Monday, 29 October 2018

Swimming and Tennis

Twins Gavriel and Amitai recently turned 12. This year their mum asked me to make a tennis themed birthday card for Amitai and a swimming one for Gavriel. I make cards to mark their birthday every year and have in fact made cards along those themes before (I did a tennis card for Amitai when he was 9 and a swimming one for Gavriel when he was 10). My task was to come up with something different!
I quizzed mum about what her boys wear for their various sporting activities. Gavriel wears black swimming shorts and swimming goggles with clear lenses and red straps, she told me.
I have shown him happily swimming across his card. I popped the goggles on to the top of his head so that we could see his face. I made sure to make the background red, his favourite colour. He is also very into reading Percy Jackson books in Hebrew, mum was excited to add, so I included some Percy Jackson book covers on the card as well.
Tennis player Amitai wears black adidas shorts and a grey Dri-FIT t-shirt for his preferred sport. His tennis racket is blue and white and has a red W for Wilson on the strings. His favourite colour is yellow, so I made that the background colour of his card.
Mum shared these fabulous photos of the boys with their birthday cards and said that they were very happy with them. In the meantime, you should have seen the cakes she made for their big day. They are very lucky young men!

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Avdat National Park

The day after our hike in Ein Avdat we took ourselves off to Avdat National Park. Ein Avdat and Avdat National Parks are located close to each other in the Negev desert. Ein Avdat National Park offers a hike in the desert canyons, while in Avdat National Park you can see the remains of a Nabatean city.
Avdat, also known as Abdah, Ovdat and Obodat, was a city on the Incense route, the route by which incense, perfumes and spices were brought from Arabia through the Negev and to the port of Gaza. Like Mamshit it was inhabited by the Nabateans, Romans and Byzantines between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century CE. The city was named for the Nabatean King Oboda II (1st century BCE) who developed the city; he was revered as a god, and was buried in the city. Avdat was destroyed by an earthquake in 630 CE, and shortly after, in 636 CE, the area was conquered by Arab tribes. These two factors together sealed its fate and the city was abandoned. Modern archaeological study of the city began in the 19th century, and in 1870 a researcher by the name of Palmer identified the site and determined that it was the city of Avdat. Excavations began in 1958.
Avdat was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in June 2005 but on 4th October 2009 the site suffered extensive damage when hundreds of artifacts were smashed and paint smeared on walls and an ancient wine press. In a lengthy rehabilitation project, the damaged artifacts were restored and the security arrangements at the site were reinforced. Avdat was also the filming location of the 1973 film Jesus Christ Superstar.
We started our visit to Avdat at the entrance to the national park. There we found an information centre with displays about the Incense route, antiquities from the site and a short film about the Incense route and how the Nabateans water harvested to survive in the desert.
We left the museum and drove to the upper parking, stopping en route to explore the store caves in the lower city, above. The caves were used as tombs during the period of the Nabatean settlement, while the Byzantines used them for dwellings, stables and monasteries, as well as for storing agricultural produce and fermenting wine.
At the top of the hill is the main city of Avdat. At the entrance to the city is a Roman tower with an inscription dating back to the late 3rd century; the Roman tower was built by a local Nabatean architect who was so skilled that the lower story and roof survived the 630 CE earthquake. This tower is the oldest Nabatean building found in Israel.
From the tower we continued on to the street in the Byzantine quarter. The main street had homes on each side; it was destroyed in the earthquake but the arches of the "vaulted room" were reconstructed during the conservation project after vandals tore them down in 2009. The drainage system collected rainwater from under the streets and drained it into cisterns.
A huge Roman army camp was well preserved, as was the Byzantine wine press, with its crushing floor and the large collection hole in a second room. It was part of a Late Roman/Early Byzantine farmhouse. The Byzantine citadel with its tower, large water cistern and channel through which rainwater flowed, is also well preserved. The view from the tower was spectacular!
The remains of an old Nabatean temple is located in a large hall, which is flanked by two churches. The Southern church was part of a monastery, named after Saint Theodore, a Greek martyr of the 4th century. The Northern church is the older church, which was built from the stones of an earlier pagan temple. 
Returning to our car we drove back down the hill, stopping first at the remains of a Roman villa which was built alone, overlooking the agricultural land and the Zin Valley. The villa is built around a square central courtyard with a water cistern in the centre. We then made another stop further down the hill at a burial cave which dates from the 3rd century CE. It contains 20 hewn burial niches and engravings of the sun and moon. The burial cave is thought to be a shrine to Aphrodite.
Finally we went to see the bathhouse at the bottom of the hill, which was built in the 4th century by Roman soldiers. Though it was locked and we were unable to go in, we learnt that it had two hot rooms, a cool room, a warm room, and a dressing room. An adjacent well, 70 metres deep, contained water that flowed through a channel to the bathhouse.
Avdat is one of the best preserved Nabatean cities in Israel. It was a great place to learn about the Nabateans, and the Romans and then Byzantines who inhabited this spot. The reconstructed rooms, churches and temple were impressive, but it was the gorgeous views from the top of the hill that left the biggest impression. Exploring this site is a must for anyone trying to grasp the history of the Negev desert and its people.

