Saturday, April 25, 2009

So beautiful, So destructive

Been there! on the Vesuvium top

Enjoying the views

It is responsible for the destruction in the past of towns and villages, and it is an all time threat to its surroundings.
Its activity is closely watched and supervised by many expert factors.
Emergency plans are constantly evaluated and re-evaluated by the proper authorities.
On-going efforts are being made to reduce as much as possible population in the area so that evacuation, in case of emergency, can be carried out in a very short time. (Yet people in this area named "the red zone", continue to live in a 'que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be' style).

The Bay of Naples in the background

A bit scary on the edge of the summit

VESUVIO ( in italian) - Vesuvius (in latin), mountain Vesuvium, the volcano overlooking the superb landscape of the Bay of Naples in the south of Italy. This is one of those places that haunts one's memory forever, both because of its beauty and of its potential danger. Just to think of it that I was actually on top of an active volcano and peered into its crater ! Wow!

Il Cratero - The Crater

Emission of hot vapors/fumes from the crater

I read somewhere that an italian writer described the wine produced from the grapes cultivated on the fertile soil of the Vesuvium slopes, as having the properties of the volcano's eruption: " the color of infernal fire, the taste of lava and ash that burried the cities of Ercolano and Pompeii.."

Red ,volcanic soil

And, I heard about a cosmetician telling a young female client that" her acne eruption was of Vesuvium proportion". How about that?!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Leather Jacket

Palacio Real (Royal Palace)

Majestic - that's the term I would use to describe Madrid, the heart and soul of Spain. Everything about this city looked majestic to me: its avenues, its buildings, its gardens,
the Royal Palace, the Prado museum ( known as the largest art gallery in the world). Madrid has many plazas (plaza = square, a place where people gather to have a chat ,stroll, relax) : Plaza Mayor, Plaza Castilla, Plaza de la Villa (City Hall Square) ,Plaza de toros de las Ventas - to name only a few.

I was having a cold drink in Plaza de Oriente (East Square, on the eastern side of the Royal Palace), when I noticed a familiar face . The man was standing on the pavement and looked as if he was waiting for someone. I decided to be cheeky, go to him and find out who he was. It appeared we had both attended once a beginners' course in the German language .

He told me he was waiting for his wife who went shopping for a leather jacket as she had heard from friends that leather goods in Madrid were of good quality and not expensive.
Since his wife had also attended that particular German course, and there was a chance we remembered each other, he suggested we all three plan together something nice for the evening. I responded with enthusiasm to my compatriot's suggestion.

In the meantime I told him about my personal 'leather jacket' story. I once bought a leather jacket for its bright color (not the usual brown or black, but yellowish), its softness, and its cute , casual cut. Soon after I started wearing it, I noticed some tiny pattern on the leather that made me suspect it was of pigskin origin. I looked up the label, and indeed the 'microscopic' writing on it confirmed my suspicion .

In my religion , one is not allowed to raise pigs or eat their meat . I suppose wearing leather made of their skin is not encouraged either, so the revelation 'killed my enthusiasm ' for the jacket. I didn't say a word to anyone about my discovery, as I felt uncomfortable with it.

On hearing the story, my acquaintance seemed a bit worried. He mumbled something about going to find his wife to see if she had bought any leather jacket, and left me with the name of the hotel they were staying at. When he departed, I was able to see clearly he had a 'kippa' (small, round crocheted skullcap), meaning he was a traditionally religious person.

So, it was for the second time that my cute leather jacket 'killed my enthusiasm'- only this time, it happened in the center of majestic Madrid.

Plaza de Oriente with statue of Felipe4 on horse

Monday, April 13, 2009

The City and the Song

GRANADA is the name of the City in the south of Spain lying at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and also the name of the well-known Song about this city's land full of beautiful women, flowers, blood and sunshine - favorite song of famous singers , among them Frank Sinatra and the three tenors: Pavarotti, Carreras, Domingo ( the last two - spanish born artists).

What struck me first in Granada was the spectacular contrast between the warm, sunny climate of the city and the white snow on the mountains above it. I happened to be on a main street in the city's center, and I could see from there the snowy Sierra Nevada range overlooking the city of Granada . It was sort of a surrealistic view.

The second thing that struck me was of course the Generalife (high Paradise) complex : The Alhambra palaces , the fort of Alcazaba, and especially the superb Generalife Gardens that had served as a retreat for the Moorish Kings of Granada.

The Generalife Gardens have stunning flower beds, bushes, pastures, orchards, and a clever water running system. One could notice a certain symmetry in shapes all over the gardens.

The Generalife Gardens

View of the city from the Alcazaba fort

Apropo the tenors Placido Domingo (in the video below) and Jose Carreras that are among the best performers of the 'Granada" song. There is this story about the later being diagnosed in the past (he's now about 62 of age) with an agressive form of leukemia. The disease and the hard treatments he had to undergo, caused substantial damage to both his flourishing career and his financial situation. Placido Domingo who was considered his very bitter stage rival , set up a fund under an anonymous name to help him. Only after he won the battle against the leukemia, did Carreras receive information on the man behind the fund. Needless to say, he was deeply touched by Domingo's gesture. and they became the best of friends since (according to the Media).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cordoba's Maimonides & Rabbi's Blessings

The interior of the Jewish Synagogue in Cordoba

Being of jewish faith it was only natural that when in Cordoba I should want to visit the old jewish synagogue built in 1350 .

But first I went "to pay tribute" to the two famous impressive sites of the city: La Mezquita ( The Mosque which is now Cordoba's Cathedral and has huge arches and about 1000 pillars) and The Alcazar ( the fortress with three towers, inside - mosaics , sarcophagi, Moorish baths, outside- surrounded by magnificient gardens) .

View from La Mezquita. Quadelquivir river.

At The Alcazar

And now back to Cordoba's old Jewish Synagogue. It is located on a small street and it has a tiny courtyard which houses the monument of Maimonides (Moses Ben Maimon). Inside the small , modest synagogue there are some carvings and decorations with Biblical texts in Hebrew.

The statue of Maimonides

Maimonides ('Harambam' in Hebrew) was a preeminent rabbi, physician, and philosopher who was born in Cordova in the 12th century. His main contribution to Judaism was the composing of the Code of Jewish law.

Rabbi Abraham Yechiel Fish

I'd like to mention here another rabbi , one that I had the highest luck and privilege to meet in person , and even though he has been dead for almost ten years I still turn to Him in my thoughts and ask for his Blessing . He was neither a physician nor a philosopher like Maimonides, and yet he cured people and guided them through life. His name - Abraham Yechiel Fish זצ"ל

Rabbi Fish lived in the city of Tel Aviv, near my place of work. My office was relatively new in that neighborhood, so I knew nothing about the rabbi . Soon enough I noticed that when I'm out of the office I'm often approached by people, especially women , who ask me to direct them to a certain nearby street and a certain number.

One day , I decided to find out what was that address about. I entered a tiny courtyard much like the one of Cordoba's synagogue, climbed up some narrow stairs leading to a long hall at the end of which there was an open door to the room where the rabbi was sitting at a table, and receiving the people waiting in line in the entrance hall.

The Rabbi and his wife lived in great modesty, on the verge of poverty. That's because they gave away their money to charity. They didn't have any children, and yet He became famous for his successful blessing given to women who had difficulty in becoming pregnant. This taught me a big lesson: even if you cannot help yourself with the gift you have, you can still help others with that gift.

At that time, I was recovering from a rare disease for which there was no specific treatment. The doctor gave me a certain medicine to take ,but didn't hide his hesitation about it. I told the Rabbi of my fears concerning the medicine. He just kept saying "don't worry".

The next time I went to see the doctor, while still at the door, I heard him saying to me in a very strange voice "I want you to stop taking the medicine". Just like that, without any explanation.

Well, if I am alive and well today it's due to the Rabbi's Blessing for Good