Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Jewish Queen Helene of Adiabene

 

Sarcophagus of Helen of Adiabene - Israel Museum Jerusalem

Sarcophagus of Helen of Adiabene – Israel Museum Jerusalem

A few years ago, to my surprise, I was told that the sarcophagus of Queen Helen of Adiabene, which was in the Louvre Museum, would be lent for a few months by France to be exhibited at the Israel Museum.

She was the queen of a country called Adiabiene, which corresponds to the Kurdish territories of today. According to Flavius Joseph, Ananias converted her towards the year 30 AD before he became a high priest.

Known for her generosity and being a benefactress for the poor of Jerusalem, she brought constant support to the Jewish people of Judea and Galilee.

During a famine, she sent ships to Alexandria in order to bring wheat and cereals to the victims.

The Talmud tells us that she followed the Jewish laws rigorously and that she made numerous gifts to the Temple of Jerusalem, including a golden candlestick for its door.

Helen died in her territory of Adiabene in the year 56-58.

Her body was brought back to Jerusalem and buried in the pyramidal tomb she had built during her life time, north of Jerusalem.

During an excavation in 1863, the French archaeologist Félicien de Saulcy discovered a large limestone tomb near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. He was convinced that it was the tomb of the great kings of the Bible David and Solomon, which explains the name “Tomb of the Kings”,  but it turned out to be of Queen Helen.

This tomb was transferred to the Louvre in full agreement with the Ottoman archaeological authorities at the time.

This venerated Queen will remain forever engraved in the memory of the Jewish people.

 

Helene d'Adiabene Palace - Israel Museum Jerusalem

Helene d’Adiabene Palace – Israel Museum Jerusalem

 

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The French Ambassador Residence in Jaffa

           

 

The French Résidence at Jaffa

The French Résidence at Jaffa

The Residence of the Ambassador of France is located in the Jaffa neighborhood of Ajami. It is a beautiful Bauhaus building in Modern style, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

This villa was designed and built in the years 1936-1938 by an architect named Yitzhak Rapoport. In 1949, the house was sold to the French Republic by the architect, who then transferred the amount of money he received to Ahmed Rahim, its owner who was living in Beirut.

Muhammed al-Rahim (Abu Hassan), an Arab notable from Jaffa, attended the Rotary Club where he met Jews, Arabs and Britishs. He became friendly with Yitzhak Rapoport, a well known and respected Jewish architect born in Ukraine, who built the French and the Dajani Hospitals in Jaffa. Y. Rapoport specialized in Modern International Style and Ahmed Rahim asked him to build a house for him in the neighborhood of Ajami.

The house of Ahmed Rahim would be built according to modernist criteria features, yet it would retain the ideology of a traditional Muslim family home in which public and private spaces were separated, as were rooms for women and men.

During the British Mandate in the 1920’s and 30’s, there was tension between Jews and Arab and pogroms were a constant threat. Despite that, the friendship of these two men would remain intact.

Times were very difficult for the architect. In order to oversee the building in construction, he had to wear a traditional Arab dress which allowed him to pass the lines separating the two communities and then he was taken to the site by car.

The two had a secret, however. Ahmed Rahim was the treasurer of the Arab Organization responsible for perpetrating attacks against Jews and Rapoport was a member of the secret service, the Haganah.

When the 1948 war broke out and the Arabs were defeated, Ahmed Rahim was a signatory to the surrender of Jaffa and decided to leave to Lebanon.  He entrusted the keys and title to his house only to Rapoport, in whom he had great confidence and considered him a true friend, who would defend its interests.

The building was purchased by the French Government in 1949 for 20,000 Pounds Sterling and became the private Residence of the Ambassador.

Oded Rapoport, son of Yitzhak, has himself become an architect. He said that every new tenant of the house wanted to carry out some changes and improvement in the villa.

Oded Rapoport was asked in the 80’s by a wealthy Palestinian from Gaza to build his villa. The first Intifada made it difficult for the architect who could not get to the construction site. Like his father, means were put in place and an ambulance of the Red Cross discretely drove him to the building site .

 

                      The Residence offers annual Operation ‘Open house’ ‘to the public.

The west corner of the résidence

The west corner of the résidence

 

 

 

 

 

The amazing Bialik street – Tel-aviv

Bialik street

Bialik street

Bialik Street is located in the heart of Tel Aviv. It begins on Allenby Street and ends with Bialik Square, where the first City Hall of Tel Aviv was situated.

This is probably one of the most beautiful streets of Tel Aviv. One must take the time to stroll and admire the abundance of beautiful homes and historic monuments, which are a delight to the eyes.

Most of the buildings were renovated in 2009 to celebrate the commemoration of the                                                            Centenary of the City of Tel Aviv.

The first Tel-aviv Town Hall

The first Tel-aviv Town Hall

Some of these houses are of great beauty with all architectural styles coming together,                                                     Ecclectic, International, Art Deco and Modernism.

Next to the old Town Hall there is the Felicia Blumental Music Center, dedicated to the pianist of the same name. The building, constructed by the notable Shenkar family, with its orange color also incorporates the Music Library of the city.

Haim Nahman Bialik House

Haim Nahman Bialik House

Bialik Street is named after Hayim Nahman Bialik, one of the greatest Hebrew language poets, who today is considered to be the National Poet of Israel.

Born in a religious family he studied in a yeshiva (Talmudic school). After that he moved to Odessa, a mythical city of cultural crossroads , where he met Ahad Ha’am, the spiritual Zionist, who became his friend.

He traveled to Palestine for the first time in 1909. In 1920 his friend Maxim Gorki helped him fleeing the Bolshevik dictatorship and Hayim Bialik left his native Russia.

As a very wealthy man with a great reputation,  he was much in demand by the local figures  and was promised that a street be dedicated to his name, where he would build his house in 1925.

Bialik Street has four museums:

The Bialik House, the Museum of the painter Reuben Rubin, the Bauhaus Museum (house of Shlomo Yafé), and, at the Bialik Square, the new Museum of the History of Tel Aviv – Jaffa, where once stood the Town Hall of Tel Aviv.

Six mayors of Tel Aviv held their functions there : Meir Dizengoff, David Bloch, Moshe Shlush (a few days), Yisrael Rokach, Haim Levanon and Mordechai Namir.

Bialik Street un 1930

Bialik Street un 1930

 

Cafe Sapphire in 1930

Cafe Sapphire in 1930

At the end of Bialik Street there is a cafe with an unusual history. It was called the Sapphire Café, Café Nightingale, Gan Rave and, for fifteen years Café Bialik.

Since its construction in 1930, it became an attraction for students and intellectuals living in the neighborhood. Hundreds of people would come to admire the fascinating new interior design style of the building. On Thursday evenings, the terrace was used as a dance floor.

During the second Intifada a Palestinian person committed a bomb attack on Cafe Bialik.  One man died and several were wounded. It was quickly reopened, but today it covers only a part of its original surface.

In October 2007, the owner of the building, Danielle Weiss, with the permission of the Mayor of Tel Aviv, wanted to destroy this historical building in order to build a high tower.

How ironic… at that specific time the city was making preparations to celebrate the 100th birthday of the White City….

A petition was then signed by the residents’ associations and friends of Tel Aviv . They succeeded in restraining the decision to tear the cafe down..

Additionally, another scandal  was going to be unveiled: the beautiful mosaic of Nahum Gutman, telling the history of Tel Aviv – Jaffa through time was exposed for many years in the square of the old Town Hall and had disappeared mysteriously!

This mosaic was removed during the renovations of Bialik Square and nobody knew where it was. However, it was found in a very dark and rubble place, ready to be forgotten… This scandal reveals once again that the past has little importance for some notables representing this city.

