Thursday, October 31, 2013

It takes balls to do this!

These are favorite photos from last winter  when I still lived in the Jerusalem Hills, the Hills of Judea. 
You will want to click a few times and enlarge them--you won't believe what you see!

The helicopter was hovering right next to the high tension wire high above the road in Soreq Valley!

And what's more--a man was sitting on a platform under the helicopter!

Can you see his legs dangling?
I watched the team work for hours, for several days in December and January.
I was amazed, impressed, scared, and always thinking "Glad I am not that man's mother."

Here you can see the man and the big orange balls that he was about to attach to the miles of  live high tension wires.

Today's City Daily Photo Theme Day is about heights,  so today is a fitting day to pay tribute to these brave men in the sky.

An Australian government website says that

Queensland-based Aeropower, which uses helicopters to provide airborne
electrical services to power companies, provides the Israel Electric Corporation with a range
of services including support for cable stringing (pulling out draw wires from structure to
structure), airborne line  maintenance services and live-line insulator washing on their overhead power lines.

Watch a video of these guys in action, if you have the guts.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The sky, source of wonder


A Meitar sunset, last night, with birds.
At 4:55 pm,  so early. 

Why does the sun always look squishy the second before it disappears behind the hills?
This morning I heard real thunder and we had one minute of sprinkles!!
Our first since last spring! 

This evening  the grandkids  and I walked to the edge of town, to the edge of the desert, to spot the International Space Station going over!!
How exciting and moving!
You can sign up for alerts from NASA here
 On November 3 we in Israel will see a partial solar eclipse.  More info from the Starman of Mitzpe Ramon.
Linking to SkyWatch Friday.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Posters and politics


P is for posters and politics.
Last Tuesday  Israel had municipal elections.
Remember my post with the mirror on the billboard?  The message there was that "Kehila is actually YOU."
Well,  in my town  Avner Ben Gera, leading the Kehila list (~party),  will continue as head of Meitar Local Council for another five years.
The poster (shot through the bus window)  says that the good work will go on  because Meitar is in good hands.
The fence adds some strange stripes to Avner,  but obviously the majority of  residents of Meitar think he has earned his stripes and they voted accordingly.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday  where the introduction today is about protective vests for police dogs. Very interesting.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

From India to Israel--a big change


 For several days the blog has been showing Moshav Nevatim in the Negev desert.
Here is their Cochin Jewish Heritage Center.

Click to enlarge  and start to plan your  visit.

 The walls of the lecture and video room are covered with wonderful old photographs of the Cochin communities.
Here above are the young men of  Kehilat Ernakulam  over half a century ago.

The left photo is from 1952.
About then the Jews starting leaving India in order to immigrate to Israel.
Our guide at the museum emphasized that the different religious groups in India lived together  in sovlanut and savlanut, with tolerance and patience, and there was no anti-semitism.

And here the men are already at Nevatim, a moshav (a collective agricultural settlement) in the desert, working hard picking  apricots in the  1970s.
The Cochin Jews were also settled on four other moshavim when they made aliyah in the mid 1950s.
Nevatim had previously been abandoned and the group found primitive and difficult conditions on their arrival in 1954, and they were not used to working in agriculture.
But they were dedicated to the homeland of Israel and they took up the task of working hard to make their little patch of desert bloom.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)
UPDATE Nov. 12:  A new article appeared today, very interesting:
Lt. Gen. Jacob, an old hero living in New Delhi, says "India has always been very good to us. I am very proud to be a Jew, but am Indian through and through. I was born in India and served here my whole life; this is where I want die.”
“The only place I encountered anti-Semitism was from the British in their army,” he says. “Among Indians it does not exist.”

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Honoring the Torah, the elder, and the females

Here is more from our visit to the Cochin Jewish Heritage Center in Nevatim.
(Please see my last few posts for more about the Jews of India.)

"Torah case adorned with chains (tali or niyali) and Torah crown.
Parur and Ernakulam,
late 19th - early 20th century.
Case: wood covered with silver sheet.
Crown and chain: silver repousse."

"In honor of [the Simchat Torah holiday], a manara (elevated platform covered with a canopy and decorated with Torah ark curtains) is erected in the synagogue, upon which the Torah scrolls are placed."

 (Quotations are copied from the museum's signage.)

