May 22, 2009

How to Look Like a Biker

How to Look Like a Biker

  1. Focus on the colors: Wear as much black and red as you can. It would look good on t-shirts, bandannas, your bikes, and any other items that would be easily visible.
  2. Wear the right clothing: Leather pants, jackets, vests, gloves, all of these would look good and protect you in a crash. Get the gloves studded, and the jacket or vest with a customized logo on the back. Also, to keep the sweat out of your eyes (and you'll be getting a lot of it from your hair pommade), a bandanna would do nicely, sweatbands are an automatic butt- kicking.
  3. Fix your hair: (Regularly) As for the hair, most bikers grow theirs out long. Most bikers will dye their hair bonnie black, dirty blonde, or brown. The hair is almost always straight. It can also be wavy, shaved, or, very rarely, curly.
  4. Pay attention to the facial hair as well. Consider a handlebar mustache (stache wax is the preferred, so as to maintain that perfect coiffure after a hard days ride), or a long beard. Not so long that you look like Santa Claus, but long as in halfway down your chest. Just like the regular hair, most bikers will dye it the color of their regular hair color.
  5. Get some run pins at bike rallys like the redwood run in June or many others around the world and patches than put them on your leather jacket.
  6. learn to ride well, and reserch biker patches before you put one on your jacket. You don't want to wear a club patch by mistake, these are called colors and each part of the patch means something.

Un quiz sur l'humanitaire

J'ai participé au quiz de MSF sur l'humanitaire et j'ai été déclaré... "expert" !

Ce n'est pas vraiment mérité mais je dois dire que je suis fier d'avoir su situer le Tchad sur la carte, de ne pas avoir inversé les dates de la famine en Ethiopie avec celle de l'épidémie de paludisme au Burundi ou d'avoir pu donner l'espérance de vie du Malawi à deux ans près...

A vous de jouer : !

May 10, 2009

Three Songs

Children stories can be so revealing...

Three songs or poems (the same word applies in Hebrew and I can hardly make the difference now) touched me particularly in a collection of stories for children called שרשרת זהב.

They convey so beautifully the truth of the child's experience that I cannot but share them with you.

שלומית כהן-אסיף
כשעצוב לי

אמרתי לאמא : "עצוב לי!
"לך תשקה את העציצים", אמא אמרה
ולא עזר
העצב לא עבר.

אמרתי לאבא: "עצוב לי!"
"אז תשיר שירים" , אבא אמר.
ולא עזר
העצב לא עבר.

אמרתי לסבא: "עצוב לי!"
סבא לטף את לי את הצואר,
"ספר מה קרה,
אל תחסיר דבר."
והעצב עבר...
The first is by Shlomit Cohen-Assif (b. 1949). It tells the story of a little boy who feels sad but meets the indifference of his parents: his mother advises him to water the plants and his father to sing a song. Only when he turns to his grandpa does he find an attentive ear and only then does his sadness vanish -- the miracle of empathy.

The two others I chose are by Nurit Zarchi (b. 1941) and they cover the same theme - the despair of children at the lack of empathy from their parents - on an even sadder tone.

נורית זרחי
הנמר שמתחת למִטה

כשקורה לי דבר רע,
למשל, מכה או דקירה,
אז אמא אומרת:
וחיילים לא נפצעים במלחמה?"

וכשאני מתעוררת באמצע הלילה
כי תחת המיטה יש לי נמר,
אז אבא אומר:
"ובג'ונגל לא מפחיד יותר?!"

ואם הם יוצאים לסרט
ולא מוצאים לי שומר,
הם אומרים: "כשישנים לא פוחדים,
שני מהר".

ואני יודעת שזה נכון
מה שאמא אומרת, מה שאבא אומר,
אבל איך זה יכול לעזור
כשמתחת למיטה
יש לי נמר?!
A little girl's fears are met with the rigid reactions of her parents: when she complains because she hurt herself, her mother tells her "Think of the soldiers who die in the war", when she wakes up at night because she is afraid of the tiger under her bed, her father tells her "What about those who sleep in the jungle?", when they leave her alone at night her parents tell her "Go to bed, close your eyes and sleep. Don't be afraid." But how can you sleep when you have a tiger under your bed?

נורית זרחי

היה לי כלב,
קראו לו בילי,
בילי שלי האובד-
כפתור לבנבן,
ועיניים של ילד,
היה לי ידיד אמת.

