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Jerusalem gets free science lessons in pajamas

by ben March 17 2013
NewsCity planningPop cultureThings to doThis week in Jerusalem

Under the framework of the "Science to the People" initiative (official website in Hebrew only), a Ministry of Science, Technology and Space-managed series of fun events targeting everyday Israelis for National Science Day, plebes were recently invited to storm the ivory tower.

Last week's edu-tainment included a talk on science and art over coffee and cake at the Israel Museum, a Hebrew University campus pub presentation on economics, and a series of home lectures called "Professors in Slippers," which saw thought leaders giving over their musings on tactonic plate moments, the emotional experience, public transport and pension scheme sustainability.

And it was all for free. Check it out.

Video by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Matza hits the big time for Jerusalem

by ben March 25 2010
HolidaysFoodMunicipal newsNewsReligionThings to do


With just four days to go until the big holiday, Passover fever is sweeping Jerusalem, hard-core.

Preparations are underway for an extremely festive week, when Jerusalemites will be celebrating the Exodus in style, complete with loads of cultural offerings, an arts-and-crafts street fair, and even a festival showcasing the city's most impressive English-language performance ensembles.

But first, we need to burn our chametz and bake our matza (click through to check out awesome videos).

Speaking of baking matza, pictured above is the honorable Mayor Nir Barkat, posing with a world record-setting largest piece of matza ever. The oversized cracker measures over 3 meters in diameter and weighs in at 60 kilo. It was made by a team of 40 people, two of whom wore rappelling gear to be able to reach the edges while hanging from above. Try hiding that afikoman.

The matza went on display at Safra Square today, as part of a pre-holiday "toast" (nyuk) for City Hall's employees. Barkat is posing with Aryeh Goldberg, one of the owners of the Irenstein Matza factory, which spearheaded the baking, and Racheli Ivenboim, the CEO of the Meir Panim NGO, whose headquarters plans on displaying the matza to the general public through the end of the holiday.

Of course, this is hardly the first world record set in Jerusalem. In recent months, we've witnessed the unfurling of the world's largest flag, the grilling of the world's largest serving of meurav Yerushalmi, and the whipping of the world's largest plate of hummus. The jury is still out, though, on which of the four world record-breaking events is least nightmare-inducing.

Happy Passover, lovers of Jerusalem, from the Jerusalemite team.

Photo courtesy of Yossi Mor for the Municipality of Jerusalem.

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Heaven and hell in Malcha

by josh December 09 2008


Some former Beitar fan is going to have a cold winter without his scarf

Beitar Jerusalem likes to use the advertizing/intimidation tactic of calling their home at Malcha's Teddy Stadium hell. It has indeed been hell so far this year, but only for Jerusalem - not the visiting teams. Though the season is more than half through, Jerusalem's corps of insane, obnoxious and xenophobic fans - and, to be fair, completely normal and nice ones, too - have yet to see their team win a game at home. They sunk so low as to tie with lowly Bnei Sakhnin late last month, in what was expected to be a racially tinged blowout. Their season, in the dumps so far, seems to be a continuation of their horrible 5-0 loss to Wisla Krakow over the summer, which many hoped would just be an aberration. Right.

Over in that other ballgame popular in Israel (sorry IFL), though, Hapoel Jerusalem, normally cellar dwellers, has been tearing up the hoops charts. On Sunday they affirmed their league-leading placement by edging out other frontrunner Galil-Gilboa for first place in the Premier League-  which they now share with traditional powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv . In Euroleague play as well, Jerusalem trounced Larissa, Greece even after suffering a surprising loss to Amsterdam. We at Jerusalemite don't like to toss around the term Cinderella much, but maybe this is proof that the messiah is on his way?

Many have pointed to scandal-plagued fallen billionaire-cum-failed politician Arkadi Gaydamak as a reason for the soccer team's recent failures, as he's been unable to inject the same excitement, and George Stienbrenner-like money into the team, instead saddling them with Marge Schott-like abuse. Of course, Gaydamak is also a major sponsor of the basketball team, too, so so much for that argument.

Jerusalemites are no fair-weather fans. Chances are that even if the soccer team's woes continue, fans will stick with it, and not switch over to burning things in the basketball arena (people yes, things no). While some may ask if Hapoel can continue their high level of play and oust Macabbi Tel Aviv from their usual spot as premier league champs - as Holon did last year - the more prescient question would be, if they do, will anybody care?

