Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Osher Ad" and.. . Kugel for Sabbath

'Osher Ad' (in english, meaning 'eternal happiness') is a chain of supermarkets with branches in some 15 locations which targets especially the large orthodox families needing quantity buying. The products are kosher, and there's even a tiny synagogue at the back of the store. 

The motto of the chain  is "no tricks, no gimmicks" (that is, no coupons, no 1+1, no deals etc..).  To show their understanding and emphaty for the budget- conscious customers with big families, they even posted advice signs  such as Don't buy more than you need, Don't bring the children when food shopping (truth is I don't see these signs any longer). That's good advice, of course, but hard  to put into practice.

Once a week, usually on Thursday, I do my shopping at the 'Osher Ad' store which is closest to my hometown. I like it for its big size, great variety, clean space, low prices. What I do not like is the fact that one has to stand in line at the checkout counter for quite a long time; there is no express line.

I usually go to 'Osher Ad' late in the day, so chances are their apple kugel- my favorite product- is sold out.
Kugel is a  dish made of egg noodles and baked in a square pan. It's the most elevated traditional Sabbath food on the table.The cinnamon apple noodle kugel is "devastating", and as one might guess, it's not a low-calorie dessert. If it's there , I just have to buy it. I'm hooked. (The potato kugel or any of the other kugel versions is of no interest to me).

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Singapore - city, island, country ?

There seems to be no clear answer to the above often asked question, but who cares? Those who have lived and worked  in this place in south-east Asia,  or have even just visited,  describe it as Paradise on earth. It's rich, stable, safe, clean. It even seems to be immune to natural disasters such as earthquakes, that often happen in the neighboring islands of Indonesia. How cool is that?

Education and healthcare are excellent,compared to western standards; so is the overall economic situation, despite the lack of natural resources. On the 'democracy'  level it's ranked rather low as there's only one political party , and there are restrictions on certain civil rights.  (Well, one can't have it all).

I felt the urge  to write this short post on Singapore after recently reading in the newspapers that an indian Imam (islamic worship leader) was fined and expelled for remarks against christians and jews in his Friday sermon at a mosque.

It should be said, that the population of Singapore is made up of three main layers: Chinese (the majority), Malays (the indigenous), and Indians. Christianity as a religion comes only fourth after islam, buddhism, and hinduism; the jews are very few in number. However, the principle is important here.  The incident with the Imam shows that ethnical and religious harmony is regarded by the authorities as crucial, and rightly so.  

I' ve read somewhere that Singapore is on the list of 'nations in transit'. I don't really know what it means for a nation to be in transit; it  seems to me Singapore should keep things  as they are now. Change could be bad for its future.

On the whole, I think the world can learn a lot from the position and prosperity of Singapore.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

'A Tale Of One City'

I spent most of Wednesday "playing detective" in a modest town named Kiryat Gat, in southern Israel. I was trying to get information on a certain asset, a little apartment in an old building. What for? Well, that's a long, old story regarding a possible inheritance. I won't go into it now.

It was hot outside, desert- like weather; I didn't have a decent map, and the local municipality was not very helpful.
When I finally got to that apartment, the tenant, a middle aged woman, russian accent, opened the door reluctantly, We had a brief conversation after which she 'forwarded' her dog  to "say hello" to me, and closed the door. Well, at least  I got away with some valuable  information.

the old building

children's playground nearby

Kiryat Gat was established in 1954 as a 'development town' whose population was mainly of north african origin. Gradually, it  absorbed newcomers from other countries as well, especially from the former Soviet Union countries.

 main road under construction

blooming cactus

The town has all the standard stuff  : residential neighborhoods, malls, small recreational parks, banks, city complex market(open and covered spaces with veggies and fruit stalls, houseware and clothing areas), educational , religious,and cultural Centers, eateries.
There's also a magistrate court and a railway station.

city mall

the harp memorial to honor the victims of the Holocaust

welfare services building

painted tree trunk in the yard of the above welfare building

open market

Over the years, the city has become known for its industrial zone. The giant, global Intel corporation which has two chip fabrication plants here , and some other foreign and domestic companies  ('Sugat' sugar plant, 'HP' indigo, 'Tzabar' salads etc.) are located in this industrial zone which is on the eastern edge of the town. Athough a sort of world apart. the industry here has significantly upgraded the city.

['Nothing new under the sun'.  It's a fact that if manufacturing industry goes, the place fades away. That's why great efforts are made  (including generous subsidies) in attracting industrial investmemts and preventing their leaving the area].

I bought some delicious black grapes at the covered market, and so I left the city  after a tiring day, with a sweet, aromatic taste in my mouth.

covered market

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Baker from Baghdad

'The Baker from Bagdhad'  is the name of a bakery chain  which includes some seven stores spread around Israel. The chain, founded in 2004 by the third generation to a family of bakers originally from Baghdad (Iraq),  is quite successful. People love these places which combine the old, traditional breads and pastries, with the more modern ones. 

products displayed on racks and counter

Last week, I entered one of the bakeries of the chain to get myself a cup of coffee and a cookie. It was almost noon. Inside, a light traffic of customers buying bread, rolls, pretzels, cakes, cookies.  Salads, sandwiches,and light drinks were also available.

There were only two small chairs and tables, outside the entrance, where one could sit and have a coffee. Not very comfortable arrangement, to say the least, but I left home without any breakfast and I had to have something.

breads on rack

tortes, for festive events, in the fridge, cookies on the table

cookies on racks

ready-made  cake roulades

The specialty of this chain is the 'sambusak' - an iraqi and middle-eastern  turnover pastry stuffed with various fillings (cheese and potatoes, among the favorites).
Doughnuts are also given much honor here, with a variety of fillings (chocolate, strawberries, vanilla, halva). 

Staring at the people buying all those goodies,  I concluded to myself that it was hard for anyone to resist entering the place. Besides the terrific smells of fresh, out-of-the oven stuff, and decent prices, I noticed a great variety of both:  baking supplies used (white flour, whole flour, with or without glutten, various filling ingredients) and finished products (sweet, salty, sugarless/ breads, cookies - and at the other end  - sophisticated and "decadent" desserts).

We're constantly told that sugar and salt are killers, flour is an enemy, jelly is yikes - but most people love these elements and will probably continue to love them  (presumably with the help of a little pill for diabetes, cholesterol, triglycerides and the like. As we all know, Nutrition and Health, go hand in hand, ). 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Red South

To celebrate Spring arrival, I joined a guided day trip to the 'Red South' - 'red' referring to the wild red flowers  (anemones) growing from December to March in  various parts of the country, the southern part being one of them.

The weather was glorious - perfect for an outdoor escapade. During the trip we were treated with fresh strawberries, cookies, coffee, lemonade, cold water - stored in the underneath baggage compartment  of the bus - and that made it all very pleasant.

The view of the red poppy-like flowers near kibbutz Beeri, in the north-western Negev desert, was lovely, though not breathtaking, as no red carpets covering vast fields were seen . After all, it's the last month of their blooming season; the red carpets of anemones can be seen here mainly during January-February, so we were told.  

red anemones

Kibbutz (communal settlement) Beeri,  has turned the region into a bicycle country with trails to suit every level of cycling. In front of the gate to the kibbuttz , there's a bike center called  La Medavesh (The pedalist),  where one can rent a bicycle, get tips and maps. buy refreshments,etc..
(By the way, Michelle Bachman, the american republican politician has served here as a volunteer in 1974).

Our trip  included some interesting sites: wheat fields, bridges (the Rope Bridge), rivers (Tzehelim and  Habesor which are subject to annual flooding following heavy rains),   memorials (ANZAC) , and the port of Ashdod.

South of Beeri region - the "rope bridge" hanging over the Besor stream. It's 80 meters long. To take a picture while on the shaking bridge is not easy at all, as the hand shakes too.

the hanging 'rope bridge' - a  bit of a frightening experience

not the work of DAESH but of my photographic incompetence

Some four kilometers north of Beeri - The ANZAC memorial in commemoration of the australian and new-zeelandish soldiers who fell in battle during first world war. From the top one can see  Gaza Strip which is not far from the kibbutz (there are some eleven settlements near the border with Gaza Strip).

stairs leading to the upper part

upper part of the structure

top of the memorial

view of Gaza strip in the distance

At 1:00 p.m, still near Gaza Strip, we had lunch at a kibbutz, named Yad Mordechai in memory of Mordechai Anielewicz, a leading figure in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. 
This kibbutz's honey , jam, and olive products are leading brands on the israeli market. (I'm a fan of their "778" light blueberry jam which I use as a replacement for sweets - a tea spoon of jam has only 12 kalories).

dining hall of Yad Mordechai

lunch time

After lunch we headed towards the climax of our trip - Ashdod Port and its visitor center. The port , dominating the city of Ashdod, is located some 40 kilometers from Tel-Aviv. Here we were not allowed to take pictures except in and around the visitor center. At the visitor's center we were presented with a movie and explanations on the port's history and its impressive technological development.

visitor's center


We then took a guided bus ride within the port  to have a close look at things: offices, warehouses, railroad station, heavy engineering vehicles, transport /ship repair companies etc...

At the end of the ride we were offered as a memento, an envelope bearing the original stamp issued at the port's 50th Anniversary. Nice.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Post and the Agent

The dramatic rise in  online shopping of the last few years has turned our post offices, especially the smaller ones, into somewhat crowded and frustrating places. 

The Postal Authority has been trying to improve things  in terms  of increased speed of service,  but that doesn't always work as expected. The usual joke is that the mail symbol of a running deer (appears on our stamps since 1950) should be replaced with that of a crawling frog.

On our street there's a cute tiny post office agency which is very convenient for me geographically. We get our written mail in postboxes that cover the back outside walls. The packages and parcels are inside, in the appropriate back room .The agency is run by a hard working person who loves his job.  However, one person is not enough, far from it, and delivery is sometimes delayed.

The place, located at the intersection of two streets, vis-a-vis a tiny commercial center , a synagogue, and a bus stop, is also too small considering the large population it serves; it could and should be a bit expanded, especially as there is adequate space for that. There are days when people are waiting outside as there's no room for them to join the queue inside.

Somehow,over the last years, it has become clear to everyone, that the postal agent likes it that way; He had a helper during the quieter times - before the online flood of parcels -  and got him fired. Enlarging the place could mean more workers, and that might not be his wish.

The postal agent (father of eleven!) is also a town council member, so that's probably how he has his way. People are both fearful and respectful of him, so they will think twice before signing any formal complaint.

I remember telling him once about the need for an additional worker; he ignored my remark with a silent, irritable look. So, I never again repeated it. I'm sure, however, that he hears a similar remark from other customers. I suppose supervisors from the Postal Authority are also aware of the situation... and yet, they let it go on. 

Well, as some will say, there are worse things in life than that. I believe it will somehow get solved, or... not.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

IMTM 2017

The 23rd annual international tourism fair ( the full name of IMTM - International Mediteranean Tourism Market) was held at the Tel Aviv Trade Fair and Convention Center on 7-8 February.  

The IMTM  event  is mainly for professional bodies in the field of tourism ( tour operators, tourist agencies. cruise lines, airlines companies , hotels etc...).  It consists of presentations, seminars, workshops, conferences. Around 16:00 oclock, however,  it opens for a couple of hours, for the large public to have a glimpse at the booths representing some 50 countries and get information on various touristic destinations.

visitors at the various booths

As it was a warm, nice day I went there on Tuesday, the 7th of Feb. to wander around in the large pavilion and see what was new. 

For me, the fair was a good opportunity to get some Free city and regional  quality tourist maps, and enjoy a few attractions offered at the various booths. Well, I got my maps and even more than that; at the Lithuania stand I was given a small gift of coasters and a wooden pen. At the "Israir" Group stand, I got to refreshen my suitcase identity tags with new ones, provided freely,of course. Some of the booths  (Vietnam, China ,Ruanda ...) displayed a few handcrafted items specific to the country they represented. 

Ruanda - nice handcraft items displayed on the desk

As for attractions, Romania, for example, brought a young folksinger and a saxophonist . Very good idea of attracting people's attention. I've greatly enjoyed their  musical show. As I was born and raised in that country, it naturally brought back some memories.

the folksinger and the saxophonist at Romania booth

what a team!

Panama had a couple of women dancers in extravagant dresses

Panama dancers

Panama joy

At the USA stand there was a tall guy dressed as an Indian, and at the Slovenia stand, an elderly man dressed in an historical outfit of the austro-ungarian epoch. The israeli city of Nazareth came up with some village dressed people.

the USA  "Indian"

heavy, historical outfit at Slovenia booth

villagers from Nazareth area

At some stands, the hosts were dressed in traditional costumes
or had some traditional motifs introduced in the booth decoration.

the Moldova stand

Belarus - traditional shirt and cake

At the Dominican Republic's place there were four round little tables with satin white maps featuring the printed map of the country. Lovely sight!

round table - white  map with the country's map printed on it

The israelis had, among other exhibits, some product samples at their booths: cosmetics from the Dead Sea , food from the Galilee and other regions of the country.

cheese and olives from the Galilee

 I was nicely impressed by the fact that a tiny, almost hidden country like Albania had quite a few people approach the stand and ask for information about tourism there.

Albania booth

As I said, I was mainly looking for maps, but there was a lot of other kind of interesting stuff there as well. For example, it appears that many countries are interested in wellness tourism. So, there was a multitude of pamphlets describing Spa resorts and their conditions (prices, accomodation, medical supervision).

Information on tourist possibilities was given not only in paper format but also on  CD-s.(I've got myself the discs of Istanbul and Kenya). I asked for some info on a certain area in Ukraine , and I was given  very detailed  oral explanation  in addition to the displayed written one.

 Turkey usually gets a great deal of israeli tourists, so I was not surprised to see its tourism factors fully represented at the Exhibition.

turkish airlines booth

A visit to such an event as IMTM allows one to feel  'the world in a nutshell', as they say, and it's quite an enriching experience.