Thursday, 20 October 2016

Lohamei Hagetaot

It's time to write the last blog post about our mini-break in the Galilee area during the summer. I have already blogged about the Ein Afek Nature Reserve and the Yehi'am Fortress. We were lucky enough to visit a few more interesting places, starting with the Kfar Yehoshua Railway Station site next to Moshav Kfar Yehoshua in the western part of the Jezreel Valley.
Surrounded by a grove of tall eucalyptus trees, the old train station of Kfar Yehoshua has been recently restored and turned into a museum. Kfar Yehoshua (Tel El Shamam) was the largest station between Haifa and Afula on the Valley Train line and operated for nearly 50 years. The Valley Train, which ran along the length of the Jezreel Valley, was built in the early 20th century by the Turks, under German supervision, to provide supplies to the construction of the larger Hejaz Railway, which connected Istanbul with Mecca, via Jordan. The railway’s branch in Israel was called the Valley Train and as a by product served to help develop the area of the Lower Galilee.
Seven Templar style stone buildings, including a water tower and a well, can be seen at the site, as well as three freight cars – two dating from the time of the British Mandate and an authentic one from the time of construction of the Valley Train. The visitor centre, in one of the single storey stone buildings, houses an interesting display that recreates the story of the Valley Train and its main stations. Work is now complete on a new railway in the area, although it does not follow exactly the same route.
We stayed at the Bait V'Kait guesthouse at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot. The kibbutz was founded in 1949 on the coastal highway between Acre and Nahariya. Its founding members include surviving fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, as well as former Jewish partisans and other Holocaust survivors. Its name commemorates the Jews who fought the Nazis.
At the entrance to the kibbutz are the extensive remains of an aqueduct which supplied water to Acre some 6km away, until 1948. The aqueduct was originally built at the end of the 18th century by Jezzar Pasha, the Ottoman ruler of Acre, but was completely rebuilt by his son, Suleiman, in 1814. It was the most important engineering project undertaken by the Turks during their rule in this country. This beautiful aqueduct was built with stone arches and in some places rests on pillars 10 metres high.
Other sites we visited included the Bahá’í Gardens in Acre. These circular gardens, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surround the historic mansion where Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, spent the final years of his life and the shrine where his remains were placed. This is one of the two holiest sites associated with the founders of the Bahá’í religion. The other holy site is the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa, which contains the Holy Shrine of the Bab.
We were unable to visit the inner garden surrounding the historic building and shrine, yet enjoyed the extensive outer gardens and perimeter path which were truly a sight to behold. Formal, precise and sculpted to perfection, the gardens are immaculate and are very much worth a visit.
The Bahá’í Faith began in 1844 in Siraz, Iran. Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the prophet Bab, attempted to spread his beliefs but was faced with opposition from the Shia clergy. Despite gaining thousands of followers, he was executed after just six years. Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri, Baha’u’llah, continued his efforts. Baha’u’llah was expelled to a prison belonging to the Ottoman Empire in Acre. When he was released, he spent nine years living under house arrest, including the home that is a centrepiece in Acre’s Bahá’í Gardens.
Today, there are about five million people around the world who are followers of the Bahá’í faith.
Back at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot we visited the studio of the artist Moshe Kupferman, one of the founding members of the kibbutz. During his early years in the kibbutz Kupferman worked in construction but in 1967 he began to devote himself solely to work at his studio - "the atelier". Today the halls which he used as a combined space for work and for storage of paintings, works on paper, and prints, are used for a permanent display of his selected works and also for group exhibitions.
Kupferman was most well known for his abstract paintings in monochromatic tones. In spite of the abstract character of his works they do however show a political-historical connection. In 1984, following the Sabra and Shatilla Massacre, he published an album of drawings called "With Beirut after Beirut with Beirut." 
Throughout the years, Kupferman exhibited in important galleries and museums, in Israel and all over the world, and won many prizes and acclaims. He died in June 2003.
Near to Kupferman's House is the studio of Koby Sibony - Metal Wire Designer. Koby graduated from the Industrial Design department at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and in 2011 opened his studio on the kibbutz. Sculpting with wire, his work borders on the edge between art and design. His series of sculptures "Ocean Parts" is created from a combination of plastic pieces collected from the beach and metal wire. I was thrilled to be able to buy a small piece of his work from his taxidermy series. Koby's creations are being exhibited in art and design exhibitions both in Israel and abroad.
Finally, we kept the hardest place to visit till the last day of our trip. The Ghetto Fighters' House was the first Holocaust museum in the world but also the first of its kind to be founded by Holocaust survivors. It was established in the spring of 1949 by members of Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot. The museum tells the story of the Holocaust during World War II, emphasising the bravery, spiritual triumph and the incredible ability of the survivors to rebuild their lives in a new country of which they had dreamed – the State of Israel.
The museum is well divided into specific exhibits and each deals with different events of the Holocaust as well as the resistance during that time. The displays and commentaries were incredibly moving. Among the permanent exhibitions are the Treblinka Hall that has on display a scale model of the Treblinka Death Camp, a large exhibition about the Warsaw Ghetto, one on the Jewish Resistance, and another about the Righteous among the Nations.
In 1995 the Yad Layeled Children’s Memorial Museum was established at the Ghetto Fighters’ House. Serving as both a children's educational museum and memorial, Yad Layeled has two main goals: to commemorate the million and a half children who perished during the Holocaust and to continuously tell the story of the children who survived. The museum exhibitions are based on authentic stories taken from diaries and testimonies of children who lived during the Holocaust.
We spent several hours at both museums and, though we were overwhelmed by their sad historic content, we found the exhibits to be extremely well done. They were thoughtfully and sensitively presented and reminded us just how much we should truly appreciate modern Israel, our homeland.

