Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Great Spirit's gift to us


SPIRIT is the City Daily Photo group's theme day topic.

This disintegrating trunk of a burnt tree on a white boulder reminds me, in a reverse sort of  way, what I read years ago concerning the Great Spirit.

Tatanga Mani, a Stoney Indian, said on page 106 of Touch the Earth: A Self Portrait of Indian Existence by T.C. McLuhan this wisdom:

 You know, if you take all your books, lay them out under the sun, and let the snow and rain and insects work on them for a while, there will be nothing left.  But the Great Spirit has provided you and me with an opportunity for study in nature's university, the forests, the rivers, the mountains, and the animals which include us.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Red roses in the green vineyards


Roses planted in a vineyard??
If you are from rural Italy or France or California you probably know about this tradition.
But it was news to me when our tour guide pointed it out on June 12, just as the scene was quickly  disappearing from the bus window.
We were traveling through the Jerusalem Hills, west of Jerusalem.

He explained the roses as an early warning system.
Roses are more susceptible to the same type of fungal disease (e.g. powdery mildew and downy mildew) than the grapevine. 
So if there are signs of trouble on the roses the farmer knows that action needs to be taken soon or the grapevines will be infected next. 

I later read on a European website

Another reason I have heard is that in addition to being a ‘canary’ when the vines were worked with draft horses or oxen,  roses encouraged them to turn properly at the end of the rows because of their thorns, ensuring that the working animals weren’t tempted to cut a corner and damage the last vine.
Or this from Australia:

". . . many a vineyard manager would smile at this quaint romantic notion. Their job is more sophisticated than watching the roses bloom. In these days of modern technology roses are planted at the rows end for purely cosmetic reasons, but don't let that spoil another great story...
Some time ago in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales I quizzed one of the “old timers” in the area about the same issue. His response left me wondering whether or not he was “having a lend of me”.In the early days of grape growing, before any mechanisation, the vineyard work was completed using horses and horse pulled equipment. The best source of strong “draught horses” were the local coalmines where any pulling work involved horses.Sadly the distance underground was so far that the horses used were stabled in areas deep underground and, while they were very well cared for, their eyesight eventually became a casualty of the environment. The period horses were kept underground was mercifully short but permanent damage to their vision occurred. As the horses were “traded out” the local farmers and grape growers sought to utilise their great strength and stamina, particularly working with ploughs in vineyards where the rows were quite narrow.
Now the reason for the roses at the ends of the rows, as explained by this particular veteran, was to let the ‘blind’ horses know when they reached the end and it was time to turn. Roses in the Hunter Valley constantly bloom almost all year. I was never able to convince myself either way with his story; Australians can be very straight-faced when “spinning a yarn”. I will leave it up to you to decide."
UPDATE: See more in the Comments section  about the "pit ponies," the horses, mules, and ponies which worked in the dark coal mines of many countries for more than two centuries.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Down on the farm


Last week's farm pictures from the middle of Israel.
They are snapped through the window of a bus, so it's better if you click a few times and open them to the large version. 
You can see the sharp line dividing dark soil from green plants.
According to the hats, I reckon those are workers from Thailand harvesting whatever crop that is. 

And here a truck with trailer goes along the farm road leaving a trail of dust. 
Israel is in her fifth year of drought. 
Most of our water now comes from desalination. 
UPDATE: I just learned that today is World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Iftar (my first!) at Wadi Attir in the wide desert


I got to participate in a lovely iftar this week, my first!
No, it wasn't in this big Bedouin hospitality tent, but it WAS in the courtyard of the new buildings next to it.

It was at Project Wadi Attir, a new and growing Bedouin + Jewish sustainability initiative in the Negev desert.
If you enlarge this photo all the way, you can see the modern and clean sheep and goat shed.
One of their ways to have income is to make and sell cheese.
Traditional Bedouin medicinal herbs and cosmetics are another.

Here is the courtyard where we assembled and later, at sundown, ate.

The iftar was in collaboration with Women Wage Peace, a multi-faith non-political movement formed by women in the aftermath of the big 2014 conflict with Gaza.
They arranged a panel discussion by a Muslim of Wadi Attir, a Polish Catholic priest from Beer Sheva, and a woman rabbi, who presented the different attitudes and approaches to religious fasting.

On the left: Lina Alatawna, the new young (!) female (!!) Bedouin Director General of Project Wadi Attir--a big success story!  See here:

On the right: "Ghadir Hani, formerly our Executive Secretary, has begun working with Ali in the Field Crops department, managing outreach and sales, and helping with special programs. In addition to farmer's markets, Ghadir has also been introducing the products to new markets through word-of-mouth marketing events in people's homes in nearby neighborhoods like Omer, and has been a fixture at special local events..."  quoted from the April newsletter.

The  man wearing a kipa is my town Meitar's mayor; he also spoke, as did the mayor of our neighboring Bedouin town, Hura.

While the adults heard the talks, the Bedouin kids and their young Jewish guests made squares for a peace quilt out in the tent.

The following day, Unity Day in Israel, this happened (quoted from Women Wage Peace English Facebook page):

Unity Day at the Women Wage Peace Mothers’ Tent outside the Knesset
On June 6th, Unity Day, we will spread out 150 quilts which were sewn from thousands of Pieces for Peace which we received from all over the world; we will then create a human chain of unity, and will express our common longing for peace; later Yael Decklebaum will join us at the tent and will sing her songs and talk about her journeys to peace; we will sing the Prayer of the Mothers with her.
1-4 PM Presentation of the Peace Quilts in the Rose Garden
4 PM A human chain along the street leading to the Knesset

After all was said and done, the sun set and we hastened outside to the waiting tables full of good food (some prepared by the hosts and some brought by us guests).
The Muslims dug in without hesitation.
They had been fasting from food AND water from before 4:00 a.m. until 7:47 p.m.!  
I can't imagine having that kind of self-discipline and devotion for the entire month of Ramadan, which often falls during our very hot summer.
Here is a nice explanation from "What You Should Know Before Attending Your First Iftar."
The fast itself is considered a purification of sins and a time to cleanse mind, body, and soul. Feeding a fasting person is believed to come with great reward from God and therefore many individuals, organizations, mosques, and community centers will offer an Iftar gathering in which the breaking of the fast is celebrated. It's usually not a ceremonial affair, although at many community gatherings this is often seen as an opportunity to educate and create an inter-faith gathering with delicious food, friends, and conversation.
Ramadan kareem!
(This blessing/greeting means "May you have a generous Ramadan," i.e. be generous in your giving to others.)
(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday.)

Friday, June 8, 2018

Back in Jerusalem for a day


Yesterday I traveled northward an hour and a quarter by bus.
Getting off the bus, I stood on the corner for a few minutes marveling at how different Jerusalem is compared to the Negev.
There was Calatrava's graceful Bridge of  Strings which I watched being built since the mid-2000s.
Never mind that a Brink's armored truck photo-bombed the picture.  :)

I turned to my right and this huge banner gave me a jolt; like, "Dina, we're not in Beer Sheva anymore!"
In not-very-religious Beer Sheva you see many different groupings (Ethiopian Jews, Russian immigrants, Bedouin, etc.), but ultra-orthodox Jews are few and far between.
In the photo is Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu who was the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel 1983-93 and died on June 7, 2010.
The banner calls people to attend a "hilulat Maran," a celebration of his life on the anniversary of his death at his tomb in Jerusalem.
To learn about the Aramaic honorific title "maran" for highly respected rabbis, see Wiki.

Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Me having fun


Woohoo, I got to climb up a huge ladder and play in a HUGE truck! 
What a fun day that was in Ramla! 

Look at the size of that thing!
Standing under it is Dani, the man responsible for Kibbutz Gezer Olives. 
On our day off, Dani took us volunteers and WWOOFers on a tour of the city of Ramla, including this new museum for old vehicles. 

Ashlea, Dani, Dina, Luke -- what a team! 

There are lots more posts about our olive harvesting adventures last autumn. 

For June 1 theme day, City Daily Photos bloggers are posting on the subject ME.
It's a rare chance to see photos of the photographers themselves.  Take a look!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Moonrise, sunset, colors, silence


The light and colors were beautiful when I went walking just outside of town tonight between 7 and 8 pm! 
I had the whole desert all to myself. 

Meitar Forest is always green. 

The dry season is beginning and all the green grasses have turned golden. 

In the east -- moonrise over Meitar. 

In the west -- sunset. 
And to all a good night. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Meitar Night Run is on!


The annual Meitar Night Run is underway!

You can choose either 5K or 10K.
I always choose to stand still and take pictures.  :)

Just as the sun was setting the younger runners ran up and then back down my street.

Here's a brief video so you can hear the fun:

On this cool map you can click the arrow and see the route that goes all around our little town:
And you can play around with the map and see where Meitar is, down here in the Negev desert.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sea turtle egg-laying season at the Mediterranean coast

Something told me, late last night,  to post my turtle pictures.
And today I wake up to discover that today is WORLD TURTLE DAY!!

It is now turtle egg laying season along Israel's Mediterranean coast, but sadly, this sea turtle didn't make it.

My town's touring group visited here in March and we saw three dead ones.

Each year about 300 sea turtles are washed up onto Israeli beaches after being harmed by marine waste, fishing nets, hooks, boat motors, etc. 

Now, during the spring and summer laying season many volunteers and park rangers come to the beaches to assist and protect the endangered sea turtles when they come ashore and later, when the hatchlings hatch from the eggs.

The Israel Sea Turtle Rescue Center does good work.
You can see their videos and photos on Facebook at  המרכז להצלת צבי הים .

When the coast was less built up, less urbanized, the females would swim ashore, lay their eggs in a sandy nest, and immediately return to the water by following the moon's reflected light on the sea.
But the beach we visited is close to the big Arab town of Jisr az-Zarqa.
The turtles now often get confused and turn instead toward the light of the town and lose their way.
That's why volunteers are needed.
UPDATE May 23:
See also photos, video, and info about Israel's turtle rehab center:

And more information from this good article:
Under cover of darkness in May and June, female sea turtles make their way from the waters of Israel’s Mediterranean beaches to the seashore, where they dig nests and lay dozens of eggs. In August, the hatchlings start cracking their way out of their shells, and begin a perilous trek to the relative safety of the water.
Israel is home to loggerhead, leatherback, green and softshell turtles – all endangered due to decades of hunting, pollution, manmade dangers and habitat disturbances caused by human activity. The newly laid eggs and the hatchlings are quite vulnerable to predators and the hot sun. Left on their own, only a few survive.
Since the mid-1980s, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has been sending out rangers and volunteers in the summer months to move nests to protected beach reserves or incubation farms.

(Linking to Camera-Critters ABC Wednesday and Our World Tuesday.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A banner for Ramadan


I came just at the right moment today to witness four Jewish students putting up a banner that says in Arabic 
And the Hebrew parts says

At the Student Union building, Beit HaStudent, at Beer Sheva's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. 

The month of Ramadan begins today.
Unfortunately for the Muslims this whole next week Israel will be suffering a heat wave.  
Imagine not being able to drink anything from sunrise to sunset when it is is 41 degrees C.  
Kol hakavod, respect, to those who fast. 
(Linking to Weekend Reflections and signs, signs.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

1st century synagogue sand for sale


Situation is too complicated for me to blog about, so today let's have a simple post instead.

For ABC Wednesday   S is for  tiny bottles of Sea of Galilee water and corked bottles of synagogue sand.
Only 8 shekels.
At the Magdala gift shop for pilgrims and tourists.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Our Golan Heights on high alert


Across the Sea of Galilee, the Israeli Golan Heights rises. 

Just a few weeks ago I accompanied two Christian friends from abroad to the holy sites around the lake.
It was peaceful and quiet and the many tourists on the shore were happy. 

East of the Golan, in Syria, Iran has been building up bases from which to attack Israel.
Their first attack came last night with a salvo of 20 missiles fired toward the Golan. 
Needless to say, Israeli responded swiftly. 

I hope you are following the news. 
There are many Israeli online news media sites that have all the details. 
A new phase is starting, and it doesn't look good.

(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Our matriarch Sarah's laughter, then and now


And Sarah said: 'God hath made laughter for me; every one that heareth will laugh on account of me.'

 וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרָה--צְחֹק, עָשָׂה לִי אֱלֹהִים:  כָּל-הַשֹּׁמֵעַ, יִצְחַק-לִי

This was said after God had promised the barren Sarah that she and husband Abraham would bear a son in their advanced old age. 
I am thinking of this statue, called "Sarah," by Rita Paran, based on that Bible verse, because today our City Daily Photo bloggers group is sharing a Theme Day about LAUGHTER. 

Back in 2011 I was walking very early through the still-closed Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem. 
I was shocked to see the cleaning man throw a bucket of water on one of the Bible Stories statues! 
But our matriarch Sarah just laughed.
She seemed quite tickled when the cleaner scrubbed her with his broom. 

(Linking to City Daily PhotoOur World Tuesday, and Weekend Reflections.)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

World Veterinary Day today


Happy World Veterinary Day!
Let's appreciate the veterinarians who keep our livestock and pets healthy.
I don't have either, but I really admire vets (and for years wanted to be one). 

These are some good-looking cattle at a private farm not too far from my place. 
They also raise goats and we go there to buy creamy yogurt, tangy labaneh, and wonderful cheeses. 

Enlarge the photos and you'll spot the new concrete security wall just across the road.
Less than two years ago there was only a rather useless fence. 
On the other side you can see Palestinian villages in the West Bank. 

(Linking to Camera-Critters.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018



Today is ANZAC Day, which Wikipedia explains as
 a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served".
But the ANZAC troops are also remembered in other countries, and especially at the Commonwealth War Cemeteries in Israel and nearby Gaza.

Here in the Negev we have the beautiful Beersheba War Cemetery.
Some of the graves are of Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) soldiers.  
The administering Commonwealth War Graves Commission says that 
The cemetery was made immediately on the fall of the town [Oct. 1917], remaining in use until July 1918, by which time 139 burials had been made. It was greatly increased after the Armistice when burials were brought in from a number of scattered sites and small burial grounds. The cemetery now contains 1,241 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 67 of them unidentified.

 A Jewish officer's tombstone says
The pebbles on top are left as a traditional sign of respect by visitors to his grave.

Written in Welsh.
And a little LEST WE FORGET cross.

The traditional red poppy on the cross and one stuck in the ground.

A trooper from New Zealand.
Someone added the Kiwi's photo.

An Australian from the famous Light Horse brigade.

A New Zealander from the Mounted Rifles.

The unidentified ones are the saddest.

"In memory of a Ballarat boy.  Trooper Thomas Bell was aged just 16 when he died of wounds received in the charge*.
All gave some, some gave all."

[* i.e. the mounted charge on the Turkish trenches, to liberate Beer Sheva.]

The tall white structure is the Cross of Sacrifice, standard for all Commonwealth War Cemeteries around the world.

The Visitors Book, with lots of information, in the wall near the always-open entrance gate.

In the background is Beer Sheva's new and wonderful ANZAC Memorial Centre.
More on that in a future blog post.

One of the dedicated and caring Arab gardening team planting more flowers. 
Thank you, brave ANZAC soldiers, for turning the tide of World War I down here in the Negev desert that I now call home.   Your memory will live on! 
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
-- fourth stanza from Laurence Binyon's poem For the Fallen, 1914
(See more about this cemetery and about commemorations in Beer Sheva in 3 previous posts.  See also my posts about ANZAC Day in Jerusalem.)
More about this and other Australia places in Beer Sheva:  http://www.kkl-jnf.org/tourism-and-recreation/israeli-heritage-sites/anzac-trail/sites/anzac-sites-beersheba/
How the Australian army talks about ANZAC Day:  https://www.army.gov.au/our-history/traditions/anzac-day
(Linking to inSPIREd SundayOur World Tuesday and to  ABC Wednesday -- p is for poppy.)