Saturday, April 29, 2006

Knowing, Learning, Remembering

The older I get, I'm getting in touch with my feelings more and more. It's a good thing. For me Yom HaShoah is really powerful. It's interesting that I am so affected by this day because I never met a real live Jewish person until I was 16 and I don't remember where/how my understanding of the Holocaust developed.

For me there is something so incredibly powerful about the whole nation of Israel stopping for two minutes to remember the lives that were destroyed. It motivates me to learn more about the Holocaust and understand the Jewish experience both in the Diaspora and in Israel.

It's also I time for me to remember that I am also part of a minority that was sent to concentration camps.

I waited for a few days to try to put my thoughts together about Yom HaShoah but I haven't been very successful. But I did want to share about this with you all. I'm going to put some links at the bottom of this post to some other blogs that shared about their Yom HaShoah experiences.

This is a photograph of my TV on the evening of Yom HaShoah. All of the Israeli TV channels were off for 24 hours - even the shopping channel. (Other channels like BBC, CNN, etc still were playing programming.) But for the most part there's nothing to watch on Yom HaShoah - some programs about the Holocaust were playing.

Read what some other bloggers have to say about Yom HaShoah:
Dutchblog Israel
From Jerusalem with Love
On the Face
Suburban Desert
Shirat Hasirena

Friday, April 28, 2006

Travels in Georgia: Days 6 and 7

On Day six of our trip to Georgia, we left Tbilisi for an overnight trip to Oni. I stole this map from the website of some folks that live in Oni (I do not live in Oni.):

We picked up some breakfast items at the market in Tbilisi.

We stopped at a roadside fruit stand.

We bought bread by the road too. All of these stalls have women in them making bread all day. See the wood covered, drum-shaped thing under the shed? That's an oven. The women wave loaves of bread at passing drivers - it was an interesting sight.

I made the driver stop so that we could shop here. Lots of interesting clay pieces. Many of our meals while in Georgia were served/cooked in clay bowls. We shopped and the potters demonstrated how good their pots were by banging on them with a stone. Hear that ring of quality? Yaacov's mother commented that you wouldn't have seen this 30 years ago when they lived in Georgia. Everything sold had to be sold in a shop approved by the Soviet government then. Plus she said that husbands then wouldn't let their wives do the selling!


And over the ridge - Winter! (I think I look confused and sleepy. - Actually I am sore because the road was crap and I was sitting in the back bumping around the mountains.)

We had to stop here because recent rains had washed the road out. We had to wait for bulldozers to bring some soil down from the mountain to make a new roadbed - adventure!

Oni from the other side of the river.

The weather was rainy and cold in Oni. We stopped by the synagogue where Y's parents ran into old friends. The Jewish area of town was mainly one street centered around the synagogue. An earthquake in 1991 seriously damaged most buildings in Oni making parts of them uninhabitable. However the synagogue was repaired by funding from the JDC.

We stayed at a super cute bed and breakfast - all 6 of us with a big dinner and big breakfast was just $100. This is the flower garden at the house.

Our host is busy making breakfast. Can you see all the loves of bread she made?! Can you find the cat? The cat hung out for the most part right under the wood stove. While stilling at the breakfast table we experienced a little earthquake - just a little rumble! It was neat and didn't cause any damage.

This picture is of Yaacov's mother's childhood home. Everybody sleeps in the same room - the one with the stove! The same woman that bought the house from Yaacov's grandparents still lives there!

Waterfall on the way back to Tbilisi the next day.

Lizard Love

Yeah, it's Spring.

The lounging lizards were on our office window sill. I seriously need to clean it! The vine you can see by the lizards is jasmine. It makes our apartment smell wonderful on summer nights.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I Smell Dead People

From The Jerusalem Post (I know, I know!):
First, Jews of the priestly class were instructed to veer left after a cave housing centuries-old ancient graves was uncovered underneath the city's main north-south road.

Next, work on Jerusalem's Museum of Tolerance was abruptly stopped after an ancient Muslim cemetery was found on the site, and Islamic leaders petitioned the High Court of Justice against the construction.

Now, the discovery of Second Temple period graves during a three-year expansion project at the Knesset has set off a ruckus among religious cohenimMKs concerned with violating ancient Jewish law.

Dating back to traditions formed nearly three thousand years ago, when the Jewish Temples in the Holy Land were standing, priests who served in the Temple are forbidden to have any contact with the dead.

Three millennium later, Jewish law stipulates that their descendants - commonly identified with the last name Cohen - are still enjoined from entering, or even passing over, a cemetery.

So when Israeli building contractors who were working on the construction project at the Israeli parliament discovered a cave housing centuries-old ancient graves something had to be done.

After consulting with religious authorities, it was decided to build the new NIS 200 million complex around the burial cave and not on top of it in order not to desecrate the site.

But then Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen - one of at least six parliamentarians who are cohenim - pointed out that the windows of the new building complex looked out on the burial cave, which, he averred, would contaminate the building every time someone opened a window due to the wind.

