Saturday, December 2, 2017

At the Western Wall (HaKotel Hamaaravi)

No trip to Israel or Jerusalem is complete without being at the Western Wall -  a unique place of prayer for jewish and non -jewish visitors.  The wall , a fragment of the original Wall, is the only remnant of the Great Temple and therefore the most sacred structure to Jews who feel that the Divine Presence has not left the place with the destruction of the holy temple.

the golden Dome of the Rock in the background

the Wall seen from the main plaza 

elderly orthodox jew walking along the main square

I haven't been at the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall) in a long while, and that has bothered me. 
So, a week before the arrival of December - last month of the year and the first month of winter, I finally decided to go to Jerusalem and visit the Wall, have some praying near the ancient rocks and insert a written wish in a crack between them ,absorb the spiritual atmosphere dominating the place, look around to see what's new or changed on the site, and take a few pictures.

Welcome poster

Me (my head covered with a cap) praying.....

slips of paper with people's written wishes in the crevices of the wall

philipino women at the wall

Besides the massive crowds of visitors from all over the world, there are soldiers and policemen at the spot, to ensure security; also a lot of white plastic chairs for the elderly to sit and pray in comfort.

However, what immediately catches the eye is the separation between men and women, both at the entrance security Check, and  at the Prayer site near the wall . 

women's prayer section (see the greenish separating fence)

lots of white plastic chairs

women of all ages (girl, young  female soldiers, elderly women).

I don't mind the segregation itself ( in crowded places like this one, it prevents opportunities of minor sexual harassment , and that's good). I do mind, though, the fact that the women's prayer section is smaller than that of the men's section. Why this inequality?  In fact,during my visit (on a regular day, in the early afternoon hours), there were more women praying at the wall than men.

both prayer sections and the greenish fence between them

men's prayer section

People leaving the prayer site usually do so with the face to the wall, out of respect. It reminds me of our family female doctor who has once told me this: 'your father is a most remarkable person; he never leaves my office with the back to me'.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Coffee Seal

The main street in my hometown  has several centers with shops and offices, one of them named Sharon Center. The front of this building, facing the street, is a double attraction: a McDonalds and a coffee shop named Hotam Hakafe (Coffee Seal - in english translation from hebrew).

Two things make the above cafe special: one, the owner is a known expert on coffee and everything related to it; two, the place regularly hosts cultural events (lectures and music performances) enjoyed not only by customers, but also by passersby.The facade, and one side of the cafe, are all glass, so this enables people to view and hear the singers and instrument players that perform inside.

The coffee shop is tiny, but well designed. 
The back, green wall has at its one end a high quality coffee machine, glasses, cups and  light food items (pastry, snacks); at the other end - built in wood boxes and shelves displaying a variety of coffee brands. Some tables and chairs inside and outside complete the arrangement.

I love coffee. When I was young, I used to drink black strong coffee; later on, I switched to Nescafe (red mug) with a little milk. I prefer the decaffeinated version, but it's very expensive in our parts.
When I'm out, I usually have a cappucino. Most coffee shops make a decent cappucino.

Coffe shops always remind me of the last military campaign we had some three years ago. I was in Tel Aviv city near a cafe, when the alarm started to 'yell' and people were running for shelter; three men were sitting around a table outside, chatting and drinking as if nothing was happening around.

I threw an inquisitive look in their direction; one of them said to me laconically "if I am to die at least it'll be at my favorite cafe".
I thought then, and I think now, it was stupid , conceited behaviour on his part.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Best Business In Town

Electric bikes are a great invention, but also a great... headache. They cause "headaches" to many factors: pedestrians, car drivers, police, municipalities, ministry of transport, parents.

The fact that no driving license is required, and there are no fuel/ parking/ maintenance/storage  expenses, has made the battery-powered bike a very sought after vehicle both by adults and youngsters. Moreover, e-bikes come in light, compact and folding models and that makes them very appealing to people of all ages.The nice weather all year round also contributes to their popularity.

e-bike plus the battery (under seat post)

According to the law, e-bike riders should use  the off road only (bicycle paths and trails) . In reality, there's no one to enforce neither this law requirement, nor the law requirement that the e-bike rider be at least 16 years of age and wear a helmet. 

no helmet

The e-bike riders invade both the roads and the sidewalks,   On certain wide pavements there are bike lanes intended   for non-electrical cycles , but in reality these lanes too are 'flooded' with electrical ones, and so far, the police does nothing about it. 

sidewalk with pedestrian lane and cycle (non electric) lane

I live in a rather densely populated area, and I'm worried; first of all as a pedestrian. The e-bikes are very silent; one doesn't even hear them approaching you from the back, and their bell is not always operated. Secondly, I own a trike (a three wheel cycle - never learnt to ride a proper bicycle) for recreational purposes, but I seldom use it because of the jungle caused by the e-bikers in my area.

