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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ann Hansen - Living in Israel

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 7:45 AM
Subject: Ann Hansen - living in Israel

This afternoon as I was sitting in the hospital, waiting to do a bone
mapping (this is a translation from Hebrew - I don't know what it's called
in English), I looked around and thought what a perfect example this was of
what it is like to live in Israel.

In the waiting room with me were a Russian, an Ethiopian couple, a soldier
from the same division as my son, a Druze man in traditional dress, a
Beduoin, Israel's version of a Yuppie couple (middle-aged Ashkenazi Jews
with high-tech toys to while away the time), and an older kibbutznik. I
grew up in the US, and the TV was set on "Viva" - a channel which features
only Spanish-language soap operas from Spain and South America. I heard
people speaking Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and Amharic.

The room where I was doing this exam sits in the basement of the Sfat
hospital's new wing, which was built mainly to house the new emergency
room(s). The wing was finished just a couple of weeks before the war with
Lebanon in 2006. It was a good thing, because as the hospital nearest the
border it treated a lot of wounded soldiers and civilians. The hospital
itself was also hit by rockets many times. The new wing is actually a huge
bomb shelter, complete with blast doors and windows.

While I was waiting I was reading the biography of a Jewish woman from
Vienna, who was writing about her life just before and during WW II. She
had been picked up in the street one day, and sent off to work on an
asparagus farm in northern Germany in conditions which were about one step
above slave labor. She was talking about the factories in that area of
Germany- Opel cars (appropriated from its Jewish owner) and Siemens
electronics - which did use slave labor, mostly Romanians and Serbs. Just
then I was called in to do the mapping. As I laid down on the bed (its
like doing a CAT scan) and the machine was put over me, I noticed that the
machine was built by Siemens!!! It was a weird feeling seeing that so soon
after reading about its slave labor 70 years ago.

As you leave the hospital and look west, you see literally layers upon
layers of hills. In the fading light they look like they were built of
separate layers of blue and gray construction paper which were glued on top
of each other. It reminded me a bit of how the Smoky Mountains looked in
the early morning. Sfat itself has been continally inhabited since medieval
times, and carries the scars of centuries of war. Onthe very top of the
city are the ruins of a castle built by the Hospitalers ( a knights' order
named after Christian knights who set up a hospital next to the Dome of the
Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) during the Crusader period. The city
also contains synagogues which are centuries old, the ruins of a mosque, an
Ottoman Turkish period building now used as a community center, a building
which was built as a hospital by Scottish missionaries in the nineteenth
century, and several buildings built by the Bristish army during the

Sfat sits at an altitude of 900 meters (about 3,000 feet). My house,
however, is almost 100 feet below sea level, so the drive home is all
downhill! On the way I pass a moshav built by Morrocan Jews in the late
1950s, and a kibbutz which has on its grounds an ancient well which,
according to tradition, was where Joseph's brothers put him in a pit until
he was sold to the passing caravan. The well is mentioned by travellers in
several sources written up to 500 years ago, including Mark Twain and Eliza
R. Snow. The well was notorious for having the foulest-smelling water in
all the Holy Land. Thankfully the smell is gone now! Below me is the Sea
of Galilee, but first I have to so down the "curvy road" (which roughly
parallels the ancient Roman road), past the Mount of Beatitudes and the
church at Tabgha, past the site of an ancient fortress, and finally past the
pumping station of the National Water carrier, before I reach home, which is
in the area where the biblical prophet Habbakuk is reported to have been
buried. The valley below my house is part of a natural draw which leads
from the northern part of the lake up to the route to Nazareth. I
frequently wonder if Jesus ever walked it on his way to Magdala or

For as long as I have lived here, I still haven't gotten used to the
amazing diversity of topography, history, culture, religion and language to
be found in such a small geographical area. It continues to take my breath

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Ann Hansen

1 comment:

Ratliffs said...

Wow! What beautiful pictures her words created as I read this! I wish I could go there and walk in the beautiful history that is there! Thanks for sharing!