An aerial photo of the remains of a 3,200-year-old Canaanite fortress built near today’s town of Kiryat Gat. (photo by Emil Aladjem/IAA via Ashernet)
The Kiryat Gat fortress site, which was opened to visitors this week, was prepared by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Jewish National Fund (KKL).
According to archeologists Saar Ganor and Itamar Weissbein of the IAA, “The fortress we found provides a glimpse into the geopolitical reality described in the Book of Judges, in which the Canaanites, Israelites and Philistines are fighting each other. In this period, the land of Canaan was ruled by the Egyptians and its inhabitants were under their control. During the 12th century BCE, two new players entered the game: the Israelites and the Philistines. This led to a series of violent territorial disputes. The Israelites settled in non-fortified settlements at the Benjamin and Judean mountains. Meanwhile, the Philistines accumulated power in the Southern Coastal Plain and established cities such as Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gat in an attempt to conquer more areas. The Philistines confronted the Egyptians and the Canaanites on the borderline, which probably passed at the Guvrin River, between the Philistine kingdom of Gat and the Canaanite kingdom of Lachish. It seems that the Galon fortress was built as a Canaanite/Egyptian attempt to cope with the new geopolitical situation. However, in the middle of the 12th century BCE, the Egyptians left the land of Canaan and returned to Egypt. Their departure led to the destruction of the now-unprotected Canaanite cities – a destruction that was probably led by the Philistines.”
The dimension of the fortress is 18 metres square and watchtowers were built in the four corners. A threshold, carved from one rock weighing around three tons, was preserved at the entrance of the building. Inside the fortress was a courtyard paved with stone slabs and featuring columns in the middle. Rooms were constructed on both sides of the courtyard. Hundreds of pottery vessels, some still whole, were found in the rooms.
The remains of the fortress were uncovered with the help of students from the Israel studies department at Be’er Sheva’s Multidisciplinary School, students from the Nachshon pre-military preparatory program and other volunteers. This was done as part of the IAA’s policy to bring the general public, and especially the younger generation, closer to archeology.
Visitors to Masada learn more about the site through Gadi Mathov’s miniature model of the landmark. (photo from Mathov Design)
What would it take to make museums, cultural sites and tourist attractions more accessible to people with visual, intellectual or developmental disabilities? For the past 25 years, Israeli professional miniaturist Gadi Mathov has been working on solving this problem using models.
At Masada National Park, for example, people with visual impairment can understand the site’s unique topographical structure and history through Mathov’s 3D tactile models.
“We also created for them miniature models of siege vessels that illustrate the Roman siege of Masada,” he explained. “The way I define it, a model is a physical representation of a product or an idea. A model is a medium that allows people to communicate and pass along ideas between them.”
Mathov Design models are used in leading cultural institutions such as the Israel Museum and sites managed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Mathov also cooperates with the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the National Insurance Institute and the Access Israel nonprofit organization.
Mathov Design’s 100-square-metre model of Jerusalem, featuring the Temple Mount, the Tower of David, the Knesset, the new Jerusalem Light Rail and other iconic structures, can be seen in Times Square in New York City as part of the Gulliver’s Gate project.
Birdwatching via models
Agamon Hula, a must-visit birdwatching and natural beauty attraction in northern Israel, is also enhanced by Mathov’s models. Here, he cooperated with Pnina Ceizler, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund’s northern region projects and accessibility coordinator, and KKL-JNF’s chief ornithologist Yaron Charka to make the site’s research station a place of interest for people with disabilities – visitors can see and/or feel models of the birds that migrate in the area, as well as special globes and maps that highlight migratory routes.
“There are quite a few models that we’ve created to enhance the experience for people with visual impairments,” said Ceizler. “We see that it’s useful for everyone, also for children with disabilities or with autism.”
The accessible experience at the research station has proved to be a huge hit, she told Israel21c. She tried it out on a group of people with visual impairments before opening it up to private visitors and organized trips for schools and people with special needs.
“They enjoyed this whole experience up close. They were impressed and admired everything,” she said of the accessible centre’s first visitors.
Back to the future
Mathov has worked in his profession for 37 years, but it came about quite by accident. “It was a temporary job while I was an architecture student, and then I found out that I liked it better,” he recounted.
Decades later, he’s still in love with the job. “They’ll have to take me out of here in a coffin,” he joked, speaking of his workshop in the central city of Lod.
Along with cultural institutions, his clients include the defence establishment and medical instrumentation companies.
Mathov is not worried about work drying up in the age of technological advancement. “There’s nothing more comfortable or clearer than a model,” he said. “There are dozens if not thousands of uses.”
Lately, it’s become much easier and cheaper to create a model. “The biggest development was the introduction of what we call computerized production,” Mathov explained, citing 3D printers, lasers and CNC (computer numerical control) machines. “Each of these technologies helps us create a much more complex and higher-quality product in less time and for a cheaper price.”
Mathov hopes that, one day, people will be able to print out models at home of the places they’re planning on visiting. “Today, no one goes to the store to buy music; no one goes to Blockbuster to watch a movie. I imagine that, when you’ll want a miniature model, you won’t go to a miniaturist. You’ll be able to download them and print them by yourself,” he explained.
However, printing is only the end of a process that begins with human creativity. Mathov said a model should contain “the human spark of the soul of the person who created it.”
And, while he mourns the disappearance of craftsmanship, Mathov is a firm believer in advancement. “You have to keep on looking forward,” he said. “To understand what the technologies are and where they’re heading; how to adopt them or compete against them or circumvent them.”
Israel21c is a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st-century Israel that exists beyond the conflict. For more, or to donate, visit israel21c.org.
