Archive for the ‘Jewish Life’ Category

I don’t even know what to say because it’s almost more rewarding just to enjoy the sprawling desert scenes/photos … which at times reminded us of canyons in the States (only different in that they were so ripe with archeological finds that are so much older.)  Makhtesh is not quite a ‘crater’ but filled with wildlife like these sweet and unafraid ibex who approached us in the park.  The makhtesh is named after a beloved Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon – who perished in the space mission Columbia.  Solomon’s Pillars and the Mushroom Rock are grand and otherworldly themselves.. it was yet another beautiful day of hiking at least 20 thousand steps over rocks and sand!



‘camel rock’ really looks like a camel !


friendly critters are usually out at dusk and sunrise



Solomon’s Pillars… so majestic!



these cuties; always ready to pose



the famed ‘mushroom rock’

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Some of the most exciting leg of our trip happened in these places… especially according to the kids! Needless to say – floating in the Dead Sea is the biggest hit for kids.  We loved the healing mud and other-worldly float on water that is made of up at least 1/3rd salt and minerals.  We also learned how one would farm in the desert, and tasted the world’s greatest tomatoes and berries.  And Mount Masada – amazing!  The kids’ heads were stuffed with stories of King Herod, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony to name just a few .. and it’s amazing to me how much ancient proof of existence lies everywhere.  The smartest cistern and public water system exists here as well..



Zoe watches people walk up, from the comfort of the tram


atop Masada and the blue Dead Sea in the background




the gang’s all here!


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a dip and mud bath in the Dead Sea..


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so much hard layering of salt


best tasting berries ever…


the trick is to grow them OVER the sand



I now have new ideas on how to tame our tomato growth!

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By night we did a quick run to the Christian Quarter to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Christian Quarter.   The site was packed .. and it was hard to move around .. but this mix of Greek Orthodox and Armenian church architecture was fascinating.  By dark we made our way back to the Wailing Wall and got a glimpse over the city while walking back to our hotel…



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While we had some cold, drizzly weather to start –  the clouds did eventually part and we had some delightful sunshine while starting our tour of Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter.  What a fascinating city of history and culture.  By the time we got to the wailing wall with grandma and grandpa (the folks who catalyzed this trip in the first place) the sun and blue sky made an appearance for us.  It was so moving to be at the wall as several generations of Jewish family… grandparents, parents and kids.   When we walked around on our own – we found winding little streets where neighbors repurposed their recyclables and made charming art on their front gates and homes.  And the kids loved trying on the food at the Old City muslim market before Shabbat – we learned that Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness (because it is said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, of the Torah.)  No wonder there’s pom juice and seeds everywhere!  IMG_2154IMG_2157IMG_2164IMG_2165


more cats snoozing in market stalls…



moving moments at the Western Wall with grandma


Ezra and grandpa leave a note..



feasting on pomegranate seeds


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This crazy, fun, warm city built out of desert – filled with frenetic markets and halva, dried fruits, pickles and nuts, and the oldest history and most beautiful Ottoman era culture and architecture.  We had our first taste of shawarma here and .. did I mention the halva?  It’s everywhere, and that made me very very happy …



market full of yummy olives and options


halva or halvah or halwa – any way you slice it, I love it!



apparently Ben-Gurion use to like to do handstands on the beach, as does Zoe!



before and after photo showing that Jaffa truly stands on desert



I love these outdoor boxes that keep the menorah glowing for all to see



more halva!


spice towers at the market


these folks don’t mess around with their love of pomegranates



a cat snoozes at a Yemenite jeweler’s studio



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This boy gave a big portion of his bar mitzvah $$$ gifts to the local food pantry where he volunteers, and they sure did stock up on necessities for fall!  We can’t believe how much they could purchase with his donation .. I’m so proud of my boy for paying it forward.



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I have to admit … we agonized about planning this day, for months (maybe years). It’s no small feat putting together a very ‘do-it-yourself event’ for 150 people – but we made it through (we hung 100 balloons, nearly that same quantity in Ezra baby photos, and managed to master uplighting ourselves).  But the most impressive part is Ezra himself, and his bands of musical kids who performed!  Ezra learned Hebrew so quickly (a little more than a year) and then ran a service like a grown up.  We are so proud.  We got so many compliments on his singing/chanting abilities which – I’m assuming is rare during this age when kids’ voices begin to change and crack! (think Greg Brady.)  Anyhow here are some great pix taken by our photographer on that day.  It now seems so silly that I agonized over hanging all my ‘gold and white’ themed decorations when – not only did the uplights overshadow it all – but my boy’s maturity is what really won the spotlight …

(By the way – we painted those recycled wine bottles to make our own centerpieces; and a special thx to grandma, grandpa and Aunt Becca for the fresh flowers! They provided the flowers at my wedding as well. Gotta love family with mad gardening skills.)

the flowers in front of Ezra here are in honor of deceased loved ones – and will continue to grow in the synagogue’s garden in their memory

a portion of Ezra’s money gifts are going to Lion’s Share Food Pantry, where Ezra volunteers every month

clearly, we have a lot of photos of Ezra’s childhood to add to the walls!

Cousin Angelo may grow up to have the same “performance knack” as Ezra

Zoe loves being the MC

the epic slide show put together by Ezra’s dad

and speech crafted by mom

friends and giggles during the slideshow

when the jazz band was done, cousins stepped in so that Ezra and family could dance the Hora

and Ezra got a ride in the chair – mazel tov to my boy!



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