Friday, 26 April 2013

Ein Tsur

We'd been to Ramat Hanadiv, the elegant formal gardens built as a living memorial to Baron Edmond de Rothschild, before, but it was only recently that I discovered that there are some wonderful hiking trails in the area as well. Friends took us on the Manor Trail back in January where we passed Horvat Aqav, the remains of a Byzantine farmhouse, and enjoyed beautiful views overlooking the Carmel coast.  During Passover we went back to show my Dad the gardens and also to try out another trail, The Spring Trail, overlooking the Nadiv Valley.
The Spring Trail was an easy 2.5 kilometre hike which lead to the Ein Tsur spring. The views en route were magnificent, though the winter flowers - the rakefot and kalaniot - seen in abundance earlier in the year, were all gone.
People inhabited the Ein Tsur area 10,000 years ago. During the Herodian period there was a big village there. Our walk led us past remains of the walls and towers that surrounded the village and storage rooms. The main reason that people settled at this site was the spring located at the bottom of the hill. The Romans built an aqueduct, a large pool to store the water and a bath house there. 
There are three rooms inside the bath house - the cold room, the tepid room which was used to get your body used to the heat, and then the hot room where steam opened the body's pores and helped clean your skin.
After admiring the bath house we wandered towards the spring. A tunnel was carved from the spring to increase the flow of water.  A stream of water flows along a covered canal which prevents dirt getting into it. Finally this canal reaches the storage pools, where the water was used as drinking water for animals, for the bath house and swimming, and also a reservoir that supplied water for agricultural use.
The spring at Ein Tsur has also been called 'The Spring of Fertility'. The Bordeaux Pilgrim, an anonymous traveller who visited the Holy Land in 333, made particular note of the spring and wrote that women who wash in it become pregnant. An important find at the spring was a hoard of 2,000 coins dating from the early fourth century to the seventh century. It is believed that they were thrown in by women seeking cures for their infertility, like a kind of wishing well.
We passed a columbarium on our way back up the hill. The Romans built a special tower near the spring, above, to house pigeons. This tower was called a columbarium, from the Latin word "columbary", meaning dove or pigeon. In order to grow crops the settlers needed water, but also fertiliser too and pigeon droppings were perfect. The pigeons could also be used for food and for religious purposes.
We continued following the trail  past Beit Khouri, an Ottoman era farmhouse, later inhabited by a Christian family. Here the farm manager and workers lived in large vaulted rooms, along with the animals they cared for. The remains of a mosque, built by the Christian el-Khouri family for their Muslim farm workers, can also be seen. This building later served as a dining hall for a group of pioneers who settled the site after Baron Edmond de Rothschild purchased the land in 1913. During the following years three groups of Halutzim (pioneers) settled at the site, but they faced very hard conditions. The rocky land was hard to cultivate and the rooms teemed with insects from the area of the spring. Malaria took a heavy toll on the settlers but, despite the hardships, they lived in the area for several years and managed to dry out the swamps.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A Baby, a Birthday and a (Foot) Ball

New baby cards are by nature quite a last minute thing. A friend was travelling to Australia and her sister gave birth to a baby girl just a few days before she was due to leave. My friend wanted to give her sister one of my cards (actually she and her older kids have quite a collection of them already!) but preferred to wait until the new baby had a name. 
Did I say last minute? It was. But I aim to please.
The card, inscribed with the new baby's name and birthdate, shows all the family, with Mum in the foreground holding baby Jordy. I added a couple of baby items, and luckily found a kind local who was willing to take the card to Tel Aviv, where my friend popped it into her bags before leaving.
She left me the sweetest message when she saw the card.
"Thanks Lisa for doing this. With all the gifts I have, I know this will be the one most appreciated by my sister."
I'm glad I worked quickly on that one.
Lauren is a writer and poet and so, when her sister asked me to create something pretty for her birthday, I knew that a notebook and pencil had to be in there. I added balloons, cake and bunting to give it a birthday theme but do hope that the birthday girl spotted the book!
Finally, another customer wrote to me to remind me that he has ordered several cards from me in the past "which all the recipients have loved". He had a friend's wedding coming up and wanted to give him one of my cards too. Could I make one? Of course I could!
The groom is an Arsenal supporter, just like the boys in my own family, whilst the bride plays the piano. They both share a love of cooking. I have shown the couple standing under the chuppah (a canopy beneath which Jewish marriage ceremonies are performed and which also symbolises the couple's first home together). The groom is wearing his Arsenal shirt and has a football tucked under his arm and a kippa (skullcap) on his head. The photo my customer sent me showed him wearing a quite specific design of glasses. I hope I got them about right. The bride is ready to do some cooking and her favoured instrument, the piano, can be seen in the background. There was a lot to include but I think everything is there.
Mazal Tov (congratulations) to all!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Josh, Gaby and Tequila too!

