Sunday, March 26, 2017

Come in and look -- Open Houses weekend sale


This weekend was our town's Open Houses event.
About 18 Meitar residents opened their yards or houses to sell all kinds of crafts, art, and clothing.
The old balance scales were fascinating.
In back of the table, on the ground, you can see beautiful old Persian carpets, SO expensive.
(You might want to enlarge the photos to enjoy the details.)

Actually the lady at this house was selling the nice pottery that she makes, but she was happy to explain that the antique sewing machine still works fine.

In this other yard, what I thought looked like a fancy scarecrow led the way to other "vintage treasures."
But my favorite house was the woodworker's.  He creates wonderful toys, eating utensils, benches, and artistic things, and even a Pinocchio!
Wish I could be his apprentice.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Forest to Plate in Kfar Sallama, Galilee


The most delicious vegetarian lunch I've ever tasted!

This young Bedouin brought huge trays to our tour group directly from the kitchen window of the family preparing all these fresh dishes.

Here the basket of hot pita came.
All the ingredients were local, in season, organic, and -- did I say? -- delicious!
Some were grown right there in the yard where we ate, while some were gathered in the wild.
In fact, the business card of  the family enterprise reads  FOREST to PLATE.

Right there in the yard, between the modern houses of this village in the Galilee, is a diwan, a Bedouin tent of hospitality.
If our tour group from Meitar had been a few decades younger, we could have eaten inside, sitting on the ground.
You can see video of guests dancing there to live Arab flute music at The Bedouin Experience in the Galilee page on Facebook.
Their website is in Hebrew but has photos and music.

The old traditional Bedouin embroidered dresses are always nice to see.

The Galilee is covered with olive trees and still the oil production does not meet the local demand.
So many foods are made with olive oil.
In the garden an old olive crushing stone was on display.

Right under an olive tree!

One of the village's mosques.

Kfar Sallama has more than 3,100 inhabitants.

A photo of the village from 2008, from Wikipedia.  I'm sure Kfar Sallama has expanded since then.
Very interesting is this list and map of Arab localities in Israel.
Check out the Northern District (ya'ani, the Galilee) especially.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday K-day.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Jojoba "oil" -- another kibbutz breakthrough


In the basket are bottles of 100% pure natural jojoba oil, which apparently does wonders on the skin and hair.
I'm sorry now that I didn't splurge and buy some when our group toured Kibbutz Hatzerim.

The kibbutz grows the bushes, harvests the beans you see above, cold mills them and makes the oil, which is really a liquid wax.
They presently make 1/3 of the world's production of jojoba oil.
Most is exported to big cosmetics manufacturers,  but the kibbutz keeps a little to sell on the premises and online.

The kibbutz cultivates thousands of dunams of jojoba, and the area is set to expand.
(The dunam has been standardized in modern times to mean 1,000 square meters, but in Ottoman Turkish times the word dunam meant "the amount of land that could be plowed by a team of oxen in one day.")

Weeds are not a problem in the plantation because there is so little rain here in the Negev desert.
No herbicides are used.
Drip irrigation lines are buried 12-15 cm below the surface; each bush has its own dripper, invented and produced by Kibbutz Hatzerim, so it gets only the water it needs, directly to its roots.
It is computerized so each plant gets individual attention.

Rows are four meters apart.
At harvest season in the autumn a tractor goes down the row, its silicon arms shaking the bush until the seeds fall (although most of them fall naturally when fully mature).
Then with big brushes made in nearby Kibbutz Ruhama's brush factory, the jojoba beans are swept up.
Our kibbutz guide said they harvest ten tons per day.
Processing is then done inside the kibbutz with cold milling, much like in olive pressing.

Pollination is by wind only.
At Hatzerim 50 female plants need only ONE male, whereas in the world it is more like only 8 or 10 that are pollinated by one male.

To learn more about this interesting plant and the Jojoba Israel company, see their website (in several languages).
In Israel we pronounce it  kho-KHO-va.    And you?
Here is a 4-minute video about how the kibbutz dealt with the 2014 conflict with Gaza, and it shows jojobas damaged by many incoming rockets.
UPDATE: This is really interesting! --

 Re-use of Jojoba Pulp - During the process of manufacturing the oil, pulp is created from the jojoba seeds.  This pulp has many features needed for the production of cosmetic products; however, we also use it to fertilize the jojoba fields.  As a dry material, the pulp can absorb liquid up to 10 times its volume.  The kibbutz members take advantage of this feature and spread the pulp in the  kibbutz’s cowsheds.  The pulp absorbs the cows’ secretions and after proper processing, the pulp-enriched cow waste is reused to fertilize the jojoba fields! 
(Linking to Our World Tuesday and ABC Wednesday, for J-day.)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The drip irrigation revolution, born in Israel


Kibbutz Hatzerim is a big and successful and still fully-communal kibbutz in the Negev desert.
We had lectures, a film, and a group tour there a week ago, as I started to show you in this first post.

As you can tell from the writing on the wall, their main factory is called Netafim and it is the world's pioneer in drip irrigation.

To my dismay photography was not allowed inside the huge and fascinating factory.
I was amazed to walk among so many rapidly- and constantly-clicking machines that work round the clock, day and night.
Everything is automated; you see many robots but very few humans in the plant.
Germany produces many of the machines specifically for Netafim and each one can cost a million dollars.
Out in the yard tall silos hold little pellets that feed the extruders; at any given time the silos hold a million dollars worth of all kinds of poly-this and poly-that, the raw materials for plastic production.

This was the 1965 prototype, the first idea for a dripper.
The poster tells a deep truth.

As this interesting article (about how Netafim is helping Italy) explains,

Founded in 1965, Netafim pioneered the drip irrigation revolution but has since widely expanded its offerings to include sprinklers, pipes, irrigation equipment, agricultural machinery, and more, many of them equipped with sensors that can read temperature, humidity, nutrient levels in the soil, whether a plant needs water, and other important data. The systems are controlled by software run from a server communicating with sensors in the field wirelessly, with the software providing instructions to each part of the system as to how much and when water should be dispensed.

The kibbutz engineers and agriculture experts started teaching drip irrigation in Israel, in the developing world, and in the developed world and within seven years the demand for the equipment from Hatzerim was too great.
So Netafim opened new factories in Kibbutz Magal and Kibbutz Yiftach.
Today it is a huge multi-national success story.

I put my little souvenirs on my laptop to show you how tiny each dripper part is, less than an inch.
The black ones have an ingenious system of  "mazes" and flexible membranes that, when inserted at regular intervals in a hose, regulate the flow and pressure of incoming water and also deal with any grains of dirt that get in.
BTW, fertilizer can be added to the water in perfectly measured doses.

You will enjoy sampling some of the many videos at Netafim's YouTube channel. 

This one kibbutz that started from a barren hill in the desert in 1946, with land too salty to grow anything for the first years, is today helping farmers grow more food with less water and less work--all over the world.
Makes me proud.
UPDATE August 2017:  Wow!

Mexichem has signed a deal to buy 80% of Netafim in a deal that values the drip irrigation pioneer at $1.895 billion

Friday, March 10, 2017

Scouts do Purim

It's time for the happy holiday of Purim this weekend and Meitar will have lots of activities, some put on by the town's youth movements and others by Chabad. 

The first one was today, a Middle Ages-themed carnival dreamed up by our Scouts.

Their poster promised all kinds of fun and sure enough, many kids and parents showed up.

This impressive ride was called the witch hunt.

One Scout swings the "wagon" back and forth.  
You can enlarge the photo to get the idea.

Amazing how these Scouts create things like this out of only wood, rope, and rubber. 
I would never know how to lash those elements together securely enough to hold several people. 

I didn't understand what this one was meant to be.  Oh well. 

"The knights' carousel."

And inside the courtyard of the Scouts' den there were entertainers on stage singing, bouncy castles, snacks, and drinks.  
Many kids and even some grown-ups were dressed up in Purim costumes and everyone was having a good time.
Happy Purim! 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day in Beer Sheva


No, it's not a spaceship that landed in Beer Sheva.

It's just part of SCE Sami Shamoon College.

It is an engineering school; can you tell? 

On Monday the sign welcomed us to a conference called Movilot Shinui, meaning  women who are bringing in and leading change.
It was for International Women's Day. 

The speaker of honor was a member of the Israeli cabinet, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked. 
She told her life story and how she made it to such a high position.
She seems so young to have done all that.

Coffee break was inside the glass "spaceship," with a nice view of the campus lawns and the growing southern city of Beer Sheva. 

Over a dozen  highly educated, highly successful professional women gave 7-minute TED talks, telling their inspiring life stories. 
The lady in the photo is an Israeli Arab who bravely overcame all obstacles to advance in her engineering education, research, and career. 
She had the large audience laughing and cheering with her animated and impassioned message. 
She told the Bedouin students present never to let their future husbands' families pay the traditional "bride price" for them, not is camels and not in gold, because then they feel and act like they own you. 

The Bedouin women here in the Negev are actually in the forefront to advance the rights of women in their society and I applaud them.

Happy International Women's Day! 
(Linking to ABC Wednesday and Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

70-year-old Kibbutz Hatzerim is thriving


Our monthly Shishi Zioni (Zionism Friday) study day took us to Kibbutz Hatzerim in the northwest Negev. 

On the walking tour our group was lucky to see the nursery school children going outside to enjoy the warm winter day. 
The kids are so cute!
And they have such a good life--well, at least they do when rockets are not being fired at them from the nearby Gaza Strip, as happened in 2014 during the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Behind the olive trees you see some of the simple older housing for the kibbutzniks. 
Hatzerim was begun from nothing, from barren desert, on October 6, 1946.  
So as a 70-year-old kibbutz, its population is multi-generational.
The 18-year-old Scouts, 5 girls and 30 boys, who were sent here in '46 as a pioneering group persevered through very hard conditions and are today the grandparents of a highly successful kibbutz. 
Living here are 470 members (chaverim) and 300 children (up to age 18). 
And so many of the post-army sons and daughters want to return that there is a waiting list for new houses being built. 

Hatzerim is one of the few kibbutzim that has resisted privatization; life is still communal, egalitarian, and democratic.  And with lots of idealism. 
They still eat all meals together in the big dining room.
There is a big dairy cow shed and also falcha (field crops), but the really huge success stories are the Netafim drip irrigation factory and the jojoba plantation that produces quality oil for cosmetics.
More about those two in the coming blog posts. 
Their website has a page in English with good information and vintage photos. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Big bird in the river


It was a cold December day in Switzerland.
I was hurrying back to Grandchamp after getting a video of the big fish jumping UP the waterfall (then they swim against the current, up the river to their yearly spawning ground).
I was alone, it was getting dark, the narrow path along the rushing river was slippery, and I was imagining how I could easily fall to my death in the freezing stream with no one around to save me.
Suddenly a white being rose up right in front of me with wings spread to a meter and a half!!
An angel??!
Regaining my wits, I backtracked to try to find where it had flown to.
There it was--a beautiful tall Grey Heron standing in the water.
It paused just long enough for me to get a quick snapshot.
It was a welcome sign that I was not alone on the path.