Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Pilgrimstur til Israel, 14. til 23. oktober, 2012

Vi reiser med p. Piotr Krysztofiak. Daglig messe og mulighet for bønn og refleksjon. Detljert program følger under, på engelsk...

Holy Land Pilgrimage, October 14th to 23rd, 2012

Itinerary may be altered as a result of security, logistics or weather concerns                                                      
Sunday , 14th  October, 2012

  •            Arrival at the Ben Gurion airport and transfer to Tel Aviv
  •            Meeting with a Keshet representative and introduction to the program 
  •            Evening tour in old Jaffa, where St. Peter had his vision on the rooftop of the House of Simon
  •            Dinner and overnight at hotel City in Tel Aviv

Monday, 15th  October, 2012
  •         Visit of the Diaspora Museum that describes the Jewish experience from the exile after the destruction of the First Temple, 2,600 years ago, to the present
  •         Drive along the coast to Caesarea, where St. Peter baptized the first Gentile convert (Cornelius) and where St. Paul was imprisoned.
  •        Continue to Muhraqa, where the Carmelite Monastery of St. Elijah marks the place where the prophet Elijah triumphed over the false prophets of Ba’al.
  •        Introduction to the Bedouin culture with a local family
  •        Dinner and overnight at hotel Maagan Eden by the Sea of Galilee
Tuesday, 16th  October, 2012

  •             Visit the Mt. of Beatitudes, the scene of the Sermon on the Mount
  •             Visit the ruins of Capernaum, the home of Jesus as well as the apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John    and the tax collector Matthew
  •             Walk around Tabgha Church, known as the site of the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes
  •             Visit a Kibbutz in the upper Galilee, with an on-site lecture about life along the Lebanese border
  •             Tour Caesarea Philippi, the place of Peter’s confession
  •             Dinner and overnight at hotel Maagan Eden by the Sea of Galilee

Wednesday, 17th  October, 2012

  •               Visit Megiddo, the ancient fortified city, known as the site of Armageddon
  •               Tour at Mt. Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration.
  •               Continue to Nazareth, visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation. Tour of Nazareth
  •               Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee at the sunset
  •               Dinner and overnight at hotel Maagan Eden by the Sea of Galilee

Thursday, 18th  October, 2012

  •             Drive southwards through the Jordan River Valley
  •             Visit  the top of Masada, Herod's magnificent palace and fortress
  •             Beautiful nature hike to the Ein Gedi spring, where David encountered King Saul
  •             Swim and float in the Dead Sea, bathing yourself in the mineral rich water and mud (if time permits)
  •             Dinner and overnight in Ecce Homo Convent, Jerusalem

Friday, 19th  October, 2012
  •             Early morning: Way of the Cross – Via Dolorosa. Praying the Stations of the Cross from the Chapel of the Flagellation, and the Sisters of Zion Convent, through the streets of Old Jerusalem to the Judgment Gate and the Tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (The Church of the Resurrection!).
  •            Visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem.
  •             Meet with a Holocaust Survivor
  •            Lunch time in Ein Karem, the birthplace of John the Baptist, and the place where Mary stayed with Elisabeth
  •            Free Afternoon in Jerusalem
  •            Visit the Western Wall for the beginning of Shabbat
  •            Traditional Shabbat Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem (Ecce Homo)

Saturday, 20th  October, 2012

  •             Drive to the top of the Mt. Of Olives, known as the site from where Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Holy City of Jerusalem
  •             Enter Dominus Flevit, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem
  •             Descend the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed on the night of the betrayal
  •             Tour the Jewish quarter of the old city
  •             Dinner and overnight in Ecce Homo Convent, Jerusalem

Sunday, 21st  October, 2012

  •            Tour Biblical Jerusalem at the City of David, where the story of Jerusalem began
  •            Visit the archaeological site at the Davidson Center, where Jesus first ascended the Temple Mount
  •            Panoramic view over the Old City of Jerusalem from the Haas Promenade
  •             Drive to Bethlehem, visiting the Shepherds’ Field and the Church of the Nativity
  •             Drive southwards to the settlement of Efrat (one of the biblical names for Bethlehem)
  •             Meeting and a Bible discussion with a Rabbi at the Centre for Jewish – Christian Understanding & Cooperation in Efrat
  •              Dinner and overnight in Ecce Homo Convent, Jerusalem

Monday, 22nd  October, 2012

  •             At the Herzl Museum, learn about Theodore Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionist Movement
  •             Visit the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Model of Jerusalem – the famed 1:50 model of the way the Holy City looked in Jesus’ day.
  •             Drive to Maaleh Adumim, a small town outside of Jerusalem, for a home hospitality program with Ethiopian Jewish Immigrants and hear the remarkable stories of their long trek home from Africa to Israel.
  •            Farewell Dinner
  •            Overnight in Ecce Homo Convent, Jerusalem

Tuesday, 23rd  October, 2012

  •          Departure to the Ben Gurion airport

Times and venues for Mass are coordinated with the tour leader

Pris: kr 11 000

per person i dobbeltrom + flybillett

enkeltromstillegg kr 4 100

Prisen inkluderer 10 dager/ 9 netters opphold, halvpensjon (frokost og middag), guide, buss, alle inngangspenger, transfer til/fra flyplassen. Turen begynner søndag 14.oktober i Tel Aviv. Flybilletten kommer i tillegg.

Påmelding ved innbetaling av kr 2 500 depositum til konto nr. 6580.17.08549 (Inga Kastrone) innen 1.mai 2012. Full innbetaling ved påmelding etter 1.mai 2012. Reise- og avbestillingsforsikring må tegnes før påmelding. Infomøte vil bli arrangert i god tid før avreise.

The Best of Moscow

I came across this alternative guide to the best places in the Russian capital by accident, and was totally enamoured.

The compilers managed to put together some of the most romantic, soulful and "old-Moscow" places I know. This is Moscow as I love it and remember it. In addition, great suggestions for museums, places to eat, etc. Check it out: http://www.bg.ru/moscow/1/

In Russian and English.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Two crazy chicken stories and the most amazing Jerusalemite I know (quite a few of them here, actually...)

When I was in Jerusalem volunteering for three months, my friend introduced me to Shabbat meals at the Machlis family. They are somewhat of a legend in Jerusalem, especially among backpackers, hippies, searching souls and all sorts of crazy people of the type I love so much.

That day was one of my last times, towards the end of my stay in Jerusalem. Rabbi's wife, Hennie, is a great cook, and made tons of chicken for the crowd.

A couple of American yeshiva students got up to leave early (already making themselves noticeable). When they walked by our table, one of them took a piece of chicken with his hands from a common plate, waved this dripping greasy treat above the heads of unsuspecting Dutch backpackers, and put it into his POCKET. You know, the black suit pocket. And left through the front door.

My neighbour at the table was a Canadian, I think a convert to Judaism. She gasped in horror and said to the Dutch couple, who were frenetically trying to find out how much of the grease had ended up on their shoulders: "Oh no! This is SO AMERICAN! We never do this! I mean, do we, we never do this?! OMG, this is SO American!!!"

Here is the link to the Machlis family. I have left a comment in a guest book, no.90.:

The same friend who told me about Machlises once had a visitor in for coffee. She had met him two weeks earlier on the streets of the Old City and invited him for a Shabbat meal. He was wearing the same notorious black-suit-and-hat outfit as in the previous story, but she mentioned he didn't look Jewish. He said he was. In any case, he never showed up. So when she met him again, she invited him in for coffee and they talked some. He wasn't wearing the black habit any longer, but explained it by the fact he was renting a room on the Mt. of Olives, and it wasn't so cool for him to walk looking Jewish there. And after a while still he said he wasn't Jewish but was thinking of converting.

"Oh, really... Well, we have a lot of Jewish men who are marrying non-Jewish women, so it would be awesome if you jumped into the pool with us." Yes, she's always that direct, and I love her for that. There are two things you shouldn't mention in a conversation with her, though, Jewish men being with non-Jewish women - and cruelty to animals, in any form. If you do, you wake a volcano!