בילי שלי
לא היה סתם כלב,
הכל לו הייתי אומר,
דומם הסתכל בי מבלי לדבר,
היה לי פשוט חבר

אמא אמרה:
"כלב זה כלב,
ואל תקח ללב"
אמא אמרה:
"יש הרבה כאלה,
על שטות שכזו ליבב"

אמא כלל לא הבינה,
בילי שלי האובד,
בילי חמוד לא היה סתם כלב,
היה לי ידיד אמת.
A little boy had a dog called Bili. To his dog he could say everything, a faithful friend he was. The dog got lost and his mother teaches him: "A dog is a dog! Don't take it to heart... Don't cry for such a stupid thing." The boy has no choice but hide his sadness - over losing his best friend.

May 09, 2009


Reading the New York Times article Parks Fortify Israel’s Claim to Jerusalem, I was reminded of one of the disturbing things taking place here.

The Israeli government, through its Nature and Parks Authority and Antiquities Authority, has contracted some of the most important areas around the Old City to a settlers association called Elad whose primary goal is to populate the "biblical" Jerusalem with Jews.

Elad develops the Ir David tourist site and manages the archeological excavations in Silwan, both with a clear ideological agenda.

There is an excellent website called From Shiloah to Silwan which explains perfectly the situation and the state of current knowledge on history of the place. I recommend it highly.

But what I wanted to offer here, since the NYT article mentions Al-Quds University's page on the history of Jerusalem, is a side-by-side comparison of both versions.

So here are, on the left-hand side, Al-Quds University's text and, on the right-hand side, Elad's "Timeline".

Jerusalem, the Old City
An Introduction

Is a history of Jerusalem or Al-Quds possible? How many of the hundreds of books and tourist guides really inform us? The real accumulation of humanity in Jerusalem over millennia, the diversity of its life and the variety of its architecture, are constantly being overshadowed by single narratives. People have always needed mythic narratives to sustain them. But when a narrative subverts or attempts to erase real history to serve political ends, it verges on moral abuse. This introduction is intended to make some observations and cautions for readers to consider when reading other sources.
Writing any "history"-especially a history of Jerusalem-is problematic. Current scholarship is questioning ancient and modern narratives, including those records of Greek or Roman or other times that have been assumed to be accurate. With Jerusalem, the lenses of observation remain more distorted than elsewhere. The city is subjected to processes of enlarged focus or of blurring that are affected by multiple narratives and past or present claims. Available descriptions of the "Holy Land" have been filtered through cultural and political agendas, as well as conflicting monotheistic traditions.

Sometimes, these descriptions were written by "absent" travelers who relied on second-hand accounts. A 14th-century account by John Mandeville , for example, has only recently been shown to be a fabrication copied from earlier crusader and other reports. In 1607, George Sandys produced a more factual description but portrayed Palestine as a neglected land (a logic intended to justify that it should be conquered), despite his own mention of productive farming in many areas. Thomas Fuller wrote an entire geography of Palestine in 1650, without ever visiting the country. Later 19th-century travelers, many fundamentalist clergy, created portraits of the land and its people as fossilized biblical remains rather than as living human beings. Today, tourist information and the media still perpetuate similar impressions and stereotypes.

The current mythology about the city's name and associations are typical examples. The "salem" or "shalim" in Jerusalem does not come from the word for "peace," as is circulated. "Shalim" is the god associated with the city's founding by the Canaanite Jebusites ("Uru-shalim," the city or foundation of the god Shalim, cited in ancient Egyptian texts). There are systematic efforts, however, to link Jerusalem with David (thus the recent Israeli "3000" anniversary celebrations). However, as Thomas L. Thompson has noted, there are three different biblical accounts involving the "conquest" of Jerusalem. The efforts to connect the city with David are intended to formalize connections between present Jews or Israelis and that idealized biblical community called "Israelites." The city's archaeological and other documentation, however, demonstrates actual habitation by the Jebusites about 5000 years ago.

Even biblical scholars now acknowledge that the reported conquest by David did not result in any changes in population or religion. Others confirm that David never existed as a tribal chief-except in the huge realm of legend. What is called the "Tower of David" in Jerusalem (made into a showcase museum by Israel) has nothing to do with David. Meron Benvenisti, among others, has deflated the mythic creations about the Tower, which was built in more recent centuries. Jerusalem has no trace at all of a person called "King David."

