Wednesday, October 22, 2014

St. John Paul II's first feast day

On St. John Paul II's first feast day (today, Oct. 22), we remember his visit to Israel in the year 2000.

The historic message in the note the Pope placed in the Western Wall  (now enshrined at Yad Vashem).

Photo by Grzegorz Galazka

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL (Anti-Defamation League)  National Director and a Holocaust survivor from Poland, wrote this about the recently-canonized Polish pope:

The canonization of Pope John XXIII, the father of Vatican II, and Pope John Paul II, who denounced anti-Semitism as “sin against God and humanity” and who was the first pope to visit the Great Synagogue of Rome since the time of Peter, formalizes and celebrates the courageous leadership of these two holy men who were determined to set the church on the right path toward better relations with other faiths.
For us in the Jewish community, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII have already been saints for a long time.  
They are towering men whose visionary leadership and groundbreaking reforms transformed Jewish-Catholic relations and reversed two thousand painful years of church-based anti-Semitism.

Click on the photo to read what John Paul was feeling about the Holy Land as he stood on Mt. Nebo (in Jordan) and gazed at the promised land, as did Moses from the same mountain.
Good reading:
Israel welcomes visit by Pope John Paul II  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Visit to Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority: A Pilgrimage of Prayer, Hope, and Reconciliation  (ADL)
Moses, John Paul, and Benedict on Mt. Nebo  (this blog)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Date machines


My date palm post yesterday reminded me of the AgriTech exhibition in Tel Aviv back in 2012.

These "clam shell" platforms are part of big pruning/picking towers.

Enlarge the photo: the posters demonstrate the machines' work.
The biggest model, AF-20,  boasts a working height of about 70 ft (21.5 meters) and a load capacity of 1,500 lb (700 kg)!

Here is how the Israeli manufacturer, Afron, describes it:
The Afron family of pruning / picking towers include models specifically designed for date trees.  Afron date tree models are designed for date trees from 25 feet (7.5 meters) up to 65 feet (20 meters) in height. 
All Afron date tree models include a “clam shell” type operator platform that is designed to encircle the date tree trunk.  This provides full access to the date tree canopy for several workers.  
Not only can Afron date tree models be used for picking and pruning, but also include optional attachments for spraying and mechanical harvesting through the use of a shaker head.
 All functions of the tower can be controlled by a single operator on the operators platform.   
Further technical details are here.

Next time you eat sweet dates, give a thought to the workers who were way up there picking them for you. 

There is also a nice story about Lisa Solomon, the date plantation manager at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava, in Israel's south.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Let's make a date


It's that time of year again! 

Here is a very interesting article about just how much work and love goes into raising date palms at Kibbutz Ketura.

See the palm in effervescence in my earlier post.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Welcoming tourists in style


A young lady in period costume welcomed visitors to the newly restored Turkish Railway Station in Beer Sheva.
It was built by the Ottoman Turks in 1915. 

The national heritage site will be officially opened in three weeks.
Meanwhile the staff did a few-days practice run during the Sukkot holiday week.
The welcomers and guides and musicians were all very welcoming.
The Train Yard - Engine 70414 Compound is a beautiful place now.
(Linking to Shadow Shot Sunday.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Even horses do the rain dance


Jumpin' for joy to finally see clouds in our sky!
Linking to SkyWatch Friday.

Centaur in Beersheba


When was the last time you saw a centaur?!
I saw this one at the Beer Sheva Old City street fair this Sukkot week.

He gave a menacing look to each passerby . . . 

. . . except that a few  walked on by, not even noticing the centaur's silent presence.
It's worth enlarging the pics 2x to see the face (and the muscles!). 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

No longer knowing this noise


More fun at Beer Sheva's Old City street fair this holiday week!
A face in the horn was lip-singing words to an old song as a fake arm cranked the phonograph.

No, none of her young audience had ever seen a real Victrola, no doubt.
Not many (in Israel, at least) still remember the image of the dog Nipper listening to His Master's Voice.
(N is for today's ABC Wednesday.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

No stopping this toothless dancer


Everybody is out and about celebrating the Sukkot holiday week. 
In Beer Sheva's Old City things were jumping today, including this wizened old man!

When the oud, guitar, and drums struck up the music, the old guy came alive and danced--with perfect rhythm!
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Carob tree full of fruit


Have you ever eaten from the carob tree?

It is fun to chew the chewy carob pod, avoiding its big seeds.

Some say it is almost like chocolate.
And even better, it's free!  
The trees grow wild in Israel.
See more in my earlier posts:
A cold carob drink
From carobs to teshuva, repentance

Saturday, October 11, 2014

First feast day today for St. John XXIII

Today is the first-ever Catholic feast day for newly-canonized Pope St. John XXIII.

