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Thursday, December 8, 2011

ANCIENT JAFFA–Tel Aviv’s sister city

Jaffa is as beautiful and ancient,as Tel Aviv is brassy and modern – so near physically  yet so far architecturally and in atmosphere.

View from Jaffa overlooking Tel AvivJaffa - view of Tel Aviv from Jaffa
Jaffa is reputed to be the oldest port in the world, and is the spot from where Jonah the Prophet fled  on his ill fated voyage.
Jaffa Port 2
It is full of cobbled alleyways, surprise turnings, workshops of ancient crafts,art galleries, breathtaking look-outs and unforgettable sunsets over the Mediterranean.

The zodiac motif runs through the whole area. Below is the new zodiac fountain recently added to Kedumim  Square where the  newly renovated Tourist Information office is situated.
Jaffa Zodiac fountain
The alleyways are also named after the signs of the zodiac. Mazal Dagim below is Hebrew for Pisces.

World famous Judaica artisans have their studios in Jaffa and at this time of year the Chanukah menorah in various materials can be seen everywhere.

According to ancient superstition if a bride has her photo taken on The Wishing Bridge, whilst holding on to her own sign of the zodiac which decorates the side of the bridge, her wish will come true. Maybe - or maybe not but it makes a great photo opportunity.
Jaffa Wishing Bridge  Courtesy of The Old Jaffa Development Corporation

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reb. Nosson Zvi Finkel’s love for his students

I have some photographs  taken just six weeks ago that I treasure.

During that morning, my husband and I visited the cheder kindergarten where our grandson learns and, together with his parents and teachers, we had celebrated his 3rd birthday.

A 3rd birthday is special for a Jewish boy, because it marks the beginning of his education and also is the first time a boy gets his hair cut. The other boys in his class sang to little Yaacov and they all danced together, cake and goodies were handed out. Then my son-in-law took him off to visit his Rosh Yeshiva to cut the first locks of hair from our grandson’s head and to give him a ‘bracha’a blessing.

How could I have known when my daughter later came to show me the photos of Reb Nosson Zvi Finkel ZT”L, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, and my son-in-law’s Rosh Yeshiva, cutting my 3 year old grandson’s hair, that just a few weeks later he would no longer be amongst us.

I knew that Reb Nosson Zvi suffered from a very severe form of Parkinson’s disease. His decision not to take any medication in case it affected his memory and caused him to forget anything he had ever learnt, meant that he was wracked constantly by a shaking body.
All who had been privileged to watch him give a shiur,  attested to the extreme difficulty he had controlling his limbs, but it didn’t stop him giving countless shiurim sometimes sitting on his hands to stop them from interfering with his delivery.

And he was known to almost never refuse a request to officiate at a student’s wedding, be sandek at a Brit Mila ( the one who holds the baby) or to cut the hair of a 3 year old at his first hair-cut.
How was it possible, I asked my son-in-law, for someone whose limbs were so uncontrollable to agree to perform these tasks which must have been so difficult for him?

My sons-in-law’s answer gave an inkling of the greatness of this amazing man.
If he exerted tremendous strength he could control his limbs for a few seconds, but the exertion was exhausting for him. Yet for his students and their families  he was always prepared to go not just the extra mile, but what must have been for him the extra thousand miles.

Reb Nosson Zvi’s love for his students, and he had thousands of them, was legendry. No other Rosh Yeshiva, it was said, had so many private learning sessions with his students on top of his grueling schedule of shiurim. Anyone who asked to learn with him was almost guaranteed a time slot in his packed daily schedule.

How many of us have ever faced the 24/7 difficulties, challenges and debilitating pain that Reb Nosson Zvi lived with, and accepted them silently with such superhuman love for our fellow Jews?

Knowing what he was prepared to go through to bring happiness to his students and their families, even at such cost to himself, is an inspiration to all of us who sometimes find life a little challenging.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Did you ever wonder what happened to the thousands  of families  who were expelled from Gush Katif?

