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Festivals & holidays Fun facts & enrichment

5 Ways to Celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Israel

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish Year. According to Jewish tradition, it is the day GOD created Adam and Eve. It is also the day GOD determines the fate of every one of us for the upcoming year. Will we become rich? Will we stay strong and healthy? Or is our fate doomed to poverty and illness? But luckily, GOD seals our fate only ten days later, on Yom Kippur. So, we have time to think about what we have done. If we’ve done something wrong, we can promise to behave better. Then, GOD might change his mind and give us a second chance.

If you’re planning to visit Israel on Rosh Hashanah, I’ve gathered 5 ways to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Israel. Just keep in mind that public transportation does not operate during the holiday, which lasts two days. Also, most shops and places are closed.

Table of contents:

  1. When is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?
  2. 5 ways to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Israel
    1. Hear the blowing of the shofar
    1. Drink freshly squeezed pomegranate juice
    1. Taste Israeli honey
    1. Go to a beach to watch the Tashlich
    1. Go look for Urginea Maritima
  3. Final tip

When is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?

This year (2021), Rosh Hashanah will begin at sundown on September 6 and end at nightfall on September 8. Every year, the date is slightly different. That’s because we celebrate our holidays according to the Hebrew calendar, which is different from the widely used Gregorian calendar. The first day of the Hebrew year is the 1st of Tishrei. Usually, this day falls either in September or October.

5 ways to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Israel:

Hear the blowing of the shofar:

In the Bible, Rosh Hashanah is called “the day of blasting.” That’s why Jews are obligated to hear the blowing – or blasting – of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. A shofar is a horn of a kosher animal, usually a ram, used as a trumpet on special occasions.

At the start of the COVID pandemic, many people couldn’t leave their houses because of quarantine. We were at home too at that time. Then, I remember hearing someone shouting from the street: “Who needs to hear the shofar? Who here is in quarantine?” Some people shouted back at him: “Here, here.” And then he blasted the shofar a few times. So, you see, hearing the shofar blowing is very important in Judaism.

The Bible doesn’t tell us why we need to hear the blasting of the shofar. But some people have tried to explain. Some say that the blast is meant to awaken our souls, to stir the heart. This way, we’ll be able to think better about what we’ve done and what we would like to do from now on. Others say it is meant to humble us and fill us with awe before GOD.

If you want to hear the shofar blast as well, look for a nearby synagogue and go early in the morning. Usually, the shofar is blown during the morning service, after reading part of the Torah, the five first books of the Bible. But you might be able to hear it throughout the day, too. If the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, the shofar will not be blown on that day. Instead, it will be blown on Sunday.

A Jewish man blowing a shofar. Pic taken from the Matson Collection

Drink freshly squeezed pomegranate juice:

Almost every Jewish holiday is connected to some traditional food. On Rosh Hashanah, one of the most popular food items is the pomegranate. A few days or even weeks before Rosh Hashanah, you’ll see pomegranates all over the marketplaces. Ask the vendors if they can make freshly squeezed pomegranate juice for you. Those who like pomegranates love it!

The pomegranates are known as one of the “seven species of the Land of Israel.” In Jewish tradition, it symbolizes righteousness, wisdom, and knowledge. One blessing that many bless during Rosh Hashanah is: “May we be full of merits like the pomegranate.” That’s because the pomegranate is FULL of seeds. It is said to have 613 seeds, like the number of 613 commandments of the Torah. So, don’t miss the opportunity to get these merits ;-).

Keep in mind that most markets will be closed during Rosh Hashanah itself. So, try getting that cup of pomegranate juice right before or right after the holiday.  

A fresh pomegranate

Taste Israeli honey:

Another thing we love to eat on Rosh Hashanah is an apple in honey. We slice a red apple, dip it in honey, and say: “May we have a sweet year ahead.” One of the main reasons we eat the apple is because of its sweetness. Together with the sweetness of the honey, we hope for an ultra-sweet year ahead. But instead of sending you to apple orchards, I want to recommend a visit to an apiary, where bees and people make honey.

There are many apiaries all over Israel, from the north to the south. Some of them offer special tours just before Rosh Hashanah as part of the holiday spirit. But even if they don’t, I recommend visiting their store, tasting, and purchasing some Israeli-made honey. There are many types to taste, including classic wildflower honey, avocado honey, carob honey, and more.

I’ve been to Meshek Ofir near Alon HaGalil in Lower Galilee and really enjoyed the honey-tasting there. But one of the most popular honey brands in Israel is Yad Mordechai. You’ll find its honey almost in every supermarket. You can also visit its visitor center in kibbutz Yad Mordechai near Ashkelon. But if you want to taste honey in a truly surreal place, head to the desert landscape of the Arava and visit Porat Farm in Ein Yahav. No matter where you choose to go, it’ll be a great start for the Jewish year!  

Mmmm… honey!

Go to a beach to watch the Tashlich:

Tashlich is one of the main customs of Rosh Hashanah. It means “throw away.” On the first afternoon of the holiday, people go to a body of water and perform this special ceremony. It could be any body of water – a river, a pond, an ocean, and so on. If you want to witness this ceremony, the best place you can go is the sea. I can’t guarantee you’ll see it, but it’s certainly possible. If you’re in a city, people might also be performing the Tashlich next to one of the city’s fountains. So, you can check over there, too.

During the ceremony, people symbolically cast their sins into the water, evoking the verse: “And You shall cast their sins into the depths of the sea.” They first say the prayer. Then, they shake their pockets or the hem of their clothes above the water and empty their sins. If there are fish in the area, they might also throw some crumbs into the water because fish are a sign of blessing.  

If Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, the Tashlich will be done on Sunday. 

“Jews Performing Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah” by Aleksander Gierymski

Go look for Urginea Maritima:

Many Jewish holidays are connected to a specific season. Rosh Hashanah is one of the holidays that mark the beginning of the fall. Another thing that marks the beginning of the fall is the Urginea Maritima, a common plant in Israel. The plant starts blooming at the end of summer. In Naomi Shemer’s famous song, “On Rosh Hashanah,” she wrote: “On Rosh Hashanah, a Urginea Maritima turns on in the field like a memorial candle.” Believe me, it sounds much better in Hebrew!

If you like nature, there’s plenty of it in Israel. Rent a car and go look for Urginea Maritima. They should already be blooming at this time of the year. Here are some places that have a large concentration of Urginea Maritima:

  • Tel Yodfat in the Lower Galilee. This site is also worth visiting because it was the site of one of the first battles during the First Jewish-Roman War.
  • The Bible Hill in Jerusalem. If you’re already in Jerusalem and don’t want to wander too far, you can find a bit of nature near the First Station. There’s a short but steep climb from David Remez Street in front of the First Station. You can also enjoy a nice view of the surroundings from up there.
  • Horvat Karta near Atlit. There’s a short trail that goes up to a hill overlooking the Coastal Plain. At the top, there are many Urginea Maritima and also ruins of a Crusader-era fortress.

