Grecian Getaway – Day 5: Seagulls, Dolphins and the Holy Mountain

Our fifth day in Greece was dedicated to the Peninsula of Halkidiki. Setting off after breakfast on what was to prove yet another very hot day, we were bound for the coast. On the way, we stopped at Aristotle’s Park, near the town of Stageira (or Stagira). Stageira is the birthplace of the great philosopher, Aristotle, a giant statue of whom dominates the park.

 

 

Aristotle, besides being one of the Fathers of Western Philosophy, is also famous for having been the teacher of Macedonia’s Favourite Son – Alexander the Great.
Nowadays, the park is a kind of scientific theme park, which, in many ways, reminded me of the Children’s Gallery in London’s Science Museum. Dotted around the lawns are exhibits and interactive instruments recalling physical phenomena described by Aristotle in his works, such as a water turbine, a sun clock, a prism, optical discs and parabolic reflectors (or, as we jokingly called them, ancient Greek mobile phones). The latter consist of two enormous concave discs placed facing each other, a great distance apart. If two people stand in front of each one, they can have a conversation even if they whisper (just like in the Whispering Gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London) . This happens because the  sound waves are reflected and transferred through the air, their energy concentrated in the centre so that the sound is amplified in the ears of those participating in the experiment.

Here, you can see some of the exhibits:

 

 

 

Also strategically placed all around the park, are stone plaques, inscribed with quotations from the works of the great philosopher-scientist, such as this one:

 

 

 

 

It reads:

…Περί δε της αληθείας, ως ου παν το φαινόμενον αληθές…

(Translation: …concerning the truth, not every phenomenon is real…)

I wonder what Aristotle would have made of a phenomenon that is widespread today – Fake News.

Besides the interactive exhibits, the park itself, though small, is very beautiful and set in enchanting surroundings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Stageira, we drove along a winding road to Ouranopolis on the coast, at the start of the Athos peninsula.  It is from here that the cruise boats leave for the three hour trip to Mount Athos, known as the Holy Mountain, for the many monasteries situated there. Mount Athos is an autonomous state within Greece, from which females are barred – not just women, but also female domestic animals. Since the closest women are allowed to approach the “Holy Mountain” is 500 metres, the cruise ships encircle the peninsula at exactly that distance.

I love the sea. I love being on ships. I love the salty tang of the sea breezes.

Seagulls accompanied us all the way:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then, from the azure waters beneath us, came the dolphins.  Playful, elusive, but not at all shy, they erupted from the depths every time I put down my camera, only to disappear the moment I picked it up again. But eventually, my patience paid off:

 

 

At last we reached the Holy Mountain and the various monasteries came into sight. There were large contingents of Romanian and Russian tourists on the boat – mostly middle-aged and elderly women uniformly clad in black, whom I envisaged as having saved up for years to pay for this trip. They were very excited when we passed the Russian and Romanian monasteries and sketes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then, it was time to head back.

 

 

 

 

 

For some reason, the whole round trip took at least an hour longer than it was supposed to, and when we finally returned to shore, Spartacus the driver was fuming. His anger was compounded by the fact that some of the group brought ice creams onto the bus.  In truth, he had reason to be annoyed. Working hours of bus drivers are strictly regulated in the EU and his working day was extended by at least an hour and a half. He threatened to call the head office of the bus company and have them send another driver the following day. Someone remarked (sotto voce) that they hoped they would also send another bus, one with proper, working air conditioning.
However, he must have cooled off, because the following morning, he was there, outside the hotel, as if nothing had happened.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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Grecian Getaway – Day 4: Water, Water, Everywhere…

The following day saw us headed north-west, to the city of Edessa, known as “the City of Waters”, and famous for its waterfalls.