So they chatted some about the yeshiva he could go to, and she said she'd introduce him to the rabbis, and maybe they let him study there already now, and it was all very pleasant, until he came to the subject of learning Arabic.

"And why would you want to do that?"

A long and strange explanation followed, the details of which are lost and irrelevant, but he needed it for some project of his, because, you see -

"... I am the MESSIAH".


"And I have to rebuild the Temple, and restore the animal sacrifices..."

"ANIMAL SACRIFICES??!!" Now, remember what I told you about animals...

"Until we realize no animal sacrifices are needed the temple will NEVER be built!!!!!!"

"Yes, we need to, because it is very important" and he went on with his point of view for a while, and said, "Because, you see, I have been doing it..."

"You... You have been doing it?! With - with what, rats, mice??"

"No, chicken..."

"You have been doing it with CHICKEN??" (On the Mount of Olives?)

"... Yes, and every time I do it, I feel very close to God, it is such a unique experience!" You don't know what you've been missing, in other words...

Friday, 28 October 2011

From the master of paradoxes - true as always...

A Nubian gospel discovered by Boissiere tells of a young philosopher to whom a Semitic dancer sends, as homage, the head of an apostle. The young man bows and says, smiling, "What I really want, beloved, is your head." She quails and goes off. The afternoon of the same day a slave presents the philosopher with his darling's head on a gold platter. And the philosopher asks, "Why are they bringing this bloody thing to me?" and goes on reading Plato.
Our most fiery moments of extasy are merely shadows of what somewhere else we have felt, or what we long some day to feel. So at least it seems to me. And, strangely enough, what comes of all this is a curious mixture of ardour and of indifference. I myself would sacrifice everything for a new experience, and I know there is no such thing as a new experience at all. I think I would more readily die for what I do not believe in than for what I hold to be true... Only one thing remains infinitely fascinating to me, the mystery of moods. To be master of these moods is exquisite, to be mastered by them more exquisite still. Sometimes I think that the artisctic life is a long and lovely suicide, and am not sorry that it is so. (Oscar Wilde, in a letter, 1886)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

My Name is Daniel Pearl

A speech by Pilar Rahola at the Daniel Pearl Award, 07/10/2010

Dear friends, good morning.

Without doubt, he must be afraid. He faces the camera, but... where is his gaze aimed? Perhaps towards his family, his ancestral memory, his identity... or perhaps he is looking beyond, towards the broken future, the woman he loves, the son he will never know... His last words... “My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish American from Encino, California USA”. Today is February 1st, 2002, he is 38 years old and is about to be brutally murdered. “My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish…” The Yemeni that will decapitate him will take almost two minutes to cut off his head. He will begin very slowly, under the ear, to reap the vocal chords and prevent the shout. “My family follows Judaism. We've made numerous family visits to Israel…” From this point on, the brutal narration of a murder whose details, masterly described by Bernard Henry-Levi, would horrify even Dante's own Inferno. The victim turned into a metaphor of the beauty of life. The assassin, symbol of the human being devoid of soul, of the defeat of humanity. Who has turned him into a monster? “Back in the town of Bnei Brak there is a street named after my great grandfather Chaim Pearl who is one of the founders of the town”. And all will be over. His hopes, his loves, his dreams... “My name is Daniel Pearl…” And the executioner will triumphantly display his cleft head before the camera, as a trophy.

Thank you. First of all thank you for this moving day, which commits me beyond doubt, beyond frailty and beyond fear. To be granted the award that bears the name of Daniel Pearl is more than an extraordinary honour, it is a duty. My name is Pilar Rahola, I was born in the old Sepharad, in Catalonia, from a Catholic family, I consider myself a left-winger and I am a journalist. But as a civil-rights fighter, and as a journalist who searches for reported truth, my name is also Daniel Pearl, I was born in Encino and I am Jewish. All those of us who love civilization, those of us who conceive the world under the values of modernity, are and will always be Daniel Pearl. Because beyond our ideological, religious or cultural differences, we are part of a civic inheritance which commits us to democracy. And they have declared war against that inheritance. Daniel Pearl's assassins do not only decapitate helpless victims, murder hundreds in the world's trains, or kill thousands in the cities' skyscrapers. Above all they try to behead the principles of freedom. Daniel Pearl's death, as do the deaths of all those who have fallen under the insanity of Islamic Fundamentalism, concerns us all, and not only for the sake of compassion. It concerns us for it is a bullet that is aimed at each one of us, regardless of our origin. Every woman that breathes with her own lungs and conquests her future, every man who loves culture and progress, every child who is educated to be tolerant and free, every God which doesn't hate but rather loves, every one of them has a bullet with their name written on it. We are faced with a new totalitarianism, natural heir to Stalinism and Nazism, as horrendous as both of them, and perhaps more lethal. The question now is, as it always was: are we doing the right thing to defend ourselves?

