Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cleaning Favs

March is the first month of Spring and also the month of thorough home Cleaning. The two - spring and cleaning go hand in hand. To clean we need open windows and the warm weather that Spring can offer. So far, the weather hasn't disappointed.

I prefer cleaning agents that are cheap, simple, good for additional uses too. I like them in liquid and powder form, less in spray form.  My favorites  are:  white vinegar , lemon (both juice and peel), baking soda, and, for durer, larger surfaces, commercial Calinda  sanding powder. 

basic cleaning agents

I always have lemons in the kitchen, not only for culinary and cleaning uses, but also for a sore throat condition. I drink some undiluted lemon juice and it immediately clears up my aching throat.
The vinegar  has 5% acetic acid. It can be used in foods and as a folk medication (ear canal infection). I use it only in cleaning and as a relief from insect bites.

white vingar

Both the vinegar and Calinda powder (which can be bought at the store in an economical pack of three) are very effective, and from my experience, do not damage surfaces.

Calinda sanding powder

economical  3-pack Calinda

An essential cleaning tool for me is the toothbrush. It helps me reach tight spaces and corners. I use cheap toothbrushes that I buy  at the dollar store in packs of six. (Of course, I use several other 
kinds of brushes and  also pieces of cloth to assist me in my cleaning job.).

6-pack toothbrushes

Our Passover holiday starts at the end of the month, and that requires additional preparations; not just cleaning and renewing, but removing any speck of 'chametz' (leavened food). I don't belong to those who observe strictly. I do the essentials only, and even that takes a lot of time and effort.

Let's hope for a happy Spring and Passover!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Putin and his high scool Teacher

This is a true story; it first appeared on Ynet - a most popular israeli news and general content website . 

It all began in 2005. Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, visited Israel. Prior to his visit, an elderly woman came to the russian embassy in Tel-Aviv, and left a message for him.

He remembered her; she was his favorite teacher in high school, in St.Petersburg, She was the german language teacher. He invited her to a private talk with him ; shortly after that, she received  his signed autobiography book, and a wrist watch as a present.

Mina Yuditskaya  Berliner - the  teacher, with Putin's autobiography

the watch she got as a present from Putin

(the above pictures are from Ynet).

So far, so good. The best was yet to come.

Several weeks later, the then 84 year old lady ,was surprised by the visit of a russian embassy employee who informed her that Putin wanted to buy her an apartment. At that time, she was living in a tiny apartment , not her own, on the third floor, in a building without lift. The embassy worker asked for her cooperation in choosing the right apartment for her.

She died in December 2017, three months ago, at the age of 96. In her will, she asked for the little apartment to be returned to Putin through the russian embassy (She was a widow with no children or close family). At the funeral, Putin was represented by a memember of the russian embassy which , according to the media, also  paid for the burrial expenses.

(This  moving story has generated in the media some talkbackers' jokes on... Macron, the french PM. Putin bought his teacher an apartment!? Look what Macron  did for his teacher. He not only bought her a home, he also married her, and raised her children from a previous marriage...ha, ha, ha).

Well, may the teacher's soul rest in peace! The above story shows a generous, grateful side to Putin's character.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Black Hebrews In Dimona

"A phenomenon in the land of phenomena", as someone cleverly put it, referring to the community of the Black Hebrews in Israel.

The Black Hebrews, black americans originally from Chicago, believe they're the descendants of an ancient israelite tribe. They moved to Israel in 1968 (some 50 years ago) with a pitstop of over two years in Liberia, and settled  in the  desert city of Dimona.(some of them live in the cities of Jerusalem, Mizpe Ramon, Arad ).The spiritual, charismatic founder and leader of this movement, Ben Ammi Carter, died several years ago.

the Dimona neighborhood

We were rather late and tired when we reached the neighborhood of the Black Hebrews in  Dimona. However, curiosity kept us alert and well on our feet.

conference hall

We were greeted by two members of the community : a young woman, named Naghila, and an elderly, tall man - both dressed in orange- colored outfits. They split us into two groups and showed us around, after an introductory briefing, and a questions - answers exchange in the 'conference hall.'

Nagila, the hostess , in an orange dress

male  host in orange- colored outfit under coat

What immediately catches the eye in this neighborhood ,is the emphasis on bright, live coloured outfits (orange, red, white, yellow, blue, pink), and the storage sheds attached to the small houses.

In addition to the orange colour (in the above photos), we saw kids playing soccer dressed in red , some other kids clothed in blue and white; the two kids in the header wore pink outfits. I rather liked that colorful display of garments. It created an optimistic atmosphere.

kids playing soccer in red clothes

blue cap /pants for the boy, white bandana; red outfit for the girl

Small, tightly spaced single story houses and  an average of five children per family, naturally  create crowded conditions.  So, the storage sheds seem to be a Must here, and an integral part of the landscape.

house + storage shed (white fence)

storage sheds,  paved passage

more storage sheds

It should be mentioned in connection to the crowded conditions, that the Black Hebrews permit polygamy and forbid birth control. (It is believed that the practice of polygamy has stopped, after a certain agreement reached with the government of Israel).

nice house front !

standard  with  gas containers, tiny garden, shed, laundry on wire

The Black Hebrews maintain a strict vegan way of life, growing much of their food, and  wearing clothes made only of natural fabrics (cotton, wool, silk). We've seen a vegan restaurant, a small vegan grocery store, a vegan ice-cream shop, and some gardens with organic growths. 

organic little garden

tables at the vegan restaurant

grocery store

ice-cream display case

As part of their belief in a healthy life style, the members of the community also practice exercising, and keep away from pharmaceutical  or illegal drugs and alcohol. (I've noticed a facility called 'health sanctuary').

The Black Hebrews appear to be active and creative. They are engaged in crafts, and the women have a sewing studio offering sewing services to the community members. 
Among other things, they have established a gospel choir which is well known both in Israel and in the USA.

sewing studio

Although they don't see themselves as belonging to any particular religion , they do observe major religious traditions and customs that are biblical (Sabbath, Yom Kippur, Passover...), and express their intent to live according to the laws and prophecies of God.

I remember reading in some article that the late Ben Ammi Carter stated in an interview that there will never be peace  in the world by way of.politicians. How true!.

It was a short visit but quite enlightening.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mamshit - Remains of a Nabatean Town

Mamshit, ancient Nabatean town, was declared  by UNESCO a World Heritage site, in 2005.  It is located in the desert, near the modern city of Dimona, not very far from the Dead Sea.

Sign with the name 'Mamshit' , and a map 

In antiquity , Mamshit used to be a town of wealthy people who traded in spices, textiles, precious stones/ metals, exotic fragrances - all the things needed for a good life style. The Nabateans of Mamshit also raised arabian horses and that brought them a nice fortune.

The place has become now a National Park with  a Visitors' Center,  camping  facilities,  tents, parking spots, etc.. On holidays, the ancient restored market comes to life together with various exciting leisure activities for both adults and kids. There is potential for more excavations, and there's still a lot to be restored on the site.

to the Visitors'  Center  on the north side of Mamshit

entering  the Visitors' Center

souvenir shop, maps, tickets, leaflets

 people waiting outside for the guide to go to the ruins

There's a trail leading from the Visitors' Center to the main gate of the ancient city.

the gate to the city

The sun was strong, and a light, but stubborn wind, was blowing. I had to take my cap off for fear it'll be carried away by the wind. Nevertheless, it was perfect weather for wandering about in the desert, among the restored houses and streets of Mamshit, for over two hours.

cap in hand

strong sun and naughty wind in the desert

listening to the guide

There was a lot to be seen:
- houses with 1- 2 stories, several rooms, a courtyard, staircase,  arches; wide streets separating neighboring houses.
- two impessive churches built on the highest points in the city - a western one (the Nilus church) with an intricate mosaic  floor, and a eastern one (the Martyrs' church) with small  marble pillars.
- a bathouse, a public reservoir, a market, stables (for the  arabian horses), frescoes in  one of the mansions, a flour mill.
- dams  along the bed of the adjacent  Mamshit stream, two towerwatches and lookouts overlooking Mamshit, Dimona, the Arava valley.
- structures waiting for reconstruction, and more...


     tower, lookout offering panoramic sights            
     western Nilus church with a mosic floor        

market  place



a.    The Nabateans - arab tribes later converted to Cristianity.

b.   In the house with the frescoes archeologists found a huge amount of silver coins under a staircase.

c.  In the eastern church, archeologists found human bones, probably the bones of those whom they call martyrs.               

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cochin - Nevatim (Part Two - the synagogue)

The  synagogue - plain outside,  stunning inside. It is built in the style of the Kerala (south-west India) ancient synagogues, specifically that of Cochin. 
There are some blue benches in front of the building, and a dark blue engraved prayer  (the moon prayer) hanging near the entrance

the facade of the synagogue building

the moon prayer - in Cochin  tradition

Upon entering the synagogue, I stood breathless for the first few moments.  Never ever had I seen such beauty, such richness of detail and color, lights and pillars, fine furniture and ornaments -  in a relatively compact interior!

the interior, at first sight

The central part of the synagogue  is taken by the Holy Ark ( the wooden closet which contains the Torah scrolls) , and in front of it - the bimah (the podium) for Torah readings. There's a second bimah on the upper floor, the ladies'  floor.

                    the Holy Ark with a dark blue velvet curtain on its door

the bimah (podium) where prayers and Torah readings are done

listening to Mira's lecture; see the gorgeous ceiling

more audience; 

the balcony, the adorned pillars, the chairs

see the ornaments on both sides of the Holy Ark

Sadly, several years ago, someone broke a window and stole some valuable items. I hope the lesson was learnt and security reinforced.