Monday, May 31, 2010

The "Osama" Offer

I said No although I would have liked to say Yes.

It was summertime, and the spacious well air-conditioned Post Office of my town was a pleasant refuge from the heat outside. I was sitting on a small bench placed in a corner, trying to figure out the reason for the additional money I'd been charged with, to release a parcel sent to me from abroad.

Suddenly, I became aware of a guy of yemenite origin, his face resembling that of another yemenite, Osama bin Laden without the beard - staring at me insistently. He approached my bench, sat down near me, and after a few opening sentences offered me a nice sum of money for...the small, simple pendant hanging on my neck. I was so surprised by his offer that I immediately uttered the truth: "it's not gold, only gold plated", I said. "I know that, I've made it myself", "You what?!?!" was my reaction to his astonishing words.

He told me a story about his being a graduate of the Bezalel School of Art and Crafts in Jerusalem, department of jewelry. During the period of studying at the famous school (nowadays called the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design) he created some unique pieces of jewelry, partly based on knowledge he had acquired as a child in his father's tiny workshop (Jewelry-making was considered a respectful profession among the yemenite jews. They worked with silver mainly, occasionally with gold, and specialized in filigree style {filigree -twisted wire threads of silver or gold} and in granulation style{decoration of the jewel surface with granules-small spheres of precious metal} ).

"Then what's the problem, make another one like mine" I suggested.
He said he was no longer in the jewelry trade, he got no tools for that intricate kind of work, he was very busy, but...he had Money, and was willing to pay nicely for Bezalel-made pieces of jewelry in general, and to regain some of his own pieces in particular. In short, he was a collector.

I had to disappoint him. The pendant was a gift from an aunt of mine and it meant a lot to me sentimentally; besides , I loved its design. He left me his visit card in case I change my mind. After a few days, I told a friend about this strange encounter at the Post Office. She didn't buy "Osama's story"; she had some other theory about the whole thing, but I was not going to test it.

Anyhow, I haven't put any piece of jewelry around my neck since that day ; I can't explain this, but it's a fact.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dolphins and Humans

The first time in my life I saw dolphins was at the Dolphinarium on the beachfront of the city of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Dolphinarium with its big stadium, large dolphin pool with underwater viewing arena, and the performing bottle nose dolphins (the most common dolphin species) - made a lasting impression on me.

The dolphin daily show at the Dolphinarium ( part of the Aquarium housed in the great Bayworld Oceanarium complex) , was a very popular attraction amongst local and international visitors. People, and especially children, were fascinated by the beauty, and grace of the dolphins's acrobatic jumps, flips, breaches , tail waving etc..

It's amusing to know that these performing creatures sometimes have to be put on diet. Despite the fact that they excercise a lot and display great energy in their acrobatics, if they overeat they develop fat stomachs which affect their abilities in their aquatic performance. So, no fatty mackerel for you guys, only white, lean fish.

(It's a bit like in humans; exercising is helpful in maintaining normal weight, in preventing weight gain, but if you're fat, you'll first have to do something about your food intake, excercing alone won't make you slim).

Dolphins , like humans, recognize themselves in the mirror - sign of self-awareness and that's great! Well, they do have what to see in the mirror: cute, friendly faces and an intelligent look.

Speaking of intelligence, dolphins are considered the most intelligent animals and this trait is very appealing to humans who make use of it and interract with dolphins in various fields: medical (therapeutic swimming of dolphins with handicapped children and adults) , military (dolphins are trained to locate sea mines by producing sounds and listening to their echo), fishing ( dolphins cooperate with fishermen by driving fish into their nets), rescue (dolphins can save people from drowning by raising them to surface). Dolphins adapt well to human companionship and are easily trained to perform tasks, provided the trainer shows them respect.

Relationship between mother dolphin -baby dolphin and that among grown-up dolphins seems similar to relarionship in humans.

Baby dolphins suck warm milk from their mother's mammal glands; they keep close to their mother who protects them and teaches them skills to get their food. How sweet!
As for dolphins in general they appear to be quite social creatures, they're seen ganging together like humans.

Here's a lovely 'dolphin' poem by Horace Dobbs, I've found on the Web:

Pushing through green waters/ Symbol of joy
You leap from the depts /To touch the sky
Scattering spray/Like handful of jewels
Not caged by union rules/unfettered by sales targets
No trains or planes to catch/ Your time is set by the flow
of the sea's tides
You give us images of ecstasy/That we lock away
Behind the doors of memory /For quiet moments
When released from our possessions/ We dream of a freedom
like yours
[Dolphins and Man...equals?]

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Ugly and the Beautiful

The title of this post doesn't refer to people, but to two memorials located within a central, busy square - Rabin Square - of the Town Hall in Tel Aviv. The square ( previously called Kings of Israel and renamed Rabin's Square in memory of the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzach Rabin) is often used for demonstrations, open-air concerts, exhibitions, various ceremonies and festivities.

At one end of the square there's a memorial sculpture for Holocaust victims. created by the israeli painter and sculptor , Yigal Tomarkin, who's known as an anti-establishment person and artist. It's a 10 meter tall monument, a rusty metal structure of an inverted pyramid with glass window panels. The monument is ugly and totally out of place. I don't like to look at it, certainly not come near it as it's rusty, full of dust and bird shit (I suppose it gets cleaned from time to time). There were attempts to remove it , but the sculptor fought against these attempts in court and outside it, so here it stays.

At the other end of the square - there's a memorial area for Yitzhach Rabin located a few feet away from the spot where he has been shot. The monument , designed by a woman architect, Ms. Claude Grundman Brightman and carried out by the sculptress Yael ben Artzi, is made of 16 bazalt rocks arranged in a grid and contained by a steel frame; the stones are set at varying heights and lit from below by a light suggesting the everlasting fire.

It is beautiful. I would say, it definitely has a woman's touch; after all, it's the creation of two women. Many people come to the place, lit candles in Rabin's memory, pray, take pictures, discuss its significance. No one can remain indifferent to the dark basalt rocks sunken in the pavement.
Unlike the Hollocaust Memorial which stands high above the ground, Rabin's Memorial is almost at ground level, so it doesn't interfere with anything, but looks an integral part of the square.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"He has met his Waterloo"

Waterloo is a nice little town near Brussells in Belgium with lots of green fields. About a mile from the town is the battlefield where Napoleon Buonaparte's french army, was defeated by the Duke of Wellington's allied forces in June 1815. The legend of Napoleon's invincibility was shattered at Waterloo. Hence the expression "He has met his Waterloo" (meaning 'he has met with defeat').

On the spot where the decisive battle took place, there's a memorial monument in the form of a lion a top a manmade hill with 226 stairs(!!) overlooking the battlefield.
(Ladies, please wear trousers not a skirt when climbing those stairs , otherwise you will be offering a panoramic view to the people at the bottom of the hill, prior to the real panoramic view awaiting at the top !!).

the Lion Hill

In a building adjacent to the Lion Hill - the Panorama Building - there's a huge circular painting portraying scenes of the battle fought on 18 June 1815. In the background, sound effects of battle noises, cannon and gun fire. The viewer relives the great moments of the battle. A very thrilling experience!

part of the circular painting

Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - couldn't escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - finally facing my Waterloo

The above is the refrain of the famous Eurovision Contest winning song (1974) WATERLOO composed and performed by the very successful swedish ABBA band.(see the video below).The song was inspired by the battle at Waterloo and Napoleon's defeat, and it's a sort of comparison of a lover's romantic surrender to that of Napoleon's surrender.