Friday, April 24, 2009

Le-hitra’ot, Simba

(The Hebrew word le-hitra’ot means “until we meet again.” I think of it as the Hebrew equivalent of au revoir.)

Simba, my cat-sittee, went back to his family a few days ago. Here are some pictures I took of him before he went back home:

Dozing on the sofa:

Simba in dreamland

Receiving kittyworship in the form of a bellyrub:

A bellyrub for Simba

After his daily combing:

Simba, freshly combed

With the blue toy doggie:

Simba with blue doggie

Le-hitra’ot, Simba. It was lovely having you here.

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Special Ordinary Day

It was a day almost like any other. I got up, went to work, did all the things that I usually do... with one important difference.

It’s my birthday!

So during my travels, I stopped at the Brooklyn Bake Shop in the Geula neighborhood and picked up one of these:

Pretty ones all in a row

A black and white cookie, just like they make in New York. Nectar and ambrosia! The perfect birthday treat. Ah, there’s nothing like a black and white cookie!

Nectar and ambrosia

I’m not sure, but I believe that the Brooklyn Bake Shop is the only bakery in Israel where one can get black and white cookies.

The day continued to go smoothly. More work, and then it was off to Bradley Fish’s recording studio to lay down some vocal tracks for a singer-songwriter from down south who is about to release her first CD. (When it’s released, I’ll post about it here.) We worked quickly and efficiently, and I had a blast. Bradley is a joy to work with.

At the mic 1

One of my very favorite places to be: in front of a microphone at the recording studio. (Photo credit: Bradley Fish)

Another thing that made today special was the sheer number of birthday greetings that I got from friends, including people whom I haven’t seen in decades. The Internet surely is a miracle!

In other news, Simba’s family returned from their trip last night and came to pick him up. He was so happy to see them! I gave him a few leaves of fresh catnip as a going-away present, and I also gave his family some catnip seeds. I hope they’ll plant them for him. It was wonderful to have Simba here, and I admit I miss him. But judging from the way my allergies kicked in while he was here, it will be a long time before I can adopt a cat of my own.

But not to worry. I’m doing very well with acupuncture, so there’s hope.

And today was just lovely.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Six memorial candles

Six memorial candles at the Mizmor leDavid Synagogue’s memorial gathering for Yom ha-Shoah

My family was lucky.

All four of my grandparents either arrived in the US or were born there in the late nineteenth century. On one side, my great-grandfather came to America, like so many other people from that time and place, looking for a better life and hoping to escape persecution. Another great-grandfather, a prosperous linen merchant who had turned away from a religiously observant lifestyle while still a young man, came to America in order to expand his business. Eventually he married the forelady of his factory.

During World War II, those members of the extended families still in Europe who did not manage to get out in time were murdered in the Holocaust. To this day, my mother remembers the moment when she and her family learned what had happened to the family that her grandmother had left behind: they had been marched out of town together with the rest of the community and shot, all murdered in a single day.

Let us not forget, let us never forget, that they, and all the Six Million, were murdered for one reason and one reason only: for being Jews. That was crime enough for our enemies.

It still is. Just ask the president of Iran, or the rest of the haters at Durban II.

Approximately twenty years ago, I got into a heated argument with an acquaintance who worked in the news business. He maintained that anti-Semitism was dead. I maintained that it was not.

I wonder what he thinks now.

* * *

Last night, I sang two songs at the Yom ha-Shoah memorial gathering held at Mizmor leDavid, a local synagogue. One was an original composition by Mindy Kornberg, a member of the community who is an accomplished musician and songwriter. The other was “Reyzele,” a love song by Mordechai Gebirtig. I wanted very much to sing it because while it does not deal with the terrible suffering and loss of the Holocaust, it describes the life and beauty that were taken away. Gebirtig himself, who was described later as “the Yiddish Bob Dylan” for his songs that addressed the important topics of the day, was murdered in the Krakow Ghetto in 1942.

Prayer book open to the Kaddish

A prayer book open to the Kaddish at Mizmor leDavid’s memorial gathering for Yom ha-Shoah

Some links pertaining to the day, and to current events:

Seraphic Secret

Shiloh Musings

An optimistic post at Treppenwitz

Monday, April 20, 2009

Park ha-Mesilah: The Railroad Track Park

There’s a new park in town. It’s located along a section of disused railroad track in southern Jerusalem, between Oranim Junction and the Talpiot industrial zone. The area was slated to become a road, but the protests of local activists were effective in preventing that plan from being carried out. Now that the park is in place, there are further plans to pull up the old tracks and replace them with a bicycle and pedestrian route. I’m all for it.

