Archive | Israel RSS for this section

Barry’s Gleanings: “A Boy’s Discovery . . .” + A Way Through the Separation

During the past several thousand years at least four religious traditions are known to have revered the Temple Mount in Old City Jerusalem: Judaism, Greco-Roman paganism, Christianity, and Islam.

View of the Temple Mount - golden dome. The area below is at the remained of the Second Temple where Jewish people may pray.

View of the Temple Mount – with the golden Dome of the Rock. The area in the foreground  is at the broken wall of the destroyed Second Temple where Jews now  pray.

Some Muslims have denied the Jewish connection to this most holy of sites.  Recently, a 10-year-old Russian boy found proof that confirm the Jewish historical claims.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-boys-discovery-rebuts-temple-mount-revisionism-1445806184

At the Wailing Wall - men at one side, women at the other. Here a boy's bar mitzvah is taking place.

At the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall) – men at one side, women at the other. Here a boy’s bar mitzvah is taking place.

Barry at the Wailing Wall

Barry at the Western Wall

In the recent On Being podcast, Krista Tippet interviews Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and one of the world’s deep thinkers on religion in our age.  Rabbi Sacks’ new book is Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence.

“The Dignity of Difference,” an intimate conversation with Krista, Rabbi Sacks “speaks about how Jewish and other religious ideas can inform modern challenges. Rabbi Sacks says that the faithful can and must cultivate their own deepest truths — while finding God in the face of the stranger and the religious other.”  Rabbi Sacks says that the best antidote for violence is conversation.

Surely, the power of love (and the basic teachings of each religion) can rise above the “fear of the stranger.”

http://onbeing.org/program/dignity-difference/188

Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

During Ramaden xx Muslim worshipers at the Dome of the Rock

During Ramadan, Muslim worshipers at the Dome of the Rock

Image from: http://www.bibleplaces.com/templemount.htm

Let’s embrace our similarities rather than focus on our differences.

Servas Israel Tour – Bethlehem, Palestinian Authority, Servas Goodbye, and Evolving Thoughts

CHRISTMAS IN ISRAEL WITH SERVAS

I speak neither Hebrew nor Arabic.  I’m neither Jewish nor Muslim.  I try to live Quaker concepts: equality, justice, simplicity, service, integrity, pacifism, and seek the light of God within each person.  Although Christian, I like Hindu ideas (of  karma and an understanding that many paths lead to the top of the mountain) and Buddhist views (of compassion and right work).  I graduated from Horton Watkins High School with its about 95% Jewish students; I admire the emphasis on learning.  Barry, my husband, comes from a Jewish family.  One stepmother was Jewish.  I’ve read Anne Frank, Sarah’s Key, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, seen Shindler’s List, . . . and gone to the Holocaust Museum in Frankfort.   We have good  friends who live in Jerusalem and are Israeli. In other words, I have a pro-Jewish point of view.

But I also love the poetry and stories of  Naomi Shihab Nye, whose father was Palestinian and mother American.  And we’ve met good people everywhere we’ve traveled.    Although the U.S. news about Israel is usually grim, Barry and I were very interested in what we would find as we participated in the Christmas in Israel Servas 2014 Tour.

So what do I think now after my five weeks in Israel?

I’m more conflicted than before. Perhaps a reason it’s taken me so long to write about this great trip (besides being busy) is because much about Israel is complex.   Our final day tour with some of the other Servas members was a trip to Bethlehem, controlled by the Palestinian Authority.   That day revealed the complexity and contrast in several ways.

The map shows how the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and Gaza are situated within Israel, a country about the size of the U.S. state of New Jersey.  Note how the Arab countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt border Israel:

Israel

Israel

https://www.google.com/search?q=maps+of+israel+palestine&biw=1440&bih=682&tbm=isch&imgil=vt7l1KebrytSuM%253A%253BT3eSLKz1IilShM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.pbs.org%25252Ffrontlineworld%25252Fstories%25252Fpalestine503%25252Fadditional.html&source=iu&pf=m&fir=vt7l1KebrytSuM%253A%252CT3eSLKz1IilShM%252C_&usg=__puMbXYo6aVb3OB4A22OGtkry_3E%3D&ved=0CCsQyjc&ei=MDacVbDqL4K5oQSkxIHoDQ#imgrc=jv4Kp0F98kM2ZM%3A&usg=__puMbXYo6aVb3OB4A22OGtkry_3E%3D

Before we went to Bethlehem, we stayed in Jerusalem at the clean, comfortable Eden Hotel, owned by Line,  a gracious and efficient Jewish woman; friendly Muslim women cooked our yummy buffet breakfasts. <http://jerusalemhotel.co.il&gt;.  Throughout our trip, we experienced many such examples of Jewish/Arab cooperation and interaction within Israel.

We tour members met that Saturday evening to say farewell to our Servas Israeli hosts.   For ten days, they had housed and fed us, shared their lives, shown us important historical and religious sites (especially Christian for this Christmas season); we know them as wonderful, generous  people.  Many of our Israeli hosts and their family members had incredible stories of suffering, survival — and miracles — in order to be alive –and live in  Israel.

That night, we all met at a Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem, one of the five Hand in Hand schools in Israel: A Center for Jewish Arab Education in Israel.   <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXE4ofvd9vk>. Hand in Hand students learn to read and write in both Hebrew and Arabic — and from third grade on, in English, too.   The schools are public and open to all children.  Besides teaching the languages, the schools are committed to respecting all who live in Israel: “Learning Together, Living Together.”  <https://www.handinhandk12.org/inform/our-schools>

The setting was perfect for our Servas interactions, which are to promote peace and understanding around the globe.   That night we again enjoyed  presentations, games, dancing, and singing.  My favorite part was making a necklace from the beads contributed from each of our tour members.  There were amber beads from Poland; green beads representing the Belarus flag,  pretzel beads,  silver bicycles,  Jewish flags …..  I love my necklace and the friendships and connections it represents.

Stringing our beads into necklaces.

Stringing our beads into necklaces.

Some Servas members arranged the beads by size and shape;  I made mine in the order in which I could reach the bowls that held the beads.  I added Muslim prayer beads, Buddhist prayer beads, and a Christian Coptic cross so that my necklace connects not only countries but also religions.

My Servas Israel Tour necklace linking beads from around the world

My Servas Israel Tour necklace linking beads from around the world

We wrote about our experiences with our Servas Israel Tour.  Igor  from Russia and Anna from Germany in the middle.  At the back xxxx from Germany, Tarit, xxx xxx, and xxxx from India.

We wrote about our experiences with our Servas Israel Tour. Igor from Russia and Anna from Germany in the middle. At the back –  Imelda from Germany; Tarit, Kashi Lal, and Sudhir Kumar from India.

Sudshuna zxxx and Gelinda xxx with their necklaces.

Sudeshna and Brigitte with their necklaces.

Maria from Poland

Maria from Poland

Servas Israel Tour members

Servas Israel Tour members

The Hand in Hand schools exemplify Jewish/Arab interaction and cooperation.  After an act of vandalism at this school, the Hand in Hand children flew a banner pledging  continuing Arab & Jewish unity.

Arab and Jewish unity

Arab and Jewish unity banner

Among the other presenters, Barry and I got to share Maui highlights.  We hope Servas tour members and our Israeli hosts come visit us.

Our son John + his dog Nalu (

In Maui, our son John + his dog Nalu (“wave” in Hawaiian) in Iao Valley

Again, we’d had another wonderful evening experiencing fellowship together.

****

Then on Sunday morning, those of us going to Bethlehem met at the hostel where some of the tour members were staying.

Claudia and Manda

Claudia and Manda

Before we left, Manda gave a moving tribute to our Servas 2014 Christmas in Israel organizer – the wonderful Claudia.

Although we had been in Israel, our Servas tour hadn’t gone to Bethlehem for Christmas Eve because, we were told, it would have been even more crowded and chaotic than on other days.  And since Bethlehem is under the control of the Palestinian Authority,  our Israeli Jewish hosts are not allowed to go there.

We Servas members travelled the six miles (10 km)  by public bus and met our Arab Israeli local guide in Bethlehem.

From the bus, we could see the sign to Rachel's Tomb.  History and religion are everywhere in Israel

From the bus, we could see the sign to Rachel’s Tomb-in the West Bank. History and religion are everywhere in Israel

On the bus, we sat across from three friendly, bright Arab boys.  They knew a little English and wanted to know where we were all from: Russia, Poland, England, Sweden, U.S., Germany . . .  The boys could identify each of us.   If the boys are Arab Israeli, they have the same education and health support as the Jewish Israeli children; the Palestinian Arab children under the Palestinian Authority do not have the same opportunities.