Moreover, since the new complex of the Knesset is connected to the rest of the building, the whole parliament would be contaminated, Cohen said, making the whole Knesset off-limits to parliamentarians who are descendants of cohenim.

Israel's Antiquities Authority said Wednesday that it is not clear whose graves are located at the site since archeological excavations were never carried out at the site in keeping with religious prohibitions against grave desecrations.

In an effort to solve the dispute, a covering over the burial cave is now being built in order to allow cohenim to work in the parliament without concern of running afoul of Jewish law, officials said Wednesday.

In the meantime, the Knesset windows in the newly- built wing will be sealed to prevent any exposure to the impure winds from the adjacent burial cave.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Travels in Georgia: Day 5

Day 5 was a day of extremes. We left Tbilisi after breakfast and headed out on the Georgian Military Highway. From regarding the GMH: This is the main road running for 220km from Tbilisi to Vadikavkaz in Russia. This route actually dates from before the 1st century BC and is still important as one of the only links to Russia through the Caucasus mountains.

This spectacular highway winds its way through towering mountains, climbing to above 2300m at the Krestovy pass. The treacherous hairpin bends and sheer drops were enough to strike terror in the hearts of many 19th century travelers and the route features in stories by Lermontov, Tolstoy and Alexander Dumas.

Heading north from Tbilisi one first reaches the medieval fortress of Ananauri, overlooking the Aragvi river and valley. Within the fortified walls are two beautiful churches. Further along the highway lies Gudauri, a modern ski resort based around the Austrian built 4 star Sport Hotel Gudauri.

Nearing the Russian border, one comes to the town of Kazbegi, overlooked by the monumental Mount Kazbegi (5033m), the highest peak in the Georgian Caucasus.The last point is the Daryal Gorge, where the road runs some kilometres on a narrow shelf beneath granite cliffs 1500m high. At the Southern entrance to the gorge are the ruins of Tamara's castle.

This little piggy is rooting around an old bus stop. On the way up is where we bought those funny hats.

Here we were at the top of the world. It was cold! We're just 30 miles away from the Russian border.

We took pictures on the way down too. Check out the waterfall in the background of this picture!

This is where we had a late lunch.

The interior of the restaurant.

The restroom!

We decided to eat outside. We ate in this covered area right on the creek.

I tried out the foot bridge!

At lunch I had a Georgian drink - Tarragon soda! It's yucky.

We had more hinkali. It was the best meal we had the whole time we were in Georgia! Tasty!

As you can see, everyone like the food!

We also ordered grilled meat - which was prepared outside.

We had to stop for a Georgian traffic jam - 4 cows walking down the middle of the highway.

We did some sightseeing at another church.

I poked around inside the tower.

That evening we all hit the hot sulfur baths in Tbilisi. The name Tbilisi derives from the Old Georgian word "Tpili", meaning warm. The name Tbili or Tbilisi ("warm location") therefore was given to the city because of the area's numerous sulfuric hot springs that came out of the ground. Pushkin thought these baths (the blue tiled building in the photo) were the best.

They stink, but it feels great!

After our relaxing baths, we were ready to tour a little more at night. This is the parliament building in Tbilisi. There are dramatic fountains in front that give a great show!

The TV tower that I wrote about here is all illuminated (above and behind the white building) with sparkling lights at night - like the Eiffel Tower!

Read about Days 1 and 2
Read about Day 3
Read about Day 4

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Learn Some Georgian!

Follow this link to see some Georgian words, their transliterations, and English and Hebrew equivalents! You may need to change your character encoding to view the page properly.

My Jerusalemite Debut

The fun folks over at Jerusalemite asked me to contribute to their blog. My first post is up at . Check it out....but not in IE, just in looks a little funky still in IE...we're working on that.

Travels in Georgia: Day 4

We had trouble deciding on a place for lunch. So, we stopped at a market in a small town outside of Tbilisi and bought veggies, cheese, and bread to make a picnic.

I went exploring and found some interesting detergent:

I guess this is what I would use if I lived in Georgia...

Our picnic site - nice, huh!

The big guy in the blue is our driver/tour guide. If you visit Georgia, I HIGHLY recommend you get a guide. Y is cutting tomatoes or something and Y's dad is supervising.

After the picnic we headed out into the desert on our way to a monastery at the end of the earth. The desert looks green now, but it's all brown and dry during the summer. The road, by the way, was a bumpy, muddy dirt road stretching for miles and miles.

It seemed like that there are ancient watchtowers on every third rise.

We finally made it to the monastery which is on the border with Azerbaijan. It is has been hewn from sandstone cliffs. The monks live in those little caves/rooms.

You can hike up the cliff above the monastery on steps cut out of the rock.

Channels have been cut into the rock face to direct water into holding caves/pits. While we were there we saw men lowering buckets down to get water. I don't think that there is any electricity here. I didn't see power lines for miles and miles. They might have generators, but I didn't see them either.