Shalom everyone,

A few Saturdays ago I took a family for a walking tour of the Old City. We started at 5 in the afternoon after the heat of the day had been blown away by the cool sea breeze that always arrives in Jerusalem in summer round about that time.

Unfortunately historic sites controlled by the Jerusalem municipality, like the Walls Walk and the David Tower Museum are closed at this time.

At this time of the year a tour doesn’t have to begin in the morning and end in the evening or late afternoon. Instead it can begin in the late afternoon, when it’s cooler and the sun sheds a more gentle light, with the last rays of the sun shining on them. Sites like the Mt. of Olives, the Kidron Valley and the Western Wall get richer and deeper colors of gold and red and end in the evening when they’re beautifully illuminated.

Working at this time of the day also gave me time to have lunch at “Spagettim” with Ettie and some friends who had come from Tel Aviv to visit Jerusalem.

We’ve just finished celebrating the festival of Shavuot. This is the second year that the family has come to our home in Jerusalem for a Shavuot meal. Ettie enjoys thrilling everyone with her brilliant cooking and baking; we had fresh, pink salmon, baked in the oven, two varieties of blintzes, sweet and salty, which Pnina, Ettie’s mother made, this being her specialty, kada-if, a cheese filled stringy pastry in honey and Ettie’s famous chocolate mouse.

The custom of eating cheese based dishes on Shavuot, the festival celebrating God giving the Torah to the Jewish People, is based on the comparison between the Torah and milk. Our dependence on Torah for our life is similar to the dependence of the baby on its mother’s milk and our eagerness for the study of Torah should be as great as a baby’s eagerness to suck the milk from its mother’s nipple.

The most vivid evocation of this image is that of a baby lamb sucking milk from the mother. This is probably also the reason why the Torah prohibits cooking a lamb in its mother’s milk (Deut 14:21). The scene of a lamb sucking milk from its mother is a sign of the desire which every living creature has for life while the scene of a lamb cooked in its mother’s milk is a sign of death. We should seek life, and hence the need to study Torah, not death which would surely come if we didn’t study Torah.

Having life we are capable then of having land and the labor of living people filled with the knowledge of Torah on the land to make it produce food is like milk flowing on the land, hence the comparison of the Promised Land as a land “flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8).

The vision of the Torah is a land filled with people who are vitally alive because they are filled with the knowledge of Torah.

In such a land God will love his people and they will love Him. His love of such a nation is compared to the love song which the lover sings to her beloved praising the reason for his attraction for her; “milk and honey are under your tongue (Song of Songs 4:11).

The Torah is therefore the ultimate cause of life and hence the reason for the Shavuot celebration is the receiving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The Torah welds God to the Jewish People but also to any person, especially including a non Jew like Ruth the Moabitess who provides a practical demonstration of the behavior a person who is filled with the knowledge of Torah; she cleaves to her mother in law, Naomi:

“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. ” (Ruth 1:15-18)

As you know the Story of Ruth is one of the main readings of the Bible on Shavuot.

The story of Ruth culminates in the marriage between Ruth and Boaz and is a simile of the marriage between God and the People of Israel which takes place when God gives them the Torah on Mt. Sinai on Shavuot.

The observance of the laws of Torah is the cause of the attraction which Boaz has for Ruth and the attraction which God has for the People of Israel.

Wishing you a great no news day

Yours truly

Leon Gork


Shalom everyone,

All I want to write about really is what I see. What I see, however, is very little really compared to the world. I can enlarge this picture by seeing more of the world and by thinking more about what I see or imagine.

On Friday and Saturday I saw Ophir and Tamar. Each one is cute in a different way and I have to adapt myself to suite them.

I showed Ophir how I balance plastic building blocks on my head and how they fall off. He also tried to do it and we both laughed and enjoyed ourselves.

Tamar wanted me to read her a story; she chose Little Red Riding Hood from her library and we discussed the reason for Little Red Riding Hood’s downfall; it was clear that this was caused by her carelessness in not examining the credentials of the Big Bad Wolf. She should have been much more firm with him and told him just to go away and stop bothering her or she should have just ignored him. But how could she go against her own better nature which was to be kind and generous; unfortunately these characteristics don’t go together with being firm and forthright.

