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Monday, June 27, 2011

More Bethlehem Pix

The Hotel InterContinental
Macaroni art at day camp, a universal craft
A partially occupied, unfinished building
Advertising on the wall
Inside the gorgeous Wall Gallery, downstairs in the former well

St. George, an unfortunate dragon and a Bethlehem star with a dove of peace

Saturday, June 25, 2011

O Little Occupied Town of Bethlehem

You could say I was following a star. As they say, it's always Christmas in Bethlehem. The beautiful art in the newest building of the Bethlehem Bible College portrays the signal moment in Bethlehem's - and some say the world's - history. But a few things have changed since then.
"Security" is tighter. And of course, one woman's security is another woman's occupation. The icon of both is the wall, the so-called "security fence." According to Dr. Alex Awad, Dean of Students, local pastor and United Methodist missionary, 80% of the security wall was built on Palestinian land. The wall looms over Bethlehem and cast its shadow over my visit.

In order to enter Bethlehem I had to walk through the checkpoint and its cattleshoots made of bars and razorwire.

The wall has become a site of resistance. One primary form of that resistance is art. Here is some of the art on the wall:

The wall has also inspired art. These three souvenirs re-imagine three bible stories through the shadow of the wall. In one the trumpets are blown as in the story of Jericho, but this wall does not come tumbling down. In another, the Blessed Virgin and Sweet Baby Jesus are on the wall, Joseph is preparing to cross with them. And in the wall runs smack dab in the middle of the Nativity scene, as it cuts off some Palestinian residents from their homes, family and olive trees.

A final piece of art from the checkpoint, a prayer and I hope, a prophecy:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jerusalem in Lights

This week the Old City has been illuminated with a festival of lights: Light paths strung through the Old City. Light shows on the city walls. Music on the corners, (Mustang Sally!) and underground in the Herodian quarry that has been called Zedekiah's cave and Solomon's quarry. Light puppets and fire-twirlers, and more.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 19 - Random Pix

   Yaffo Gate Wine Store and chandelier:
Orthodox Church 
 Mount of Olives
Huldah Temple Gates

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Jewish Quarter at Night

The Cardo was shut down for Shabbat and I was able to see details that I missed during the day. One of my wonderful night-time finds was this image of what the Cardo might have looked like 2000 years ago.
(In the bottom left is a stump of one of the remaining columns from the 6th century Cardo.)

And then there was this wonderful mosaic:

A bit of detail:

And a taste of the light show that was only half-way up because of shabbat.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Walking in Jerusalem

I tried to go to the Rockefeller Museum today. I took the Arab bus to the Damascus (Shechem) Gate and walked to Herod's Gate. That's where it all went wrong. I thought it was between Herod's Gate and the Suleman Gate inside the walls. Nooooo. It's outside the walls in that general area, so I hear.

What I did was walk around the Old City to the Dung Gate (I think), skirt the Western Wall plaza and found myself in the Jewish Quarter. I walked the Old Roman Cardo went out side the walls again, passing the Mt. Of Olives. One day I'm just going to walk around the whole Old City.
Along the way I kept humming "Walking in Jerusalem just like John" - and thinking I bet he'd get lost too! And "Twelve Gates to the City" thinking that's too darn many.
I met a sweets vendor and his friend and had a pretty good Hebrew conversation - one of them thought I was a Messianic Jew. Then I went back in the city through the Zion Gate, took the Armenian Patriarchate Street to the Yaffo (Joppa) Gate. Then I went back outside the Old City (again) and walked to the Damascus Gate and caught the bus home. It was a lovely day. And I'll try the Rockefeller (again) after Shabbat.