The work of many scholars (Philip R. Davies, Marc Zvi Brettler, Keith W. Whitelam, Thomas L. Thompson, Lester Grabbe, Donald B. Redford , Israel Finkelstein, Ze'ev Herzog, to name a few) has cast irreversible doubts about the actuality of other characters and events. The "conquest" as described in "Joshua" never occurred. The Exodus story is nothing more than Canaanite cultural memory appropriated by "Israelites" as their tradition. Initially, Canaanite-derived gods were both male and female, including the pairs 'Asherah (Mother of Gods) and El (Father of Gods), 'Anat and Ba'al, and also later 'Asherah and Yahweh. Such information is shaking certain monopolies on religious truth. This scholarship has filtered into discussions among Israeli academicians, but some are afraid it is a threat to the legitimacy of Israel's creation.

The key to clarifying the history of Jerusalem and Palestine lies in distinguishing between literary tradition and recorded history, between imagined memory and material evidence. It is equally important that an effort be made to establish a history based on people and their continuity rather than a history based on which political power or religious ideology was present in the land and then left it.

Palestine was conquered in times past by ancient Egyptians, Hittites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Muslim Arabs, Mamlukes, Ottomans, the British, the Zionists. These are recorded conquests (not literary legends), whose facts and remains are documented. Meanwhile, another development was the evolution of monotheistic faiths that followed the "pagan" religions. It is crucial to keep these two developments as distinct as possible, for the sake of not confusing issues and identities. The people of Palestine may have become more mixed with each consecutive conquest, or may have changed religions, but essentially (especially in villages) the population remained constant-and is now still Palestinian, though many villagers were tragically dislocated in the 1948 Nakba.

The "temple" issue dominates the politics about Jerusalem today. An assumption is made that the present Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa compound is the same location of the "Temple Mount" or "Mount Moriah." But as Ernest L. Martin has demonstrated (working strictly within biblical scholarship), the Al-Aqsa compound cannot possibly be in the same place as the first or second temple. Further, what is called the "first temple," associated with the legendary Solomon, was in fact a pre-monotheistic place where many gods were worshipped. As scholars like Herbert Niehr document, the "first temple" was dominated by Syro-Phoenician traits and appealed to pagan worshippers living in the area. Various "pagan" sites existed until after Constantine converted to Christianity in the early 4th century. At that time, Constantine's mother Helena determined many biblical sites, most coinciding with pagan temple locations.

The Wailing or "Western" Wall is a focus of Jewish veneration. It is a site associated with a past memory, as Moshe Dayan once noted. The Wailing Wall is assumed to be what remains of Herod's Temple. But that Herod was a Jew is debated by some and rejected by others (he came from tribes east of the Jordan and had a Hellenistic cultural background). Judaism was different from how some see it today; like Christianity and Islam, it should not be confused with "ethnicity."

Further, the Wailing or "Western" Wall is a most likely candidate for being the wall of a fortress built for Roman legions (as Ernest Martin reports, citing other scholarship). Even if we assume that Herod built a "second temple," the building was reportedly destroyed in the 1st century AD. The Romans, then the Byzantine Christians, had prevented people of the Jewish faith from living in the city for hundreds of years. At other times, the two then-contending religious groups had exchanged expulsions and massacres, particularly before and during the Persian invasion of 614 AD. The hundreds of skulls at the Monastery of Mar Saba are said to be evidence of those massacres. One wonders then, under such circumstances, how the traces of any temple in Jerusalem could possibly have been preserved.

The Dome of the Rock is a focus of veneration for hundreds of millions of Muslim worshippers. It is also a visible and impressive work of architecture, around which much lore has developed. It was built in times of recorded history, on previously unoccupied ground, though the spot probably had ancient associations impossible to trace today. The Muslim caliph, as Christians and Jews at the time mention, had avoided harming Christian or Jewish sensitivities. Both Christian and Jewish responses to the coming of Islam in 638 AD indicate that Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived in Jerusalem together as "people of the book"-despite any biases one may cite.

Karen Armstrong points to the irony that, upon capturing Jerusalem, the Muslims "invited the Jews to return to the holy city and left the Christian shrines and residences undisturbed" (The New York Times, 16 July 2000). Though Armstrong's work shows a strong attraction to biblical lore, she maintains that the history of persecution in Jerusalem is largely connected to Christian and Jewish movements (often imported), with considerably fewer instances of Muslim intolerance. As Jewish historian Moshe Gil mentions, it was not until 638 that a Jewish quarter was assigned in the city, when Muslims invited Jewish families to reside there.

No one today is discrediting or diminishing Jewish freedom to venerate the Wall and to worship there. No one is making calls and threats against the Wailing Wall similar to those continuously being directed, over the past three decades, against the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. An attack by an extremist destroyed portions of the mosque in 1969, and several recent attempts have been foiled. Extremist groups are now calling for the destruction the Dome and mosque, in order that a "third temple" can be built there instead. Such planned actions could have real apocalyptic consequences. (See the web site of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz for special features on this issue). On the other hand, the Israeli government destroyed many old Jerusalem buildings to expand the area near the Wailing Wall, and evicted all their Palestinian occupants. Extensive Israeli excavations have only threatened the foundations beneath the Dome complex but produced none of the desired links.

