Christmas starts with Christ poster at a bus stop in Portsmouth

In an age where secularism has taken over our local government who is trying appease everyone and the true meaning of Christmas is hidden from the public view, I was pleased to see this poster at a bus stop in my home city on Christmas Eve:

Hebrew children’s book has Coca Cola trucks removed for traffic violations

I was at music concert just before I left Israel to fly home, there was a book shop with something quite funny:

Normally on TV commercials and posters, the Coca Cola trucks are driving along snow covered highways delivering obesity, diabetes and dental problems, oops I mean Christmas cheer to western nations.

Now if I am not mistaken, this Hebrew children’s book appears to show the Coke truck being towed away!!!

Could any kind person please translate what this book’s cover says?

Reminds me of a trip to Tel Aviv last year where strictly enforced parking rules meant trucks were scooping up illegally parked vehicles from the beach side streets although with some forklift type lifting prongs and taking them to an impound.

Its worth noting, Coke’s biggest market is the middle east, as observant Muslims don’t drink alcohol.

Handel’s Messiah played in Hebrew in Jerusalem

I missed the chance to go to this performance  last year, but sadly as I am back in the UK again for a break I didn’t get to see once more.   A real shame but I got to see a brief video of this sent via friend.

The famous classical piece, Handel’s Messiah was performed in Hebrew at King Of Kings congregation at the Clal shopping mall between Agrippas and Jaffa Street in Jerusalem.

Interesting enough, the 90 year old lady mentioned who dreamt up the idea to rework it in Hebrew was in tears after the performance, Handel was found in tears by his assistant after reporting being touched by God some 250 years ago.   See the video here:

Some musical friends I know got to play in this, thanks Teddy for the link 🙂

Land of the bible room gets wireless

This week, one of many things I had been doing at work is put wireless internet connection in our teaching room to aid with presentations.

Here is the teaching room.   Its a place we have our devotions or worship in the morning and bible teaching and conferences happen here too.  The room has been modeled and furnished to look like something out of the time of Jesus.  The opposite side has a roll down screen to use with a projector.

Some of the awkward stuff is done, the chaps from the home repair team  (they fix houses of local Israelis who can’t afford to have repairs done themselves) did all the messy stuff of laying the cables under the floor of the flat above, we just needed to fasten the wiring to some sockets and configure the router 🙂

I got to learn a new skill, making network cables from scratch, using this special crimping tools to clamp on the connectors on the Cat5 network cables

In the top pictures I used this punchdown tool to fix wires the back on the network sockets which are carefully hidden behind some pillars.  My colleague Christopher used the laptop to configure the router, but had some similar problems to I had with getting IP address range correct, the router is hidden up above this bamboo ceiling, only visible up there by some faintly flickering lights.   All the technology runs transparently so our senior leadership can do presentations with a minimum of clutter.  Its not finished yet, we ran out of time to get the router settings correct.

App store for free software?

General IT wishful thinking – skip this to next article if you are not an IT person.

Following Apple’s App store for the iPhone got rolled out also for the iPad and imitated for Android and Windows phones, it seems Apple want to adopt the same methods for people buying software for Macs as well.

I personally this is a great idea, some people will still want to buy software that arrives in a box with media and documentation that they can put on a shelf they can get to if support query or a reinstall becomes necessary, but I think it would good to give the customer a choice.   Just like music can be downloaded or its nice to have a tangible item, an actual CD with artists notes, lyrics etc.

Heres an idea, what would happen if the free/open source software movement could have a online software store?

Free software as alternative to popular commercial apps can be got from sites like www.alternativeto.net or www.osalt.com, but instead of downloading an executable file, you have an automated way of doing it using a simple browser plug in.  Why?

There is a quite a bit of usability aspect which is not always factored in on some software.  Some free software, the method of downloading the app can a bit confusing.  Anyone who has downloaded a Linux ISO image knows this, you get taken to an FTP site with a whole load of confusing files, which its not easy to tell which is the download that suits you.

A lot of consumer users don’t free software as they don’t know a lot of exists.  They use Internet Explorer as that was the browser that came with their computer, and they don’t want to change anything as they don’t feel confident to do it.   Joe Consumer may often not know how ZIP or RAR files are handled or what they are for.  As an IT pro I had never heard of Virtualbox, a free virtualisation client as an alternative to VMware and Microsoft’s Virtual PC until a work colleague told me about it.  I have yet to find a really good web site that announces new and exciting developments in free software thats not just geared to coders and developers.   So essentially a typical consumer goes out to a physical shop to buy software as its too confusing working out what software is free and what is a trial version and what comes bundles with spyware and other unwanted rubbish.

I use and recommend Infrarecorder to burn CDs and DVDs on Windows PC rather than the more common commercial Nero burning suite which has got so over complicated and comes with many annoying unwanted extras which have caused crashes and stability problems in previous places I have worked for.   Infrarecorder is great as it does everything you want burning discs easily without any fuss.

You could:

1/ Have a simple way to deploy top quality free software for all type of people, via a portal which makes installing onto your computer in a standard uniform way (Windows/Mac/Linux)

2/ An option to pay some money for software thats normally free but get a support package, ie: printed manuals or training or X number of tickets or hours or professional telephone or email support with a specialist who know a lot about this app.    Or, sell extra tools to deploy apps in a large network environment, like with SMS that rolll out apps silently to each workstation.

A check box would be default only search the free software store for fullly completed release apps, unchecking the box would should beta test versions of software with a usual disclaimer that this software is not production ready yet.

More and more free software is multiple languages as well, a search engine could be customised for all languages or English only.

The software store would only have applications that follow the GNU general public licence for free software,  ie: this means nothing with spyware, bundled toolbars or other tat.   No trial versions commercial applications either.

I think this would give the open source software movement more audience from all kinds of PC users of all platforms, all abilities, consumers and businesses alike.

Winter in the holyland with fog and wind

This strange fog seems to happen during colder times here, I suspect this the not the whole country that has this, probably just the more mountainous places like Jerusalem, Dead Sea, Golan Heights, etc.

There was some very strong winds this weekend so all of saturday I stayed indoors and did writing, reading or watched films.  Its not nice out there as the wind brings over sand and dust from Egypt.   Today the wind is strong you can see this cafe has tied a parasol to some traffic lights.

I didn’t get a picture of the view of my house although a lot of the Arab district closeby is mostly invisible.

After church on sunday night you can see the walls of the old city looking kind of fuzzy.  Me and my friend braved the cold chill before head to the house of prayer building next to the Zion Gate hotel then back to my flat to watch a bit of telly.

Today, I woke up with rain outside, this time lots of it, this made the sand that had settled on the balcony turn into a weird type of mud.   All cars looked grubby, although to be honest no one seems to bother washing their car here in Israel as all cars seem to have a layer of dust on them anyway.

I am wondering what sand storms does to your health.   In other middle east cities such as Cairo or Tehran this is a massive problem with pollution and there is a layer of smog over the city, and lots of people die each year not from smoking but from respiratory related diseases from pollution.

Forest fire, sand storm followed by at last some decent rain, it does seem like the winter season suddenly came in a week.  I was still wearing just one shirt only a week ago when out, oh well, at least it will be a bit easier to get used to the UK climate when I fly back next week.  I have yet to see a thunderstorm here though.

Turkish massacare of Armenian people remembered

Back earlier this year there was the convoy of protestors from Turkey.

At the same time, around the Christian Armenian community in Jerusalem’s old city put up lots of posters around the city warning what happened just under 100 years ago.  Click to zoom.

This was a reminder of the men and women killed in a genocide against the Armenian people.   With so called peace ships that fooled the media supposedly trying to help Gaza but had terrorists with weapons, its a warning that extremist Islam affects everyone.

St Peter’s church in Gallicantu

After visiting the possible location of the last supper, me and my friend Dave took a look around this section of the old city.

This is the famous French Catholic church St Peter of Gallicantu, its at the south west section of the old city, close to the walls.   Like most of Jerusalem, this place has been destroyed and rebuild many  times over, so the building you are seeing now was built in the 1920s and repaired quite a few times since then.

The images set into the walls of the inside of the church are certainly striking and beautiful as well as the outside and pictures set into the windows.  There is Jesus at the last supper and there is Peter and Jesus on the other picture, if you look closely you can see Roman soldiers warming themselves around a fire.  The text is in French.

There is three main floors to the church, you can get to another hall below, and a basement underneath that.

This plaque hints at that visions have been seen in the natural pattern on the stone here, I didn’t go looking around to see if this claims have any truth to them though.

There is large amounts of archeological remains in the yard outside.

Left: under this canopy there is a complete model of the old city you can see.  Right: St Peter’s from a distance with an interesting block of flats overlooking it and the Arab part of the city and the Mount of Olives.

Atop of the church is a symbol of a cock, a sign of when Peter denied Jesus three times, because of the cock that crowed, as told in Matthew 26.

The convenience store

If I look at out of my balcony to the right I see the Arab district as I live on the 1949 armistice line.

But aside what typical Middle East journalists say, what is it really like to live in between Jews and Arabs?

Back home in Portsmouth and probably most parts of the UK you have a corner shop, well not always but mostly on a corner, and often run by Asian people.  They are often usually from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh and could be Muslim, Sikh or Hindu.   As Britain’s last defenders of small businesses fight against the mighty retail continent of Tesco and their still aggressive marching in of Express stores, our Asian community serves us well so quick trips no more than a mile away shopping for newspapers, fags, phone credit, sweets and milk and food supplies forgotten from the last big supermarket run can be obtained easily.

Here in Israel there are also convenience stores by both non-Shabbat observing Jews and Arabs.  To be honest I have no idea if some Arab shops open on Islamic holidays or if this frowned upon by local Arab communities.

At the end of my road here in East Talpiyot, just outside of Jerusalem, is a local shop.  My house is on the 1949 Armistice line, therefore just over the threshold into a neighbouring Arab part of Jerusalem.  In most part I don’t see any trouble, I saw the police car blocking the middle of the road once for something. (exactly what I don’t know, it wasn’t in the news at all)    I would be very naive to say there is never any disturbances sometimes though, to be honest I have seen two car accidents in my street this month though.

Here is the shop, behind the tree ahead.  In front to the right is a car tyre place, rear right is a pizza takeaway, on the left of the shop entrance is some garden ornaments (!)   an interesting cluster of different businesses.   Oh, and the back is a scrap yard, I can see a tower of scrap metal behind.  Just next to this place is a field of olive trees, and in the distance are many minarets and mosques.   From my house I occasionally hear the sound of the air drills used for taking the wheelnuts of cars from the tyre business.

When I am in this junction, there is a feeling of uneasiness, that you are in a place you don’t belong, I mean that not in an unkind or bigoted way to Arab people, but from the uncomfortable spiritual atmosphere of a place as this area is heavily shrouded by Islam.

Of course some items are sold which are not available in a conventional Israel store.   A couple of weeks ago I decided to try some (probably not very unkosher of course, and big surprise – imported from Brazil) corned beef.  This meant my dinner was made using a screwdriver and some pliers, as the wretched key broke off the top and tin openers don’t work very well with square tins.  Oh well 🙂

There is a bakery in this shop at the back so I can get pita bread and cake here, there is only a few products I can see with just Arabic only labels on them.  Incidentally, the Palestinians seem to be very good at making candy, I see boxes of sweets (sold individually) favourites like Turkish delight, Havah (which I think its made of ground up almonds) and some nougat type stuff which is all made by a company in Nabulus.

I think only one of the staff speaks English at this shop, but I have picked up a knack of using gestures (which is a common thing anyway amongst all cultures in this corner of the world) when need to convey what I am buying once at the counter.

Today when I got some milk and bread, the Arab teenager who served me and his friend in the shop had some large scars on their faces that looked like that had been caused by a knife.   I think there is a lot of violence goes on between Arab people in parts of the world like this.   Domestic violence and partner abuse happens quite a lot in Muslim families in the UK but isn’t spoken about much.

The district of Arab Al Sawahira if you turn left at this junction.  The bus I get to work when it rained or if I have my bike fixed goes around this junction.  Beyond this shop, I think the separation wall is another 2kms from here which separates East Jerusalem.

Its sad that often when there is a terrorist attack like 9/11, 7/7, etc, the local Asian or Arab businesses in the UK may be the first people to get blamed with threatening behaviour or vandalism as if they are responsible.  As a Christian, in the UK I think we should pray for our Asian and Arab shopkeepers that their businesses continue to serve well our communities, and that one day they are touched by the true love of the Lord.   Here, there is always the worry from violence from these sorts of places but through my church or friends, or first hand, there are Arab people who have found Christ, and as a side effect of this, have genuine love and compassion for the Jews.

Cenacle / The upper room – Room of the last supper

This was a significant biblical location to stumble upon whilst taking a wander around the old city with my friend Dave from South Africa:

Once up the stairs, it was quite busy with lots of tourists from Nigeria and Korea.  There is not much to explain the Cenacle’s significance here, I did notice this unusual brass tree sculpture in the background, as well the domed ceiling held up by the pillars.   This building’s history can be revealed on this wiki article.

I often try to imagine about Jesus and his disciples having Shabbat together.  I am not sure if they had some middle east food like Humus, couscous, etc, which are common when I get together and eat with people I know here.

Arabic writing on this building inside.   I guess from the ownership of Jordanian occupied Jerusalem before 1967.

As typically Jerusalem, no two buildings look the same and there is a big maze of steps and walkways that go all around to neighbouring buildings and equally fascinating places from different historical eras.   On this roof, I am standing on a domed concrete thing which actually has a tiny doorway for an emergency stairway, or it could be a service shed for air conditioning or something.  The church in the distance is Armenian.  More from this part of the old city soon.