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Oh how Jerusalem loves her parades

by josh October 14 2008
HolidaysFor the kidsMunicipal newsThings to do


Christian/Zionist/Total F*ing Insanity pride

Prefers Passion of the Christ to Fiddler on the Roof

They're back to steal our souls! Among many things, Sukkot is also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles, though you probably shouldn’t go around calling it that unless you want to get weird looks. Which is exactly what happens to the throngs of Christian Zionist Evangelicals who descend on our fair semi-heathen city every year to celebrate the one time of year when gentiles were allowed to worship in the holy temple.

Last year, Haredi rabbis were none too pleased to see the Sarah Palins of the world run amok in their town and possibly missionizing, and called on Jews to stay away from the Tzeadat Yerushalayim (Jerusalem March). Some 70,000 ignored the directive and marched or stood on the sidelines, watching the festivities, which seemed at times like Saddleback Church does Burning Man. In the end three American Christians were detained for carrying their cross a little too convincingly.

This year the parade will be Wednesday October 15, the first day of Chol Hamoed. The day long hiking festivity is called Tzeadat Yerushalayim (Jerusalem March) and includes people from all walks of life, including soldiers, business people and other delegations streaming into the city from the surrounding hills. The Christians will of course be back and this year the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem will be promoting the Lion King of Judah (Jesus, not Simba) as their theme.

So far, it seems the rabbis have stayed away from issuing a new warning for this year's parade, though we wouldn't go so far as to say they’ve washed their hands of the matter. Haredim usually seem to have a protest at hand for any occasion, and even some blogs are revving up the anti parade rhetoric. What did Christian evangelicals ever do to them? Oh yeah.

Photo of parade by Harry Rubenstein for Jerusalemite.

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Hut cuisine for Sukkot in Jerusalem

by michael October 13 2008
HolidaysFoodThings to do
This sukkah brought to you by a six-year-old girl

Multinational pizza chains and the third world aside, it's not often that you get to eat your dinner in a hut. But during Sukkot, religious Jews are required to take their meals inside a sukkah, the modest huts designed as reminders of the temporary dwellings of the Exodus-era Israelites, and dozens of the city's kosher restaurants provide their customers with the opportunity by erecting sukkot on their sidewalk space or in their courtyards. The profusion of sukkot may clog the walkways, but it adds a palpable holiday spirit to the city, the sense that a modern urban center has become one big communal campsite. Sure, many of the sukkot are the lame pre-fab ones (Cafe Rimon's glitzy super-sukkah, pictured above, notwithstanding), but no other city can claim so many.

So all you have to do to tap into that Sukkot spirit is visit a restaurant or a bar. And in Jerusalem, of course, there's a sukkah for every palate: Asian food lovers can go to Gong, Sheyan, Yoja, Kohinoor and Corusin; pescavores can cast their nets at Ahavat Hayam and Beni Dagim; Italian connoisseurs are extremely well taken care of with sukkot at Angelo, Little Italy, Luigi, Luciana, Macaroni, Pera e Mela, Primavera and Rosemary; South America get a sukkah shoutout at La Boca, Vaqueiro, El Gaucho and Papagaio; you can fine dine under the palm fronds at La Guta, 1868, Spoons, Eucalyptus, Canela, Gabriel, Eldad V'Zehoo, ZaZa and Darna or have a cup of coffee and a light lunch at Cafe Rimon, Cup o' Joe, Cafe B'Gina, Tmol Shilshom, the Ticho House, Masaryk, or Simone; and you can get a plate of honest Israeli workingman's food in a sukkah at Rachmo, any of the Marvad Haksamim locations, Hamishpacha and Hatagine. And that isn't all. Keep your eyes peeled - in a city where even Burger King has a sukkah, you're bound to be surprised (say, by Nachlaot bar Slow Moshe's Sukkot shanty).

And don't forget to keep checking Jerusalemite over the course of Chol HaMoed - we'll be bringing you full coverage of the holiday, its events and its cultural phenomena as well as an extra-special photo essay of the city's finest neighborhood sukkot (it's as close as Jews can come to driving around to check out Christmas lights).

Chag sameach!

Photo of Cafe Rimon's highly decorated 2007 sukkah by Ben Jacobson for Jerusalemite.