On Monday night I saw the opera “La Gioconda”. I recommend you to see it, especially the production by the Israel Opera Company. It’s the first time I’ve actually heard an entire audience gasp as a scene opened up on the stage. This was a mystic scene of angels and gods dancing out of heaven to earth. The melody that accompanies this scene is well known; “The Dance of the Hours.” I recommend downloading this from emusic.com, an excellent website. Once you’ve downloaded it you can save it on Windows Media player and it’s as good as having the record or the CD.

La Gioconda is a story written by Victor Hugo. It’s only a more complicated version of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. It tells about the kindness and beauty of a street singer who lives in a harbor town, where the rich ogre, a secret informer of the church, has fallen in love with her. But she’s in love with the handsome prince, but he’s in love with one of rich and beautiful married women of the town. The informer (ogre) reveals the handsome prince’s sin and has him sent to prison to await punishment of death.

La Gioconda comes to the rescue of the handsome prince and promises to give the ogre her body in return for the release of the handsome prince.

The scene of the angels and gods dancing out of heaven is a magnificent exaggeration of the god’s and angel’s adoration of La Gioconda’s act of salvation; she has offered up her glorious body to the gods to save an adulterer. This is not the purpose for which the gods blessed her with beauty.

Certainly the gods don’t sing and dance with praises for such an act which is false holiness; on the contrary they send fire and brimstone.

The result of disguising the unholy as holy is tragedy and La Gioconda kills herself, so giving the ogre her dead body. Her death demonstrates that gods vent their wrath on the good and kind people, like Gioconda we punish the real criminals in our society, the adulterer and the one who lusts, because we can identify them and catch them.

The gods take care of the punishment of the good and kind people like Gioconda because only they can identify the evil disguised as good.

We thought that La Gioconda was innocent and moral but the story shows us what the gods saw; that she committed two crimes: She aided the act of adultery and lust.

The greatness of an author like Victor Hugo or the Bible is that they don’t only describe what they see but also what the gods see. They (the Bible and the many great authors) are telling us that we too should try to see things as the gods see them.

Without their advice I started doing this when I was very young, not knowing what I was doing. In each age of my life I had a different “first thing in the morning”, which now I realize was my moment to see things as God saw them.

At first I lay in my cot examining my surroundings. A little later I told people my dreams. Later I attended to my animals; dogs, rabbits and chickens. Still later it was plants. Then it was exercise and sport. Then there was the religious period when I said my prayers. Then it was the girl friend period. Then it was exercise again. Then it was checking my e mail. Then it was meditation. Then study. Now it’s writing my no newsletter.

Recently, for the last 5 years I’ve tried writing as “my first thing”. This hasn’t been easy because I often I get side-tracked into checking my email first before doing anything else.

I would like to lie and tell you that I’m trying to find out what interests people. Unfortunately I cannot lie; the reason is that I’m an egoist and I’m easily flattered by getting mail.

I wish you all a great no news day.

Yours truly.

Leon.


Shalom everyone,

We started our Jeep Tour of the Golan Heights from the Yesod Hamaala Junction in the Huleh Valley. Lew climbed in the front with Roy, the driver and Pete and I sat with the girls Donna and Barbara in the back. We braced ourselves as the deep tread special earth gripping tires churned to leave the tarmac and head for the rough steep sloping terrain of the Golan.

Soon the parking lot was behind us, as was the hotel, filling station and other trappings of civilization located in the midst of this fertile valley, which had been a lake until 1960, when it was drained to make more place for Jewish Agricultural settlements. Now you see beautiful, leafy green fruit trees, apricots, nectarines, and grapefruit all around.

The jeep made its bumpy way over clumps of black, dried muddy earth. We stopped to break one of the clumps of earth to find shells, proving that, amazingly once there was a lake in this farmland.

As the jeep climbed the steep slope up the side of the Golan Roy opened the front window of the jeep and the cool air rushed in accompanied by drops of rain; unusual for this time of the year, May, in Israel. Looking eastwards, over the tops of the high, golden brown wheat, the Golan Heights loomed as a dark purple colored wall of vegetation in front of us.

The Golan Heights aren’t high mountains as the name leads one to believe but a plateau, 50 Km from Mt. Hermon in the North to the Yarmuk valley in the South and 15 Km from East to West, rising only about 300 meters above the Huleh Valley.

After only 10 minutes of straining, winding, bumping and twisting Roy’s Land Rover brought us to a vantage point looking down on the neat green and brown squares of Jewish farmland. At this point we were standing where Syrian soldiers had stood before 1967 looking down from their bunkers deciding which settlement would receive their murderous shells.