Israel also continues to impose other changes in demography and geography, altering facts that took millennia to accumulate. Populations are imported and local inhabitants dislocated. Throughout all of Palestine, place names have been changed to coincide with locations transmitted in the Bible or other names hypothesized by pseudo-archaeologists. In fact, because of linguistic continuities, modern Arabic place names are much closer to the ancient Canaanite names than those transcribed in biblical texts. Such forced actions by Israel are premised merely on theorized connections to the ancient past, though they are also politically expedient. They create a situation and a logic that could be compared, say, to Afghani Muslims deciding to claim sole ownership of Mecca.

In short, what is happening to the picture of Jerusalem today points to an increase in extremist, exclusivist interpretations that are neither historically nor religiously justifiable. The atmosphere of claims and intolerance creates, unfortunately, a counter-effect and an increase in reactive fundamentalism.

Until recent decades, religions had developed and were passed on from age to age without affecting the continuity of indigenous people in Palestine, who inherited a composite religious understanding. All the three monotheistic religions have traditions of mercy and sympathy for the oppressed-which one hopes could be revitalized. It is only when uses and appropriations are politicized that religious feelings are exasperated and polarized, that tolerance is diminished or destroyed.

We should all be respectful of traditional sensitivities. Though not necessarily very accurate from a historical perspective, traditions obviously shape present emotions and mental states of populations. These mental conditions should be tolerated for what they are and what they represent, but should by no means be allowed to consolidate exclusivity and conflict.

It remains a task to struggle through the fog of the past and the interests of the present in order to construct a more balanced, inclusive, and humane portrait of Jerusalem's diversity and its future.
The Patriarchal Period: 1960 from Creation
1800 BCE
The Sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah

The earliest biblical event that connects Jerusalem inextricably with the Jewish nation is the historical meeting of Abraham with King Malchizedek: "And Malchizedek, king of Shalem, brought out bread and wine… and he blessed him and he said: Blessed is Abram of God, the Most High, acquirer of heaven and earth" (Genesis 14:18). Shalem is Jerusalem as we learn from Psalms 76:3: "Then His Tabernacle was in Shalem and His dwelling in Zion". The meeting takes place in the Valley of Shaveh, or the Valley of the King, apparently located adjacent to the city. Later, upon God's commandment, Abraham arrived in the Land of Moriah to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22). The scripture identifies the mountain where this critical event took place as "The Mountain of Moriah" [Har Hamoriah] (Chronicles 2, 3:1) in Jerusalem. We learn from many archaeological findings that Canaanite Jerusalem was originally a well-fortified city surrounded by a strongly built wall. Despite its small size, it was very difficult to conquer. At the foot of the hill on which the city was built flows the Gihon wellspring, which was surrounded by a powerful system of fortifications and whose impressive remnants were recently discovered. The Canaanite rulers of the city dug out a sophisticated water system that included an underground passage leading to the spring for use during wartime. The Scripture states that during the time in which the twelve tribes conquered the Land of Israel, Jerusalem was not inhabited by the Canaanites and remained in gentile hands until the time of David.

The Canaanite Period: 2210 from Creation
1550 BCE
The Jebusite City

Jerusalem as a Jebusite City is first mentioned in the Book of Joshua (15:8) and later in the Book of Judges in the story of the concubine of Givah (19:10): "But the man did not wish to stay, and he rose to leave. He finally arrived in the vicinity of Jebus, that is, Jerusalem". Jebusite Jerusalem remained a gentile enclave located between the inheritance of the tribe of Judah in the South and the inheritance of the tribe of Benjamin in the North. We learn about the might of the Jebusite city from the terraced stone structure located on the Eastern slope of the City of David hill (picture). This structure apparently supported the city’s fortress, the Fortress of Zion (Samuel II, 5:7).

The Period of King David: 2760 from Creation
1000 BCE
The Capital of the Kingdom

In approximately 1000 B.C.E., King David arrived in the city. David, who had previously ruled in Hebron for seven years, conquered the Fortress of Zion and turned the "Jebusite City" into his religious and national capital: "David occupied the fortress and called it the City of David" (Samuel II, 5:9). Then David fortified the city: "He built up the surrounding area, from the Millo inward" (ibid) and built his palace here. Within the archaeological excavation that is currently taking place atop the City of David, remnants of a large, very impressive structure that might possibly be identified as David’s Palace have begun to be uncovered. Caves were discovered on the Southern slope of the City of David which some have identified as burial caves for the Kings from the Davidic Dynasty as is stated in the Bible: "Then David slept with his ancestors, and he was buried in the City of David" (Kings I, 2:10).

