Thursday, January 18, 2018

The only thing to fear is fear itself and beautiful pictures of  Prague Day two

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Returning to a Place

If you were once in a place and have been away from it for a while, you can easily build up in your imagination how wonderful it would be to return.

But before deciding to move back, clarify if your feelings are a product of imagination or are based on reality.

Love Yehuda Lave

THE FEAR FACTOR

We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all. Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Courage is knowing what not to fear. Plato

 

Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Francis of Assisi

 

If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. Dale Carnegie

 

I have a wish. It as a fear as well - that in my end will be my beginning.

Che Guevara

 

As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it. Chanakya

 

Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.

Nelson Mandela

 

Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it. Salvador Dali

 

I'll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear. I mean really, no fear!

Nina Simone

 

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. Sun Tzu

 

Limits, like fear, is often an illusion. Michael Jordan

 

Fear not for the future, weep not for the past. Percy Bysshe

 

Fears are nothing more than a state of mind. Napoleon Hill

 

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. James Stephens

 

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Franklin D. Roosevelt

This is sad news as he has been a great friend to the Jews

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch says he is retiring after four decades in Senate Tuesday, January 2, 2018, 11:34 AM ET

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah says he will not seek re-election after serving more than 40 years in the U.S. Senate.

The Lion, the Jackals, and the United Nations

Rationalist Judaism: The Lion, the Jackals, and the United Nations


Here is an article that was published in the Jerusalem Post. But first, some great news! In the previous post, I wrote about the need for a new weekly centrist Orthodox magazine that would feature women rather than criminals. One person wrote to me and said that he has the know-how and experience to make it happen, but not the resources. Another person wrote to me and said that he has the resources to make it happen, but not the know-how or experience. Voilà! I made the shidduch, and let's see what happens!

The Lion, the Jackals, and the United Nations
The recent spectacular events at the United Nations with Nikki Haley and the State of Israel were not just a political drama. At another level, there has been a wildlife drama playing out.

In 1755, Voltaire attacked the authenticity of Scripture, referring to the account of Samson capturing three hundred foxes, tying them to fire-brands and setting them to the crops of the Philistines. Voltaire mocked the story, noting that it is impossible to find three hundred foxes at any one time. Foxes are solitary creatures; if one finds a fox, there will not be another anywhere nearby.

But Voltaire was making a fundamental mistake. The creatures that Samson captured were not foxes. The Hebrew word shu'al does not refer to the fox. Instead, it refers to an animal in the same family: the jackal. Whereas foxes are solitary animals, jackals band together in large groups. The reason for the mistranslation was that Biblical scholarship had moved away from the Land of Israel and into Europe, where there were no jackals and people were unfamiliar with them. The animals of the Bible are the animals of the Land of Israel. Translators and readers of the Bible always interpret its animal life in terms of the animals with which they are familiar; but if they are living in the United States or Europe, then the animals with which they are familiar are not necessarily going to be the right animals. It was not foxes that Samson captured, but rather a pack of jackals.

In 1981, the Democratic Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote an article entitled "Joining the Jackals," in which he sharply criticized the Carter Administration for supporting an anti-Israel resolution in the UN. The title was borrowed from an earlier Washington Post editorial of the same title, which described the UN as a pack of jackals that shamelessly hounds Israel. Moynihan observed that the Carter Administration's downfall was brought about by a failed approach to the UN, which was in denial of the innate hostility of the UN towards both the United States and Israel, and which failed to stand up for true moral standards.

Three thousand years ago, Jerusalem became the capital of the Jewish nation of Israel, where it housed the Temple (though the Palestinians and UNESCO continue to deny this simple historical fact). Throughout the exile and dispersion, the Jewish people prayed for the rebuilding of this city, which finally happened with the modern State of Israel. The emblem of the city of Jerusalem is the lion, which appears in last week's Torah portion as the symbol of the tribe of Judah. Judah was the tribe from which the kings of Israel arose, and was therefore symbolized by the lion, king of beasts. The kings of Israel reigned from the capital city of Jerusalem, which the prophet Isaiah called Ariel, "lion of God."

When the United States—first Congress in 1995, and then President Trump and Nikki Haley last week—acknowledged Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel, they took on the lion's cause. And, when they stood against the condemnations of the world, they took on the lion's courage. Proverbs 30:30 declares that "The lion is the mightiest of animals, and does not turn away before anyone." The original Hebrew of this verse, velo yashuv mipnei kol, can perhaps more accurately be translated as saying that the lion does not turn away even before everyone. It is not just any individual animal of which the lion is unafraid; it is not even afraid of masses of animals together. Not even a huge pack of jackals. The United States has adopted the lion's cause, and, like the lion, it has stood unafraid of the jackals.

