Tag Archives: Israel

Moving Mountains

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It seems so long ago that we were in Israel for vacation, but it really hasn’t been that long…less than 3 months, actually. But I’ve been very busy since then….and haven’t had a chance to shoot much since.

The tour we were on was called the “Biblical Imagination Tour” and somewhat focused on letting the stories of the Bible inform our imaginations for the things we saw and heard. 

In the New Testament, Jesus makes a statement to his followers about faith, and it goes something like this: “If you have enough faith,  you can say to this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it will be moved!”  (Paraphrasing there.)  Now where do you suppose he got the inspiration to make such a statement?

It is quite possible that as he was making this statement, he was looking in a southerly direction and could see the location of Herodium (which I’ve written about before). Today’s photo (taken on a hazy, overcast day) is a telephoto shot from Bethlehem (as I recall) looking toward the Herodium, which is located on top of the rightmost hill. But here’s where it gets interesting: King Herod was a stupendous builder – but also a brutal murderer who was intensely hated by the people he ruled – the residents of Israel. He had killed so many and was so intensely hated that just before he died, he commanded for 70 of the Jewish leaders be killed on the day he died so that someone would cry that day. The Roman emperor also made the statement, “I’d rather be Herod’s pig than his son. Herod would never kill a pig.” (Jews believed pigs were unclean and would not touch them…but Herod had killed sons by the time this statement was made.)

But, back to the picture and Jesus’ words. The hills didn’t always look like they do in the picture. In order to build the Herodium, which was on top of the right-most hill, Herod ordered his builders to “move” the mountain to the left to the one on the right so that it would be higher and so that the Herodium (a fortress/retreat) could be surrounded by dirt brought over from the mountain on the left.  So, it is quite likely that Jesus was looking at this scene and used what Herod had done to inspire his statement. 

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1951, a homemade device exploded at Grand Central Station in New York City, startling commuters but injuring no one. In the next few months, five more bombs were found at landmark sites around New York, including the public library. Authorities realized that this new wave of terrorist acts was the work of the Mad Bomber.

New York’s first experience with the so-called Mad Bomber was on November 16, 1940, when a pipe bomb was left in the Edison building with a note that read, “Con Edison crooks, this is for you.” More bombs were recovered in 1941, each more powerful than the last, until the Mad Bomber sent a note in December stating, “I will make no more bomb units for the duration of the war.” He went on to say that Con Edison, New York’s electric utility company, would be brought to justice in due time.

The patriotic Mad Bomber made good on his promise, although he did periodically send threatening notes to the press. After his flurry of activity in 1951, the Mad Bomber was silent until a bomb went off at Radio City Music Hall in 1954. In 1955, the Mad Bomber hit Grand Central Station, Macy’s, the RCA building and the Staten Island Ferry.

The police had no luck finding the Mad Bomber, but an investigative team working for Con Ed finally tracked him down. Looking through their employment records, they found that George Peter Metesky had been a disgruntled ex-employee since an accident in 1931. Metesky was enraged that Con Ed refused to pay disability benefits and resorted to terrorism as his revenge.

Metesky, a rather mild-mannered man, was found living with his sisters in Connecticut. He was sent to a mental institution in April 1957 where he stayed until his release in 1973.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake shifted the earth’s mass toward the center, causing the planet to spin faster and shortening the day by 1.6 microseconds. The 2004 Sumatra quake shorted the day by 6.8 microseconds.

Too Busy…and No Excuses

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Oh, my.  I’ve been so busy!  I’ve hardly had a chance to breathe, let alone shoot anything with my camera.  I am hoping to rectify that next week.  I’ll be traveling to the west coast again and if all goes according to plan, I will spend one day in the Portland, OR, area with my oldest son and we will explore together. I really am looking forward to being there and spending time with him and his family, and to shooting some photos again. It’s been far too long.

