By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO—At “Generations Day” on Tuesday, April 20, when parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents trooped to Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School to learn with their school children, this year’s lesson figured to be a snap. As the day corresponded with Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day, the teachers decided the all-school lesson should be about something Israeli. They chose to teach us all about the eight gates to the Old City of Jerusalem.
“Each of the gates has a set of specific history,” Rabbi Simcha Weiser, the school’s headmaster, said. But there are traditions also. For example, the Golden Gate also is called Sha’ar HaRachamim, “The Gate of Mercy,” and by tradition that is the gate that the mashiach, the messiah, is supposed to come through.
Another gate with a great tradition is the Jaffa gate, through which Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria made his entrance into Jerusalem in 1898. “What they figured out was that with him sitting on his horse and wearing a pointed crown that he would be just a few inches too high to go through the gate. They had a choice: should the Emperor have to bow down when he enters Jerusalem or not? So before he came stone masons cut a groove all the way through the gate, and they lined it up precisely so if his horse walked in line, he could sit erect in his saddle and not have to bow his head when he entered Jerusalem.”
Back when members of my generation went to college, we typically used mnemonics to remember lists of persons or places. This typically involved taking the words in a list and, using their first letters, substituting for them words that could be combined into an easily remembered phrase or sentence. Wikipedia cites one of the best known examples. How do you remember all the colors of the rainbow? By remembering the colorful and non-existent “Roy G. Biv” whose name stands for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.
Forgive my journalistic background, but I took the initials of the Jaffa, Golden, Herod, New, Zion, Lion’s, Damascus and Dung Gates and transformed them into a silly headline mnemonic: “’Jerusalem’s Gates Have Names,’ Zionist Liberators Do Declare.”
From materials prepared by the teachers, we learned that:
–The ‘Jaffa Gate leads from Jerusalem to the ancient port of Jaffa (now part of Tel Aviv)
–The ‘Golden Gate’ isn’t in San Francisco; it’s the one that Jewish tradition says will swing open when the Mashiach comes. It’s also known as the Gate of Mercy.
‘Herod’s Gate is named for the Roman-era king who built various additions near the Second Temple. As this particular gate wasn’t built for nearly two millennia after Herod, it’s name is honorific rather than historical.
The ‘New,’ Gate the tallest of the eight gates surrounding Jerusalem. It has a design unlike the other seven gates.
‘Zion,’ Gate is the main gate into the old city of Jerusalem.
Lion’s Gate is topped with four figures of lions looking toward the Mount of Olives.
‘Damascus’ Gate leads toward Damascus via Shechem (today Nablus).
The ‘Dung,’ Gate was the one upon which Arabs heaped garbage to shield it from the view of Jews seeking to pray at the Western Wall. It is the closest gate to Ha Kotel.
Soille elementary school students were exposed to a non-mnemonic type of pedagogy on Tuesday. Hebrew language teachers Liat Alon, Lihi Spirer and Anat Levi Fisher and other members of the faculty teamed up with middle school students also known as “the older kids” and my daughter, balloon artist Sandi Masori to program memorable activities in front of imaginative balloon sculptures representing each gate.
At the Jaffa gate, the elementary students assembled jigsaw puzzles. At the Golden gate, made from golden balloons which swung out to the future promised by the Messiah, they found sweets and played a game called “the Mashiach is coming.” At Herod’s gate (also known as the flower gate), they made flowers out of Fruit Rollups and Twizzlers. At the New gate, they tasted what for many of them was something new, an “Arab bagel” spread with labane and zaatar.
At the Zion gate, they watched a movie and wrote short notes about how they feel to be Jewish onto paper Stars of David. At the Lion’s gate, the children saw a movie about the retaking of the Kotel in the 1967 ‘Six Day War’ and wrote notes for HaShem. At the Damascus Gate, which has many beautiful designs, the children decoded messages that used designs. And at the Dung gate, the students went through ‘garbage pails’ filled with cut up paper, seeking a picture of the gate.
