Thursday 29 December 2016

The Best of 2016 - Part I

1. Amitai and Gavriel  2. Made with Love  3. Gadi  4. Eden  5. Nadav  6. Daniel  7. Jack  8. 18 Years  9. Hanan  10. Richard

This year Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is on Christmas. The first night (Jewish holidays begin at sunset) of the festival fell on Christmas Eve and the first day landed on Christmas Day. Chanukah celebrates the victory of the Maccabee brothers' rebel army over Greek King Antiochus IV during the 2nd century B.C. and the miracle that is said to have occurred when a small quantity of oil lasted for eight days in the rededicated Second Temple. You can read more about the holiday in my blog post here. The first night of Chanukah last fell on Christmas Day in 2005, but Chanukah has overlapped with Christmas or Christmas Eve as recently as 2011 and 2014. So, happy holidays to those of us celebrating Chanukah or Christmas, and best wishes from Israel! Thank you for all the support you have given me and my blogging adventure through another year.

1. Amy's Album  2. Tomer's Album  3. Sam's Album  4. Ethan's Album  5. Yael's Album  6. Elisha's Album  7. Avital's Album  8. Gilad's Album  9. Yonatan's Album  10. Guy's Album

As is common at this time of the year, I thought it would be fun to collect together some of my personal favourites from this past year and show them to you once again. 2016 has been a prolific year for me. I have made customised cards, albums and invitation designs for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, new babies and more. A big thank you to those of you who have commented, liked, shared and bought what you've seen on my blog. Have you spotted your card or album amongst the collections above?
Of course, the biggest thing for my family this year was our youngest son's Bar Mitzvah and you can see all the paper goodies that I made for the event here, as well as the few "tasters" below.

I have also visited some interesting places in Israel, which I have shared with you as an occasional travel post. I'm saving my top 10 favourite places for another time. I have enjoyed composing each and every one of my blog posts, and hope you will continue to visit and enjoy them too in 2017, as I share the coming year's papercut designs and a few more of my adventures in Israel.

Don't forget that you can subscribe to my blog, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Oh, and please pop by my shop now and then to see what is new there.
Wishing you a wonderful, happy and colourful Chanukah, Christmas and New Year, and a safe and exciting start to 2017!

* This post has been shared on Tuesdays with a TwistWordless Wednesday (on Tuesday), Our World TuesdayWednesday around the World, Wow Us Wednesdays, Wordless WednesdaySeasonsLittle Things ThursdayShare Your Cup Thursday and Happiness Is Homemade.

Thursday 22 December 2016

O Christmas Tree

I live in an area that does not really acknowledge Christmas. I have seen chocolate Santas in a few shops and have heard Christmas pop songs on BBC Radio 2 on the Internet, but otherwise there is very little sign of the holiday over here. The thing is, I quite like Christmas! There wasn't a Jewish school in the city where I grew up, so I went to the local Comprehensive school. There I learnt a fair bit about Christmas in the run up to the holiday, though of course we celebrated Chanukah in our own home. As a result, I find it rather fun to sit at my desk and listen to the Christmas songs I remember from years past (I like to have a good singalong when there's no one home!). I am quite well versed in all my carols too!
I do have a papercut art business and some people, no matter where they live, still need Christmas cards. I personally send my handmade holiday cards to a few friends back in the UK, while other people require cards to send to their clients abroad. After all, they are celebrating Christmas, even if we're not.
This year's cards have brightly coloured Christmas trees on them. It was fun to cut out the simple triangular shape of the tree and add some "twinkling" lights. My trees were not dissimilar to the trees we spotted at the YMCA in Jerusalem, below. I read about a Christmas Holiday Bazaar being held there and was intrigued enough to go and have a look. As it happens the trees were just about the best thing there. I got it right with my cards though. One customer wrote to say "Thank you for the cards. They're perfect - so much nicer than the ones in the shops."
Happy holidays to you all and best wishes from the place where it all began, even if there's no evidence of it on the streets!

Monday 19 December 2016

After the Fires

Titora Hill, or Giv'at ha-Titura, is a popular archaeological site and beauty spot very near to my home. The original name of the hill, 'Tantara', was adapted in Arabic to 'Tanturah' and the Hebrew to 'Titora' (meaning brim of a hat). I have blogged about it before, herehere and here. During the spring there are over 80 different types of wild flowers on the hilltop. It also has enormous historic value. Evidence has been found which suggests that it may have been inhabited since the Chalcolithic period, between 4,000 and 3,150 BCE. Archaeologists have found artifacts from the First Temple period, whilst further remains indicate that the Hasmoneans lived on the hilltop in about 165 BCE. There is also evidence that it was used as a hideout during the time of Bar Kochba, who died in 135 CE. At the top of the hill the remains of a Crusader fort can be found.
There was little reporting in the English press of a wave of fires in Israel recently. The fires were spread as far south as the Dead Sea area and north to Nahariya. The largest fire occurred in Haifa where 527 apartments were destroyed completely, leaving 1,600 people homeless. Other major fires occurred in the Jerusalem area and there were smaller ones elsewhere, including a fire on Titora Hill. Israeli officials said the fires had been fanned by unusually strong winds and were made worse by a dry atmosphere, but they also said they suspected that many of them had been caused by arson. More than 35 people were arrested on suspicion of setting the fires or inciting to do so.
Mister Handmade in Israel and I went for a stroll on Titora Hill last weekend. Having woken early on the day of the fire from the fire-fighting planes flying right over our home, we were relieved to see that the hill was not as badly burnt as we expected. The main damage covers the area of the Crusader ruins and down the northern edge of the hill. It is thought that larger, faster moving animals could have escaped the fire, but that the smaller, slower crawling creatures would not have had any chance. The question is whether the larger animals will return and only time will tell.
Before the fires, funding had been granted for the clearing of the paths and a general maintenance plan for the hill, to make it more easily accessible and pleasant for walking. There is also a plan for the Israel Antiquities Authority to dig in the area of the Crusader fort. At the moment the consensus seems to be to not do anything after the fire and let nature take its course. There have been fires on the hill most years during the summer and the vegetation has rehabilitated naturally.
More than 4,900 acres of forests, brush land and open space were burnt in Israel during 8 days of fires. The current rains have brought up the first few Sitvanit HaYoreh (Sitvanit from Stav meaning autumn and HaYoreh, the first rain) on Titora Hill, as well as Carcum Horpi (Winter Crocus). I also noticed a fair amount of other greenery poking through the burnt, blackened ground - a sign of renewal and of course hope for better times. We are very lucky to have this wonderful green area on our doorstep. I hope that the entire area will be preserved - and stay free of fire - for many years to come.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

All You Need is Run

Last year Mizzie's husband requested an "Optics Miriam" theme for her birthday card. This year she had just completed her first 10K run, the Night Run Tel Aviv, so he decided that his wife's card should show her crossing the finish line. Mizzie completed the run in 1 hour 1 minute and 24 seconds. I have shown her time on the clock. The finish line is right behind her. She is wearing the grey race t­-shirt (All You Need is Run), and below that is her chest racer number.
There was a fair amount of Photoshopping required for this card, but of course it was worth it. "The card is stunning! You have excelled yourself once again!" Mizzie kindly wrote to me.
Mizzie is a twin. Several years ago she ordered a birthday card for her sister, which was a reminder for her husband to contact me! This year she was first again. She showed me a lovely photo of the sisters together and asked me to recreate it in paper. This time I added their age and some extra "bling" to the design.
A regular customer, who works at a high tech company, ordered a birthday card for her boss, below. She requested a card, which was from her and her fellow team members, showing their boss, Shlomit. She asked me to show dark-haired Shlomit (I changed the colour of her hair after these photos were taken) sitting at her desk, with her computer and two screens next to her. I was also shown the team's computer interface with the main header "Med CPU 4" and asked if I could include it in some way. My customer also wanted the phrase "MTP is Perfect" on the card. Apparently Shlomit always responds to criticism with this comment :)
Shlomit looks especially good in red, my customer told me, so of course I gave her a red shirt. I have shown her at her desk, with the two computer screens and the requested phrase and interface on each screen. As I was creating the card there was an announcement at work that Shlomit had been made a VP at the company. Her new title is VP Medical Text Processing. My customer sent me another message, "Could you add this somewhere... maybe?". A sign on Shlomit's desk proudly displaying her new title seemed the perfect solution.
"Thank you so much. It [the card] is fantastic as usual!" my customer wrote to me. "I am really excited for Shlomit's reaction on her birthday on Wednesday." I then heard from her again when she was at work. "She [Shlomit] loves it! The whole office is admiring it!"