Six years ago, the  government ripped thousands of families from their own homes in order to bring ‘peace’ to Gaza.
They believed, or so they told  us, that if we gave the Arabs all of Gaza, including the section that was populated by Jewish families and farmers , the Arabs would love us and would live in peace with us happily ever after.
So thousands of people who had built up home and communities, businesses and farms  with their bare hands with the blessing of the government, were torn from their homes and dumped onto buses to be taken ………..somewhere.
And where are they now?
You would be forgiven for assuming that of course they are all happily settled in some new settlement or farm, or living in towns around the country.
Unfortunately this is very far from the truth. Many are still in the same ‘caravans’ or  flimsy 'cardboard houses' that they were given six years ago, together with worthless promises of  compensation to rebuild wherever they wanted.

Two years ago I wrote this article about Rachel Saperstein, one of the strongest advocates for the group. Early on in the campaign she set up a special fund called Operation Dignity to help ease the financial burden for those left homeless and jobless.

Last week I received  the message below  from her. She and many others from the former settlement of Neve Dekalim, are now  being hit continually by the missiles from Gaza – that very same Gaza they  left five years ago in order to achieve peace with the Arabs who are now attacking us all day after day.

by Rachel Saperstein, Nitzan/Neve Dekalim

"Do you know the fellow who works in the pizza shop?" a friend asked.

"Of course" I answered.

"Well" my friend continued, "he's ordering a mobile security room. It's costing them quite a bit of money but they have no choice. It's impossible to run with five small children, especially in the middle of the night, into the sewer pipe shelter. He says his kids are terrified. They're wetting their beds, clinging to him and his wife, and afraid to go to sleep at night. 'What will happen if you can't get all of us into the pipe on time?' his oldest kid asked."
We only have ten seconds from the sound of the siren to get into the concrete sewer pipe in our cul de sac. Hence the mobile shelters. Last week, with the sirens wailing, I watched grandparents running into the sewer pipe clutching their grandchildren wrapped in blankets. An infant was held by her pregnant mom.

"Where are they going to put the security room?" I asked my friend.

"They'll cut out parts of the plasterboard wall in the children's room and attach the shelter to it. If there's a night of heavy bombardment they'll put mattresses on the floor and the kids will go to sleep directly from the bath."

Bath time is always frightening. One always wonders if the siren will wail while one is all soaped up. "At least I'll die clean" my husband says.

Last Sunday morning we had the first real experience of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. The sound was horrific. Pieces of shrapnel from the exploded missile fell close to a nearby housing area. Is Iron Dome a blessing or a curse? Over fifty missiles have been fired at our western Negev area. Only two or three were intercepted by Iron Dome.

As you can see,  they are very far from resettled.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


It was  so great  to finally meet up again with my old ‘real’ friend and current ‘e-friend’ Ros Adam.
We haven’t seen each other since we were teenagers, and I’m not going to tell  you how long ago that was (but it’s  not far off half a century !) but we’ve been in email contact for the last  3 years since we reconnected over a book project Ros was editing for our hometown, Leicester.

Our get-together was short and sweet as Ros was on her first visit to Israel( you can read all about  it on her blog )and only had a week to site-see. Next time I hope we’ll be able to spend longer together.

Living in Israel, we’ve had many reunions with  long lost friends . It’s a rare Jewish soul that doesn’t find its way here at some point.
Many teenagers, take a year off  between school and college and visit Israel for a year. Some volunteer on a kibbutz  or come to learn the language and some girls come to study in a religious seminar and boys to spend a year in yeshiva.
During their stay, there are always those ‘out’ Shabbatot’, when the kids are expected to make their own arrangements for Shabbat and go and stay with someone.
This is how we’ve come to meet many of our friends’ children. Our address and phone number have obviously been entered into their electronic address book for just such an occurrence and  we’re happy to host them and their friends who may not have a full address book to choose from.

It’s all part of the enjoyment and privilege of living in Israel.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Thank G'd it's been a wonderful start to the Jewish New Year.
Our youngest daughter got engaged, we have been blessed with a new grandson, we had a first Bar Mitzvah of the next generation..............and of course

Gilad Shalit came home.