The city is close to the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (or, as it is now officially called, to the chagrin of many Greeks, the Republic of North Macedonia). This being the case, our guide, Natalie, whiled away the journey by telling us a little about the history of the region and the dispute between Greece and North Macedonia, especially regarding the use of the name.  As this is intended to be a photo-journal of my trip to Greece, I won’t regale you with the details. If you are interested, just follow the link.

Rivers run through Edessa, and tumble over the cliffs surrounding the town to form two waterfalls, the highest of which is a spectacular 70 metres.

The waterfalls are situated in a beautiful park,  where the visitor descends, by degrees, from the head of the main waterfall, to its foot, by means of paved stairways, with viewing platforms at each level:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one descends, one is exposed to magnificent vistas of the surrounding countryside:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And all around is the ever-present sound of rushing water:

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from the photograph above, as well as the film below, it is also possible to walk behind the main waterfall, where the rush of the water grows to a mighty roar:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See how droplets of water from the spray of the waterfall, are caught in a spider’s web spun between the foliage:

 

 

 

Returning to the head of the main waterfall, there was plenty of time for coffee and a stroll in the park, which contains a small museum and agricultural implements, such as this waterwheel, strategically placed between many smaller water channels:

 

 

 

 

Here is one last, magnificent view of the countryside around Edessa:

 

 

 

 

It was now time to head for the thermal springs of Pozar, also known as Loutraki Aridaias.
Here, where cold streams meet hot springs, besides the usual indoor facilities to be found in a spa, there are outdoor pools fed by minerals, in the midst of verdant nature.  For the price of a mere 2 Euros, you can bathe in the soothing waters (37 degrees Celsius), and you even get a locker to store your clothes.

 

There are both warm and cold pools, fed by warm and cold waterfalls, respectively:

 

 

 

 

In the foreground, you can see one of the warm pools. The waterfall in the background feeds one of the cold pools.

I mentioned the availability of lockers. Just be careful. When I emerged from my lovely, warm bathe (which did my aching neck and shoulders a world of good, I have to admit), my key got stuck in the lock and would not turn and I endured an anxious twenty minutes or so (or so it seemed – it might have been less. My wristwatch was in the locker with my clothes!) before the young man in the ticket office managed to open it and I was reunited with my belongings.

From Loutraki Aridaias, we drove to a delightful restaurant in the middle of the countryside, whose name, alas, I did not write down, where, for a very reasonable 15 Euros, we had a very late lunch (or early supper) consisting of a first course (salad or tzadziki), main course (I had trout, but I could have had chicken or meat – including lamb) and dessert (water-melon) as well as a cold drink during the meal and tea or coffee afterwards.

Then it was back to Thessaloniki, at the end of a very satisfying – and relaxing – day.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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Grecian Getaway – Day 3: Meteora

I am not so sure the following day’s activities were quite the best choice after an evening out at a taverna, after which I, at any rate, did not get to bed until almost 1 am. A four-hour drive to see the famous hanging monasteries of Meteora necessitated a wake-up call at 6:30 am, in order to be downstairs for breakfast when the dining-room opened at 7 am. By 8 am, we were on the bus and ready to leave.

In its heyday,  there were 24 monasteries and convents on the cliff-tops and natural rock pillars of Meteora.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, there are only six, of which we visited one – Moni Aghiou Stefanou – the Convent of St. Stephen.  Inhabited by 28 nuns, it is the most populous of the four monasteries and two convents still active in Meteora, and the most accessible.  Indeed, these days, nuns outnumber monks in this monastic kingdom, and they are also more “visitor-friendly”.

We had been warned to dress “modestly” – no shorts or sleeveless tops for men or women. Nevertheless, at the entrance to the cloisters, women visitors were requested to clothe ourselves in wraparound skirts over our (long) trousers before entering.

 

Photography is permitted in the grounds of the convent, but not inside the church.

 

 

 

This is a pity as one of the great attractions of St. Stephen’s are the paintings and frescoes  in its churches.

