Memorial Day - A day honoring Israeli soldiers who have died in the country's never-ending wars - over 23,320 soldiers at last count...It is always the day before Independence Day - usually in May, but sometimes in late April. This is a national holiday, not a religious one. Shops are open (although many of them close early) and buses run. Banks and post offices work until noon. People usually work half a day. The ceremonies begin the night before, at 8 p.m., with a one-minute siren, during which the whole country stands at attention. The state ceremony is at the Western Wall plaza, where a torch is lit. On the day itself, the official event is held at the military cemetery on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, with local ceremonies around the country. At 11 a.m, a siren is heard again, and people stop what they are doing and bow their heads in a moment of silence. Traffic jams are par for the course as certain main roads leading to Mt. Herzl are closed off.
My daughter converted to Judaism many years ago and I have consequently been over to Israel many times in the last 20+ years .I lived in Africa when I was younger but can honestly say that the cultural differences in Israel and especially in Jerusalem where there is a larger proportion of the population that is Orthodox is greater and can be a shock to the system if one has been brought up either in the Christian tradition or in a more secular society.
It is like entering a different world and, to make it comfortable for yourself it is better to conform, especially if you are a woman. Ladies, wear skirts that are midi to maxi rather than trousers and three quarter length sleeves and a modest neckline and if you have tattoos or piercings, hide them. It may not be our way of doing things in the West but it is their way and when in Rome etc... After all, one visits these places to see different cultures and it would be pointless after travelling such a distance if one couldn't see it because of one's attire.
Of course, you will see many Israelis who do not dress like this, in fact in the shopping malls etc you will see extremely skimpy clothes but if you want to see religious sites, please conform.
The habit of bowing instead of shaking hands is because a male orthodox Jew will not touch a female, most especially a Gentile, unless he is related. If you want to read up on it you will find that there are, to the western way of thinking, some very bizarre customs in Judaism, but look and learn and try not to judge.
I'm not a conforming person normally, but in this instance, who wants hassle?
You are in the Middle East and it's best not to forget it.
The food is delicious, by the way. The best fruit and vegetables in the world, but the service is a little surly; not so many please and thank yous as we would expect in the UK or the States.
All the museums are well worth visiting with excellent facilities.
Have a memorable trip!
scapulars are popular around the Roman Catholic World (both the eastern rite and the western rite) According to traditional accounts, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at Cambridge to St. Simon Stock, who was Prior General of the Carmelite Order in the middle of the 13th century. Originally, the brown scapular was given only to the members of the Carmelite Order. but now anyone may benefit from it by being formally enrolled in it by a priest. The scapular originally was a full-length wool garment that extended over the shoulders on both the front and the back of the person, reaching almost to his feet (just like the scapular which makes up the habit worn by religious); but now it is very small, although it is still wool, and still must be worn over the shoulders on the front and the back.
You Can buy these Mount Carmel Brown Scapulars in small and big sizes and costs NIS 8 per small piece and NIS 12 for a big piece. at the Pater Noster Church in Mount of Olives or at other Roman Catholic Church stores around Jerusalem
In Jewish Orthodox synagogues men and women sit separately, usually the men in the hall and the women on the balcony, although other arrangements also exist.
As the Wailing Wall also serves as a place of prayer and a synagogue, gender segregation is also practiced there, with separate prayer areas for men and for women.
The attached photo was taken near the entrance to the Wailing Wall plaza, and the sign says that this aisle is reserved for the use of men only.
However, the Jewish Orthodox (Haredi) community is demanding more than that: Some public buses serving the Haredim have separate seating for men (at the front of the bus) and for women (at the back), and women are also expected to get on the bus through the rear door.
Most non-Haredi Jews find this very dusturbing and objectionable. It shopuld be stressed, however, that most buses are regular "mixed" buses, and for every bus line you can choose to wait for a "normal" bus rather than get on the Haredi, gender-segregated one.
None of the communities controls the main entrance. In 1192, Saladin assigned responsibility for it to two neighboring Muslim families. The Joudeh were entrusted with the key, and the Nusseibeh, who had been the custodians of the church since the days of Caliph Omar in 637, retained the position of keeping the door. This arrangement has persisted into modern times. Twice each day, a Joudeh family member brings the key to the door, which is locked and unlocked by a Nusseibeh.
Since the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the seventh century, the Sunni Muslim family has held the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This arrangement emerged during the days of the second Muslim caliph, Umar Ibn al-Khattab, who hoped to avoid clashes among rival Christian dominations for control over the church. Although symbolic, the arrangement has provided the Nusseibeh family a visible role in Christian activities in Jerusalem, which include pilgrimages and visits by Western Christians.
