In the Footsteps of Elijah

Fresco, Ascent of Elijah, on the wall of Stella Maris

I love that everywhere we go in Israel, there is a biblical or historical site. They are everywhere. For the past month, we have been on the trail of the prophet Elijah. Our balcony overlooks Carmel Ridge, where much of the Biblical story takes place. It’s about 40 minutes from our house, so when friends offered to take us to Mukhraka (‘the place of the fire’ in Arabic) last month, we jumped at the opportunity. They were going for the sweeping panoramas. We were hunting Elijah, Eliyahu in Hebrew.

On the southeastern slope of Mount Carmel, the prophet had his famous showdown with King Ahab and the prophets of the god Baal. In this encounter, described in 1 Kings 18:1-40, Elijah issued a challenge to 450 pagan priests over whose god could make it rain. Before an assembly on the summit of Carmel, he called on the priests to seek fire from Baal to light their sacrifice. When Baal failed to respond to their pleading, Elijah built an altar to the L-rd, pouring mega-gallons of water (this was during an extreme drought!!!!!) on top of his own sacrifice. Immediately, fire from heaven consumed his waterlogged offering. Directly down the steep slope of this mountain runs the Kishon Stream, just as it was written in the Bible attesting to us the fact this was the correct location. Elijah tells his servant to go look out to sea to see if there is any sign of rain. From this spot, one can look far off in the distance to see the Mediterranean(another verification of the site). Soon after, the storm began and Elijah outran the chariot and horses of King Ahab down Mt. Carmel to the Jezreel Valley below. When I was a kid, we used to think Elijah was the fastest man alive because he could outrun Ahab’s chariot. Today, now that I’ve been to Mukhraka, I think he was smart. As we stood atop the mountain looking down, we could not even begin to imagine what it must have been like to drive horses and chariot down a steep, very rocky slope. Avoiding trees. Flash flooding. Mudslides. It must have taken endless hours. So much faster and much more direct to just make one’s way by foot!!

Mukhraka today is a Carmelite monastery open to the public. The gardens are well-kept and peaceful. In the center courtyard a monument to Elijah stands. Inside the small chapel is an altar with 12 stones from the site, just like the 12 stones the prophet erected for his altar on this spot. But the prize is climbing to the rooftop for the panorama. You can see for miles and miles in all directions. In the North, you can see all the way to the mountains of the Lebanese border. To the west is the Mediterranean Sea. To the east, the view encompasses the Jezreel Valley, Mount Tabor, Nazareth and the surrounding areas, and to the South one can see Megiddo, Ceasaria, Netanyahu and all the way to Tel Aviv!!! It’s absolutely breathtaking!!!

Elijah the prophet was known to hide out in a cave on the Carmel ridge because King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were both seeking out the prophets of G-d to kill them – and for Elijah in particular. This is where the story gets even more interesting. Here in Israel, you will often find different locations for each Bible story. Because the Roman Catholics, the Greek Orthodox, the Protestants, the Jews, the Druze and the Muslims will not worship at the same site together, there are multiple locations (i.e. The Holy Sepulchre vs the Garden Tomb; three sites of Capernaum; three sites for the Sermon on the Mountain; the Western Wall for Jews and the Temple Mount for Muslims, different sites of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary). After researching and asking many people and tour guides, we found four different caves of Elijah. Each religion swears theirs is the correct one. So, here goes-

The Jewish Cave of Elijah is at the very base of Mount Carmel near Bat Galim Beach in Haifa. It’s not terribly well known. To find it, you must go up a flight of steep steps to a person’s private residence. The old stone home is built right atop the entrance to a cave. Finding it is not so easy as it’s not well marked and the cave is behind a large set of wooden double doors. Once inside, there is a divided cavern – one side for the women and one side for men, as prayer is segregated by sexes in Judaism. At the back of this cavern is a smaller chamber in the rock where the Holy Ark containing the Torah scrolls are kept. All in all, the cavern is spacious, dimly lit and musty. Could this be the place?

The next Cave of Elijah is a story unto itself. We were equally unprepared for this one. My husband and I heard that there was another cave at the top of the western cliff of Mt Carmel in Haifa, just 140 meters up the hill above the Jewish cave. Literally surrounding the cave is the Roman Catholic Church of Stella Maris, run by the Carmelite order. The Carmelites were founded upon Mount Carmel during the Crusades by hermit monks who lived in caves like the prophet Elijah had done. Many of the monks here were killed by the Muslims in the 1400s, but resettled the mountain in 1631, purchasing the land outright from Emir Jorabay with mediation from the French. They erected the monastery, but were expelled by Al Omar in 1767. Not daunted, the Carmelite monks received patronage from the Turkish Sultan and the French and were allowed to return and expand their building. During Napoleon’s siege of Akko eight miles to the north, the building was converted to a French hospital for the wounded soldiers. In 1821, Abdullah Pasha, the governor of Akko tore down the church, but it was rebuilt in 1836. It became an influential institution to the city of Haifa, attracting a large Arab Christian population. Furthermore, the ‘rediscovery’ of the Holy Land in the late 1880s (Mark Twain) brought more visitors and pilgrims to the area. In 1887, a hostel was built around the cave and church. Many brought their sick who came for the chance the spirit of Elijah would heal them. The large complex of monastery, basilica, lighthouse (which we see from our balcony every night), and surrounding gardens stand to this day.

Before I get back to Elijah, there’s another thread I want to share (that happens all the time here. I’ll go for one story and find three other fascinating ones as well!!). A mysterious, invisible straight line links seven monasteries from Ireland to Israel. They were built independently of one another from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries and are all very far apart from each other, yet all in a line. As the story goes, the archangel Michael fought a great battle in heaven with Lucifer/Satan, eventually hurling him from heaven to earth. It is said that the line of churches follows the path of Michael’s sword, the tip landing in Haifa on Mt Carmel. The first monastery is located on the island of Skellig Michael in Ireland…on to St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, UK…Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France…Sacra di San Michele in Turin, Italy…Monte Santangelo, Italy….Simi Monastery, Greece… and Stella Maris. And all were supposedly built by direct request from an apparition of St. Michael, Archangel.

We made it up the mountain to Stella Maris Church just in time for the Mass. The church was reminiscent of many I’d seen in France or Italy. It was astoundingly beautiful, but strikingly different, because the raised altar was built over top of Elijah’s Cave. The walls were marble imported from Italy, as was the mosaic floor. Stained glass panels told the story of Elijah, and overhead was a stunning cupola with frescoed panels depicting Elijah, King David, other prophets, and Mary. Just beyond the pews were three steps down into the grotto, where pilgrims go to pray and light candles, much as in the Jewish cave. Above the altar was a large statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. Suspended from her hand is a large scapular. Mary, patroness of the Carmelites, gave this scapular to one of the monks in the 1200s. Many Catholic faithful today wear it. A tiny bit like a talit kattan worn by Jewish men or a mezuzah, the scapular is a prayer placard suspended around the neck by cords or fringes. It rests over the heart and between the scapula bones at the back. Of all the Elijah caves we visited, this was certainly the most impressive.

At the southwestern face of the Carmel Ridge is the site that Protestant Christians claim is the true cave of Elijah. There are no fancy churches, no places for prayer or lighting of candles, no holy books or gardens….just a lonely walk to a cave in the side of the mountain. It was roped off and quite inaccessible to humans – except for a couple of creepy life-sized dolls. Were they supposed to be representations of the famous prophet? The site certainly had that desolate feel of a place a hermit would live or a place one would go to seek escape. But those dolls!!! What were the people that put them there thinking???

The last cave of Elijah was not on Mount Carmel at all. It was adjacent to the city in which we live! A five minute drive across the highway and a twenty minute hike on a narrow trail. Located between the Arab towns of Nahef and Deir al Assad, we could see the structure high up in the mountain cliffs. John and I had always wondered what it could be? It looked like an ancient Egyptian temple or some type of mausoleum. It was the Muslim site of Elijah’s cave. In Arabic Elijah is known as “El Khader”. During the Byzantine period the Beit ha Kerem (House of Vineyards) Valley was a major center of Christian monasteries. The caves in the hills were used as burial sites for local Jewish residents and also for the early Hebrew Christians of the Galilee. Monks secluded themselves in these numerous caves as well. When the Muslims invaded the land, they took over many of these sites. They built their own shrine at the entrance to one of the larger caverns for their El Khader. Today, Bedouins still go up to the heights to offer sacrifices of sheep and goats… seeing the remnants of a recent Eid sacrifice near the entrance was just a little weird for us.

2 Kings, chapter 2 recounts the famous Bible story of Elijah being taken bodily to heaven in a whirlwind. He had traveled with his disciple Elisha down to the Judaean desert at the Jordan River crossing. There, Elijah instructed Elisha to wait on the western side of the river and not to take his eyes off him as he crossed over and ascended in the whirlwind when a fiery chariot split the sky (but Elisha’s attention was not diverted!!!) and he saw his mentor go up into the heavens. He then received a double portion of Elijah’s anointing – and his mantle.

Last month, our good friend, Marc, wanted to visit that spot at the Jordan River – to see how high the water was after two years of heavy winter rains. The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) was still full and feeding the Jordan, which down near the Dead Sea is usually just a slimy trickle a couple inches deep. This year, it was supposed to be freely flowing and quite deep. I was dying to go because not only was it where Elijah was taken up, but it was also the exact spot where the Children of Israel crossed into the Promised Land of Israel at Gilgal (near Jericho)after their forty year desert wanderings – Joshua 3. Once we got down there, I learned it was also the site where John the Baptist was immersing his disciples – and where he immersed Jesus. Also, it marks the spot where the leprous Syrian general Naaman dipped seven times in the river at the directive of Elisha. He was reticent to do something so simple, but was immediately cured of his disease (2 Kings 5). So it was quite the holy place!!!

In the Samarian (Shomron) desert, also known as the West Bank, on the border with Jordan, is Qaser Al-Yahud, also known as ‘the baptismal site.’ It had been completely closed since the 1967 War. Following Jordan’s defeat in the war, and their loss of control of the West Bank, the Palestine Liberation Organization under Yasser Arafat began to launch attacks on Israel from the Jordanian territory. The fighting lasted until Black September in 1970 when the troops of King Hussein routed the Palestinians (being supported by Haze Assad of Syria) into Lebanon. The area they left behind had been heavily mined. The old church that stood at the site is still pockmarked with bullet holes. Over the past decade, the IDF has been working to clear the landmines in the immediate vicinity so the Catholic Church and Franciscan monastery there could be used again. Today, it’s under the protection of the Israeli Parks Service and the Franciscans and can now be used for baptisms…once tourists are allowed back after the pandemic closures.

Because there were so few tourists on the Israeli side, we had a fun time to ourselves. Being careful to stay within the confines of the designated paths, we made our way down to the Jordan River. Unlike the crystal clear waters in the North, the Jordan was quite muddy by the time it reached Qaser al Yahud. The Israeli side was quite sparse, but there were an assortment of beautiful churches on the Jordanian side: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Russian Orthodox. There were steps leading down to the river for baptisms, and a large chain dividing line that signified the border between Israel and Jordan. It was crazy being so close to the border!

As I was dipping my foot in (I just HAD to do it!) the murky waters, we heard singing coming from the Jordanian side. English voices! Americans!!!! Escorted by an armed guard, an American Evangelical pastor from California had taken some of his congregation on a pilgrimage. I yelled to them from the Israeli side. He was there to baptize them. How lucky for us to be there to see them!!

In total, he baptized six people. Tears were flowing, songs were being lifted heavenward, and you could just tell it was a moment that would forever be sealed in the hearts of those people. By the time we left, the one armed guard was joined by four other Jordanian military. And so we found ourselves at the last point in Elijah’s earthly life. It had been a most interesting journey for us.

Craziness

Some say it’s the European model. Most explain it as an effect of socialized medicine. Add to that cultural and religious idiosyncrasies and I call it craziness.

If you read my last blogpost, you’ll know where I’m coming from (read it now to catch up). John was hospitalized a couple weeks ago, undergoing major abdominal surgery. Even though we were at the highest rated medical center in the MidEast, medical care was still very different from the US in many ways.

Because we have socialized medicine, the doctors and nurses make nowhere near what they make in the States. So, the care is very basic. No frills. No extras. The patient is monitored and given medications, IVs are given, drains and bags changed. That’s about it for nursing care. Most people have a designated caregiver who stays with the patient throughout their hospital stay. It’s a bit on the crazy side.

I was the caregiver for my husband. I fed him and helped him out of bed. I supported him on his walks around the hall; showered him; changed his bed linens (I brought pillows and blankets, towels and washcloths from home… through experience). When he needed something from the nurse, I went and got it… all typical for the caregiver. Things nurses or attendees would do elsewhere. As there was no TV, I would read to him (Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad) and raise or lower the bed.

Following last weeks’ debacle on Shabbat when I was caught in a world where everything was closed, I started panicking Sunday night. Perhaps it was exhaustion from sitting/sleeping bedside in a plastic chair, but my imagination was running fast and free. The High Holy Days we’re fast approaching. Friday and Saturday Shabbat followed by Sunday through Tuesday Rosh HaShannah. Yikes. What would that look like at the hospital? I’d be trapped in all respects!

All transportation would be down. All shops, stores, restaurants would be closed for five days. They would be on a skeletal nursing staff… I found out later there would be four nurses and one intern on the floor per shift. The only food for the caregivers would be that which was brought in by friends and relatives beforehand. What would I do?

There was talk on Tuesday about placing stable patients on “khofesh” or vacation/break/holiday from the hospital. So, if John was stable enough, he would be allowed to go home on “vacay” so to speak. Thursday evening until Wednesday morning. He’d still be admitted. Same room. Same everything. He’d just get to go home. I’m completely serious. It sounded like pure craziness.

I learned how to put the medicine in the little cup on the mask and give breathing treatments by nebulizer …. every four hours. No biggie. I used to do this with my son when he was little. Next came learning to give subcutaneous injections of blood thinner… once a night in the thigh to prevent embolisms. I can do this. Also intramuscular injections of another medication. Emptying a drain, a little plastic hollow donut attached to a tube inside the abdomen that sticks out of Johns side like a pocket watch on a chain and fob. Sheer craziness.

There were a couple more unpleasantries, but I learned everything I needed. A bit of IV morphine was given before he was “disconnected” and we were off. Backseat. Pillows to tuck in. Two hour car ride. Into the house. Up two flights of stairs. Into the bed. We made it. John was wiped out but home.

I had picked up catered meals for two weeks. I had an emergency nurse on speed dial on my phone. I had all the meds and all my instructions. I could do this! At least we were home and I could get some sleep in my own bed, take a shower, and enjoy a proper meal. And Max was home most of the time to help as well.

My parents always wanted me to be a doctor. For once, I felt like one. As of today, all is well. The patient is resting comfortably. I even snuck out of the house to go to synagogue yesterday for the New Year service.

The synagogue a block from my house is Sephardic/Moroccan. I had never been to such a place. Most of the old prayers and liturgy I remembered were there, but the melodies chanted and sung were completely unfamiliar. There were many additions to the services…. I really loved it. Even though there were separate men’s and women’s worship sections, all the ladies participated wholeheartedly. When I lost my place in the prayerbook, several different women were more than glad to help me out. It was a totally memorable experience and I cannot wait to return.

Tomorrow morning, first thing, we pack John back into the backseat with all the tubes and lines attached. The drive back down to Sheba should be uneventful… I can do it in my sleep by now. I have no idea how long he’ll be there. I’m thinking not more than a day or two since he’s already been home and all went well. Still, this entire process has been sheer craziness for me.

Recipes & Ideas for the Fall Feasts

IMG_2596

It’s a few days after the observance of Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year – and I’m finally beginning to catch my breath. John & I had just returned from two weeks in Europe, and I was having five extra guests plus my son (on army leave) over for dinner. I wanted a really pretty table and menu with a minimum amount of hardship. Plus, we would be celebrating a traditional New Year Seder here in Israel.

For the centerpiece, I used my Rosh HaShannah seder plate which I got at Shalom House in Tarzana, California. Underneath I laid (silk) fall leaves with grapes and chestnuts (I picked off the ground in Geneva & will cook later) surrounding the plate. I decided to use my autumn colors tablecloth so I didn’t have to iron my good white damask one. Gold trimmed placemats, my autumn (meat dishes) china, and we were almost good to go. Hollowing out a few tiny acorn squash and inserting a tea light in each one was inexpensive, easy, and really lovely.  I put a hostess sized Tamar Gourmet Preserves or Chutney at each of the guests’ plates.

Now for the traditional foods and their meanings: the Seder Plate contains nine symbolic items, each associated with a blessing. The first is a pomegranate. I discussed the symbolism of the pomegranate in my last blog post. May the 613 arils remind us of the commandments in the Torah, so we  can have a holy year. Scallions or leeks are used to remind us of the whips of taskmasters and oppressors. May we never come under the rule of oppressive dictators and Pharaohs again. Amen! A gourd: may our good deeds in the coming year be as numerous as seeds of the pumpkin. The head of a fish (I use a paper one) so that we may always be the head and not the tail in the year ahead. A beet or carrot. Some of the words in Hebrew form the meanings or word play for the symbolism. They just don’t translate into English well. Also, each community has their own tradition – go with me on these. The beet (or carrot). May G-d in His mercy keep our enemies far away from us. A double Amen as we live in a very uncertain world these days. Black eyed peas: a few traditions on this food. One is that our enemies will be turned back; another is that the eyes of G-d, the angels and holy ones watch over us to guard us and guide us throughout the year. Dates. I discussed the significance of the date palm (tamar) last post, but may we bend under troubles and not break, as other less supple trees during storms.

I really love these sticky, sweet fruits for so many reasons. As an object lesson, think on the date palm. They bend: they give when pressure is applied. When an intense wind storm hits, they drop their fruits. I like to think of myself as being especially fruitful during a hard situation. Yes, sometimes I lash out and can be pretty miserable; but like the date palm, that’s when I want to be spreading the most help, the most cheer, the most optimism to others. Going with the flow, accepting what I have no control over, and being as positive as possible.

The next food, perhaps the most famous combo associated with Rosh HaShannah is apples and honey. May we have a sweet year. A year of health!!! A year of joy!!! A holy year. A year of prosperity. A year of peace!!! And lastly, the wine and the challah. From Rosh HaShannah through Simchat Torah we use a round bread, not the traditional braided one. The roundness is to remind us of many things – the cycle of the year and the cycle of life. The fact that G-d has no beginning or end. He was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Also, the rounded loaf looks like a crown. During this season we crown Him King of our Lives.

I love the new round challah cover I just bought for the holidays in Budapest last week. It was made by a 93 year old woman who somehow survived during the Holocaust and now works at the Dohany St. Synagogue. She’s a lively, chatty old soul – but has had to slow down over the years due to her failing eyesight. She now uses a machine instead of sewing by hand, but either way, this is a beautiful piece I’ll treasure always. It says in Hebrew “Sabbath Peace and Holiday Happiness.”

During, the holidays, I try to keep to a healthy diet, using as many of the fall fruits and veggies – Israel’s Seven Species, and incorporating as many of the symbolic foods as possible. Because there is so much cooking this time of year, I also try to make things as simple as possible. Hope you can try a few of these as well during your fall feasts.

BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD, ITALIAN STYLE                      parve, serves 8

IMG_2599

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked black-eyed peas or 1 large package frozen peas
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 large stalk celery (or 6 tiny Israeli stalks)
  • 6 large scallions (green onions)
  • 1 small bunch flat, Italian parsley, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  •  Italian dressing (I make my own using 4 Tbsp red wine vinegar; 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 1/4; 4 cloves smashed garlic; 1 tsp oregano; 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper; 1 tsp sea salt)

Soak the dried peas overnight, covering with boiling water. Drain, rinse, then cook in salted boiling water 15 minutes. Let simmer for 1-2 hours or until softened. Drain & rinse well. Drain again.                                        You can save yourself all the extra trouble by using defrosted frozen or drained & rinsed canned black eyed peas, if available.  Place peas in a large bowl. Cut up veggies into a small dice. Add to bowl. Pour the Italian dressing over top. Before serving, mix in the minced parsley leaves. Garnish with parsley leaf and the top of a pepper. Refrigerates and keeps well for leftovers. Can be served as a hearty salad lunch or as a side with either meat or dairy. Protein packed!!!

HARVEST QUINOA SALAD                                         parve   serves 6-8

I love quinoa. It’s gluten free and great for special needs diets; so versatile and easy to prepare!

IMG_2594

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked, fluffed quinoa (cook according to package directions)
  • 1/3 cup dried sweet pitted cherries
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1’4 cup sliced almond pieces
  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or pumpkin cubes
  • 1/2 cup dressing (if in US, Brianna’s Blush Wine Vinaigrette is amazing!!!!! If not, recipe follows…

Cook the quinoa according to package directions to yield 2 cups. Fluff and set aside to cool in large bowl. Halve and de-seed a butternut squash or small pumpkin. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. In  220*C/450 *F oven, roast the gourd for about 15-20 minutes until tender. Let cool. Add dried fruits, sliced scallions and almonds to quinoa. Mix gently to incorporate. Cube the flesh of the squash/pumpkin into small bite sized chunks and add to quinoa bowl. Mix gently. Pour dressing over top, and mix in. Can be served room temp or refrigerated. This makes tasty leftovers – if there are any!!!

Dressing: Blend well-

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup blush or rose wine
  • 2 Tbsp red onion juice (I use my garlic squeezer to juice my onion) and remaining pulp
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp honey or sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger juice (squeeze fresh) – optional
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg -optional

 

              ROASTED FIGS ON BABY GREENS                    parve      serves 6

Another easy one, that is raving delicious! I cook the figs with all the other items I’m roasting that day, running the oven only once….

On a foil-lined cookie sheet, halve washed figs. Drizzle with small amount of olive oil, salt & pepper. You can also add a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar, but only if it’s sweet (3-5 coins on packaging). Roast at 220*C/450*F oven for 10 minutes.  In large bowl, put pre-washed mesclun or baby green salad mix. Lay the roasted figs on top SAVE THE JUICE!!!!!! Add a few thinly sliced purple onions to the top, and sprinkle on some candied pecans.

Dressing: pour the reserved fig juice into a small bowl. Add a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper. Squeeze in 2 Tbsp onion juice (I use my garlic press) and pulp. Blend well & pour over salad just prior to serving.

SHOESTRING VEGGIES SALAD

This is also quick and easy. It’s very colorful and oh so good for you. Can be served at any meal. The veggies can be bought pre-prepared and mixed or you can run the fresh veggies through a food processor. I use my mandoline slicer –

IMG_2620

 

  • 3 medium red beets, peeled, raw, and julienned
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, raw, julienned
  • 1 large kohlrabi or jicama, peeled, raw, juilienned
  • 1/3 cup Brianna’s Blush Wine Salad Dressing if in the US. If not see recipe for the dressing above in the Quinoa Salad.

Enjoy, my friends. I hope your Fall Feasts are sweet – filled with family, friends, good food & good music. And in this holy season of introspection before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atoning:

IMG_2613

Open Air Galleries: Israeli Street Art

DSCN7138

A sign of hope in Jerusalem

Whether it is a political or religious statement; call for social justice; expression of poetry; or a way of marking one’s history or passing, man has always felt the need to place a sign of his existence for posterity. From the ancient cave writings to street graffiti, Israel has its own unique style. I’m sure there are markings from Biblical times on stones and in yet undiscovered caves. The earliest that I’ve encountered here is Crusader graffiti. Notched into the walls in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem are myriad crosses, the sign of the knights and pilgrims who paid homage to the spot in the Middle Ages. There are hundreds of them!

Modern “urban guerrilla art” had its start in Israel in Haifa in the very early 2000’s. Four teens, Unga, Tant, Deso & Kip formed the Broken Fingaz Crew and started painting brightly colored pictures and murals on walls and abandoned buildings. At first, their work was covered up, but as people began to appreciate their  artistic endeavors, and to see the actual beauty, it gradually began to be left in place. Today, they have gained not only acceptance, but fame and a large following in the art world. Their designs have appeared on posters, album covers, t-shirts, and is displayed in trendy galleries.

Tel Aviv is definitely the place for the most unique and innovative street art. The hip Florentin District has quite a bit as do the old quarters of Neve Tsedek and Yaffo. In fact, it has become so popular, there are explanatory tours given in Hebrew and in English by Dioz (himself a street artist) and by my personal favorite, Guy Sharett (Guy has the most wonderful podcasts teaching Hebrew, Streetwise Hebrew, and several Youtube posts – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED). He’s one of the most interesting guides in Tel Aviv, explaining in depth the artist and the sometimes hidden meaning behind each piece of art in this open air gallery.

Some of the pieces are just fun, starting with the easily identifiable work of Sened, known for his wood-cut block characters that are painted over and then applied to the desired surfaces. Also starting his art in the early 2000’s, his characters are known as kufsonim(boxy guys) and can be found throughout Tel Aviv.

An artist with the tag “Dede” moved from California to Tel Aviv in 2010. He is known for his images of wildlife and of bandaids, symbolizing healing (as in a globe plastered with bandaids; a heart with a bandage).

IMG_7577

There are several graffiti images with Biblical references. For example, the story of Cain and Abel placed in the present and making a statement of responsibility for our fellow human beings.

DSCN7634

There is a type of street art that pastes pre-done drawings directly on the wall. This is one, in Yaffo, upholds the virtues of ecumenism and peace. It shows a mufti, a priest, and a rabbi holding hands – notice the skateboard and skates!

DSCN1086

Others are cute , like the sketch of people cleaning off their feet on a wall bordering a Tel Avi beach; and other symbols of pop culture.

Nitzan Mint is a young woman who had a difficult time finding an outlet to publish her poetry. So she combined it with art and took it to the streets of Tel Aviv. She has since gained fame as a respected Israeli poet.

DSCN7525

In Jerusalem, the artist Solomon Souza wanted a way to add color, energy, beauty, and a bit of Israeli and Jewish history to the Mechane Yehuda market in Tel Aviv. In 2015 he started spray painting the metal doors of the vendors with gorgeous murals. He has gained international acclaim, and has had gallery shows and offers to promote several product lines. I love his pieces!!!

The “Na-Nachs” have left their mark here as well. These Hasidic followers of Rebbe Nachman Maiman of Uman, with their hippie lifestyle have graffitied EVERYTHING here – walls, stones, houses, you name it – with their tag: Na, Nach, Nachm, Nachman, from Uman in huge, usually colorful, block Hebrew lettering reminiscent of Biblical script.

And because this is a religious land, one can find all kinds of humorous references or tongue-in-cheek puns. Like this one. A take on Psalm 137:5  an admonition to never forget the importance and holiness of Jerusalem. This graffiti plays on that, with “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, it is because of Tel Aviv.” Obviously the nightlife, secularism, and activity of Tel Aviv has rubbed off!

IMG_8467

And to remind us that there are angels everywhere-

IMG_8465

Israeli graffiti can be quite thought provoking as well – for example this simple Hebrew word is the first word in the prayer said several times a day, the V’ahavtah…. and you shall love (the Lord your G-d and your neighbor). It is a command. but when a question mark is placed after, it becomes – ” And so??? Have you loved?”

IMG_8464

This, too is a good one. For Jewish people who keep Kosher, it is forbidden to mix meat and dairy products. So here is a reminder from the father of Zionism, Theodore Herzl. His famous quote is “If you will it, it is no dream.” Turned around here to say – “If you will it, NO!!!!”

IMG_7468 2

And of course, there are always political statements as well:

A reminder to the Anglos:

images-8

And a clever piece for the visually impaired to enjoy as well-

images-12

I wish I had gotten a photo of one my son thought amazing. You can see it randomly on walls or freeway overpasses, but it one scrawl that is always soon removed. “Why did I draft????”

Israel is a provocative land – one that frequently calls me to thought or to action. I do not always agree with all of the statements or ideologies that I have presented here, but it provides a glimpse into the culture and diversity of its people. I leave you with two last pieces:IMG_8463

          You don’t write the graffiti. It writes you.

and finally-

IMG_8466

( This piece is dedicated to Katie and Britta – the two people who have expanded my horizons in street art. Love you both! Enjoy!!!)