Although we all prayed with all our hearts that he should come home safely to his family, I  know that I never really believed that we'd see him alive again.
Thank G'd I was wrong.

First photos of Gilad after his release from 5 years incarceration in a prison in Gaza .
We pray that we and all of our People should continue to hear only good news throughout the coming year.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Jerusalem light rail


This week was not a good week to try it out – I thought I would die of suffocation before I’d get to write this blog.

If you’ve ever traveled on an Egged bus you know how many people they squash onto them – well treble that and you have an idea of the number of people pushing and shoving their way onto the new light rail


Jerusalem light rail

Yes I admit I never thought it would run in my lifetime.

It has take as long to construct this short   14 kilometer ride run as it took to build the entire Hejaz Haifa - Damascus – Medina   line ………..a mere 1300 kilometers !

For around 10 years we Jerusalemites have had our traveling and downtown shopping lives made an utter  misery by the construction of this train’s infrastructure, when it could, and should have taken no more than a third of the time.

Businesses and shops have gone bankrupt because for years there has been no public transport along the main shopping street of Jerusalem.


But now it’s running let’s find something to celebrate about it ……………….. ummmmm I’m really trying hard to find something good to say about it.

OK – thought of something – it’s free –----- well for the next few weeks it’s free. I think this was a pathetic way of  the Jerusalem municipality thinking it could compensate us for the last 10 years misery we’ve suffered while they mismanaged the  construction.

OK something else – it has computerized signs on the stops telling you when the next train is coming so you can decide whether or not to bother to wait.

You enter and exit by 12 doors which hopefully will speed up the time it spends at the stops. But that’s because you have to prebuy your tickets and this will no doubt take some getting used to.

It stops adjacent to the curb so it’s easier for people with carriages or in wheelchairs.


You see how positive I’m being.

Come visit and  try it out for yourselves.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Acre is most famous for is Crusader fortress, Byzantine remains and Ottoman history.

So it’s quite a surprise to round a corner into Kaplan Street and come across one of the most ornately decorated shuls I’ve ever seen.


The Ohr Torah synagogue was set up 60 years ago by the Tunisian community in Acre and they have been building and decorating it ever since …. bit by bit ……. shekel by shekel.



This massive work of love was taken on by Zion Badash, now in his 80s, a holocaust survivor from Tunisia (  it’s not so well known that people were rounded up in Tunisia and transported to the concentration camps in Europe).

After the establishment of the State in 1948, this building was given to the Tunisian community to set up their own shul  which Zion , then in his 20s. immediately took upon himself.

They started building with the small amount of money they had intending to continue as money was collected. They decorated the ground floor with some mosaics and  decided they wanted to cover the entire building with mosaics – which they have done.


Zion, can usually be found in his shul,  happily recounting its history to all visitors. He is a staunch lover of Israel and claims he doesn’t possess a passport as he doesn’t ever want to leave the country.


DSC00402  As you enter the ground floor, you come to  the Beis HaMedrash  where the community prays during the week, and beneath your feet, on the floor are  mosaics of  of animals, fish and flowers.


As you slowly raise your eyes you’ll see the mosaics of episodes from the Bible as well as coins from over the centuries.



The ceiling shows the design of the Temple. All the colors are  natural mosaic colors – none have been painted.



Thee are  140 stained glass windows depicting important events in our history- this one shows Acre,in the tribe of Asher and the writing shows how Acre was supposedly given its name by G’d during the flood when he said the flood waters will go “up to here” ( ad ko)DSC00396


The mosaic  ceiling inside the prayer hall shows scenes from ancient Jerusalem.



As you walk up the stairs you can’t help but realize that the entire stairwell is also covered in mosaics – these depicting  difficult times in our history.



Upstairs is the main shul where nothing has been spared in its decoration.