Here you can see a nice video of the Urginea Maritima plants at Tel Yodfat, taken by Yermi Ben Tzvi:

Final tip:

Rosh Hashanah is a wonderful holiday that fuels us with new energy for the upcoming year. Besides the 5 ways mentioned, try to join a local family for their Rosh Hashanah seder. It might be difficult to find, but if you happen to stumble upon a local feast, it’s the best way to experience the holiday. This is how my Rosh Hashanah usually looks like.

Have a nice holiday in Israel!

Want to learn more about holidays in Israel?

Read my post – Holidays in Israel and How to Spend Them During Travel.

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If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning your trip to Israel, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

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And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Fun facts & enrichment

Top Facebook Posts from Backpack Israel 2019

Hi everyone! 2020 is almost here and I guess it’s a good time to start summarizing the year of 2019. In 2019 I put a lot of focus on my Facebook page – Backpack Israel, so in order to summarize the year, I thought it would be a good idea to go over the posts I published on Facebook this year. Here are the top Facebook posts from my Facebook page in 2019:

1 – Eurovision has started today!

May 2019 – The biggest event in Israel was the Eurovision Song Contest. Tel Aviv was full of tourists, and the city was also full of events. So… I suggested 7 Things to do in Tel Aviv on Eurovision Week. Unfortunately, Israel didn’t win this Eurovision, but at least everyone had fun!

2 – “Do I have to get a Rav Kav?”

May 2019 – A lot of people ask me about public transportation and about the Rav Kav transportation card, so I decided to post about it. The post is still true – You have to have a Rav Kav in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (unless you use the light-rail train in Jerusalem, which you can ride on with a paper ticket). In other places, there’s still no need for a Rav Kav, although it’s recommended!

Read more about the Rav Kav here – Let’s Talk About the Rav Kav.

3 – After staying 3 nights in Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv

June 2019 – I stayed at Abraham Hostel – at my own expense – and posted about it. If you don’t want to read all about my stay, I’ll just say that Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, and also in Jerusalem, is of very high quality. But you should book a place early, as it gets full fast! Read my review – Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv: Cool Stay in the City Center.

4 – I stayed last weekend at Roger’s House Tel Aviv

July 2019 – About a month after Abraham Hostel, I was invited to stay a weekend at Roger’s House in Tel Aviv. The building in which the hostel is situated is an amazing old Templar house. Read my full review – Roger’s House: A Tel Avivian Hostel with Cool Vibes. Seems like a like to use the adjective “cool”.

5 – The new train station in Jerusalem is VERY deep

September 2019 – After overcoming my fears, I took a ride on the new train from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem. That line was inaugurated almost a year beforehand, on 25 September 2018. As I said, the new train station in Jerusalem, called Yitzhak Navon Station, is VERY deep – about 80 meters underground. The ride from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion takes about 25 minutes, and the way down to the platform about 10 minutes!

About two weeks ago started operating a new line which connects Jerusalem directly to Tel Aviv. I haven’t tried it yet.

6 – I finally ate at the famous Hachapuria

September 2019 – The Hachapuria is one of the most famous restaurants in Machane Yehuda, focusing only on the chachapuri, a Georgian dish which is made here with an Israeli touch. When I published this post, one of my page followers commented that it doesn’t look like a true Georgian chachapuri and that it needs to be with much more cheese and egg inside the middle of the bread. After eating at many of the market’s restaurants, I wouldn’t put Hachapuria at the top of my list, but it’s a nice place to eat if you like this type of food. For more restaurant recommendations, check out – My Favorite Budget Places to Eat in Jerusalem.

If you’re looking for a place which is a bit more expensive (around 60-70 ILS per meal), I highly recommend Azura and Manou Bashouk, both in the Machane Yehuda Market.

7 – If you’re looking for a cool place to stay in Jerusalem…

September 2019 – After sleeping at a lot of hostels in Tel Aviv, I decided to start sleeping at hostels in Jerusalem. The one I loved most was Cinema Hostel, a quite new hostel in the city, which has a great modern look. Like I usually do, I stayed here at my own expense, so you can be sure my review is 100{f224ba440c8e8489685f5be0eb52a1764ff3ab93b94d860236479bc3f69cbf7f} authentic. Read my full review – Cinema Hostel: Sleeping in Style in Jerusalem.

8 – Shalom everyone, This is Lior from Backpack Israel

November 2019 – I post this kind of post once in a while, because I really love to read your questions! Since opening Backpack Israel I have been interacting with dozens of travelers who came to see Israel on a budget, and am always happy to help anyone who needs it, whether it is with bus tickets, recommended places to stay or any other questions that come to your mind. The offer is still relevant, so if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com and I will try my best to answer.

9 – Shabbat Shalom everyone

November 2019 – One of the most popular posts on my blog is Shabbat in Jerusalem: What’s Open? , so I sometimes post about it again on Fridays, just to remind you that there’s much to do on Shabbat in Jerusalem even though there’s no public transportation.

10 – For the last two days, parts of Israel gave been under missle attack

November 2019 – The Western Negev gets hit from missles quite often, but Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other touristic destinations are very rarely targetted at. In November this year, we had a short missle attack on Tel Aviv as well. Why? Because we killed one of the leading terrorists in Gaza Strip.

If you happen to hear about a missle attack on Israel in the news and wondering if you should cancel you’re trip, don’t cancel right away. In most cases, these missle attacks end after 2-3 days and we reach a ceasefire. So is Israel safe? Yes it is. Here’s the full post – Is Israel Safe to Visit?

Those were the top posts on my Facebook page this year. So we had the Eurovision, talked as always about the public transportation, and checked out some great hostels and places to eat in Israel. Was a great year!

Happy New Year everyone!


Think this post is useful or helpful? Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment 🙂

Also, check out my Facebook page, Backpack Israel.

Want help with planning your trip to Israel? Check out the new app, Travel Israel by Travelkosh. You’re also welcome to contact me through the Experts tab.

Looking for a tour guide in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? I’m a tour guide and I might be available! Send me an email – lior@backpackisrael.com.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Fun facts & enrichment

Jews in Israel: 8 Questions you Might Ask

Israel defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state. Does it mean that everyone here is Jewish? No. There are many Muslims and Christians in Israel, who are free to believe in whatever they want and to observe their rituals. But in this post I would like to focus on the Jewish people of Israel. Well, not exactly on them, but on the things you might see or experience in Israel, that are connected to the Jewish laws and traditions. For example, you’ll see that there is almost no public transportation during the holy day of the Jewish week, the Shabbat (from Friday evening to Saturday evening).

A lot of the Jewish people don’t see the Judaism as a religion, but as a nation. They belong to the nation of the Jewish people, but do not observe the religious Jewiss]h laws. Some keep the basic traditions, but some are completely secular. There are many sorts of Jewish people in Israel, but today I won’t focus on the different Jewish groups. As I said, today I will focus on things that you might see and experience during your visit to Israel.

Here are some questions you might ask yourself while you travel in Israel:

 

Why do some men have really long sidelocks?

You’ll see those long sidelocks mostly in Jerusalem, along the faces of the Jewish men wearing black or white clothes. Those Jewish people are named Haredim and belong to a spectrum of groups within the Orthodox Judaism. You might see Jewish people from other groups with those sidelocks, but the long sidelocks (called “Peyot” in Hebrew) usually appear within the Haredim group.

What are those sidelocks? The Torah forbids to shave the beard hair. The Judaism explains this law by saying that the shaving of the beard was a pagan tradition and we don’t want to be like the pagans.  Because it appears in the Torah, it is considered a religious Jewish law. Different Jewish groups interpret the law differently and that is why you won’t see everyone with those long sidelocks, only the ones that are really hardcore.

 

Portrait of a young boy with peyot by Isidor Kaufmann

 

What is that circular thing that some men put on their heads?

That circular cap, usually made from cloth, is called a Kippah. It is much more popular to go with a Kippah than to go with long sidelocks, so you’ll see Kippahs almost everywhere in Israel, although wearing a Kippah isn’t a religious law from the Torah. People wear a Kippah abroad to show that they are Jewish. In Israel the Kippah also shows that the person wearing it is Jewish, but mostly shows to which Jewish group does the person belong. For instance, black Kippahs are usually worn by Haredim or Chasidim, while crocheted and more colorful Kippahs are usually worn by religious zionists or modern orthodox Jews. Get ready to see a wide range of Kippahs in Israel, in all colors and sizes.

Besides all this, why do people wear a Kippah? Because according to a tradition from the Middle Ages, the Kippah is meant to remind the person that there is someone above him (God).

 

Kippahs on the table

 

Why is there a siren on Friday evening in Jerusalem? 

Remember I mentioned the Shabbat? That’s the most holy day of the week for the Jewish people. It begins on Friday evening, right before sunset. That’s when you’ll probably hear a siren starting in Jerusalem. It will sound the strongest in the city center area. This siren is meant to make sure that everyone knows that the Shabbat is beginning.

Did you know? In the time of the Second Temple, a priest would stand at the upper south-west corner of the Temple Mount and trumpet or blow a shofar to declare the entrance of the Shabbat. I suppose the siren is a continuation of this ceremony.

 

This is how it might have looked like in the Second Temple Days – Illustration by Tamar HaYardeni

 

Why isn’t there meat on the menu?  

If you’ve entered a restaurant and found only dairy dishes on the menu, then you’ve entered a dairy restaurant. And vice versa, if you entered a restaurant and found only meat dishes, then you’ve entered a meat restaurant. Usually, dairy dishes and meat dished will be seperated in Israel, as most restaurants are Kosher. According to the Jewish law, you cannot eat meat and milk together and you must wait several hours between a meat dish and a dairy dish. Kosher is much more than seperation of dairy and meat dishes. For example, there are also animals that aren’t Kosher to eat (like shrimps and pigs). The animals also have to be slaughtered in a specific way, in accordance to the Jewish law. But, the most noticeable thing about Kosherness in restuarants is that there are restaurants for meat dishes and restaurants for diary dishes. Those restaurants will usually be closed during Shabbat day as well, because that is also part of the Jewish law. One of the top attractions in Jerusalem is the Kosher McDonalds branch.

Does that mean you won’t find restaurants that aren’t Kosher? No. Not all people in Israel are strict about the Jewish Kosher law, so there are many restaurants that aren’t Kosher. In Tel Aviv there are plenty and also in Haifa and many other places. In Jerusalem there are also some that are not Kosher. In Jerusalem, look for them in Ein Karem neighborhood, in the First Station (Hatachana) or along Hillel Street in the city center.    

 

Milk and meat can’t be mixed

 

Why is there a large cup in the sink of the toilet room? 

If you enter a toilet room in a restaurant or a hotel or any other public place, you might find a large cup connected (or not connected) with a string or a chain to the sink. That might look strange, but it’s there for a reason. The cup is called Natla and it is used during the handwashing ritual. Handwashing is a religious commandment, part of the Taharah (purity ritual), so whoever sees themselves religious enough will do this. You will see those Natlas mainly in Jerusalem, where the general population is more religious.

How and when does this ritual take place? In Judaism, it is required to handwash right after waking up, before eating bread, after going to the toilet, before entering a holy place (that’s why you’ll see Natlas in the plaza before the Western Wall), after exiting from a cemetery, and before prayer. Using the Natla, the person spills water on his hands three times.

 

Natla – Photo by Etan J. Tal

 

Why can’t men and women pray together next to the Western Wall?

When you’ll arrive at the Western Wall, you’ll see that next to the wall there’s an area for men and an area for women. That’s because the Western Wall is an Orthodox area and the Orthodox groups are very strict about the rules of Tzniut (“modesty”). The Tzniut is connected to modesty of both dress and behavior and is meant to minimize social connections between men and women that are not married. In the Western Wall, even married couples can’t approach the Wall together. Women must dress modestly, which means you can’t come with mini pants, shirts with a deep V or undershirts. You don’t have to wear skirts or cover your elbows, but the minimum modesty is required. The seperation between men and women next to the Wall is meant to prevent the men from being destracted by the women during their prayer. 

But what if you really really want to pray with the opposite sex? Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about this issue in Israel. A group of Jewish women, called Women of the Wall, have protested against the current situation, that men and women can’t pray beside each other. Today, there is a small area south of the current praying area, where men and women can pray together. Also, there is a hidden spot in the Muslim quarter, called The Little Western Waal (Kotel), where there are no restrictions.

More things to know about Tzniut: There are some Jewish people, mainly Orthodox Jews, who are also strict about touch. In the Jewish law, as part of the Tzniut it is forbidden to touch the opposite sex, except if they are family members. This means that some Jews will feel uncomfortable to even shake your hand as a greeting if you’re the opposite sex. How can you avoid such discomfort? If you know the person in front of you is religious (if he wears a Kippah or has long hairlocks) and is your opposite sex, you can just greet them with a smile and a “Shalom” or “Hi”. If they will want, they will shake your hand. But I do want to emphasize that not all religious people observe this law, so many people with a Kippah will have no problem with touch.

