Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Swedish Concept

It's winter Sale at the big, international, clothing stores : H&M , Zara,  H &O, Mango, Springfield, Bershka, Castro etc.; 30%  to 70% discount on most winter items.

entrance to the HM store in Ayalon mall - Ramat-Gan city

upper floor-men/ kids fashion; ground floor- ladies' fashion

My favorite is  H&M  - fashion from Sweden. It's called by people "cheap chique" and "fast fashion" (like in fast food - meaning good stuff at affordable prices).What I like about this chain , is that it has something for any age, gender, and purse.It has ladies/men fashion departments, kidswear/ maternity wear/ accessories sections.  Besides, the design of the stores is very,very cool with lots of space  and lights. The chain has branches in the malls of almost all major cities in the country.

window fashion models

kids'  wear

I entered an HM store the other day to have a look,  and  left with a lovely, festive $10  black top . All the colours are present; it's quite obvious, however, that H&M loves red, although black is considered the average swede's favourite color. 
I know a thing or two about fabrics and sewing, so the store offered me much interest and curiosity.

items in red

check out area; poster above the cashiers

Ikea , another swedish brand,  keeps its big Sale once a year, at the end of summer. There are only 4-5 stores in the whole of Israel, but they're very successful. (In the past, I wrote two posts on Ikea).

Ikea store in Netanya city industrial zone

I enjoy having a look at the furniture designs, less at the...prices. I leave the store with some trivial item/s, usually a pot (I like their kitchenware); Over the years I've bought several furniture pieces , among them an armchair I'm very fond of to this day.
I won't leave the store, without eating their famous 'soup in a bread bowl', 

Bread bowl with soup

It's surprising, how a small country like Sweden (barely 10 million people), has produced such a number of global, successful companies: Ikea, H&M,  Volvo, Scannia , Skype - to mention the more famous ones. They also boast a lot of inventions (dynamite, adjustable wrench, pacemaker,ultrasound, seatbelt, and more) ׂ.   What's their secret? 

I suppose their special, 'out of the box' creativity and  great ability to plan, combined with freedom and encouragement given to start-ups by the government, are the things that lead them to international success.

* The map - Web image

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Tomb of Maimonides

Maimonides (anacronym  for Moshe Ben Maimon), hebrew name Harambam (anacronym for Harav Moshe Ben Maimon), was born in Spain, lived and died in Egypt, and found his final resting place in Israel, Tiberias.

He was a medieval physician, philosopher, astronomer, sephardic rabbi - and his tomb is a place of pilgrimage .That's interesting, even ironic, as he himself was against pilgrimage to graves of rabbis. In fact, he was against the building of headstones. Probably, he would not have approved of the recent, vast renovation of the site  (a matter of millions, received as a donation).

painting of Maimonides at te entrance shop

Last month , when I visited Tiberias, it was my first time at the site of the tomb. 
It is located  not far from the central bus station and the old town center. Actually, it's a complex which includes Maimonides' tomb the graves of some other famous rabbis, an Heritage Center (cultural-educational institution established to promote his teachings) , and a high sculpture which could be seen from afar. The little, narrow street itself is named Harambam in his honour.

tall sculpture at the site

Welcome sign at the entrance; behind  tree , Heritage Center

Blue sign with the name of the street - Harambam

I knew the site had been undergoing big renovation for some time, but I thought it was all over; well, not quite. Dust, water on the stairs, lack of signage , noisy workers  -  were a bad start to my visit. I was afraid of slipping and falling, so I took the parallel set of stairs , near the other tombs, not the slippery one leading directly up to the hall where the tomb of Maimonides was.

wet, slippery stairs leading to the tomb;  pillars on each side

Perhaps they should have closed the place for the whole period of renovation, since with all the work going on, it didn't look like a holy place. At the entrance, there was a kind of souvenir shop selling touristy stuff, which, in my opinion, cheapened the spiritual and religious atmosphere of the place.  I felt sad about that.

souvenir shop at the entrance

The marble tomb of Maimonides is in the center of a big hall. His father's tomb lies by the wall on a slightly elevated floor. Nearby, an interesting blue, iron candle- house with a white big candle inside; on the iron work - a framed paper with a printed prayer to be read at the tomb.

Maimonides' marble tomb in the middle of the big hall

Me, at the father's tomb; a couple praying at Maimonides' tomb

blue, iron candle-house; white candle inside

framed prayer on the iron candlehouse structure

It was in the late afternoon hours, and there were few people there (the place, as far as I know, is usually crowded with visitors).  I paid my respects to the great scholar and his father, and left.

People outside the tomb hall.

After leaving the place, I wanted to reflect on what I'd just experienced, and since I felt hungry I grabbed a shawarma (donner) in a pita pocket (my favorite fast food), at the Aloush eatery in the center, and got myself a chair at a red table outside. The red chairs and tables , and the tasty food, slightly cheered me up.

Aloush eatery - shawarma and felafel

red chairs and tables belonging to the fast food eatery Aloush

I hope the final outcome of the renovation will be successful and will do justice to the great personality of Maimonides.
At the entrance, on the gate, there was a round stone with an epiphany reading  "From Moshe to Moshe arose no one like Moshe". The first Moshe (Moses) referred to, is the one that was given the Torah by God at Mt. Sinai.

epiphany on the entrance gate

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Dark ' Pearls' of Tiberias

The old town of Tiberias has a lot to offer to its locals and visitors : a lake , nice beaches, a  promenade , water activities, Hot Springs,  hotels and eateries, historical and holy sites, environmental art works etc...Most of it within walking distance.

However, during my visit there I got attracted especially by the basalt  stone structures found in historical remains and old buildings. There's something dark and mysterious about them that appealed to me. The newer or restored structures (among them hotels, stores) that were built with the local dark basalt stones, looked neat and stylish.

It's always good to start a tour in a city like Tiberias with a visit to the tourist information office (visitors' center), to get an updated map and various informative brochures. 

The 'i' office  in Tiberias is located in an open-air archeological little park; it is actually housed inside old ruins of an ancient synagogue and that makes it quite an attraction.

the entrance to the  i  office

closer view of the visitors' center exterior

ruins of ancient synagogue adjacent to the visitors' center

Among the hotels, the Scottish Hotel, once an hospital, draws immediate attention. It is part of what's called the Scottish Compound which also includes a church and a round little square with a lovely tree in the middle. The hospital (now a hotel) was established in the 19th century by a young scottish doctor who felt his mission was to heal the people of the Holy Land. The hotel is a combination of old basalt stone buildings and a newer building.

the Scottish square and across it - the Scottish Hotel

the Scottish hotel from the adjacent side street .

The  St.Andrew church of Scotland

The contrast between old and new is seen quite clearly in the the preserved  remains of the old, ottoman  Watch Tower which stands in the modern street Habanim, the heart of the city. (See in the below pictures, the effect of the sky on the colour of the stones).

                            dark  remains of the old Watch Tower (cloudy sky)                                                                                                                                                                       
the defensive side of the Watch Tower   (bright sky)      

Situated on the promenade ,vis-a-vis the water level indicator, is the Pilgrims'  Residence hotel. Beautiful building with great views of the Lake from its balcony!

small hotel with great balcony and restaurant

the sign at the top reads: Pilgrims'  Residence

Also on the seafront promenade, in an historic renovated building, overlooking the Lake, is the charming hotel Shirat Hayam (The Song of the Sea).

Shirat Hayam hotel

* the picture in the header was taken at the small archeological park.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Lake Kinneret - Water Level Indicator.

We usually don't have snow or particularly nasty weather here in winter to discuss or write about. Our daily, favorite topic is ...the water level of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). This lake is Israel's only freshwater source, so we depend a lot on it, and its water level has become something of a national concern and, sometimes...a national joke.

The Lake - calm and peaceful

On Tuesday, I went on a day trip to Tiberias (Tveryia, in hebrew), the town on the western edge of Lake Kinneret.  Among other things, I 'paid a visit' to the water level indicator, located at the southern part of the Alon boardwalk.

see its contour of the lake

It was a  pleasant stroll along the promenade as the weather was fine, but when I arrived at my destination, I got 'surprised' by flies; they landed on my face and annoyed me. Well  -  warmth ,  a big body of water, and probably poor sanitary conditions in the surrounding area, did it for me (yes, bees, flies and mosquitos always pick Me up).

In the background- a church; rowing club in its yard

The  water surveyor, installed by the israeli water company "Mekorot", is an interesting sculpture with the shape of the lake, and some inner mechanism.  It's both, an enviromental work of art made of metal , and - a practical digital device for indicating the water level of the lake. I was impressed by its simplicity and practicality.

close to the water level indicator 

digit segment  led display in the upper right part of the device

On my way back to the town center, in the little open -air art park across the famous Scottish compound, I noticed a replica of the water level indicator made of stone  (sadly, it already had a big crack).


Saturday, December 2, 2017

At the Western Wall (HaKotel Hamaaravi)

No trip to Israel or Jerusalem is complete without being at the Western Wall -  a unique place of prayer for jewish and non -jewish visitors.  The wall , a fragment of the original Wall, is the only remnant of the Great Temple and therefore the most sacred structure to Jews who feel that the Divine Presence has not left the place with the destruction of the holy temple.

the golden Dome of the Rock in the background

the Wall seen from the main plaza 

elderly orthodox jew walking along the main square

I haven't been at the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall) in a long while, and that has bothered me. 
So, a week before the arrival of December - last month of the year and the first month of winter, I finally decided to go to Jerusalem and visit the Wall, have some praying near the ancient rocks and insert a written wish in a crack between them ,absorb the spiritual atmosphere dominating the place, look around to see what's new or changed on the site, and take a few pictures.

Welcome poster

Me (my head covered with a cap) praying.....

slips of paper with people's written wishes in the crevices of the wall

philipino women at the wall

Besides the massive crowds of visitors from all over the world, there are soldiers and policemen at the spot, to ensure security; also a lot of white plastic chairs for the elderly to sit and pray in comfort.

However, what immediately catches the eye is the separation between men and women, both at the entrance security Check, and  at the Prayer site near the wall . 

women's prayer section (see the greenish separating fence)

lots of white plastic chairs

women of all ages (girl, young  female soldiers, elderly women).

I don't mind the segregation itself ( in crowded places like this one, it prevents opportunities of minor sexual harassment , and that's good). I do mind, though, the fact that the women's prayer section is smaller than that of the men's section. Why this inequality?  In fact,during my visit (on a regular day, in the early afternoon hours), there were more women praying at the wall than men.

both prayer sections and the greenish fence between them

men's prayer section

People leaving the prayer site usually do so with the face to the wall, out of respect. It reminds me of our family female doctor who has once told me this: 'your father is a most remarkable person; he never leaves my office with the back to me'.