Monday, May 25, 2009

Good News

First, Haveil Havalim is up at What War Zone???

Second, after nearly two weeks, my camera is back from the shop. Can someone please explain to me why it takes that much time to clean a bit of dust out of the sensor, especially when it only took a few days the last time? Also, can someone please explain why, only a day or two after I’d given in my camera for repairs, the lab called me with an offer to “upgrade” it (which I rejected; the so-called “upgrade” that they were offering is as old as mine, with pretty much the same features, plus I’d have had to pay an additional NIS 300 for it), but it still took almost two weeks to get my camera back?

Friday, May 22, 2009


When I visited my friend a while back, Her Ladyship was in the bedroom, dozing and looking irresistible. She woke up when I came in, and then gave me a look that seemed to say: All right, you woke me up. Now you must worship me.

So I did, petting her till she purred and then some.

Then I took her picture.

Blue eyes

“Hey, you’re not done yet. Come back and pet me some more.”

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Very Special Harp: Yet Another “Only in Israel” Story

In this country, even an ordinary music rehearsal can turn out not to be ordinary at all.

Last week, I was rehearsing for a gig in a practice room at the music academy on Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus. One of the two accompanists played the harp. (The other played the flute.) I noticed that of the three harps in the practice room, the harpist was playing the one that was the most visually interesting. Its sound post was beautifully carved, and it had intricate designs in gold paint. Its tone was rich and sweet.

After we had rehearsed for about an hour, the harpist gestured toward the harp she had been playing and asked me, “Do you know whose harp this was?”

“No,” I said.

“It belonged to Harpo Marx,” she said. “He donated it to the academy long ago.”

And indeed, here it is in his Wikipedia entry:

In his will, he donated his trademark harp to the nation of Israel.

I had seen Harpo Marx’s harp solos in Marx Brothers films when I was a child, and I remembered what a fantastic musician he was. And here I’d been singing to the accompaniment of his harp for a whole hour!

Two thoughts raced through my mind then. One was: I need to pick my jaw up off the floor. The other was: Of all the days for my camera to be in the shop!

Wow. Only in Israel.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

Seen around Town

A fountain on a local campus:


The Gettysburg Address on a t-shirt:

Gettysburg Address on a t-shirt

A man works at one of the phone company’s new outdoor workstations. Note the shelf with the phone on the left and the shelf with the laptop on the right.

Man at work

Three Israeli flags overlooking a building with blue shutters in downtown Jerusalem:

Three flags downtown

(The sign below the center flag reads “No parking. Vehicles will be towed.”)

All Curled Up and Ready to Snooze

I give you Sleeping Beauty, otherwise known as Her Ladyship:

Her Ladyship, curled up

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Ancient Boat: A Hundred-Word Story

Ancient boat

“Poseidon, what a downpour!” Antigonos closed the door and hung his dripping cloak near the hearth. “The water level’s rising like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Don’t swear, dear,” Daphne said. “Thank the gods the drought is over.”

“You’re right,” he said, giving her a hug. “We lost the old boat, though.”

“The one that’s been in your family for generations? The one we courted in?”

“Yes. First it sank in the mud, and then the water rose. It’s gone, love.”

“I’m sorry our grandchildren will never see it,” Daphne sighed, “but let’s hope that the sea never sinks that low again.”

Ancient boat 4

Ancient boat 3

Read about the discovery of the “Jesus Boat” and its decade-long preservation effort here.

Monday, May 11, 2009


When I saw the big red smear on my terrace window this morning, I thought that a bird had crashed into my window and died a grisly death on the terrace below. I gathered up some plastic bags to remove it, took a deep breath, opened the door, stepped out, and found... nothing.

I looked all around. Still nothing. Then I looked again at the red smear on the window and realized that up close, it didn’t look like blood at all—more like digested fruit. Smelled like it, too. Other smears nearby indicated that what I had to clean up was evidence of life, in the guise of normal, healthy bodily functions, not death.

Whew. What a relief.

I never thought I’d be grateful to clean up bird poop. But I am.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Haveil Havalim Is Up

The Happy Birthday, Jack Edition of Haveil Havalim is now live.

Happy birthday, Jack!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Waiting in Line

One cat eats at the feeding station while two others wait in line. (They actually didn’t have to wait. There were other feeding stations nearby.)