 

Men praying next to the Western Wall

 

What is the black strap that some men wrap around their arm and forehead? 

If you’re passing through a main bus or train station in the morning, you might hear someone shout: “Gever, henachta tfillin ahyom?” Which more or less means: “Man, did you already wear tefillin today?” Tefillin are two black leather boxes containing parchment scrolls inscribed with verses from the Torah. The religious adult Jewish man wears those boxes on his forehead and arm, by wrapping a black strap around his forehead and arm. In ancient times Jewish people would do this a few times along the day, but today it is common to only do it during the morning prayer, called Shacharit.  During this prayer, the man will also wrap himself with the Tallit, a rectangular shaped garment. It is a Jewish commandment that lies on every Jew male after the age of 13. Usually, only religious men will wear it.

What does the tefillin symbolize? According to the Torah, the tefillin should be worn to remind the person and the people around him that God brought the People of Israel out of Egypt and to remind the person of his connection to God.

 

A man praying with tefillin

 

Why do some people kiss the doorpost every time they pass through?  

When you see people entering or exiting a place, you might see them kissing their hand and then placing their hand on the side of the doorway. If you’ll look closer, you’ll see that there is a long and narrow object on the side of the doorway – that’s the Mezuzah. The mezuzah is a decorative case, in which a special parchment (called “klaf” in Hebrew) is being kept. Inscribed on the parchment are specific Hebrew verses from the Torah. The main verses are from “Shema Yisrael”. The verses are written by a qualified scribe called Sofer Stam. It is a Jewish commandment to afix the mezuzah on the doorpost of homes, offices, public buildings and so on, so you’ll probably see it almost everywhere in Israel. I have a mezuzah in the entrance to my home, for example. Some even afix it to the doorposts of every room in the house or building, except for the door that leads to the bathroom and closets.

Other than the commandment, why afix a mezuzah?  Jewish people believe that the mezuzah protects the dwellers of the house from evil eye, diseases and bad luck. Every few years, some even check that the klaf inside the mezuzah isn’t damaged, to make sure nothing bad happens.

 

Mezuzah on the side of the doorway

 

That’s alll for today. If you have any more questions about the Jewish people of Israel, feel free to ask me in the comments and I’ll try to answer. If I won’t be sure about it, I’ll check with an expert.

Have a wonderful day!


If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

If you need help with planning your trip itinerary to Israel – contact me.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Fun facts & enrichment

The History of Jewish and Muslim Jerusalem

At 4:00 PM on the 14th of May 1948, David Ben Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel. In his declaration, he did not mention Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He didn’t mention the capital of Israel at all. This is because he agreed to the UNSCOP Partition Plan, which stated that Jerusalem will be a city under international control, not part of the Israeli state nor the Arab state (read more about the Partition Plan here). Later, on the 5th of December 1949, Ben Gurion will declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

When the Independence War breaks on the 15th of May 1948, there are around one-hundred thousand Jewish people in Jerusalem, and 60 thousand Arabs. But before I start telling you about what happened when the Independence War started, I want to take you back in time to the Biblical days.

The Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv

Jerusalem – The City of David and the Holy Temple

In the Bible, it is said that King David captured the city of Jerusalem from a Canaanite tribe named the Jebusites. Scholars believe this happened around 1004 BCE. The Bible also says that David’s son, Solomon, built the First Temple in Jerusalem as a holy place for God. This Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. Then, when the Jewish people returned from exile around 521 BCE, they began rebuilding the Temple. The Second Temple was completed around 515 BCE. And if there are doubts about the First Temple, then there are much less doubts about the Second Temple.

You can find a description of the Second Temple in the historical book of Josephus, The Jewish War. Josephus was a Jewish historian who joined the Roman army during the Jewish War between 66 to 74 CE. In his book, he tells us a lot about the Temple. Here is a bit of what he wrote about the Second Temple’s destruction by the Roman Titus: “So Titus retired into the tower of Antonia, and resolved to storm the Temple the next day, early in the morning, with his whole army, and to encamp round about the Holy House; but, as for that House, God had for certain long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of the ages: it was the tenth day of the month Lous, [Av,] upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon…”

Unfortunately, the Waqf, who oversee the Temple Mount area, do not allow people to carry out archeological excavations, which means we can’t really discover findings from the Second Temple era on Temple Mount. Though, what the two archeologists, Clermont and Ganneau, found in 1871, is a Temple warning inscription, known as the Soreg Inscription. This stone sign was probably positioned at the entrance to the Temple area, as its inscription in Greek says: “No foreigner is to enter the barriers surrounding the Temple. He who is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.” Josephus also mentions such an inscription in his writings: “…Located within it, and nearby, were steps which led up to the second structure, which was surrounded by a stone wall used as a barrier, engraved with an inscription not allowing foreigners to enter into it under the penalty of death.” (The Jewish War 5: 5, 2) Today, a broken sign is kept in the Israel Museum. A whole sign is kept somewhere in one of Istanbul’s museums.

The Western Wall is a remainder of the wall that encircled the Second Temple’s plaza. On the Temple Mount, near the Gate of Mercy, you can also find the Board of Charity (which is one of the five pillars of Islam). Next to the Board’s building, there is a sign saying in Arabic that this is the Board of Charity of the Temple.  They didn’t change the sign, although they’ve changed their opinions. Until the 90s, Muslims didn’t deny the existence of the Second Temple. They believed it existed. But, following the Arab-Jewish conflict that arose around the Temple Mount, they changed their story and stated that the Holy Temple is a lie of the Jewish people.

The Visionary Temple plan drawn by the 19th century French architect and Bible scholar Charles Chipiez

Back to the Independence War

So, after I told you a bit about why Jerusalem is so important to the Jewish people, let’s get back to the Independence War. Dozens of settlements were attacked, but now we’re focusing on Jerusalem.

Two months after the Declaration of Israel’s Independence, the IDF completes Operation Danny. In this operation, the IDF were able to reach the besieged Jerusalem and free the route to it, thus freeing the one-hundred thousand Jewish people in Jerusalem.

The Jordanians, during the war, captured the Eastern side of Jerusalem. In September 1948, after Operation Danny, Israel took Western Jerusalem under its control and very quickly established the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem. On the 30th of November 1948, during the Independence War, Israel and Jordan signed on an agreement, saying that the Eastern side of Jerusalem is Jordanian, and the Western side is Israeli. This was the first time that Jerusalem was divided. Jordan pledged to allow the Jewish and Christian people to access the holy places in the Old City, which was under Jordanian control, but failed to do so. Between 1948 and the Six Day War in 1967, Eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City, was a neglected and underdeveloped area.

