check out my new blog for all writing related posts.

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.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bible Lands Museum – new exhibition INSPIRED

After three pretty heavy heavy posts connected to Holocaust Memorial Day,  the Eichmann Trial and Independence Day  I decided it’s time for a light break.

During Pesach ( Passover) we made the most of the generosity of Bank Hapoalim, who sponsored free entry to many museums and National Parks, for everyone, during the  week long festival, .

We hadn’t visited the Bible Lands Museum for a long time so we headed there first.


We were greeted at the door by the friendly Bank Hapoalim emblem IMG_0165

The emphasis inside at this time of year was, not surprisingly, ancient Egypt. Many people think that the Jewish slaves built the pyramids but the view below of the three largre pyramids which still remain today, were also seen by Jacob and his sons when they went down to Egypt originally as free and honored men, thousands of years ago .

The pyramids  were built, many years before the Jewish people’s arrival ,as tombs for the Pharos (kings) by the Egyptians.


The current pride of the museum is  a new exhibition by the Spanish  sculptor  Manel Alvarez entitled INSPIRED.

All his sculptures that are on display were inspired by episodes from the Bible.
I honestly admit that I don’t always understand or appreciate modern art but some of these pieces were beautiful and  clear even to me – whereas others remain a mystery.


IMG_0177 This piece represents Joshua. A shield for the soldier and the musical notes on the shield represents the ‘music’ from the shofar which he blew as he circled the walls of Jericho seven times.


IMG_0181 The tree of life which stood in the middle of the Garden of Eden. The wood I can understand representing a tree but the spear through the middle ? I don’t know.

IMG_0182 The tree of knowledge of good and evil, also found in the Garden of Eden. Maybe the spear  represents branches in both trees.

IMG_0183 Moses in his basket in the river Nile.

IMG_0184The Golden Calf which the Israelites built when Moses came down from Mt Sinai late with the 10 Commandments.


The sculpture of  Tower of Babel – reputed to be the tallest sculpture in the world at 10.5 meters high, stands outside the museum.



The children are always well catered for in museums in Israel with plenty of art and craft workshops based on  topical themes, connected to the time of year and the cur

There are several other exhibitions in the museum  at the moment including  ‘Angels and Demons – Jewish Magic through the Ages’ which may well surprise those of you who thought that  magic was forbidden in Judaism.

Take a few hours off and visit the museum – there’s plenty to enjoy there.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


tel aviv hall of independence

I was just ten years old, at Israel’s 13th birthday, fifty years ago, and  I was asked to recite the Declaration of Independence in Hebrew at the local celebrations.

I stood there on the stage, my ten year old knees knocking and my heart bursting with nerves and pride, as I began:

“ lefichach nitkanasnu anu ….” “Therefore we are gathered here …..

At ten years old I had never been to Israel, nor did I imagine that I ever would. It seemed light years away from my small hometown of Leicester, in the center of England.

It was a place we turned to and mentioned in our prayers, but I never expected to see.

I thought of that day a few weeks ago as I sat, with some of my students, in Independence Hall, on Rothschild Street in Tel Aviv, in the exact spot where that same declaration had first been read out by David Ben Gurion, 63 years ago.


Our guide was giving a background to the events of that momentous day, leading up to the somewhat rushed declaration of statehood on Friday afternoon May 14, 1948, just hours before the end of the British Mandate.

Jerusalem would have been the site of choice for such a historic occasional, but Jerusalem was under siege, making it impossible to have the ceremony there. So this hall, was chosen because it was the most sheltered and secure building in the area. And who knew if there might not be an air raid in the middle of the proceedings.

The ceremony was hastily decided on and put together.

There was tremendous international pressure on Ben Gurion to delay declaring Statehood for another few months at least, to appease the Arabs after the British left the country. Even his own military advisors told him that according to all logical calculations we had only a 50/50 chance of surviving the war that would ensue if we chose to declare statehood now.

But logic and statistics have never played a decisive role in our history. If they did we probably wouldn’t be here today. And Ben Gurion made the decision that whatever the outcome, from now on we would be the masters of our own destiny, a state in our own right.

The guide pointed to the furnishings. “You see these chairs – they were borrowed from a local cafĂ©. The carpet was also borrowed from a local carpet shop and the microphones –  yeah that’s right, borrowed from the local music shop”.

The guide asked if any of us had ever visited Independence Hall before. No one raised their hands. There was one elderly lady in the room. The guide looked at her and asked, “Have you never been here before?”

She smiled. “Have I ever been inside here before ?” she repeated. “ No. But I was here outside on May 14th, the 5th of Iyar in 1948, the day independence was declared. I was a five year old girl outside waiting to hear something that I understood was very important. We heard the ceremony through the loudspeakers and as the news came through that Ben Gurion had declared a Jewish State we all started dancing and singing – but then we had to run home to get ready for Shabbat”

As I listened to her story, I thought back to that little girl on the stage 50 years ago. She never dreamt that she would one day sit in the same room where the declaration she recited, was originally read out, privileged to live in the country G’d gave to His people now once again under Jewish leadership.


Watch the background story of the UN vote in November 1947

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel - May 2nd

I have written on Holocaust themes many times and by far the most popular blog post – the one that gets the most ‘visits’ is this one about the hidden synagogue built in Theresienstadt concentration camp

A HOLOCAUST STORY – The Hidden Synagogue of Theresienstadt

The people mentioned in the story are still trying to find someone who knew of this synagogue-  maybe even prayed in it so please pass on the story to anyone you know who might have been  in Theresienstadt.

Both sets of my grandparents were from Germany and I well remember my amazement when I heard this story about my grandfather.


A cattle truck used to transport Jews to concentration camp now on display at the Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem


My mother and her sisters reached the safety of England on the kindertransport and  her first months there were very traumatic.

I wrote in last week’s blog that this year marks  50 years since the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann Hitler’s second in command who carried out the edicts of  the Third Reich  with terrifying enjoyment  and horrifying precision.

These stories and all the other accounts of survivors must continue to be told so that the world never forgets and no one can ever deny what happened.