Monday, 29 January 2018


I nearly didn't make this card. It was my youngest son's birthday. He turned 15. It seems that 15 year olds have some quite strong opinions (actually he's had those since he was about 2!) and this 15 year old currently doesn't think much about his mum's work. He's not impressed by it. He's going to do something amazing when he starts working and he's not going to sit and make handmade cards all day. Okay.
So I wondered whether to make a special card for his big day, but Mister Handmade in Israel suggested that I might regret not making one. So I did. Handmade birthday cards, documenting each of my family members' hobbies and interests over the years, are of course part of the birthday traditions in our family. I didn't want to skip a year. But I did write a little note inside the card telling my soon-to-be-a-millionaire son that I love making my papercut art and that I am proud of what I do, even if I a not going to make a million from doing it. I wished him a happy birthday and sent hope that he too will find a profession that he first and foremost loves, even though, yes, the bills do need to be paid as well.
It looks like he's pretty happy with his card anyway!
Youngest son loves dogs. His current favourites are Golden Retrievers, so that's what I put on his card. He has his Xiaomi phone in one hand. Behind him is his laptop computer with one of his favourite Instagram pages, The Daily Woof, open on the screen. I also added some sushi (his favourite!) to the card, his Kindle (in spite of it all, he is still an avid reader), and the badges of his two favourite football teams - Ironi Modi'in F.C. and Hull City A. F. C. A big amber coloured number 15, in the same colour as the Hull City club crest, marks his age.
* If you would like to see just some of his previous birthday cards, please click here, here, and here.

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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Holidays in Haifa

