Sunday, 18 November 2018

Ma'ayan and Avinoam

I have customers who contact me every time there is a birthday in their family and others who order on special occasions only. The customer who ordered this card often contacts me when she is going to a wedding. Recently she wrote to ask me to make a card for her own daughter's big day. "I really want them to have one" she wrote. "I realised that they might not get one of your cards if I don't get it for them. I couldn't have that."
I was thrilled to read that!
I decided to make a card showing the bride and groom under the chuppah, the canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during their wedding ceremony. The bride loves flowers and the colour purple, her mum told me, and the groom plays the saxophone. Wine is very important too, she said. The groom's father is the winemaker at Shiloh Winery, which is set in the stunning surroundings of the Judean Hills.
I created a card that opens in the Hebrew direction, from the right, because the Hebrew language is read from right to left instead of left to right like English. I have shown the young couple standing under the chuppah with their arms linked. (Don't be confused by the hand in the little paper portrait of the groom, above. It's the bride's hand of course 😏). The groom is holding his saxophone, whilst the bride has a bouquet of purple flowers. They are surrounded by little purple flowers and some wine bottles. I researched the name of the winery and added the appropriate labels to each tiny bottle!
My customer wrote "It's gorgeous! Thank you. They'll love it. I put my glasses on to read the labels on the bottles".
The Hebrew greeting on the card says "Mazal Tov Ma'ayan and Avinoam".

Tuesday, 13 November 2018


I've made many cards for eighteen year olds over the years and have always thought how grown up they are. Eighteen seemed such a long way off. But now my eldest son has just turned 18. He finished school last summer and is currently on a pre-army programme and living on a kibbutz in the south of Israel.
It all seems to happen in the blink of an eye.
My son has received a handmade card made by mum on his birthday ever since he turned 1 (I started blogging about them when he was 8). I think that his 1st birthday card, or maybe it was his 2nd, had the the pinky purple Bleeper People on it, from his favourite pop-up book at the time Where, Oh Where, is Kipper's Bear?. I no longer decorate his birthday cards with favourite toys, characters or animals of course. In recent years I have shown him keeping fit and learning to drive.
My 18 year old is a big fan of the Premier League football club Arsenal. On this years birthday card I have shown him wearing the white T-shirt of his mechina (pre-army programme) and waving his Arsenal scarf to cheer on his team. He is going to London to see them play against Spurs in December - his very first time seeing them play in the Premier League!
Since my son was born here in Israel, he also supports a more local team. He has been to see Beitar Jerusalem play many times so I added their badge to his card as well. He also loves going out for a burger with his friends and of course he's 18 now, he can enjoy a beer with them too, though hopefully not too many!
My son will be going into the Israeli army next summer (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). I'm probably not going to be able to discuss his army service here but I have included the badge of the Israel Defence Forces on his card and have wished him "Good Luck" in Arabic. He learnt Arabic at school and chose it as one of his Bagrut (Israel's high school matriculation examination) subjects. It seems that he's pretty good at it.
Finally I added a pair of walking boots. He enjoys the outdoors and has done a fair bit of hiking and orienteering on his programme and seems to enjoy it. Those walking boots have been put to good use so far!
For the first time in his life my son was not home for his big day. I arranged for a friend to deliver his birthday card and was thrilled to receive this video of him opening it on the morning of his birthday.
Even at 18 it seems that he is very happy with his customised card handmade by Mum - and his friends seem impressed too!