This was a point in the line of a canal which the Syrians had started carving into the mountainside in 1964 to collect water meant for Israel and divert it to the Syrian held Yarmuk river so that it would flow into Syria instead of Israel. That meant Israel would be left without 30% of its water supply.

This diabolical Syrian plan to destroy Israel by cutting its supply of water was brought to an end by Israeli jets which destroyed the Syrian earth moving equipment in 1966 and lead to the Six Day war which finally ended in Israel conquering the Golan putting Israeli settlements there, pushing the Syrians 15 Km to the East and so making life safer for Israelis living and farming the beautiful Huleh Valley.

After tea in the bushes we continued our bumpy, picturesque drive over little rivulets of water. Here and there we saw some gazelles grazing peacefully in the bushes below us, now and again sniffing the cool air to try and figure out who was coming to disturb their silent habitat.

The end of our fun, educational ride came as we drove through Yesod Hamaala, the first settlement established here in 1886 by brave Jewish pioneers who built the beautiful stone houses of the settlement.

We said farewell to Roy and continued along the main road through Kiryat Shmonah, the town of the eight, named after eight pioneers killed by Beduin in the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920. Their death wasn’t in vain because it lead to a new agreement, the Sykes Picot agreement which allotted the Huleh Valley to the British Mandate.

In 1948 the British left the valley and the Jews became its new owners after heavy fighting in the war of Independence.

After a half hour drive we reached the Lebanese border at Metulla, the most northern town of Israel, nestled at the head of Tanur valley, so called because it’s so narrow that it looks like the narrow chimney of an old fashioned oven.

The town ends at the apple orchards and beyond that is Lebanon, the frightening country which was once a paradise for investors and holiday makers until it descended into a quagmire of sectarian wars and fanatic religious conservatism.

Now it looks like the Hizbulla have taken over. The only thing they’re likely to do is to dress Lebanese women in burkas, rattle their Iranian weapons and rant and rave about destroying Israel. It’s absurd how they sow the seeds of war while here in Metulla we pick apples.

Now the Greenbergs and Weises are on their way home, President Bush flew out yesterday and the house feels empty. It’s only Ettie and I. Tamar, however, is a great compensation and the fun she and I have together makes up for the missing visitors.

As usual we visited Penina for Sabbath dinner, I picked up my precious cheese that Lim sent me from Holland, took a small bite, downed a good glass of Closs de Gat, which Avishai kindly left on his last visit home, watched Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and dropped down dead until 6 this morning.

I wish you all a great no news day.

Yours truly.

Leon.


Shalom everyone,

One Thursday, about two weeks before Passover, I took myself off by bus to Ramla* with the idea of replenishing my stock of ideas for outings to suggest to anyone who asks my advice on the subject during the holiday season.

Instead, as is often the case when I’m on the lookout for interesting places to visit, I ended up with more interesting stories to tell.

The ruins that meet the eye as one approaches Ramle from Gezer, hint at once glorious buildings, ruins that tell stories of a history filled with lots of action.

This is because Gezer, which stood on a little hill 3 miles East of the present city of Ramla, built by the Moslems in the 8th century, was always in the way, being on the cross roads between Jaffa and Jerusalem, on the one hand and Gaza and Phoenicia (Lebanon) on the other.

If Israel was the bridge between East and West then Gezer was the middle of the bridge. Its location fixed the destiny of its inhabitants. All who lived in this town had to stand and fight the constant parade of armies who sought to conquer it and gain its strategic position of control over the highways.

At times they must have come out of their city to meet the armies with gifts seeking to make peace, declaring loyalty to the new conqueror but mostly they must have stood firm on the battlements, swords drawn, swearing to defend their city to the death.

I can imagine the feelings of excitement, a mixture of fear and bravery, in the hearts of the simple folk as the blaring of trumpets, beating of the drums and clashing of the cymbals announced yet another long line of tramping soldiers lead by a great pharaoh or king, seeking glory and plunder.

Pharaoh Neco conquered it from the Canaanites and gave it as a gift to his daughter on the occasion of her marriage to his ally King Solomon signifying a firm pact between the two leaders.

It was the first city which the Umayyad Moslems conquered in their invasion of Israel in the 8th century. They built their city, known as Ramle, on the plain below Gezer.

