abu Ghosh village.

Recently, the Abu Ghosh hummus Guinness record was surpassed  by a group in Lebanon.  Jawat Ibrahim plans to create an even bigger batch of  hummus early this summer to recapture the title. Random things surprised me.

Santa was there in the Old City Jerusalem.

Santa was there in the Old City Jerusalem.

At dusk in Eilat - a typical tourist beach town -- except  you can see Egypt across the water. xx

At dusk in Eilat – a typical tourist beach town — except we could  see Egypt’s  Sinai Peninsula across the Red Sea.

The markets are colorful and fun.

This man was yelling that his tomatoes were so cheap that he must have stolen them. :)

This man was yelling that his tomatoes were so cheap that he must have stolen them! :)

What would you like?

What would you like?

The sands look golden in Israel’s Negev Desert, which cover nearly 4,700 square miles of this small country.

Hill after hill of sand and rock near Lotan in the very southern part of Israel.

Hill after hill of sand and rock near Lotan in the very southern part of Israel.

Kibbutz Lotan lemon tree.

Kibbutz Lotan lemon tree.

With good farming practices of soil enrichment and irrigation, Israelis have been able to produce much food.

Much hard work and experimentation has changed the desert into productive farmland such as this plot at Kibbutz Lotan.

Much hard work and experimentation has changed the desert into productive farmland such as this plot at Kibbutz Lotan.

Another surprise for us in Israel were the incredible stories we heard from Israeli families.

Hanakkah with xx Rohee and her family.

Hanukkah celebration with  Rooee and her family.

We had a feast.

Our Hanukkah  feast.

Eitai xx demonstrating an old steam engine.

Etai, with his dad and nephew, demonstrating an old steam engine.

The stories of the people who make up Israel are most amazing. During WWII, an infant who was left along the path to a church in the early morning hours wore a gold locket declaring,  “Whoever takes care of me, God will bless.” Later that morning, the child’s Jewish parents were sent  to a concentration camp where the mother was killed. The child’s father escaped twice and managed to survive in great part because he spoke seven languages. After the war, he searched for his child.   For the same morning that he had left his daughter, town records showed that an infant girl found on the path to the church had been turned over to the Nazis and killed.  With no family left, the father bought a ticket for the U.S.  But on the way to the ship, he saw a gypsy fortuneteller who cautioned him, “Someone is waiting for you.”

He sold his ticket and went back to his town.  He saw a girl he thought might be his daughter and followed her; she was his child!    The girl was brought up on a kibbutz and has raised a healthy family.  One granddaughter is now training for the Israeli Olympic swim competition! That story has been made into a play.

Letters from L

“Letters from Leokadia”

In another example,  a Servas host’s mother had been operated on by the notorious Nazi Dr. Mengele, infamous for the selection of victims to be killed in the gas chambers and for performing unscientific and often deadly experiments on prisoners.  It was a miracle that our Servas host’s mother lived – and a miracle that she was able to have a child.

Another’s story was that her grandfather acting as a recruiter for Israel had gone to Morocco to get Jewish immigrants to help populate what they hoped would be their new country.  He married a 16 year-old Moroccan Jewish girl who wanted to immigrate but was too young to go on her own. They got stopped at what was then the British mandate/ Israeli border and sent to a refugee camp in Cyprus.  The couple did manage to get into Israel, but it wasn’t easy.

Another woman’s mother was 17 when she got to what was then called the British Mandate for Palestine region (1922-1948) and later became the State of Israel.  Although she had lost her whole family to the Nazis, the mom was sent back to Germany. We heard many such stories.

Since the State of Israel was established in 1948, the country has opened its arms to immigrants.  Now with so many anti-Semitic problems in Europe, many are immigrating from there – especially the French.  We met U.S. citizens immigrating too.

A U.S. family from Florida with six children.  They are immigrating to Israel.

A U.S. family with six children are new immigrants to Israel.