The Damascus Gate has been partially renovated and they just took the construction wrapping off.
I almost forgot.
I almost forgot. When I got off the bus, instead of heading up the hill to Tantur, I went down the hill to Beit Tzafafa and had lunch at Shweki's Restaurant across the street from his gift shop. It was Juma and the restaurant was empty. I had a wonderful conversation about praying for peace in the Land with the staff, whether we would see it and a Palestinian State in our time. Inshallah. Whether peace here would put an end to conflict everywhere else in the world. And what it means to have faith and believe even though we see no signs of hope. Let us, all of us, of all faiths, pray for peace. Amen.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Praying at the Wall

You can see some of the prayers of the faithful in the spaces between the stones that remain from Herod’s renovation of the temple that Solomon built. I associate the practice with 2 Kgs 19:14 where Hezekiah takes a letter the temple and spreads it before God.
I prayed at the Wall today. It was the third time. I have done so on each visit. Each time it takes my breath away and moves me to tears. The holiness of the place is palpable. Some of the the locals have a saying, “that in Jerusalem prayer is a local call.” I don’t doubt that God is everywhere and with me and within me wherever I go. And at the same time, God is present in this place in a very special way. Solomon’s prayer says it for me:
1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! 28 Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, Holy One my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive...
1 Kings 8:41 “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name 42 —for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, 43 then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.”

I am the foreigner, one of many, for whom Solomon prayed, though he did not know it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rewriting the Bible

When the Peoples' Bible was published my father and brother went around telling people that I wrote the bible - perhaps there was something to that since I receive both royalties and an author's discount on that publication.
I'm writing a new book, actually a two-volume series entitled A Womanist Midrash. It places it might be fair to say that I am rewriting the bible. In the last couple of days I have been so busy writing that I have not gone into Jerusalem or Bethlehem or taken any pictures. I thought that I would share with you all some of what I am (re)writing.
The following passage takes the instructions for a person afflicted with the skin disease usually translated as "leprosy" and rewrites them for a woman with the disease. The text makes it clear that both men and women (and houses for that matter) suffer this affliction but then writes the individual and communal response from and for the male perspective.
I have taken an assignment I gave my students to explore scripture through creative writing, employing metaphors and plot and character reversals and crafted a torah for a woman with a skin disease. The only departure from the traditional text (apart from changing the masculine language to feminine) is that I suggest that a bat-kohen, a priest's daughter actually did the physical inspection of a woman's body and consulted with her father (or husband or brother) who made the determination. (I could also add that the instruction was given to Miryam and Moshe since she is still alive inthe narrative...)

Here is the ritual of restoration for a woman previously diagnosed with skin-disease:
Leviticus 14:1 The Holy One of Old spoke to Moshe, saying: 2 This shall be the ritual for the woman with skin-disease at the time of her restoration:
She shall be brought to the priest (and a daughter of a priest); 3 the priest (and a daughter of a priest) shall go out of the camp, and the (daughter of a priest) shall make an examination. If the disease is healed in the woman with skin-disease, 4 the priest shall command that two living clean birds and cedarwood and crimson yarn and hyssop be brought for the woman who is to be restored. 5 The priest shall command that one of the birds be slaughtered over fresh water in an earthen vessel. 6 He shall take the living bird with the cedarwood and the crimson yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was slaughtered over the fresh water. 7 He shall sprinkle it seven times upon the woman who is to be restored of the skin-disease; then he shall pronounce her restored, and he shall let the living bird go into the open field. 8 The woman who is to be restored shall wash her clothes, and shave off all her hair, and bathe herself in water, and she shall be restored. After that she shall come into the camp, but shall live outside her tent seven days. 9 On the seventh day she shall shave all her hair: of head, and eyebrows; she shall shave all her hair. Then she shall wash her clothes, and bathe her body in water, and she shall be restored.
10 On the eighth days she shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb in her first year without blemish, and a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. 11 The priest who restores shall set the woman to be restored, along with these things, before the Holy One of Old, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 12 The priest shall take one of the lambs, and offer it as a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and raise them as an elevation offering before the Holy One. 13 He shall slaughter the lamb in the place where the sin offering and the burnt offering are slaughtered in the holy place; for the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest (and his family): it is most holy. 14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the woman to be restored, and on the thumb of her right hand, and on the big toe of her right foot. 15 The priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand, 16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Holy One. 17 Some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of the woman to be restored, and on the thumb of her right hand, and on the big toe of her right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18 The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of the woman to be restored. Then the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the Holy One: 19 the priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for the woman to be restored from her distinction. Afterward he shall slaughter the burnt offering; 20 and the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. So the priest shall make atonement on her behalf and she shall be restored. 
21 But if she is poor and cannot afford so much, she shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be elevated, to make atonement on her behalf, and one-tenth of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil for a grain offering and a log of oil; 22 also two turtledoves or two pigeons, such as she can afford, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. 23 On the eighth day she shall bring them for her cleansing to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, before the Holy One of Old; 24 and the priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering and the log of oil, and the priest shall raise them as an elevation offering before the Holy One. 25 The priest shall slaughter the lamb of the guilt offering and shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the woman to be restored, and on the thumb of her right hand, and on the big toe of her right foot. 26 The priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand, 27 and shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the restored woman. 28 The priest shall put some of the oil that is in his hand on the lobe of the right ear of the woman to be restored, and on the thumb of her right hand, and the big toe of her right foot, where the blood of the guilt offering was placed. 29 The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of the woman to be restored, to make atonement on her behalf before the Holy One. 30 And she shall offer, of the turtledoves or pigeons such as she can afford, 31 one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, along with a grain offering; and the priest shall make atonement before the Holy One on behalf of the woman being restored. 32 This is the ritual for the woman who has a skin-disease, who cannot afford the offerings for her restoration.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Today we celebrated a beautiful Mass in the Cathedral of St. George the Martyr. Churches from all over the Diocese of Jerusalem (which includes Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan - I don't know how many came from where) came to celebrate this high feast of the church marking the diversity and unity from which we were born. It was amazing to be in Jerusalem to commemorate this moment when Sinai's fire appeared in Jerusalem so long ago. It was breathtaking to hear the scriptures read in Arabic including the festal text proclaiming the presence of Arabs in Jerusalem who were among the first generation of the new Church.
I was particularly glad to see Bishop Suheil Dawani since the Israelis failed to renew his residency permit. I was moved to tears by the singing and praying in Arabic and English (and who knows what else) together. It was not the phenomenon in the lesson but I could hear more than one language including my own and that was fitting for Pentecost.

