Friday, May 29, 2015

Israel Odyssey Day 9 - North to the Galilee (part 2)

Tsfat (Safed) is probably one of the most interesting towns I've ever visited in all my travels. There's mixture of people and cultures ranging from Hasidic Ashkenazi to mystical Sephardic to non-observant sabras. All mashed together into a very compact area on the top and side of a mountain. It's what a place looks, feels, smells, and sounds like when deeply religious is blended with artistic and occult.

Sephardic shop keeper selling wines and cheeses:

Jewelry artisan:

 Weaver and embroiderer at a fabric and tallis shop:

Street musician (playing North African melodies on an unknown instrument) selling his art work:

Everybody needs a plumber:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Israel Odyssey Day 9 - North to the Galilee (part 1)

After leaving Jerusalem we headed north to the Galilee and the Golan Heights, with a dog leg stop at Caesarea. Caesarea is interesting if you like Roman ruins and history, not so much if your into people (live). The setting is beautiful, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but I wasn't inspired to take any photos. We stayed at a religious kibbutz near Lake Kinneret called Lavi.

The scenery in the Galilee is beautiful, but a stark contrast to the beauty of the Negev. The Golan Heights is just a big plateau leading into Syria. Standing on the edge of the heights looking east, it's easy to see why Israel annexed the territory and refuses to cede control. The entire north of Israel is completely exposed to any military positions on the heights.

The most enjoyable part of the visit to the north was the time spent in Tsfat (also spelled Safed). It's an ancient city built on a mountain looking over a valley and off in the distance you can see Mount Meron which is the highest peak in Israel except for those in the Golan Heights. Mount Meron is the burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai whose death is celebrated on Lag B'Omer. He was a disciple of Rabbi Akiva and is credited with writing the Zohar, the chief work of the Kabbala.

The presence of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbala, is very prominent in Tsfat which is considered the home of the movement. There are many synagogues that reflect it's teachings, and the city of Tsfat is home to a large artist's colony and many shops displaying art with mystical overtones.

A bookseller in the shuk:

Street peddler selling freshly made slurpies:

Artist working in his shop in the shuk:

Narrow alley of the shuk lined with many shops:

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Israel Odyssey Day 8 Nahala'ot (part 3)

The market at Machine Yehuda was such rich pickings for shooting, I had to devote one more post to it.

Halvah salesman:

A variety of Israeli faces:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Israel Odyssey Day 8 Nahala'ot (part 2)

One of the most picturesque areas of Jerusalem to my taste was the open air market of Machane Yehudah. It's a small section of the Nahala'ot neighborhood that has vendors of dried fruits and nuts, halvah, baked goods, meats, with some scattered coffee shops and other vendors. Beginning on Wednesday afternoon and all day on Thursday the market is a beehive of activity. On Friday morning and afternoon, when Jerusalemites are finishing their shopping for Shabbat the streets and alleys are just about impassible. I had but an hour or so to spend there, but on my next trip back I plan to spend many days there.

An artist selling his latest work:

Tasting the merchandise before buying:

Age-old pastime of people watching:

Meat market:


Lunch vendor:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Israel Odyssey Day 8 Nahala'ot (part 1)

The neighborhood of Nahala'ot was one of my two favorite areas of Jerusalem (the other being the Old City, and especially the Kotel). It's a neighborhood rich in history and tradition, and a street photographer's paradise - especially the covered street market called Machaneh Yehudah. Showing the area to its greatest advantage will require several blog posts. For the purposes of this post here's some information (I suggest a search on Wikipedia for more).

In 1867 Mark Twain wrote of his travels in the Middle East in a book entitled Innocents Abroad. He wrote with his usual acerbic whit in describing the walled old city of Jerusalem (the walls were built in the early 1500's by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent): 'It seems to me that all the races and colors and tongues of the earth must be represented among the fourteen thousand souls that dwell in Jerusalem. Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt, those signs and symbols that indicate the presence of Moslem rule more surely than the crescent-flag itself abound. Lepers, cripples, the blind, and the idiotic assail you on every hand, and they know but one word of but one language apparently - the eternal "bucksheesh". To see the numbers of maimed, malformed and diseased humanity that throng the holy places and obstruct the gates, one might suppose that the ancient days had come again, and that the angel of death was expected to descend at any moment to stir the waters of Bethesda. Jerusalem is mournful, and dreary, and lifeless. I would not desire to live here.'

The conditions were so awful that when Sir Moses Montefiore visited he determined that the only way for civilization to progress was to begin to build outside the walls. He financially supported the founding of Maskeret Moshe (memorial to Moses) as a neighborhood for Ashkenazi Jews, and of an adjacent neighborhood called Ohel Moshe for Sephardic Jews. Both of these areas have been integrated into the area of Jerusalem now called Nahala'ot.

The neighborhood is mostly residential with narrow streets and alleys. All of the buildings - as in all of Jerusalem proper - are constructed of Jerusalem Stone (albeit of varying quality), which gives the city a pleasing overall look.

 One of the main thoroughfares is Agrippa Street which is filled with commercial stores, and forms one border of the Machine Yehudi covered market (much more on that in subsequent posts).

There are many small synagogues in the neighborhood. One that was particularly striking was Hessed Verahamim, a sephardic synagogue that at one time was a pub. The doors are covered with 12 silver plates illustrating the twelve biblical tribes of the Israelites.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Israel Odyssey Day 7

On Shabbat we spent part of the day in the arab souk which is part of the Christian Quarter of the Old City, and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. That evening we attended a light show that is projected on the walls of David's Citadel in the Christian Quarter.

At the Jaffa Gate, returning home after Shabbat services at the Kotel:

In the Christian Quarter:

The Arab Souk:

The entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher:

The interior of the Dome of the Church, with light beams shining on the rock that originally covered the cave opening of Jesus' burial place:

The walls of David's Citadel at night, before the beginning of the light show:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Street Stuff

I've been in a slump since I returned from Israel. I go out for walks, but hardly press the shutter. As Sherlock Holmes would say - I look but I don't see. I felt the same today as I walked around midtown. The only way to break the slump is to get out and shoot. So here's what I got.

A scene like this'll get my juices flowing .... FAST!

Looking at you:

Big Ape: