I was thinking about the fact that a dreidel, in America, has the 4 Hebrew letters nun (נ), shin (ש), gimmel (ג), and hay (ה). They stand for the phrase “nas gadol hayah sham”, or “a great miracle happened there”. Here in Israel, the shin would be replaced with the letter po (פ) and it would mean “a great miracle happened here”. Simplified, the miracle refers to the Chanukah story in which the oil in the great temple burned for 8 nights when only expected to last one. That temple has since been destroyed. It stood atop the Temple Mount here in Jerusalem, currently home to the Islamic Dome of the Rock. The land surrounding that site was supported by huge walls, the western of which is now known as the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, or the Kotel. That will be the location of Ryan’s bar mitzvah on Monday.
While not all of them are miracles, important things still happen there (or here, depending on your geographic location). Each day at the Kotel, thousands of people stuff the walls cracks and crevasses with tiny folded notes of prayer. It is thought that this place is the closest place that one can get to God, and so leaving one’s personal prayers and pleas in this wall will more likely result in their being answered. Whatever your belief, this is an awe inspiring place to be. It’s a holy place, and to be able to stand at its base and know all that it represents in our tumultuous history is in some respects miraculous in itself.
Today, an important thing happened here! There are now three tiny notes within the cracks of the wall asking for help for two important people and one important group of people. While I won’t necessarily reveal what is written on those notes, I want to tell their stories so that you can also keep them in your thoughts and prayers…in deference to a certain sister-in-law (I have 5 of them, so you’ll just have to figure it out) who called me verbose in an email this morning, I’ll be as brief as I can!
First, the group. I want everyone who is a part of my enormous family of those impacted by Type 1 Diabetes that I have asked for help! All the miles that I ride my bike, all the walks and galas, all the money raised may still not be enough without a little Divine intervention!
Second, Barbara Beitch, or Doctor Beitch as she’s known to those of us who are fortunate enough to have been taught by her, is my high school biology teacher. Dr. Beitch was extremely influential on me as I grew up, and will always be an incredibly important people in my life as a result. Tragically, over the pasts few years she has experienced more loss than most of us would want to imagine. Dr. Beitch’s first loss came more than a decade ago, when her daughter Debbie passed away. Her husband Irwin, also known as Dr. Beitch, passed away just a few years ago. Then, on August 5 Ricky, her son and a long-ago friend of mine, died suddenly at the age of 47.
Last, but certainly not least is Uncle Barry….this one’s really hard! Barry Lang is Rachel’s uncle and ranks among the two funniest people that I have ever met in my life (Robin Williams is the other). More importantly, though, he is a most genuinely loving people and would do anything for any of us at any time! What Barry lacks in height, he more than makes up for in heart! He is truly a mensch! Over the past twenty years I have shared many experiences with Uncle Barry that I will never forget. Sadly, his battle with cancer may come to an end very soon, and I am compelled, while in this holy land, to leave a request on his behalf within the spaces of the wall as well. This note I’m choosing to share. Not the content…that’s between me and the Wall…but the placement, because I would like him and his family to see that we left it here for him! We all love you Uncle Barry!
Three important things happened here today! That was our purpose and agenda. In completing that mission, we wandered the main streets and back ally ways of Jerusalem…he are a few more images that I captured along the way.
Look! I’m in a photograph! It’s proof that I did actually travel with my family…and I have to say that it’s a good looking family!
Herb is looking quite chic with his murse!
In the United States we have garbage can, recycle bins and dumpsters. In a land constantly under threat of attack, they have bomb receptacles instead! At least the historical society ensured that it was painted to blend with the surrounding landmarks of importance. This was seen just outside the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre.
Why the heck would anyone intentionally get boogers on their flute? I can honestly say two things about this…first, I have never seen this done before. Second, he was quite good!
- We’re Heading Back: Israel 2012 (scottkasperphotography.wordpress.com)
I remember, and will never forget!!!
At UMass Memorial Medical Center every Tuesday morning we had our management team meeting for Worcester EMS. It would start promptly at 8:00 am and usually lasted the entire morning. On This particular Tuesday we had started our meeting. Sitting in the Emergency Medicine conference room when Alicia Galvin, Dr. Aghababian’s secretary come barging through the door to tell is that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
She had to have been kidding!
We turned on the television just in time to see the second plane hit the building. She wasn’t kidding and our world has just changed forever.