The Period of King Solomon: 2800 from Creation
960 BCE
Building the Temple

David’s dream of building the Temple in Jerusalem was not fulfilled, since the Temple is a house of peace, and David was a man of war: “But God said to me: You shall not build a house for my name, because you have been a man of battles and have shed blood” (Chronicles I, 28:3). David was promised that his vision would be fulfilled through his son: “You shall not build the Temple, rather a son born to you will build the Temple for me” (Kings I, 8:19). The son born to David who would succeed him was Solomon, who was crowned in Jerusalem near the Gihon wellspring following an attempted revolution by his brother Adoniya: “And they anointed him… king at Gihon and they came up from their rejoicing... Moreover, Solomon is sitting on the royal throne” (Kings I, 1:45-46). Solomon’s greatest accomplishment in Jerusalem was the building of the Temple: “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah” (Chronicles II, 3:1). In the vicinity of the Temple in the Southern region, Solomon built the new King’s house as well as the Cedar Forest house, the Hall of the Seat of Justice and the Daughter of Pharaoh’s house, the king’s wife. Solomon apparently connected Mount Moriah in its entirety to the city with a new wall.

The Period of King Hezekiah: 3035 from Creation
725 BCE
The Assyrian Siege

Shortly after Solomon’s death the unified kingdom split into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, both of which underwent major transformations. At the end of the 8th century BCE, the Northern kingdom of Israel (whose capital was Samaria) fell into the hands of the Assyrian empire, and Jerusalem remained the sole capital of the Hebrew people. In the time of King Hezekiah, the Assyrian king, Sancheriv, posed a threat to Jerusalem. Hezekiah prepared himself against attack by strengthening the city’s fortifications: “Also he took courage and built up the wall that was broken and raised it up to the towers and another wall outside that, and he strengthened the Milo in the City of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance” (Chronicles II, 32:5). Hezekiah built a broad, mighty wall whose remains can still be seen today in the Old City's Jewish Quarter and on Mount Zion. This wall is evidence that even prior to the days of Hezekiah the city spread out past the Western hill. In addition to fortifications, Hezekiah channeled the waters of the Gihon inward towards the city, through an excavated underground canal called Hezekiah's Tunnel. This tunnel channeled the water to the Shiloach pool, located in the central valley estuary. Regarding this impressive feat the Bible relates: “This same Yechizkiyahu also stopped up the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the West side of the City of David and Yechizkiyahu prospered in all his works” (Chronicles II, 32:30). The Shiloach inscription discovered engraved on the wall of the tunnel teaches us that the tunnel was excavated simultaneously from two directions. Additionally, it describes the joy of the excavators upon meeting one another. In the year 701 BCE the army of the Assyrian king, Sancheriv, advanced until it faced the walls of Jerusalem. Sancheriv’s siege of Jerusalem failed, as the prophet Isaiah envisioned: “Thus said the Lord concerning the Assyrian king: He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there… for I will defend the city to save it” (Kings II, 19:32-34).

The Period of the Prophet Jeremiah: 3140 from Creation
620 BCE
The Struggle for the Spirit

Approximately one hundred years after the Assyrian siege, the threatening shadow of the Babylonian Empire appeared and the later Judean kings were faced with a choice rebel or surrender before Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah, contrary to Isaiah, envisioned a difficult future of destruction for Jerusalem in its struggle with the enemy: “Thus said the Lord: Behold I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylonia, and he shall burn it with fire” (Jeremiah 34:2). He called upon the Judean kings to surrender before the Babylonians in addition to calling upon the nation to repent from their evil ways and from the moral corruption that had spread throughout society and the kingdom. Alas, to no avail, Yehoyakim, one of the last of the Judean kings, refused to heed the prophet’s advice and even persecuted him and his loyal scribe, Baruch ben Neriyah, publisher of Jeremiah's prophecies. In the days of the last Judean king, Tzidkiyahu, the king’s ministers full of hate for the prophet, threw Jeremiah into a prison pit with the intent of drowning him in mortar. However, one of the king’s servants, convinced the king to rescue him from the pit. Jeremiah was saved, although this was not to be the fate of the city.

