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Friday, August 11, 2017

Jerusalem's Hansen Hospital: From Leper Colony to Multi-Media Art School

In the affluent neighbourhood of Talbieh, across the road from the Jerusalem Theatre complex, sits an impressive 19th century building - the former Hansen Hospital. Named after Dr. Gerhard Hansen, the Norwegian physician who discovered the leprosy bacteria in 1873.

In the early 19th century there were no real medical facilities in the Jerusalem. The first modern hospitals were established by Europeans.  Leprosy, an infectious disease, was a stigma. It was also misunderstood.

The Hansen House story began with a visit from Germany, of the Baron and Baroness von Keffenbrinck Ascheraden, to the old city of Jerusalem in 1865. During their visit, they encountered lepers living in tents and mud huts at the Zion Gate, an encounter that brought them to decide to promote the establishment of a proper asylum for people with leprosy. In cooperation with a committee of the Joint Anglican-German Protestant Community in Jerusalem, the first leper asylum was established in 1867 next to the old Mamilla Pool. When this initial structure could no longer fit all people with leprosy seeking shelter, it was decided in 1882 that a larger home be built.
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Designed by Conrad Schick, a German missionary and self-taught architect, the spacious two-storey building named "Jesus Hilfe" (Jesus Helps) was opened in 1887 with 65 patients. Set among fruit trees and a vegetable garden, it provided clean air, hygiene, nutrition, work, and spritual and emotional support for the patients who were mostly Muslim but there were also Christians and a number of Jews. It was the only place of its kind in the Middle East.

The hospital operated from 1914-1948 with European staff. By 1948 it became part of the Ministry of Health and continued to function until 2000.


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Main Entrance and Gardens
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Hansen Hospital Museum
Two rooms are dedicated to the history of the hospital and Hansen's Disease.

The city decided to preserve the building and in 2013 the compound became part of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design masters program. The centre includes exhibition spaces, an animation lab, theatre performance space, a projection room, studios for visiting artists, an artists guest house and a restaurant. 

I revisited the building last week for the first time since its restoration and enjoyed the delightful Ofa'im Cafe which serves delicious dairy meals in historic surroundings. The small museum is open to the public free of charge.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Ein Gedi's Ancient Synagogue

For most visitors, a tour of Ein Gedi means the short circular nature trail among lush vegetation and fresh water pools of Nahal David or the longer trail of Nahal Arugot.

Many people overlook the nearby antiquities which can be visited on the same entrance ticket and are well worth a short stop.
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Evidence of the ancient Jewish settlement from the Second Temple Period were discovered by chance in 1965 when a mosaic floor was revealed among the date plantations of the modern kibbutz Ein Gedi.

Ein Gedi Synagogue Central Medallion
Further excavations in the 1990s revealed remains of a settlement and synagogue from the late Roman and Byzantine periods - 3rd-6th centuries CE.

The synagogue was completely excavated and nearby streets and buildings partially uncovered.  Recently, excavations have restarted in the surrounding area.

Eusebius, an early 4th century father of the Christian Church, wrote about a very large village of Jews at Ein Gedi. Early manuscripts tell of Ein Gedi's inhabitants who grew date palms and persimmons. The source of the community's wealth was the persimmon bush or afarsimon which yielded a substance from which a valuable perfume could be extracted.
mosaic detail
In addition to a bird medallion, a seven-branched menorah graces the synagogue mosaic floor. A Hebrew and Aramaic inscription in the left aisle lists the 13 forefathers of mankind, the 12 signs of the zodiac, thanks the benefactors and curses community members who do not keep the rules of the village.
Seven-branched Menorah detail


Archeologists believe that the settlement came to the end by the late 6th century.

Access the antiquites by following the sign to Nahal Arugot and Ein Gedi Synagogue.

There are picnic tables, bathrooms and a quiet place to enjoy the view of the Dead Sea away from the crowds. Open 8-4 in the winter and until 5 p.m. April-October

Friday, October 28, 2016

Restoration Work in Holy Sepulcher Completed

Two weeks before Easter, the edicule of the Holy Sepulchre has been revealed to the public in all its glory for the first time since 1809. I was touring the church on the day it was reopened. Here are some of the pictures that I took.

The Restored Edicule


 


Since May of 2016, the edicule covering the tomb of Jesus underwent major restoration for the first time in over 200 years. Even though the structure is surrounded by scaffolding the church has remained open to visitors. Until this week that is.

Light over the Edicule
In the past few days the church has been closed for 60 hours to enable major archeological investigations of the tomb itself.

You can read more in the link below and watch the video about what has been revealed under the stone covering the tomb.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/jesus-tomb-opened-church-holy-sepulchre/

Monday, September 26, 2016

Rosh Hashanah: New Year, New Fruits

Summer is coming to an end. Jerusalem nights are cooler and days grow shorter. The end of the summer is also a harbinger of the new fruits which signify the change of season and start of a new year.

