Saturday, August 29, 2020

Uman Pilgrimage

Uman is a town in central Ukraine, on the banks of the Umanka river. 
During the recent decades, the town has become known for the burial place of the 19th century rabbi Nachman of Breslov , founder of the jewish chassidic Breslov movement.

rabbi Nachman's gravesite in Uman *

The annual pilgrimage of  ultra orthodox israeli members of this movement,  to the above gravesite, is not new to me, but I must admit that until now, I've not  been aware of the alarming numbers.   According to the media, about 80 planes carrying thousands of chassidim, are usually booked  for the  Rosh Hashana (jewish New Year) celebrations in Uman.  

pilgrims praying at Umanka river *

Since we've been flagged as a 'red' country, the coronavirus czar has attempted to stop this year's Rosh Hashana  (sept.18) pilgrimage,  warning that it presents serious danger to both Ukraine and Israel. So far, his appeal has only partial success , because of political interference (or non-interference, it  depends on who and  how one looks at it).

single chassid praying by the Umanka river*

No doubt, the ukrainian town gets rich during the 
celebrations at the rabbi's tomb .  Israel gets poorer.
Our PM  is re-elected with the help of the many thousands of  pilgrims' votes, and as a reward, he bestows upon their political parties in the coalition, very generous budgets and rights.

I'm afraid, that even with another PM and a  new coalition , there'll be no way of going back. If you touch these budgets and rights, you might get blood on the streets.

My conclusion - it's the numbers that count. Demography,  not Democracy, is the key to all.
If you ignore demography (in Israel, the orthodox jews, and the arabs are the ones with large families, and their locations - corona red zones), you might find yourself without a country. . Coronavirus pandemic is not all bad,  as it's an eye- opener.

* web pictures

Saturday, August 22, 2020

High Holidays Shutdown ?!

We're approaching the High Holiday season which starts with  the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) on Sept. 18-20; goes on with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) on Sept. 27 -28; next  Sukkot , Simchat Torah -  and ends on Oct.11.

This year it's all going to be different because of coronavirus restrictions on gatherings, both at the synagogues (for worship activities) and at home (family festive meals) .

Things are not looking good on the 'corona' front. It seems that in China and Russia people are afraid of the authorities; here the authorities are afraid of the people (potential voters who oppose restrictions), so nothing is done properly. 

Transparency is  faulty. We know more or less about the 'red' zones, but almost nothing about age of people in confirmed, as well as in hospitalized  cases.
(There was some mention in a newspaper that currently, those aged 20-39 make up over 30% of the confirmed cases).

According to the chief coronavirus coordinator, prof. Gamzu, the decision about a shutdown will be taken by Sept.10.  In the meantime Army recruits will be assisting with performing tests and 'tracing of contact'. 

The whole world is expecting a vaccine. There'll probably  be more than one, by the end of the year, but I tend to agree with the general opinion that it'll take about two years to end the pandemic.

I don't know about other countries, but here,in Israel, even one year might lead to anarchy and even famine.  May God help us!

Sunday, August 9, 2020


Beirut is in the news with the terrible disaster that has occured in the city's port. It seems the explosion was caused by poor storage of over two thousand tons of ammonium nitrate. Things are still under investigation .

It isn't the first time , and it probably won't be the last time that man-made disaster happens. 'To err is human'; humans make mistakes (i.e. the errors at the nuclear reactor in Chernobil). Negligence is also human ( the faulty storage of the ammonia gas in Beirut port). The consequences of these human actions are devastating!

Unlike natural disasters (earthquakes, floodings, volcano eruptions, hurricanes etc..) man-made disasters could be prevented, but not always, as they usually revolve around chemicals. This stuff requires extreme care and caution .
Sometimes disasters are a combination of both the natural with the
man-made, like forest fires, for example.

We humans feel helpless. We have no control on  Nature's sent disasters, and little, if any, on the man-made ones.

We can be careful, of course, as to where we choose to live or work: not too close to an industrial zone (chemical and biological hazzards, explosions), not near  a big body of water (flooding) or a forest (fire danger).   But not much beyond that.

In any case, I put my trust in God and pray to Him :to guide , protect , help us when in danger.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Bubbling and Refreshing

There's water, and there's... soda water. Soda water is my favorite soft drink, especially in summer.. It is made of water to which carbon dioxide gas ( Co2) is added under pressure. It goes very well with wine creating a sparkling, refreshing drink.

They say it upsets the stomach, causes digestion discomfort. Quite the reverse,  it soothes the stomach, and eases discomfort..  As far as I know no one in my family ( all soda drinkers), has had anything to do with indigestion or stomach problems.
Soda water is also  'accused' of weakening the bones; no real evidence in this respect either.

I'm used to drinking it from an early age. In my childhood days, soda water was produced in a small factory where special glass bottles got filled with water and Co2, and then sold to customers. To buy a new bottle (named syphon), one had to return the empty one.


 The next stage in the 'evolution', of this carbonated beverage, was home- made soda , the best kind of soda - as one can make it as strong or as weak as one wishes.

At first, the device for soda making  at home was the sypholux - a metalic, opaque, silver colored item (covering a glass inner bottle) which came with a plastic cartridge holder. To operate it one had to buy a package of replaceable Co2. cartridges. The more cartridges used, the stronger the soda. Usually three (3) cartridges were the optimal number for a fairly strong soda.

(The grey-red sypholux was a popular  wedding gift in those days, and subject to a lot of jokes , as the newly wed couples used to get more than two or three of them ).

bottle, head, cartridge, cartridge holder*

inserted cartridge holder *

The sypholux and cartridges got replaced after a while by the Soda Stream  company's device - a reusable bottle and a replaceable carbonating cylinder.
I wasn't happy with that method - too awkward and expensive for me.

soda stream kit*

Nowadays, I usually buy ready made soda water bottles /cans at the supermarket or kiosks. The bottles come in two sizes: family bottles and smaller personal bottles. It's important to read the label on the bottle before buying, as there are sometimes additions like sodium ,for example, supposed to give the soda  better taste.

* web pictures

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Small and Speedy

Lately, I keep  noticing  a tiny ambulance on my street. That is something new to me. I know our MDA emergency and rescue service, makes use of  full size ambulances, and motorcycles .
I've never seen a mini-ambulance like the one on my street. It looks like a curiosity toy (and indeed attracts kids), until you approach it and see it's serious.

the mini seen from an upper floor

I've found out that our MDA (Magen David Adom)  launched an entire fleet of these rather cute vehicles some two years ago. The minis are supposed to speed up response time, in hard to reach places (i.e. in major cities which have many narrow streets and alleyways).

front of the mini ambulance

The vehicle is electrical with two front seats, and equipped with first aid kits, and sirens. The predominant color is strong yellow which helps with its visibility.  As I understand, these mini ambulances are allocated to volunteers who've been trained as paramedics. 

back of the mini ambulance

It's good to know we have a paramedic volunteer on our street. However, I hope we never need him. By saying that I mean not to be an emergency case, and also not to need neighbors in emergency; they're not always there for us.

side of  the mini ambulance

I was once very frustrated by a  neighbor,pharmacist by profession.. I urgently needed a solution for my mother, and the above pharmacist refused to prepare it ;  the basis for his refusal was  a stupid formality. It was the only solution (prescription of an ear doctor) that could ease the terrible itching in my 80 year old mother's deaf ear. Luckily, I had no difficulty finding an other pharmacist in town, willing to prepare the solution, but it took some time and effort.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


Magnets have become very popular in healing therapy (relief of low back pain). I have no experience with that sort of magnets. I like to buy  magnets as decorations for my fridge door and as small gifts for others. These items have full or partial magnetic back adhesive.

fridge door (upper part)

I buy them as mementos on almost every trip. They don't take up much place in the suitcase and are quite affordable. Besides, they can last forever on the fridge door.

Needless to say, these souvenirs remind me of some lovely places, and give me much pleasure.

The only thing against them is that it might cause clutter on the fridge door; that's mainly true, Imaho, with household chore 'reminders' which we sometimes forget to take  off. 
(Well for reminders and calendar, I have a separate spot, a cork plate on the wall of my computer corner). 