* This post has been shared on The Wednesday Blog Hop, Wednesday Around the World, Our World Tuesday, Life Thru the Lens and the Good.Random.Fun.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Basketball, Books and Barbecuing

A lovely new customer contacted me about a birthday card for her husband. She wanted me to create a card with an illustration of her lawyer husband on it and to somehow include his love of basketball and books. She also requested a background of the New York skyline.
I have shown her bald headed husband (apparently he loved the card and wasn't at all offended!) spinning a basketball on one finger. In his other hand he has a book with the logo of the Israel Bar Association on the cover. The book opens the H​ebrew​ way, from right to left. Next to him is a small pile of yet more books, and behind him the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.
The Hebrew greeting on the card says "To Our Hanan, Many Congratulations".
Soon afterwards the same customer came back to me for another card, this time for her brother. She requested a picture of her brother standing behind a barbeque. grilling steaks. I was also asked to include a pair of blue jeans, a black bicycle, and a pair of tefillin (tefillin are a set of small cubic leather boxes painted black, containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Bible).
The Hebrew greeting on the card says "To My Dearest Brother, Congratulations".
Both cards were a lot of fun to create and my new customer seemed delighted with them.
"Wow wow dear Lisa, you are simply a great artist! The card came out amazing! How great! Huge thanks!" and then "Dear Lisa, it turned out beautifully. Thank you, thank you and thank you again. You are amazing."

* This post has been shared on My Sunday Photo, Our World and Seasons.

Monday, 10 October 2016

The United Nations and the Golani Brigade

Adi and Gabi each receive one of my customised birthday cards every year. Their Mum says that my cards have become an essential part of the family's birthday celebrations and that they spend the run-up to their big day guessing what the theme will be that year! Their sister gets a card too, and Mum and Dad order for each other.
This year Mum asked me to create a card showing Adi standing in the United Nations General Assembly hall which he visited this summer. She wanted me to show the actual room where the United Nations voted for the partition of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state in November 1947. In May 1948, Israel became an independent state after Israel was recognised as a country in its own right within the Middle East.
My card shows Adi standing proudly in front of the assembly hall, which has a seating capacity of 1,800 and is the largest room in the headquarters of the United Nations. At the front of the chamber is the rostrum containing the green marble desk for the President of the General Assembly, Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services and matching lectern for speakers. Behind the rostrum is the United Nations emblem on a gold background. The big orange number 20, which is not part of the room, reveals Adi's age.
Gabi, Adi's twin brother, is now an officer in the Golani Brigade, an Israeli infantry brigade that is traditionally responsible for the northern front with Syria and Lebanon. The brigade is one of the most highly decorated infantry units in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
I was asked to show Gabi wearing his olive green army uniform on his card. Behind him is the Golani Brigade's insignia: a green olive tree with its roots on a yellow background. Apparently the symbol was drawn by the 12th Battalion's intelligence officer who came from kibbutz Beit Keshet, a kibbutz in the Lower Galilee which is home to numerous olive trees. The colour green symbolises the green hills of the Galilee, where the brigade was stationed at the time of its creation, and the olive tree is known for its strong roots that penetrate and firmly hold the land, reflecting the brigade's connection with the State of Israel's heritage. Early Golani soldiers were farmers and new immigrants, so the strong connection to the land was important to symbolise. The yellow background on which the tree stands reflects the brigade's role in the south of the country in the war of 1948, when it captured Umm-Rashrash, now Eilat, Israel's southernmost city.
Oddly enough, Mum asked me to add a television showing the Disney film Frozen to the card. Apparently Gabi "studied" it on one of his army courses and the film has become a bit of a running joke within the family. It does seem rather incongruous with the olive green army uniform, but apparently Gabi was happy and Mum declared the card "amazing as usual."

With Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, approaching, I would like to wish all my Jewish customers and friends G'mar Hatima Tova (May you be sealed in the Book of Life). This reflects the Jewish view of Yom Kippur as the day when God seals our fates (determined by our actions) for the upcoming year in the Books of Life or Death. Have an easy fast, or in Hebrew, Tzom Kal.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Paper Creatures

The Old Jaffa Museum is one of my favourite small galleries. There often seems to be something that interests me there, from Dolls Art to The International Exhibition of Contemporary Paper. You can imagine my delight when I read about their current exhibition, "Paper Creatures", an exhibition curated by the artist and designer, and one of the founders of OASIS – the Origami Artists of Israel organization, Ilan Garibi.
"Paper Creatures" features works by 32 paper and origami artists from around the world, including exhibitors from France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Japan, Vietnam, Russia and the United States, as well as some impressive contributions from Israel. The works come from several paper-based disciplines including origami, papercuts, quilling, collage, paper sculpture and pop-up. 
The main theme of the exhibition is not paper, but rather creatures. The artists have transformed their inner world, words and thoughts into spectacular works depicting monsters, strange animals and fairies. Their cultural and historical backgrounds are sometimes apparent too. American-born Patrick Gannon's artworks of cut-paper and wood bring together his life and experience in urban Japan with his upbringing on a farm in New Jersey, where he was surrounded by nature. Suhail Shaikh, an expat Indian papercutter who works in 3D, was as a child shown by his grandmother how to make shapes out of waste material like cardboard boxes and paper. He has transformed his childhood fascination for paper-modelling into the full-time profession of paper art, moving on to representations of his impressions of objects or events.
All the exhibitors are clearly dedicated to their craft and, when up close to the works, one really begins to appreciate the amount of effort and skill that went into producing the intricate pieces. There were many pieces that I particularly loved, notably Julianna Szabo's lizard-like creature and her colourful Phoenix, both inspired by her love of nature, and Madrid-born Victor Coeurjoly's deer-like animal Cierbol (Deer Tree) with its very distinctive lines. Polly Verity, an artist based in Devon, England, exhibited her Beetle-Winged Moondog, Pegasus and Sphinx, below. Her amazingly intricate sculptures are constructed from silver wire bases and then covered them with acid-free paper with folded paper inserts, so that they are a little see-through. The results are both beautiful and unique.
Beth Johnson created her mythical creatures especially for the exhibition. She sketched out her own figures on paper and the origami designs, above, grew from there. There were some names that I recognised. I was already a big fan of Wolfram Kampffmeyer's Paperwolf label, under which he creates and sells both finished sculptures and DIY papercraft kits. His passion is creating new paper sculptures with realistic expressions. Most of his sculptures are of living animals, but a few are either extinct or never existed. All of his creatures are designed on the computer in 3D, and then virtually unfolded flat and then cut out of paper.
The Old Jaffa Museum is located in an ancient building from the 13th century, the Saraya House, which served as a government house during the Ottoman rule. The combination of impressive old architecture, aesthetic arches, niches and pristine white walls, adds an extra dimension to the exhibition.
A good friend commented once she had seen my photos of the exhibition, "You must have been beyond yourself with glee at that exhibition. Looks fab!"
It was.
"Paper Creatures" is due to run until Saturday 29th October 2016.
Museum opening hours: Friday: 10:00-14:00 • Saturday: 10:00-18:00
Sunday-Thursday the museum is open to groups of 20 or more visitors – by appointment.
During holidays the museum will be open on all week days, from 10:00 to 18:00
Holiday eves, and the eves of Yom Kippur and Sukkot – the museum is closed.
Place: The Old Jaffa Museum, 10 Mifratz Shlomo st., Old Jaffa, Israel
Tel: 03-6813624

* This post has been shared on Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Gilad's Album

I'm always very pleased to hear from a returning customer, particularly one who wants to order her THIRD Bar Mitzvah album (the next one, if she wants one, will be for a Bat Mitzvah). I have already made albums for Adir and Omri. This time it was Gilad's turn to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah.
Mum asked me to create an album that opens the H​ebrew​ way, from right to left, and she wanted the Bar Mitzvah boy to be shown wearing tefillin. Jewish men start wearing tefillin, or phylacteries, just before their Bar Mitzvah. They consist of two leather boxes with parchment with biblical passages inside. Gilad is right-handed so he is wearing his tefillin on his left arm. He is also wearing them on his head, and the straps are hanging down over his white shirt.
Gilad, Mum told me, likes Krav Maga (the self-defence system developed for the Israel Defence Forces), playing with Rubik's Cubes, hacking cell phones, going to Scouts, drawing, cycling and playing games on his Nvidia Shield tablet.​ He is currently quite curly haired, she said, though admittedly those curls were "tamed" by the time of his Bar Mitzvah.
I added the badge of the Tsofim Datiyim (the religious Scouts) to the cover, along with a small illustration of Gilad's bike, his phone and tablet, and some paper and pencils to illustrate his love of drawing. Gilad can be seen in his white Krav Maga - I.C.F. t-shirt, playing with a Rubik's Cube.
I also cut out several light blue striped tallitot (the large sheet-like fringed prayer shawl worn during the morning prayers which some boys begin wearing for the daily prayers from the age of Bar Mitzvah) and placed them in two corners of the cover and on several pages inside the album. Some of the inside pages were also illustrated to cover Gilad's various interests.
The first page, which as a Hebrew book opened on the rightmost page (the opposite of an English book), shows some Krav Maga sparring gloves, followed by a colourful Rubik's Cube, and then Gilad's OnePlus X​ phone and Nvidia Shield tablet, above. Next I created a Scouting-themed page showing a little green tent and a campfire burning close-by. Finally I cut out a tiny blue​ bike, just as Gilad's brothers had in their albums.

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