Memories from Old City of Jerusalem – Israel

The Old City of Jerusalem is one of the most intense places on Earth! At the heart of the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian religions, this one-kilometer, walled-in area in the center of Jerusalem is beyond words and cannot be missed. The Old City is home to the Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall and in Hebrew Kotel). This is the last remaining wall of what was once the Jewish Temple and is today the holiest site in the world for Jews.

Above the Western Wall lies the Dome of the Rock, which is important for Muslims as the site where the prophet Muhammad is said to have risen to heaven.

 

people gathering near brick wall

Just a few minutes’ walk away lies the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where some believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters; The Jewish Quarter, The Armenian Quarter, The Christian Quarter, and The Muslim Quarter. The walled city is entered by one of seven entry gates, although the busiest for tourists is the Jaffa Gate next to which is the Tower of David Museum, providing the history of Jerusalem within the Old City Walls. Each quarter has its own unique atmosphere and observations, sites and smells, and experiences.

 

 

In the Jewish Quarter, for instance, the narrow alleyways are lined by the homes of Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish families and Yeshivas (schools for Torah study). Walking around, you can observe the residents of the Jewish quarter go about their daily lives. There are teenage students in the Yeshivas who are often here from around the world, children playing outside schools between lessons, men rushing around between places of worship – and of course, many people praying at the Western Wall. The houses of the Old City – and the Jewish quarter, in particular – are hotly contested real estate, and for good reason. They command spectacular prices on the rare occasion that they trade hands.

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The Jewish Quarter’s narrow alleyways open up as you reach the Western Wall Plaza and the wall itself. At times of Jewish festivals, the wall can be crowded, and observing the tourists brushing alongside daily prayers here is an interesting site. Anybody can go up to the wall, although men and women have separate areas. Men should cover their heads (there are paper kippahs available), and women should wear modest clothing. It is customary to place a small prayer on a piece of paper within a crack on the wall. Amazingly, the vast Western Wall represents just a tiny percentage of this elevation of the Temple, and the Western Wall Tunnels, accessed via the plaza, allow visitors to see even more of the wall underground. Also interestingly, within the Muslim Quarter is whats known as the Little Western Wall where the wall is once again exposed and visible. This is argued to be holier than the iconic section of the wall because it is closer to the ‘Holy of Holies’ – the holiest part of the Temple.

The Muslim Quarter is a huge contrast to the Jewish Quarter. Its streets are busier and more crowded, with vendors – especially within the famous Shuk – selling all varieties of products. In contrast to the other quarters where shops are generally selling religious or tourist-appealing products, here the Shuk is literally an ancient shopping mall in the 21st century where one can practice their bartering skills and buy almost anything imaginable. As in the Jewish Quarter, and the rest of the Old City, tourists wandering the streets of the Muslim Quarter find it hard to imagine how the locals go about their everyday business so normally in what is such an intense place. Kids play in the street, and men sit out in cafes smoking nargila (hookah or shisha).

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The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

 

The Dome of the Rock sits above the Western Wall Plaza, and while non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the building itself, tourists are able to tour the compound and nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Moving into the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, there is yet another change. Home to about 40 holy sites to Christians, in the streets here you will see priests and pilgrims from around the world. This quarter was constructed around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried. Within this hot patch of real estate, even the Church is divided, with different parts controlled by different Christian sects, meaning that there are often disputes over maintenance and some parts are in poor condition.

The Armenian Quarter is one of the four sections within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The other Quarters are the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Quarters. The Armenians have the smallest section in the Old City and take up 14% of the total area of the Old City. The Quarter is home to approximately 2,000 people many of whom are connected to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Armenians have their own distinct language and culture and are ethnically neither Arab nor Jewish.

The Armenians originated from Turkey, the Caucasus Mountains and Iran. Soon after Jesus’ death the Armenians were converted to Christianity and ever since then have been making pilgrimages to the Holy Land.  Armenian monks arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD. Jerusalem’s Armenian community is considered the oldest living Armenian Diaspora community in the world.

Armenians have had a strong presence in the city since at least the fourth century, when Armenia became Christian. Their quarter is said to be the oldest living Armenia diaspora community. Thousands of displaced survivors of the Armenian Genocide relocated to this part of Jerusalem in the 20th century.