This past weekend, Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The Torah reading during Rosh Hashanah tells the story of God instructing Abraham to bring his son Isaac to Mount Moriah, to bind him up, and to sacrifice him as a showing of Abraham’s devotion. Abraham follows these commands and only at the last minute is Isaac spared from human sacrifice when Abraham is disrupted by a ram caught in some bushes. According to Jewish text, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is identified as Mount Moriah and the the Holy Temple was built on the location of the rock on which Abraham’s devotion to God was nearly carried out.
This week, Muslims around the world are celebrating the end of Ramadan. The same story I described above is told in the Qur’an…with only one minor difference. The Qur’an teaches that it was Ishmael, Abraham’s other son, who was to be sacrificed. However, it was the same location and is currently the site of the Dome of the Rock, where years after Ishmael took his tribe and founded Islam, the Profit Muhammad stepped off the rock to heaven in order to receive the Qur’an from Allah.
It’s gotta make you think!! Two interpretations of the same story seems so simple. However those whose lineage followed the path of Isaac and those whose lineage followed the path of his brother Ishmael cannot be further apart and the issues that separate us cannot be more complex. It saddens me.
Today is the ninth anniversary of the day on which al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airplanes and flew them directly into the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania (intended for the White House were it not for the extremely heroic efforts of the passengers on board). Nearly 3000 Americans died that day, and today we should remember.
We should remember more than the simple but tragic facts that I just described. We should remember why they died, and more importantly we should remember how we came together in unity in the days and weeks and months that followed. I think we have forgotten that.
Instead, the divide widens. There is continued debate over the building of a Mosque at the site of Ground Zero and a Terry Jones, a Florida Pastor, planned a Qur’an burning. I must say that I am in favor of neither or these, though I recognize that we should entertain healthy debate about the former. As distasteful as it may be to many Americans, it does – at some level – represent the freedom of religion and freedom of speech that makes this country so great.
As for the latter – well, this man is just plainly an idiot…and according to the photo I took in Nazareth, those he opposed already believe that he is a loser! Does he really believe that his symbolic gesture of protest will prevent the building of the Mosque? Does he not realize that his actions have put all of our lives in greater danger? Has he forgotten how we came together in unity, and is he really taking action that is righteous in the eyes of God?
On this ninth anniversary of 9-11 I will chose to remember, and I will chose to remember tolerance over hatred so that those who died on that day will not have done so for naught.
Today will be a day of celebration – I am off to photograph the ceremony of renewed wedding vows of a couple who celebrates 50 years of marriage. Together with their children and grandchildren, they will clearly remember that today can be a day of joy and harmony. What a contrast!
Tuesday Aug 3: First and foremost, we’re all safe!!! I say this because I am not sure if you got yesterday’s (Aug 2) news from Israel….it was a little startling to wake up to this morning. Apparently there was a rocket attack that originated from Egypt (Sinai Peninsula) and was intended for Eilat Israel yesterday. As you know, we just left there on Saturday. From what I understand it was an Islamic fundamentalist group from World Jihad that was responsible, and they intentionally launched from Egypt in order to disrupt the current peace between Israel and Egypt. The missiles ultimately overshot Eilat and stuck a resort on the Red Sea in Jordan. Its kind of strange to read this stuff in a newspaper but also see that absolutely nobody here is upset or concerned….just a day in the life. When we met with our guide, Yaniv, this morning he told us that this is just what they have come to expect, as evidenced by the headline in the Jerusalem news paper this morning, “Heat worse than missile attack.”
Anyway, once we met up with Yaniv, it was off to see the sites. We started by heading to the Temple Mount. Today the Temple Mount is home to the Dome of the Rock, which outside Mecca is the holiest place in the Islamic religion. It is the site on which the Prophet Mohamed is said to have ascended to heaven, heard the word of Allah, and returned to his earthly existence to spread the word of true Islam.
According to history, this is also the location of both the first Jewish Temple built by Solomon and the Second Temple of Herod the Great, and is also the holiest place in the Jewish religion (I’ll address this a bit more when I talk about the Kotel later). Over the centuries and millennia the Temple of Solomon was destroyed and replaced by the mosque that has become the Dome of the Rock. Because of this, the Temple Mount is currently under Muslim control. Jews are not permitted inside any of the Islamic buildings. Neither Jewish nor Christian religious paraphernalia are permitted on the Temple Mount. Audible discussion about the location of the Jewish Temple is not permitted. In fact, there are Muslim men who will wander around the temple mount and sit listening to your conversation and will have you removed if they don’t approve of your conversation. Even though the Temple Mount is under Muslim control, it remains part of Jerusalem and is legally under the authority of the Israeli police. While we were there, several orthodox Jewish guys were escorted off the Temple Mount by a combination of the Muslim guards and Israeli Police.
