My friend from Costa Rica came to visit me in Jerusalem on Christmas Eve. It was wonderful to see her, and it also gave me the opportunity visit my city as a tourist. It’s nice to be reminded how exciting the Old City can be.
We wandered around and enjoyed the views.
View from the Austrian Hospice (looking southward). Today it’s a hotel and in the past it was a rest stop for Austrian pilgrims.
Exiting the Lion’s Gate, we looked over Gethsemane (lower left) and the Mount of Olives cemetery (right). Perfectly timed as the sun was just about to be blocked by the walls of the Old City.
Candle lighting at the Kotel. It was, after all, also the third night of Chanukah.
Since it was Christmas Eve and there wasn’t a Chinese restaurant on our way, we had kosher Korean food. From the left, clockwise: gimbap, tteok-bokki (sweet version), japchae, and kimchi. YUM!
Next stop, Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was unbelievably crowded. And yet quiet and respectful. It may surprise you to know that many of the special tours were in Hebrew – meaning Israelis were visiting.
Nativity scene in the silent chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Crusader graffiti. These marks were left by Crusaders along the walls going down the stairs to Helene’s Chapel. Helene was Constantine’s mother and declared this site to be the location of the crucifixion.
The Holy Selpuchre itself. Inside this structure is a tomb that was opened in 2016 to be cleaned and restored. Some Christians dispute the site, but there is actually a tomb there consistent with the time period. See the National Geographic article about it HERE.
In the Christian quarter. One of the few places in Jerusalem decorated with lights.
Lighting up the walls of the Old City.
We finished our evening by wading through a Chabad candle lighting at the entrance to Mamilla. The yeshiva boys are dancing, jumping, singing. The band is on the balcony playing wild Chanukah music featuring a flute. (Think mosh pit at a Jethro Tull concert.)
This was a great way to end 2019 and get ready for 2020. (I can’t believe it will be 2020 in a few days!!!)
Wishing you all good health, many joyous occasions, and success, productivity, and prosperity in all your projects!
Like everyone else, I took a few moments to reflect on 2017 in relation to the blog. I have to admit, it was hard to keep up with it this year because I had a lot of other projects going on, but I’m glad to see that I wrote consistently.
The purpose of the blog was originally to share insights about Israel and life in Jerusalem, but I see that my recent posts about travel got a lot more attention than other posts. Maybe I should travel more in 2018! I’ve often considered expanding my subject area and I may explore that this year.
But for now, here is 2017 in review.
I had readers from 42 countries on 6 continents. Does anyone have readers in Antarctica? Israel and the US are not a big surprise. Most of my readers are in the US followed closely by Israel. Rounding out the top 5 are the UK, Canada, and China. The biggest surprise on the list was Pakistan. One person from Pakistan must have accidentally stumbled upon my blog.
I guess if I want to increase my readership I’ll have to be more observational, or very serious, or silly, or focus on travel. To be honest, the Tai Chi post is most popular because it was featured on the website of the Tai Chi school, so it got readers from all around the world. But since my blog doesn’t focus on Tai Chi, those readers didn’t stay. All the other posts were popular on their own. Well, I guess we’ll see what 2018 has in store.
Happy New Year!
May you have good luck, good health, good friends, and excellent adventures!
This week I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at the President’s House honoring a distinguished gentleman who I’ve indirectly worked with over the years, Smoky Simon. He’s 97 years young and at the ceremony I finally had the chance to hear his life story. I cannot do his story justice in a few lines, but I can provide a sketch. He and his wife came from South Africa as volunteers to fight in Israel’s War of Independence (1948-1949). He was part of the first group of soldiers that eventually became Israel’s Air Force. After the war, he and his wife stayed on for another year and a half. Then, since they were just young volunteers, they went home to South Africa to start their family and save money for aliyah.
They came to Israel in the 1960s. He built his business and they raised their family (that now includes 15 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren). He became the president of the World Machal organization (Machal is a Hebrew acronym for “overseas volunteers”) and since 1993 he has been the treasurer of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation. He was not a guy who did things for glory or accolades. He did what he thought was right and just got to work. In his speech, he shared the important parts of his life and only at the very end could you hear his voice shake with emotion as he thanked the president of the State of Israel for honoring him.
This post isn’t actually about Smoky. But his story is important.
As we’re approaching the end of 2017, we might make resolutions to finally get to the gym or meditate more or finish writing that novel or manage money better or … We’re all just trying to be better people.
Then you hear a story like Smoky’s and the questions you ask yourself change:
Are you living a life based on your principles?
Are your choices reflective of your best self?
Are you having fun?
Does your life have meaning?
Do you have any regrets?
The key is to live so that your 97-year-old self will look back upon your life and say, “Indeed, it was a life well-lived!”
In the last days of the calendar year, everyone on the internet provides a review of 2016. Lots of people this year are using the hashtag #f**k2016 (with no missing letters, of course). I’m ready to let go of 2016 and in fact, I almost titled this post “Goodbye 2016! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” But I’m a glass half full kind of gal who looks at the world through rose-colored glasses.
I’ll admit, 2016 was not a great year. But I wonder if it’s because, along with my dad, it seemed like so many of my childhood icons died and the internet was full of bad news, worse news and then fake news. One of the reasons I’m not talking about Trump’s election and the recent UN vote is because I have no way to vet the news any more. I don’t even know what’s true. I was sure that this week’s celebrity deaths were fake too. George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and her mom, Debbie Reynolds!?!? WHAM, Star Wars, and Singin’ in the Rain all hit in the same week?!?! I call conspiracy!
Living in Israel, I tend to do more of my soul accounting (heshbon nefesh) and reviewing of my year in September around Rosh HaShana and my birthday. I have two new years to account for and it seems like a good time. But I also do it when the calendar changes.
In 2016 I tried to let go of perfectionism. Was I the perfect daughter/sister/aunt/cousin/niece? No. Was every blog post this year perfect? Clearly not. Was every project I completed perfect? Nope. Did I make the perfect choice every time? Definitely no. Did I do anything perfectly last year? I doubt it. But I kept trying and I kept moving forward. It’s pretty common knowledge that perfectionism leads to paralyzing fear – if you can’t do a thing perfectly, it’s better not to do it at all. Letting go of perfectionism means that I am more willing to try new things and possibly fail at them, but that experience will help me grow and hopefully become a better, stronger person.
Releasing perfectionism and being aware of so many deaths is also a reminder to LIVE. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Auntie Mame: “Live! That’s the message! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
Clip from Auntie Mame (1958) with Rosalind Russell
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We have no idea what the world will be like after January 20. We can’t trust the 24-hour news cycle driven by numbers of clicks. All we can do for sure is wake up in the morning, be kind to the people around us, try to be good human beings, and have the best day we can. Then, if (or when) the morning comes when you don’t wake up, you and all your loved ones will know that your last full day was a good one.