"The common practice of the community was to circle around the Torah ark seven times. . . .
The circling around was attended by songs from the Kolas, the songbook of the Cochin Jews, and by dancing before the Torah.
. . . The women participated more actively in this holiday than in others and even came downstairs to kiss the Torah.  The girls, moreover, were permitted to join in the Shevah Hakefot [the circling] alongside the boys.
. . .
At the conclusion of the day, all members of the community escorted the eldest member to his home, whereupon they received his blessing and then continued in the dancing and celebration."
Miri, our wonderful guide at the Heritage Center, said they still do all these in Nevatim, their moshav in the Negev where the museum is located.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Moving up

In the previous posts we've been talking about the synagogue of Nevatim in the Negev,
the one built by the resident Jews,  who originally immigrated from Cochin, India.

Now come up the stairs to the women's section of the synagogue.
What surprised me to hear from Miri, our guide, was that in their Cochin tradition,  women have long been taught to read Torah!

So the Torah scroll in taken from the holy ark on the main floor and brought up to the upper gallery to this table  where the Torah portion of the day is chanted for all to hear--both the women in the balcony and the men below ("out of the depths I cried to You . . . ").

I am not saying that women chant the Torah on Shabbat (our guide did not say that), but with their learning it is natural for them to want to be close to the scroll.

The vertical blinds of the mechitsa screen  look quite see-through and easy to open, if the women are so inclined.  

Our tour group from Meitar learned a lot of good things at Nevatim, both in their synagogue and at their Cochin Jewish Heritage Center.
UPDATE: The Times of Israel just now published this article about a new historical novel about the Baghdadi Jews of Kolkata  (Kolkata/Calcutta  being on the opposite side of the Indian sub-continent from Cochin).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

India in the Negev -- the synagogue

In the previous post we arrived at a small moshav/village in the Negev called Nevatim.
I promised to show you more than just the food. 

  (Photo credit: CC BY Wouter Hagens/Wikipedia public domain) 

But first I want you to see this top photo of the Paradesi synagogue in Cochin (or Kochi), India.
The Times of Israel, in its series "See in Cochin," says

This synagogue was first built in 1568 and is the oldest synagogue in India as well as the entire British Commonwealth. The interior is beautifully decorated with clear influence taken from the Indian trade routes of Europe, China, and the Middle East. This foreign influence is a direct reflection of the varying origins of the Jews of Kochi.
The Paradesi Synagogue is one of seven in Kochi, however it is the only one still functioning. The original synagogue was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 17th century and later rebuilt with the help of the Dutch.
I might add that only a few dozen Jews remain today in Cochin.
The rest immigrated to Israel, beginning in the early 1950s.
Wiki says Israel has over 70,000 Indian Jews; and our guide, Miri, said 6,000 Cochin Jews now live in Israel (counting those who "married in").

 Now look at the synagogue built by the Cochin Jews of Nevatim in Israel!
The same almost!

Standing by the bima is Mira, who welcomed our Meitar group and guided us in their Cochin Jewish Heritage Center and in their synagogue.

Here is the Torah ark (aron kodesh).

The view from up in the women's gallery.

Close-up of the doors of the holy ark.
(All my photos can be much enlarged with two clicks.)
In the next few days I will take you upstairs to where the women pray and tell you about a Cochin tradition that will surprise you.
Meanwhile, if you want more information se
UPDATE Nov.16, 2013:  Prince Charles and his wife spent his 65th birthday today being welcomed in the Pardesi synagogue in Cochin.  See the video.

(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday meme.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Through a sandstorm to the Cochin Jewish Heritage Center


Two van-loads of Meitar folks drove through a desert sandstorm this morning to reach this place in the Negev.
What's under the big top?
A circus??

Something better--a lunch prepared by the women of Nevatim!

Nice chicken, rice, salads.
Thankfully, not with TOO much Indian spices.
Tapioca pudding-type dessert with silvery pearl tapioca "beads." 

In the framework of the Agriculture and Tourism Ministries' 'Village 2000' program, Nevatim was recognized as a 'Tourism-oriented Village' with the aim of developing tourism as an alternative to the declining economy of family farms. - See more at:
These two women are part of the Cochin Jewish community who started to leave Kerala in the early 1950s and immigrate to the young state of Israel.

Lunch was served after we had a fascinating lecture and  video  about the Jews of India, a guided tour of the Cochin Jewish Heritage Center, and a visit to the moshav's beautiful synagogue built in the Kerala style.
I'll try to post those photos over the coming days (grandchildren permitting).
(Linking to Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors and to  Our World Tuesday.)
In the framework of the Agriculture and Tourism Ministries' 'Village 2000' program, Nevatim was recognized as a 'Tourism-oriented Village' with the aim of developing tourism as an alternative to the declining economy of family farms. - See more at:
In the framework of the Agriculture and Tourism Ministries' 'Village 2000' program, Nevatim was recognized as a 'Tourism-oriented Village' with the aim of developing tourism as an alternative to the declining economy of family farms. - See more at:
In the framework of the Agriculture and Tourism Ministries' 'Village 2000' program, Nevatim was recognized as a 'Tourism-oriented Village' with the aim of developing tourism as an alternative to the declining economy of family farms. - See more at:
In the framework of the Agriculture and Tourism Ministries' 'Village 2000' program, Nevatim was recognized as a 'Tourism-oriented Village' with the aim of developing tourism as an alternative to the declining economy of family farms. - See more at:
In the framework of the Agriculture and Tourism Ministries' 'Village 2000' program, Nevatim was recognized as a 'Tourism-oriented Village' with the aim of developing tourism as an alternative to the declining economy of family farms. - See more at:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mirror mirror on the billboard, for whom to cast my Tuesday vote?


Libby and I walked home from  pre-school and found nice  things along the way.
Like this clever  campaign that has hung mirrors on billboards that are advertising candidates for this Tuesday's local elections.

The paper above the mirror says "Kehila zeh be'etsem ATA!!!"  which means  "Actually, community is YOU!!!

I should explain that Meitar (aka Metar) is a yeshuv kehilati.
The term means "community settlement"  but it can also be translated as an  "incorporated community."
Meitar has grown to almost 8,000 since it was begun in 1984.

Wikipedia makes this good point: 

Residents of community settlements are typically very involved in their community. They know their neighbors well, they volunteer for various committees which run the town and its facilities, and they often meet together for various events and celebrations. A genuine feeling of community is often felt in these settlements, which is why that word was chosen to describe this form of settlement. The strong sense of community is of course made possible by the small size of the towns, and also by favoring applicants who seek strong community ties over applicants who seek to live within their own four walls without ever seeing a neighbor.

A Government ministry publication explains like this:
Yishuvim kehilatim (plural) range in size from 10 to 20 residents to hundreds of families.  Many reach populations of up to 1000 families.  Yet, on a yishuv kehilati, a rural atmosphere is preserved.
Residents maintain a network that provides educational and cultural services but do not have any economic ties to each other. 
On a yishuv kehilati, each family builds or purchases a home.  On some, each family makes its own arrangements for buildings, while on others construction is centrally organized. . . .
Many of these communities have an acceptance committee that handles membership applications.
UPDATE: Meanwhile I learned that Kehila, as well as meaning community, is also the name of the party of the incumbent Head of the Local Council (like a mayor).
(Linking to Weekend Reflections.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Three old wooden ?????s on the hill


Three mystery things stand atop the highest bare hill, right in the center of Meitar.

I  decided it was time to climb the steep sort-of path next to the planted cacti and see what's up there.

Under each of the three wooden frames someone had tried to make a cement chair (or throne?) in or on the big stones.
Maybe it was the Scouts or another youth movement?
Maybe I should ask some of the residents.
Or maybe I prefer it to remain the mystery place. . . .

In any case, the view of the sky and of Meitar's several neighborhoods is great from up there.
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fun with a loofah


The loofah that I bought at the shuk (for 18 shekels) was a big hit with my grandkids.
They had never heard of such a plant.
First Eyal pretended it was a telephone.
Then we played with it, and in the end we cut it up into five pieces.
The kids could hardly wait to get into the tub and try washing with their sponge-like loofahs. 

To see the loofah as a living plant, visit .

Monday, October 14, 2013

New fruits and a loofah


I know, you are probably thinking, "We saw this photo before."
But actually what I bought at the shuk two weeks ago were different kinds of fruit and some of them are already out of season.
And today I splurged (because of a family party coming up) and bought a few spiky pink-and-green  pitaya (dragon fruit), guava, and carambola (star fruit).

Also of interest on my table here are a pomelit (a small pomela), kiwi, figs, pomegranates, and "a personal watermelon."
Oh, and a loofah
It's a fibrous plant seed pod.
After amusing the grandkids with it (e.g. bopping them on the head), I'm going to cut it into smaller pieces and try to use one like a sponge in the shower.

Here is the entrance to Beersheva's Municipal Market where all these fun fruits came from today.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Our dove of peace in the Rabin Neighborhood

Here's my grandson Dean under the wings of a white dove.
The statue is in a roundabout in Meitar's Rabin Neighborhood.
At the base are the famous words Shalom chaver (Goodbye friend) with which President Clinton ended his eulogy at the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Last night some 33,000 young people, members of Israel's youth movements, gathered in  Tel Aviv to mark 18 years since the assassination.
The ceremony, titled “Remembering the murder, fighting for democracy,” was held at Rabin Square, where Rabin was shot during a peace rally on November 4, 1995 by a right-wing Israeli extremist.

A 2-minute video from last night's rally is in the Jerusalem Post  and another article is in The Times of Israel.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why do partridges walk in a line?


When I walk in nature places in Meitar I sometimes run into  groups of partridges.
(Enlarge the photo 2x to find the three fowl.)
Whenever I startled these funny birds in the Jerusalem Hills, they would always run and hide or run away fast and take to the air.
Here in friendly Meitar wild animals are laid back and calm, as if they know from experience that no one will hurt them.

The partridges in the top photo were in this grove of eucalyptus trees planted in the bottom of a wadi.
Often I take this shortcut from home to the supermarket (or now, to the grandkids!).
It's more fun than walking on the hot sidewalks. 
See more about Israel's partridge at
(Linking to Camera Critters.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

The kids have landed!

The family has landed!
After two long long flights from Australia they drove into Meitar at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday.
But in these first few days my grandkids have already  done the most important things:

(Photo by Naomi, Libby's mom/my daughter)

Libby did the quintessential Israeli thing: she ate a Krembo.

Krembo  has its own entry in Wikipedia which says "Krembos have achieved the status of a pop-cultural item and a national icon."

Also says this (believe it or not!):
Under Jewish law (Halacha), there is some significance to the order in which one eats a Krembo. The blessing over the biscuit is boreh miney mezonot, whereas the blessing over the cream and chocolate is shehakol nihiyya bidvaro. According to halacha, when eating a dish of mixed components, one need pronounce only the blessing over the main components, thus for a chocolate croissant one would say the blessing over the dough, and skip the blessing over the chocolate. But in the case of the Krembo, there is no consensus as to which is the "main" component: the biscuit, or the cream and chocolate. One solution is to bless over each component separately.

Eyal bought a school uniform shirt for Psagot School and  started  where everything was new to him--the classmates, the teachers, the place, the language.
His favorite class the first day was English.
(The kids know some Hebrew from home but they will learn a lot more living in Israel.) 
Eyal was a pretty brave boy. 

Ten-year-old Dean found the trampoline at the house the family is renting for their six-month stay in Israel.
How they had so much energy instead of jet lag I'll never understand.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Humidity now 10%


Here's the view from the supermarket, i.e. from the little  Meitar commercial center that I showed yesterday.
A few houses at the foot of the hill and some off to the north and  a little forest.
And then the desert.

The nights have recently become cooler; good sleeping temperatures.
Then the days warm up to the low 30s C (around 90 F).
But the last few days have been abnormally dry, like 10% humidity, in much of the country.
Hard on the nose.
I've got a pan of water simmering and some wet towels hung around the house to moisten the air and ease the breathing.
(For SkyWatch Friday.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Meitar


A whole medley of M words in one photo for ABC Wednesday meme.

My new hometown,  Meitar,  is built around one Mercaz, the commercial center, in its middle.
From right to left: Mercantile Bank, Michlol for school supplies, Maccabi Healthcare Services, and below the antennas--Moetsa Mekomit Meitar, the Meitar Local Council (which is like a municipality/city hall but for small communities).

There are other little businesses and a big supermarket, but their names don't start with M. 
And even an outdoor cafe where you can munch on freshly baked pastries and drink mocha.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Noise maker


Yeah, so the local country club (the 3 pools  post) had a healthy living happening on Friday.
Venders set up booths to explain and hopefully sell everything from Speedo bathing suits to health food lines.

But what caught my attention poolside was this ATV.
Meitar's neighbor, Kibbutz Kramim, apparently has a company called Tslil Noded that offers guided off-road tours on these  Terracross 2-person  buggies.
Anything from a 1.5 hour tour of the kibbutz and the surrounding forests to a 2-day adventure in the Negev desert.

You might be surprised at the other activities the tourism department offers!

I might have to go check out that kibbutz myself.
So far,  all I can see of them from the entrance road of Meitar is Kramim's huge solar field off in the distance.
Enlarge the photo with two separate clicks  and see the many ground-mounted  solar panels.

Honey Bunny


 I crossed paths with a hare!
My first sighting of a wild animal in Meitar!

He was interested in licking the water from a drip irrigation pipe and felt no need to run away from me.

He was so long, and pretty too.

After tiring of posing for Camera-Critters photos,  he just jumped  back up toward the row of houses that border the wadi.