I love Christmas decorations and seeing the twinkling lights. The sight of a Christmas tree standing in a main square makes me very happy. But I live in an area that does not really acknowledge Christmas. A problem? Not when Haifa is only a relatively short drive away. It is the third largest city in Israel after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and is a place where Israeli Arabs, both Muslims and Christians, constitute anywhere between 11%  and 18% of the population (depending on whose statistics you accept). The city embraces its religious and cultural diversity and so I knew we would find some Christmas lights there. The kids were away on a youth club seminar and I asked Mister Handmade in Israel to take a day off work. We were going up to Haifa to see the lights!
I booked a room in the Port Inn, a hostel with very good reviews, overlooking the Port of Haifa. It was only a short walk away from the city's German Colony, where all the Christmas lights could be seen. The hostel was also very near to Wadi Nisnas (nisnas means "mongoose"), an Arab neighbourhood which holds the "Holiday of Holidays" festival in December around Christmas and Chanukah time. Though we were in Haifa midweek and the festival runs only on weekends, we were still able to see all the decorations in the houses and shop windows, without the accompanying crowds!
We arrived in Haifa late in the afternoon and headed to the port area, to Café Palmer, a trendy café on one of the most historical corners of the city. Café Palmer bears the name of the Port gate through which thousands of new immigrants made their way into Israel after World War II. Their coffee and croissants were delicious!  Later on we walked to the German Colony, a small area located at the foot of the Baha'i Gardens. It was founded in the late 1860s by German Templers and throughout the two world wars was inhabited on-and-off by the German Protestants who built the area up. 
The name of the movement itself – The Templers – already tells us something about them. The Templers viewed each individual as a small temple. This is why they didn’t have churches, but a community hall instead. They believed that the Second Coming of Jesus would occur only if they lived in the Holy Land according to the morals of Jesus and the biblical prophets. Because of their extreme ideas, they were excommunicated from the Protestant Church in 1858. Ten years later, in 1868, they fulfilled their dream and established their first colony in Haifa. Using modern techniques and machinery, they tried to farm the land. However, they were harassed and plundered from by the local Arab community and eventually abandoned agriculture. The Templers began working in tourism and handicrafts. They initiated regular carriage services between cities, offered clean hotels, and were the first to use engines in their workshops.
Over the years, they lost their messianic fervour and began seeing themselves less as an avant-garde force that would hasten the Second Coming of Jesus and more as Germans living outside of Germany. They returned to the fold of the Protestant Church and erected churches in some of their settlements. In the 1930s, some sympathised with the Nazi movement and enlisted in the German army. When World War II broke out, they suddenly found themselves as citizens of an enemy state living under British rule. Some were deported to Australia and some to Germany. Today there are two Templer communities, one in Melbourne and one in Stuttgart.
In Haifa the Templers are long gone, but their stone houses still stand. Today Ben Gurion Street, the heart of the German Colony, is packed with restaurants, and at the city’s main roundabout in the middle of Ben Gurion Street, stood a large hanukkiah, a Muslim crescent, and a fabulous Christmas tree, celebrating all three monotheistic religions in front of the holiest site for the Baha’i faith. In fact the whole street was covered in sparkly lights and each of the restaurants had really gone to town with their Christmas decorations.
Following the recommendation of our hostel, we ate at Fattoush, a Middle Eastern restaurant with character, charm and delicious food. We sat outside (in December!) in the beautiful courtyard filled with olive trees hung with coloured lights. It was rather lovely!
The following morning we set off to explore Wadi Nisnas. Whilst we did find a somewhat picturesque neighbourhood, with narrow streets, old stone houses and buildings which were built during different eras and in many different styles, the market, which I had read so much about, was pretty much deserted. It was too early for falafel (the Wadi has two famous falafel stands which some claim to be the best in the country) so we walked on to explore other areas. We passed the Beit Hagefen Jewish-Arab Culture Centre, a meeting place for Haifa's different national, ethnic and religious groups, below, and continued on to the lower section of the Bahai Gardens, before jumping into a taxi to join a guided tour higher up on Mount Carmel.
I have blogged about the Baha'i Gardens before and you can read all about my previous visit here. They are possibly the most distinct tourist attraction in all of Haifa, and very likely the most visited. Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals alike travel to the Baha'i Gardens, the most holy site of the Baha'i faith, to enjoy the beautiful terraces. The Baha'i Gardens contain nine concentric circles each filled with flowers, small trees, sculptures, water fountains and pools. To the sides of the gardens are wooded areas designed to house wildlife and to cut down on urban noise. The 200,000 square metres of land were designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba and was funded by donations made only by Baha'i the world over. The guided tour is the best way to truly experience the gardens, also providing a magnificent backdrop of the Haifa Bay.
Our next stop was Haifa City Museum, a small museum created within an old Templer Community House, originally built in 1869 and recently restored in 2000. The current exhibitions, "To Collect Haifa" and "Everyday Souvenirs" display the private collection of an elderly Haifa resident, including photographs, postcards, documents, posters and other objects documenting the cultural history of Haifa. I particularly enjoyed the old posters but Mister Handmade in Israel is not a great museum lover and it was soon time to move on.
I had a vague memory of the Ursula Malbin Sculpture Garden from visits to my Great Aunt Rene, who we holidayed with in Haifa many times when I was young. The Sculpture Garden (in Hebrew Gan Hapsalim), is also known as the Mitzpor HaShalom (Vista of Peace) due to its stunning view of the Haifa Bay from its location in the hills above. The garden displays the work of the sculptress Ursula Malbin, who was born in Berlin in 1917. In 1939 she fled Germany and met the sculptor Henri Paquet in Geneva, marrying him in 1941. Malbin began sculpting in Switzerland, and bought a home in the Ein Hod Artist’s Village in 1966.
The 29 bronze sculptures in the garden are mostly figures of men, women, children and animals from all walks of life, enjoying simple everyday activities. They are touching and easy to appreciate, capturing small moments and lots of compassion, joy and reality.
Malbin's works adorn private and public gardens, schools and institutional buildings in Switzerland and North America.
I enjoyed a few moments reminiscing my previous childhood visits before we moved on to our final stop of the day, the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery. The monastery is believed to be one of the oldest monasteries in the world, stretching back to 1291 AD. Its history is long and complex. The Carmelite Order was established in the late 12th century when Crusader-era pilgrims, inspired by the prophet Elijah, opted for a hermitic life on the slopes of Mount Carmel. Today the Order lives on around the world and in the Stella Maris (Latin for "Star of the Sea") monastery, whose current building was constructed in 1836.
Inside the church, the beautifully painted ceiling and dome, below, portray Elijah and the chariot of fire in which he is said to have ascended to heaven, King David with his harp, the Saints of the Order, the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel and David and the Holy Family with the four evangelists below.
On the path leading to the church entrance, a pyramid with a wrought-iron cross on top serves as a memorial for 200 sick and wounded French troops, hospitalised here, who were slaughtered by the Ottomans after Napoleon returned to Paris in 1799.
The monastery was a spectacular way to end our visit to Haifa. It had started off as a trip to see the twinkling Christmas lights and ended up as so much more!

