Israel: Day 16 (and a bit of day 15)

September 18, 2023 • 9:30 am

I can’t believe I went a day and a half without food in Jerusalem without realizing that there was a 24/7 restaurant right across the street from my hotel. And it was open on Saturday and Sunday—the two days when everything else  was closed for Rosh Hashanah. Well, I learned about it yesterday in time to go to the cafe (called Zuni) for a big honking breakfast of eggs, toast, lox, cheese, salad, olives, and coffee. Man, was it good to have food!

Below: the hours I missed when it was open (the place is down an alley and hard to find):

Open on Rosh Hashanah!

The streets were so empty yesterday that they did a film shoot on the tram tracks (public transportation is suspended during shabbos and holidays).

Nearby, Jews were blowing the shofar, or ram’s horn, traditionally signaling the holiday. From Wikipedia:

The blowing of the shofar (Hebrew: תקיעת שופרHebrew pronunciation: [t(e)kiˈ(ʔ)at ʃoˈfaʁ]) is a ritual performed by Jews on Rosh Hashanah. The shofar is a musical horn, typically made of a ram’s horn. Jewish law requires that the shofar be blown 30 times on each day of Rosh Hashanah, and by custom it is blown 100 or 101 times on each day.

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest unto you, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns, a holy convocation.

Here’s a rabbi showing how it’s done:

Below: a sign for the holidays (if you read Hebrew, please translate).

BTW, there’s a famous off-color Jewish joke about the shofar that I’ll put below the fold to preserve the family-oriented nature of this site.

This morning I went to the Mahane Yehuda Market, only a half-hour walk from my hotel and near the ultra-Orthodox quarter.  It’s well known, and here’s part of the Wikipedia entry:

Mahane Yehuda Market (Hebrew: שוק מחנה יהודהromanized: Shuk Mahane Yehuda), often referred to as “The Shuk” (Hebrew: השוקromanized: HaShuqlit.‘The Market’), is a marketplace (originally open-air, but now partially covered) in Jerusalem. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the market’s more than 250 vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables; baked goods; fish, meat and cheeses; nuts, seeds, and spices; wines and liquors; clothing and shoes; and housewares, textiles, and Judaica.

In and around the market are falafel, shawarma, kibbeh, kebab, shashlik, kanafeh, baklava, halva, zalabiya and Jerusalem mixed grill stands, juice bars, cafes, and restaurants. The color and bustle of the marketplace is accentuated by vendors who call out their prices to passersby. On Thursdays and Fridays, the marketplace is filled with shoppers stocking up for Shabbat, until the Friday afternoon sounding of the bugle that signifies the market will close for the Sabbath. In recent years, “the shuk” has emerged as another Jerusalemic nightlife center, with restaurants, bars and live music.

I went at opening time to take photos and avoid the crowds, and it was a remarkable place selling anything you’d want to eat. And there were very few tourists: mostly women and Orthodox Jews buying provisions. Here are two photos of the market, which consists of two long covered and parallel east-west streets connected by north-south alleys, also full of food stalls.

One of the two long streets:

One of the N/S alleys:

The goods included Turkish delight (loukoum, one of my favorites),

. . . all kinds of candy (Israeli kids must really love their sweets, as there are dozens of candy stalls,

and luscious-looking breads.

Here’s a friendly guy patting out fresh pita:

On offer: fantastic fruits and veg (every item of which is better in Israel than in the U.S). The tomatoes here are ripe and sweet, and the melons infinitely better than those you can get in the States. (American store tomatoes suck.)

I don’t know what the fruit in he middle is, but it seems to be a type of wrinkly pear.

Bored produce vendor:

Nuts and dried fruits, very popular:

An old guy with a drink and a smoke:


Freshly baked pastries:



All sorts of olives, and I love them all:

More candy:

I’m not sure what these things are, but I was given one to taste (the type at front left is a delicious mixture of lemon and mint). They are like flavored jelly candies but are invariably sold alongside various herbal teas (also shown):

One thing you quickly discover here is that both Jews and Arabs love their coffee, are willing to pay for the good stuff. It’s often served in glasses. Very often they drink a form of Turkish coffee: grounds boiled with water (sugar optional) and then allowed to settle before drinking. This form of coffee is found throughout the Middle East, and is also the coffee most common in Greece (in Greece I ask for it “glyki vrasto”, or “sweet and well boiled).  The boiled coffee is always prepared on the spot.

Here are some of the beans on sale at the market:

A market kitty who, I’m told, “belongs” to a coffee shop. Note the clipped ear, indicating neutering:

I was hungry and tempted by everything, but knew that after the market I was going back to have a big hummus lunch at Ben-Sira’s, so couldn’t eat on the spot. But I was on the prowl for one thing: halva: the sesame version. It’s one of my favorite sweets and comes in a variety of flavors

There are several halva shops in the market, but I was told that the best was called “Halva Kingdom”. There’s no English on the sign, and you must find it by looking for halva on sale and a crown on the sign. Eventually I found it!

Look at all that halva!

A fancy one. Prices run from 99 to 200 shekels per kilo (about 3.7 shekels to the dollar):

Artificially sweetened halva on the right; the real stuff on the left. Needless to say, I was a Leftist.  I bought three types, about a kilo in total (plain, pistachio and walnut).

When I got home I discovered that the “Halva Kingdom” bag did have English on it, has branches in Tel Aviv, and that the outfit is two years older than I am.

Walking back with my sweet treasure, I passed my favorite police station again—the one with the lions. As I noted in an earlier post, this is where the British Consul used to live.

And one of the lions (he needs dental work):

Another mini-lion. My heart breaks for this sweet kitten, as it looks hungry but won’t let me get near. It lives near my hotel, and perhaps I’ll buy a box of cat food (I didn’t see any cat food in the market):

A synagogue (or so I think) bearing lions of Judah. Translations welcome.

Hummus at last, and at my favorite place in Jerusalem, Ben-Sira. Here’s a 50-shekel lunch with hummus, veg, falafel, and fresh pita, along with a large glass of lemonade. (The lemonade, freshly squeezed, was not overly sweet.)

Close-up of hummus, topped with a few chickpeas:

Full at last! Full at last! Thank god almighty I’m full at last!

Click “read more” to see the shofar joke:

Continue reading “Israel: Day 16 (and a bit of day 15)”

Israel: Day 14 (and a bit of day 13)

September 16, 2023 • 9:15 am

It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and also Sabbath. All this means that Jerusalem is closed down tighter than Mitch McConnell’s mind, and even Donald Trump has more neurons than there are people in the street.  Here’s a photo taken about noon on Jaffa Street, one of the main streets of the city. It’s BARREN! The only people afoot are pious Jews on their way to and from shul:

I saw NO stores or restaurants open today—not one. This is a disaster for me, as I decided not to purchase the expensive breakfasts in my hotel, thinking that surely some Arab or secular Jew would be serving noms somewhere.