They went on to build the beautiful Dome of the Rock, the most famous Moslem building in Israel.

It was the site of the greatest Crusader victory over the Moslems. Their victory here in 1181 kept the Moslems out of Jerusalem. The Crusaders were lead by their king, Baldwin 1V who was only 16 years and was suffering from Leprosy. The Moslems were lead by the Saladin (the so called “great” because he finally defeated the Crusaders in 1187).

I assure you that the Moslems don’t like to recall that defeat which was the result of Saladin’s foolishness in wasting his time and the energy of his horses and army in plundering the villages instead of fighting the Crusader knights. He managed to loose 26000 soldiers, the Crusaders about 1100.

One always hears about Moslem victories, never their defeats. But this battle has been recorded by an 18th century artist Charles Philip Lariviere in a painting, sometimes known as the Battle of Ascalon other times known as the battle of Montgizard*.

You can see this painting and others depicting Crusader glory in the website: http://www.brown.edu/Courses/HI0110/gallery3.htm

In World War I the British, 1st Australian Light Infantry, in the famous battle of Gaza, made its relief base and cemetery at Ramla.

In addition to a small museum, several attractive parks and popular Humus hangouts, the most impressive sites to see here are the ruins of structures remaining from the Umayyad and Crusader periods.

The Umayyad sites are a great underground pool, known as the Arches Pool and the white tower. The Crusader site is the beautiful reconstructed Franciscan church.

The Arches Pool is a fascinating structure (usually one can go boating here but at present it’s being renovated0. It’s called by this name because of great arches supported by pillars which form an underground building, designed to hold immense amounts of water caught from the rain that falls around the area.

The ingenious aspect of this pool is that there used to be several small farms on the roof of the building, where farmers could draw water to irrigate their crops.

The White Tower is all that remains of a mosque of the same period, containing the shrine of Nabi Salih, a saint who hears and speaks from the grave*, mentioned in the Koran.

The church is dedicated to Joseph of Arimithea, the rich man who gave his tomb for the burial of Jesus. This was probably because of the similarity in the names Ramle and Rama where Joseph was born.

Joseph is the subject of many legends. One of them invented by Robert de Boron in a 12th century poem entitled Joseph of Arimathea tells how Joseph traveled to England and brought the Holy Grail with him to Glastonbury, a small village in Somerset, where he established Christianity.

Many people believe this legend and make pilgrimages to places like Glastonbury and Ramla.

From Ramle I made my way to Tel Aviv by train. Exactly 20 min.(plus 20 min waiting). Also only 5 shekels for a senior ticket.

Wishing you a great no news day

Yours truly.

Leon.

* A town in Israel between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, not to be confused with the Arab town of Ramallah, controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

* Montgizard = Tel Gezer

* Koran Sura 7:73 Nabi Salih is the prophet sent to his nation, the Thamoud, considered to be the ancient Nabeteans who were famous caravan drivers of the Middle East, transporting goods from the East to the West via the port of Gaza, to warn them not to kill the she camel, but they didn’t listen to him and they disappeared from the face of history as a nation.

http://www.canadianislamiccongress.com/fb/friday_bulletin.php?fbdate=2008-03-21


The big no news event this week is my new miniature amplifier and speaker. I carry it everywhere and can project my voice to the most distant tourist. You might think that with only one or two tourists at a time, the usual size of my tour groups, they couldn’t be standing too far from me. That is true and I only use my PA system when I want to play some music for my small tour group. I played Ave Maria through the system, for a lady who visited the St. Anne’s church with me the other day. The sound reverberating great cavity of the church bounced the Ave Maria from one side of the church to the other. It was magnificent to say the least and has created a new dimension in guiding for me.

Last week I finally went to the Tel Aviv Opera House to see and hear Turandot. The music, the singing, the color; it was amazing. I don’t have words.

It turned out that Mizrahi bank had purchased all the tickets and I, not being an employee of the bank, was left out in the cold but a kind usher took pity on me, coming all the way from Jerusalem, and let me in for free.

All the way back to Jerusalem in the middle of the night the grand finale of Calaf’s triumph in winning the heart of Turandot, was still ringing in my ears.

Calaf, the son of the deposed, good king, had to answer three questions to win the heart of Turandot, the cruel princess, who rules the country and executes people at the slightest whim. If he answers correctly he’ll have the right to marry the beautiful Turandot. By marrying her he will become the rightful leader of the nation. If he doesn’t know the answers he’ll be beheaded like the other suitors before him.