Daughter Sandi, owner of Balloon Utopia, said to create the balloon gates, she went online to look up the meaning and alternative names of the gates in English, “and then tried to interpret the gate with the balloons.” Construction of the eight large sculptures took three days.
“Some of them were really easy because Herod’s Gate is also known as the ‘flower gate,’” Masori said. “The Golden Gate (also known as the Gate of Mercy) had two moving gates to show that it will open … The New Gate was a crazy Art Deco kind of design. It was the most recent gate built by the Ottomans. I didn’t try to match their architecture but instead to interpret it . I thought the Art Deco look would be a more modern look, and thus ‘new.’ The ‘Dung gate’ was brown and misshapen and had a trash can in front of it. The Jaffa gate was supposed to be a gate of prayer, so on ribbons there were wishes that some of the older students and the teachers wrote…. The Lion’s Gate had the heads of lions on them…”
Generations Day and Yom Ha’Atzma’ut coincidentally fell on the ninth birthday of Soille third grader Shor Masori, our grandson. “My favorite gate was the ‘Golden Gate,’” he said. “It looked the coolest and it could do the most. It was the color of gold, Mashiach will come through it, and it is moveable.”
At Soille’s preschool, which a younger grandson, Sky, 3, attends, the little ones sang a welcome, pretended to fly to Israel, sang ‘happy birthday’ to Israel and in recognition of the fact that it is a “mitzvah” to plant a tree in Israel, potted flowers and painted the flower pots.
Watching Shor and Sky show off their learning, the other generations of our family–their parents, Sandi and Shahar, grandparents Nancy and yours truly, and great-grandpa Sam, couldn’t help but kvell.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World
SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–San Diego’s largest attended one-day Jewish community building event, Yom Ha’atzmaut takes place on Sunday, April 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the San Diego Jewish Academy, 11860 Carmel Creek Road, San Diego. Admission is free, and the event is open to the public. Parking is available for $5 at the Marriott Del Mar, 11966 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130. Free shuttle service is provided.
Sponsored by the Israel Center of United Jewish Federation of San Diego County, Yom Ha’atzmaut this year will feature 60 shops, Jewish community organizations and kosher foods, and fun and educational activities for children, teens and families not to be missed. The annual celebration of Israel’s Independence Day provides a festive conclusion to a month of holidays: Passover, which focuses on freedom, Yom Hashoah, commemorating all who died in the Holocaust, and Yom Hazikaron, honoring those who died fighting for the State of Israel and terror victims. This year’s event is designed to help participants connect with Jewish community in celebrating Israel.
Children can ride on the “Middle East Peace Train” from “Jerusalem” to “Cairo”, play on a climbing wall and bounce house, relive history as they dig up ancient coins, tiles and other artifacts in an archeological dig presented by the Agency for Jewish Education, or get balloon creations of their choice as part of the festivities. Adults may practice their Hebrew, Spanish and French in a series of “Cafés” offered by Kef Li – Tarbuton, appropriate for this holiday because Israel exemplifies diversity as the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Attendees also may wish to hear Israeli Deputy Counsel Gil Arzieli present the latest news on U.S – Israel relations or learn about “Gifts Israel Gave the World,” from J.J. Surbeck, Executive Director of T.E.A.M, Training and Education About the Middle East.
Teens and adults can initiate their travel plans at “Experience Israel – Just Go,” co-sponsored by MASA and the UJF Israel Center. MASA, the Hebrew word for journey, consists of 150 programs in Israel for those ages 18 to 30, from 5 months to one year. The UJF Teen Trip to Israel is San Diego Jewish community’s annual summer trip, connecting teens to Israel and their local Jewish community through travel and post-trip volunteer activities. This one-stop center for journeys to Israel can save travel enthusiasts many hours preparing for their dream trip.
