Israel: Day 17

September 19, 2023 • 9:15 am

It’s Tuesday, and I fly out just after midnight on Saturday (the Sabbath!), so after checking out of my hotel then I’ll have 12 hours to kill.

Today I decided to visit the famous Israel Museum, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls, only to find out that the place didn’t open until 4 pm on Tuesdays. It was stupid of me not to check in advance, but I now know the way by bus, and I’ll go back tomorrow when it opens at 10 a.m.

As its Wikipedia entry notes,

Its holdings include the world’s most comprehensive collections of the archaeology of the Holy Land, and Jewish art and life, as well as significant and extensive holdings in the fine arts, the latter encompassing eleven separate departments: Israeli Art, European Art, Modern Art, Contemporary Art, Prints and Drawings, Photography, Design and Architecture, Asian Art, African Art, Oceanic Art, and Arts of the Americas.

Among the unique objects on display are the Venus of Berekhat Ram, the interior of a 1736 Zedek ve Shalom synagogue from Suriname, necklaces worn by Jewish brides in Yemen, a mosaic Islamic prayer niche from 17th-century Persia, and a nail attesting to the practice of crucifixion in Jesus’ time.  An urn-shaped building on the grounds of the museum, the Shrine of the Book, houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and artifacts discovered at Masada. It is one of the largest museums in the region.

Doesn’t that sound interesting? I’m especially interested in the archaeology and the Dead Sea scrolls, though I originally heard they were shown only in reproduction.  But Wikipedia says no, some on display are original:

As the fragility of the scrolls makes it impossible to display them all on a continuous basis, a system of rotation is used. After a scroll has been exhibited for 3–6 months, it is removed from its showcase and placed temporarily in a special storeroom, where it “rests” from exposure. The museum also holds other rare ancient manuscripts and displays the Aleppo Codex, which is from the 10th-century and is believed to be the oldest Bible codex in Hebrew.

The Scrolls themselves are said to be “the oldest surviving manuscripts of entire books later included in the biblical canons, along with extra-biblical and deuterocanonical manuscripts that preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism. At the same time, they cast new light on the emergence of Christianity and of Rabbinic Judaism.”

We’ll see tomorrow.

Here’s a photo of one scroll from Wikipedia with the caption, “The Psalms scroll, one of the Dead Sea scrolls. Hebrew transcription included. English translation available here.”

Anyway, it wasn’t time wasted, as I walked to the new Jerusalem train station on the way, and found out how to get to the Tel Aviv airport in only half an hour, and for a pittance.

As always, I took my camera in case something interesting appeared. Here’s what I saw today.

A guy with his phone and a smoke by one of the Museum’s pools:

. . . and an old Haredi Jew, also with his phone. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews spurn cellphones as technology that could spread modern (and therefore bad) ideas. In those ways, as in others, they are like the Amish.

On the tram back, a guy was snogging with his girlfriend, either a cop or a member of the IDF. They were clearly bonded, and it was very cute. A woman in uniform!

What twisted mind conceived of this tee shirt?

And, if you’re a Jewish basketball fan and want to combine your team’s tee-shirt with a religious tallit, well, this is a unique item of clothing:

Or, if you’re a fan of the artificial potato chip Pringles, you can get it on a yarmulke from Kippa Man:

Or a kitty keychain:

I went back to Hummus Ben Sira again, but decided to try something besides hummus.

One of their specialities (second to hummus) is sabich, described by Wikipedia like this:

Sabich or sabih (Hebrew: סביח [saˈbiχ]) is a sandwich of pita or laffa bread stuffed with fried eggplants, hard boiled eggs, chopped salad, parsley, amba [mango pickle] and tahini sauce.  It is an Iraqi Jewish dish that has become a staple of Israeli cuisine, as a result of Iraqi Jewish immigration to Israel. Its ingredients are based on a traditional quick breakfast of Iraqi Jews and is traditionally made with laffa, which is nicknamed Iraqi pita. Sabich is sold in many businesses throughout Israel.

This one was made with regular pita, and it was delicious. Here’s the Wikipedia picture showing the dissected sandwich (mine was un-dissectable). And mine had all the ingredients save the samba, as I didn’t detect mango pickle.

