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Some 3,000 local Armenians, pilgrims, representatives of various Christian denominations, tourists and police packed St. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City here today for the Maundy Thursday ritual of the washing of the feet rite in advance of Eastern Orthodox Easter. The ceremony, based on John 13:1-17, recalls Jesus washing the feet of His 12 Apostles just before they ate the Last Supper. The New Testament passage in turn echoes Hebrew Bible passages of foot washing such as Genesis 18:4.
"I'm honored to be here today. This is beyond history. I've never had the experience of awe like this. I cannot compare it with anywhere in Europe or America or the Middle East," Salpi Garavaryan, 43, told Travelujah. Born in Beirut, Garavaryan fled Lebanon's Civil War in 1989 and settled in the United States.
"When I go back to Los Angeles, I'll tell all my Christian friends to come to the Holy Land."
The 50-minute sublime and solemn service began with a baritone male choir chanting that for this reporter at times resembled Ashkenazi cantorial music, Gregorian chants and the muezzin's call to prayer. With a chorus of hallelujahs, Patriarch Nourhan Manoogian washed the feet 12 bishops and priests, some of whom had come on pilgrimage from Armenia, Canada and the United States.
"Shenorhavor Dzenount" - that's the Merry Christmas greeting of the 2,100 members of Jerusalem's tight-knit Armenian community who will celebrate the birth of Jesus January 18.
No. That's not a typo. Christmas is among the many factors which makes the Holy City unique; In Jerusalem and nearby Bethlehem, unlike anywhere else on Earth, the birthday of the Christian messiah is celebrated three times.
In cities such as New York, London or Sydney one can find Christmas celebrations on January 6 being marked by Russians, Greeks, Serbs and other followers of the Eastern Orthodox churches, in addition to the December 25 holiday marked by Catholics and Protestants who belong to the Western church. But in Jerusalem the Armenian community continues to adhere to the Julian calendar, celebrating Christmas on January 18. (In Armenia and its Diaspora, Christmas is celebrated January 6.)
Why all the confusion? Firstly, the New Testament is mute about the date of Jesus' birth. It may have occurred in the spring rather than in winter since Luke records that shepherds were "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night." Traditionally shepherds in Palestine guard their flocks around the clock at the spring lambing time; during the winter months, the animals are placed in corrals, unwatched.
The celebration on January 6 was formalized in 325, when Constantine - the Roman empire's first Christian emperor - summoned the Co
Where to feast on Christmas? Have no fears - the Holy Land is hopping with special Christmas meals - you'll find two of our favorite venues to celebrate your special holiday meals:
Festivities at Notre Dame Center
Celebrate mass on Dec. 24, 2012 at 23.30 at Notre Dame Center and enjoy Carols & Christmas Midnight Mass at the Auditorium
After the Mass come by for Hot Chocolate, Coffee and Tea / Cookies and English cake
On December 25, 2012 at 10.00 there is a Solemn High Mass and at 18.30 a Holy Mass
Dec. 31, 2012 at 23.00 New Years Thanksgiving Mass
After the Mass come by for Hot Chocolate, Coffee and Tea / Cookies and English cake/ Champagne
Jan. 1, 2013 Holy Mass at 18.30
Christmas Eve Dinner
Enjoy a holiday dinner on December 24, 2012 at 20.00
Location: The Wine & Cheese Restaurant (limited seats)
Menu US$ 80.00 per person with live music & DJ
Christmas Day Lunch
December 25, 2012 at 12.30 - 15.00
Location: Main Dining Room at Notre Dame
Enjoy a special chef's special Christmas day open buffet lunch US$ 45.00 per person
New Years Eve Dinner
December 31, 2012 @ 20.00
Location: The Wine & Cheese Restaurant (limited seats)
Chef's Special Menu US$ 120.00 per person with Live music & DJ
At least 500 million birds - including pelicans, cranes, storks, falcons, eagles and warblers - wing their way across Israel's skies twice a year during the transcontinental migration seasons. In the fall, they make their way south to Central Africa and in the spring they return to Europe and Asia to mate and reproduce.
Israel owes its remarkable avian biodiversity to geography: the country - situated between the equally impassable desert and the Mediterranean Sea - lies astride the birds' major migratory corridor along the Syro-African Rift Valley. As well, 525 species of birds live in Israel year-round, which is quite high for such a small country. And to the fascination of professional and amateur ornithologists, the best bird-watching site of all is the Agamon Hula Preserve in the Galilee Panhandle (www.agamon-hula.co.il). (Agamon is the Hebrew diminutive of agam, meaning a little lake.)
Hula Valley Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy: Travelujah - Holy Land tours
The wetland preserve was ground zero for the week-long 2nd International Hula Valley Bird Festival, which wrapped up Nov. 18. (See www.hulabirdfestival.org.)
Patriarch Kirill I, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow and All Russia, arrived in Israel Sunday on an official visit together with a delegation of senior Church officials from Moscow. The primate visited Israel's holy sites, and placed a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Since becoming head of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2009, Kirill - whose secular name Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev - has promoted ecumenism.
The visit is part of Kirill's worldwide book tour promoting his tome, Freedom and Responsibility which includes a collection of his thoughts on ethics and religion in the post-modern, secular world. "Through your book, many people will be exposed to your words of wisdom," said Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, who invited Kirill to Israel. "You have made great efforts to [advance] universal values and I hope that they will be realized in our life time."
A reception Monday at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Kirill presented Patriarch Theophilos III with a certificate for seven bells that will be installed at the belfry of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Jaffa. The bells were cast by the Vera plant in the city of Voronezh at the order of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations. The St. Gregory the Theological Charity Foundation helped with financing.
The adage that Israel is a country with too much history and too little geography was born out here twice recently - with the opening of a temporary exhibit on the historic 1898 visit of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II to Ottoman Palestine, and the dedication of a bust of Winston Churchill - whose decisions as Britain's Colonial Secretary and later as wartime Prime Minister left a profound effect on Israel and the Jewish people.
The exhibit "The Kaiser is coming!" which opened at the Tower of David Museum October 29 and runs through March, documents the imperial visit through a modern lens, cleverly utilizing iPads disguised in antique cameras to project a series of huge images and virtual newspapers illustrating the story of the royal tour. Visitors can pose for a picture in a reconstruction of the imperial tent and then Facebook it to their friends.
Sailing from Venice on the imperial yacht SMY Hohenzollern II - collectors of postage stamps from the Second Reich's overseas colonial empire will recognize the ship - the Kaiser (1859-1941) docked at the brand new jetty in Haifa at the foot of the town's German Colony, today renamed Ben Gurion Boulevard, built by pioneering archaeologist Gottlieb Schumacher. From there the entourage with its 112 luggage trunks made its way to Jerusalem. A high security 75-tent encampment was set up on the posh Street of the Counsels, today ha-Nevi'im Street, not far from the Old City.
Unperturbed by the uncertainties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the world's smallest ethnic community will gather here Friday, May 4 on Mount Gerizim for the biblical observance of Passover.
Samaritans gathering at Mt. Gerazim for the annual Samaritan sacrifice; photo courtesy Travelujah
The 760 Samaritans in the world are the last remnant of the once flourishing biblical kingdom of Israel. They trace their descent back to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
After the death of King Solomon in ca.920 BCE, his northern subjects gathered at Shechem (modern Nablus) to secede, rejecting his arrogant heir Rehoboam (I Kings 12:1-20). The breakaway kingdom bolstered its political independence from Judah by theologically challenging the beliefs of the older kingdom. The Samaritans maintained that God's chosen site for His sanctuary is Mount Gerizim, an 881-metre peak looming over Shechem from the south, rather than Mount Moriah in Jerusalem 63 km to the south. The Samaritan religion became fossilized i
Israel Independence Day (Yom ha-Atzmaut) this year begins on the eve of Wednesday, April 25. It's the sixth such celebration since my wife Randi and I made aliya (immigrated to Israel) in 2005.
What's life like for a middle-aged, middle class guy from Toronto, Canada adjusting to quotidian Jerusalem, you may wonder.
Good, mostly, I suppose.
Our first year here trying to immerse ourselves in our new-old country, Randi and I went to a series of state ceremonies in the eight days leading up to Independence Day. The first was to go to Yad Vashem to hear then President Moshe Katsav and then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert memorialize the six million victims of the unremitting tragedy that we label the Holocaust.
We followed our visit to Yad Vashem with a ceremony at the Kotel (Western Wall) mourning the 22,123 Jews, Druze, Bedouin and others who have fallen in defense of Israel and the pre-state Yishuv - a figure which does not include victims of terror.
And the next day, almost without a breath in between, we switched emotionally draining gears to join the perhaps 50,000 Independence Day revellers who thronged downtown Jerusalem's Zion Square, Jaffa Road and the surrounding streets in a raucous, hyperbolic display of patriotism symbolized by concerts, stage shows, Israeli dancing in the streets and of course, the infamous Israeli barbeque. Every piece of green is taken up by people staking out their spot in
On May 4, 2012, the Samaritan's of the Holy Land will celebrate the annual Passover sacrifice. But who are the Samaritans? And how is it that this community continues to survive in the Holy Land? Part 1 in our series of the Holy Land Samaritans
In 722 BCE, 200 years after the split between Solomon's sons Jeroboam and Rehoboam, the Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians. Much of the vanquished population were deported as slaves to Mesopotamia (present day Iraq). Vassal peoples living in what is now Syria and the border between Iran and Iraq were brought in their stead to settle the barren land.
Jewish tradition maintains that the Samaritans are the descendants of these colonizers who adopted some Israelite rituals (II Kings 17:24-29), a charge adamantly denied by Elazar and his fellow Samaritans.
Christians visiting the Holy Land in the spring sometimes fail to appreciate the link between Passover and Easter: Jesus came to Jerusalem in April circa 34, making his triumphal entry on the Sunday of the last fateful week of his life, in order to offer a Passover sacrifice at Herod's magnificent newly-built Temple. He celebrated the Passover seder banquet that Thursday night, an event commonly referred to as the Last Supper. Returning with his apostles to their encampment at Gethsemane on the nearby Mount of Olives, he was arrested that evening after being betrayed by Judas. On Friday, the holy day of Passover, he was tried and then crucified. His corpse was hurriedly placed in a new sepulcher or family tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea near to the Skull Hill execution grounds so as not to violate the Sabbath that began Friday shortly before sundown. Sunday morning it was discovered that the rolling stone sealing Jesus' tomb had been shifted, and the sepulcher was empty. Jesus had arisen.
Good Friday procession in Jerusalem; photo courtesy Travelujah
Thus Passover and Easter began on the same date. But Christianity the daughter religion of Judaism, was an