Yad VaShem

Today we note Yom Ha-Shoah in Israel – Holocaust Memorial Day.  This is a somber, solemn day to remember the six million Jews, men, women and children who were slaughtered by the Nazis, simply because they were Jewish.

It is equally important to remember that in the depths of evil there were some points of light that were not extinguished.  In the midst of the horror of the Holocaust there were individuals who placed their lives and those of their families at great risk and saved Jews from the Nazis.

These individuals are recognized as Righteous Among the Nations and honored for generations to come.

Yad Vashem is the national Holocaust Museum and Memorial.  One of the more striking features of Yad VaShem are the many trees that cover the grounds in Jerusalem.  Each tree remembers and honors one of the Righteous.  To date there are 24,811 cases of Righteous Among the Nations that have been recognized for their bravery during those dark times.

Last year I had the pleasure of touring with a family from Holland.  One of their requests was to find the tree that had been planted for Joop Westerweel, a relative.

Joop Westerweel, a teacher, and his wife Wilhelmina, saved almost 200 young Jewish students by helping them cross borders and make their way to Spain.  From Spain they were able to leave the dangers of Europe behind them and move to Israel.

He was captured by the Nazis and executed in 1944.

These brave deeds are memorialized in a display in the Museum itself and with a tree that was planted in their honor in 1964.  The tree is located right near the entrance to the museum and stands as a witness and a sign of appreciation to the valor of the Westerweels.

 

For more information about Joop Westerweel see:  http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/stories/westerweel.asp

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Waiting for Snow in Jerusalem

Say Jerusalem and the pictures that pop into our minds are of religious and historical sites.  Everyone has their favorites but at the top of the list will be the Kotel – the Western Wall, major churches, the Golden Dome atop the Temple Mount.  If we think of modern sites then they will include the Knesset and the famous Menora in the Knesset Rose Garden, Hebrew University campus, Hadassah Hospital and more.  How many of you imagine Jerusalem covered with snow?

Snow – not possible – Israel is in the Middle East – it’s warm all year round, not enough rain, certainly not cold enough for snow.  Right?  Well, surprisingly enough Israel does get snow.  Usually when it snows in Israel the snow will be in the northern parts of the country and in the higher elevations.  Mt. Hermon gets snow every year, there’s even a ski resort there.  It’s normal for there to be snow in Tsfat, the Golan, the upper Galilee – even in Gush Etzion region near Jerusalem – but Jerusalem? No way.

Well you’d be wrong.  Even though Jerusalem doesn’t get much snow and it doesn’t happen every year it does happen every so often.  Right at this moment, Jerusalem is in another snow watch.  Children are hoping for snow – enough to build a snow man and have a day off from school.  The city is preparing again to have all the necessary equipment and manpower to clear streets and provide emergency services.  Everyone is in a waiting mode.

Even though snow in Jerusalem is usually no more than a dusting, or at most 1-2 cm (an inch at most) Jerusalem has had some major snowstorms.  The biggest snowstorm since records have been kept (starting in 1850) was in Feb. of 1920 – the total snowfall was 98 cm!! (38.5 in).  I had the opportunity to hear first hand descriptions of that snow, incidents of snow fall and drifts that blocked people into their homes since they couldn’t open their doors.

We are waiting and hoping for snow again in Jerusalem today.  If the snow comes it won’t be anything at all like 1920 – there will be a few centimeters and maybe the kids will get lucky and school will be closed.  For a short while the city will be blanketed with a beautiful, shimmering white glow and all will be quiet – a very special sight for everyone who is lucky enough to see it.

In the meantime – enjoy this photo of the snow in 1920.

Whether it snows or not – Jerusalem is waiting for you to come and visit – see her splendor, enjoy the sights and sounds of this amazing jewel.

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Jerusalem Light Rail

Jerusalem’s public transportation system has recently expanded by the long awaited inauguration of the Light Rail.

After years of planning and design construction finally started on this project in 2002.  Implementation of the plan met many obstacles and surprises.  Considering the history of Jerusalem, it is quite surprising that there weren’t more archaeological discoveries as a result of track construction.  Most notable was the discovery of a quarry in the northern sections of the rail line.  Some archaeologists have proposed that this is one of the quarries used by King Herod’s workmen for the Second Temple expansion project.

The Light Rail has also changed the skyline of Jerusalem.  In order to insure the smooth flow of traffic a suspension bridge, the Chords Bridge, was built over the main entrance to the city so that the trains can use the bridge to cross over the main entrance to the city without disrupting traffic.  The bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava

Today, we can enjoy riding the Red Line which runs from Pisgat Zeev in the north to Mt. Herzl in the south.  The rail has been integrated into the city’s transit system with free transfers from to and from buses.  Even if you don’t enjoy a smooth ride on the Light Rail during your visit to Jerusalem, you will definitely appreciate the beauty of the sleek cars as they glide through downtown Jerusalem.

