Author Archives: Jessica
In the midst of the fall holiday season that includes Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur followed by Sukkot and the Muslim holiday of Eid – the site of blossoming trees throughout the Holy Land can’t help but remind us that the fall harvesting season is fast approaching. During the month of October, Palestinians and Israelis alike will begin harvesting their fields. The Holy Land is the home for some of the oldest olive trees, which are about 4,000 years old. For Palestinians, the olive tree is important for economic and symbolic reasons. The olive tree parallels to the Palestinian connection to their land. Olive trees are drought-resistant and can grow in poor soil conditions. Similarly, Palestinians are resilient and continue to survive and resist for their independence.
This is a popular time for people with different backgrounds coming together to harvest the olive trees. From my experience, some Palestinians are not allowed to harvest their olive tree fields because of the Israeli army or Jewish settlers. To assist these Palestinian farmers, internationals play an important role. There are dozens of organized opportunities to experience the olive harvest.
Since the olive harvest is approaching, an art exhibit focusing on olive trees recently opened and will be on display until December 13, 2014. The exhibit is located in the primarily Israeli Arab city of Umm el-Fahem and is called “The Benevolent Tree.”
The gallery is three stories with multiple rooms. According to the gallery’s description, the exhibition “is an attempt by 78 Israeli and Palestinian artists, to reinvigorate the broader discussion on the essence, importance and symbolism of the olive tree.” Continuing, the description says, “the sanctity of the olive tree has become intertwined with the sanctity of the land, to form a single entity symbolizing the difficult arguments and bloody conflict that have been going on for years on end.”
For more information about the Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery click HERE.
This Wednesday evening (Sept. 24), Jews in the Holy Land and the Diaspora will be entering into the Jewish New Year, 5775. How is it that the Jewish calendar is starting year 5775, but based on the the Gregorian (aka Western) calendar, it is 2014?
The Jewish Calendar starts from the creation of Adam and Eve, which was estimated to have happened just about 5,775 years ago!
Rosh Hashanah, literally translated to “Head of the year,” is a happy and serious time for Jews. According to a prayer said during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, “On Rosh Hashanah [your fate] it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.” There are ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and those are the known as the “Days of Awe.”
In Judaism there is the belief that when you transgressed by hurting someone, God will not pardon your transgressions without you first apologizing the person you hurt. What’s fascinating is that apologizing one time is not enough. Two times is still not enough. However, after the third time, if that person you hurt still does not forgive you, God will pardon your error.
For Rosh Hashanah, there is a tradition of dipping apples into honey, in hopes for a sweet, new year. Also, the traditional Jewish bread, called challah, is made round, instead of braided. The roundness is supposed to signify the circle of life.
Additionally, a ram’s horn (called a shofar) is blown 200 times throughout Rosh Hashanah. There are different interpretations as to why it is a ram’s horn and why it is blown on Rosh Hashanah. One interpretation is that the sound is supposed to wake up our souls.
It is a special opportunity to be on a Holy Land tour during holy days, specifically the High Holy Days. In addition to seeing what was mentioned above, you may also see other traditions, such as people throwing bread crumbs in moving bodies of water, in order to “cast off” their sins (this custom is called tashlich, which literally means “cast off”).
I hope that this upcoming year, 5575, will be full of happiness, non-violent action, love, and yummy food.
L’shana tova u’metuka (Happy and sweet new year)!
– This day is dedicated to world peace and was first celebrated in 1982.
– This day is respected by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples.
– This year has a theme, which is “Rights of People to Peace.” This theme is in honor of the 30th year of the UN Declaration’s Rights of People to Peace.
While being on a Holy Land tour, there are always conversations about why there is not peace in the Holy Land. Participating on a Breaking Bread Journeys tour is incredible because in addition to experiencing the Holy Land, you can intimately learn the perspective of an Israeli and a Palestinian. Additionally, Breaking Bread Journeys actively supports peace and sustainability efforts.
By clicking here, you can read about actions you can take to participate in this global Day of Peace. These ideas include include individual as well as global actions. One I found interesting is Peace Breathing. Also, there is an organization called Peace One Day, which is dedicated to spreading awareness of this global day of peace, as well as reducing violence on this day.
What will you do this year to celebrate International Day of Peace?
A few years ago I was on a plane in the U.S. and started small talking with the woman sitting next to me. Religion came up and when I told her I identified as a Jew, she laughed and told me that when she tells people which religion she identifies with, people often think she is saying “Jew.”
She told me that she was “Druze” and asked if I had heard of it. I nodded my head excitedly and told her that I had visited a Druze village while on an organized tour to Israel!
I remember them welcoming us with open arms and superfluous amounts of food. While we were being served lunch, a few Druze taught us about their religion and cultural values. Although their religion is secretive, they were open about teaching us the basics. Additionally, they were happy to answer any question we had.
While you are on a Holy Land tour, it is an amazing opportunity to meet Israeli Druze to learn about the fascinating Druze lifestyle.
Fact #1: Druze is a monotheistic religion and are often referred to as “People of Monotheism.”
Fact #2: Druze originated in Egypt at the end of the 10th century.
Fact #3: Druze is a blend of Islam, Hindu, and Greek philosophy.
Fact #4: In addition to not having Druze clergy, there are no ceremonies or rituals. This is because they believe ceremonies and rituals are distract one’s connection with God.
Fact #5: They do have a sacred text called Kitab Al Hikma (Epistles of Wisdom), which is only available to religious Druze.
Fact #6: Instead of following the Five Pillars of Islam, they: (1) Speak the truth, (2) Support their community, (3) Abandon the old creeds, (4) Purify from heresy, (5) Accept the unity of God, and (6) Submit to the will of God.
Fact #7: Like Muslims, Druze are forbidden from eating pork, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
Fact #8: Druze do not have nationalistic ideals and therefore, support the country they live in. However, they do have a flag and a five-pointed star symbol. Both contain five colors, each representing a limit which shows the difference between humans and animals.
Fact #9: There are religious Druze women and they are preferred over men because they are perceived as better “spiritually prepared.”
Fact #10: There is a population of over 100,000 Israeli Druze. Most Druze communities are in the North. There are also large populations of Druze living in Syria and Lebanon.
In the Torah, the Land of Israel is described by God to be a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Once you taste the fruit in the Holy Land, you will understand that this biblical reference remains true, even in modern times.
As mentioned in a previous post about ice cream and sorbet, the produce in the Holy Land is f-r-e-s-h. There is always a fruit in season that the whole country raves about. A few weeks ago the talk was about figs. For the next few weeks, pomegranates will be hot on the market.
Both figs and pomegranates are considered to be part of the Seven Species. According to Judaism, these fruits are special and during the times of the Temple, they were brought to the Temple as an offering to God. Today, because there is no Temple, Jews say a special prayer before eating one of the seven species. The other five other species are wheat, barley, grapevines, olives, and date honey (which is believed to be the honey in the biblical reference mentioned above).
According to Christianity, the fig symbolizes the search for truth. A way to search for truth is by producing fruit. It is said that if a Christian does not produce fruit in a certain period of time, his life is cut off from God because God does not profit from unproductive Christians. When the New Testament talks about this, it specifically references fig trees. Perhaps it refers to fig trees because it is a sterile fruit, meaning it requires seasonal labor.
Fun fact: It is believed that edible figs are one of the first plants cultivated by humans back in 9400–9200 BCE.
More fun (because “funner” isn’t a word) fact: It is also believed that these figs were cultivated in the Holy Land’s Jordan Valley.
It is also written in the Torah that Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:7) once they discovered they were naked. They discovered their nakedness after they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Some Jewish scholars believe that it was a pomegranate Adam and Eve ate. Additionally, is believed that pomegranates contain 613 seeds, which correlates with the 613 commandments.
In Christianity, opening pomegranates symbolizes the fullness of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection. Pomegranates are used for religions decoration in both Christianity and Judaism.
Which fruit season do you want to be in when you come on a Holy Land tour?
How many times have you attempted to search on the Internet for specific information and failed miserably, not wanting to trust a Yahoo answer from 2007?
If you are similar to me, your answer will range from “Often” to “[sigh] All the time.” While being in the Holy Land, however, I was introduced to different Facebook pages that are useful, safe spaces for me to ask my questions. The answers come within minutes and are relevant. It is also a place for me to learn something new by reading other people’s questions and answers.
These Facebook groups are regional and are called: “Secret Jerusalem”, “Secret Al Quds – East Jerusalem“, “Secret Tel Aviv”, “Secret Ramallah”, “Secret Bethlehem”, and “Secret Haifa”. Nearly all the posts are in English. These groups are also used for selling products and promoting upcoming events. There are additional groups on Facebook, however, the posts are frequently in Arabic or Hebrew.
These groups directly show the culture in this region, even amongst native English speakers. People openly connect with each other. When people have questions, they ask them. When people hear/see asked questions, they answer (although sometimes this happens without a question being asked!).
While talking with a friend who also lives here, she talked about how such pages “keep people from falling into tourist traps” and it helps people “find the trendy, hip places.” She admitted that on her free time she scrolls through these pages because it is both entertaining and beneficial.
For example, you can find posts like these:
And also posts like these:
With a new school year around the corner…pop quiz! Which one of these statements about King Herod is FALSE?
A) King Herod was known for being extremely friendly.
B) King Herod was King of Judea from 37-4 BCE.
C) King Herod attempted to kill Jesus as a baby.
D) King Herod had astonishing architectural achievements in the Holy Land.
E) King Herod died in Jericho.
If you thought A) was false, then you are correct!
King Herod was not known for his friendliness. He suffered from immense paranoia which led him to killing many he felt threatened by, including a wife and two sons. In the New Testament, it mentions King Herod killing the male babies in Jerusalem so there would not be anyone to heir the throne after him. Although his personal life and kingship were ugly, his architectural achievements were the complete opposite. Here are a few of his major accomplishments you will see on a Holy Land tour.
The Second Temple (Jerusalem): The Second Temple construction began in 20 BCE, and was destroyed in 70 CE. The remainings of this Temple are the outter walls, which includes the Western Wall–the holiest site for Jews today. It is holy because it is the closest remaining wall to where the Temple used to stand. The Dome of the Rock is situated where the Temple itself was located.
Fun fact: This is a place for prayer, and often people write their prayers on pieces of paper and stick them into the cracks of the wall. Everyone is welcome to participate!
Masada Fortress (Judaean Desert): Masada was built between 37 and 31 BCE and was the first fortress King Herod built while in power. Besides the magnificant view overlooking the Dead Sea, Masada is most known for the Siege of Masada from 73- 74 CE. Years after the death of King Herod and soon after the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews hid in the abandoned Masada Fortress. They fought and prevented the Romans from entering the Fortress for some time. Eventually, the Romans got up to fhe Fortress, however, everyone there was dead–the Jews committed mass suicide to prevent becoming prisoners of the Romans.
Fun fact: The Siege of Masada symbolizes Jewish heroism and is used for Nationalistic purposes. Therefore, this site is used for tourism as well as ceremonies for the Israeli army.
Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea): This port city was built between 25-13 BCE and its ruins include the city walls, castle, theatre, and aqueduct. The city was continuously used, and after King Herod, was ruled by Arabs and Crusaders. This city is a must-see sight for Christian tours to Israel. It is located where the Pilate Stone was found. This stone mentions the name “Pontius Pilatus,” who, according to the New Testament, was the one who ordered Jesus to be crucified. Historians think that Pilatus lived in this city. Additionally, this was where Peter baptized the first gentile convert.
Fun fact: This is a fun place for all groups, including for children. Since the theatre is still in tact, it is a fun opportunity to show off your acting skills 😉
No Holy land travel experience is complete without tasting your way through the myriad of cultures present all over this land. And while ice cream and sorbet may not be traditionally Israeli or Palestinian dishes, they are still quite popular in the Holy Land, particularly during the hot summer months. The sorbet and ice cream here are fresh and rich in taste and are worth eating…often.
So, to all the ice cream and sorbet lovers wondering what the Holy Land offers in this all important food category, this post is for you.
I recently happened upon an unusual ice cream store where I was introduced to a world of new frozen flavors, many of which were inspired by the many cultures present in this region.
Unlike other ice cream stores, you won’t find typical chocolate, vanilla, or coffee at Mousseline. Rather, flavors like wasabi, berry cheesecake, basil, and olive oil and interesting Middle eastern inspired sorbet flavors such as grapefruit-basil, sour cherry, lemon-mint, and almond are a few of the unique tastes offered.
Mousseline is located in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda (also known as the Jewish shuk) situated in the west side of Jerusalem. The store prepares its ice cream using the freshest ingredients from within Machane Yehuda market, producing a regular supply of incredibly fresh and tasty frozen flavors.
During my first visit to Mousseline, I was intimidated by all the unusual flavors. I did not even know which one to try first! Luckily, the friendly staff allowed me to sample as many as I wanted and even suggested which ones to try.
The phrase I repeatedly used was,“ef-shar li-tome? meaning “may I taste?” No need to worry, though, the staff speaks fluent English (and perhaps even other languages).
With pressure mounting after several samples, I ultimately decided on the grapefruit-basil sorbet. Two thumbs up!
An Israel cultural tour will most likely include a visit to the Machene Yehuda shuk. Make sure you take the time to walk around and not only see the different stands selling colorful fruit, vegetables, nuts, candy, pastries and more but taste your way through as well. To know a people is to know their food.
Which flavors would you like to taste?
For more information about the store and its location, click HERE.
For the store’s website (in Hebrew), click HERE.