Monday, April 24, 2017

Yom Hashoah in Meitar


Yom Hashoah, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, began last night.
In my small town the main commemoration began in the basketball hall.
It was packed; everybody showed up; some had to sit on the stairs or the floor or to stand.
Seven plain white silhouette human figures were evident in the background.
The message written on the wall was our imperative to somehow draw out the lines of their faces, i.e. not to see the victims as "THE six million," but rather as six million individual faces.

And while the presentation went on -- candle lighting by several survivors, prayers, a psalm, songs, a dance, readings -- all the while artistic high school students were indeed sketching in faces and clothing.
See the difference between the first and second photos?  Quite amazing, and very moving.

The talented and serious youth were in charge of the commemoration.
What a blessing they are.

In closing we all stood and sang Hatikva, feeling especially grateful to now be living in our own free and strong country.
Let us remember the lost generations in Europe who went before us.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A young olive tree in a roundabout


Meitar has many roundabouts and each one has its own beauty and character.
One single olive tree.
It will grow.

Shabbat shalom and happy Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Watch the wind

Walk four minutes down my street and you will abruptly be in the wilderness. 
Here's a little video I made on a windy afternoon, just because the golden grass was rippling in waves so gracefully.
What was all green during the winter rains now becomes golden and soon, in the long dry summer everything will be brown. 


When I walk alone in the desert at this season I can't help but sing an appropriate song from my youth:

Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain
And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.
Oklahoma, Ev'ry night my honey lamb and I
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk
Makin' lazy circles in the sky.

We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand!

You can hear it on YouTube
 (As you may have guessed, I'm linking to ABC Wednesday's O Day and to SkyWatch Friday.)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Splitting the waters

Today is the 7th and last day of Pesach.
We remember how on that day Moses led the newly-forming Jewish People out of Egypt through the split waters of the sea.

"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)
Whichever holiday you are celebrating today, have a happy and meaningful one! 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Nice seder last night


Nice neighbors invited me to their long and bountiful seder table last night.

No noodles in the chicken soup; that's forbidden food all this Passover week.
Fluffy matza balls are much much better anyway! 

I brought to the seder a box of three special hand-made matzas from Kfar Chabad. 
The historic bakery in Kfar Chabad is the world's largest producer of hand-make matzot. 

Matza shmurah is baked quickly in a brick oven like in the picture. 
Its interesting story is explained in my post from last Pesach. 
But the main thing, as the box says, is "Get a taste of freedom," freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt and from all kinds of things that shackle our growth today.
Chag sameach--happy Pesach! 
(Linking to ABC Wednesday.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Still green, to the flock's delight


Sheep grazing next to Meitar Forest!
(Enlarge the photo to see them better.)
For this lovely scene I have only to walk five minutes from my place here in the Negev town of Meitar.
I've lived here for several years and go out hiking often, but this is only the second time that I have sighted the flock.
The first time was in this post, where you can meet the young Bedouin shepherd and his charges.
Shabbat shalom.
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday and Camera Critters.)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The palm tree is gone


Last week a local family's front yard grass, hedge, and tall palm tree were suddenly on fire, from an unknown cause.
In the previous post we wondered if it could be spontaneous combustion, but maybe not.
Yesterday a private garden crew came to cut down the blackened tree.
The chainsaw made quick work out of the upper half of the palm.


Watch how they lifted it over the fence and onto the sidewalk.

Still a little bit of green leaves at the very top of the blackened crown.


Watch and hear how they saw the lower half.

"Timber!"  -- over it goes.

And the second "log" comes out to the sidewalk.

All that's left,  black ashes surrounding a sawdust covered stump of a palm tree that had been growing for decades.

Today our local council's green clean-up crew picked up the wood and swept the sidewalk clean.
And here endeth the lesson.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday.  Letter M is for motor saw, which is how most European languages call the chainsaw.)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Spontaneous combustion? -- A palm in flames


WET is the City Daily Photo topic for today's Theme Day.
We have not much rain and no bodies of water here in my corner of Israel's Negev desert.
But the other day, a hot dry chamsin day, our town suddenly saw a lot of water--not from the sky but from fire hoses!
The crown of a palm tree suddenly burst into flames.
SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION?!  It is a known phenomenon especially in palms.

Soon the whole trunk and the hedge were burning.
Our Meitar Bitachon/Security team (bless them!) were on the scene quickly and rolled out their hoses.

The police and Fire Department arrived too.

Two firemen suited up and went to work.

At the end, our local hoses had themselves to be hosed down to clean the black soot off them.

The now leafless and blackened dead palm will hopefully be cut down soon.
That's a scary thing, trees suddenly bursting into flame for no good reason.
I hope never to see such a thing again.
See Palm Trees as Fire Hazards, a useful page of advice, photos, and a video link by a California fire department.

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.

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!