There is a fragile balance there, and any disruption of that balance will result in an outbreak of violence. That is why the Israeli police comply with the wished of the Islamic leadership as it relates to the Temple Mount.
I wanted to explore more. Frankly, I wanted to go inside…for two reasons…first because I am truly interested in what lies inside. I am truly interested in the culture of those who worship within the building, and I am truly interested in the fact that at some point, centuries ago, it was the location of the Jewish Temple. Second, I wanted to go inside simply because they say I can’t.
That said, we could not stay all day, and being an equal opportunity vacation we left the Temple Mount and headed to one of, if not perhaps the most holy places in Christianity, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In order to get there we walked through the Muslim shuk, or marketplace. This one was much cleaner and a lot less scary than the one in Akko.
Admittedly, I know very little about Christianity. What I do know, however, is that Jesus was crucified by the Romans here in Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was erected on the exact site on which Jesus was believed to have been crucified. It is also the location where his body was taken down from the cross and lay to rest for the days following his death. Within the Church one can touch the very limestone slab on which his body was believed to have been placed. This is considered one of the 15 Stations of the Cross, the last 5 of which are all located here in this Church.
Clearly this is a place of importance for many people. It was crowded with pilgrims for all over the world. It was moving to see how being in this place impacted them. Even the collection plate had money placed in the orientation of a cross…intentional or coincidence…one will never know.
We grabbed some lunch and headed to the King David Museum…the views of the Old City and its surroundings from the top of one of the guard towers was simply amazing. Yaniv gave a quick tour of the most important aspects of the museum, and we were off to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. I should have mentioned that the Old City is divided into 4 Quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian. From the Tower of King David’s Citadel there is an amazing panoramic view of the Old City. In this view almost all of the most sacred sites of each religion can be seen….brownie points to anyone who can identify them!!
While in the Jewish Quarter we explored many locations and walked to an enormous synagogue that has recently been rebuilt after having been destroyed during the 1948 war. Then we shopped!!
Ryan, who is now 11 and will have his Bar Mitzvah in August of 2012, found a Tallit that he fell in love with. Though he will not wear it for another 2 years, we bought it for him. I think the fact that it was found here in Jerusalem will give it a special meaning for Ryan’s entire life.
Before leaving the Jewish Quarter we stopped at the Kotel, or Wailing Wall. Jews from around the globe come to pray here, and consider this to be the holiest place in Judaism because of its proximity to the location where the great Temple once stood.
In fact, the most religious Jews will not go atop the Temple Mount because they believe that if they step on a location that the Temple once stood before its destruction, it would be defiling the Temple and considered to be sacrilegious. So we pray at the Western Wall.
Even Yankee fans come here to pray…this guy was leaning against the wall for at least 15 minutes. Either he was praying for some important personal reasons, or Red Sox fans have a great deal to be concerned about!!!
For generations people have come here to pray and have left hand written prayers in the cracks of the wall. Each of us wrote our prayer before we left the hotel, and we each found a spot to stick ours…here’s to hoping that our prayers are answered. The funny thing is that Jake wrote his and folded the paper very small. He would not say what he wrote and made me promise not to look. Though I carried it in my pocket the entire day, I honored his request and did not look. I gave him the folded paper when we arrived at the wall, I watched him stuff it in a cranny toward the bottom of the wall, and we walked away. Perhaps I will never know what he wrote…though I think I have a good guess…
After we left the Wall, Adam, Judy, Ari, Noah and Rachel left to head to Tel Aviv. Herb and I took the boys into the water tunnel…this is a remarkable feat of engineering. Men carved a tunnel through the bedrock under the City of David. This tunnel was used to carry water from the spring source outside the City’s walls into the City for its inhabitants. Today water still runs through the tunnel….it’s freaking cold and about knee high. It’s also pitch black, so we brought our headlamps and took the 20-minute water hike. It was a very cool experience…no photos, though, as there was water all the way and I was afraid that if I slipped my camera would be done for!!
So comes to an end of day three in Jerusalem. Day four will include a road trip to Mount Masada, the En Gedy Oasis and a swim in the Dead Sea…stay tuned!