In another week - October 2nd - Jews around the world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year 5777, with a festive family meal. The pomegranate will make an appearance on the table along with apples and honey and other traditional foods as we bless a sweet and fruitful new year.
Black Pomegranates last week

Olive trees are are also weighed down with fruit which will be harvested in another month when the country celebrates its olive festivals. Ripe pomegranates are hanging on the trees and fresh juice is being sold all around the old city
Red Pomegranates in Yemin Moshe Last week
Although the pomegranate is an ancient symbol steeped in tradition, it has re-emerged in contemporary culture, not only because of its beauty and rich history, but because the pomegranate is desirable for its healthy, antioxidant qualities. The word pomegranate, "rimon" or granade in Hebrew, is derived from the Latin words "pomum" (apple) and "granatus" (seeded). Grown in the Mediterranean region for several thousand years, this remarkable fruit is rich in symbolism and there are specific references to the pomegranate in the Bible. Together with the olive, grape, fig, date, wheat and barley, it is one of the 7 species of the Land of Israel mentioned in Deuteronomy 8-8.

Exodus 28:33-34 states that images of pomegranates be woven into the hem of the robe worn by the High Priest in the Temple. Pomegranates can also be found in the Bible in I Kings 7:13-22, where the fruit is depicted on the capitals of the two pillars which stood in front of the temple.

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First Temple (?)Ivory Pomegranate Israel Museum
In Christianity paintings of the Madonna and Child prominently display the fruit - a symbol of the resurrection and the hope of eternal life. Ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranates in hope of rebirth.

Pomegranates in Islam are a symbol of harvest, wealth and wellness. The writings of the Quran refer to the fruit in three different instances and each time giving the sense that it's talking about a great harvest, land of plenty and being good stewards of what has been provided.

Whatever you believe, one thing is certain, olives and pomegranates are important part of the landscape of this land and I, for one, am very happy.







Thursday, May 19, 2016

Amazing Underwater Archeological Discovery in Caesarea

Two amateur divers discovered Israel’s biggest haul of underwater Roman-era artefacts in three decades. The priceless objects were shown for the first time last week.
Figurines of the moon goddess Luna and Dionysus, the god of wine.

The treasures were found in April by Ran Feinstein and Ofer Raanan when they were exploring a sunken ship close to the ancient port of Caesarea.
They initially left the first sculpture on the seabed, but then when they discovered a second, they realised it was something special and brought it to the surface. They later searched the area and uncovered more.
To their credit, they informed the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) who sent their divers to investigate further.
Some of the objects date back to the fourth century CE, while others are from the first and second centuries, said Jacob Sharvit, the director of marine archaeology at the IAA.
Sharvit said it was likely that the ship’s sailors had thrown down their anchors in a storm but, after their attempts failed, the ship drifted and all its cargo plunged into the Caesarea port waters, where it remained for 1,700 years until its recent discovery.

Hopefully the finds will be on public display very soon.  A recent treasure trove of 11th century Islamic coins found off the coast of Caesarea are currently displayed in the Israel Museum's archeology department.
On Display - some of the haul
 
 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mahane Yehuda - not just fruit and vegetables

Mahane Yehuda, also referred to as the "shuk" - the market - (not to be confused with the Arab souk in the old city), is one of my favourite places to visit in Jerusalem. Last Thursday night I decided to check out the beer and sample some of the night life of this iconic place.
The Largest Garlic Cloves I've Seen!
Mahane Yehuda is not actually the market, rather a small neighbourhood established across the Jaffa Road named for Yehuda Navon the brother of one of the neighbourhood's founders.
The Light Rail Stop
The market wasn't planned but grew organically from its humble beginnings at the end of the 19th century when local Arab farmers sold their produce to passengers disembarking from the carriage on its final leg from the Jaffa Port to Jaffa Gate.
Freshly Ground Tehina from Halva King
As the new city began to develop along the Jaffa Road, the area became more populous. By the 1920's the British decided to organise the random stalls on its current permanent site.
Olives - my favourite!
New Jewish immigrants opened stalls and to this day areas are known by the origin of its founders - the Iraqi Market and Georgian Market to name just two.
Dried Fruit and Nuts
Ramshackled structures have undergone renewal and, since the 1980's, the market has been gradually upgraded. Now you can find not only the freshest fruit and vegetables in town but also boutique clothing, wines and cheese and fun places to eat.
Challot for Shabbat
Beer Bazaar - local beers and friendly people
Not Just Beer
The shuk is transformed on Thursday nights after the stalls close. Tables are set out along the market streets and the young at heart enjoy food and beer into the wee hours.



All in all a wonderful cultural and gastronomic experience not to be missed. Make sure it's on your itinerary!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine greeted us as we entered the Old City this morning. As we emerged from the Jaffa Gate we spied Santa Claus distributing free Jerusalem pine tree cuttings to the city's Christian population as part of a Jerusalem Municipal service.

As he rang his bell, people gathered around collecting their Christmas trees and taking pictures. For the first day of winter and shortest day of the year it was simply a perfect day.

 Santa inside Jaffa Gate
 Come and get your tree!
 
I wish everyone a happy and peaceful holiday and a new year filled with light and joy
 

 Candles at the Holy Sepulchre