The Destruction of the First Temple: 3174 from Creation
586 BCE
Burning the City

Following a prolonged and arduous siege on Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city, as Jeremiah had envisioned. "And he burnt the house of the Lord, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great house he burnt with fire" (Kings II, 25:9). King Tzidkiyahu was captured by the Babylonians and the nation of Israel was sent into Babylonian exile. There, "On the waters of Babylon…we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion" (Psalms 137:1). The survivors remained in Israel without a Temple and without a leader. Gedalia ben Ahikam from Mitzpah, who was appointed by the Babylonians to introduce order and to rule, was killed by Ishmael ben Netanya of the royal dynasty (Jeremiah 40-41). Among the burnt houses of Jerusalem in the City of David, archaeological excavations have uncovered a treasure of "bula" or stamped engravings made of mortar. The findings include a seal upon which is engraved the name of Gemaryahu ben Shafan the Scribe, a minister in the court of King Yehoyakim and uncle to Gedalia ben Ahikam (Jeremiah 36:10). Recent excavations that took place at the entrance to the City of David have discovered an additional stamp on which is engraved the name of Yuchal ben Shlemiyahu, an elder in the court of King Tzidkiyahu (Jeremiah 38:1). These finds remind us of the ancient rulers in Jerusalem during its days of glory who were not wise enough to listen to the prophet who envisioned its destruction.

The Return to Zion and the Period of the Second Temple: 3222 from Creation
538 BCE
The Pilgrimage

Following the declaration of Coresh the Persian in the year 538 BCE, many of those exiled to Babylonia returned to the Land of Israel. In the year 516 BCE, 70 years following exile, those who returned to Zion inaugurated the second Temple. In the middle of the fifth century, Ezra the Scribe, who served as the religious-spiritual leader, immigrated [to Israel] and instituted religious reform that included the divorce of gentile women and regular weekly Torah readings. A number of years later Nechemia, the Governor, arrived and rebuilt the city walls. A gloomy description of the walls of Jerusalem in ruin, prior to their reconstruction and rehabilitation, appears in the book of Nechemia: "And I went up by night by the gate of the valley… and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down, and its gates which had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the fountain gate and to the king’s pool, but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass" (Nechemia 2:13-14). The new wall of the city in the East followed a higher route than the previous wall due to the immense accumulation of demolition and waste at the foot of the mountain. Excavations that took place on the Eastern slope of the City of David revealed remnants from the Persian period. It also appears that the Hasmonean wall and towers from the Second Temple Period, built on top of the hill, were constructed on the route of the fortifications that Nechemia built in this area. As the years passed, the Hellenists replaced Persian rule over the land. Following the Hasmonean revolution against the Slevecus regime, Jerusalem became the legislative capital of the state of Judea and with time grew in size and glory. Jewish pilgrims swarmed to the city from all over Israel and the Diaspora. The Shiloach Pool that was established toward the end of the Second Temple Period became one of the centers for pilgrims on their way up to the Temple Mount.

The Destruction of the Second Temple: 3830 from Creation
70 CE
The Exile

In the time of Herod, while under Roman rule (1st century BCE), Jerusalem reached the peak of its prosperity. The massive construction that took place in the city is described in the books of Yoseph ben Matityahu [Josephus Flavius]. During the first century ACE, it seems that a number of palaces were built in the City of David for the royal family of Chadayev, however no remnants of these palaces have yet to be discovered. A few years following the death of Herod, the Romans installed a governor to rule over Judea. The year 66 ACE inaugurated the outbreak of revolution against Roman authority and the city was placed under siege. In the year 70 CE the walls were penetrated and the Second Temple went up in flames.

The byzantine era
326 ce
The Meyuhas Home and the Shiloach Village

As a result of Jerusalem's destruction in the Great Revolt, the southern part of the City of David was turned into a quarry. During the Byzantine Era, homes and agricultural structures were built in the City of David, several remnants of which were uncovered at the Visitors’ Center site and – more recently – at the Givati Parking Lot excavations. In the middle of the fifth century CE, Empress Ælia Eudocia, wife of Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and included the City of David within them. In addition, she had a church built at the Siloam Pool site. The little that remains of this structure may be seen near the outlet of Hezekiah’s Tunnel. At this time, people began to forget the significance of the City of David as the original city of Jerusalem. Various traditions (that apparently originated as early as the Second Temple Period) identified David’s City (and subsequently his burial site) at Mount. Zion.

