Thursday, 27 December 2018

The Best of 2018 - Part I

1. Fifteen  2. Hi Mum... you're 91!  3. The China Anniversary  4. 25 Years!  5. Keshet  6. Vacuuming and loving it  7. Jessie  8. Swimming and Tennis  9. Ma'ayan and Avinoam  10. Eighteen

Whilst the Jewish people worldwide have already celebrated Chanukah (you can read more about the festival here) and have returned to normal routine, many of you are now celebrating Christmas. Happy holidays to you and best wishes for an amazing year ahead! Thank you so much for taking time out of your daily lives this past year to pop by and see what's happening over here at Handmade in Israel. I hope you will continue to visit in 2019 as I share the coming year's cards, albums and papercuts, and a few of my adventures in Israel.
In 2018 I made customised cards, albums and papercut pictures for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, new babies and more. As is common at this time of the year, I thought it would be fun to collect together some of my favourite designs from this past year and show them to you once again. Have you spotted your card, album or picture amongst my collections? 
A big thank you to those of you who have commented, liked, shared and bought what you've seen on my blog. It is such a compliment to the maker, artist or designer when you buy directly from them. I am always very happy to receive your encouraging comments and support. Thank you for liking what I make.

1. Ella's Album  2. Gabriel's Album  3. Talia's Album  4. Elinor's Album  5. Rosh Chodesh  6. Tehilla's Album  7. Emmy's Album  8. 'Mem' is for Miriam  9. Lucy's Album  10. Amy's Album

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 2019, 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 Christmas, and a safe and exciting start to 2019!

* This post has been shared on Wednesday around the World, Little Things Thursday, Creatively Crafty Link Party, Saturday Sharefest, Saturday Sparks Link Party and All Seasons.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas in Israel

I love Christmas decorations and seeing the twinkling lights but you could walk the streets of Tel Aviv through December and not have an inkling that Santa was about to visit. If you are able to cross over in to Palestinian areas, there is of course the trek to Manger Square in Bethlehem and Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, plus there is an annual Christmas Parade, Christmas Market and Midnight Mass in the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. In the city where I live there is very little sign of the holiday, though I have heard Christmas pop songs on BBC Radio 2 on the Internet and sung along to Last Christmas (best Christmas song ever!). We recently celebrated Chanukah in our own home but that doesn't stop me from liking Christmas as well! I find it rather fun to sit at my desk and listen to the Christmas songs I remember from years gone by and am quite well versed in all the carols too, from my school days back in the UK.
Christmas trees at the Church of the Visitation, Ein Kerem, 2013.
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, 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 some of the trees I have spotted in Israel over the years, at the Church of the Visitation, Ein Kerem, at the YMCA in Jerusalem and more recently in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa.
Christmas trees at the YMCA in Jerusalem, 2016.
Happy holidays to you all and best wishes from the land where the Christmas story took place, even if there's no evidence of it on the streets! Thank you for all the support you have given me and my blogging adventure through another year. Please keep visiting.
Christmas tree in the German Colony, Haifa, 2017 (top) and 2018.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Happy 50th Mizzie

Mizzie recently turned 50. Her husband came up with the idea of a "then and now" card and sent me two photos of his wife, one as a baby and one current one. I decided to show the sepia coloured baby picture in a white Polaroid-inspired frame, whilst his wife's current photo is full colour and frameless.
I added a big yellow 50 to mark her age, some stars and a heart for colour.
"Thanks for the beautiful card!!!" Mizzie wrote to me and, even though it wasn't really from me, I was delighted that she liked it!

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Mishmar HaSharon Reservoir and Agamon Hefer

