Suspects Held In Holocaust Memorial Desecration

Two weeks ago we reported that the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem was vandalized. Now Israeli police have detained three men in connection with the crime.

All three are ultra-Orthodox Jews and have confessed, police said.

The front of Yad Vashem was covered in Hebrew graffiti, including slogans such as, “Thanks Hitler for the wonderful Holocaust you organized for us. Only thanks to you we got a state from the UN.”

Some members of the ultra-Orthodox community don’t recognize the state of Israel, saying it shouldn’t exist until the coming of the Messiah. The BBC reports that some radicals even believe that Hitler and top Zionists plotted to create the Holocaust so that the Jews could create Israel, which has got to be the dumbest conspiracy theory we’ve ever come across, and that’s saying something.

The defacement was signed, “world ultra-Orthodox Jewry.”

The men are due to appear in court today.

Photo courtesy USHMM/Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography. Click link to read the names of these children.

Winter holiday celebrations in Russia

In most of the western world, Christmas and Hanukkah have come and gone, but in Russia, presents are being wrapped in anticipation of tonight, New Year’s Eve. In the days of the Soviet Union, religious celebrations were frowned upon, so Russians shifted their winter celebrating to December 31 and combining the traditions of gift-exchanging and New Year’s revelry into one night. In the Russian Orthodox church, Christmas isn’t officially for another week, with the Julian calendar corresponding December 25 to January 7, 2011.

I arrived in Moscow last Friday (western Christmas Eve) to find the capital freezing but festive, with New Year’s yolki (trees) decorated all over the city and various versions of Ded Moroz walking the streets, and now in St. Petersburg, locals are rushing home with Champagne and Charlie Brown-like trees under their arms. Nearly every public square has a large decorated tree and every store has elaborate holiday displays.

%Gallery-112268%Ded Moroz (Grandfather or Father Frost in English) is the Russian version of Santa Claus. He wears a blue (or traditional red) and white fur suit and carries a white staff. Ded Moroz originally was a more sinister figure, extorting presents from parents in exchange for not taking their children. In the Russian fairytale (and according to my Russian husband), Father Frost ruled the winter and if children were polite to him, they received gifts, but if they were rude, he would let them freeze to death. Sort of gives a new meaning to naughty and nice! These days, he brings gifts to children at parties rather than leaving them under the tree and he is accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka the Snow Maiden. According to the Moscow News, a Ded Moroz appearance can run 2,000 to 10,000 roubles (about $65 to $325 USD) and professional Santas might make more than 10 visits a day during Christmas week, making it a lucrative seasonal profession.

Tonight in Russia, the usual pre-New Year’s partying and indulging is going on, along with tree-trimming and presents. Be sure to stick to your resolutions and be polite to snow kings or you could be left out in the cold next year! S novym godom!

Photo of the day (12.9.10)

Finding contrasts is one of the best things about travel. We love seeing places, people, and cultures different from our own and when we see a familiar item in an unfamiliar context, it’s especially interesting. Pick up any travel article about Turkey, Morocco, or Japan and you’re guaranteed to read a few examples of “old world meets new” contrast. Today’s Photo of the Day by Mike GL captures a moment between a monk and his mobile in front of New York’s City Hall. Recently in Kiev, Ukraine, I saw young Orthodox monks wearing track suit jackets over their robes and chatting on iPhones, and couldn’t help but find the image jarring and funny, but even monks have to stay connected these days. You think there’s a FourSquare check in at the monastary?

Take any good contrast photos? Share them in our Flickr Group – we may just include it as our next Photo of the Day.

Gadling + BootsnAll – Picks of the Week (4.10.09)

Welcome back to another weekly installment of our Gadling and BootsnAll Picks of the Week. Every Friday we’ve been taking a look at 4-5 of the most interesting stories from our friends at independent travel website BootsnAll. What strange destinations, thought-provoking lists and out-of-the-way festival ideas did we come up with? Check below for a few ideas:

  • Beer Bash – if you like drinking beer (or just enjoy a good party) you definitely already know about Germany’s popular Oktoberfest in Munich. If you’re looking to avoid the huge crowds of drunk tourists in Munich this year, Jennifer Price suggests you check one of Germany’s huge variety of other beer festivals, happening throughout the year in cities across the German state.
  • Cathedrals of the East – just in time for Good Friday Christina Dima has a religiously-themed rundown of 11 of the most interesting Orthodox-style Churches and Cathedrals. Though they share many customs with the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church also has many of its own unique traditions and architectural styles. Having recently seen the Church of the Spilled Blood in Saint Petersburg, I would have to agree these buildings are quite beautiful and unique.
  • Forgotten Ruins – mention the word “ruins” to many travelers, and destinations like The Pyramids, The Parthenon and Machu Picchu immediately come to mind. Yet there are plenty of equally impressive but far less-visited ruins out there waiting to be discovered. How does a visit to 40 acres of ancient Maya temples hidden in the jungle in Honduras sound to you? Cherrye More has the scoop on Six of the Least Visited Ruins you need to check out now.
  • Market Essentials – if you want to get a sense of the local culture the next time you travel abroad, visit the local market. Whether its fresh pasta spices in the Campo de Fiori in Rome or Seltzer Bottles in San Telmo in Buenos Aires, you’ll get a great peek into daily life and unique insight into what sorts of products get the locals buying. Dana McMahan takes this concept to the next level with a look at the Markets of Europe and their various specialities.
  • French Cathedrals – wrapping things up on a relgious note, BootsnAll’s France Blog has post on some of the many Cathedrals of France, from the ubiquitous Notre Dame in Paris, to lesser-known structures in Reims and Tours.