I was wrong. Perhaps in the Muslim quarter of the Old City they are dispensing dishes of hummus, but after a long morning’s walk I’m too tired to find out.  And so I’m resting in the afternoon heat, with my only food for the day consisting of cookies.

But enough tsouris. Here are a few photos from my visit yesterday to Yad Vashem, Israel’s huge memorial to the Holocaust.  It consists of several parts, including the dominant Holocaust History Museum, in which I spent over three hours, as well as a Children’s Memorial, which was closed, as was the Hall of Holocaust Art (though there’s plenty of that art in the Museum), and also closed was the Hall of Names, which tries to document every person killed in the Holocaust. Here’s a summary from Wikipedia:

Established in 1953, Yad Vashem is located on the Mount of Remembrance, on the western slope of Mount Herzl, a height in western Jerusalem, 804 meters (2,638 ft) above sea level and adjacent to the Jerusalem Forest. The memorial consists of a 180-dunam (18.0 ha; 44.5-acre) complex containing two types of facilities: some dedicated to the scientific study of the Holocaust, and memorials and museums catering to the needs of the larger public. Among the former there are an International Research Institute for Holocaust Research, an archives, a library, a publishing house and the International School for Holocaust Studies; the Holocaust History Museum, memorial sites such as the Children’s Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, the Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, as well as a synagogue.

A core goal of Yad Vashem’s founders was to recognize non-Jews who, at personal risk and without financial or evangelistic motives, chose to save Jews from the ongoing genocide during the Holocaust. Those recognized by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations are honored in a section of Yad Vashem known as the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations. [One of these is Oskar Schindler, whose famous list is in the Museum.]

Yad Vashem is the second-most-visited Israeli tourist site, after the Western Wall, with approximately one million visitors each year. It charges no admission fee.

I was unable to make reservations online for some reason, but I showed up at opening time and was the first person admitted. Here’s Yad Vashem’s site on Mt. Herzl (where Theodor Herzl, the “father of Zionism” is also buried:

The Visitors’ Center is in front, with the large triangular History Museum behind it. Other places are scattered through the lovely wooded site.

No photos are allowed inside, so I took none. All I can say is that the Museum has a ton of stuff, arranged chronologically beginning when the Nazis took power, going through their gradual oppression of the Jews, the formation of ghettos, the camps and executions of Jews, and finishing (after several hours if you look at everything) with the Allied liberation of the camps, in some ways the most heartbreaking bit.

I’ll say only three things: of the Holocaust-related sites I’ve visited, this is one that, like Auschwitz, will change your life and view of humanity. Second, if you are in Jerusalem and don’t visit Yad Vashem, you’re making a huge mistake. Finally, given the tons and tons of evidence on display, anybody who denies the Holocaust is a blithering idiot. And yet many do; it’s as ridiculous as denying that the Earth is spherical.

Here’s Herzl’s grave, which I didn’t see, in a photo from Wikipedia. He died at only 44 of heart disease and was originally buried in Vienna. His remains were moved to Israel in 1949:

On the way back to town on the tram, there were quite a few ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim). Several, like this young man, were reading bits of the Torah and praying or reading aloud. (Note the diagnosic sidelocks, called payot). While I feel a genetic kinship (and, indeed, have one) with the Haredim, their beliefs—and especially the way they treat their women and pollute the minds of their children—appall me. Such is my inner conflict with religious Jews.

Back in town, there were police (with sniffer d*gs) and IDF soldiers everywhere, preparing for any holiday-related terrorism:

But on a nearby door, the Lion of Judah was there to protect me:

I went to lunch at the nearby place I call “Mr. Falafel,” because that’s what he looks like. A falafel in half a pita with all the trimmings, including fries, makes a satisfying lunch.

Yesterday’s lunch avec Fanta. I swear: I could survive on hummus and falafel alone, and they’re healthy!

Since today was a holiday, I figured I’d have a long walk around the ultra-Orthodox area of Jerusalem: the Mea Sharim. Insofar as they can, the inhabitants here live the life of a 19th century shtetl: no t.v., no music, schools teaching only religion, all men dressed in black with religious accoutrements, and so on. Many of the women shave their heads, covering them with wigs and scarves, and must undergo ritual purification after their periods.

And of course shabbos is observed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I wanted to take photos, too, but tried to do so with some respect, not letting people see me with my camera. I realize that this too is disrespectful in a way, as I’m seeing these people as curiosities as well as humans, but sue me.

I’ve mentioned my cognitive dissonance about this group. They have so much diligence, and such respect for learning, but then squander it all on religious learning. Kids are brainwashed from birth, never getting a chance to have secular learning. Women are taught that their role is to take care of the home and breed prolifically; rarely do you see a mother without a passel of kids in tow. All this waste and oppression in the service of a delusion!

And yet why do I feel a kinship with them? I do not know.

Some photos from around Mea Sharim this morning. First a flag that I assume is the flag of Jerusalem:

The residents:

Haredim break out the fur hats, which can cost several thousand dollars, on special occasions like today. And remember: it’s hot!

Every haredi child I see breaks my heart. Their entire lives are mapped out for them, a life just like that of their parents:

Many of the haredim are poor and prefer to study the Torah rather than engage in jobs. The Israeli government, to its discredit, promotes this by giving them subsidies (ultra-Orhodox are also exempt from Army service). Some of the homes I saw were shabby, but I can’t say they’re all like that. When I took this photo I heard religious singing from within:

You never see a young family without a stroller, and often with four or five kids. The woman’s job is to have a big brood.

The man on the right is the only black Orthodox Jew I’ve seen in Israel.

All over the city are stickers showing the scary visage of Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994). But he wasn’t really scary, and was quite magnanimous for an Orthodox rabbi (read the bio):

From Wikipedia:

. . . known to many as the Lubavitcher Rebbe or simply the Rebbe, [Schneerson] was an Orthodox rabbi and the most recent Rebbe of the Lubavitch Hasidic dynasty. He is considered one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century.

As leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, he took an insular Hasidic group that almost came to an end with the Holocaust and transformed it into one of the most influential movements in religious Jewry, with an international network of over 5,000 educational and social centers.  The institutions he established include kindergartens, schools, drug-rehabilitation centers, care-homes for the disabled, and synagogues.

Schneerson’s published teachings fill more than 400 volumes. . . He is recognized as the pioneer of Jewish outreach. During his lifetime, many of his adherents believed that he was the Messiah. His own attitude to the subject, and whether he openly encouraged this, is hotly debated among academics. During Schneerson’s lifetime, the messianic controversy and other issues elicited fierce criticism from many quarters in the Orthodox world, especially earning him the enmity of Rabbi Elazar Shach.

Schneerson moved to the US in 1941, eventually building his synagogue in Brooklyn. I visited there years ago, giving my non-Jewish girlfriend a tour of NY Judaism, and we were immediately swept up by Lubavitchers. She was spirited to the “women’s section” of the synagogue, where ladies were allowed to watch the real worship below from behind a small screen, while I was draped, despite my objections, with a yarmulke, a tallis, and tefillin wrapped around my arm. I was then forced onto the synagogue floor where hundreds of Lubavitchers were praying and davening. I refused to pray, of course, but they prayed over me, hoping that this would constitute a mitzvah that would hasten the return of the Messiah.