Also, Israel encourages 18-26 year old youth from other countries to investigate their Jewish heritage with a 10-day free trip to Israel.  For more information on this incredible program (especially for non-practicing youth with even a slim Jewish heritage), go to <http://www.birthrightisrael.com&gt;.

Wherever we went, we saw that layers of history coat the land of Israel. Caesarea, for instance, is a coastal Israeli city and an important site in Christian history  built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE.  This  was where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus and an important Roman city during the Byzantine Period of the 6th-7th centuries.

Mosaic floor of a Byzantine mansion xx

The Bird Mosaic floor of a Byzantine mansion  – end of 6th century in Caesarea.  The mansion apparently burned down during the Arab invasion of 640 CE.

The fortifications seen  today in Caesarea were rebuilt by Louis IX, King of France, who came to the Holy Land in the 13th century during the Sixth Crusade.

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea is now also a tourist site with restaurants and arts.

Rohee getting glass-blowing instruction on the Caesarea boardwalk.

Roee getting glass-blowing instruction on the Caesarea boardwalk.

Watching kids in Caesarea

Watching kids in Caesarea

Israel is expensive.  Jerusalem has much on-going building.    The taxes are high: 18% on everything.  An apartment in Jerusalem for a one month rental of a very nice one bedroom furnished Windows of Jerusalem Tower apartment is $146.10 (U.S.) a night or $4,529.00 a month.    Windows of Jerusalem Vacation Apartments by EXP® Israel | 5 Star Luxury Vacation Rental Apartments I <http://windowsofjerusalem.com/?utm_content=4218058754&utm_term=rentals%20jerusalem&utm_campaign=Campaign+%231&utm_source=Bing&utm_medium=cpc&gt;.

Jerusalem building

Jerusalem building

Craig’s List Jerusalem offers a 2 bed/2 bath renovated apartment in the German Colony for 3,600,000 (U.S. $911,854). <http://jerusalem.craigslist.org/reb/4916541698.html> German colony Gem apartment – Loyd george street jerusalem2 You can see history and religion wherever you look in Israel.

View into Jerusalem.

View into Jerusalem.

Caesarea sunset.

Caesarea sunset.

Buildings and trees spread over Jerusalem.

Israel is rich in history and many resilient  people.

There’s much more to Israel than I’ve shared.    Go see for yourselves.

Shalom & Aloha, Renée

Surprised by Israel

Syria and Lebbonon are at the north.

Israel and its people surprised me in many ways — big and small.

One big surprise is that there are many kinds of Jews.  Most Israelis are secular; however, just as we have many types of Christians in the U.S., the practicing Jews in Israel come from many countries and many traditions.

 Orthodox Jews from Poland have their pants legs tucked into their boots.

Orthodox Jews from Poland have their pants legs tucked into their boots.

Young Orthodox woman and baby - note the cell phone.

Young Orthodox woman and baby – note the cell phone.

Barry and I got to see a very Orthodox section of Jerusalem.  When Danny told me that I needed to wear a dress over my jeans and my long sleeved sweater, I thought he was a bit extreme, but no, here is the sign we saw as we entered Mea She’arim section of Jerusalem.

Sign in Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Sign in Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem

Women and girls need to wear a “closed blouse with long sleeves, long skirt, no tight-fitting clothes.” The Mea She’arim area, one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods, is populated mainly by Haredi Jews, an extremely conservative, anti-secular, isolationist expression of Judaism.    They avoid both non-haredi Jews and non-Jews in order to prevent outside contamination of their values and practices.

This banner strung across a Mea She’arim street really shocked me.

The sign is in English

The sign is in English

The sign announces, “Authentic Jewry always opposed Zionism and the existence of the State of Israel.  We pray for the speedy and peacefully  total dismantlement of the state of Israel.”

This ultra-orthodox Jewish group believes that the Messiah is the one who will lead his people to the establishment of their own country. The existence of the country of Israel, they feel, delays the arrival of the Messiah.