Young adults also can experience “Bedouin Hospitality” enjoying complimentary tea in Birthright NEXT’s Bedouin tent, while learning more about Birthright trips and ongoing social connections. New to Yom Ha’atzmaut this year also is a quiet area for those who observe Sefirat Ha’Omer, the 49-day period between Passover and the beginning of Shavuot (May 19-20) which counts the days from physical redemption/physical slavery to spiritual redemption when the Torah was presented at Mt. Sinai.
Israeli music and dancing at the main stage will be led by Kolot, a band comprised of former Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers. For more information on this day of fun, celebration and learning, please contact the Israel Center at 858.571.3444 or email@example.com.
Preceding provided by United Jewish Federation of San Diego County
ENCINITAS, California (Press Release)–Congregation Beth Am and Temple Solel will host a traditional Lag B’Omer Bonfire at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Please join the congregations for bonfire, kosher BBQ, beach and buddies on May 2 from 4pm-6pm.
There is no charge for this event, but reservations are appreciated. Please bring your own blankets and beach chairs.
For further information or to make reservations please contact Debra at Congregation Beth Am at 858-481-8454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preceding provided by Congregation Beth Am
By Bruce Kesler
ENCINITAS, April 20–Today, modern Israel’s 62nd birthday, is a good time to ask the question, “What if there wasn’t an Israel, would things be different in the Middle East?”
The world would still be dealing with and suffering from MidEast extremists: First of the Soviet proxies, but without Israeli intelligence penetrating them and its military defeating them, exposing the Soviet Union as an unworthy sponsor; Then of the Islamist haters suppressing its peoples and fighting each other while harboring attackers of the West, but without Israel’s development and democracy serving as an unavoidable contrast to the potentials of freedom and sanity and its military and technology exposing the fundamental weakness of their self-created backwardness.
No one in the Middle East takes seriously that the Arab-Israeli or Palestinian-Israeli conflicts are the primary, secondary, tertiary or lesser cause of MidEast instability or its threats to the West.
Outside the Middle East, however, we have the core delusion among many of those raised on the puerile pap created by the Left that the modernity and successes of Western civilization somehow oppress the natural decency and advancement of Third World countries.
President Obama is the poster boy. But he is not the cause. He is merely the product. He and those who follow him, thus, fall back on the false premise that Israel is the problem.
No, the problem is their core delusion that we can escape history by denying it, even reversing it, though that still would leave the real root cause of MidEast instability, regional petty satraps, backward hatefulness, and those outside powers – from the EU to Russia to China – who benefit from retaining rule or access to oil.
If the initial thrust of President Bush’s strategy of spurring democratization in the Middle East proved hollow, then our subsequent neutralization of Iraq’s WMD potential and funding of terrorists and our struggling effort to retrieve Afghanistan from being ruled by as much a threat is at best a holding action. We, as Secretary of Defense Gates admitted, lack a strategy toward even containing Iran, its imminent nuclear armaments, its support for those who kill our soldiers and Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s and their peoples.
The exaggeration by Saddam Hussein of his own WMDs was to counter Iran. The US and initial allies entering Iraq missed the proper focus then as we do now.
Weakening Israel is not a strategy for peace in the Middle East but another abdication of what could reduce the dangers of the Middle East. The US administration and apologists are blaming the “salamis” for the failure to ice the botulism.
President Obama and followers are not the root cause of Israel’s current dilemma. They are the natural extension of the escapism that infects Western thought, that undermined President Bush’s brash, perhaps fruitless, but correct focus that peace can only come from shattering Middle East excuses and delusions and providing more fertile ground for the emergence of rulers more concerned with the betterment of their own peoples’ lots.
Israel shows the way, not the barrier. The barrier is the purposeful misfocus, the dangerous inanity, of the avoiders of truths. Isn’t 62 years enough time to prove that if modern Israel didn’t exist the catering to Middle East tyrants would still be the core cause of dire oppression there and threats to the West’s security and prosperity?
Kesler is a freelance writer based in Encinitas, California. This column appeared previously on Maggie’s Farm.