On the 16th of May 1949 Herzl’s coffin was taken from Vienna to Israel. On the 17th of August the coffin was buried on Mount El-Ashraf, which is the highest mountain in Western Jerusalem. Later on, this mountain will be called Mount Herzl. The Jewish leadership sent out a message: “It is most appropriate that the prophet of the State of the Jewish People will be buried in the capital city of the state he had foreseen.” This was the first time that Jerusalem was called the capital of Israel.

When the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, gathered on the 5th of December 1949, Ben Gurion stood on the stage and declared officially that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel.

Then, in 1967, came the Six Day War. The Jordanians captured Armon HaNetziv, which was a demilitarized territory according to the agreement that was signed back in November 1948. This meant they broke the agreement. Within six days, the Eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Old City, was back in Israeli hands. The Israeli leadership decided to annex around 85 square kilometers to the city of Jerusalem, including many Arab settlements, some even beyond the “Green Line” (the line that was set following the Independence War between Israel and its neighboring countries). This means that many Arabs living in Jerusalem do not see themselves as Israelis. And this is a long story, great for another post… Now let’s talk about the importance of Jerusalem to the Muslims.

The Signing on the Jordan-Israeli Agreement in November 1948

The Importance of Jerusalem to the Muslims

Throughout history, it seems that Jerusalem was not so important to the Muslims. Mohammed was born in 570 CE and established the Islam about 40 years afterwards. He was born and raised in the area which is today Saudi Arabia. In the Quran, Jerusalem is not mentioned at all, whereas in the Old Testament it is mentioned 349 times. Muslims believe that Mohammed made a night journey to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where he got the Five Islamic Prayers. But, the place mentioned in the Quran is the “Furthest Masjid” (traditionally recognized as Al-Aqsa Mosque).  “Al-Aqsa” in Arabic means “the edge”, which means “the furthest”.

The first Muslim leader steps in Jerusalem in 638 CE. The Caliph Omar captured Jerusalem from the Byzantines. He finds an empty, ruined Temple Mount, and decided to build an impressive holy structure on it to show, amongst other things, that the Islam is more supreme that the Christianity. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher might have been higher, but the Islamic structures on Temple Mount were spread on a much wider space.

The Golden Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque were built during the Umayyad dynasty, between the years 692 and 705 CE.  That was when the Arab rulers were close to Jerusalem, based in Damascus. But, in 750 CE, when the Abbasid dynasty, who were based in faraway Baghdad, took over the city, it fell into neglect. It stayed that way until the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in the 12th century. In 1033, when an earthquake ruined Al-Aqsa Mosque, the religious Muslim court judge of Jerusalem had to gather literature pieces about the holiness of Jerusalem to try and get funds for repairing the mosque. It wasn’t obvious.

Jerusalem was never a capital of any of the Muslim empires who captured it. Mecca is and was always the most important city to the Muslims. Medina is the second most holy city for the Muslims. Jerusalem is third on the Muslims’ list.

Hope this post helped you understand a bit more about what’s going on in Jerusalem and maybe understand why Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.


Want to know something about Israel’s history? Let me know what interests you and I’ll tell you all you wish to know.

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Yours,

Lior

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The UN Vote that Led to the Independence War

 

70 years ago, in 1947, the British had a mandate over the Land of Israel (called Palestine back then). Unfortunately for them, the Arabs and Jewish people living under their mandate were giving them a hard time. During May 1947, they asked the UN to try and find a solution for the Arab-Jewish conflict, and so the UN sent a special commitee, the UNSCOP, to check what is going on in Palestine and amongst its residents.

When the UNSCOP came back to their headquarters, it was clear to them that the best solution is to part the land into two independant states, one Arab and one Jewish. As you can see in the map that I added below, UNSCOP wanted to give the Jewish people (in green) the area of the Galilee Panhandle, the Eastern Lower Galilee, most of the Coastal Plain and the whole Negev. The Arabs (in orange) were to recieve the Western part of the Galilee, the Gaza Strip, the whole area of the Shfela lowlands and most of the Judaean Desert and Jordan Rift Valley. Jerusalem was planned to be under special international control. The Arabs and Jewish people weren’t very happy about the plan, but the Jewish leaders in the Land of Israel declared that they are willing to go with the plan if it will bring peace to the area. The plan was submitted and the UN General Assembly gathered to vote.

 


This takes us to 29 November, 1947. On that date, we would have found a group of families gathered around a radio, listening keenly to the UN assembly that was taking place far away, in New York City in America.

 

Those families were not the only ones listening to the assembly. In houses all over the Land of Israel, hundreds of families gathered around their radios, waiting to hear the results of the UN vote. Those families were part of the Yishuv, the Jewish settlement, who worked hard to develop agriculture and settlements in the Land of Israel, the land of their forefathers. Arab families were also listening to the assembly, of course, but the two groups were waiting for different results.

And then they started announcing the votes of the 56 countries that took part in the assembly. The families stood next to the radios, their hearts pounding hard, their ears wide open. As Amoz Oz describes it in one of his books, “The huge crowd stood petrified in the frightening silence of the night, as if they were not real human beings, but just hundreds of shadows painted upon the flashing darkness… Not a word, not a cough, not a step of a shoe. Even the flies didn’t buzz.”

“Afghanistan – no… Ukraine – yes… Soviet Union – yes… United Kingdom – abstained… Uniteded States – yes…” One after the other, the states voted. And then, after a long and tense wait, the votes were counted and it was official – the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was adopted by the UN General Assembly (with 33 countries voting in favour of the plan). 

You can hear and watch part of the assembly here:

 

The Jewish settlement burst into cries of joy, people started dancing and singing in the streets, sweets and pantries were given to anyone who desired, bottles of wine and beer were opened to celebrate this wonderful event- the Jewish people had a state of their own at last! 

 

But while the crowds cheered in the streets, Ben Gurion, who will be the first Prime Minister of Israel, knew what was coming. He knew that the Arabs weren’t happy about the results of the vote and that they were not going to accept the decision. Their leaders said that the decision violated the principles of the national self determination in the UN charter, principles that granted people the right to decide on their own destiny. They also add some other pleas against the decision:

  • It is not logical that the minority group of Jewish people recieved 55{f224ba440c8e8489685f5be0eb52a1764ff3ab93b94d860236479bc3f69cbf7f} of the Land’s territory.
  • There was no real parttition in the plan, because demographically, in the Jewish territory there were to be about 500 thousand Jewish people alongside about 400 thousand Arabs. In other words, the foreseen Jewish state was not all Jewish.
  • In the foreseen Jewish state, only 8{f224ba440c8e8489685f5be0eb52a1764ff3ab93b94d860236479bc3f69cbf7f} of the land was owned by Jewish people.
  • When the decision was read out, the first thing that was said was that the Jewish people deserved a state of their own after the terrors of the Holocaust. The Arabs said that they have no connection to the Holocaust and asked why do they need to pay for the awful things that were done my the Europians?