The Mishnah (Avot 4:15) states, in its common translation, "Be a tail to lions and not a head to foxes." Yet as with Samson, the animals being mentioned here are not foxes, but rather jackals. Be a tail to lions, and not a head to jackals—it is better to attach oneself to greater entities, even as an insignificant follower, then to be in a leadership position with lowly entities. Guatemala, in stating that it will follow America's lead and move its embassy to Jerusalem, has recognized this, and several other countries are poised to follow suit. Let us hope that other nations will recognize the wisdom and morality in following the leadership of the lion rather than joining the jackals.

Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin is the founder and director of The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org

Pictures of Prague day two

Before our engagement party we visit the beautiful Jewish sites in Prague

Eim Habanim Smeicha By Zelda Goldfield

It seems almost trivial and silly, but it happens again and again.

It is one of the most trying tasks I face when someone after weeks, months or years of illness dies. And it happened again last month, when Chani Weinrot a"h returned her holy soul to her Maker. After three years of davening for her, I find it hard to stop saying her name. I do it automatically, and as soon as her name pops out of my mouth, I try to swallow back the syllables. Then overwhelming sadness follows. I could just cross off her name from my little list in the siddur, but I cringe at so violent an act. Last year when a good friend died – also from cancer – I just rewrote the whole list and omitted her name. I hope she doesn't mind.

I only saw Chani once. It was on erev Rosh Hashanah, 5774, in a packed hall in a Jerusalem community center. My daughter-in-law, Miri, had told me that this inspiring woman writes a compelling weekly column in one of the Hebrew women's weeklies. At the last minute, Miri couldn't make the lecture, so I went alone. I was speaking to Miri on my cell when Chani confidently strode in, beaming her characteristic charismatic smile.

"This is Chani Weinrot?" I gasped over the phone. "She looks so good," I marveled as I closed my phone.

She was wearing a fashionable ensemble, her make-up was perfect and her wig was flowing and buoyant. Chani surveyed the surprised faces in her audience, and began her lecture/shiur/performance.

"I can read minds," she announced dramatically. "I know what you are all thinking right now. You are thinking, 'But she looks so good!!'" She paused and took a deep breath. "Please be informed that I have Stage 4 cancer. And in case any of you don't know – there is no stage 5…"

She then continued to entertain us with details of her preparations for chemo treatments. On her first visit to the ward she was shocked by the doleful atmosphere surrounding the patients and staff. Patients arrived dressed in downcast faces and pajamas. She decided that, henceforth, instead of viewing the day as one of mourning, she would use the opportunity to celebrate. The day before a treatment, she would dash out to Rabbi Akiva Street in Bnei Brak and buy herself something new to wear. In the morning, she would get all dressed up. Her husband would accompany her to the hospital, and after the treatment they would go out on a date. Chani asked her husband if she could perhaps say the shehechiyanu blessing on her new outfit. He laughed in response. "No way, Chani," he said, "you have so many clothes already."
Mingled with laughter came the tears as she described the terrifying fear she endured every month before she opened the envelope with her latest test results. Would the markers go up, G-d forbid, or down, hopefully? It sometimes took her hours before she could muster the courage to open the envelope with the fateful numbers. Each time, it was like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur together. Would she be inscribed in the Book of Life? We in the audience sat in trepidation of the upcoming Days of Awe, yet Chani endured this apprehension on a regular basis.

Chani was diagnosed with cancer shortly after giving birth to her 3rdchild. She was 25. She recovered, but it came back when she was 27. The doctor told her that she had six months to two years left. "How does one live with that verdict?" she was asked. Her reply was that it is only then that one begins to really live. Two years is an eternity.

Initially, she reacted with rejection, anger and despair. She told her husband that all the words of comfort would not help. "You are healthy, but I am sick. You will live, but I will die. You will raise our children, but I will not." But when she internalized that her time was limited, much more so than for most human beings, she resolved to live as much and as well as she could in the years allotted to her. Chani became an international lecturer, began writing a weekly column, mentored support groups, accompanied and supported women with terminal illnesses, wrote three books, learned photography and chronicled her life in a photography exhibition. She accomplished more in the few years she had than most people accomplish in a lifetime. And, she would add with a wink, she beat the statistics and lived for nine years after the diagnosis.