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Ein Gedi עין גדי

Only an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, in the Judean Desert there is a beautiful oasis just waiting for you.  Ein Gedi is a national park that offers various options for your enjoyment, right in the middle of the desert.

More than just a wonder of nature, Ein Gedi has a rich history and is noted in the Bible.  When David escaped from King Saul, he fled to Ein Gedi:  “And David went up from thence, and dwelt in the strongholds of En-Gedi.”  (I Sam 23:29)

The park provides a number of hiking trails ranging from a handicapped accessible path to the first pool, a one hour circuit that takes you to the second pool, where you can enjoy the cool waters and the spray of a waterfall.

Cooling off under the waterfall

For the more adventurous there are longer paths that will allow you to climb up to the remains of a Chalcolithic Temple (approx. 4000-3150 BCE).

The park is home to many ibex and hyrax.  If you visit early in the morning you will see them enjoying their breakfast before the heat of the day sets in.

Hyrax

While at Ein Gedi, don’t forget to visit the ancient synagogue with its beautiful mosaic floor.  It is the centerpiece of the Jewish settlement that flourished there during the 3rd-6th centuries.  The synagogue faces north – to Jerusalem, according to the Jewish custom of all synagogues facing Jerusalem.

The Synagogue at Ein Gedi

Posted in Archaeology, History, National Parks, Tour Israel, Tours | Leave a comment

The Israel Museum

The Israel Museum has recently re-opened following a 3 year renovation and renewal project.  The museum is the premier institution of its kind in Israel.  It has an extensive Archaeology wing, a Judaica wing, Fine Arts and an outdoor sculpture garden.  The museum is home to the Shrine of the Book – the home of the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as a scale model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period.

The museum expansion project was designed by James Carpenter.  This renovation was designed in the spirit of the original plans adding much needed space to the galleries.

The archaeology and Judaica wing have been completely re-designed. Many of the favorite items are presented again along with new finds, some having been discovered only a few weeks ago.

The exhibition halls are spacious and easy to move from one to the other. A special type of glass has been used in many display cases so that it is near invisible – you don’t realize you are looking through glass.

The museum is a Jerusalem must see.  It has something to offer for everyone.

Posted in Archaeology, History, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Judaica, Museums, Tour Israel | 1 Comment

Zichron Ya’akov זכרון יעקב

Zichron Ya’akov – one of the first towns established by the immigrants of the First Aliya was established in 1882 by immigrants from Romania.

The main street of the town has found a way to combine the original houses that date back almost 130 years and a modern, inviting town.  The main street has been turned into a pedestrian mall with a wide variety of shops and restaurants, many offering the work of local artists.

It’s a great place to spend the day, wandering in and out of all the interesting shops.  We didn’t pass up a visit to the First Aliya Museum which tells the story of the brave, idealistic people who had the courage to come to a new place and forge the beginnings of this new country.

Zichron Ya’akov is also the home to a number of wineries, the most famous of these is the Carmel Winery founded in 1882 at the very start of this town.  Don’t miss a visit to their Center for Wine Culture.

We had a wonderful day in Zichron Ya’akov.  I’d be happy to show you the sites of the town and region on your visit to Israel.

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Touring Jerusalem

What a wonderful opportunity to spend two days in Jerusalem this week.  The weather was unusually warm and sunny for November.  Our tour included some of the special highlights of Jerusalem, a truly amazing city.  We visited the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, climbed up on the city walls for the Ramparts Walk, toured the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, walked the length of the Western Wall in the Western Wall Tunnels.  All of these special sites are within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is more than just the Old City, and we didn’t skip the newer parts of Jerusalem.  Some of the highlights are the open air Machane Yehuda Market, the downtown pedestrian mall on Ben Yehuda Street and the newly renovated Israel Museum.

Two days are certainly not enough to see everything, but enough to get a taste of what Jerusalem has to offer.  Certainly enough to know that you have to come back again and again.

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Welcome to SeeingIsrael

Welcome to SeeingIsrael.  My name is Oreet Segal. As a licensed Israel tour guide and  former American, now living in Israel with my family, I have the pleasure of sharing this beautiful, amazing country with visitors from around the world.  Allow me to help you plan your visit to Israel and show you the wonders of Israel.  It will be my pleasure to tour Israel with you.

Until then, come and visit us here at SeeingIsrael and enjoy reading about the wonders of Israel while you tour from afar.

See you here soon.

Oreet Segal

For further information regarding tours and tourism in Israel contact me at seeingisrael@gmail.com

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Susan G. Komen – Race for the Cure in Jerusalem

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure came to Jerusalem for the first time ever.  The global fight against breast cancer brought over 7,000 participants to Jerusalem for a walk that brought together all segments of Israeli and world society, together in a common cause.  In honor of this event the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were lit up in pink.

Make sure to join  in the excitement next year.

http://ww5.komen.org/Secondary.aspx?id=6442451425

Posted in Jerusalem, Komen for the Cure | 1 Comment