Tuesday, 28 August 2012

When in Rome

I've been away from this little space of mine for a short time. For those of you who read my blog regularly, you might well remember that I mentioned a planned holiday to Italy earlier in the year. Well, that holiday has now been and gone and we had an absolutely amazing time.
As immigrants to Israel we are somewhat obligated to visit England, where our families live, as often as we are able. Naturally, because we are not quite yet millionaires, that means that we don't really get to see other places. However, very occasionally we do travel elsewhere and this year was one of those years! Italy it was.
Now, I know that plenty of you do travel on a far more regular basis than I do. I am also aware that I am not the first person to travel to Italy. Therefore I am going to give you just a taste of our trip and not my usual background history to it all! And believe me, it was very hard to whittle down that 'taste' to a few photos that I feel sum up our first stop, Rome. Let's just say I was reaching the 1,000 photos mark by the end of our trip!
So, enjoy our visit to Rome and our day trip from Rome to Pompeii. From top to bottom: the Coliseum, some tasty gelati, Pompeii, the Vatican Museums, the Ponte Sant' Angelo, the Pantheon, watching street artists near the Trevi Fountain, and finally, the stalls at the Tiber River festival taken from the Ponte Sisto.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Adir's Album

Okay, this is the last of the 'First of July' albums to show you. This one was made for a young man whom I have known since he was a baby and so it was fun to work on something for a kid I know for once.  His Mum told me that his main priorities in life at the moment are his Acer tablet and facebook, listening to music whilst wearing his big old-fashioned looking earphones, tennis, cycling and, finally, science subjects at school. She said that he doesn't really have a favourite colour but that blue and green were probably safe bets.
I pretty much managed to get all that onto the cover. My design shows him holding his tennis racket in one hand, with his Acer tablet (with facebook open on the screen) under his arm. He has tefillin on, as well as the big headphones and a kippa. His bike is in the background.
My figures almost always have my trademark round heads with sticky out ears. However, this young man is pretty slim so his Mum and I agreed that we should make his face more slender and stay away from the round look. It definitely worked best on this occasion and I really think that I captured some sort of likeness.
As I mentioned, this Bar Mitzvah boy is wearing tefillin on the cover. Tefillin (sometimes called phylacteries) are cubic black leather boxes with leather straps that Orthodox Jewish men wear on their head and their arm during weekday morning prayer. Jewish men start wearing tefillin just before their Bar Mitzvah and so it seemed suitable to show this young man, who is religious, wearing his newly acquired tefillin.
Tefillin have two leather boxes, one of which is worn on the arm and the other of which is worn on the head. If you are right-handed, which this young man is, you should wear tefillin on the bicep of your left arm. The tefillin box worn on the head should be centered just above the forehead with the two leather straps wrapped around the head, then hanging down over the shoulders.
Phew! I hope my illustration was accurate enough!
The Bar Mitzvah boy's interest in physics and all things science-related was included inside the album. The other pages display his love of tennis, his precious Acer tablet, open of course on the his facebook page, his grey, white and red striped bike helmet and, finally,  those big old-fashioned earphones, surrounded by a few music notes.
I either put a Magen David (Star of David) or a Tallit (prayer shawl) as a graphic element on the corner of my album covers and on each embellished page inside. This young man is now wearing a Tallit during prayers but his Mum preferred me to use a Magen David.
When you read a Hebrew book you open the rightmost page and flip pages until you get to the leftmost page (just the opposite of an English book) and this family chose to have their album open that way. The Hebrew writing on the cover repeats the name and date, also shown in English.