These are the three questions he must answer correctly.

“What is born each night and dies each dawn?” The Prince correctly replies, “Hope.”

“What flickers red and warm like a flame, but is not fire?” The Prince thinks for a moment before replying, “Blood”.

“What is like ice, but burns like fire?” As the prince thinks, Turandot taunts him. Suddenly he cries out victory and announces, “Turandot!”

The cruel princess, angry that her questions have been answered correctly and that now she must marry Calaf, refuses. Calaf then makes another deal with her:

If she can find out his name by dawn he will die, if not she will be his bride.

The search for the name goes on all night. The only people who know his name are his old father and a young servant girl, who’s in love with him. Turndot has them tortured but they don’t reveal his name and they die.

Turandot is amazed that the love and loyalty these people have for Calaf is so great that they’re ready to die for him. The loyalty they demonstrate impresses Turandot so much that she relents and she finally falls in love with love.

Love triumphs. Turandot is vanquished by the love and loyalty which the people have for a good leader, Calaf; they have died in the name of love in order to have a leader who will rule them with love and kindness.

The moral of the story is therefore that the ordinary people of a nation, show extraordinary strength by being prepared to die for love and loyalty. Their reward is a good leader. People, who aren’t prepared to be strong, not opposing injustice, have a cruel leader who causes them suffering.

A nation must be prepared, even to die, to earn the right to be governed sympathetically and so wisely.

Wishing you a great no news day

Yours truly.

Leon.

The information about the opera Turandot was taken from Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turandot


Israel is a country of contrasts where both religious and non religious can live happily side by side without the one forcing its ideas on the other.

For example last Sunday we stayed at a religious kibbutz in the Galilee, simple and comfortable, solid down to earth food and modesty everywhere; modestly attired young ladies at the reception, modest beige and cream décor, quietly spoken men and women mostly dressed in black waiting patiently to register.

The next night, Haifa was a complete contrast, a choice of French, Italian and American cuisine awaited us near the hotel, young ladies in beauty accentuating attire, highlighted by an ultra modern pink flashed, and deep blue mural on peach and light green colored walls, behind them.

The cinema next door showed the “rendezvous” by Claude Lelouche. It was about a reputedly wanton woman calmed and made happy by a reputed pedophile.

This movie is an important contribution to shattering the usual human error of judging people by appearances and our erroneous inclination of making appearances fit wrong preconceptions which we pick up on the news or from “so called” friends, whose sole objective in being our friends is to malign someone we might like but who they want us to dislike either for some mysterious reason known only to themselves or as a means of ingratiating themselves by telling some scandal about someone we’ve never met. Then when we really meet that person we scorn him on the basis of what we’ve heard our so called friend tell about him.

After parking the Viano in Brandeis Street, a small, beautiful residential area of the top of Mt. Carmel, and seeing the parking meter swallow my 5 shekels without issuing the required paid parking notice to put in the window, I returned to my room where I munched a hamburger while watching the news which was all about Haim Yevin, the famous Israeli broadcaster who was retiring.

He has been forming our opinions about everything that’s happened in Israel and about our leaders from the time of  Golda Meir in the 1960’s to the time of Prime Minister Olmert (2008 and still going strong).

From now on our opinions will be formed by two youthful newscasters. They will only succeed in influencing us about future events and leaders if we don’t change our opinions which their predecessors like Yevin gave us about leaders of the past.

I traveled 2 hrs to the Open University in Ranaana last Friday to hear how Rabbi Judah Nasi, of Tsipori, the compiler of the Mishna in the 3rd century helped the Jewish People adapt to the new circumstances of being a nation without a temple, without a capital and a homeland ruled by Rome.

According to Prof Aaron Openheimer* Rabbi Judah Nasi wanted to put the temple behind him, he even tried to cancel the fast of Tisha B’Av and other fasts relating to the destruction of the temple. The is probably the origin of the prohibitions against performing national ceremonies that used to take place in the temple, like sacrificing animals, blowing the shofar and playing musical instruments in synagogues.

After the lecture, being informed by Ariel that, Ophir, my grandson, would be sleeping until 4 o’clock, I took off, in the rain for the “petiliya” (paraffin burning primus stove), where the intoxicating, oriental, odor of spice and “pitsuchim” (mixture of nuts and grains used for snacking while watching our mind befuddling TV’s) stalls, wafted over a deliciously confusing mixture of both simple and elegant, umbrella carrying and soaking wet, curious, Friday morning strollers.

