Monday, 28 December 2020

The Best of 2020 - Part I

Well, what a year 2020 has been! Covid-19 has made it a very, very strange year for us all. Here in Israel we are currently in our third lockdown and most things are closed. The vaccine gives us hope, though for sure life is not going to return to normal for a very long time. However, as someone who has worked from home for many years, things have been okay for me personally. I have continued to work as normal, albeit with Mister Handmade in Israel and my youngest son home as well. My only real struggle has been the length of time it took for orders to reach abroad, primarily to the US, but fortunately my customers have been nothing but understanding. Lucky me!
In 2020 there were far fewer celebrations and those that did take place were small. I have made a lot less personalised albums this year, though I am pleased to report that I do have a few orders already lined up for the beginning of next year. On the other hand, I have been very busy with my customised cards and papercut pictures. Many people have received my cards on their birthday or anniversary and a few cards have been sent just to make someone smile! I have made quite a number of large framed pictures to mark some special occasions. I hope my art has somehow helped in a tiny way during this difficult year.

As is common at this time of the year, I thought it would be fun to collect together my Top 10 favourite designs from this past year and show them to you once again. I have linked to some other special projects I worked on as well. Have you spotted your card or picture amongst my collections?
I have also visited some interesting places, all within a short distance of where I live. 2020 has not been the year for travel - my long-awaited school reunion trip to the UK was of course cancelled and I haven't seen my dad for many months - but Mister Handmade in Israel and I have been out for some lovely walks and discovered some amazing and beautiful places which I have shared with you as an occasional travel post. I'm saving my top 10 favourite places for another time.

Thank you so much for taking the time this past year to pop by and see what's happening over here at Handmade in Israel, especially those of you who have commented, liked, shared and bought what you've seen on my blog. I have enjoyed composing each and every one of my blog posts and hope you will continue to visit and enjoy them in 2021, 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 FacebookInstagramTwitter and Pinterest. Oh, and please pop by my shop now and then to see what is new there.
Wishing you a safe and better start to 2021!

Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs
JENerally Informed

Thursday, 24 December 2020

A Coronavirus Christmas

It was only because I heard a Christmas song on the radio that I realised that Christmas is coming up! In the predominantly Jewish city where I live there is very little sign of the holiday. Instead we have been celebrating Chanukah, the eight day holiday which began on 10th December and is also known as the Festival of Lights. It commemorates the re-dedication of the second century BCE Second Temple in Jerusalem. You can read more about the holiday in this post.
Needless to say, this year has been like no other. We lit the Chanukah candles every night and I made latkes and doughnuts (we eat potato pancakes, latkes, and deep-fried doughnuts, sufganiot, to remind us of the miracle of the oil and the candles that burned for eight days in the rededicated Holy Temple) but other than that, Covid-19 restrictions meant that that there were no parties and no get togethers with friends. We will party twice as hard next year!
Christmas trees at the Church of the Visitation, Ein Kerem, 2013.
Despite the fact that I celebrate Chanukah instead of Christmas, I do enjoy listening to Christmas pop songs on Radio 2 on the Internet. I am quite well versed in all my carols too! I like to have a good singalong and usually no one is home. This year my husband, who is working from home, and youngest son have had to put up with my squawking!!!
Of course Christmas is especially meaningful in Israel due to the historic significance this little country holds as the land where the Christmas story took place. As far as I know, celebrations have pretty much been called off this year but, in normal times, the Christmas Market and Midnight Mass in the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth is known to be a wonderful experience. In Bethlehem you can visit Manger Square and go to Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, plus there is an annual Christmas Parade. The German Colony in Haifa, which we were lucky enough to visit in 2018, has amazing Christmas lights. 
I have not been out and about to see any Christmas trees or lights this year, so I am sharing my photos from previous years. I hope you will enjoy them once again.
Christmas trees at the YMCA in Jerusalem, 2016.
I do have a papercut art business and this year I created a new Christmas card to send to a few friends back in the UK. My red and green cards featured a little pine tree lit up with white lights and a big star. The post has been slow but I hope they arrived safe and sound.
This year the holidays will be different. I hope that the season will still be special in its own way for you. Thank you for all the support you have given me and my blogging adventure for another year. Keep safe and please keep visiting. I will be back with my end of year round-up for 2020 very soon!
Christmas tree in the German Colony, Haifa, 2017 (top), 2018 and 2019.

Monday, 21 December 2020

Ein Kobi and the Seadim Ruins

After another month of lockdown I was anxious to go out and explore once again. This time Mister Handmade in Israel and I visited the spring at Ein Kobi and hiked down through the ravine of Nahal Kobi in the Begin Forest.
Kobi was a Jewish village in Roman times and Ein Kobi was its water source. The Arab village of Al Qabu was also located here. The 2,000 year old remains of the spring are situated in a valley with gorgeous vineyards and orchard trees. The water of the Ein Kobi spring has been used over the years by the farmers of the surrounding villages. 
The KKL-JNF (Jewish National Fund) have prepared Ein Kobi for hikers and have provided tables and benches. It is a lovely place for a picnic and for overnight camping. Sadly not that much is left of the village above ground except for one building, above, which dates back to the Ottoman period. It contains a prayer niche that faces Mecca, evidence that is was once a house of prayer. The prayer structure was built on the remains of an ancient building from the Roman-Byzantine period.
The highlight of the site is the spring, above. The spring flows into an underground arched chamber, which serves as an ancient collecting system. The purpose of the site was to store water for drinking and to transport the rest of the water to agricultural crops, through a tunnel to an external water reservoir, and from there to the ditches. Nowadays they are usually dry.
You can reach the spring by walking down a few steps to a structure, Beit Hama'ayan, which is enclosed by green railings. In its roof there is an opening that lets the light in during the day. Adventurous types can take a dip in the underground cistern or climb through the water tunnel. I considered it for a moment then decided against it! A 17 metre long shaft emerges from the underground pool.
After visiting the spring it was time for a hike. We passed the ruins of the mosque and found the red trail that leads to the ravine of Nahal Kobi. The descent through the ravine was somewhat steep, but there were numerous wooden or stone steps, making it quite easy. Towards the end we enjoyed wonderful views of the forested Valley of Rephaim, below, where the Philistines once encamped. The Tel Aviv – Jerusalem railway, originally known as the Jaffa–Jerusalem railway, uses the entire length of the Valley of the Rephaim from Jerusalem to its junction with Nahal Sorek.
Eventually we came to a gravel road, at which point we turned right onto the green trail which is signposted to Ein Kobi. The road took us back to our car parked at Ein Kobi.
Our next stop was at the Seadim Ruins, Horvat Saadim, in the Aminadav Forest. We followed a short path to the Byzantine agricultural farm house, olive press, and an ancient mosque that was built later on top of the ruins of the Byzantine buildings. 
Horvat Saadim is a very small nature reserve and the main reason for its recognition as such is the presence of the exceptionally large specimens of the Israeli common oak (Quercus calliprinos) that grow there - an unusual sight where this variety of oak is concerned. These oak trees may have attained their unusual proportions because of the nearby presence of the remnants of a maqam - a shrine dedicated to the memory of a Muslim saint - in this case Sheikh Ahmad. This is due to the belief that trees near a mosque should not be cut down due to the sanctity of the place. An impressively ancient carob tree can also be seen in the vicinity.
All that now remains of the mosque are two walls two metres high, one of which still retains an arch in its entirety. Sheikh Ahmad was renowned for his ability to induce fertility in barren women and this may be the source of the Arabic name of the site, Khirbet Sa'ida, which means "Fortunate Woman Ruins". 
Near the maqam, in open ground, stands a heavy stone column, below, that once supported the beam of an oil press. The basin stone of the press (the lower stone, in which the olives were crushed before the oil was extracted from them) was found in a nearby cave, which would appear to have been its original site.
Picnic tables have been placed at the foot of the ruins, among the pine trees. It was the perfect place to stop for a sandwich before returning home. It was good to be out exploring once again.

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs Down Under

My friend Nomi is originally from Australia and most of her family still live there. Several younger members of the family were recently Bar and Bat Mitzvah but sadly because of the coronavirus she was unable to travel there to celebrate with them. The mail to Australia was also not getting through because of limited flights but I came up with a solution! I made cards for all the young people and scanned them. That way they got to see their custom-made cards on their special day!
Talia celebrated her Bat Mitzvah first. A Jewish girl typically becomes a Bat Mitzvah when she turns 12. Talia likes bike riding and was getting a new teal coloured bike for her birthday. She is also into Lego, likes music, she does hip hop style dancing and she loves flowers. Oh, and of course, her iPhone is important to her too! Nomi told me that Talia's favourite colour is purple.
I showed curly-haired Talia hip hop dancing on her card. She has her iPhone in her hand. Behind her are some music notes and her new bike. In front of her I cut out some tiny pieces of Lego and added some flowers. The number 12 marks her age.
Coby, my friend's oldest nephew, loves bike riding with his friends. She mentioned the name of a particular canal in Victoria where he likes to hang out. He also favours Champion branded clothing.
On his Bar Mitzvah card I showed Coby on his black bike. He is wearing a grey Champion T-shirt. Behind him is a photo of the canal. Jewish boys become Bar Mitzvah at 13, so a big red number 13 marks his age.
Finally, Orly, Coby's sister, was Bat Mitzvah. She loves cheerleading, doing TikTok dances and talking to and FaceTiming with her friends. She also plays the guitar. I asked my friend to find out what Orly wears for cheerleading and recreated her blue and gold dress out of paper. She has a gold pom pom in one hand and her guitar in the other. Then I added the TikTok and FaceTime logos and a little phone with her friends faces on the screen.
Nomi told me that they all loved their cards!