Curiously, many Lubavitchers believed that Schneerson was the messiah, and refused to believe he had died. Read about him on Wikipedia; he had an amazing life, working 18 hours a day every day and never taking a vacation.

Back to Jerusalem: I was getting famished and saw this sign, but of course the place was closed. Even as I write this my tummy is growling:

No soup for me! Kubbe has semolina dumplings in it. I won’t mention the soup dispenser in Seinfeld.

The lost and found police station, once the residence of the British consul:

Note the lions. This is what you get when you shoot into the sun with a dirty camera lens.

And, as I see so often, a sign where a terrorist attack occurred. Those who can read Hebrew are invited to translate it in the comments:

Jerusalem Monopoly—a “fast dealing property game.” I’m dying to find out what the properties are named.

Wait: I just found out!:

Locations include:

David’s Tomb
Teddy Stadium
Presidential Residence
Tower of David, Ammunition Hill, Mount Herzl
The Western Wall Tunnels
The Western Wall
The Kotel
The First Station
Montefiore Windmill
Old City Walls Promenade
Mea She’arim
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Lion’s Gate
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
Chords Bridge
The Knesset
The Israel Museum
Mount of Olives
Mahane Yehuda Market
City of David.

This board game can bring Biblical locations to life. It also teaches some basic math and counting skills through all the wheeling and dealing among players. Monopoly: Jerusalem Edition can also be an effective Hebrew School teaching aid for children ages 8+.

A kitty outside my hotel, where I was looking in vain for food:

And a kitty on the window of a sushi joint. Hebrew readers: what is it saying?

Lord, am I hungry. Where is my manna?

Israel: Day 12

September 15, 2023 • 9:30 am

In one week I’ll be making my way to Ben-Gurion Airport for a direct flight from Tel Aviv to Chicago. I don’t feel like I’ve been here very long, for Israel deserves a good long stay. So be it; perhaps I’ll return some day.

I arrived in Jerusalem early yesterday in time for a long tour of the Old City given by Anna (not Krylov), an Anna who works at MEMRI and was accompanied by her Italian father Roberto (her mother is Moroccan).  Anna also happens to be the mother of THE ORIGINAL HILI, a Hili born here about fifteen years ago. Yes, the cat is named after an Israeli girl (Malgorzata knows the family), and I now have met both Hilis! (Pardon me if I leave out a few “e”s, as that key is sticking on my computer and it’s the most common letter in the English alphabet.)

So here are some photos and descriptions from yesterday, with a few from the two days before in Tel Aviv.

On Tuesday I tried to find the Art Museum in Tel Aviv, which supposedly had a good collection of Impressionists and post-Impressionists. On the map it looked like an hour’s walk or so, and I thought I’d hoof it, getting a good look at Tel Aviv.

It turned out that it was not only miles away, but also bloody hot and humid. I walked for three hours there and back in the broiling heat, asking people on the way, and I never found the Museum.  Many people didn’t understand my question, and I was too bloody stubborn to get a cab.  At the approximate location of the Cezannes, I found this:

I was NOT happy. Still stubborn, I decided to find my way back to the hotel, even though I was lost, by heading north. I finally recognized a falafel-seller I asked on the way there, and knew I was heading in the right direction. Then I noticed that I was very, very, thirsty and couldn’t walk well. I was severely dehydrated.  When I finally got back to the hotel, I drank a liter of water and took my picture, soaked with sweat, in the mirror:

I took off all my clothes, which were drenched with sweat, threw them on the floor of the shower, and stood underneath the water, soaping myself and the clothes until we all we all were clean. I then lay down on the bed; it took me two hours to recover. Oy!

But Wednesday four of us went out for more hummus; same place as before:


I was happy to return to Jerusalem yesterday morning, as, truth be told, Tel Aviv, secular and sea-washed as it is, is also somewhat boring: modern, without Jerusalem’s color, charm, and historical interest.  And I didn’t see an ultraorthodox Jew the whole time!

Back in Jerusalem, the city is on high alert as the holidays begin. Terrorists like to attack on Jewish holidays, so the whole town is full of the IDF, cops and bomb-sniffing dogs:

Below: a Lion of Judah in front of City Hall outside the Old City. From Wikipedia:

The Lion of Judah (Hebrew: אריה יהודהAryeh Yehudah) is a Jewish national and cultural symbol, traditionally regarded as the symbol of the tribe of Judah. The association between the Judahites and the lion can first be found in the blessing given by Jacob to his fourth son, Judah, in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible

We entered the city through the Damascus Gate, which, I’m told, is one of the prime spots for Jews to get stabbed in the Old City:

Armenians are famous for their ceramics, and they’re all over the Old City, which has an Armenian Quarter.

But we were in the Christian Quarter, and returned to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site for Christians in the world, as it’s supposed to be the place where Jesus was crucified, laid out, buried, and was resurrected.  (See my earlier post on this.) It contains the last four Stations of The Cross.

The outside:

Where Jesus was said to have been crucified. There’s a stone on the site that people touch:

Jesus kitsch is for sale everywhere:

. . . and two Holy Moggies in the church courtyard:

The famous Via Dolorosa is the short route said to have been traveled by Jesus while toting the Cross. It has are 14 Stations of the Cross, each marked with what happened there (dropping the Cross, getting face wiped, etc.) Here are a couple; first, the list, which doesn’t correspond to the numbers below:

  1. Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane;
  2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested;
  3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin;
  4. Jesus is denied by Peter 3 times;
  5. Jesus is judged by Pilate;
  6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns;
  7. Jesus takes up his cross;
  8. Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross;
  9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem;
  10. Jesus is crucified;
  11. Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief;
  12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other;
  13. Jesus dies on the cross; and
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Through the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall again.  The non-touristy part of the Muslim Quarter has nice things for sale.  Here’s some dried yogurt that is used like cheese.

Spices. The big towers are thyme:

Meat (not pig):


A pastry store. Baklava is my favorite.  Anna bought me an assortment, which was fantastic. Prices are by the kilo:

I had a freshly baked bread, called manaqish, made with the thyme mixture shown above. It was terrific:

Grapes were a hot seller in the Muslim Quarter:

The Old City, including the Muslim Quarter, was full of Jewish cops and the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces—the Army) anticipating trouble over the holidays:

When I asked if I could photograph them, they not only agreed but posed. All Israelis save the ultra-Orthodox serve in the IDF: men for three years, women for two (I’m told that’s to give them an extra year to have babies if they want):

Anna is fond of a lovely place of respite in the old city: the Austrian Hospice, at once a church, a restaurant, an Austrian cultural center, and a place to view the Old City from the roof.

We had schnitzel (chicken) and Sachertorte for lunch! Best Sachertorte I’ve had outside Vienna.

