Monday, 21 September 2020

Happy Sweet 16

A customer sent me her wedding photo and asked me if I could make a special card to mark her and her husband's 16th wedding anniversary. The photo she sent me was sepia but we discussed colours and I learnt that her blond-haired, blue-eyed husband wore a lilac cravat and waistcoat and a black suit for their wedding. The bride wore white.
I added the number 16 to mark the number of years the couple have been married and also a big purple heart, since that was the colour scheme for the wedding.
"Amazing handmade card by Lisa at Handmade in Israel" my customer wrote when she shared the card on facebook. 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Esther's Studio

Esther is a wonderful newborn, maternity and family photographer who works under the name Joyous Moments Photography. Her goal, her facebook page says, is to capture the small, simple and very moving moments and, having seen many of her adorable baby photos, I know she does just that!
Esther's husband contacted me and asked if I could make a sign for her studio door. She had expressed a desire for one as a birthday present. He suggested a picture of Esther taking a photograph, with the words "Esther's Studio" at the bottom of the sign. He wanted me to include the logo of her business as well. In addition, Esther loves flowers and uses a lot in her sessions, he told me.
I created this 21x30cm piece showing Esther holding her camera, with the strap around her neck. Having met her personally, I know that she favours patterned clothing, so I tried to match her style of clothes carefully. A baby is in a basket next to her and the reflector umbrella she uses in her work is on the left. She is surrounded by sunflowers and hydrangeas, her favourite flowers. A small version of her business logo is in the top right corner and the words "Esther's Studio" run along the bottom of the sign.
Esther was thrilled with her new custom-made door sign."I really love it! Thank you so much. You did a great job" she wrote to me. "The thing that always amazes me is that you can always recognise the person in your work."
I met Esther a few years ago at a local small business networking group and we are now in several Facebook small business groups together. She was kind enough to write the following review in a couple of those groups:
"Not many businesses have come out unscathed from the crazy corona pandemic. For my birthday I really wanted to support a local small business.
I gave my husband a friendly nudge in Lisa Isaacs direction. I have been admiring her papercut art for some time. I love her attention to detail. Between them they came up with this great sign for my studio. I absolutely love it. I love that it is personalised and one of a kind.
Thank you Lisa.
If you can support a small business though this difficult time then go for it..."
* This post has been shared on Little Things Thursday, Creatively Crafty and All Seasons.