He was pope from 1958 to 1963, and Israeli flags were lowered to half mast when he died.
Last year, for the 50th anniversary of his death, Jerusalem hosted a wonderful conference which brought together top scholars and high-ranking clergy from Israel and the world.
You can enlarge the photos 2x and perhaps you will recognize the names and faces of some of the speakers.

International Conference: Honoring the memory of Pope John XXIII
The Shoah, the Jewish People & the State of Israel
Day long conference covering topics such as: Roncalli and the Shoah, Roncalli and the Establishment of the State of Israel, John XXIII, Vatican II and Nostra Aetate, and The Legacy of John XXIII for Catholic-Jewish Relations – Europe & the World

See the program of the seminar here, including a video of President Peres' thoughts on "The Good Pope," as Roncalli was popularly known.


The large audience got to see the hour-long prize-winning Israeli film "I Am Joseph, Your Brother."

 (Read more about the time the Pope first spoke that  Biblical verse to his Jewish guests.)

The movie's website begins
During the 1960s, Pope John XXIII met with a delegation of Jews and said, "I am Joseph Your Brother" marking the beginning of a new relationship between Jews and Catholics. Inspired by the visit of Pope John Paul II to Israel in 2000, I am Joseph, Your Brother assesses and reflects on the changes that have occurred in the often difficult and turbulent relationship that has existed for centuries between Jews and Christians, Judaism and Catholicism, and more recently, between the State of Israel and the Vatican.

Some of the pearls I remember well from that day:

When the Church assigned Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli to several Eastern European countries during World War II,  he was able to save up to 100,000 Jews from the hands of the Nazis, mostly through what some call "Operation Baptism."

One speaker predicted that when history gets straightened out, Israel may someday have streets named for Pope John XXIII and he will finally be included in Yad Vashem's Righteous of the Nations.

On June 3,  the official day of his death, our Knessent last year  held a special session on Roncalli.

A woods has been named for him in the Galilee, near Mt. Precipice.

It was this pope who convened the Second Vatican Council from which came Nostra Aetate. 
I must say, in the last decades Catholic-Jewish relations have come a long way, in both directions.
The Saint of the Day website gives these hopeful last words from Saint John XXIII:
On his deathbed he said: “It is not that the gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better. Those who have lived as long as I have…were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.” 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"No man shall appear before the Lord empty-handed" on Sukkot


While walking through the Jewish Quarter in the Old City,  I had to smile at this man.
I asked him if it was a heavy burden, carrying the Temple into Jerusalem.
He gave a kind smile and said no.

He agreed to a photo and was about to set the model on a bench so I could snap a picture.
I said "No, no, wait!  The best part is how you carry it!"
Today and all week we celebrate Sukkot.
Sukkot is one of the three festivals that were celebrated (until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE) with mass pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem and are therefore known as the “pilgrimage festivals.” (See more here.)

 Deuteronomy 16 instructs us about the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem and the Temple:

13 “You shall keep the feast of booths seven days, when you make your ingathering from your threshing floor and your wine press; 14 you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. 15 For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place which the Lord will choose; because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.
16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place which he will choose: at the feast of unleavened bread, at the feast of weeks, and at the feast of booths.  
They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed; 17 every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which he has given you.
(Linking to Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

First rain, promptly on Sukkot!


This evening I climbed the big bare hill with the three mystery structures on top.

Tonight is the eve of the festival of Sukkot so, sitting on a rock under one of the wooden frames,  I pretended to be in a sukkah.

The International Space Station flew over at 18:02 but it too cloudy and not yet dark enough to see it.

Clouds sliced the sun into thirds.

Just before sinking behind the hills the sun took the shape of a UFO,  or maybe Noah's ark.

Then I turned in the opposite direction, hoping to see the full moon rise (the blood moon and eclipse and all), but the clouds were too heavy.
The street lights coming on in my little Meitar were just as pretty, though, in a different way.

Sheets of lightning started flashing in the clouds to the west.
I started down the "mountain" when I heard voices in the darkening sky.
No, not angels.  But something equally wondrous and surprising.
Black birds started arriving in groups of about a dozen each.
The big birds disappeared into the top of one or two tall trees and became quiet.
There must have been a hundred of them!
I never knew that all these birds came at 18:30 to roost in the eucalyptus grove!