View from the bus into Palestinian Authority Territory

View from the bus into Palestinian Authority Territory

View from the bus - going into Bethlehem

Going into Bethlehem – we could see some boarded up buildings

In Bethlehem

In Bethlehem, outside the Church of the Nativity

Marilyn and Igor with an Arab vendor in Bethlehem

Marilyn and Igor with an Arab vendor in Bethlehem

In Bethlehem at Christmas

In Bethlehem at Christmas

Christmas in Bethlehem

Christmas nativity scene in Bethlehem

Vendors in front of us - and behind us.

Vendors in front of us – and behind us.

In 339 AD, Constantine and his mother St. Helena had a church built above the place of Jesus’ birth.

At the left, our efficient and nice Arab Palestinian guide who got us through all the lines

At the left, our efficient, friendly Arab Palestinian guide who got us through all the lines

Maria and Stephan xx entering xxxx

Maria and Stepan entering the Church of the Nativity through the Door of Humility.

The Door of Humility, the small rectangular entrance to the church, was created in Ottoman times to prevent carts being driven in by looters and to force even the most important visitor to dismount from his/her horse to enter the holy place.  Except for Stepan, the rest of us needed to stoop to enter.

From: <http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/bethlehem-church-of-the-nativity>.

Inside the xxx church.  Note the wall on the right.

Inside the Church of the Nativity. Note the wall on the right is being repaired

A wooden floor had been built over the original mosaic floor.  Part of the renovation is to restore the floors.

A wooden floor had been built over the original mosaic floor of 339AD.  Part of the current renovation is to restore the original floors

Inside xxxx in Bethlehem

Inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – honoring the birth site of Jesus

Explaining the restoration

Explaining the restoration – The Palestinian  Presidential Committee for the Restoration of the Church of the Nativity

Inside the church was crowded, dark, under reconstruction

Inside, the church was crowded, dark, under reconstruction

While we waited in our crowded lines, a tour guide screamed across the church nave at another guide, “Don’t cut in line! Wait your turn!”

The other guide yelled back, “We didn’t cut.”

The first guided screamed, “If I’m lying, you can cut off my head!”

Yikes, this is the birthplace of Jesus!  Have we learned nothing?  We were at one of the holiest religious sites on Earth, and a few people were acting rude and ridiculous.  Shocking, actually.

According to the World Heritage site, the Church of the Nativity is managed by the three churches: the Greek Orthodox Church, the Custody of the Holy Land (Roman Catholic), and the Armenian Patriarchate. Now an advisory committee formed by the Palestinian President is involved too.   Historically, the three churches that have joint control over the Church of the Nativity have not cooperated with each other.  A Huffington Post article written in Dec. 2013 tells of the renovation efforts. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/12/bethlehem-church-of-the-nativity_n_4432606.html.  Over a year later, little seems to have been renovated, but it’s the first major renovation in 600 years, so perhaps more has been done than we could see.

Scaffolding was everywhere

Scaffolding is everywhere

Ulrike xxx, Mariaxx, and Igor.  The ceiling is peeling.

Ulrike, Maria, and Igor. The structure needs reinforcement; the ceiling is peeling.

inside the church

Inside the church

In line to see the birth site of Jesus

In line to see the birth site of Jesus

Inside the Church of the Nativity

Inside the Church of the Nativity

The paintings look restored – and beautiful.

Paintings of the stations of the Cross xxx within the Church of the Nativity

Paintings of Jesus  within the Church of the Nativity

Waiting in line

Waiting in line

Waiting

Waiting

This fourteen-pointed star indicates the actual spot where Jesus was born

This fourteen-pointed star indicates the actual spot where Jesus was born

Throughout history, this part of the Middle East has had religious significance and people fighting over it.  For instance, in 1847, the theft of the silver star marking the exact site of the Nativity was a factor in the international crisis over the Holy Places that ultimately led to the Crimean War (1854–56).

Across from the birth site, a “baby in a manger” marks where Jesus was placed.  The replica of baby Jesus must be a popular theft item since it has a cage around it 😦

“Jesus in the manger”

People from around the world hoped to see the birth place of Jesus

People from around the world see the birth place of Jesus.  Svetlana A.  at the right

Outside the Church of the Nativity - monasteries xxxx

Outside the Church of the Nativity  are the monasteries of the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the Armenian Apostolic

A mass in the Church of the Nativity

A mass in the Church of the Nativity

St. George - the Crusaiders are celebrated here tool

St. George – the Crusaders are celebrated here too!

A Bethlehem shop owner, Mitri, sent a bus for us – and so we went to his souvenir shop in Bethlehem, which offered a good variety of gift items; the payment was in U.S. dollars.

Bethlehem pilgrims: Igor, Roselleexx and xxx.

Bethlehem pilgrims: Igor (Russia), Rossella (Italy) and Sudhir Kumar (Bhopal, India).

xx and Vldorxx with his new flute

Irena and Vladimir with his new flute

Lunch in Bethlehem

Lunch in Bethlehem

Bus tire - Where we just looking for things?

Bus tire – Where we just looking for things that weren’t right??

As we were waiting to get back on our bus to return to Jerusalem, someone pointed out that the tire looked bald.  The Arab bus driver immediately asked what was wrong and said the tires were just fine.

Earlier, we’d seen 10-year old boys selling gum in the Bethlehem Manger Plaza.  One kid asked me for $100 for a pack of Wrigley spearmint!  I laughed – but did get a pack – for much less.

The pack of gum sold by an Arab Palestinian boy.

A pack of gum sold by an Arab Palestinian boy.

The kid is sure to have a great future in sales.  But why isn’t he out playing or doing sports?

Some buildings we saw in Bethlehem were dilapidated or boarded up.  At the time, Israeli news reported an embargo on concrete into the West Bank and Gaza.  The Israelis couldn’t be sure that new shipments of concrete wouldn’t again create tunnels such as those used the previous summer to send Arab fighters and missiles into Israel.

The conflict in July 2014 resulted in many deaths – especially for Palistenian civilians since Israel has the superior missiles and also defense system.

“Amnesty International, which has a number of people on the ground in Gaza and consistently condemns Israeli and Palestinian abuses alike . . .Palestinian armed groups have stored munitions in and fired indiscriminate rockets from residential areas in the Gaza Strip . . . and have also reportedly urged residents in some areas of the Gaza Strip not to leave their homes after Israel had warned it would attack the area, all of which have the effect of putting Palestinians at risk in the fighting.”

From: http://www.vox.com/2014/7/30/5937119/palestinian-civilian-casualties-gaza-israel

An ABC view : http://abcnews.go.com/International/israel-gaza-conflict/story?id=24552237

The Gaza Strip is a Detroit-sized area on the border with Egypt up against the Mediterranean Sea that is one of the most densely packed places on Earth with 1.8 million people living in just 139 square miles. Technically part of the Palestinian Authority, it has been governed since 2007 by the militant group Hamas.

An Al Jezzera story: http://abcnews.go.com/International/israel-gaza-conflict/story?id=24552237

The Washington Post story tells about the conflicting reports on casualties – the numbers of civilians killed <https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/the-un-says-7-in-10-palestinians-killed-in-gaza-were-civilians-israel->disagrees/2014/08/29/44edc598-2faa-11e4-9b98-848790384093_story.html

The irony is that if the radical Arabs would stop trying to eradicate Jews, and the Israelis wouldn’t retaliate (yet not be killed) all who live there could help each other.  The tax rate on everything in Israel is 18%!  Much of the money goes to defense.  It could go to education and health of all its citizens.  The Palestinians are obviously suffering economic hardship.

The situation is complex.  If Israel hadn’t had their “Iron Dome” this last summer or if Hamas had not stored muttons and fighters in heavily populated areas, the death rates would have been much altered.  Palestinians, many of them children and civilians would not have been killed in the retaliation.  This is not a sustainable situation.

I can understand that Jews can’t trust other countries.  While we were in Jerusalem, we met recent Jewish immigrants who feel that France is again no longer safe for Jews.  Jeffrey Goldberg asks, “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe” in the April 2015 issue of The Atlantic (p. 62-75). 

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/is-it-time-for-the-jews-to-leave-europe/386279/

I understand why Israel retaliates against Arab attacks.

And I can see how Palestinian frustration and revenge can work too.  The problem is that the few cause trouble for all.  Basic religious tenants promote love and peace.

Jewish people need a safe country, and the Palestinians need a safe country too.  All want their children to be happy and have opportunities.

As a global community, we must work together and respect each other.   Our leaders must find ways to peace beyond bombs.  And individually, we can develop inner peace and hold respect for those who are different from us.

I believe that Gandhi is correct:  “An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.”   The Israeli/Palestinian situation is complex, but surely they can evolve their relationship in sustainable ways to live together in peace.

Whatever your view, the result now is suffering for both sides.

A wall along the Bethlehem/Jerusalem route

A wall along the Bethlehem/Jerusalem route

Would we go back to Israel?

Yes, I would love to return to Israel.  Next time we would rent our own car and so miss the inconvenience for us of Shabbat.

I would visit Servas hosts everywhere – including Palestinian Servas members in Hebron.