The domed ceilingDSC00418


The 7 holy Arks  where the Torah scroll are kept.DSC00425


The three middle ones already have doors of inlaid silver, intricately decorated. In the coming years the members hope to raise enough funds to  put silver doors on all of the  sections.DSC00426

The ornate round  Sefardi Torah scrolls stand in the Ark.DSC00420


Even the women’s section is appropriately decorated with mosaic pictures depicting the role of our matriarchs. Below Rebecca meets Isaac for the first time.DSC00429


Ancient history is not the only time depicted in the decorations. Symbols of the State of Israel adorn the path on the way out of the synagogue.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

An English Tea Party with the British Ambassador

Once a year, during the school vacation, the English Teachers Association in Israel holds a two day conference.

It’s a great way to inject a bit of interest  and enthusiasm into our weary bones just after the  end of year exams and to exchange  tips / lesson plans / strategies / ideas, recommend books and replenish some of our enthusiasm for our chosen career

There’s also a large book exhibition where we get a chance to peruse and order books on teaching English from all the large book publishers.

Often one of  the  book publishers  treats us to a lunch, but this year we were honored with a visit from the British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, and so the British Council in Israel laid on an English tea party, complete with mini sandwiches and cakes and pastries.

The one disappointment was the TEA. Now one thing I’ve never given up is my English tea. Whenever I return to England I always stock up on  good old Tetley, PG Tips  or something similar and in LARGE quantities.

Israelis, like the Americans – just don’t know anything about a decent cup of tea. They think you drink it without milk and consequently it is sooooo weak.

But I did expect better from the British Council. I  expected them to have a decent supply of real English tea.

But one look at what was poured out of that English look-alike teapot and I knew ………… it was the weak foreign stuff.


Matthew Gould’s speech  almost made up for the terrible tea.


He was charming, witty, knew how to poke fun at himself  and talked a lot of sense –  characteristics that don’t often go together these days. He explained his hesitation at applying for the post,  being Jewish himself and his visits to several mosques prior to leaving for Israel to assure the British Moslems that he was also their representative as well, even though he was Jewish.

He discussed the anti-Israel boycott  and anti-Semitism on some of the UK university campuses and explained the delay in passing the bill that will halt the possibility of our members of  Knesset and other ex-military personnel being arrested for war crimes when they visit Israel.

He even answered the pointed, political questions  we posed, very clearly and astutely.

I almost forgave them the awful tea.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


It’s been an exhausting two weeks. It’s the end of the school year here in Israel and that means saying goodbye to all my own students.

I teach  English in a one  year college  preparatory course to help girls in their late teens- early twenties get their Bagrut, the school leaving certificate. These are girls who for one reason or another didn’t manage to get it when they left school.

It’s an intensive year. People here marry young and continue to study and work so I had several married girls and some with children. One gave birth to her second son ten days  before the final exam but she arrived wit her baby in a sling and nursed as she wrote and we babysat when she finished feeding him.


Another student who had been married for several years without children was visibly pregnant by the end of the year to everyone’s delight. We had celebrated  engagements and weddings together and became as close as family by the time we parted tearfully .

At the other end of the spectrum, I was invited to all my grandchildren’s end of term parties – and these are done in real style over here and can take hours – even for those in kindergarten.


Being blessed with a large number of grandchildren I have spent  many mornings and evenings recently in different schools and halls  ‘kvelling’ as we say…….. and also taking photos and videos of the proceedings.


I thought my job as family photographer would end as my status changed  from mummy to bubby but I guess my kids got used to me in that role and don’t want to let me give it up.


But now it’s vacation time and they, at least, can relax

___ _____ ____ __ 044

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thanks for the award


Seriously Cute Blogger Award

Thank you  Rosalind Adam of  Rosalind Adam is writing in the rain for naming me a ‘ seriously cute blogger’ and ‘tagging’ me and now I’m cheating and answering a combination of the two sets  questions that she sent my way.

1. Upload a recent wallpaper (from my computer I presume)

This is a gorgeous photo I took when I had lunch with my sisters recently overlooking the beach in Netanya. I just love the contrast between the sea in front and behind the breakwater.