Busy never ends, does it?  If it isn’t work/work, it’s work at home, it’s busyness with family, church, it’s taking care of chores, etc. But you know what? Those things feed the body and keep the roof over your head, but they don’t do much to feed the soul and rejuvenate us. We need re-creation to help keep us young. We need to take time to stop and appreciate beauty and wonder that is all around us.

Today’s photo was taken in Jerusalem inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Scattered throughout the massive structure are numerous! It seems that every time you turn around you can see some sort of niche. The interior of the church is dark, so the lighting in the niches only serves to increase the sense of mystery, wonder and beauty. While we were there on vacation I had nothing to do but relax and take it all that my eyes were seeing and my ears were hearing. I’m ready to go back again!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1885, the Kansas legislature passed a law barring Texas cattle from the state between March 1 and December 1, the latest action reflecting the love-hate relationship between Kansas and the cattle industry.

Texans had adopted the practice of driving cattle northward to railheads in Kansas shortly after the Civil War. From 1867 to 1871, the most popular route was the legendary Chisholm Trail that ran from San Antonio to Abilene, Kansas. Attracted by the profits to be made providing supplies to ranchers and a good time to trail-weary cowboys, other struggling Kansas frontier towns maneuvered to attract the Texas cattle herds. Dodge City, Caldwell, Ellsworth, Hays, and Newton competed with Abilene to be the top “Cow Town” of Kansas.

As Kansas lost some of its Wild West frontier edge, though, the cowboys and their cattle became less attractive. Upstanding town residents anxious to attract investment capital and nurture local businesses became increasingly impatient with rowdy young cowboys and their messy cattle. The new Kansas farmers who were systematically dividing the open range into neat rectangles of crops were even less fond of the cattle herds. Although the cowboys attempted to respect farm boundaries, stray cattle often wreaked havoc with farmers’ crops. “There was scarcely a day when we didn’t have a row with some settler,” reported one cowboy.

Recognizing that the future of the state was in agriculture, the Kansas legislature attempted to restrict the movement of Texas cattle. In 1869, the legislature excluded cattle entirely from the east-central part of the state, where farmers were settling most quickly. Complaints from farmers that the Texas cattle were giving their valuable dairy cows tick fever and hoof-and-mouth disease eventually led to even tighter controls. On this day in 1885, the Kansas legislature enacted a strict quarantine. The quarantine closed all of Kansas to Texan cattle for all but the winter months of December, January, and February-the time of the year when the diseases were not as prevalent.

These laws signaled the end of the Kansas role in the Texas cattle industry. The open range was rapidly closing, hemmed in by miles and miles of barbed wire fence. With the extension of rail lines into Texas itself, the reason for making the long drives north to Kansas began to disappear by the late 1880s anyway. The Kansas quarantine laws became irrelevant as most Texans could more easily ship cattle via railheads in their own states.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Star Trek (2009) is the first time Lt. Uhura has been given a name on screen, “Nyota,” though she is referred to as Nyota in the DC comics’ “Who’s Who in Star Trek.”

In the beginning…

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Everything here on earth has a beginning, and I suppose that means that some day it will also have an ending – one way or the other. Mighty redwoods spring from a very tiny seed. Great rivers start from somewhere and flow downhill toward the sea.

Today’s photo is one such example. While one would be hard pressed to describe the Jordan River along the eastern edge of Israel and bordering on Jordan to be a “great river”, it, like all rivers, has a beginning.

The Jordan River is big in history, but small in size. I was rather taken-aback by how small the river really is. In my mind, I’d always pictured it being bigger…at least 2-3 times as wide as it really is.

During our recent vacation to Israel, we went to the headwaters of the Jordan. While there are three sources for the river, there is a karst spring from which the majority (about 50%) of the river rises. Today’s photo was taken perhaps 500 yards from that karst spring. It was cold…but beautiful.

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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1962, Francis Gary Powers, an American who was shot down over the Soviet Union while flying a CIA spy plane in 1960, was released by the Soviets in exchange for the U.S. release of a Russian spy. The exchange concluded one of the most dramatic episodes of the Cold War.