There was also a baby blessing, the day couldn't have been any more perfect.

Protocol disclaimer: I did take pictures because the local worshippers were taking them. I had an aisle seat. The folk were getting up, standing in the aisle, literally climbing up into the pulpit - Bp preached from the floor in front of the altar - and no one seemed to mind. So I leaned out a bit, staying seated (or when we were standing) and took pictures along with everyone else. I took the Gospel shots while they were preparing for the reading, not during. And the pre-Eucharist shot during the offeratory.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Old City Inside & Out

(updated 6/12/11 with a slide show of additional images - below)

Today I walked along the ramparts of the Old City Walls from Yaffa Gate to the Lion's Gate surrounding the Christian and Muslim Quarters of Old Jerusalem. The views were spectacular and chaotic.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Welcoming Shabbat - קבלת שבת

Slightly revised after a good night's sleep:
Tonight I made my first visit to a synagogue in Israel for services; I prayed at the Wall on my last two visits but not in a congregation apart from the spontaneous one(s) at the Kotel.
Tonight was also my first time ever davening in an Orthodox schule.
And tonight was my first time ever praying behind a mechitzah - dividing screen; I guess I don't count the wall at the Wall (too much politics). It was a left-right division as opposed to a front-back separation using a light curtain and the prayer leader pulled it back some and stood as close to the women's side as he could. I still felt cut off. Our host later told us that during a Torah service they did process the Torah around the women's side which was not common in orthodoxy. I appreciated the gesture of inclusion but was still uncomfortable. I think what really got me was when he said that anyone could lead services. I did not ask, but thought he meant any man, and I thought how easy it was to exclude women from being people, let alone participants.
With all those firsts I said a Shehehianu - prayer to mark first-time special events.
I don't know the name of the congregation (on Ein Gedi just off Hebron Rd); I jumped in the Notre Dame students' class trip. Of course I met someone from RRC there. I forgot her name, but hopefully we'll be in touch.
It was a wonderful, joyous, clapping, dancing, passionate service. Some of the ND students were talking about Pentecostal Judaism. The women were friendly, engaged and engaging and helped me find my place in the siddur - prayerbook. They took their dancing outside the congregation and filled the patio while the men remained on their side of the screen and danced in their place. There were lots of young (high school and college-aged) women. And a there were a few Israeli soldiers, all women. It was disturbing for me to see them dancing with their rifles slung down their backs.
I found that I missed the inclusive language from Dorshei - God of our mothers and fathers and feminine language for God. I liked that the Orthodox siddur kept the language of resurrection and God's fidelity to the dead that I don't hear in DD. I do wish that the font in the prayerbook had not gotten smaller in the kaddish, I lead large print for Aramaic, if for nothing else.
The varieties of modest clothing reminded of Egypt and Turkey. There were also plenty of knee length skirts.
I'm grateful for the welcome and the invitation to return. I hope to return there and to visit some other congregations.
שבת שלם

