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September 2, 2012

Israel @ Heart for the Week of Sept. 2nd

by City of Ariel

Jerusalem’s historic Montefiore Mill restored after 136 years

The Montefiore Windmill was the first work place for Jews outside the Old City of Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu said of it, “My childhood memories are of this place. We would play soccer in the field and, from time to time, we would come here and this, of course, was Jerusalem then.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the inauguration of the historic Montefiore Windmill on Tuesday.

(Israel Hayom) – After standing still for over 100 years, the sails of Jerusalem’s iconic Montefiore Windmill turned once again on Tuesday.

The historic windmill, built in the neighborhood of Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1857, was the first work place for Jews outside the Old City of Jerusalem. The structure has now been restored to working order and will serve as an educational and tourism site, and can even produce bread. The windmill has had new systems installed and its sails were imported from Britain.

The inside of the renovated 19th century mill will feature a movie screening of the site’s history.

The windmill was restored with the assistance of the Jerusalem Foundation, donations from the Netherlands and the Prime Minister’s Office Heritage Program. The windmill’s facade was restored and machinery was installed to enable the arms to turn in the wind.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the inauguration event on Tuesday. Netanyahu thanked the representatives from the Netherlands present at the event: “I don’t believe that the Jewish State and Modern Zionism would have been possible without Christian Zionism … We value our friends, and we never forget them, and we think that you have helped establish here a powerful memorial to our friendship and our common ideals.”

Netanyahu spoke of the site’s importance both to Israel and to him on a personal level.

“Moses Montefiore made a great and significant contribution to Jews’ leaving the walls. He contributed to their economic base during a very difficult time, even as Baron Rothschild supported the early communities. Beyond the economic support, he also assisted Jews with know-how on managing enterprises and developing the economy of the future Israel. This double contribution was expressed here in this neighborhood and this windmill.

“My childhood memories are of this place. First of all, I studied not far from here, on the other side of the street. We would play soccer in the field and, from time to time, we would come here and this, of course, was Jerusalem then, which was still divided by walls and we would look from here, it was not simple. There were all kinds of security questions here; as a boy and a youth, I remember these restrictions. But this was the scenery of my youth and it is said that a man is always defined by the scenery of his youth. We grew up with the windmill, this windmill which always served as a symbol for us. Today, I know that couples about to be married come here to be photographed, and people celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs here.

“For us, this was a constant celebration but today it is a special celebration, because we are marking the restoration of this asset which will serve all residents of Jerusalem and Israel, as well as the tourists who come here, and this is a symbol of the spirit of Jerusalem.”

The windmill will at first open Sunday through Thursday but is expected to soon open all days of the week after guides have been fully trained.


Preparing for Battle: The Nahal Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion

Aug 28, 2012 by – The Reconnaissance Battalion of the Nachal brigade held an intensive drill where the soldiers imitated real-life war situations. Staff Sgt. Daniel Parker is a soldier in the Nachal Reconnaissance Batallion, after deciding to make Aliyah and moving to Israel to become an Israeli citizen and soldier. “Being able to give back and defend my people is something that is very important to me.


City of David – Fortifications of the Gihon Spring

by – City of David, In 1995, when the Ir David Foundation began construction of a new visitor’s center above the Gihon Spring, startled workers uncovered a wealth of archeology buried deep underground. Construction was immediately halted in favor of a massive archeological effort.

To date, the excavations have unearthed the remains of a massive fortressed compound built in the Middle Bronze Period, close to 3,800 years ago, whose function was to protect a large pool that collected the diverted waters of the Gihon Spring. A secret underground tunnel led the inhabitants of Jerusalem deep into the earth to draw their water from this pool when the city was under siege.

A small shaft uncovered directly over the source of the Gihon Spring sheds light on the story of the coronation of the young King Solomon “on the Gihon” as his mother Bathsheba, Nathan the Prophet and the People of Israel cheered on as recorded in Kings I, 1:38.


