Monday, 30 November 2020

30 Years and 60 Years

This couple were celebrating 30 years of marriage, the Pearl wedding anniversary. The "bride" asked me to make a card based on their wedding photo. I carefully matched the groom's grey suit and the pink carnation in his lapel. The bride's dress, with all its lace, was a little more complicated but I managed with some help from Adobe Photoshop. Her flowers, she told me, were peachy pink so I made sure to include those colours in her hair and bouquet.
Around the same time the bride's parents were celebrating 60 years of marriage, their Diamond anniversary. (An interesting aside, in the United Kingdom the diamond was a well known symbol for the 75th anniversary, but this changed to the now more common 60th anniversary after Queen Victoria's 60 years on the throne was widely marked as her Diamond Jubilee.) Once again I received their wedding photo and recreated it in paper. This groom was in top hat and, I presume, tails, whilst his bride also had some lace on her dress and a beautiful big veil. Their daughter sent me some favourite photos of her parents over the years which I added to the card as well.
Her parents loved it.
JENerally Informed

Thursday, 26 November 2020


Just like last year, my eldest son was not home on his recent birthday. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) required his services that day 😉. I found a solution online and was able to order goodies from the army corner shop, which he was able to share in a coronavirus safe way with his fellow soldiers. He enjoyed that and then we celebrated together when he was next home.
Of course, birthdays in our home come with a handmade card made by mum! I have shown my eldest son in his olive green army uniform on his birthday card. He is currently about halfway through his compulsory military service. He is sitting at his laptop computer reading the Al Jazeera site, the state-owned broadcaster based in Doha, Qatar. I made sure to show their logo in Arabic on the screen since my son follows their news in Arabic for practice. As a matter of interest, Al Jazeera's distinctive logo is said to resemble a drop of water. Its calligraphic design spells "Al Jazeera" in Arabic.
I had to include the Arsenal crest on his card too. He has been a keen supporter since he was very young. This year Mister Handmade in Israel insisted I include the headline "Partey Time!" on the card, to mark the arrival of Thomas Teye Partey, a Ghanaian professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for the club. He and the eldest son seem very excited about him!
Finally, a big blue number 20 marks our son's age.
Of course this year there was no meal out to celebrate, though we did order a feast from our local steakia. Since I don't eat meat, I polished off the pita bread and hummus! There was cake too, decorated with lots of chocolate buttercream icing and Klik balls. Maltesers would have been preferable but, without any trips to visit family in the UK, our supply of English chocolate has long dried up 😢


Monday, 23 November 2020

Shvil HaErez (The Cedar Trail)