(Not) David's (More than a) Tower

The Tower of David is a fortification from the 2nd century BCE that was upgraded by each ruling power in Jerusalem. It has no connection to David and consists of more than a single tower. What it does have is spectacular views of Jerusalem and layers upon layers of archaeological remains.

Day Ten - יום עשר

Summer Harvest: grapes and olives on the grounds of Tantur

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Post (Erev) Shavuoth Reflection

During my private tikkun leil shavuoth last night I studied Hellenistic Judea from the Maccabees to Herod.  I enjoyed reading about the role of the queens from Salome Alexandra to Alexandra and Mariamme (and all their namesakes). But what has stayed with me is the sheer violence associated with the the high priesthood beyond the the romantic stories of the Maccabees and their defense of their homeland, people, culture and religion. The amount of nation-building through offensive violence and the politics of every high priest, leader and king was commensurate with that of their fellow sovereigns and would-be monarchs, but leaves me troubled, particularly ethically.

And I have a new appreciation for Herod's military and political acumen, even as I am repulsed by his vanity, insecurity and murderous family politics. Judah/Yehud/Judea has had such complex relationships with external empires, "subjugation" and "occupation" barely scratch the surface. There were so many alliances, voluntary submissions, pacts and tributes: Sparta, Rome, Caesar, Antony. Herod may have been a "sly fox" and a crazy one, but being crazy like a fox led him to restore the boundaries of Israel to Solomonic glory and beyond, to choose Caesar over Pompey and to get Mark Antony to overlook that he hadn't chosen him. And he had the stability and prosperity to (re)build and fortify every thing from Mamre to Masada and Hebron to Herodium. And, of course, there's the temple.

I wonder if Herod had not been so afraid of the popularity of Hasmoneans, (the descendants of the Macabbees and the last recognized priestly family with a claim to the high priesthood that the people would accept), what the world would have been like? If Herod hadn't changed his mind about making (his 17 year-old brother-in-law) Aristobolus high priest, and had him murdered, what would the relationship between Rome and Judea have been like? Into what kind of world would Jesus of Nazareth have been born a century later?
The "ifs," "if onlys" and "what ifs" are maddening!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day Eight - ערב שבועות