The men wear long coats, hats, and have beards.

Some Jewish men wear long coats, hats, and have beards.

Many in this area dress – and live – much as they did 100 years ago in small Jewish towns of Central Europe.  Life revolves around strict adherence to  Jewish law, prayer, and the study of Jewish religious texts.  They have absolute reverence for Torah (Judaism’s most important text, composed of the Five Books of Moses, the 613 commandments (mitzvoth) and the Ten Commandments), and they prize religious scholarship.

Mea She'ari residents.

Mea She’arim residents.

Mea She'ari residents.

Mea She’arim street.

Mea She'ari neighborhood.

Mea She’arim neighborhood.

The men study.  The Israeli government supports the family. The men study. The Israeli government supports their families.  In the Old Testament, God instructs that the Levites study and protect the Torah.

Usually, the women marry young and have many children.

Usually, the women marry young and have many children.

Girls in the Mea She 'ari neighborhood.Girls in the Mea She’arim neighborhood.

In order to prevent outside influence and contamination of values and practices, Haredim strive to limit their contact with the outside world.

This woman actually yelled at Barry and shook her finger at him for taking this photo - so we tried to be suripticious.

This woman yelled at Barry and shook her finger at him for taking this photo – so we tried to be more surreptitious. Three kids are in this stroller; no wonder she is testy, but she does have a cell phone!

This woman was encased in voluminous layers of robes that hid her body completely.  Only her face showed;

This woman was encased in voluminous layers of robes that hid her body.  Only her face showed;

Many of the men were running.  Were they late for prayers?

Many of the men were running. Were they late for prayers?

Then there are the Breslev Hasidim, another example of the diversity within Israel.   They use clapping, singing and dancing to develop an intense, joyous relationship with God.

The  white yamaka is a sign of the Brels

The white yamaka is a sign of the Breslev Hasidim.

Source: http://www.vosizneias.com/assets/uploads/news_photos/thumbnails/600_q28lbjbi3qq5apwesvu6qckblm51unlo.jpg

The Breslev Hasidim and the ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews represent a range of Jewish practices you will find among others in Israel.

Another surprise is Israel is a really, really small country.

Syria and Lebbonon are at the north.

Syria and Lebanon border  the north; Egypt the west, and Jordan, the  east. The areas in green are the disputed territories.

Image from – <http://assets.baptiststandard.com/archived/2002/4_15/images/israelmap.jpg&gt;

Today, Israel (including disputed territories) is not much larger than the 5th smallest U.S. state – New Jersey, which  is about 7,800 square miles (20,000 square kilometers).   The State of Israel covers 8,019 square miles (20,770 sq. km).

Israel used to be bigger – almost twice as big.   As a result of the 6-Day War in 1967, Israel gained much territory.

Israel captured the area colored aqua as a result of the 6-Day War.

Israel captured the area colored aqua as a result of the 1967 – 6-Day War.

In 1979, as a peace offering, Israel gave up the Sinai Peninsula (about  60,000 km2 – 23,000 sq miles – in area)  to Egypt.  Despite large oil reserves having been found in the Sinai and the area serving as a big buffer zone, Israel pulled out of the Sinai in several stages ending in 1982.

In an NPR interview, reporter Nicolas Pelham, who writes for The Economist, discusses the Sinai and the Bedouin tribes that control it in his article, “In Sinai: The Uprising of the Bedouin.”   The Sinai Peninsula is  a very large piece of land, sparsely populated, which has been a conduit for smuggling – including arms smuggling.  The Bedouin, a population of about half a million broadly divide into some 20 to 30 tribes in the Sinai, managed to build up its own arsenal of weapons.

Phelham notes the Sinai has “spun out of control [of the central Egyptian government]. When the Mubarak regime fell, its security forces, which had retained Egyptian control, fled.. . . and   it’s becoming increasingly a full-scale battle between the Bedouin and the Egyptian government”  (from: http://www.npr.org/2012/11/26/165945327/sinai-peninsula-often-ignored-in-coverage-of-egypt).