The original church was built probably at the end of the 14th century and dedicated to St. Stephen. The new katholikon was built in 1798 and dedicated to St. Charalambos (I had never heard of him before either).

The church suffered severe damage during World War 2 because the Germans believed the monastery was being used by the Greek Resistance.

It is now adorned by new icons and frescoes by the contemporary painter, Vlasios Tsotsonis and might be described as a work in progress, as we could see the painter’s paraphernalia in one part of the katholikon.

While I am not, myself, a connoisseur of iconography and ecclesiastical art, it is nevertheless pleasing to know that these ancient art forms are still alive and flourishing today. And, since I was unable, myself, to take photographs inside the church, here is a link where you can get an idea of the work now taking place.

 

After visiting the katholikon, we strolled in the gardens of the convent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A viewing terrace in the gardens looks out onto a spectacular panorama, overlooking the town of Kalabaka.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After leaving the monastery, we sent the bus on ahead and walked down through shady woods, past the Roussanou Monastery now run by nuns and dedicated to St. Barbara.

On the way, we met this sweet little sleeping kitty, who reminded me of my own, beautiful furbabies and especially, Caspurr.

 

 

 

 

We did not enter the Roussanou Monastery, as it was now quite late in the afternoon and we had a long drive ahead of us, back to Thessaloniki – besides which, we hadn’t even had lunch yet. So we continued our walk beneath the welcome shade of the trees (it was an exceedingly hot day), until we reached the road where the bus was waiting for us.

 

 

 

Oddly enough, I remember nothing about the rest of the day, where we had our (very late) lunch, and what time we got back to the hotel. As I said, I had gone to bed late the night before and arisen betimes – as had we all – and I must have dozed on the journey back to Thessaloniki. I know I had a cup of tea and some granola biscuits in my room, because the late lunch had made me disinclined to eat supper. So it was an early night for me (and, I suspect, most of the others).

Before I go, since my photos were all taken with my feet safely on terra firma, I searched on YouTube and found you this fantastic short videoclip of Meteora, taken with a camera mounted on a drone.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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Grecian Getaway – Day 2

As I discovered the following morning, the buffet breakfast at the hotel was substantial and varied, including all the usual items one would expect to find on the breakfast table of a five star hotel belonging to an international chain, as well as local specialities, such as bougatsa (akin to a popular Israeli dish known as bourekas) and tzatziki (also available in Israel, but the Greek version, made from the thicker Greek yoghurt, is richer). The only trouble was, the “hot” dishes, such as the bougatsa, and the scrambled eggs, never seemed to be more than lukewarm. And the coffee was dreadful! As bad as Starbucks coffee!

After breakfast, we set out for Mt. Olympus, famed in mythology as the home of the gods. It was easy to see why the ancient Greeks believed heavenly beings walked these mountains:

 

 

As the indomitable Spartacus manoeuvred our bus up the winding mountain road, we encountered a goat-herd with his charges:

 

 

There is a point beyond which buses cannot proceed, but where there is a cafe selling the most divinely flavoured smoothies. I am not sure these could actually compete with the nectar and ambrosia on which the Olympian gods were said to dine, but they were ice cold and deliciously refreshing in the mid-30s  temperatures we were experiencing. (Yes, I know in Israel, we are used to that – but at home in Israel, we tend to stay indoors, near to the air-conditioning, and not go rushing around in extreme weather conditions. Which reminds me – the air-conditioning system in the bus was faulty and while I, sitting in the front, just about found it bearable, people sitting further back did not cease to complain.)

At any rate, after pausing to take pictures in the vicinity of the cafe (which enjoyed spectacular views), we proceeded on foot to “the Pillar of Zeus” where romantically-minded tourists leave offerings for the Father of the Gods:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some more views of Mount Olympus and the surrounding mountains:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst posing for my photo above this dizzying drop, I was forcibly reminded of the romantic thriller I had just finished reading, M.M. Kaye’s “Death in Cyprus”, where the villain (whose identity I shall not, of course, disclose, in case some of you decide to read the book) attempts to throw the heroine to her death in just such a location!