I am only a labourer of ideas, and it is not up to me to define the intelligence strategies that fight this ideology. Yet I uphold my critical spirit regarding many political and military decisions , and I do not always like our leaders, nor their actions. However, it is also true that the Islamofascist ideology has left us baffled and frightened, and has shown our weaknesses. Today, free societies are technologically more advanced, militarily stronger, and are more intercommunicated. But our enemy is also stronger than ever. It is the Global Jihad, with the brain and heart in the 8th century, but connected by satellite with 21st century technology. Look at Iran, how it has laughed at the world and moves on, inexorably, towards the fearful nuclear domination. An Islamic Hitler with a nuclear bomb. Who can or wants to stop him? A useless UN, incapable of reacting, beyond rhetoric and bureaucracy? Poor Eleanor Roosevelt, should she wake up and see into what has become her dream of the League of Nations! Can Europe stop it, trapped in its economic ambitions, its infighting and its political incapacity? If the UN doesn't know what is its rôle in the world, Europe doesn't even know what it is itself. Will countries such as China or Russia, countries which are rather allies to this madness, stop it? Will the USA, which every day seems more lost regarding its own rôle in theinternational arena, stop it? Sincerely, the world's only hope seems to be Israel, which, as it defends itself from a monster, defends us all. Dear ADL friends, those of us who believe in a free world have to trust in Eretz Israel: a lighthouse in the heart of darkness.

And beyond Iran, it is also evident that we are unable to stop the ideological phenomenon which sustains Global Islamic Fundamentalism. How many youths, in this precise instant, are reading jihadist texts? How many thousands are being indoctrinated in hatred of the West and in a renewed anti-Semitism, in the schools of “friendly” countries? How many, in our cities' mosques, are nursed with contempt of democracy? How many learn to love their God, hating their neighbour? How many are, right now, using the invention that a Jew helped to develop, Internet, to transmit their deadly ideas? Look at the World. Millions of enslaved women, subjugated by medieval laws, before international indifference. Millions of children who live in enormously rich dictatorships, condemned to poverty and educated as fanatic automatons. Who will prevent their tragedy? In Europe itself, the advance of fundamentalism is enormous, and our democracies seem incapable of stopping it. And it must be remembered that the problem is not a religion, nor a culture, nor a God. The problem is the totalitarian abuse of God.

There is, certainly, an Islam of life and of good harmony with others. But in the World today, there also exists an Islam which is very ill, and that, in its delirium of planetary domination, drags millions of people to their own perdition. So it's not about a clash of civilizations nor of religions. It's about civilization versus barbarity. And within civilization are all those Muslims murdered in busses, trains and in the market queues; the women who struggle for their freedom in the petrodollar dictatorships; the Iranian students, the dissidents... Within barbarity are Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Jihad Islamiya, the beheaders of people, and those imams who feed their flock with hatred in the World's mosques... The problem isn't the Muslim religion, but the totalitarian ideology that shouts “Hurray for death” while praying to Allah. An ideology that leads, in its macabre death toll, to the death of thousands .
Let us be conscious of something tragic. Despite the mirage of our superiority in all fields – military, political, moral – , while we are not losing the battle, neither are we winning it. It's as if we were at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, when Communism seemed to be a liberating ideology. Or in the 1930's, when Hitler only seemed to be a stupid clown, and Chamberlain honoured him. Then, as now, and before the beginning of a global menace, our capacity to respond is poor, timid and erratic. And in some cases, it's directly collaborationist.