Recently, I saw the Sinai mentioned in The New Yorker  article that tells of Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean-born Swede, who “advocates for Eritrean asylum seekers. She receives many calls from Eritreans in the Sinai, who beg for ransoms as large as forty thousand dollars while their captors pour molten plastic down their backs”  (April 21, 2014, p. 79).

So although Israel gave the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in a peace agreement, Egypt can’t control the area, and Israel still does not have the promised peace with her neighbors.

Another big surprise is that although I knew Arab and Israeli areas were close, I saw they are actually intertwined even in the capital city of Jerusalem. In the photo below, you can see the wall separating Jerusalem from the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

A closer look at the wall that does cause hardships for Palestianians working in Jerusalem but helps keep neighborhoods safe against the few who are trying to kill all Israelis.

A closer look at the wall that does cause hardships but helps keep neighborhoods safe against the few who are trying to kill all Israelis.

On Maui, what could you do if a few members of one group in Wailuku shelled their neighbors in Kahului?  In New York, what if some Brooklyn residents sent bombs into Manhattan?  In Illinois, what if Evanston residents were mortaring the north side of Chicago? Or vice versa.

The situation is very, very complicated.

Shelling happened as recently as July-August 2014 when Israel launched a military operation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip following the June 12, 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas members.

More than 2,200 people died, most of them Gazans – many children– during  seven weeks of Israeli bombardment, Palestinian rocket attacks, and ground fighting.

“The stated aim of the Israeli operation was to stop rocket fire from Gaza into Israel . . . Conversely, Hamas’s goal was to bring international pressure to bear to lift Israel’s block of the Gaza Strip, end Israeli’s offensive, release Palestinian prisoners and overcome its political isolation. . . .

On 26 August, an open-ended ceasefire was announced. By that date, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) reported that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups had fired 4,564 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel, with over 735 intercepted in flight and shot down by Iron Dome [an example of Israel’s great defense technology]. Most Gazan mortar and rocket fire hit open land, more than 280 fell on areas in Gaza, while . . . 224 struck residential areas. The IDF attacked 5,263 targets in Gaza; at least 34 known tunnels were destroyed and two-thirds of Hamas’s 10,000-rocket arsenal was used up or destroyed” (<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Israel–Gaza_conflict&gt;).

The situation there is not good: not good for the Israelis and not good for the Palestinians.

All houses and apartment buildings that I saw in Israel have bomb shelters!

A closer look at the wall that does cause hardships for Palestianians working in Jerusalem but helps keep neighborhoods safe against the few who are trying to kill all Israelis.

View from Mt. Scopus and the wall separating Jerusalem from the Palestinian Authority area.

The wall causes hardships especially for Palestinians, but it provides a barrier between the two sides.

Another indication that Israel is small is that on our way back to Jerusalem from the Golan Heights, Danny’s car was passed by the prime minister’s convoy!  Such proximity to national political leaders does not happen on Maui — and probably not where you live either.

Those flashing lights on Danny's care are from a passing political convoy.

Those flashing lights on Danny’s car are from a passing political convoy.

The country is so small that Barry and I were able to go by public transportation (a bus and then a train; we did have to run to catch the train!) from Eilat at the very south of Israel to Binyamina, which is between Tel Aviv and Haifa in the north.  It took us only about five hours.

Binyamina is north of Tel Aviv and south of Haifa.  We started in Eilat at the very south of Israel.

Binyamina is north of Tel Aviv and south of Haifa. We started in Eilat at the very south of Israel. 

Source: http://hethathasanear.com/images/israel_map.jpg

On Amtrak in the U.S., it takes longer than that to go from St. Louis, MO to Chicago, IL!

In many other ways, Israel is a surprise.  Although pilgrims come from all over the world,  the surprise is who they are.