This piece of art was then installed in a new surrounding between Rothschild Boulevard and Neve tsedek,  at the foot of a tall tower so adored by the Mayor of Tel Aviv …

                       whose dream is…  that Tel Aviv will become a Second New York!

 

Nahum Gutman mosaic - Bialik Square

Nahum Gutman mosaic – Bialik Square

 

 

 

 

 

The Jewish Palm tree

Avshalom Feinberg

Avshalom Feinberg

In 1914, Turkey entered the war as an ally of Germany.

The Jews of Palestine were then forcibly conscripted alongside the Turkish soldiers.

In 1915, in order to hasten the victory of the Great Britain on Turkey, a group of friends living in the village of Zichon Yaakov, founded a spy network call ”Nili”

 ”The eternity of Israel will not lie. “

The main members of the network were :

Aharon Aaronsohn, his sister Sarah, Avshalom Feinberg, Yosef Lishansky and Naaman Belkind.

Avshalom Feinberg chose side when his friend, Aaron Aaronson, who proposed to establish an intelligence network in favor of the British.

Aaron Aaronsohn directed a botanical laboratory research by the sea near the Atlit fortress. In the year 1915 the country was invaded by clouds of locusts and the Ottoman Governor Djemal Pasha asked Aaronson to find a way to fight this scourge. Aaron then received a pass that allowed him to move freely into Palestine with an assistant of his choice …

What could be easier for a spy  ! …

Aaronson travelled to Germany for a study trip. He took this opportunity to go to Alexandria and tried to persuade the British to make an offensive in Palestine, because the state of the Jewish population was becoming more precarious every day.

Asvhalom Feinberg and Moshe Lichansky led by a bedouin guide and disguised as well as Bedouins were trying to cross the Sinai desert as they wanted to meet their friends is Egypt.

But in the area of El Arish, they were attacked by Bedouin raiders. Feinberg was fatally injured. Lichansky was also injured but he was taken by a British patrol to a safe place in , the free area and then went in search for Feinberg, but in vain.

While investigating Moshe Elkana, a researcher of Nili’s history,  met numerous bedouins, who freely cross the desert, and was intrigued by a frequently reoccurring sentence :

                                                             ” The Jewish Palm tree”

In July 1967, a month after the six days war, a Bedouin led Israeli soldiers patrolling in the Sinai to the place where Avshsalom was buried ,

Indeed some dates stones left in his garment’s pocket grew and became a date palm tree.

                         On 29th November 1967, his body was returned to Jerusalem and buried                                                              at Mount Herzl military cemetery.

                                                    The Nili group will also know a dramatic end.

                                        A pigeon carrying a coded message fell to the hands of the Turks.                                                             The group was discovered and they will all die                                                  tragically, a deep repression will follow for all the Jews of Palestine.

''Herzliya Hebrew High School'' first picture of Feinberg's class

”Herzliya Hebrew High School” First picture of Feinberg’s class

                    

”Herzliya Hebrew High School” la première photo de classe de Feinberg Avshalom

 

 

 

 

 

The Mosaics of the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes

Mosaics of the Church of loaves and fishes

Mosaics of the Church of loaves and fishes

Mosaic with the nilometer

Mosaic with the nilometer

 

The Benedictine Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, called Tabgha in Arabic or Heptategon in Latin meaning –  seven sources is located on the shores of  the Sea of Galilee on the ancient roman road – The Via Maris.

The magnificent Byzantine mosaics of the church, dating from the sixth century,  describe  the migratory birds crossing the Holy land and resting at the Sea of Galilee.

Israel is the passage of migratory birds on their way to Africa heading to Europe, one never get tired of watching flights of storks, cranes, pelicans, cormorants, kingfishers, hawks and many others above our heads in Spring or Autumn.

There is also a Nilometer in  this mosaic, a measure that was used in Egypt to know the height of the Nile.

                                     The fact that a nilometer is shown in this mosaic implies either :

                                   That this measure was used outside Egypt and the artist probably an                                                          Egyptian reproduced what he knew best.

                                    We know as well that the nilometer allowed to know the water level                                                    of the lake meaning  a better harvest if there was a lot of                                                              water and higher taxes to be pay by the farmers.

An Rock Hyrax fed by a bird

An Rock Hyrax fed by a bird

 

the ”CHOFAR” of the King of Spain

The Choffar

The Choffar

 

This text was sent to me a while ago and I treasured it. I am pleased today to put it on my blog so that everyone can enjoy this amazing story.

A few years ago, King Juan Carlos of Spain invited the Chief Rabbi of Israel Yonah Metzger to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the death of Maimonides, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Rambam). A Doctor, Philosopher, Talmudist and above all a man with great abilities of decision-making,  the Rambam was born in Cordoba, Spain.

                        During the ceremony, Rabbi Metzger gave the King a beautiful long, curved                            shofar in silver with the royal crown engraved on the silver trim.

                        King Juan Carlos examined it at length and asked  :  ”Is this from Africa ?”                               ”No, Your Majesty, it comes from the land of Israel”

Increasingly perplexed the King asked if this item was used in bullfights but RabbI Metzger politely explained that Judaism forbade making animals suffer unnecessarily.

                       ” So what is the use of the animal horn ?” continued the king.

The Rabbi then reminded the king of a painful chapter in the history of the Spanish Jews.

After more than five hundred years, the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry ended abruptly when your ancestor, King Ferdinand and his wife Isabella, expelled my ancestors following the incentive Inquisitor, Torquemada.

The Jews who had so contributed to the development of their countries had to flee, abandoning their properties and moved to more hospitable countries. However, some Jews remained in Spain keeping secretly their laws and customs. They behaved like devout Catholics but respected the laws of the Torah, lighting the Shabbat candles in cupboards, so that no one would notice.

On Holidays, the Marranos secretly gathered in basements to pray.

They prayed fervently with a very low voice so as not to be discovered by the Inquisition, which would have burnt these heretics at stake.

For Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) they were faced with a dilemma, prayer could be whispered but how to use the shofar without attracting the attention of neighbors ?

A Jewish-born-conductor found an original solution :

He proposed to the king to hold a free concert and to present various wind instruments from all countries and all periods.

The King who loved music was delighted. The Conductor offered a certain date, which in fact of course  was the date of Rosh Hashanah.

The King, the Queen, ministers and courtiers sat in the front row, the remaining listeners took to the rear, amongst whom were many Marranos.

The musicians presented different instruments, like a flute and a trumpet shepherd. At some point the conductor himself proposed to blow in a ram’s horn, which he presented as the oldest known wind instrument. The King and Queen were interested in this curiosity and observed the instrument. Then the Master brought it to his mouth while in the back of the room Marranos  whispered the two blessings:

                  ”Blessed are You, Lord our Gd, King of the Universe who sanctified us with His                       commandments and commanded us to listen to the sound of the shofar’ ‘      

                     as well as:

                  ”Blessed are You, Lord our Gd, King of the Universe, who gives us life,                                         sustained us and has sent us to that period’

The Conductor sounded the shofar as required by the Halacha and the spectators were silent. At the end of the service, they applauded …….

”Today Majesty”, continued Rabbi Metzger,”we meet five hundred years later in much more friendly circumstances. As Chief Rabbi of Israel I am happy to return to Spain.

Thank you on behalf of our people, now the Jews can live freely in your country, they enjoy complete freedom of worship and on Rosh Hashanah they can blow the shofar in the restored synagogues.

I am honored to give you this shofar publicly without hiding it because you are concerned about a sovereign democracy”.

