Thursday, 28 January 2021


My youngest son turned 18 last week and it certainly wasn't the 18th birthday he had dreamt of! Israel is currently in its third lockdown, so he celebrated his special birthday at home with mum and dad! When I think back to how I celebrated my 18th birthday - at Romeo and Juliet's in Hull, a nightclub which has long since disappeared - it does feel rather sad, but we are all healthy and safe at home, and Mister Handmade in Israel and I have received both of our Covid-19 vaccinations. It's all good.
Eighteen seems pretty old but then I do have one son already serving his compulsory service in the Israeli army. His younger brother will be finishing school this summer and will start his service shortly afterwards. Israel has just started to vaccinate the kids who, in the coming months, will be doing their bagrut, Israel's high school matriculation examination. He received his first shot a couple of days ago and will hopefully be able to prepare for his exams in some way, even though he hasn't been inside his school for almost a year!
My son has received a birthday card made by me ever since he turned 1. The first card of his that I showed on this blog was from his 6th birthday. It featured Dracula and bats! In recent years his cards seem to have been mostly dog themed. We never did get him a dog and probably should have done, but he is still passionate about them and I guess will one day have a dog of his own. The dog that appears on his 18th birthday card is Tofu, our neighbour's dog, who Gadi walks daily. In fact Tofu was with us when my son was opening his birthday cards, so Tofu was shown his paper portrait, above, and it seemed to meet with approval 😉.
My son has passed his driving test since his last birthday and when we are not in lockdown, likes to take Mister Handmade in Israel's car for a spin with his friends. I have shown the car on his card and he is proudly pointing to the car keys. He supports our local football team, Ironi Modi'in F.C., so I added the club badge to his card as well. Of course he's 18 now, so he can legally enjoy a beer with his friends. I included an overflowing beer glass, along with his precious phone which never leaves his hand.
Even at 18 it seems that he was very happy with his customised card handmade by Mum. The box of boutique beers that we had delivered went down very well too and of course there was cake. Writing all of this down has made me realise that it wasn't such a bad birthday after all!


Monday, 25 January 2021

I'll Be There for You

Ella asked me to make a card for her best friend's birthday. She sent me a photo of the two of them next to the Friends purple door with the yellow frame around the peephole and asked me to recreate it in paper. A bit of trivia for the Friends fans amongst us, the yellow frame around the peephole in Monica's front door was originally a mirror and a crew member broke it. It was temporarily hung on the door, but one of the writers loved it and the frame stayed there. This frame has become an icon of Friends.
I made sure to matches the girls' clothes exactly and carefully cut out the yellow peephole frame. I added the "Happy Birthday" greeting in the style of the Friends logo used in the intro of the show. Ella chose the other words.
"The card is absolutely AMAZING and looks exactly like the two of us! Thank you so so much! She's just going to love it!" she wrote to me.
Arieh turned 24. Mum asked me for a card showing a laptop computer with Zoom open on it. She also wanted me to add some paint brushes, a right angle and a ruler too. Finally, Arieh is studying Set Design for Film, Theatre and Television at university, so she asked for a stage as well.
I think I got everything covered!

JENerally Informed

Thursday, 21 January 2021

50 & 60

Saville was turning 50 so his wife asked me to make him a special birthday card. You definitely need to show him hiking Shvil Yisrael, the Israel National Trail, she told me and it would be great if you could add in cooking and biking too. I asked her what Saville likes to cook and she told me that he make hummus and challah every week.
I showed Saville in front of a desert landscape. He has a large rucksack on his back. The white, blue and orange striped marker indicating sections of the Israel trail is next to him and behind him is his blue bike. I added a small challah and a plate of hummus to illustrate his love of cooking.
His wife posted my card on Instagram and declared "Lisa's card made it [Saville's 50th birthday] just that much more special."
Sarah's sister asked me to make a special card for her upcoming 60th birthday. She likes baking and bike riding and she is a teacher, she told me. She enjoys gardening and sunbathing too. She also wanted me to mention that they are sisters and to include a large 60 since Sarah is very proud of her age. 
Sarah teaches social sciences at a secondary school in London. I have shown her with a social sciences book in one hand. She is wearing a green gardening glove and holding a trowel in her other hand. Behind her I added a red parasol on a beach. Her bike is standing there too.
Her sister told me that she likes to bake scones and lemon cake - favourites in our home as well! A scone filled with cream and jam is on a plate next to her, while there is a slice of lemon cake in front. Finally, I added a little graphic saying "sisters are special".
I do hope that this sister liked her special card.


