Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Dark ' Pearls' of Tiberias

The old town of Tiberias has a lot to offer to its locals and visitors : a lake , nice beaches, a  promenade , water activities, Hot Springs,  hotels and eateries, historical and holy sites, environmental art works etc...Most of it within walking distance.

However, during my visit there I got attracted especially by the basalt  stone structures found in historical remains and old buildings. There's something dark and mysterious about them that appealed to me. The newer or restored structures (among them hotels, stores) that were built with the local dark basalt stones, looked neat and stylish.

It's always good to start a tour in a city like Tiberias with a visit to the tourist information office (visitors' center), to get an updated map and various informative brochures. 

The 'i' office  in Tiberias is located in an open-air archeological little park; it is actually housed inside old ruins of an ancient synagogue and that makes it quite an attraction.

the entrance to the  i  office

closer view of the visitors' center exterior

ruins of ancient synagogue adjacent to the visitors' center

Among the hotels, the Scottish Hotel, once an hospital, draws immediate attention. It is part of what's called the Scottish Compound which also includes a church and a round little square with a lovely tree in the middle. The hospital (now a hotel) was established in the 19th century by a young scottish doctor who felt his mission was to heal the people of the Holy Land. The hotel is a combination of old basalt stone buildings and a newer building.

the Scottish square and across it - the Scottish Hotel

the Scottish hotel from the adjacent side street .

The  St.Andrew church of Scotland

The contrast between old and new is seen quite clearly in the the preserved  remains of the old, ottoman  Watch Tower which stands in the modern street Habanim, the heart of the city. (See in the below pictures, the effect of the sky on the colour of the stones).

                            dark  remains of the old Watch Tower (cloudy sky)                                                                                                                                                                       
the defensive side of the Watch Tower   (bright sky)      

Situated on the promenade ,vis-a-vis the water level indicator, is the Pilgrims'  Residence hotel. Beautiful building with great views of the Lake from its balcony!

small hotel with great balcony and restaurant

the sign at the top reads: Pilgrims'  Residence

Also on the seafront promenade, in an historic renovated building, overlooking the Lake, is the charming hotel Shirat Hayam (The Song of the Sea).

Shirat Hayam hotel

* the picture in the header was taken at the small archeological park.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Lake Kinneret - Water Level Indicator.

We usually don't have snow or particularly nasty weather here in winter to discuss or write about. Our daily, favorite topic is ...the water level of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). This lake is Israel's only freshwater source, so we depend a lot on it, and its water level has become something of a national concern and, sometimes...a national joke.

The Lake - calm and peaceful

On Tuesday, I went on a day trip to Tiberias (Tveryia, in hebrew), the town on the western edge of Lake Kinneret.  Among other things, I 'paid a visit' to the water level indicator, located at the southern part of the Alon boardwalk.

see its contour of the lake

It was a  pleasant stroll along the promenade as the weather was fine, but when I arrived at my destination, I got 'surprised' by flies; they landed on my face and annoyed me. Well  -  warmth ,  a big body of water, and probably poor sanitary conditions in the surrounding area, did it for me (yes, bees, flies and mosquitos always pick Me up).

In the background- a church; rowing club in its yard

The  water surveyor, installed by the israeli water company "Mekorot", is an interesting sculpture with the shape of the lake, and some inner mechanism.  It's both, an enviromental work of art made of metal , and - a practical digital device for indicating the water level of the lake. I was impressed by its simplicity and practicality.

close to the water level indicator 

digit segment  led display in the upper right part of the device

On my way back to the town center, in the little open -air art park across the famous Scottish compound, I noticed a replica of the water level indicator made of stone  (sadly, it already had a big crack).


Saturday, December 2, 2017

At the Western Wall (HaKotel Hamaaravi)

No trip to Israel or Jerusalem is complete without being at the Western Wall -  a unique place of prayer for jewish and non -jewish visitors.  The wall , a fragment of the original Wall, is the only remnant of the Great Temple and therefore the most sacred structure to Jews who feel that the Divine Presence has not left the place with the destruction of the holy temple.

the golden Dome of the Rock in the background

the Wall seen from the main plaza 

elderly orthodox jew walking along the main square

I haven't been at the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall) in a long while, and that has bothered me. 
So, a week before the arrival of December - last month of the year and the first month of winter, I finally decided to go to Jerusalem and visit the Wall, have some praying near the ancient rocks and insert a written wish in a crack between them ,absorb the spiritual atmosphere dominating the place, look around to see what's new or changed on the site, and take a few pictures.

Welcome poster

Me (my head covered with a cap) praying.....

slips of paper with people's written wishes in the crevices of the wall

philipino women at the wall

Besides the massive crowds of visitors from all over the world, there are soldiers and policemen at the spot, to ensure security; also a lot of white plastic chairs for the elderly to sit and pray in comfort.

However, what immediately catches the eye is the separation between men and women, both at the entrance security Check, and  at the Prayer site near the wall . 

women's prayer section (see the greenish separating fence)

lots of white plastic chairs

women of all ages (girl, young  female soldiers, elderly women).

I don't mind the segregation itself ( in crowded places like this one, it prevents opportunities of minor sexual harassment , and that's good). I do mind, though, the fact that the women's prayer section is smaller than that of the men's section. Why this inequality?  In fact,during my visit (on a regular day, in the early afternoon hours), there were more women praying at the wall than men.

both prayer sections and the greenish fence between them

men's prayer section

People leaving the prayer site usually do so with the face to the wall, out of respect. It reminds me of our family female doctor who has once told me this: 'your father is a most remarkable person; he never leaves my office with the back to me'.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Coffee Seal

The main street in my hometown  has several centers with shops and offices, one of them named Sharon Center. The front of this building, facing the street, is a double attraction: a McDonalds and a coffee shop named Hotam Hakafe (Coffee Seal - in english translation from hebrew).