When accepting the shofar, the King declared :

”Chief Rabbi, I received many gifts and trophies from many personalities from around the globe, but this gift carries historical significance and I am extremely grateful for this and for that Shofar story” !

Rabbi Metzger then told the King that he wanted to bless him, as recommended by the Sages.

When he finished his blessing Rabbi Metzger opened his eyes and saw that the king was much moved.  He wept without trying to hide …..

 

Le Roi Juan Carlos et le Rabbin Metzger

King Juan Carlos and Rabbi Metzger

In fact, historically, the mother of King Ferdinand I, who signed in 1492 the expulsion of Jews from Spain and  let the Inquisition settled… was Jewish. She was called Juana Enriquez, and her mother Paloma bat Gedaliah  (Paloma daughter of Gedaliah)

The paternal grandfather of Juana Enríquez is Alonso Enríquez, Lord Medina de Rioseco (1354-1429), whose father is Fadrique of Castile and mother, Paloma bat Gedaliah (born Jewish), granddaughter of Shlomo ben David Ha-Zaken traditionally from a branch of the descendants of King David by exilarchs of Babylon.

Thus his great-grandson son Charles V descended from the Jews of Babylon [1]

Document: Publications genealogists HRMoser and Vajay, INRIA 2005

   

Marranos burnt on the woodshed

Marranos burnt on the woodshed

 

 

Doña Gracia – A Noble Dame

d gracia
Doña Gracia was a jewish noble Lady who played a particularly important role in the middle ages. Her exceptional destiny intrigues and fascinates us till today …

Born, in Portugal in the early 16th century, in the noble and very wealthy  Benveniste family, which fled Spain at the beginning of the Inquisition.

She married Francisco Mendez-Nassi, a banker, whose fortune was even greater than hers.

 

Doña Gracia or ” Beatriz Luna, ” according to the name adopted as alleged Catholic, was of a great beauty, rich and cultivated.

On the death of her husband, she decided to leave Portugal and took her only child with her, along with some other family members. Life was becoming unbearable for the ”Marranos” as the Inquisition began to dwell beyond Spain and Portugal.

The Marranos were Jews who, like Doña Gracia, secretly remained loyal to the faith of their fathers, while claiming an apparent adherence to the Catholic Church. They suffered deep oppression.

She went to Antwerp, where her brother in law ran the Bank for the Mendez-Nassi family and settled there.

But even there the Inquisition was soon to join them.

After the death of her brother in law in 1549, she left Antwerp with her daughter,  sister and widowed niece to Venice, She took away as many goods as she could and was hoping to find a far away land which would allow her to  live her Judaism in peace.

She decided to join her nephew in Constantinople, the famous Don Joseph Nasi who became Minister of the Sultan in Turkey, one of the most influential man in Europe.

But the King of France, persuaded the government of Venice to prevent them from embarking and put that Noble Dame and her family in prison and confiscate all their properties.

Don Joseph Nasi using his influence with the Sultan managed a Master coup : for some time the Sultan policy was disturbed by the competing merchants of Venice.

Therefore the Sultan sent an emissary with a query asking firmly the release of Dona Gracia and to restore her fortune.

It took two years for the Sultan to get satisfaction.

Doña Gracia eventually settled in Constantinople in 1552 and became the center of world aid to persecuted Jews and Marranos. She spent her fortune to this cause.

Unfortunately, due to political changes, the situation of the Jews in Turkey deteriorated and became as dramatic as in Europe. Much of the wealth of Mendez-Nassi was confiscated.

                              The dream of Doña Gracia was to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine!

                          That any persecuted Marrano Jews would have a peace of land where they                                         could finally live and transmit their ancestors traditions to                                  their children          

                     Many remnants in Safed and Tiberias remind us, nowadays, of the generosity                           of this benefactor and her image remains forever etched in our memories.                                                           
                                                               
                                                             A Great and Noble Lady                                                                                                                         
                                                                        Doña Gracia
Constantinople

Constantinople