Everybody knows that in Jerusalem you must build using Jerusalem stone. An old British mandate regulation is the reason for this and it gives the city a unique character. Does it also limit the architects that work in Jerusalem? During this tour we will walk along King David Street and its surroundings and try to recognize and examine the different techniques and styles that design Jerusalem’s current appearance. Among other sites we will visit the old train station area, King David hotel, Beit Shmuel culture centre, Y.M.C.A. , Mammilla and Safra square area.
Parashat Ekev holds an interesting claim. It says that it is acceptable to worship God and fulfill his commandments while hoping for some kind of a reward. One does not become a lesser Jew if he observes the commandments in order to gain some profit or avoid any kind of damage that might otherwise be caused by God. This idea can be found in the following part of the Parasha:
” And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that you mayest gather in your corn, and your wine, and your oil“. (Deuteronomy 11, 13-14)
These words are part of the “Shma” prayer and can also be found in Mezuzahs and Tefillin, which means that they are an important part of Jewish daily life for thousands of years. Many Rabbis, and Maimonides amongst them, when interpreting the Mishna have noticed the contradiction between these words and the words of Parashat Shma that commands us “And you shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6,5).
This is a demand for a pure love of God, a love that does not expect anything in return. Apparently both ways are acceptable by Judaism maybe because of the belief that even if it is not intended, a good believer might come out of someone who only observes commandments without loving God.
Among other rewards that God promises his people if they only observe his commandments and follow his ways are: ” For the lord your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey;” (Deuteronomy 8, 7-8).
According to this verse, Moses who says these words while they are about to cross the Jordan River and conquer the promised land they yearned for more than forty years in the desert, promises the Israelites a fertile land if only they observe Gods commandments. A land is considered fertile if it gives us the seven species mentioned in the above verse. When we read Honey in this specific place it means dates.
For many generations Jewish artists referred to the seven species that symbolize the fertility of the land. Many synagogues around the world have pictures and frescoes of the seven species. Some people put a reminder for the seven species in their Succa and others eat them in Tu Bishvat ( the 15th day in the Jewish month of Shvat – a Jewish holiday that is known as New year of the trees). This last practice that goes back to the days of Isaac Luria – Ha’ari – is the one that links us to a small tour in Jerusalem with Parashat Ekev in mind.
Tu Bishvat is also an important holiday for the Israeli parliament – The Knesset. In Tu Bishvat 1949, after a most exciting election campaign, the Knesset assembled for the first time. Since then Tu Bishvat is considered the birthday of the Knesset and is accompanied with a festive assembly and media reports. In Tu Bishvat 1999 the Knesset became 50 years old. The philanthropists of the Jewish national fund (Keren Kayemet) decided to dedicate a splendid gift for the Knesset – a statue of the Menorah which is made of the seven species. The Menorah is actually an olive tree from which all other species sprout. The pedestals of the Menorah look like the pedestals in the Menorah of the Temple and the symbol of the state of Israel. This statue was made by the artist Eliezer Weishoff a master artist of numerous fine art disciplines, who was born in Machane Yehoda neighborhood in Jerusalem and graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. In the early 1960′s Weishoff started to design postal stamps and coins and created statues and drawings. Several of his works are displayed in Jerusalem. Among them are the 9/11 memorial that was erected in 2009 in the cedar forest and the stamps of “the gates of Jerusalem” that was printed in 1972.
The Israeli Knesset hosts many fine works of art, for example the amazing tapestries by the Jewish artist Mark Chagall in the welcome hall and the impressive gates made by David Polombo. The decoration of the Knesset was not an easy task. The architect Joseph Klarwein was constantly arguing with the internal decorator Dora Gad. This was another setback in the schedule of building the Knesset. The Knesset was first assembled in a house in the center of Jerusalem ( Frumin house in King George street) the location was obviously a bad choice and in 1954 it was decided to move the Knesst to Giv’at Ram where other government offices and the supreme court where supposed to be built. It took Klarwein twelve years to tackle all obstacles and accomplish the mission.