The early arab era
638 ce
The Meyuhas Home and the Shiloach Village

The Muslim conquest of Jerusalem from the Byzantines had almost no effect on the city’s physical structure. The population, however, declined, as Christian residents left for places still under Byzantine rule. Once Muslim rule was established, the official ban on Jewish residence in Jerusalem was lifted. According to the capitulations signed by Caliph Omar and the Christian community, the Muslims undertook not to allow Jews to settle in the city. Nevertheless, a source discovered in the Cairo Genizah indicates that 70 Jewish families from Tiberias were allowed to move to Jerusalem and remain there. The Jews set up residence in the northern part of the City of David because of its proximity to the Temple Mount and the Siloam Pool. Excavations now underway at the Givati Parking Lot have uncovered artifacts attesting to extensive Jewish settlement and commerce in this area during the Muslim Era. In 1033, a powerful earthquake destroyed the walls of Jerusalem. When they were rebuilt some 30 years later, the southern wall followed a shorter path, leaving out the City of David and compelling the Jews to move to other parts of Jerusalem.

From the middle ages to the modern era
1099 ce
The Meyuhas Home and the Shiloach Village

From the time the walls were constructed by the Fatimid rulers in 1063, the City of David has remained outside the fortified city walls and settlement there effectively came to a halt. The Gihon Spring continued to serve as a primary source of water for Jerusalemites living within the Old City walls. During the Ottoman Era, a sparsely populated rural locality began to take shape on a hill east of the City of David, on the opposite side of the Kidron Stream, eventually developing into Silwan village. Silwan was annexed as a neighborhood of Jerusalem in 1921. Towards the end of the Ottoman Era, an inscription was discovered in the southern part of the City of David, documenting excavation of the Siloam Tunnel during the First Temple Period, in the days of King Hezekiah. To this day, the inscription, discovered about six meters from the tunnel outlet at the Siloam Pool, is on display at the Istanbul Archæological Museum.

Immigration to Israel: 5642 from Creation
Year 1882
The Meyuhas Home and the Shiloach Village

Throughout the 19th century, many archaeologists and researchers visited the City of David for the purpose of exposing its Northern region. Thus the American, Edward Robinson, uncovered the mysteries of the ancient Shiloach tunnel and the British archaeologist, Charles Warren, discovered the water system and the famous shaft still named after him, The Warren Shaft System. In 1873 the City of David enjoyed a Jewish renewal when the Meyuhas family established its home in the City of David. The family decided to leave the Old City for the City of David as their business suffered from the gates of the Old City being locked every evening and opened only in the mornings. They were the first Jewish group in centuries to settle on a hill that had such a glorious Jewish past. In 1882, new immigrants from Yemen joined the Meyuhas family and built their homes in the caves near the village of Silwan, opposite the City of David. In 1884, following the involvement of philanthropic Jews, a beautiful neighborhood was built for this community called the Shiloach Village. This neighborhood thrived and grew, but also greatly suffured from the riots in 1929. Recovering, the Jews returned to the Shiloach Village and strengthened their hold on it only to suffer again following the Arab Uprising in 1936. For two years the Arab residents conspired against their Jewish neighbors until the Jews were forced to abandon it in 1938.

The State of Israel: 5708 from Creation
The year 1948
The City of David in Enemy Territory

In the wake of the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel on the fifth of Iyar 5708 (14.5.48), the surrounding Arab armies, together with local Arab agitators, and attacked Israel on all fronts. The battle that waged over the Old City of Jerusalem lasted approximately two weeks, and the Jewish Quarter subsequently fell into enemy hands. With the cease fire on November 30, 1948 the boundary was drawn between Israel and Jordan such that the City of David and the entire Old City remained in Jordanian control. For 19 years the Jews were cut off from ancient Jerusalem and could only view its slopes from the top of Mount Zion. During this period, in the 1960s, British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon carried out excavations in the City of David and discovered a number of impressive findings, including the walls of the Canaanite city on the Eastern slope of the hill.

The Six Day War: 5727 from Creation
The year 1967
The Liberation of Jerusalem

Following the Six Day War, Jerusalem was reunited and the boundaries of war erased. However, a Jewish presence was missing from the City of David. Towards the end of the 1970s, archaeological excavations in the City of David began, and continued for several seasons, under the directorship of Professor Yigal Shiloh, whose discoveries and greatly expanded our current understanding of the City of David. Since then excavations have continued to enrich our knowledge of the City of David. In 1991, Jewish residents began to return to live in the City of David and today the area is a thriving Jewish community. The purpose of the "City of David Visitors Center" is to bring as many people as possible to visit the area and to experience the place… where it all began.