There’s a great view of the Old City from the roof (click panorama to enlarge). The Dome of the Rock with its golden shrine is to the lef

On to the Western Wall: the only part of the Temple Mount where Jews are allowed to pray. And pray they do!

I wore a yarmulke this time: you take it from a box and then return it.

The Wall area was full of Haredi Jews davening (rocking) as they prayed, kissing the Wall, and inserting written prayers into the cracks. (I didn’t pray, of course, but my Jewish DNA draws me here to see this cultural phenomenon.)

A video:

A panorama:

A cop joins in, tallis, tefillin, yarmulke and the whole getup:

Imagine wearing this all-black outfit, including a heavy hat, in this heat! Now THAT is faith!

The prayer notes, when they eventually fall out, are put inside the casket of the latest Jew buried on the nearby Mount of Olives:

Santa, but a Muslim one:


In fact, Santa (AKA Issa Kassissieh) was the captain of the Palestinian basketball team and now plays Santa every year at Christmas: the whole megillah:

 In Jerusalem’s Old City there are dozens of churches, but as Christmas beckons there is just one Santa Claus — a towering Palestinian former basketball player.

Each December, the streets sparkle green and red as Christian pilgrims and others arrive to celebrate Christmas.

Seven years ago, one resident, Issa Kassissieh, transformed the ground floor of his 700-year-old home into a grotto, complete with candy, mulled wine and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.

Welcoming the season’s first visitors to Santa House, the red-suited and bearded Kassissieh belted out a “Ho, ho, ho!” at families queueing to see him.

. . . While Jerusalem is home to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which Christians believe contains Jesus’s tomb, the Nativity story of his birth happened in nearby Bethlehem, according to the faithful.

But at Santa House, Kassissieh said his young visitors have more modern concerns.

“Every child asks me for an iPhone,” he chuckled. “I never promise anything, but I say: ‘Let’s pray, and if you’re on my good list, you will get it.’”

Only in Jerusalem can a Palestinian dressed as Santa let kids sit on his lap and ask for iPhones.  And you ask me why I prefer Jerusalem to Tel Aviv!

Still, of course, all is not peaches and cream here. The city is a symbol of religious hatred, and you can see its remnants everywhere. Here’s the Municipal Building, which between 1948 and 1967 stood on the dividing line between West Jerusalem (Israel) and East Jerusalem (part of Jordan). Israel captured the Old City during the Six Day War in 1967. But you can still see the bullet holes in the Municipal Building reflecting that 19 years of conflict:

In the lower part of the building you can see this sign, which marks the site of a terrorist attack against Israelis. Sadly, there are many of these signs throughout the city. I can’t read Hebrew, but if you do please translate it in the comments:

Israel, Day 9

September 11, 2023 • 9:45 am

I’ve been chilling in Tel Aviv, resting, walking along the sea, and eating, as sightseeing is thin on the ground here. This is a far more secular and modern city than is Jerusalem, and somehow I find the latter more interesting—though less relaxing. As Steve Pinker wrote me when I told him I was going to Israel for R&R, “Most people wouldn’t say that Israel is a place to go for some rest.”  But for me, resting is not the aim of a vacation, and I doubt that I’ll put in any beach time here, though there’s a beautiful beach on the Mediterranean right across the street.

However, there are several sights I want to see, and today I went to the first one: the modest and well-preserved domicile of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, only a few blocks from our hotel.

First, though, some food—for humans and then cats.  Breakfast at the hotel; as usual, it’s the big meal of the day:

Fresh bread, and they have lox and an adequate cream-cheese substitute:

There is Turkish coffee, “American” coffee, or you can, as I do, order a cappuccino.

Part of the spread:

Fruit, yogurt and some veg (the fruit and veg here are infinitely better than available in the States. The melon, for instance, is perfectly ripe:

Vegetables and salads:

Cheeses, dairy stuff, tuna, and lox (depleted):

Eggs and western breakfast stuff (you can also order oatmeal, Belgian waffles, omelettes, and green shakshouka (see below):

Something I always get: the King of Israeli breakfast dishes, shakshouka (the classic red version with tomatoes):

Free red and white wine by the reception desk, 24/7:

And a free happy hour from 5-7 p.m. daily, with wine, hard liquor, juices, and all kind of tasty nibbles (I haven’t had a drink since I’ve been here: for some reason I lose my appetite for booze when traveling).  They will also make drinks for you.

Happy hour nibbles, and not insubstantial ones. Last night they had big veggie spring rolls:

I always check out the cat food in local grocery stores to see if there’s anything interesting. Here all we get is American-style cat food with Hebrew labels:

And a certificate of compliance with kosher specifications (kashrut) at a local pizza parlor. Even in Tel Aviv they take this seriously, as conservative and Orthodox Jews (though I’ve yet seen none of the latter here) take it seriously. Note that the certification must be renewed every five months.

A few sights on the walk to Ben-Gurion’s house. Below, a warning, though I’m not sure what it’s warning about unless you have a pacemaker. Are you in danger of having your hand fly off?

Tel Aviv is a center for Bauhaus architecture, and driven by seen some but haven’t photographed it.  I will as I come across it, Architectural Digest explains:

When the Nazis rose to power in Germany in 1933, resulting in the closure of the Bauhaus design school that same year, tens of thousands of Jews fled Germany to settle in Mandatory Palestine. With 60,000 new immigrants arriving within just a few short years, housing was urgently needed. Dozens of architects were commissioned to build a new city. Among the most influential European architects selected were six German Jews who had studied at the Bauhaus school in Weimar and Dessau. They were key to the development of Tel Aviv’s “White City,” whose moniker is attributable to its whitewashed façades.

This may be Bauhaus:

Thie certainly isn’t, but it’s interesting, like third-rate Gaudi:

And the nearby British Embassy, surrounded by barriers.

Israel harbors 94 embassies, of which 89 are in Tel Aviv and 5 in Jerusalem (the U.S., Guatemala, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, and Kosovo). In 2017, Trump, facing much criticism, moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

David Ben-Gurion’s modest Tel Aviv home still stands a few blocks from the sea, and is pretty much as it was when he died. Here’s a capsule bio from Wikipedia:

David Ben-Gurion (/bɛnˈɡʊəriən/ ben GOOR-ee-ən; Hebrew: דָּוִד בֶּן־גּוּרִיּוֹן [daˈvid ben ɡuʁˈjon] i; born David Grün; 16 October 1886 – 1 December 1973) was the primary national founder of the State of Israel and the first prime minister of Israel. Born in Płońsk, then part of the Russian Empire, to Polish Jewish parents, he immigrated to the Palestine region of the Ottoman Empire in 1906. Adopting the name of Ben-Gurion in 1909, he rose to become the preeminent leader of the Jewish community in British-ruled Mandatory Palestine from 1935 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, which he led until 1963 with a short break in 1954–55.

