Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru

Girl with her pet, in Cusco, Peru

Come join us on a magnificent tour.  It is not only beautiful and exciting, but people find it to be a spiritually significant tour as we see the unspoiled creation of the Galapagos Islands, not to mention the Amazon Rain Forest and amazing Machu Picchu.


Details of the itinerary and the cost are on this page….

Famous in Vietnam

Have you ever wondered how my blog posts would sound in Vietnamese?  Me neither.  But you can find out by looking at these two links.

The writer of course asked permission to use my pictures and posts and he sent along this note:

These links include funny and amazing pictures that you took in Vietnam. Thank you very much for your help. I feel really grateful 🙂
Nice weekend for nice couple 🙂 I hope to see you in Lao Cai city one day. Please contact me if you have that plan
Thu Thao

Gate in Forbidden City-- Hue, Vietnam


Shanghai and the Jews

There are signs of a Jewish presence in China from about the 8th century on.  Jewish traders traveled the Silk Route and some spent significant time in China.  Others married and settled down there.  The synagogue in Kaifeng was built in 1163 and from then on there was a Jewish community there.

Sephardi Jews from Bagdad started arriving in Shanghai at the end of the 19th century.  Among them were the Kadoorie family, the Hardoon family, and the Sassoon family.  These wealthy businessmen rose to the top of the Shanghai society of the time and established communal institutions and built notable buildings, among them the famous Cathay Hotel, now known as the Peace Hotel.  It still stands with pride along with other European styled buildings on the Bund, Shanghai’s waterfront on the Huangpu River.

The Peace Hotel on the Bund, Shanghai

In the beginning of the 1900s, Jews began arriving from Russia.  The two groups of Jews did not mix, but all established schools and newspapers and and restaurants, of course, synagogues.  Their communal life was rich.

When life became dangerous in Russia and Eastern Europe, Jews began flowing into China.  Between 1937 and 1939, over 20,00 Jews flowed into Shanghai.  At the height of World War II, Shanghai housed between 18 and 20 thousand Jews.  They lived in a ghetto area called Hongkou and the Chinese, who themselves were under attack by the Japanese, protected the Jews.  After the war, and with the establishment of the State of Israel, virtually all of the Jews left Shanghai.

Today, in Shanghai, there are still some locations where that experience is remembered.

Plaque in park in the Hongkou area of Shanghai

In gratitude for their treatment of the Jews during World War II, the Chinese received contributions from Israeli companies and the State of Israel to build a community center in the park.

Plaque thanking the people of China

Across from the park is the building that was used by the Joint (JDC) which provided social services to the people in the ghetto.

Former home of "the Joint"

Here is one of the roads where the Jews lived during that time.   Each building house several families.  Life was not easy.


Homes in the Shanghai ghetto

There is an excellent documentary about the Shanghai ghetto that shows how bad life was and how the Chinese and the Jews helped each other in times of privation.  Information about the film can be found here.

The Ohel Moishe Synagogue has been restored.  It is no longer in use because there is no longer a Jewish population in this area of the city.  However, the synagogue building itself is used as a museum and behind it, two more buildings have been constructed that show a phenomenal picture of  Jewish life in Shanghai, highlighting several families’ stories.  Visiting there is very moving and quite a relief from most museums that talk about Jews’ experiences during World War II.

Ohel Moishe Synagogue, Shanghai

Inside the synagogue


Inside the museum

You can read more about the Jews in Shanghai at this site.


Currently, Chabad has three locations in Shanghai with three rabbis working to enrich the lives of Jewish residents and visitors to Shanghai.  Their wonderful monthly magazine is on line here.

Come join us in China! There’s so much more to learn and to see.

Shanghai, China

If you have never been to Shanghai, get ready for some amazing surprises! Shanghai is a big, modern city with an estimated population of about 20 million.

It is a city with striking contrasts.

The Pearl of the Orient Tower as seen from the YuYuan Garden

It is a city with an intricate road system, sometimes comprising 5 levels of road!

and famous shopping areas like Nanjing Road

It is the home of the YuYuan Garden which dates back 400 years and has all of the elements of a traditional Chinese garden- plants, rocks, buildings, and water.

The Jin Mao Tower used to be the tallest building in Shanghai. Although it is a skyscraper, it contains some elements of Chinese design. You an read more about it here. From its observation deck, one can have a bird’s eye view of the city on a clear day. These school children are attempting that…

The current tallest building in Shanghai is the Shanghai World Financial Center.

The Shanghai World Financial Center building is very impressive and seems to change shapes as one drives around Shanghai and sees if from different angles. You can learn more about it here.

China is still growing and under construction is the Shanghai Tower that when finished will have 128 stories.

Here is a poster that depicts the skyline when the new tower is built.

From left to right: Jin Mao, World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower

Next time: Jewish Shanghai, remnants of Jewish history in China

Thailand – Chiang Mai

Since we went to Thailand, mainly to relax after our Vietnam/Cambodia tour, we saw only a sprinkling of places. For that reason, I feel as if I experienced being in Thailand like the blind men experienced being with the elephant. In case you don’t know the reference, here it is:

The Blind Men and the Elephant
John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

This is one of the reasons that the best way to travel if you want to really understand what you are seeing and its historical and cultural context, is on an organized tour. But, nonetheless here are my impressions…

We flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city. It has a population of about 1.6 million in the province, 250,000 in the city. It is located in northwestern Thailand. Once we checked into our hotel we saw this sight

Chiang Mai from our hotel room

Notice the rainbow! Our visit to Thailand really did feel like being over the rainbow– so many beautiful things to see…

We arranged for a tour that took us to an elephant camp. We saw the elephants do tricks like lifting their trainers with their legs or trunks, playing soccer, and painting.

Here come the elephants!

Holding each others' tails



Notice, however, that the elephant has tusks. The elephants dipped their brushes in the paint and painted, but each had a trainer holding a tusk and it appeared to me, they were helping the elephants to aim. So was this really freetrunk drawing?

Another artist

It was impressive to watch them painting!

Soon it was time for us to climb the steps to a platform for our own ride on an elephant.

The platform

My croc getting onto elephant's back

Riding the elephant

On the road there were a number of platforms where they sold bananas and sugar cane to feed the elephants. Although we were pretty far back on the elephant, he was able to direct his trunk toward us and “inhale” the bananas as we fed him. As a “thank you” he would puff hot air from his trunk at us! I thought it was amusing, especially since I had read that among Cambodians, a kiss traditionally consisted of placing one’s nose next to the other person and blowing air out of it!

After about 45 minutes, we arrived at a small market and for our return trip, rode on an ox cart.

The ox carts

Sitting behind our driver

It was a partly cloudy day and there had probably been some rain earlier in the morning. The paths were muddy and uneven. Shortly after we started moving, our driver went over a bumpy part and fell off the cart. the oxen continued moving and we both feared the cart would run her over. But in a fraction of a second, she popped up from the ground and hopped back onto the cart all the time laughing- and for the next few minutes, telling her colleagues what happened to her and laughing again.

Our last adventure there was being poled down a river on a bamboo raft. It was very beautiful and relaxing.

The raft

On the river

But the day wasn’t done. Next time: the tigers and the orchid garden

Wat Pho – Bangkok

Wat Pho is a temple area that houses a most impressive statue called “Reclining Buddha.” The statue is 46 meters (150 feet) long and 15 meters (50 feet) high. It is gold-plated and stunning to see.

The complex of buildings was originally constructed beginning in 1788, but today’s complex bears little resemblance to the original construction. It was restored for a second time in 1982.

Since 1962, it has housed a school for traditional medicine and massage and to this day, people go to the temple for a traditional Thai massage.

What I found noteworthy were the amazing buildings in the complex. I could barely move without needing to take a photo, so here is some of what we saw.

Yes, there were lots of buddhas. In fact, there are estimated to be over 1000, and that isn’t even counting the gift shop!

Now can you guess which famous jewelry maker I think got her inspiration from Thai Temples? There’s one photo in particular that looks just like her work.

A visit to Wat Pho is a wonderful way to start a day in Bangkok! Even the buildings seem to be happy.

Coming attractions…

You can read a little about out recent tour to Vietnam and Cambodia here. Once I catch my breath, I will be writing a bit more about the tour and also about our own personal trip to Bangkok. Stay tuned for some awesome pictures, one of which answers a very important fashion question.

Until then, how about some pictures of one of my favorite sights, a rice field! This one is in the village of Pho, not far from Bac Ha.


Usually I write about exotic places far from my home. But, in fact, one half hour from my home is a city that defies comparison. It has been the Jewish capital for over 3000 years, and wherever Jews have lived, when they prayed they turned toward Jerusalem. In the Galapagos Islands, we consulted with our compass so that we could face Jerusalem in prayer. In China and Vietnam, we turned toward the west, in the direction of Jerusalem.

Mount Zion, Jerusalem

About a year ago when I was in South America, some of the people on my tour were talking about the magnificent time they had when they went to see the opera Nabucco at Masada. So, when I heard that this year they were performing Aida at Masada, I immediately tried to buy tickets. Unfortunately, because the opera started late in the evening, a hotel stay had to be part of the package and because people were coming from all over the world to see the opera, the tickets were expensive and the hotels could charge whatever they wanted. We realized that we could travel to Europe on two 5 day jaunts for the price of one night at the opera!

Disappointed, I looked to see if Aida was being presented in Jerusalem. It was not.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email with this tempting offer: a night in a hotel in Jerusalem and two tickets to the Verdi opera, Jerusalem. The hotel was a newly renovated boutique hotel located within easy walking distance of the Sultan’s Pool Amphitheater, the venue of the opera, which lies at the base of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. How could I resist? Included were special gifts like chocolates and a bottle of wine, and a magnificent view from the large balcony overlooking the Old City.

We took the opportunity to visit the Begin Center, a wonderfully designed facility that teaches about the life and legacy of Menachem Begin, Israel’s sixth prime minister and the man who was the first to make peace with an Arab country, Egypt.

Entrance to the Begin Center

Begin’s life was fascinating. He loved his land and his people. Begin was unaffected and humble. He was a man of principle. His first act as Prime Minister was to order the rescue of 200 Vietnamese refugees who had requested asylum. He wrote his own speeches.

Begin's handwritten remarks for the ceremony on the White House Lawn

After an impressive visit to the Begin Center, we made our way to the Old City.

Up the steps to Mount Zion

We climbed up to Mount Zion, a place we’ve been many times, but never fails to entrance me. We walked toward the Jewish Quarter. We found it bustling with people. The city is full of tourists from everywhere in the world, and everyone was having a great time. There are now numerous stores and restaurants in the Jewish Quarter, but our destination was the Hurva Synagogue. The history of the synagogue is here. Destroyed in 1948 when the Arabs captured the Old City and murdered some Jews and exiled the rest, the rubble lay waiting for redemption. In 1967, with the reunification of Jerusalem, a decision needed to be made about what to do with all of the destroyed buildings. Eventually, only an arch was erected at the ruins of the Hurva and it stood as a symbol of what had been there. Fortunately, the end of the story is a happy one. A year ago full reconstruction of the synagogue was completed, and we were able to see it in all of its glory last Monday. It was particularly then since they were going to be dedicating a sefer torah that night and the next night was shavuot. The synagogue was festooned with flowers.

After dinner, we descended Mount Zion and went back to the hotel to get ready for the opera.

Walking down from Mount Zion

. The Israeli orchestra and soloists were accompanied by a choir from Romania. There were thousands of people in attendance. The performance was magnificent. The setting, exquisite. We walked from the performance back to our hotel, looking back at the city walls. The atmosphere was magical.

As Jerusalem mayor, Nir Barkat, said to the audience, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

Vietnam & Cambodia this August!!

We are very excited about our upcoming tour of Vietnam and Cambodia. Traveling to this magnificent part of the world is a treat to the senses from the beautiful sights to the lovely music and the amazing landscapes. All this and kosher too!!!

You can find our itinerary here

and read about the tour here and here

Vietnam and Cambodia are photographers’ paradises. I am including just a few more photos, but I could have easily added another 50. Please come and join us on this fantastic tour!

My email is

Inside the grounds of the Temple of Literature

Traffic in downtown Hanoi

Walking beside rice terraces in the north

Girls talking in the market

Malta, Part 5

Shabbat descended on Malta. We had had our frozen meals heated in the microwave just before I lit the candles and my husband brought them up to our room. We enjoyed a restful evening. We got up early in the morning and made our way to the synagogue.

Malta has a small Jewish community. There is one family that is primarily involved in keeping the synagogue going. Mr. Avraham Ohayon is the president of the congregation and one of his sons, Reuben, serves as the shaliach tzibor. Their extended family comprises a good portion of the Malta Jewish community. There are about 80-100 Jews in Malta.

We walked along the seaside and then veered to the right and a couple of blocks later, the synagogue was on the left. The synagogue is located in an apartment building. There is no indication on the outside of the building that there is a synagogue inside. We worried that we wouldn’t be able to get in because without a key, one would have to buzz to enter. That is one of the reasons we made sure to come early. As it happened, just as we got to the building, a woman was going into it via the front door and we followed her in. We walked up to the apartment which was located on the first floor above ground level. We knocked on the door, but no one else had arrived yet.

After a few minutes, Mr. Reuben Ohayon and some other people arrived. The apartment in which the synagogue is located is very large and the area was very pleasantly planned. The men’s section was long and thin with the ark at one end and the reader’s desk in the center. The men’s chairs were located on either long side of the room facing the center. The women’s section was at the back separated by a tasteful curtain. The room used for the kiddush was off to the side.

The service started at about 10 a.m. and the service followed the Ashkenazi (European) ritual even though the majority of Maltese Jews originally lived in northern Africa. There were two sifrei torah, one Sefardi and one Ashkenazi. About 25 men and about 10 women showed up as well as a number of children including the famous quadruplets, two boys and two girls who are now in their teens. During the torah service, the wimple (the long piece of fabric that is wrapped around the torah as is done in German synagogues) was given to the women to coil and it was passed from one woman to another and each held it and said a prayer. After the torah service, they said a prayer for the government of Malta, just as Jews in every land pray for the well-being of their government. Then they said a prayer for the members of the Israel Defense Forces. The service was very beautiful and very moving.

After the service, the very warm, welcoming congregation gathered for a lovely kiddush serving products mostly imported from Israel. A mixture of English, Maltese, and Hebrew was spoken. It was lovely meeting these people and with the increased number of Israelis visiting Malta these days, perhaps the community will gain strength.

Jews visiting Malta over shabbat should take advantage of the opportunity to visit the synagogue and meet this community. Since hotels are scattered throughout Malta, it would be a very good idea to locate the synagogue on a map and then find a hotel that is nearby. The synagogue is on Enrico Mizzi Street which appears on the map as Enrico Street in Ta’Xbiex. As a basis of judging distance, we stayed at the Park Hotel in Sliema and the walk was between 30 and 40 minutes.

Enjoy Malta, and when you get to the synagogue, be sure to give the people there my warmest regards!

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