All the while she focused on instilling her children with all the wisdom and happiness she could bequeath to them. She recalls the time she made cookies with her daughter Naomi on her birthday, and went with her to the oncology department to distribute them. The patients were delighted with their young visitor and heaped blessings on her. One man insisted that she remember always that good health is absolutely the most important thing in the world, and that surely her mother had taught her that. Naomi was uncomfortable with the man's words, yet hesitated to contradict an adult. When Chani encouraged her to speak her mind, Naomi told the man that she thinks the most important thing in the world is simcha

Chani worried how she could etch her being in her children's memory. She threw herself into baking more cookies, going on more outings, giving them even more quality time. She even wrote books chronicling her struggle and challenge to live her days as fully and as conscientiously as possible. Then she realized that all this was not necessary. All she had to do was relax and be herself with them – and cherish every moment.

"It isn't fair," Chani complained to Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, who came to visit her in her final days in the hospice. "I am surrounded by flowers and chocolates and friends, even you! Do you know how many people here with broken bodies and souls are all alone? Why have I been singled out for such love and devotion?" Such was Chani's gratitude for all the goodness that Hashem had showered upon her.

Chani brings to mind her namesake Chana, the valiant and G-d-fearing mother of seven sons who chose death rather than bow down to the idol of the Greek King Antiochus in the Chanukah story. According to the Gemara (Gittin 57), when Chana's soul rose to heaven, a bas kol greeted her with the words, "Joyful is the mother of the sons." Chani, too, will be remembered by thousands of us as a jubilant and rejoicing mother and mentor in our nation.

K A H A N E

The magazine of the Authentic Jewish Idea

March-April 1989   Adar-Nissan 5749

 

Arrogance of Ignorance

 

In day days when men were humble enough to know what they were – and what they were not; what they knew – and what they did not, the ignoramus knew his place.  Whatever arrogance existed was the province of those who were, at least, nominally scholars.  And so, while ignorance and arrogance are both attributes to be shunned, their separation was at least a small favor for which to be grateful.  But, times have changed and we are today, victims of the ultimate curse – the arrogance of ignorance.  The unabashed and haughty readiness to display one's abysmal and absurd ignorance before people and congregation is the symbol of our wretched times.

 

The latest exhibitionist of sheer nescience is one Yitzhak Ro'eh, a leftist writer for the Histadrut Daily Davar.  What prompted his latest outburst of superficiality was anger.  Mr. Ro'eh is angry.

 

And why is Mr. Ro'eh angry?  Because, following an attempt by four Arab terrorists to infiltrate into Israel and murder Jews, the Israeli Army superbly met them and eliminated all of them. And then – and this is what causes the blood to rise in Mr. Ro'eh's head – and then, photographers were allowed to snap photos of the dead terrorists who had sought to murder Jews. 

 

"Gevald!" shouts Mr. Ro'eh who – as we will soon see, is a very moral person.  What an outrage against decency and morality to rejoice and exhibit the bodies of four people who attempted to murder Jews and were killed by the Jewish army.  Or in his words:

 

"Every person and his own associations.  When I saw the large color photos of the four terrorists who were eliminated in Lebanon, the following line from the Passover Hagada, began to ring in my ear: 'The work of my hands are drowning in the sea and you sing?'"

 

And Mr. Ro'eh then spends the next four paragraphs detailing all the things that were outrageous about those photographs, and concludes:  "All this adds up to a growing insensitivity, a deepening dulling of the senses… The one who wrote 'do not rejoice when your enemy falls,' would, probably, agree with me:  When your enemy falls do not be photographed with him.

 

One hardly knows where to begin to plough through this trash heap of utterly foul ignorance and arrogance.  But we shall try.  To begin with, the words, "the work of My hands are drowning in the sea…" do not appear anywhere in the Hagada but are to be found in the Babylonian Talmud (Megila 10b and Sanhedrin 39b), an area of Jewish knowledge that remains for Ro'eh the ignoramus, a dark, exotic, virgin area, untouched by him or his study.  Indeed the utter superficiality of the man leads one to wonder whether, when he writes "the one who wrote 'do not rejoice,' etc…,"  does he really know who did write it.