Ben Gurion knew that the Jewish people of Israel had a long and tough way to go until they will have a state.

On the 30 of November, the Israeli Arabs attacked the Jewish settlements, to show that they are not bound to the partition plan.  This started the first part of the Independence War, that began officially on the 15th of May 1948 (after Ben Gurion declared ISrael’s Independence) and lasted officially until 20 July, 1949. Before the Declaration of Independence, the Arabs in Israel attacked Jewish settlements. After the Declaration, the armies of the surrounding countries joined the attacks. Around 6 thousand Jewish people were killed during this war, and the Arabs lost all they were given in the Partition Plan.

 


Want to know something about Israel’s history? Let me know what interests you and I’ll tell you all you wish to know.

If you liked this post or found it useful, I’ll be glad to get a like, share or comment from you (:

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Yours,

Lior

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WHERE, WHEN and HOW MUCH in Hebrew

In Israel, when we don’t understand something, we say it’s like Chinese, “Ze kmo Sinit”. That’s because Chinese seems like a very complicated language, with wierd letters and even wierder pronunciation of words. When I travelled to China alone a few years ago, I really didn’t understand much of what the locals were saying, but I learned that you don’t really need to understand words to communicate. You just need to smile and use a lot of sign language. But, knowing the local language always gets a larger smile from the locals.

In Israel you can talk in English freely with us locals and many of us will understand you, but as I said, it’s always better to know the locals’ language, and that’s why I’ve decided to post this second post after the first one – “Shalom! 10 Useful Words and Phrases in Israel“. But this time I want to focus on three words: WHERE, WHEN and HOW MUCH (which is one word in Hebrew). When I was a lone traveller in China, I felt that those three words were very useful when searching for the restroom, looking for a specific attraction, waiting in line for a show and bargaining over a nice necklace I wanted. I believe those words would be useful for you while travelling in Israel, too!

So…

WHERE?

In Hebrew, “Where” is “Ei-fo”. If you want to ask “Where is the ____?” you just ask: “Eifo ha-_____?” There is no “is” in Hebrew. “Ha” means “the” and you use it very often when asking the WHERE question, as a prefix of the place or thing you’re looking for.  Here are some WHERE questions you might want to ask:

Where is the restroom?

In Hebrew you ask: “Ei-fo ha-shiru-tim?”  You will usually find restrooms in restaurants, but then you will likely be asked to buy something to be able to use them. If not, you can sneak in without them noticing. Bars also have restrooms in them. You might have to pay 1-3 Shekels to enter some restrooms at bus stations or other touristic areas.

Where is my hotel?

You probably won’t ask strangers on the street “Where is my hotel?” because they won’t which hotel you’re talking about. On the other hand, you can ask “Where is *the name of your hotel*?” This is very simple. You just ask “Ei-fo…” and put in your hotel’s name. For example, if you’re looking for Abraham Hostel, you can just ask: “Ei-fo Abraham Hostel?” 

Where is the bus station?

If you want to ask where is the Central Bus Station, you can ask “Ei-fo ha-mer-ka-zit?” which literally means “Where the Central?” You don’t need to mention buses or stations. Where you say “mer-ka-zit” (“central”), the Israelis will know what you’re looking for and give you directions to the central bus station of the city.

If you’re looking for a specific station that’s not the central station, you should know what bus line you are looking for. When you know your bus line, ask: “Ei-fo ha-ta-cha-na shel kav *your bus number*?” which means “Where the station of line *your bus number*?” “Ta-cha-na” means “station”, “shel” means “of” and “kav” means “line”. But how do you say your bus number in Hebrew? Look into this Wikipedia page and learn the basics.

Where is the train station?

This will come in handy if you’re planning to travel with Israel Railways to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Jerusalem and so on. You can see the full list of stations in Israel Railway’s official site. The price of a train ticket is similiar to a bus ticket, so if you want to get somewhere faster, the train is the way.  If you don’t know where is the train station, ask “Ei-fo ta-cha-nat ha-ra-ke-vet?” As I’ve already mentioned above, “ta-cha-na” is “station”. “Ra-ke-vet” means “train”. We add a “t” to the “ta-cha-na” to show that the station belongs to the train. You can also ask: “”Ei-fo ha-ta-cha-na shel ha-ra-ke-vet?” but that’s longer than the first option.

If you’re in Jeruslaem, the more popular train is the light-train (“Ra-ke-vet ka-la”), which goes through the city itself.

WHEN?

In Hebrew, “When?” is “Ma-tai?” This will be handy for you when waiting in line for something, waiting for your food to arrive in a restaurant or when waiting for a bus or train to arrive. In Israel, not everything comes on time and many times you’ll discover that Israelis have their own time. So, here are some useful WHEN questions for you:

When will it arrive?

“It” can be the food (“O-chel”) you ordered, the package (“Cha-vee-la”) you sent or the bus (“Auto-bus”) you’re waiting for. If the person you’re talking with mentioned the “it”, you can ask in response: “Ma-tai ze ya-gi-ah?” which means “When it will arrive?” But if the other person didn’t mention the “it”, it’s better that you’ll be more specific. If you want to ask when your food will arrive, ask “Ma-tai ha-au-chel ya-gi-ah?” If you want to ask when the package will arrive, ask “Ma-tai ha-cha-vee-la ta-gi-ah?” Why do we say “ya-gi-ah” when we ask about the food and “ta-gi-ah” when we ask about the package? That’s because in Hebrew grammer, the food is masculine and the package is feminine. Maybe I’ll write about gender grammer later on.

And if you want to ask when will your bus arrive, ask: “Ma-tai ya-gi-ah kav *your bus number*?” You can also ask “Ma-tai ma-gi-ah kav *your bus number*?” which means “When arrives line number __?” If you’re not sure if your bus has already passed and you’ve missed it, you can ask: “Kav *your bus number* ah-var?” which means “Line ___ passed?”

When does it start?

“It” can be the show or the event your waiting to start. In Hebrew, ask: “Ma-tai ze mat-chil?” which means “When it starts?” “Ze” means “it” and “mat-chil” means “starts”. You can also ask “Ma-tai ze ya-tchil?” which means “When it will start?”

HOW MUCH?

