Friday, August 19, 2016

The Food We Eat


Tehina and Hummus pastes and salads are very popular in Israel. So, whenever salmonella or other such bacteries are discovered in these products, consumers get hysterical. 

The latter react to the news as if they don't really know what is in the food sold at supermarkets or that served at restaurants  - all the time -  not only in the sample test results. The truth is salmonella and its friends cause unpleasant stomach and bowel issues, but one rarely dies of it, so people go on eating and ignoring, ignoring and eating.

Anyway, salmonella was found recently  not only in the above food items but also in granola (breakfast cereal). The Ministry of Health is busy now checking the hygiene standards of all involved as well as cancelling licenses of suppliers.
The other day, while at the supermarket, I came upon a jar with four big white fish meat balls. The label on the jar looked attractive: low calorie/high protein value, no sugar added. But then I saw the expiring date: 2020; we're not even in 2017 yet! That means the fish balls are packed with lots of preservatives.

The sad thing is that even if one prepares one's food at home, still the ingredients ( including veggies which could be contaminated  either by worms  or by chemicals used to destroy those worms)  - are bought from external sources:  the store or farmer markets. 

Those who grow their own food (veggies, meat, eggs, fruit) - do better, of course;  however a lot depends on the standard of hygiene in their homes and garden areas.

* internet pictures

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Age and The Stage

Habima Theater

A comedy named  "What are we gonna do about Jenny"(originally an american play) is being performed at our national theater Habima .The protagonists are two veteran, esteemed actresses: Devora Keidar and Lya Koenig.

the ad of the play 

It so happened that I saw one of the two leading actresses walking on the street, and a week  after, I watched the other one on a TV interview show, called 'Intimate'.

Devora Keidar is 92 years old. Without the make up, her face shows her age. However, her gait is that of a young woman. She came out of a building , carrying her personal leather purse. I watched her walk and cross the street ;she did that with grace and easiness.

At 92 one doesn't usually care much about wrinkles; one does care about mobility and  cognitive functioning. It seems she's got them both in very good condition. In the play she performs the part of Jenny, a fresh widow  of 75 who insists on celebrating life with a lover, champagne, musicians... to the despair of her family and friends who want her to behave appropriately to her age.

Lya Koenig , Devora's collegue and friend, is younger, only 87; a very talented, active, and charismatic actress (she's Jenny's sister -in-law in the play).

The host on the TV  'Intimate' show asked her about the reason for her not having children. In reply, she invoked the usual: career, touring the world, the post -world war2 mentality of not bringing children in this gloomy world etc..

She then opened up and mentioned an episode in the hospital. Her late husband, in bed with cancer, was looking at some kids that were visiting a patient in the bed next to his. 'You know' , he said to her, 'Perhaps we've made a mistake. Who's going to make you a cup of tea when I'm gone?'

By the way,  the oldest actor in the world active on stage (according to Guiness in 2013), the romanian Radu Beligan, died in July. He was 97 and he had appeared successfully on stage until April 2016!

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?