The writer and her husband at the synagogue Slat-Al Azama, in Marrakesh, which was built in 1492 by Jews expelled from Spain. (photo from Miri Garaway)
There are so many adjectives to describe Morocco, but, after being immersed in the country for three weeks and observing the people, the cities, the villages, the markets, the customs, the gardens, the arts and crafts, the architecture, and the potpourri of cultures that weave through this land, one can only conclude that Morocco is a fascinating, diverse country.
Morocco has an air of intrigue that enchants the soul and entices the curious traveler to explore beyond the realm of the imagination. The country has a way of drawing one in. It is the muse and inspiration for writers, poets, artists and craftspeople.
From scenes of everyday life and the feeling of stepping back in time, while navigating the uneven cobblestone streets of the medinas (old cities), to the overwhelming beauty of the landscape, one is transported into another world. Morocco is a land of mazes of narrow alleyways in the enchanting Medina; ochre-coloured earth; women grinding almonds to make argon oil; roadside markets; royal blue doors; rug weavers; tasty, elaborate tagines and mint tea; mounds of olives and spices; dramatic gorges; and captivating Berber villages. I could go on; the list would be long.
Through an extremely knowledgeable private driver, arranged by the company Journey Beyond Travel, we set about to include the Jewish sites of a once-vibrant community, which stretched back more than 2,000 years.
Landing in Casablanca, it felt like an oversize version of Tel Aviv, especially the drive along the beaches and the White City architecture.
During our tour of Casablanca, we visited the Moroccan Jewish Museum, which was once a Jewish orphanage (until the mid-1990s). How wonderful to see our history and culture displayed, with Torah scrolls, traditional clothing, daily life objects, paintings, sculpture and a library containing photographs, documents and videos of Jewish life in Morocco.
Walking through the enchanting, stunning and unique blue city of Chefchaouen, we happened upon the only remaining Jewish fabric merchant. We felt an instant bond, and he welcomed us into his small shop.
As we explored this vast country, we found traces of our ancient history in the archeological Roman ruins at Volubilis (near Moulay Idriss and Meknes); the epitaph of the synagogue rabbi in Greek, for example. The town of Ait-Ben-Haddou, now a centre for filmmaking, was once a significant Jewish community.
Traveling down a country road in Zaouit El Bir Dades, in the Valley of the Kasbahs, we stopped at a Jewish cemetery (all locked up) that was dated 1492.
When I had my first glimpse of the majestic imperial city of Fez, from atop a large hillside, I immediately thought of Jerusalem. The Medina of Fez is a huge maze of tiny alleyways, with colourful visual delights around every corner.
The Orthodox synagogue Ibn Danan was filled with Israeli tourists. Its predominant blue colouring reminded me of the ancient synagogues in Tzfat. The exquisite woodcarving and blue-and-white mosaics make it especially beautiful. It was built in the 17th century in the Jewish Quarter, known as the Mellah. In the mid-1990s, it was restored, and it reopened in 1999. It contains such elements as arches, wooden benches, tapestries and oil lamps.
Moses Maimonides, the Jewish scholar, philosopher and physician, escaped persecution by a fanatical Muslim sect in his native Cordoba, Spain, and lived in Fez from about 1159 to 1165, before moving to Palestine and then Cairo, where he could openly practise Judaism. In the Fez Medina, there is Maimonides’ House, which is a store containing an incredible selection of Jewish antiques and art.
When talking with the cultural director who organized our art and culture tour of Fez, she mentioned that, before 1956, Jewish women lived in Fez and were known for sewing the silk buttons on to men’s jellabas (Moroccan caftans).
In Marrakesh, in the Mellah, we visited the synagogue Slat-Al Azama, built in 1492 by Jews expelled from Spain. Off the courtyard, there is a series of rooms, acting as a museum, depicting Moroccan Jewish history. The Chefchaouen blue (a deep royal blue) doors and blue-and-white mosaics were particularly striking, as was the lovely synagogue. I could visualize it once teeming with life.
The charming coastal fishing town of Essaouira was once home to 70,000 Jews and 48 synagogues. Only three synagogues remain and we visited them all: Slat Lkahal, Haim Pinto and Simon Attia. At Slat Lkahal, we were given an informal tour by a Muslim woman; there were some fascinating historical photographs, which made the old community come alive. Nearby Haim Pinto, a small, wooden 212-year-old synagogue containing two Torahs – one original, one new – is painted a vibrant Chefchaouen blue.
Finally, Simon Attia Synagogue, located outside the Mellah, but within the Medina, is still in use today for the small community in Essaouira. It has a huge wooden door in the shape of a Gothic arch. After several attempts to gain entry during the week, when it was locked, we returned on a Saturday, around noon, and were lucky enough to go inside, as services were finishing. I was expecting a grand interior, but that was not the case. It was lovely, though, and we felt welcome and were glad for the opportunity to visit. One of the anterooms contained a small museum.
The hamsa, or Hand of Fatima, as it is known in Muslim countries, is everywhere in Morocco. One off-the-beaten-track place I would have loved to visit, about 28 kilometres from Fez, is the town of Sefrou, once inhabited by Spanish exiles and Jews from southern Algeria.
Did we feel safe traveling around the country? This is a question many people asked. Absolutely. There was a sense of unity among all religions. Perhaps a sign of hope for future generations.
Morocco is a country that must be seen. I am still in constant awe.
The Museum of Jewish History in Sosua is located right next to the city’s synagogue. (photo by Dave Gordon)
Famous for its rum, cigars, resorts, beaches and rich history, the all-season holiday destination of the Dominican Republic attracts 800,000 Canadians each year. Moreover, the country has a relatively unknown past – few people realize, or know, that the country opened its doors wide to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution.