“The most senior Syrian diplomat present in Washington today , Deputy Chief of Mission Zouheir Jabbour, was summoned to the Department of State to review Syria’s provocative behavior concerning the potential transfer of arms to Hizballah. This was the fourth occasion on which these concerns have been raised to the Syrian Embassy in recent months, intended to further amplify our messages communicated to the Syrian government. Our dialogue with Syria on this issue has been frank and sustained. We expect the same in return.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the SCUD, from Syria to Hizballah. The transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon. The risk of miscalculation that could result from this type of escalation should make Syria reverse the ill-conceived policy it has pursued in providing arms to Hizballah. Additionally, the heightened tension and increased potential for conflict this policy produces is an impediment to on-going efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. All states have an obligation under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 to prevent the importation of any weapons into Lebanon except as authorized by the Lebanese Government.
We call for an immediate cessation of any arms transfers to Hizballah and other terrorist organizations in the region. Syria’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism is directly related to its support for terrorist groups, such as Hizballah.
Preceding provided by the U.S. State Department
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO—Three Franciscan Padres whose lives are celebrated at Mission San Diego are Father Junipero Serra, who founded this mission and eight others, Fermin Lasuen, who succeeded Serra as president of the missions and founded nine more, and Luis Jayme (also spelled Jaime), who is remembered as the first Christian martyr in Alta California.
Serra, the most widely known of the three, has been beatified by the Roman Catholic Church, a step toward possible canonization as a saint. Standing in front of a statue of him in the mission’s Meditation Garden, chief guide Janet Bartel notes that he was 5’2 inches tall, 110 pounds, and troubled by a zancudo (mosquito) bite that had become ulcerated and had made walking difficult.
Nevertheless, while making the 200-mile trek in 1769 from Mission Santa Maria in Baja California to San Diego, he insisted on walking, rather than riding on a mule. With the coarse material of his grey robe rubbing against his leg, it became more and more irritated, so that it became clear to his compatriots that Serra shouldn’t continue by foot. But he told a muleteer simply to dress the wound as he would for the mule—and after a day’s rest, he resumed his journey.
Why was he so stubborn? Bartel said that the Franciscan order was “dedicated to all God’s creatures” and that Serra didn’t want the mule to have to suffer his weight.
Born in Petra, Majorca, Spain, in 1713, Serra had dreamed as a child of becoming a Franciscan, but because he was frail and sickly, he was discouraged. Bartel explained that the Franciscans are a mendicant order who give away their own possessions and rely on the charity of others. Additionally, they are supposed to walk everywhere – a life thought to be too tough for the young Serra. But the boy was determined, eventually winning acceptance into the order. He was assigned to Lullian University, where he earned a doctorate in philosophy and was on the faculty.
Eventually, his dream to go to New Spain as a missionary was realized with assignment to the Sierra Gorda following a political decision by King Carlos III to expel the Jesuits. Before long, Serra was put in charge of Franciscan missions in Baja California. Like many Franciscans, Serra was a diligent diarist and record-keeper. His signature in the San Diego parish’s baptismal book is easy to recognize by the distinctive rubrica that follows it.
Although he was the founder of Mission San Diego, he soon relocated to the Monterey/ Carmel area, which he established as the headquarters for the mission system. Thereafter, he would come on visits to Mission San Diego but never again was its resident padre.
One long room at the mission, called Farther Serra’s quarters, is quite Spartan. At the end farthest from the door is a bed with rawhide lacing. Before someone repaired to such a bed, “sleep tight” would have been appropriate advice, because unlaced rawhide could cause someone to sag to the floor. Near the bed is a rope ladder leading to a loft, where another bed is located. Bartel said that in deference to his age and bad leg, Father Serra would have gotten to sleep downstairs, and an assistant would have slept in the loft. The room is also furnished with a chair and a small trunk in which Serra could have kept his possessions, particularly his writing materials.
The long room may have been divided so the front area could be used as sleeping quarters by others, or perhaps as a meeting place.
In addition to Mission San Diego de Alcala, the missions founded during Serra’s presidency included San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo, San Antonio de Padua, San Gabriel Arcángel, San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, San Juan Capistrano, San Francisco de Asís, Santa Clara de Asís, and San Buenaventura.
Some two centuries after Serra’s death at age 70 in 1784, controversy erupted when Serra was beatified by the church. Some Native American groups said their ancestors were treated as slaves by the Franciscans, who sometimes beat them to death. They said the reduction in population of Native Americans during the time of Spanish rule amounted to genocide. Counter-arguments blame the many Native American deaths on diseases inadvertently carried by the Spaniards to Alta California. Compared to other European colonialists, Spanish rule was benign, Bartel said.
“There will always be controversy, I am afraid, because a lot of people have misunderstood Father Serra and his motives,” said Bartel. “It really bothers me because I think they never read documented history to see what he went through.”
Serra’s successor, Padre Lasuen, at night time had very few people to talk to. “There were no other padres at the mission, and he had little in common with the few soldiers on hand,” Bartel noted. Although some Kumeyaay stayed in the mission’s quadrangle—sometimes building conical huts known as ewa’as for shelter – for the most part, they returned to their nearby villages. Although many local Native Americans desired to stay at the mission, there simply wasn’t sufficient room for them, Bartel said. Accordingly, Lusuen devised a system of rotation, under which the Kumeyaay who stayed eight days made way for the next group.
In such loneliness, Lusuen wrote to his superiors that he was ‘miserable’ and wanted to be reassigned to some other mission. However, they told him to persist in his assignment. Eventually, he was promoted to the mission presidency and able to make his home at a mission of his choosing. He chose Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel, California. It is at that site that both he and Father Serra are buried.
As president of the mission system, Lusuen founded between 1786 and 1798 these nine missions: Santa Barbara, La Purisima Concepcion, Santa Cruz, Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, San Jose, San Juan Bautista, San Miguel Arcangel, San Fernando Rey de Espana, and San Luis Rey de Francia.
Three other missions in the chain of 21 California missions —Santa Ines, San Rafael Arcangel, and San Francisco de Solano– were founded between 1804 and 1823 by other Padres.
Outside Mission San Diego is a large white cross memorializing Padre Luis Jayme, who on the night of November 5, 1775, emerged from the mission to greet hundreds of Native Americans with his customary salutation “Love God, my children.” According to church accounts, they responded by clubbing him to death, dragging his body down a hill, and firing numerous arrows into it. They also looted the church before setting it afire.
Bartel said Jayme actually had a good relationship with the local Kumeyaay Indians, and that the marauders were Yuman Indians who resided in villages well to the east of the mission. As the story is told, the Kumeyaay who were living at the mission were warned that they would be killed if they raised an alarm, and so unhappily complied. Survivors of the attack escaped to the Presidio five miles away, where they learned to their consternation that the soldiers there had not noticed the flames of the mission and could not have rendered aid. Although the Indians apparently had meant also to attack the Presidio, it is speculated that they feared they would be repulsed by well-armed soldiers and so abandoned their plans.
The spot where Father Jayme’s body was found is memorialized on a marker that today is located within a condominium complex across the street from the mission. The marker faces a thick hedge so that it no longer can be seen from the street. From time to time, according to Bartel, there has been talk of removing the marker, but residents of the condominium complex who are also parishioners have thus far been able to stymie such a development. From a practical standpoint, it would be a fairly easy matter to create a nook in the hedge so that the historic marker could be shared with passersby.
The plaque on the hidden marker reads: “Padre Luis Jayme, Pastor of the Mission San Diego de Alcala, was martyred near this site November 5, 1775.Father Jayme had asked that the Mission be moved to its present site from Presidio Hill in order to better grow foods for the Mission.In this area, the Mission padres produced grape, olives and other farm products for the Indian and Spanish communities. Also near this site a small structure housed the guard from the Royal Presidio, which served as escort and guard for the Mission padres.”
Father Jayme’s body and those of other early padres are buried near the altar of the mission’s main church.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. This article previously was posted on examiner.com