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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Through His Father's Eye - Elia Photo - Christian Quarter

Learning of the recent passing of Kevork Kahvedjiah, a kind and gentle soul, I wanted to update this post.  His son Elie continues the family tradition.

Kevork surrounded by his father's pictures
Photo: Aliza Orent

Kevork Kahvedjian was raised in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City and inherited his father’s photography business. His father fled Armenia and was raised in an orphanage in Nazareth. After discovering a trove of his father’s negatives in an attic, he published “Through My Father’s Eyes” a unique collection of photographs showing everyday life in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land as captured by his father’s camera since 1924. Recently, the photographs were used to guide the restoration of the historic Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, which was destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948.. 
A visit to Elia Photo on El Khanka Street is a must for anyone visiting Jerusalem. Even more so if you are interested in photography and historical photographs.

Kevork Kahvedjian of Blessed Memory


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Jerusalem Pottery - Hagop Karakashian

Since 1948 the Jerusalem Pottery workshop has been situated on the Via Dolorosa and owned by brothers Stefan and Berg Karakashian and Stefan's son Hagop. With Stefan's recent death, Hagop has moved the workshop and studio to the Greek Patriarch Street close to the Jaffa Gate in the Christian Quarter.

Stefan and his son Hagop in their workshop in 2011

Stefan and Berg's father, Megherdich Karakashian, together with the Ohannessian and Balian families, were originally brought to Jerusalem in 1919 by the British from Kutahya in Armenia to repair the 16th century tiles covering the Dome of the Rock. These craftsmen were glad to leave Turkey to escape the persecution of the Armenians and settle in Jerusalem practising their traditional craft of making richly-colored glazed pottery.
Even though they ultimately didn't carry out the repair work, the British used their decorative tiles in a number of significant public buildings erected during the Mandate Period.

Their work incorporates traditional Armenian bird, animal and flower designs and biblical scenes on tiles, bowls, plates, mugs and vases.  They will also make custom-made panels for your new kitchen or bathroom.
It is always a pleasure to stop by and admire the beautiful, hand-crafted work still made in the traditional manner. In 2019 they will celebrate a centenary in Jerusalem. I, for one, will celebrate and continue to include a visit when touring in the old city.
Jerusalem Pottery is open daily except Sunday. 3 Greek Patriarch Street. 02-6261587

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Austria in Jerusalem - the Austrian Pilgrims' Hospice

The Austrian Pilgrims' Hospice, strategically placed in the Muslim Quarter at the junction of the Via Dolorosa and El Wad Street (HaGai), is one of my favourite places to visit while touring the old city.

Austrian Hospice in the 19th Century
The Austrian Hospice is one of a number of  historical buildings erected by European powers towards the end of the 19th century as the 400-year Ottoman rule was coming to a close.
After the foundation stone was laid on New Year's Eve 1856 the Hospice became one of the city's leading ecclesiastical guesthouses before being taken over by other parties. It served as an orphanage, internment camp, officers' school and military hospital. In 1985, with assistance from Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, the building was returned to its original function and is currently run by local and Austrian staff and volunteers.

One of its most famous guests was Kaiser Franz Josef who stayed here in 1869 on his way to the opening of the Suez Canal. In addition to being Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and monarch of other states in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he also took the title of  "King of Jerusalem". 
A mosaic in the charming chapel depicts him pointing the way to the Holy City leading his new Crusade.

Built in the style of Vienna's Ringstrasse palaces of the 19th century, the pilgrims' hospice is a wonderful place to enjoy a coffee and strudel in the Viennese Cafe or sip a beer in the well-tended gardens.

View from the roof
The Austrian Hospice offers an oasis of tranquility in the old city and affords a wonderful panoramic view from its rooftop. Ring the doorbell to leave the Middle Eastern bazaar and enter the grandeur of the House of Habsburg - a real Jerusalem secret!
There is a fee of 5 shekels to visit the rooftop panorama.

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.


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.

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.