Nowadays, teenagers are seen either on  e-bikes or waiting for the bus/ car. They scarcely use a regular pedal bike or go on foot any more (no wonder excess weight has reached high proportion in these kids; gym workout at a later stage would not repair the damage).

Anyway, there are a lot of casualties among  e-bikers riding on the road along with car drivers, and among pedestrians knocked down by the e-bikers riding on the pavement. 

Sad situation. All parties involved  promise to solve problems (by imposing heavy fines, Import restrictions ,increasing informational publicity etc..) but in reality do nothing of the kind. In the meantime, the e- bike importers and bike shop owners make a lot of money. Electric bike shops pop up at every corner like mushrooms after rain. Apparently, the best business in town!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

YouTube and my Lucky Bamboos

Most of us know how helpful YouTube tutorials can be; they teach us how to fix things, how to grow things, how to overcome technical problems with the computer/ the sewing machine, how to prevent and treat health issues  etc...From this point of view, we live in really blessed times.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of awful videos out there. The presenter talks too much or too little, is out of focus, bad diction, doesn't look confident; the rhytm is too slow and monotonous, or too swift, the video leaves us with more questions than answers.

Nevertheless, if you're interested in a topic, I suggest that you check all of the YouTube videos (old and new)  that deal with your topic of interest, as you never know what little gem of information is 'hidden' in this or that apparently boring/ poor quality tutorial.

I'm very fond of the well- known plant Lucky Bamboo. So far I've got about thirty- five pieces. It's a nice decorative plant, it requires minimal care, it can be grown in water (with some pebbles to stabilize it),it can be offered as a gift (especially that it is said to bring Luck), it can even be prepared and sold at a small profit (high profit - only if it's a special arrangement of stalks).

Most of the YouTube videos about this plant are of no great quality, and yet, I've learnt a lot from them. For instance, I've learnt that in order to keep the plant healthy you have to use distilled water (not tap water which contains chloride), direct sunlight will kill it (fluorescent light, I noticed, makes it grow more rapidly), it can be propagated both through stalk cuttings and through its leaves (it takes a month or so to get results), it can be made to grow into an interesting, spiral or exotic  (and quite pricey) arrangement (personally, I like it as an individual upright plant). 

I  heartily recommend it as a hobby, despite the fact that some claim its leaves have a certain amount of toxicity and should be kept away from cats (?!) and babies . I find this asian plant fascinating and tend to adopt the view that it purifies the air and creates a positive, energetic atmosphere in the room.

propagation from a 'dead plant' - well explained

Thursday, October 19, 2017


There's this high tower "Champion Motors" - 42 floors of offices, car showrooms, shopping spaces, and. its foot - little pools with tropic lotus plants. Whenever I happen to pass by this spot (located at the intersection of two major roads, on the border between two adjacent cities), I wonder about  the combination of skyscraper and lotus pools.

The lotus seems at first out of place; it's not a usual sight in urban Israel.  After a few minutes of contemplation, one gets captivated by these floating plants and is tempted to sit on the stone seat near one of the pools  to watch them closely.

The apparently static water,  the  slow motion of the leaves, and the color variety of the lotus flowers (pink, white, violet, blue, yellow) create a magic atmosphere. It gives the busy, commercial tower that dominates the pool area  a blessed serenity, and makes the lotus an integral part of the setting.

The spot is certainly a great attraction for the many children and parents of Bnei-Brak, the religious city to which  this area belongs. A family stroll in this part of the city, is both pleasant and educational.

When I  visited the spot a few days ago, it was the beginning of the sunset, also a bit breezy outside, and some of the lotus flowers seemed dormant. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the sight enormously and took some decent pictures too.

The lotus plant is considered sacred in Budhism, and it is, thriving  in Bnei-Brak, the very city of Judaism. This reminds me of a book  ("The Jew in the Lotus" by Rodger Kamenetz) published many years ago, about a dialogue between a group of rabbis and Dalai Lama, discussing the ideas and thoughts behind the two religions: budhism and judaism.

