Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pajama Town in the Gulf War

22 January 1991. I was sitting in a sealed room wearing a gas mask on my face. and listening to the falling of Scud missiles in the adjacent city of Ramat-Gan , some fifteen minutes drive from my home. The gas mask was supposed to protect us from chemical and biological warfare agents in case Iraq's Saddam Hussein decided to use mass destruction weapons during the Gulf War.

cute,isn't it?

Most of the missiles fell on a street named Abba Hillel , nearby the Diamond Exchange Tower. It was said that Saddam Hussein's people had in mind another target in this vicinity , but they failed to launch the missiles at the right angle, and so this particular street got all the damage and casualties; scores of residents were left homeless.

Abba Hillel street

Ramat-Gan (in translation: Garden Heights), located in the very center of Israel, is associated not only with gardens but also with chocolates, soccer, and...iraqis. The city has several nicknames: Ramat-Iraq, Pajama Town, Little Baghdad, Iraqi Town - all of them relating to the fact that it has a large number of jewish residents of Iraqi origin, restaurants serving iraqi dishes and.. the common sight of iraqi men moving on the balconies of their home dressed in pajamas .

After the war, the main theme for stand-up comedies , was based on the joke that Saddam Hussein' s missiles were attracted to Ramat-Gan by ...the smell of iraqi dishes (sabiach, koube, shawarma, amba) , and the sound of iraqi music coming out from many places in the town. Anyway, it was rather ironical that Saddam Hussein's missiles had hit the place with a big concentration of his former "compatriots".

Statue of iraqi jewish prayer on Abba Hillel street

Today, this street is known for its skyscrapers in the district of the Diamond Exchange (considered the largest diamond exchange in the world) and some skyscrapers at the other extremity , near the big soccer Stadium and the Ayalon Shoping Mall. They say that in the evening the illuminated towers' area looks like Manhattan. I don't know about that as I've never been to Manhattan, but the sparkling cluster of skyscrapers does look nice at any time of the day.

skyscrapers in the Diamond Exchange complex

Friday, March 18, 2011

Herzl and Herzliya

He had three children; all three of them died tragically. (His daughter Pauline died at 40 of a heroin overdose. His son Hans committed suicide on the day of his sister's funeral; Hans was 39 of age. The youngest daughter, Trude, died at the Therezin concentration camp).
Let's hope his fourth "child" - the State of Israel - will survive despite the hostility that surrounds it.

He - Theodor Herzl (1860-1904 ) an austro-hungarian journalist who envisaged and supported the establishment of a jewish homeland . In the Jewish world and in Israel in particular, he's a legendary figure. His remains and those of his first two born children and grandson (Trude's son) were moved from abroad and reburied on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem.

Herzliya , the city situated on the central coast of Israel, was named after Theodor Herzl. The top picture shows a dramatic statue of Herzl on the water tower at the Hasira junction, overlooking the city and the traffic to it. The following two pictures of Herzl's double-sided poster figure were taken in front of the New High Scool in the city of Herzliya. His poster was put there probably to remind the students of his famous slogan "If you wish it , nothing will be a fairy tale".

Welcome ! Herzl behind the town-map of Herzliya

Herzl facing the New High School area

Herzliya is home to the largest film studios in the country. "Ulpanei Herzliya", are located at the end of a short, narrow quiet street named 'Kesem' (hebrew word for Magic - how appropriate!). It should be mentioned that Israel has been nominated for quite a few Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film produced here.

Herzliya Film Studios - entrance

The city has fine beaches and hotels, a very affluent district named Herzliya Pituach (home to foreign diplomats, businessmen, high-tech companies), parks, a marina harbor, a small airport, various cultural centers and attractions (museums, galleries, a municipal stadium, a camera music chamber) , and a private university (The Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center) offering degrees in various academic disciplines.

The Marina (built in the 1970s) provides mooring for boats and yachts of all shapes and sizes. It is also a center for marine sports, and a very popular spot for going out to eat and drink as there are some very nice restaurants and cafes by the water. There's even a mall in the area, the Arena Mall, with shops selling high quality products. The Marina has become a well -known hub of israeli night life.

view of the Marina

'Beni the Fisherman' restaurant

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pupp - for the Rich and Famous

The recent Oscar celebrations with the arrivals of film celebrities on the red carpet, have reminded me of my short visit to the czeck town of Karlo Vivary (Carlsbad) some six months ago. While there, I was fascinated by the architecture and history of Grandhotel Pupp . This hotel hosts the annual International Film Festival and the cinema people that attend it, and is also temporary home to vacationing actors. The hotel was used in several films, the most known one - James Bond's 'Casino Royale'.

It started as the Saxony Hall in 1701. A guy named Jan Pop (german Johan Pupp) came to Carlsbad where he worked with a confectioner. He married his employer's daughter. She managed to buy partial ownership of this Saxony Hall and the nearby Bohemia Hall built later. These halls and a third one purchased by Pupp himself will later become the Grandhotel Pupp, which is now part of Pupp Complex. The impressive building was built in the 18th century in Baroque style ; its rooms renovated in the late nineties.


Walking on the carpets and through the rooms of Grandhotel Pupp is to walk in the steps of history. Throughout its history of three centuries, this hotel has hosted famous people from all walks of life: political ,religious, cultural , financial, scientific- from Europe and beyond that. Here are a few names: Bismark (german chancellor), russian Czar Peter the Great, Carlos King of Spain, Harald King of Norway, composers: Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Liszt, Dvorzack, actors Gregory Peck, Michael Douglas, Whoopi Goldberg, Alan Alda, Ornela Muti, psychoanalyst Dr. Freud.

Grandhotel Pupp is a luxurious hotel. It has more than two hundred regular rooms, suites, several apartments dedicated to very famous people, a presidential room, an imperial room, a spa center, casino, golf course & club, restaurants, bars, cafe, conference room, halls for special & festive events.

woman with jug- symbol of thermal baths & spas

Now back to the 2011 Oscar ceremony - Colin Firth is sooooo handsome , talented , and...british! I'm glad that the Oscar went to both "the King's speech" movie and its star .

Saturday, March 5, 2011


'Noir' is the french word for 'black' ; it appears in widely known terms such as the cinematic 'film noir' . It is also the name of a unique shop in my home town which specializes in selling various items in black color : clothing, jewelery, pillows, lamp-shades , mini statues - the 'hottest' item being.. .black toilet paper. According to one of the two blond, black dressed ladies that own this shop, the concept behind it, is theirs original, and they might even export it abroad .

Once, I visited a co-worker at her home. I was shocked to see that everything in the kitchen, except the walls and floor - was black. Since then, I've gradually got used to the idea that black is not only the colour of mourning, there's more to it; it is elegant , distinguished. In fact, I like to wear black. I also like black pots , and certain black furniture pieces .

The above-mentioned store , has a glass facade (windows and entrance) so its whole interior is seen outside. The shots were taken in the evening ( It's hard to take pictures of it in daylight as the picture shows reflection of the street through the glass). Two things 'brighten up' the place a bit :the colour of the walls and shelves, and the images of famous stars such as the M. divas: Marlen Dietrich at the back and Marlyn Monroe at the front part of the shop (the latter has been lately replaced with the image of Frank Sinatra).

glass facade

The walls, and the shelves attached to them are painted in mustard yellow colour which is a nice contrast to black. The lower rims of the shelves have slogans written on them explaining why black; it's dramatic, it's beautiful, it's mysterious, it's powerful , it's magic, it's glamorous , and it is never out of fashion.


The prices are rather ...pricey. I could ,however, afford the black toilet paper. It is sold as one roll of paper wrapped up nicely for a present and put into an elegant black bag with the tag 'Noir' on it.. I'm not going to use it , so please don't ask me whether it does its job well.

black toilet-paper roll