The Police, Mahane Yehuda, and Me

You may ask yourself, what do the police and the shuk Mahane Yehuda have in common with me?

A while back, I was at the Shuk in Jerusalem (Israelis refer to Mahane Yehuda simply as “The Shuk”) which means “shopping area” in Hebrew.  As I am accustomed to do, I had my camera with me on that fine day.   I photographed some of the stalls, and generally blended in to the atmosphere.

I took a photo of this Arab worker sitting on an empty stall.

Worker sitting on empty stall in Mahane Yehuda

Worker sitting on empty stall in Mahane Yehuda

Then, I panned my camera and took a photo of the shuk’s main road with my wide-angle lens.  Within 10 seconds, two policemen (whom you can see in the right corner of the photo) had confiscated my camera, asked to see my ID card, and were questioning me about my ‘suspicious’ activity.

I told them to relax and that I was doing an article for a newspaper in the USA.  Along with my strong American accented Hebrew, there was little to cause them further suspicion.  Then, they wanted to take the film in the camera since I had photographed them.   I then reasoned with them further that with such a wide-angle lens it would be hard to discern their faces, much less their identities.

After a few tense minutes, (the time it takes for a not-so-smart policeman in any country to understand an argument with logical reasoning), they returned my camera to me with the caveat that I could not photograph them anymore.  Once I had the camera back in hand along with my ID card, I jokingly told them that without some more photos of them, I wouldn’t be able to share with them the article I would be writing about the Shuk…  I never did get their names!

Enjoy the photo, i hope it was worth it…

Shuk Mahane Yehuda - The photo that caused a stir
The photo that caused a stir

Vote Shas and go to Heaven

The man in the photos is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Shlit”a).  These posters were part of the last Israel national government elections.  The posters are for the Sha”s party, which is comprised of ultra-orthodox Sefardic Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent.

Rabbi Yosef was the Chief Sefardic Rabbi of Israel in the 1980s (Rishon Leziyon) and is considered by many the leading living religious authority on Jewish laws for the Sefardic community in Israel and worldwide.  He is the spiritual leader of the Shas party and has, since its inception, either hand-picked or given explicit approval of all the party’s candidates.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef wants you to vote Shas
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef wants you to vote Shas

One of the posters has additional handwritten text which says “Whoever votes for Shas in the elections, Rav Ovadia Yosef promises him heaven (Gan Eden) without sin.  So only vote Shas!”

Editor’s Note:  You can’t beat that!  Just vote for a political party and all your sins are absolved.  Maybe we can teach something to the Americans?  Who knows, one day you may see a campaign poster that says “Barak Obama guarantees you heaven (with 70 virgins) if you vote democrat” in the coming elections 🙂

Life in Husan

Husan ???? is a sprawling West Bank town on the southern edge of Jerusalem, straddled by Gilo, the tunnels road, and Beitar Ilit.  Most of the residents work in neighboring Beit Lechem, or tend to their fields or herds.  Commerce is practically non-existent in Husan.

In good times, Husan has also been a prime source of day labor for Israeli contractors in Jerusalem and as far as Bet Shemesh.  In bad times, such as in the recent second Intifada, Husan acted as a springboard for hostilities.  The road that connects Beitar Illit with the tunnels road that heads north to Jerusalem and south to Gush Etzion also shares a two kilometer southern border with Husan.  Beitar residents would often be stoned, or worse, by projectiles thrown from the Husan residents from their higher vantage point.

The Israeli army clamped down on Husan with several measures to alleviate the stress and risk of injury or death of Beitar residents.  A huge link fence was erected on most of the southern border of Husan that would effectively eliminate terrorist attacks from the high points.  Next, the army declared the tunnels road and the Beitar access road to be inaccessible to Husan residents.  Husan residents were now trapped in their village except for taking a long walk across the tunnels road to Beit Jara or Beit Lechem, and a loophole that allowed transit vans from employers in other cities to pick up Husan residents for work.  However, Husan is several kilometers long in its own right.  As a result, an odd daily ritual could be seen, as Husan residents either walked or were transported from their homes to the edge of the city, where they would walk across the army baracades, and then step into other vans that would take them to their work or shopping in nearby cities.

Here’s some images of this daily spectacle and of the environs:

20 Years Later, Where are they now?

where are they now?
where are they now?

I sometimes think about the famous Woody Allen movie, Annie Hall. There’s a famous scene where in a flashback kindergarten-aged children in a classroom, stand up one-by-one and announce what they will be in when they grow up.  Obviously, with Woody’s satire and genious sardonic approach, some of the kids become doctors and lawyers, while others become fellons, others die in car accidents, etc…

That scene had me thinking when I stumbled upon this photo from 1988 in Washngton DC of a somewhat random group of people I was either friends with at the time, and/or had grown up with.

Looking back at the 13 friends standing here, who could have known that twenty years later these would be the results: Four are living in Israel (two went back to USA), the rest in the USA.  One was the victim of a terror attack, two got married to each other,  two were divorced and one became a haredi rabbi.