The Knesset building changes constantly. The chairman of the Knesset has the authority to add or remove any work of art. During the time of the 14th Knesset Dan Tichon, the chairman decided to add the Menora of seven species statue to the Knesset.
Weishoffs work connects Parashat Ekev from the bible with Tu Bishvat and the Knesset and can still be found in the old part of the house. Whoever wants to tour the house and watch an assembly of the Knesset members will find the statue while climbing to the fifth floor. The place where the statue is situated always reminds me of a poem by Natan Alterman that was written after David Ben Guryon said: “We are already in the fifth floor of separation”. Here is Altermans poem “The fifth floor”:
“In order to renew the past
We came together to our homeland
Alas we climbed to the fifth floor
And we can’t climb down
Our fight is growing
And like the olive tree won’t stop
And in the streets they shout that the fifth floor
Jeopardizes the entire house…”
I truly hope that as opposed to Altermans pessimistic poem, The Menorah of seven species will remind our legislators what was said in Parashat Ekev: ” And it shall be, if you shall forget the lord your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I forewarn you this day that you shall surely perish“
I believe that every one of us can interpret “other gods” as he wishes.
When we hear the name Jerusalem it reminds us of history, holiness and mysticism, however Jerusalem is also a city of passion. For thousands of years it was a dwelling place for people made of flesh and blood who lusted, envied, yearned, longed and if they were lucky, even loved and were loved by others. The stories of love and lust that involve Jerusalem are told throughout history and go back at least to King David’s time. These stories of happiness, disappointments and broken hearts show us a different, human and intriguing perspective of Jerusalem. Today I would like to tell again the stories of three women who lived in Jerusalem and shared one name – Lea.
In the year of 1930, in Alexandria, Egypt, a Christian-Arab lawyer, Nasib Abkarius Bay and a daughter of a well known ultra-orthodox family from Jerusalem, Lea Tenenboim were wed. Abkarius loved his wife with all his heart and did his best to be a loving husband and fulfill every wish, desire and caprice Lea expressed. He built a large house in Rehavia Neighborhood in Jerusalem and hired house maids and servants that will do her bidding. The house looked like a magnificent palace and showed some influence of the architectural international style. It was a combination of the practical and the authentic, straight lines and Jerusalem stone, a combination of simplicity and splendor. The problem was that although Lea Tenenboim was much loved she was not happy. A year after she and Abkarius moved into “Villa Lea” (this is the writing that can be seen on the outer wall of the house till today) Lea Tenenboim sneaked out with a new lover to Egypt after spending a large sum of Abkarius`s money and left him broke and broken hearted. They divorced officially in 1945 and a year later Abkarius died poor and lonely. Villa Lea was rented out in the market. Some of its residents were much interesting figures. The exiled emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie lived there and so did some Israeli ministers. Moshe Dayan and his daughter Yael Dayan lived in Villa Lea. There were also some students living there for a few years. Today Villa Lea is a private house, however not long ago the house was opened to the public as a part of the “Houses from within“ project in Jerusalem. The long line of visitors we could see that day waiting to enter the house only emphasizes the power a story like Lea Tenenboim’s fictitious love has over people till today.