Jerusalem nights in the City of David

As evening sets over the city, a tranquil atmosphere descends upon the ancient site. Artistic lighting highlights the antiquities, and in the King’s Garden, between the ancient olive trees, the musical sounds of a harp can be heard over a hot cup of coffee.

by – Every Thursday evenings, the City of David National Park will be offering a different type of experience. As evening sets over the city, a tranquil atmosphere descends upon the ancient site. Artistic lighting highlights the antiquities, and in the King’s Garden, between the ancient olive trees, the musical sounds of a harp can be heard over a hot cup of coffee.

Our evening experience begin with a night-time overlook of the city at our “Hatzofeh” lookout point from which one can understand the unique location of the Biblical City of David in relationship to Jerusalem’s Old City walls. An impressive 3D movie of Jerusalem’s glorious history is followed by a night-time guided tour of the City of David site, accompanied by stunning lighting displays that highlight the newest archaeological discoveries from the Biblical Period. The tour continues to the Royal Quarter (Area G) where a new and artistic light show is screened against the backdrop of the antiquities, telling the story of the City of David through sounds and lights.


Jewish Star Winner releases Hebrew cover

Jewish Star 2012 winner Dovid Moskovits has released Sa’eni Nah, a Hebrew cover of the song “You Raise Me Up.”

(Arutz Sheva) – The 2012 winner of the A Jewish Star singing competitio Dovid Moskovits has released a new song, Sa’eni Nah (“Lift Me Up” in Hebrew).

Written by Zvika Bornstein with music by Rolf Lovland, Moskovits’ song marks the first time that the song “You Raise Me Up” has been covered in Hebrew. The touching lyrics transcend language and culture, speaking words of solace and comfort that are universal.

Sa’eni Nah is simultaneously haunting yet hopeful, as the poignant lyrics describe how children through the ages have endured tremendous suffering and tribulations, yet have been comforted by the knowledge that they are never alone, even at their darkest hour.

Dovid’s soaring vocals give voice to the trials and heartache of Jewish children over the years, with a particular nod to the children of the Holocaust.  The haunting violins, reminiscent of the noted musicians of Auschwitz, and the pictures of children who endured the horrors of World War II only serve as a stark reminder that despite the passage of generations, these children of yesteryear are forever linked to today’s youth, who still feel their pain.

Sa’eni Nah, produced by Zvika Bornstein with musical arrangement by Nochi Krohn, is about the timeless solace that has helped children endure for centuries, knowing that even in the bleakest situations, they are never alone.


More religious students in Israeli schools than ever

52% of preschoolers in 2012-2013 are from the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox sectors • Education minister holds conference with haredi school leaders to work on integrating core curriculum but is met with stiff resistance • “Don’t get involved in our business,” says rabbi.

(Israel Hayom) – The 2012-2013 school year will mark the first time in Israel’s history that the majority of preschoolers are either haredi [ultra-Orthodox] or Orthodox, the haredi web portal “Kikar Shabbat” reported on Monday.

Deputy Education Minister Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) revealed the data for the upcoming school year a few weeks ago, adding, “we [religious people] are going to make up 52 percent and they [secular people] are only 48%.”

Moses also said that 15 years ago the percentage of haredim in Israeli educational institutions was only 12.6%. “We make up 32% today. The religious public school system [schools for Orthodox students, but not ultra-Orthodox] makes up 20%, and that doesn’t even include Chabad. There is a debate whether Chabad is 6% or 7%, but that doesn’t make a difference.”

Meanwhile, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar held a conference last week in Jerusalem to conduct a national analysis, in partnership with the heads of haredi educational institutions, leading up to the start of the school year. His main message to the Independent Education Movement [for haredi education]: they need to teach the basic core curriculum, that is mathematics, English, and science.

In his speech at the conference, Sa’ar said, “In contrast to other education ministers in the past who were interested only in the [secular] public education system, I see myself as the education minister for everyone. What happens in haredi education is also important to me.”

Sa’ar said he wants to help the haredi public introduce a standard curriculum of studies, integrating core subjects to help their children integrate into broader Israeli society and the economy. He said that the heads of schools would be “well served” to include the new curricula.

But the Chairman of the Independent Education Movement Rabbi Avraham Yosef Leizerson disagreed, telling Sa’ar: “Don’t get involved in our business. The education ministers in the haredi educational system are the great rabbis of the era only.”

Leizerman’s fury continued: “[Our rabbis] are the only people authorized to determine the curriculum in haredi education institutions; to decide what goes into the curriculum and what is forbidden and in what media. Pure education comes only from our rabbis and they will determine what is taught.”

In related news, the Education Ministry decided that the amount of Jewish Studies classes in secular public schools will be increased. Extra Jewish studies will be added during the already existing “Israeli cultural heritage” subject, which has designated weekly hours in all middle school schedules and classroom reinforcement programs in high schools.


World’s largest mezuzah’ affixed at Kotel entrance

Bronze mezuzah is 1.4 meters long, 25 cm. wide, and weighs 40 kg. The parchment is 60 cm. high.

(Arutz Sheva) – What may be the world’s largest mezuzah was affixed at the gate of the upper entrance to the Kotel plaza Monday. The mezuzah was contributed by philanthropist Shmuel Flato-Sharon.

While the mezuzah is being touted as the world’s largest, it should be noted that a mezuzah said to be the world’s largest seems to pop up at least once a year. Another mezuzah donated by Flato-Sharon was placed at Beis Refuah Kaplan in Rechovot just three months ago, and it, too, was hailed as the world’s largest.

Yet another mezuzah with a similar claim to fame was affixed two years ago at the arriving flights entrance to Ben Gurion Airport.

The Kotel’s mammoth mezuzah was written by Sofer Rav Zalman Michaelshvilli, and checked by the Kotel Sofer Rav Israel Gottlieb. Its design was influenced by the work of surrealist Spanish artist Salvador Dali.


Jerusalem StreetBall

Jerusalem’s 3 on 3 basketball tournament – shooting hoops in the Holy City.


Ancient animal figurines unearthed outside Jerusalem

Two 9,000-year-old statuettes come from era that saw start of domestication of animals.

Two Stone Age animal figurines were found outside Jerusalem. Archaeologists say they are 9,500 years old.

(Times of Israel) – Archaeologists uncovered two stone animal figurines outside Jerusalem that shed light on local life 9,000 years ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday.

The figurines were found last week in a salvage dig being carried out to make way for the expansion of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, the IAA said.

One figurine, fashioned from limestone, depicts a ram with twisted horns. The other, more stylized, figurine appears to depict another large horned animal, perhaps a buffalo. It is made of dolomite.

Both are 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.

The figurines were created by ancient inhabitants of what is now Israel at a crucial period in human history — the era in which people abandoned nomadic lifestyles for villages and sedentary agriculture and made significant progress in the domestication of crops and livestock.

Becoming sedentary was “a fateful decision that would have an impact on humanity for thousands of years,” Hamoudi Khalaily, one of the dig’s directors, told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. It was a move that allowed humans to begin creating more sophisticated religious customs and artwork like the newly discovered statuettes.

Khalaily suggested the figurines might have been religious icons meant to bring success to a hunting expedition.

The dig’s co-director, Anna Eirikh, suggested they might be linked to the domestication of animals like those portrayed.

The Stone Age site at which the figurines were unearthed, Tel Motza, appears to have been one of the largest settlements in the area at that time.

The archaeologists say the village shows signs of advanced engineering skills, including the construction of two-story homes.

Scholars and archaeologists usually put the arrival of the biblical Israelites at around 1,200 B.C.E. — around 6,000 years later.


The greenest house in the world?

