Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Green and White

With the launch of the International BDS movements (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) against Israeli businesses and companies, many pro-Israel organisations have taken action by encouraging people to "buy blue and white", or products "made in Israel." The Israeli flag is made up of two solid horizontal blue stripes with a blue, six-pointed Star of David between them on a white background, hence the "blue and white". The flag was designed for the Zionist Movement in the late 1800's, and is based on the tallit, the striped prayer shawl worn by Jews at morning prayers.
Mister Handmade in Israel recently celebrated a birthday and, without realising it, everything I created for his big day was blue green and white (sorry for the rather, ahem, tenuous connection). He doesn't seem to be getting bored of my papercut cards quite yet, so another one was created for his big day. My hand drawn and hand cut birthday card with star and bunting details has his age, 51, on it. If any of you would like to order a similar card I can happily change the number to whichever age you require.
Of course with birthdays comes cake, and for some reason I made it green and white too. I think it was the football boots. They made me think of grass.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Something to Treasure

Anna and Udi got married quite some months ago but even after their special event my customer wanted a wedding card for them - something that they could treasure - just as she had ordered for the groom's brother. My customer sent me a beautiful photograph of the couple taken on their wedding day in the scenic location of Yemin Moshe. I copied the bride's delicate dress as closely as possible and crafted a dark suit similar to the one the groom wore. In the background I added colours which reflect the Jerusalem stone buildings, blue skies and pink bougainvillea seen in abundance in Yemin Moshe.
My lovely customer and friend wrote "It's wonderful! They're going to love it! Thank you for another great creation!"
Rebecca was turning 16.  Apparently she is going to be starting a course to become a make-up artist, so it was decided that make-up should be the theme of her birthday card.  I created a card on that theme for her last year, so this year I made the focus more about applying make-up, and less about the products. I added some purple lipstick and nail polish for good measure!
The same customer wanted a card for another niece, Sophie. She was soon to be celebrating her 18th birthday and my customer wanted a card similar to the one I did for Sophie's cousin, Emily. She specifically asked for the number 18 to be in the middle of the card with the words חי – Chai in Hebrew and in English next it. I'll explain the relevance of it again. Chai, which is pronounced as if you were saying "hi" in English, is a Hebrew word and symbol that means "life." It is spelt with the Hebrew letters Het (ח) and Yud (י). According to the gematria, which is a mystical tradition that assigns a numerological value to Hebrew letters, the letters Het (ח) and Yud (י) add up to the number 18. The Het has a value of 8 and the yud has a value of 10. As a result, 18 is a popular number that represents good luck. At weddings, bar mitzvahs and other events Jewish people often give gifts of money in multiples of 18, symbolically giving the recipient the gift of "life" or luck.
Along with wishing her niece "Chai", good luck, my customer also wanted me to include many of her interests on the card. These include Disneyland Paris, where Sophie was going for her birthday celebration, baking utensils and cupcakes with "Sophie's Sweet Treats" written next to it (apparently she is a keen baker), a silver can of Diet Coke, the high-fashion retailer Topshop, Brent Cross Shopping Centre, and a laptop with the Internet video streaming service Netflix open on the screen.
There was a lot to fit in but I managed it.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