Of course, Jews come to Jerusalem.

A Jewish man in the Old City Jerusalem.

A Jewish man in the Old City Jerusalem.

Arabs too.

Muslim Arabs coming by bus to Jerusalem to pray.

Muslim Arabs coming by bus to Jerusalem to pray.

And Christians.

Israel is so small that we walked next to another  visiting pilgrim - one that had body guards.  Someone told us the President of Malaysia and his wife were visiting. xx

Israel is so small that we walked next to another visiting pilgrim – one that had body guards. The Prime Minister of Malaysia and his wife were visiting.

We were all on our way to Visitation Church - where Mary received the blessing of the Lord xx

We were all on our way to Visitation Church – where Mary received the blessing of the Lord – and saw these colorful women being interviewed.

Not surprisingly, I felt amazed to be in the actual places of the Bible.

Visitation Church

Visitation Church

A wall of the "Magnifica" in many different languages.

A wall of the “Magnifica”-  in many different languages  on the wall of the Ein Karem Church of the Visitation.

Visitation Church

Visitation Church

The Magnificat: Song of Mary – “My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.  For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.  For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name. . . .”

St. John the Baptist Church

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church

St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist

Another surprise is in contrast to the ornate Catholic and Protestant churches, I saw that most of the Jewish synagogues are very humble and simple.

Synagogue near St. John the Baptist Church.

Synagogue near St. John the Baptist Church.

Another humble synagogue

Another humble synagogue with a Christian church behind it.

The important rabbis of this synagogue.  They put their emphasis on learning and studying.  Simplicity is important.

The important rabbis of this synagogue. The rabbis put their emphasis on learning and studying. Simplicity is important.

Also, I expected military presence in Israel, but my surprise was that it felt okay (although I’m a Quaker).  I even felt very safe.

After Israelis graduate from high school, almost all are required to join the army.  The exceptions are Arab Israelis (although they can choose to join), kids from the Orthodox Jewish families, and those with significant physical or mental problems.

So we saw soldiers and their rifles almost everywhere we went in Israel.  However, we could tell they were professional and well trained.  For me, seeing those young Israelis with their rifles was not like the scary experiences of seeing a gun-brandishing guy on the Chicago El or another with an attitude at the Tucson swap meet  – those incidences were scary!  The Israeli soldiers are defending the existence of Israel – the one place where Jews can live without worry that their government and its citizens may one day choose to destroy them.

Young soldiers with their rifles are everywhere in Israel.

Young soldiers with their rifles are everywhere in Israel.

Whether on-duty or off-duty, Israeli soldiers carry their rifles.

Whether on-duty or off-duty, Israeli soldiers carry their rifles.

On the trains - everywhere

On the trains – everywhere.

Young Israeli soldiers on a field trip.

Young Israeli soldiers on a field trip.

Another really big surprise for me – Shabbat, the time for Jewish prayer, rest, and celebration lasts from sundown on Friday until several hours after sunset on Saturday.  Shops close, public transportation stops, no one is to work, drive a car, cook, or even press an elevator button!  Shabbat affects everyone, religious Jew or not.  Some Israelis like Shabbat even if they aren’t religious because it is a time for family and rest.  Others just find all the closures as irritating.  Shabbat certainly has to be considered.  Barry and I tried taking the light electric train one Friday afternoon in Jerusalem.  The sun was shining brightly, but the trains had already stopped – at 2:30 p.m.!  We were told that the train conductors needed time to get home and prepare for Shabbat.  Thankfully, an Arab taxi stopped for us.

On a Saturday late morning in Eilat, Barry and I waited for a Christian Ethiopian restaurant to open.  We hung out on this bench watching a few people pass by.  And yes, that's a beer Barry is drinking.  It was still Shabbat - almost nothing was open!

On a Saturday late morning in Eilat, Barry and I waited for a Christian Ethiopian restaurant to open. We hung out on this bench watching a few people pass by. And yes, that’s a beer Barry is drinking. It was still Shabbat – almost nothing was open!  

Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes, usually in the form of wat (also w'et or wot), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is about 20 inches in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour.

Our Ethiopian lunch – minus its usual meat ingredient. 

Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of vegetables and often very spicy meat dishes, usually in the form of wat (also w’et or wot), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is about 20 inches in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour.   Our lunch was good and spicy — and we were happy to find a place to eat on Saturday during Shabbat.

Although most Israelis are secular, the country has Hebrew, the language of the Bible, as its official language and the government promotes Jewish holidays and practices.

Another surprise –  the buildings in Jerusalem are required to be  made from Jerusalem stone — which glows golden as the sun sets.

Jerusalem stone is the facade of the buildings throughout the city.

Jerusalem stone is the facade of the buildings throughout the city.

Beautiful Jerusalem stone

Beautiful Jerusalem stone

Jerusalem stone

Jerusalem stone

Fancy buildings or more humble - they all are of Jerusalem stone.

Fancy buildings or more humble – they all are of Jerusalem stone.

More surprises, big and small, were part of our visit to Israel.  But this post is long enough.  More will follow.

I hope you will go to Israel and find your own surprises.

Shalom & Aloha,  Renée

Jerusalem: What’s Outside the Old City Walls?

Large mask - 9,000 years old

Jerusalem is much more than the Old City – although that part is very historic and wonderful.  Outside the walls is a vibrant city of education, museums, markets, and places of religious significance.  Jerusalem also serves as the capital of Israel; many businesses, government offices, restaurants, and hotels are throughout the city.

King David Hotel

King David Hotel

Nelson Mandela has been at the King David Hotel

Nelson Mandela has been at the King David Hotel

Stephen Hawkings has been here too.

Stephen Hawkings has been here too; that’s his enlarged thumb print – and many other famous (and not famous) people too.

King David Hotel outdoor restaurant

King David Hotel outdoor restaurant

American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem - lovely

The American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem – lovely

Religion and history intertwine everywhere outside the walls too.

You’ll find Hebrew University –

Founders of Hebrew University include Albert Einstein

Founders of Hebrew University included Albert Einstein

Hebrew University

Hebrew University

Barry and I spent three afternoons on the Hebrew University campus and in its terrific the dining hall :)

View from Mt Scopus and the Hebrew University botanical gardens

View from Mt Scopus in the Hebrew University botanical gardens

In Jerusalem, you will find many beautiful and peaceful places.

Jerusalem lights from the top of Notre Dame

Jerusalem lights from the top of Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral - outside the New Gate in Jerusalem

Notre Dame Cathedral – outside the New Gate in Jerusalem

Even outside the Old City walls, Jerusalem is filled with religion.  In Notre Dame

Even outside the Old City walls, Jerusalem is filled with religion. Painting in Notre Dame.

Mount of Olives.

Mount of Olives.

The Jerusalem YMCA is a notable landmark.

The Jerusalem YMCA is a notable landmark.

YMCA

YMCA

YMCA: “Here is a place whose atmosphere is peace/Where political and religious jealousies can be forgotten and international unity be fortified and developed.”

near the Lion's gate xx

The Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Mary Magdalene – its seven onion domes gleam in the sunlight near the Lion’s Gate.

Danny, Ruth, & Barry.  Our friends were showing us around important religious sites.

Our Israeli friends Danny & Ruth showing Barry and me around.

Our friends  showed us important religious sites — and the ordinary places of Israeli life.

Yes, McDonald's is here in Israel too.  But they are kosher so some serve meat; others serve dairy products.

Yes, McDonald’s is here in Israel too. But they are kosher McDonalds, so some serve meat; others serve dairy products.

Nahalat Shiv’a , the third Jewish neighborhood outside the Old City Walls was founded in 1869, has small houses built around inner courtyards with water cisterns at the center.