Allow me to talk of my planet, the planet of ideas. Intellectuals, journalists, writers, people of thought, are they up to the historic moment they are living? And the leftist groups, who so noisily criticise democratic countries, yet remain silently absent in the struggle against the great tyrannies, are they? No. They are not up to the historic moment.
I take advantage of your enormous prestige, the ADL's prestige, pioneers in the defence of civil rights, and I take advantage of the extraordinary award you place in my hands, borrowing Emile Zola's words, to elevate a sad, but direct, “J'accuse”! (I accuse!). Today most intellectuals and journalists remain deaf, blind and mute before the most serious threats that freedom suffers. And some of their strident proclamations, are the most efficient help that this totalitarian ideology has in the free world.

I accuse journalists and intellectuals of remaining silent before the barbaric oppression of millions of women, condemned to live under medieval laws which amputate them as human beings. No demonstrations, no Obama declaration, no boycott, nothing. These victims interest nobody, perhaps because Israelis or Americans cannot be blamed for their misfortune. And only anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism mobilizes their selective ire. I accuse journalists and intellectuals of remaining silent before the permanent slaughter of hundreds of Muslims, victims of Islamic bombs, whose plight interests nobody because one cannot put the blame on Jews nor on Americans. I accuse journalists and intellectuals of criminalizing Israel to the point of delirium, and of helping to create a mentality that is understanding with Palestinian terrorism.

I accuse them of the new anti-Semitism which hits the World, whose politically correct leftist character, makes it into a very dangerous phenomenon.

I come from a state, Spain, which has suffered the most deadly terrorist attack in Europe. Do you think that that has vaccinated us against intellectual imbecility, against ideological stupidity, against blind dogmatism? Quite the contrary, today the European country most obsessed against Israel is Spain, one of the most anti-American and the most anti-Semite of the continent. There have been some who have even blamed the Israelis of the Atocha railway terrorist attack in Spain. As I wrote quite some time ago, many educated and intelligent people, turn into imbeciles when talking about Israel. In my own home town, Barcelona, the hatred towards Israel has become a left-winger's sign of identity, they are capable of refusing to commemorate the day of the Shoah, due to solidarity with the Palestinians. I have been defamed and menaced, and they have even invented the “crime” of “negationist of the Palestinian holocaust” to try to take me to court. The list of deliriums which present-day Spain generates regarding Israel and the Jewish people only reminds one tragically of Medieval Spain and its expulsion edicts. Today we love the Jewish stones of Toledo and Girona, but we disdain the living Jews, we criminalize Israel and we turn terrorists into heroes. And yet, if our ethical, civic and political ally is not Israel, then which country of the Middle East can it be? The religious dictatorships, the oppressors of women, the fundamentalist fanatics? Spanish intellectuals, and with them a large part of the World's intellectuals, especially the left-wing intellectuals, look upside down, think upside down and upside down establish their hatreds and alliances. Medieval Jews represented culture, medicine, knowledge, and yet they were the ones who were persecuted. Today, Israel, beyond the legitimate criticism of its mistakes, represents the metaphor of all that we must preserve: freedom, the right to exist and religious tolerance. Despite this, Israel is the World's most hated country. Thus, while Islamic fundamentalism grows, exercises violence, kidnaps and kills, the World's liberals look the other way, abandon the victims and scream their slogans against the only country in the World which is menaced with destruction.

These journalists and intellectuals call themselves solidary, liberators, liberals, and yet they are a lunatic left, dogmatic and anti-historical, which abominates solid democracies, while it pardons brutal tyrannies. They are the new Chamberlains, unconscious collaborators of the totalitarianism which is overtaking the World. For we must not forget that freedom is not only won in the political or military battlefield. It is also won in the field of ideas.
That is why my name is Daniel Pearl, and also Guilad Shalit and Wafa Sultan and Ayan Hirsi Ali and Gordon, Edelmiro, Maria Rose, Andrew and Vincent; every one of the names of those murdered in the Twin Towers, in the London Underground, in the trains of Madrid, in the busses of Jerusalem. My name is Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman who had been condemned to be stoned to death in Iran. And all those who have been lapidated. If we are not them, then who are we? If we do not call ourselves with their names, then how do we call ourselves? If we do not defend their values, then which monsters are we defending?

