Tag Archives: islam

Best of Israel – Part I

Whenever I come to Israel, which is about once a year, I tend to go to the same places. Some out of habit, some because of friends and family living there, some because I just like them so much. Over the years, I’ve come to refer to these places as my “stations of the cross”. This is in parallel with the  14 stations of the cross in Jerusalem, the “points of interest” on the route Jesus supposedly walked on the Via Dolorosa, carrying the cross to the place of his execution.

  1. The Temple Mount
    No visit to Israel is complete without it. I usually get no further than the Western Wall, as a visit to the Temple Mount itself involves an early rise, a long wait and an extensive security check. But it should go without saying that if there’s one place that can not be missed in Israel, it is this one. A tour of the Western Wall Tunnel is highly recommended.

    Everybody visits The Wall

    Best of Israel 11 Best of Israel 10

  2. Church of the Holy Sepulchre
    I’m not a Christian, but I doubt a visit to the holiest place in Christendom would leave anyone without a lasting impression. The place is a maze of passages, halls and tunnels, dimly lit by candles and filled with smoke, singing and rituals at any time of day. The notorious Immovable Ladder symbolizes the state of confusion religion can lead to. My favourite spot of the Church is the Ethiopian monastery on the roof – just trying to find it is a sport on its own.
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    The Immovable Ladder

    The Immovable Ladder

    The Ethiopian monastery

    The Ethiopian rooftop monastery

  3. The Old City Walls Promenade
    The medieval walls of the Old City of Jerusalem can be walked almost along their entire length. The total ~4 km hike is actually quite challenging as it involves climbing up and down ladders and squeezing through narrow passages. From the height of the walls, you get a unique perspective into the Old City and its surroundings, and can get an intimate look into how this dense, congested (physically and spiritually) city lives and breathes.
    Best of Israel 9 Best of Israel 4 Best of Israel 3
  4. Israel Museum
    This huge institution in Jerusalem is worth visiting if only to see for yourself the Dead Sea Scrolls. The museum is full of treasures, depicting the ancient and modern history of Israel and its neighbours, presenting classic and modern art, preserving and presenting Jewish heritage and so on. Besides the Scrolls, my personal favourites are the copper and gold treasures from the Chalcolithic period and the interior of the Paramaribo synagogue.

    The Shrine of the Book, in the Israel Museum, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are preserved

    The Shrine of the Book, in the Israel Museum, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are preserved

  5. Tel Aviv beach
    In sharp contrast to the devotion and piousness of Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv beach line combines the best of Miami and California, with a Mediterranean flavour to it. It is one of Israel’s biggest treasures and a unique selling point, as depicted in countless commercials. For me, what makes this beach so much fun is the mix of people on it. The elderly locals come up early for their morning coffee, the tourists  bake in the sun during the day, the party people come out at night. Bikini’s and bourkini’s share the waves, the gay beach is next to the religious beach, where men and women come on different days. Best part is of course the drum jam sessions on Dolphinarium Beach, on Friday afternoons.
  6. Dr. Saadya
    Every Israeli is sure he/she knows the best falafel place in the country. This one is my pick. More than “just” falafel, its a symbol of Tel Aviv and its turmoil. Its a warm city, that lives on the streets. Dr. Saadya falafel is on King George Street, one of the main drags in town, connecting the upper class Northern neighbourhoods to the Carmel Market. Whenever I am around, I always come in for a falafel, a strong coffee, and some small talk with the owner and the regular customers, as the flow of people is rushing up and down the street.

  7. Caesarea
    The Romans left a wealth of heritage across Israel, and Caesarea is the most prominent example of Roman legacy. Its sunken harbour still holds numerous treasures, as witnessed by recent discoveries of thousands of Fatimid era golden coins and late Roman bronze cargo. Imagine discovering a hoard of gold on your regular snorkelling swim! The fit visitors can hike into town along a challenging track, following the course of the aqueduct all the way from the water source in the hills. The hike is like a tour of history, stretching all the way back to the Neolithic period.

    Not every underwater wreck in Caesaria's harbour is an ancient treasure

    Not every underwater wreck in Caesarea’s harbour is an ancient treasure

    Caesaria overview

    Caesaria overview

    Walls and moat of Crusader Caesaria

    Walls and moat of Crusader Caesarea

To be continued…


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“Charlie Hebdo” = Epic Fail

The events that will probably remain labelled “Charlie Hebdo terror attack” are largely over. The shooting, manhunt and hostage crises are finished, and while some suspects are still at large, victims are not yet buried and wounded are still in hospitals, it is by now possible to start summarizing this tragedy. And I can only summarize it as “Epic Fail”. If you think it is not yet the time for harsh words, or feel that you may otherwise be insulted or offended by what you may think is inappropriate, it is time to stop reading. Because I’m not in the mood to be sensitive. In fact, I even its time to stop being sensitive. Because everybody failed in “Charlie Hebdo”.

We all, as a society, in all European countries have failed. Europe has proved to be a fertile ground for growing increasing numbers of insane fanatics who kill everyone they disagree with. And we’ve failed to find the reasons why and to rectify them.

The Muslim communities of Europe have failed. They have failed to see that turning a blind eye to the spread of militant fanaticism and the hate of the other among them is not making the problem go away. I don’t want to enter the numbers discussion, but studies show that support for IS among some Muslim youth in Europe is less an exception but more of a mainstream. Rather than admit to have a problem, Muslim organizations opt to blame the studies for being “wrong”. They have failed to realize that the hate hurts us all, including Muslims. They have failed to stop the haters among them, by failing to do the only rational thing to do – turn them in. And don’t tell me the Muslims of Europe do not know who the dangerous radicals in their communities are.

The politicians of Europe have failed. They failed to identify and discuss the massive problem that the militant Islamism in Europe presents. They still fail, as they not dare say that militant, radical Islamism is a problem, declaring instead that the terrorists are not Muslims. They are Muslims, bad, violent Muslims, but Muslims nevertheless. Pretending they’re not is rather counter-productive to say the least. And they enjoy support among the Muslim communities, too – see #JeSuisKouachi hashtag.

But to me, the most terrible, the worse fail was the operational one. The French President Holande said “the country is proud of the forces of law and order”. Well, I think there’s very little to be proud of. The forces of law and order have failed miserably all along the way.

The intelligence services have failed. They were tracking the murderers, who were convicted criminals with known extremists ties, and have failed to prevent them from committing the attacks. Why bother have ‘intelligence’ services, why pay them and severe personal freedoms and privacy, if they can’t stop (known!) terrorists before they strike?

The French police has failed to protect Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish community. Despite warnings and previous attacks, the protection was appallingly insufficient. The murderers have basically done as they pleased.

The police officers responding to the various incidents have failed when called upon, getting themselves killed in the process. I can understand how a lone guard at the Charlie Hebdo offices can be overwhelmed by armed terrorists. But how and why the officers responding to the shooting have, instead of taking the shooters out or at least pinning them down until the arrival of more heavily armed units, have allowed them to escape? Why a day after the attack, a known associate of the Kouachi’s shoots and kills a police officer and is able to escape from the scene, in a city literally flooded with security services? Not only was he able to escape, but was also able to take hostages, killing several of them in the process! You’d think that a Jewish supermarket would be heavily guarded a day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Adding insult to injury, his girlfriend and accomplice seems to have escaped police and reportedly fled to Syria, where she no doubt will become some sort of celebrity. Furthermore, as the Kouachi’s have taken a hostage of their own, the security forces were unable to prevent the hostage-takers from communicating with each other, making a laughing stock of the efforts of the police negotiators.

About the only thing we can find comfort in, is that the terrorists have failed, too. Yes, they killed several people and frightened many. But if they intended to stop the spread of cartoons depicting the Prophet, they’ve reached the exact opposite. If they intended to reduce the suffering of Muslims, they failed. Because it is Muslims that suffer the most of the hands of fanatics and of the consequences of their actions. If they intended to reach paradise by dying as martyrs, they failed, too. Because if your god is insulted by pictures, but is celebrated by murder – you are worshipping the devil. And your reward will be eternal suffering, because the devil is not known for being good in rewards, even to those who worship him.

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Je suis Charlie

This is not what I imagined my first post in 2015 will be. But I do not think I have much choice. I believe this is the only reasonable answer we can come up with, the only thing that will work. Repeat after me: “Je suis Charlie!”

Faut pas se moquer – Thou shalt not mock

And now that you’ve said it, try to remember these words next time you hear about a terror attack in Israel.

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