Friday, May 27, 2016

Meron, and the Bonfires of Lag ba' Omer

Meron is a village in northern Israel , near the town of Safed (Tzfat). It is famous for the tomb of Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai), an ancient scholar , and for the pilgrimage  of thousands to his tomb on Lag ba' Omer  holiday. 

Rashbi  was the author of the Zohar ( brightness, radiance in hebrew),  the basic text of the Kabbalah (the mystical dimension of the Torah). On the day of his passing he instructed his disciples to mark the date as a day of great light and joy.

entrance to the tomb (Web picture)

On the eve of Lag ba' Omer,( this year it fell on Wednesday 25 May) it is customary to light bonfires across the country , to commemorate  the passing of the talmudic sage, Rashbi, who gave us intense light through his teachings and miracles.


Children love bonfires. They work hard to gather scraps of wood and everything else that is needed to maintain a nice looking bonfire. They enjoy contemplating the fire, taking care of it, shouting, singing, eating roasted potatoes...Parents cooperate and supervise.

giving instructions

Until the last few years, the bonfires were modest: small to medium size. Now they've become bigger, more spectacular.  Meat (kebab, steak..) has been added to the menu of the innocent jacket potatoes .

adding wood to fire

I love bonfires too, but, honestly, if this tradition were to be abolished I wouldn't shed many tears. It's dangerous, it pollutes the air, of them is right behind my building (100 meter from it, I guess). On the other hand, I feel blessed by this annual bonfire near my home,  so I'll just settle for ways to minimize the dangers .  One has to see the good in everything.

tiny synagogue in the background (seen from my upper window)
 I feel blessed by its presence too

The firefighters and the paramedics are very busy on the eve of Lag ba' Omer and on the next day,especially in Meron where many thousands gather to pray in and around  Rashbi's tomb  asking for salvations , lighting bonfires, and having a lot of joy .

interesting view of the synagogue - 
seen in the circle around the fire

Friday, May 13, 2016

Reactor 4, Chernobyl

reactor 4 (web picture)

Last month, on 26 of April, the world marked the 30 years anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986).

"To err is human"  -  but, it could also be fatal. The above disaster was due to human error. The operators of reactor 4 at the nuclear plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, made some serious mistakes during a safety test - the result of which  became known  as the worst ever nuclear disaster in history .

Following the explosion within reactor 4 were: release of radiation (much more than that released by the american bomb dropped on Hiroshima), deaths, evacuations, diseases, an exclusion (ghost) zone of 30 km radius around Chernobyl .

According to what has been reported in the media so far, the exclusion zone remains almost uninhabited. There are some 200 elderly living here at their own risk, a group of officials that administrate the zone, and about 3000 people that work in the plant (in rotation shift) to finish the construction of the sarcophagus that is supposed to prevent further radiation leakage. Since 2011, the area is open to short, escorted domestic and international tours.

Nuclear Power and Climate Change, whether combined ( as in the case of Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by earthquake ) or separately, might gradually terminate the world.

I think we can't do much about these two factors, and that's very frustrating, especially as climate is becoming more and more anomalous. What we ordinary people could do, is  perhaps, pay more  attention  to where we live and be aware of / evaluate the dangers of our immediate environment.
Knowing the facts, some people may decide on relocation to a safer place.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Blue Zones

Reaching the age of 100, is a common phenomenon in certain parts of the globe.  Among these places, named by researchers 'blue zones', are the islands of Ikaria
 (Greece), Sardinia (Italy), and Okinawa (Japan); the peninsula of Nikoya (Costa Rica), and the city of Loma Linda (California).

The explorer and writer Dan Buettner is the one who has popularized the term 'blue zones' through his books, articles, and lectures on the above locations.

There's no big secret or  mystery behind this phenomenon of living to 100 and beyond.  According to geographic and demographic experts - people in the blue zones owe their longevity to some or all of the following conditions: minimum pollution, no food processing, a relaxed way of life , sufficient exposure to sun, family and community support, faith, genetics. 

In short, good genes, good habits, good environment, to which I would also add  - a bit of good luck.

It seems to me that  'a relaxed way of life'  is a tough one for us in the so-called developed world, as we're used to live in a "never a dull moment" scenario, with all sorts of slogans pushing us to "make a difference in the world". 