In any event, one more thought before disposing of the arrogant ignoramus.  I am always impressed by the intellectual fraud that is an inevitable part of all the secular haters of Judaism of observant Jews.  They are blessed with an amazing ability to selectively choose what they wish from the very same books of Judaism that are filled with verses, sayings, concepts and laws that run counter to the most basic things in which they believe.  The very same religious books they despise for "racism," "cruelty," "barbarity" and "obscurantism," suddenly become proper repositories of truth when they spy in them a thing that apparently agrees with their own warped concepts.  Intellectual honesty was never the strong suit of the schizophrenic secularists, leftists and Hellenists who lack the courage to entirely drop the Jewishness they so desperately despise.

 

In any event, back to Mr. Ro'eh, so that we can dispose of him before the same people and congregation in whose presence he so arrogantly displayed his naked ignorance.  The need to do this is compounded a thousand times over by the fact that the ignoramus Ro'eh is joined not only by so many semi-ignorant others, but worst of all – by so many tortured Moderdox types who cannot bear to accept the stark truth of authentic Jewish values

 

As always, the Ro'ehs (and others) of the world selectively and very partially quote the Talmud.  The selection they bring down really begins with R. Yeshoshua ben Levi starting his lecture on Megilat Esther with the verse "As the L-rd rejoiced over you ("sas") to do you good, so the L-rd will rejoice over you ("yasis") to cause you to perish." (Dvarim 28).  And the Talmud asks: Does the Almighty then rejoice over the fall of the wicked?  And to prove that he does not rejoice, the story of the angels asking to sing praise is brought.  And this is where Ro'eh, the ignoramus, stops.  But there is more.  The Talmud continues with answers as follows:

 

"Rabbi Elazar said:  it is true that He does not rejoice, but he causes others to rejoice."

 

Ah, what a difference.  And a clear answer to the obvious question:  If G-d does not want us to rejoice and praise Him when our enemy falls why in the world does it say:  "Then Moses and the children of Israel sing this song unto the L-rd…?" (Shmot15) 

 

And a clear answer to why the rabbis say:  (Mechilta, B'shalach, II):  "The L-rd shall perform for you miracles and glories and you will stand and do nothing?  Said Israel unto Moses: What are we to do?  Said he unto them:  You will glorify and praise and give song and glory and greatness to the One to whom wars belong."

 

Of course the Almighty, the totality of compassion, the Father of all, grieves for His children – all of them.  He does not sing.  His angels, who are not of this world, do not sing.  But the Jews do.  Not only are they allowed to, they are commanded to… For the very same reason that the very same Almighty, though He does not sing, does destroy the work of His hands because they are evil.

 

Yes, of course He grieves.  He grieves that those who were made in His image have so perverted and destroyed the greatness of that image.  That those who were made in the image of good, were so evil.  And so, He grieves for the perversion of His purpose in making the world, for His works that have so gone astray.  And in His grief He does not have pity:  He destroys them: He knows that evil and He cannot share the same world, as our rabbis say:  "As long as the wicked rule in the world, the Holy One Blessed be He, so to speak, cannot sit on His throne." (Yalkut Tehilim, Chapter 47).

 

And so, because the arrogance of the enemy of the Jewish people, their brazen persecution of the people of G-d with no fear of G-d, is the very essence of Hillul Hashem, the Almighty in wrath destroys them and the Children of Israel must sing and glorify G-d.  And thus do the rabbis declare (Shmot Raba 23):  "then did Moses and the Children of Israel sing," this is what is meant by the verse (Psalms' 9):  "The L-rd is known by the judgment He executes."  This speaks of Egypt whom G-d smote at the Red Sea."

 

The seal of the Almighty is truth and only that truth will emerge from His lips and His teachings.  One imagines the agony of the soul that Ro'eh must endure every Purim as all the misguided and insensitive and sense-dulled Jews celebrate, rejoice and drink to the death of their enemy, Haman.  One sees the lonely Ro'eh the lost of the Just sitting gloomily alone in his apartment, bemoaning the spiritual fall of the Jew and the spread of Kahanism among us all.  Even as the Jewish people rejoice on Purim. Mr. Roe'h sits with the following ringing through his ear:  "The work of My hand…"

 

Donkey,  Immoral Moralist, Arrogant Ignoramus.  He opposes rejoicing over the death of those who would destroy us.  The Donkey of Morality – Yitzhak Ro'e

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Rabbi Yehuda Lave

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

First Temple stamp found in excavations at Western Wall

Do It Once ion »

When fighting against the evil inclination, use the same strategy he uses. When he tries to prevent you from doing good deeds, tell him, 'It's just for this once,' or, 'I'm only going to start doing a little bit,' and similar statements that will enable you to get started. This way of talking to yourself lessens the difficulty of a task.