A dialogue - that's what it was - and  that's what we all need in this world : a dialogue between religions, cultures, man and environment, nature and technology. Without a dialogue the world won't survive; will become extinct.

Come to thnk of it, the water and the lotus are also having a sort of constant dialogue. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Dactylopius Coccus


On the sidebar of my blog, there's a photo of a cactus prickle pear. It's one of my very favorite fruits. I like everything about it (including its derivates of juice and jelly, and even its thick, semi-thorny outer jacket),  except... its price at our local supermarket. Not cheap.

thorny outside, soft and sweet with many little seeds inside *

Anyhow, recently I've read some news about the prickle pear. The good news is that there are some new species of it that are going to be proclaimed the Superfood of the future years. Not really surprising; this soft, sweet  fruit is packed with lots of nutrients and health benefits. 

The bad news is that in the meantime it's getting damaged by an insect ,Dactylopius coccus, which lives on cacti; this bug could lead to massive extermination of the cacti bushes that produce the fruit. It's already happening in northern Ethiopia.

cactus shrub *

The Dactylopius is rather an economically important parasite. The dried bodies of its females were, and still are a source of the red dye used in the textile industry (especially in South America). In some cases, certain species of it can also help fighting pest infestations.

The conventional, manual measures taken against Dactylopius attack on cactus , are effective only in small - scale cultivations. In larger scale cultivations, alternative, biological warfare ( done by bio insecticides) is needed.

In Mexico, which is the largest producer of prickly pears in the world, they've been using for some time (quite successfully) certain bugs that attack the specific attacker of the cacti shrubs . As far as I know, Israel was authorised by the proper authority to import from Mexico, at least two of these  'attack the attacker ' bugs.

They say there are no winners in war. Hopefully, in this kind of war, the cacti bushes and their fruit will win the battle.There's too much at stake here. In various parts of the world , in  Africa and South America - the prickle pear is essential food and provides basic remedies to several local health issues.

* web images

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Fast

The 25 hours of fasting (from Friday at 18 p.m. till Saturday 19 p.m.) are over. 
As I advance in age, the anual fast of Yom Kippur (the jewish day of atonement), becomes a bit easier for me. I suppose it's a matter of experience - making the right food choices for the day prior to fasting  that will ease the Fast, or, as some will say 'make the fast go faster.'

Especially important is the 'aruha mafseket' (the meal preceding the Fast). No big secret here: a light meal based on whole grain and lean protein with nothing too salty or spicy, to avoid hunger and thirst. I find it essential to seal the meal with a glass or two of water.

Somehow, I've come to look forward to this day.  I'm pleased to take a break from the major factor that dominates our life and determines our health, - food - and spend some hours on spiritual thoughts and prayers.. This day should be about introspection, repentance, asking forgiveness. 

 And then, at the end of the day , the 'break-the-fast' meal. It starts slowly with a sweetened drink and a slice of cake followed again by a light meal.

Here's to the Next Year!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Summer Treat

Summer is over, and with it are its various treats we've become used to.
Every year, in summer , the big municipalities of many places in the world ,tend to organize open-air cultural events for the whole family, in parks and/or central squares. These events include: book fairs, art exhibitions, flower shows, folk dances, various competitions.

art display

In the municipal City Garden of Sofia , I've incidentally come upon  a performance of a stand-up comic.. Everyone was laughing, but me. Because of language barrier I left the spot, and decided to tour the beautiful garden,  which lies in front of the imposing Ivan Vazov National Theater.

Ivan Vazov National Theater

It's a small, lovely garden in the city center, to which the residents of Sofia come for recreation and entertainment. It has fountains, statues, benches, grass, flowerbeds, childrens' playground, a newspaper kiosk, and even a tourist information office.

family stroll in the City Garden

People sit on the edge of the fountain, or on benches and have a chat, or listen to street musicians, engage in a game of chess with other amateur players, or watch a concert.

people on edge of fountai - female dancer statue in the middle

 elderly chess players

The next day, near the Nedelya orthodox church which is geographically the very center of the city, I had the chance to see dance groups from all over the world in traditional costumes. A stunning sight! 

Nedelya Church in the background

At first, I thought they were going to perform there, but it took me some time to understand that the place was too small and that it only served as their gathering point. The groups were headed to some other place to give their performance. I couldn't follow them as I was on my way to some appointment. My loss!