Personally, I must admit that as I advance in age  I feel I'm becoming more appreciative of those dull moments, of slowing down to  doing  almost nothing, of enjoying the small, simple pleasures of life. What I first have in mind is not the possibility of being a centenerian , but rather the prospect of living a life free of pain, dissabilities, and dependence that usually come with old age.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sister Cities

The lovely little square in the above picture has a french name displayed on it :  Saint Maur des Fosses. (If you enlarge the photo you can see the name of the square in both languages: french and hebrew).  

Until quite recently I had no idea who or what was behind that name.  Well,  Saint Maur des Fosses is a city in France,  not far from Paris, and it happens to be one of my hometown's four 'sister cities'.

 poster with the emblem of the  french city

maintenance guy on his vehicle

flowers- close up

Sister cities or Twin towns are  bound by a formal agreement between the respective municipalities, to promote educational, cultural, touristic, commercial, and other ties - through all sorts of exchange activities  focusing on mutual interests.

It appears the municipality of my hometown  (Ramat-Hasharon), has signed such an agreement with two french cities (Dunkirk and Saint- Maur- des- Fosses), a  german city (Georgsmarienhutte), and an american city (Tallahassee, the capital of Florida). 

Usually,  the "sisters" are supposed to be more or less  in the same category as far as relevant characteristics are concerned, namely: geographical size, status (urban, rural), population statistics etc.. It's not a rule, but it makes things easier.

The whole concept of sister cities (conceived after the Second World War)  sounds  nice and beneficial to all sides. The exchange of knowledge and delegations, could open doors to everyone involved, and above all,  foster friendship , respect, and understanding between people of different nations. 
It should definitely be encouraged.

Does your city/village/region/state have any sister cities?

Monday, April 4, 2016

April , weather, and... more

I like it in April; the cold of the winter is gone, the heat of the summer is not here yet ( except for a day or two of desert-like weather called 'hamsin'). The windows are wide open; no heating/ cooling devices needed (and thus lower electricity bills).

I feel better and happier in  the warm weather of April.  In winter - cloudiness ,cold, and rain  affect my health; these winter elements make it easy for me to catch a cold  (which weakens the immunity system), and arouse the dull pain in my lower back (which might cause problems with my knees and legs) . 

The declutter process I've started to carry out lately, in anticipation of the upcoming Passover holiday, is spoiling my mood ; not an easy task, for someone like me who gets foolishly attached to things. On top of all, I haven't got yet  my latest purchase - the compact home Paper Shredder which is to help me get rid of old paper stuff, safely and elegantly.

Almost  three weeks till Passover. This is the time to replace a pot or two in the kitchen with new ones. I like doing this as I believe old pots are a source of toxicity even if they are considered of decent quality.

April is a good month for trips and picnics in blooming and greening Nature. Cameras, road maps, bicycles, etc.. are ready to serve their masters . Caution is  required, though, as there are many road accidents at this time of the year.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Day Trip To Lower Galilee

On Tuesday the 22 of March, I joined a one day guided tour to the Lower Galilee area, in the north of the country.  It included , among other things, visits to a winery, a boutique olive oil press, a panoramic lookout , a cemetery, a former german Templers' settlement, a river and an adjacent park.

Morad  Winery in Yokneam little town

In both places, at the winery (Morad Winery) and at the olive oil press (Galili Olive Oil) we came  across happy founders (husband and wife) who had turned their hobby into a profession and got very successful. 
The Visitors Center in those production facilities offered  tastings of wine and liquers, olives and olive oil.  It also gave visitors the chance to buy products and gift packages at discount prices.

wide selection of wines and liquers

wine gift packages

 olive oil in tins and bottles,jars with olives, olive soap

The main attraction of the Zaid hill lookout is the bronze statue of the famous watchman Alexander Zaid on his horseback, gazing out over the valley that he used to patrol in the days of the pre-jewish state. It was fascinating to learn from the guide's lecture about Zaid's fearless personality, and the history of the place. 

bronze statue of Alexander Zaid 

At the 'Nahalal' cemetery we focused on four modest gravestones of two famous fathers and their sons : 1.Moshe Dayan, army general who at some point served as Defense Minister,  and son Assaf, a very versatile person ( movie actor and director, writer of books, scripts, and newspaper columns); 2. Ilan Ramon, astronaut who died in the american Columbia space shuttle crash, and his son Assaf, fighter pilot whose jet crashed during an army exercise. There was great sadness in the air.

Ilan and Assaf Ramon graves

Bethlehem  Haglilit, not far from the city of Nazareth, is a picturesque village with stone houses dating to its time as a templers' colony (first part of the 20th century). The place attracts many visitors, so it offers tourist services : bed and breakfast, visits to olive oil presses, spice gardens, cheese farms etc... A visit here usually brings up the question of which Bethlehem is the true birthplace of Jesus -  Bethlehem of Galilee near Nazareth, or the accepted Betlehem , south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank.

the water and bell tower of Bethlehem of Galilee

 I didn't quite enjoy the last part of the tour - the visit to the Harod stream- as it got very windy in the area and I wished I was back on the bus. Anyway , the Harod river runs through fish ponds, water reservoirs, agricultural fields, and is the main drainage artery of the Harod Valley. There's an adjacent recreational park, Beit She'an National Park, with spots for picnics and restored ruins of the ancient city of Beit She'an.

Harod Stream

sign indicating the stream, the park the bridges trail

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pedestrian Again.....Residents' Victory

Apropo round shape (my previous post 'Rotunda'), and women (the Woman's Day celebrated on the 8th of March last week) :

The round Dizengoff square in the heart of Tel-Aviv, originally named Zina square (Zina, the name of the mayor's wife) in honor and praise of all the women of the city - is currently in the news -  and that made me re-read my post "Fire and Water" from February 4, 2011 regarding the above square.

The big News is that the square (unveiled in 1938) is going to return to street level ( in 1978 it was elevated above street level, to allow flow of car traffic at the lower level;  this layout was very unpopular with the residents of the city who expressed their opinion on the topic,  in the 2011 survey initiated by the Municipality).  After the planned restoration, the place will belong only to pedestrians and their activities. 

Dizengoff is the name of the first mayor of Tel Aviv, the name of the most iconic street in this city , the name of the square  (the meeting point of this street with six  lateral streets), and the name of what is known as Dizengoff Center which includes a mall and an oudoor vintage market.

The square is round, and so is the main attraction in the middle of it - the fountain named by its famous designer Agam - 'fire and water'. The regular visitors  of  the square are: kids (playing and feeding the pigeons), bicycle riders, dog owners walking their dogs, seniors resting on benches, joggers, and many others.

she looks good and so does the dog

Dad is watching boy feeding the pigeons

having a chat while sitting on blue (ugly) benches


Saturday, February 27, 2016


A new residential building has been erected at the junction of a main road with a side road. It's a circular building, and although not completely finished, it attracts the attention of passers- by like magnet, due to  its quite attractive exterior. 

Location - not ideal, because of the intensive traffic on the two adjacent roads. However, it's centrally positioned and the neighborhood is considered a good one.  A two minutes drive gets you to a railway station and a mall on one side, and to a Tel-Aviv metropolitan area cemetery {Kiryat Shaul} on the other side. (Strange coincidence - the only other residential circular building I can remember seeing, is also placed near a cemetery (in Ghivataim city, Nahalat Yitzhak neighborhood - but it's a much lower building).

the junction

Architects claim that  a round building has  advantages over a standard rectangular one : it is seismically more resistant, it is structurally more efficient (no dead corners), it is also energy efficient in that it withstands better storms, heat, cold; hence lower utility bills. Even the construction and maintenance costs are said to be lower.

So why is this type of building  scarce , at least in my neck of the woods? How come the Rotunda (round) architecture is not more prevailing in this part of the world?

Perhaps it has to do with some interior issues: they say standard furniture doesn't go too well with curved walls, there's need for custom made furniture; straight walls are better for hanging on pictures, etc.. In addition, for some reason, it's hard to get a planning permit, and bureaucracy, as one knows, kills projects.

Personally, I would love to live in a circular house. I would feel proud to dwell in such a sort of unique structure. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016


front cover

I have a small prayer book with prayers for every occasion and purpose. It has a fine genuine brown leather cover, which makes it very pleasant for me to keep it in my hands.

back cover

Leather is made from animal skin , and I'm not too happy with this fact (no, I'm not vegan/ vegetarian/ or from the animal protection organization;  just a human being who has compassion for animals). Even the argument that leather is only the by - product of the meat industry, and that skin is not wasted after the meat removal process, but recycled - doesn't make me feel better.

That said, leather is both luxurious and practical. In my opinion, nothing makes a person look more well- dressed and elegant  than a leather jacket or coat. Just look around, at people wearing a leather outfit, and you'll see my point.

High - quality leather accessories such as handbags and shoes, give the right 
finishing  touch to any outfit.
As for leather furniture,  it's beautiful and durable. Leather sofas and armchairs add style  and class to a  room.

