Thursday, 30 December 2021

The Best of 2021 - Part II

1. Lifta  2. Tzora Forest  3. The Burma Road and Outpost 21  4. Nahal Sorek  5. The Hanut Ruins and Ein Mata  6. HaHamisha Forest and the Harel Brigade Monument  7. The Tzuba Spring and Belmont Fortress  8. Tel Tzafit  9. The Sorek Stream and Samson's Cave  10. Ein Kerem and the Beit Zayit Dam

My second review of 2021 covers my top 10 favourite places that I visited during the last year. There were actually too many places to decide on just 10 this year, so I split my top 10s into two. You will find my top 10 favourite places but also my top 10 favourite hikes. Mister Handmade in Israel and I really made the most of our limited ability to travel further afield this year and have continued getting to know the area around us, exploring the hills and lowlands around Jerusalem and beyond.
We started off the year visiting the Tzuba Spring and Belmont Fortress, the remains of a Crusader period fortress in the Jerusalem Hills. Another hike in the Jerusalem Hills, along Nahal Sorek, was one of the hardest hikes we did, though it was also an extremely beautiful one and perhaps the most satisfying. We visited Tel Tzafit, thought to be the site of the ancient Philistine city of Gath, and walked the historic Burma Road, an unpaved road built during Israel's War of Independence. The road was built in order to bypass Jordanian forces and to renew supplies of water, food and equipment to the Jewish community in Jerusalem.
We got lost in the Tzora Forest and saw beautiful spring flowers around Ein Kerem. I have driven past the remains of the Arab village of Lifta hundreds of time in the almost 27 years that I have lived in Israel but never knew the ruins were there! Hidden down below the road in a steep valley, it was wonderful to explore the old buildings and take some magical photos!
Basically, I have discovered a real passion for gentle hikes around my little country. I was once hesitant to hike without a guide but now we regularly pull on our walking boots and set off on a new route. I am loving it! I tell Mister Handmade in Israel that he should appreciate that I am happier with a flask of coffee and a sandwich in the hills, rather than an expensive restaurant or a spa.

Now, having said how much I enjoy hiking, I also love going to exhibitions and seeing new places. In 2020 I only managed to get to one indoor exhibition, POP-UP Museum TLV 2, a graffiti event in an old apartment building in central Tel Aviv. In 2021 I was able to see more, though we still go masked up, to protect myself and others at risk, and have to show our Tav Yarok (Green Pass), proving that we have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 in order to gain entry.
In 2021 I saw the wonderful "Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience" at Peres Park in Holon. I particularly enjoyed the virtual reality tour, where we were guided through a virtual, colourful depiction of Van Gogh's life. In June Mister Handmade in Israel and I went to see the Italian artist Ivo Bisignano's "Human Forms" exhibition in a cave at Beit Guvrin. In July I made a return visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to see Zadok Ben-David's incredible installation, "People I Saw but Never Met" and was delighted by the amazing "The Ball" at the Design Museum of Holon.
But the best thing I did in 2021? I finally got on a plane and visited the UK to see my niece get married and to spend time with my dad! We had a wonderful time together.
I have blogged about all of these amazing places and more. Please click on the names above and enjoy exploring Israel (and a teeny tiny bit of the UK) with me!

Thursday, 23 December 2021

The Best of 2021 - Part I

If I was to sum up 2021, I would say that it has been a strange old year but perhaps slightly less strange than 2020! As always, I have been busy with my customised cards and papercut pictures. Parties and celebrations started to actually happen, meaning that customers were once again ordering my personalised albums too. I am pleased to say that many people have received my cards on their birthday or anniversary this year and I have made quite a number of large pictures to mark some special occasions. (Unfortunately sometimes my customers do not want me to share them here).
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. You may be able to spot your own card, picture or album amongst my collections. I added some other favourites worth mentioning as well at the end of this post. Some of my creations stayed in Israel, whilst others have travelled far, to the UK and USA and beyond. I hope they made people happy!

I have also visited some interesting places here in Israel this year and hiked some wonderful trails too. In October I finally managed a trip to the UK after 1 year and 8 months of not seeing my family there. I love taking photos wherever I go and enjoy sharing them here on my blog. I often find out even more about an area I have visited after the event, whilst writing up my post. I'm saving my top 10 favourite hikes and places for another time.

Whilst those of us of the Jewish faith celebrated the eight-day holiday of Chanukah at the end of November and beginning of this month, many of you are now celebrating Christmas. Warmest wishes for the holiday season. Thank you so much for your support in the past year, for taking the time to pop by and see what's happening over here at Handmade in Israel and for buying what you've seen on my blog. In June I wrote my 1,000th post and I continue to enjoy composing each and every one of them. I hope you will continue to visit and enjoy my posts in 2022, as I share the coming year's 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, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Oh, and please pop by my shop now and then to see what is new there.
Wishing you a healthy and happy 2022!