Think of a good deed that you would want to do, but don't do because you feel it will be difficult for you to continue doing it. Imagine that you will do it only once. Then take action.
Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Raziel Shevach, 35, was brutally murdered in a road shooting near his home in Havat Gilad. The terrorists sprayed 22 bullets at his car before escaping into the darkness.

The murder not only robs the world of a brilliant scholar and a man of kindness and compassion. It also leaves his six small children without a father, and a whole family without its primary provider.

The oldest is only 10 years old. The youngest is only eight months, and will never know what it means to have a father.

Rabbi Shevach also leaves behind his parents, two brothers, and a sister who is due to be married in a month. Rabbi Shevach was set to officiate the ceremony.

OneFamily has reached out to the Shevach family. We are at their side through the difficult mourning period and will continue to be there through the stages of grieving that follow. We will stay at their side as long as they need us so that they never feel alone.

As the wave of bullets struck him in his neck and chest, Rabbi Shevach managed to call his wife to ask for help. Those were his final words. He was barely conscious when the ambulance came, and his heart stopped beating before he arrived at the hospital.

Rabbi Shevach worked as an educator in a local yeshiva and served as a mohel (who performs circumcisions on infants) for his local community. He was also a volunteer medic and first-responder with Magen David Adom (MDA). He was deeply-loved in his community and beyond.

His funeral took place in his hometown of Havat Gilad. His widow, Yael, said he had left instructions to bury him there if anything ever happened to him, and she honored his request. Hundreds of people attended, many openly sobbing inconsolably.

His wife is a high school teacher. She now has to raise six small children on her own.

A donation now will ease the burden on the Shevach family and others who are suffering from ruthless acts of terror. Please help us ensure that they have everything they need.

Our hearts go out to the family of the bereaved and to all others who suffer at the hands of terrorists.

We thank you for your support at this time.

Hidden gems of Jerusalem

A mission to reveal treasures that are inaccessible to the general public, and others that are just out of sight

  • Former military compound and prison, the Kishle, accessibly only via organized tours. (Noam Chen)
    Former military compound and prison, the Kishle, accessibly only via organized tours. (Noam Chen)
  • Contrast between old and new, the Siebenberg House.
    Contrast between old and new, the Siebenberg House.
  • Brought home from Italy in 1952, the Italian Synagogue.
    Brought home from Italy in 1952, the Italian Synagogue.
  • Artists were flown in from Italy for the restoration of the Chapel, the Italian Synagogue.
    Artists were flown in from Italy for the restoration of the Chapel, the Italian Synagogue.
  • Nestled among the modern buildings of the Rehavia neighborhood, Jason's Tomb.
    Nestled among the modern buildings of the Rehavia neighborhood, Jason's Tomb.
  • Underground medieval halls with a large reservoir of water, Helena's Well, named after St. Helena who built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
    Underground medieval halls with a large reservoir of water, Helena's Well, named after St. Helena who built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
  • The Coptic Monastery through which Helena's Well is reached.
    The Coptic Monastery through which Helena's Well is reached.
  • Almost unknown to the public, the Little Western Wall.
    Almost unknown to the public, the Little Western Wall.
  • A feast to the eye, inside the Church of St. John the Baptist.
    A feast to the eye, inside the Church of St. John the Baptist.
  • The crossroad between the Mamluk Halls and the Western Wall Tunnels.
    The crossroad between the Mamluk Halls and the Western Wall Tunnels.We all know that each city we visit has its "must-see" sites and attractions. First-time visitors to Jerusalem usually go to the Western Wall, the Old City market and the Tower of David, to name a few of the city's most famous landmarks.

But a city that dates back thousands of years, with rich history unlike any other on earth, has much more than meets the eye. So much so that even its own residents are sometimes not aware of what lies nearby, above their heads or beneath their feet.

I have spent many years photographing Jerusalem, and I have seen its many sides. Almost every time I went back to the city, there was something new I hadn't seen before.

I recently teamed up with local tour guide Jacob Bildner, an expert in tours of the city, and together we set out on a special mission to uncover the hidden world of Jerusalem. Jacob was instrumental in helping me discover some of the city's most fascinating secrets, from sites that are not accessible to the public to places that are literally hidden from sight. The rapport he has built with the communities connected to each site was invaluable in securing private access to many of those that we visited.

Exploring these sites was a mind-blowing and unforgettable trip to the past, unveiling even more layers of the holy city.