Humans have been using leather in clothing for centuries and I suppose they'll continue to do so, more or less.

Cool vs. Cruel is a fashion competition encouraging design students to find alternatives to clothing material of animal origin (leather and especially fur). It's possible, it's being done, and yet, so far, nothing can really compete in quality, elegance, coolness with the original stuff. Let's face it, leather has a unique texture and a great feel about it.

Friday, January 8, 2016

In the Middle of the Face

The daughter of an acquaintance  of mine has recently undergone nose cosmetic surgery. I feel sad about it and its result. I'm afraid she feels sad too, but it's rather too late.

I'm not against cosmetic surgery; it can sometimes greatly improve appearance and enhance self-confidence. (after all, not everyone is Barbara Streisand for whom the nose is her trademark and it even adds a certain charm to her face).  I'm against it only when it doesn't really need to be done, as in the above case.

The nose is located in the center of our face. In my humble opinion, it is the nose (it's shape and size) that determines the beauty or plainness of a face.

My much beloved mother (RIP) had an oval shaped face (which is considered the ideal shape), spectacular blue eyes, a light velvety skin, silky hair, a nice body figure - and yet she wouldn't have been considered a beauty according to standard parameters because of her nose. It was a bit hawkish.

In those days, when my Mom was a young woman, nose reshaping was not available and even if it were, there was no money for that kind of thing. Nowadays,  it's not only available, it's very popular -   in fact, too popular.

To come back to my acquaintance's daughter - all she wanted was to shorten her nose, she thought of it as too long. Well, but the correction of the tip of a nose is a most challenging aspect of nose surgery. It can improve or spoil  face profile and grace . The button-like nose she got after surgery, has indeed altered both.

I'm for being content with what we have , unless it really  affects our health and well-being.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Historical place turned into a recreational spot. Nothing  wrong with that , especially that there's due respect given to history here. It's just the trend of things nowadays  that needs to be mentioned - every available space turns into a complex of food, recreation and real estate.

Sarona is such a complex. It's new and attractive, in the city of Tel Aviv, close to main roads, with lots of parking places. It used to be an army base, and long before that a  templar  colony. (The templars were pios german christians who established an agricultural settlement on the west bank of the Ayalon river in 1871. They were exiled to Germany and Australia in 1930 by the british forces who controlled the land at that time).

main street
Visitor's Center and Info Center in the background

The complex  (see the header - guide map to visitors-  to get an idea), comprises  an indoor food market (rather crowded and stuffy for my taste) placed under several residential towers - and a fairly big open space with  little streets named after army generals , an urban park with grass lawns and flower beds, spots for picnics, for public events, and of course, children's playgrounds.

residential towers

entrance to indoor market

indoor cake stand and vegetable stand

indoor bakery products

eating indoors

 There are of course, designer shops, art galleries, resto- bars and cafeterias - housed in the  templar homes scattered around the open area.

There's also a visitor's center , an information center,  an olive oil press, an underground cave built by the templars as a wine press,  a nice W.C. structure. (I haven't seen though any cool water facilities which in summer are a must).

book store "Tzomet Sefarim"
olive oil press
childrens' playground
picnic spot

It was a bit cloudy outside when I visited  there, and yet things around looked bright and colorful.
What I liked mostly about the place was the music diffused through some small , flat round devices in certain areas of the park. You can sit on a bench and listen to original hebrew songs on various themes. As always, music takes things to a higher level.
resting and listening to music
see the round devices on the soil , difussing music
outside the cafeteria with flowers and music

Monday, November 16, 2015

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite

The bombings, shootings and killings in Paris,  the City of Light, have shattered many people's belief in humanity, and  in the ideals of the French Revolution.

The french have a lot of thinking to do now. Years  of liberal policies (both on the internal and the external front) and incompetent politicians, have turned France into an easy target for terrorists.

As a journalist has recently put it:" You shouldn't try to understand or explain terrorism. You should just extirpate it". Indeed, a lot of time has been wasted on understanding and explaining - and now it seems things are completely out of control.

There's a sense of urgency in the atmosphere  but so far nothing serious has been done against Daesh, except air strikes, which are not very efficient. 

The members of Daesh, Al-Quaeda,and the like, don't seem to think much of life, so I wouldn't be surprised if they try to get hold of nuclear "toys" to make it even easier to destroy  life wherever and whenever they fancy.

Sad, very sad.    
May the souls of those innocent victims of the massacre in Paris rest in peace! May God strengthen their families and alleviate their pain!