As I walked the four blocks toward home, thunder started rumbling.
And then raindrops fell!!!!   The first since last May!
What a happy Erev Sukkot it turned out to be!
Happy holiday!
UPDATE 11 pm:  Ynet just put up some dramatic photos and video of the unexpected lightning (and fire) and rains across Israel this afternoon. 
Check out the palm tree trunk burning inside!,7340,L-4579085,00.html

(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tragic irony


Our tour of Shaare Zedek Medical Center ended on a sad note when our guide showed us this photo at the entrance.
Dr. David Applebaum was director of the hospital's Department of Emergency Medicine.
On the night before his daughter Naava's wedding, father and daughter went out for coffee together in Jerusalem's Cafe Hillel for a heart-to-heart talk.
A suicide bomber entered and blew them up.
Five others were killed and 50 wounded.
That was in 2002, in the awful days of the Second Intifada.

Read about the great contributions Dr. Applebaum made in the twenty years after his aliyah from the USA, including these:

He founded the Terem Immediate Care Center, which revolutionized emergency care in Jerusalem by treating relatively minor injuries and ailments in a freestanding clinic, freeing up hospital emergency rooms to deal with more serious cases.
In 1986, Dr. Applebaum was presented with an award by the Knesset after treating terror victims at the scene of an attack on King George Street in Jerusalem while still under fire.
In 2002, Dr. Applebaum was appointed head of Shaare Zedek Medical Center's Department of Emergency Medicine and was viewed in Israel's medical community as one of the country's leaders in the field.
He introduced a number of groundbreaking changes to improve efficiency, and had extensive plans to continue this process following the completion of the new Weinstock Department of Emergency Medicine, which is now under construction.
He began to staff the department with emergency medicine specialists, rather than relying on specialists in the various departments of the hospital. He also introduced the computer tracking of patients, and was insistent on cutting waiting time to an absolute minimum.
When he was out of the hospital, he continued to monitor the treatment of each patient via a computer connection, even when he was abroad.

And here is another  article about him in the New York Times emphasizing the tragic irony, entitled "A Healer of Terror Victims Becomes One."
(Linking M for murder to ABC Wednesday.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

In case of chemical or biological attack . . .


This parking area and roadway is where ambulances race in, where Shaare Zedek Hospital's emergency room doors open.

But it can also double as the decontamination area--see those water hoses above?
This being a religious hospital where modesty is respected, those green tarps can be unrolled to give a modicum of privacy, separating the naked men from the naked women. 

In the event (God forbid) of non-conventional warfare or terrorist attacks, victims must be washed off  before they enter the hospital, using water under pressure, to prevent chemical or biological agents from spreading to other patients.
The area can be converted in less than 30 minutes to a fully functional decontamination facility that can treat hundreds of victims per hour.
Shaare Zedek acts as the on-call facility for the entire Jerusalem area to respond to chemical warfare attacks.
 The decontamination area is the largest in Israel and is believed to be the largest in the world.

 Staff members have carried out a number of simulation exercises with the IDF's  Home Front Command.
Many foreign delegations also come to witness and to learn from these drills.
Our guide said such a demonstration can cost the hospital 20,000 shekels, but they are seldom reimbursed;  he shrugged his shoulders, meaning something like  "We do it as a mitsvah, a good and holy deed." 

Photo: Agencies

On September 15 some 20 senior Chinese officials took part in one of Shaare Zedek's drills, part of a disaster management workshop organised by the Emergency Medicine department at Ben Gurion University.
This is the first of many such workshops planned for the coming years, a statement from the university said.

See 3 more photos of the Chinese visitors at the ChinaDaily.
Oi, may we never know such actual troubles.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Power trip

Let's see, where were we before Theme Day and holy days?
Oh right, we were touring the kishkes, the innards, of Shaare Zedek Medical Center  as part of  Jerusalem Houses from Within weekend.

Our guide, the director of engineering and logistics, led us down to the big hospital's electrical plant.

There was a whole row of these powerful-looking ... uh ... machines. (?)
UPDATE:  VP says they are generators.     Thanks, VP!

Everywhere is written DANGER.

Always ready for any emergency, the hospital makes a practice run once a week by switching over to generators for a short time.
The generators run on diesel fuel, not electricity.

Israel Electric Corporation made a line solely for Shaare Zedek.
The hospital plant's electricity comes in at a much higher voltage than regular customers receive.

In these "cages" are the transformers that convert the electricity to normal 220 volts.
Our guide warned us not to touch anything!
This plus the chart on the door showing how to resuscitate a person (presumably after   electrocution)  must have made my camera hands a bit shaky.
UPDATE: On their Facebook page, Shaare Zedek Medical Center Jerusalem just posted a sweet baby picture and said "Mazel tov to the families of the over 80 babies born at Shaare Zedek Medical Center during Yom Kippur."
Indeed, with 21,000 births per year Shaare Zedek's maternity facility is the most active in the Western world!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hanging in the balance


Until reading this article by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman, I never realized that our Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur holy days in the Hebrew month of Tishrei coincide with Libra, the seventh astrological sign of the zodiac;  and Libra's symbol is the balance scales. 
The zodiac symbol of the scales is based on the Scales of Justice held by Themis, the Greek personification of divine law and custom.