Here, before the ADL, with the immense honour of receiving the Daniel Pearl Award, today, three days before Daniel's birthday, I reaffirm my ethical, journalistic and human commitment. I will not stop being critical with Israel, nor with the United States, nor with my own country. I will not stop explaining the truth, wherever I see it. But I will always remember on which side of the scale I am. The side of freedom, against that of tyrants; the side of women, against that of their oppressors; the side of Jews, against that of anti-Semitism; the side of culture, against that of fanaticism; the side of Israel, against that of its destroyers; the side of commitment, against that of indifference.
Elie Wiesel said: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death”.

Indifference is the anteroom of evil. And against that evil I will always struggle.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Face of Love


In the aftermath of the Oslo tragedy, my good friend, an Arab Muslim woman from Jerusalem, sent me a concerned e-mail. Her kind and encouraging words were a ray of light, one among many during these days. It is in times like these that love overflows. She wrote me, among other things, that she believes in Good God – meaning that something good will come even from this horrible thing, that every horrible thing opens opportunities for good.

I replied her today that I believe in good God, too. It is in times like these we see and feel so much love, and get to share love, too. At night a candle’s brighter than the sun. Remember how we prayed together in Jerusalem, holdings hands, when the war nearly began raging around us? I thought you would see His face in those flowers, as I do today :-)


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

I Stand With Israel

The taxi driver who took me to Ben Gurion said Israel needs advocates. He told me how he would often take tourists on free trips and show them around in his free time. People ask him, why. Because I have children, he answers. And how do I raise my four children to be good people? How do I tell them that their neigbours hate them?

On the bus to the base, a French Jew who barely spoke English asked me why I was here, not being Jewish. I said I had to stand up for the right thing. I can't stand by and do nothing any longer. Some people cannot afford to be pacifists. My whole live had changed when I understood that. It might be too late, but so what? At least we will all have done our best. Yes, it might be too late for Europe, he agreed. But why is this happening again? I don't know. I have no answers any longer, only questions and paradoxes. He told me I had to tell others. I had to show them smiling faces. I had to tell them about the people who love, who smile, who dance, who live.

And now I have come back to keep my promise. Everything that happened, happened for a reason, from the smallest details to the biggest events. It may take a lifetime to digest.

What are the odds of staying on a paratroopers base and walking into a swearing-in ceremony for the paratroopers on my first visit to the Western Wall? I asked a group of soldiers what this was all about, and they said the combat units are swearing allegiance to their country. Smiling, gentle, and obviously touched by what was going on around us, they were curious and showered me with questions about Israel and my favourite places in their country. I am in love with Israel, I said, and I am in love with Jerusalem. “So have you warmed up by now, after Norway? Norway is beautiful, yes?” Beautiful… We talk some more and they ask, “It is not very good to us, though, there is a lot of anti-semitism, right?” I sigh. Not every thing that the newspapers say is true, but this one is, unfortunately. One of them smiles, “It’s all right, I have been to Europe, I know what it is like…”. Listen, I say to them, listen, look at me, I am here. I am doing this program because I want you to know that we are not all the same. There are many, many people in Norway who love Israel, who stand up for Israel, who understand what is going on. Whatever happens, whatever goes on, please remember, I want you to remember that we are not all the same. Please remember this - we are not all the same...

I have been blessed to get to know the best people in the world. Every one of my fellow volunteers is worthy of a book.

Miki and Tamar, you were the best madrichot we could wish for. I feel so honored to have been taken care of by you. You made me feel important, loved, and appreciated. You have shared a wealth of knowledge on the history and culture of your country with me. Thank you so much for everything!

Jo Ann, you have been to me like a sister and friend in those two weeks I have been blessed to spend with you. You were so American, so direct, so sincere, taking the photos I never dared to take and understanding my unconventional sense of humor. I hope you get to move to the land of your ancestors and be a great contribution to it!

