Friday, April 28, 2017

On The Top and At The Foot of Mt. Carmel

With Passover over, I felt I needed a change of scenery. So, I joined a day trip to Daliat el Carmel, the  colorful druze village on the top of Mt. Carmel, and to Ein Hod, the artists's colony, at the foot of this mountain, domineering from above the northern city-port of Haifa.

We were to meet there with the art of two very special people: Bothaina Halabi of Daliat El Carmel, a young druze painter who has dedicated her work to  the commemoration of the Holocaust, and Nisco (Nissan Cohen) of Ein-Hod, the founder of the museum of musical boxes collection.

Bothaina lives with her handsome husband and three children in a 2-storey house. The ground storey has a gallery, a lecture hall, toilets, a tiny kitchen where refreshments  are prepared (druze hospitality is famous), and where some locally produced druze specialties are sold to visitors.   It's a family 'affair'. Husband and children help out with everything.

the 2-storey house

to the upper storey

entrance to ground storey (galery &lecture hall)


Jars of green olives; two of the children in charge of the mini shop

The daughter's declamation in front of the audience (something about her commitment to the subject of the Holocaust) ,followed by the son's playing some adequate tunes on the flute, preceeded Bothaina's lecture and 'opened the show' , so to speak. That was quite lovely.

Son playing the flute

The interesting thing about Bothaina's art is its theme: the horrors of the Holocaust, and also the fact that she doesn't sell her paintings; she considers them her thoughts, her babies. She earns a living from teaching art and from lectures on her various activities.

letters of appreciation for her art and contributions

Her original paintings are in the gallery. When lecturing she uses replicas to explain and demonstrate things (the replicas are stored in an adjacent room; the husband brings them out and hands them to her one by one  to explain their subject).

originals on the galery wall

visitor, a Holocaust survivor, contemplating originals

husband helping with the replica pictures

husband waiting to hand Bothaina the next picture

During the second part of our visit, we were given a briefing on the druze sect by a druze retired army officer and lecturer . Nothing I didn't know. but coming from a druze it became strong, solid fact. The druze are a rather unique ethno-religious middle-eastern group with communities in Lebanon, Syria,Israel, Jordan, and with overseas branches in America and Austrlia.

The druze people are monoteistic and strongly believe in reincarnation. Dating and Marriage with outsiders is not allowed.  Their symbol is a five coloured flag (green,red, yellow,blue and white) which strenghtens their sense of unity..

 see the druze flag in front of house

* About Nisco of Ein-Hod and his musical boxes - in a future post.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Osher Ad" and.. . Kugel for Sabbath

'Osher Ad' (in english, meaning 'eternal happiness') is a chain of supermarkets with branches in some 15 locations which targets especially the large orthodox families needing quantity buying. The products are kosher, and there's even a tiny synagogue at the back of the store. 

The motto of the chain  is "no tricks, no gimmicks" (that is, no coupons, no 1+1, no deals etc..).  To show their understanding and emphaty for the budget- conscious customers with big families, they even posted advice signs  such as Don't buy more than you need, Don't bring the children when food shopping (truth is I don't see these signs any longer). That's good advice, of course, but hard  to put into practice.

Once a week, usually on Thursday, I do my shopping at the 'Osher Ad' store which is closest to my hometown. I like it for its big size, great variety, clean space, low prices. What I do not like is the fact that one has to stand in line at the checkout counter for quite a long time; there is no express line.

I usually go to 'Osher Ad' late in the day, so chances are their apple kugel- my favorite product- is sold out.
Kugel is a  dish made of egg noodles and baked in a square pan. It's the most elevated traditional Sabbath food on the table.The cinnamon apple noodle kugel is "devastating", and as one might guess, it's not a low-calorie dessert. If it's there , I just have to buy it. I'm hooked. (The potato kugel or any of the other kugel versions is of no interest to me).

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Singapore - city, island, country ?

There seems to be no clear answer to the above often asked question, but who cares? Those who have lived and worked  in this place in south-east Asia,  or have even just visited,  describe it as Paradise on earth. It's rich, stable, safe, clean. It even seems to be immune to natural disasters such as earthquakes, that often happen in the neighboring islands of Indonesia. How cool is that?

Education and healthcare are excellent,compared to western standards; so is the overall economic situation, despite the lack of natural resources. On the 'democracy'  level it's ranked rather low as there's only one political party , and there are restrictions on certain civil rights.  (Well, one can't have it all).

I felt the urge  to write this short post on Singapore after recently reading in the newspapers that an indian Imam (islamic worship leader) was fined and expelled for remarks against christians and jews in his Friday sermon at a mosque.

It should be said, that the population of Singapore is made up of three main layers: Chinese (the majority), Malays (the indigenous), and Indians. Christianity as a religion comes only fourth after islam, buddhism, and hinduism; the jews are very few in number. However, the principle is important here.  The incident with the Imam shows that ethnical and religious harmony is regarded by the authorities as crucial, and rightly so.  

I' ve read somewhere that Singapore is on the list of 'nations in transit'. I don't really know what it means for a nation to be in transit; it  seems to me Singapore should keep things  as they are now. Change could be bad for its future.

On the whole, I think the world can learn a lot from the position and prosperity of Singapore.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

'A Tale Of One City'

I spent most of Wednesday "playing detective" in a modest town named Kiryat Gat, in southern Israel. I was trying to get information on a certain asset, a little apartment in an old building. What for? Well, that's a long, old story regarding a possible inheritance. I won't go into it now.

It was hot outside, desert- like weather; I didn't have a decent map, and the local municipality was not very helpful.
When I finally got to that apartment, the tenant, a middle aged woman, russian accent, opened the door reluctantly, We had a brief conversation after which she 'forwarded' her dog  to "say hello" to me, and closed the door. Well, at least  I got away with some valuable  information.

the old building

children's playground nearby

Kiryat Gat was established in 1954 as a 'development town' whose population was mainly of north african origin. Gradually, it  absorbed newcomers from other countries as well, especially from the former Soviet Union countries.

 main road under construction

blooming cactus

The town has all the standard stuff  : residential neighborhoods, malls, small recreational parks, banks, city complex market(open and covered spaces with veggies and fruit stalls, houseware and clothing areas), educational , religious,and cultural Centers, eateries.
There's also a magistrate court and a railway station.

city mall

the harp memorial to honor the victims of the Holocaust

welfare services building

painted tree trunk in the yard of the above welfare building

open market

Over the years, the city has become known for its industrial zone. The giant, global Intel corporation which has two chip fabrication plants here , and some other foreign and domestic companies  ('Sugat' sugar plant, 'HP' indigo, 'Tzabar' salads etc.) are located in this industrial zone which is on the eastern edge of the town. Athough a sort of world apart. the industry here has significantly upgraded the city.

['Nothing new under the sun'.  It's a fact that if manufacturing industry goes, the place fades away. That's why great efforts are made  (including generous subsidies) in attracting industrial investmemts and preventing their leaving the area].

I bought some delicious black grapes at the covered market, and so I left the city  after a tiring day, with a sweet, aromatic taste in my mouth.

covered market

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Baker from Baghdad

'The Baker from Bagdhad'  is the name of a bakery chain  which includes some seven stores spread around Israel. The chain, founded in 2004 by the third generation to a family of bakers originally from Baghdad (Iraq),  is quite successful. People love these places which combine the old, traditional breads and pastries, with the more modern ones. 

products displayed on racks and counter

Last week, I entered one of the bakeries of the chain to get myself a cup of coffee and a cookie. It was almost noon. Inside, a light traffic of customers buying bread, rolls, pretzels, cakes, cookies.  Salads, sandwiches,and light drinks were also available.

There were only two small chairs and tables, outside the entrance, where one could sit and have a coffee. Not very comfortable arrangement, to say the least, but I left home without any breakfast and I had to have something.

breads on rack

tortes, for festive events, in the fridge, cookies on the table

cookies on racks

ready-made  cake roulades

The specialty of this chain is the 'sambusak' - an iraqi and middle-eastern  turnover pastry stuffed with various fillings (cheese and potatoes, among the favorites).
Doughnuts are also given much honor here, with a variety of fillings (chocolate, strawberries, vanilla, halva). 

Staring at the people buying all those goodies,  I concluded to myself that it was hard for anyone to resist entering the place. Besides the terrific smells of fresh, out-of-the oven stuff, and decent prices, I noticed a great variety of both:  baking supplies used (white flour, whole flour, with or without glutten, various filling ingredients) and finished products (sweet, salty, sugarless/ breads, cookies - and at the other end  - sophisticated and "decadent" desserts).

We're constantly told that sugar and salt are killers, flour is an enemy, jelly is yikes - but most people love these elements and will probably continue to love them  (presumably with the help of a little pill for diabetes, cholesterol, triglycerides and the like. As we all know, Nutrition and Health, go hand in hand, ). 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Red South

To celebrate Spring arrival, I joined a guided day trip to the 'Red South' - 'red' referring to the wild red flowers  (anemones) growing from December to March in  various parts of the country, the southern part being one of them.

The weather was glorious - perfect for an outdoor escapade. During the trip we were treated with fresh strawberries, cookies, coffee, lemonade, cold water - stored in the underneath baggage compartment  of the bus - and that made it all very pleasant.

The view of the red poppy-like flowers near kibbutz Beeri, in the north-western Negev desert, was lovely, though not breathtaking, as no red carpets covering vast fields were seen . After all, it's the last month of their blooming season; the red carpets of anemones can be seen here mainly during January-February, so we were told.  

red anemones

Kibbutz (communal settlement) Beeri,  has turned the region into a bicycle country with trails to suit every level of cycling. In front of the gate to the kibbuttz , there's a bike center called  La Medavesh (The pedalist),  where one can rent a bicycle, get tips and maps. buy refreshments,etc..
(By the way, Michelle Bachman, the american republican politician has served here as a volunteer in 1974).

Our trip  included some interesting sites: wheat fields, bridges (the Rope Bridge), rivers (Tzehelim and  Habesor which are subject to annual flooding following heavy rains),   memorials (ANZAC) , and the port of Ashdod.

South of Beeri region - the "rope bridge" hanging over the Besor stream. It's 80 meters long. To take a picture while on the shaking bridge is not easy at all, as the hand shakes too.

the hanging 'rope bridge' - a  bit of a frightening experience

not the work of DAESH but of my photographic incompetence

Some four kilometers north of Beeri - The ANZAC memorial in commemoration of the australian and new-zeelandish soldiers who fell in battle during first world war. From the top one can see  Gaza Strip which is not far from the kibbutz (there are some eleven settlements near the border with Gaza Strip).

stairs leading to the upper part

upper part of the structure

top of the memorial

view of Gaza strip in the distance

At 1:00 p.m, still near Gaza Strip, we had lunch at a kibbutz, named Yad Mordechai in memory of Mordechai Anielewicz, a leading figure in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. 
This kibbutz's honey , jam, and olive products are leading brands on the israeli market. (I'm a fan of their "778" light blueberry jam which I use as a replacement for sweets - a tea spoon of jam has only 12 kalories).

dining hall of Yad Mordechai

lunch time

After lunch we headed towards the climax of our trip - Ashdod Port and its visitor center. The port , dominating the city of Ashdod, is located some 40 kilometers from Tel-Aviv. Here we were not allowed to take pictures except in and around the visitor center. At the visitor's center we were presented with a movie and explanations on the port's history and its impressive technological development.

visitor's center


We then took a guided bus ride within the port  to have a close look at things: offices, warehouses, railroad station, heavy engineering vehicles, transport /ship repair companies etc...

At the end of the ride we were offered as a memento, an envelope bearing the original stamp issued at the port's 50th Anniversary. Nice.