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Narrow Alley in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem

Armenians displaced from the former Ottoman Empire because of the genocide brought with them a special type of Turkish-style ceramic, which has since become synonymous with Jerusalem and Armenians. It’s now used for all the street signs in the Old City and is also sold in many stores. Explore the walled Old City of Jerusalem, and you’ll soon spot beautifully crafted ceramic street signs spread through the area.

The Armenian compound is enclosed by an inner wall within the Armenian Quarter and includes St. James, a convent, school, churches and residences. Along the walk from the Jaffa Gate past the Zion Gate and to the Jewish Quarter are many small shops displaying the beautiful hand-painted Armenian pottery which is made locally. Armenian ceramics can be seen adorning many parts of the Old City including the Dome of the Rock and neighborhood street signs.

 

Focusing on “We” Instead of “Me”

Getting your first leadership role is exciting, isn’t it? There’s the office with your name on the door. Being invited to meetings once closed off and mysterious. Getting to make the big decisions. People asking for your advice.

Heady stuff that sends the wrong message to people who think being a leader is all about them.

Being a leader is a little bit about you, but mostly it’s all about others.

One of my first bosses told me that it would be impressive performance metrics and my contribution to the bottom line that would determine my success. It took a while before I understood that his advice about results was only partially right. Managing just to the numbers only gets you so far.

A few epic fails highlighted the reality that results don’t miraculously deliver themselves. They’re delivered by people. Treat people well, they deliver—and everyone succeeds. Treat people like crap and, well, results falter.

Listening with the eyes and the heart, not just the ears and the brain, requires a deeper level of paying attention and understanding. It requires we hear the heart and soul. ~Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge

My way of describing the inclusive reality Kouzes and Posner defined was leading with your heart and managing with your head.

Inclusive leaders know the value of balancing opposing goods, rather than labeling one right and the other wrong. Inclusive leaders deliver results and maintain relationships. They watch both the bottom line as well as employee satisfaction and engagement. They think about today and five years from now.

How do inclusive leaders pull off this balancing act?

They are curious.

One boss I had worked very hard to fulfill the unrealistic expectation that he had every answer. Two sentences into describing a problem to him, and he had the solution—without bothering to ask a single question. Other bosses of mine had the inclusive thing down pat. They were knowledgeable and knew where to go to find answers to what they didn’t know. They openly asked questions, invited debate, poked holes in the status quo, and encouraged those around them to do the same.

They trust.

That know-it-all-boss-with-zero-curiosity didn’t realize it, but he was conveying to his team that they were without skills, knowledge, and the ability to figure things out for themselves. Inclusive leaders surround themselves with bright, inquisitive people and trust them to do their job.

They explain.

At one company, my boss assigned me the project of improving customer service. When I asked for specifics, he told me that since I had to ask, I obviously wasn’t as smart as he had thought I was. Because he couldn’t or wouldn’t or both clarify his expectations, my finished project didn’t please him, and everyone lost.

They listen.

Organizational development and management consultant Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communications is hearing what isn’t said.” Employees perceive reality through their own filters, values, and biases. Deeply, empathically, and actively listening to what employees say—and don’t say—enables inclusive leaders to expand their perspectives, thus entertaining diversity of thought, opinion, and experience.

They care.

Years ago, a woman told me her boss treated her no differently than the file cabinet in the corner—both utilitarian objects there to do a job. Isn’t that a sad story? Inclusive leaders keep both logic and emotion in their management toolkits. They know both are necessary for success, satisfaction, and engagement over the long-term.

Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin. ~Hermann Hesse, poet and novelist

If asked, would those around you describe you as being curious, someone they trusted, a thorough explainer, a good listener, and a leader who cares about them as a person? Would they say you’re inclusive and can balance opposing goods? Ready to find out?