Israel at the Beijing Olympics

Israel Channel One TV is broadcasting the Olympics in Israel.   The sports announcers are a bit aggressive in their predictions,  and they do have a flair for the dramatic, but overall the coverage has been plentiful.

I like to get the ‘behind the scenes’ stories on athletes, so I am usually checking out Walla , who frequently include video interviews of athletes and a good recap of the day’s events.  The Ynet (Yediot’s website)  is more focused, as usual, in the context-based ads to the story you are viewing. Anyone tell those yokels that we don’t like interstitial ads on every article we read?

There’s actually been little drama in these olympics for Israel, other than the Phelps-Spitz connection (after all, Mark Spitz was a Maccabean Champion before he was an Olympic Champion!).

There was also the story of the Israeli swimmer, Alon Mandel, whose father died tragically in Israel just as his son was settling in to the Olympic Village in Beijing.  The son decided to swim, as he said he thought his father would have wanted, and broke an Israeli record in the process.  There was some hoopla in the press with a religious leader back in Israel suggesting that the son should have shown more honor to his dead father and flown home immediately for the funeral instead of keeping the body on ice for nearly a week.

Ok, now to the results.  After one week of action, Israel is still looking for it’s first medal in these games.  Many of the early favorites have already failed in their attempts.  Our hopes for now are pinned on Kolganov in Kyaking who today reached the semi-finals.

Let’s go blue and white!


Shachar Zubari brought home Israel’s first (bronze) medal in this Olympics in windsurfing. He’s only 19 yrs. old, and comes from Eilat.
Shachar Zovri

Mini Israel – Near Latrun

If you are looking for a great way to spend a couple hours with your family this summer, head on over to Mini Israel, an outdoor walking tour within an enclosed park that showcases all of Israel’s popular sites in miniature.  The park is located just off Highway #1 near the Latrun exit.  The current admission fees are 69 NIS per adult and 25 NIS per child (under 5).  If you have a Leumi Mastercard, you can get 1+1 admission, but that will only work for 2 tickets max.

In the summer, the site is nearly impossible to traverse without protection from the sun. Be sure to come prepared with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and plenty of water. The park overs free sun umbrellas that you return when you leave.  There are also water mists in several locations in the park, so you can cool off before going to the next venue.

Here are some photos of the sites at mini-israel:

Egged Haifa Israel Train Parking Lot Masada

Wind Turbines Golan  Kfar Nachum (Caparneum) Kineret Tnuva Truck Bahai Shrine - Haifa

El Al Ben Gurion Airport Construction in Israel Kvish 6 Warming up at Blumfield

Solar Panels Ma’rat Hamachpela Hebron Yad Kennedy Tel Aviv - Habima

Yad Eliyahu Ramat Gan Safari Tel Aviv - Kikar Rabin Western Wall - Hakotel

Dome of the Rock

Ramat Bet Shemesh Fair and Concert

Rosh Hodesh Tammuz, July 3 2008.

The streets were filled with sidewalk vendors, patrons, music, and food.  For a moment, I thought Ramat Bet Shemesh was a real city with “things to do” other than catching a minyan.

Ramat Bet Shemesh residents were treated on thursday night to a rare (2nd time in 9 years) outdoor fair, organized by the Matn”as (Community Center).  Kol Hakavod to Miri Shalem of the Ramat Bet Shemesh Matn”as for showing us a different side to our city. See below a live video from the main event.  Aharon Razel, Chaim David, and Shlomo Katz performed a concert in the central park.  Here’s their rendition of the popular Carlebach tune “Ufeduyey”.

Arab Terrorist Killed in Jerusalem

Jaffa Rd, the center of Jerusalem today experienced the horror of a mad terrorist bulldozing 2 busses, cars, and killing  3 innocent people (including a 33 yr old woman who saved her baby by throwing her from her clutches).

In the video below, you will see quite graphically, how the terrorist was killed after his rampage.  A policeman in a white shirt inside the cab of the bulldozer was struggling with the  terrorist until, a true hero, a civilian, jumped on the moving bullldozer, took the gun from the wounded policeman, and killed the terrorist at point blank range.

?’ ???? ???

D-Day Time Machine (June 6, 1944)

Complete 24-hour Live Radio Broadcast

Let’s continue in the theme of nostalgia and of feeling what it was like to live in America in 1944.

Here’s the actual live broadcast of NBC Radio on June 6, 1944, D-Day, as the Allied troops invaded the shores of Normandy, France.  This historic day signaled the US invasion of Europe to repel the Nazi forces.

The recordings offer a unique look into the world at that time and also how American consensus was building as each hour passed.  The news reports trickled in throughout the night as the American reports relied on Nazi news reports until the Supreme Allied Command, under the leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, confirmed with it’s first official communique about the allied landing.

The day’s broadcast includes the soap operas, crime dramas, and comedies played in their entirety with the occasional news bulletins pre-empting the usual broadcast programs.