This era is chronicled at the Museum of Jewish History, in Sosua, which is in the northern section of the country. Located right next to the city’s synagogue, the museum preserves the memory of those Jewish refugees who sought a safe haven on Dominican soil, and left their mark on the region. It houses photographs of early-to-mid-20th-century Jewish immigrants, along with diary entries, ritual items and copies of letters from Jewish agencies during the war.
Before the Second World War, in 1938, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt summoned the Allies to Evian, France, for a conference about how to handle the massive exodus of Jews who desperately sought to flee Nazi persecution. Though most of the participants at the conference expressed their sympathy, no resolution was formulated. Paraphrasing Chaim Weizmann (who would later become the first president of Israel), Central and Eastern European Jews perceived the world as consisting of just two camps: one that hounded and hunted them, and another that closed its gates.
There was, however, one notable exception.
Of the 32 countries that sent delegations to the conference, only the Dominican Republic, led by President Rafael Trujillo, agreed to receive 100,000 refugees, offering land resettlement under generous conditions. A group of experts on refugee affairs, under the leadership of James Rosenberg, was mobilized by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to capitalize on the offer. This was the birth of the Dominican Republican Settlement Association (DORSA).
Between 1940 and 1945, the Dominican Republic government issued 5,000 visas for displaced Jewish refugees. Tragically, however, the actual number of immigrant arrivals never reached anywhere near this figure, due to the escalation of the war, and also to what some believe to be mishandling by the Jewish Agency, which resulted in delays. Of the nearly 1,000 Jews who settled in the Dominican Republic, most were from Austria and Germany, although some came from as far away as China, and some from as close as the Caribbean islands.
Little by little, the jungle-like territory was divided into residential lots and communal barracks for arriving refugees. Each refugee was furnished with, as a repayable loan, 80 acres of land, 10 cows, one mule, one horse, and a living wage for a month. They were assisted with training in agriculture and farming techniques, of which most had little previous knowledge.
Jews took to food manufacturing, becoming successful in the production and sale of sausage, milk, cheese, tomato sauce, mashed carrots, stuffed peppers and mashed spinach. Many of these industries continue to this day. The refugees’ earnings enabled them to pay their debts and establish other small industries.
By the 1990s, however, just 36 Jewish families remained in Sosua, as most of the population either died, intermarried or moved to larger Jewish communities.
Interestingly enough, well before the arrival of these refugees, in 1916, the Dominican Republic briefly had a Jewish head of state, President Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal.
Visiting the country
Virtually every major supermarket has plenty of items with kosher certification, including imported canned goods, breads, fish and spreads. A Puerto Plata resort named Lifestyle has an on-site kosher restaurant, though only for guests staying there. Alternately, in Punta Cana, the local Chabad offers à la carte food orders upon request.
If this trip is a do-it-yourself getaway, as opposed to an all-inclusive, here are two suggestions for luxury stays that will offer the feel of home:
Villas Agua Dulce is a jaw-droppingly elegant and spacious facility. Each villa has a fully furnished living room, dining room and a washer/dryer. Three-bedroom villas are available to accommodate a family of seven. Toss in for good measure an outdoor patio, outdoor private pool, a spa centre, tennis and basketball courts, and Bauhaus interior design.
With the beach just a few hundred feet away, Cabarete Palm Beach Condos is centrally located in the Cabarete area. Each condo has a fully equipped kitchen, living room (with big TV), dining area and outdoor patio.
As for suggested adventures in the Puerto Plata area, I have several.
Monkey Jungle: After enjoying the 4,500-foot, seven-station zip lines overlooking the trees, visit the adjacent capuchin monkey reserve. Scores of these adorable creatures bounce around from tree to tree, hopping on your shoulders and nibbling straight from the fruit plate in your hand.
Ocean World: This is where you can swim with sharks and dolphins and kiss the sea lions.
Tip Top Catamaran: Take a ride on the 75-feet-long and 33-feet-wide catamaran. Tourists are offered the chance to experience the vibrant underwater world through snorkeling Sosua Bay (equipment is provided). Immerse yourself in schools of fish, peer at the coral, get face-time with a puffer fish and play with the sea urchins.
Twenty-seven waterfalls of Rio Damajagua are tucked away in the hills of the Northern Corridor mountain range, behind tall stalks of sugar cane. In addition to the mélange of outdoor activities – such as cliff jumping into natural waters and climbing through caves – you are surrounded by forest. And, depending on the season, fruit will be growing from coconut, avocado, coffee bean and mango trees.
Kiteboarding: Think of yourself hovering over the ocean on a surfboard, propelled by a giant inflatable kite, and you have kiteboarding. Dare2Fly provides kiteboarding packages, lessons and rentals.
Rancho Luisa y Tommy: Try a morning horseback ride. Run by 30-year-old Tommy Bernard, a Quebec expat, he’s an affable fellow who’ll treat you to engaging conversation on topics including animals, his adopted country, and most anything in life.
Dave Gordonis a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in more than 100 publications around the world.
פארק פופולרי נוסף, הנמצא בעיר הסמוכה צפון ונקובר – הוא פארק קפילנו שמראה את הצד הפראי של האזור. האטרקציה המרכזית בו היא גשר תלוי שמורכב משבעה קטעים שונים (בגובה של כשבעים וחמישה מטר מעל פני האדמה). הגשר שכמאה וחמישים מטרים אורכו, נחשב לאחד הארוכים בעולם והוא מואר בלילה כך שניתן לטייל בו גם בחשכה. בפארק יש פעילויות למשפחה, מסעדה ושבילי יער יפים, כולל אחד שמדמה הליכה על צוק וכולל רצפת זכוכית שתגרום להולכים להרגיש באוויר כשמתחת זורם נהר קפילנו.
