Tag Archives: Israel

a mischievious holiday

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This evening we’re going to light the first candle of Chanukah. That in itself has usually been reason enough for a blog post in the past… maybe just a picture of one candle, representing the first day. But this day started strangely. I turned on the radio, and the first thing I heard was that Rabbi Steinman had a heart attack and that a missile had been fired from Gaza at Ashkelon, our famous city. The same place where Samson used to take Delilah to spend a night at the local motel. I was thinking about that, when Nechama came into the room. She complained that her water was stagnant. Said she just couldn’t bear to drink it. Would I please get up immediately and change the water in her bowl. I got up with an apology and a sigh, washed her bowl, and poured her some fresh cool water, accompanied her to her dining corner, and then sat next to her as she ate breakfast. I don’t start my day with eating.

I remembered that the old rabbi had a heart attack about a month ago… but I hadn’t checked up on how he was doing in the last couple of weeks. There had just been too much news. It was distracting. Last week, for instance, there had been rumors flying around the middle east that Trump was about to announce moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And then, on the same day that the US president was scheduled to make an ‘important announcement’, the Israeli army imploded a tunnel which had been discovered deep in Israeli territory and coming from the Gaza strip. These tunnels are designed to kidnap Jewish people in order to negotiate the release of terrorists from jail, or alternatively to kill as many Jews as they can with the intention to depress or scare us. They see how pampered and soft we are and think that if they could really scare us, we’d leave for Europe or places unknown. It doesn’t matter. What’s important to them is that they get rid of us so that they can build a modern Arab state instead of Israel; something on the order of Syria, Iraq, or Iran.

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potatoes and onions are important
in making potato pancakes

Then that night Pres Trump spoke, not only revealing that he was going to move the embassy, but also saying that the capital of Israel was Jerusalem. Now this wasn’t really news, ‘cause everyone knows… but a lot of people pretend that it’s not true, so it was about as shocking as saying that Santa doesn’t really live on the North Pole. The announcement didn’t really lead to dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv, but a lot of young folks stayed up till late that night for the amusement of following Arab tweets promising to raise hell in the holy land. As the Pals explained, they were so incensed by what Trump had said… that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel… that they were going to show him. They would turn life into hell here in Israel, and that would make Trump wish he was never born. “This is war!” said the head of the local Islamic Jihad. And then Hamas promised a brand new intifada. The PLO which has recently repaired their relations with the Hamas terrorists, took time out from burning pictures of Pres Trump in front of the news cameras to declare that the coming three days would be ‘days of rage’. Out of respect for the individuality of man, they left it open. They didn’t dictate exactly how their youth should express their rage. What we know from past experience is that usually on days of rage some emotionally unstable or brainwashed individuals take their kitchen knives into the streets and try to stab some unsuspecting victim, or throw a stone through a car windshield as someone drives down the street. Bombs are better, but they’re harder to obtain these days. No sooner does a guy buy the ingredients than the secret service comes round for a ‘heart to heart’. Usually there are a lot more Arabs killed and wounded in such waves of violence than are Jews. But that’s okay from their point of view, because the Jews get much more upset if you kill one of them than the Arabs do. The Arabs know that if a young man gets plugged trying to kill a Jew he becomes a martyr and goes straight to heaven where he gets 70 virgins to reward him for his good deed.

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some eat the pancakes with sour cream and others with apple sauce

Meantime, back in Gaza, a meeting was called by and for the Directorate of the central committee for democratic revolutionary Islamic Steering. The posted agenda was, “What to do?” This was the shortest agenda published by the Pals in 20 years, though the last tunnel to be discovered by the army under our territory was only 3 weeks ago. Things seemed to be getting serious. All the serious leaders crawled out of their subterranean bunkers for the meeting, in contrast with the Israeli leadership which has to be called back from the Bahamas, New York, Boston, Paris and Catalonia when there’s an important vote in parliament. But unfortunately, a rift developed during the meeting of the Hamas leadership. Exactly half of the self elected delegates insisted that it was of paramount importance to take vengeance on Trump for his saying that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, while the other half believed that the most pressing obligation of the resistance was taking retribution for the destruction of the tunnel. In the ensuing debate, two paramilitary officers were clubbed with dull weapons, one lost his short term memory after being struck at the base of the skull with a huge stapler made for book binding and provided by the UN committee for international culture, and one member of the steerage committee became an invalid, suffering from a broken knee and an uneven crack in his skull disappearing under his army surplus green and brown camouflage cap. Achmad Sayonara, chief military officer, and acting mayor of Gaza, chose two men, one from each side, as a delegation to a spiritual leader in Gaza, to find a solution to the dilemma.

In a few short hours, the delegation returned with happy news from the Imam. It was possible, they learned, to mount an attack on the Zionist entity that would be dedicated both to vengeance on Trump and retaliation for the destruction of the tunnel. In no time at all, three rockets carrying heavy loads of TNT invented by Alfred Nobel, the very same person who later established the Nobel Prize, awarded for achievements in culture and science, but most revered for its recognition of peace making. Obama got that award. So did Yasser Arafat. Did I say three rockets? Yes, all three heading towards Israel. Sadly, two of these rockets fell on the Pal side of the fence. But one made it all the way to Ashkelon, where it was intercepted by an ‘iron dome’ missile which effectively neutralized it.

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my daughter Rivka preparing jelly rolls
they’re as important as pancakes in celebrating the holiday

At the same time that all this was going on, the doctors in Bnei Brak were giving their all to saving the greatest rabbi of the generation, Rabbi Aharon Yehudah Leib Steinman, recognized by our whole country as the finest of living rabbis. As the president of our country said about him, “his intellectual brilliance was only exceeded by his great modesty”. He was 104 years old; a genius, and a great teacher. When  there arose an issue or a question that no other sage could answer, they would go to him to hear his answer. He was known as a strict teacher, but his modesty was legend. I heard a student of his tell the story of how he was bawled out by the rabbi once, when he demonstrated sloppiness in his studies. The student, properly chastised, returned to the study hall and devoted himself to learning. But a few days later he was called back to the rabbi, who apologized to him for the way he had upbraided him earlier. “I let my emotions influence my judgment”, he said, “I’ve been thinking about it, and I truly regret it if I offended you”. Though he suffered a serious heart attack the time before, his doctors who were also his students, couldn’t bear to see him die, and did their best to revive him. And somehow managed to keep him alive for a month. And even last night, when he had another heart attack, they revived him. And it was only after the second heart attack this morning, that he finally died. One of the reporters asked the doctor, what is the point of trying to revive a man, 104 years old, after he has had two heart attacks and is so weak he can barely speak? The doctor said, I can’t explain it. We loved him so much, and just couldn’t bear to see him go. He was buried today.

His position was not an elected office, nor was it a national appointment. We have a chief rabbi of the country. No this is something else. He is chosen by the wisest rabbis, and the heads of the rabbinical seminaries. There is no pomp or ceremony around him. He lived in a very simple apartment. People who visited him reported that he lived as a poor man, though he could have had anything he wanted.

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this is how the jelly rolls are served

The rabbi asked in his will that his followers not follow him to his burial. Don’t print announcements in the newspapers, he wrote. People have better things to do than make a spectacle of my death. This made no difference, though. There were crowds at his funeral. He said, “please don’t call me a ‘righteous man’ after I’m gone. I don’t want to be ridiculed for it in the world of truth”. Of course, very few listened to his wishes. We will not be sad this evening. We’ll celebrate the holiday We have days of mourning which bring us tears, and celebrations that fill us with joy. That’s the way our religion reminds us that there are ups and downs… even when the intensity of day to day life could mislead us.

for more on the holiday, see:
https://thehumanpicture.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/the-golden-path/

 

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Sabbath Chanukah

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in the south of Israel

Most of us live in little homes, hidden away in the back streets of the city, or on the horizon, at the edge of the fields. We wish for rain in the right season, and the light of the sun at other times… privacy, and peace… quiet. To learn a little something each day… to enjoy the company of those we love… peace and freedom is reason enough for a holiday.

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little houses

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planting potatoes in the field

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a bicycle built for three

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the fifth day of Chanukah

Day Of Rage

Israel & Arabs

Today has been declared ‘Day Of Rage’ by the Moslem Arabs of Israel and Palestine. Last night they invaded a synagogue built next to the grave of Joseph, and burned it. I believe this was the third time this has happened. And why the rage? To protest the destruction of the Al Aqsa Mosque, built on Mount Moriah, the site of the ancient Temple of Israel. Of course, the mosque hasn’t been destroyed. Jewish leaders have assured the Arabs again and again, that no such thing is planned. The rights of all, to religious freedom, has been guaranteed for the last 48 years since Jerusalem was reunited. The second Intifada, also called the Al-Aqsa Intifada, 15 years ago, was started by the same sort of lies. 1,137 Israelis were killed and 8,341 were wounded, 80% of them civilians.

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This time, it hasn’t gotten a name yet. We call it a wave of terror. We are told that the Pals who stab us suddenly on the street or in busses or trains are just individuals who are moved by nationalistic or religious sentiments… who are acting out their own private feelings, despair or frustration. Is that what’s really happening? I think differently. It all seems carefully orchestrated. Most of the attackers are young. A few of them have been girls. This is strange for the local Arab population. Usually they are very protective of their women. Women and girls are seldom found doing anything alone. They need their family’s permission to go out shopping. If they’re suspected of not being virgins when they get married, they’re killed. And this is called an ‘honor killing’.

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To me it does look organized. And it does look like a war. Claudine wrote in a comment on my last post, “Right now, all over the middle east the situation is really terrible…” But wait a moment… Israel is unlike the rest of the middle east. Israel is a democracy. We have free speech. Arabs have more rights here than they have in any of the Arab countries. We have Moslem parliament members who help and aid our enemies, and shout lies from the podium… all of this protected by the right of free speech and parliamentary immunity. We have a female parliament member who actually joined a gang of terrorists on a boat which invaded Israeli sovereign waters. So this is not like Syria or Egypt, where the president gets 97% of the vote, and the government decides who can speak on the radio or TV. One has to wonder, how does a democratic society defend itself against hostile insurrections?

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All over the world, there are minorities who do not enjoy sovereignty. I could make you a long list of such people, many of whom have claims no less convincing than the Palestinians. But in our case, the government has already agreed to help in the creation of a Palestine state. So what is preventing this from happening?

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To begin with, The Pals want the separation their way. They want for there to be two states. In what will remain of Israel, Pals who are living here now would be allowed to continue to live here and enjoy all the advantages of our society. In the independent state alongside of it, to be called Palestine, all the Arabs living there would continue to live there, But all the Jews living there would be forced out. They want a state ‘clean of Jews’. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But the government of Israel actually agreed to such a separation. The Arabs demanded that their state be called the homeland of the Palestinians (there has never been an independent Palestinian state in history), but they object strenuously to Israel being called the homeland of the Jews, or a Jewish state. They really believe that Israel belongs to them. They’re just waiting to implement this at a later date.

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Why doesn’t it happen already. Well, before Israel is willing to give them part of its land to declare statehood, there are two demands. One, that the Palestine State be demilitarized. And two, that they recognize Israel as the Jewish state. So far, they have absolutely refused both of these demands.

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Right now, a majority of the murderers and attackers… those who have stabbed innocent civilians on the street, carry an Israeli ID card, and enjoy all the advantages available to the Jews. The conditions they enjoy are hard to believe. Aside from freedom which is unmatched in any of the Arab countries around us, they also benefit from the social security system here. That means that if a terrorist attacks innocent civilians, or blows up a bomb in the middle of the city, and is killed in the process, his widow and children will receive monthly support payments from social security. If he is injured in the attack, he will receive payments for the disabled for the rest of his life. If he is imprisoned, he will receive a regular salary from the Palestinian Authority, paid out of the moneys that the Pals get from donor countries all over the world, including many European countries.

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I hear a constant stream of lies coming out of the Palestinian Authority. In the last two weeks 9 Jews were killed and 92 injured in attacks on the street and public transportation. In one day last week, there were more than 300 such attacks. Fortunately, not all are successful. The police have orders to shoot anyone seen assailing another with a knife. The Pal leaders don’t condemn the violence, but protest vehemently against the ‘excessive force’ of the police. In each case where a knife wielder was shot, the Pal leadership and their news media, have claimed that the assailant was an innocent victim of racism. For some years now, we have been accused of apartheid though everyone who lives here knows that Arabs enjoy the same services as Jews, graduate from our top Universities, and serve as doctors, lawyers, engineers and in many other high profile professions. It is considered well and good that an Arab live in my neighborhood, across the street from me, and go shopping in the same supermarket or department store. But woe to the Jew who might try to move into an Arab neighborhood. This is considered an unforgivable affront.