I have gathered eight of these hidden gems to show you a side of Jerusalem that you might not have seen:

The Kishle

The Kishle was established in 1834 to serve as a military compound. During the British Mandate in the Land of Israel, it was used as a police station and prison where Jewish underground members were incarcerated. Some prisoners left their mark on the walls, including the emblem of the Irgun (The National Military Organization in the Land of Israel), which can be seen close to the entrance.

Archaeologists excavating the site have unearthed findings from almost every period in Jerusalem's history, from the fortifications of King Hezekiah during the First Temple period to the remains of Herod's Palace, which stretched all the way to Mount Zion.

The Kishle was opened to the public in November 2015 and is now a part of the Tower of David Museum. It is accessible only with organized tours.

A road less traveled. The path leading from the Tower of David to the Kishle. (Noam Chen)
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Former military compound and prison, the Kishle. (Noam Chen)

Siebenberg House

The Siebenberg House is one of the most intriguing hidden treasures of Jerusalem.

It all began when Theo Siebenberg, a European Jew who managed to flee Europe during World War II and reach the United States. By 1970, he had moved to Jerusalem and purchased a home in the heart of the Jewish Quarter.

Surrounded by history everywhere, he was eager to uncover the ancient Jewish heritage in the holy city. He began to excavate underneath his own home.

His years of excavations revealed a timeline of some 3,000 years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, all hidden under one house. Some of the astonishing finds included burial vaults from the First Temple period, an aqueduct and mikvahs (ritual baths) from the Second Temple period, incredibly preserved artifacts and more.

On one of the ancient walls you can even see black coal that archaeologists have confirmed is a remnant of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.

Following the excavations, Theo decided to turn his house into a museum which opened in 1987. The first floor of the house is renovated and modern, but going downstairs you literally step back in time into a completely different world.

The Siebenberg House is currently closed to the general public.

Siebenberg House (4)
A secret door to 3,000 years of history, currently closed to the public. (Noam Chen)
Siebenberg House (5)
Modern and renovated upstairs, an ancient world downstairs. The Siebenberg House. (Noam Chen)
Siebenberg House (3)
Breathtaking contrast between old and new, the Siebenberg House. (Noam Chen)
Siebenberg House (2)
Findings from the First and Second Temple periods, the lower floor of the Siebenberg House. (Noam Chen)
Siebenberg House (1)
Ancient artifacts found during the excavations, the Siebenberg House. (Noam Chen)

The Italian Synagogue

The story of this beautiful synagogue began in a small town called Conegliano Veneto, in northeast Italy, in the 16th century. The Jewish community of Conegliano used to pray in this very synagogue up until World War I.

Its Holy Ark, with remarkable golden carved wooden decorations, still bears e dedication to Rabbi Nathan Ottolengo, who passed away in Conegliano in 1615. By the end of World War II there were practically no Jews left in Conegliano and the synagogue was left abandoned. Following the war, a group of Italian immigrants decided to have the complete interior of the synagogue relocated to Jerusalem, which they achieved in 1952. The location chosen was an old stone compound in the heart of Jerusalem, where the synagogue once again opened its doors. It remains open to this day.

Another interesting fact about the place is that it's probably the only synagogue in the country that is built above a Catholic chapel. The chapel was built in 1886 in the old compound, which at that time served as a school and hospice for pilgrims to the Holy Land called the German Catholic Institution. The institution was later moved to a different location, leaving the chapel behind. When the Italian Synagogue claimed its place in the compound, the chapel became an integral part of it.

In recent years the chapel underwent restoration by Italian artists who were flown in especially for that task.

The Italian Synagogue is also home to the Museum of Italian Jewish Art, showcasing Jewish life in Italy throughout history.

The synagogue and museum are open Sunday to Thursday; the chapel is open only for special occasions. Services are held on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

italian-synagogue-jerusalem (1)
The Jerusalem home of the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)
italian-synagogue-jerusalem (4)
Venice in Jerusalem, the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)
italian-synagogue-jerusalem (5)
Brought home from Italy in 1952, the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)
italian-synagogue-jerusalem (2)
The Catholic chapel, part of the synagogue today. (Noam Chen)
italian-synagogue-jerusalem (3)
Artists were flown in from Italy for the restoration of the chapel, the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)
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Museum of Italian Jewish Art, the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)

Jason's Tomb

Jason's Tomb is an ancient rock-carved burial tomb dating back to the Second Temple period. Jason was a high priest during the second century BCE, as described in the Second Book of Maccabees. His name appears in the carved inscriptions on the walls of the structure.