Here are some of my favorite fridge magnets: 

                              babushkas (Moscow)                                  

the Kremlin (Moscow)

amber heart (Moscow)

boat (Heraklion - Crete)

ceramic coaster (Romania)

insignia (Vaduz-Lichtenstein)

Victor statue (Belgrade- Beograd)

face (indian booth - Expo fair)

landmarks (Prague - Praha)


laminated birthday card

landmarks; matchbox (Sofia)


'Face' and 'Heart' can be worn as pendants. Face pendant ( metal), is more suitable for men. The Belgrade item (featuring the Victor monument facing the confluence of two rivers) can be turned into a brooch.

Amber made items are very popular on Russia markets.  I own a beautiful russian amber necklace given to me as a birthday gift many years ago; time doesn't rob it of its beauty.

I've recently seen magnets in the form of the corona virus. I won't buy that one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Teeth

This is a sad post.

I'll start with corona update: things seem to be out of control as far as 'corona crisis' is concerned. So far, we have over 30 thousand infected, over 12 thousand actively ill, 340 deaths (r.i.p) - thousands of tests being performed almost daily.

There was a beautiful face in the news last month, that of a young man (26) who had  died of corona complications (He belonged to the recovery group;  something went wrong, and he had to be re-hospitalized and put on ventilator. Sadly, they couldn't save him).

In the 'news'  picture, he had a broad smile revealing his perfect white teeth.
The sight of his teeth brought back to me the memory of another tragedy.

Some twenty  years ago, I visited a  neighbor at the hospital. She was dying of liver cancer. When she saw me she greeted me with a faint smile, but big enough to display her perfect ,white, pearly teeth. 

I was quite in shock at the discrepancy between her terminal medical condition and her pretty, 'lively' teeth.  We're constantly told that bad teeth and gums have a bad impact on our body's health. Isn't the opposite also true? Namely, if the body is  ill, doesn't it affect our teeth and gums?

Well, the answer is yes, of course, and there's a long list of diseases (diabetes at the top) that are said to affect oral health. 
Perhaps her case was special. She was in her early forties, no smoker, and I knew of no other disease she could have had.  Genetics was probably involved as well. 

May they both rest in peace! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Sponge Fingers

Sponge fingers were the main  treat for all ages. in my childhood. It accompanied coffee and tea for adults, milk and cocoa for children.
It is a flour-egg-water based baked goodie with the addition to the dough of vanilla extract, lemon juice (resembles the italian 'savoiardi' biscuits). The result - finger shaped cookies, spongy inside, crispy outside, coated with sugar.

sponge fingers (web picture)

We had a relative and neighbor (aunt Elki) that was famous in our little town for her 'swollen', delicious,  sponge fingers.  It was believed she used a certain ingredient which she refused to disclose. The sponge fingers were her 'specialty', her pride. She kept the secret to herself, probably took it with her to the grave, as her daughter and daughter- in- law who lived in other towns, were unaware  of her fame and didn't know what it was all about.

My mom  made some attempts to find out the secret by adding, and/ or eliminating ingredients. No many options in those days, but the 'usual  suspects' were there: soda water, baking powder, baking soda, yeast. Nothing conclusive, as far as I could remember). 

(Come to think of it, maybe it was potato starch. Perhaps, it wasn't an ingredient that did the job, but the method, the quantities). 

Anyway, I didn't mind the secret as long as I got my treat, and I got it often, There were times when her husband was mostly on the road (sales agent), and she wanted me to sleep at their house. Well, no child likes to leave his bed , but she was also a close relative and I didn't want to upset my mother.  So, the sponge fingers and sometimes little gifts, sweetened my bitterness.

Me - at the back, left side, with braids , boy with cap behind

My real prize was many years later in a conversation I had with her daughter in law (Aunt Elki lived her last decade with her son and his wife in a remote town). The conversation brought me to tears, as it appeared she had mentioned me often and thought well of me.  It made me feel guilty, as I always pictured  her as the wicked woman who wouldn't reveal the secret of the sponge fingers. May her soul rest in peace!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Omegas

As sometimes happens, one thing reminds me of another.
The coronas (yes, plural, as there are several corona viruses: common cold virus, Sars, Mers, Covid-19..),
remind me, by way of contrast, of the omegas - omega essential fatty acids : omega 3 (linolenic acid) and omega 6 (linoleic acid). 
The first group, the coronas, seeks to destroy immunity, the second, the omegas, helps strenghtening it.

Omega 3  (found in oily fish, nuts and seeds) has brain, vision, and heart benefits. Omega 6 (found in meat, dairy, vegetable oils) along with its 'cousin' omega 3, also plays a crucial role in brain and body functions.

The thing is, that Omega 6 has 'invaded' Western diet violating the balance between the two omegas, and practically pushing  Omega 3 out- thus causing some harmful effect on health  ( blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, water retention etc..).

bottle of omega 3 capsules

I know of a successful chess player who's also a doctor. Someone has told me that he's heavily on omega 3 as this helps him plan and perform his brilliant chess moves and win the game. Good for him! There's a lot of money and honour involved in these games.

And after all, omega 3 is not 'ritalin'  (used in ADHD), or some other drug, known as enhancing  performance.
It's oil which happens to improve brain activity and stabilize mood - recommended to all or most of us.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Here We Go Again

After lifting of restrictions (probably too soon) we're, sadly, back to a rise in the number of covid-19 virus infected people.

I don't know where all this will lead to. In the meantime, I'm looking at some situations, in light of the corona crisis.

1.  Schools are in a rather chaotic phase; after reopening,many got shut again because of individual pupils or teachers who tested positive to the virus. 

2.  People have been told for years  that humans are  "social creatures".   True, people seek interaction with other people. 
Self-isolation is tough on them,  but many have  come to realize now that it has some benefits too.

'The time to have time' - is  a major benefit:  time to do things in the house and around it, to read books, to practice a hobby,  to have a dialogue with one's own self, to enjoy...silence.

3. Lately, I happen to come upon the slogan  'a trade is better than a degree'.  It seems to imply that people with a trade (mainly requiring manual skills) have done better than those with a profession (requiring more education, and an academic degree).  

I think that nowadays, the difference between trade and profession is both  subtle and  dynamic. One can acquire more education and move between the two worlds according to circumstances. ;there are lots of nurses, for instance, with an academic degree.

I've recently read about two israeli sociology professors, man and wife, who are about to publish a book  about  what they call  'the futility of academic degrees'. It sounds provocative and it should be  an  interesting read.

Anyway, degree or not, many have lost their jobs because of the corona crisis, and are getting financial assistance from the government.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Evil Plants

We are more or less aware of toxic plants, that are poisonous to cats and dogs (see picture below: lilies, crocuses, daffodils, oleanders, cyclamen..).

toxic plants (web picture)

We know little about carnivorous plants, also named insectivorous
(I prefer the term 'carnivorous' as these plants might also harm organisms bigger than insects and beetles, like mice , frogs, even us, humans).

The carnivorous plants have  three means of attracting the prey: 1. trap-shaped leaves/ flowers / fruit; 2.  a stiky secretion; and  3. a sweet aroma. The trap is usually closed, and opens up when the intended victim is near. Here are the names of some of these plants: Venus flytrap, Drosera, Sarracenia, Neptenthes, Pinguicula .

venus flytrap opening up its 'jaws' (web picture)

I was once attacked by a  carnivorous plant at the cemetery; the flower or fruit was full with needles and they landed on my lower part of the body. I was completely shocked  and felt helpless. There was no living soul around at that hour.

I 've described the sudden, nightmarish experience in a post entitled: 'Live Danger In a Dead Place' (pse. use the search box to get at it).
That's my opening paragraph of that post:

"Several months ago I got attacked by ...a plant. It happened while I was on my way out of the cemetery. My skirt touched a shrub near one of the graves and all of a sudden its fruit opened up sending tens of needles into the lower part of my body. I won't go into details; I'll just say that it was pure Hell".

I must admit I don't recall seeing anywhere a sign or poster warning against toxic or carnivorous plants. There should be strict published regulations regarding these types of plants. That's definitely a matter of life and death.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Bread and Butter

Butter (web picture)

I  was rather surprised to learn about the butter crisis. I thought people have given up or reduced this fatty goodness, for dietary reasons.

Well, I was wrong. This item is as popular as ever, and greatly sought after. The public is furious about the shortage which seems to have been going on since last year.
When the shortage spreads, the consumers resort to hoarding which is not a desirable phenomenon. 

Both production and Import are regulated by the state. The two ministries: Finance and Agriculture blame each other for the butter shortage. The solution - some kind of custom free temporary import.

For the last few years, scientists claim that butter is not linked to diabetes, obesity and heart disease. They don't claim that butter is a health food, but that it is not as harmful as first thought.
Anyway, butter improves and upgrades any cooking and baking. For some people, butter is everything, all things.

Butter brings back to me good memories. During winter, my parents used to eat fresh black bread topped with butter (sometimes with a piece of herring), and followed by a cup of tea. It was the greatest delicacy for them.

"Good bread is the most fundamental of all foods and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts" (James Beard in the Soup and Bread cookbook). So  very true!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Climate Change is Back in Town

Actually, it has never left; the corona virus put it aside for a while.
The thing is, both have to be tackled with the same urgency.  They are both a threat to human survival, and both have the potential of destroying economies. 

The latest on the topic of climate change is that we're already in a crisis that was thought to take decades to happen - namely, part of the world is now on the brink of intolerable heat and humidity.

In my country, the summers are hot; the temperatures usually reach  an average of 30-35 degrees Celsius. This week they got to over 40. There's talk of 50 degrees Celsius in many parts of the world during the upcoming months. It's an anomaly when it occurs in a populated area (in the desert, it's probably common). That's scary, very scary!

In the last few years, heat waves of this sort were spotted in India, Irak, Australia, South Arabia.
Intolerable heat  might bring about , among other things, increased migration from hot places to cooler ones, and thus a change in world geography and demography.

Baghdad - Irak.

I often think about islands. There's a constant threat hanging over them - their getting 'swallowed'  by waters through the melting ice in Antarctica,  and wonder if it's too late, if there's nothing to be done to prevent this upcoming disaster.

Thursday, May 7, 2020


The USA has accused Russia of interfering  with the last american general elections. Now she's accusing China of withholding vital information regarding the corona virus.

Even if both accusations are well-founded , they put the accuser (USA) in an inferior position, that of the 'whining' victim. One asks oneself, how could that happen to the great american  nation, a nation with the most powerful secret service in the world. Not pleasant at all.

The young couple Meghan and Harry.are chased by the Press and by all  kinds of other circles, but one feels that it's actually Meghan that draws fire from all sides.  Not fair.

Harry is not just another young man who falls in love; he's a member of the royal british family. He should have married , in my opinion, a british girl, but he didn't.  He's chosen  Meghan, who's american and divorced. 
History repeats itself.:Edward (king Edward VIII)  and Wallis Simpson (an american socialite divorcee).

True, Harry is not king and won't have to abdicate the throne. He probably won't even  have to find a job to earn money like any commoner. He's still Prince, and has even retained the title of Royal Highness.

However, he should have learnt his lesson from his ancestor  - when the chances are your choice isn't fully accepted by family, or society or both - there isn't much happiness waiting  around the corner for you.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Now, Children...

'Escapism' is not my strong point. I usually tend to look at reality 'straight in the eyes'  and confront it.

The more I try to understand  the corona pandemic, the more bewildered I am. The virus is not exactly new;  the first of this type has been spotted in 1964 (according to BBC news), so how come there are so many unknowns about its activity?

First, it was presented to us as causing a sort of flu, a respiratory, lung disease; then, as an all mighty virus capable of attacking any tissue of any organ (heart, brain, kidneys, toes..). 

We've been told that there are relatively few cases of children getting the virus , and that the disease they develop is usually much milder than in adults.

Schools are about to re-open in my country starting with this week.
Well, surprise, surprise. The medical authority, in an attempt to make it a gradual affair, has come up now with  a report showing ... high  numbers of children infected by the virus.

I fear disaster  by mid-June, unless the promise of warm-hot weather killing the virus has  more than  a grain of truth in it.