Barry and I would visit Ruth and Danny, Claudia and Shumel, Rohee and Etai, and other wonderful people we met.  I’d love to go back to Lotan or do another kibbutz experience.  The music festival was great. I want to go when it’s warm enough even for me to swim in the Sea of Galilee.  I’d like to bike or hike the Gospel/Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum <http://www.gospeltrail.com>.  And I’d like John to experience the Taglit-Birthright Israel opportunity: http://www.birthrightisrael.com/Pages/Default.aspx.

Our friends Danny and Ruth with their son xxx and Barry

Our friends Danny and Ruth with their son Guy – and Barry in Jerusalem

As poet Elizabeth Alexander says, . . .

What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light. From<ryfoundation.org/poem/182812
A recent article from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) about Kenya could also apply to the Israeli/Palestinian situation: “[I]t is important to recognize that there are no military solutions to preventing or countering violent extremism. In a statement to the White House more than 41 non-governmental organizations, many of whom work worldwide with vulnerable communities, urged the President to seek alternative measures to ending terrorism. The letter states: ‘Military capacities are ill-suited to address either the drivers or entrepreneurs of violence. Eighty-three percent of terrorist movements that ended between 1968 and 2006 were done so through political settlements or improvements in policing. An emerging body of evidence argues that domestic governance capacities are more effective than increased military capacities in sustainably addressing community grievance.’ . . . The NGO statement to the White House calls for an evidenced based approach that prioritizes civilian led prevention efforts to address human rights grievances and build inclusive governance structures. It calls for reversal in cuts to the State Department’s democracy, rights and governance programs. If we want democracy to flourish, we must invest in programs that can actually make that happen.   From <http://allafrica.com/stories/201507241562.html?utm_content=Link+469009&utm_campaign=E-Newsletter&utm_source=This+week+in+the+world&utm_medium=Email>

With a similar understanding, American/Palestinian poet Naomi Shihab Nye often focuses on the ordinary, on connections between diverse peoples, and on the perspectives of those in other lands. In Hugging the Jukebox, she writes: “We move forward, / confident we were born into a large family, / our brothers cover the earth.”  Surely, there is room for all.

Go visit Israel.  See for yourself.

“What if the mightiest word is love?”  May all beings be happy and free.

Aloha and Shalom,

Renée

Servas Israel Tour – continued – Dinner with Servas Members and a Day in Jerusalem

On Friday, we met for dinner with our tour members and Servas Israeli hosts to mingle and share information about our countries.

On the way, we saw old armored vehicles along the road – preserved to remember the many who fought and died so that Jewish people could have a country.

Convoy vehicles from the Israeli War of Independence - 1948

Convoy vehicles from the Israeli War of Independence – 1948

According to “The Convoy Skeletons” by Gil Gertel & Noam Even,[T]he vehicles that brought food, water and arms from Tel Aviv to besieged Jerusalem in early 1948. . . were extremely vulnerable. Piles of stones were placed along the width of the road forcing the drivers to halt. Then snipers hidden between the rocks in the hills near the road, would open fire on the riders and vehicles.

Most of the trucks belonged to various kibbutz cooperative transport companies. Many of the drivers volunteered; the return trip was also via convoy. . . .

LESSER KNOWN FACTS
* During the battle for the road to Jerusalem, 230 convoys set out to bring supplies to the besieged city. . .

* Over 3100 trucks made their way to Jerusalem carrying 10,500 tons of supplies. . . .

* In February 1948 – 1299 trucks made the uphill trip to Jerusalem, in 81 convoys.

The armored vehicles symbolize the courage of those who guarded the convoys and who sacrificed their lives to bring supplies to the besieged city of Jerusalem. In the battles on the road to Jerusalem, more than 400 fighters were killed,

From: <http://www.gemsinisrael.com/e_article000003340.htm>.

Some of our Servas dinner companions: from the right - tagitxx, Sudeshna, Svetlana Pxx, Olga, xxx

Some of our Servas dinner companions: Svetlana P, Olga, Svetlana A.,  Sudeshna, and Tarit

Our Servas Israel hosts served great Middle Eastern food including hummus, wonderful olives, breads, . . .

Lola from Spain, Manda from Sweden, and Israeli Servas hosts.

Lola from Spain, Manda from Sweden, and Israeli Servas hosts

Israeli Servas host sharing his culture

Israeli Servas host sharing stories

Note all the flags:  each represents a Servas Israel Tour member.

Note all the flags: each represents a Servas Israel tour member.

Olga, Svetlana xx, Svetlana P, all from St. Petersburg xxx Russian

Olga, Svetlana P., and Svetlana A., all from St. Petersburg,  Russian

My favorite presentation was the one from Russia (and you will understand why).  The Russian women showed crafts and  gave a slide show about beautiful Lake Baikal, located in the south of Siberia.  We learned that Lake Baikal, which is about 25 million years old, is the largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the world; it  contains about 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water and at 1,642 m (5,387 ft), the deepest and among the clearest of all lakes.   It contains more water than all the U.S. Great Lakes combined!

Baikal is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two-thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world.  In 1996, Lake Baikal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   The temperatures are cool:  a winter minimum of −19 °C (−2 °F) to a summer maximum of 14 °C (57 °F).   Lake Baikal is very beautiful and a wonderful place to visit.

Olga giving the Lake Bakal presentation.

Olga giving the Lake Baikal presentation

Then the Russians ladies gave us typical Russian treats to eat and Lake Baikal water to drink.  When the bottle came around, I poured a cup for Manda and another for me.  I took a big gulp —- then I realized it wasn’t clear, cold Lake Baikal water, but another liquid for which Russia is famous: vodka!

For Manda, it was the first time she’d had alcohol in 20 years!  But no harm was done – and we all got plenty of laughs out of the presentation. We could see that Russians are fun-loving people.   Beware, however,  when a Russian offers you “water”!

Stepan from the Czech Republic played his violin for us - wonderful!

Stepan from the Czech Republic played his violin for us – wonderful – and how cute with his hat!

Sasha and Angelica from Belarus (where, among many other things, Russia sends its Olympic skaters for training)

Sasha and Angelica told us about Belarus (where, among many other things, Russia sends its Olympic skaters for training).  Their photos were spectacular.

Sudeshna sang for us - beautifully

Sudeshna sang for us – beautifully

Kashi Lal Sharma from Bhilwara,  India celebrated his 80th birthday on this trip - and shared experiences he's written about in his book.

Kasha Lal  from Bhilwara, India, celebrated his 80th birthday on this trip – and shared experiences he’s written about in his book

Servas Israel members and guests mingle - Anna from Germany on the right xx

Servas Israel members and guests mingle – Anna from Germany on the right

Friendly Israeli Servas hosts

Friendly Israeli Servas hosts

Pray for Jerusalem

Franco Collodet sharing his “Pray to Jerusalem” experience

Send Your Prayer to Jerusalem

Send Your Prayer to Jerusalem

Besides getting to know Servas members and learn about other countries, we also heard from Franco Collodet, an Italian sociologist and philosophy professor from the Institute Volterra-Elia of Ancona.

In several earlier pilgrimages, Franco Collodet has walked the roads of Europe — to Rome, Lourdes, Fatima, and Santiago de Compostela — tracing the ancient routes that arrive in major places of worship.  Collodet says he is inspired by integration among peoples.

In his latest pilgrimage, Collodet walked 4,100  kilometers (2,547.62 miles) from the Cathedral of Ancona in Italy to Jerusalem, arriving on Christmas 2014!   He shared highlights of his “Send Your Prayer to Jerusalem” experience.

Go to: <http://www.sendyourprayertojerusalem.org/index.php/franco>.

Servas members from Germany - Anna, Tomas, ulrike

Servas members from Germany – Gelinda, Thomas, Ulrike.  On the far right, Claudia from Israel with Adam from Poland behind her.

Servas hosts and tour members had a wonderful evening together.

Our following day tour was Christmas in Jerusalem. 

At 10:00 a.m., we met at Jaffa Gate of the Old City and viewed the walls surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem – a city of many faiths.   

Old City Jerusalem wall

Old City Jerusalem wall – bullet holes attest to the passion with which different groups want possession of this important religious city.

Modern entrepreneur outside the Old City walls

Modern entrepreneur – outside the Old City walls – note cell phone in hand 🙂

Inside the Old City walls: from left, Servas tour members: xxxx, Italy; xxxx, Germany; Roselee, Italy, & in foreground, Marilyn, U.K.

Inside the Old City walls: Servas tour members – Anna Maria from Italy; Ulrike from Germany; Rossella from Italy, & in foreground, Marilyn from the U.K.

Walls painted like this show the householder has been to Medina on a pilgrimage

Walls painted like this show the Muslim householder has been to Mecca and thus holds the honorific title of hajji.  The pilgrimage to Mecca is called the Hajj (or Hajji)

A good Muslim is to go at least once on a pilgrimage to Mecca xxxx

A good Muslim is to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.  Another Arab Israeli Muslim who lives here within the Old City Walls has done so.

Homes are hidden behind doors and walls within the Old City walls.

Homes are hidden behind doors and walls within  Old City Jerusalem.

Mazes xx of narrow walkways wind around inside the Old City walls of Jerusalem

Mazes of narrow walkways wind around inside the Old City Walls of Jerusalem

A young Jewish boy seems to point us on our way.

A young Jewish boy points us on our way.

A synagogue on the left, a mosque on the right within the Old City Jerusalem walls.  Igor from Russia and Gelindaxxx from Germay xxx

A synagogue on the left, a mosque on the right within the Old City Jerusalem walls. Igor from Russia and Gelinde from Germany

In some places within the walls, archeological digs reveal previous civilizations in the Old City Jerusalem

In some places, archeological digs reveal previous civilizations in Old City Jerusalem

We walked to the Christian Quarter and saw the Franciscan Church of ST. SAVIOUR- St Salvador, a beautiful Italian style church decorated for Christmas.

Inside the Christian xxx

Inside the Franciscan Church of St. Saviour – St. Salvador

Christmas decorated altar at the xxxx

Christmas decorated altar at St. Saviour/St. Salvador

 

 

The Crypt of the Basilica marks the place where after the Resurrection of Jesus, Mary lived and died.

The Church of the Schepuche

The Church of the Sepulcher

Churches from many parts of the world decorate an altar within the Church of the Scelpacure.

Churches from many parts of the world dedicate  an altar within the Church of the Sepulcher

Christmas in Jerusalem

Christmas in Jerusalem

At the heart of the Christian quarter,  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher honors the site where Jesus was crucified, buried, and arose.  The Stations of the Cross end here.

Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Painting within The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Painting within The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The site of the tomb of Jesus

The site of the tomb of Jesus

Israeli tour guide Nir xxx

Israeli tour guide Nir Oral – sharing the facts

Pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

At the tomb of Jesus

At the tomb of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crypts within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Because this church is controlled by three religious groups, they have yet to agree on how to restore this area that suffered a fire.

Crypts within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

 

 

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is controlled by – the Greek Orthodox, who own its central worship space, the Catholics,  and the Armenian Orthodox.   The three groups have yet to agree on how to restore the crypt area damaged by fire.

We also visited the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

May Peace Prevail on Earth

May Peace Prevail on Earth

Mt. Zion - important capture in the Israeli War of Independence - 1948

On Mt. Zion – an important capture in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948

Modern Israeli

Modern religious Israeli walk along the Old City Walls.

The Jewish Quarter within the wall of Old City Jerusalem.

The Jewish Quarter within the walls of Old City Jerusalem.

We walked then through the Jewish Quarter of narrow alleys to visit at the Wailing Wall and then climbed up to Mt.  Zion.

Some Jewish people do live within the Old City Walls.

Some Jewish people do live within the Old City Walls.

Pizza and yamakas xxx near the Wailing Wall inside the Old City walls.

Near the Wailing Wall inside the Old City walls: pizza and kippah (or yarmulkes), the head coverings that Jewish men wear to indicate that God is present above them.

Young Israeli soldiers on a field trip near the Wailing Wall.

Young Israeli soldiers near the Wailing Wall.

Protected minora  xx near the Wailing Wall -

Protected menorah near the Wailing Wall

Nir, our great Israeli Servas guide, explaining the  history of Jerusalem

Nir, our great Israeli Servas guide, explaining the history of Jerusalem

The Wailing Wall - a wall from the Jewish 2nd Temple that was destroyed in xxxx.  The dome of the Rock, the Muslim temple gleams in the background as well a minaret on the left.  xxx

The Wailing Wall – the wall from the Jewish 2nd Temple –  destroyed in 66 CE. The Dome of the Rock, the Muslim temple, shines in the background

The Muslim shrine located on the Temple Mount within the Old City Walls of Jerusalem, The Dome of the Rock, is considered by some the “most recognized of Jerusalem’s landmarks.” It was first completed in 691 CE.

The site’s great religious significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, the Foundation Stone, at the heart of The Dome of the Rock.

Although the Israelis captured the Dome of the Rock in 1967 during the Six-Day War, the country gave the Muslims authority to manage the Temple Mount to “keep the peace.”

In 1993, King Hussein of Jordan donated $8.2 million to refurbish the dome with 80 kilograms of gold!  No wonder it glows in the sun.

Then we walked on to visit The Last Supper Room.

Within the Room of the Last Supper

Within the Room of the Last Supper

Within the room where Jesus and the disciples celebrated Passover - the Last Supper.

Within the room where Jesus and the disciples celebrated Passover – the Last Supper.

And we saw Dormition Abbey – a golden, highly decorated church that contains the tomb of the Virgin Mary.

Mary's Tomb

Mary’s Tomb

In the Doxxx Abbey

In Dormition Abbey

 

Jerusalem - important to Christians, Muslims, and Jews

Jerusalem – important to Christians, Muslims, and Jews

We walked again along the walls of Old City Jerusalem back to the Jaffa Gate  – to end another wonderful day full of history and religion and new friends.

Aloha & Shalom,

Renée

Servas Israel Tour – Part III – Places of Spirit: Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Tabgha, and the Jordan River

Day 4 – Thursday,  25 December 2014 – our wonderful Servas Israel Tour continued.

We traveled to the Sea of Galilee on Christmas Day guided by Iris Salomon- Har Even, host in Oranit.

At 10:00 a.m., we met up at the National Park of Capernaum (Kfar Nahum)

Patiently waiting:  Standing- Manda, Lola, Servas host Debbie, great leader Claudia. Sitting: Shaxx, xxx, mum xxx, Vldamir xx

Patiently waiting: Standing- Manda, Lola, Servas host Debbie, great Servas leader Claudia. Sitting: Vladimir, Sudeshna, Imelda,  Kashi Lal, an Israeli Servas member, Brigitte, and Marilyn.

And Jesus went forth ...

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues” (Matthew 4:23).

We started at Capernaum (Kfar Nahum), where Jesus lived and began preaching.

The magnificent Sea of Galilee with commorants xx flying above.

The magnificent Sea of Galilee – cormorants  soaring above.

Walking on a pier into the Sea of Galilee: xxx, Olga, Svetlana, Stephanxxx

On a pier on the Sea of Galilee: Svetlana P, Olga, Svetlana A, and Stepan

“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter and Andrew, his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

And He saith unto them. ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men'” (Matthew 4:18).

And Jesus

And Jesus met brothers.

Looking for shells at the Sea of Galilee - Brigitte and Angelica

Looking for shells at the Sea of Galilee – Brigitte and Angelica

Entrance to Caphernum xx

Entrance to the National Park of Capernaum

Church in Caphurnum xx

At Capernaum

The church has three pink domes.  Here's a painting of it within the church.

The Church of the Twelve Apostles has pink domes, shown in this  painting  within the church.

Church of the Twelve Aposals xx

Church of the Twelve Apostles

I felt as though I should sit down and confess to something :)

I felt as though I should sit down and confess to something 🙂

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

Here by the Sea of Galilee and at Tabgha, I did feel spirituality everywhere: in the air, in the water, in the light – in the religious sites.

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee is a Greek Orthodox monastery:

“The Church of the Twelve Apostles  takes its name from the Gospel  account of Jesus choosing the Twelve in this area of Galilee.

But it is also known as the Church of the Seven Apostles — a reference to Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance by the Sea of Galilee to seven of his disciples — Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John and two other disciples” (John 21). . . .

After the Six Day War in 1969, when Israel pushed its border back to the Golan Heights, restoration of the church began first with the removal of a thick layer of cow manure covering the floor –   since the church had been used for many years as a barn.

Between 1995 and 2000 the church was redecorated  by a Greek iconographer with an eclectic array of Byzantine-style frescoes inspired by works in Orthodox churches and monasteries in various parts of the world, in particular the Balkans.  The church glows in the light.

The Church of the Twelve Apostles occupies a site to the east of ancient Capernaum, where survivors of a devastating earthquake in 749 relocated their village.Church of the Twelve Apostles

The Greek Orthodox xxx Church of the Twelve Apostles

The Greek Orthodox monastery – Church of the Twelve Apostles

A small, cross-shaped building with white walls, the Church of the Twelve Apostles has two central domes surrounded by six smaller ones, each topped by a cross.  As you can see, brightly-colored frescoes and icons cover most of the ceilings and walls of the church.

Beautiful frescos glow on the walls of the church

Beautiful frescos radiate from the walls of the church

Inside one dome, Christ the Pantocrator (All-powerful) is surrounded by a chorus of 12 prophets who foretold his coming.”

From: <ww.seetheholyland.net/church-of-the-twelve-apostles/>

Monk Inxxx against great odds was able to renovate this church to the beauty and serenity we see today.

Monk Irinarchos in the 1990s – against great odds — was able to renovate this church to the beauty and serenity we see today.

xxx, xxxx etc.

Ulrike, Gerlinde, Israeli Servas member, Maria Rauch, Maria, and at the far end, Barry

Rebuilt wall of the White Synogague. xxx

Rebuilt wall of the White Synagogue – Brigitte coming through the small opening

Tabgha (ancient Heptapegon) on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee is the accepted site of Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:30-46) and also of the fourth resurrection appearance (John 21:1-24).   Until 1948, it was the site of a Palestinian Arab village.

The site’s name is derived from the Greek name Heptapegon (“seven springs”).

Church of Heptapegon

Church of Heptapegon

Its pronunciation gradually changed to “Tabego”, and was eventually changed to “Tabha” by the Arabic speakers. St. Jerome referred to Heptapegon as “the solitude.” From: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabgha&gt;.

Iris recommending a great book for Holy Land information.

Our guide Iris recommending a great book for the Holy Land

The Chronicle of Pilgrimage to the Holy Land: The Adventures, The Events, The Holy Sites  Go to: <http://www.amazon.com/Chronicle-Pilgrimage-The-Holy-Land/dp/965724000X&gt;.

Angelika and Sasha from Belarus xx

Angelica and our terrific photographer, Sasha from Belarus

At the Church of the C

At the Church of the Heptapegon – Seven Springs

The Church of the Heptapegon – Seven Springs is built over where Jesus laid the fish and the five loafs of bread on a big rock before distributing the food that would feed five thousand (Mark 6:30-44).

Church of Caph xxx ; don't tell anyone, but when I first saw this church, I thought it was ugly!

Church of the Heptapegon; don’t tell anyone, but when I first saw this church, I thought it fortress-like!

However, I loved the views from inside!

Inside the church, the Christmas manger was set over the ruins of xxxx

Inside the Church of the Heptapegon, the Christmas manger  set over ruins of Capernaum

Inside the hexagonal church xxx and xxx in the left foreground; Barry on the right.

Inside the hexagonal church,  Imelda and Ulrike in the left foreground; Barry in center

View from inside looking xxx

View from inside the Church of the Heptapegon

View looking xxx at the ruins of Caph

Another view from the Church of the Heptapegon –  ruins of Capernaum and in the distance, the domes of the Church of the Twelve Apostles

Ruins of Caphurxxx - protected under  the church

Ruins of Capernaum – protected under the church

Stephan, Irena, Vladmir xxx outside the church

Stepan, Irena, Vladimir  outside the church

Ruins

Ruins of Capernaum – and a wall of the White Synagogue

In

“The White Synagogue,” built in the  late 4th Century A.D.,  is on the ruins of the “Synagogue of Jesus” – Iris and Debbie

Irena xxx

Irena from the Czech Republic in the White Synagogue

Rebuilt wall of the White Synogague. xxx

Rebuilt wall of the White Synagogue –  Gerlinde at the small doorway.

Doors to the Church of the Heptapexxx.

Doors to the Church of the Heptapegon.

Then we saw the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha – also so named because of Jesus’ miracle.  The church is modern but stands on the site of 4th and 5th-century churches. It too preserves splendid early Christian mosaics as well as the traditional stone on which the miraculous meal was laid.

Church

Inside the church – Icon of Christ inside the Church of the Multiplication

Mosaics in the church at Thabxxx

Mosaics in the church at Tabgha

Church at Txxx

Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha

Manda from Sweden, Igor from Russia, and Tomas from Poland.

Manda from Sweden, Igor from Russia, and Tomas from Poland.

One of the wonderful aspects of this Servas Israel Tour was getting to meet others from around the world.

Church of the Multiplication

In the Capernaum National Park

Church of the Multiplication

Church of the Multiplication

Church at T  - Pope xxx was here.  Gift of Bishop of Krakov.

Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee. Gift of the Bishop of Krakov.

The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter is  north of the Church of the Multiplication and was built on rocks at the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  It’s considered the place where Jesus appeared the fourth time after his resurrection (John 21:1-24), during which, according to Catholic teaching, Jesus again conferred primacy of Simon Peter.

Door into the church

Door into the church

Pope John Paul II was a pilgrim to Tabgha in March, 2000.

Stephan xxx & Irena from Chec Republic xxx

Stepan  & Irena from Czech Republic climbing on the rocks outside The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

After a delightful time at these holy places, we next traveled to the Jordan River, the baptism site of Jesus:

Baptism in the Jordan River

Baptism in the Jordan River

My brother Alan said he would’ve done the immersion, but it was December, already getting dark,  and I’m a wimp, so I didn’t! However, many Christians braved the cold and were re-baptized in the Jordan River.  Many collected water from the river to take home.

In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

This Nigerian Christian had just gotten baptized.

This happy Nigerian Christian had just gotten baptized.

Behind schedule on this wonderful day and way after sunset,  we said our goodbyes and headed back with our hosts to their homes.  On our way to Barry and my Servas home, we got to stop at a fantastic Japanese restaurant: Osaka –  Asian Kitchen and Sushi Bar  in Ra’anana – wonderful. <https://www.facebook.com/osakarestaurant/posts/552482348116139&gt;.

This day – Christmas Day 2014 – was personally the most spiritual of our Servas Israel Tour.  I hope you will get such an experience too.

Shalom and Aloha, Renée

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

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

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

Thought for the Day: Inner Growth

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.”

P1050079

for Passover

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

Aloha & Shalom, Renée

P1050194

Surprised by Israel – Part II

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

Kibbutz Lotan: Where Every Individual Can – and does – Make A Difference

At Kibbutz Lotan

At Kibbutz Lotan

In the Kibbutz Lotan garden

In the Kibbutz Lotan garden: “AND THE ETERNAL GOD TOOK THE HUMAN AND SET THE HUMAN IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN TO TILL IT AND TO TEND IT”      Genesis 2:15

When I knew that Barry and I were getting to go to Israel, one of the first things that I wanted to do was experience working on a kibbutz, one of the communal settlements.

The first kibbutz was founded in 1909, about 40 years before the establishment of the State of Israel. The kibbutzim were founded on Communist and Socialist principles: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

The founders, young Jewish pioneers, mainly from Eastern Europe, wanted to create a new way of life, but they had little or no experience with agriculture, and the land was barren and dry – desolate, and they have had to fight repeatedly for the land and their country.

Near Lotan

Near Lotan

Lotan without soil enrichment or water :(

Lotan without soil enrichment or water 😦

From their inauspicious beginnings, the kibbutzim have played a dominate role in creating thriving, productive communities in Israel today.

At Lotan, constant experiments create new ways to grow food.

At Lotan, constant experiments create new ways to grow food.

I wanted to find a kibbutz where I could work and learn something about the agriculture there.  The Israelis have created fertile, productive farm land from the neglected desert.  To accomplish this, among many other techniques, the Israelis invented the drip irrigation system that delivers an appropriate amount of water to the roots of the plants, and they are leaders in desalination.

In the middle of the desert - lemon trees are loaded with fruit.

In the middle of the desert – lemon trees at Kibbutz Lotan are loaded with fruit.

Kale, tomatoes, lemon grass, dill, . . . - all organic and wonderful!

Kale, tomatoes, lemon grass, dill, . . . – all organic and wonderful at Kibbutz Lotan!

Today,  most kibbutz  want 20-30 year olds as strong volunteers.   Or they charge to stay in a hotel room on the kibbutz. But I wanted to work and learn.  So what about us?  In a Google search, I found Kibbutz Lotan, located near the southern tip of Israel (in fact, only about 800 meters (1/2 mile) from the border with Jordan).

Kibbutz Lotan is close to the Red Sea, Jordan and Egypt.

Kibbutz Lotan is very close to Jordan and not far from the Red Sea and Egypt.

Kibbutz Lotan - art

Kibbutz Lotan – art – made from clay, mud, and straw.

As part of their sustainability program, Lotan offers a week stay that includes attending classes, working in the gardens, and living on the kibbutz.  Yeah!  That’s for me.  Barry wasn’t as eager as I, but he was willing to come for the experience.

The program started on a Sunday.

It was by early bus we left Eliat on Sunday morning and made it to Lotan in time for a tour and then breakfast.

Entrance to the Lotan visitor area.

Entrance to the Lotan visitor/volunteer area.

P1040712

This is one of the 10 visitor/volunteer rooms built of straw bales: mud, clay, and straw – over a geodesic dome.  We stayed in dome nine.  The thick walls kept the room cool in the day when the sun beat down and warm at night when the desert cools.  Our windows looked out onto the beautiful desert, and we loved our room!

Each dome is decorated in a unique way.

Each dome is decorated in a unique way.

Adam, who grew up at Kibbutz Lotan,  gave us a tour:

Adam showing us a wood- burning oven.

Adam showing us a wood- burning oven.

Hilary - from Chicago - a kibbutz volunteer, in the field kitchen (mud dome).

Hilary – from Chicago – a kibbutz volunteer, in the field kitchen (mud dome).

Behind the kitchen where yesterday's food scraps turn into biogas - and then used for cooking.

Behind the kitchen where yesterday’s food scraps turn into biogas – and then are used  as the heat source for cooking.

Fat worms are kept to make compost "tea" for healthy vegetables.

Fat worms are kept to make compost “tea” for healthy vegetables.

Adam showed us various "sun ovens."

Adam showed us various “sun ovens.”

Another kind of "sun oven."  Lotan recycles many things.

Another kind of “sun oven.” Lotan recycles many things.

The green door - bomb shelter, library, and classroom.

The green room – bomb shelter, library, and classroom.

Down to the classroom & library.

Down to the classroom & library.

If you had to spend time in a bomb shelter, the Lotan shelter with all its books would be a perhaps tolerable place to be.

The Lotan campus.

The Lotan campus.

Lotan buildings - created and decorated with sustainable materials.

Lotan buildings – created and decorated with sustainable materials.

Older buildings - but still beautiful and functional.

Older buildings – but still beautiful and functional.

Homes of the permanent Kibbutz Lotan members.

Homes of the permanent Kibbutz Lotan members.

Plants grow in  all kinds of pots.

Plants grow in all kinds of pots.

The Kibbutz Lotan Dairy does much to  support the community.

The Kibbutz Lotan Dairy does much to support the community.

Date palms in the kids' orchard.

Date palms in the kids’ orchard.

The sale of dairy and dates help sustain this kibbutz.

Like a date palm, all are useful on a kibbutz.

“As no part of the date is wasted . . .”

As all parts of a date palm are useful and needed, so too are all members of the kibbutz.

Besides living collectively and productively in sustainable ways, Kibbutz Lotan has a mission to educate others.

Come to learn at the Kibbutz Lotan Eco Kef

Come to learn at the Kibbutz Lotan Eco Kef

Besides wanting to live in sustainable ways, Kibbutz Lotan has the mission to educate others as well.

How a solar cooker works.

A school group comes to learn.  We saw groups from Vietnam, interested farmers, an Israeli army unit all come to visit and learn.

A school group comes to learn. We saw groups from Vietnam, interested farmers from around the world, an Israeli army unit, and more  – all come to visit and learn.

Welcome to the Lotan Eco Kef - where you can learn many sustainable techniques including how to plant vegetables, make mud and straw brick, use recycled material in creative ways, and make pancakes over a wood oven.

Welcome to the Lotan Eco Kef – where everyone can learn many sustainable techniques including how to plant vegetables, make mud and straw brick, use recycled material in creative ways, and cook pancakes over a wood oven.

Pancake rolling.

Pancake rolling.

Pancake grill in the Eco Kef

Pancake grill in the Eco Kef

The kids loved their pancakes – and I did too.

Mine tasted wonderful - especially after I added Nutella!

Alex told me how to make my pancake  taste wonderful –  add Nutella!

Give the Eco Kef old stuff

Give the Eco Kef your old stuff

Even after this old VW Bug had been decorated and put in the Eco Kaf playground, someone wanted a part, jacked up the car, got what he needed, and then set the car back down - where it is giving much pleasure to kids today.

This old VW Bug is in the Eco Kef

And if you think the kibbutz is just about working and being productive, look at how they  recycle.

Even after this VW Bug had been decorated and put in the Eco Kef playground, someone wanted a part, so he jacked up the car, got what he needed, and then set the car back down – where it is giving much pleasure to kids today.

P1040909

Other Eco Kef playground structures.

Kid created Eco Kaf mud art.

Kid created Eco Kef mud art.

A tent made from posts and a climbing vine.

A kid tent made from posts and a climbing vine.

This classroom is just a bigger application of the frame and vines idea.

This  shaded classroom is just a bigger application of the frame and vines idea.

The volunteers, staff, and everyone at Kibbutz Lotan  encourage each other  to create and make a better living environment for everyone there.

Are these volunteers creating a new herb garden under a shading tree?

Are these volunteers creating a new herb garden under a shading tree?

No –

Par 6

Adam – Par 6

Welcome to Kibbutz Lotan's new disc golf range!

Welcome to Kibbutz Lotan’s new disc golf range!

Some of the creative ideas are just for fun; some are for experimenting for new sustainable ways of planting or building.

We  from Ethics from our fathers

The kibbutz farmers are constantly trying different types of plants and different ways of cultivation.

For planting, they must take into account the salty water, high temperatures, and intense sun.

“It’s not for you to finish the task – nor are you free to desist from it.”

— from “Ethics of Our Fathers”

Experimental water garden.

Experimental vertical garden.

This garden is made from old wooden pallets turned on end.  A drip system waters from the top.

This compost bin also made from wooden pallets allows air to reach the depth of the decomposing  pile.

This closed compost bin also made from wooden pallets allows air to reach the depth of the decomposing pile.

Someone is trying a snail-shaped rock herb garden.

An experimental snail-shaped rock herb garden.

How well will this “snail-shaped” garden do in the heat?

Constructed wetland

Constructed wetland wasteland treatment system

Waste water treatment

Waste water treatment

R2D2 is now living at Kibbutz Lotan - and reminding people to recycle cans.  Who knew? :)

R2D2 is now living at Kibbutz Lotan – and reminding people to recycle cans. Who knew? 🙂

The art classroom is being repaired.  The tires under the mud/clay/straw brick keep any the water on the ground from undermining the walls.

The art classroom is being repaired. The recycled tires under the mud/clay/straw bricks keep any water on the ground from undermining the walls.

A fence made from old bicycles.

A fence made from old bicycles.

The showers and bathroom sinks have solar heated water and are housed in the mud/clay/straw structures built by the kibbutzim.

The builders added colorful decorations.

The builders added colorful decorations.

A shower stall

A shower stall

Now we come to the serious part of being ecologically conscious in this desert setting.  The following may be too much information; if so, just skip ahead.

The deposits here go directly into a covered bin and used (somehow) as fertilizer.  Note the nice desert view.  There is a door behind.

The deposits here go directly into a covered bin and used (somehow) as fertilizer. Note the nice desert view. There is a door behind.

Entrance to toilets.

Entrance to toilets.

Compost toilets - I promise, they are kept clean and do not smell! Ash from the ovens and chopped straw are added every day.

Compost toilets – I promise, they are kept clean and do not smell! Ash from the wood-buring ovens and chopped straw are added every day.  My favorite one had classical music playing – really!

Behind the toilets - the "contributions" mixed with the straw and ash is collected and left to decompose and then used as fertilizer for trees.

Behind the toilets – the “contributions” mixed with the straw and ash are collected and left to decompose and then used as fertilizer for trees.

6,600 gallons of water are saved every year by using these compost toilets!

6,600 gallons  (25,000 liters) of water are saved every year by using these compost toilets!

And there is a choice for doing your laundry:

A washing machine hooked up to a bicycle.

A washing machine hooked up to a bicycle.

A boy trying out the bicycle washing machine.  I don't think many clothes get washed this way, but it is an idea.

A boy trying out the bicycle washing machine. I don’t think many clothes get washed this way, but it is an idea.

The kibbutz is focused on eco-friendly life.  This “washing machine” was near our dome.  We could just lug over water, add soap, and, of course, our dirty clothes-then peddle for 20 minutes to agitate the clothes; then drain the soapy water, lug over and add clean rinse water, peddle more, then drain – and wring out and hang up the clothes to dry.  I kept thinking I would try it, but it never happened.

The kibbutzim mainly use the communal system.  So for this chore, they just turn in a basket of dirty clothes to the laundry.  A night security guard puts the clothes in the washer and dryer, and then the owners  pick up the washed and dried clothes in the morning!

Not as romantic as the bicycle washing machine, but these units are practical.

Not as romantic as the bicycle washing machine, but these units are practical.

A day at the kibbutz begins at 6 a.m., so it was still dark when we made our way over to the Eco Kef, grabbing some fresh mint along the way to add to hot water to make tea.

Sianai mint in a raised bed - great fresh tea.

Sinai mint in a raised bed – great fresh tea.

As we did  loosening  up  exercises with Mike K., the sun would be rising – spectacular!

Sunrise at Kibbutz Lotan- from the Eco Kef xx

Sunrise at Kibbutz Lotan- from the Eco Kef

Mike K.  also gave us our assignments for the early morning – most often weeding for me, but I got to plant and harvest too.

A herb garden

A herb garden

Kale, onion, and green pepper beds.

Kale, onion, and green pepper beds.

Karren xx, who grew up on a kibbutz in the north of Israel,  at Lotan's reconstructed wetlands.   She was often our able work leader.

Keren, who grew up on a kibbutz in the north of Israel, at Lotan’s constructed wetlands. She was often our able work leader.

At about 8:00 a.m. we headed over to the busman, the field houses where we were all living, and got our assignments for cleanup of the communal areas.  The first day, I got the compost toilets!  But Hilary showed me what needed to be done, and we shared the task, so no big deal.

Then about 8:30, we went for breakfast in the communal dining hall where there was always a lot of healthy food and as much as we wanted.  We could join groups already there, sit with other volunteers, and eco-staffers, to enjoy our breakfast and learn more about what everyone was doing.  Then it was back to the gardens until 10:30.

I was too busy eating and talking to ever get more than this one photo of a Lotan meal :)

I was too busy eating and talking to get more than this one photo of a Lotan meal 🙂

At 10:30, it was on to classes or to another work assignment until about 1 p.m.  For some, it was Hebrew lessons.    Our first one was a case study of building a straw bale building at Wadi Al Naam.

Building a health clinic with and for Bedoins.

Alex sharing his experience of building a health clinic with and for Bedouins: what went wrong and what worked.

Another class that Barry and I had was on Eco-Zionism with Michael, one of the early members of this kibbutz.  It was interesting to see the questioning and discussion among the participants too.

Those who stayed longer than we did also learned practical skills such as welding and bicycle repair.  That week, Keren got to learn how to drive a massive tractor!

Then lunch – again many choices, and it was all ready for us in the dining hall.  The afternoons were varied.  Lotan encourages participants to be creative – and useful.

Some people learned to make the clay/mud/straw bricks that was used to build much of Lotan.

Some people learned to make the clay/mud/straw bricks that was used to build much of Lotan.

These bricks will be used later for building projects.

To the front of his dome, this volunteer was adding a vertical garden (made out of plastic soda bottles)!

To the front of his dome home, this volunteer was adding a vertical garden (made out of recycled plastic soda bottles)!

During the time we were at Lotan,  Hilary proposed to build a Hugel Mound, a no-dig raised bed of decomposing wood that retains water, maximizes surface volume, and builds fertility. In most climates, Hugel Mounds allow plants to take as much water as they need, when they need it, and the mound avoids the set-up and maintenance of a irrigation drip system.  So we joined Hilary and other volunteers  a few afternoons to build the Hugel.

Adam and Hilary at the mound.

Adam and Hilary at the mound.

Wood to be buried in the Hugel mound.

Wood to be buried in the Hugel Mound.

Measuring the size and depth of the hole.  Don't worry, he's alive and didn't stay there. :)

Measuring the size and depth of the hole. Don’t worry, Ori’s alive and didn’t stay there. 🙂

Yes, the Hugel needed good soil, so here is Barry and other volunteers shoveling dried cow manure.

Yes, the Hugel needed good soil layers, so here is Barry and other volunteers shoveling dried cow manure.

Mike (with turban) and others adding layers and water to the Hugel.

Ori, Mike (with turban), and others adding layers and water to the Hugel.

Etai from Berlin in the foreground and others adding water, compost tea, tree branches to our Hugel.

Etai from Berlin in the foreground and others adding water, compost tea, and tree branches to our Hugel.

Then came the logs that had been soaked in water.  We lugged  that water to the Hugel too.

Then came the logs that had been soaked in water. We lugged that water to the Hugel too.

When Barry and I left at the end of the week, the Hugel mound was looking like this.

At the end of the week, the Hugel Mound was looking like this.

By the time we left Lotan, our Hugel needed a few more layers of compost and mulch, and then the planting could begin.  I’m sure by now, sprouts will be growing all over it.

It will be interesting to know if this mound will require less water and less compost than other beds.   It was fun to be part of this planting experiment.

In the evenings, it was back to the dining hall – and more food.  Some people gathered to play instruments or hang out around the field cooking fires.  Israeli dancing was once a week.  One night, we saw a documentary about a backyard in Australia being converted to a permaculture garden. But many just went to their rooms and read.  Night comes quickly in the winter desert, and we needed to be back at the Eco Kef by 6 a.m.

However, it was a special time during the week we were there – the start of Hanukah!  And we were in Israel.

On the afternoon of the first day of Hanukah, several of us tried to make pesto as our contribution to the evening.  What should have been a rather simple task considering we had lots of basil and lots of hands – didn’t work.  Everything that could go wrong did – including the blender blowing up!  Oh well, we took fresh basil with us.

The pesto brigade.

The pesto brigade

Since Barry comes from a Jewish family that always told the Hanukah story and made latkes, those oil soaked delicious potato and onion pancakes and such to celebrate, we went to the first night of Hanukah in the dining hall expecting a similar experience.

We arrived to find food, salsa dancing, and things for sale!  The first night of Hanukah was a fundraiser for needy kids in Eliat!

We arrived to find food, salsa dancing, and things for sale!

The first night of Hanukah included a farmer’s market and a crafts fundraiser for needy kids in Eliat!

These kibbutzim sold terrific Jaffels, toasted sandwiches to raise funds.

These kibbutz kids sold terrific Jaffels, toasted sandwiches to raise funds.

Banana pancakes on a stick were a choice as were lavender sachets (on the table).

Banana pancakes on a stick were a choice as were lavender sachets (on the table).

You could pay to have tea with a Brit.  A raised pinky finger was required!

You could pay to have tea with a Brit! A raised pinky finger was required!

The many practical, tasty, creative offerings during this first night of Hanukah raised over $1,0000 U.S.  for needy kids in Eliat!

Of course, there was singing and lighting of Hanukah candles too.

Of course, there was singing and lighting of Hanukah candles too.

Latkes too were available to eat, but they were a healthy version made with carrots and little oil!  They were one of the many things that surprised us in Israel.

The second night of Hannaka.

The second night of Hanukah at the field kitchen – Barry, Zoe, Hilary, Keren, & Jeremy

Several of us including Jeremy, the new volunteer from the States who had decided to immigrate and was getting the kibbutz experience before looking for a job in Tel Aviv, all got together for the second night of Hanukah. We each made something to contribute to the meal; Keren roasted red sweet peppers from some we had picked that morning – yum!  And we lit Hanukah candles.

So overall, we had a wonderful and interesting time at Kibbutz Lotan.

There are some issues, however.  Although everything was peaceful at the kibbutz, we weren’t to go beyond the Lotan fence.

That's Jordan we can see from Kibbutz Lotan!

That’s Jordan we can see from Kibbutz Lotan!

No walking beyond the fence.

No walking beyond the fence.

Are the kibbutzim changing?  Well, yes.

Besides the Eco Kef playground, there is this modern one for the kibbutz kids.

Besides the Eco Kef playground, there is this modern one for the kibbutz kids.  And most of the toilets are regular, not compost.  We could get the Internet from inside our straw bale room! And the  solar hot water and biogas are augmented with regular electric and gas.

Only about 2% of Israelis now live on kibbutzes.  The economic reality is that many kibbutzes are becoming more capitalistic rather than solely socialistic.

Soon you will be able to buy land and build your own house at Lotan!

I think I could live happily at Kibbutz Lotan.   However, I did sleep until 11 am the day after we left Lotan (which I haven’t done that since I was in my 20s and had stayed up all night).   It was a workout!

The work and the learning are never ending, and the community life means it is shared work with a sense of purpose.    It’s a place of beauty and community.

Birds in the desert.

Birds in the desert.

Several of the young adults there say they will probably work somewhere else after doing their army service and going to college, but they would like to return to the kibbutz to raise their children.

The kibbutz seems an ideal place to raise children.

The kibbutz seems an ideal place for  children.

We'll be watching to see if the kibbutz can survive.

We’ll be watching to see if the kibbutz can survive.

Kibbutz Lotan offers several terrific ecology and sustainability programs.

To find out more, go to <http://www.kibbutzlotan.com>.

At Lotan, you can be creative in many ways.

At Lotan, you can be creative in many ways.

P1040913

“You need only ask the beasts and they will teach you, the birds of the sky will tell you, .  . .”

Come join the table.

Come join a Lotan table.

There’s likely to be a program for you at Kibbutz Lotan.

And you never know where the learning you get at Lotan will lead you.

After his program at Kibbutz Lotan finishes, this Swiss guy is off to Africa to help with water issues there!

After his program at Kibbutz Lotan finishes, this Swiss guy is off to Africa to help with water issues there!

Sunset over the Kibbutz Lotan cow shed.

Sunset over the Kibbutz Lotan cow shed.

P1040843 - Version 2

I loved being at Kibbutz Lotan and am looking forward to applying my new knowledge at home.

Shalom, Renée

Magical: One Day in Jerusalem

Some days are magical. Traveling often makes us pay more attention to what is around us than when we are at home and in a routine, so Israel has been very interesting for us, but Dec. 31, 2014, was really special in its variety and surprise. We woke up to the sound of a chirping bird; the sky blue as Michael, our Servas’ host and prolific painter, went off to work.

Michael's art filled apartment in Jerusalem

Michael’s art filled apartment in Jerusalem

Barry and I headed out to explore more of Jerusalem and walked up toward Mt. Scopus. We’d heard that Oscar Schindler, the German who saved 1000s of Polish Jews during WWII, was buried in the British Cemetery.

