Monday, 30 August 2021

17, 18 and 22

Emily was turning 17. Her mum asked me to make her a birthday card with a beach theme but also told me that Emily had been studying hard and suggested that I maybe add some books as well.
I have shown Emily holding up a big number 17. Behind her you can see a beautiful blue sea and some gorgeous golden sand. The sun is shining brightly and a couple of seagulls are flying high in the sky. Next to Emily there is an open book. I wonder if she would really be tempted to use it at the beach? 😉
Emily loved the card.
Yonatan was turning 18 and his mum asked me to make him a card as well. He rides his dad's motorbike, so she wanted me to show him holding a motorbike helmet. I was also asked to include dad's car, which Yonatan drives as well. Finally, mum sent me a copy of the invitation to Yonatan's theatre studies final show. He has just completed his te'udat bagrut (Israel's high school matriculation examination) and finished high school.
I showed Yonatan with the grey helmet tucked under his arm. Dad's white Alfa Romeo Giulietta is behind him, along with the invitation to his theatre studies show. Finally, I added a football next to Yonatan because I know he is a keen supporter. A big number 18 marks his age.
Mum wrote "I love it!".
Rebecca was turning 22 and this time it was her auntie who asked me to make a card. The theme should be charity shops, she said. She loves buying clothes and looking around the shops as a pastime. Her auntie sent me photos of the specific shops that she likes to visit and asked if I could somehow include them on the card.
I cut out a fiddly little clothes rack and added some clothes hanging from it. In front of the rack are some boxes of clothes, with a pair of shoes next to them. Photos of the various shops Rebecca likes to visit surround the rack. A big pink 22 marks her age.
Rebecca's mum wrote on Facebook, "Lisa I loved the card. Thank you".

* This post has been shared on The Good. The Random. The Fun.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Shirel's Album

Shirel celebrated her Bat Mitzvah back in June. She is very athletic and loves many different sports but her main "thing" is football which she has played since she was 5, her mum told me. She also did a swimming class for a few years and plays basketball now too. She takes horse riding lessons, plays the guitar, likes listening to music and loves baking, particularly working with a piping bag making cakes and cupcakes. Shirel also did a baking project for her Bat Mitzvah to raise money for her local synagogue. Phew! I was not short of themes for the cover of her Bat Mitzvah album!
Shirel's favourite colour is aqua and the colour scheme of her Bat Mitzvah celebrations were going to be aqua, light purple and gold. While she is very sporty, mum was keen to point out that she also is "girly" and is very into styling her hair in different ways, makeup and nail polish. She wanted me to feature that very girly side of her daughter too.
Mum chose to have the album open the Hebrew way (Hebrew books open from right to left) and have most of the details in Hebrew but with Shirel's name in English too. I have shown Shirel in a blue shirt, with a football tucked under one arm and her guitar in the other. To her right is a brown horse with patches of white, just as she requested. In front of her is a piping bag and some cupcakes. To the right of the guitar is a basketball. She is wearing goggles on her head to represent her love of swimming and some music notes dotted around illustrate that she likes music too.
I decorated 5 pages inside Shirel's album as well. The first page featured a football and a basketball, representing her love for both those sports. Next I added a green boogie board, since mum told me that she likes boogie boarding at the beach. Some light purple swimming goggles, representing her love of swimming, appeared on that page too. Baking came next, with some little cupcakes and a piping bag, then I cut out a classical guitar, just like the one she is holding on the cover of her album. Finally I crafted a brown horse with white patches once again. I hope it looks just like the horse she enjoys riding.
Mum seemed delighted with her daughter's Bat Mitzvah album and told me that that Shirel loves it too. "It is beautiful!" she wrote to me.
JENerally Informed


Thursday, 19 August 2021

Her "Lisa Card"

Back in 2018 Keshet came to spend the afternoon papercutting with me. From that year onwards her mum has asked me to make a special card for her daughter's birthday. She has been into rainbows (the name Keshet means "rainbow" in Hebrew), slime and last year I showed her giving a big thumbs up for turning 10.
This year mum told me that Keshet likes riding her bike and asked me to show her holding her bike helmet. She has her own sewing machine and, during the height of Covid-19, made hundreds of masks for one of the big hospitals here in Israel. Mum sent me a copy of the letter she received from the hospital thanking her for all her hard work. Well done Keshet! Keshet is also into drawing and diamond painting. Mum told me that she had dreams of getting an iPhone for her birthday but it was going to stay a dream. Finally, she asked me to put a pineapple on Keshet's T-shirt.
I showed Keshet holding her purple bike helmet in one hand. She has a pencil in her other hand and is putting the finishing touches to one of her actual drawings, a brilliant copy of the "Girl with a Pearl Earring". Behind her is her Brother sewing machine with a blue paisley pattern on it, together with her well-deserved letter and one of the face masks that she made. The lilac coloured iPhone that Keshet dreamt about can been seen in a dream bubble next to her. A big number 11 marks her age. Lastly I gave her a pale blue T-shirt with the much loved pineapple on it. 
I received the fabulous photo of Keshet with just some of her "Lisa Isaacs" collection, top. "Keshet loved her "Lisa Card"! Thank you!" mum wrote to me. Apparently she asked for one of my cards just before her birthday. Thankfully mum had already organised it!