The tomb, located in the heart of the Rehavia neighborhood, was discovered in 1956 when a new residential building was under construction. It was later decided to conserve the ancient tomb and not to go ahead with the building project. The tomb now nestles among the new and modern buildings of the Rehavia neighborhood, making it a truly hidden wonder. The contrast between the neighborhood and this ancient tomb is nothing short of fascinating, and is a true testament that history is everywhere in Jerusalem.

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Nestled among the modern buildings of the Rehavia neighborhood, Jason's Tomb. (Noam Chen)
jason's-tomb (2)
Rock-carved burial tomb from the Second Temple period, Jason's Tomb. (Noam Chen)
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A sharp contrast to the new buildings, Jason's Tomb. (Noam Chen)

Helena's Well

Just above the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and near the 9th Station of the Cross, there's a tiny Coptic Monastery that many visitors have probably passed through. Hidden deep inside the monastery is an even tinier entrance followed by 51 stairs leading to Helena's Well, which consists of underground medieval halls and a large reservoir of water. It was named after St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, who arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century and who discovered where Jesus was crucified and buried. It is believed that when St. Helena built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she used water from this well.

To access the well you'll need permission from the resident priest, who usually asks for a small donation to get you in. It's worth it.

helena's-well (1)
A tiny entrance, followed by 51 stairs, leads to Helena's Well. (Noam Chen)
helena's-well (3)
Underground medieval halls with a large reservoir of water, Helena's Well.The Times of Israel

Western Wall Plaza Excavations Yield First Temple Hebrew-Inscribed Message

A stamped piece of clay from the First Temple period (seventh to sixth centuries BCE), which belonged to the "governor of the city" of Jerusalem – the most prominent local position to be held in Jerusalem of 2700 years ago – was unearthed in archaeological works in the Western Wall Plaza, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and in association with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

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This extraordinary find is a lump of clay, stamped and pre-fired. It measures 13 X 15 mm and is 2–3 mm thick. The upper part of the seal depicts two figures facing each other, and the lower part holds an inscription in ancient Hebrew script.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat with the First Temple period seal that says 'Governor of the City.' Photograph: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The seal was presented to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, during his visit to Davidson's Center, near the Western Wall, last week. After the completion of the scientific research, the seal will be on temporary exhibit in the mayor's office.

The seal, its purpose unknown, was retrieved by an IAA employee named Shimon Cohen, who was wet-sieving the soil from a late First Temple-period building.

The Seal up close. / Photo credit: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, the IAA excavator of the site—located in the northwestern part of the western Wall Plaza—believes that "the seal had been attached to an important transport and served as some sort of logo, or as a tiny souvenir, which was sent on behalf of the governor of the city."

She further suggested that "it is likely that one of the buildings in our excavation was the destination of this transport sent by the city governor. The finding of the seal with this high-rank title, in addition to the large assemblage of actual seals found in the building in the past, supports the assumption that this area, located on the western slopes of the western hill of ancient Jerusalem, some 100 m west of the Temple Mount, was inhabited by highly ranked officials during the First Temple period."

"This is the first time that such a seal is found in an authorized excavation. It supports the biblical rendering of the existence of a governor of the city in Jerusalem 2700 years ago," she noted.

The IAA excavations in the Western Wall plaza, where the seal was found. / Photo credit: Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah

Prof. Tallay Ornan of the Hebrew University, and Prof. Benjamin Sass of Tel Aviv University, studied the seal. "Above a double line are two standing men, facing each other in a mirror-like manner," they described it, adding, "Their heads are depicted as large dots, lacking any details. The hands facing outward are dropped down, and the hands facing inward are raised Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment."

"In the register beneath the double line is an inscription in ancient Hebrew: 'LSARIR,' לשרער with no spacing between the words and no definite article. It denotes 'Lesar Ha'Ir,' meaning 'belonging to the governor of the city,'" they concluded.

Prof. Ornan and Prof. Sass added that "the title 'governor of the city' is known from the Bible and from extra-biblical documents, referring to an official appointed by the king. Governors of Jerusalem are mentioned twice in the Bible: in 2 Kings, Joshua is the governor of the city in the days of King Hezekiah, and in 2 Chronicles, Maaseiah is the governor of the city in the days of King Josiah."

The IAA excavations in the Western Wall plaza, where the seal was found. / Photo credit: Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat related, when the find was presented to him, that "it is overwhelming to receive greetings from First Temple-period Jerusalem. This shows that as early as 2,700 years ago, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was a strong and central city. Jerusalem is one of the most ancient capitals of the world, continually populated by the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years."