Powers had been a pilot of one of the high altitude U-2 spy planes developed by the United States in the late-1950s. Supposedly invulnerable to any Soviet antiaircraft defense, the U-2s flew numerous missions over Russia, photographing military installations. On May 1, 1960, Powers’ U-2 was shot down by a Soviet missile. Although Powers was supposed to engage the plane’s self-destruct system (and commit suicide with poison furnished by the CIA), he and much of the plane were captured. The United States at first denied involvement with the flight, but had to admit that Powers was working for the U.S. government when the Soviets presented incontrovertible evidence. In retaliation, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev called off a scheduled summit with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Powers was put on trial, convicted of espionage, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. In February 1962, the Soviet Union announced that it was freeing Powers because of a petition from the prisoner’s family. American officials made it quite clear, however, that Abel was being exchanged for Powers—a spy-for-a-spy trade, not a humanitarian gesture on the part of the Soviet Union. The U.S. government announced that in exchange for Powers, it would release Col. Rudolf Abel, a Russian convicted of espionage in the United States. On February 10, Abel and Powers were brought to the Gilenicker Bridge that linked East and West Berlin for the exchange. After the men were successfully exchanged, Powers was flown back to the United States.

In an announcement, the Soviet Union declared that its release of Powers was partially motivated by “a desire to improve relations between the Soviet Union and the United States.” U.S. officials were cautious in evaluating the Soviet overture, but did note that the action could certainly help lessen Cold War tensions. The exchange was part of the ongoing diplomatic dance between Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy. Both men seemed earnestly to desire better relations, and the February 1962 exchange was no doubt part of their efforts. Just a few months later, however, the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the Soviets helped construct missile bases in Cuba, erased the memory of these diplomatic overtures and brought the two powers to the brink of nuclear conflict.

The recent Tom Hanks movie, Bridge of Spies, was about this prisoner exchange (and was a good movie!!!!)

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The English word “girl” was initially used to describe a young person of either sex. It was not until the beginning of the sixteenth century that the term was used specifically to describe a female child.

It doesn’t look dead…

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Dead Sea, Israel, January 2016. Camera pointer: Galen Dalrymple.

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. I’m not really sure what I expected the Dead Sea to look like, but I didn’t expect it to be a spectacular blue color. It looks so inviting and alive, yet you don’t see boats on the water, nor do you see fish jump.

The Dead Sea is also called the Salt Sea. The surface and shore of the sea is 1407 feet below sea level, making it the lowest place on land on the face of the planet. The sea is 997 feet deep, making it the deepest hypersaline body of water on the planet.  The water is 34.2% saline, 9.6 times more salty than the ocean, but it isn’t the saltiest body of water on earth. It is 31 miles long and 9 miles wide at its widest point, but no animals live in it due to the salt and minerals. In has only been recently that I’m told they did discover some bacteria that live in the sea, but that’s it. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

The sea attracts visitors from around the world and around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years. In the Bible, it is a place of refuge for King David as he flees from King Saul and his envious rage. Herod the Great used it as one of the world’s first health resorts. It has produced as wide variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to minerals for fertilizers. The salt and minerals are also used to create cosmetics and herbal products. Because the Dead Sea water has a density of 1.24 kg/liter, it truly takes no effort to float…just squat down into the water, lean back, and stick your hands and feet up in the air and voila…you’re floating effortlessly! (It was fun!)

But, you can’t stay in the water too long or you’ll start to have a burning sensation. If you swallow the water, they warn you to tell someone so you can be treated, or, as one of the signs I saw stated, you could die. It’s not to be messed with, but it was far more beautiful than I ever imagined. I pictured something of a dingy green/brown color, but not this!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1942, the largest and most luxurious ocean liner on the seas at that time, France’s Normandie, caught fire while in the process of being converted for military use by the United States.

