Monday, February 19, 2018

Magdala, Duc In Altum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, today Jerusalem Hills Daily Photo is celebrating ten years of blogging.
I'm hoping for at least another decade of showing you the beauty of Israel!
(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday and Our World Tuesday.)

Friday, February 16, 2018

An alert Golan Heights cat


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

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

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

Monday, February 5, 2018

On a SPACE high!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was my first time.  haha

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

To the west the sky was still too light.

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

"God gave burdens, also shoulders."


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

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

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

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

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


Meeting a brave astronaut!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 26, 2018

Wind-whipped palms


You could tell the direction of this morning's cold strong wind by the direction of the palm branches. 
Despite the gray sky, the Negev did not get rained on.
Today's rain, and even some snow, fell more to the north. 

We visited Idan HaNegev, a big industrial park that is being built near the Bedouin city of Rahat. 
The huge SodaStream plant is already in operation there, and we got to go in to see and hear the machines and the workers.
More on that in future posts. 
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Winter skies, winter tree


It's definitely winter now in Israel: rain clouds, bare branches, and jackets.
And fruit is growing on the sabras.
A picture from our trip to Zippori in the Lower Galilee last Wednesday.
(Linking to Sky Watch Friday.)

The lure of Jordan water


Thursday/Friday was the Feast of Epiphany (Theophany) for the Orthodox Christians in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan.
Hundreds of pilgrims and their Patriarchs and clergy came in procession to Kasr al Yahud to worship and celebrate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, perhaps at this very spot on the River Jordan.

When my Jewish group from Meitar visited there a few weeks ago, this sweet little Russian boy was the only one touching the waters of the holy Jordan.
The wooden steps on the other side are already in the Kingdom of Jordan, across the border.

See my previous posts for more about this baptism site.

UPDATE! There are now videos and photos of the day's events at the Baptismal Site - Qasr al Yahud Facebook page!

(Linking to Weekend Reflections.)

Monday, January 15, 2018

A good signal?


Oi veh, that man is VERY high up!
Seen from the bus to Beer Sheva at noon today. I think we were just passing Tel Sheva Junction. 
I'm having fun imagining that the little white dots (caused by the bus window reflection) are the signal emanating from the cell tower.  ; )

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Soldiers with ponytails


As our town's touring group was leaving the Jordan River baptism site, these two soldiers asked if they could ask our guide (on the right) a question.
I think it was something about the big Christian significance of the Kasr al Yahud site.
Sorry I couldn't hang around and listen but I had to hurry and get some photos before 4 pm closing time.

These soldiers on guard there at the Jordanian border (the river is the border there) belong to the IDF's Nahal Brigade.
You can tell by the color of their beret, "glow stick green."

Such nice girls!

(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

At Kasr al-Yahud River Jordan baptism site

For the Latin church (the Roman Catholics) today is the feast day called the Baptism of the Lord.
Hundreds walk in procession down to the Kasr al Yahud baptism site on this day.
I was there on a much quieter day, just a few weeks ago.

Our bus passed the minus 300 meters sign and continued to descend even lower to the Jordan Valley, a bit north of the Dead Sea (the lowest spot on earth).

Flags greeted us at the entrance.
The Israeli flag and that of Nature & National Parks Protection Agency, and also of the Judea and Samaria Civil Administration (because it is in the West Bank, east of Jericho).

You had better pay attention to the rules.
Don't even THINK of wading across the river.

The other side is already the Kingdom of Jordan.
The border runs down the middle of the River Jordan and that is why the sign says, Do not pass, in Hebrew, English, and Russian. 

A new Greek Orthodox church has been built on the other side and we could see the Jordanian flag waving in the breeze of late afternoon.

Many Christians step into the water for a renewal of their baptism.
Some new Christians get the total immersion with the help of their priest or pastor.

The river is very shallow now after 4-5 years of drought.
In the rainy stormy weekend we just had, the level of the Jordan rose by 35 centimeters.
It's not likely you will need this red lifesaver, but it hangs on the tree just in case.
(This blog has five posts about Kasr al Yahud baptism site, if you'd like to see more.)
UPDATE Jan. 10: The Franciscans today published their short video of Sunday's pilgrimage to the baptism site:
(Linking to signs, signs,  inSPIRED Sunday and  Our World Tuesday.)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Both Nativity and Epiphany today


This manger scene, with its gift-bringing three Wise Men (or Magi or kings) dressed in white, can be good to illustrate the two holy days being celebrated in Israel today. 
For Catholics and Protestants, today is the Feast of Epiphany. 
For the Greek and Russian Orthodox, Copt, Syrian, Romanian, and Ethiopian Christians, January 6-7 is the Feast of the Nativity. 

The creche welcomes visitors at the gate of the Monastery of St. Gerasimus, or in Arabic, Deir Hajla. 
Our busload from Meitar was there two weeks ago. 

If you enlarge the photo you can see the braided palm work, which is a specialty there.
The Greek Orthodox monastery is near Jericho,  not far from the baptism site Kasr al Yahud on the River Jordan.  
At an altitude of several hundred meters below sea level, the centuries-old St. Gerasimus is the lowest still-lived in monastery in the world, our guide said. 

You can see more in my previous posts from a few years ago here
If you are celebrating one of these two feast days today, I wish you a blessed and happy day! 
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Camels in waiting


Does this camel have its own prayer rug to kneel on?

The camel's handler was busy on his phone while waiting for paying customers.

A second dromedary was hitched to a fire hydrant, probably hoping someone would want to take a short ride just for fun.

From our bus I could see more camels on the other side of the highway.

It's a long outdoor market selling ceramics and souvenirs.
Gas station and restaurant.
And everyone knows the Last Chance coffee bar here.
It's on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and it's your last chance to make a pit stop before the desert, before making the descent to the Dead Sea, hundreds of meters below sea level.
(Linking to Camera-Critters.)