Monday, 14 September 2020

The Ayalon Institute - Bullet Factory

I am going to be honest and admit that these photos were taken a few years ago. They somehow slipped through the net and I never got round to blogging about The Ayalon Institute. Of course I haven't really visited any new places over the last few months, so this is my opportunity to play catch up and show you a place that I may have visited some time back but is still of great interest to this day.
The Ayalon Institute, Makhon Ayalon, was a secret ammunition factory disguised as part of a kibbutz. In a factory the size of a tennis court, members of the "A" Scout Group and others produced 9mm bullets for the Sten submachine guns used by Palmach fighters. (The Palmach was a special military force of the Haganah - the underground military organization of pre-State Palestine.)
Beginning in the 1930s Zionist leaders in British Mandatory Palestine determined that they were going to need machinery and guns to defend themselves and to fight for their independence. While manufacturing guns clandestinely proved relatively easy to do, it was more challenging to make bullets for the guns. A group of people decided to build a munitions factory under a kibbutz, which is a communal area of land designed for a specific purpose such as farming. The area was near a British base.
Twelve machines needed for cartridge production (punching, drilling, cutting etc.) were successfully purchased in Poland in 1938. Because of the international situation at the time, the machines could only be shipped as far as Beirut, Lebanon, where they were stored for nearly four years in a Haganah warehouse. With the help of Jews serving in the British army, the machines were finally brought into Palestine by train.
The site for the future factory - Kibbutz Hill in Rehovot - was chosen for several reasons. It had previously been an agricultural training camp where pioneers would go for training in kibbutz life before moving on to establish cooperatives around the country. The British were already familiar with kibbutz life activities there and would likely not suspect anything. Secondly, because it was a hill, underground construction could take place without disrupting the outside appearance of the hill. Lastly, a nearby train station provided reliably strong noise to cover construction and operation of the factory.
The Haganah approached and recruited 45 men and women and the clandestine factory was created underneath the kibbutz. Not all of the members in the kibbutz were aware that there was a secret underground ammunition factory under their homes. These people were referred to as "giraffes" by the factory workers. (By that time, animals for the newly created Tel Aviv zoo were transported from the then only port in Haifa by train, using the rails passing by Rehovot. The giraffes got a special wagon with a narrow hole in the roof due to their long necks. This allowed them to see their surroundings, but prevented them from seeing what was right under their feet.)
In an impressively short time of three weeks, the hill was dug out and a large underground chamber with nearly 2-foot-thick (0.5m) concrete walls and ceiling was built. Above ground, the sort of buildings used in an ordinary kibbutz - dining room, community hall, children's house etc. - were erected. A laundry and a bakery were also constructed. A big hole used to lower the machines underground was covered by the brick oven of the bakery and the chimney of the bakery became part of the ventilation system for the workers. Its counterpart was hidden in the technical system of the laundry, while the industrial washing machine, which covered the noise and smell of the factory, was movable and hid the secret entrance to the underground factory. Because the washing machine needed to be constantly in use the kibbutz opened a laundry service. Surrounding kibbutzim sent their clothes to be washed for a small fee and even the British brought their uniforms to be taken care of!
Kibbutz members in the manufacturing hall of the Ayalon Institute.
The group working in the clandestine factory manufactured some 2.25 million cartridges between 1945 and 1948 - an average of 40,000 per day - right under the noses of the British troops. They worked in two shifts and followed a strict procedure for each step of production, to avoid injury or worse. To make sure the ammunition was safe and effective there was even a testing facility. Randomly sampled bullets were shot in the underground testing room to check for accuracy and precision at the exact same moment a train at the nearby station passed by, so as to disguise their firing.
Working conditions were hard and lack of sunlight paled the skin of the workers, putting their cover stories of working in the fields at stake and increasing their risk of illness due to lack of vitamin D. A UV lamp was therefore installed underground to tan their skin to avoid suspicion. Toilets were put in and their content pumped to the kibbutz's sewage system.
There is an interesting story about how copper sheeting, the raw material that was needed for the bullets, was obtained. Applications for import licenses were submitted to the authorities. When asked why so much copper was needed the explanation was given that it would be used to make lipstick cases. The explanation seemed plausible and the import licenses were approved!
Once the bullets were produced, they were smuggled out of the factory in the false bottom of milk cans, milk being an unsuspicious commodity for a kibbutz. Later, fuel was delivered to the kibbutz by lorry at night. The lorry driver would enter the kibbutz, knock a secret code at the door of the bakery, climb down to the factory, deliver new material and pick up the filled boxes of bullets. Since the workers never met the driver, the person was referred to as an "elf", providing the materials needed without being seen. For the Haganah, it was of utmost importance that all secret groups never know each other. In the worst case - in case of capture - they could never betray any group other than their own. The bullets were distributed via the network of Haganah-organised groups.
Independence was achieved in 1948 and Israel no longer had to conceal the factory's operations. Cartridge production was moved above ground, as part of the centralised military industries. The group of factory workers decided to stay together and fulfill their original dream to establish a new kibbutz. They moved north, founding kibbutz Ma'agan Micha'el on the Mediterranean Sea in 1949. The secret of underground production was so well kept that it only became known to the public in 1973. In 1987 the old factory was restored and turned into a museum. The highlight of the tour there is identifying the secret entrance concealed inside the laundromat!

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Running, Cricket and Grilling

Danny recently turned 50. He likes his beer, particularly Tetleys and Boddingtons, he supports Nottingham Forest F.C. and is a keen runner. His wife told me that he wears a white cap when he runs and a sweatband on his arm, so I made sure to include those little details on his birthday card.
I showed Danny running on his card. He has a can of Boddingtons in his hand. The Forest club badge is to his right, while some more cans of beer can be seen behind him. Since he celebrated his birthday during the coronavirus pandemic, I added a blue mask and the coronavirus symbol in a red prohibition sign. They served as a reminder - not that he needed it - of what was happening in the world when he celebrated his 50th birthday. A big red number 50 marks his age.
Danny's wife was thrilled with the card and shared the photo, above top, on Facebook. "Thanks Lisa Isaacs from Handmade in Israel for this brilliant card." she wrote.
A new customer contacted me with a request for a personalised card for her husband's 40th birthday. He is into cricket and growing tomatoes, she told me. She asked me to include the family dog on the card as well.
I showed him, cricket bat in hand, with the dog, a gorgeous Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, next to him. A tomato plant is growing beautifully behind him and behind the plant are some cricket stumps. A big red number 40 marks his age.
He loved the card.
Finally, this request was for a birthday card for a guy who loves grilling, playing Xbox, skiing, technology and playing frisbee. I have shown him with a pair of skis in one hand and a sausage on a grilling fork in the other! A frisbee is flying towards him and a barbecue is open behind him. In the front I added an Xbox and controller and some little symbols to illustrate his love of technology.
My customer wrote on Facebook that I did a fabulous job!
JENerally Informed