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A conversation with Shimon Vaknin, four species vendor

by simone October 12 2008


Shimon Vaknin, a four species vendor from Har Nof got into the business some 25 years ago after a fellow yeshiva student lured him in, and he's been selling every holiday season since. The four species are three branches and one fruit – date palm, myrtle, willow and citron (etrog) – vital to religious Jews' observance of the Sukkot holiday. Throughout the holiday, the four species are gathered together and shaken in all directions. There are many traditional and mystical explanations for this commandment (there better be, because it's an odd one), including one which compares each species to a different type of Jew. Holding all four species together symbolizes unity, with each Jew playing his or her own unique role.

Just a generation ago, few people owned their own sets of the four species, and now it seChecking out the waresems to be the standard – almost every observant Jew buys his or her own set. Throughout the week of Sukkot, people can be seen carrying their lulavs (date palms) all around Jerusalem. What changed? Is it just that we're richer now? Were the farming processes or the import channels perfected? In Europe, people lived in cities far from the fields, so there weren't that many of them available. People had to travel far to get them. The etrogim especially were very hard to get. You had to travel very far and even then they weren't so easy to acquire. Rabbis used to sell their whole houses to get one etrog. The commandment of the four species is a very important commandment and the rabbis would go all out to get one.

In places like Morocco, Tunis and Tangier, the Jews lived near fields, but the etrogim were still fairly expensive, so there, instead of one per city, there was on per family. In Europe, often whole towns had to share. But in both places, people used to share their etrogim to some extent. Today, with improved transportation, farming techniques etc., more people have their own. Today, etrogim cost anywhere from 10 NIS to $500 depending on their quality. People want the nicer ones because a pure, unblemished etrog symbolizes a pure heart.

We know that in the days leading up to Sukkot, you're busy selling the four species, and over Sukkot, you're probably recovering from that rush. What four species-related work must be done during the rest of the year to maintain your business? What work outside the four species field do you do? I learn Torah all year. I'm not really involved in this work during the year. Farmers grow all the species and we got out there once in....(for more questions with Shimon Vaknin, four species vendor, click here).
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Wanna Chol lot of Moed

by michael October 10 2008
Things to doFor the kidsHolidays
Pomegranate festivals and other Chol HaMoed madness

Greetings Jerusalemites. Now that your conscience is hopefully clear (and your belly hopefully full) in the wake of Yom Kippur, it's time to kick off your repentin' shoes and get in the Chol HaMoed Sukkot spirit. After a couple of sparse weeks for culture in the Holy City, fun times return for the holiday's intermediary days, and Jerusalemite is making sure you don't miss a minute:

  • For a more intellectual Sukkot experience, stop by Beit Avi Chai's sukkah for a series of holiday-themed lectures. Thursday's covers Hannah Szenes and more.
  • Sukkot is all about the harvest, and what better way to celebrate it than to attend Ein Yael's tribute to one of Israel's signature fruits? The Pomegranate Festival runs from Wednesday to Monday.
  • More in-depth lectures will take place at venues all over the city as part of the Gateways festival, including lectures in English, from Thursday through Sunday.
  • Put down the pipe, pick up your knitted kippah and get down to the Old City for a bunch of crunchy-religious, English-language spiritual Sukkot party events at the Jerusalem Soul Center Sukkah every day of the holiday and Chol HaMoed.
  • The Train Theater is running a daily schedule of kids' puppet theater productions during Chol HaMoed - At Night I Dreamt of Animals on Friday is a sure winner.
  • The beginning of the Targ Music Center's season happens to be during Chol HaMoed, and it all kicks off with some Schubert on Saturday.
  • Saturday sees the beginning of the much-beloved yearly Abu Ghosh Music Festival in hummus capital Abu Ghosh, which runs through Tuesday.

Can you believe there's more? Check out our full listing of Chol HaMoed events, and have a chag sameach. We'll be back after the weekend with more special Sukkot content.

Image courtesy of chany14 from Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Yom Kippur is almost upon us

by michael October 08 2008
HolidaysThings to do
A Jerusalem Yom Kippur
Jerusalemites take to the empty streets on Yom Kippur

In but a few short hours, the most profound calm imaginable in a densely populated city will fall over Jerusalem. The streets will empty of cars and pedestrians. Row after row of stores will be shuttered and dark. Only Jerusalem's many synagogues will display signs of life, packed full with worshipers, many of whom come to the synagogue only on this one day a year.

It's Yom Kippur in Jerusalem. Get to atoning, sinners.