As opposed to Lea Tenenboim Lea Goldberg, the famous Israeli poet, lived a life of loneliness and heartbreak. Her life filled many diaries and some of the most beautiful poems ever written in Hebrew. Lea Goldberg never married though she fell in love with many men. At first she loved older men and in later years she turned her heart to men much younger than her. None of them ever knew about her secret love for them. Lea Goldberd moved to Jerusalem in 1950 after she got a position at the Hebrew University. She lived in Alfasi St. in Rehavia. From her small flat in Jerusalem she taught, wrote, drew a lot of paintings and loved. One painful love of hers was Jacque Adout, a young man who was teaching French and reported for “Kol Zion Lagola” (The voice of Zion to the Diaspora). This love, like all her other unfulfilled ones, left Lea Goldberg scarred, however it also resulted in a most fruitful and creative period in her life. Goldberg wrote in her privet diaries about Adout saying he has made his contribution to her writing. In these diaries we find a nice description of one magical day in Jerusalem with Jacque: “…That single day in Jerusalem, the golden light shining on houses, the rocks, the fields. Hopeless bliss, happiness as if you are standing in front of a lovely picture, a work of art. that magic of ‘A’ – it was like another revelation and made me happy. Because I know his heart is not intended to me I write this in order to remember I once had a day like that…”
Jacque Adout was the inspiration for Lea Goldberg when she wrote the cycle “Love of Tereza de-Mon”. One of the most known verses in the cycle seams as if it refers to the same golden day in Jerusalem:
From my window as well as from yours
The same garden and view can be seen
And I can love for a whole day
The things that were caressed by your eye
In front of your window as well as in front of mine
The same nightingale sings at night
And when your heart trembles while sleeping
I will wake up and listen to it to.
(Sonnet no.9 “Love of Tereza de-Mon)
Lea Goldberg lived her life alone and without hope and when we pass by her flat in Rehavia while touring Jerusalem it should be easy enough for us to imagine her sitting at the window thinking about another window – the one belongs to her secret love. At this moment we should remember what she wrote about herself in her diaries: “I am poor in this world, as I don’t have a single whole value. I am writing this for the first time in my life: I have no purpose, no love, no faith, I have nothing.” While reading this we get a sad filling but we can also consider ourselves lucky for being able to love back a great poet who was never loved in her whole life.
Our third Lea was the luckiest. Lea Abushded loved and was loved dearly. Her lover was Itamar Ben-Avi, son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the reviver of the Hebrew language (here is a nice Sesame Street cartoon about him) (“Avi” in Hebrew represent the initials of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. Itamar’s original name was Ben-Zion Ben-Yehuda and when he grew up he decided to changed both his first and last name to something more Israeli with a tribute to his father). Itamar met Lea Abushded when he was 26 years old and she was 16. The mutual love was not welcomed by Lea’s family because of the gap between classes. Itamar came from a poor family and was not considered a suitable husband for a girl from a respectable family like Lea’s. Seeing that the situation is hopeless Itamar started to use his father`s newspaper to publish some feverish love poems. The people of Jerusalem were thrilled by the public scandal and followed the papers eagerly. Eventually it seamed that things were going out of control when one of the poems that was printed had a clear threat of suicide in it:
Ever since I loved her and my heart aches
My pistol will never leave my sight
Between the books of my mind
On my beloved desk
It breaths death to me
As I am fed up with everything – even with my beauty,
Who chose to live like that without me,
Wait just a minute Oh my beauty
In a moment you shall weep endlessly
The song motivated the people of Jerusalem to help Itamar`s father to make a plea to Abushded family and this time he got the family’s consent. After another two years of engagement and surrendering to some financial blackmail they married each other. Their great love came to an end by Itamar`s untimely death in 1943. Lea Ben-Avi lived without Itamar for many years after he passed away. In an interview conducted by her grandson, Gil Chovav in “Kol Hair” newspaper she said: “Bension (Her way of pronouncing Ben-Zion) was really poor, but what would I get from the reach ones? One of them, Valiro was a big miser, the other, Shlush? His mother always tried to tell me what to do and I can’t stand her kind, the third went to Constantinople and lost all his money. Bension was poor but he really had a wide heart. Yes, he was generous. Don’t you think he made me miserable, even if I tend to complain. He was handsome he was like fire, the prince of Judea – this is what the women called him. This was until the poor man died”. Gil Hovav writes that until her death in 1982 he was reminded by his grandmother time and again that she renounced wealth and comfort but she always believed it was worth it.
The story of Lea Abushded and Itamar Ben-Avi is well known and a famous song called “The love of Itamar Ben-Avi” was written by Dudu Barak and Nurit Hirsch. The words of the chorus “…If my Lea you only loved me” refer us to another poem written by Itamar. In this poem Itamar used the fact that Lea`s name in transpotion of letters can be read Ela meaning goddess:
If only you loved me my Ela as I love you.