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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Making Hey

Remember the Hebrew letter Lamed that I created? Well, this time I made a Hey. The fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the Hey has the sound of "h" as in "hay". Hey is know as a guttural letter since it is pronounced in the back of the throat. When Hey appears at the end of a word, it is normally silent.
In gematria (a mystical tradition that assigns a numerological value to Hebrew letters) Hey represents the number 5. According to Jewish mystics, the letter represents the divine breath, revelation, and light (the word "light" is mentioned five times on the first day of creation (Gen. 1:3-4), which is said to correspond to the letter Hey).
In the Modern Hebrew language, the letter Hey can be used for a variety of purposes. It functions as the definitive article in Hebrew, a sort of demonstrative that points to the object and make it concrete and definitive. Thus איש, a man, becomes האיש (ha-ish), the man. Adding a Hey at the end of a noun "feminises" it (although not always). The Hey can also change the meaning of a sentence into a question when attached to the beginning of certain words. For example, "yadata" (ידעת) means "you knew", but when we place a Hey in front, we get "hayadata" (הידעת), meaning "did you know?" It can also indicate movement towards something, such that "tzafon" (צפון) means "North", while "tzafona" (צפונה), with a Hey at the end of the word, changes the meaning to "towards the North".
In Kabbalah (the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible) Hey represents the five fingers, the five senses and the five dimensions, in addition to the five levels of the soul. There are five fingers on hamsa amulets, a very common talismanic symbol. Many Jews believe that the five fingers of the hamsa hand remind its wearer to use their five senses to praise G-d *.
The letter is also often used instead of writing out one of the most common names used for G-d. Hey is often used to represent the name of G-d as an abbreviation for Hashem, which means "The Name", and is a way of saying G-d without actually saying the name of G-d. In print, Hashem is usually written as Hey with a geresh (an apostrophe-like sign placed after a letter): ה׳‬.
I drew a sans-serif letter Hey and filled it with flowers, leaves and one of my signature little birds.
My letters are available unframed. They measure 12x17cm and fit perfectly into the mount of an IKEA 18x24cm RIBBA frame. This letter Hey was created as a Bat Mitzvah gift for a young lady called Hadar. Do you have someone you would like me to cut a papercut initial for?
* Jewish people do not write G‑d's name in a place where it may be discarded or erased. Treating G‑d's name with reverence is a way to give respect to G‑d.

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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Barça, Barça, Baaarça!

"Yonatan has been begging for his own card, especially since his brothers and all our family have got one over the years" his Mum wrote to me. So I made him a card for his 7th birthday. "He is absolutely soccer crazy!" she said. "He supports Barcelona football team. At the moment he is obsessed with the "Supergol" football cards and album [a sticker album of Israel's football league which is published every year], and loves his golden ball and golden box. Of course his red football boots are crucial too!" "I hope you can depict some of this in the card!" Mum wrote. Of course I could!
I showed Yonatan wearing his beloved team's cap. He has his golden ball in one hand. Behind him is the Supergol album and some stickers, his golden box and his much-loved red football boots. The
Barça crest, which shows the St George Cross and the red and yellow bars of the flag of Barcelona, the club initials FCB on a strip across the centre, and below, the Barça colours and a ball, is next to him. A big red number 7 marks his age.
Mum was kind enough to message me to tell me that the card had arrived. "I love it! I'm sure he [Yonatan] will too!" she wrote. Then the next day she followed up to say that "Yonatan, and all his friends, loved the card, especially seeing HIS shoes!"
Never underestimate the importance of a special birthday card.
Roi's mum also wanted a special card for her son's birthday. Last year the theme of his card was climbing, but this year mum had a long list of things she wanted me to include. She specifically asked me to show her son standing on his head! His various interests (apart from standing on his head) include playing the guitar, Kosher Kravi (combat fitness) and drama. He is a madrich (youth counsellor) with the Hebrew Scout Movement in Israel and he likes to eat hamburgers from a favourite restaurant.
I showed Ro'i standing on his head and added the Scouts badge, the Hebrew words for combat fitness and a little book that says מחזה (play) on it, to his left. To his right is a guitar, and a hamburger, along with the logo of Ro'i's favourite restaurant. Finally, the number 17 marks his age.
It seems that my card made Ro'i's brothers laugh (and I know why - he did look a little strange when turned the right way up!):
"Lisa, it's the coolest card ever! We all had such a laugh looking at it... the boys kept turning it over and laughing. I hope you had fun making it because we love it!"
Well, it's good to have a giggle!
Lastly, this small card was a request for a young man who likes cricket and football. I remember creating a card for him with a cute green monster on it, back in 2014. It seems that he has moved on to sportier things since then.