Picture of trashed Beitar scarf from Flickr user Odim under a Creative Commons license.

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Cooperation? In Jerusalem? It must be...

by josh November 18 2008
ArtFilmMusicNewsPhotographyPop culture
Agripas 12
I once drew a picture this big

Yes, it's the artists. In fact, Jerusalem does not want for lack of institutions that cater toward artists. Ever since Boris Schatz started sculpting old ladies and founded the Bezalel School of Art and Design, the city has been rife with galleries, academies, musicians, poets and starving artistes all dedicated to "the scene." Now, a new project is being formulated to turn that scene into more of a community of artistic minded Jerusalemites. Ruach Chadasha, a student rights organization founded by next mayor Nir Barkat, recently gathered together movers and shakers of the Jerusalem arts movement to lay the groundwork for the communities.

The meeting took place at Agripas 12, a gallery well known for fostering cooperation between the various artistic institutions in the city. Among the cognoscenti there were Avi Sabag of the Musrara school and members of the Zik, Koresh and Hagagit groups. Maya Felixbrodt, director of young artists for Ruach Chadasha said she had been approached by many others about working with them to create the community, which is meant to made up of those already out of school who want to remain in Jerusalem. "We mean to give them some framework to go and create together and to give to Jerusalem as artists," she said. The community is meant to be something completely open to the participants' choosing, meaning they or may not live together and create together and eat together and work together. Basically, it may be about as communal as a privatized "kibbutz."

Though Thursday night brought cold and rain over 20 interested artists crwoded into the gallery to hear what would be going on and get in on the ground floor. Felixbrodt said she wasn't sure what Barkat's victory would mean for the project, but hoped it would translate into more support from city hall, though she said the project would go ahead no matter what happens.

Of course, this effort is far from being the first to try and bring artists together to create in Jerusalem. Chutzot Hayotzer (the artists colony right outside the old city, not the related festival) touts itself as being one such place, though its fine arts showcases have more of a commercial tilt. The Jerusalem Artists House also brings artists together under one roof, though it is more a gallery than a community effort. Plus nobody even lives in the house. In September, Jerusalem was the home to Lift-Off, the first, possibly annual, installment of an event that sought to bring together over 100 artists to display their work in a number of venues throughout the city. And there's always artsy tchochkes and expensive Judaica available at Ben Yehuda and the Cardo. In short, art did not leave Jerusalem with the original Bezalel.

If you're interested in joining the movement, you can contact Ruach Chadasha. Or if war-torn, biblical tinged, or scary Tim Burtonesque art isn’t your cup of tea, you can always book it for one of the thousands of artists communities already up and running all over this big ol' artsy world.

Photo of the artsy summit courtesy of Ruach Chadasha.
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Choose your poison: a Jerusalem election primer

by simone November 07 2008
Municipal newsBridge of StringsCity planningInterviewNews

With Jerusalem's municipal elections upon us this Tuesday, Jerusalemite spoke with journalist Avi Fogel, who's been covering the race for City Hall for the local Kol Ha'ir weekly newspaper. Fogel gave us a brief run-down on the candidates, the system and the craziness that is our local government. Although Fogel himself is a relative newcomer to the politics game (his usual beat is local laws and the police that enforce them), he has been eating, sleeping and breathing municipal elections for the past four months.

According to Fogel, Jerusalem's municipal political scene is complex, since "The mayor can't really be involved in what's going on in his own city: He can give his opinion, but that doesn't mean anyone will listen. He can say we won't talk about dividing Jerusalem, but at the end of the day, it's not the mayor's decision, it's the Knesset's decision.... So from a legal standpoint the mayor can't be involved with the city's major political issue. He can only deal with how clean the streets are, or the other services the municipality deals with - but not with the larger issues Jerusalem is facing."

That said, here's his low-down on the three top contenders for the city's top spot:

Nir BarkatNir Barkat

Age: 49

Political accomplishments to date: Barkat has been the opposition leader in the Jerusalem City Council since 2003. A successful businessman, he first entered the political fray four years ago, running for mayor and losing by a small margin. Since then, he's been involved in bringing issues affecting non-charedi Jerusalemites to the table at City Hall. A major opponent of the Bridge of Strings project, Barkat has argued that the money should have been used for education instead. Ha also fought against the decision to over-clothe the Bridge dancers, and was able to bring about some sort of a compromise, but as a member of the opposition, he was more involved in opposing, rather than creating, policy.