Ben-Gurion’s interest for Zionism developed early in his life, leading him to become a major Zionist leader and executive head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946. As head of the Jewish Agency from 1935, and later president of the Jewish Agency Executive, he was the de facto leader of the Jewish community in Palestine, and largely led the movement for an independent Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine.

On 14 May 1948, he formally proclaimed the establishment of Israel, and was the first to sign the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which he had helped writing. Under Ben-Gurion’s leadership, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War saw the uniting of the various Jewish militias into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and the expulsion and flight of a majority of the Palestinian Arab population. Subsequently, he became known as “Israel’s founding father”. Following the war, Ben-Gurion served as Israel’s first prime minister and minister of defence.

There are three things to add about him. Without Ben-Gurion, it’s likely that Israel wouldn’t exist.  Second, he was an intellectual and deeply read man, which you’ll see in a second. Finally, he was deeply beloved by Israelis, and may have been the best Prime Minister ever. (He’s buried by a kibbutz in the Negev Desert.) Here’s a photo from Wikipedia:

Here’s his house at 18 Ben-Gurion Street (of course):

Except for some honors and awards, and items behind glass (his office is glassed off), the house is pretty much as it was when he died in 1973. It’s not humble, but neither is it grandiose. What makes it stand out most is the huge number of BOOKS.

Ben Gurion’s office (the only room behind glass). Perhaps this is just as it was when he died:

The kitchen and eating nook, with an old Israeli fridge:

Formal dining room:

Two bedrooms (looks like, as many couples did, they slept separately):

The living room adjacent to the office:

And oy, the books, divided by language and topic. Here, for instance, are his books on Hinduism:

. . . and on American Judaism:


This is a panoramic shot encompassing bits of four rooms (click to enlarge):

Besides the books, there are many photos of Ben-Gurion with famous people and heads of state, as well as awards given him by heads of state, like this tusk;

David and Winnie:

David and Nixon (I don’t know who the woman is, but perhaps Ben-Gurion’s wife):

The old equivalent of bobblehead dolls. From left to right: Menachem Begin, Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Theodore Herzl.

Finally, right by the door is a WEIRD MANNEQUIN of Ben-Gurion, perhaps to show how large (or, rather, small) he was):

There was only one other couple visiting the house when I was there, and it surely deserves more attention than that. I learned a lot by going there and reading up about its famous inhabitant.

Ben-Gurion had a wife, Paula, three kids, and yes, a few mistresses on the side.

Israel: Days 6 and 7

September 8, 2023 • 10:30 am

Yesterday was our “strategic tour” with the boss of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), whose son drove Anna and I around Jerusalem, looking at different neighborhoods, including politically and strategically important places.  This morning we transferred to a spiffy boutique hotel in Tel Aviv for a week, where Anna has a science meeting. You thus get two days in one.

First, some information from Visualizing Palestine about how the West Bank (not part of Israel proper) is partitioned:

The Oslo Accords divided the Palestinian West Bank into three administrative zones: Area A (18%), where the Palestinian Authority (PA) administers civil and security matters; Area B (22%), where the PA administers only civil matters; and Area C (60%) where Israel maintains full control.

Area C includes all Israeli settlements and two thirds of the West Bank’s fertile agricultural land. While Area C is a continuous territory, Areas A and B are fragmented into 166 separate enclaves. In spite of the breakdown of the Oslo process, Areas A, B and C remain in force today.

It’s all very complicated, but what I didn’t realize is how close parts of the Palestinian-controlled Area A (green) are to Jerusalem, and how fragmented all the areas are (area B is in tan and area C in gray).

One minute we were in Jerusalem, overlooking the old city, and the next minute we are here. This is part of area A.  Are there similar signs in Jewish villages in areas adjacent to Palestinian ones?

Area A was so close to Jerusalem that Israel built their much criticized cement walls to keep terrorists from moving freely across the borders and creating.a lot of carnage. Part of one of those walls is shown below, but they ran out of money.  A lot of those on the Left criticized the walls for interrupting the lives of Palestinians who worked in Israel (and now had to be vetted at checkpoints), as well as for their symbolic and looming presence, but they did cut the number of Israelis killed in terror attacks by at least 90%.

Movement is still restricted here, but by fences with motion detectors:

This is what is called a Palestinian “refugee camp”, but it’s not tents and hovels as many imagine. Rather, it’s a village, much like Jewish villages:

We were not of course allowed to go into any area A places, though as an American I could have, though as a (secular) Jew I don’t think I’d chance it. Here’s a view of the Old City of Jerusalem very close to where the photo above was taken. The city walls and Dome of the Rock (the latter controlled by Jordan and usually restricted to Muslims) are evident.

There are only three roads cutting through the western hills that can be used to invade Israel, and were so used during the various wars between Israelis and Arabs, as in 1948 and 1967.  One of them is the road to Jericho you must take to get to Masada and the Dead Sea (see above).  Israel has now taken military precautions to batter any enemies trying to attack along these roads. Here’s a view of the east-west road to Jericho, bisecting the picture horizontally.

Where are the IDF? I was told—and this is no secret—that they have an underground base in the mountain indicated, underground to prevent damage from bombing. There is in fact a sign pointing to the entrance:

We then went to the famous Mount of Olives, a ridge to the east of the Old City of Jerusalem where you get a splendid view of the city, the olive trees that still remain, and he 150,000 Jewish graves that line the hill. (This has been a traditional burial spot for Jews since Biblical times, harbors many well known Jews, and costs you thousands of dollars if you want to buy a gravesite here.)

It’s a Christian pilgrimage site because of its association with Jesus tales from the New Testament. From Wikipedia:

The Mount of Olives is frequently mentioned in the New Testament as part of the route from Jerusalem to Bethany and the place where Jesus stood when he wept over Jerusalem (an event known as Flevit super illam in Latin).

Jesus is said to have spent time on the mount, teaching and prophesying to his disciples (Matthew 24–25), including the Olivet discourse, returning after each day to rest (Luke 21:37, and John 8:1 in the additional section of John’s Gospel known as the Pericope Adulterae), and also coming there on the night of his betrayal. At the foot of the Mount of Olives lies the Garden of Gethsemane. The New Testament tells how Jesus and his disciples sang together – “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” Gospel of Matthew 26:30. Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives according to Acts 1:9–12.

The Garden of Gethsemane lies at its base below, next to the olive trees (still there, though not 2000 years old) and below the graves. The view of the Old City and Dome of the Rock is splendid.

The graves:

The Old City and Dome of the Rock, a panorama:

Below: the crown jewel of the old City, revered by Muslims and Jews alike. Sadly, Jews are forbidden to enter, even though it sits atop the ruins of the First and Second Temple and the reputed Holy of Holies: the room said to contain the Ark of the Covenant that held the stone Ten Commandments.  Muhammad was also said to have ascended to heaven from this place, and that, due to an unwise decision by Moshe Dayan, trumps all Jewish access.