 

Today, too, we had a late lunch, this time in Litochoro, a picturesque little town which serves as the base for serious trekkers and for mountaineers who are planning the ascent of Mt. Olympus’s 2,918 metre (9,573 ft) peak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we were planning to go out to a taverna that evening, I thought it would be wise to stick to a light lunch in a small restaurant right on the village square, which offered, among other things, vegetarian fare. I chose stuffed peppers and tzatziki – enough to keep me going until suppertime, but not so much as to leave me too bloated to enjoy a delicious meal at the Ladadika Taverna in the evening, where a full Greek meze, as well as a main course, wine and a soft drink cost a very reasonable 30 euros. There was also a floor show – a Greek band and a singer, who entertained us with Greek and Hebrew songs, in which we enthusiastically joined. I must just mention, at this point, that many Greek songs have been translated into Hebrew and popularised – especially by the Israeli singer Yehuda Poliker, himself the son of Greek-Jewish Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki.

There was another large group in the taverna that evening, from Turkey, and both our group and theirs happily joined in the dancing together, as did the Greek diners. It appears music, good food  and ouzo overcome politics, every time!

My videos from the taverna didn’t turn out too well, alas, and the only stills picture I took was of the lovely coloured chandelier:

 


Since we went to a taverna again, on our last night, where my videos turned out rather more successfully and where, in my opinion, the music was even better, I will leave you this time with a videoclip of Yehuda Poliker performing together with the well-known Greek singer, Giorgos Dalaras. 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I go, since Sunday evening will mark the start of Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and the High Holy Days, I want to wish you all a Good Year – Shana Tova – שנה טובה.

 

 

 

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Grecian Getaway

It’s been decades since I last visited Greece – since I finished my first university degree in the Classics, in fact – and decades since I have been telling myself I must go there again. This summer, the dream was finally realised and I set off for a week’s vacation in Thessaloniki and northern Greece.

This post is going to be mostly a photo-journal, but it has taken me a fortnight to upload the several hundred photos and videos I shot to my PC, and edit them. I have picked out between 60 and 70 of the best and I shall post them here, over the next few days,  for your enjoyment.

Apparently (according to the in-flight magazine I found in the seat pocket of the very small Astra Airlines plane which flew us direct from Tel Aviv to Thessaloniki’s Makedonia Airport), thanks to a new tourism agreement signed between Israel and Greece the year before last, (plus, I suspect, the chilly relations between Israel and Turkey, which have led to a drop in the numbers of Israelis choosing to vacation in Greece’s immediate eastern neighbour), some 700,000 Israeli visitors are expected to spend their holidays in the Hellenic Republic this year.  There was certainly strong evidence of that in the many Greeks working in restaurants and shops, who appeared to have learned at least a few words or sentences in Hebrew.

It is less than a two and a half hour flight between Tel Aviv and Thessaloniki. We landed before noon, our suitcases were swiftly loaded onto the tour bus, driven by the laconic Spartacus (a man of few words, but an excellent driver) and we were off for our first views of Thessaloniki, under the guidance of our charming Israeli tour-guide, Natalie, of Eshet Tours.

 

 

Panoramic view of the city from the fortress on the acropolis – the highest point of every Greek town.

 

 

 

 

 

The citadel (not to be confused with the iconic White Tower, about which, more later).

 

 

 

The statue of Eleftherios Venizelos, credited by many as being “the Father of Modern Greece”, at the top of Aristotelous Plaza:

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a late lunch in the market off Aristotelous Plaza where I could not resist snapping the doors of the restrooms in the taverna where we ate, and when you read what is written on the doors, you will understand why:

 

 

 

It’s a bit blurred, so for those of you who can’t make out the writing, on the door to the men’s restroom it reads: MEN
                                                 to the left
                                                             because

while on the door to the ladies’ restroom, the sentence continues:  WOMEN
are always
    right.

