Saturday, November 30, 2019

Timeline of a 'situation' in Israel

The word 'situation' has a special meaning in Israel. It is usually used when talking about the security situation in Israel but actually compass quite a wide range of things. Such as the situation that Israel is surrounded by not too friendly neighbours. Or the situation that there are a network of sirens throughout the country to warn us about incoming missiles.

Two weeks ago another type of situation unfolded in Israel and this blogpost describes my own personal experience.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019 - on my way to work

I must have realized that something was up when I got a seat this Tuesday on the express train to Tel Aviv.

This train is always packed by the time it arrives at my home station. I am usually grateful if I just get a place to sit on the floor. Believe me, this is MUCH better than standing packed like a sardine with my fellow travelers.

As I was enjoying sitting on a real seat for a change, a work colleague unexpectedly phoned me. (Is it also true in your lives that an unexpected real voice phone call is a sign of importance?)

She told me that her daughter, who also work in the diamond exchange, got a message that their offices are closed for the day and that maybe I should not even bother to come in. I was taken 100% by surprise, so my colleague filled me in on what I have missed. It turned out to be quite a lot.

Monday, 11 November 2019 - the previous evening

The Israeli defense force killed an Islamist Jihadist Abu al-Ata in Gaza who was responsible for recent rocket attacks Israel. Targeted killings such as these are controversial these days and are often debated in the Knesset (Israeli parliament). We are also still between governments at the moment, so if this killing was authorized by the interim government, it was with good reason

The Islamic Jihadists have however sworn revenge and have started to pepper southern Israel with missiles. Some missiles have even reached the cities just south of Tel Aviv such as Holon and Bat Yam.

Back to Tuesday on the train

Schools and workplaces were closed for the day, including the city of Tel Aviv where I work. The Homefront was concerned that public transport will be targeted. Since I was already on the train, and the only choice was forward, I decided to continue to work and check if our building was closed or not.

By this time, more and more people on the train started to get calls and messages that Tel Aviv might be closed when we arrive there. A group of students seemed happy that their classes might be cancelled, while other people started to confirm or postpone meetings and check in with loved ones.

There is free wi-fi on trains in Israel but it is a bit dodgy as we move from one area to the other. Between the glimpses of on and off, I finally learnt about my fellow countrymen in the south of Israel. Yet once again they were spending their lives in bomb shelters as missiles from the Gaza strip rain on them.

Tuesday 8.30 am - Tel Aviv

Our train finally pulls into the train station and there are no-one else there. It is one of the larger stations with six platforms that are usually packed with people. Especially during the rush hour. Now it felt like a scene from one of those apocalyptic movies where you wondered what happened to all the people.

A few minutes later

My building turned out to be open, though the security guard warned me that everything else will be closed. The diamond exchange is like a small contained (and bustling) city with banks, offices, synagogues, restaurants, travel agencies and a post office. I have even heard that there is a church too but I have never seen it.  And of course there are the packed diamond halls where diamonds are bought and sold every minute. Now everything was closed because of the 'situation'.

Once again I got that apocalyptic feeling as I entered an elevator by myself. But then a tough life-hardened diamond dealer joined me and of course we talked about the 'situation'. He told me that our building is quite safe but to rather stay away from the windows. I was not sure if I should freak out or feel reassured.

I often complain that I feel as though I work in a jail, but was grateful for all the re-inforced concrete today.

In the office I chatted with my mom, husband and manager about the 'situation' and then did the only thing I could. I started to work.

Continuously during the day

The management of the diamond exchange kept announcing over the PA system on what to do in case of a missile attack. And that they recommend that offices should not open today.(Not everyone is an early starter like me….)

Notice in an elevator with instructions on what to do in a 'situation'.

Check the news for updates and pray for the families in the bomb shelters.

Check the train app to see if I will be able to make it home that evening. (There were trains but only north-bound ones.)

Follow the news obsessively that evening while worrying about the families in the bomb shelters.

Wednesday, 13 November 7 am

Got a message from the diamond exchange that the Homefront said it is okay for them to be open.

Wednesday, 13 November 9.30 am

Discuss the 'situation' with my work colleagues who left me all by myself the previous day. 

