Friday, December 29, 2006

Cold and Wet

But the sun peeks through every now and then. And did I mention that it's cold?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Three Christmases

A friend of mine wrote an article for the Jerusalem Post this week called "Christmas comes but thrice a year", which is about the three different dates Christmas is observed in Jerusalem.

For some who are concerned with the supposed pagan roots of the holiday, here's a little excerpt:

Among the points of disagreement was the proper dating of Jesus's birth - Christmas Day.

There is an ancient Jewish tradition that a prophet dies on the day of his conception, and the early church applied this formula to Jesus. Eastern and Western churches, through various and often questionable reasoning, determined respectively that Jesus died on April 6 and March 25. (The Roman Catholic Church still celebrates the latter date as the Annunciation of the Birth.)

Adding nine months of pregnancy to those dates results in a December 25 or January 6 Christmas.

Scholars also hold that the December 25 date was especially appealing to the Western church because it replaced the birthday of Sol Invictus (invincible sun). Romans thought that on that day the sun began its ascent and the days began to lengthen.

The pagan ceremony contained much revelry, drinking and immorality which the early church couldn't condone. Sun worship was outlawed under penalty of death, in the hope that worship of the Son would replace it.

Clearly that did occur, but not without echoes of the pagan traditions surviving. Imbibing and, to a lesser degree, gift-giving and holiday lights are related to the pre-Christian feast.
Read it all, it's good to know a little why we do what we do.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

"All your sons will be taught of the Lord; And the Peace of your sons will be great."
Isaiah 54:13
Happy Holidays and may the true Peace reign on earth.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Day in the Desert

On Monday I made a "quick" trip down to Timna Park, near Eilat, to do some end-of-the-year things for the Tabernacle (which I am slowly beginning to become involved in, administratively-speaking). I was hoping to take my lovely wife and bundles of pure joy with me this time, but a nasty round of high fevers set in the day before and scuttled my best-laid plans. Oh well, maybe next time.

Anyway, I packed my car full of water and snacks for my 3.5 hour trip through the desert and headed on out. Traffic was unusually heavy, but this is a holiday week and it is not officially a holiday unless you sit in patience-trying Israeli traffic.

About half-way down I stopped at the Ramon crater to stretch my legs.

At the edge of the Ramon crater looking southward

The sign says that it is "forbidden" (the large red word) to feed the gazalles. For some people (like this guy), it is merely a suggestion.

As I continued I passed one of several army firing ranges. No action today but one tank was spotted (I hope it wasn't "forbidden" to take this picture).

A typical view of Timna Park from the road

A bird's eye view of Timna Park

Here it is - the (ahem) Tabernacle

How the Shekinah sees the Tabernacle

The distant mountains of Jordan (looking eastward)

Timna Park's "Solomon's Pillars" (which, unfortunately are neither pillars nor have they anything to do with King Solomon)

Although the trip took much longer than I hoped, I made it back to put the kids to bed. Not bad for one day.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Time to Get the Family Swimming Lessons

A JPost article reports that although the Mediterranean is not a major ocean, tsunamis do occur on Israel's coast.

A tsunami hits Israel's coast on the average of once every 200 years, with the last recorded one on November 25, 1759; the affected the coast of Israel and the Nile Delta and was caused by an earthquake on the border between Syria and Lebanon.
(Hmm, I'm no mathematician, but...nevermind.)

So, what we need is a Tsunami Early-warning System:
A tsunami early-warning system, if and when it is installed, has to take into account a variety of mechanisms that can cause tidal waves and the various distances from Israel where the geological shocks originate.

In most cases, the researchers said, when the shock was close, the best early-warning system would be the earthquake itself. In those cases when the sea actually recedes, this is an additional warning of a coming tsunami.
OK, let me get this straight: we need an alert system from tsunamis but not one for rockets. In nearly 4 weeks of the current "cease-fire" there have been 40 rockets fired at Israel (most hitting open fields and doing no damage, thankfully). It seems that the Palestinian understanding of a "cease-fire" means that Israel ceases firing while they shoot their rockets at Israel. Maybe someone should have read the fine print on that agreement.

Update - I stand corrected. Today there certainly was damage by a rocket fired from Gaza:
Three Palestinian were lightly injured Thursday morning after a rocket hit their home in the northern Gaza Strip, medical sources told the Palestinian news agency Maan.

Eyewitnesses said that the rocket accidentally hit the home of the al-Masri family in Beit Hanoun, injuring the pregnant mother, who suffered a miscarriage, and her two children.

According to the sources, the house and its surroundings suffered damage.
What a shame, but we can only hope that they will draw some lessons from this.

Update II - Oh well, so much for that.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Something Interesting for the Holiday

A Methodist minister is donating one of her kidneys to a Rabbi after a year of waiting for a donor. Yes, some I know will be surprised - there are women ministers in some churches.

Say what you want about it, but this truly exemplifies "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Good and the Bad

Tonight, the first night of Hanukkah, we and some friends got together and celebrated an early Christmas. The pre-Christmas meal consisted of chili and macaroni & cheese. Being neither traditionally Christmas foods nor traditionally kosher (for these parts) we enjoyed the fact that the food was warm, if nothing else. The entertainment was relegated to the Christmas story being read in 3 languages while our small children dressed up as the characters. I expected the worst but everyone behaved well, standing glassy-eyed as the story was read. Although no acting was performed (despite the rehearsals), no meltdowns occurred and Joseph didn't punch out Mary or the other angels. Who says prayers aren't answered anymore?

On the way back home the wife and I were discussing the unusually crowded highway for a Shabbat evening in Tel Aviv. As we neared home we came upon an accident that apparently just happened no more than a minute or two before. We stopped at the stoplight where it happened and, over in one of the cars that was in the accident, saw a man slouched over half-way out of his window looking rather dead. In our surprise we accidentally alerted the kids to the scene (bad parents!) and, fortunately the light turned green and we sped away hoping that the images we saw weren't seared into their minds. Actually, we don't know if they saw anything or if what they saw registered in their little minds because there were no questions or comments (which, if you have kids, you know would be unending).

While terrorism is a concern here, even when things are bad traffic fatalities per year are 2-4 times more than fatalities from terrorism. I read somewhere that there are significantly more traffic fatalities the day after a terror attack. Why? They are not sure, but if you have ever driven here you'd know that Israeli drivers have a lot on their minds - driving not often being one of them.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah...

Ok, the night before the night before Hanukkah (or "Chanukkah", if you like). Happy Birthday to my gentle wife today! Congratulations! Mazal Tov! Mabrook! etc.

The cease-fire is holding as I speak but I suspect it is hanging by a thread. The last time a cease-fire ended we got a rocket a few minutes' walk from our house.

Never a dull moment in these parts.