Thursday, January 30, 2014

Good-bye desert, hello new neighborhood

Oi veh, I knew it had to come sooner or later.
This month they started chopping up the desert to add a new neighborhood to Meitar.
(Meitar is a planned community, begun in 1984, and it expands according to plan.)

Enlarge the photo; see all those sections of pipe just waiting to become underground infrastructure?

Dust is flying as the diggers dig and the dump trucks dump.

Meanwhile they make a whole new landscape.

The new piles look like a field of giant molehills made by some giant burrowing mole.
Kind of unreal.

Bottoms up--there goes another load of several tons of good earth.
Sigh . . .

(The big blue sky over the former big desert joins SkyWatch Friday.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A strange desert flower


Some "rainy season" this is!  It hasn't rained in a month and a half.
But still, I went wandering in the desert today in search of the first winter wild flowers.
This plant was a total surprise; I've never seen anything like it!
Have you?
Please, enlarge the photo with a click and then another click  and see if you might recognize it and know the name.
UPDATE!  Wait! My nature expert nephew has just come through with the answer and also a great resource: the Hebrew University's Flora of Israel Online ! (The Hebrew page of the flower is here.)
It is a  Leontice leontopetalum L. Berberidaceae.   Its common name in German is Loewenblatt or Loewentrapp
or in Hebrew,  Artanit hasadot     עַרְטָנִית הַשָּׂדוֹת

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Free chalk


When chips fall from the chalky cliff  and become chalk for creative children . . .

(Grandson Eyal at the end of my street in Meitar.)

Happy C Day at ABC Wednesday.

Monday, January 27, 2014

"Remembrance and Beyond"


"Remembrance and Beyond"

Today 54 of our 120 Members of Knesset were in Poland for the memorial ceremonies of  the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

Then Steven Spielberg and a woman who was one of Schindler's Jews  gave  moving talks at the United Nations. 

All this was watched live on TV and Internet in the comfort of my own little apartment in the comfort of my own little State of Israel. -- How lucky I am. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

יום הזיכרון הבינלאומי לשואה


The entrance into the Holocaust History Museum at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem.

The triangular building is cantilevered at its beginning and at the end.
In 2005 the United Nations designated January 27 as an annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

At the very first U.N. Holocaust Memorial Day in 2006, Israel's Prof. Yehuda Bauer delivered the "Remembrance and Beyond" keynote address at the United Nations.
He concluded his speech thus:
I come from a people that gave the Ten Commandments to the world.
Let us agree that we need three more, and they are these:
thou shalt not be a perpetrator;
thou shalt not be a victim;
and thou shalt never, but never, be a bystander.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday and  Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Safe home for butterflies


In Hebrew a butterfly is a parpar.
The Negev Zoo has a lovely parparia, an enclosure in which free butterflies and people can freely interact.

Just outside the tent is the "nursery."
Inside all those white hanging bags the final stages of metamorphosis are happening.

Here's a cocoon (or is it called a chrysalis?)

Nice signboards all around teach about the life of a butterfly.

You are not allowed to catch the butterflies, but if one alights on you, that's fine.
Here Dean was trying to coax one to step onto his hand.
The nice thing (that I read about on the zoo's website) in that much of the work caring for the butterflies and their plants and the grounds is done every day by members of the Ami organization.
Agudat Ami helps mentally handicapped young adults get established in the community.
(Linking to Camera Critters.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Green fields


The northern Negev, or Mediterranean zone, has fairly fertile soils and receives (in a normal winter) 300 mm of rain.

That 12 inches of rain is enough to grow some field crops.

You can even find some patchwork fields near Meitar.
(Click a few times to enlarge the fields.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mt. Hiran, Jabel Um el-Hiran


One of the highest mountains in our Northern Negev area--Mount Hiran, or in Arabic, Jabel Um el-Hiran.
As seen from the Israel Trail next to Meitar.
I have not been there yet, but this Abraham Path map shows Mt. Hiran as 592 meters high.
Linking this January sky to SkyWatch Friday.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Strange flowers


Is this the flowering of an agave?
Whatever they are, they sure are tall.
In a backyard here in Meitar.
I'm having to get used to a whole new world of plants down here in the Negev desert.
UPDATE:  Turns out it is an aloe.  Thanks to the readers who knew and helped here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Béton brut --> Brutalism at Ben-Gurion University

For better or for worse,  Beer Sheva is called our capital of Brutalism.*
And the city's Ben-Gurion University is full of Brutalist architecture. 
BGU's main library, for instance, whose cornerstone was laid in 1971.

 From the Aranne Library website:
In designing the library building, the architects wanted to bring several ideas to life:
The building was planned to be washed in natural light – present in abundance in the Negev - which,  diffused from the North (to eliminate the direct rays of the sun),  floods the library's reading areas. . . .
The combination of concrete, dark in appearance and representing durability in desert conditions,  and gleaming cupolas made of glass mosaic, expresses the blending of material with light.

Here is the back of the library. 

* From Wikipedia:
The English architects Alison and Peter Smithson coined the term in 1953, from the French béton brut, or "raw concrete", a phrase used by Le Corbusier to describe the poured board-marked concrete with which he constructed many of his post-World War II buildings.
. . .
Brutalist architecture is a style of architecture that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, spawned from the modernist architectural movement. Examples are typically very linear, fortresslike and blockish, often with a predominance of concrete construction. Initially the style came about for government buildings, low-rent housing and shopping centres to create functional structures at a low cost, but eventually designers adopted the look for other uses such as college buildings.
UPDATE: Here is a nice new article about the beauty of Brutalism.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday, Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors, and Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Meitar Scouts' extravaganza


My grandson Dean is up on that stage, singing and dancing in the skit about Superheroes.

Last night we got to watch the big show put on by the Scouts here in Meitar.

Even the mothers and fathers of the 12th grade Scouts  sang a rousing song.

Toward the end, despite the loud music and flashing stage lights, sweet 3-year-old Libby fell asleep on my lap.
I managed to free one arm and get this selfie of us just before we had to stand to sing the national anthem. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

That in-the-middle-of-nowhere feeling


A dozen hikers gathered today to walk the Israel National Trail for three hours.
Our excellent guide, Dr. Zeev Zivan, showed us on a 1956 map what a difference half a century can make.
Our town, Meitar, did not exist back then. 
In fact, the northern Negev was quite an empty place.

Actually, even today we walked  over  vast expanses of uninhabited spaces.
It's a great feeling of wilderness!
P.S. See more about our Trail at

A map of the Trail:

More info:

Friday, January 17, 2014

The mini moon rises


I took a few steps out into the desert yesterday evening to catch the moon rising.
It was a mini moon,  aka  micro moon!

The useful site Time and Date explains:

Contrary to popular belief, the Moon orbits the Earth in an elliptical path, with one side of the path closer to the Earth than the other. The point closest to the Earth is called the perigee, while the point farthest from the Earth is known as the apogee. The average distance between the two extreme points is 237,700 miles or 382,500 km.

When a full Moon coincides with the Moon’s position at apogee, it is referred to as a Micro Moon or a Mini Moon.

Sometimes also called an Apogee Moon, a Micro Moon looks approximately 14 percent smaller, and around 30 percent less bright than a Super Moon.

The last Micro Full Moon occurred on November 28, 2012.

(For SkyWatch Friday.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fruit on a skewer

The little fruit "trees" in honor of Tu BiShvat  were so pretty that no one wanted to consume them at the all-day archaeology seminar today at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

It is an old Jewish tradition to eat dried fruits on this holiday, the new year for the trees.
But the sellers in the big market in Jerusalem that I just now saw on Israel TV were lamenting the fact that dates and raisins are  about the only ones that are local; all the other dried fruit is imported from Turkey, Hawaii, and Thailand.
Happy Tu BiShvat!

Inside a tree!


Happy Tu BiShvat!
The birthday or New Year of trees in Israel.
For more about this happy Jewish holiday visit my previous posts.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Alternative approaches


 An Australian's art and an alternative.
(Yes, it's ABC Wednesday again.)

The first grade class here in Meitar, Israel were given the same raw materials and were asked to make some picture from them.

My grandson, who has been living for the previous six years in sunny carefree Australia, made an island with a colorful tree and a man lying under a sun shelter on the sand.
His classmate, a Sabra Israeli, explained to me that he made a watchtower with video surveillance cameras that would detect and record thieves. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A tree weeps


In Meitar's small cemetery a tree weeps,  sap running down fence stones.
Tomorrow Israel will bury Arik Sharon on a hill at his Shikmim Ranch in the Negev, next to his wife.
Today TV showed the preparations for the funeral there.
As I watched a backhoe digging the grave and men lining the deep hole with cinder blocks, the reality hit home--Israel is losing "dor tashach," the generation of 1948, of "nefilim" (giants),  the Palmach generation, the founders of our State.
One by one they are returning to the earth of the Land they loved. 
See any of the Israeli papers for more on Ariel Sharon and the state of the Nation:
The Times of Israel,   The Jerusalem PostHaaretz,   Ynetnews.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A midrash on the waters


"And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided" -- וַיִּבָּקְעוּ, הַמָּיִם
- Exodus 14:21

"When God split the Red Sea, all the waters in the world divided, even the waters in cisterns and ditches, in jars, cups, casks and bowls ... the supernal waters, too, divided ..."
(- Midrash Mechilta)
(Linking to Weekend Reflections.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Israel Trail -- so close to home


The Israel National Trail goes right through  Meitar's backyard.

Wiki describes it: 
The Israel National Trail, (Hebrew: שביל ישראל‎, Shvil Yisra'el) is a hiking path that was inaugurated in 1995.
The trail crosses the entire country of Israel. Its northern end is at Dan, near the Lebanese border in the far north of the country, and it extends to Eilat at the southernmost tip of Israel on the Red Sea, a length of 580-620 miles (1000 KM).
The trail is marked with three stripes (white, blue, and orange)  and takes an average of 45-60 days to complete.
The Israel National Trail has been listed in National Geographic's 20 most "epic trails."
 It is described as a trail that "delves into the grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of the modern Israeli."

Here there is a play on words:
Lalechet beshvil / bishvil  habriut =
Walk for health / Walk on the healthy path.
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday and Signs, signs.)
UPDATE:  More info at

and a Trail map at


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bialik, our national poet, has a birthday


Today was the 141st birthday of Israel's national poet, Haim Nachman Bialik.
Meitar Library had a special story hour followed by a coloring session on the subject.

I took Eyal and Libby.
Libby enjoyed it because she had just learned to sing Bialik's songs in her pre-kindergarten class.

Even today's Google doodle was dedicated to Bialik's poem, Ken Latsipor (Bird's Nest).

See the words and translation here, with a very interesting "Revisiting Bialik: A Radical Mizrahi Reading of the Jewish National Poet."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Synagogue with a view!


This is one of the dozen synagogues in Meitar.
It is the closest one to my place but I have never been inside it.
It's at the end of a street, on the edge of town. 

The windows in the sanctuary look out and down on the desert! 
If I went to services I'd probably be gazing out at nature instead of focusing on the prayerbook or the sermon. 
Maybe I should try sometime.
(Linking to Toby's meme, Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014



Z is for zealous recyclers.
Daughter Naomi teaches her children the need to recycle.

Receptacles for plastic, paper, carton, and even for used clothing are here at the commercial center and also in all the different neighborhoods of Meitar.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday, finishing another round of the alphabet.)

Monday, January 6, 2014

We three kings

We three kings of Orient are . . . 

bearing gifts we traverse afar . . .
Happy Dreikönigstag or Feast of Epiphany or Twelfth Day to all the Western Christians celebrating it today. 

(More Epiphany posts from previous years are here. )
And to the Eastern Orthodox Christians, happy Christmas Eve! 
UPDATE: A video of the Epiphany and Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem on Jan. 6.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A human-watching pelican


The Negev Zoo  pelican was swishing its beak around, hoping to scoop up some food.

But suddenly it decided to slide into the pond.

The big bird swam over to the little bridge.

Must have noticed that my little Libby was distributing zoo-provided kibbles to the ducks.
(Dean was busy taking some of his first photos with his first camera.)