Well, you can’t argue with that, can you?   😉

We then had some free time to wander about the market, before being taken to our hotel. The Holiday Inn is well-situated, but was sorely suffering from the fact that the road in front of the hotel (on Egnatia Street, one of Thessaloniki’s three main traffic arteries) was all dug up because of the city’s new driverless underground Metro system, currently under construction. I was, after all, glad to have a room that faced away from the street, even though it lacked a view. How much time, after all, was I going to be spending in my hotel room?

Having eaten so late, most of us were now ready for a long rest before venturing out, later in the evening, for a taste of Thessaloniki by night. That meant a walk down to the harbour, whilst Natalie gave us a basic orientation tour.

The Greeks, it seems, are much prone to protest – and this is often expressed in graffiti, which some have taken to Banksyian heights:

 

 

 

The southern end of Aristotelous Plaza, nearest to the harbour, won me over with its many shops, cafes, restaurants – and ice cream parlours:

 

I had a to-die-for ice-cream cup with two flavours – New York cheesecake and forest fruits. A mere 2.80 euros. Mmmmmmmm. Heavenly. However, it had been a long day – I, for one, had been up since half past four in the morning – so most of us now headed back to the hotel, for a good night’s sleep. After all – the following day, we were headed for Mount Olympus 🙂

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Memories (Real – or Imagined)

80 years ago today, on the 29th of August 1939, the SS Warszawa sailed up the Thames estuary, and docked in the Port of London. On board were about 70 Jewish refugee children, who had sailed just four days earlier from the Polish port of Gdynia on what was to be the last Kindertransport from Poland.

Great Britain, which had callously closed the doors of Palestine to the Jews of Germany desperately seeking sanctuary from the Nazis, (despite the fact that the terms of the British Mandate specified that Palestine was destined to return to its ancient status as the Jewish Homeland), agreed to accept 10,000 Jewish children to her own shores – without their parents – and on condition that sponsors could be found for them who would agree to cover their expenses (including the expense of their return home when circumstances should permit that).

One of those children was 12-year old Bernard Kessler, who arrived with his younger sister, leaving behind his parents, whom he was never to see again. They were murdered in the Holocaust. Now aged 92, he has recently published his memoirs – the tale of a childhood first happy, then traumatic, his Bar Mitzvah devoid of any family member at his side, adolescence in wartime England, military service in the British Army (first in the Jewish Brigade, then later, in the Royal Fusiliers), marriage to Marion, who died at a tragically early age, leaving him with three teenage children, years of service to the Zionist cause, his eventual aliyah (immigration) to Israel where he met and married his second wife, Ilana, and his life in the 45 years since, in his own words, he “came home”.

 

The book is written in an informal, often chatty style, with many digressions, not necessarily in strict chronological order, but rather in the way a grandfather would tell his grandchildren. And therein lies what makes this book special.

In these days of resurging antisemitism, it is well to remember where that most ancient of hatreds led – and could lead to again.  This book reminds us all. It is, as it says on the back cover, the story of  “an ordinary man in extraordinary times and an extraordinary man in ordinary times”.  A man who I happen to think is pretty special. Without him, I wouldn’t be here.

He just happens to be my Dad.

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The Month Of Maying

If anyone was thinking May was any less hectic than the two previous months – think again!  Besides Independence Day, I had another study trip with Yad Yitzchak Ben Zvi (the last of the current season), appeared in two concerts with my choir  and enjoyed a Lag B’Omer bonfire party.