May 02, 2009


I am convinced that it was my misfortune that my father was spiritually very distant from me and that even my mother had no love for me. When my oldest brother died unexpectedly (without my mother transferring her feelings from him onto me, and my father, also, remaining as reserved as ever), I resolved that one day I would show them. Now this day has come and gone. No one remembers this day but me, who am its only remaining witness.
-- Igor Strasvinsky

Quoted in Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child.

May 01, 2009

Looking for a new bike

Where have I been? What have I been doing??? Well instead of writing intelligent things on my blog, instead of running and sleeping, I've been surfing the internet for my next motorbike.

I've been going through the models available in Israel and I can't make up my mind!

I currently own a 2008 Joyride 125. Jolly Jumper (that's its name, after Lucky Luke's faithful mount) serves me well for my day-to-day trips to work, my errands and a few excursions around Jerusalem. Jolly Jumper is a faithful horse (therefore its name, taken from Lucky Luke's faithful horse). I drove with it once to the Tel Aviv area but that was both pretty frightening and pretty tiring. So I don't need to drive a lot on the road, but when I give a ride to someone or when I face a steep uphill climb, I'd like to have some more power. And also, I'd appreciate more stability in the curves than what my Jolly Jumper offers me. And sometimes I'd like to be able to drive on a dirt road for the fun.

So should I find Jolly Jumper a replacement? Here's my Jolly Jumper, by the way:

I bought the Joyride but the truth is I don't like this style of scooters which they call here "menahalim" ("menahel" is Hebrew for an executive in a company: all Israelis want to travel like a boss travels...) I like the ones which look more urban or more sportive better.

So I thought I wanted a new Honda SH 125i which has larger wheels and better brakes than my current motorbike, is lighter and slightly more powerful. But only slightly so what's the point? Especially since, on the downside, I will lose the capacity to store a helmet and some accessories under the seat. And the price tag, 23,000 shekels, is 50 % higher than my current motorbike (or, for that matter with the SYM HD125 which competes directly against the SH).

So maybe I need the Honda SH 300? It is very powerful but it will cost me an awful lot: it costs here 37,000 shekels (75 % more than the SYM CityCom 300i which competes against it).

If I do switch to a model of this kind, then the SYM HD200 is actually an excellent compromise because it is not much more expensive than my Joyride (18,000 shekels, less than the SH 125i!) and still brings me what I wanted (more power and better road behaviour).

But it doesn't have the touch and quality of the Hondas: no coupled front/rear braking system, no fuel injection, no praised Honda transmission system, no bright colors... So I'm not so excited about that.

I'm also looking seriously into the Gilera Runner VXR 200 which is supposed to be an amazing scooter.

And that's without mentioning some stylish motorbikes which I'm also thinking to travel in style with:
  • Honda Innova 125, a modern Super Cub which will take me straight back to Cambodia
  • Yamaha YBR 250
  • Hyosung GT 250 Comet
  • Suzuki RV 125 Van Van
  • Vespa GTS 250
  • Hyosung GV250 Aquila
It's a real dilemma involving money, style and pragmatism. For the moment, for lack of a decision, I'm staying with old, faithful, Jolly Jumper...

Honda Innova 125
Yamaha YBR 250
Hyosung GT 250
Suzuki RV 125 Van Van
Vespa GTS 250
Hyosung GV 250 Aquila

Summer dreams?

Did you hear about the fact that mosquitoes can be tricked by a source of heat and carbon dioxide which mimics the signals that it uses to locate its victim?

When the first mosquito of the season came to disrupt my sleep, I was reminded of that and went out (on the Internet) looking for a trap which would attract mosquitoes more than my poor skin and restore my sleep to its main function: dreaming.

I found several companies selling such a product, actually two models which kept appearing on the various websites under different names.

I tracked the source of these products and - thanks to Google as always - found it to be a Chinese company by the name of V-Mart. If you want to order a 20-ft or 40-ft container of them, that's the place.

The product is something hi-tech producing CO2 with a UV lamp and a catalyst through a "photocatalytic reaction". Don't ask me too much, I don't want to know, I told you I just want to sleep and dream.

If you sleep in only one room at a time, then here are some of your options:

And, last but not least, if you are, like me, a fan of big retailers, then you will be glad to learn that Auchan sells the small model for just €19,90, under the brand name "Sib Domotix"!

Since that's less than half the price JR International wanted for it, I left all my principles aside and ordered from big, evil, retailer Auchan and... now you're going to ask me if it works.

Well that will be for another post because I need to fly to Paris to collect my brand new mosquito trap!

Mots-clés : moustiques, piège, photocatalytique, UV, CO2, dioxyde de carbone.