Here’s a reconstruction of the Holy of Holies from Wikipedia (with their caption). Only the High Priest was allowed to enter the rear chamber, and then only once a year on Yom Kippur. The closest Jews can get to it to worship is the Western Wall, and that’s why they press up against the Wall to pray. If it existed, it’s somewhere under the Dome of the Rock. Truly Orthodox Jews won’t even walk near the Dome for fear of stepping on the site of Holy of Holies.

A model of the Tabernacle showing the holy place, and behind it the Holy of Holies

The Dome of the Rock is not, as many think, a mosque. Rather, it’s a Muslim shrine. But Muslims did build a mosque on the hill: the Al-Aqsa Mosque, covered with aluminum rather than gold. The arrow indicates it.  A religiously crazed Australian, Denis Rohan, tried to burn it down in 1969 so a temple to Jesus could be built there. That triggered huge tensions among Muslims; Rohan was institutionalized and then deported.

Want a camel photo on the Mount of Olives? Me neither.

Anna and I returned to Jerusalem and had a late afternoon lunch of falafel in a pita, which was great.

After checking out this morning, we took an Israeli Uber-equivalent to Tel Aviv, checking into the beautiful Melody Hotel, only a block from the beach.  Free wine (all you can drink) in the lobby, beautiful rooms, free soft drinks in the minibar, and a free happy hour. I’m told the breakfasts are awesome. Did I mention the beach access?

My room:

Minibar with free soda:

Coffee fixings:

There’s a rooftop lounge with sunning facilities and this view of the beach past a park:

Anna was up there preparing her talk for the meeting:

Jay, who’s also a hummus maven, said there was a highly rated place three blocks away, and so we went there for lunch. Micha’s hummus!

The menu: it’s almost all hummus, though I was tempted to try the cholent as it’s Friday. The menu (a shekel is about 25 U.S. cents):

Hummus always comes with condiments and fresh pita:

I had hummus tahini and oy, was it good! It rivaled Jersalem’s Arafat’s hummus for sure. Isn’t it lovely?

Annd and Jay had hummus with chickpeas, and also pronounced it good. So much hummus, and so little time!

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s almost happy hour.  Here’s a photo of the reflections from the outside on the silver elevator door:

Israel: Day 3

September 6, 2023 • 10:00 am

Today we had a four-hour visit to the old city, with our informed and genial guides Susan (a reader) and her friend Sami. We entered the city through the famous Jaffa Gate, one of the seven gates to the old city, and one that points north towards the port of Jaffa.

UPDATE: This happened just a day after our visit. Even the Old City and Jaffa Gate are not safe from terrorists (click to read; h/t Susan):

This gate is famous for an entrance of a British general taking over the city from the Ottomans. From Wikipedia:

In 1917, British general Edmund Allenby entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, giving a speech at the nearby Tower of David. Allenby entered the city on foot in a show of respect for the city and a desire to avoid comparison with the Kaiser’s entry in 1898.

You can see that scene in the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”. And here’s a photo from Wikipedia, showing Allenby at the Jaffa gate on foot (he’d defeated the Ottoman Empire, with the help of Lawrence of Arabia, of course):

Below, the “Tower of David” or citadel of the old city. From Wikipedia:

The Tower of David (Hebrew: מגדל דודromanized: Migdál Davíd), also known as the Citadel (Arabic: القلعةromanized: al-Qala’a), is an ancient citadel located near the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem.

The citadel that stands today dates to the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. It was built on the site of a series of earlier ancient fortifications of the Hasmonean, Herodian, Byzantine and Early Muslim periods, after being destroyed repeatedly during the last decades of Crusader presence in the Holy Land by their Muslim enemies. It contains important archaeological finds dating back over 2,500 years including a quarry dated to the First Temple period, and is a popular venue for benefit events, craft shows, concerts, and sound-and-light performances.

We went up on a nearby rooftop to get the “experience of the Resurrection,” and I was assured that although I didn’t believe in the Resurrection, I would if I saw the view from the top. (It didn’t work.)

Susan is a cat lover, and rescues strays. She has about 20 that live in her garden, and she feeds them twice a day and gives them warm blankets in the winter. Like me, she cannot resist petting a stray, and here are two.

A lovely ginger cat.

Believe it or not, this is an Anglican church, Christ Church of Jerusalem, the first Protestant church built in the Old City (1849), and with a congregation consisting of “Jewish Christians”. (Isn’t that an oxymoron?) There are no crosses, but Hebrew writing and a menorah on the altar!

A view from the rooftop over the old city. The golden dome on the right is The Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites of Islam—and Christianity. It’s on that spot where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac before God told him it was just a joke, and it’s also on that spot that Muhammad supposedly ascended to heaven.  But only Muslims are allowed to go inside the mosque, and Jews, while they can walk around it, are not allowed to pray—they could get arrested if they try. They must pray at the Western Wall (see below).

A panorama:

Below: The Dome of the Rock with the Mount of Olives behind it. The Mount from Wikipedia:

It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The southern part of the mount was the Silwan necropolis, attributed to the elite of the ancient Kingdom of Judah. The western slopes of the mount, those facing Jerusalem, have been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves, making it central in the tradition of Jewish cemeteries.

Several key events in the life of Jesus, as related in the Gospels, took place on the Mount of Olives, and in the Acts of the Apostles it is described as the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven. Because of its association with both Jesus and Mary, the mount has been a site of Christian worship since ancient times and is today a major site of pilgrimage for Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants.

There’s a long market that extends from near the Jaffa gate to the Dome of the Rock and the Western wall. It’s largely tourist kitsch, but the side sreets sell staples; fruit, veg, and meat:

. . . and spices.

All the shopkeepers are Arabs; there are no Jewish shopkeepers because this is East Jerusalem, a Muslim area, and Jewish shopkeepers would cause tension. But there are plenty of Jewish shoppers.

A tee shirt. Note the kippe and the sidelocks.

Nougat and halvah:

For lunch we went to Susan’s favorite falafel joint, named—yes—”Arafat’s Falafel”. (There is no sign; you have to know about it.) Mr. Arafat, below, makes fresh hummus on the spot, and this was the best hummus we’ve had so far. Six bucks for a big plate, along with pita bread, falafal, olive oil, some whole chickpeas, and garnishes.

Grinding the chickpeas to make hummus:


I can’t imagine hummus can get any better than this:

A madrasa, or school where Muslim kids learn to read the Qur’an:

And the famous Western Wall (once known as the “wailing wall”), part of the Second (Jewish) Temple built by Herod. From Wikipedia:

The Western Wall plays an important role in Judaism due to its proximity to the Temple Mount. Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray outside the previous Temple Mount platform, as the presumed site of the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in the Jewish faith, lies just behind it.

I believe the Muslims have formal control of the wall. It wasn’t too crowded yesterday because it was hot.

Below: the arrow indicates ME inspecting the Wall (photo by Anna):

There were many Orthodox Jews there, of course.

And for a nominal fee you can rent Jewish garb like the tallis (shawl) or tefillin (leather phylacteries):

An IDF soldier worshiping. I was surprised by how many soldiers are religious.