On the political front, the seemingly interminable post-election coalition negotiations dragged out, eventually coming to nothing and a few nights ago, seconds before midnight, rather than hand the mandate to form a government back to the President, Prime Minister Netanyahu managed to get the Knesset, which was sworn in barely a month ago, to pass a bill dissolving itself and setting new elections for the middle of September. I am not going to go into all the ins and outs of who is responsible for the failure of the coalition negotiations and whether or not it was all a devious plot by Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Liberman to bring down Bibi (Netanyahu), or whether the blame should be laid on the ultra-orthodox religious parties for opposing a bill which would finally see young ultra-orthodox men share in the burden of military service, together with their non-religious counterparts, or whether it is all down to Bibi trying to avoid being put on trial for alleged corruption, or whether….NO!

ENOUGH!

Whoever is responsible, it is going to cost the taxpayer millions of shekels and I am just ROYALLY PISSED OFF at the whole damn lot of them!

So, without further ado – let’s get back to some of the things which made this past month ENJOYABLE. I know many of you count on me to explain the political situation and so on, but – I really can’t talk/write about it now.  It’s simply too FRUSTRATING. And the fact that we are in the throes of another sharav just makes it worse!
Not to mention the fact that I had to deal with yet another plumbing problem which involved taking up the tiles in my utility room (they still haven’t been put back). And finally – worst of all – my smart TV is on the blink and I can’t get a technician till next week! 

Now, this final “tragedy”, I see as an exercise in character building.  I can still watch some of my favourite series on the computer, and I have books that have been waiting on my shelves for far too long. And the disaster is greatly mitigated by the fact that the Great Breakdown only occurred AFTER I had seen the last episode of “Game of Thrones”.

Actually, this also leaves me with plenty of time now for blogging.  😉

So, where was I? Ah, yes! The last study trip of the season. And this time, we were in the south Hebron Hills.

We started the day with a lookout from Avigayil, named after Abigail the wife of Nabal, who lived in this region and about whom we can read in I Samuel 25. There she is described as the wife of Nabal, a wealthy man of Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel (not to be confused with Carmel which is in the north of Israel).

 

How do we know we are in the right place? That is easy, due to the fact that the Arab villages in the area preserved the names of the Israelite sites they occupied. In the Book of Joshua, chapter 15, we read about the inheritance of the tribe of Judah and its borders.  Adjacent towns are grouped together and in verse 55, we read about the cities of Maon, Carmel, and Ziph, and Yuttah.  Lying opposite our lookout point are the Arab villages of El-Kirmil, and Yatta. The archaeological site of Khirbet el-Kirmil lies some 5 km. south of present-day Yatta. Nearby, about 7 km. south of Hebron, lies another Arab village, Zif. Adjacent lies the archaeological site of Tel Zif.  As we know from I Samuel 23, while he was on the run from King Saul, who sought to kill him, the future King David spent a great deal of time in the area around Ziph and the nearby wilderness of Maon. And, sure enough, not far away lies the present day Arab village of Ma’in. So we have all these Arab villages, with similar names to the Biblical towns, grouped together just as the Biblical towns were, plus archaeological remains. This is how archaeologists identify Biblical sites – archaeological remains plus preservation of names plus geographical appropriateness (such as topographical landmarks as described in the Bible, proximity of Arab villages with similar names to the ancient Biblical names, etc.)

It was to see some of these archaeological remains that we had come. The original intention had been to ascend the archaeological site of Tel Ma’on on foot, but the extreme temperatures that day made that unadvisable. Instead, we drove by bus to the site of ancient Sussiya, not far away.

Sussiya was the site of an ancient Jewish settlement on the south eastern fringes of the Hebron Hills, on the edge of the desert. It is not known for certain when it was founded but it reached its zenith in the  Roman-Byzantine period and the Early Arab period.

Archaeological finds document the devotion of the Jewish inhabitants to Jewish religious law. These include over thirty mikva’ot, or ritual baths, attesting to the great importance attributed by the Jews of Sussiya to ritual purity and impurity laws, even after the destruction of the Temple. (The ritual baths are an integral part of the plan of the dwelling arrangement dating back to the 5th-8th centuries CE.) Some of these are large and were probably used by the whole community, while others are small and may have been private mikva’ot belonging to individual families – no doubt the wealthier ones.