Download/Play files here:

1 AM 2 AM 3 AM 4 AM 5 AM
6 AM 7 AM 8 AM 9 AM 10 AM
11 AM 12 PM 1 PM 2 PM 3 PM
4 PM 5 PM 6 PM 7 PM 8 PM
9 PM 10 PM 11 PM 12 AM

USA in 1939 – Timecapsule

Full Day Live Radio Broadcast from September 21, 1939 in Washington DC, USA 

Did you even wonder what it was like to be living in 1939 in America? How about September 21, 1939 to be precise?

This is perhaps the most amazing discovery for history buffs and lovers of nostalgia. WJSV, a radio station in Washington DC on the CBS network, recorded an entire broadcast day to preserve as a time capsule for generations to come.

The broadcast day begins at 6AM local time and continues through to midnight. From the hourly news reports of World War II approaching (the European War) as America waivered between isolationism and taking sides with the allies.

There’s the soap operas, comedy hours, dramas, music from the day, and the peculiar local reporting along with providing home addresses of listeners whose birthday or anniversary had arrived.

I present for you here the full day’s broadcast in it’s entirety in nineteen (19) one hour mp3 files. Prepare to have time set asside for this. Once you get started, you will be soaked in to the day!

Download Links Here: September 21, 1939 WJSV Washington, DC

6 AM 7 AM 8 AM 9 AM 10 AM
11 AM 12 PM 1 PM 2 PM 3 PM
4 PM 5 PM 6 PM 7 PM 8 PM
9 PM 10 PM 11 PM 12 AM

Israel Air Force on Yom Haatzmaut

What a great birthday. Israel is now 60 years old. A little grey hair and plump around the waist, but looking better than ever!

A marvelous thing happened today on our hike to Tel Azeka (more on that later). As we reached the top of the hill, we saw 5 IDF fighter jets soar above our heads with sky-sweeping fly bys. I imagine that this would not be a welcome site in Lebanon or Gaza, but here in the center of Israel, this is just awesome to see.

I am assuming they were participating in some ceremony for Israel’s Independence Day. At 60, our air force is still the giants of the sky.

Click on the images for larger views.

IDF Air Force IDF Air Force IDF Air Force IDF Air Force

Olmert, Corruption, and the Jerusalem Marathon

It comes as no surprise to most Israelis that our Prime Minister is shrouded in yet another controversy, this time allegedly for taking a bribe from a prominent American working in Israel.  The media is still under a strict gag order, but those in the ‘know’ say that this time, Olmert will have to resign.

This is his 5th corruption investigation since taking office two years ago. The most recent one, last Fall, alleged Mr. Olmert received payment in consideration for decisions made in the privatization of Bank Leumi, when we was acting as Finance Minister.

On the lighter side, Ehud Olmert, in 2002, then still Mayor of Jerusalem, was running in the 10KM race as part of the Jerusalem Half Marathon.  Olmert stepped up to the front of the line, mugging for the cameras.  Of course, to get to the front of the line, he had to physically move other runners to the side who had arrived before him.  One of these runners, a neighbor of mine, tells this story:

    I said to Olmert, “How come you get to go to the front of the line? We were here first!”  To which Olmert replied, “Because I am mayor. I am an important person”.

Assuming this story is true,  it illustrates what type of world Mr. Olmert lives in.  In his mind, he is priveleged.  He is a son of the “kings” of Likud. He has been in politics his entire life. Everything has come to him from his political position.

I won’t even bring up the “Divine Retribution” angle that has been posed by many in the National camp…  Ok, I’ll bring it up…

There is a long string of politicians who have expressed acceptance in relinquishing land to Arabs – whether it be East Jerusalem, the Golan, Gaza, even Sinai.  Each politician at the helm during these watershed times who has capitulated to Arab, world, or US pressure, has been knocked down, each with a different ‘natural’ conclusion. 

Is that “Divine” or just natural.  You can decide for yourself.

Israel Air Force Over Auschwitz

In preparation for Yom Hashoa / Holocaust Memorial Day:

This year Yom Hashoa falls out on May 1st

Last year, on occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day, a ceremony took place right on the rails leading in to Auschwitz.

During the ceremony the Israeli Air Force flew above in salute.

This is truly one of the most emotional experiences for a Jew of our generation to experience.

Tel Aviv – Rothschild, Bogroshov

Sderot Rothschild and Ben Ziyon is the center of Tel Aviv culture. There’s a potpuri of theater, restaurants, parks, and an assortment of bauhaus architecture that is world-renowned . At the north end of Rothschild you will find the Habima Theater, Heichal Hatarbut, and Gan Yaakov.

Here’s a street scene from Rothschild:

Rothschild Boulevard

On Sderot Ben Ziyon you can almost see down to the Sea via Bogroshov:

Rothschild Boulevard

On Bogroshov, there are nice shops and restaurants leading down to Ocean, with an occasional sex shop mixed in… 🙂

I sometimes wonder if the dichotomies found in Tel Aviv are lost on its residents.

Tel Aviv - Sex Shop

Tel Aviv - Sex Shop