Monday, 18 January 2021

The Tzuba Spring and Belmont Fortress

* This post was written before Israel's current lockdown.
Our hike to the Tzuba Spring and Belmont Fortress started off at Kibbutz Palmach Tzuba, a kibbutz located in the Jerusalem Hills, on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. The kibbutz was founded in October 1948 by 75 Palmach veterans who fought in the area. (The Palmach was the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the underground army of the Jews during the British Mandate.) At the time of the founding of the kibbutz, Israel Defence Forces were still fighting in the Jerusalem corridors and therefore the kibbutz received its name, "Palmach Tzuba".
The Tzuba Spring, which is maintained by members of the kibbutz, was our first port of call and was a delightful place to stop for breakfast. We sat under a shaded structure with stone benches, close to the spring. There is flowing water in the spring even in the summer, (photo above), but the water is only deep enough to get your feet wet and anyway entry was prohibited, in all likelihood due to the coronavirus.
The Tzuba Spring is a tunnelled spring. An underground channel, lined by ashlars to keep out debris and mud that would dirty the water, and covered with a roof supported by arches, leads the water from the source of the spring to a rock-hewn pool, which was used to store and regulate the water. Railway sleepers that support the roof were placed there by the British in 1924. They began work on a new railway to replace one built by the Turks half a century earlier and used the old Turkish sleepers to repair springs located throughout the Jerusalem Hills.
Another nearby tunnel leads to a large indoor pool and near to it are two more open air pools, probably used in the past to produce clay material during the Second Temple period. They may also have served as a ritual bath for the Jewish community that existed there. The building of these structures probably happened over many years. Repairs were made during Second Temple times as well as during the British Mandate. Unfortunately entry into the tunnel is no longer permitted. 
After breakfast we continued along the marked trail and uphill towards Tel Tzuba. Most of the remains on the tel, or hill, today are from the Crusader period, where the fortress of Belmont was built. Belmont means "beautiful mountain". The fortress was one of a series of fortresses built along the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem, at relatively high points, not far from each other, in order to defend the main road. They also provided services to pilgrims visiting Jerusalem, functioning as hospitals, monasteries and hostels.
The Arab village of Suba, with a population of 620, existed on the hill until 1948. During the War of Independence the village was captured by the Palmach's Harel Brigade without a struggle, when the noise of an otherwise largely ineffective Davidka cannon encouraged the Arabs to flee. Suba may well have been in the same location as the Jewish village of "Tzovah" mentioned in the Book of Samuel, where one of David's soldiers lived (2 Samuel 23:36), 
The fortress of Belmont was originally built by a Crusader knight sometime before 1169, around the same time as the fortress at Latrun. It was purchased by the Crusader Hospitaller order in 1170 to guard the route to Jerusalem and completely rebuilt. In 1187 it was captured by the Ayyubid sultan Saladin and then destroyed by him in 1191, when he brought the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem to an end. However, much of the destruction we see today dates from 1834 when the Egyptian rulers of the area shelled rebellious villagers from nearby Abu Ghosh who had taken up positions on the hill.
Archaeological excavations in the 1980s helped establish the size and shape of the fortress. The external walls, forming a polygon that accommodated the hilltop topography, enclosed a more traditional rectangular structure with a courtyard. The structures made of larger, rougher-cut stones are from the Crusaders and those made of smaller, pebble-like stones held together by mortar come from the later Ottoman Period. Parts of a northern and western Crusader wall remain, as well as ruins of a tower and other structures. These include large underground cisterns, some pre-dating the Crusader period.
The ruins of Belmont cannot be explored, but you can walk around the fortress on a blue-marked trail from where there are wonderful views in all directions - including of Kibbutz Tzuba, the Arab village of Ein Nakuba and the Castel. You can also appreciate that the fortress has a commanding view over Road 1, the main highway connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the former route of the Crusader road to Jerusalem. Near the end of the trail are a couple of vaulted chambers, above, with the trademark Crusader herringbone ceiling.
From the fortress it was just a short walk back down the hill and along a paved road to the kibbutz. 
Kibbutz Palmach Tzuba, built to the west of the former Arab village, nowadays has its own high quality winery, some of whose red and white wines have been internationally recognised with gold and silver medals, as well as housing a variety of attractions and industries, such as a children's amusement park called Kiftzuba and a hotel.