Many of Sussiya’s dwelling places were, at least partially, underground. This afforded protection, both from nomadic, desert-dwelling marauders, and from the extreme heat.

Here is one of the dwelling-caves:

 

Pride of place, of course, goes to the synagogue. Like other synagogues unearthed in the south Hebron Hills region, in Eshtamoa, Anim and Maon, it has its entrance from the eastern side, since the northern side faces towards Jerusalem.

 

 

For this reason, unlike synagogues excavated in other parts of the country, one does not find pillars lining one’s right and left hand side, on entering the synagogue, since this would block off the view of the northern wall, containing the holy ark. Instead, there was a niche, with a platform in front of it, surrounded by a balustrade.  The reconstructed platform is on display in the Israel Museum. What you see here is an exact copy.

 

 

The floor of the synagogue was decorated by elaborate mosaics, such as these:

 

 

 

As you can see in this latter picture, Jewish symbols, such as the seven – branched Menorah, are prominent.  At the bottom of the right-hand Menorah, you can also make out a lulav together with an etrog.

The outside courtyard of the synagogue was surrounded by porticoes on three sides. In one of them, a mosaic inscription was uncovered, honouring Rabbi Isai the Priest:

 

Translated, it reads:
Remember for good the sanctity of my master and rabbi, Isai the priest, the honourable and venerable, who made this mosaic and plastered its walls with lime, which he donated at a feast of Rabbi Yochanan the priest, the venerable scribe, his son. Peace on Israel. Amen.

 

As you can see from this next picture, taken from the upper gallery of the synagogue facing out,  the synagogue in Sussiya was built on top of a hill, in keeping with the Halacha (Jewish religious law) mentioned in the Tosefta: “They build them (i.e. synagogues – Ed.) only in the highest place in the town”.

 

 

 

From Sussiya, we proceeded to Anim. Here, too, like the other synagogues excavated in the south Hebron Hills area, the entrance is from the east, and the wall with the holy ark faces north, towards Jerusalem.

At some stage during the Muslim period, probably in the 7th or 8th century CE, the synagogue was converted into a mosque.

Before proceeding to my next topic, here is a short film I found on YouTube about the Anim archaeological site:

 

As I mentioned, in May, I also took part in two concerts. One of these was a concert given by the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir, at the Notre Dame Centre of Jerusalem.  Here we gave a programme of evening and night-themed music, ranging from Ravel’s Nicolette, about a young girl who goes out to the meadows at dusk, where she is courted, in turn, by a wolf, a handsome young page and an ugly (but rich) old man, to Brahms’ In stille Nacht and from Villa Lobos’s Estrela e Lua Nova (about the new moon and the star-studded sky) through the night until the following sunrise, with the African-American spiritual My Lord, What a Mornin’.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the concert. First of all, a popular Israeli folk song about the shepherdesses drawing water for the flocks at even-tide:

 

 

 

 

And now, a fragment from In stiller Nacht (only the second verse, alas):

 

 

Just a few days later, I took part in the end-of-season Gala of the main Oratorio Choir, at which we performed Aharon Harlap’s Requiem together with selections from Haydn’s The Creation,  with the Jerusalem Street Orchestra. Both concerts were conducted by Dor Magen.  The theme of this second  concert was “From Darkness to Light”  (ie. from the darkness of death to the light of creation). Alas, I have – as yet – no videos of this concert, although it was professionally recorded and no doubt, in time, the DVD will be available, or the film will be posted on YouTube or on the Choir’s Faqcebook page. But here, in the meantime, is a link to a review of the concert.

Now, since today is Jerusalem Day – the anniversary of the reunification of Israel’s capital in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War – and I plan to celebrate, I will bid you Lehitra’ot (Au revoir, Auf Wiedersehen, Arrivederci, See You)  till next time.

 

 

 

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