אם רוצים לראות את אזור ונקובר והאיים באוקיאנוס שלחופו היא שוכנת, יש להמשיך אל הר הגראוס שגם הוא ממוקם בעיר צפון ונקובר. בעזרת קרוניות גדולות של הרכבל שיכולות להכיל עשרות אנשים, עולים כאלף ומאתיים מטרים אל הפסגה ורואים נוף עוצר נשימה. חובבי הספורט והאקסטרים יוכלו לשלב בביקור מסלולי ריצה הרריים, שבילי אופניים מאתגרים וריחוף באומגה. במקום גם יש שגם מופעי חיטוב עצים, סיור לימודי על דובים ודורסי לילה וטיסת מסוק. ביקור בהר הוא מבחינת חובה ומומלץ להקדיש לו יום שלם. מי שרוצה לראות את האזור מלמעלה ללא טיפוס להר, יכול לטוס במעלית במסע של מאה ושבעים מטר אל מגדל התצפית שנמשך כארבעים שניות בלבד.
אם ניתן להשיג מכונית שכורה, מומלץ מאוד להמשיך ולגלות את סביבת האזור ונקובר ולנסוע בכביש “סי טו סקאי”. מדובר באחד הכבישים היפים בעולם, שמתפתל לאורך החופים ומספק מראות יפים בכל עיקול, כולל אתרים היסטוריים ונקודות עצירה מיוחדות לתצפית.
אחד המבנים המעניינים בוונקובר הוא “קנדה פלייס”, שממקום במפרץ בורארד הצר באזור קול הרבור. ומה יש בו: מרכז כנסים גדול, מלון, מסעדות, ברים, מועדוני לילה, גלריות, הופעות, פעילויות למשפחה, ספא, ומרכז סחר. וכן מזח לספינות שממנו יוצאים הקרוזים להפלגות באיים שלחופי האוקיאנוס. הקנדים אוהבים לבלות בו בחורפים הקרים יחסית. בקיץ האזור שוקק ומלא אנרגיות. אחת האטרקציות המהנות ביותר היא “פלי אובר קנדה” שבו יוצאים למסע קולנועי אינטרקטיבי מעל נופיה המרהיבים של קנדה.
ונקובר היא ביתם של מהגרים רבים ממזרח אסיה ונהנית מסצנה תרבותית וקולינרית מפותחת בהשראתם. מרכז העיר מספק שפע של מסעדות אסיאתיות. באזור צ’יינה טאון האטרקציה היפה בו היא הגן הסיני של ד”ר סאן יט-סן. זהו הגן הסיני הראשון בקנדה שלא כל כך מטופח. יש בו שילוב בן אסתטיקה לטבע. יש בגן בריכת דגים ועצים מיניאטורים. הגן הוקם בשנת אלף תשע מאות שמונים ושש מחומרים טבעיים בלבד. הביתנים מעוצבים לפי מיטב הארכיטקטורה הסינית, והרמוניה נושבת בין שבילי הגן הודות לשילוב בין הצמחייה, מספר סלעים ואדריכלות שבמקום.
גאסטון, השכונה הוותיקה ביותר בוונקובר, היא אזור מתאים לכניסה אטית אל הערב באחת מעשרות המסעדות, המועדונים ובתי הקפה שבה. השכונה מפורסמת לא רק בזכות מקומות הבילוי, אלא גם הודות לשעון הקיטור קטן והצנוע שהוצב ברחוב, כאנדרטה לימים שבהם עברו מתחת לעיר צינורות קיטור לחימום הבתים. מנגנון השעון נחשב למודרני והוא מוציא אדים ומדי שעה, תוך השמעת נעימת הווסטמיניסטר.
ונקובר היא עיר של טבע. העיר מוקפת אטרקציות פראיות בשילוב של הרים גבוהים ומי האוקיאנוס. האנשים בה נחשבים אולי? ידידותיים ומנומסים. יש בעיר מוזיאון וגלריה, פארקים גדולים, מסעדות ופינות שקטות. זאת לצד ספורט אקסטרים ופעילות ימית. ונקובר היא בסיס יציאה לטיולי טבע והפלגות במערב קנדה, ומהווה מארחת נחמדה לבילוי של מספר ימים.
Joseph’s Tomb, inside the gate. (photo by Gil Zohar)
“The bones of Joseph, which the Children of Israel brought up from Egypt, were buried in Shechem in the portion of the field that had been purchased by Jacob.” – Joshua 24:32
“‘And he bought the field where he pitched his tent.’ (Genesis 13:19) Said Rav Yudan bar Simon, ‘This is one of the three places regarding which the nations of the world cannot slander Israel and say, “You stole them!” The places are the Cave of Machpelah [in Hebron], the Temple [in Jerusalem] and the Tomb of Joseph [in Shechem/Nablus].” – Bereshit Rabba, 79:4
There’s little inspiration to be found in the unadorned tomb of Joseph, the favourite of Jacob’s 12 sons. The holy site, located in the gritty eastern outskirts of Nablus among parched olive groves and graveyards of wrecked cars, is today a flashpoint between those who revere the site – Israeli Jews, Palestinian Muslims, Christians of all stripes, and the 600-member Samaritan community living on Mount Gerizim overlooking this West Bank city of 160,000. The traditional anniversary of Joseph’s death on Tammuz 27 (which fell on July 31 this year) is considered an especially auspicious pilgrimage time.
The group of 1,200 pious Jews, armed with permits and prayer books, arrived at the shrine in a convoy of bulletproof buses protected by the Israel Defence Forces. Most were Bratslaver Chassidim, who set great store in their practice of praying at the graves of tzadikim (righteous ones).
The IDF-escorted pilgrimage on the first Tuesday of every month often leads to riots. IDF sappers neutralized a pipe bomb hidden at Joseph’s Tomb prior to the visit of the 1,200 pilgrims and 12 Palestinians were injured during clashes with the IDF. The list of security incidents, arson and terrorism is long and bloody.