If only you were perplexed by day and crazy by night
If only was your heart was humming like a bloody tempest
And your eyes within your eyelids if only they became soaked by tears
I only you dreamt happiness for ever and awoke in panic
And in your weary mind if only lightning had pass
Hurrah, then you might understand me”
Three Lea’s, one city and such different stories. I have a friend who used to say that if we took a tear for every love story that was told in Jerusalem we shall not worry again for a shortage of fresh water in Israel. Who knows? Maybe he is right, however I do know that in a city like Jerusalem which is greater than life you could find love stories greater than life. You just need to take a tour in Jerusalem and look for them.
I would like to thank Pamela Salomon Benner for editing the English translation of this post
Outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and east of Damascus Gate is a small green door. If you stand in front of it, you cannot imagine what lies on the other side. If you pass through that door, you will find a huge underground cave 300 meters long and 100 meters wide. The place was once a subterranean quarry used by the builders of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period. A persistent tradition says that King Solomon used stones from the same quarry to build the First Temple. The cave is linked to many traditions, and quite a few stories exist about it. The children of Jerusalem would tell you, for example, that this was the place where the Bible says Korach and his followers disappeared after the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them.
The most important tradition concerns King Zedekiah, the last king of Judea. According to Jeremiah 52, Zedekiah tried to escape from the city of Jerusalem while it was under siege. He managed to flee through a place referenced as the “gate between the two walls,” but “… the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and they overtook Zedekiah on the plains of Jericho, and all his army had scattered and deserted him….” (Jeremiah 52:8). Zedekiah was led to Babylon, but not before the Chaldeans killed his sons in front of him and then blinded him. He spent the rest of his life in exile, away from his city and country.
Now you probably asked yourself, “How did King Zedekiah get from ‘between the two walls’ to the plains of Jericho while the city of Jerusalem was under siege?” Well, the book of Jeremiah does not tell us anything about that; however, Rashi does supply us with an answer: “He [Zedekiah] had a cave going from his house to the plains of Jericho and he escaped through the cave. What did God Almighty do? He presented a deer to the Chaldeans and made it run above the cave’s roof. The Chaldeans chased the deer and as Zedekiah emerged from the other side of the cave, they spotted him and caught him.” You can easily guess the end of my story: An old tradition made the connection between the cave Rashi wrote about and the cave found near Damascus Gate. At the heart of the cave lies a small spring, and it is believed that its water comes from King Zedekiah’s tears—the tears he shed while watching the death of his sonsand the destruction of his city.
The only entrance to the cave was once barricaded by Sultan Suleiman I who feared while he was building the walls of the Old City that the cave might serve as a weak spot during a siege. For many years people told tales about a huge cave residing under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, but the cave was found again only during the 1850s by James Turner Barclay. Barclay, who was a doctor and a Bible scholar, walked his dog one night outside the walls of the Old City. Suddenly the dog disappeared. It took Barclay a while until he found the dog barking from inside a hole in the ground. The hole led Barclay and his colleagues down to the heart of the earth and thus they discovered Zedekiah’s Cave again. Barclay was followed by interested Freemasons, who thought this was the quarry of King Solomon, the first Freemason according to their tradition. Freemasons continue to assemble secretly in the cave every once in a while.
Over the past few years the cave of Zedekiah has been open to all visitors. As a tour guide I take many of my groups to see this fantastic site. On a hot day in May 2012 we walked into the cave, trying to escape the blazing sun, and I was telling my group about various traditions related to the cave of Zedekiah. Nothing prepared us for the surprise that was waiting for us inside. All around we saw loudspeakers from which a soft, wonderful Indian singing voice emerged. At first I thought it was a new tourist upgrade intended to make our stay underground more pleasant; however, after walking farther into the cave we discovered the true nature of the music. At the great hall in the center of the cave sat hundreds if not thousands of Indians. In front of them, on a small improvised stage with the image of the god Hanuman in the background, sat the guru Sri Morari Bapu telling the tales of Rama, Sita and Hanuman in Lanka as they are told in the Indian epic Ramayana.
