Hyssop mountains and Easter eggs
Yesterday, on the occasion of our grandson’s third birthday, the family went on an outing to Jerusalem’s Old City. It was the sixth day of Passover, so there were many Israelis and tourists, including Orthodox Jews, soaking up the exotic atmosphere of the bazaar on their way to the Western Wall.
This year both the eastern and western churches celebrated Easter on the same day, so there were also Christians of all denominations. Christian shop owners were dressed in their holiday best, and candy stores had were decorated with baskets of Easter eggs.
For Muslims it was a regular business day on which spice shops displayed pyramidal “mountains” of hyssop and other brightly colored herbs; in one shop the mountain was topped by a model of the Dome of the Rock.
It was a warm, almost idyllic day in Jerusalem. Yet a young resident of the Old City, trying to ride his bicycle on the narrow streets thronged by visitors, was a token of the frustrations lying just beneath the placid surface.
Dread of dentists, and a dentist’s dread
Israelis have an image in the world of being tough, so it may be hard to imagine that many of them are terrified of going to the dentist. They’ll sit down in a dentist’s chair only when the pain from an infected tooth is greater than their fear.
But what fears do Israeli dentists harbor?
When the dentist I’d been going to for at least three decades announced recently that he was retiring, I asked him why.
“I’ve always been terrified of making a mistake,” said the dentist, who is also a teacher in Jerusalem’s only dental school. “You need knowledge, and you need skillful hands because you’re holding a high-speed drill and one small slip could damage a nerve,” he added. “I would rather retire five years early than retire one week too late.”
Remembering an architect who remembered others
Though architect Myra Warhaftig (1930–2008) was born in Israel, she lived and worked in Berlin for most of her adult life. Keenly aware of the fate of the hundreds of German-Jewish architects who were persecuted, deported, even murdered by the Nazis after 1933, she devoted herself to chronicling those architects, many of whom would otherwise have been forgotten.
She curated an exhibition showing the work, from 1918 to 1948, of 60 of those architects who immigrated to Mandatory Palestine, most of whose buildings were in the International Style. Among the architects were Erich Mendelsohn, Richard Kaufmann, Lotte Cohen, and Alfred Mansfeld. The exhibition was shown in Israel, Germany, and the United States, and a volume titled They Laid the Foundation: Lives and Works of German-Speaking Jewish Architects
in Palestine 1918–1948 appeared in English.
Warhaftig published the monumental Deutsche jüdische Architekten vor und nach 1933 – Das Lexikon: 500 Biographien (German Jewish Architects Before and After 1933: The Lexicon) and she founded a society in Berlin for the study of the life and work of German-speaking Jewish architects.
May 3—Holocaust and Martyrs Remembrance Day, in Israel—is the date set for the Berlin unveiling of a plaque memorializing Warhaftig on a building that she designed.
Capital to have a new national library—in 2016
A $200 million project is under way to provide a new national library in Jerusalem, near the Knesset. The existing national library has long since outgrown its home on the nearby Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. The new library is to have a huge digital database that will be available to the general public via the Internet.
Now one can only hope that the stated completion date is more real than the one originally set for the city’s light rail system, which was to have been completed years ago and which is still only doing trial runs.