Some weeks ago we drove north for the day to visit the Mishmar HaSharon Reservoir in the Hefer Valley. I had read about the large numbers of pelicans that come to spend time at the reservoir at this time of the year, either to continue their migration to Africa or to stay on to winter in Israel, and we wanted to see them for ourselves.
The Mishmar HaSharon Reservoir is one of many water storage facilities built by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the Hefer Valley. With a capacity of around one million cubic metres, it absorbs the overflow from the Alexander River in time of floods, stores recycled water and supplies other reservoirs. The reservoir is surrounded by a garden of ornamental plants and flowers that attract butterflies and insects. In the garden is a disabled-accessible path that climbs up to the elevated Vickar Observation Point, a large shaded balcony that rises above the reservoir which offers a wonderful view of thousands of birds during the migration season. The observation point was funded by a donation from the Vickar family of Canada.
We made our way up the path and, as we reached its end, each of us was stunned as we caught our first glimpse of the magnificent sight before us. Hundreds of pelicans, as well as cormorants, egrets and herons, were gathered around the reservoir. It was truly a sight to behold.
It is not just by chance that such large numbers of pelicans come to spend time at the reservoir. Thousands of great white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) nest in Europe. This population is largely migratory and, as it overwinters in Africa, all its members pass through Israel during migration, mainly between March and May and then again between September and November. In recent years, however, several hundreds of pelicans have stayed on to winter in Israel.
The pelican is a very sociable bird that lives in large flocks. Unless it is part of a flock, it can’t nest. When they're kept in captivity, they’re given a mirror to keep them company. Pelicans reach adulthood at the age of four, when they turn white, and they are one of the largest species of bird in the world. Their wingspan can be as much as three metres and they can weigh around ten kilos. Their bones are hollow, which makes it easy for them to fly and float on the surface of the water, but renders it harder for them to dive and hunt for fish.
An adult pelican eats a kilogram of fish every day, and they hunt in flocks. A large flock of pelicans can cause immeasurable damage to a fish farm, and they used to be chased from one pond to the next without being provided with an alternative food source.  This exhausted some of them to the point of death. Others, with no strength left to continue southwards, remained in Israel. The dilemma was resolved by providing the pelicans with enough food to allow them to continue their migration. Two "refuelling stations" have been placed at their disposal: one is in the Hula Valley and the other here at the Mishmar HaSharon Reservoir.
These days, the Nature and Parks Authority, working in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture's Fisheries Department, populates the Mishmar HaSharon Reservoir with fish that are not intended for sale. The fish are provided solely for the beaks of the pelicans. Members of staff at the reservoir feed the pelicans with six tonnes of fish three to four times a week, during the three months that the pelicans are flying over Israel, all funded by the Ministry of Agriculture. The ministry at one point said it was going to stop the project, claiming it was not responsible for feeding migrating animals passing through from Europe to Africa but, under pressure from farmers and environmentalists, it reconsidered.
The pelicans start to arrive in Israel from Europe in mid-September and stay here for just two weeks. They stop over in the Hula Valley before continuing southwards on their journey to Lake Chad and Lake Nakuru in East Africa. En route they pause first at the Hula Valley and then once more at the Mishmar HaSharon Reservoir, where they rest and refuel before continuing on to their destination. Estimates of the number of birds that pass over Israel each year range from 75,000 to over 100,000.
It was hard to tear ourselves away from the observation point, but there was more for us to see in the area. In the heart of the fields of the Hefer Valley, near the Alexander River, is a gorgeous new sanctuary for birds, Agamon Hefer. The sanctuary was established with the support of the Jewish National Fund, the Emek Hefer Regional Council, the Sharon River Authority, the Israel Lands Authority, Kibbutz Ein HaHoresh and the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
In the past, Emek Hefer was home to natural swamps that provided a habitat for a great deal of flora and fauna. The pioneers who settled the area almost one hundred years ago drained the swamps and developed communities and agriculture. At the spot where the new sanctuary is now located, there used to be fish breeding pools that were owned by Kibbutz Ein HaHoresh. The pools were abandoned, and the site became neglected and deserted. Now it is a beautiful sanctuary that is a paradise for both birds and humans.
The sanctuary includes an artificial lake, wooden decks, hidden observation points, hiking paths and new trees planted around the lake. Future plans include the building of a new entrance bridge and paving a trail that will be accessible to people with limited movement. The sanctuary covers 350 dunams, most of which is covered by the lake, which is about 300,000 cubic metres. The variable depths in the lake are designed to suit the needs of a variety of birds. 
The day we visited Agamon Hefer we saw large flocks of black storks, a large bird, measuring between 95 and 100 cm in length, with a 145-to-155 cm wingspan, and weighing around 3 kg. It has long red legs, a long neck and a long, straight, pointed red beak. The black stork is a shy species. It is seen singly or in pairs, usually in marshy areas, rivers or inland waters. It feeds on amphibians, small fish and insects, generally wading slowly in shallow water stalking its prey. Like the pelicans, the storks were migrating between Europe and Africa.
Continuing on the circular trail around the lake, we spotted egrets, herons, a kingfisher diving for fish, and other birds and mammals that inhabit the lake. Agamon Hefer is an amazing place for bird lovers. Next time I must remember to take the binoculars!
Two Traveling Texans
Sunday Snap