We now enter into the solemn day of atonement, Yom Kippur.
God will be examining each person.
In the balance are last year's good deeds opposite misdeeds, merits vs. sins.
According to Jewish tradition, next year is also hanging in the balance.

Rabbi Ullman explains it like this:
Each person should think during the entire year, and particularly during the period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as if he, his country and people, and the entire world are partially meritorious and partially guilty and that the judgment of all is hanging in the balance.    If he commits one sin, he is capable of tipping the scale of transgression for himself and others, causing their destruction and his.   Likewise, the performance of just one mitzvah can tip the scale of merit for himself and the entire world, bringing salvation and deliverance for all!
  Wishing you all a gmar chatima tova, i.e. that in the final reckoning in tomorrow night's final prayer service,  God will decide to inscribe us in his Book of Life and then seal the good inscription for the entire new year.

Israel is shutting down.  So silent.  No one drives.  The airport and all public transportation is closed.  Broadcasting has stopped.
May we have a painless fast (no food or water for 26 hours).
Now I must do the hard part, shutting down the computer until Saturday night.
(More posts about Yom Kippur.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Latrun Monastery under clouds


From the window of Jerusalem-Beer Sheva bus,  Latrun Monastery, home to Trappist monks and a hermit.
Under first clouds of autumn, a promise of cooler weather to come.

Click a few times to see the beautiful church and monastery buildings better. 
Linking to SkyWatch Friday.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Southward movement

The October 1 theme day for our City Daily Photo bloggers is about movement.

I'll never forget my moving day, August 5, 2013, when I said farewell to the Jerusalem Hills.
There was a lot of movement that day as three strong movers shlepped my stuff to their truck.

Mohammad used the tumpline technique to full advantage.

 If I had known that's how they do it, maybe I would have looked for stronger boxes.
But miraculously, nothing broke.

 The most fun was getting to ride in the cabin of the truck with the guys (since I have no car, they had no choice but to take me along with the boxes).

We drove south and reached Meitar in the Negev in less than two hours.
Then the unloading began -- more movement.
The men worked quickly, efficiently, and with good humor.
Good work, HaMovil HaArtsi team! Thanks!
(More pictures of the movers are here in an earlier post.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

The heat-cold center


Our next station in our Jerusalem Houses From Within  guided tour of Shaare Zedek Medical Center was the heating/cooling  center which controls the air conditioning and heating and water systems of the big hospital.

The people who keep everything working well are so proud, they hang hospital flags among the boilers and pipes.
The little signs says that ear protection is a must.
Indeed,  the machines were very noisy down there.

The grey giant is a steam boiler.
These days, it is heated by electricity.

Should the hospital be cut off from its water supply by war or natural disaster, there are big reserve pools that hold enough water for 72 hours.
They are cleaned once a year. 

The all-important Control Room.
There is a back-up for every emergency break-down that might happen.
If something goes wrong with a machine or a computer, e-mails and SMSs go out immediately to call in the appropriate technician and man in charge, night or day, Shabbat or weekday.
(Linking to OurWorld Tuesday.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014



Even more essential to a Jewish hospital than lox and bagels are these tall tanks of LOX, liquid oxygen.

UPDATE:   Forgot to tell you--the oxygen tanks are ready for any earthquake!
There is something I found online today that should be added to yesterday's post. 
On my tour of the hospital I saw one of the women referred to below  at her work station, but didn't feel right about taking a picture.
Now I am glad to read this and to understand: department’s volunteers were singled out for special recognition. This year, the department was Sterile Supplies, and the volunteers who were recognized are indeed very special.  
They are volunteering for Shaare Zedek under the auspices of the Aleh Siach organization, whose goal is to help developmentally-challenged individuals to achieve self-fulfillment and independence. 
The four young women, who were trained by an Aleh Siach counselor, prepare the sterile supplies required for surgery.  

“The pride they take in a job well-done is a wonder to behold,” says Segev.

The same article (from 2001) tells about the hundreds of volunteers who work at the medical center:

Volunteer Services director Nehama Segev says that when her professional colleagues in other organizations discuss the issue of how to attract volunteers, she has nothing to suggest.  “We don’t have that problem.  We have more volunteers than anywhere, without ever advertising.  I think there’s something magnetic about Shaare Zedek. This place radiates human warmth, without in any way compromising medical standards.”