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I had planned to write about some of my literary adventures. A much more personal post. But listening to the way the facts of what is going on here in Israel are distorted in the world’s news media, I feel that if I write anything at all, I must write the truth of what’s happening here and now. The photos shown here are of the rose garden opposite the Knesset, our parliament here in Jerusalem. I found comfort, walking there yesterday.

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Shimon in the park – photo by Chana

stabbed in the back

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I don’t usually write about the internal politics of my country. Nor do I write about the endless conflicts between Israel and the Arab world. I know that it is very difficult to understand such things without a lot of research into the subject. It is too easy to adopt an image already familiar to us, and to project that image on the situation less known, and draw conclusions. For instance, since childhood, I have had a tendency to look at molecular and atomic physicality in much the way I see astronomical spaces. Each realm of space seems a parable on the other.

I can assure you, my dear reader, that I am not a racist, and have no desire to see people in stereotypes. My first housemate, a man I lived with before I got married, was an Arab. We were friends and lived in harmony together, here in Jerusalem. I got to know his family and friends, and through the years… up until the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, I had a number of Arab friends, with whom I shared common interests.

I know there are fine Arab people living in our country who wish no harm to anyone, and wish to live their lives in peace; wish to enjoy their careers, their learning, their worship of god, and bringing up a family. Not all Arabs are terrorists. But 99% of the terrorists in our country are Arabs.

It’s been a little over a year since our last war, with the Palestinians of the Gaza strip. We had given them a piece of land, in which Jews had lived for more than a hundred years, pulled out all the Jews… given them all the land… plus farms and factories… and they had immediately gone on to fight us in every way they knew how. Including shooting rockets at innocent people within our borders. The so-called ‘occupied territories’ were taken in war, after we were attacked. We have been attacked long before the modern state of Israel came into being. Before there were ‘occupied territories’, and before there was a state. Our communities, and people within our communities were attacked when we were an English colony, and even before that, when we were a Turkish colony. We have heard ideological explanations for rape, murder and stabbings for generations. We have continuously searched for peace, and only fought when our backs were to the wall and we had no choice but to fight.

I have had friends killed for no other reason than that they were Jewish. I have had close family members murdered.

At present, we are facing a new wave of violence in our country. Not surprisingly, it started during our holiday season. They have tried different methods in the past. They have organized in different ways, and tried everything from sabotage to suicide bombings. They have been promised 72 virgins in heaven if they die fighting the Jews. Some of them are convinced. Others have sympathy. Right now, there is a wave of seeming ‘individuals’ who pick up a knife or a stone and try to murder a Jew.

I’m an old man. I’m too old to fight. Too old to help keep the peace. All I can do, is try to survive the heartbreak. I can’t share my thoughts on philosophy, art, or learning while suffering from the needless violence and chaos around me. I mourn the murdered, and cry for the wounded and deranged. I have nothing to say.

Succoth 2015

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At the synagogue in Mazkeret Batya

an ecological park

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Ariel Sharon… we called him Arik, was a legend in his own lifetime. He was born in the village of Malal, here in Israel, in 1928. He became a central figure in the army when the modern state of Israel came into being, and proved himself a fearless hero and a leader of men. His father was an agronomist. He was a farmer. He had a big farm, and put a lot of work into it, but was always willing to ‘serve the people’. During the 1973 war, after we were attacked on the day of atonement, he went back to the army, though at the time he was already successfully involved in politics. He turned the tide of the war by crossing the Suez Canal and breaching the Egyptian forces on their side.

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He retired from the army with the rank of Major General. Though successful in politics and a hero too, he wasn’t liked by all. He was often involved in controversy. The first real protest movement here against government policy occurred while he was Minister of Defense. In his long career, he served as Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Defense. In 2001 he was elected Prime Minister and held the office till 2006. While Prime Minister, he visited the garbage disposal site at Hiriah, near Tel Aviv, and decided to turn one of the ugliest sites in the country into a park.

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When he proposed the project, there were scoffers. But the park did come into being. Not only is it the largest park in the middle east, but its unique ecological character stands as an example to the young. The project demonstrates our ability to change a contaminated site into a place of beauty, relying completely on natural means.

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In 2005, he visited the mountain of garbage in Hiriah, just outside of Tel Aviv, where garbage had piled up for years, and suggested that the mountain be turned into a park. The original garbage pit had become a mountain of garbage. It’s still a mountain. But a pleasant one now. The emphasis is on the use of natural processes to improve the environment.