A sabich from Wikipedia:

It was FABULOUS. The combination of hard-boiled eggs, tahini, vegetables, and a big piece of fried eggplant was wonderful. Here’s my lunch (I can’t resist the homemade lemonade.) This cost ten bucks. The pickles were dills, and I ate the sandwich with bites of ripe tomato (also in the sammy) and onion.

Dessert: pistachio halva from Halva Kingdom. Even better than plain halva:

Walking home after lunch. This is the street my hotel is on, and I can see the umbrellas from my window. They appear to be a permanent art installation of sorts:

This nearby bar (certified kosher) was apparently once the home of Ze’ev Zabotinsky, a famous politician, a dedicated Zionist, and a military leader as well as a poet and novelist. He also founded the first all-Jewish modern army unit, the Jewish Legion that fought under the British in World War I. Here’s a photo of Zabotinsky from 1935, five years before he died at sixty.

Pictures of Zabotinsky and his family are plastered all over the building. I can’t be sure he lived there or near there, but that’s a reasonable conclusion, especially when you read this (he didn’t live in Jerusalem for very long):

After a short stay at the Amdursky Hotel just inside Jaffa Gate, [Zabotinsky and his family] began residence in the Levy Building located at the corner of today’s Shimon ben Shetah and Ben Sira streets off of Shlomzion Hamalka.

Finally, The Bird of the Day: a hooded crow (Corvus cornix). Here are three ways of looking at a crow. Note the blue nictitating membrane; its eye is not damaged:

One personal note: save for my first night of jet lag, I have had NO insomnia at all since I’ve been here. I sleep like a log every night and am well rested. This seems to confirm that my sleeplessness in Chicago is created by anxieties connected with my work there (including ducks). But please don’t tell me to move to Israel! There are easier ways to deal with anxiety. . .

18 thoughts on “Israel: Day 17

  1. Jerry, this has been a terrific couple of weeks of reporting. I have learned more than I even imagined I would from your pictures and commentary. Being there across sabbaths and the high holy days was great luck and even your trials and tribulations on some days brought out new and interesting things. Thank you so much for allowing us to be a part of your visit. It sounds like your visit to the dead sea scrolls museum may require more than a day and lead to quite a bit of reading. Glad you are immersed in a good wake and sleep schedule. Safe travels home this weekend.

  2. In case you’re curious, the kitty keychain represents Doraemon, the title character of a famous and popular manga and anime in Japan, about a robot cat from the future sent back to help a rather hapless and lazy boy. He has no ears because they were apparently chewed off by a mouse (?) and he is now afraid of them. I know, it’s rather bizarre.

    Thank you for all the great pictures and explanations. I’m looking forward to reading about the museum.

  3. I find it ironic that before your trip you told Dr. Pinker that you were visiting Israel for some R&R and he responded that he didn’t think of Israel as a place to get R&R. Seems you were right! 🙂

  4. technology that could spread modern (and therefore bad) ideas

    Poor fellow – obviously doomed for … however many eternities his sept thinks appropriate. Not only is he using a several-decade old technology in his phone, but there’s ~40 year old chemical technology in that shopping bag (“disposable”, even?) and those glasses haven’t been around for more than a handful of centuries (fewer if they’re bi- or vari- focal) so must be paving the road to perdition.
    Why is it only this generation’s new technology that attracts opprobrium?

  5. That ‘Ga-Daffy’ duck T-shirt is a real blast from the past, I remember seeing similar T-shirts dating from the time of the Gulf of Sidra Incident’s in the 1980’s

  6. Useless trivia. Khadaffy Duck originated in a political cartoon drawn by the editorial cartoonist Jeff MacNelly during one of the Libyan dictators more outrageous international kerfuffles. He also drew a cartoons of Saddam Hussein as “Yosemite Saddam” based on the Yosemite Sam character and as “The Terrorizer Bunny.” MacNelly created the Shoe comic strip. He died in 2000.

  7. I was slicing and deep frying eggplant all morning. Built an aubergine parmigiano – like a lasagne but made with eggplant in place of pasta. Delish!

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