In the secular West, the story of Joseph – whose 11 jealous brothers sold their 17-year-old sibling into slavery in Egypt – has been popularized by the rock opera Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Librettist Tim Rice and fellow Academy Award-winning composer Andrew Lloyd Weber, along with actor Donny Osmond as Joseph, captivated audiences from Broadway to the West End with their account of Joseph’s rise to become the vizier, second only to Pharaoh in the Egyptian empire.
But Joseph, the hero of Bible and Quran stories, has hardly been given the royal treatment by Middle East politics. Dotan, where Joseph was thrown into a pit, called Jubb Yussef (Joseph’s Well) today is a ruined caravanserai that collapsed in an earthquake in 1837. Joseph’s tomb, enshrining the bones brought back from Egypt by the Children of Israel some 3,300 years ago together with the remains of Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh, has fared better.
The plain one-storey is called Qabr an-Nabi Yúsuf (Tomb of the Prophet Yúsuf) in Arabic and is revered by Jews as Kever Yosef ha-Tzadik (Tomb of Yosef the Righteous). The whitewashed limestone building is capped with a cupula and protected by a massive black gate. Barbed wire crowns the looming walls. Signposts in Arabic and English indicate the nearby sites of Tel Balata and Jacob’s Well. None directs visitors to Joseph’s Tomb.
Tel Balata is the nondescript Canaanite/Israelite Iron Age stratified archeological mound that few tourists bother to visit. Jacob’s Well is covered by a 20th-century Greek Orthodox basilica marking where the patriarch camped when returning to Shechem (ancient Nablus) from Paddan Aram in today’s Iraq. In one of the Torah’s three real estate deals – along with Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron and David’s acquiring of Mount Moriah in Jerusalem – Jacob bought the plot of land from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. There, Jacob pitched his tent and erected an altar (Genesis 33:18-20).
Some 1,500 years later, Jesus “came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the field which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s Well was there.” (John 4:5-10) Drinking water, he chatted up a Samaritan woman, known in Greek as Photine (the luminous one; hence, the church’s name, St. Photini). Christian pilgrims flock to the site to reverently drink drafts of cool water from the deep well in the church’s vault.
Across the street is Balata Refugee Camp, administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Today the largest camp in the West Bank, it houses 27,000 people in a quarter-square-kilometre site that was designated for 5,000 refugees when it was established in 1950.
Even for an intrepid, multilingual tour guide like this writer, it is daunting to find the unmarked way to the holy site. The drab building is located next to the Qadari Tuqan School, along a dusty unnamed road where only recently were sidewalks laid. The easiest way to find the landmark is to look for the Palestinian Authority police vehicle parked outside the locked gate. Then, one must locate the pair of PA police officers loitering in the shade nearby, smoking cigarettes and nervously fidgeting with their rifles. Ask politely in Arabic and they’ll let you in, no questions asked, no baksheesh (tip or bribe) required – just don’t mention that you’re Jewish.
Inside the locked gate, you’ll find a simple barrel tomb and the stump of a column of indeterminate age. There’s no evidence of the repeated vandalism that has punctuated the tragic history of Joseph’s Tomb since 1995, when Israel withdrew from the West Bank city, ending the occupation that began in 1967 with the Six Day War.
A photo from 1900 shows the well-maintained compound around Joseph’s Tomb. A carriage road facilitated the pilgrimage of pious Jews from the Old Yishuv who regularly came to pray there. The holy site stood in isolation. Nearby was the Arab hamlet of Balata, with eight houses.
The name Nablus is a corruption of the Latin Colonia Julia Neapolis, which was founded by the Roman emperor Vespasian in 72 CE. In the old city, in 1906, Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II erected a clocktower to celebrate 30 years on the throne of the Sublime Porte.
In the Six Day War, Israel captured the territory, which had been occupied by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan since 1948. Once-somnolent Nablus experienced a burst of prosperity, though today, under PA self-rule, the Palestinian economy is floundering. Expanding from a population of 30,000, the city spread out to swallow the nearby villages, including Balata. Joseph’s Tomb became entangled in urban sprawl.
Jewish settlers began to frequent the mausoleum. By 1975, Muslims were prohibited from visiting the site, which some claimed was the tomb of Sheikh Yúsuf Dawiqat, an 18th-century Sufi saint. In 1982, St. Louis, Mo.-born kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh established the Od Yosef Chai (Joseph Still Lives) yeshivah at the site.
Conflict mounted following the Oslo Accords. Tensions boiled over in September 2000, in the wake of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s controversial visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. A full-scale battle broke out.
On Oct. 1, 2000, Border Police Cpl. Madhat Yusuf, 19, of Beit Jann in the Upper Galilee, was wounded in the neck in a clash with Palestinians at Joseph’s Tomb. Over the course of four hours, the Druze warrior bled to death because the IDF considered it too risky to evacuate him without a ceasefire.
A week later, on Oct. 7, 2000, the site was handed over to PA police. Within hours, Joseph’s Tomb was pillaged by Palestinian protesters. Using pickaxes, sledgehammers and their bare hands, they demolished the holy site. It was rebuilt by Italian stonemasons.
In the Bible, Joseph – the chaste and handsome prisoner – is wooed by an unnamed would-be lover only identified as Potiphar’s wife. Though many midrashim about Joseph are incorporated in the Quran’s 12th chapter, known as Surat Yusuf, the lady’s name is similarly omitted. However, within several centuries, various Islamic sources identified her as Zuleika. Among these medieval texts, the most popular was the epic Farsi poem “Yusuf and Zulaikha,” composed in 7,000 Persian couplets by 15th-century poet Jami.