JENerally Informed

Monday, 20 December 2021

The Colours of Christmas

Last year my Christmas cards were green and red, the colours which are traditionally associated with Christmas. Green represents the evergreen plants, like holly, ivy and mistletoe, which have been used for thousands of years to decorate and brighten up buildings during the long dark winter. They also reminded people that spring would come and that winter wouldn't last forever! Now the most common use of green at Christmas is of course Christmas trees.
Red is the colour of holly berries, which is said to represent the blood of Jesus when he died on the cross. Red is also the colour of Father Christmas' robes.
This year I decided to recreate a previous design of mine, this time using a different colour palette. I chose blue, purple and white, based on some patterned paper I found.
The colour blue is often associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus. In medieval times blue dye and paint was more expensive than gold! It would only be worn by Royal families and very rich people. Mary was often painted wearing blue to show she was very important. Blue can also represent the colour of the sky and heaven.
Purple is the main colour of Advent, the period before Christmas, when Christians fast and repent in anticipation of Christ's birth. Purple symbolises royalty, luxury and is used in many churches for the colour of the altar cloth.
Finally, the last two colours I used on my cards were white and silver. White is often associated with purity and peace in western cultures. Winter snow is of course white as well. I added some sparkly silver baubles. The use of silver at Christmas all started with tinsel. Back in the 17th century, in Nuremberg, Germany, thin strands of real silver were used in trees to reflect candlelight, as they used to put real candles in their trees. Nowadays, silver is associated with prestige and sophistication.
* This post has been shared on The Good. The Random. The Fun.
JENerally Informed

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Tel Azekah

Tel Azekah is an archaeological hill located in the heart of the Shfela (the Judean lowlands), some 45km from Tel Aviv and 30km from Jerusalem. The town of Azekah, which at one time existed on the hill, played a central role in the ancient history of the region. It was the control point of a strategic junction of roads leading from the coastal plain to Jerusalem and the south. Today the hill lies within the British Park, a 40,000 dunam park that was built by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) with the contribution of British Jewish communities. The park is an area rich in planted forest, natural woodland and archaeological sites.
Tel Azekah has a long history, stretching back some 3,500 years to the Early Bronze Age when it was first settled. After a period of abandonment, Azekah was once again settled in the Iron Age II and flourished as a Judean town. The many artefacts discovered at Tel Azekah include an Egyptian scarab depicting a gazelle with her suckling baby and other antiquities such as LMLK seals. Excavations have revealed a Hasmonean fortress, water systems and hideout caves used during the Bar Kokhba revolt.
Azekah is mentioned several times in the Bible. It is said to be one of the places where the Amorite kings were defeated by Joshua, and one of the places their army was destroyed by a hailstorm (Joshua 10:10–11). It was given to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:20). In the time of Saul, 1st Samuel 17:1 references the area around Azekah as the arena for the battle between David and Goliath.
Outside of the Bible, King Rehoboam, the first king of the Kingdom of Judah, fortified the city. It was later destroyed, together with other Judean cities, during the campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib. The city was rebuilt and conquered multiple times yet continued to flourish. It was populated in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, when it was listed in the Madaba map as Beit Zechariah. Another glorious page of Azekah's history took place in the Hasmonean period. At the top of the hill there is a large fortress built by the great Hasmonean king, John Hyrcanus I.
Despite its long occupation, Tel Azekah was eventually abandoned and forgotten. In the late 19th century it became one of the first sites to be excavated in Israel. A small team of British archaeologists briefly excavated the sites between 1898-1899 on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Due to time restrictions, the team was forced to abandon excavations and backfill their project.
A team of archaeologists returned to the site in 2012 and it is still being excavated to this day. Signs explaining the layers revealed and the various periods of history that have been uncovered can be spotted around the site.
Hikers who climb up to the top of Tel Azekah are accompanied by Biblical verses that are etched on plaques, some of which describe the battle which took place nearby between David and Goliath. From the top the hill there are spectacular views overlooking the Elah Valley to the east. Tel Tzafit, which is associated with Philistine Gat, the city of Goliath, can be seen to the west and beyond is the Coastal Plain, between Tel Aviv and Ashkelon.
In the centre of the hill is a huge sundial and a stone plaza on which directions and the names of various close by settlements are engraved. Nearby long stones serve as seats for hikers, above. Verses from the Book of Samuel referencing David and Goliath and other battles with the Philistines are engraved on them. At the foot of the hill the JNF has built a picnic area.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Hana & Gary

Hana was turning 40 so her husband wrote and asked me to make a special card for her. She is a hairdresser and a teacher, he told me. She loves going to the gym, her iPhone, Instagram and jewellery. There was a lot to include but this was an extra large card, so I had plenty of room.
I showed blonde-haired Hana with her hairdryer in one hand and a dumbbell in the other. I added some running shoes as well, since running and weights are her favourite ways to exercise. Behind her is a blackboard with the words "English Lesson" chalked on it. In the foreground I added Hana's iPhone 12, some hairdressing scissors and a comb, the Instagram logo and some sparkly jewellery. Her husband wasn't sure what her favourite piece of jewellery is but said that he had just given her a gold necklace, so I made sure to add that. A big silver 40 marks Hana's age.
A few months before Hana turned 40, her husband Gary celebrated his special birthday. Hana also asked me to make him two very special cards. The first card, an extra large one, was going to be from their children. Hana asked me to show her husband with their five kids. He is a big Everton F.C. fan so I included the club's crest on the card. He is wearing a royal blue shirt, Everton's traditional home colour. Hana also told me that he enjoys playing golf and lifting weights and I had to include his iPhone and the TV remote too!
The card from Hana showed Gary enjoying a tumbler of whisky and smoking a cigar. To his right is a big 40, his Tesla electric car and some weights. On Gary's left I showed the logo of his accountancy firm along with some tiny coins. A bottle of whisky and some more cigars completed the design.
After asking Gary a few questions about Hana's card, he replied saying "Now I understand why my wife likes your work. She also likes detail!". They certainly got it in tenfold on all three cards!
* This post has been shared on The Good. The Random. The Fun.
Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs