Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our new President is sworn in


Today was Shimon Peres' last day as president.
He has been in this office seven years and has contributed some 70 years of his life to public service for the State of Israel.

Peres gave an inspiring speech before a packed Knesset.
Only the seats of the Israeli Arab Members of Knesset were empty, as they were boycotting the ceremony.
The ceremony was toned down because of the situation, so no horses and motorcycles and no big cocktail party this year.

Former Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin then took the oath of office as our new president, with his hand on the Bible.
His speech had stories of what his father had taught him.
Rivlin is an 8th generation Jerusalemite, a big honor in itself!

Long live our new president and the former one too!
The photo is my only one of Shimon Peres and is from a 2009 ceremony for Ethiopians Jews at Mt. Herzl.
See also this post which explains about the colorful "liturgical parasols" or ceremonial umbrellas.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Birds and blasts


Missiles, mortars, and rockets are not the only things falling from our sky.

I wonder if a pigeon can get a heart attack from hearing too many Red Alert sirens and feeling explosions in the sky. 
UPDATE July 24:
Look at this! An owl was hit by a mortar is being treated for shrapnel wounds!
(B is for bird for ABC Wednesday.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Synagogue in a bomb shelter


When our counteroffensive, Operation Protective Edge, began on July 8,  I remember the Home Front Command instructed people not to gather for public prayer in synagogues that lacked a missile-proof room.

The Conservative congregation of Meitar is lucky then.
Even in normal times they meet in this purpose-built bomb shelter.
Here are some interesting guidelines from various rabbis on how to observe the Sabbath while under fire:
1. from Chief Rabbi Lau 
2. from Tzohar
(Linking to OurWorld Tuesday.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Israeli Bedouin man killed by Gaza rocket today

Just last Tuesday I blogged about  two young sisters who were injured not far from my town when a Gaza rocket hit their Bedouin village.

Today the tin hut of another Bedouin family, this time near Dimona, took a direct hit  when a salvo of five rockets was fired toward the Jewish city of Dimona.

Uda Lafi al-Waj, 32, was killed without warning.
His 3-month-old baby is in intensive care at Soroka Hospital with head wounds.
Two women and a little boy were lightly wounded and are also in the hospital.

Al-Waj is the second Israeli citizen killed by the rockets this week. 

These photos of mine are from a different  cluster of Bedouin dwellings in the Negev,  further south.
Of the Negev's 200,000 Bedouin, some 80,000 are dispersed in what I guess could be called shanty towns which were built without permission and are unrecognized by the government.

Our Minister of Public Security paid a visit to the place where the al-Waj family was hurt today.
Residents demanded he give them some security by bringing in several  concrete bomb shelters and a Red Alert siren within hearing distance.

In fairness I must admit that only 30% of all Israelis now under missile fire from Gaza have proper purpose-built shelters in or near their homes, or at least that is what one of the many Israeli  talking "experts" said on TV.
Do take one minute to see the video of the Hamas Spokesman in Gaza promising Israeli Arabs that rockets will not be aimed at them--the height of hypocrisy or stupidity!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gimme shelter!

Gaza militants could hardly wait for today's 5-hour "humanitarian truce" to end.
Right now, promptly at 2:59 pm, they started firing  rockets again toward southern Israel.

I took advantage of the tenuous quiet to leave the house (and its reassuring bomb shelter) and walk over to the supermarket, as my food stock was running low after ten days of conflict.

But I knew that the Red Alert siren could blare any minute.
I planned my walking route according to the protection available along the way.
In the parts where there are no houses, I constantly looked around and decided where I would find shelter within the one and a half minutes between siren and explosion.

Maybe I'd crawl into this culvert in the wadi, under the street?
Ah, but if I got hurt no one would ever find me down there . . . 

Maybe I could lie prone, hands over my head (as we are instructed), alongside this solid rock by the olive tree?
If a rocket hits the ground, the shrapnel shoots upward in an arch; so the lower you are to the ground, the less chance of getting hurt. 

How about lying under this bench?
Despite its holes, it would maybe catch the bigger falling debris.

Did you know?
When an Iron Dome missile intercepts a Gaza rocket high in the sky, they break up into many pieces, large and small.
These sharp, jagged fragments of hot metal rain down for up to ten minutes.
They can and do injure people and animals, damage buildings and vehicles and agriculture, and start fires in the city or in the fields.

In case you have never seen how Iron Dome chases the rockets, watch two dramatic videos from today.
(And for latest news of the conflict, follow the liveblog at Times of Israel.  Switch on "auto-refresh.)
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Israeli Bedouin girls hurt by Gaza rocket (& update)


The siren sounded for my town yesterday evening and we went to sit out the mandatory ten minutes in my bomb shelter.
A dull boom was heard, not so far away.

It turned out to be sad news.
The rocket exploded in one of the many Bedouin encampments somewhere between Jewish Omer and  Bedouin Lakiya; maybe even the one in my photo.

Two sisters of the al-Atrash tribe were wounded by shrapnel.
Atir Alwaliki, age 13, got it in the knees and is a lot better today.
But Mar'am, 10, was injured in the stomach and is fighting for her life at Soroka Hospital.

The tin-roofed huts (enlarge the picture to see)  are no protection against the rockets fired by Gaza, and Hamas doesn't seem concerned that they injure their fellow Arabs here in the Negev.

Some 80,000 "dispersed Bedouins" have set up camp, sometimes  a separate encampment for each extended family, all over the Negev, refusing to move to the towns that have orderly infrastructure and services which the government built for them.
Officially, these are treated as unrecognized or illegal villages. 

Like so many problems in the Middle East, this is a complicated one that no one knows how to solve.
The "Lands of the Negev" video, although old (2010) and one-sided (made by the Israel Land Administration authority), can give you some background.

Let us hope the missiles stop soon (eight straight days of conflict already).
Let us pray for healing for Maram and Atir.
UPDATE!  Haaretz has this welcome update today, Wednesday:
10:25 A.M. Education Minister Shai Piron visited Maram Alwakili, 11, the Bedouin girl who was wounded Monday when a rocket hit her home in the area south of Lakiya. He met with her family and offered words of support.
Dr. Tzachi Lazar of the pediatric emergency ward described an improvement in the girl's condition. "She has woken up, and is communicating with her surroundings, and breathing on her own. Keep in mind the severity of her wound, a shard of shrapnel had entered interior abdominal organs."
The rockets on Bedouins happened in spite of the Gaza Hamas spokesman's ridiculous promise on this video.
(A is for Alwaliki sisters for ABC Wednesday.  Linking also to Our World Tuesday.)
Some papers spell the names Atil Alwakili and some write Atir Alwaliki.  ??

Sunday, July 13, 2014



This tile art (which joins the Monday Mural meme) is on the outer wall of a government agency in Beer Sheva.
If you click to enlarge the photo, you might recognize the story from Genesis 18.
"Three men" come to visit Abraham and Sarah in their tent at the Oaks of Mamre, but they turn out to be angels in disguise.

On the wall, below the company name,  it says Machoz Hadarom, meaning the Southern District, i.e. the Negev.
With the hundreds of rockets falling here in the south now,  I'm wondering if the Iron Dome  might just  be sort of a modern version of protecting angels in the sky . . . .
(See an earlier post telling how the medieval Russian icon "The Hospitality of Abraham" gradually became the icon "Holy Trinity.")

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A bird in the hand


A bird in the hand is worth two in the Golden Age Club.

As we were learning Tai Chi, a little hummingbird flew in through the open side door and then got confused with all those glass walls.
Couldn't find her way out.

So our teacher, Eyal, gently caught the bird, stepped outside, opened his hand.
The bird rested a minute, got her bearings, and finally flew away back to freedom.
(Linking to  Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors and to  Camera Critters.)

Friday, July 11, 2014


Standing tall . . . 

. . . with our bases covered.
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Battering ram

Sometimes you feel like the battering ram, and other times you just feel battered. 

An air raid siren blared for the first time in my town in the Negev this morning at 6:00.
Now we had a second alert at 6:00 pm.
We sat for ten minutes in the house's bomb shelter and waited for the boom that--thank God--never came.

If you want to keep up with the news from Israel and Gaza as it happens, this live update is a good resource.

The monumental sculpture "Battering Ram"  is by Dror Eshed, 2004, in the Ben Shemen Forest.

(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Welcome to my MAMAD bomb shelter


Come on in!
My  bomb shelter is ready for whatever may come.

In answer to hundreds of rockets, the army began its major counteroffensive on the launchers in  Gaza early this morning. 

At least this time around we don't have to worry a threat of poison gas, so the sealed carton with my gas mask will stay sealed.   -- Always look on the bright side of life,  ta dum ta dum.

(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

In the bus


The newer Metropoline buses I take from Meitar to Beer Sheva (about a 40 minute ride)  have all the comforts.
Free WiFi, USB sockets, folding tray tables for your laptop, plush seats, individual overhead A/C and lights, a clock, and curtains or shades.
In front, a screen shows and announces the coming stops.
When the driver opens the underneath luggage compartment door, the screen shows who is taking which bag.
There are seat belts, of course, but Israelis consider it not cool to ever use them.
A ticket costs 7.50 shekels ($2.20), but as a senior citizen I pay only half price.

Some passengers get on the bus and immediately connect their gadgets.
Sometimes I start to imagine  these are their infusion lines.
UPDATE:  Well, I won't be going in to Beer Sheva any time soon.
Yesterday several Grad rockets were aimed at the city; one or two were shot down by Iron Dome.
And now tonight this about Omer, the town between us and Beer Sheva:

Bedouins throw fire bombs at southern Jewish community of Omer

Matti Siver
Published: 07.06.14, 23:26 / Israel News
Masked protestors from Tel Sheva, a Bedouin town bordering Beersheba, are throwing Molotov cocktails and hurling stones at cars at the entrance of the southern Jewish community of Omer.
Damage was caused to several vehicles.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Balaam and his talking ass


Today is Shabbat Balak. 
This means the Torah portion for the week is Parashat Balak, which is roughly Numbers 22-24, one of my favorite Bible stories.
Balak, the king of Moab, hires Balaam, a non-Jewish prophet, to curse the Israelites.

 Balaam gets on his donkey and rides off to curse the People. 
But three times the she-ass tries to avoid a confrontation with an angel, who is holding a drawn sword and blocking their way. 
The man's eyes have not yet been opened and he is angered by his donkey's erratic behavior.

"When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down [refusing to budge] for Balaam. Balaam's anger was kindled and he struck the ass with his staff." (Numbers 22:27)

 "THEN THE LORD OPENED THE MOUTH OF THE ASS  and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you that you beat me these three times?'
 'You have been playing games with me!' shouted Balaam at the donkey.  'If I had had a sword in my hand just now, I would have killed you!' 
The donkey replied to Balaam, 'Am I not your ass, upon which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you?' 
And he said, 'No.' "

"Then God opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way ...  and he kneeled and prostrated himself on his face."

Finally Balaam reaches his destination and opens his mouth to curse, but blessings come out instead. 
In fact, the words of Balaam are to this day sung  in our daily morning prayers:
 "Ma tovu--how good are your tents, Jacob, your tabernacles,  O Israel."

Balaam and His Ass,  1622
Pieter Lastman, Dutch, 1583-1633
Oil on panel
At the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

(Linking to Camera Critters meme.)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Waiting for the bus


In yesterday's post we saw the multilingual buses.
The big building with the reflecting doors and windows is the new Beer Sheva Central Bus Station. 
Some people prefer to wait for their bus outside.
The air conditioning inside is freezing and sometimes all the seats are taken.
See also the inside of the terminal with its antiquities under glass!
(Linking to Weekend Reflections, although you'll have to enlarge the photo to find the reflections here.)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Learn while you wait


Something new on the newest Metropoline buses that depart from Beer Sheva Central Bus Station!
A good way to use your mind while standing in line for a ticket?
"Have a nice day."

Nice expressions in Hebrew, English, Russian, and Arabic, the languages most heard in Beer Sheva.
"Have a pleasant ride." 

But look closely!
The original words are transliterated into Hebrew letters and are written phonetically.
It looks quite funny.

Toda! on top is the Hebrew word for thank you.
Then is says, on the right:
thenk yu
(Linking to Signs, signs  and to Toby's meme, Whimsical windows, delirious doors.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Soroka hospital


 A side entrance of the huge Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva.

The hospital serves the Negev, the southern region of Israel.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The sad and so difficult day

An unusual tombstone, made from our local stone, in Meitar cemetery

After 18 long days of hoping and praying, waiting and searching, the bodies of Israel's three kidnapped boys were found yesterday.
The funeral services will begin soon for 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach  at the synagogue in the family's home community of Elad;   of 16-year-old Naftali Frenkel will depart from the synagogue in his home town of Nof Ayalon;  and  of 16-year-old Gil-Ad Shaer will depart from the central synagogue in his home town of Talmon.

Everyone will then come together at the cemetery in Modiin where the boys will be laid to rest side by side. 

 May God somehow console their parents and families. 
A whole nation comes together in mourning. 
Live coverage now of the very moving funerals. Watch even if you don't know Hebrew.

Follow the liveblog at The Times of Israel for full information.



This car makes me smile every time I walk by it.

It makes me fantasize how I would celebrate summer if I had a car.
There would be places to go, people to visit.

But then again, there would be payments to make, insurance to buy, fuel to fill, repairs to make.
In truth I am grateful for two good legs, a daypack,  and the ubiquitous Israeli bus network.
City Daily Photo bloggers around the world are posting today on our July 1 theme, Celebrating summer.  Pay them a visit. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bon appetit


Bordering  Meitar is a big farm field that is tended by a neighboring kibbutz. 
Back in May I stepped in for a closer look, wondering what they had planted  in the endless furrows.

"The field is sprayed. Danger - poison!"
it says in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and I think Thai. 
(Linking to Signs, signs meme.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Archaeologist Yuval Peleg z"l


In May 2012 this top archaeologist, Yuval Peleg,  was our guide for a Yad Ben Zvi Institute  tour to the Inn of the Good Samaritan and to the monastery of St. Martyrius.
We learned so much that afternoon.
Here above he is explaining the big rolling (or sealing) stone at the gate.
The Martyrius site was  discovered in 1982 when the city of Ma'ale Adumim was being built.  Now it is right in the middle of town.

To our shock and sadness, Yuval Peleg was buried this morning in his hometown, Ma'ale Adumim.
Yesterday he and several Palestinian workers were  beginning to investigate  a cave near Sebastia in the West Bank when big rocks rolled down the hill and crushed him.

May he rest in peace and may God comfort his young family, now suddenly in mourning.
The profession will miss Yuval and his big smile. 

I could write a small book on my own almost-brushes with death at various expeditions around Israel over the years.
Archaeology, at least for those of us who actually work with pickax and turia,  is a profession fraught with danger.
Maybe that is part of what makes it so exciting.
(Todd Bolen's blog has more links about the accident and about Peleg.)