The Sufi master regarded the story of Joseph’s temptations as an allegory for the mystical striving after divinity. In Nablus today, pilgrims continue to come to Joseph’s Tomb seeking that union. Alas, Israelis and Palestinians have not found a coat of many cultures to fit them both equally.
Gil Zohar is a writer and tour guide in Jerusalem, Israel.
אחד המקומות הפופולריים בה הוא סטנלי פארק, שהוא אתר היסטורי לאומי. (flickr)
ונקובר: העיר מספר אחת ביבשת אמריקה – חלק א’
במרץ שנה שעברה פרסמה חברת הייעוץ הבינלאומית מרסר את דירוג הערים הכי טובות לגור בהן בעולם ואף אחד בוונקובר לא הופתע. כבר ידוע זה שנים שוונקובר היא העיר שהכי טוב לגור בה ביבשת אמריקה. עיר איכותיתת, תחבורה לא רעה, די נקייה, חינוך טוב, אטרקציות טבעיות וביטחון אישי לא רע. אין כמעט תחום שהיא לא טובה בו. ובעיקר היא עיר יפה. מצד אחד מפרץ עצום וירוק שעוטף את חצי האי בו שוכן הדאון טאון. ומצד שני מי האוקיאנוס השקט. ומסביב הרים מיוערים בעלי אוויר נקי וצונן. בחורף ונקובר אפורה, שותקת ודי ישנה, אך בקיץ העיר פורחת ותוססת. ולא רק כיף וטוב לגור בה, אלא מומלץ מאוד לבקר ולטייל בה. ונקובר שוכנת בקצה המערבי של קנדה ומספיקים יומיים או שלושה לטייל בה כדי להבין מדוע תיירים כל כך אוהבים אותה.
לקנדה יש דימוי של ארץ ענקית וריקה שבה הטבע הפראי שולט והאנשים בה רגועים ואדיבים. ובכן זה באמת די נכון. מספיק כדי לטייל מדינה כמה ימים או מספר שבועות כדי להבין שמתרגלים לזה מהר ואם העולם היה טוב יותר, אז הוא היה כנראה עולם יותר קנדי. מטרו ונקובר היא מטרופולין של קרוב לשניים וחצי מיליון איש שלא מעט מתושביו הם מהגרים מרחבי העולם, היא עיר די שונה גם בקנדה, מיוחדת, ירוקה ואולי וסוערת בחודשי הקייץ שהולך ומתחמם כאן.
חברת המחקר מובהב שמספקת מידע עבור אלה שמעוניינים לעבור ולגור בחו”ל, מדרגת את העיר ונקובר כעיר עם חיי הלילה המסעירים ביותר בקנדה. האמת? בכלל לא! ונקובר נחשבת לעיר ישנה לחלוטין ובמספר חודשי הקייץ החמים היא מתעוררת. טורונטו ומונטריאול הן הנחשבות לערים התוססות ביום ובלילה.
ונקובר הצעירה שהוקמה בתקופת תור הבהלה לזהב באמצע המאה התשע עשרה על ידי מחפשים שהתיישבו בשפך נהר פיירזר, צמחה במהירות בשנות הארבעים והחמישים של המאה הקודמת בעקבות גלי הגירה, והפכה כאמור לעיר מספר אחת באמריקה.
אחד הדברים שבולטים בוונקובר הוא שהיא ירוקה כחולה, בזכות הטבע שעוטף אותה. אחד המקומות הפופולריים בה הוא סטנלי פארק, שהוא אתר היסטורי לאומי. מדובר בפארק גדול שנמצא בקצה הדאון טאון. יש בו מסלולי ריצה, רכיבה על אופניים, רכיבה על סוסים, חופי רחצה, מספר קטן של סעדות וציוני דרך היסטוריים בהתפתחותה של העיר. זה מקום טוב להתחיל להכיר בו את העיר, גם בגלל הנוף היפהפה הנשקף ממנו. בפארק יש גם כמה נקודות ציון חביבות כמו העץ החלול – גזע של עץ ארז כבן שמונה מאות שנה שנפגע בסופה בשנת אלפיים ושש. במקום לכרות אותו הוא הפך לסמל לשימור הטבע בעיני תושבי העיר. גן שייקספיר שהוקם בהשראת יצירתו של המחזאי ברוקטו והמפורסם ואזור עמודי הטוטם – תשעה עמודים צבעוניים בעלי עיטורים אינדיאניים מקומיים בנקודת ברוקטון. תמונה שלהם על רקע ההרים והמפרץ היא חלק מהזיכרונות שתספק לכם ונקובר. בפארק נמצא האקוואריום העירוני, שבו תוכלו להתרשם ממגוון עצום של דגים ויונקים ימיים. האקוואריום הוא אחת האטרקציות המפורסמות של העיר, וקיימים בו מינים נדירים של דולפינים ולווייתנים.
זהו לא המקום היחיד שבוונקובר מספקת לחובבי הטבע. בדאון טאון של העיר תמצאו את מרכז עולם המדע, שבו תערוכות משתנות וקבועות, כולל היכל החלל שבו תקבלו מענה או לפחות כיוון חשיבה לגבי חייזרים, אסטוראידים וכוכבי לכת אחרים, כולל טיול בתחנת חלל.
Queen Tamar’s Hall at Uplistsikhe. (photo by Deborah Rubin Fields)
I would venture to say not many people know about the ancient Jewish community of Georgia. Yet, Jews have lived there since at least the fourth century CE and, according to various legends from the Second Temple period, even earlier.
Although scant written information from prior to the end of the 18th century exists, stories have it that Georgian Jews have a long history. According to one oral tradition, the community goes back to the exile of the Ten Tribes by the Assyrians. Others place its origins to the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. And yet others claim that, since there was a large Jewish community in neighbouring Armenia from the first through the fourth centuries CE, it is probable that Jewish traders likewise established themselves in Georgia. These are just some of the theories.