In the early years after the State of Israel was founded, Jerusalem was a small city surrounded by bare rocky hills. The Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) initiated the planting of a large area of forest to the west of the city and in 1956 the second President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben Zvi, planted the first tree in what was to become the Jerusalem Forest. Afforestation continued apace until, within just a few years, the Jerusalem Forest covered an area of some 4,700 dunam.
Trees planted included pine (Oren), cypress (Brosh matzue) and cedar (Erez). These trees grow very quickly and they rapidly achieved the function they were intended for. However, it subsequently became apparent that pine in particular is not ideal for forests. It has a shallow root system and the cones and trees readily burn. Arson and accidents can destroy a forest. More recent afforestation in the country now uses a variety of trees, especially those indigenous to the country.
Many years have passed since the forest was first planted and Jerusalem has expanded enormously. Large neighbourhoods and suburbs - Ein Kerem, Beit Zayit, Givat Shaul, Kiryat Yovel, Beit HaKerem, Har Nof, Motza - have encroached deep into the forest, as have two important national monuments - Yad Vashem and Herzl's Tomb. The boundaries of the forest have receded and its area now covers only 1,250 dunam. But the forest is easily accessible to the general public and footpaths have been marked out, signposts have been provided, picnic tables and children's playgrounds have been built. The forest has a variety of trees, flowers and wildlife, remains of ancient farming implements and burial caves, wine presses and cisterns that attest to the habitation of the region long ago. One may often see gazelles running in the area and hear the sounds of the numerous songbirds. It's a great place to hike.
Mister Handmade in Israel and I recently followed Shvil HaErez (The Cedar Trail) within the forest. The circular trail was around six kilometres long and the walk took us approximately two and a half hours. The route is signposted and indicated by blue trail markings all the way. It lead us first through an area of forest comprising both planted conifers and Mediterranean woodland trees such as Palestine oak, terebinth, carob, olive, fig and pomegranate. The path continued to climb up a slope, though a forest of pine and cypress trees, eventually leaving the valley and climbing a steep slope until it reached the road. On the other side of the road was Australia Park, a recreation area which is actually the real starting point of the Cedar Trail.
Continuing on, we passed agricultural terraces planted with fruit trees and an olive grove. In the spring, orchids such as the the Anatolian orchid with its red-spotted leaves, peep out from among the bushes, along with anemones, daffodils and cyclamens. The path lead us past a eucalyptus grove, a cave from which an impressive fig tree emerges and, deviating slightly from the path, to a small plaza where Ben Gurion's Cedar grows, below. David Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, planted it with his own hands on 2nd February 1958. Admittedly, it is not overwhelming!
From here we made another brief detour from the path and climbed up to Mitzpeh Kerem, the Kerem Viewpoint. Its Arabic name is Khirbet Hamame, which means "Dove Ruins". This hill has been a site of habitation since the Bronze Age and throughout the years has held great strategic importance. We walked past trenches dug by the Ottoman Turks in the First World War as they took up positions ready to confront the British troops, below. During Israel's War of Independence the hill was occupied by Arab forces that fired on the neighbourhoods of Beit Hakerem and Bayit Vegan below. On 10th July 1948 this vantage point was successfully captured by the Jonathan Platoon (Plugat Yehonatan) of the Gadna (the Youth Battalions), a group of fighters too young to be drafted but recruited because of a shortage of fighters to relieve the besieged city of Jerusalem. Six combatants, two of whom were 16 year-old privates, fell in the fighting and dozens of others were injured.
Mitzpeh Kerem was supposed to offer magnificent views that include, among other sites, Yad VaShem's Valley of the Communities, Pilots' Hill (Har HaTayyasim), Eitanim and Ein Kerem's Hadassah Hospital. Unfortunately tree branches blocked the view and it was hard to see very much at all.
We returned to Ben Gurion's Cedar and from there made our way back to the blue-marked trail, which descended through the forest to the main road and back to our car. We had enjoyed beautiful views of parts of Jerusalem and the surrounding wooded hills. It had been pleasant to walk through the forest and woodland scenery but the fact that the forest is so near to the centre of town and that so many neighbourhoods can be seen from the trail, made it feel a little bit like I was still in the city instead of far from the madding crowd.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Lottie Ruby

My niece had a baby. That makes me a great-aunt! It's often difficult to know exactly what to send as a gift from abroad, especially during a pandemic when the shops are closed! I decided that a piece of artwork for the new baby's nursery would be nice and unique too. I checked out what colour her room is - pinks and peaches - and my sister, the new granny, gave me all the date and weight details.
I set to work.
I created a piece which included the baby's name, Lottie Ruby. She has a Hebrew name as well, which I added below it. Jewish parents frequently give their child both a secular name for use in general society and a Hebrew name. The Hebrew name is the name the child will be called at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah and other formal religious occasions. Lottie's date and time of birth is at the top of the picture, whilst her birth weight is at the bottom. I added a cute little "girl" bear with a bow. One of my signature little birds is sitting on her paw. Some flowers finish off the piece.
My niece seemed delighted with the piece. "Thank you so so much for Lottie's beautiful artwork! It’s absolutely gorgeous!" she wrote to me. "It's being hung up this afternoon!"