Monday, 30 May 2016

Ethan's Album

Ethan celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in the middle of May. His Mum asked me to create an album that all their guests could sign at the start of his Bar Mitzvah weekend. Ethan's various hobbies include reading, playing video games on his Samsung Galaxy tablet, maths, dogs, marine biology, robotics and the self-defence system Krav Maga. Oh, and Mum pointed out to me that he wears a hat ALL the time!
I have shown Ethan wearing his favourite black and yellow hat, with a Dalmatian next to him and with his tablet and a book in his arms. He is wearing a black t-shirt, the colour he wears for Krav Maga. Behind him is a robot, to illustrate his interest in robotics, and a fish and some seaweed, representing marine biology. A small pile of books next to him includes a maths book, one of Ethan's favourite subjects.
The silver lettering spells out his name, the words Bar Mitzvah, his parasha (the Torah portion that is read on Shabbat) and the date of his Bar Mitzvah. A Star of David, or Magen David, in two corners adds a Jewish element.
As well as decorating the cover of the album, I also embellished five pages inside the book. The first page showed a small pile of books, since Ethan is such a keen reader. Next I pictured his Samsung tablet and his favourite video game, Fallout 4, followed by a page that displayed some colourful maths symbols. Mum had initially told me that Ethan's favourite dogs were Dalmatians but, as I was working on the album, the family got their own dog, a Weimaraner that they have called Luna. Instead of another Dalmatian, I crafted a cute blue-eyed puppy just like Luna to go on one of the inside pages. Finally, the last page was devoted to Ethan's interest in marine biology, below. I created some unusual-looking fish and some seaweed, and cut some tiny bubbles to create the impression of water.
"[The album] looks lovely!" Mum wrote to me. "Ethan loves it." 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

3 Years Old and 50 Years Young

Jordy likes doing puzzles and painting. She is also a fan of Sophia the First (yes, I had to look her up - I have teenage boys!), Disney Princesses and Frozen. Her auntie sent me a recent photo of the birthday girl, so I was able to create a paper version of her sweet red and white striped dress too. I made the card pink and "girlie", just as requested. 
I had fun creating this 50th birthday card. There was no brief - just a request for a card saying "Happy Birthday Mum" in Hebrew - so I went to town with the spots and created something which I hope made Mum smile.
Mizzie loves the reality competition Project Runway so her husband asked me to create an anniversary card along that theme. Since the programme focuses on fashion design, I cut out some fancy dresses and shoes. It was Mizzie's husband's suggestion to swap her face with that of the female presenter, so Heidi Klum was out and Mizzie was in! Tim Gunn, the fashion consultant and longtime mentor on the programme stayed.
Mizzie obviously liked it. "Amazing card Lisa! You're the best" she wrote to me.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Tel Beer Sheva