The British Military Cemetery - from WWI

The British Military Cemetery – from WWI

So as we passed it, we went in to this well-manicured cemetery of soldiers who fought in the Palestine-Sinai campaign for the Commonwealth – 2,515 young men, mainly 20-25 years old, the markers said, from England, Ireland, India, Australia, New Zealand, who died trying to free Jerusalem from the Turks.

Fallen Commonwealth soldiers from 1914-1918

Fallen Commonwealth soldiers from 1914-1918

Historical notes from the cemetery

Historical notes from the cemetery

Besides all the graves of the  identified dead, a huge wall commemorates those 3,300 Commonwealth soldiers whose bodies were never found.

Soldiers from England

Soldiers from England

Young men from many places died  fighting the Ottoman Empire - WWI

Young men from many faraway places died fighting the Ottoman Empire – WWI

Some of the soldiers were Jewish.

Some of the soldiers were Jewish.

Some Irish

Some Irish

The grounds are beautifully kept, and the chapel says,  “Their name liveth for evermore.”

We were the first people to sign the guest book since November :( .

We were the first people to sign the cemetery chapel guest book since November 😦 .

When will we ever learn?

Names of those whose bodies were never found.

Names of those whose bodies were never found 😦

We saw an older man working on the plants. He waved “hi,” so I went over to ask about Schindler’s grave. The man instead directed us to the grave of –

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Who knew? This William had been a driver. Muhammad, the groundskeeper said another cemetery in Israel has the body of “Harry Potter.”  Muhammad  gave us a good history lesson about the cemetery and an invitation for tea after we had looked around.

Muhammad has worked at this cemetery for almost 45 years! He has 10 children! The oldest boy died of cancer, but all the rest are working – as taxi drivers, or in chocolate factories, and such. Each child has an average of three children, so far. Muhammad makes 2,000 NIS a month – about $500 U.S. He gave us tea and then after photos, a bunch of fresh stevia to take with us.

Mohammad - who has raised 10 children on about $500 a month.

Friendly Muhammad – who has raised 10 children on about $500 a month.

On the way out the cemetery entrance, we met a young Jewish woman who is studying medicine at Hebrew University. She says if she has the strength, she wants to keep learning past her M.D. so she can incorporate healing modalities too. It’s likely she is from a family that emphasizes education and has few children, so unlike Muhammad’s situation, her family can help her get a good education that should lead to a well-paying, meaningful career. The two are typical of the differences between many Arab and Jewish families.

Also, when I said what a waste, referring to the young lives lost, she thought I was talking about the waste of the valuable land for a cemetery. 😦

Barry and I kept climbing up to Mount Scopus and found a botanical garden that we strolled through and Hebrew University.

Botanical Garden at the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus

Botanical Garden at the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus

 

Hebrew University founders include Albert Einstein

Hebrew University founders include Albert Einstein

We were hungry so we asked about a good place to eat on campus. Barry and I love the energy of universities and enjoy watching the young students and their grizzled professors. And we got a healthy, tasty (and huge) meal of the day.

Also at the university, we got to check our e-mail and found that someone has stolen our credit card identity and charged $1,300 to a higher learning institution in Texas. 😦  At least the money was to go to someone’s education – and we are covered, but how did they get the information and is anything else in jeopardy?   We do have another credit card, so the hassle won’t be as bad it could be. You never know what will happen.

View from Mt. Scopus - Hebrew University

View from Mt. Scopus – Hebrew University

Barry still has his cold, and the sunny day was passing, so we headed back to Michael’s art-filled apartment. He got home soon after and wanted to show us Jerusalem by night. We went first to Notre Dame Guest House that accepts Christian pilgrims from all over the world. But this is not a humble hostel. It’s beautiful and decorated for Christmas.

Notre Dam

Notre Dame Guest House

Michael took us to the roof, and just as we got there at 7 p.m., the church bells started chiming, and we had a spectacular view of the city and the lights. I could feel the joy of Christmas.

From the Notre Dame Guest House roof - New Year's Eve

From the Notre Dame Guest House roof – New Year’s Eve

Notre Dame Guest House view from the roof.

Notre Dame Guest House view from the roof.

Old City Jerusalem

Old City Jerusalem

Since it was a special night, Michael wanted to celebrate and show us what Jerusalem had to offer. However, the first possible reservation for the Notre Dame restaurant wasn’t until 9 p.m.  A special set menu for New Years was offered; it cost $120 (U.S.) each! I’m a vegetarian, so to spend that much money on vegetables, although I’m sure they would be good, was ridiculous.   We wished the pilgrims a good dinner – and left.

Creche at the Notre Dame Guest House in Jerusalem

Notre Dame Guest House Crèche

We also left Michael’s car parked illegally at the curb in front of this swank hotel and walked across the street through the New Gate into the walled Old City of Jerusalem. Most of the shops were closed.

New Gate - Walled City Jerusalem

New Gate – Walled City Jerusalem

Closed shops

Closed shops

But the Christmas lights twinkled in this section of the city.

In the Christian section of Old City Jerusalem

In the Christian section of Old City Jerusalem

Christian section of the Old Walled City of Jerusalem - New Year's Eve.

Christian section of the Old Walled City of Jerusalem – New Year’s Eve.

We wandered here and there, and then Michael took off through a door marked with an ancient cross.

Doorway marked with an ancient cross in Jerusalem

The doorway 

We followed and came to a Greek Orthodox church, closed for the night.

Votive candle at a Greek Orthodox door.

Votive candle at a Greek Orthodox door.

Nearby windows were decorated for Christmas and through the open door, we could see a big family and the smell the good aromas of  their dinner. They invited us in. At first, I was very reluctant, but we did go in – and then they invited us for dinner with the 10 people there: the Greek Orthodox Arab man, who had invited us in and whose birthday it was, his  Cyprian wife, his round daughter,  his serious singing son, a sweet aunt, with her two sons (one about 13 on the couch who had been bruised and scraped from a fall- and was getting much attention), and two daughters – and a Japanese girl, Uki, from Nagoya.  Uki had been lost in the winding streets of the Old City and had been rescued by one of the boys; she had been staying with the family for a couple of weeks.     This was the family who invited us in. Their table was loaded with Middle-Eastern foods – rice, hummus, salads, roasted chicken, olives, and more.  Michael says their lives are hard; they are a small minority in a land of many minorities.  But on this night, everyone was happy, and they shared their joy.

Uki, the aunt, and two daughters  - and the food-filled table

Uki, the aunt, and two daughters – and the food-filled table

 

The dad, his daughter, and the hurt boy.  The clock says, "Live every moment."

The dad, his daughter, and the injured boy. The clock says, “Live every moment.”

The property in the Old City is not for sale. It is handed down from generation to generation, and this one had an ultra-modern kitchen, a huge flat-screen T.V. that was turned on to some torrid Indian love story. The sound system blared of mainly Greek music. The son who had studied Byzantine singing in Greece had his karaoke microphone and had all the gestures and tones perfected, but he did not want us to take his photo.

Michael dancing around with a glass of Greek ouzo on his head :)

Michael dancing around with a glass of Greek ouzo on his head 🙂

The smoke too was thick, the alcohol too plentiful, the music too loud, but everything was wonderful. The Christmas tree in the corner, the religious photos on the wall, the smiling and welcoming family, the good food all made a great experience. Everyone danced, clapped, and laughed.

New Year's Eve fun

New Year’s Eve fun

Barry said the different characters and the noise were like a Federico Fellini movie.

P1050941

P1050943

After a couple of hours, the festivities were winding down and then we remembered the car. There’s security at the hotel, so  Michael’s car could have been towed. He wanted me to talk to security, but then he had a better idea and had the dad call the hotel and say how the family had invited us in and wouldn’t let us go.

So with our excuse – back to the Notre Dame Guest House we went.

Barry and Michael in front of Notre Dame Jerusalem

Barry and Michael in front of Notre Dame – Jerusalem

We saw the beautiful cathedral, the diners, the streams of pilgrims from India, the Philippines, – Detroit, and beyond coming for the 10:30 high mass.

The Notre Dame Chapel

The Notre Dame Cathedral 

Notre Dame Chapel

Notre Dame Chapel

P1050914

But Michael had another plan, so it was off to the American Colony Hotel, another beautiful and decorated for Christmas place that UN members, ex-pats, and the well heeled frequent. A fired burned in the fireplace; we sat in a cozy room by the bar.

American Colony Hotel - Jerusalem

American Colony Hotel – Jerusalem

Crèche at the American Colony Hotel

Crèche at the American Colony Hotel

I got an Irish coffee and the guys drinks too. And that’s were we were when midnight struck.

Silver belt displayed at the American Colony

Silver belt displayed at the American Colony

We didn’t get to sleep until about 2am. – but what a magical, wonderful, and varied day – the kind of day we hope for and sometimes get wherever we are.

May your 2015 be filled with love, family, friends, good food, good work, health, adventures,  and many magical days.

Aloha & Shalom from Jerusalem, Renée & Barry

%d bloggers like this: