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18 December, 201318 December, 2013 0 comments travel travel

The Judean Hills will be alive with the sound of music next week when Elisabeth von Trapp performs at east Jerusalem s Yabous Cultural Center Monday (Dec. 23), and at Manger Square in Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity Tuesday in back-to-back concerts on Christmas Eve.

Von Trapp, 58, is the Stowe, Vermont-born granddaughter of the legendary Baron Georg Ritter von Trapp and Baroness Maria. The story of the musical family s flight from their native Austria following the 1938 Nazi Anschluss inspired the 1959 Broadway musical The Sound of Music. The lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and music by Richard Rogers were adapted in the 1965 film of the same name. Starring Julie Andrews as Elisabeth s grandmother and Christopher Plummer as her grandfather, the musical won five Academy Awards. Many of the Rogers and Hammerstein songs have become standards, such as "Edelweiss ", "My Favorite Things ", "Do-Re-Mi ", and the title song "The Sound of Music ".

Though the Trapp Family Singers disbanded in 1957, Elisabeth was inspired by her father Werner s guitar playing and singing, and her family s legacy, she said.

"As a child, my father played guitar and sang with us every night," said von Trapp, who has a sister and four brothers.

Werner von Trapp, who was portrayed in the musical as the stoic Kurt, died in 2007, at age 91.
Elisabeth began taking piano lessons when she was eight and by the age of 16 was playing guitar and trave

23 April, 201223 April, 2012 0 comments travel travel

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

27 March, 201227 March, 2012 0 comments travel travel

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

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

TagsTags: jerusalem easter 
8 July, 20118 July, 2011 2 comments travel travel

"Can anything good come from Nazareth?," Nathanael asks Philip (John 1:46). The answer for tourists must be a resounding yes.


But be cautioned: pilgrims searching for a pastoral mountain village such as Nazareth was 2,000 years ago when Jesus grew up here may be sorely disappointed. Today's sprawling city of 75,000 is the thriving regional capital of Israel's Lower Galilee. Apart from the occasional donkey plying traffic-clogged Paulus VI Street, there's little that evokes the Bible in today's contemporary metropolis - the largest Arab city in Israel.


The scene is hardly quieter on Friday, the holy day for Muslims, who make up two-thirds of Nazareth's population. It calms down somewhat on Wednesday afternoon, however, when many businesses close for a midweek sabbatical, and on Sunday, the day of rest for the Christians who make up the other third of the city, it's positively placid.


If you're out for local color (and traffic jams), come on Saturday, when Arab villagers from the surrounding area come to the big city to sell produce and buy goods, and Jewish families from Tel Aviv and Haifa come looking for bargains in the souk (old city market).


Getting to and around Nazareth

If you're driving from Beit She'arim or Haifa on Route 75,

TagsTags: nazareth galilee 
14 March, 201114 March, 2011 0 comments travel travel

Fresh from a visit to South Africa last year in conjunction with the 2010 World Cup, and a tour of England and Wales in 2009, the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux arrived at Ben Gurion Airport Monday for a two-month stay in the Holy Land. A senior delegation of Roman Catholic officials from Israel and the West Bank led by Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Franco and Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal were on the tarmac to greet the canonized Carmelite nun's remains and escort her bejeweled reliquary to Franco's residence in Jerusalem.

St. Therese Relics arrive in Israel

Relics of St. Therese arrive in Israel   Photo courtesy: Latin Patriarchate

There the relics were going on display Wednesday, March15, for one day at the Latin Patriarchate in the Old City's Christian Quarter before being transported to Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation. The reliquary will be on display for veneration until May 31, 2011 at various Christian communities in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip, becoming in effect "a bridge of peace," Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem's Latin Patriarchate told Travelujah.com, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Hol

3 March, 20113 March, 2011 0 comments travel travel

Working as a Jerusalem-based journalist and tour guide, I'm constantly aware - if no longer surprised - by the disconnect between tourists' expectations of violence in Israel and the peaceful reality they encounter.

Watching TV in America or Europe, it's understandable that people have the impression that Israel is a kind of Wild West in the Middle East, where gunslingers walk the streets and people dodge bullets. Especially now during the wave of revolutions that has toppled long-standing dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt (with Libya and perhaps Iran next), there is a false perception that life in Israel's vibrant democracy is dangerous. In the last month I've had two tours cancel, though most tourists don't have the honesty to acknowledge they're forgoing their trip of a lifetime because they're scared.

Is there anything to be afraid of here? Is Israel unsafe?

The answer, in a word, is "No." Israel is one of the most secure countries in the world - with a formidable behind-the-scenes security apparatus making sure it stays that way. The media, with its "If it bleeds it leads" mentality," is largely responsible for this misperception of violence.

Terrorism statistics (see: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/terrisraelsum.html) prove my point: in 2009 exactly 6 people were killed by terrorism in Israel. Last year the number was 10. By contrast in 2008, 444 people were kille

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