Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Trees, Turtles and Trumpeldor

I haven't written a post about my adventures in Israel for some time. My kids are getting older and don't come out with me as much as they used to, but my Dad was here recently for the holiday of Sukkot and some time after. He was more than ready to come exploring with me, even if it meant that the explorations were at a slower pace than usual!
We made a return visit to the Ilanot National Arboretum, which was planted in the early days of the State of Israel to test the possibility of acclimatizing different tree varieties to local conditions. As the years passed the forest was abandoned and suffered from neglect, until the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) took it in hand and revived it. My Dad is a keen gardener and also helped raise money for the JNF for many years, so this was the perfect place to start his visit, and for us to get acquainted with some foreign, strange and wondrous trees, representing a great assortment of locations all over the world.
Later that day we revisited Gesher Hatzabim, or Turtle Bridge, in the Nahal Alexander National Park. Turtle Bridge is one of the only places in Israel where a population of giant soft-shelled turtle can be observed. They cluster by the bridge because they can be sure of an appreciative audience of visitors, usually feeding junk food to the unfortunate beasts. Sadly the peanut butter-flavoured snack Bamba is no better for turtles than it is for us, so really it's a terrible shame that people do it. However, the park is a great place for families to hang out, and Dad, Mister Handmade in Israel and I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon there, picnicking in the sunshine.
I had read about the Jewish Legions Museum (Beit Hagedudim), located in Moshav Avichail, north of Netanya, but had not visited before and didn't know quite what to expect. As it happened, we discovered an impressive structure housing the museum on top of a hill, overlooking the wide Hefer Valley.
The museum was established in 1961 by veterans of the Hebrew battalions (gdudim) of the First World War. It presents the story of Jewish volunteering to the British Armed Forces during World Wars I and II. They struggled to bear a Hebrew symbol on their uniforms, yet practically designed the base on which the Israel Defence Forces were later established. Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Yosef Trumpeldor, early Zionist activists, led the volunteer movement and the first battalion, the Muleteers Corps.
Jabotinsky's name showed up again when we visited the Etzel Museum in Tel Aviv, below. From 1931-1939, the Irgun or Etzel, as it is also known (an acronym of the Hebrew initials אצ"ל‎, or IZL), fought against the Arabs who attacked Jewish settlements and villages throughout Mandate Palestine. In 1939, when the British limited Jewish immigration, Etzel began to fight against the British as well. Etzel policy was based on what was then called Revisionist Zionism founded by Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
The museum explained the context for the Etzel’s formation and about events in the country at the time. We learnt about Etzel members and the many Etzel missions, the strategy for each attack and how it played out. The museum was informative, if a little dry. Dad and I were the only ones there and we had the whole place to ourselves on the day we visited.
Another day we visited the new Israeli Police Heritage Museum, in the same complex as the National Police College, near Beit Shemesh. This wonderful museum only opened in April 2015 and I wasn't sure what to expect. It turned out to be a real treat!
The museum presents visitors with the story of the police in the Land of Israel, from the Hebrew preservation organisations in the late Ottoman period and the British police, through to the establishment of the Israeli Police and operations over the years, up to the police as we know it today. The exhibition includes unique historical exhibits, which illustrate the development of policing in its earliest days to the present, as well as multimedia presentations that contribute to the experience of the tour.
And finally, towards the end of Dad's visit, we went off to explore beautiful Jaffa, thought to have been the port from which Jonah left in the story of the whale. It is also associated with the biblical stories of Solomon and Saint Peter, as well as the mythological story of Andromeda and Perseus, and of course later with oranges.
We started the day at the port (known as Namal Yafo), which used to be a hangout for fisherman, lone artists and the homeless. After major renovation of its old warehouse buildings, the port is now teeming with life and culture, from galleries and cafés, to some of the hippest nightclubs in the Middle East. Afterwards we climbed the steps up to restored Old Jaffa. After Israel’s independence in 1948, Jaffa was twinned with Tel Aviv. For 20 years, it was home to impoverished Arabs and Jewish immigrants from Arab countries. Then, in 1968 a decision was made to rebuild Jaffa. Old buildings, structures and alleys were restored. Parks and gardens were created. The beach was beautified. Over the years it has become filled with artist quarters, studios and art galleries. Shops with Judaica and jewellery now line its narrow alleys, which are named after Zodiac signs.
Visiting Jaffa without eating something would be a mistake, as it is home to a number of unique restaurants and food stands. Dad had yet to taste a falafel on this visit, so we stopped off at the famous Abouelafia and Sons. The legendary Abouelafia bakery, an Arab-Israeli-run establishment, has been in operation since 1879. Open 24 hours a day, it offers long bagels, many kinds of pita, sambusak stuffed with cheese, and savoury sesame-studded bourekas. We opted for a sit down meal in their second location opposite, and thoroughly enjoyed the freshly baked pita bread stuffed with hot falafel balls and creamy hummus.
Our final stop of the day was at the Jaffa Flea Market, or in Hebrew, Shuk Hapishpishim. This neighbourhood of alleyways, covered walkways and outdoor verandas has been operating for more than 100 years across the same sprawling streets, and is one of the highlights of Jaffa. Filled every day with tourists and locals alike, the market is a clash between the old and the new, a place where you can find Israeli antiques from the 1960s, second-hand clothes, brass, old Persian carpets and jewellery, along with some good restaurants and several boutiques selling new products that mix in flawlessly with the antiques. The market is lively and the atmosphere great! It was the perfect place to end our visit to Jaffa.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Sarah's Album

Sarah celebrated her Bat Mitzvah at the beginning of the month. (According to Jewish law, when Jewish boys become 13 years old they become accountable for their actions and become a Bar Mitzvah. A girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12.) Sarah loves to sing and likes listening to pop music, particularly Ariana Grande. Other hobbies include going to the Zionist youth movement NOAM (an acronym for No'ar Masorti, Masorti Youth), texting her friends on her iPhone SE and eating sushi.
I have shown dark-haired Sarah wearing her NOAM sweatshirt. She is texting with one hand and is waving her other hand in the air, as if she is singing. To her left is a small Ariana Grande picture and to her right some music notes and some sushi and chopsticks. I added a Torah scroll, since she read from the Torah for her Bat Mitzvah, and also her school badge.
Her name appears in English and Hebrew, along with the date of the Bat Mitzvah. Two Star of Davids (known in Hebrew as the Shield of David or Magen David) in two corners of the cover add a little Jewish content.
As well as decorating the cover of Sarah's album, I also embellished five pages inside the book. The first page was reserved for Ariana Grande and some music notes. Next I created some paper sushi which my husband thought looked good enough to eat, followed by a page displaying the NOAM logo. Another page displayed Sarah's school badge, some books and a pencil, and finally, on the last page, a hand (presumably Sarah's!) is holding up her precious iPhone SE. Each page also featured a gold Star of David placed on a purple background, Sarah's favourite colour.

Thursday, 9 November 2017


I'm finding it a little hard to believe that the card I made for my eldest son has a 17 on it! I have of course made a card for him every year since his 1st birthday, and started blogging about them when he was 8. (One day, when I get round to it, I intend to line them all up and photograph them together.) Back then he was into football, playing chess and, without the risk of embarrassing him too much, "Sock-puppety" the homemade sock puppet. These days his interests are somewhat different!
My son is serious about keeping fit. He will be going into the Israeli army when he is 18 (conscription exists in Israel for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18 who are Jewish, Druze or Circassian; Arab citizens of Israel are not conscripted) and he wants to be ready! He's a busy young man with plenty of things going on in his life that keep him occupied, but when he has the time, he likes to go and train in the local park. Honestly I don't know what he does, but Dad assured me that press-ups are part of his routine, so that's what I have shown him doing on his card.
Of course, his passion for Arsenal Football Club remains. In fact he is rather obsessed about football in general. I added the Arsenal crest  and a traditional black and white football to his card. He is still learning to drive (they sure do have to take a lot of expensive lessons here in Israel!), so I included an Israeli L-plate as well. The plate shares the general design of Israeli information signs in its square form and blue background. On the blue background is a white triangle pointing upwards, with the black Hebrew letter "ל" in it, from the Hebrew למידה‎ - "Learning".
He's good at maths too (I'm going to brag now and tell you that he completed his maths bagrut - Israel's high school matriculation examination - two years early.) These days he is tutoring younger kids who need a little extra help with their maths, so I added a few maths symbols to the card to illustrate that.
Finally, you may be wondering about the tuna. Well, teenage boys eat a lot! He is quite happy to sit down and eat a full evening meal with us, including dessert (he loves his dessert!), but after he has been training, he insists on a can of tuna and more "for energy". We go through a LOT of tuna. The little tuna fish on his birthday card is making a quick escape before my son swallows him up too!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Climbing Ropes and Kettlebell Weights

Last year Amitai and Gavriel were into running and swimming, and before that they filled their time playing tennis and basketball. This year they turned 11 and it looks like they were happy with the choice of activities Mum made for their birthday cards on this occasion!
She asked me to show Amitai climbing a rope, which he likes to do as part of his fitness programme. Mum specified that for sport he wears black adidas shorts with 3 yellow stripes on them, and black trainers with the same 3 stripes. His favourite colour is yellow, so I made that the colour of his T-shirt. To his left is a white T-shirt with the Hebrew words מרוץ מודיעין נבחרת יחד printed on it. Amitai has just made it on to the school running team and the shirt declares that he is part of the team. On his right is the logo of the Sayarut youth movement, run by The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which Amitai goes to regularly. A big number 11 marks his age.
Gavriel is more into weights and Mum asked me to show him holding a Kettlebell weight on his card. He wears grey adidas shorts for sport and the red T-shirt marks his favourite colour. Mum was also keen for me to include a big Nerf gun and some darts, and to add a few green army men too.
She seemed thrilled with her sons' cards. "Fabulous cards! I think possibly best ever for them [Amitai and Gavriel]" she messaged me.
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