Sri Morari Bapu, a well-known guru in India, is particularly respected as a preacher who conducts special ceremonial readings of and commentaries on the sacred Hindu writings. These ceremonies are called kathe and last nine or ten days each. The readings are accompanied by traditional Indian music played live by Indian masters of traditional Indian instruments. This scene explained the music we heard when we entered the cave.
Sri Morari Bapu lives in the small village of Talgajarda in Bhavnagar, a district in the state of Gujarat, India. From his base he travels worldwide to perform nine-day kathe. As of this writing Sri Morari Bapu has performed at least 700 kathe around the world on land, at sea and even on air. The kathe are attended by huge crowds—sometimes thousands, sometimes millions.
This was Sri Morari Bapu’s first tour in Jerusalem. On his Web site he wrote that Jerusalem is an example of a small city where people of all religions learned to live together and didn’t have to compromise over their religion. The followers of Sri Morari Bapu with whom we spoke told us that in his katha he emphasized the need for compassion, love and reconciliation and thus, according to their belief, it is obvious that Jerusalem is a legitimate site for this kind of ceremony. They considered the katha in Jerusalem as a means to send a message to the entire world.
The sitar was playing, Sri Morari Bapu led the ceremony on, and the excited crowd sat quietly and observed every word. I led my group farther into the depths of the cave. As we returned to the main hall half an hour later it seemed as though nothing had changed. The guru maintained the same position, as did his followers. No one was in a rush. I thought to myself that they had all come to Zedekiah’s Cave to find their way into the heart of Jerusalem. Later, another thought occurred to me: Could it be that Sri Morari Bapu had transformed Zedekiah’s Cave from a way to escape from Jerusalem to a gateway into the city? Could he see in a place that symbolizes the destruction of the city the way to rebuild it? Could it be that through the stone that helped build the city two thousand years ago Sri Morari Bapu built a bridge between the hearts of all lovers of Jerusalem? Was this what Sri Morari Bapu intended, or was it my own wild imagination? I suppose I will eventually find the solution while touring Jerusalem.…
Once upon a time, when Jerusalem was tiny still, there was a neighborhood init who wanted to found a state. It had a gymnasium, institutions and offices and the residents thought: This is where we build the Jewish state. In this tour we shall findout how Rehaviya was the center that conducted the state to be.
Highlights: The Rehaviya neighborhood sites, Yeshurun synagogue, national institutions and more.
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Level of difficulty: easy.
On the top of a mountain not far away from the sky a weird thing happened. Dear young Walter had a jug of water but O poor Walter, the water is now over. What will the fate of Jerusalem be? We shall cross the forests, we shall walk down hills we shall overcome all obstacles and show the grownups – they will see.
Maybe just at the end of our Journey we shall find where Walter’s water may be.
Age: Children of 4 to 8 years.
Highlights: The Ein Kerem stream, the church of St. John the Baptist and Ein Kerem’s allies.
Time: approximately 2.5 hours
Level f difficulty: easy – we shall need comfortable walking shows
The Jaffa Street is the center of modern Jerusalem. The new light rail and many coffee shops that opened lately create a European atmosphere with some Jerusalem spicing in it. Our tour will take us to Jaffa Street and its less known sites while listening to some of the stories.
Highlights: The Ger Rebbe tomb, Nebi Ukashal, The renewing Machane Yehuda market, The Abyssinian neighborhood and even the new Mashbir building in the Zion square.
Time: approximately 3.5 hours
Level of difficulty: easy to medium
A quiet monastery hiding behind thick stone walls, narrow allies surrounded by ancient houses, some of the world’s most important churches and some ice cream and chocolate that taste like home. Ein Kerem has something to offer to everyone. During our tour we will walk between the spring and the orchard, the winter houses and summer houses and between the fancy restaurants and chocolate factory.
Highlights: Les Soeurs de Notre-Dame de Sion, Church of the visitation, Mary’s spring, church of St. John the Baptist and more.