Nahalat Shiv’a , the third Jewish neighborhood outside the Old City Walls was founded in 1869; it has  small houses built around inner courtyards with water cisterns at the center.

Notice, all the buildings in Jerusalem are made of Jerusalem stone.

Notice, all the buildings in Jerusalem are made of Jerusalem stone.

Jerusalem stairway

Jerusalem stairway

Besides being able to wander around the city, we found that Jerusalem has wonderful museums.

Although not very big, the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Arts is interesting — and it is open on Satuday, during Shabbat.

Islamic art reflects  religious  beliefs and traditions.

Islamic art reflects religious beliefs and traditions.

Shia and Sunni xx  As well as sharing beautiful art, the museum gives information about the Muslim religion.  Here the sign explains the difference between the Shia and the Sunni Muslims.

Music is integral to Islamic arts.

Music is integral to Islamic arts.

The museum also contains a section on watches and clocks.  The most significant timepieces are by Abraham Louis Breguet (1747-1823), inventor of some of the greatest technological innovations in modern watch making.  Because the watch was so complex,  the “Marie Antoinette” although commissioned for her wasn’t finished until 23 years after her execution!

The Marie Antoinette watch by

The Marie Antoinette watch by Breguet

The humble donkey was the theme of one exhibit.

The humble donkey was the theme of one exhibit.

A museum that  you must see in Jerusalem is the Israel Museum.

Entrance to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem xx

Entrance to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. TripAdvisor rates the museum as 5.5.  I agree.

Israel Museum

Israel Museum

Mosaics

Ancient mosaics

Beautiful pieces by August Rodin and other famous artists.

Beautiful pieces by famous artists are throughout the museum.  This one is by Auguste Rodin.

Ancestor pole.

Ancestor pole – by the Asmat people.

Human shaped coffins - 13th century

Human shaped coffins – 13th century

Large mask

Large mask – Judean hills

You can see one of the oldest human portraits known. Found in the Judean Hills and Judean Desert, from the Neolithic Period, 9,000 years ago, this prehistoric mask is one of a group of masks that have been scattered around the world, but they are now exhibited in the Israel Museum – together for the first time.

Each mask has its own personality.

Each mask has its own personality.

Our docent made what we saw even more interesting.

Our docent made what we saw even more interesting.

Monorahs xx from around the world are on display

Menorahs from around the world are on display

A reconstructed synagogue from Cochin, India, is within the Israel Museum.

A reconstructed synagogue from Cochin, India is within the Israel Museum.

A replica - within the walls of the Old City

A replica of within the walls of the Old City

Another fantastic museum is the informative and moving Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum.  Go there too.   Trip Advisor rates this museum as  5/5.

Visitor looks at pictures of Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem

A visitor looks at pictures of Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem’s Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem.  The museum commemorates the six million Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust during World War Two.

Image from – http://www.vosizneias.com/wp-content/

Janusz Korczak  memorial

Janusz Korczak memorial

Image from: http://magazine.baruchhaba.com//wp-content/uploads/2012/07/janusz-korczak-memorial-8795c21818ccd53d9dcd33713453bb4b.jpg

Barry and I spent about four hours in the Israel Museum and about that much time at the Holocaust Museum.   We want to go back to both since we didn’t see everything; we found both very interesting.

Also the Bible Lands Museum is highly recommended; it explores the peoples and cultures mentioned in the Bible.  TripAdvisor rates it 4.5/5.

People of the Bible.

People of the Bible.

Image from – http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/0c/a9/51/0ca951d2eb12214283df0a4ef8e52899.jpg

And more museums are coming.

Future Jerusalem museum

Future Jerusalem museum

Jerusalem has fantastic restaurants,  markets, music, history, culture, and religions.  It is a modern bustling city that you are sure to find interesting.

Sunset in Jerusalem

Sunset over the hills of  Jerusalem

I hope you too can go to Jerusalem.

Aloha & Shalom, Renée

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