Friday, 3 August 2012

The Monastery at Latrun and Ben Gurion House

I really don't why it has taken me over 12 years to take a look at the Latrun Monastery. After all, it is situated about a ten minute drive from my home! I've driven all over the country to visit some amazing places, but sometimes I guess we miss the ones on our doorstep! Anyway, a recent cancelled afternoon plan meant the youngest son and I had some time to spare so I decided the time had come to visit this special place.
The Monastery at Latrun was established in 1890 and served as a way station for pilgrims from Jaffa to Jerusalem in the 19th century. During the First World War the Turks expelled the monks and destroyed the monastery. The Monks returned in 1927 when they built the present building. The clock tower of the church was completed only in 1954.
The Latrun Monastery, where until 1960 the monks took a vow to refrain from idle talk and to uphold silence at all times except during prayer,  became famous for the good wine and olive oil it produces and which are available from a small shop run by the monks. The monastery garden is also beautiful and so is the outside area surrounded by olive trees. In fact the son and I took books with us and, after we had been inside the church and looked around the gardens, we sat for a while under the trees, thoroughly involved in our reading material until the 5 o'clock bells began to peal and announced to us that it was perhaps time to go home.
A couple of days after our visit to the monastery we took ourselves off to another building we have passed many, many times and yet had never been in. Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, left his home on Ben-Gurion Boulevard in Tel Aviv to the State of Israel when he passed away in 1973. He requested that the house become a public institution for reading, study and research. Situated very near to the beach, we have often been too sandy to go inside, but this time we planned a special visit.
The house was built in 1930-31 and was Paula and David Ben-Gurion's permanent home until they settled in Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negev desert of southern Israel, and then they lived alternately here and there until Ben-Gurion's death.
All the items belonging to the Ben-Gurions are in the house, in the same condition and in the same place they used to be when the house was lived in. It was, in fact, a little bit like stepping back in time. The hubby said that some of the items in the house reminded him of his grandma's possessions. The youngest son was rather taken with Ben-Gurion's four library rooms where he used to work, write letters and his diary, and to receive guests and friends.
Afterwards we watched a film all about Ben-Gurion's life in the neighbouring Hillel Cohen House, and finished the day eating frozen yoghurt on the beach. It can't all be educational you know!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Barkan Experience

I am by no means an expert on wine. Like many Northern English "lasses" I do enjoy a little tipple now and then, but I do not have any real knowledge about what I am drinking except whether I like it or not. Our recent guided tour of the Barkan Winery at Kibbutz Hulda enlightened me a little bit and now at least I know how to taste my wine in the correct manner!
Looking for interesting things to do with my Dad, I discovered that Israel’s second largest winery, Barkan, has vineyards - actually the largest single vineyard in Israel - and a visitor's centre at nearby Kibbutz Hulda. Okay, it wasn't the most kid-friendly activity we did when Dad was with us, but I figured that the boys could learn about how wine is made and, yes, I allowed them a little sip at the end of our tour too!
We were greeted at the brand new Barkan Visitor's Centre by our delightful guide, Nani, and there is no doubt that she was the reason that our tour of the Barkan Experience was so interesting. She really knew her stuff!
Barkan receives grapes from vineyards from several regions in Israel - from the Golan Heights and the Galilee, to the Jerusalem mountains and Southern Mitzpe Ramon - and transports them to this modern winery with its state of the art equipment. The entire Barkan operation, including a 12 million litre tank farm, an automated crushing and fermentation plant and a 10,000 square metre air conditioned filling and case storage building, is located at this site.
We learnt about the production of Barkan's kosher wines. To be considered kosher, a wine may only be handled by observant Jews from the time the grapes are crushed. If, however, the wine is boiled or pasteurised, it may subsequently be handled by anyone without losing its kosher status. Although not all Israeli wine is kosher, all of the wine produced by Barkan has kosher certification.
Nani, our guide, showed us the bottling plant and explained the steps from the bottles being filled to corking, labelling and boxing. Nearby the wine is stored in huge metal vats or, for the more expensive wines or brandies, aged in wood barrels brought in from various parts of the world.
The visitor's centre offers a small selection of wines for tasting, though sadly my Dad was the only person who could really enjoy it. I was the designated driver for the day and the kids, well, I allowed them a sip.
Barkan wines can be purchased at the shop and Dad treated us to a bottle of barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon for Shabbat. That way I really got to taste what I had learnt all about. And pretty good it was too!