And once God has sealed the book on you with a resounding thud, check out the eerie nighttime stillness, the lack of noise or cars, that has fallen on the city. Take a walk in the middle of the highway. Watch battalions of children shoot down the empty streets on bikes and skateboards. Get your mind off the fasting. Try, as perverse as it may seem, to have a little fun this Yom Kippur.

Gmar chatimah tovah, and an easy fast, from Jerusalemite.

Image courtesy of vera46 from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Canticles for Leibowitzes, Jabbaris and Smiths: Abu Ghosh music festival returns

by josh October 07 2008
MusicHolidaysThings to do

 Osh Kosh B'Abu Ghosh

The closest thing (thankfully) Israel has to a Renaissance fair

Abu Ghosh has long been known as the place where both hummus is king, and the King is, well, there. But the friendly Arab town right outside Jerusalem is also a place where people flock twice a year, not to hear "Hound Dog" and taste dueling chickpeas, but rather for a music festival considered one of the best in all the land. Though the town is mainly Muslim, a number of churches dominate the village's skyline and it's in two of those churches that the festival takes place. One, the Kiryat Yearim church, or Church of the Ark of the Covenant, is believed to stand on the spot where the ark was once housed, in somebody other than God's house, before King David moved it to Jerusalem. Had he not, you would probably be reading Abu Ghoshemite as we speak.

Many of the concerts will also take place in the crypt of an ancient crusader church that sits in the middle of the town, and pretty much was the town until the Abu Ghosh clan established the city about 500 years ago in the hopes of one day attracting a music festival and/or taxing pilgrims.

The four day fest, starting October 18, takes place every Sukkot and Shavuot and focuses mostly on vocal classical music. The event draws some of the best classical and baroque musicians from around the country, and the world. This go round, the headliner is English countertenor Michael Chance, who, together with lutist David Miller, will perform the English Orpheus, with works by Dowland and Purcell, among others. Other notables include Israeli guitarist Shlomo Yidov, Austrian Daniel Johannsen and more quartets, symphonetts and choirs than you can shake one of those composing wands at.

While you might not need as much scratch as this guy, or as much bread as this guy, to enjoy the festival. Each concert requires its own admission fee. Prices range from 95 NIS to 140 NIS at the high end, a lot of garbanzos, to be sure. The suppers being sung for these days, it seems, are six course meals.

Image courtesy of the Abu Ghosh Music Festival.

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Kapparot in Jerusalem

by harry October 06 2008
Taking a last look at the world.

 His fate is sealed

"Zoo Kapparati," goes the refrain in the chanting associated with the ancient ritual of Kapparot, by which Jews who choose to partake are absolved of their sins by transferring their bad karma to a chicken. The chicken is traditionally waved above the head of the absolvee before being ritually slaughtered -- so who says that contemporary Judaism is animal sacrifice-free?

The period of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, also known as the ten days of repentance, are full of opportunities to shed one's sinful ways, be it through seasonal Slichot prayers, Tashlich (symbolically casting bread morsels towards a body of water), pledging to reform one's evil ways and even Kapparot, which has become such an institution in recent years that a special zoo-like courtyard adjacent to the Machane Yehuda market has been dedicated to performing the chicken-waving ritual well into the evening hours. With row upon row of stacks of clucking chicken crates and a steady line of superstitious Jerusalemites ready to exchange cash for bloody salvation, the Shuk Hakapparot has effectively transformed what was a mystical oddity into a photographer's dream.

Further complicating the matter at hand is the presence of placard-toting protesters claiming that animal cruelty is the real scoop at Shuk Hakapparot, an argument that is difficult to take seriously when we consider that the only two differences between this place and any other slaughterhouse are that the proceeds go to charity and that the relatively humane Kosher-supervised slitting of chicken throats is sensationally laid out for the public to observe.

The vast majority of Kapparot-practicing Jews today, however, are far less barbaric than the ones shown here, as a second custom has people transferring their sins to blood-free cash which is given to the poor following the ritual. But as one Jew who takes the ten days of repentance extremely seriously explained to me on the sidewalk on Agrippas St, "When you see the chicken's heart racing and then you witness the end of its life, the experience can really drive home how fragile our existence can be."

Chicken being slaughtered
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This week in Jerusalem

by michael October 02 2008
This week in JerusalemHolidaysThings to do
Marching bands in Jerusalem? How did they ever get in?