Doesn’t it make you want jump in and start swimming?DSC00129

2. When did you last eat chicken?

Yesterday for Shabbat lunch – after the cholent of course, no matter that it’s 30 plus degrees outside– we still have to have cholent!

3. Do you have a nickname?

Yes  - Penny , that’s what my sisters all call me. How did it originate? Supposedly because that’s all I was worth –( I guess I ought to see a therapist to see why I’m not suffering from a terrible  complex after getting such a cruel nickname!)

Now I’m going back to the cute-blogger award and naming 5 of my all time favorite books. Some of them I can barely remember but at the time they made a tremendous impression on me!

1. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

2.Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

3. Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom

4.1984 – George Orwell

5. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I am a Jerusalemite

 kotel ezrat nashim
I envy my two youngest  daughters one thing in their lives.
When they fill out any standard form, at  the question ‘birthplace’ – they can write -   Jerusalem.
That’s something I’ll never be able to say, even though I’m proud to be able to give Jerusalem as my address today. I am a Jerusalemite by choice – they are by birth.
shaar ha'ahspot and Mt Olives
However, not everyone feels constrained by reality  when stating their birthplace.

In 1966 Shmuel  Yosef ( Shai) Agnon was awarded the Nobel prize in Literature and  in his acceptance speech at the Nobel banquet he said:
"As a result of the historic catastrophe in which Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was exiled from its land, I was born in one of the cities of the Exile. But always I regarded myself as one who was born in Jerusalem."

A copy of  ‘the sacking of Jerusalem’ on Titus’ Arch in Rome, on display at the Diaspora Museum.

I understand how he felt.
We named our first daughter who was born here, Shulamit which comes from the three letters  shin, lamed and mem  from the  name Yerushelayim, the Hebrew for Jerusalem.
ירושלים    שולמית

Since then we have been blessed with many grandchildren who will be able to fill in ‘Jerusalem’ when asked for their birthplace.
We pray that their number will increase  and that from now onwards we shall remain in our homeland, with Jerusalem it’s capital ,and that the streets will be filled with the happy sounds of Jewish children learning and playing.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

JERUSALEM DAY – the reunification of Israel’s capital

Forty four years ago  the barriers which divided Jerusalem  into two came down and the city was once again united and open to anyone, of any religion, who wanted to visit and pray at the holy places.

Until then, Jews had only been able to gaze from afar at their holiest site, the Kotel, the  remains of the the Western Wall  of the Temple which was closest to the holiest spot inside  the Temple.

Now we are free again to come and pour our hearts out in prayer and  in thanks.

2 IMG_3212

Prayers, dreams, hopes and wishes tucked into the crevices between the stones.

Jerusalem Sukkot 016


A day doesn’t go by that I don’t thank G’d for the privilege of living  here; of bringing up my children and grandchildren  here in the city that so many millions of  Jews  over the centuries could only dream of. There is nowhere else in the world where we feel so close  and connected to our past and to G’d.Nowhere in the world is it easier to be a Jew.


At Sukkot time most of the Jerusalem restaurants have a sukkah.Jerusalem Sukkot 041


Tour guides  walk around with the Tenach in their hands as a guide book and point out places to to visitors that they had only heard about in Religious studies lessons.

Every day ‘new‘ artifacts from our past are being dug up showing us how our ancestors lived and connecting us irrevocably .  Below is a section of King David’s Palace in Ir David ( David’s City) which is being excavated in the valley below the Kotel

 City of David - part of the Royal Palace

The Talmud tell us that “Ten measures of beauty descended to the world – nine were given to Jerusalem and one to the rest of the world”

Jerusalem is indeed  the most beautiful place in the world, both  physically and spiritually.

Walking along the alleyways of the Jewish Quarter .Jerusalem Sukkot 012 

Autumn at the Botanical GardensIMG_1043


Yad Vashem – memorial to the 6 millions Jews slaughtered during the Holocaust.IMG_0080


The model of Jerusalem during the time of the 2nd Temple, now housed in the grounds of The Israel MuseumTemple Model Israel Museum


Watch this  short film by Aish Haorah about what Jerusalem means to the Jewish people.