Sunday 11 December 2016

Playing Guitar

Arieh recently turned 20. He is crazy about theatre and film, his Mum told me, and loves reading and playing the guitar too. His roots are in the USA and the UK (Dad is from the USA and Mum from the UK) and he lives here in Israel. Finally, he will soon be joining the Israeli Air Force for his compulsory military service.
I created some red stage curtains and added a black and white clapper board to illustrate Arieh's love of theatre and film. The flags, pile of books and guitar speak for themselves. I added the blue badge of the Israeli Air Force which consists of a sword, olive branch, Star of David and eagle wings (like those found at Bet-Shean excavations), and finally cut out a big yellow number 20 to mark his age.
It looks like he appreciated his birthday card!
Another customer asked me for a selection of smaller cards, two for men and two for some special ladies. The tulip design on the left is one I created some years ago and still enjoy making. A folded shirt and tie seemed just right for the men.

* This post has been shared on Sundays at Home, Saturday Sparks@Pieced Pastimes, Saturday Shuffle@Strawberry Butterscotch, My Sunday PhotoSeasons and image-in-ing.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Ella and Shulamit

Ella recently turned 16. Her Mum, who tells me that they cannot celebrate a birthday in their family without one of my cards, this time requested a picture of her daughter in front of the New York skyline. She also mentioned some other New York symbols - the Statue of Liberty and Times Square - and I added "The Big Apple", which was actually quite tiny, for good measure! A big red number 16 marks Ella's age. 
A new customer discovered my cards and wrote to me to see if I could make one for her friend who was soon to be celebrating her 27th birthday. She loves swimming and even swam the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) twice, my customer wrote. She also loves hiking, especially at Sachne (a national park in Israel which has naturally warm water where visitors can swim all year round). Could I put a sign pointing to Sachne on the card? The birthday girl also really loves make-up and is currently doing a make-up course. Though her interests are all extremely varied, my customer was keen to include everything since she felt that they really characterise her friend. 
I showed Shulamit in the green tshirt she was wearing in the photos her friend sent me. She has swimming goggles on her head and a make-brush and a compact blusher in her hands. Behind her is a photo of the Kinneret, and next to her some walking boots, lipstick and nail polish. The requested sign pointing to her favourite place, Sachne, is behind her.
Since Shulamit comes from a British family my customer thought that the birthday greeting should be in English. "I gave it to her and she loved it so much!" she later wrote to me.