Fundamentalism is killing religion. Fundamentalism is not just killing religion, it's killing people.
I've been here a week now. Today is Eruv Shavuoth. The celebration of the Festival of Weeks, counting fifty days (the omer, a measure of grain for offering) from Passover to the fiftieth day, Pentecost. Elements of the old harvest festival remain, counting the omer, and celebrating new babies and a thanksgiving meal, all elements of harvest, productivity and fertility. (I was here for Shavuoth in 2000 as well.)
The most significant gift commemorated during Shavuoth, is the gift of Torah, poured down like living water in the teaching-revelation on Sinai. The Torah that calls for the love of neighbor and stranger and hospitality towards those who reside in Israel but are from different communities.
My favorite texts are:
Ex 23:9 You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt
Exodus 22:21 Not one resident alien, female or male, shall you wrong or oppress, for you all were aliens in the land of Egypt. 22 Not one widow or fatherless child will you oppress. 23 If you do abuse them, as sure as they will cry out me, will I hear their cry. 
I think it is no accident that the traditional reading for Shavuoth is Ruth. One reason for the link is the agricultural setting of Ruth. But I believe that God, through divine providence, arranged that a text about a non-Israelite woman in a (second) mixed-marriage who gives birth to a son and nurtures a great-grandson who would not be recognized as Jewish today by many who celebrate Shavuoth. For others who would even read Ruth's relationship with Nomi and her God as a conversion, they would not be Jewish enough.
And for many fundamentalists the story of Ruth is supplanted by the story of Joshua with it's rhetoric of annihilation. Some shout, "Kill the Arabs! Kill the gentiles! Drive them out!" Joshua is not Torah. Even if there is torah in Joshua - and I think there is - it is balanced by the torah in Judges. Over and over again Judges says, "They did not drive them out... they lived with the Canaanites in the land."
The Jewish fundamentalists are joined by Christian fundamentalists who also call for the expulsion of the Arabs - but just the Muslim ones. Mostly. And the Arabs who call themselves Christians should convert to real evangelical Christianity, never-mind their two thousand-year history as Christians. Orthodox Christianity (and Catholic and Anglican and Lutheran and Presbyterian) doesn't share the anti-Judaistic fervor of Evangelical Christianity. For some of these fundamentalists, after they get rid of the Arabs, then the Christian Messiah will return and send all the Jews to hell freeing up the Holy Land for the reign of the right kind of Christians. (The Jews will be joined by the Hindus, Buddhists, animists, Bahai, Zoroastrians, athiests, agnostics and anyone else who is left.)
The fundamentalist Jews and Christians are joined/opposed by fundamentalist Muslims who want every Jew and Christian converted to Islam or dead.
The fundamentalists among us are distorting our beautiful God-given religions. They are murdering our souls and the souls of our religious heritage. Their violent rhetoric precedes and accompanies violent action. People are dying; lives are being destroyed. And the faithful of each tradition are imperiled and marginalized.
Yossi Sarid wrote an op-ed in Haaretz that looked at the juxtaposition of Shavuot and nationalistic fundamentalism on this Eruv Shavuoth. His midrash of the Ruth story if it were today is the torah on which I meditate today, waiting for the gates of heaven to open anew offering more torah, more teaching, more revelation and more enlightenment. (Sometimes I think the "new" torah is a return to the "old" torah.)
I sometimes wonder how Ruth managed to worm her way into the Book of Books; perhaps the Song of Songs paved the way for her. It could never happen today. The Education Ministry and Mercaz Harav would never consent, and the Culture and Sports Ministry would disqualify its candidacy for the Zionist Artwork Award.
That's all we need: For a complete goy - a Moabite, on top of all her other problems - to marry Mahlon, who, even though he has fallen low, is still a Jew. By what right did she cleave to Naomi - a healthy woman, after all, who doesn't need a Filipina in constant attendance - so that she could later seduce another wealthy Jewish man, thus enabling her to remain without a permit from the rabbis and without even a pro forma conversion? And how did it happen that "all the people" were happy and supportive, without a single opponent?
After all, even back then, they could have deported her as a foreign agricultural worker who had infiltrated into Israel by means of dubious paperwork.
And they would have left her great-grandson, David, without a chance of even being born, much less later being anointed as Israel's king.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Seventh Day - יום שביעי

During a rambling walk from the Yafo (Jaffa) Gate to the Damseq (Damascus) Gate I came across the following mountain of spices:
If only I could have preserved the scents!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Second Day at the Israel Museum

I returned to the museum today to focus on Jewish culture. First the Rhythm of Life: Birth, Marriage, Death.
I was most interested in the traditions and artifacts relating to marriage, especially in Afghanistan and Yemen. I loved that bridal gowns were recycled into curtains for the Torah Ark, and that the baby bindings used in circumcision were also sometimes from bridal veils, and that some brides wore what would be their burial shrouds under their wedding clothes.

Next I went to the Illuminating the Scripts collection and was utterly fascinated by the Rothschild Miscellany. An intricately illuminated book, with biblical texts, prayers, midrash, ethics, philosophy and astronomy all bound up together in Italy in the 15th century.