Two things make the above cafe special: one, the owner is a known expert on coffee and everything related to it; two, the place regularly hosts cultural events (lectures and music performances) enjoyed not only by customers, but also by passersby.The facade, and one side of the cafe, are all glass, so this enables people to view and hear the singers and instrument players that perform inside.

The coffee shop is tiny, but well designed. 
The back, green wall has at its one end a high quality coffee machine, glasses, cups and  light food items (pastry, snacks); at the other end - built in wood boxes and shelves displaying a variety of coffee brands. Some tables and chairs inside and outside complete the arrangement.

I love coffee. When I was young, I used to drink black strong coffee; later on, I switched to Nescafe (red mug) with a little milk. I prefer the decaffeinated version, but it's very expensive in our parts.
When I'm out, I usually have a cappucino. Most coffee shops make a decent cappucino.

Coffe shops always remind me of the last military campaign we had some three years ago. I was in Tel Aviv city near a cafe, when the alarm started to 'yell' and people were running for shelter; three men were sitting around a table outside, chatting and drinking as if nothing was happening around.

I threw an inquisitive look in their direction; one of them said to me laconically "if I am to die at least it'll be at my favorite cafe".
I thought then, and I think now, it was stupid , conceited behaviour on his part.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Best Business In Town

Electric bikes are a great invention, but also a great... headache. They cause "headaches" to many factors: pedestrians, car drivers, police, municipalities, ministry of transport, parents.

The fact that no driving license is required, and there are no fuel/ parking/ maintenance/storage  expenses, has made the battery-powered bike a very sought after vehicle both by adults and youngsters. Moreover, e-bikes come in light, compact and folding models and that makes them very appealing to people of all ages.The nice weather all year round also contributes to their popularity.

e-bike plus the battery (under seat post)

According to the law, e-bike riders should use  the off road only (bicycle paths and trails) . In reality, there's no one to enforce neither this law requirement, nor the law requirement that the e-bike rider be at least 16 years of age and wear a helmet. 

no helmet

The e-bike riders invade both the roads and the sidewalks,   On certain wide pavements there are bike lanes intended   for non-electrical cycles , but in reality these lanes too are 'flooded' with electrical ones, and so far, the police does nothing about it. 

sidewalk with pedestrian lane and cycle (non electric) lane

I live in a rather densely populated area, and I'm worried; first of all as a pedestrian. The e-bikes are very silent; one doesn't even hear them approaching you from the back, and their bell is not always operated. Secondly, I own a trike (a three wheel cycle - never learnt to ride a proper bicycle) for recreational purposes, but I seldom use it because of the jungle caused by the e-bikers in my area.

Nowadays, teenagers are seen either on  e-bikes or waiting for the bus/ car. They scarcely use a regular pedal bike or go on foot any more (no wonder excess weight has reached high proportion in these kids; gym workout at a later stage would not repair the damage).

Anyway, there are a lot of casualties among  e-bikers riding on the road along with car drivers, and among pedestrians knocked down by the e-bikers riding on the pavement. 

Sad situation. All parties involved  promise to solve problems (by imposing heavy fines, Import restrictions ,increasing informational publicity etc..) but in reality do nothing of the kind. In the meantime, the e- bike importers and bike shop owners make a lot of money. Electric bike shops pop up at every corner like mushrooms after rain. Apparently, the best business in town!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

YouTube and my Lucky Bamboos

Most of us know how helpful YouTube tutorials can be; they teach us how to fix things, how to grow things, how to overcome technical problems with the computer/ the sewing machine, how to prevent and treat health issues  etc...From this point of view, we live in really blessed times.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of awful videos out there. The presenter talks too much or too little, is out of focus, bad diction, doesn't look confident; the rhytm is too slow and monotonous, or too swift, the video leaves us with more questions than answers.

Nevertheless, if you're interested in a topic, I suggest that you check all of the YouTube videos (old and new)  that deal with your topic of interest, as you never know what little gem of information is 'hidden' in this or that apparently boring/ poor quality tutorial.

I'm very fond of the well- known plant Lucky Bamboo. So far I've got about thirty- five pieces. It's a nice decorative plant, it requires minimal care, it can be grown in water (with some pebbles to stabilize it),it can be offered as a gift (especially that it is said to bring Luck), it can even be prepared and sold at a small profit (high profit - only if it's a special arrangement of stalks).

Most of the YouTube videos about this plant are of no great quality, and yet, I've learnt a lot from them. For instance, I've learnt that in order to keep the plant healthy you have to use distilled water (not tap water which contains chloride), direct sunlight will kill it (fluorescent light, I noticed, makes it grow more rapidly), it can be propagated both through stalk cuttings and through its leaves (it takes a month or so to get results), it can be made to grow into an interesting, spiral or exotic  (and quite pricey) arrangement (personally, I like it as an individual upright plant). 

I  heartily recommend it as a hobby, despite the fact that some claim its leaves have a certain amount of toxicity and should be kept away from cats (?!) and babies . I find this asian plant fascinating and tend to adopt the view that it purifies the air and creates a positive, energetic atmosphere in the room.

propagation from a 'dead plant' - well explained