"Today, we have the privilege to encounter another one of the long chain of persons and leaders that built and developed the city. We are grateful to be living in a city with such a magnificent past, and are obligated to ensure its strength for generations to come, as we daily do," the mayor said.

According to Dr. Yuval Baruch, Archaeologist of the Jerusalem District in the IAA, "The outstanding significance of the finds brought upon the decision to conserve the First Temple-period building exposed in the Western Wall plaza excavations and open it to visitors".

Conservation work at the site, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was carried out by Yossi Vaknin and Haim Makuriya.

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When you lose weight, your fat cells don't just let go of fat

Belly flab is like a storage unit for the rest of your body.

Every January, fat's in the crosshairs of health columnists, fitness magazines, and desperate Americans. This year, PopSci looks at the macronutrient beyond its most negative associations. What's fat good for? How do we get it to go where we want it to? Where does it wander when it's lost? This, my friends, is Fat Month.

fat cells

Mmmmmm, fat!

If cells were personified, each fat cell would be an overbearing grandparent who hoards. They're constantly trying to make you eat another serving of potatoes, and have cabinets stacked with vitamins they never take.

Like that grandparent, your fat cells are always trying to store stuff. Fats? Of course. Vitamins? Heck yeah. Hormones? You bet. Random pollutants and toxins? Sure. Adipose tissue will soak all that up like an oily little sponge and keep it safe until you need it again. That's the whole point of body fat—to store energy for you. When you lose weight, your fat cells start shrinking, releasing lipids and other fats into your bloodstream. These get broken down, and eventually the smaller molecules exit via your urine or breath.

But adipose cells release all the other molecules they've hoarded, too. That includes key hormones like estrogen, along with fat-soluble vitamins and any organic pollutants that found their way into your bloodstream as you gained weight.

Adipose tissue's tendency to store things is an unfortunate side-effect, because often we need those things to be circulating, not sitting around. Take hormones, for instance. Female body fat actually produces some of its own estrogen in addition to storing it, and the more adipose tissue a person has, the more estrogen they're exposed to. This is why being overweight puts you at an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Many types of breast cancer are caused by malfunctions in estrogen receptors, which are more likely to go haywire when more estrogen is around to stimulate them.

Vitamins pose the opposite problem. Adipose sucks up available fat-soluble vitamins (those stashed in adipose tissue instead of being excreted in your outgoing urine)— A, D, E, and K—and often doesn't leave enough for the rest of your body. Studies suggest that obese people tend to suffer from vitamin D deficiencies because it's all lurking in their adipose tissue. These vitamins can come back out as you lose weight, and as you decrease your body fat, you also allow more of your new vitamin D to stay in your bloodstream. Water-soluble compounds can just be peed out if you take too much of them, but because the vitamins stored in your adipose tissue can continue to build up you can eventually overdose on them. It's rare, but it does happen.

Fat is also a (temporarily) safe space to store pollutants and other organic chemicals that might otherwise pose a threat. Organochlorine pesticides build up in fat, as do the polychlorinated biphenyls in coolant fluids and other chemicals from the "dirty dozen" of environmental contaminants. These banned chemicals can get into your food supply in small quantities and are stored in your fat, possibly because your body wants to sequester them away from your organs. Bodies don't seem to store enough of these to become toxic, but the constant build-up leaves you vulnerable to exposure. And they do start to re-emerge when you lose weight.

Since you're not eliminating all of your body fat at once, this doesn't seem to pose a problem for most people. You're dumping toxins into your bloodstream, but you're also eliminating them through your pee. There's some evidence that certain pollutants—so-called "persistent organic pollutants"—can stick around in your body fat for years, but so far it seems that natural toxin-elimination methods (also known as peeing) work well enough to get rid of them.

Safe or not, it's best not to give your body a spot to stash all the hormones and vitamins it can hoard. Our bodies aren't designed to hold onto excess body fat and stay healthy—that's why obesity is a risk factor for so many diseases. Getting rid of fat storage is just another reason to try and cut down on your own adiposity this year. Letting someone shame you into thinking you don't look the way you should is not a wise reason to lose weight, but doing it to be healthier usually is.

Just think: every time you lose a pound of fat, you've also literally detoxed yourself without ever having to do one of those terrible juice cleanses ( which, by the way, do not work). You've used the power of your own body's filtration systems to get rid of them—and it will thank you for it

See you Tomorrow
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