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Matza hits the big time for Jerusalem

by ben March 25 2010
HolidaysFoodMunicipal newsNewsReligionThings to do

biggest-matza-ever-jerusalemite.jpg

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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Get out your graggers, it's time for Purim

by michael February 25 2010
HolidaysFor the kidsPhotographyReligionThings to do

Once again, it's Purim in Jerusalem, where we celebrate the salvation of the Jews of ancient Persia a day later and a lot harder. This year's panoply of Purim partying includes plenty of unique holiday-themed events, street theater performances all over town, and a pitched battle between students of Hebrew U. and the Bezalel Academy to see who can throw the wildest Purim soiree at the Jerusalem Theatre. Right on.

And to whet your appetite, check out this photospread of Jerusalem Purims past, produced by our big sister website, Jerusalem.com:

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A conversation with Bracha Din, jeweler

by simone January 01 2010
InterviewArtHolidaysReligionShopping

Bracha and her bling

Bracha Din first visited Israel in 1968, and she came by ship. A true child of the '60s, Bracha traveled the country, spending the requisite time on an authentic kibbutz, before ferrying off to Athens, the first stop on an extended European tour which took her to 22 countries in three years.

Back in the United States, Din tried out college but left after a semester to hitch-hike across Canada and the western United States. This journey eventually brought her to San Francisco, where she met Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and joined up with his House of Love and Prayer. It was in San Francisco that Bracha first began taking the steps toward observant Judaism - "I danced my way into Judaism," she likes to say – a path that eventually took her to Brooklyn, where she married and raised a family.

Bracha and her husband attempted to make aliyah as a couple, but they returned to America after a year. It was not until 1995, her children grown and her husband passed on, that Bracha returned for good to the city that had "always been like a magnet, pulling me in." She settled in Jerusalem's Old City and soon began her unique work with stones and prayer. Jerusalemite caught up with her in the calm before the Chanukah rush when Brachaleh (as the business is called) will be displaying her wares in her Jewish Quarter home.

If you walk the right streets, Jerusalem seems to be a city full of jewelers. How would you describe the scene here, and how would you describe your niche within it? There are a lot of jewelers here. I think that what draws people to my work is the subliminal message contained within it. People who have that sort of sensitivity are drawn to my work. All my jewelry is created with prayer. My world is also a pastel world, though I have recently introduced [bolder] colors. My focus is pastel stones and ethereal-looking jewelry.

A necklace and a prayerI've always been interested in stones and how a person can access their power, and when I came to Israel, I was happy to learn that there are Torah sources which relate to the power of certain stones – stones that have the power or qualities to bestow inner peace, love, etc. My middle name is Tzirel, which I'm told means jewelry in Yiddish, and the Talmud says that a person's name hints at what they should be doing with their life.

I've been blessed with good taste in choosing the right stones for my jewelry and the right designs, many of which are inspired by my meditations and prayers. I never actually studied art or jewelry making.

Your jewelry is specially designed to match the energies of the person it was made for. How do you translate the spiritual into the material? How does this creative process work? I sometimes design my jewelry with a specific person in mind – I concentrate on specific issues that person is facing and pray for them while I design the piece - and sometimes I just put certain energies into my jewelry and people find the piece that matches them. The rabbis say that an hour of prayer....(For more questions and answers with jeweler Bracha Din, click here).

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What to do this Independence Day in Jerusalem....

by ben April 23 2009
HolidaysFor the kidsMusicThings to doThis week in Jerusalem

independence-jlmite-2304.jpgJust because this year's Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebrates 61 years of the Zionist state - as opposed to last year's number, which had the advantage of ending with a zero - doesn't mean the celebrations will be meager.

Jerusalemites in particular are known to bite into Yom Ha'atzmaut with remarkable levels of vigor. And this year is no exception. There's plenty going on in terms of celebrations in the city, with events to appeal to every age and taste. Celebrations in the city's main open plazas, complete with folk dancing, rock performances and fireworks? Themed dance parties at pubs and dance clubs? Barbecuing en masse? Check, check and check.

Our full roundup of the most noteworthy events going on in Jerusalem this week - from before the holiday, to during, to even after the holiday - can be found on our sister website, Jerusalem.com.

But that's not all. The event calendar that can be seen on the right-hand side of every page of that site includes still more great events to check out - we're publishing event information there all week long.

And we're also gearing up for plenty more Independence Day coverage over there on the Jerusalem.com culture and tourism channel. Keep your eyes over there for upcoming 61-themed photospreads, fireworks schedules and more.

Happy Independence Day from everyone here at Jerusalemite.

Photo of an Independence Day-themed subversive photo project from 2008 courtesy of hagigit.org from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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It's pretty much Passover time in Jerusalem

by ben April 07 2009
HolidaysFoodFor the kidsMusicPop cultureReligionThings to do

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That's right. The harvest moon swells, and soon we'll be singing the Song of Songs. The smells of abrasive detergents and overdone toast waft. The bees are a-buzzing and the ants are a-crawling everywhere.

And hundreds and thousands of pilgrims are ascending to the City of Gold, where the feeling that big things are happening is palpable. Schools are on vacation, tourist season is gaining momentum, and virtually every cultural institution is gearing up to offer the best in springtime high art and lowbrow entertainment.

Over at our sibling website, Jerusalem.com (read more about Jerusalemite's relationship with that site, if you'd like, here), we've got heaps and heaps of unleavened content relating to the holiday....