One of my regular customers emailed me with a request for three cards. The first was a card for a friend who has moved countries. She sent me a photo of the friend and asked me to write בהצלחה, 'Good Luck', on the card, along with "We miss you".
Their friend is a very caring doctor, as well as a great handyman. Apparently he always has tools with him wherever he goes. He has a very special relationship with his dog, Tequila, and I was asked to include him, or her, in the picture too.
I have shown the doctor in his white coat, with a stethoscope around his neck. He has a spanner in one hand and some other tools nearby. In his other hand he has a Samsung Galaxy. Apparently he is quite attached to that as well.
The other requests were for Bar Mitzvah cards for my customer's twin nephews. She asked if I could put tefillin (check out my recent post here to remind yourselves what they are!) on both boys' left arms, and said that they should both be wearings caps too.
Josh, above, is apparently very sporty. He loves football and is a big Manchester United fan. He likes listening to music on his iPod and also playing games on his PlayStation, below.
Gaby is also very sporty. He favours cricket and my customer asked me to show him wearing a green Proteas shirt (The South African national cricket team are nicknamed the Proteas). I added the cricket bat in his right hand. He loves to draw too, thus the paper and pencils in the foreground, and enjoys playing with remote control cars. Both boys have "beautiful blue eyes".
The final request was to add a 13 somewhere on each card, the age that Jewish boys become Bar Mitzvah, and to write 'Mazel Tov Gaby / Josh' on their respective cards. There was a LOT to squeeze in but I think I got it just about right!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Independence Hall

Tonight Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day for her fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, began at sunset. A siren sounded across the country for one minute and everybody stopped what they were doing to observe a minute's silence. Tomorrow the siren will sound for two minutes at 11am and once again the country will stop to remember. Memorial ceremonies will take place across the country to respect and remember the fallen throughout the day and then, in the evening, another ceremony will take place to mark the end of Memorial Day and the beginning of  Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day.
Independence Day marks the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. On 14th May 1948 soon-to-be Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion issued a declaration of the State of Israel at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, formerly the home of Zina and Meir Dizengoff, Tel Aviv's first mayor. It was eight hours before the termination of the British Mandate in what was then Palestine, and not long till the Sabbath. The declaration was recognised by the U.S., the Soviet Union and other countries, though not by the surrounding Arab States and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War was about to begin.
We recently had the chance to visit Independence Hall, formerly the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where the State of Israel was declared. We learnt that the Museum of Art had been chosen as the place where the declaration ceremony would take place since it was a building held in high regard but one that also had solid walls and small windows, which could mean relative safety in the case of attack. The declaration ceremony was not widely publicised as it was feared that the British Authorities might attempt to prevent it, or that the Arab armies might invade earlier than expected. Invitations were sent out by messenger on the morning of 14th May telling recipients to arrive at 3:30 pm and to keep the event a secret. At 4 pm Ben-Gurion opened the ceremony and a spontaneous rendition of Hatikvah (The Hope) - what was soon to become Israel's national anthem - was sung. A picture of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, hung on the wall behind the podium, along with two flags which later became the official flag of Israel.
Image: David Ben-Gurion declaring Israel's independence, May 14, 1948 via Eretz Israel Museum.

Today Independence Hall is preserved as it was on that very day. Most of the exhibits are not original. Our guide explained to us that the impromptu ceremony meant that chairs and tables were borrowed from, and then returned to, local cafes. Fortunately photographic evidence, like the one above, allowed precise reconstruction, transporting the visitor back to the incredible events of that day. We were even able to listen to the original recording of the ceremony which was recorded and broadcast live on Kol Yisrael (Voice of Israel) radio station.
Image: The home of the first Mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, on Rothschild Boulevard via Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and, top, as it is today.

It was most inspiring to be the in the very hall where Ben-Gurion declared statehood and frankly a bit hard to leave dry-eyed. Listening to the stories of that day makes you burst with pride at the courage and strength of our little nation and of the people who made, and continue to make, it all happen.
Tomorrow night we will join thousands of others in our local amphitheatre for a concert and fireworks, and singing and dancing in the streets. There will be Israeli flags everywhere. I will definitely take a moment to remember Ben-Gurion and the bravery of many others before and after him, who have helped create the State we have today.
Now see how far we have come and check out 'Israel: 65 years of Achievement'.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Nathalie's Bat Mitzvah

It's been a little while since my last post as I have been busy preparing for, and then celebrating, the holiday of Passover with my family. My Dad was back for another visit and during the seven-day festival we have been to some wonderful places around Israel which I will post about soon.
Passover, or Pesach as we call it, is all about the food! We clean our homes thoroughly to remove all crumbs of chametz (leaven) to remember the Jews leaving Egypt who did not have time to let their bread rise, and we eat only "Kosher for Passover". You can read more about it in two of my previous posts here and here, but whilst we're on the subject of food, I am excited to show you a project I worked on some time ago - a recipe book for a young lady celebrating her Bat Mitzvah.
A customer approached me with the idea of a family recipe book in mind. She was already in the process of collecting recipes from various members of her family and wanted them made in to a book with extra pages that the Bat Mitzvah girl, and any children she may have in the future, could add to.
Nathalie, the Bat Mitzvah girl, loves horses and the outdoors. I have shown her on the cover of the recipe binder with one of her much loved horses, and with a tent in the background since she enjoys camping too. All the recipes collected were for desserts - obviously they are a sweet-toothed family - so the name of the book aptly became 'Family Desserts' and I added a chocolate mousse, a jelly, a slice of cake and chocolate chip cookies to the cover to give a taste of what is inside.
I designed each recipe page on a grid using teal and kraft paper, to match the binder cover, as the general colour scheme. I then added 'ingredients' from each recipe to decorate the pages and had fun crafting chocolate, mangoes, bananas and jelly to name but a few!
My customer loved the kiwi the most, below, whilst I think that the chocolate chip cookies, above, look good enough to eat. I just hope that Nathalie doesn't spill any of these ingredients on the book whilst using it!
The same day that my customer collected the finished book, she wrote to me to tell me that she thought it looked amazing. "I loved leafing through it" she said. "The detail is fantastic. I love the kiwi and the chocolate mousse pages especially. Many thanks again. I am sure it will give Nathalie and all the family a lot of pleasure."
I am so pleased that I was able to make it happen.