Erna, you were certainly the most talkative and versatile Norwegian lady I have ever met. You were also the most beautiful, with your tiny waist, your heels and your smile. I admire you. When I found out you were 75, I admired you even more. Erna, I agree with you, it is impossible to love Jesus and not to love his own flesh and blood. We stand on this together. My church has as many flaws as yours, you are right about that, too. It hurts, but it is true. May we both have the courage to stand up for what we love, no matter what.

Darrell, you are one of the wisest and most genuine people I have met. I have never met a Vietnam war veteran before, and I am honored to have been working alongside the man who has served his country so well. I have at times wondered whether that bucketful of bullets you had collected was going to explode... Working with you has been pure joy. You have always had a kind word, an encouraging line and a good advice for me. When I was trying to fill up the water bottle from the tap outside in those wild last days, you came up to me, and said: “If you hadn’t been so nervous, you would have actually managed to get some water into it.” Then you came closer, looked me in the eye and said quietly, “But I think you are doing very well. Remarkably well, under the circumstances”. Then I knew you understood what the texting exchange was all about. But I know you don’t need my explanations. Thank you for accepting people the way they are, unconditionally. Like you, I don't have any answers, only questions. May God continue blessing you!

Yukio, I sent the last money I had left to help your country in the hour of need. Just after the earthquake and tsunami. I wish I had more. And we prayed and we prayed at Whitland. You did not know about that. But on our last night on the base you stood up, went to receive your diploma of appreciation and said in your broken English, “I am not the Prime Minister of Japan. But I am the only Japanese here. And on behalf of my country, I want to thank all the countries that have helped us in our hour of need. Israel, and all the countries who have sent us so much help. Thank you. My country needs a program like Sar El. My country may be closed, and not well understood, but if you get to know us, you will like us. I don’t speak much English, but please don’t think that people in Japan are like me. If you come to Japan, you will meet a lot of people who speak very good English and will be able to help you. And if you don’t like me, don’t judge my country because of that. Don’t dislike my country because of me”. I love your country, Yukio.

Mike and Ray, Sar El 2011 would have never been the same without you. I will never forget your insane notes in our “evening entertainment” room, your even more insane pictures (some of which I think do not belong on Facebook...) and the insane idea to hide the car. I will miss you, guys. But in Israel, you don’t say good-bye. We said good-bye once, thinking we will never see each other again, and you were back the same night. Besides, I am not good at good-byes. So I will just say, see you. You made work fun.

Manfred, I will miss your loud smile and your big belly.

Hannu, you were one of the most hard-working people I have met. You have always been proper, never complained, never judged and wanted the best for everyone. It has been a great honor getting to know you.

Charles, thank you for your kind words and appreciation. I hope you enjoyed your stay at Tova’s. You worked so hard despite all your ailments, heat and exhaustion. You never complained and just kept on working, even when our backs were hurting and it felt the sun was going to wither us.

Bob, I did not get to know you much. I have a hunch you were not so fond of us, Catholics. I understand. I was like that before. I hope your love for Israel will help you appreciate that nothing is what it seems at first sight, and that you do not judge us on what others say about us. You don’t know the road unless you walk it. But at least we agreed on our love for Israel and our dislike for Obama. Isn’t it amazing how so many completely different people can agree on so many things?!

Andrea, I hope you enjoyed your Sar El experience and will come back. Your city is beautiful!

Timo, you are such a proper, decent and hard-working man. Thank you for your friendship.

I have been blessed to have spent three weeks with you. It has been my honor and privilege. At times I wondered whether we were all insane. Who in their right mind would want to spend their holidays loading packs in the baking sun? And then my friend’s roommate, Shulamit, said that it is the craziest ones who turn out to be the most normal of them all. And I knew deep in my heart that she was right. And that I have been granted the privilege to have worked alongside the best people in the world.

I have stood up for the truth, I have done what I had to do, I have tried to practice love in the mundane, in the heat, in the baking sun, in the dirt, with twenty types of ants and giant cockroaches, with unchanellable energy and the feeling that my love for God was more worthy of Oscar Wilde than a good Catholic at times (in the paradox of life, Oscar Wilde died a good Catholic, though…). I ran a good race, stood up for the good cause, and had the time of my life.