And of course you’re supposed to write a prayer on paper and stuff it into the wall to increase its chance of being fulfilled. No prayers are discarded: from time to time the ones that fall out are collected and buried with a recently deceased person on the Mount of Olives. There’s also an online site where you can write a prayer that will be printed out and put in the Wall.

The women worship separately from the men: a sore spot for religious Jewish feminists. They had comfortable chairs, though.

It’s only a matter of time before a trans man tries to worship on the male side, or vice versa.

It was bloody hot! Anna and I took a break from the heat (photo by Jay Tanzman):

The Via Dolorosa is the path supposedly taken by Jesus on the way to his crucifixion; it has nine “stations of the cross” outside (each marking an incident on the trip, like falling), and five inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was supposedly crucified. The Via is about 600 m. long, and is full of Christians retracing that path, whose course we know nothing about.

The stations aren’t clearly marked because shopkeepers claimed that the crowds were bad for business. Anna, who reads Russian, says that this is one of them

Some of the Christians carry their own crosses with them to share Jesus’s trials, but the one below isn’t a full-sized cross! (Photo by Anna). Also, about fifty times a year (see below) people on the Via suffer from “Jerusalem Syndrome,” overcome by religious psychosis. They think they’re the Messiah or they just go nuts. One of them even tried to set fire to the Al-Aqsa mosque. If you’re curious about religious phenomena, read the Wikipedia article.

The stores around the Church are full of Jesus-related knicknacks  (Photo by Anna.)

Here’s the church, with the photo taken from Wikipedia. It’s certainly the holiest site in Christianity—if you buy the narrative. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre dates back to the fourth century, but has been considerably reconstructed. And of course recapturing it was one of the main aims of the Crusaders. Inside are the places where Jesus was supposedly crucified, his body prepared for burial, the burial site, and where he arose from the dead.

It has Crusader graffiti in it! As Wikipedia notes, the photo below shows “Crusader graffiti in the church: crosses engraved in the staircase leading down to the Chapel of Saint Helena.”

Right where you enter is a large stone slab. Although the stone has been replaced several times, this is said to be the spot where the body of Jesus was laid out for burial. Here’s a mural showing that.  (Photo by Anna.)

People prostrate themselves on the stone, but also leave items there for a short while, including backpacks, hoping to infuse those items with something of Jesus.

I decided to leave my Chicago White Sox hat there to see if it would acquire new powers. Even if it didn’t, perhaps I could sell it on eBay as a genuine religious artifact. Only kidding!  Here I am prostrating and putting my hat on the stone. Perhaps that’s blasphemy. . .(Next three photos by Anna)

My hat on the stone. Will it make the White Sox win the pennant?

I’m not sure if this is a cleric or a religious zealot (it’s hard to tell them apart).

Below, my favorite picture of the day (taken by me): a young woman overcome by the presence of Jesus. She hasn’t gone around the bend, but I read that 50 times a year a Christian goes nuts on the Via Dolorosa and has to be taken to a psychiatric hospital before being sent home. This woman has only a very mild case of Jerusalem Syndrome.

She’s in rapture, that’s for sure! She sat there for a long time, eyes closed and staring at the ceiling.

Israel: Days 2 and 3

September 4, 2023 • 10:00 am

Note: click the photos to enlarge them.

I spent most of yesterday with a man who works with a private agency that translates documents from the Arab world (also Russia, China, and other countries) into English and Hebrew, so that we (and other government agencies) know what is being said in mosques and in Arab state media.

If you know where to look, all the stuff to be translated is online, including sermons in mosques.  Lots of horrific things have been revealed, but I’m not sure how much of what I heard is for public consumption. Suffice it to say that the day was very interesting, and I learned a lot about how Israeli security works.

On the way to meet my friend, I passed the “Kippa Man” stall, a place that sells only kippas, the Hebrew word for the Yiddish “yarmulke”. These are the skullcaps or beanies worn by observant Jews. There are many stores selling them in the center city, some (like this one) selling only kippas, while others sell them along with other souvenirs, like the tee-shirt below.

You can find a kippa to fit your style and taste. The prices below are 20-25 shekels, about 5-6 American dollars.

But you can also buy other souvenirs. Here’s one that caught my eye, but I didn’t buy it. (Wearing it on an American campus would get you demonized!)

You can get burgers at his McDonald’s but no milkshakes (or even milk). It’s kosher, Jake!

At my friend’s office, he showed me a rare document: Mahmoud Abbas‘s Ph.D. thesis, for which he paid a thousand bucks. Abbas, of course, is the president of the Palestinian Authority, apparently for life. (He was elected in 2005 for a four-year term, but extended it indefinitely, and is sill in office.} He’s also chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Abbas is 87, and apparently will leave office only in a box.

Abbas doesn’t read or write Russian, so it’s weird that he has a thesis written in Russian and conferred by a Russian university (it’s about the dangers of Zionism with an addendum that denies the Holocaust).

Tablet has an article about it, saying that although a 19-page abstract is available publicly, this document isn’t:

Abbas’ dissertation has been a subject of considerable interest over the years. The thesis isn’t publicly available: By all accounts, it is kept in an IOS special storage facility requiring special authorization to access.

Well, no, because I saw it. But I can’t read Russian so I can’t shed  any light on it.  It appears to be Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda, and I don’t know who translated it into Russian, or even if Abbas even wrote it (his signature is at the bottom).

Lunch at a nearby restaurant: hummus and falafel at last! It was very good hummus, thick and creamy, mixed with hot, crispy falafel balls and served with good fresh pita bread, but my host old me that there is far better hummus to be had in Jerusalem. Ergo my search continues. He also demanded more olive oil from the waiter for me to pour atop the dish. I was still full from he huge breakfast at the hotel, so this is all I ate.

The next three photos are by Jay Tanzman, whose captions are indented.

Public toilets (read the red sign):

“Information for Shabbath [Sabbath] keepers. The toilets are activated by pressing an electric button.”

JAC: Since pressing a button seems to involve forbidden “work” on the Sabbath (which is why my hotel has a “Sabbath elevator” in which you don’t have to press buttons, as it stops on every floor), why is it not considered “work” to flush by pressing a button in a public toilet? This must have been the result of a fierce rabbinical discussion. Later, I was told that perhaps the Orthodox are being warned that they would have to press a button if they flushed, and that might deter them from doing their business.

But why not use the system they have in U.S. airports: when you stand up, the toilet automatically detects that and flushes. Standing up after using the john cannot possibly constitute work! As for urinals, they can flush sporadically without pressing buttons or pulling levers.

Jay says of the photo below: “Speaks for itself.”

[JAC: The Gazans were firing missiles at Tel Aviv just in the last two weeks. Fortunately, the Iron Dome knocks out nearly all of them. I have been told what to do if I hear the “incoming missile” siren: run, following everyone on the street.]

