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Oh how Jerusalem loves her paradesby josh • October 14 2008
Holidays, For the kids, Municipal news, Things to do
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.
Photo of parade by Harry Rubenstein for Jerusalemite.
Hut cuisine for Sukkot in Jerusalemby michael • October 13 2008
Holidays, Food, Things 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).
Photo of Cafe Rimon's highly decorated 2007 sukkah by Ben Jacobson for Jerusalemite.
A conversation with Shimon Vaknin, four species vendorby simone • October 12 2008
Interview, Holidays, Shopping
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 seems 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).
Wanna Chol lot of Moedby michael • October 10 2008
Things to do, For the kids, Holidays
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:
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.
Yom Kippur is almost upon usby michael • October 08 2008
Holidays, Things to do
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.
Canticles for Leibowitzes, Jabbaris and Smiths: Abu Ghosh music festival returnsby josh • October 07 2008
Music, Holidays, Things to do
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.
Image courtesy of the Abu Ghosh Music Festival.
Kapparot in Jerusalemby harry • October 06 2008
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."
This week in Jerusalemby michael • October 02 2008
This week in Jerusalem, Holidays, Things 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:
Image of Marsh Dondurma courtesy of pilcaroo from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
Happy Rosh Hashana from Jerusalemiteby michael • September 29 2008
Holidays, Things to do
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.
Image courtesy of switch_1010 from Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
This week in Jerusalemby michael • September 25 2008
This week in Jerusalem, For the kids, Holidays, Things to do
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:
Image courtesy of stu_spivack from Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
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