My Favourite Things

Since writing my last post, not only has there been no let-up in the number of daily attacks by so-called “Palestinian” terrorists on Israeli Jews,  but another victim of the Bus #78 atrocity has since succumbed to his wounds.
Not a day has gone by without multiple attempts by “Palestinians” to murder Jewish Israelis, whether with knives, Molotov cocktails or by ramming cars into groups of pedestrians. Most of the attacks have, fortunately, not proved fatal, but in several, the victims incurred serious injuries, such as a man in his 40s and a woman in her 80s, who were stabbed in an attack a week ago in Rishon-le-Zion.
Later that day, another “hero of the Palestinian resistance” stabbed, and seriously wounded, a 71-year-old man in the coastal town of Netanya.

Last Wednesday, (November 4th), another “Palestinian” rammed his car into 19-year-old Border Policeman Binyamin Yakobovich, mortally wounding him. After fighting for his life for five days, Binyamin lost his battle yesterday.

I could go on and on, detailing each day’s attacks, but thereby lies the road to madness.

The week before last, I wrote about the coping mechanism which enables us to retain our sanity amidst all the horror.  I am not the only person, I am sure, to have found solace in music. But I have discovered another way, also. It is to try to find, every day, something, be it ever so trivial, in which to rejoice. It could be as great as the party to celebrate a cancer-stricken friend’s successful conclusion of her chemo and radiation therapy, which I attended last Thursday, or as small as this butterfly, which I spotted feeding on the flowers lining the street where I live:


And then there is the daily joy of learning. In the past, I believe I have mentioned Project 929, a study project in the framework of which, participants read one chapter (and not one verse, as is mistakenly written in the linked article) of the Hebrew Bible, every day except for Saturdays and Sundays. All over the country, there are study groups, one of which I attend (as a course at the Open University Centre for Continuing Studies). Since the Open University courses are linked to the academic year, the fortnightly meetings take place only during the winter and spring semesters, but the reading continues all year round, either in smaller groups or individually – and those who need or wish for the guidance of the lecturers are able to follow the daily articles (in Hebrew only) on the project’s website  or on Facebook. Last week, saw the start of the 2015/16 academic year, with the final chapters of the Book of Judges, which we finished reading today. Tomorrow, we shall begin Samuel I.

Hand-in-hand with the study of the Biblical text, I have signed up for a series of field trips (“929 on the map”) under the auspices of the Ben-Zvi Institute (see here for Hebrew). One a month, we will go out to explore the Land of Israel, Bible in hand, each month’s tour being linked to the chapters being read that week. The first field trip was the week before last, and its subject was Samson: “Between Tzora and Eshtaol”. In view of the inclement weather of the preceding days, which had caused widespread flooding throughout the country, we took umbrellas along with our Bibles – and, miraculously, it stayed dry!
We visited the site of ancient Tzora, home of Samson’s parents, near which there is a modern kibbutz:

20151028_122900         20151028_122524

There, we saw, among other things, an ancient wine-press:

20151028_120933 גת בתל צרעה

Apparently, in Biblical times, this region was famous for its vineyards (which must have made life difficult for Samson, who, as a Nazirite was obliged, among other things, to abstain from partaking of the fruit of the vine). The local winemaking tradition continues to this very day, as attested by the Tzora Vineyards and the Mony Winery. We visited the latter, a delightful boutique winery where the wine is aged in barrels stored in tunnels dug into the hillside:


The winery has a terrace, famous for its panoramic view of the Sorek Valley, where Samson dallied with Delilah (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one 😉 ):

Nachal Sorek from Mony Winery          20151028_153704 תצפית שורק

Nearby are the ruins of ancient Beit Shemesh, where the lack of any pig bones helped archaeologists identify the Biblical Israelite city (since the Jewish dietary laws forbid the eating of pork).


Modern Beit Shemesh wasn’t really part of the tour, but we finished up there, with what the guide called “the Bible Quiz” in Gan Golan, a sculpture garden created by his parents in memory of Golan Peli, an IDF Armoured Corps Officer who fell in Halhoul, in 1992. The sculptures were created by Golan’s father and stepmother, in stone and metal, and all of them represent stories from the Bible, some more obliquely than others. For example, I managed to identify “Jephthah’s Daughter” quite easily:

20151028_163940 Jephthah's daughter

And David, playing his harp and with the head of Goliath at his feet also posed little difficulty:


But how could anyone guess what this one is supposed to represent? (Scroll down for the answer.)