Though most of the residents of Mea-Shearim speak Hebrew, the most radical sects speak only Yiddish, a German-Jewish language, in their daily lives. They refuse to speak Hebrew, one of the official languages of Israel. They view it as a sacred tongue, only for prayer and religion learning. Many people have the idea that Yiddish is spoken only by old people and even there are some that think that Yiddish is a dead language, but in Mea-Shearim and nearby places you can hear children speaking this singular language that survived the Holocaust.
You can find some original stickers while walking the streets of the Haredi (Jewish orthodox) neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
The sticker in the photo says: "Modest clothing = Success in Life".
And in smaller print: "Why is it pleasnt in winter? Because clothes are modest!" (It rhymes in Hebrew).
Another pearl in small print on the same sticker: "Modest clothing will prevent terrorist attacks".
How reassuring for a believer...
In the Haredi (Jewish religious orthodox) neighborhoods of Jerusalem you may come across a blue container, such as the one in the photo. If you think it's a recycling bin you are wrong. This container is for Genizah.
In the Jewish religion one should not throw away (or burn, or shred) any religious book, or for that matter any article (even a secular one) containing the name of God. What do you do with all the worn out prayer books, tefilin scrolls or mezuzah scrolls? They go to Genizah! At first they may be stored in a special store-room in a synagogue, but in the end they are buried in a Jewish cemetery.
When we pass by some of the house in Jerusalem we noticed that the door and some part of the wall was painted with the picture of the Kaaba. Our guide Dawood explained that anyone who has been to Mecca to do their Hajj, Their house would be painted that way because it is an honored for them.
Chanukah is celebrated in the memory of this legend:
the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they defiled all the oils, and when the Hasmoneans (the Maccabees) defeated them, they searched and found only one remaining jar of oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest). Although it contained only enough oil to burn for one day, a miracle occurred, and the oil burned eight days
The month of Elul – the last month before the "Days of Awe", namely Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – is a time when Jews examine their deeds. From the day after Rosh Hodesh(=first day of the month) Elul till Yom Kippur, the custom is to rise very early in the morning and read Selihoth (penitential prayers) in the synagogues or the Kotel(Western Wall).
TU BISHVAT: 15th of Shvat, Arbor Day , is the "birthday of the trees," usually celebrated in February. Again, this is not a Sabbath-like holiday, so everything is open. The day is celebrated by planting trees. Schoolchildren usually go on outdoor hikes that day and plant saplings. The JNF (Jewish National Fund) sponsors tree-planting ceremonies, also for tourists. Another custom is eating dried fruits and nuts, especially almonds because the almond tree flowers around Tu Bishvat - although the weather is cold and sometimes even snowy (in Jerusalem, at any rate). They grow wild in Israel, and you can see them out in the fields, with their light-pink to white blossoms. Keep your eyes open on the way to Jerusalem in February and March. There are lots of them along the highway.
Down the generations the Jews have been saying not 'Next year in the Land of Israel' but 'Next year in Jerusalem'... One can create Tel-Aviv out of Jaffa but one cannot create a second Jerusalem. Zion lies within the walls, not outside them.
In synagogues throughout the world, when taking the Torah out of the Ark, Jews sing "kee mi tzion tezeh Torah, u dvar Adoshem me'Yerushalayim", means, the Torah will come forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. "Zion", the Biblical name for Jerusalem, is not just the three-thousand-years-old capital of the Jewish people, it is the intellectual , cultural and spiritual center of Jewish gravity. Mentioned over six hundred times in the Bible, it was the city of David the heroic who conquered it and of Solomon the wise, who built the first of the two Holy Temples there. During the many centuries of exile, Jerusalem symbolized both the glorious past of the Jewish people - and their hopes for the future.
You'd think, Friday, Saturday - it's the weekend - no problem finding any place to eat. WRONG! It's Shabbat from Friday dusk to Saturday dusk. Meaning, EVERYTHING is closed from around 3pm to Saturday night after dark. There ARE restaurants that are open during these times, but usually, if they do, they won't get business from the locals who celebrate Shabbat. So, to keep constant business, most places ARE CLOSED. Even at the hotel, you'll only wind up getting salads and cold sandwiches during this time. There is NO SHOPPING in normal malls. Go to the Old City for food, drinks, snacks - and even shopping during this time - but don't expect to catch a normal bus, or go to the mall.
When you get to Jerusalem, especially around Old City, you'll see a lot of ultra orthodox Jews. They are dressed in the black suit, black pants uniform. Many have "corners" growing on their face. This is probably new or different for you as a tourist, but do not just plop out your camera and take a picture. People don't like being treated like an animal at a zoo - and don't like to be gawked at or treated like objects to be photographed. Don't bother asking either. It's ok, if you take a picture when they don't know... or in a crowd (e.g. at the Wailing Wall). Same goes for monks in robes, Muslims coming from prayer at the mosque, etc. Just be courteous.