The office admin informs us what to do in case the alarms sound. (We basically just go and stand in the stairwell for 10 minutes.)

Feel guilty about being more less safe while so many people are still living in bomb shelters.

Keep an eye on the news. Praying that the Islamic Jihadists will finally run out of missiles. Or will be discouraged to continue as the IDF carries out airstrikes against more suspected Islamic Jihadists.

Hoping that the families on the bomb shelters are doing okay even though they are in the forefront of the current 'situation'. Send a quick prayer for their safety and sanity.

A notice in the lobby of our building. It says "To the shelter".

Thursday, 14 November 8:40 am 

The news reports that a cease-fire was reached and life in Israel went back to default mode. Which translates into "Go back to living your normal lives but listen for sirens and be prepared to run to the shelters."

This morning, walking from the train station to the building that I work in, I noticed that the coffee shops are open and filled with people again. And the buskers and beggars are back to doing their thing.

As I passed one of the regular buskers, a John Denver fan with a Labrador companion, a snippet of his song caught my ear:

"Lord, help us all…."

*Remember that this is only my personal account of a security situation in Israel. Innocent bystanders, on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, have had a much worse experience than me.

**I am posting this blog on December 1, 2019 two weeks after the situation described above unfolded. I am sad to say that the ceasefire did not hold. Israeli's in the south are sporadiacally being fired on with missiles from Gaza and are constantly returning to the bomb shelters.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Rockefeller Archaeological museum

For some odd reason, the Rockefeller Archaeological museum is NOT on the list of must-see museums in Israel.

And it definitely should be.

Why you should visit the Rockefeller Archaeological museum

Granted, it does not have the amazing constantly updated art exhibitions of the Tel Aviv museum of art. Or world renown archaeological items such as the Dead Sea scrolls. Those are preserved in a special climate-controlled chamber at the Shrine of the book museum.

There are also no interactive displays that will take you on a 'back-in-time' journey through Israel's rich history. Or a museum shop selling T-shirts decorated with prints of ancient graffiti or posters of the old kings and rulers of the past.

There is just a cool old building filled with cool old stuff.

An old-school historian's kind of museum. The type of place where Indiana Jones would feel at home.

There might not be any interactive displays to the past but actually the entire building is like a time capsule. Just step through the beautiful carved doors and you will find yourself in a different time-space continuum.

This museum is like 100% old-school

The entire Rockefeller archaeological museum feels as though it was frozen in time for the last 50 years. It even smells old-fashioned. Maybe it is the floor polish? Or the stuff that is used to keep the display cases so pristine?

Have a look at this translation of some dead guy's tombstone. The content is quite fascinating by itself but did you notice the font and the paper that was used? Don't you agree that it looks as though someone typed it out on parchment paper on a REAL typewriter? Like fifty years ago?

Ancient notice written in Greek

Slightly less ancient notice written in English

Who dreamed the Rockefeller Archaeological museum into existence?

All of the antiquities that the Brits managed to dig up were housed in some obscure old building somewhere. But then in 1925 James Henry Breasted, founder and director of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute came for a visit and he was like:

"Dudes, you need a proper museum for all these cool stuff."

And Lord Plumer (the guy running the show then in British Palestine) was like:
"You CAN do it!"

So the Chicago museum guy said: "Hold my ancient oriental artifact from undetermined age..gently."

And he talked to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and was like: "So the pommies in Palestine don't want you to build a museum in Cairo but you are allowed to build one in Israel."

And Rockefeller was like "Groovy" or whatever an American would say in the 1920's and donated two million dollars.

They started building in 1930 but then had to stop for a while because they managed to dig up some ancient graves..obviously. The museum was finally completed in 1938 and officially named the Palestine Archaeological Museum.

In 1948, with the outbreak of the Israeli War of Independence, the museum was closed but opened again 20 days later.

An international trustee (aka group of people who like old stuff) was created to run the museum. Remember that those days Jerusalem was divided into east and west. For a while the country Jordan, who annexed the West Bank was in charge of the museum for a couple of years.

After the Six Day War, Jerusalem was reunited and the museum was renamed as the Rockefeller Archaeological museum. 

Who designed the Rockefeller Archaeological museum?

The architect of the museum was Austen Harrison from Britain.  He was named after the writer Jane Austen - an ancestor of his.

An interesting fact about Austen Harrison was that he wanted to resign from the military during the First World War. The senseless killing got to him and he did not want to be a part of it anymore. It would not however look good if a career officer from an established family just "left" the war. Eventually a compromise was reached and he spent the rest of the war as a stretcher bearer.

Austen REALLLY liked his arches.

After the war Austen Harrison studied architecture and eventually found himself in Israel as Chief Architect in the Department of Public Works in the civil administration of British Palestine.

More about the artifacts INSIDE the museum

There are many treasures in the Rockefeller museum and part of the fun (I believe) is wandering through the halls and 'discovering' them for yourself.

Ancient Jewish lighting devices

Israel has a rich history and you will be able to find anything from a skull with a square hole to ancient jewelry, fertility figurines, ceramics and even old wooden panels from the Al Aqsa mosque.

I couldn't find the description for this skull but you have to admit that it IS rather odd, no?

Most of the antiquities in this museum where dug up during the British Mandate period (1919 - 1948). They are arranged in chronological order from prehistoric times to the Ottoman period.

There are no descriptions next to the items in the display cases but each are numbered carefully. If you would like to read more about the artifacts, just hunt down its corresponding number on the pages kept in the special slots against the wall.

The numbered notes will tell you more about the displays

What you shouldn't miss

The entire building is amazing. Just wandering through the halls and soaking in the atmosphere is already winning but here are some unique highlights:

The ceramics display

Jerusalem has been decorated from like forever by amazing colorful ceramics. The ceramics display in the museum is not only beautiful (and very colorful) but also extremely informative about this ancient art medium.

I learnt a lot about ceramics in this gorgeous display in the museum.

The inner courtyard

Right in the center of the building there is this beautiful courtyard decorated with ancient sarcophagi. It is a great place to rest your feet and listen to the relaxing sound or running water.

The ceramics at the other end of the courtyard

Don't just rest at the courtyard, walk around and discover the pretty hidden corner covered from top to bottom with blue tiles.

Panels from the Holy Sepulchre church

These panels used to decorate the Holy Sepulchre church but was kept for safe-keeping in the museum after a fire. I guess that they stayed at the museum because they are a bit on the fragile side. The curators did an awesome job identifying the figures and symbols on the panels and explaining them.

There is also a cool small model of this church in the museum.

The real Holy Sepulchre church are just a few minutes walk away in the Old City of Jerusalem

The prehistoric stuff

We tend to think of archaeology in Israel with either a religious or "current-ruler" (Byzantine, Roman, Ottoman sultans etc.) focus. But before all of that, Israel was also a land bridge between Africa, Asia and Europe.

In the museum there are quite a large collection of artifacts of the people who lived here WAY back in time.
Ancient figurines showing what women had to do before bras were invented.
Proof that the Flintstones also visited the Holy Land :)

Statues and decorations from Hisham's palace

I have never heard of this palace before. Apparently this palace, that is found just outside Jericho, is one of the desert palaces and was built in the 8th century (more or less).

"Not only is my perm too tight but this roof is starting to get REALLY heavy after a couple of centuries."

Directions to the Rockefeller Archaeological museum

The Rockefeller Archaeological museum is in East Jerusalem at 27 Sultan Suleiman street,
across the street from the Old City Wall.

Parking is limited but it is easy to reach by bus or tram. I took the tram to Damascus Gate and then walked downhill for about 10 minutes. The hexagonal tower of the museum is quite easy to spot.

And the entrance is free! Be sure though to check the museum's website for opening times.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

10 reasons why it is easy to be a vegan in Israel

Israel has been known as the Vegan Nation for quite a while now and has apparently the highest number of vegans per capita. Even McDonalds Israel have started to serve vegan burgers. 

So when a recent vegan Instagram acquaintance visited Israel and posted how easy life in Israel is for vegans, I did some looking around. 

