Sunday, July 31, 2016

Recycle Bins, Donation Bins

They say there's big profit in the recycling business.  I don't know about that and frankly I don't care. I'm just pleased not to throw away my used items into the garbage , and at the same time I'm proud to help, in a small way, protect the environment.

There's a decent coverage of the city with  recycling bins of all sorts: for glass bottles and jars,  plastic bottles,  clothing and textiles , paper and cardboard, metals and even...holy items. 

These bins are placed at "strategic" points: near grocery stores, malls, post offices, parking plots - either as several kinds grouped together or as individual bins. (Disposable bins for batteries and small electronics are not placed outside, for safety reasons.)

bins near a bus stop and a synagogue, 

bin for clothing, bags, shoes, textiles

bin for paper, cardboard...

bin for glass bottles and jars

bin for plastic bottles

Usually, people donate clothes and accessories that are in good condition,  to charity organizations. The donor brings the package with the stuff to be donated into the office / thrift shop of the organization, or throws it into a donation bin outside the place. 

There are rumors that, for some reason, most of the undamaged, good stuff also goes to recycling. If this is true, then it's rather sad news. These clothes could make someone happy. One could sometimes get a unique  garment for free or for a fraction of the price. Another could get several garments for the price of a single new outfit.   Let's hope the matter will be investigated and good, usable items will not go to recycling centers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Cartoon Museum

With all those terrible events going on in the world: the terror attacks in Nice (France) and in Istanbul (Turkey), the killing of cops (USA), Erdogan and the coup failure (Turkey), daily terror acts here in Israel etc.., I felt a strange need to bring a smile to my face. So, this week I found myself at the Museum of caricatures and comics located in the city of Holon.

On the roof of the building, stands the self-portrait poster caricature of Zeev (pen name), the most famous israeli caricaturist.  He died in 2002 at the age of 79. His family has donated all his cartoon works to the museum.

The poster with the self portrait was probably placed at first at the entrance stairs (see Wikipedia picture) and moved, for some good reason, to the top of the building.

Zeev - self portrait (Wikipedia)

My favorite is his  cartoon of the Peace process (between Israel and the arabs).  So simple, and yet expressing something so complex and hard to achieve!

the Peace  process

His caricatures of political figures are just genious. However, nowadays, I'm so fed up with politicians and their politics that even a good political caricature doesn't make me smile.

The museum honors the veteran cartoonists both outside and inside the building.  In the area near the entrance there are wooden posters representing some of their work. 

On the walls of the staircase hall that leads to the museum - there are biographical facts about these outstanding israeli cartoonists and samples of their work - framed and covered with glass.  Even on the elevator's room door there are caricatures.

the door to the elevator's room

I was  pleasantly surprised to find out that photography is allowed within the museum, despite the fact that its tiny shop is interested in selling cards, catalogues and books based on the stuff they have in the archives  and galleries. However, with my shoot and point little camera  I couldn't do much about those displayed delicate exhibits.


The museum hosts permanent exhibitions as well as changing ones. It has a room for educational activities too, and some audio-video equipment.

activities'  room

During my visit there, I focused on the displayed  exhibits of the late Friedl Stern, a well-know israeli cartoon journalist - caricatures on the theme of Adam and Eve from her book 'Fig Leaves".

They say there are only about twelve such museums in the world. If this is true then it's a Pity! I think  there should be more of this kind.

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