20151028_164550  רחל מבכה את בניה

Full marks if you guessed that this is Rachel, weeping for her children (Jeremiah 31:15).

Or how about this?

20151028_164828 וגר אריה עם כבש

Is it a lion? Or a ram? The interpretation is up to you.

As I read over this post, it rather reminds me of Maria’s advice to the von Trapp children, in The Sound of Music, to think of their favourite things and then they won’t feel so bad. And, now that I come to think of it, it occurs to me that it isn’t a bad philosophy for life in general, to try to find something fascinating, or beautiful, every day, to refresh the spirit and bring a moment’s joy to the soul.

Have a good week.

About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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17 Responses to My Favourite Things

  1. mukul chand says:

    great post

  2. Ian G says:

    Bible Study and finding something to rejoice in are excellent disciplines. I’m pleased that you are doing these things. Writing as a Christian I have found that meditating on scripture is a good antidote for worry. It’s actually the positive use of that ability. Worry is negative meditation on things that might never happen and borders on fortune-telling. Prayer and Fellowship also help.

    I found your post really interesting and I am so envious of your being able to visit these places.

    Every blessing,

    • I’ve been keeping up the Bible study for over a year now and it really helps to be doing it in an organised framework. And I’m getting the fellowship from my choir. We really are like an extended family.
      I know many people feel they can only dream of being able to visit the places mentioned in the Bible, and I like to think that I am giving them a mini “virtual visit” whenever I write about one of my trips (or tiyulim, as we call them in Hebrew). I intend to write about the upcoming field trips also – with lots of pictures 🙂 so that those of my readers who can’t physically make the trip can at least experience the Biblical landscapes through my eyes.
      Thanks, as always, for your good wishes. I wish you, too, all the best.

  3. anneinpt says:

    Wonderful post Shimona. Just what I needed to lift me out of my blues that are threatening to drown me. It’s so hard to detach ourselves from the news, but so rewarding when we manage!

    Your study group sounds fantastic! I’d love to participate in something like that, especially the field trips. I must find out if there is something similar in my area.

    Keep your chin up and your head down (not sure if such a thing is physically possible when you think about it…) and take care.

    • Hi, Anne. Both the Open University/Ascolot and Yad Ben Zvi have courses in Gush Dan and Project 929 has study groups all over the country. Those two links I gave may be helpful in locating something suitable for you. And, of course, there’s always the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, although I believe their tiyulim are more demanding, physically. The vast majority of their field trips leave from the Dan Region.
      Good luck!

  4. Carolyn R says:

    I had the great privilege to be able to do a course on the Land of the Bible when I was in Israel and visited many of the places you mentioned and others too. It was a joy! You are right to look for the beauty amidst the horror. It keeps you sane! I have been keeping up with the day to day news which of course is not in mainstream media over here! x

    • Hi, Carolyn!
      I hope, in that case, you will enjoy the posts I plan to write about upcoming field trips and that these will bring back happy memories 🙂
      Where have you been getting your day to day news updates?

      • Carolyn R says:

        I’ve been getting the news from various online news sources, Times of Israel, Honest Reporting, Jerusalem Post etc. Also there is a Christian TV channel on Sky that supports Israel and shows various video clips they receive from folk in situ.

      • Then you’ll have heard already about today’s terrorist murder of two more innocent Israeli citizens in a shooting ambush (I thought at first it was a drive-by shooting but it turns out that the actual shooter had got out of his car and was lying in ambush). If not, see my Facebook page.

  5. Carolyn R says:

    Yes I saw it, Shimona!

  6. Katherine says:

    I think your idea of finding one good thing a day to be grateful for or to enjoy is a good idea as I have been using it myself s ince my husband died .I feel it helps to choose and not be a mere victim… unlike a so called friend who tells me frequently she feel like committing suicide.. it’s an attention seeking thing.I would be very caring if someone were genuinely in a state of severe depression but she’s not… .. she’s only bored…Maybe a visit to Jerusalem would cure her… I think you are doing really well but hope it will end as living in uncertainty is hard even when ayou don’t get attacked personally

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