The earliest solid evidence comes from the archeological discovery of a fourth century CE Jewish tombstone. This tombstone was found in Mtskheta, an important early Christian city located on the River Aragvi. The tombstone is dedicated to a Jew named Yosef Chazon and it features an Aramaic inscription engraved in Hebrew letters. Today, it is on display at Tbilisi’s David Baazov Museum of History of the Jews of Georgia and Georgian-Jewish Relations. (An aside: Although the sacred object is nowhere to be seen, the town’s Svetitskhoveli Cathedral claims to have the robe that Jesus wore at the time of his crucifixion. As the story goes, this robe was brought from Jerusalem by two Georgian Jews: Elioz, or Elias, and Longinoz.)
Possibly because they were viewed as unpretentious craftsmen and pedlars, Jews faced relatively little antisemitism. Under the medieval feudal system, they were considered serfs. As serfs, they were never forced to convert, although there seemed to have been some incentive: one document states that Daniel Aranashbili, an apostate serf, received a total tax exemption. (See Gershon Ben-Oren’s essay, “The History of the Jews of Georgia Until the Communist Regime” in The Land of the Golden Fleece: The Jews of Georgia-History and Culture.)
Jumping ahead to the 19th-century rule of the Russian czar, there were a handful of blood libel cases that, while admittedly painful, did not end up in the massacres that occurred in other parts of Europe. Even during the repressive Soviet era, when Jewish institutions were closed, the Tbilisi Jewish community somehow succeeded in having their cemeteries left intact – unlike the local Muslims and Armenians, whose Georgian cemeteries were desecrated.
Internally, the Jewish community had its differences. For instance, at the end of the 19th century, there was significant resistance to Zionism. Rabbi David Baazov – who the czar appointed as the official rabbi of Oni – was one of the community’s first Zionist advocates. He faced such fierce opposition from wealthy community members that he was forced to appeal for funds from early Zionist leader Menachem Ussishkin. Unfortunately, when, in 1917, no financial assistance was offered, Baazov had to close his school. (Today, the Jewish museum in Tbilisi is named after Baazov.)
But here is something amazing about this quiet community. It was “carried away” by the achievements of the Israeli Defence Forces in the Six Day War. In 1969, knowing the risks in “making waves” during Soviet rule (Stalin, for example, who hailed from Georgia, had personally signed the death penalties of 3,600 countrymen), 18 Georgian Jewish families were the first people to publicly petition the United Nations Human Rights Committee with their request to move to Israel.
Most of the 80,000 Georgian Jews (figures from 1970s) made aliyah in two recent waves: in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, when the USSR collapsed. Reportedly, 3,000 to 5,000 still live in the European (because of the Caucasus Mountains, some would say Asian) country of Georgia. Significantly, only recently has Tbilisi become the main centre for the Jewish community. In fact, until the first big aliyah, the Georgian Jewish community lived in several other locations, including Kutaisi, Batumi, Oni, Akhaltsikhe, Akhalkalak, Sarami, Kareli and Gori.
Historically, Georgia’s Mizrahi and Ashkenazi communities have remained separate. In today’s Tbilisi, Shaarei Tefillah Synagogue stands in the Old Town area. This congregation is more than 100 years old. There is also a Chabad synagogue. A kosher restaurant is located near Shaarei Tefillah.
At present, you will hear different opinions about the vitality of the current Jewish community. Some insist that, unlike other former Soviet Union countries, there is vibrant Jewish life in Georgia, with little assimilation. Others contend that, with the dwindling population, life is bleak for some of the older members of the Jewish community and tenuous for the younger generation, who are at risk of losing their Jewish identity.
Georgian Jews have been proud of their heritage. For instance, one wealthy Armenian Jew living in Tbilisi, Ghazar Sarkisian, built his wife a stunning house with stained glass windows displaying the Star of David.
And, speaking of David, everywhere you go in Georgia, you will see paintings and statues of two Georgian leaders who had Old Testament names: King David the Builder (1089-1125) and his great-granddaughter Queen Tamar (1184-1213). These two rulers are recognized for their ability to unify the nation. But, in addition, there are stories that their Bagrationi ancestors descended from the biblical King David. Hence, some believe these rulers had Jewish roots. Whatever their true origin, in today’s Georgia, these names remain popular with the general population.
When in Georgia …
For the adventurous, there is cycling, and mountain and hill climbing. However, travelers should note that, because of severe weather conditions, a number of roads leading to the Caucasus Mountains close for months at a time.
Visit the cave city of Uplistsikhe. Although there is no evidence that she was ever there, you’ll find a large space called Queen Tamar’s Hall. Either way, the caves, which first housed pagan communities, make for an interesting stop.
Even if you don’t drink wine, it is worth going to a traditional winery to see the unique way Georgians have historically made wine.
Besides wine, bread is another big part of Georgian life. Check out a bakery that makes shoti puri, a flatbread resembling a canoe in shape. It is a simple, handmade mixture of flour, water, salt and yeast. The bread is baked in a strange oven called a tone (pronounced “tone-ay”). This oven is a circular, brick-lined oven dug into the floor with a gas or wood fire at the bottom. The bread is placed onto the side of the tone. For the bakers, it is hot and strenuous work, especially when trying to reach the spaces at the bottom of the oven. The bread is ready in a matter of minutes. It is then scrapped off the sides with a paddle.
For those who like to take in the local scene by walking, Tbilisi is the place to be. Walk slowly through the Old Town to see how grand this city once was. From the crumbling carved wooden porches to the faded hand-painted vestibules, you can still feel the city’s architectural beauty. There are a number of rehabilitation projects underway, but much needs to be done.