Monday, 16 August 2021

Safed (or Zefat, Tsfat, Zfat, Safad, Safet, Tzfat)

After our visit to the Hula Nature Reserve and Rosh Pina, we drove on to the city of Safed, where we were staying for the weekend. I hadn't been there since 2010 so was excited to go back and have another look around. Our friends had booked rooms at the gorgeous Artists' Colony Inn in Safed's Old City. The inn itself deserves a mention. Susan, the owner, was very friendly. The inn is beautiful, uniquely designed with a perfect mix of old and new. The Israeli breakfast was delicious and the views were amazing. We will definitely be going back.
Safed is an ancient city located in northern Israel, 900 meters above sea level, in the mountains of the Upper Galilee. It is one of Judaism's four Holy Cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias and today is considered to be the centre of Jewish mysticism. According to the great mystics of the past, the Messiah will come from Safed on his way to Jerusalem. The city has also become known as Israel's art capital, though sadly many of the galleries seemed to be closed when we visited, probably victims of Covid-19 and the lack of tourists in the country.
According to some sources, the city was founded in 70CE. It flourished in the 16th century, when many famous Jewish religious scholars and mystics moved to Safed following the Spanish Expulsion, fleeing from the horrors of the Inquisition. It was here that the first printing press in the Middle East was set up, in 1578 publishing the first Hebrew book to be printed in Israel. At that time the town was also a thriving trade centre. However, Safed suffered terribly during the ensuing years due to earthquakes, plagues and Arab attacks. In modern times, the liberation of Safed was one of the most dramatic episodes in the 1948 War of Independence. We learnt all about it when we visited the Citadel or Metzuda, located on a hilltop in the centre of the city.
The Citadel is in fact the remains of what was in its day the largest Crusader fortress in the Middle East. Throughout history, whoever controlled Safed's citadel controlled the whole of the Galilee. It has been fought over by every major power from the Romans onward, with the most recent battle being in 1948 during the War of Independence. The fledgling Jewish army captured the Citadel from the local Arab forces who took advantage of its towering location to bomb the Jewish Quarter down below. Today there are two memorials at the Citadel, one listing the names of the 14 Palmach soldiers who fell in the battle for the Citadel and a second spire monument, on the top of the hill, commemorating the 42 soldiers who fell in the battles over Safed.
We walked down the hill from the Citadel, towards the town. We spotted a pillbox, above, jutting out into the road and on the other side of the road, one of the buildings of Safed College. During the Mandate period these two buildings were part of the city jail and police station compound. Before the British left the town they handed this strategic location, along with three other high points in the city, to Arab forces. During the battle for Safed it was essential that this extremely important site was captured and there was fierce fighting over the location before victory went to the Palmach. You can still see bullet holes in the two buildings. Even though the old pillbox has no practical use today it has been left as is due to its historical status.
Opposite the pillbox is a Davidka monument. The Davidka was a homemade mortar that was constructed in secret during the pre-independence period. It was very inaccurate and its effectiveness was due more to the amount of noise it made, rather than on the shell's ability to deliver a decisive blow! The mortar was crucial in the battle of Safed and was used by Palmach and Irgun soldiers in the battle for the Citadel. Every year there is a memorial ceremony in front of the Davidka, on Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance Day), when the city honours its dead, and a wreath is laid on the cannon itself.
We walked further along and found the Great Stairs. The stairs begin at the bottom of the Old City and run right up to Safed's main shopping street near the top of the city. We started at the top (very sensible!), stopping first to look up and directly across the road where you can still see the searchlight and the gun placement slits of the old watchtower built by the British to guard the stairs, below.
The stairs were built by the British to separate the Jewish and Arab quarters (now the Old City and the Artists Quarter respectively) after riots in 1936. They were heavily guarded and at night a searchlight swept the stairs to make sure no one jumped from quarter to quarter.
During the period leading up to and during the War of Independence, to cross from one side of the stairs to the other was to take your life in your hands. It was so dangerous that it became known as Stalingrad Alley, after the Battle of Stalingrad.
The stairs are called, in Hebrew, Ma'alot Olei Hagardom, in memory of the members of the Irgun (an underground Zionist paramilitary group that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948) who were hung by the British in Acre and later buried in Safed after the War of Independence.
We started to walk down these steep stairs, soon turning right. There we found many of Safed's historic synagogues, including the Abhuav Synagogue which has a Torah scroll from the Middle Ages. In the Yosef Caro Synagogue you can see the famous Shulhan Aruch (literally the "set table"), which dates back to the Middle Ages and is still used as the primary source for understanding Jewish religious laws. I simply enjoyed the narrow cobblestone lanes and alleys and the doors and windows painted blue in mystical symbolism to confuse evil spirits.
Back at the Great Stairs we turned left, which took us right back into the Artists Quarter where we were staying. Before returning to the Artists' Colony Inn I set off to find the Ziffer Sculpture Garden, a small garden that was bequeathed to the Safed municipality by the sculptor Moshe Ziffer and his wife Rachel. When I was an art student in Liverpool back in the late 1980s I had picked up a book of Ziffer's work (and found a note inside handwritten by the sculptor!). I still have it on my bookshelves here in Israel. I was keen to see his work for myself.
Moshe Ziffer was one of Israel's premier sculptors. His work was exhibited in galleries in Tel Aviv and Safed, as well as on the campuses of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, New York and Brussels. He was an environmental sculptor and worked in stone. He sculpted several large sculptures, measuring over two metres high. These sculptures are scattered around the garden for visitors viewing pleasure though, despite the fact that Ziffer requested that the city care for the premises and use the small house as a venue to assist new artists, I found the garden terribly overgrown and in rather a mess. The sculptures were still impressive.
Photo credit: The Artists Colony Inn