You've made it through Rosh Hashanah. Welcome to the Days of Awe. Can you feel the awe? It's everywhere. Traditionally, the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is when God makes his final decision regarding each person's fate for the next year, so for this week in Jerusalem, make sure you're on your best behavior. As always, we're here to help:

  • What's the next best thing to a marching band in New Orleans? Well, probably not a marching band in Jerusalem, but it'll do anyway. Catch Marsh Dondurma tonight at the Yellow Sub
  • While the human race waits impatiently for the Starchild and the Afronauts to return to claim the pyramids, you can stave off your funk jones tomorrow night at the Ma'abada with Jewfro collective Funkenstein.
  • Are you the kind of lady who eats granola-spiked plan yogurt before putting on your colorful headwrap and heading off to learn? Then Reshimu's women's night on Saturday is your kind of affair.
  • Wednesday is Yom Kippur. Nothing going on anywhere. Take a walk!
don't forget to check out the complete listings for the week in our Events section. And keep watching for extra-super-special holiday content. Gmar chatimah tovah, kids.

Image of Marsh Dondurma courtesy of pilcaroo from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
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Happy Rosh Hashana from Jerusalemite

by michael September 29 2008
HolidaysThings to do
Rosh Hashana gifts
 The Rosh Hashana gift baskets pile up in the streets

It's Erev Rosh Hashana (the day before the beginning of the Jewish New Year) in Jerusalem. Shoppers are shoving their way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the shuk to stock up on food for the two-day festival. Traffic chokes the roads as everyone sets off to spend the holiday with family. In the city's hundreds of synagogues, rabbis prepare their yearly homily on Rosh Hashana's opportunities for renewal and repentance. In a few hours, the city will be deserted, almost every shop and restaurant in West Jerusalem closed, the synagogues full and the streets quiet.

5769 is descending upon us all, and what better way to commemorate the birth of the new year by taking a quiet walk around the city built around the spot where, according to the Jewish religion, the world began? Walk through the Old City. Mingle with the crowds at the Kotel. Hike up to the top of the Mount of Olives and look down on the city spread out before you. Take in its subtle grandeur, its amazing stillness on the holy day, and appreciate the fact that you're in the only country in the entire world whose pulse is dictated by the Jewish calendar.

So start dipping those apples in that honey, and may your 5769 be especially sweet and fruitful.

Image courtesy of switch_1010 from Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
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This week in Jerusalem

by michael September 25 2008
This week in JerusalemFor the kidsHolidaysThings to do
Rosh Hashana deliciousness.
Apples, honey, good times: the New Year approaches

Are you feeling duly penitent? Did you say sorry like we told you to? Good! With that ritual chest-beating out of the way, you've earned a bit of fun in these few remaining days before fall holiday season officially kicks off with Rosh Hashana this Monday. And as usual, we have the good leads:

  • It might help your Rosh Hashana penitence to remind yourself how insignificant you are in the cosmic scheme of things, and for that, there's nothing better than stargazing at the Hebrew University tonight.
  • Don't feel like paying 500 NIS to hear Paul McCartney spend 20 endless minutes going "na-na-na-nananana"? Then just swing by Stardust tonight for a night of Beatles nostalgia at a much friendlier price.
  • The Front Stage series of outdoor concerts light up Jerusalem for the last time (this year) tomorrow, with much rootickal riddims inna Zion.
  • Let your kids clamber about the alleyways of Yemin Moshe to the sounds of singing and stories Saturday as "Where Is Mrs. Gabbai?" runs once again.
  • Are you a Christian? Are you feeling a little left out by all this Jewish and Muslim holiday bustle? Don't worry: you've still got the Feast of the Cross to look forward to, and Beit Shmuel is going on a Saturday church tour in its honor.
  • Jews symbolically cast away their sins on Rosh Hashana by throwing bread into water in a ceremony called Tashlikh - but with no real flowing water in the city, Jerusalemites have to get creative. See the city's tashlikh solutions in a Beit Shmuel tour on Tuesday.
  • And of course, the end of a holiday calls for only one kind of celebration: a Big Tisch. Join Moshe Lahav at the Yellow Submarine on Wednesday night.
Expect things to start picking up once the crush of holidays passes, and in the meantime, don't forget to check out the complete listings for the week in our Events section. And don't miss our special holiday content in the coming days and weeks. Shanah tovah!

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