In Hebrew, “How much?” is “Ka-ma?” It’s important to know how to ask “how much” in Israel, because everything has a price and with this word you can start bargaining, which is widely accepted in Israel. You can negotiate on the prices of the vegetables in the Market (“Shuk”), negotiate on the entrance fee to sites that only accept cash and negotiate on the taxi fee. If you want to ask how much something costs, you can usually be fine with: “Ka-ma ze au-leh?” which means “How much it costs?” If you want to know how much it will cost you to take a ride with a taxi to a specific location, you can ask the driver – before you get on: “Ka-ma ya-ha-le lee le *the name of your destination*?”  which means “How much will cost me to *your destination*?” If you don’t like the price, you can try negotiating and lowering the price. “Ya-ha-le” means “will cost”, “lee” means “for me” and “le” means “to”.

You can also use “ka-ma” when asking about time, “how much time will it take?” (“Ka-ma zman ze yee-kach?” or “how much time does it take?” (“Ka-ma zman ze?” or “Ka-ma zman ze lo-ke-ach?”) “Zman” is “time”. If you want to talk in short, you can just ask “Ka-ma zman?” if you want to know how much longer you need to wait, how much time will it take for something to arrive or happen or if you’re just frustrated that whatever is happening is taking too long.

Clarification:

*When I write “ch” it’s supposed to represent the Hebrew letter “ח” or “כ”. It’s a sound coming from within the throat. To hear it, you can enter this site, which I found very useful.

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Did you find this post useful? Like it or share it or comment. That’ll make me happy (:

If you have anything to add or if you want to know how to say some specific thing  that doesn’t appear here – you’re welcome to ask in the comments or through my Facebook Page.

Happy days and good luck with your Hebrew studies,

Lior

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Shalom! 10 Useful Words and Phrases in Israel

Shalom everyone! Today I want to give you some words that might come in handy for you while travelling in Israel. Language is an integral part of a culture, and learning the language of the country you’re visiting can really enhance your experience! Most of the people in Israel understand English very well, but if you want to learn some local words… Here are some words and phrases that can help you start a very small conversation:

Shalom (שלום) – We don’t really use it a lot anymore. These days we just say “Hi” or “Bye”, but in the past, people in Israel used those words to say “Hello” and “Good-Bye”. We still use it sometimes, so you’re welcome to say it, especially as a hello-greeting. “Shalom” also means “peace”. If you’re speaking to an Arab, you can say: “Ahlan” or “Marchaban” as a greeting.

Ma Kor-eh? (מה קורה) – This phrase usually comes right after the “Hi” and is actually a part of the greeting. “Ma kor-eh?” actually means “What’s up?” or more precisely, “What’s going on (with you)?” When people say “Hi, ma kor-eh?” it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to really know how are you feeling. It’s just a way to say “Hello”. But sometimes people really do ask you “Ma kor-eh?” and want to hear an answer. If you want to ask “How are you doing/ feeling?” you can also ask “Ma shlom-cha?” (more formal. When you talk to a female you need to say “Ma Slom-ech?”) or “Ma nish-ma?” And yes, if you wondered, “Ma” means “What”, just so you know… In Arabic, you can ask: “Kayf halik?”

Tov (טוב) – You can use this word to say that you’re feeling good or to say “OK”. “Tov” literally means “Good”, but you can also use if to let someone know that you got what they asked you to do and are going to do it. Add an understanding nod.

Bo-ker Tov (בוקר טוב) – “Bo-ker tov” means “Good morning” and is a very common greeting. In Arabic it’s “Sabach al-chayr”.

Lie-la Tov (לילה טוב) – “Lie-la tov” means “Good night” and is a common saying, too, especially when you’re leaving after meeting with someone in the evening. If you want to say “Good evening” you need to say “E-rev tov”. In Arabic “good evening” is “Masaa’ al-chayr”.

To-da (תודה) – “To-da” means “Thank you”. You can say “Toda” when someone helps you with directions, when you get your order in a restaurant, when you get off a cab or any other time. It’s always nice to hear! If you really want to show your gratitude, you can say “To-da Ra-ba!” which means “Thank you very much!” In Arabic, you can say: “shukran”. 

Be-va-ka-sha (בבקשה) – “Be-va-ka-sha” means “please”. You won’t hear it a lot in Israel, because people here usually don’t ask for things, but who knows… maybe you’ll need it. Waiters usually say it when they bring food to your table, meaning “Here you go…”

Saying “Yes” or “No” – “Yes” is “ken” and “no” is “lo”. “Lo” also means “not”, so if you’re not feeling good, for instance, you can reply to “Ma kor-eh?” with “lo tov”.

Saying your name – If you want to intoduce yourself, you can just say “Ani (your name)”. “Ani” means “I” and this is a very common way of introducing oneself. If you want to say it more officially, you can say: “Ko-rhim li (your name)”. “Ko-rhim” (קוראים) means “is called” and “li” means “for me” and together they mean “my name is…” In Arabic you can say: “Ismi (your name)”. When you say your name, people will usually say theirs, too, but if for some reason they don’t say their names, you can ask them: “Eich ko-rhim lecha?” (when you speak to a male) or “Eich ko-rhim lach?” (when you speak to a female). “Eich” (איך) means “How”, “Lecha/ Lach” (לך) means “for you” and all the sentence together means “How are you called?”

“Name” in Hebrew is “Shem” (שם).

Where are you from? If you want to say where you are from, you can just say: “Ani mi (your state or city)”. “Ani” means “I”, “mi” means “from” (sometimes people might say “meh” instead of “mi”) and together they mean “I’m from…”

Here are a few names of countries in Hebrew. Maybe you’ll find your place here:

Germany/ Deutschland = Ger-man-ya (גרמניה).

Poland = Pol-in (פולין).

Britain/ England = Brit-an-ya (בריטניה) / An-Glee-ya (אנגליה).

Russia = Roo-si-ya (רוסיה).

Nederland = Holland (הולנד).

France = Tzar-fat (צרפת).

Italy = Ital-ya (איטליה).

USA = Artz-ot A-brit (ארצות הברית).

And what if you can’t understand what they’re saying? Say “Ani lo me-vin” (if you’re male) or “Ani lo me-vina” (if you’re female). That means “I don’t understand”.

*When I write “ch” it’s supposed to represent the Hebrew letter “ח” or “כ”. It’s a sound coming from within the throat. To hear it, you can enter this site, which I found very useful.

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That’s all for now. If you really want to know how to say something else, you’re welcome to ask in the comments! I might add a few more posts about Hebrew in the future (more travel-related). Meanwhile, have fun learning!

And don’t forget to like my new Facebook page – Backpack Israel

Yours, 

Lior (:

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Get to Know the Symbols of Israel

Post last updated: 7 October 2021.

A long time ago, I traveled to South Africa to volunteer in a program with monkeys. When we finished the program, we went to the small airport to get on our flights back home. Then, we had our last chats. One of the girls in the program was French. She was holding on to her reddish passport, which had a strange golden symbol on it. 

“What does this symbol mean?” I asked her. She looked down at her passport and then replied: “I don’t know.”

“I’m asking because I know that the symbol on my passport means something,” I said.

In Israel, almost everything has a meaning. The food during the holidays, the images on the banknotes, our names, and yes, also the symbols. In this post, I’ll tell you about the main symbols of Israel.

The symbol of the State of Israel:

Back to the passport. That French girl asked me: “Yeah? What does it mean?”

“It’s the symbol of the State of Israel,” I replied, “In the center, there’s the Menorah, the ancient lampstand from the Holy Temple. On both sides of it are two olive branches. The olive branches are a symbol of peace.”

Later on, I discovered that in the Bible, Zechariah had a vision of the Menorah standing between two olive trees. The designers of the symbol also chose the olive branches because the Menorah was lighted using olive oil. 

State of Israel symbol

 

The New Israeli Shekel:

I like symbols. They are very simple but have a lot of stories behind them. It turns out that even the symbol of the New Israeli Shekel (₪) has a meaning behind it. I was astonished to find out that it was a merge of “Shekel” (שקל) and “New” (חדש). Pay attention to the first letters of those two words – ש (Shin) and ח (Chet) and take a look at the New Israeli Shekel symbol, right to left. It’s a Shin and a Chet put one upon the other!

Take a look at my drawing below:

 

I drew you an explanation of the Israeli New Shekel symbol

 

The Star of David:

Another important symbol is the Magen David, “Star of David,” which appears on our Israeli flag. For those of you who wondered, the two blue stripes on the flag represent the Talit, the Jewish prayer shawl, that traditionally had blue stripes on it.

Back to the Magen David: No one is sure where it really came from. There are some hypotheses. Some say it looks like King David’s signature, and that’s why it’s called after David. In the Ancient Hebrew script, the letter ד (D) looks like a triangle, and the Star of David is made of two triangles, one upon the other.

 

The flag of Israel

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There’s Going to be Peace in Israel

Peace? In Israel? A few weeks ago I discovered about a movement, that has been active, it turns out, since 2014. The movement is named “Women Wage Peace” (נשים עושות שלום; نساء يصنعن السلام) and it is led by decisive women, Israelis and Palestinians, who want to stop the violence between our two nations. 

During two full weeks this October, thousands of women and men marched throughout Israel, as part of the “March of Hope”. The goal – to activate pressure on the two leaders, Netanyahu and Abu Mazen, to get to a peace agreement. I sadly couldn’t make it to any march, but yesterday I did attend an interesting event of “Women Wage Peace” – the screening of the film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”.

The screening took place in Cinemateque Jerusalem, a cute movie theatre near the First Station in Jerusalem. I made my way there by bus and accidently got down at the wrong station, so I had to walk through the First Station to get there. Then I found out that another march was going on that day- “The Jerusalem March”, which is an annual event. I saw a group of marchers from Brazil and some marchers from Japan. It seemed like I arrived just at the end of the march. It was a nice thing to see…

And then I got to Cinemateque. I thought that not a lot of people would come to the screening, but surprisingly, the movie theatre was quite full. There were mainly elder people. And then the head of the Central Branch of the movement got up on the stage and introduced herself and the movement a bit, and talked about Sukot and the “Peace Suka”. She said that she was really excited to be there that evening and that the rally, which took place the day before, in front of the Prime Minister’s House in Jerusalem, was a huge success. 20,000 people took part in that rally! That’s a huge number. Last year, she said, they were only 3,000 people in the rally.

So, after the introduction, they played the documentary film, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, which tells the story of the women of Liberia, who did everything to finish with the civil war that took place in Liberia for years. They didn’t stop until they achieved their goal. They couldn’t watch more children die. Read more about their action here. The film was screened as an inspiration for us. If they could do it, why won’t we be able to achieve peace? The situation in Liberia was much worse than what’s going on here… here it’s a piece of cake compared to the civil war that took place in Liberia.

After the screening, they showed us Leymah Gbowee’s speech from the rally the other day. To sum it up, she said that we need to know each other. We – the Palestinians and Israelis – have many stereotypes about each other, which make us recoil from each other. We should speak with one another, get to know each other, understand that we both are human beings and we both have hearts and feelings and hopes, and only after we’ll trust each other and understand that we both have compassion, will we be able to make peace. She’s right. We know nothing about each other, and I suppose that both sides live in an environment that encourages fear of the other side. The newspapers are full of it, the leaders aren’t pushing us to get to know each other, but rather to stay apart, and in schools, they don’t teach us about the other’s culture, they don’t talk with us about hope, they don’t encourage us to love. And love is the key here.

People will doubt us, they will discourage us, but if we’re serious about this, we’ll get that peace agreement. The two nations have power. If the people will want peace, it doesn’t matter what the leaders want – they’ll have to fulfill the wishes of the two nations. 

Watch the full Women Wage Peace Rally here (in Hebrew, but you can get the atmosphere from the photage):

Wish us luck!

Lior

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P.S – I must share  a funny (and dissapointing) moment with you! I wanted to double check how to write “decisive women” in English, so I wrote the word in Hebrew in Google and beside it “translation”. Google decided that I don’t want to know how to say “decisive women”. Instead, it decided to show me the results for “hopeless women”. That was unbelievable! It seems like Google doesn’t think women can be decisive. Well, it’s very wrong!

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My Name Means Something

When I was travelling around South Africa, I met many locals, working in the different reserves and wildlife rehabilitation centers. They had wonderful names. The names I remember clearly are Lovemore and Pretty. When I met Western travellers, they were really impressed by the names, too. You won’t hear many names like these in Europe or the USA.

But when I thought about it a little more, I realized that names with meaning are also very common in Israel. My name, for instance, is Lior (ליאור) and it’s built from two Hebrew words, that can also be names by themselves: Li (לי) and Or (אור). “Li” means “For me” and “Or” means “Light”. So my name put together with those two words means “I have a light”. That’s me – “I have a light”. My name means something.

Now… there are many other beautiful names in Israel. Haim (חיים) means “Life”, Aviv (אביב) means “Spring”, Yael (יעל) means “Ibex”, Roni (רוני) means “My Happiness” or “My Song” – and they are all very common names. So is Adi (עדי) meaning “Jewel” and Ofek (אופק) meaning “Horizon”.  I can go on and on… almost every Israeli has a meaning behind his or her name. When you meet one, feel free to ask. You might hear a nice story.

Yours, Lior

Does your name have a meaning, too? Feel free to share it with me in the comments (:

I’ve also opened a new Facebook page, so you’re welcome to like it and ask any questions you want there!