The Normandie, built in 1931, was the first ship to be constructed in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the 1929 Convention for Safety of Life at Sea. It was also enormous, measuring 1,029 feet long and 119 feet wide and displacing 85,000 tons of water. It offered passengers seven accommodation classes (including the new “tourist” class, as opposed to the old “third” class, commonly known as “steerage”) and 1,975 berths. It took a crew of more than 1,300 to work her. Despite its size, it was also fast: capable of 32.1 knots. The liner was launched in 1932 and made its first transatlantic crossing in 1935. In 1937, it was reconfigured with four-bladed propellers, which meant it could cross the Atlantic in less than four days.

When France surrendered to the Germans in June 1940, and the puppet Vichy regime was installed, the Normandie was in dock at New York City. The Navy immediately placed it in “protective custody,” since the U.S. government did not want a ship of such size and speed to fall into the hands of the Germans, which it certainly would if it returned to France. In November 1941, Time magazine ran an article stating that in the event of the United States’ involvement in the war, the Navy would seize the liner altogether and turn it into an aircraft carrier. It also elaborated on how the design of the ship made such a conversion relatively simple. When the Navy did take control of the ship, shortly after Pearl Harbor, it began the conversion of the liner–but to a troop ship, renamed the USS Lafayette in honor of the French general who aided the American colonies in their original quest for independence.

The Lafayette never served its new purpose, as it caught fire and capsized. Sabotage was originally suspected, but the likely cause was sparks from a welder’s torch. Although the ship was finally righted, the massive salvage operation cost $3,750,000 and the fire damage made any hope of employing the vessel impossible. It was scrapped–literally chopped up for scrap metal–in 1946.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In the mountain communities of Appalachia, whole families were reduced to dandelions and blackberries for their basic diet during the Depression. Some children were so hungry, they chewed on their own hands.

Church of the Nativity #1

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Wow!  It’s hard for me to believe I’ve not posted anything to this photo blog for over two weeks! The good news (well, I suppose that’s strictly a matter of opinion!) is that I’ve processed all my pictures from our recent journey to Israel and have a supply that I can now share more regularly!

On our first day in Israel, we made our first real tourist stop at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It is in a Palestinian controlled area, one that is both controlled and administered by Palestinian Arabs. It is not a friendly place if you are Jewish, and the sign at the entrance to the town warns Jews not to enter at the risk of death.

But the Church of the Nativity is a draw for people from all over the world. No matter where we went in Israel, you could hear a cacophony of languages and dialects. It was an interesting place to observe people if, like me, you are in to people watching.

When we entered this church, a worship service was going on so we were not able to photograph some of the things I would like to have shot. So, we made do with what we could.

Off to the left hand side of the main sanctuary, I noticed these lamps hanging from the ceiling. I have no idea how old the lamps were, but they were polished brightly. The lighting was bright from the behind and left of the lamps and I thought it made for an interesting composition. I purposely selected a shallow depth of field to throw some of the image into a blurry focus.

Some day I would like to go back and visit the church when there is no worship service in progress and to take my time thinking, meditating and photographing more of this ancient church.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1943, the deportation of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to the concentration camp at Treblinka resumed—but not without much bloodshed and resistance along the way.

On July 18, 1942, Heinrich Himmler promoted Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Hess to SS major. He also ordered that the Warsaw ghetto, the Jewish quarter constructed by the Nazis upon the occupation of Poland and enclosed first by barbed wire and then by brick walls, be depopulated—a “total cleansing,” as he described it. The inhabitants were to be transported to what became a second extermination camp constructed at the railway village of Treblinka, 62 miles northeast of Warsaw.