(Not) Blowing in the Wind

Those of you who know me personally, or who have read my blog for some time, already know that I am a big fan of Israel ScaVentures. I have participated in their scavenger hunts in the Old City of JerusalemNachlaot and Gush Etzion and so, when Tali Kaplinski Tarlow, the driving force behind Israel ScaVentures, invited me to the 4th Annual Bloggers Scavenger Hunt, to do the Windmill Dash in Jerusalem's Mishkenot Sha'ananim and Yemin Moshe neighbourhoods, I practically ran there!
Mishkenot Sha’ananim, which means "Peaceful Habitation", was the first Jewish neighbourhood built outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, on a hill directly across from Mount Zion. Until the middle of the 19th century, the people of Jerusalem lived inside the Old City walls. Being outside the city walls was considered very dangerous due to Bedouin raids, pillage and general banditry rampant in the region at the time. Consequently the Old City became overcrowded. Such crowded conditions were hazardous for everyone's health and disease spread quickly. It was clear that the only solution for the city's natural growth was to build new neighbourhoods outside the city walls.
Moses Montifiore, a British Jewish banker and philanthropist, decided to help the Jewish community by buying land outside the city walls, overlooking the Old City. In 1860 Montifiore built the first settlement. He named the neighbourhood Mishkenot Sha'ananim, taken from the Book of Isaiah 32:18: "My people will abide in peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places."
Mishkenot Sha'ananim is one long building that was divided into separate apartments. Poor Torah Scholars (an honorific title given to one well versed in Jewish law) and their families quickly populated the neighbourhood, but in the beginning they were frightened to sleep outside the Old City walls, and they would return to their original homes to sleep at night. As an incentive, people were paid to live there, and a stone wall was built around the compound with a heavy door that was locked at night.
In addition to taking care of the living conditions of the Jewish community, Montifiore also wanted to find a way for Jews to support themselves. In 1857 he built a windmill near the neighbourhood of Mishkenot Sha'ananim. The idea was to create work opportunities for the Jewish community in Jerusalem. At the outset, British millers operated the windmill, and later on it was leased to Jews.
At the time it was built the windmill was considered to be an ultramodern work tool for grinding grain into flour. It is not clear if the windmill ever really worked, or if it really created the job opportunities hoped for. It seems that Montifiore did not take into account the lack of wind in Jerusalem, nor the quality of the wheat in the region. During the War of Independence the windmill served as a watchtower for Jewish fighters.
When Montifiore was 90 years old he decided to retire as head of the charitable fund that helped the Jews of Jerusalem. The remaining members of the fund created a new fund called, "Keren Mazkeret Moshe". The fund was dedicated to helping the Jews in the new neighbourhoods and to build other neighbourhoods outside the Old City walls.
Next to the Mishkenot Sha'ananim there was an additional piece of land that was unsettled and the building of another neighbourhood, Yemin Moshe, was completed there in 1893, around thirty years after Mishkenot Sha'ananim was first settled. Yemin Moshe, named after Moses Montifiore, was considered a very modern neighbourhood. Most of the Rabbis living there were Ultra Orthodox but they were considered moderate in their outlook. People lived a life of Torah but also combined it with making a living. As the years went by the neighbourhood houses were bought by the people and became their own property.
Arab attacks, however, were still frequent and in time people slowly started to leave the neighbourhood in search of a safer place to live. By 1948, the War of Independence, the last citizens left Yemin Moshe, though it was a great place for the Israeli Army to stay. The army destroyed many of the houses so that they could manoeuvre their troops easily. Yemin Moshe became a battlefield, and the Israeli army lost some of its best fighters there.
After the War of Independence a lot of Jews from Turkey came to live in Israel. The Israeli Government offered them the abandoned houses in Yemin Moshe. The Jewish community in Turkey sent money to rebuild the houses and the neighbourhood.
Life in Yemin Moshe could be dangerous at times, since the Old City had been captured by the Arab Legion and the Old City walls became the border between Jordan and Israel. Jordanian soldiers would sit on the Old City walls and shoot at the residents of Yemin Moshe. Once again people chose to leave because they did not want to live so close to the border. Only the poorest inhabitants remained, turning the complex into a slum.
After the 1967 Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, the city decided to rebuild Yemin Moshe and make it into an artist colony, though today the current popularity of the area has driven prices up to the point where only one art studio remains. Mishkenot Sha'ananim was turned into an upscale guesthouse for internationally acclaimed authors, artists and musicians visiting Israel. As well as the guesthouse facilities it is also a convention centre and home of the Jerusalem Music Centre.
The Jerusalem stone buildings, gardens and stunning views of the Old City make Mishkenot Sha'ananim and Yemin Moshe the perfect destination for an outing, and of course for an Israel ScaVentures scavenger hunt. Divided in to teams, maps, mission packs and source sheets in hand, our job was to solve the various tasks and clues set for us, and to discover more about Mishkenot Sha'ananim and Yemin Moshe and its people. We found most of the answers in the streets, buildings, and signs all around us and, once again, I learnt so much about an area I thought quite familiar to me. Of course it was great fun being part of a noisy and energetic team too! To round off the whole event we were provided with sweet treats courtesy of the Almond Bakery Cafe, whilst Tali summarised the morning's activities. Yummy!
Israel ScaVentures also have Scavenger Hunts in Safed and the Jerusalem Shuk. I look forward to trying one of them out soon!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary!

It's been a busy few weeks in the Handmade in Israel home. Back in May I celebrated my 45th birthday. As I get older, less and less fuss seems to be made about my big day (a shame because I quite enjoy the fuss!) but my sisters-in-law came up trumps this year and sent me a fabulous necklace from Zincwhite. Made using recycled Derwent colouring pencils and combined together to make blocks that are cut and shaped by hand, the beautiful round pendant they ordered for me is a unique and individual piece and I am really enjoying wearing it.
A few days after my birthday we observed the festival of Shavuot and I made, as I do every year, delicious cheesecake. Then at the beginning of June Mister Handmade in Israel and I marked our 17th wedding anniversary, which sadly fell on the same day as the Yahrzheit (a Yiddish word meaning "time of year") for my dear Mum, marking the 10th anniversary of her passing according to the Hebrew calendar. It is a Jewish custom to light a 24-hour candle at dark on the evening before the anniversary. It is believed that the candle represents the soul of the departed which is never extinguished in our hearts and therefore the flame of the candle reminds us of the soul of our loved one. A few days later all four of us flew to England for a long weekend to celebrate our nephew's Bar Mitzvah. I will show you the album I made for him in another post.
I told you it has been a busy few weeks.
Mister Handmade in Israel likes my papercuts. I think he likes them even more than my cut paper pieces, but that's a discussion for another time! For our anniversary this year I made him this card, cutting the message and love heart detail by hand from white stock. I then lined it with a bright red paper inlay because everything I make for Mister Handmade in Israel has to be in red, the colours of his favourite football team.
I think he was impressed.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ore's Album

