More fires in Jerusalem

Few weeks ago there was a fire close to Yad Vashem holocaust museum which almost prompted staff to move precious artifacts into different rooms.  This fire appears to have started deliberately and in four different places.

Last Saturday I was cycling over to a friend’s house and across the valley, I could see fire and smoke.

Here the fire appears to be in the forest at the foot of the Haas Promenade near my house, close to the Arab side of East Jerusalem.

4 minutes later when I was riding past the abandoned station, fire crews were arriving.

Now, I didn’t see this in the news, but it concerning that arson seems to happen quite often of late, most significantly last year when several Israeli prison staff were killed trying to get people out of prison (including Arab terrorists) when flames suddenly engulfed the truck they were in.

At the moment, temperatures here are exceeding 35c (that’s about 97F)   which mean bush fires could easily be started accidentally as well, but at the moment, this country needs prayer against threats of fire, whether it be deliberate or accidental.

VMware conference in Tel Aviv

I got up and left the house at 5.30 to go to a IT conference at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv.

As I mentioned before, Tel Aviv’s unique multistory bus station is a strange affair, finding the way out is very confusing.   With stairs and lifts that go all over the place, but no signs explaining the way to the street, I feel a bit like someone from the Labyrinth movie with David Bowie. 🙂

Once I go to taxi rank I jumped in a car and asked if the man could take me to the hotel, he said the journey would be 80 Shekels (£14) I told him I wanted a ride with the meter on, as this was too much, fully aware of rip-off scams of taxi drivers explaining the meter is ‘broken’ and offering a ‘special deal’ to naive foreigners, this driver complained to me he has to pay 35% of the journey to the government.  I just got out and walked away as he wanted to offer me 70 instead.  I just thought if you don’t want to pay those fees, find a different career!   Another driver who was polite and legit with the meter on charged me about 37 NIS instead.

The food at the event was on par with a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, there is a huge buffet of different things on offer, traditional Israeli breakfast spread of bread, salad, yoghurt, etc, lot of cake after the first seminar and various types of coffee served by a waiter, and a really superb choice of things for lunch too.  There was also a free bar, well just two types of beers on tap, which was very welcoming when sitting outside given it has been about 35 degrees C recently.   Full marks for the catering, but then again with $850m earned last year I guess VMware didn’t want to look like cheapskates.   The Microsoft event I went to in 2008 which had the Windows 7 launch in London I only got a couple of sandwiches though.

The seminars were mostly spoken in Hebrew with the powerpoint slides and annotations in English.

Most of the products on offer were showing the new upcoming (v5) version of VMware ESX, and addons and third party software apps from other vendors, aimed at someone with a VMware system already in place.

I had some questions I asked the staff, such as differences between the freeware and paid for licences of ESX, they told me to go to the web site, but there isn’t much there.

So not a great deal of value for my job or for my plan to build a server at home, but I did get decently fed, a IBM 100 anniversary T-shirt and a HP flashlight, got to chat to chap from the Israeli company I used to work for and a few other people.

Shiloh – ancient Jewish town in Samaria

This looks like a normal bus, until I noticed the windows are thicker than normal when sitting inside, I think the wheels are larger.   Reason being is this bus is intended for tourists going through more riskier parts of the West Bank, as the windows are bullet proof and has 6 tons of armour plating!

This Synagogue is a replica of a biblical one, its not just a historical building, its in regular use for the community here.

We visited a school, there is a small kiosk with an armed security guard there.  In the past children have been particularly at risk from Palestinian terrorism.  Everyone seems to know a family member or neighbour touched by tragedy in some way.

Here, this school runs different programs to help children that may have lost a family member due to terrorism, this one here is a room with special lighting and relaxing music.

I got to hear an amazing miracle by one of the residents of Shiloh, who was ambushed by terrorists, he was shot in the leg and his son in the neck critically.  As rounds from an AK47 would penetrate a car from one side to the other and would disable the engine, he was praying as three times he tried to start the car which the engine would not turn over. After the fourth time the car ran, and was able to drive to a petrol station to summon help and get hospital treatment, later when the car was check by a mechanic which was full of holes, the mechanic said there was no way the car would run, bullets had penetrated through the engine casing.

Sadly, the mainstream world news tends to not hear about what happens in Shiloh, and instead refers to places in the Judea & Samaria area as settlements and that the land was obtained dishonestly.  Here this particular town has a lot of history from biblical times, with significant finds dug up by archeologists here.

Home server PC

You can skip this article if you are not an IT person 🙂

While I am away doing a volunter IT system admin job in Israel, I have a small computer back in the UK I use a server.

Its a little Dell Optiplex SX280, its a ultra small form factor PC about the size of a large telephone book.   I used to support these type of PCs in a hospital I worked at, and I decided to get one for myself to use as a server.  I paid about £75 for it off ebay which the seller promised it had a Pentium 4 2.8 processor, so I was quite pleased when it arrived with a 3.2 processor 🙂   I added 2.5Gb of memory and a 320Gb hard disk, which uses normal off the shelf bits.   The performance of the PC is good but I would recommend vacuuming out dust from the insides which can block up the fans once in a while.

This mini server is perfect for me, although it doesn’t have any slots, and can only support one hard disk.   I use this computer in conjunction with VNC and RDP using a Dynamic DNS address my brother in law Jim helped me set up along with the right setting in a now very obsolete B series Netgear wireless router.   In more recent times I just use Logmein which is easier and less fiddly to set up.   These days I prefer small quiet computers.  I used to work at Novatech a computer dealer just outside of Portsmouth and since then I have lost interest in self-build/clone PCs which turn out to be more trouble than they are worth in their reliability and quality, having mostly Asus based clone PCs at my work, I spend a lot of time replacing failing hardware.

1. I run virtual machines on it using Windows XP as a base operating systems and simulate multiple extra computers and used it to learn a lot about Windows 7 which it runs beautifully under Sun/Oracle’s Virtualbox.

2. I use this box for downloading TV shows from BBC iPlayer using a special alternative app that downloads them as MP4 files, as this cannot be done on a non-UK IP address, so I can get TV shows remotely and copy them into Dropbox and watch them on my laptop here in Jerusalem.

3. I also do web based surveys which earn me a small amount of Amazon vouchers, this only works in the UK.

4. When I eventually head back to the UK I can stream TV shows off to it, althoughnI am one of these odd people who still has an old fashioned CRT telly, so will look at to treat myself to a LCD TV when I am one day back in the regular workplace again.

As an IT person its important not to stop learning new things, and I am wondering what my fellow peers in IT do to use as a lab for trying out stuff.

However in recent times for my work I need to learn more server environments like Windows Server 2003 and 2008, the latter version is mostly used in 64 bit form, also VMware which is the most popular software system for running virtualisation set ups, so I now need a 64 bit based system as a server.

Something like a Mac Mini would be nice, and they run Mac OS X, Windows, Linux under VMware well I think, but these are expensive at least £600 and not easily expandable (laptop style memory and hard drives

A few months ago, I came across an advert from for this clever piece of kit, the HP Proliant N36L

These little HP servers look great as:

1. They are small form factor, can sit in a shelf or a cupboard out of the way, only uses 40-70 watts of power, means more time on a UPS power back up system, quiet running fans.

2. Really cheap, about £140, actually £240 but you get £100 back from a rebate from HP.    A real server for the price of a simple NAS device.

3. Have chassis to support 8Gb of RAM (2x 4Gb) and 4 hard disks in a RAID array.

A few limitations on this device is, relatively low powered 1.3 AMD CPU (but is 64 bit) only 1Gb of RAM and single 250Gb hard disk (just to get you going, you will need to upgrade)   no optical drive, you can get a DVD writer for £12.50 (I got from Amazon free shipping!) anyway or install Windows or Linux from a USB stick.   Just a blank drive for your preferred operating system.    The low spec of the server is intended for businesses with less than 10 people.

So the plan is, when I am next in the UK, is to get one of these HP microservers and put it in place of the Dell, run VMware ESX and similar and run a XP virtual machine and various other environments for myself, questions I have, is VMware easy for me as administrator to control from a long distance without anything going wrong that needs someone nearby?   I am going to a VMware conference in Tel Aviv this week.

Also, two of these would be great for a project at my work as I need to run a critical database system in a remote location, instead of the traditional server having two power supplies and two hard disks in case of one failing, having two relatively cheap servers running parallel with data mirrored on both of them, this in my opinion seems like better performance and redundancy for the money it seems.

I think HP will sell loads of these units, I would love to see if any other IT pros have bought for them for their own test environments, or even if two or more given their bargain price could be used to run a critical system needing redundancy or fail over of some sort.

Some people are running Microsoft’s Windows Home Server (WHS) on these, this seems fine but I would rather use an enterprise grade server like Ubuntu or Server 2008, or just stick to a NAS to store videos and music on.   Microsoft have free 90 day trial versions of Windows 7 and 180 day version of Server 2008 to test out which I want to play around with more.

Journeys of Jesus – Travelling between Nazareth to Jerusalem

Revisiting part of my trip to Nazareth from a few months ago.

In my job I often have to go up to a warehouse in Karmiel, a large food bank which supplies food for the poor in the greater Galilee area, to service computer equipment which requires me to visit every so often.

One of the unique things I like about my job is going to visit this site to do a few days work and doing some sightseeing around the Galilee, meaning I can see Nazareth, Cana, Akko and Tiberias not too far away.   As there is no dedicated IT person based up there, so maintenance requires a fair bit of planning if I need to take a laptop, tools and software CDs, this means I am doing a 2.5-3 hour trip up there from Jerusalem, which makes me think is a trip Jesus would be very familiar with, although Karmiel is much further up than Nazareth.

In Matthew 20: 17-19 the scriptures talk about Jesus “going up” to Jerusalem even though its south of course, part of this is to do with the high elevation that the city is on as well as its great significance for Jewish and Christian people alike.

Getting to Nazareth is quite easy on an Egged bus or even with this above Nazareth based coach operator.

Being in the middle of the Galilee region of Israel, there aren’t railway connections here like all of the (Ashdod / Ashkelon / Herzilya / Yaffo / Tel Aviv  / Netanya / Haifa / Akko / Nahariya) coastal cities have in Israel.

I often think about how often Jesus himself traveled between the two locations, if I were some other kind of mobile tradesman and lived here before cars and buses, there is a number of challenges, stopping for food and where to stay overnight, risks of attacks by bandits/robbers, extreme heat, mosquitos, having enough (3 litres a day per person minimum) water for the journey, steep hills, presents all manner of challenges.

I am wondering if people at the time of Jesus owned camels and donkeys or if they were rented.


Arab people in rural parts of the country may have camels (which are still expensive today)   or ancient Peugeot 504 pick up trucks are the other favourite, this one is full of sheep.

Some historians have said it takes 3 1/2 days by foot to go from one of these famous cities to the other.   I thought I would do some research.

Here is a map I have made with Google Maps,

You can get a closer look of this Google maps anotation:

This distance of 103kms (64 miles) one is ‘as the crow flies’ and goes across the separation barrier that fences off Judea and Samaria, what we know today as the West Bank.  (contrary to what you see in the media only 5% of the boundaries of the West Bank is concrete wall, the rest is a chain link fence)

I have only just noticed when doing this, the line passes straight through the West Bank city of Nabulus.  Given the highly mountainous terrain of this country, its unlikely it would be as simple as going via a compass back in Jesus’s time, there were plenty of political issues back then don’t forget, some places would not been safe then, especially given Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan, a Jewish man robbed and beaten up was cared for and put into a hotel for the night by a kindly stranger who as a Samaritan an ethnic group then enemies of Jews.

Closer look of this one also:

This one was suggested by Google’s planning system using today’s actual roads albeit a lot longer way around, without going through checkpoints, is quite a bit further at 151km (93 miles)

Look at the link and see carefully the main roads in Jordan, and the shape of the borders between Jordan and Syria create a pattern which looks strangely symmetrical to the route I have sketched out.   Quite bizarre.

To be honest though, its hard getting an idea of time and distance of going to and from the two great cities by foot or donkey in any more accurate terms given the challenges or land boundaries, steep hills and uncertain historical road systems, but I think it gives you a little bit of an idea.

Christian support of EDL and other extremist groups

Often I get sad and angry at things like this:-

Today, more than ever people in the UK are afraid of extremist fundamentalist Islam, and there are groups supposedly campaigning for indigenous people of Britain, often these are closely linked to racist organisations.

I often see on social networks people promoting groups like the the EDL and BNP, often unaware they are supporting a different type of extremist group which threaten and harass Arab or Asian people.   This troubles me as it seems folk quote web sites and news stories without applying some careful research and discernment, as some of these groups appear to be Christian or Jewish and that some are in support of Israel.

During Jesus’s trial before his crucifixion, Herod and Pontius Pilot became friends who were previously enemies as per Luke 23 : 12 (full context here) probably through agreeing Jesus should be sentenced to death.

There’s an old saying (I don’t know it origins) that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and alliances may be formed with someone who shares a common dislike.

I do worry about the rise of extremist Islam in the UK, and apathy in our government to challenge it, but at the same time I think we should use great care and discernment in being sure that sources we quote are from not from dubious organisations that may simply preach a different style of hate and intolerance, such as the BNP or EDL.

Mount of Beatitudes

Towards the end of my trip a quarter of the way around the Galilee, me and my friend stopped at the Beatitudes.

There is a small gift shop and a few picnic tables, visitors seem to come mostly in coaches, there isn’t too many people in terms of individuals here.

There are plenty of these strict looking signs, some of the gardens with the best view of the water front seem to be off limits it seems, not just here but in other places where I wanted to sit to down and admire the water.   Signs suggest these are saved for special occasions it seems.

This is the church itself and very nice it is too.

It was built upon the site where Jesus was teaching as in Matthew 5 : 3-12

Conference room and hotel closeby.

The church is small and very square in its shape, there is no real place for a congregation to sit down, its more of a shrine I suppose with a the outside arched walk way around it, although the Pope visited here in 2000, it is still manned by nuns in their traditional garb.

A day in my work in the GalileeThe Jesus boat in GinosarThe Kinneret LakeTiberias evening light showPreaching and miracles of Jesus in CapernaumTiberias city centre and Muriels and MaimonidiesGreek Orthodox Church of the Holy ApostlesMount of Beatitudes

disposing of electronics scrap in Israel

In my job doing IT system administration and technical support for a Christian organisation called Bridges for Peace here in Israel, I am installing new equipment, mostly PCs and servers.

Back in April, we has an unfortunate week where three different network switches in two buildings fail suddenly, this paralysed our network access for about 25 staff, one of these switches broke the same time we had a power outage in the building I was in and the emergency power back up systems did not do the job of protecting the equipment.

What I want to know is, where is the correct place to take scrap IT equipment here in Israel?

It appears in most neighbourhoods, like mine, there are these big skips shared by three or four apartment blocks for putting in domestic rubbish in.  People also put broken furniture and electrical items in.   Some dead computers were left out in the hallway of my block, so I took the Pentium chips and memory out, and put them in the bin as well.

In my work, I have a pile of dead batteries from laptops, large brick batteries from UPS systems, several whole ‘shoebox’ sized UPS devices that were defective, two dead LCD panels from laptops,

All types of batteries contain highly toxic materials and LCD monitors contain small amounts of mercury.  How can IT people here in Israel dispose of stuff safely, legally and responsibly here?

Shabbat party dream team

Some people keep fantasy football leagues and some people have imaginary dinner parties of interesting or influential people.

Here in Israel, I may sometimes go and attend a Shabbat dinner round friends houses, both Jewish or Christian, mainly because its nice to mark the end of the week and relax with friends and food.

So… I want to put together a list of people I would invite who are Jewish that would make interesting guests.

The purpose of this isn’t so much to change or influence anyone’s religious background, nor would I want to talk politics, more of a way of who would be fun to have at a party, plus I actually haven’t thought about food as I need to get more familiar with cooking good stuff that is kosher, especially I had made a lasagne on early friday afternoon and realised once it has milk in it….

Yeshua Ha Moshiach (Jesus Christ)

‘Well Jon would say that as hes a Christian?’, you are thinking.  Yes and you would be right.   Being here in Israel and learning Jewish culture whilst being immersed here has made me think more about Jesus’s character and Jewishness.   As well as being being the Messiah and a great preacher, teacher, Rabbi, outdoor chap (40 days in the desert) carpenter, (early career) caterer (wine at weddings, fish and bread by the sea) healer, hiker, (180 kms from Nazareth to Jerusalem) story teller and friend to many especially the social outcasts.

Today if people fiddled with their phones during meal or teaching I think he would probably be quite blunt that they were being rude, the same with bad language or slander.  Plus with the many parables he spoke he would have some pretty amazing stories that would keep everyone amused.  Think I would like to ask him a lot of things, I always get stuck on the parable about new wine in old wine skins, mainly as I think people switched to using glass vessels for liquids which I think the Romans introduced just after Jesus’s time.   I can get 30 Agorot for old bottles, I wonder if wine skins were costly and needed a return deposit if you bought wine?

Groucho Marx

Would have to have him for his wit and sarcasm.  Would love to know about his early days as part of a poor Jewish family growing up in New York, especially as him and his brothers (Harpo, Chico, etc) often featured in movies together, but were also successful in their own individual careers.

Gene Symmonds

Born Chaim Weitz in Haifa, Israel and as well as front man for 70s glam rock band KISS, he has only done one gig in Israel recently this year, challenged other bands who bend under the strains of the bigoted BDS movement and other critics of Israel, I also saw a sad story in the news how he regretted not seeing his estranged father who he visited his grave this week.

Slash from Guns N Roses and Lenny Kravitz

A few more rock stars are always be good.  Both are a mixture of Jewish and African parents.

Peter Falk

Sadly passed away this week, but the actor behind Columbo which had two runs, in the 60s & 70 and in the early 90s, was also a talented painter as well as an actor and voice artist for some Disney movies.   Although his screen character is Italian, never gives his first name or ever shows his wife, Falk is of Hungarian Jewish decent.  The famous TV series often had the same ‘guest killers’ several times over, including Star Trek crew members William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy also Jewish, and famous folks like Robert Vaugn, I am sure Peter has had all kinds of interesting friends hes met on set.


I could of chosen any of the apostles and Jesus’s acquaintances from the bible, but instead I thought I would invite the not so popular short bloke who climbed the tree to see Jesus who worked for the tax company.   I would like to ask him if has any ideas to improve PR relations with regular people in first century or today’s Israel, and how today’s Israeli government could get maximum value for money from tax income to improve public services, ie: safer roads and helping new immigrants.

Please note, normally these kind of lists allow for people no longer living and from different eras.  I would pleased to hear from other bloggers with their own choices, wether they be actors, musicians, politicians or other people from history.