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The Brownsteins in the Land of Israel

Chapter 4:

Tisha B'av in Jerusalem!

August 8, 2003


Dear Friends:

My American made laptop died.  It was the third I had gotten from a particular Internet company.  So I am limited in my pictures and patience, but not words.

First, we were blessed by the visit of our niece, 24-year-old Carole, my wife's sister's daughter from Paris.  (Sara has two sisters in Paris and each has two daughters, so the possessives are a little tricky. ) Carole spent a wonderful day with us.  Next week we hope to be blessed with the visit of my sister's family from Portland (Oregon).  My brother-in-law is an Israeli, so they come here quite a bit.  Noam, the son, is an even bigger Blazer fan than am I!  I think I will spend more time with them here than I did in LA.

Two days ago, I went to a cemetery on the Jerusalem outskirts for the seventh (I think) Yertzeit (anniversary of passing) for Mr. Bart Stern.  Of course, I saw the noble Mrs. Stern and heard a few beautiful words about my friend Mr. Stern's renowned chessed -- acts of kindness.  The book about his life, includes his time in Auschwitz and can be found at by clicking Here.

On the way into the cemetery I bumped into Professor Shaul Stampfer of Hebrew University, as he was leaving from another grave.  Shaul is the son of Rabbi and Goldie Stampfer, my rabbi growing up in Portland.  I saw Shaul on my pilot trip in March, too, for the first time in 21 years.  He is a warm, kind person, like his parents.

My old friend Uriella Obst was at the Bart Stern memorial, too.  Uriella was the "person on the inside" here for me, giving me pointers on everything from when to locate my family, to which Israeli satellite company broadcasts live Blazer games.  We couldn't find a cab out of the cemetery, so we rode back on a bus, through east Jerusalem, to the Old City, where I dropped her off and where I prayed the afternoon and evening services (davened Mincha/Maariv) at the Western Wall, the holiest place in the (Jewish) world.

If you ever want to see a live picture of the Wall, click here or follow the link  Who knows, you might even see me there!

Last night was the beginning of the daylong commemoration of the saddest day in Jewish History: Tisha B'av.  It was on this day that the Holy Temple here in Jerusalem was destroyed, along with most of the city, and the slaughter of most of the Jews -- twice, a few hundred years apart.  The only thing left of the Holy Temple now is the Western Wall of it, mentioned above.  Tisha B'av is also remembered as the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition, where in 1492, the European Jewish population was devastated by executions and forced conversions.  Although other horrible events mark the same day, Tisha B'av is also known as the beginning of the futile Warsaw Ghetto uprising during the Holocaust.

We fast on Tisha B'av, from sundown last night to sundown tonight.  We also read the Book of Lamentations, which I did last night in a spectacular place.  My fantastic new next door neighbor, Elliot took me to a park near our house that overlooks the Old City.  There, by candlelight, people took turns chanting Lamentations a chapter at a time, in Hebrew (of course).

After that, Elliot and I drove to the Old City, itself, for a. walk around the entire walled city.  Many, many thousands of people joined us, with Israeli flags and signs declaring Jerusalem as the eternal city of the Jewish people.  I also ran into my dear old neighbor from our days on Shenandoah, Mark Shmagin, who swapped his LA home for the summer with Mark Hess, my tax attorney, who lives here.  (It's a small world after all).

There were a lot of city police and uniformed soldiers on-hand to guard us.  There were also many men in civilian clothing carrying their M-16 machine guns.  I asked several of them why they had the rifles on them; the answer was surpassingly practical: they were young men who were on furlough from the Army or off-duty, but who didn't have a safer place than on themselves to store the weapon!  Further, I learned that anyone caught leaving a gun in their car could go to jail for seven years.  This also explained why the people who drove in from settlements and needed the rifles for protection had the guns with them.

As we got to the eastern side of Old City, one of the things that I had heard about, but had never seen came into view.  A cemetery exists just outside the Old City.  Why is it right there?  Our enemies know that Jewish men of the priestly tribe of Kohain are not allowed to be near dead Jewish bodies or cemeteries (unless for an immediate family member).  In fact, earlier this year graves were discovered at an archeological dig under a main highway, here.  Until the bodies were moved, a sign was put up on the freeway advising the Kohains to change lanes!

In fact, the cemetery is directly in front of one of the eight gates of the Old City: the "Golden Gate".  Why there?  We believe that when Messiah comes (may it be soon), he will enter the Old City through the Golden Gate.  However, our adversaries also have attempted to thwart the coming of the Messiah by sealing the Golden Gate.  (See below)






What our adversaries did not realized was that the Messiah may not, in fact, be a Kohain.  Indeed, he will probably be from the same tribe as King David, the tribe of Yehuda (Judah).  And also, they forgot that the prohibition of the  Kohains only pertains to Jewish bodies; the cemetery is filled with non-Jews.  As far as the Gate is concerned, if the Israelis can shoot a missile out of the sky at 8,000 mph, we can knock down some rock!  Stay turned!  We'll let you know how it turns out.

Anyway, that was a beautiful thing to be marching around the City of Jerusalem, our city, waving our flag, as official citizens of our homeland.  I was also very impressed by the sight of our Army watching over us from atop the graves that were supposed to thwart us.

After the March, Elliot and I went to the Wall to say a few prayers.  It was breathtaking.  I have heard that about 100,000 visited it within the last 24 hour.  I saw fathers & sons in sleeping bags to spend the night there.  I didn't have my camera with me, but I ran into a lovely South African man named Gershon who snapped a few and will send them in a few weeks.

That is all for now.  I'll try to lighten up a bit next time.

As for corrections, please feel free to let me know if I have miswritten any of the facts above.  On that note, I did get one correction from my Israeli (American born) accountant, Murrel Kohn, who wrote after Chapter 3: "According to the postal regulations, which seem to be unknown to most including the post office, the Israeli mikud (zip code) is to go to the left of the city, so in English yours would be 91081 Jerusalem.  The added advantage is that mail sent to you will not go to CA."  This must be the reason we have not gotten even a single letter from America.  I'm sure it is all in the Golden State.

Anyway, thanks again for reading this far.

I appreciate and look forward to your comments and greetings.

Please stay tuned for Chapter 5: The Washing Machine That Refused To Be Replaced!

All the best,

The Brownsteins
PO Box 8130
Jerusalem, 91081

Phone: 011-972-2-6733-491

No nondairy Animals were harmed in the photography of this reenactment.
All characters are purely fictional.
If you want to add someone to this list, or remove yourself, just e-mail and let him know.
Please freely distribute to those with too much time on their hands.

Copyright (c) - Rich Brownstein 2003



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