Yesterday I decided to walk home from work through the park. On the way, I took pictures of each of the sign posts that explain various buildings and locations along the route. I include some of them here. The full set, with translations, is up on my Flickr page.

Here, at the first station of the park, located just outside the Democratic School in the Mekor Hayyim neighborhood, is a map with an overview of the park and its purpose. My translation of the caption follows:

Overview and map

“The idea for Park ha-Mesilah [the railway track park] came into being when nature lovers discovered a hedgehog that had been run over at the Oranim junction. They wished to create a safe pathway for the local fauna to the city and outside it. The land around the railroad tracks, which passed by here until 1998, remained uncultivated but neglected. Currently, the residents seek to establish a park with a bicycle and pedestrian route for the benefit of the residents.”

As the small print on the bottom of the first sign post says, the park was established partly as a project of students taking a course in art, activism and public space at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.

Here’s a look at the sign post for Station 1, which is right next to the sign post that contains the overview and map:

Station 1: The Rosenbaum-Vardi Pension

“This building, which was constructed in the 1920s, was converted into a vacation hostel in 1947. The old-timers of the neighborhood remember how Mr. Vardi would put the neighborhood children to work in exchange for pocket money.

“The pension took part in the war effort when the state was established. It served as an army headquarters, and the first Israeli aircraft was built here.”

(Whoa! The first Israeli aircraft was built in the building where I pray with the Leader Minyan once a month? I had no idea!)

There’s lots more stuff to see. Like the derailed train car, which is still there after who-knows-how-many years:

Derailed railway car

To see photos of all nine sign posts with translations, plus a few more pics of the area, head on over here.

Haveil Havalim Is Up

Haveil Havalim #213 is up at The Real Shliach. Go on over for some good reads.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

En Route

A honeybee heads toward an Italian bugloss blossom:

En route

Friday, April 17, 2009

Simba, Gentleman Cat

Simba, my cat-sittee, is one of the friendliest, most affectionate cats I’ve ever met. He is also delightfully goofy.

Here are some photos that I took of him over the past week.

In mid-bath, stopping to listen to something that caught his attention:

Simba in mid-bath

Enjoying some leaves from the catnip that I grow on my tiny terrace. Yes, Simba is a total ’nip-head. He loves the stuff!

Simba the 'nip-head

Looking a bit rascally on my chair:

Simba on my chair

Drinking from the drip fountain (there are droplets of water on his head):

Simba drinks from the drip fountain

Finally, at rest on my bed, showing that a splash of orange is a lively addition to a pastel background:

Orange on pastel

I’ll miss Simba when he goes back to his family in a few days. Maybe they’ll let me visit.

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Visit to the Light Rail Depot

The Citypass company, which is in charge of Jerusalem’s incipient (we hope) light-rail system, has opened its depot to visitors for the Passover holiday. Yesterday, I headed over.

First, we were taken into a meeting room where company officials told us about the planned rail system (and acknowledged the years of suffering that we residents have put up with for several years while they get the infrastructure built). Here is an artist’s rendering of what the depot will look like when it is completed:

The future light-rail depot

The front of a train car:

Jerusalem light rail rolling stock

The interior of a train car:

Interior of train car

A view from the driver’s seat:

In the driver's seat

Several in a row, with a side view:

Rolling stock

The exterior of the repair and maintenance garage:

Outside of garage building

A quick shot of the interior, taken through a partially open door:

Inside the garage

When I asked whether there will be nighttime trains, as there are currently nighttime buses that run once an hour, the answer, at least for now, was no. But when I asked whether women will be employed as drivers (women bus drivers are a rare sight here, and I don’t believe that Israel Railways has a single woman train driver), the answer was yes. (My answer to that answer: sounds good, and I’ll believe it when I see it.)

When the tour was about to end, I sat in the open train car, leaned my head against the back of the seat and said to the guide, “I want to go home. When do we leave?”

“In a year and a half,” he said.

More photos here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Simha, Thy Name Is Simba

It’s a commandment of the Torah to be be-simha—joyful—on our festivals.

As the festival of Passover approaches, I have a great reason to be joyful. I’m a cat-sitter!

Here’s my cat-sittee.

Simba in profile

His name is Simba and he’s a love-bug. I don’t mind admitting that I’m in love! He’ll be staying with me for about another week and a half. Then I have to give him back (sniff, sniff).

I am enjoying every moment with sweet, gorgeous Simba!

Hag kasher ve-sameah! A happy and kosher Passover!

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Cat at the Western Wall

This black cat came into an archaeological garden at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I guess it is on his beat. Who says cats don’t pray?

Black cat at Western Wall

More pictures as soon as my camera gets out of the shop.

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.