A group of young soldiers on their way somewhere. I surreptitiously took their picture from behind. I cold have gotten a picture from the front earlier, but I didn’t know how well that would go over.
Note that there are both men and women in the group. In Israel, everyone except the Orthodox Jews must serve two to three years in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). Even Gal “Wonder Woman” Gadot did her stint. The exemption of the Orthodox from military service constitutes, in my view, an unwarranted coddling of religion, one of the things that makes Israel a partial theocracy.

This is a photo Gadot put on her Instagram showing her reporting for duty at the IDF for the first time. She served two years, from age 18-20, as a combat fitness instructor. This is after she was crowned Miss Israel in 2004.

Gadot in uniform. I love Jewish girls! (And don’t dare criticize her for doing her mandatory military service for Israel. She’s already taken a lot of heat for that from those who hate Israel, simply because she was born here.)

This afternoon we went scouting for good hummus again. On the way we saw what looked for all the world like an Orthodox Jew playing electric guiar for money in the streets. That can’t be rue (for one thing, the hat is wrong, and it’s culturally inappropriate. You be the judge:

And for lunch we went to a well known hummus joint in the center city, Hummus Ben Sira. The hummus plate came with lots of fresh pita bread, a big plate of hummus topped with whole chickpeas and olive oil, salad, and tomatoes, pickles. and sliced onions. It was a lot of food!

The hummus was creamy and delicious, beating yesterday’s selection (see above) by a long shot.

Jay had shakshouka, described by Wikipedia as

Maghrebi dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onion, and garlic, commonly spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper. According to Joan Nathan, shakshouka originated in Ottoman North Africa in the mid-16th century after tomatoes were introduced to the region by Hernán Cortés as part of the Columbian exchange.

This spicy dish is common for breakfast in Israel; in fact, it was on this morning’s breakfast buffet:

A hungry customer waiting for his hummus:

Jay (Tanzman) and Anna (Krylov) in front of the hummus joint. If you’re in the Center City, I recommend this place, but the most famous ones in Jerusalem are in the Old City, where we’re planning to go tomorrow.

A panoramic view of the walls around the old city:

. . . and more shelters. The area near where I took the photo above is a gorgeous residential area, but houses are hideously expensive in Jerusalem:

One of the quiet and lovely streets nearby:

A house sign, which I’m told shows the family name:

And of course no matter where you are, there are always bomb shelters nearby:

Jay found a friendly and meowing tabby street cat to pet. Jay and Anna own two kitties, including a gorgeous gray British Shorthair named Mishka (see here; their other kitty is Geddi).

This has got to be the world’s fanciest YMCA: the Jerusalem International YMCA, whose construction began in 1926 and took 7 years.

Across the street is the King David Hotel, the most prestigious place to park your carcass in the city.The hotel, which partly housed British military before Israeli independence, was site of an infamous Jewish bombing in 1946, when the Brits were fighting the Jews.  From Wikipedia:

The British administrative headquarters for Mandatory Palestine, housed in the southern wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, were bombed in a terrorist attack on 22 July 1946 by the militant right-wing Zionist underground organization the Irgun during the Jewish insurgency. 91 people of various nationalities were killed, including Arabs, Britons and Jews, and 46 were injured.

The hotel was the site of the central offices of the British Mandatory authorities of Palestine, principally the Secretariat of the Government of Palestine and the Headquarters of the British Armed Forces in Palestine and Transjordan. When planned, the attack had the approval of the Haganah, the principal Jewish paramilitary group in Palestine, though, unbeknownst to the Irgun, this had been cancelled by the time the operation was carried out. The main motive of the bombing was to destroy documents incriminating the Jewish Agency in attacks against the British, which were obtained during Operation Agatha, a series of raids by mandate authorities. It was the deadliest attack directed at the British during the Mandate era (1920–1948)

The King David Hotel:

From Wikipedia, the hotel after the bombing:

A colorful kitty statue nearby:

. . . and a fancy and very expensive pottery shop, which had lovely handmade stuff:

We saw a lot of security today, with heavily armed cops stopping people on the street (we didn’t know why) and asking for their ID. Across the street from our hotel as we returned, two guys were getting badly hassled by the cops.Again, I have no idea why:

Thus endeth Day Three of the Trip to Israel.

Israel: The morning of Day 1

September 3, 2023 • 11:30 am

I slept like a log, wrote a couple of posts this morning, and then met Anna Krylov for a lovely breakfast (her partner Jay was sleeping in). You wouldn’t think that a place like the Ibis, known as a budget hotel, would have such a great breakfast spread, but it did, and I must have eaten four plates of food (I didn’t eat at all yesterday). Here’s my cozy little room at the Ibis (click all photos to enlarge them):

Below are a few photos from my trip to breakfast, served on the eighth floor.

First, there are two elevators in the Ibis: a regular one and one to use on the Sabbath, which starts at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday.

In the Sabbath elevator, you don’t push buttons or touch the door, for the elevator goes up and down continuously, stopping at every floor with the door opening automatically. This conforms to the Orthodox Jewish habit of people prohibited from doing manual work on the Sabbath. (You’re supposed to go to the synagogue and spend the day contemplating the divine and reading the Torah.

But of course the Orthodox are constantly debating about what constitutes “work” on the Sabbath, and they have clever ways of getting around it (check out this quantum light switch, still subject to hot rabbinical debate).

The shabbos elevator. DO NOT TOUCH THE DOORS!

The breakfast room at the Ibis is large, with big windows overlooking the city. And the spread of comestibles is impressive. There’s Western food, which I ignored, and Israeli and Middle Eastern stuff, which is what I seized on.

Here’s the breakfast room, with the goodies lined up at the left. There are four stations, plus two coffee machines that make regular coffee and drinks like espresso and cappuccino. I didn’t see any meat, and I suspect the buffet is kosher.

The bread station, which includes pizza (remember, pizza, especially cold pizza, is one of the finest breakfast foods). The triangular sesame rolls at upper left were fantastic, but I can’t remember what they’re called. They went well with the cheese or dairy spreads (there’s also fruit as well as chocolate croissants and sweet rolls to the side).

This sweet pastry, which I loved, is called knafeh, and I was told it’s found all over the Middle East. It’s like a deconstructed version of the Greek pastry kataifi, but this one also has cheese in it. Wikipedia notes that there are several versions. This a good dessert to finish off breakfast, accompanied by strong espresso. I had two helpings.

Below: the heart of the meal: dairy spreads, cheeses, olives, salads, vegetables, and spreads like baba ghanoush. an eggplant puree. I had these with the triangular sesame breads, though I discovered bagels later (I saw neither cream cheese nor lox). But this was absolutely delicious and filling. The dairy spreads on the right were particularly toothsome, especially when mixed with the salads:

Cheeses and more salads:

The Western food, including eggs and potatoes. I didn’t touch it, for we had plenty of this for breakfast on the Galápagos cruise, and who wants eggs when you can have all the stuff above?

I didn’t understand these placemats. Why is the guy feeding a crow?

On the way from the airport to Jerusalem, I noticed a lot of very weird statues of creatures in parks and playgrounds: