Thursday, 21 November 2019

Piano and Triathlons

Gavriel and Amitai recently celebrated their Bar Mitzvah but before that they had their 13th birthday to mark. Mum asked me to make some special cards for the occasion. Gavriel plays the piano and loves swimming, she told me, while Amitai likes to run, bike and swim in triathlons. He also plays the guitar.
Since the boys were soon to celebrate their Bar Mitzvah, Mum asked me to add a Magen David, or Star of David, to add a Jewish element to the card as well.
I have shown Gavriel, whose favourite colour is red, playing the piano. He is wearing swimming goggles so that he can move on to his other favourite activity after a few tunes!
A big yellow number 13 marks his age.
Amitai's favourite part of the triathlon is running. Mum told me that he always wears black shorts and black and white adidas T-shirt for it. I have shown him running across the card, guitar in hand! His black bike is in the background and the black flippers that he uses for the swimming part of the triathlon are to his left.
Amitai likes yellow, so I made that the background colour of his card.
"Great cards" mum said.
Since I already knew the boys' favourite colours, I decided to make them special cards for their Bar Mitzvah just a few weeks later. These cards show a tallit prayer shawl, a kippa (skullcap) and a Sefer Torah (a long scroll containing the entire text of the Five Books of Moses: the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). A Jewish boy who has reached the age of 13 wears a tallit for morning prayer, during the week, as well as on Shabbat and other holy days. Gavriel and Amitai wore a tallit for the very first time when they were called up to read from the Torah on the first Shabbat that followed their 13th birthday.

Monday, 18 November 2019


Benjamin (or Benjo, as his parents call him) was turning 8. Mum asked me to make him a birthday card showing him in his yellow and blue swimming trunks (mum actually said bathing suit but, hey, I knew what she meant 😉) and wearing his yellow and blue goggles on his head. She remembered that I had done a swimming themed card for his brother back in 2012 so I checked it out and made sure that Benjo got something quite different!
Mum also asked me to add the symbol of HaTzofim, the Hebrew Scout Movement in Israel and a little picture of "Brawl Stars", a mobile video game where you can play quick matches with your friends and "shoot 'em up, blow 'em up, punch 'em out and win the brawl". Yup, I can see why mum said that it should be really small!
I love these photos she sent me of Benjo happily showing off his birthday card. "Another amazing success!!!" she wrote to me. It is always so lovely to receive photos such as these from happy customers. They really do make my day.
* This post has been shared on The Good. The Random. The Fun.Weekly Link Up and Inspire Me Tuesday.

Monday, 11 November 2019

The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation

The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation organisation was founded in 1996 by Shimon Peres, the Nobel Prize-winning elder Israeli statesman who advocated for peace with the Palestinians and Israel's neighbours, and was one of the architects of Israel's peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. The organisation is independent, non-profit, non-governmental and non-political. Its aim is to further Peres' vision of people in the Middle East working together to build peace through socio-economic cooperation and development and people-to-people interaction. It offers a meeting place for technology entrepreneurs, startups and investors, as well as a recently opened visitors' centre where the public can experience the story of Israel, the "Startup Nation".
Some time ago my dad came back to Israel for a visit and he and I joined a tour of the new centre. Former Prime Minister and President Peres wore many hats over his decades-long career in local politics. He was the Defence minister responsible for Israel's nuclear energy program, the architect behind the Oslo Accords and winner of a Nobel Peace Prize. He was also Israel's leading technology cheerleader, tirelessly promoting Israeli technologies and Israeli startups. This final chapter of Peres' life - he passed away in 2016 at the age of 93 - became the inspiration for the visitors' centre.
Our tour included a visit to a hall lined with 18 life-sized video avatars of Israeli entrepreneurs who have made their mark on the "Startup Nation". Tech celebrities include Uri Levine, founder of traffic app Waze, Dov Moran, whose company M-Systems created the disk-on-key and Hossam Haick, inventor of "Na-nose" technology that can sniff out cancer and other diseases.
We visited a replica of Peres' office from the time he was Israel's ninth president, then learnt about Israeli startups in automotive tech, agritech, medical devices, cybersecurity and more. We got a taste of where Israeli innovation could lead next in a virtual reality capsule and, in the final room, visited an exhibition highlighting 45 Israeli startups. The exhibit will change every year but companies currently highlighted include genealogy leader MyHeritage, radiation protection vest maker Stemrad, manure-to-renewable energy converter Homebiogas and water purity checker Lishtot. Our guide even offered us a taste of mass-produced kosher grasshopper from Hargol FoodTech. I decided to decline!
As well as the visitors' centre, the Peres Peace House also contains the Shimon Peres Archives, an auditorium, conference rooms and a conflict resolution library. Many of the Peres Center's activities, including public lectures and coexistence activities, take place within the Peres Peace House, as well as activities for the empowerment and development of the local Jaffa communities. The first event held at the building was a graduation ceremony of 21 women, mostly Arab, who graduated from a Women's Economic Empowerment Program and received their computer technician certificates.
In 2011, the Israel Tax Authority denied the Peres Center's request for tax-exempt status in Israel demanding that the organisation stop funding the training of physicians from the Gaza Strip in Israeli hospitals. The demand led the organisation to suspend its application for tax-exemption rather than stop the training project. However, in 2016, the Peres Center finally received tax-exempt status in Israel. The Peres Center for Peace also has tax-exempt status in the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy.
One of Peres' most inspirational quotes was, "Dream big. The bigger your dream, the more you will get". As you approach the entrance to the Peres Peace House, a giant sign reminds you to, "Dream Big." It is framed on one side by the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea, and on the other, by the contemporary building that now houses the Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation. It moved to its current four storey high location in 2009. Built on the seashore of Jaffa, the building is a unique structure designed by Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas and local architect Yoav Messer. In essence, the building is simply a long box emerging out of the hillside. The short end, facing the sea, is a wall of clear glass; the other three sides are made up of thin horizontal bands of copper-green concrete and glass of various thicknesses, layered apparently randomly, like sedimentary rock. According to the architect, the building materials represent "places that have suffered heavily"; solid concrete for times of stability and fragile glass for conflict and turmoil. The only clear view is out to the sea - to the future.
Inside, the Peace House had to be divided into rooms. The internal divisions are also glass, although there is a concrete core running through the building containing stairs and services, plus a reinforced bomb shelter on each floor. Every new building in Israel is required to have them.
The 7,000 square metre lot is located next to the poor Arab neighbourhood of Ajami and is enclosed by an old Muslim cemetery to the south and by the beach to the west. The building was built on the top part of the lot, surrounded by a public park - the "Peace Park" - which falls into the sea.
We took a walk through the park and along the seafront after our visit to the centre, giving us time to think about our time there and Israel's success as the "Startup Nation". Happily, it's hard to visit The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation and not feel hopeful for the future!

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Proud Israeli Women

A regular customer contacted me with a request for a special card for her mother-in-law's 70th birthday. She's a very active, vibrant woman, my customer told me. She made Aliya 2 years ago (literally, the Hebrew word "aliyah" means ascent or rise, but for generations it has been used to mean "to move to Israel") and is proudly Israeli with strong South African roots.
Mum-in-law is always on the go. She recently travelled to Italy with a friend, is a keen swimmer, she likes to take selfies and is constantly looking for - losing - and finding - her keys... phone... credit card... glasses. She often wears a particular necklace that my customer sent me a photo of. Finally I learnt that she is a beloved remedial teacher and still teaches English to children to this day.
I have shown the birthday girl wearing her favourite necklace and waving a South African and an Israeli flag. She has found her key and her credit card and is holding them tightly in her other hand. An alphabet book represents the years she has spent teaching, whilst a towel, swimming goggles and mobile phone mark her love for swimming and taking selfies respectively. I added a little picture of the Colosseum in Rome to serve as a reminder of her recent trip to Italy.
"My mother-in-law loved your card! She was blown away!" my customer wrote to me.
Another proud Israeli, Ella, is one of those lucky people who receives one of my birthday cards every year 😉. Last year I showed her all glammed up for her high school prom. She is now serving her time with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and so this year mum asked me to show her daughter in her olive green uniform, sitting next to a computer, working through the stacks of paper next to her. I added the big red number 19 to mark her age.
"Lisa, you did it again! Absolutely love your card!" she wrote on Facebook and shared the card for all to see.
The mother-in-law featured on the top card might have her favourite necklace but this lovely rose gold one is quite possibly now mine. Some time ago Anna and Robert of Monday Monarch kindly approached me and offered to send me a necklace or bracelet from their site. It's always nice to support fellow Israeli makers and so I was more than happy to have a good look around. I chose a 1 disc, rose gold 18" necklace and asked them to engrave it with my initial, using the font of my choice.
The handmade rose gold initial necklace which arrived so beautifully packaged in my postbox was a great choice! It is gorgeous and dainty and feels so light that you can almost forget that you are wearing it.
If you are looking for a great personalised gift - or something special just for yourself - Monday Monarch are located in Tel Aviv and will be very happy to hear from you!