Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

Today is Yom Kippur (day of atonement) it began yesterday at sunset. I wrote a pretty lengthy post about this holiday last year. My Yom Kippur post from last year is the most popular post on this blog in terms of page views.

In the Bible the holiday is discussed in Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23, and Numbers 29. These links will also show you the verses in Hebrew. I think the book of Jonah is traditionally read on this holiday. In the book of Jonah the people of Nineveh are given the chance to repent of their sins. Yom Kippur is about forgiveness and new beginnings.

I wanted to discuss what this holiday looked like in the times of the Temple and why this is the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar. Temples in the ancient world were different from synagogues and churches of today. In the ancient world temples were seen as the dwelling place of the god on earth. Since the building was holy only priests were allowed to enter. The sacrifices actually took place on an altar outside the Temple. Only the priests were allowed inside the Temple building itself. The Temple itself has three sections the Ulam (porch), the hechal(place of the altars of incense and tables of show bread), and the Dvir (Holy of Holies). The Holy of Holies was the place the ark of the covenant was kept. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and only on one day of the year...Yom Kippur. There was a fairly complex ritual involved for the high priest that is discussed in this article scroll down a bit to find it. This was the day that the name of the Lord was pronounced three times by the high priest. I believe this was the only time of year that the name of the Lord was pronounced and only by the High priest. Today no one is sure how to pronounce the name of the Lord since only the High priest knew. I think the knowledge was lost when Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem and forbid the Jews from entering there was no Temple and no High priest and the knowledge was lost.

You can read about the building of the first Temple by Solomon in 1 Kings 6. And here is a picture of a model of the Second Temple built by King Herod that is on display at the Israel museum.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Negev

I took this tour back on September 27th. The Negev is the name given to the desert region in the Southern part of Israel. We left the student village around six in the morning and drove for a couple of hours to get there. We hiked in the desert for about five hours I think. It was exhausting. For those who know me you know I'm not much of an outdoors girl. However I wanted to see the desert and I knew I could get some good pictures for the blog. I took a lot of pictures and its hard to narrow it down so be prepared for another really long post.

This was our first challenge. Notice the pathway to the right of the picture? We climbed that. This climb was as bad if not worse that the Masada climb of last Summer.

We did make it to the top. That is the rest of the group in front of me. You see I suffer from seasonal asthma I only have it in the Spring and the Summer. Most of the time it doesn't really affect me. However on this day it was really bad and I did not have my inhaler with me because again it's usually not a problem. There was a lot of sand in the air that day and I spent most of the hike gasping for air towards the back of the group. 

This is the view from the plateau towards the left of the previous picture. Notice the different colors of the rock. This desert has a lot of sedimentary rock because in ancient times this was the seabed. There are lots of shells laying around.

This is the view from the right side of the plateau above. Notice the line of shrubs it marks the area of a dry river bed. There is only water in it during the winter rains. I believe this is called the Zin Valley.

This is the area straight ahead. There is a kibbutz over there called Sde Boker famous because it is where David Ben Gurion retired. I'll speak more about him later.

Our guide pointed out these ibex on a nearby cliff. I thought this was a close as I would get to the ibex but I was wrong.

A desert plant in bloom. Notice that only the middle is currently blooming. There aren't many animals in the desert and the plant wants to maximize pollination so it blooms in stages over several weeks. The bottom blooms first then the middle. I forget what the name of this plant. In Biblical times it was used to mark the boundaries of a person's land because it always came up in the same spot every year.

After walking about an hour we came across a refreshment stand. I was so surprised. It is run by a group of Bedouins. They were selling an assortment of drinks. You could also pay to take a nap on one of the bedrolls.

Still at the back of the group. This is a perspective picture to show you how small I felt walking in this desert.

Walking at the back of the group you could get a sense of what it must have been like to cross the desert in ancient times. It seems to stretch on forever.

Just before we stopped for lunch we came across this guy. I felt like a National Geographic photographer getting this picture.

We stopped for lunch at an oasis. There were a few locals already there swimming in the water. I wouldn't want to swim in it it's full of algae. This water has been sitting here since the rainy season last winter.

I didn't take many pictures after lunch everything was beginning to look the same. After lunch we hiked back to the bus. Then we went to Midreshet Ben-Gurion. This is the location where David Ben Gurion is buried there is also Institute there dedicated to studying his works. Ben Gurion was the first Prime Minister of Israel he is a very important figure in the history of Israel. He believed that the Negev is the future of Israel. He believed that when the major cities got too crowded people would move down into the Negev.

I didn't expect there to be so many ibex in this area. This is a female notice her horns are smaller. She was standing so still that at first I thought she was a statue until she blinked. Then I thought maybe she was used to having her picture taken and was posing for me.

Awww Baby!

I'm not an expert but I'm going to say this is a juvenile male based on the thickness of  the horns.

We were picking the seed pods off the trees and throwing them trying to get them to stay for pictures. I managed to catch her with a seed pod hanging out of her mouth like a cigar.

Here I took a series of pictures and pasted them together using Photoshop. This is looking out on the area where we hiked earlier in the day. I believe we started the hiked around 8:30am and we got back to the bus around 4:30pm. I was exhausted by the end of the day and I had a migraine from the strength of the sun. My asthma was so bad it felt like I was trying to suck air through a coffee stir. I slept like a rock that night. I think I still have half the sand of the desert in my lungs. It was worth it for the pictures, aren't they pretty?