Primary platform: Barkat's main issues are education – he wants to allocate more money for the capital's educational infrastructure – and stemming the population drain by strengthening academic institutions, reducing housing prices and providing rent subsidies to university students. Barkat has also promised to attract between 10 and 15 million tourists a year to Jerusalem, opining that the city is not utilizing its full potential as a tourist destination and that increased tourism will equal increased municipal revenues. And, despite the fact that at the end of the day it’s a Knesset decision and not a municipal one, Barkat is throwing the undivided Jerusalem card, establishing a national initiative campaigning against the division.

Cultural platform: "Culture is a big issue for Barkat," says Fogel. "Jerusalem's cultural institutions are currently suffering from a lack of funding, because the municipality hasn't transferred the money they were allocated – i.e. their budgets are not being paid. First and foremost, Barkat wants to ensure that Jerusalem's culture institutions receive the funding they are due." Barkat has claimed that the current city government is subtly trying to strangle nightlife and cultural institutions that operate on Shabbat by withholding their funding. Barkat has vowed to support Jerusalem's cultural institutions financially and institutionally, hoping not only to increase the capital's cultural standing, but to stem the youth drain as well. After all, if theater and nightclubs can't keep 'em around, what will?

Meir PorushMeir Porush  

Age: 54

Political accomplishments to date: The ultra-Orthodox Porush has served in the Knesset since 1996 as part of United Torah Judaism (an amalgam of Porush's own Agudat Israel party and the Degel HaTorah party) though as a Knesset member, "Porush was not all that active politically. He wasn't an initiator," says Fogel. Aside from comparing Ariel Sharon to Benito Mussolini in a well-publicized 2005 controversy, though, "He had a job and he did it; he was very neutral. As they say, 'He didn't hurt, and he didn't help.'" Prior to his stint in the Knesset, Porush served as deputy mayor under Teddy Kollek, so he does have some experience in the Jerusalem municipal scene - although Fogel points out that the decision to run was not Porush's own. "Porush's party decided that he was their mayoral candidate, so he is their mayoral candidate," he says. 

Primary platform: According to Fogel, "Although Porush's campaign speaks about combating population flight and securing employment opportunities, his main platform is the fact that he's the Charedi candidate and everyone knows the Charedi sector will vote for him." However, "It's hard to tell exactly what Porush stands for," Fogel says, since the candidate has not made himself exceedingly available to the media: "He doesn't let his views be known. He's very handled [by former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg among others] and restricted in what he says. During Kollek's reign, Porush worked in the municipality's environmental department, but not even the charedi population knows what he did there." 

Cultural platform: Not surprisingly, Porush doesn't go out of his way to address Jerusalem's eclectic cultural landscape. According to Fogel, Porush has said that he doesn’t have a problem with people doing their own thing here in Jerusalem, but he has also never made any promises to strengthen Jerusalem's cultural institutions. "He is not billing himself as a fighter for Jerusalem culture. Now this may be because he will offend his constituency if he talks about it, or it may be his own view, but in any case, he has kept quiet on this issue." For now at least, it seems that Porush is of the live-and-let-live school of thought (as long as that living doesn't cross the borders of his neighborhood). While he supports keeping the roads closed on Shabbat in charedi neighborhoods, he has made no such demands on the rest of the city. "We have to remember, that Porush was only chosen at the Charedi candidate about two months ago [as opposed to Barkat who has been campaigning as opposition leader for many years], so we know far less about him," says Fogel.

Arcadi GaydamakArkady Gaydamak (aka Arieh Bar Lev)

Age: 56

Political accomplishments to date: Like Barkat, Gaydamak's background is in business, not politics. Instead of serving in the city council opposition, however, the arms-dealing Gaydamak has been honing his political skills by buying up the Beitar soccer team as well as Bikur Cholim Hospital (which serves a largely charedi population), and financing respite programs for Katyusha-plagued northern residents and Qassam-afflicted Sderoters. According to Fogel, "Gaydamak is known as a man with a lot of money, who gives a lot to the community, but people are often wary of his support. People are suspicious of his motives. They think he is giving them money so they will vote for him at a later date."

Primary platform: Gaydamak too has pledged to fight Jerusalem's population drain and bring new jobs to the city. He claims that his connections in the business world make him the ideal man to bring new business and new investments to Jerusalem. Gaydamak also plans to invest more money in Jerusalem's higher education institutes and provide greater support to students and young people - so that they can choose to stay in the city as residents and not just as students.

Cultural platform: This Russian playboy has big plans for improving the city's nightlife. In fact, one of his major supporters recently sent letters to the current mayor protesting the fact that Jerusalem's Culture Department currently lacks a director. "This is a big part of Gaydamak's campaign," Fogel asserts. "He wants to know why the municipality is not doing anything about the cultural life in this city, why they are withholding funds and why they are letting culture die. He wants to revive it."

The (brief) low-down on City Council

As if choosing a mayor wasn't choice enough, there are scores of parties running for city council. For a party to make it onto the 31-seat council (only the mayor's six deputies receive a salary), they need to receive a minimum number of seats. Once they have passed that threshold, they need a smaller percentage of the vote to receive additional seats.

Fogel claims that because of this system, and general voter apathy (except in the charedi sector), it is almost impossible to tell which parties will garner seats. Apparently, only 38 percent of eligible voters bothered to show up at the polls for the last municipal elections, and Fogel fears a similar trend this time around as well - a trend which will most likely hurt Barkat and his party. "This year, the main fight is for mayor and not city council," Fogel says. "Every candidate also has a city council list, plus there are numerous other lists."

Fogel fears that smaller parties like Wake Up Jerusalem (Hitorerut Yerushalmim, which has already merged with the Yerushalmim party) will fail to hit the threshold required to make it into the city council, but will succeed in splitting the secular vote, causing the council to swing charedi, where there are fewer parties and the vote is more controlled. Apparently there is a movement underway to unify all the secular parties onto one list so that they achieve the critical mass needed to make it onto the city council. With one unified party, it will also be easier for the mayor to form a coalition and pass laws. But you know Jews - they can never agree on anything, leaving voters to choose between a myriad of options (Hitorrerut-Yerushalmim, Meretz, The Green Party (HaYarokim), Lma'an Yerushalayim, Likud, MAFDAL and Ichud Haleumi, Shas, Yisrael Beitenu to name a few…).

Happy voting!

Mayoral candidate Dan Birron was not discussed in this item, because in-depth coverage of his campaign will appear when Jerusalemite's mayoral election-themed content continues in the coming days.

Photo of Arcadi Gaydamak courtesy of Deror Avi.

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Emba-see you in Jerusalem? Not so fast.

by josh November 03 2008

coming soon to Jerusalem?

 America's beachfront Tel Aviv vacation home.

American politicians have never been shy of professing their undying love for Israel and it's capital Jerusalem. Or is that Tel Aviv? Well, if the placement of their fortress -like, Mike's Place-accessible, seaside embassy is any indication, they prefer the white city to our little backwater enclave in the hill country.

That may all change come January when a new American commander in chief moves into the White House. May is the operative word though. Past presidents have generally treated promises to move the American embassy to Jerusalem the same way they do Injun' peace treaties - as nonbinding.

In 1995, Congress passed a law calling for the U.S. to move its embassy to west Jerusalem, but included a clause allowing the president leeway to leave the embassy in Tel Aviv for as long as he pleased, so long as he cited "security" concerns. Which is exactly what both Clinton and Bush have done, despite both repeatedly verbally committing to move to Jerusalem. In 2007, on the anniversary of the Six Day War, the House of Representatives once again called on the president to move the embassy, though the Senate never got to vote. In September, another resolution was introduced and has been wallowing in committee since. Oh Washington, how efficient are your houses!

Now comes 2008, and tomorrow will see the election of a new president, or at least the beginning of a fun-filled, drawn-out court battle. The result could have a lasting effect on where the embassy will be located.

True to form, McCain, the favorite here in Israel, has taken the "maverick" position of following in his predecessors' footsteps and promising to move the embassy if elected. Haaretz quoted the Arizona Senator as saying, "Jerusalem is undivided, Jerusalem is the capital, and we should move the embassy to Jerusalem before anything happens."

Front-running Terrorist/socialist/baby-eating Mooslum Barack Obama has stayed neutral on the issue, saying only that he would move the embassy as part of a final status agreement on Jerusalem, which is more or less the equivalent of saying they aren’t going anywhere. He did, though, call Jerusalem the undivided capital of Jerusalem, before he somewhat retracted the statement, which others saw as code for, yes, he will move the embassy.

Given politicians' propensity for saying one thing on the campaign trail and meaning exactly the opposite, Israelis shouldn't plan on visiting Jerusalem to get their US tourist visas anytime soon. That may be a good thing, given our Semitic brothers' tendency for using American embassies around the world as a convenient starting point for riots and other hostage-tastic activities. Jerusalem residents and other colonialist settlers should soon have some nice new digs in Arnona to visit, though, as Americans put the final touches on a spanking new consulate. At least that will be one American abode in Jerusalem that isn't abandoned 11 months out of the year.

Photo courtesy of Krokodyl through a Creative Commons license.

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Son of a Kohen Gadol

by josh October 29 2008
Ben Hakohen Hagadol (Son of the the High Priest)
Just before Yom Kippur, that holiest of days where we commemorate the special service done in the Temple by the Kohen Gadol, or high priest, came an October surprise that couldn’t be more apropos. Archaeologists working along the line of the proposed security fence say they've found a sarcophagus bearing the name Ben HaKohen HaGadol, or son of the high priest. Though they don't know the circumstances of the son's death or even his name, they surmise that it dates from the Second Temple period, specifically its waning days, when the Temple saw a number of (presumably snazzily dressed) Kohen Gadols come through its holy revolving doors. Via Haaretz:
"However, it should probably be identified with one of the priests that officiated there between the years 30 and 70 C.E.," the Authority said in a statement late on Monday Among the high priests who served during that period were Yosef Bar Kayafa, or Caiaphas, Theophilus (Yedidiya) Ben Hanan, Simon Ben Boethus, and Hanan Ben Hanan.
Some of the Gospels link Caiaphas to the arrest and trial of Jesus, after which he was handed over to Roman authorities and crucified.

The Authority said the fragment was believed to have originated in an estate outside Jerusalem which belonged to one of the high priests who served in the Temple. "One can assume that the son of the high priest passed away for some unknown reason at the time when his father still officiated as the high priest in Jerusalem," it said.

The location of the find is being kept a secret for security reasons, but it is in an area of Binyamin north of Jerusalem where many aristocratic Kohens, and Cohens, and Cohns, and even Cones lived. Not unlike the Beverly Hills of today.

Researchers actually found the sarcophagus fragment outside of the Kohen Gadol's estate, where they believe it was used in construction of a Muslim building built on top of second temple era homes about a thousand years ago. Archaeologists are doing extensive digs along the proposed route before construction can take place and have unearthed several other artifacts of houses public and private, pools and cisterns. Should they unearth an old security fence, then we'll know we're screwed.

Photos courtesy of Assaf Peretz and Shlomi Ammami, Archaeological Staff Officer of Judea and Samaria.

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Gold dawn

by josh October 22 2008
NewsMunicipal news
Sergei's Courtyard (Sergei not pictured)
In Soviet Jerusalem, wall prays to you!
No stranger to being carved up, Jerusalem has had more claims lain on it than that Footprints poem, even dating back to its pre-Davidic dynasty days. Since 1948, it’s been pretty much accepted that at least the western half of the city would remain undivided and in Israeli hands, if not the whole of the town. But the Ruskies have found a way to jimmy themselves into a prime piece of Hanevi’im street real estate, creating a red zone in the city of gold. Sergei’s Courtyard, which was originally intended to be a waystation for Russian Pilgrims visiting the holy land, is set to be made sovereign Russian territory after Ariel Sharon (possibly in a land giving away frenzy) promised Vladimir Putin to return the compound to him in 2005. The Cabinet has since approved the deal and it will go through once a problem with unpaid taxes is cleared up.

The building sits on one of the best locations in all of Jerusalem, in spitting distance of the Old City, Ben Yehuda Street, Mea Shearim and (Gaydamak-owned) Bikur Cholim hospital. It has long been home to a number of tenants who live there under an archaic “key money” system, as well as the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

The idea of Russia, which has often been at odds with Israel’s interests (Nuclear Iran, anyone?) reigning supreme over a piece of Jerusalem has caused many to worry, including this Jewish Press columnist who fears it will become a Church of the Nativity-like safe haven for terrorists.
Given Russia's close association with Iran and Syria, the prospect of its establishing an enclave in the heart of the Jewish capital is daunting indeed. It conjures up images of Arab terrorists fleeing into the compound and Israeli security personnel unable to pursue them without precipitating an international crisis. In many respects it would be tantamount to inviting a Russian spy ship to permanently dock right in the middle of an Israeli naval base. The Russian Compound's commanding position made it the perfect staging ground for numerous conquests of Jerusalem from the Assyrians to Titus's Roman legions.