Within the first seven weeks of Himmler’s order, more than 250,000 Jews were taken to Treblinka by rail and gassed to death, marking the largest single act of destruction of any population group, Jewish or non-Jewish, civilian or military, in the war. Upon arrival at “T. II,” as this second camp at Treblinka was called, prisoners were separated by sex, stripped, and marched into what were described as “bathhouses,” but were in fact gas chambers. T. II’s first commandant was Dr. Irmfried Eberl, age 32, the man who had headed up the euthanasia program of 1940 and had much experience with the gassing of victims, especially children. He was assisted in his duties by several hundred Ukrainian and about 1,500 Jewish prisoners, who removed gold teeth from victims before hauling the bodies to mass graves.

In January 1943, after a four-month hiatus, the deportations started up again. A German SS unit entered the ghetto and began rounding up its denizens—but they did not go without a fight. Six hundred Jews were killed in the streets as they struggled with the Germans. Rebels with smuggled firearms opened fire on the SS troops. The Germans returned fire—machine-gun fire against the Jews’ pistol shots. Nine Jewish rebels fell—as did several Germans. The fighting continued for days, with the Jews refusing to surrender and even taking arms from their Germans persecutors in surprise attacks.

Amazingly, the Germans withdrew from the ghetto in the face of the unexpected resistance. They likely did not realize how few armed resisters there were, but the fact that resistance was given at all intimidated them. But there was no happy ending. Before this new incursion into the ghetto was over, 6,000 more Jews were transported to their likely deaths at Treblinka.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Earthquakes kill approximately 8,000 people each year and have caused an estimated 13 million deaths in the past 4,000 years.

Israel’s Secret Weapon

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When I was recently in Israel, we stayed at a hotel on the beach in Tel Aviv.  Today’s photo was taken from the balcony of my hotel room the first night we were there as the sun was going down in the west (to the left of the picture) over the Mediterranean.

Tel Aviv is a modern city by any measure.  Parts of it are very old and ancient.  For example, not far at all from where we stayed is Joffa.  If you remember your Bible stories at all, a man by the name of Jonah lived in the ancient city of Joppa (now Joffa).  And, in the New Testament, Peter was in the city of Joppa when he had a vision.

We were there during the Hamas/Israeli war that recently came to a cease-fire.  Tel Aviv was far enough north that there weren’t many Hamas rockets coming into the area, but there were some.  The first time that I heard the sirens and had to scramble into the shelter inside the hotel was when I was outside walking on the beach to the lower left of this picture.

In the city of Tel Aviv were large billboards touting “Iron Dome”, the anti-missile system that had been put in place to help protect the citizens of Israel from these rockets.  Sometimes they worked, sometimes they failed.  But the billboards were interesting.

Even more interesting, however, was a billboard (they are all in Hebrew, so I had to have someone translate for me) with a picture of an old Jewish man (rabbi, perhaps) with his eyes closed, his beard very prominent, and head bowed in prayer.  I asked my Jewish companions what the billboard was about and what the large Hebrew letters said.  His reply was that the billboard simply said: “Israel’s Secret Weapon.”  How cool is that????!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1941, German forces began their siege of Leningrad, the USSR’s second-largest city. German armies were later joined by Finnish forces that advanced against Leningrad. The siege of Leningrad (known as the 900-Day Siege though it lasted a grueling 872 days) resulted in the deaths of some one million of the city’s civilians and Red Army defenders.

Leningrad, formerly St. Petersburg, capital of the Russian Empire, was one of the initial targets of the German invasion of June 1941. As German armies raced across the western Soviet Union, three-quarters of Leningrad’s industrial plants and hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants were evacuated to the east. More than two million residents remained, however, and the evacuated were replaced by refugees who fled to Leningrad ahead of the German advance. All able-bodied persons in the city–men, women, and children–were enlisted to build antitank fortifications along Leningrad’s edge. By the end of July, German forces had cut the Moscow-Leningrad railway and were penetrating the outer belt of the fortifications around Leningrad. On September 8, German forces besieged the city, but they were held at bay by Leningrad’s fortifications and its 200,000 Red Army defenders. That day, a German air bombardment set fire to warehouses containing a large part of Leningrad’s scant food supply.

Aiming to tighten the noose, the Germans launched an offensive to cut off the last highways and rail lines south of the city. By early November, the city was almost completely encircled, and only across Lake Ladoga was a supply lifeline possible.

German artillery and air bombardments came several times a day during the first months of the siege. The daily ration for civilians was reduced to 125 grams of bread, no more than a thick slice. Starvation set in by December, followed by the coldest winter in decades, with temperatures falling to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. People worked through the winter in makeshift armament factories without roofs, building the weapons that kept the Germans just short of victory.

Residents burned books and furniture to stay warm and searched for food to supplement their scarce rations. Animals from the zoo were consumed early in the siege, followed before long by household pets. Wallpaper paste made from potatoes was scraped off the wall, and leather was boiled to produce an edible jelly. Grass and weeds were cooked, and scientists worked to extract vitamins from pine needles and tobacco dust. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, resorted to cannibalizing the dead, and in a few cases people were murdered for their flesh. The Leningrad police struggled to keep order and formed a special division to combat cannibalism.

Across frozen Lake Ladoga, trucks made it to Leningrad with supplies, but not enough. Thousands of residents, mostly children and the elderly, were evacuated across the lake, but many more remained in the city and succumbed to starvation, the bitter cold, and the relentless German air attacks. In 1942 alone, the siege claimed some 600,000 lives. In the summer, barges and other ships braved German air attack to cross Lake Ladoga to Leningrad with supplies.

In January 1943, Red Army soldiers broke through the German line, rupturing the blockade and creating a more efficient supply route along the shores of Lake Ladoga. For the rest of the winter and then during the next, the “road of life” across the frozen Lake Ladoga kept Leningrad alive.

In early 1944, Soviet forces approached Leningrad, forcing German forces to retreat southward from the city on January 27. The siege was over. A giant Soviet offensive to sweep the USSR clean of its invaders began in May. The 872-day siege of Leningrad cost an estimated one million Soviet lives, perhaps hundreds of thousands more. The Soviet government awarded the Order of Lenin to the people of Leningrad in 1945, paying tribute to their endurance during the grueling siege. The city did not regain its prewar population of three million until the 1960’s.  Part of the siege is recounted in the movie, Enemy at the Gates starring Jude Law and Rachel Wiesz.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Although women attempt suicide about three times more often than men, men complete suicide about three times more often than women.

Ancient Shrine

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Do you remember the movie Gladiator?  (My all time favorite, by the way!)  In that movie, Maximus (played by Russell Crowe – for which he won an Oscar), has tiny figures that he uses when he prays to his Roman gods for his family.

In many different parts of the world, shrines are common and part of the local religious worship.  Some of the shrines are quite large, while others, like those in Gladiator, are quite small.   They were meant to be dwelling places for the gods.

During my recent trip to Israel, we want to the museum in Tel Aviv one morning.  It was a very interesting place, and they had an amazing collection of small shrines that were used thousands of years ago by the inhabitants of Canaan (what was to become Palestine).  If you are biblically literate, the names of Ashera, Ashtoreth, Molech, Baal and others may come to mind.  Families might have miniature shrines and idols in their homes that they used to worship these “gods”.

Today’s photo is of one such shrine that is thousands of years old.  I thought they were fascinating.  Some were very well preserved and decorated (like this one) while others were much more crudely made.  Still, I found them fascinating!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  the year was 1945 when the USS Missouri hosted the formal surrender of the Japanese government to the Allies. Victory over Japan was celebrated back in the States.

As Japanese troops finally surrendered to Americans on the Caroline, Mariana, and Palau islands, representatives of their emperor and prime minister were preparing to formalize their capitulation. In Tokyo Bay, aboard the Navy battleship USS Missouri, the Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, and the chief of staff of the Japanese army, Yoshijiro Umezu, signed the “instrument of surrender.” Representing the Allied victors was Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of the U.S. Army forces in the Pacific, and Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, now promoted to the newest and highest Navy rank, fleet admiral. Among others in attendance was Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, who had taken command of the forces in the Philippines upon MacArthur’s departure and had been recently freed from a Japanese POW camp in Manchuria.

Shigemitsu would be found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to seven years in prison subsequent to the surrender. The grand irony is that he had fought for concessions on the Japanese side in order to secure an early peace. He was paroled in 1950 and went on to become chairman of Japan’s Progressive Party. MacArthur would fight him again when he was named commander in chief of the United Nations forces in Korea in 1950.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  In 1994, Warner Brother’s 1957 classic “What’s Opera, Doc?” featuring Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny in a parody of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle operas, was voted #1 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons. It was also deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

He’s baacccckkkkk…..

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From Israel – at the site of the Sermon on the Mount (Double or triple-click to see in larger size)

Yep, home again.  Most of you probably know my now from my emails or Facebook, but I was in Israel for the past 8 days or so.  “Israel!?!?!” you say.  “What a crazy time to go to Israel!”  Maybe so.  But, when duty calls, one must answer.  No, I’m not talking about  military duty, but just work.  It wasn’t through my regular employer, but I went there to help one of my sons with a business project with which he is engaged.  We had about three days where we could do some touristy type of stuff and we took advantage of it.

I am, as most of you know by now, a Christian.  This blog isn’t about faith per se, but about what’s going on in my life or the world and a picture that I’ve taken to illustrate some point.  While I was in Israel, I shot nearly 1000 pictures, but don’t panic: I’ve no intention of showing them all to you, nor of trying to convert anyone with these pictures.  I hope you’ll just enjoy the pictures for the sake of the history or scenery.  If you are a person of shared faith with me, you may even get something more out of seeing these pictures.

Today’s photo was shot at the location near the Sea of Galilee where it is said Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.  Today there is a church there and a Catholic retreat center (the pope has a private apartment there for use whenever he wants to “drop in”).  I took this picture as we were making our way back out of the place when I turned to look back for one more glance.  But you know what’s funny?  I didn’t notice the water splashing on the fountain that you can see in this picture (double click – or maybe triple? – to see it in larger size).  I thought it looked cool….and it was a beautiful setting!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  (NOTE: a bit of history, regardless of your position on capital punishment): on this day in 1890, at Auburn Prison in New York, the first execution by electrocution in history was carried out against William Kemmler, who had been convicted of murdering his lover, Matilda Ziegler, with an axe.

Electrocution as a humane means of execution was first suggested in 1881 by Dr. Albert Southwick, a dentist. Southwick had witnessed an elderly drunkard “painlessly” killed after touching the terminals of an electrical generator in Buffalo, New York. In the prevalent form of execution at the time–death by hanging–the condemned were known to hang by their broken necks for up to 30 minutes before succumbing to asphyxiation.

In 1889, New York’s Electrical Execution Law, the first of its kind in the world, went into effect, and Edwin R. Davis, the Auburn Prison electrician, was commissioned to design an electric chair. Closely resembling the modern device, Davis’ chair was fitted with two electrodes, which were composed of metal disks held together with rubber and covered with a damp sponge. The electrodes were to be applied to the criminal’s head and back.

On August 6, 1890, William Kemmler became the first person to be sent to the chair. After he was strapped in, a charge of approximately 700 volts was delivered for only 17 seconds before the current failed. Although witnesses reported smelling burnt clothing and charred flesh, Kemmler was far from dead, and a second shock was prepared. The second charge was 1,030 volts and applied for about two minutes, whereupon smoke was observed coming from the head of Kemmler, who was clearly deceased. An autopsy showed that the electrode attached to his back had burned through to the spine.

Dr. Southwick applauded Kemmler’s execution with the declaration, “We live in a higher civilization from this day on,” while American inventor George Westinghouse, an innovator of the use of electricity, remarked, “They would have done better with an axe.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Starfish have no brains.  (I know some people who must be starfish in disguise!!!)