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There is a pond in middle of the park. It is the visible part of a complex underground water storage pool. A system of four more underground pools is located at the top of the mountain and these pools collect rainwater. Water overflows from the upper pools into the pond at the heart of the mountain.

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The depth of the pond varies and reaches eight feet at its deepest point. Around the pond is constructed wetland. This method helps maintain water quality by flushing the water through a system that uses both filters and water plants to purify the water. Schools of fish were also introduced to the pond to feed on mosquito larvae and other bugs, thus maintaining biological pest control. The pond is an ecological water project which serves as a natural habitat for a variety of wildlife species, including water fowl, amphibians and water insects.

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School children come to visit the park, and are given guided tours in which they learn about nature’s ways of cleaning itself, and how plants and fish and other life forms help purify the water. There are lawns and flower beds, and little rivers that cross the park making it a very pleasant place to visit. The man whose name was tied to bloody battles and fierce controversy is remembered today as a lover of nature. The park is now called the Ariel Sharon Park.

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the romantic trail

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caution, frog crossing

Yesterday, the third day of the first heat wave of spring, Chana and I drove north to the ‘source of the Yarkon’, a national park neighboring the city of Rosh Ha’ayin, called Afek in distant history. It wasn’t all that hot in Jerusalem. But we knew that most places outside of the city might be too hot for a day trip, and this seemed to us a fine place for adventure. We packed a picnic, took cameras and maps, a folding chair for me, and we were on our way.

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Usually I like to take the back roads and the slow roads to all destinations. But since we knew we would have a lot to see once we got there, we made an exception this time, and took Highway 6, arriving there in just a little more than an hour. Though there were a few groups of children around… and in one area we did encounter the grating sound of an enthusiastic nature counselor urging some of those children on to a demonstration of physical prowess, with the help of some electronic amplifying equipment, most of the park was peaceful and calm. We chose to follow the example of the ducks on the pond, and avoid the youthful noise, taking comfort in the natural beauty of old trees and calm waters. It was a beautiful day.

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The sun wasn’t always out. At times, cloud banks covered the sky. But the weather was in movement, and there were ample opportunities to capture the full color spectrum when the sun did show itself. The natural scene was rich and inviting. Trees supplied ample shade. And there were a number of adults enjoying the advantages of the park.

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There is a small Baptist village just outside the park, and there was a couple, two middle aged Baptists dressed in comfortable walking attire, that we kept running into, though we traversed the park from one end to the other. Along the way we discovered the ‘romantic trail’, adorned as it was with a magnificent array of beautiful flowers.

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the two Baptists

From prehistoric times, the land of Israel served as a pathway between Africa and Europe. And from earliest history the city of Rosh Ha’Ayin, which translates into English as ‘the fountainhead’, was a focal point of that passageway.

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The city is mentioned in the old testament and in Egyptian documents from eighteen centuries before the common era. Seemingly, it became an important city in historic times because of the springs found there, which provide plentiful water. The Yarkon river which flows to Tel Aviv and through it, originates there. And the national park we visited is located right next to the city.

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I have to admit that the ducks were very cautious and we never did get close enough to get a good picture. Nor did we find a single frog willing to pose for the camera. But we did hear them when we approached the larger bodies of water. I have a very beautiful frog portrait from a previous visit to the same park, but decided to share with you only those shots captured yesterday. And it was only after returning to Jerusalem, that I realized that I hadn’t gotten a single duck photo, and felt a certain measure of sorrow. Because ducks are rather rare in our country. I should have tried harder.

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Still, there was a bit of comfort knowing that I had captured my dear friend Chana, actually hugging a tree, evidence that even here, in the backward middle east, one can find enlightened people who know how to express their love for nature in the most up to date manner.

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There was no need for my folding chair. We found plenty of picnic tables and benches to sit upon, and our picnic was all the more delicious, in the shade of an old eucalyptus tree, having the local birds serenade us as we ate both humus and soft cheese with pita bread and tasty spices, and quenched our thirst with local beer.

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We will be celebrating Pentecost this coming Sunday, and I imagine that the park will be filled to overflowing with visitors on the holiday. How lucky we were to visit just before the big rush, enjoying the serenity of this natural treasure at its best. And how good it was to conclude such a pleasurable adventure, knowing that we were about to return to our beloved home town, Jerusalem.

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not a duck, but it was a pleasure meeting this bird…