My conclusion is yes, it is definitely easy to be a vegan in Israel and here are ten reasons why:

Red meat is too expensive here in Israel, so we eat red fruits instead..:)
  1. Red meat is very expensive here. Israel is a small country and real estate prices are high. We really do not have enough SPACE for livestock. We hardly have enough space for humans! Most of the meat are imported from countries such as Poland and Argentina. We do get fresh meat from local farms, usually from the northern and less urban part of Israel but you are going to pay dearly for it!
  2. Strict slaughter kosher laws. All animals, chickens included, are slaughtered according to strict religious requirements. The extra cost for this type of slaughter is passed along to the consumer - making meat products even more expensive.Recently some rabbis also decided to become vegan. They think it is humanly impossible to enforce the proper slaughter rules for the huge amount of animals that are slaughtered.
  3. A looooong tradition of separating milk and meat products. Many Israeli's, not just religious Jews, keep some type of kosher kitchen. Meat and milk products are usually not mixed which means that just about all packaged food products are clearly labeled as either milky, meaty or parve (neither milk or meat).This makes it really easy to find food that do not contain animal products.
  4. Israelis are nuts about nuts. Peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios and many more are serious staples. You cannot watch sports (live or on TV) without snacking on nuts or seeds.There are special 'snack' shops here is Israel that specializes in selling a wide range of anything nutty. These shops are usually packed on Fridays because Israelis just have to stock up on these healthy snacks for the weekend.

  5. Nuts are a popular snack for Israelis
  6. A love of produce. Fruit and vegetables are an important part of the Israeli diet. We even eat salad for breakfast! Just about every meal has some type of vegetable - even if it is just a few pieces of sliced tomato and cucumber and a few olives.

    As a matter of fact, the Lancet recently concluded that the Israel has the lowest rate of diet-related deaths worldwide. And it not because we don't eat meat or other junk food but because we ALSO eat lots of fruit and vegetables.
  7. Just another juice shop because Israelis need their smoothies and juices and fruit salads.
  8. A fusion of the Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern diets. Chickpeas, eggplants in any variation, cauliflower, lentils,mezze, bulghur (cracked wheat)  tehina and hummus are just some of our traditional plant-based dishes packed with protein. Israelis are also fond of Far East cuisine and are no strangers to tofu and soya products.

  9. Hummus is a SERIOUS staple food in Israel

  10. Meatless street food such as felafel, sabiach,  borekas, shaksuka and hummus is very popular and often eaten a few times a week. Shaksuka and sabiach are made with eggs and so are not actually vegan. And cheese borekas have are made with cheese. But still, these meatless dishes are big staples in the regular Israeli diet.
  11. A strong anti-cruelty lobby. One of the Jewish mitzvot (good deeds) state that you should not harm animals. I think the ancient example is that one should first  unpack and feed your ox before you go and rest yourself. Both vegan lobbyists such as 269 Life and the rabbis who think that it is not possible to keep proper kosher laws in today's massive slaughterhouses often remind the rest of us of this ancient creed.
  12. Israel has innovative chefs who are not afraid of fusion and to try new things. I find it a bit strange that a race of people with so many ingrained and ancient traditions insists on constantly innovating and trying new things. Cherry tomatoes, a whole roasted cauliflower and shwarma made from mushrooms are a few examples.

  13. Cherry tomatoes were developed in Israel in 1973 - photo credit Monika Stawowy

  14. A huge potential market. Veganism is becoming a huge market internationally and growing every day. Here in Israel we are constantly experimented on exposed to a  large range of meatless products that I am pretty sure will also be seen in overseas supermarkets in the near future.

    Just think of how everyone is eating pita bread, hummus and shakshuka all over the world now. As soon as Israeli innovators will figure out how to market, shelve and sell more vegan products internationally, the more money is to be made.
We are spoiled for choice regarding meatless products.

And that is my ten reasons why Israel is a mecca for vegans and other health nuts.
Maybe a new slogan for tourists should be:

Come and visit us here in Israel- see the sights and stuff yourself with tasty vegan food!

If you'd like to receive my occasional "Letter from Israel" in your email box, how about signing up at the box in the top-right corner. I am a fierce hater of spam myself and I promise that I only send out these emails VERY occasionally - though I really should be a bit less lazy.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The time of the jellyfish

Photo credit: Wikipedia commons
It is right in the middle of the summer  in Israel. The temperatures are often touching the 40’s and
everyone is irritable and grumpy. So maybe it is a good idea to go and cool off in one of our beautiful
Noooo!! It is a terrible idea! No matter how hot it gets or how inviting the blue water in the Mediterranean looks,
do NOT get into the water! Every summer, for usually about two to three weeks, the seas surrounding Israel are invested with
large jellyfish. In the water they look very innocent and are often mistaken for floating plastic bags. Their sting however can be extremely painful. Believe me, I speak from painful  - extreme painful experience.  In the beginning of the jellyfish season it is still possible to share the sea with them. Just keep your
eyes open and make sure that no body part comes in direct contact with the jellyfish. Later on, as their numbers increase, one cannot even be in the water. The slime that they give off has
some poisonous element that burns the skin. It creates an itchy and burning sensation and can even cause small cut-like lesions. The jellyfish only started to arrive in Israel about 30 years ago. They're actually
indigenous to the Indian ocean but gained access to the Mediterranean with the opening of the Suez canal. Every year the jellyfish arrive just as the weather gets REALLY hot and you are just dying for a dip in
the sea. And every year they seem to get bigger...and there is always that impractical joke someone
tells about gathering them to sell them to the Japanese.
Apparently this year the number of jellyfish are much higher than usual. Scientists say it is because of the high rainfall we had last winter that translates into more runoff and nutrients in the sea. Israeli scientists are also now studying exactly how the jellyfish's sting works to improve the way that drugs are delivered
in a human body.

Workers at
the electricity plants that use seawater to cool of their systems as well as those
working at the desalination plants now have to guard against these spineless invaders.

There are still some brave souls venturing into the water during the jellyfish season but I am definitely
NOT one of them. Maybe they have thicker skin or sharper eyes to spot the jellyfish in the water.  But still the first aid stations on the beaches have vinegar in a stray bottle handy for these 'brave' swimmers. The acid helps to neutralize the jellyfishes' sting but it only helps so much. You are still going to suffer.
I had the misfortune so swim straight into a jellyfish. A LARGE one. I was swimming breaststroke and
the underside of my forearm came into full contact with the tentacle side of the jellyfish. The burn is so so bad, it feels as though you cannot breathe.  I knew that I got a bad sting but the widened eyes of the first aid worker on the beach was not
reassuring at all. He basically dumped the entire contents of the vinegar bottle on a soft cloth and pressed it to my arm. And told me to go to a hospital if I feel worse. Luckily I didn't need to go but that burn stayed with me for more than a week.

Never, EVER touch the tentacles of a jellyfish
And do you know how difficult it is to sleep without the underside of your forearm touching anything?

Since the time of my jellyfish sting, we just sit under the air conditioning (or go to a swimming pool)
during jellyfish season. The jellyfish will eventually move on with the tides and leave the Israeli beaches. And finally it will be safe to get into the water again.  Until next year...
If you'd like to receive my occasional "Letter from Israel" in your email box, how about signing up at the box in the top-right corner. I am a fierce hater of spam myself and I promise that I only send out these emails VERY occasionally - though I really should be a bit less lazy.

Friday, July 12, 2019

With help from the heavens

Life in Israel is pretty much similar to life anywhere on the planet. People die and get born, go to school and university and we celebrate birthdays and weddings. We are also confronted daily by numerous billboards trying to sell us anything from cars to sunglasses.

But there is a small detail that I have noticed only here in Israel. (Though it is apparently also found in religious Jewish countries around the world.) In the upper right corner of death notices, birth or wedding invitations and on some billboards (usually aimed at the religious population) you will find the words bs”d. (Not to be confused with BDS!)

I heard that religious Jews also write these three letters at the top of their notes, letters and other correspondence.

But what does it mean? Is it a secret code?

Bs’d is an acronym for the ancient Aramaic phrase,  “be’saida de’samaima”. It means with the help of the heavens.

The word “heavens” refers to God, as in with the help of God we are hosting this wedding. Or with the help of God the restaurant advertised on this billboard will serve these delicious smelling coffee and cakes ...

The word heavens instead of God is used because the sender is worried that the invitation or notebook or advertisement will eventually be thrown out and go to a landfill.

Old Bibles and religious writings or any piece of paper referring to God are carefully disposed in a genizah. A genizah is sort of like disposal place for religious Jewish texts such as old Bibles and papers with religious content.

An ancient language that is still used today

One of the intriguing things for me about the words “be’saida de’samaima” is that it is in Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Middle East years and years ago. Sort of like English today.

The Talmud and other ancient religious writings were written in Aramaic. Anyone serious about studying Judaism will definitely also learn some of this ancient language too. Luckily there are many similarities to Hebrew, so if you know your Hebrew well, you can more or less figure out the Aramaic.

WHO could make such a silly spelling mistake?

Some Aramaic words became part of the modern Hebrew spoken today in Israel. I will never forget how I learnt that the word “safta” ,which means grandmother, is actually an Aramaic word.
Female words such as grandmother usually ends in a “h” in Hebrew, so I presumed that it is written in Hebrew as סבתה and not סבתא when my daughters ( they were still.small and needed my help) and I wrote their Hebrew-speaking granny a birthday card.

For some reason my sister-in-law looked at the card and asked WHO wrote safta with an h! BIG spelling mistake! It was then that I learnt that the contemporary words for grandmother and grandfather in Hebrew are actually Aramaic words.

Aramaic for everyone

Speaking or Aramaic words, there is an Aramaic phrase that nearly everyone knows but do not know that it is Aramaic.

It is abra kedabara! And I have no idea why it has become this phrase said by magicians but it is quite fitting.

Abra kedabara means “I will create with my words”. As a writer I thought that this is such a cool battle-cry for wordsmiths because we DO create with our words. How cool will it be to add these words at the top of my notebooks and blog posts!

But abra kedabara actually refers to spoken words. It is rather “I will create with the words that I say” and is much.more suitable for magicians than writers. 

So now I have to figure out an Aramaic battle-cry for people like me who create with written words. Sadly Google translate does not have an Aramaic translation option and I only know a few phrases and words myself. Basically all the words that I have mentioned up to now.

I will create

In the end I decided to let the blank page be my muse, my battle-cry and my plea for help. 

Religious Jewish people already have bs”d to write at the top of their pages, Steven Pressfield says a prayer to the muses and others literary put on their writing hats. That is, a hat that they only wear when they write. 

My personal style is to just jump right in and start writing. I usually have the words and thoughts already milling about in my head and it is a bit of a relief to finally start writing them down and start to make sense of them. 

But some help from the heavens will always be appreciated!
If you'd like to receive my occasional "Letter from Israel" in your email box, how about signing up at the box in the top-right corner. I am a fierce hater of spam myself and I promise that I only send out these emails VERY occasionally - though I really should be a bit less lazy.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Badass Women of the Bible

Ruth picking up left-over wheat by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

In February, during the activities of international women’s day, a friend sent me a meme that mentioned some of the amazing women of the Bible. It concluded with a sentence that said something like: “Women have ALWAYS been strong”. 

I totally loved the sentiment, so in admiration to all the badass women we have always had here in Israel, I want to highlight these women from the Tanach.

The Tanach is the part of the Bible that Christians refer to as the Old Testament. There may be older scripts than Hebrew in the world but I doubt that they have such fascinating stories about the women of their times.


The wife of Abraham the patriarch followed him into Canaan, was ‘stolen’ twice from her husband and was barren for many years. Everyone always focuses on Abraham as the father of the monotheist religions but they forget that Sarah is just as an important part in these religions. As the first matriarch she was a formidable woman but we also read about her mistakes, jealousy and sorrow.

She also had a cool sense of humour. Abraham and Sarah both laughed when God told them that they become parents. When her son was eventually born, she called him Yitzhak which means “he will laugh” in Hebrew! 

Why I like her:

She did not hesitate to make the unpopular but correct decision. She knew that Hagar and her son Ismael could not stay and told Abraham to send them away. She also made several mistakes but I feel that this only show us that she was a real person, just like all of us and not a “superwoman” or  “goddess-like” character that belongs on a pedestal


The wife of Yitzhak and the second of the matriarchs. She was also barren for a long time and then had a difficult pregnancy with twins, Esau and Jacob.

Rebeccah giving water to Eliezer by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Why I like her:

She was kind-hearted, she gave Yitzhak’s servant and his camels water, and also adventurous. Rebeccah agreed to go to another country and marry a man she had never met. She encouraged the younger Jacob to deceive his father and receive the blessing of the first-born. This act of hers made her seem manipulative but who better than a mother who knows the nature of her children and what they are capable of?


She is the sister of Moses. Not only did she hide her baby brother in a basket in the Nile but she also kept watch over him. And when Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses when she took her bath, his big sister ‘conveniently’ knew of an available wet nurse.

Why I like her:

Miriam is the typical older sister who has become a surrogate mother for her little brother. If it was not for her (and several other women as Pharoah’s daughter) Moses would not have lived. Later on, during the exodus, she was also an important leader, just like her brothers, Aaron and Moses. 

Naomi and Ruth

Naomi was a Hebrew women but lived with her husband, her two sons and her daughters’ in-law in the Moabites land because there was a serious famine in Israel. When her husband and sons died, she decided to go back to her people in Israel. 

Her daughter-in-law Ruth decided to accompany her poor mother-in-law to a country where she did not know anybody. Also the Hebrews were not exactly fans of the Moabites. Naomi and Ruth were so poor that Ruth had to pick up the wheat stalks that were left behind on the fields as charity.

Why I like them: 

They both took a leap of faith into a very unknown and uncertain future. Their strong love and regard for each other bonded them through the deaths of their husbands and going into an uncertain but probably poor future.They may not have much but at least they had each other.

Vashti and Esther

Esther usually takes the center stage but she couldn’t have saved the Jewish people in Persia if it weren’t for Vashti.

Vashti was the queen of Persia. During a long festival her husband asked her to join him and his drunken cronies so that he can brag about her beauty. She refused and was executed because of it.

Esther, a Jewish orphan, was pushed by her uncle to apply to the beauty pageant that in the end led to her being chosen to be the new queen. Eventually she had to approach the king (without waiting to be summoned) to plead for the lives of her people.

Why I like them: 

 Both of them were “beauty-queen” beautiful but they didn’t just enjoyed their elevated lifestyle that their good looks gave them. They stood by their principles and chose the difficult option even though it led to Vashti’s death and could have led to Esther’s death too.


Deborah was the only female judge that ruled over the Jews before they decided that they also wanted kings as rulers. During her time as judge, the Jews were terrorized by Jabin, a king of Canaan, and his general Sisera how had an army that included 900 iron chariots. 

Deborah asked the Jewish general Barak to gather men to go and fight against him. He agreed but on the condition that she accompany them to the battle. She did so but added that Barak will not get the honour of killing Sisera but a woman will. The Jews defeated Jabin’s army with the help of a sudden flood that swept away some of his soldiers and that caused the chariots to get stuck in the mud.

Why I like her:

Deborah showed excellent leader skills. She did not decide to lead the Hebrew army herself but choose the general, Barak, for the battle. And then she did not hesitate to leave her duties and family to go and support this unconfident and doubtful leader.  (Maybe Barak was looking for someone to blame if the Jews lost the battle..)


Yael’s story is closely connected to that of Deborah. As Jabin’s army was defeated, Sisera abandoned his soldiers and looked for water and shelter. Yael helped him and when he fell asleep, she took a sharp tent pin and hammer and drove the pen through Sisera’s skull. She fulfilled Deborah’s prophecy that a woman will kill the general.

Yael and Sisera by Jacopo Amigon

Why I like her:

She must have looked quite unthreatening to Sisera but her story shows that you should never underestimate a woman. Especially if she is very innovative with finding dual purposes for objects such as tent pins!

And many more...

Abigail, Rahab, Tamar, Puah and Shiphrah and Jochebed and more. There are MANY other women whose acts of bravery saved the day and caused events to unfold as they did. 

As long as I can remember, it was always the actions of the men mentioned in the Bible that got told over and over again. The women are usually presented as vague secondary characters, assistants to the men. 

If you read their stories as they are written in the Bible, it is obvious that these women were strong badass three-dimensional humans with strengths and flaws just as interesting as those of the men of the Bible. 

One of the ways to raise confident female leaders of the future, is to teach them about these amazing female leaders of the past.

Long live the matriarchy! 

With grateful thanks for Alex, who set me that meme that inspired this post.

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