In the collection of artifacts pertaining to the Sabbath and Pilgrim Festivals I found a pair of shoes (for use in the miqveh - sacred bath - environment). I don't know how a woman walked in them but I'd be willing to try.
In the section on Holidays and Days of Remembrance, I found an unexpected resonance between the practice in some communities of removing the ark curtain and draping the Torah and bema in black for Yom Kippur and the Christian practice of stripping the altar of its cloths on Holy Thursday and the use of black on Good Friday.
The highlight of the Feasts and Miracles unit was two walls of menoroth (menorahs). I couldn't pick just one; see the variety here.
The Clothing and Jewelry display was also phenomenal. (They use the word "costume" which just sounds patronizing to me.) My favorite was the Yemeni bride, apparently only the embroidery on her leggings and particulars of her tiara differentiate a Jewish Yemeni from a Muslim Yemeni bride.

The highlight, hands down was the section on synagogues. First was a collection of Torah ornaments called Holiness and Beauty. Simple breath-taking. Among those, this 17th century Venetian Torah mantle (with its crown, breastplate and pointer) enabled me to see the Torah in almost human vestments. The Torah looks very much like a medieval (European Christian) priest. Many of these artifacts were designed and manufactured by Jews and Christians who influenced each other and produced sacred objects for both traditions.
Lastly in one of the most ambitions reconstruction projects I have ever seen, the Israel Museum imported the remains of four synagogues from three continents and restored them. The project took a number of years and cost the museum its roof in one section, which had to be removed and raised.
The Tzedek ve-Shalom Synagogue of Paramaribo, Suriname (1736) surprised me with its airy lightness.

(The German synagogue exhibit was very partial. I'm not sure if more is coming. You can see what is there, here.)

The Kadavumbagam Synagogue of Cochin (Kochi) in Southern India dates from 1539–44; it has some of the elements of the oldest synagogue in Cochi that I was privileged to visit in 2006. Some date that community back to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
One nice feature of the Indian synagogues is that the Torah reader is right in front of the women's section so that they can see the Torah, owing to the cultural respect for women in India. (Unfortunately there was no image of that online.)
The last image is of the Vittorio Veneto Synagogue from 1700. I think I have saved the best for last. The picture does not do it justice. I really had to struggle with the temptation to take pictures in there. Just gorgeous.
I have not finished the museum. I'm not sure that I will. But I will return. And there is still the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, an off-site wing of the Israel Museum in the Old City.

Day Six - יום שישי

I have spent the last two days at the Israel Museum. I scarcely know where to begin. Because they do not allow photography, I am posting public pictures from their website, which is itself a museum-quality curration.

I began yesterday in the Archeology wing, starting with the Dawn of Civilization. Here were the material remains of the first peoples to inhabit the Land (as it is called), long before there were such peoples as Canaanites and Israelites. I was most struck by pear-shaped mother goddesses such as this one from the Neolitic period, some 6500-11500 years ago.
Next it was the Land of Canaan. The life-size, adult size sarcophagi were amazing.
The Israel and the Bible section was overwhelming. There were so many of the artifacts about which I teach in my in/famous slideshows. Together, before my eyes.
I was most impressed with the full-size fortress gate from Hazor dating to the time of Ahab. That was new to me. I had seen the design of the capitals before but had not realized how wide-spread their use was, including in model shrines. I was also really excited by the inscriptions. My favorites were Sennacherib's account of beating Hezekiah and the Dan inscription that mentions "the house of David" for the first time.
Next up was the Early Hebrew Writing exhibit. That may be the one space where I didn't see anything "new" (to me).
The Greeks, Romans and Jews exhibits had amazing ossuaries, only a few of which are online. This image is from the Biblical Archaeology Society. The carving in the limestone is so delicate, yet when names were chiseled in it was clear that the stone-cutters (and perhaps their customers) were either barely literate and didn't care whether the letters were uneven.
Next the Under Roman Rule exhibit (seems not to have representative images on line). The stories of the Jewish revolts against Rome (66-70 and 132-135 CE) are very powerful. I'm always amazed that after the destruction of the temple in 70 that Bar Kokhba was able to muster another rebellion.
For me, the Muslim and Crusader period was well-represented by gold. While not underestimating religious motivations for Jerusalem and the Holy Land were valuable real estate.
The last section was the Holy Land section focusing on Christian pilgrimage. This baptismal font is deep enough for  the water to reach the waist but too narrow for immersion.
One day, one gallery...