Students at Ariel University marshal all sorts of techniques to build an environmentally sound abode.

The Ariel University green house

(Times of Israel) – As part of a project to design a structure that could be used as emergency housing in areas where natural disasters occur, students at Ariel University have stumbled onto what may be the most ecologically sound house in the world.

It’s a house that takes into account nearly all principles of environmentally friendly construction to produce a home that manufactures its own power, cleans and reuses its own wastewater, and doesn’t require air conditioning or electricity or gas for heating and cooking — using nothing more than water for “fuel.”

How green is this house? It’s so green, said master architect Matityahu Avshalomov, that it manages to stay cool even when the weather outside is hazy, hot, and humid, using basic environmental construction techniques.

“In most houses, the windows are placed at face level, at one meter eighty (six feet) off the ground,” Avshalomov told The Times of Israel. “In hot weather, that practically guarantees that the house will be hot, too,” as the hot air has nowhere to go but down as it piles into the house through the window.

The green house designed by Ariel students in his architecture and design class, however, is different. “Our windows are higher up, and a system of opening on the floor pulls the cooler air from under the house inside.”

Cool air tends to sink while hot air rises — so as more cool air moves in from the bottom of the house, it pushes the hot air further up, out the window. “This way, you get a natural circulation system that keeps the house pleasant, even on the hottest days,” Avshalomov said.

The circulation system is just one aspect of the green house built as part of a term project by Avshalamov’s students. Avshalamov himself is an architect of note, having designed, among other things, the “Yellow” convenience stores at Paz gas stations around the country. Currently, Avshalamov is leading a NIS 70 million project to modernize and update the Tiberias marketplace, making it more user-friendly, tourist-friendly, and planet-friendly. Among other things, Avshalamov is overseeing the removal of the asbestos roof from the covered portion of the marketplace, replacing it with environmentally friendly materials.

Students in his course were instructed to build a 25-square meter structure that could be used as a temporary living structure for victims of disasters. The structure had to be easy to build and to transport, so that it could easily be moved into the field. The structure that the students came up with meets all the criteria — and was built using nearly all recycled materials, Avshalamov said. “This is not just on paper, but an actual working model that students built, and there is no reason these techniques could not be used to build an 80- or 100-square meter house.”

Besides the circulation system, the green house is electrically self-sufficient, generating its own power using a photovoltaic electricity system on its roof. But it is also heat and energy self-sufficient, using a system to generate hydrogen gas, which can be used for heating and cooking. Once, hydrogen was seen as a contender to replace gas and even oil, but the explosion of the Hindenburg back in the 1930s dampened the popular sentiment for hydrogen power. Today’s hydrogen systems, said Avshalamov, are much safer and more efficient, enabling generation of more than enough energy for heating and cooking the green house. All the hydrogen system needs is water; even saline water will do, he added.

In addition to heating and electricity, the house also recycles nearly all the water used by residents. “We have a gray water recycling system built into the house that further ensures a comfortable environment,” said Avshalamov. “The water flows up on top of the house, keeping the roof and the ceiling cool, and then the water flows into planters on the side of the house, where herbs and other plants are grown. Thus the residents have a supply of fresh herbs and even vegetables, without having to impact on local water supplies.”

The green house has other environmental tricks to make life comfortable for its residents. A side of the house facing the sun has windows that are recessed (to allow in light, but less heat) and that are framed by bales of cotton cloth, which provide insulation. And there is the issue of positioning the house, with each side of the house specially designed for the environmental impact of the conditions of north, south, east and west.

“These are things that are well known in construction, and have been on the books for decades,” said Avshalamov. “But for whatever reason — probably the hubris of humanity in recent decades, with the thought that they could control everything — many of these techniques have been forgotten, or ignored. But in these days of dwindling resources and global warming, we ought to begin considering using these techniques on a wider basis.”

Avshalamov said that the house turned out to be much more of a success than either he or his students envisioned, and that they now have a plan they can offer contractors, whom they will try and interest in using the green house system.


Yemenite widow makes Aliya with her 9 children

Luiza Nahari has immigrated to Israel with her four youngest children.  She arrives four years after her teacher husband was murdered by a radical Islamist in Raydah, Yemen. Luiza’s other five children made Aliya shortly after the death of their father.

Luiza Nahari and the four children who arrived in Israel on Sunday morning are reunited at Ben Gurion airport with her other five children who immigrated more than three years ago

(Times of Israel) – Luiza Nahari, a Yemenite Jew whose husband, Moshe, was murdered in their hometown of Raydah in December 2008, immigrated to Israel on Sunday morning with four of her children.

Nahari was reunited with her five other children, who had moved to Israel following her husband’s murder.

“Moshe Nahari was murdered only because he was a Jew. His youngest son was only a few months old when his father was killed,” Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said on Sunday. “Luiza’s aliya and emotional reunion with her children closes their own personal circle, but also closes a Zionist circle as well.”

Moshe Nahari served as a Hebrew teacher and ritual slaughterer for the Jewish community of Raydah in the Yemenite province of Amran. He was in his 30s when he was shot dead in the town market by Abdul Aziz Yahya Al-Abdi, a former Yemeni Air Force officer. Al-Abdi reportedly yelled “Jew, accept the message of Islam”, before opening fire with a Kalashnikov rifle.

A preliminary investigation revealed that Nahari’s assailant had murdered his own wife two years earlier, but paid her family monetary compensation to avoid serving time in prison. A high-ranking security official in the Amran province, Ahmed el-Sarihi, described Al-Abdi as “an extremist who suffers from mental problems,” Ynet reported at the time.

Al-Abdi was convicted of murder in March 2009, and was ordered to pay the Nahari family 5.5 million Yemeni Rial (approximately $27,500) and to be hospitalized in a mental institution. The verdict was appealed by the Nahari family, and, in June 2009, the sentence was changed to death penalty. The Chinese Xinhua news agency reported in April 2011 that Al-Abdi had escaped custody. There has been no report of his recapture.

Yemen was once home to a thriving Jewish community. Some 50,000 Jews immigrated between 1949-1951 after the establishment of the State of Israel. According to the Jewish Agency, Nahari’s murder triggered a wave of Jewish immigration from Yemen. A mere 130 Jews remain in Yemen, 50 of whom reside in Sana’a.


Olive oil production 1300 years ago

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has discovered an industrial olive press from the 6th – 8th century CE.  The site was found near Hod HaSharon, North of Tel Aviv. The olive press system had been carved into huge building slabs that were sunk into the ground.

(Arutz Sheva) – The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has discovered an industrial olive press from the Byzantine-Muslim era (6th – 8th century CE).  The site was found near Hod HaSharon in the course of IAA digs conducted in preparation for the paving of a new road.

Excavation team leader Durar Masarwa said: “We discovered the surface on which olive oil was extracted as well as a network of pipes, canals and holes that drained the liquid oil.”

According to Amit Re’em, Central District Archeologist at the IAA, “we were surprised to discover that the olive press system had been carved into huge building slabs that were sunk into the ground.”

“This is a rare type of olive press, because usually olive presses were made directly on the bedrock. It seems that, because the soil in the Hod HaSharon area is soft hamra ground, and the building had to have a solid base, they took an unusual step and brought hewn rock and heavy stone sheeting upon which they built the olive press. We are still trying to locate similar olive presses in Israel.”

An IAA expert said that the size of the press indicates it was intended for commercial use.

The Hod Hasharon municipality is looking into paving the new road around the site in a way that will make it possible to establish a small archeological park at the location.


An organic oasis in the desert

In the middle of the Arava desert is Kibbutz Neot Semadar growing several varieties of native date palms and organic grapes that it transforms into sulphur-free wines.  It also contains Pundak Neot Semadar – a charming all-organic restaurant with a dining area enclosed by a veritable jungle.

organic food, kibbutz, agriculture, desert, Arava, Negev, Israel, Neot Smadar

Sucked dry by an unforgiving sun, my travel companion and I were badly in need of hydration and nourishment yesterday afternoon. Frankly, I had resigned myself to a day full of headaches and delirium, but then we stumbled across an improbable oasis located miles from nowhere in Israel’s Arava desert.

Once no more than a ramshackle caravan, a pitstop between the developed north and the country’s dry southern expanse, Pundak Neot Semadar has since evolved into a charming all-organic restaurant that also sells jam, soap, dates and other goods produced at the nearby kibbutz.

organic food, kibbutz, agriculture, desert, Arava, Negev, Israel, Neot Smadar

Respected for its commitment to community and ecology, Neot Semadar is particularly famous for its spectacular earth architecture.

When it was first established in 1989, the kibbutz was accused of cultish behavior because a self-proclaimed “guru” used to live there. However, among the women who run the restaurant, Yosef Safra is remembered more fondly as a “charismatic man” than any kind of spiritual leader.

organic food, kibbutz, agriculture, desert, Arava, Negev, Israel, Neot Smadar

He has since passed on to better pastures, we hope, though the kibbutz continues to thrive as a “rustic green corner” in the midst of the desert.

Founded by a group of 80 residents who sought to establish a collaborative and meaningful life more closely intertwined with the cycle of natural life, the community produces an astounding variety of goods.

In addition to fruit trees and vegetables, the kibbutz grows several varieties of native date palms and organic grapes, which are transformed into delicious sulphur-free wines. More than 200 members and volunteers also produce olives that are then pressed into high-quality cooking oils and served with every meal at the restaurant.

Free range goats that graze on organic fields produce excellent milk that in turn is used to make all kinds of cheese and yoghurt. And all of it is for sale.

“We are always trying to grow the place,” said Iris, who is one of the original founders who was running the cash register the day that we randomly popped in. ”This used to be a small caravan but we added two containers, put in all of the floors and did of the ironwork ourselves.”

“People are always surprised by the range of our products,” Tessa said with a slight hint of well-deserved pride. Another of the original founders, the chef of the day was born in London and is famous for having a “green thumb.”

organic food, kibbutz, agriculture, desert, Arava, Negev, Israel, Neot Smadar

And it’s true. In addition to juice and wine – including a delectable desert wine rendered gold by the sun – it is possible to purchase herbal and floral teas in special jars, organic cookies, scented room sprays and even kaleidoscopic glass tops crafted by a talented local artisan.

“Everything on sale was produced on the kibbutz,” Iris says. “But we would like to be even more ecological.”

A mother of two boys who are now grown and off the kibbutz, Iris is referring to clean energy. Although Israel is one of the biggest producers of solar energy, most of their expertise is exported to countries like Spain and the United States.

“The government just isn’t supportive. If we want to have solar energy here, we have to go through a long permitting process. It’s very hard,” she says.

Guests, however, are oblivious to the background challenges.

organic food, kibbutz, agriculture, desert, Arava, Negev, Israel, Neot Smadar

Seated in a light-infused dining area enclosed by a veritable jungle, we enjoyed creamy “green” tehina mixed with fresh parsley and served with dense brown bread, along with a frothy cappuccino and a hearty bowl of massouka made with eggplant, cheese, potato and spices.

Not only is the space green, fresh and cozy, but it instantly feels like home. A young girl who smashed her finger on the way in was swooped up and cuddled by Maya, a young volunteer who frequently hitchhikes her way around Israel.

There is much more to be said about the restaurant, the people who work there, and the kibbutz itself. But in the meantime, if you’re roaming the desert and need a little lift, be sure to stop by Pundak Neot Semadar in the Arava. Both your belly and your soul will thank you.

All images via Tafline Laylin


* Thanks to for a number of stories.

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