They couldn’t fool me even though I had a table on the sidewalk (covered), in easy eye distance; the women had been working hard to make themselves pretty so that they would attract me from the pleasure I was having with my 39 shekel goulash in Levinsky Str. I was having none of that and returned speedily to the Holy City.

Avishai, my son the cook also recommends the Persian restaurant in Zevulun Str. nearby. This coming week I hope to be able to report on the soup restaurant in Shehunat Hatikva (suburb of Tel Aviv) made famous in a Friday night TV report about unusual restaurants in Tel Aviv.

Wishing you a great no news day

Yours truly.
Leon.

Please contact us for your trip in Israel: info@haifatours.com or call us to + 972 4 862 0616


Israel is a country of contrasts where both religious and non religious can live happily side by side without the one forcing its ideas on the other.

For example last Sunday we stayed at a religious kibbutz in the Galilee, simple and comfortable, solid down to earth food and modesty everywhere; modestly attired young ladies at the reception, modest beige and cream décor, quietly spoken men and women mostly dressed in black waiting patiently to register.

The next night, Haifa was a complete contrast, a choice of French, Italian and American cuisine awaited us near the hotel, young ladies in beauty accentuating attire, highlighted by an ultra modern pink flashed, and deep blue mural on peach and light green colored walls, behind them.

The cinema next door showed the “rendezvous” by Claude Lelouche. It was about a reputedly wanton woman calmed and made happy by a reputed pedophile.

This movie is an important contribution to shattering the usual human error of judging people by appearances and our erroneous inclination of making appearances fit wrong preconceptions which we pick up on the news or from “so called” friends, whose sole objective in being our friends is to malign someone we might like but who they want us to dislike either for some mysterious reason known only to themselves or as a means of ingratiating themselves by telling some scandal about someone we’ve never met. Then when we really meet that person we scorn him on the basis of what we’ve heard our so called friend tell about him.

After parking the Viano in Brandeis Street, a small, beautiful residential area of the top of Mt. Carmel, and seeing the parking meter swallow my 5 shekels without issuing the required paid parking notice to put in the window, I returned to my room where I munched a hamburger while watching the news which was all about Haim Yevin, the famous Israeli broadcaster who was retiring.

He has been forming our opinions about everything that’s happened in Israel and about our leaders from the time of  Golda Meir in the 1960’s to the time of Prime Minister Olmert (2008 and still going strong).

From now on our opinions will be formed by two youthful newscasters. They will only succeed in influencing us about future events and leaders if we don’t change our opinions which their predecessors like Yevin gave us about leaders of the past.

I traveled 2 hrs to the Open University in Ranaana last Friday to hear how Rabbi Judah Nasi, of Tsipori, the compiler of the Mishna in the 3rd century helped the Jewish People adapt to the new circumstances of being a nation without a temple, without a capital and a homeland ruled by Rome.

According to Prof Aaron Openheimer* Rabbi Judah Nasi wanted to put the temple behind him, he even tried to cancel the fast of Tisha B’Av and other fasts relating to the destruction of the temple. The is probably the origin of the prohibitions against performing national ceremonies that used to take place in the temple, like sacrificing animals, blowing the shofar and playing musical instruments in synagogues.

After the lecture, being informed by Ariel that, Ophir, my grandson, would be sleeping until 4 o’clock, I took off, in the rain for the “petiliya” (paraffin burning primus stove), where the intoxicating, oriental, odor of spice and “pitsuchim” (mixture of nuts and grains used for snacking while watching our mind befuddling TV’s) stalls, wafted over a deliciously confusing mixture of both simple and elegant, umbrella carrying and soaking wet, curious, Friday morning strollers.

They couldn’t fool me even though I had a table on the sidewalk (covered), in easy eye distance; the women had been working hard to make themselves pretty so that they would attract me from the pleasure I was having with my 39 shekel goulash in Levinsky Str. I was having none of that and returned speedily to the Holy City.

Avishai, my son the cook also recommends the Persian restaurant in Zevulun Str. nearby. This coming week I hope to be able to report on the soup restaurant in Shehunat Hatikva (suburb of Tel Aviv) made famous in a Friday night TV report about unusual restaurants in Tel Aviv.