The Russians, for their part, though, say there is nothing to worry about and that they will be good custodians of the property, which will be converted into a home for Orthodox priests (but not that kind), or a cultural center, depending on who you believe.

As the Associated Press tells it:

A Russian official denied accusations it seeks greater influence in the Middle East through the acquisition of Sergei's Courtyard, calling its desire to own the place a matter of historical significance.

"This has nothing to do with what is being called imperial ambitions because it's not a military base or something that can serve those purposes," said Alexei Skosyrev, a political counselor at the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Because Russians and Russian Orthodox priests have such a large presence in Israel, having actual Russia in Israel won’t be quite as incongruous as the Yakov Smirnoff Theater in fabulous Branson, Missouri. Still, losing one of the city’s most historic and beautiful buildings to a foreign power doesn’t bode well for a city already showing signs of strain at the seams. We can only hope that we won’t find Berlin laying claim to Emek Refaim or Armenia asking for its quarter back in the near future.

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The Devil went down to Jerusalem

by michael September 26 2008
Activist courts are the Devil's playground

Imagine, if you will, that you are Satan. Yes, Satan, that vaguely defined celestial entity who serves as the prosecuting attorney of the heavenly court (for Jews), the handy solution to the theological quandary raised by the existence of evil in the world (for Christians), and the deity of choice when sacrificing household pets (for disaffected teenagers). If you need help getting into character, try the music of Norwegian teenybop sensations Gorgoroth.

Okay. You Satan? Good. Now remember, as the Lord of the Flies, the very embodiment of all that is profaned and corrupt in God's creation, it's your fondest dream (in certain eschatologies, anyway) to bend mankind to your twisted will and rule the world in the name of evil. How would you go about achieving that goal? Lies? Temptation? Deceit? Black Sabbath? Or would you be more subtle? Would you lay the groundwork for your triumphant ascent in the very brickwork of the State of Israel's highest court?


The fact still remains that an evil force has been put into place in Jerusalem and has spread throughout Israel, in preparations for the end time and the seat of the anti-Christ. For if we are to believe that the anti-Christ is to have his seat on the Temple Mount, then we must come to grips with some truths not being preached today. One such truth is the foundation for such a move of the Devil must be underway even as we speak if this is to happen. Or we simply are not in the end days. This report will prove that such a move is underway and has been for quiet some time. It will be accepted by some and rejected by others, but that is the way it goes.

In this report I will use many pictures showing the establishment of the Illuminati and establish proof that there has been a diabolical plot by those we refer to as the New World Order. Showing the architectural design of the New Israeli Supreme Court Building designed and paid for by the Rothchilds reflex the presence of Free Masonry and the Illuminati. I took all but one of the pictures you are about to see so I can assure that what you are seeing is real and in place.

The same families who own and control the Federal Reserve and other major financial institutions have their eyes set on the Temple Mount, and the Holy City of Jerusalem. Just as Scriptures say, the man who will be revealed as the anti-Christ will sit in that place, before the appearance of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua HaMashiach, and many will receive him as their messiah.

It actually makes a lot of sense. For example, if you subtract the Hebrew numerical value of the name "Rothschild" (559) from the Hebrew numerical value of "Supreme Court Building" (2359), you get exactly 1800, which, if you look at it as a standard Gregorian year, is only two years after the establishment of the England branch of the Rothschild banking dynasty in 1798. We shouldn't have to tell you the significance of the number two. 

And did you know that, if you draw an arbitrary line from the Supreme Court building to the Knesset building, both the Supreme Court building and the Knesset building are on that line? And if you draw another arbitrary line from that first one at exactly the right angle and direction, it goes right down Ben Yehuda Street? Pretty crazy, right? It turns out this is called a Ley Line, which is sort of a Highway to Hell:

For those who are not aware of the term Ley-Lines, it is lines in geographical places that Witches, Warlock, and Wizards walk claiming for the Devil. If you will notice in every large city all palm readers and such are usually on the same street that is a ley-line.

Here is a map of Jerusalem, you can see that the Supreme Court Building and the Knesset are connected with one straight line, and at a 90% angle to that line half way is a Ley-line that runs perpendicular. That line runs straight down the middle of a street known as Ben Yehuda, a place where all the crazies meet, and at any given day you can find at least one who calls himself Elijah or Moses. Israelis call Ben Yehuda the freak show. That line runs on to the Rockefeller Museum; and from the Rockefeller Museum a line runs through the Moslem Quarters to the Temple Mount. 

Does the Ministry of Tourism know Jerusalem is on a Ley Line? Can we court Wiccan tourists this way? "Jerusalem: It's a Magickal Place." "Jerusalem: Make Your Mother Happy and Meet a Nice Jewitch Girl."

But anyway. Sure, there are a lot of crazies on Ben Yehuda, but there's a lot of good falafel too. We're not pointing fingers, but has anyone noticed that the handsome young man at Moshiko who does falafel tricks is prominently branded about the forehead with the mark of the beast? Everybody talks about the Devil's works and pomps, but nobody ever mentions the wanton, cumin-scented crispiness of his deep-fried sin fritters. All part of his plan, no doubt.

So by now you're probably convinced. Satanic happenings are afoot in the Holy City. But oddly, the brave (and probably now-assassinated) soul who compiled the Supreme Court report never mentioned the Jerusalem landmark which truly reveals, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the icy hand of Satan in our fair city...

Image courtesy of tevnin from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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By the delis of Babylon

by michael September 22 2008
If I forget thee, O Upper West Side, may my bagel forget its cream cheese 

Jerusalem. Here, according to tradition, Abraham offered his only son Isaac up to God. Here David forced out the Jebusites and built his capital. Here the Temples were built and destroyed. Here the Israeli paratroopers fought to liberate the Western Wall. Here, for two thousand years, Jews from Vilnius to Kerala directed their prayers and dreams.

But is it the capital of the Jewish world? Well, according to a certain Haaretz columnist, apparently not.

So what is the capital city of the Jewish World? It's time to make a declaration. And, no - despite the campaign rhetoric in both Israel and the U.S. - the answer is not Jerusalem. That choice is way too obvious and needs to be disqualified.

Instead, let's ask where the majority of the world's Jews would really feel most comfortable? What's the one place they'd love to live, or regularly visit, not to mention inherit an apartment there? My vote goes to that piece of Manhattan paradise between 59th and 125th Streets, Central Park, and the Hudson River (even though defining its exact boundaries sometimes inspires more argument than discussions about what constitutes Israel's borders). 


Don't get me wrong, Jews like to be around other Jews, and be a five minute ride away from lox (must be nova) and bagel or pastrami-on-rye, but they also like to be part of a larger urban and multicultural mix; and to be in a place that they can soak up music, art, theatre, plays and celebrate/curse the local sports team. In short, we want to be inspired and feel like we're living at the center of the universe. 

Demographics back him up. Every single one of the world's roughly 13 million Jews is an American East Coaster of Ashkenazi descent whose feeble, guilt-stricken cipher of a body withers without regular infusions of nova lox. Those people at Mordoch or Shegar or Darna are just self-denying New Yorkers with tans; when their customers aren't looking, they're in the kitchen putting a schmear on their kubbeh, shedding quiet tears of shame.

But why, beyond the lox, does the Upper West Side trump the Jews' holy city as the center of the Jewish world? Well, cuz like the Bible is way heavy or something.

Here's my take: [Jerusalem] is way too sacred and precious, and getting up there in years, to have to enter such competitions. Plus, the vibe there is just too heavy. If one of the most popular sayings about Jerusalem is any indication, I'm in no mood to lose my hand if I forget about the city's centrality in my life. That's scary. 

Psalm 137 actually only speaks metaphorically about one's right hand losing its use rather than being lost, but when your gut is full to bursting with the sweet pastrami of Babylon, perhaps you can be forgiven for missing the finer point. Besides, the Bible is way too sacred and precious, and getting up there in years, to be the central book of the Jewish people. It's time we cast it aside in favor of Portnoy's Complaint, or perhaps (if we are to be modern and do away with books altogether) Annie Hall.

After all, what's manna from heaven when you've got bagels?

Image courtesy of unforth from Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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