I never show a card or album here until after the date of the celebration has passed and so I have several albums to show you all in due course. Ore's Bar Mitzvah party has now taken place so I can start by showing you the one I made for him. He actually celebrated his Bar Mitzvah here in Israel at the end 2014 but his party was in London at the end of May! Working out which date to put on his album was a bit tricky, so my solution was to simply put the Jewish year.
The Jewish calendar not only has its own unique months, but it also numbers years differently from the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian year 2015, for instance, is roughly equivalent to the Jewish year 5775. The Jewish Year does not begin on January 1st but on the festival of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). This year Rosh Hashanah fell on September 2014 and marked the transition from 5774 to 5775. The date I put on Ore's book is תשע"ה. Hebrew letters are sometimes used to express numbers. For example, Aleph stands for 1, Bet for 2, and so on. When a Hebrew year is written using letters, you simply add up the values of the letters. Often the year is written with an implied addition of 5,000. So the year 5775 is written as 775. The year number on the Jewish calendar represents the number of years since creation, calculated by adding up the ages of people in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) back to the time of creation. To calculate the Jewish year from the Gregorian calendar, you subtract 1,240 then add 5,000. For example, if the year is 2015, subtract 1,240 to get 775, then add 5,000 to obtain the Jewish year of 5775.
Ore is into his computer, making films and using the microblogging platform Tumblr and the video-sharing website You Tube. He apparently likes eating lemony things and has a thing about Nutella hazelnut chocolate spread too! I have shown Ore sitting at a desk, using his computer. The screen on the computer is open on Tumblr and there is a photo of an iPhone on it, another of his great interests. On the desk there are a couple of lemons and a jar of Nutella. To his left is an Israeli flag and the You Tube logo, and above the computer is his school's badge.
I decorated several pages inside the album based on Ore's hobbies. The opening page shows his school's badge, some pencils and a sharpener (top). Next I crafted a paper version of the Jerusalem skyline, since Ore has strong links with Israel. More Nutella and lemons follow, along with the Tumblr and You Tube logos, and, finally, a hand holding up an iPhone completes his list of favourite things! I added a gold Star of David (Magen David) to each page, and featured them on the cover too.
My customer emailed to say "It's amazing! We love it!" when she received the album.
Happy dance.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Jonny and Herbie

Jonny recently celebrated his birthday and I was asked to create a card for his big day. This year his wife asked me to show him sitting at his desk in his new position as Marketing Director at Unilever. The well-known Israeli food manufacturer Telma is one of Unilever's leading brands and I was asked to add a box of Israeli Telma Cornflakes breakfast cereal to the picture. 
Jonny is wearing his favourite blue cap, which I have shown him wearing several times before. Unusually there is no mention of football on this particular card. We stayed away from mentioning Reading FC, his favourite team, this time.
Another customer asked me to make a 60th birthday card for a very special family friend, Herbie. Herbie, she told me, is lots of fun. He is always in the kitchen (he's a caterer), though he keeps busy as the dishwasher as well as the chef. Oh and he also has a great smile! My customer sent me a photo of Herbie wearing this, ahem, very "tasteful" apron and asked me to incorporate it into my design as well.
I suggested the chef's hat and the tea towel in his hands, and added some cooking utensils and pots and pans around him. In the background you can see that the kitchen sink is full and that Herbie has his work cut out. At least he has got his apron on to cheer himself up!

Monday, 1 June 2015

The Weizmann House

Back in May, on International Museum Day, the youngest son and I decided to visit the Weizmann House, the home of the first President of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, and first First Lady, Vera Weizmann. Chaim Weizmann was a world-renowned scientist, President of the World Zionist Organisation (1921-1931 and 1935-1946), first President of the State of Israel (1949-1952), and founder and first President of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Vera Weizmann was a paediatrician. Their home sits up on a hill in Rehovot, one of the first communities founded in the modern State of Israel. It was designed in 1937 by the acclaimed Jewish architect Erich Mendelsohn who had fled Germany when the Nazis came to power. Mendelsohn set up an office in Palestine and built some of Israel's most important buildings including the Hadassah Medical Centre on Mount Scopus and the Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa. He later decamped to the U.S. in 1941. The Weizmann House was considered ultra modern in its day and is a rare architectural gem in Israel. The house gives a glimpse into the world of the Weizmanns and the famous people they received in their home.
The Weizmanns were born in Russia, studied in Germany and Switzerland, and lived for some 30 years in England. They chose to build their home in Israel, in Rehovot, next to the Daniel Sieff Research Institute, which later became the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel's foremost scientific establishment and think tank.
In 1934 Chaim Weizmann, who was then living in England, asked Mendelsohn to plan his home in Israel. After negotiations which lasted for about a year and much discussion over costs, the Weizmanns took residence in January 1937, and from 1949 - the election of Dr. Weizmann to the Presidency of Israel - until his death three years later, the house functioned as the official residence of the President of Israel. After Weizmann’s death, the presidential residence moved to Jerusalem. Weizmann's Rehovot home was adapted into a museum in 1978 and underwent further renovations in 1999, during the presidency of the Weizmanns' nephew, Ezer Weizmann.
The Weizmann House was designed in keeping with the International Style. The structure is simple and is designed to stringent proportions. In the centre of the house is an airy sinuous stairwell, designed like a tower looking out into the distance. The spiral structures seen in the shells of sea mollusks served as the basis for Mendelsohn's design. At the stairwell's base are three rectangles: an extensive and lavishly furnished library, a drawing room, and, outside, a columned courtyard containing a swimming pool. High on the thick white walls are small round windows resembling portholes of a ship, which let in soft light while preventing overheating.
The interior design of the house, combining the atmosphere of the Weizmann's English roots with their Zionist aspirations and international relations, was decided upon by Vera Weizmann, much to the dismay of the architect, who wanted to plan both its furniture and its interior decoration. Vera Weizmann thanked Mendelsohn for the splendid house he had designed but insisted on decorating its interior, rather unfortunately introducing Victorian furniture into this pearl of modernism. All the furniture and objects in the house are original pieces; most were imported from England or France. Some of the items date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The art collection includes items bought by Vera Weizmann and gifts received by the couple, including the portrait of Chaim Weizmann by Sir Oswald Birley, 1934, below, which was a gift to Chaim Weizmann on his 60th birthday from Lord Marcus Sieff.
The house has been preserved intact, with the library, rugs, paintings and gifts received during the President’s period of office all displayed in their original location, as they would have been when the Weizmanns lived there. You can even see the GE refrigerator still in the kitchen, said to have been the first refrigerator in Israel!
Our tour of the house included the entrance floor (entrance hall, dining room, library, drawing room, and kitchen area) and the upper floors (bedrooms and washrooms). The cloakroom at the front entrance now contains an exhibit on members of the Weizmann family, Dr. Vera Weizmann’s public activity, and the Weizmanns’ son Michael, a pilot killed in World War II. It also displays some of Dr. Chaim Weizmann’s personal belongings including his Israeli passport, numbered ‘00001’. Never has founding a country had so clear an effect on one’s travel papers!
There is no memorial in Israel in the name of Michael Weizmann, the younger son of Chaim and Vera Weizmann, who fought in the Royal Air Force during World War II and his plane was shot down over the Bay of Biscay. Vera planed to build a sanatorium in Michael's name for wounded soldiers on a piece of property the family owned, but when a donor came with an offer to significantly extend the size of project in exchange for naming the sanatorium in his name, she readily agreed, for the sake of soldiers she so much cared about.
After touring the house we stepped outside to visit the grounds and take a close look at the Royal Ford Lincoln Cosmopolitan car, displayed inside a temperature/humidity-controlled glass enclosure. In 1950, Henry Ford II presented Dr. Chaim Weizmann with the car, one in a series of 18 of its type, manufactured according to specifications drawn up for the President. It served as the official car of the President of Israel. 
The Weizmann estate includes an expansive garden sprawling over 44 dunams and was also designed by Erich Mendelsohn, who was known as a great lover of nature. The vegetation is varied and includes numerous plants common to the region such as citrus, olives, figs and oaks, as well as tropical plants such as mango and persimmon. In contrast to the house’s straight lines, the garden’s trails are curved. An exception is the straight path leading to the graves of the Weizmanns, paved after the President’s death. Weizmann asked to be buried in the garden of the estate next to his house. At the request of Vera Weizmann, in memory of their son, his tombstone, designed by sculptor Moshe Ziffer, was fashioned after the tombstones of missing soldiers in Great Britain, where their son’s name is engraved. Chiseled in the centre is the emblem of the Weizmann Institute of Science (the Tree of Life). In 1966, fourteen years after Chaim Weizmann’s death, Vera Weizmann was buried by his side.
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