It seems I have been so busy lately, I haven’t had time to post more than once a month. April has been no less hectic than the last couple of months and we are not even two thirds of the way through it yet! March ended with the wedding of my eldest nephew on Sunday March 31st. The following fortnight was fully occupied with lectures, a particularly strenuous field trip involving a hike up Mount Sdom (Sodom), an opera, two concerts (in both of which, I had solos), a weekend in the religious settlement of Alon Shvut in the Judaean Hills and, of course, elections to the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament.
Where do I begin?
Perhaps the best thing to do would be to stick to the chronological order.
So let’s start with two days after the wedding. Although I like to relax on the day of a concert, the morning of April 2nd was fully taken up with two lectures which I attend at the Israel Museum. One of these was in the framework of the Bible studies course which I have been attending for the past few years, and the other was part of a course analysing all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies. There was barely time to rest before leaving home again for an afternoon concert by my choir, the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir at Jerusalem’s Natural History Museum. This was supposed to take place in the garden, as it does every year, only this year’s concert was much earlier in the year than usual and rain was expected, so we moved indoors. (In the event, not only did it not rain but the sun came out and it was actually quite warm.)
I had two solos in this concert, one of which I will share with you – Ravel’s Trois Beaux Oiseaux du Paradis, in which I shared the soprano solo with two others, and in which the tenor solo is sung by an alto. I apologise for the background noise. This was an informal, child-friendly afternoon concert, so don’t go expecting the hushed audience of the Carnegie Hall – or the crystal clear image and sound of a professionally-made video 😉 .
The following day, Wednesday, I had another tiyul with Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi (about which I have written often in the past) to Nachal Peratzim and Mount Sdom, overlooking the Dead Sea.
Nachal Peratzim is a narrow gorge formed by flowing water eroding soft, sedimentary rocks, creating fantastic patterns in the rock face.
How about this one, that looks like a frieze that has been carved into the rock face?
Here it is in close-up:
This one looks like a pillar that has cracked under the impact of some unknown cataclysm, such as the one which engulfed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. With very little effort, one could almost imagine it was the carving of a face:
Eventually, we arrived at a cave known as the Flour Cave, so named for the fine, white, powdery sand found there:
This used to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area, but a partial collapse near the exit in 2005 led to the cave being closed to the public and it has remained so ever since. Warning signs are posted at the entrance, and although Israelis are known for their disdain of such signs, our guide, Shai, insisted that we behave like law-abiding citizens 😉 .
In any case, it was time to proceed with the next part of our hike – the ascent of Mount Sdom, which, in many places, felt like an exercise in extreme sport, requiring us to scramble up, over and around rocks in temperatures which, for the beginning of April, were quite high (in the mid to upper 20s C). Since I was fully occupied with this and needed my hands free to hold on to whatever I could so as not to fall and break a leg (or possibly even my neck), I have no photographs of these most scary parts of the hike, but when we finally made it to the top, the views of the Dead Sea and the surrounding mountains were spectacular and made all the effort worthwhile.
The culmination of the climb was this view of the salt formation known as “Lot’s Wife”, because it resembles a woman looking back in the direction of the city of Sodom (as far as we can tell, as the exact location of that city is a matter of dispute). Of course, it is rather large for a woman but – who knows?
I have to say that the descent was, in many places, quite as difficult as the ascent – worse, even, in some aspects as it was so much easier to slip and slide on gravel and loose stones. However, we made it safely back to the bus and returned to Jerusalem, exhausted.
The following evening, April 4th, I went to the opera in Tel Aviv, where I saw a beautiful, traditional production of Puccini’s “Tosca”. This is one of my three favourite operas and I was delighted to see that, instead of one of those dreadful, updated versions I so hate, the Israel Opera had chosen to recreate the original 1900 production, with lavish sets that actually looked like 19th century Rome, where the story is set.
All this richness in the space of less than a week! And there is still so much more to tell. I don’t want to leave anything out. There is nothing for it. I will have to take a break to finish my Pessach (Passover) preparations, since the festival starts tomorrow evening. Next week, during Chol Hamoed, I will hopefully have more time and will be able to tell you about my weekend in Alon Shvut, the elections and the second concert in which I took part this month.
In the meantime, I want to take the opportunity to wish those of you who, like me, celebrate Pessach, Chag Sameach and, since the two festivals coincide this year, I also wish my Christian friends Happy Easter. See you (I hope!) next week with the continuation of my April Journal 🙂 .