Time: approximately 3 hours
Level of difficulty: easy to medium
Stanley Lambchop was just another ordinary boy. One day, he was given a bulletin board for displaying postcards and pictures. The board was hung over Stanley’s bed. An unfortunate decision as in the middle of the night it fell on the unsuspecting sleeping Stanley. The event had grave consequences as Stanley, while surviving the accident, became flat! Stanley soon discovered the advantages of being flat: He could pretend he was a kite for his brother, he could sneak in and out under doors and most important – He could get inside an envelope and travel the world for free.
This is the synopsis of the book written by Jeff Brown and named “Flat Stanley“. The book was published in 1964. It was very successful and a series of flat Stanley’s adventures were published in the following years. An even bigger success was the project created and inspired by the Flat Stanley series. In 1995, a Canadian teacher named Dale Hubert decided to ask his third graders to prepare a cardboard Flat Stanley figure and send it by mail to friends and acquaintances in other cities and countries. The people who received Flat Stanley were asked to keep a log describing Stanley’s adventures and take some pictures of him in interesting places. The Flat Stanley project was an amazing success and today it is spread to over 7000 schools and 50 countries.
In the summer of 2011 I was guiding a very nice family from Los-Angeles who came for a Bat Mitzvah tour in Israel. With the twelve-years-old girl came her parents, ants and uncles and her sister. We traveled the country, had interesting tours in Jerusalem, the Galilee, Massada and other sites. Over those ten days we bonded nicely. Two months after that tour I got Flat Stanley by mail from D., the Bat-Mitzvah’s younger sister and a fifth grader herself. At first I did not understand what I was supposed to do with this weird thing. It could easily be thought of as a joke, but after reading the “manual” I became quite enthusiastic – D. asked me to take Flat Stanley with me as I guide tours in Jerusalem!
I decided to treat Flat Stanley as an honorable guest. We fed him traditional Israeli salad, put him in a Succah we built in Kiryat Yovel neighborhood in Jerusalem and the next day, I took Stanley to a children’s tour with families that came to visit Jerusalem for the Succot holidays. We concluded our tours in the Kotel and the children who really liked Flat Stanley took him for some photo-ops near the wall. We had a small curious gathering around Flat Stanley – this is definitely what the project is for, though we still had another climax ahead.
The next day, we had in Jerusalem the annual Jerusalem parade. The parade includes traditionally a few options of tours around Jerusalem each made with different difficulty level. At the end of that part of the parade another more official and festive parade is held. This carnival takes place in the city center and draws participants from all over the world. During the past few years we have a lot of Christians who support Israel that take part in the parade as part of a project held by the ICEJ – International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. The institute was established in the early 80′s of the previous century and it provides a spiritual home for Christians who support Israel and follow the need to comfort Zion according the command of the scriptures in Isaiah 40:1-2 “Comfort, comfort, my people says your god. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…”. The people from ICEJ try to assist Israel and its citizens in any possible way and hold many charity events in the city of Jerusalem. In their main event in Succot they often invite the prime minister of Israel for a traditional speech.
This year I decided to try and get a good place from which I will be able to watch the parade properly. I found my way to the closed sitting area watching the parade and of course I had Flat Stanley with me. As I was waiting patiently I met a friend – Hagit Zahi, a great lover of Jerusalem who never misses an interesting event. A few minutes later the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat arrived and sat in the row in front of us. Hagit spotted the chance, took Flat Stanley and introduced him to the Mayor who agreed to the amusing photo-op – It was really a historic event! The parade arrived and we could see groups from various Israeli companies like Bezeq, various banks soldiers and many Christians from all over the world wearing their traditional costumes. We could see the Chinese with their red flags, the Dutch with traditional dresses, Russians, Americans and even a delegation from Papua New Guinea with interesting and colorful outfits. Stanly was enthusiastic. He was passed on from one delegation to another and took a lot of pictures with everybody.
It was a hard day’s night for Flat Stanley. He got in his envelope and went back to Los-Angeles with numerous memories from a special tour in Jerusalem.