  • For our picks of the most tempting kosher restaurants that'll be open on Passover, broken down by cuisine style, check out this article.
  • For our coverage of City Arts Encounter, an exciting visual art project taking place in unexpected places all over the city all month long, check out this piece.
  • For comprehensive listings of Jerusalem chol hamoed Passover events, check out the calendar on the right-hand side of every page on the site. It's constantly being updated, too.
  • Our roundup of the most worthwhile children's-themed Passover events should be ready for publication on Wednesday, when it should appear at the top of this page.
  • Our coverage of Birkat Hachama, an ancient Jewish ritual that has the whole world tantilized and focused on the Western Wall on Wednesday morning can be found here.

And that's just the beginning. Loads more of Pesach-riffic content is still in the works. Happy matza time from Jerusalemite.

Photo of shmura matza baking courtesy of elibrody from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Lighting the candles

by ben December 28 2008
HolidaysPhotographyReligion

Lighting the Chanuka candles

With many solstice celebrations afoot in Jerusalem and all over the world, Jerusalemite would like to bless us all with peace and successes. Here at Jerusalemite, we're still hard at work on our latest developments, which we believe will bring much pleasure to lovers of Jerusalem the world over.

In the meantime, although we have been publishing a mere fraction of the content we had planned for you this season, we do plan for it all to see the light of day soon, and we've got these great images of Chanuka candle lightings – in Zion Square and beyond – to share with you. Don't eat too many sufganiyot!

Lighting the Chanuka candles

Lighting the Chanuka candles

Photos of Jerusalem chanukiyot by Adina Polen for Jerusalemite.

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Son of a Kohen Gadol

by josh October 29 2008
ArchaeologyHolidaysNews
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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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Jerusalem hakafot mayhem

by simone October 20 2008
HolidaysFor the kidsThings to do

Partying with the TorahSimchat Torah celebrations kick off Monday night as The People of the Book gather in synagogues throughout the capital to party with the Book. Marking the completion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, traditional Jewish Jerusalemites dance a bunch, drink a bunch, and start the process all over again. Dozens of hakafot ritual celebration sessions are happening throughout the city, but here are five hot-spots guaranteed to provide a good time Monday night and Tuesday morning (for those who aren't too hung-over).

Mayanot   

Narkis St. 28, Nachlaot

Officially a Chabad synagogue, Mayanot has a distinct Carlebachian vibe and attracts a large number of both native Israelis and immigrants (Anglo and French alike) to its weekly Shabbat services and vodka-heavy Kiddushes. On Simchat Torah, the drinking (and the singing and dancing) kick up a notch as the Torahs are danced around the synagogue and general mayhem erupts, spilling from the sanctuary into the streets below.

 

Western Wall (Kotel)

Jewish Quarter, Old City

If variety is your thing, the Kotel provides more than enough. With 20-25 different services running at once on Simchat Torah night, you can hop from Eastern European chants to Moroccan dirges and back again in less time than it takes to cross the plaza. With so many people competing for.... (For more Jerusalem hakafot recommendations and color commentary, click here.)
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Pastels and stilts amid the sukkot of Nachlaot

by ben October 17 2008
HolidaysPhotographyReligion

Sukkot of Nachlaot

In memory of the temporary dwellings inhabited by the ancient Israelites during their sojourn from the bondage of Egypt towards autonomy in the homeland, Jerusalemites join Jews all over the world in celebrating Sukkot by setting up camp in eponymous booths in the great outdoors. Of course, "the great outdoors" can have many meanings when one lives in a sprawling metropolis such as ours.

And when it comes to the tight alleyways of Nachlaot, one of the city's oldest Jewish neighborhoods, eclectic and colorful residents must excel in creativity for finding ways to place their sukkot under the stars - some erecting huts that sit on makeshift stilts above street level, others barely leaving space for passers-by to circumvent the temporary dwellings.

Here, in the guise of a throwback ritual meant to reconnect the individual with the fleeting nature of the collective's surroundings, form and function meet in ways that.... (for more photos of Nachlaot sukkot, click here).

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Don't miss the Birkat Kohanim tomorrow

by michael October 15 2008
Things to doHolidays
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Masses of worshipers at last year's Birkat Kohanim

In keeping with the Jerusalem Sukkot tradition, this holiday season features a massive Birkat Kohanim at the Western Wall on Wednesday, the second intermediary day of Sukkot.

The Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing, is a Jewish tradition most non-Orthodox Jews and non-Jews are unfamiliar with, at least in its Orthodox incarnation. Kohanim are members of the Jewish hereditary priestly caste, whose main historical function Judaism was to direct the sacrificial worship centered around the Temple in Jerusalem. Claiming descent from Aaron, the brother of Moses and the first priest, modern genetic research has actually demonstrated that over 90% of self-identified Jewish Kohanim share common elements on their Y-chromosomes indicating a common male ancestor who lived in the Biblical era. While the role of the priests diminished after the destruction of the Temple, they are still called upon to bless congregations at certain points during the year. The blessing involves a special hand sign, which most people will recognize as Mr. Spock's "Live Long and Prosper," (Leonard Nimoy, a Jew, derived the greeting from the priestly custom) and the familiar blessing, "May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord shine his countenance toward you and be gracious to you, may the Lord lift up his countenance toward you and give you peace."

Seeing the Birkat Kohanim at the Kotel is a special treat, and a true sight to behold. Hundreds upon hundreds of kohanim gather together to bless the assembled crowd, who as per tradition cover their faces with their prayer shawls, turning the packed Kotel plaza into a sea of stooped white figures, the lulavs (bundles of myrtle branches and other symbolic plants) of Sukkot bobbing overhead. Of course, only men are allowed into the the worship section of the Kotel plaza, and if you want any chance at all of getting in to see the blessing, arrive early - before the thousands of other worshipers and sightseers do (arrive before 8:00 AM - Shacharit begins at 8:15 and the blessing itself occurs at 9:00, and once more at 10:00). If you're interested in glimpsing a rarely-seen Jewish tradition, though, it's worth the early morning wake-up.

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

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