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Back in the Golan Again

My dad has been back here for another visit and during his stay we took a trip to the Golan with him, an area of Israel which we all love to visit. The eldest son, who has now flown the nest and is living on a kibbutz whilst doing a pre-army course, was home for a few days as well, so off we went to explore. I would say that it was also an opportunity for some well-earned rest, but no one gets any rest on one of my trips!
I had booked guest rooms at Kibbutz Ortal, a kibbutz in the northern Golan Heights. The main source of income for the kibbutz is mostly through agriculture but it also has a vineyard which is affiliated with the Golan Heights Winery and produces several varieties of grapes for their own boutique winery. On the first morning of our visit we were lucky enough to get a short tour around the winery and a tasting too, before stopping off for a quick visit to Ortal's mini zoo, Hai-Tal, below.
Our next stop of the day was at the Banias Nature Reserve, which we last visited back in 2015. We had come to see the roaring Banias waterfall, the biggest waterfall in Israel, which we could view at the end of a suspended trail - a walk through a narrow basalt canyon above the rushing Hermon Stream. Nothing quite prepares you for the loveliness of the walk to the waterfall. It was hot for some of the way but, once you get down to the suspended trail, it becomes more pleasant in the shade and the sight of the rushing waters is just magnificent. Crystal clear and cold, it was tempting to stick our feet in! However, access to the Hermon Stream has been strictly forbidden since the early 1990s in order to preserve the delicate ecology. The 10-metre Banias waterfall (mapal in Hebrew) at the end of the trail is a wonderful sight and even in summer with lower water flow, it was well worth a visit.
We then drove on to the second part of the Banias Nature Reserve, the Banias Springs. It is possible to walk between the two sites along a trail which runs along the Hermon Stream, but you need two cars to accomplish this hike, unless you want to walk two hours back to the parking lot where you started!
According to the Gospels, it was in Banias that the disciple Simon informed Jesus that people believed Jesus to be the messiah. In response, Jesus renamed Simon "Peter," which means "rock" in Greek - the rock upon which his church would be founded.
At the Banias Springs we were greeted by the impressive ruins of the Temple of Pan, a grotto, courtyards and niches for rituals dedicated to the worship of Pan, developed in several phases during the Roman period. Banias was originally named "Panias" after the Greek god Pan, god of the forests and shepherds. Since there is no "p" sound in Arabic and the region was long under Syrian rule, the village that grew up around the spring came to be called Banias.
The Banias Springs site has ruins from the Roman period, when the village was called Caesarea Philippi after King Herod’s son Philip who inherited the area and made it his capital. The Palace of Agrippa the Second, grandson of Herod, is among the relics. Caesarea Philippi remained important during the Christian Byzantine period. It was later conquered by the Muslims and then the Crusaders, then went back under Islamic rule and fell from its heyday.
We had time for just one of the four trails offered at the Banias Springs. Our chosen trail took us past a Roman bridge and the remains of a Crusader tower that controlled the sole entrance to the city of Banias and could block the entrance when necessary. A few metres along we found a water-powered flour mill which once served the residents of the Golan Heights villages of Massadeh and Ein Kinya. The trail then led on to the Palace of Agrippa the Second, a public building constructed at the beginning on the first century CE. The site extends over more than 2000 square metres. During the Byzantine period many stones were taken from this building to build other structures, and part of the palace became a bathhouse. A structure apparently used as a synagogue and dating from the eleventh century CE was also discovered here.
Continuing on we passed the remains of the Cardo, below, the colonnaded street that crossed the city from north to south, which was constructed during the period of Philip and Agrippa the Second. Additional streets were constructed during the Byzantine period.
This was the end of the particular trail we had followed but the corner tower, also below, situated at the end of the trail, is worth noting. The lower walls of the tower were built in the late Roman and Byzantine periods. Above them is a part of a Crusader wall and above the wall are the remnants of an Ayyubid corner tower. Above the tower remnants are Ottoman structures built of small brown stones, and at the top are modern Syrian constructions. Amazing!
Our next stop was at Mitspe Golani, also known Tel Facher, below. I hadn't planned on stopping here on this visit but it is near to the Banias and I realised that it was the kind of place my dad gets a lot from.
Prior to the Six Day War of 1967, Tel Facher was the strongest and most important Syrian base in the northern Golan Heights. For several decades, Syrian guns on Tel Facher dominated and terrorized the entire region. During the Six Day War, however, Israeli troops fought one of the fiercest battles in Israel’s military history, determined to retake the base and thus end the Syrian stranglehold over Israeli citizens. Over the course of a five hour battle, every single Israeli soldier but one was either killed or wounded, but by the end of the day, the base was in Israeli hands.
Today, the site is known as Mitspe Golani or Golani Lookout, renamed for the Israeli Defence Force’s infantry brigade whose soldiers fought and died for this base. An impressive memorial has been built to honour the memories of the Golani soldiers who fell here. A low memorial wall lists the names of the fallen soldiers.
We were able to wander around the well-marked Syrian trench system and walk through the narrow, well-fortified bunkers. With the exception of adding the memorial, the military features of the site have not been reconstructed since the moment of capture in 1967. Since the base is located so high in the Golan, we also enjoyed magnificent views of the region and of the Hula Valley below.
Our final stop of the day was at the Sa’ar waterfalls located about 4 kilometres below the Nimrod Fortress, on the horizon above, another incredible place we have been to in the past. Located just a few steps from the road this is allegedly a gorgeous waterfall, with powerfully rushing streams and well-placed observation points to take it all in. However, the waterfalls are best visited in the winter or spring when the water and snow from Mount Hermon are still making their descent to the Sea of Galilee. In the summer and autumn there was simply nothing to see! We hadn't timed our visit to the waterfall well at all.
It was time to call it a day and return to Kibbutz Ortal. I had more planned for the following day...

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