* This post has been shared on Travel Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)Wednesday around the World, Little Things Thursday, Thankful Thursday, Friday Foto Friends and All Seasons.
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Monday, 22 October 2018

80 Years Old and Awesome

Some time ago a customer asked me to make an 80th birthday card for her mum. Apparently she creates pottery, plays tennis, sews, likes flowers and gardening, and often hosts her daughter and family for Shabbat dinner. She also likes the colour orange, her daughter pointed out, and could I include a picture of mum as well?
There was lot to fit on the card!
I created a little paper portrait of mum in the centre of the card and added a big orange number 80. Then, clockwise from the left, I added two little photos showing her working on some of her pottery pieces. Next I cut out a tennis racket and tennis ball, some tiny reels of cotton and a needle, and included a watering can, trowel and some leaves to represent her interest in gardening. Finally I added two candlesticks and two loaves of challah to represent their family Shabbat meals.
The Shabbat candles are traditionally lit by the woman of the household just before sundown to welcome the Shabbat. Lighting the candles brings not only a physical light but also peace, harmony, serenity and spirituality into the home. I also created two plaited challot, above. Most people think of challah as that special, yummy, plaited bread eaten after the Kiddush (the blessing recited over wine to sanctify the Shabbat and Jewish holidays) but it really represents so much more. "Challah" is actually the piece of dough that is removed from the loaf before it is plaited, not the plaited bread loaf itself. After the challah was removed it was traditionally given as a sacrifice to the Holy Priest, representing a consecration to G-d, but in modern times it is either burnt in the oven or frozen and then thrown away. The separation of the challah is one the 613 mitzvot (commandments of Jewish law) that contribute toward creating a Jewish life.
This "Brother" was also turning 80. Apparently he has just bought himself a sports car, his sister told me, so that's what I put on his birthday card. Drive safely!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

World Cup Football and Municipal Elections

Every year twins Gabi and Adi each receive one of my customised cards on their birthday. I have mentioned before that my cards have become an essential part of their family's birthday celebrations and that these two young men spend the run-up to their big day guessing what will be on their card that year!
This year mum knew for sure what to put on Gabi's card. He was lucky enough to be able to travel to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and was even more fortunate to get a ticket for an England game (Gabi's parents are both British). His birthday card shows him at the stadium, waving his World Cup scarf and wearing his England shirt with pride. Next to him is the 2018 World Cup logo. A big 22 marks his age. England won the game he went to!
Gabi's brother Adi is greatly involved in our forthcoming municipal elections. He is a friend and admirer of one of the candidates and arranged a meet and greet for him at the family home.
I have shown Adi in front of the candidate's election poster. The ballot slip with the Hebrew ballot letters of the candidate is next to him and, once again, a big number 22 marks his age.
On election day in Israel, and upon entry to a polling station, the voter is given an official envelope, and shown to a voting booth. Inside the booth is a tray of slips, one for each party. The slips are printed with the "ballot letters" of the party (between one and three Hebrew letters), the full official name of the party, and sometimes a slogan in small print. Each party publicises their letter prior to election day, with most election posters featuring them. The voter chooses the relevant slip for their party, puts it in the envelope, seals it, and then places the envelope into the ballot box.