Wishing you a great no news day

Yours truly.
Leon.

The great spiritual leaders of Judaism – Rabbi Judah the Prince by Aharon Oppenheimer published by Shazar Center for History

Please contact us for your trip in Israel: info@haifatours.com or call us to + 972 4 862 0616


To the glee of the media the snow last week kept the citizens of Israel glued to their TV’s when they should have had better things to do than to watch the contortions of opposition party politicians figuring out ways of how to get rid of Olmert and get their own, conceited selves elected to power.

The Winograd report on the 2nd Lebanese war didn’t criticize Olmert. This was a great disappointment for all those people who think they can do a better job of running the country than any prime minister and for the media who would have continued to keep us glued to our TV’s to listen to comments and counter comments of future “leaders” of Israel.

A pleasant odorful Cuban smoke wafting from a San Cristobal, my faithful computer, now running quietly thanks to my friend, Donald, the computer genius and Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, I was well prepared for the snow. Even my slight irritation at having my Massada tour postponed was placated.

The next day, however, I was very happy to be tramping through the melting snow on a walking tour of the Old City. The snow on the Dome of Rock and the snow covered Old City was so beautiful it even compensated for the places like the Herodian Quarter and the Yohanan ben Zakkai Synagogues that were closed because the people with the keys were snow bound somewhere in the suburbs of Jerusalem either because the snow ploughs hadn’t yet cleared the snow or because they just wanted to stay glued to their TV’s.

My telephone alarm advised me about a lecture about Jewish Secularism., which I still regret not attending, being convinced by Ettie that it would be cancelled because of the snow,

According to Prof. Amos Funkenstein* one can be secular and an orthodox Jew at one and the same time. He maintains that this isn’t paradoxical, as many people think; one can be Jewish in the fullest sense of the word without being observant of all the “mitzvoth”.

The idea, held by many Jews, religious and secular, that someone with different or no religious beliefs originates in the writings* of a sect who called themselves “the Yahad” or the “children of light”. They considered only members of their group the vanguard of a new, glorious, godly regime that was soon to rule over the People of Israel. Jews outside their group were called the “children of darkness” and were members of the evil regime which was soon to pass away.

The Torah begins with God’s creation of the world instead of a law to the Jews because the world comes first not the Jewish People, no matter how important they are to God Jews are not permitted to look down their noses at non observant Jew or non Jews.

After the snow on Wednesday Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day; the sun shinning, a few clouds in the sky. It was a great day to take Tamar to the beach in Tel Aviv. She likes scooping up handfuls of sand and running close to the water’s edge, when the ripples of water come close to her she throws the sand in the water and runs away with a big scream and laughter. Afterwards we sat by a table at one of the many sidewalk restaurants they have along the beachfront and basked in the warm sun while sipping drinks and munching some fish hamburgers and steak. The big treat was ice-cream at Iceberg, a great ice cream shop in Ben Yehudah Str. I had strawberries in whipped cream with chocolate, Tamar had chocolate, Ettie had butter scotch and Emanuel had a banana frap.

It’s been a while since I’ve toured outside Jerusalem so on Sunday, I was quite happy to be fetching a tourist from Masuot Itzhak, a Moshav, near Ashkelon. I took him , his son and granddaughter to Massada and the Dead Sea.

This involved a journey from the extreme West of Israel, at Ashkelon on the Mediteranean to the extreme East at Massada on the Dead Sea and it took us a little over an hour.

It’s a fascinating journey because one traverses a cross section of Israel’s geographic areas the sea coast, the Shefela (lowlands), the Negeve Desert, the Judean Desert, the Dead Sea area and one can even see the mountains of Moab in Jordan on the eastern side of the Dead Sea.

This route was famous in biblical times because it formed the southern boundary of Judah. South of this line is considered desert, north of it is the settled land. The ruins of the ancient Canaanite city of Arad which protected the entrance into the Promised Land from intrusions of desert nomads and ruins of three Roman fortresses can still be clearly seen from the main road.

The road to Hebron, the heart of Canaan in biblical times, branches off to the Left, near Arad. This is even the same route taken by the 12 spies sent by Moses from the desert to spy out the Promised Land.

Wishing you a great no news day

Yours truly.
Leon.
* Amos Funkenstein The Emancipation of Man from the slavery which he brought on himself in The Culture of Secular Judaism 2006/87