Thursday 1 December 2016

The Jerusalem Model

My Dad and I, along with a rather reluctant youngest son who declared upfront that our plans were boring, recently enjoyed a day out in Jerusalem. I had heard about the model of modern Jerusalem, which is hosted at Jerusalem's City Hall, and knew that it was something that both my Dad and I would enjoy seeing.
The model can be found in Building 1 of the City Hall. We took the lift down to floor 0 and buzzed to get into the room where the model is located. We were greeting by Nataly Ostrovsky, the construction engineer today responsible for the project, who I had spoken to on the phone prior to our visit. Nataly was happy to show us around and point out the different areas of the city. The model is so realistic that it was easy to locate a particular street or even a specific building. We were amazed by what we saw.
Initially created with basic materials such as cardboard, wood, paint and glue (today's additions are laser cut from Plexiglas), we found a huge model which allowed us a fantastic bird’s eye view of Jerusalem. The large 1:500 scaled model represents approximately 6 square kilometres of space, 15% of the city, from the city centre, across downtown Jerusalem, through Meah Shearim, Rehavia and other neighbourhoods in west Jerusalem, through the Old City and into parts of east Jerusalem. It is worked on on a regular basis and will apparently soon include the rest of the Old City, the Hebrew University campus at Givat Ram, the Valley of the Cross and two major museums - The Israel Museum and the Bible Lands Museum.
The model was originally built by American-born Richard Harvey with the help of students of architecture at the Technion in Haifa. He was hired to design and build it in 1978, during a time of intense development in Jerusalem. In 1985 the project was moved to Jerusalem. Now retired, Harvey continued to be involved in construction and additions through 2003.
Architects and city developers with specific projects in mind can try out their ideas on the model. The model provides visual feedback that would normally take weeks or months of abstract discussion. It is modular in construction, each of its current 48 units is on wheels and can be moved, taken apart, and thus continually updated. Visitors include both local and international planners and designers, and during the International Mayors' Conference, which meets each year in Jerusalem, there is always one session to view and discuss the model and its application to the participants' own local realities. The model also functions as an educational tool. Creative workshops for schoolchildren are held there to teach students about issues in town planning, from traffic gridlock to aesthetics.
Dad and I do not fit in to any of these categories but still found the model of great interest. Even the youngest son was quite taken with it, though I doubt he'd admit it!
After a yummy lunch of hummus and chopped Israeli salad at a nearby eatery, our next stop was the Cable Car Museum on Mount Zion. The museum is located in the northern wing of the Mount Zion Hotel, a boutique hotel well known for its fabulous views of the Old City and the Hinnom Valley. It started out as an eye hospital in the 1880's, when the Duke of Kent, who was a member of the British Order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, decided together with his colleagues to set up a hospital to serve Muslims, Jews, and Christians from all over the Middle East.
During the First World War, the Turks took over the building, turned it into an arms warehouse and destroyed parts of it. This damage, coupled with the results of an earthquake in the 1920's, made repairs necessary. The British were the ones who acknowledged the building's special location and decided to renovate it in the 1930's. The compound served as a hospital until 1948.
During Israel's War of Independence there was a problem of accessibility between the western part of the city and Mount Zion. At first the connection was maintained through a tunnel crossing the Hinnom Valley. The tunnel made it possible to transfer supplies to the mountain and evacuate the injured, although in a limited manner. However, it was very narrow and an alternative method was needed to evacuate the wounded and bring supplies to the soldiers on Mount Zion. The solution was formulated by engineer Uriel Hefetz in December 1948. A 200-metre (656-foot) steel cable was stretched over the valley every night - from the hospital to a post on Mount Zion - and medicine and arms were ferried by means of a cable car from Jewish-controlled west Jerusalem to fighters battling Jordanian troops up on Mount Zion. The wounded were brought from Mount Zion over to the hospital. During the day the cable was lowered to the ground so as not to be seen by the enemy.
The cable reached a height of about 50 metres (164 feet) above the valley, and the cable car could carry a maximal weight of about half a tonne. Three soldiers on each side were responsible for operating it, and the ride lasted about two minutes in each direction. While it was only in use for half a year the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) maintained it in working order from 1948 until 1967, should the need for it ever arise. The cable car was eventually retired, but kept secret by the IDF until 1972.
In the Cable Car Museum you can see the authentic cable car and its mechanism (although the cable has been restored) and look at photographs of officers and soldiers who shared the secret, including the Israeli military leader and politician Moshe Dayan. Uriel Hefetz was awarded the Israel Security Prize and received a number of the IDF’s highest commendations for his participation in the Yom Kippur War and the terrorist siege at Ma'alot in May 1974. In recent years Jerusalem commemorated his work with a street called Netiv Harakevel ("the car cable route").
Our final stop of the day was at the beautiful 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza located on a hill in Arazim Valley (arazim means cedars), just north of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. The plaza, built on 5 acres of hillside, remembers and honours the victims of the September 11 attacks. The cenotaph measures 30 feet and is made of granite, bronze and aluminium. It takes the form of an American flag, waving and transforming into a flame at the tip, while the folded part of the flag is reminiscent of the collapse of the towers in a cloud of dust. A piece of melted metal from the ruins of the Twin Towers forms part of the base on which the cenotaph rests. It is inscribed with these words in English and Hebrew: "This metal piece, like the entire monument, is a manifestation of the special relationship between New York and Jerusalem."
The names of every single victim of 9/11, including five Israeli citizens, are embedded on metal plates and placed on a circular wall around the plaza. This cenotaph was the first cenotaph outside of the United States which lists the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks. The cenotaph is strategically located within view of Jerusalem's main cemetery, Har HaMenuchot.
The cenotaph was designed by award-winning artist Eliezer Weishoff, who is also well known for his artistic posters, stamps, medals, coins and banknotes. It was commissioned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF/KKL) and dedicated in November 2009.
The 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza is a circular plaza surrounding the bronze sculpture. The space is large enough to comfortably hold 300 people and was designed to echo the shape of The Pentagon. It also has an indentation in the floor of the plaza that represents the rut created in the land where one of the planes crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Each year on the anniversary of 9/11, a ceremony is held there with diplomats, dignitaries and local politicians remembering the terrorist attacks. During the year the handicapped-accessible site is open to tourists and locals. Israeli school children often visit on school trips to learn more about the terrorist tragedy that took place on American soil.

* This post has been shared on image-in-ingTravel Tuesday, Wordless WednesdayWednesday Around the WorldWednesday Waters, Share Your Cup ThursdayLife Thru the LensLittle Things Thursday and Inspired Sunday.