And tonight I can say with pure conviction and without fear: I stand with Israel. True love can not, and will not, hide. Nor am I able to hide my love. I stand with Israel.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Tar and Feathers

Watch this Promo video on YouTube

Tar and Feathers by Kylian is an absolute masterpiece of a ballet, in my eyes. It speaks to the soul, and to the eye, on so many levels it would be pointless to try and explain. It is one of those works of art that are not “about” anything, being beyond explanations. You can only let the work speak for itself…

I have to note, as an aside, that we have seen this ballet in Oslo, and the audience – a part of the audience – was shockingly ignorant. Their behaviour spoiled the effect of the performance to some extent, so I really wish to have seen it elsewhere, in some more civilized country. Apparently, these people know no difference between opera and cabaret, ballet and circus – when they see someone who looks and acts like a clown, they think they have to laugh. Tragic.


Samuel Beckett

folly -
folly for to -
for to -
what is the word -
folly from this -
all this -
folly from all this -
given -
folly given all this -
seeing -
folly seeing all this -
this -
what is the word -
this this -
this this here -
all this this here -
folly given all this -
seeing -
folly seeing all this this here -
for to -
what is the word -
see -
glimpse -
seem to glimpse -
need to seem to glimpse -
folly for to need to seem to glimpse -
what -
what is the word -
and where -
folly for to need to seem to glimpse what where -
where -
what is the word -
there -
over there -
away over there -
afar -
afar away over there -
afaint -
afaint afar away over there what -
what -
what is the word -
seeing all this -
all this this -
all this this here -
folly for to see what -
glimpse -
seem to glimpse -
need to seem to glimpse -
afaint afar away over there what -
folly for to need to seem to glimpse afaint afar away over there what -
what -
what is the word -

what is the word

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A short retreat…


I have recently come back from a visit to a Cistercian abbey, the Holy Cross at Whitland, Wales.

As an aside, I am actually surprised I came back on time. I was first delayed by an electric failure which stopped all trains coming in and out of Cardiff. Miraculously, I arrived at the airport only 10 minutes late, thanks to the efficiency of Bridgend station manager and to the fact that Cardiff Airport is a small airport, with only a handful of gates and few flights (and, consequently, few passengers). All in all, my  acquired conviction to avoid London has been proven right. As if the stress of possibly missing a plane was not enough, my second flight from Dublin to Oslo got delayed to to technical failure with the aircraft. Only thanks to the fact that it was a Ryanair flight, and we were in Dublin, did the delay take merely 50 minutes (that included a change of aircraft). Tough day, you bet, but, as you can see, I was well taken care of – by Him who holds all things in being and outside of Whose will nothing can truly exist or take place. So, along with the Hasidic rabbis, whose sayings I’ve been reading lately, I was made to say, “This, too, is for good.”

Sitting through Cistercian Chapters, being able to pray as much as I wanted, dinner in the cloister while chatting with Esther de Waal across table, reading the Psalms and Megilloth with rabbinical commentaries – it has been sheer luxury, in spiritual terms.

Esther de Waal turned out to be a fantastic lady, educated, intelligent, passionate about all things Cistercian, and, at her age of 80, incredibly alert and energetic. I met Meg Funk on my last visit to Whitland, so this running into famous writers has become a habit. I was so inspired by the new library and talk about books that I started seriously considering writing a scientific paper on Cistercian architecture. Sober reasoning tells me it was wishful thinking – I would have to be a monastic to be able to write any scientific paper, much less one on Cistercian architecture.

Whitland is a kind of place nobody has ever heard about – simply because there is nothing there. It may be, however, interesting to learn that Whiland is the site of an assembly, sometimes also described as the first Welsh parliament, called by Welsh king Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good) in AD 930. Whitland, up until Henry VIII’s times, has also been home to a Cistercian abbey founded by the mother house in Clairvaux. There is not much left of it at present.

Coming back to Cistercian architecture, though. Here are some fine examples of modern functioning abbeys, with Whitland being the first, of course:

<KENOX S630  / Samsung S630>