Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ice Land - Warm Prospects

Iceland's football team at the 2016 Euro Games, was a surprise, not to say a sensation. Against all odds, it made it to the quarter finals after beating  England (2-1).

I am not a sports fan, and don't get too impressed by sport achievements, but  the case of Iceland  is worth studying as there were other surprises, not sports related, that have preceded the one at the Euro Games.

During the economic crisis of 2008-2009, this tiny nation living on an island with very harsh climatic and geological conditions - let its banks collapse instead of bailing them out, and put bankers and other finance people in jail!!  No prize was given to the banks and bankers , but punishment for their part in the economic collapse. The banks were nationalized and the banking system was taken over by the government.

Usually,in the event of an economic crisis, a country's banking system is saved at all costs (unfortunately, the banks use that knowledge to play high  risk financial games, which is quite frightening).

Iceland did the unusual, and it worked. Since 2011 she has recovered from the economic crisis, and is doing well with fishing and tourism as the main industries (The banking system, though, is still in the hands of the government) .

Anyway, considering its football team performances at the Euro Games, Iceland, a land of more volcanoes and glaciers  than people, is now on the "world map" and  cannot be ignored.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Kne Kash" - the Bamboo Concept

The other day I visited the showroom of a bamboo products' firm named "Kne Kash". It's a  spacious place located near a railway station and some other commercial businesses. The structure used to be a barn, one of a series of  seven (7) barns with pyramidal roof shape, close to the train area -  the Mamgurot (Barns) area. 

It was rather dim inside. I suppose the very high  concrete ceiling and the special light fixtures, have something to do with it.  

The concept in this showroom is different from that in their flag store situated in another region. The emphasis here is on bamboo and straw as living materials in the hands of architects. Customers come in with their house plan, and get here professional advice as to the best way to use bamboo and straw in their home design.

I love bamboo in all its forms: furniture, fences, flooring, panels, decoration items, textiles. How could one not love it? Bamboo is natural, ecological, flexible, light-weight, and practical. Its simplicity is also its beauty.

Bamboo is usually associated with far-east countries. This strong plant grows there, and the local people make good use of it. Indeed, I've seen over the years some beautiful bamboo furniture pieces  made in Vietnam, India, Philippines, China etc... 

The problem is that in my neck of the woods bamboo products are quite expensive, since they are imported and mostly hand made. Besides, there has been a rise in the number of environmental buyers;  and if that's not enough,  people that used to buy bamboo furniture for outdoors mainly , have discovered its charm for the indoors too. As the demand increases, and the supply is sometimes short, prices go up.

There is a little sign at the entrance/exit  of the store which says: 'Bamboo - the wood of the future'. Why of the future?  If you ask me, its' future as wood is already here and now.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

From Grexit (almost) to Brexit (perhaps)

I didn't give much thought to the European Union (after all, I live in Asia, LOL) until the first significant crisis occurred - the Greek crisis, featuring a young, charismatic, greek PM (Alexis Tzipras) and a piquant story of how Greece , allegedly, cheated to enter the Union.

The crisis is only partially over, and there are speculative rumours that Greece is considering selling some of its beautiful islands, to cover its debts to the Union and to the IMF (international monetary fund).

And now, the referendum in Great Britain (on 23 june 2016), to decide whether the country stays in or out of the Union, has drawn a lot of attention;  especially  after the recent tragic event of a young MP being shot dead in the street. 

Personally, I'm not much in favor of a union of states or a federation of states.  I just don't think it could work. Each state, nation, has its own rhytm of life and cultural tradition. It should be let to live at its own pace and capability.  If it wants change, that should come from within, from an inner effort, not from external factors' pressure.

EC headquarters -Place Shumann, Bruxelles

However, once established, this partnership of states cannot go back without causing  a political and economical  'earthquake'. In Bruxelles (the headquarters of the European Union) they've tried hard to prevent it in the Greek crisis, and they're trying to prevent it now with Britain.

For years, the EU institutions have practically been  'playing God' to bring 28 european nations under a common denominator; a lot of funds have been invested in the econonomically weaker, southern european countries.  So far, not very successfully. 

Grande Place, Bruxelles

All bad things, both in the life of the individum and in the life of a nation, stem , in my humble opinion, from our attempts to play God (change mentalities, abilities, ways of life of other people) , and from our wrong belief that money ( pouring more and more funds) can achieve it all.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Of Stores and Scents

Sometimes you walk into a store and you're hit by some specific smell that might make you feel, even after a few moments,  quite unwell. It happened to me once while in a Home Center store (the red sign in the above picture is in hebrew).

Home Center ( as well as other home chains, like Ace)  sell , among other things, wall/ wood paints. Even though the cans of paint are tightly sealed, still there's some  paint odor in the air. I don't really know why. 

paint cans

Well, a few minutes in that aisle and I felt as if I was about to faint. I left the store quickly, sat outside on a bench, and took some deep breaths for 5-6 minutes until I felt better. I didn't re-enter the store; it was a small  branch of Home Center located within an urban mall.
(Big chains and supermarkets usually have spacious, well air- conditioned stores on the outskirts of the town;  smaller, crowded branches in the center of the town).

paint stuff

In the above case , the smell was closely associated with certain merchandise sold in the store.

In other cases ( fashion stores ,book stores etc..) it is the owner that wants a "signature" scent in his shop: citrus, musk, cinnamon, wood,  you name it...and he'll diffuse the fragrance through air conditioning vents or some other method.

In the majority of cases, the retailers who have discovered what is known as the fifth sense (smell) use it as a marketing tool to lure in customers, just as they use background music and various smart displays of goods. . That's OK, but  the problem is that "one man's aroma is another man's stench" and it could drive customers away.

Anyhow, people who think they are sensitive to smells, might, whenever possible, prefer entering bigger, well ventilated places to smaller, scented places.

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.