The last leg of our trip to Israel, which ended on November 6th last year, was to visit Jerusalem, the country’s capital. Our first trip there was on January 13, 1972, which also happened to be my 25th birthday. We moved to Israel on January 9th, and four days later we took an excursion to Jerusalem. Since then, (until we moved to San Francisco in August, 1980) we have visited Jerusalem countless times, and I even started my MBA studies at the University of Jerusalem. Prior to this trip, our previous visit there was ten years ago. It was an organized trip called “In The Dust of the Ancestors”, during which we discovered hidden treasures by visiting ancient places, including the Hezekiah Tunnel, which was carved under the City of David in the late 9th century BC, as well as Zedekiah’s Cave, and also called Solomon’s Quarries. Herod the Great used the quarry for building blocks for the renovation of what became known as the Western or Wailing Wall. We also visited the tunnel under the Western Wall reaching the bedrock of the Second Temple, which was destroyed by Romans almost 2000 years ago.
You do not have to be a history buff to appreciate what Jerusalem has to offer. It was first settled in the 4th millennium BCE. Jerusalem was named “Urusalim” on ancient Egyptian tablets. On History.com I learned that “In 1000 BC, King David conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital of the Jewish Kingdom. His son, Solomon, built the first holy Temple there, 40 years later. In the Bible, Jerusalem is mentioned 810 times. The Babylonians occupied Jerusalem in 586 BC, destroyed the Temple, and sent the Jews into Exile. About 50 years later after that, the Persian King Cyrus allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.” Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 AD, and in 135 AD after defeating Bar Kochba’s rebellion and killing 580,000 Jews, renamed the city Aelia Capitolina. Muslim armies conquered Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire in 638. When Christians conquered the city in 1099, they massacred much of the population. Then Khwarizmi Turks took it over in 1244. During the last two thousand years, different names for the city were used, as new conquerors came and left. Arabs call it Bayt al-Muqads or Al-Quds. Combining those two names literally means “the place of the Holy Temple.” The Israelis call their capital Yerushalayim.
The name Jerusalem is most commonly used in the Bible, and the name used by Western World. The name Shalem is derived from the same root as the word “shalom”, meaning peace, so the common interpretation of the name now is “The City of Peace” or “Adobe of Peace”. Let there be peace in the city, which is holy for three Abrahamic religions – Jewish, Christianity and Islam. At the end of the celebration of Passover, which this year is on April 19-27, Jews traditionally sing a song, “Next Year in Jerusalem”. If you want to experience a journey of a lifetime, you do not have to wait until next year, plan to visit Jerusalem as soon as you can.
P.S. These four images show Jerusalem’s diversity in the dress of its inhabitants.
February is a perfect time to start planning for summer or fall vacations (unless, of course, you started earlier). For many, their travel plans are limited to two weeks, which might determine their destination. My wife Elfa suggested two possible ideas – a river cruise to Portugal or a trip to Iceland. Will keep you posted. Meanwhile, I want to encourage you – if you’ve never been, to travel to Israel. If you have been reading my Encounters, you know it was our destination last year, and I already wrote a number of stories about this trip. Israel is a relatively small country, but there are many attractive places to visit and to have wonderful experiences. One of them is the Dead Sea, which is the earth’s lowest elevation located 1.412 ft below sea level. It is also the world’s saltiest body of water with a salinity of 34.2%. In Hebrew, the name “Yam-ha-Melah” means Sea of Salt.
The Dead Sea has attracted visitors for thousands of years. It is called “dead” because its salinity prevents macroscopic aquatic organisms, such as fish and aquatic plants from living in it. Actually in this case, the “dead” is good. It was one of the world’s first resorts for at least two thousand years. Besides, the salt from the Sea was used as fertilizers and to create cosmetics. On the website Deadsea.com I found out that in the Roman Era salt was a highly-valued strictly controlled commodity, more so than gold or silver, and was used as labors’ salary. However, the reason for our trip was not to learn its history, but to relax and to enjoy special treatments. It took us two hours to drive there from Tel Aviv (and about the same time to drive from there to Jerusalem). The road was twisting along sandy dunes. The air became hot and dry, and we suddenly saw the Dead Sea from a cliff, with the sign pointing to the Biblical place called Sodom; it was like seeing a mirage. Soon we arrived to our destination — a developed area with six high-rise hotels. We stayed in the Crowne Plaza, which is very close to the beach.
The next two days were very relaxing. We received mud wrapping, got massages, dipped into a swimming pool filled with salty water, lay out by the swimming pool, and of course walked in the Dead Sea, since it is not easy to swim there. One of the attractions of any hotel in Israel is their breakfasts. The buffet service has enormous amounts of cheese, herring, fruit, vegetables, hot dishes and desserts. It felt as if we were on a cruise (with the advantage of having a larger room). At night I saw the lights on other side of the Sea, which was in Jordan. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty on October 26, 1994, and have diplomatic relations with economic cooperation. They work together to save the Dead Sea from drying up.
On our next trip to Israel, we are also planning to visit Petra – an ancient Red Rose City located in Jordan.
P.S. These four images show some of my encounters at the resort.
Last week, Max turned eighteen months. When he joined our family on September 4th 2017, he was ten weeks young. A lot has happened since. Max reached his adult size (medium) and weight (about 25 lbs). During the first forty-two days with him, I recorded our encounters and experiences and recommendations from dogs’ “how to” books, which became my secondbook in my 42 Encounters series – 42 Encounters with Dog Lovers. If you have been following the Friday “Encounters” for a while, you have surely read about this book before.
1. Life is a Game; there is no winning or losing, just playing. You can apply this lesson to anything in your life. To do this, stop taking yourself too seriously. If you look back, everything has a beginning and an end, and then it starts all over again, like in any game.
2. Life is Short; enjoy every moment. Many religious traditions teach how to detach ourselves from our egos. It is not easy; however, if we learn how not to attach ourselves to the results, perhaps we can develop a habit of enjoying the process.
3. Life is Sharing Love; it’s O.K. to lick people’s faces. Life is universal. If you want to be loved, share yours. It’s easy – just connect with your heart, and do not hold back.
4. Life is a Journey; you never know in which park you will end up in tomorrow. Most of us are creatures of habits. That means that after we discover one way of doing things or living our lives, we rarely make an effort to change. Thus, we do not know what wonderful things we are missing.
5. Life is Making New Friends; they are everywhere. If you want more friends, start by learning how to become your dog’s best friend.
6. Life is a Cycle; after walking and eating comes playing and napping. Dogs like to have a routine. As humans, we focus on working and eating. To live our life to the fullest, we need to practice the last two as well.
7. Life is Learning; there are always new tricks to practice. When we stop learning, our lives become dull.
P.S. Judging by the response to my weekly Encounters and the reviews of my books on Amazon.com, I am doing a good job writing my stories.
The purchase of 42 Encounters with Dog Lovers will help dogs, and hopefully you as well. These four images show how Max has a ball with his ball.
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Many years ago we worked with a Savings and Loan company called Barbary Coast. I thought it was strange to name a financial institution after the area known for Barbary pirates and slave traders who attacked ships and coastal settlements in the Mediterranean Sea and other areas. Turns out, there was another Barbary Coast, much closer to home.
I learned about this while doing research for my next photo-story book, “42 Encounters with Couples in San Francisco”. For the text portion of the book, I decided to write about San Francisco’s history. It was a challenging decision, since I obviously did not have personal experience with the subject and had to retell the information which could be easily found in other books or online. And then there is the question, why would you care to read forty-two stories about events which happened many years ago?
It is impossible to imagine what San Francisco could be if not for the discovery of gold on January 24, 1848, when a small village called Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco in 1847 with a population of 492 people. In 1849, it reached over 25,000, and continues to grow. By 1860, the population was 56,802 people, made up of primarily young men; some were digging for gold, others were busy in the fast growing city.
Among the new settlers, there were members from New York City gangs. By the end of 1849, ships from Australia brought ex-convicts, who opened boarding houses, which had prostitutes affiliated with their business. Extreme growth combined with a lack of strong government would create many opportunities for criminals, corrupt politicians and brothel owners. Someone coined the area which was encompassing parts of modern-day Chinatown, Jackson Square and North Beach as the Barbary Coast. This area became known for its dance halls, concert saloons, bars, jazz clubs, variety shows and brothels.
One of the streets in the town which became known as the center of the red light district was Morton Street. Historically, the street reported one murder a week. The 1906 earthquake, which leveled much of the city, rendered this two-block stretch rubble, and the brothels were destroyed. After the reconstruction, it became known as Maiden Lane, one of the most elegant streets in all of downtown, San Francisco. One of the buildings was designed by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, located at 140 Maiden Lane. I knew this building quite well. Upon our arrival in San Francisco, I worked at the fashion company Helga Howie, who had her boutique in the building in the 1970s through the early 1980s. In 2017, the famous Italian luxury men’s wear brand Isaia moved into the building. When I visited the store last Sunday, I was very impressed with how it perfectly fit into the building and made it complete.
P.S. During my recent visit to the Union Square area, I was very pleased to find out that the Muni Metro construction project, which started in 2011, is almost complete. These four images are of some people I encountered in the area.
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