Cats in line

The next in line:

Next in line

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Forced Segregation on Jerusalem’s Buses

Last Pessah, I went on two tours in the City of David and enjoyed them very much. (Pictures and explanations available here.) The first tour ended after dark. I walked back up to the main road just outside the Old City, caught a bus downtown and went home.

I returned to the City of David the following morning to take another tour... and was not at all prepared for what happened afterwards.

The buses ran almost continuously in order to accommodate the huge crowds, as well as the fact that private vehicles are not allowed in or around the Old City during the intermediate days of Pessah and Sukkot. As I waited, together with a woman tourist whom I had volunteered to guide on part of her journey to the northern part of the city, several buses pulled up. When the doors opened, uniformed Egged employees stepped outside, some with bullhorns, directing men to board from the front and women from the back.

Modesty guard at rear door of bus

During the year, these particular bus lines do not have separate seating, despite the vigorous efforts of some elements to obtain it. When I asked the guard at the door who had ordered the current separation, he replied, “The modesty patrol.” I said, “Since when does the Egged bus company take orders from the modesty patrol?” “Since always,” he answered. “Not true,” I said. “I’ve been living here for a long time, and this is the first I’ve seen of it.”

I forgot to ask him why separate seating had not been enforced the evening before, but I think I know the answer: money. I imagine that it costs quite a bit to employ the guards at night as well as during the day. I find that ironic, since according to Jewish law, the rules about modest behavior between men and women become more stringent at night.

Here, a Haredi woman (wearing a black and white blouse, sitting near the open door with her back to the window) is scolded for refusing to move to the back of the bus. As the bus pulls away, several people at the bus stop can be heard expressing their support for her.

On the sex-segregated bus lines, a hole-puncher is placed at the rear door so that the women passengers can punch their own ride cards. But what happens if a woman should need to buy something, such as a transfer ticket, directly from the driver at the front of the bus, where only men may board? Apparently, nothing. The woman whom I guided part of the way to her destination needed a transfer ticket because she intended to take more than one bus, but was prevented from buying one because she couldn’t reach the driver. So she rode for free—not because she wanted to, but because she was given no choice.

A hole puncher at the rear door of the bus

The hole-puncher for women at the rear of the bus. Women who need to buy a ride card or a transfer ticket up front, from the driver, are apparently out of luck.

As one might imagine, the segregation is not enforced fairly. As I watched, an elderly man made his way to the rear of the bus and stood in the doorway, in what was supposed to be the section reserved for women. (To me, this is disturbingly familiar. If I remember the race-segregation rules on buses in the southern United States of half a century ago correctly, African-American people had to sit in the back, but had to give up even those seats to white passengers if the bus became crowded.)

Man at the rear door

Another example of a “male invasion” of the women’s section. (Imagine what would happen if the women’s section were to be more crowded and the women were forced to stand in the men’s section to accommodate the overflow.)

Men in the women's section

Peggy Cidor of the Jerusalem Post writes about the latest on the issue here. Although the newspaper chose to give her article the title “The Road to Purity,” as I have said many times, I believe that this issue has nothing to do with purity or modesty, and everything to do with power and control.

Here are the rest of the photos I took at the bus stop that day. Here is another video that shows the segregation more clearly. I have written about this issue on this blog in the past, here and here.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Cat and Lizard

As I was walking down the street several days ago, I saw a gorgeous long-haired silver cat, wearing a collar, who looked intent on some serious business. When I stopped to look, I saw that things were very serious indeed... for a lizard who had been unlucky enough to cross this cat’s path.

Cat and lizard

After that brief respite, the chase was on again:

The chase continues...

Desperate to flee the feline terror, the lizard hid in the grass...

Get back here!

... prompting our hunter-cat to hunker down for a moment and look out as if to say, “Wait! Where’d he go?”

Where'd he go?

Finally, during a prolonged lull in the chase (perhaps the lizard had lost permanently by this time, though I couldn’t tell), I was able to get something close to a portrait shot of our intrepid hunter. Check out that gorgeous ruff.


He let me approach and sniffed my hand when I held it out, but didn’t offer his head for petting. Considering that he was in the middle of a hunt, I didn’t push my luck.

(On second thought, the cat was wearing a pink collar. Maybe he’s a she.)

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Yom ha-Atzma’ut

Two photos from Yom ha-Atzma’ut:

A boy and his Israeli flag:

Boy and flag

One of the flyovers that go on throughout the country on this very special day:

Independence Day flyover