After first visiting the Monument to the Negev Fighters Brigade, day two of our overnight trip to Be'ersheva took us to Tel Beer Sheva National Park. Tel Beer Sheva is an archaeological site in southern Israel believed to be the remains of the biblical town of Be'ersheva. It lies east of the modern city of Be'ersheva and west of the new Bedouin town of Tel Sheva/Tel as-Sabi. Tel Beer Sheva has been excavated by archaeological teams for many years and the site is of great importance for the study of biblical-period urban planning. It became a national park in 1986 and in 2005 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.
At Tel Beer Sheva archaeologists have uncovered two-thirds of a city dating from the early Israelite period (also known as the Iron Age). The tel or mound (a 'tel' is a mound underneath which lies the ruins of previous settlements that once stood on the same spot) where this city was situated was then continuously occupied for about 500 years. Finds include a beautifully preserved well (possibly the one mentioned by Abraham in Genesis 26) found right outside 3,000-year-old city gates, a circular street with rows of buildings on both sides, dwellings and storehouses. During the time of Herod the Great a large fortress containing a bathhouse was built on the mound. Two plastered pools belonging to this fortress can still be seen.
A huge four-horned ashlar altar at the entrance to the park was reconstructed from excavated fragments (the original is now in the collection of the Israel Museum). Though a dramatic object, and central to the ancient religions of the area, this altar is made of carved stone, in violation of biblical law; it therefore was probably not an altar used by early Israelite worshippers.
In the Roman Period the settlement spread to the area of present-day Be’ersheva. That city was later abandoned, and rebuilt around 1900 by the Turks as an administrative centre.
Excavations at Tel Beer Sheva were carried out from 1969 to 1976. This work was funded mainly by the Be'ersheva Municipality. In 1990 extensive restoration was carried out at Tel Beer Sheva by the national parks authority using authentic materials - stones found in the rubble or mud-bricks. A lookout tower, which provided us with a wonderful view of the site, the desert, and the modern city of Be'ersheva, was added and excavation renewed. At this time the uncovering of a meticulously planned water system as it was abandoned over 2,000 years ago was completed. It consists of a rectangular 17-metre-deep shaft lined with stones with a flight of steps along its side, a plastered water system to prevent water seeping out, divided into five spaces, and a winding feeder channel that led flood waters from the Hebron streambed into the reservoir. The water system was established as part of the city's fortifications, and was intended to ensure the inhabitants' access to the water reservoir within the city in time of siege (the well hewn near the city gate met their ordinary daily needs). The system below ground was amazing - well lit and safe to explore.
Tel Beer Sheva, one of the oldest sites in Israel, was very impressive. We walked the streets and imagined the buildings as they were. It's not a huge site but, given its age, is incredibly well preserved. If you're visiting in the middle of the summer, the water system is the best place to cool down!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Elisha's Album

Elisha is my youngest son's best friend. They first met when his Mum and I went to Mum & Baby Group together, and they have remained good friends ever since, even though they now go to different schools.
Elisha recently celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and Mum asked me to create an album for this special occasion. Elisha is a sporty guy and enjoys playing cricket. He is dedicated to his faith so mum asked me if I could include the Kotel, or Western Wall, in Jerusalem in my design, and also show him wearing his tefillin. The Kotel is the holiest of Jewish sites, sacred because it is a remnant of the Herodian retaining wall that once enclosed and supported the Second Temple. It has also been called the "Wailing Wall" by observers because for centuries Jews have gathered there to lament the loss of their temple. Tefillin are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. They are worn by male observant Jews during weekday morning prayers.
Elisha is also a keen supporter of Carlton Football Club, a professional Australian rules football club based in Melbourne, and Mum wanted the Australian and Israeli flags on the album too (Elisha, and his parents, are both Australian and Israeli).
I have shown blue-eyed Elisha wearing his tefillin on his arm and on his forehead. He is holding a cricket bat, and the stumps and bails are next to him. Elisha wears a white t-shirt when he plays cricket and it has his name in navy blue letters printed on the back of it. Allowing for a little artistic license, I put it on the front of his t-shirt instead. The Carlton badge, and the flags of Australia and Israeli, are to his left. The background box is a photo of the Kotel.
The red lettering shows Elisha's name and birthday in Hebrew. The Star of David, or Magen David, in two corners add another Jewish element.
As always, I decorated five pages inside the album. The opening page featured a cricket bat, stumps and a ball. A photograph of the Kotel and then Elisha's small black leather tefillin followed. The badge of his favourite team, Carlton, came next, whilst the last page in the album featured the Australian and Israeli flags.
Mum declared it "Perfect!". "I love it!" she said.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Dove White and Sunny Yellow

We have just celebrated the holiday of Passover, or Pesach as we call it. I have explained the meaning behind the holiday previously. If you wish to read more about it, take a look at my posts here and here. Of course I made some cards for the holiday. My Passover cards show a Dove of Peace with an olive branch in its beak, hovering near a Star of David that has been placed on a background of Matza (unleavened bread). The customer who I sent these particular cards to thought that they were "wonderful".
Another customer ordered this papercut card from my Etsy shop for his sister. He asked me to personalise it with her age and chose a sunny yellow paper inlay. 
My Dad is a big Hull City fan. He celebrated his birthday last week and his card simply had to be a black and amber one (Dad's team traditionally plays in black and amber, often with a striped shirt design). I made a tiny striped scarf for his card and added the word "Dad" in amber letters, along with the team's latest shirt badge. He was very pleased with it, though I suspect that I wasn't the only person to send him a football themed card...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Monument to the Negev Fighters Brigade

On the second day of our trip to Be'ersheva we visited the Monument to the Negev Fighters Brigade (Andartat Hativat HaNegev in Hebrew), known locally as the Andarta. It is a monument designed by Dani Karavan, one of Israel's most famous artists, in memory of the members of the Negev Brigade of the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the Jewish underground army, during the British Mandate in Israel. 324 of the brigade fighters fell in the campaign to capture the Negev during the 1948 War of Independence.
The monument, located on a small hill east of Be'ersheva, was built between 1963 and 1968 at a time when Israel was making many physical memorials, primarily nonfigurative, to those who fought and died in its wars. It is made of raw concrete consisting of eighteen separate elements that reflect the events and symbols of the War of Independence and the Palmach. The key element is the central tower at the peak of the hill, but set around it are smaller elements and a small domed structure which is split. This narrow split continues through some of the other structures.
Dani Karavan designed the monument to illustrate the story of the Negev Brigade and the besieged Negev settlements. The monument reduces the entire Negev campaign to its essentials: a water tower, shells, a concrete tent wall, a bunker, a well, a hill crisscrossed by communications trenches, a pipeline tunnel, and nine war maps engraved in the floor of the square.
The central tower of the monument represents the watch and water towers of the Negev kibbutzim that were under shelling during the war, whilst the pipeline tunnel is reminiscent of the channel of water in the Negev defended by the soldiers. The concrete sheet brings to mind the Palmach tent, and the trenches remind us of military communication trenches. Engraved in the concrete are the names of the soldiers who died in the war, the badge of the Palmach, diary passages from the soldiers, the battle registry, verses and songs. A serpent-shaped building symbolises the defeated Egyptian army.
In the centre of the monument is the memorial dome, where the names of the Brigade's fallen are recorded, and where the memorial light is located.
From the height of the monument we enjoyed a panoramic view of the city of Be'ersheva, the Hebron mountains and the Negev mountains. The feel of the whole place was stark but beautiful. Dani Karavan wanted to create a memorial that would not merely be a piece of sculpture, but would be a 'happening' in which the visitor could take part. You can climb all over and in between the structures, making it a place fun for kids. Nonetheless it remains a moving memorial site which offers room for contemplation.
An audio guide, provided in English and Hebrew at the foot of the hill, was totally worth listening to to understand the design aspects relevant to the history of the Negev Brigade. In addition, beside its historic meaning, the memorial is an important piece of art - one of the first environmental sculptures in Israel.
About the artist:
Daniel (Dani) Karavan was born in Tel Aviv in 1930, son of Abraham and Zehava Karavan, both pioneers who immigrated to Israel in 1920. Abraham was the chief landscape architect of Tel Aviv from the 1940's to the 1960's. At the age of 14, Karavan began studying painting. In 1943, he studied with Marcel Janco in Tel Aviv and from 1943 to 1949 at the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem. After living on a kibbutz from 1948 to 1955, he returned to art. From 1956 to 1957, he studied fresco technique at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence and drawing at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. From the early 60's Dani designed scenery for theatre, dance and opera. At the same time he created site-specific environmental sculptures in Israel. In 1976 he represented Israel in the Venice Biennial. Since then he has been commissioned to create environmental sculptures around the world, has exhibited in various acclaimed museums and has received numerable international awards. He lives and works in Tel-Aviv, Paris and Florence.

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