Another way to see a bit of times past is to go to Tbilisi’s Dry Bridge Market. This flea market specializes in nostalgia, selling silverware, china and glassware. You can get a shaggy shepherd’s hat, accordions, sewing machines, cameras, record albums, hand guns and knives (!) and, of course, Soviet memorabilia. It also has a large section of new, locally made paintings and shawls.
Though the exhibits are not posted in English, the State Museum of Georgian Folk Songs and Instruments has a small, but nice, collection of regional musical instruments (including a shofar). While I was visiting, the curator played a European street organ, an upright organ and operated some of the early musical recording devices.
Deborah Rubin Fields is an Israel-based features writer. She is also the author of Take a Peek Inside: A Child’s Guide to Radiology Exams, published in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
Children follow the new Independence Trail in Tel Aviv. (photo by Ricky Rachman)
In honour of Israel’s 70th Independence Day, the city of Tel Aviv has introduced a new interactive walking route that takes visitors past 10 of the city’s heritage sites. All of the sites are connected in some way with the Declaration of Independence and the beginnings of Tel Aviv itself.
The trail is just under a kilometre long and features a golden track that illuminates at night. The route begins at the first kiosk of Tel Aviv, at the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street. The walking route brings two stories to life that are central to the story of modern Israel: the birth of Tel Aviv, the first Jewish, self-governed, Hebrew-speaking city, in 1909; and how, in 1948, Tel Aviv would make way for the birth of the state of Israel, fulfilling a millennia-old dream.
Visitors can follow the route with a mobile app, or can guide themselves using a map that features information in eight different languages.
The building of the trail demanded extensive infrastructure work, including the implementation of a unique lighting system that allows visitors to walk along the trail at night. The Independence Trail was inspired by the Freedom Trail in Boston, one of the most popular heritage sites in the United States.
The Independence Trail’s 10 sites are:
The first kiosk was established in 1910, and quickly became a central meeting place. During the 1920s, about 100 kiosks operated in the city under the Association of the Kiosk and Soft Drink Store Owners.
Nahum Gutman Fountain: Nahum Gutman was an Israeli artist who grew up in Tel Aviv along with the new city, and whose work reflected the simplicity of the early days of “the First Hebrew City.” An illustrator, photographer and writer, Gutman was awarded the Israel Prize in 1978. His mosaics around the fountain tell us the history of Jaffa, the ancient port city from which Tel Aviv was born.
Akiva Aryeh Weiss’s house: Weiss was the founder of the Ahuzat Bayit neighbourhood, which evolved into Tel Aviv. As president of the then newly established building society, Weiss presided over the 1909 lottery in which 66 Jewish families drew numbers written on seashells to determine the allocation of lots in the about-to-be established city.
Shalom Meir Tower: former site of the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, the first Hebrew-language high school. The building on Herzl Street was a major Tel Aviv landmark until 1962, when it was razed for the construction of the tower. Its destruction sparked widespread recognition of the importance of conserving historical landmarks. Today, Shalom Meir Tower is home to a visitors centre about the history of Tel Aviv, which is open, free to the public, on weekdays.
The Great Synagogue was the spiritual centre of Tel Aviv, located in the heart of the city’s business centre. The building features a huge dome, elaborate lighting fixtures and magnificent stained glass windows.
The Haganah Museum is located in what was the home of Eliyahu Golomb, the founder and de facto commander of the Haganah. From 1930 to 1945, the Haganah’s secret headquarters were located in this house. Golomb’s residential room, his office on the ground floor, as well as the exterior of the house, were fully preserved. The museum will be open to the public free of charge during 2018, to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary.
Bank of Israel’s Visitors Centre, at the historical headquarters of Israel’s national bank, presents the history of the financial system in Israel. It features an extensive exhibit of banknotes and coins issued from pre-state days to the present. The centre also will be open to the public free of charge until the end of the year.
Tel Aviv Founders Monument is dedicated to the men and women who established Tel Aviv in the first half of the 19th century. It is a quiet spot, dotted with benches and centred around a small pool and fountain.
Statue of Meir Dizengoff, honouring the first mayor of Tel Aviv, who was known for riding his horse from his home – which is now Independence Hall – to City Hall, which was then located on Bialik Street. The statue of Dizengoff on his horse was created by artist David Zondolovitz.
Independence Hall: Dizengoff dedicated his home for the establishment of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In the home, on May 14, 1948, the ceremony of the Declaration of Independence took place.
In addition to the Independence Trail, visitors will be able to enjoy, until the end of December, the Israeli Democracy Pavilion, which features a presentation about the story of the Declaration of Independence. The project, which is a collaboration between the Israel Democracy Institute and the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, takes place in a majestic pavilion on Rothschild Boulevard, in which visitors are shown a film in 360 degrees, highlighting important moments of Israeli democracy. The pavilion is surrounded by arcades reflecting the diversity of Israeli society. Selected quotes from the Declaration of Independence are showcased on the pavilion’s arches and visitors are invited to sign a pledge to uphold the core values of the declaration. Entry to the film is free of charge, and the pavilion is expected to travel to other cities in Israel next year.
The trail crosses the Galilee from Beit She’arim to Tiberias. (photo by Israel Antiquities Authority from Ashernet)
This year in the Galilee, thousands of students have been excavating and organizing the first “smart trail,” in which dozens of stone relay stations along the path transmit information and activities to hikers’ mobile telephones. The trail comprises part of the celebration of Israel’s 70th year of independence, and just opened. It extends 70 kilometres and is divided into sections, tracing the movements of the country’s greatest figures, the Sanhedrin sages, who rehabilitated the Jewish people following the Bar Kokhba Revolt. As did the Sanhedrin, the trail crosses the Galilee from Beit She’arim to Tiberias, passing through magnificent landscape, such as Nahal Zippori, Yodfat, Mount Arbel and Mount Atzmon.