World’s best beaches

TripAdvisor®, the travel planning and booking site, today announced the winners of its Travelers’ Choice® awards for beaches. The gorgeous Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos won the top honor as the best beach in the world this year, up from the number two ranking last year and reclaiming the top spot it held in 2016. Florida’s Clearwater Beach was the number one beach in America, up three spots from its U.S. ranking one year ago, and capturing the top spot in the country it held in 2016. Award winners were determined based on the quantity and quality of traveler reviews and ratings for beaches on TripAdvisor, gathered over a 12-month period.

 

 

“Soft sand, clear waters and balmy temperatures are common threads among these Travelers’ Choice award-winning beaches that have delighted millions of TripAdvisor reviewers across the globe,” said Brooke Ferencsik, senior director of communications for TripAdvisor.

“The Caribbean and Florida stake claims as the most decorated on the world and U.S. lists respectively, and based on TripAdvisor price reports, travellers can still find outstanding value on warm-weather escapes to these popular beaches this year.”

To help travellers plan their next beach trip, TripAdvisor has identified highly-rated value hotels near the award-winning beaches this March as well as great round-trip airfare found on TripAdvisor over the next six months.

 

Top 10 Travelers’ Choice Beaches in the U.S.:

1. Clearwater Beach – Clearwater, Florida
About a forty-minute drive west of TampaClearwater Beach dazzles with two and a half miles of sugar-white sand, crystal-clear waters and tranquil Gulf breezes. Perched on a barrier island, the beach offers calm, shallow water, making it an ideal playground for families. “GREAT white sand beach … very long, so if you are a beach walker, you will be happy. There is nothing like FL white, silky, sand! I love it!” shared a TripAdvisor traveller

2. Siesta Beach – Siesta Key, Florida
Less than thirty minutes south of Sarasota, Siesta Beach on Siesta Key is renowned for its eight-mile stretch of sugar-fine, quartz-white sand. It’s also a great spot for kids to collect seashells and sand dollars.  “It is a very large beach that accommodates lots of people — it has lots of parking, picnic tables, BBQ, there is also a snack shop. It gets very crowded so timing is important,” added a TripAdvisor reviewer.

3. Ka’anapali Beach – Lahaina, Hawaii
Among the most visited beach in West Maui, this area is a popular spot for quiet relaxation or water sports. It’s also famous for the daily cliff diving ceremony off of the beach’s northernmost cliffs known as “Puu Kekaa” or Black Rock. According to a TripAdvisor reviewer, “Amazing this time of year. Right from the beach, we saw amazing whale breaches. The sand is amazing and the beach is well kept up!”

4. South Beach – Miami Beach, Florida
People watching is a great pastime in Miami’s South Beach, which draws celebrities and models. Travelers love the wide, fine, white sand-covered beaches as well as the surrounding area, known for wild nightlife and excellent restaurants. “Direct access to the beach! The promenade is always full of people walking, biking and strolling with their dogs and families. Very clean and well-kept area” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer.

5. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve – Honolulu, Hawaii
Located on the southeast coast of Oahu, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of Hawaii’s most popular natural attractions. Travelers note that the beach is good for swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing and picnicking. According to a TripAdvisor user, “One of my favourite places to visit in Hawaii. I sincerely appreciate the staff’s every effort to preserve and respect marine/aquatic life. I would have given it a 5 star except for the very limited parking.”

6. Fort Lauderdale Beach – Fort Lauderdale, Florida
With miles of sun-kissed beachfront and an easy walk from many hotels, restaurants and activities, Fort Lauderdale Beach is a favourite among travellers. Families often rave about the beach’s cleanliness, warm water, on-duty lifeguards, and beautiful palm trees. “Nice place to enjoy the Atlantic breezes and take in the sun rays. It is beautifully maintained and very clean. Also, there are many establishments across the boulevard where you can have food and drinks,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer.

7. Saint Pete Beach – St. Pete Beach, Florida
Saint Pete Beach is famous for its golden-white sand and aquatic activities, such as parasailing, stand-up paddle boarding and windsurfing. This gorgeous, laid-back beach is also known for glorious sunsets. “The sand is soft and easy to walk on. The water was gentle and clean. The place is well-groomed and offers a huge expanse of play area,” commented a TripAdvisor reviewer.

8. Hollywood Beach – Hollywood, Florida
Hollywood Beach is well known as a family-friendly place due to the calm water, available bathroom facilities, live entertainment and the nearby restaurants across the large Boardwalk. “Hollywood Beach is clean and beautiful. The boardwalk is great for biking, walking, enjoying a meal or drink at a restaurant. Many places to stay right on the boardwalk,” added a TripAdvisor user.

9. Santa Monica Beach – Santa Monica, California
This popular beach is a favorite among television and movie producers and has a great surrounding area with its world-famous Pacific Park seaside amusement park. Travelers can soak up the sun on the three-mile coastline with mountain views and walking and biking paths. “It’s a lovely beach: large and spacious with great views up and down the coast. The breeze from the Santa Ana Winds always feels good,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer.

10. Lanikai Beach – Kailua, Hawaii
Located on the Windward Coast of Oahu, the name Lanikai means “heavenly sea,” and travellers rave about this small half-mile strip of beach. Beachgoers often take advantage of the many water activities, such as canoe tours, kayak rentals and snorkelling. “Another beautiful Hawaiian beach with golden sand, gentle breeze and surf, and amazing coral reefs just offshore,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer.

A person standing on the edge of a cliff by the sea with their arms outstretched

Top 10 Travelers’ Choice Beaches in the world:

1. Grace Bay – Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

2. Baia do Sancho – Fernando de NoronhaBrazil

3. Varadero Beach – Varadero, Cuba

4. Eagle Beach – Palm – Eagle Beach, Aruba

5. Seven Mile Beach – Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

6. La Concha Beach – San Sebastian – Donostia, Spain

7. Clearwater Beach – Clearwater, Florida

8. Seven Mile Beach – Negril, Jamaica

9. Bavaro Beach – Bavaro, Dominican Republic

10. Playa Norte – Isla Mujeres, Mexico

 

View of green hill shoreline from a sand beach

CHRISTINA HADDAD – International Pop Singer Known for her Charismatic Performance and Powerful Voice

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

CHRISTINA HADDAD – International Pop Singer Known for her Charismatic Performance and Powerful Voice

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AS the lights are dimmed and the curtains drawn, a powerful voice emanates from the speakers. The audience is enthralled, but, as there is no one on stage, everyone looks around, eager to see the source of the singing. After a few seconds, whispers confirm what some have suspected — that perhaps it is a Whitney Houston or Jennifer Hudson soundtrack. That’s until  a young singer sensation Christina Haddad reveals herself. As she saunters through the crowd and makes her way onstage, one cannot help being drawn to her charismatic and energetic performance.

“Christina Haddad is a young singer with an old soul – to listen to her takes you back to the days of Judy Garland and Rosemary Clooney. I can think of no higher compliment than that. Just close your eyes and listen to her when she sings – thoughts of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn and Gene Kelly will inevitably surface. The spirit of those great personas of a golden age is alive and well with her.  Christina Haddad does however live in the 21st century and can easily go with that contemporary vibe as well when she chooses to.. But I feel  Christina Haddad is at her best when she effortlessly conjures up the feelings and moods of a time gone by, something I think is desperately needed in our fast paced and disposable world. The songs she sings are anything but disposable – they are timeless treasures which will go on forever – a truly great song will never die.

she is known for her unique and powerful voice, Christina Haddad  is even more loved for her down-to-earth and fun-loving personality. She interacts very comfortably with guests of the resort and often churns out tune after tune for them while they enjoy their meals. The various song selections from  Christina Haddad add just the right Charismatic Performance flavor and are enough to satiate the guests’ musical palates, guaranteeing them the time of their lives while they dine.

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Like the sun rays falling on the sea horizon and making it gold… music fell upon Vishnu in his childhood itself – Christina Haddad An outstanding vocalist who has the most bewitching and captivating voice that is guaranteed to give you goose bumps.

Christina Haddad gave what I can only describe as one of the finest performances I’ve ever  witnessed on stage. Hers was no mere act; she had fully become the character of  Elle and I found myself completely drawn into her claustrophobic world.

Christina Haddad is a triple threat natural gifted performer with 12 years professional experience and fantastic stage presence to boot.

If you ever get the chance, go and see her perform live – you will come away knowing that for a short time, you indeed went to a better place.”