25 September 2006

One Raku and a wedding

Over the last 3/4 weeks I went to France for my very good friends' wedding - Imene and Jerome - and John and I went to a Raku firing with some other good friends.

Jerome and Imene coming out of the townhall. They have just said "I do".

Jerome and Imene posing before getting into Jerome's fancy cabriolet :-)

My other very good friend, Audrey, was also at the wedding.

And my other very good friend, Julien, was also there...

And our other friends were there too...

The was my second raku firing. It was again great fun. This time there were many other people - those from the other classes - and we also had some non-potter guests. Raku is something really unique. It takes a fair amount of time, it gets really hot when you deal with the kiln and the pots and also - I discovered it this time - it can be a bit stressful (maybe stressful is not the right word), but what I mean with this is that it is quite a responsability to take other people's pots out of the kiln WHEN you have to do it fast WITHOUT dropping them during the process AND all this while it is terribly HOT!

I look foward to the next raku.

Check out some of these links as well:




23 September 2006

Rosh HaShanah (Head or First of the Year)

22nd–24th September 2006

FRIDAY WAS A Bahá’í holy day, in the Holy Land, commemorating the Martyrdom of the Báb, the forerunner and herald of Bahá’u’lláh. We attended a beautifully sunlit, but nevertheless solemn, programme in the vicinity of the Shrine of the Báb in Haifa around noon, and then visited the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh in the afternoon.

However, that is not what I am going to talk about here, since others surely have elsewhere; this weekend is a particularly holy weekend in the Holy Land since it sees not only a Bahá’í holy day, but also comes just before the beginning of the Muslim month of Ramadan, and linking the two is the Jewish celebration of Rosh HaShanah, or the New Year.

AFTER A BRIEF interlude, the Jewish festival season is picking up once again, beginning (altogether appropriately, I feel) with the New Year. In fact, the months of September and October this year contain the vast majority of the Jewish holy days, it would seem, and hopefully I’ll be quick enough on my feet to write a little bit about each one.

Rosh HaShanah is a two-day holy day, celebrated on the 1st and 2nd days of the month of Tishri, marking the Jewish New Year. This year (2006 A.D.), it started at nightfall on Friday 22nd September and continues on until dusk on Sunday 24th September. This is because the Jewish day, like the Bahá’í day, starts at sundown the evening before the actual day itself (an interesting fact to note when considering the origin of the practice of recognising various ‘eve’s, like Christmas Eve, in the West).

This year’s Rosh HaShanah marks the beginning of the Jewish year 5767. And you thought anything above 2000 sounded like a big number?! Sorry, but the Jews beat everyone else hands down in the “whose calendar is bigger?” stakes.

Rosh HaShanah is also known as Yom HaZikkaron (Day of Remembrance) or Yom Teruah (Day of the Sounding of the Shofar – the shofar is a large ram’s horn sounded 100 times in the synagogue). For more info on that, go here.

Also, please view this interesting Web page for information about customs and beliefs related to this solemn day, including the judgement of the world for the year to come and the practice of saying a special prayer, the Amidah - Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are two holy days when Jews say different liturgies (prayers and readings) than other days of the year.

The big question, of course, is: Why two days? Well, this apparently has to do with the method of deciding when the new year takes place and the time it used to take to notify everyone: The Jewish calendar, like the Islamic calendar, is essentially lunar (although the Jewish calendar has leap years that put it back in sync with the solar year when it gets too far out, unlike the Islamic calendar, which is purely lunar). Being a lunar calendar means that the timing of major events – holy days and even the beginnings of months – is decided based on when the new moon is ‘spotted’; the New Year is not automatically on a certain date every year, but rather, it depends on when the moon is spotted.

In the case of Jewish events, the timing would be determined at the Temple in Jerusalem and then the news sent out throughout the country. In a time before the advent of telegraph, telephone, radio, television and then Internet, once the date of the holy day was determined, it might take some time for far-away communities to be informed, by runner, that the festival had begun. This could only have become further complicated with the Diaspora in the early years A.D. Thus, the Jews came up with the novel method of having a two-day celebration – thereby ensuring that communities that only heard the good news shortly before the end of the day, or even on the next, would still be able to celebrate the holy day in accordance with Jewish law. This was apparently the case for other holy days, but only with Rosh HaShanah has it stuck.

ONE OTHER INTERESTING point of note is that it appears that the beginning of the Jewish year may have been different earlier in history. For example, whilst Rosh HaShanah is celebrated at the beginning of the month of Tishri, the first month of the Jewish calendar (seems logical, no?), Leviticus 23.5 states that the spring festival of Pesach (Passover) is celebrated in the first month (it is celebrated in Nissan, now the seventh month), implying that the calendar may once have begun with Nissan. It is also interesting that the extra month of Adar II, which is inserted in leap years, comes just before Nissan, possibly at once time the end of the year, rather than being in the middle, as it is now…and the Rabbis apparently discussed all this in the Talmud without resolving the issue entirely…although Passover is considered to be the beginning of the year for festivals. All very intriguing!

IN ANY CASE, returning to the present day, Rosh HaShanah is notable to the non-Jew principally by the fact the streets are empty and everything is closed; we had been thinking of visiting Nazareth today (a Christian town and therefore one we hoped would be open on this Jewish very holy day). Alas! There were no sheruts to be had (we didn’t book one in advance like some others, nor had we hired a car) and so we instead spent a leisurely day in sunny Nahariyyah, up the coast from Acre, from where we could see Rosh HaNiqra, the attractive headland which marks the border with Lebanon.

(Posted by J.)

02 September 2006

It's all about childhood / Ah l'enfance !

A friend of ours went back home (to the US) for holidays and I had made a special request to her hoping that my request wasn't too silly or "so out of date". Anyways, when she came back, I wondered whether she had forgotten about what I had asked for, until I received this in internal mail:

L'une de nos amies est retournée chez elle (aux Etats-Unis) en vacances et je lui avais fait une demande spéciale, en espérant que c'était pas une demande trop bête ni 'dépassé'. En tout cas, lorsqu'elle est revenue, je me demandais si elle avait oublié ma 'commande' ...jusqu'à ce que je reçoive ça par courrier interne :

As I said in the title...it is all about childhood! I used to eat these when I was still in Suriname and I loved them! I think I also had them in France but then they stopped selling them in the shops, which of course broke my heart!

I remember going to the US once and bringing a box back home and enjoying every loop of it! This time I am torn. Should I eat them or should I save them?!

Comme je l'ai dit dans le titre... Ah l'enfance ! Je mangeais ça quand j'étais encore au Surinam, et je les adorais ! Je crois en avoir mangé en France aussi, mais ou bout d'un moment on ne les trouvait plus dans les magasins, ce qui m'a brisé le cœur, bien sûr !

Je me rappelle qu'une fois je suis allée aux Etats-Unis et que j'avais ramené une boîte. J'ai apprécié chaque petit loop ! Mais cette fois je me demande... est-ce que je devrais les manger... ou bien les garder ?

Ramat Hatishbi on Shabbat

Sitting here at 10.30 a.m. today, idling away another quiet Shabbat morning, I thought I'd show you our tranquil, leafy neighbourhood - Ramat Hatishbi (which, a little scarily, gets a brief mention -here- on Wikipedia). We live at the bottom end of Rekhov Shunamit (Shunamit Street), and from our living room window you can see, opposite and a little to the left, the end of Rekhov Ovadia (Obadiah Street). Shunamit is one-way down, while Ovadia is one-way up, and the bus stops just outside our flat on its way round the loop.

Note the general leafy greenness, and the clear blue sky. Although there's no-one out there right now, if you swap Sunday for Saturday, you'll be unsurprised to hear that one of the popular Shabbat pastimes is...car washing.

As you look down Shunamit to the right, past and over the appartment blocks -- these ones managing to display enough evidence of creativity on the part of the architect to escape the usual accusation levelled at many local residential builings of being 'functional' in appearance -- the line of deep blue that you can see stretching across the bottom of the sky is the Mediterranean Sea.

We actually swam in the Israeli part of the Med for the first time last Shabbat (See previous post). I know, it took us six months to actually get into the water! - but in our defence, it is often full of jellyfish, and last weekend was confirmed Jellyfish-free on Haifa's Carmel Beach (Hof HaCarmel), which is more-or-less the section of sea you're looking at, south-west of the city.

So, that's our little corner of Ramat Hatishbi.