Archive | May, 2011

Giving “Same Old, Same Old” New Meaning

29 May

Last Column Standing at Beit She'an

This is the only column left standing erect after an earthquake in 749 CE devastated the city of Beit She'an. All others were toppled to the ground. Some have been set aright by restorers.

Columns toppled by an earthquake

Many of the columns toppled by the earthquake have been left as they were found by the archaeologists who excavated Beit She'an.

Sacred Compound

Sacred Compound

Public Lavatory

Public Lavatory

Mosaic Tile Floor in the Sigma Concourse

Mosaic Tile Floor in the Sigma Concourse

We visited Beit She’an National Park and saw the remains of a city with a 4,000-year-old history. Today what I found most amazing was not the antiquity of this particular site but the fact that this is the fifth or sixth site we’ve seen in the last six months — each boasting at least a 4,000-year history. And all these places are within a few hours drive from home. Why, one of them is within walking distance! And there are countless more sites for us to visit further north and further south.

Is it possible to become jaded from seeing such astounding sites on a regular basis? Well, I sure hope that doesn’t happen to me. So far, I’ve been more and more impressed with each site I visit.

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City Girl For A Day

24 May

I spent the entire day in Tel Aviv today making a few stops in different parts of  the city.  I drove in early to get a good parking spot at my first stop…and wouldn’t you know, I missed my turn. Luckily my wrong turn took me to the neighborhood where my Italian class is held so I was able to get back on the right road without too much difficulty. My first stop was a meeting to discuss a freelance job designing a logo. The meeting went well and I can’t wait to start on this project, which I can work on from home – yay!

After my meeting I headed to Dizengoff Square. I had been there just last Saturday and noticed a sign advertising an Antiques Market that takes place on Tuesdays and Fridays and I wanted to check it out. I also wanted another chance at photographing the Cinema Hotel. Today’s shots turned out much better than those on Saturday.

Sign advertising Antiques Market at Dizengoff Square

There are not many English-only signs in Tel Aviv.

Cinema Hotel

Cinema Hotel

I arrived a bit early for the market so I thought I’d grab an early lunch. I really wanted to eat at the restaurant in the Cinema Hotel but they are only open for breakfast until 10 a.m. They recommended Cafe Amelia just around the corner. Good recommendation. My tuna sandwich on Moroccan bread was yummy.

A Fine Lunch at a Sidewalk Cafe

A Fine Lunch at a Sidewalk Cafe

Finished lunch and the Market still wasn’t open so I decided to find a book store. I’ve been searching for a road atlas of Israel but have been having trouble finding one in English. I also wanted to stop in at SuperPharm to buy a bandaid for the blister that had begun to form on my heel. It was time to explore Dizengoff Center — a huge and confusing shopping complex near Dizengoff Square. It’s confusing because the stores are spread out between two buildings and there is no directory or map of the stores. I visited four book stores but could not find the atlas I’ve been looking for. And I eventually found and limped into the SuperPharm and purchased my bandaids.

Finally time to hit the market. It was fun. Lots of antiques and collectibles, vintage clothes, coins, stamps, postcards, etc. I made one purchase: a dreidel made of…well I don’t know what it’s made of. Some kind of metal but certainly not precious since it only cost 20 shekels (about $5). I’ve seen many different types of dreidels here. The one I got is a top but rather a flat one. Plus, it appears to be loaded! It always lands on the same side.

Antiques Market at Dizengoff Square

Antiques Market at Dizengoff Square

A Different Kind of Dreidel

A Different Kind of Dreidel

After the market I walked back to my car and then drove to my Italian class. I’m getting to know that neighborhood really well! Class was over around 4:45 p.m. Time to join rush hour traffic back home! I got a few chances to honk my horn loudly — driving is such fun over here. Home by 5:20 p.m. and welcomed back by two hungry kitties.

A Glimpse At Vintage Tel Aviv

22 May

Ben-Gurion's Kitchen

A Peek into David Ben-Gurion's Kitchen

Staircase in the Cinema Hotel

Looking down the staircase in the Cinema Hotel at an original film projector in the lobby.

Houses From Within is an annual event offering tours and access to public and private buildings in Tel Aviv-Yafo. I scoured their website on Friday, trying to choose which of the more than 100 locations I would visit the next day. My choices were quickly narrowed down to two locations where I felt comfortable driving to and finding parking: the Ben-Gurion House and the Cinema Hotel.

I arrived about 10 minutes late for the 10:00 tour of the Ben-Gurion House. But it really didn’t matter! The tour was in Hebrew only. (Just because the website descriptions were in English does not mean the tours would be conducted in English. Silly me!) I was given an English-language brochure and conducted a self-guided tour through the modest and compact house built in the 1930s and lived in by Ben-Gurion until his death in 1973. All the furnishings and decor were original but spare and modest. I would say most of the house was devoted to library space. My favorite room was the kitchen and my favorite things of all were the cool retro floor tiles.

A short walk from the Ben-Gurion house brought me to Dizengoff Square, site of the Cinema Hotel. The hotel was originally Cinema Esther, built in 1930 in the Bauhaus style. One of Tel Aviv’s first movie theaters, it is now a charming boutique hotel which pays homage to its origins by displaying original film projectors, movie posters and theater chairs. Film classics are screened in the lobby where popcorn is served.

There was quite a large crowd gathered to tour the Cinema Hotel. Again, the tour was in Hebrew only but this time there was no English-language brochure. I just tagged along with the crowd, usually walking ahead to take photos, but not wanting to venture too far off. The tour gave us access to areas that are usually off limits to non-hotel guests, including the marvelous view from the rooftop tanning lounge.

The Secret Life of Almonds

16 May

Fresh almonds

Almonds fresh from the tree

While shopping at the local produce store I came across a bin full of oblong shaped fruit with a green fuzzy skin. I inquired as to what they were and was surprised to learn they were almonds. This is what comes from being so removed from the source of our foods. I can only recognize almonds as the brown ridged nut that one always sees in the supermarket…or even in the health food store. Until today I’ve never seen them as they look fresh-plucked from the tree.

I was tempted to buy some but held back due to some other recent info I had gained about almonds. Not too long ago a friend informed me that there is a component of almonds that can cause cold sores. As one who is prone to cold sores, I was skeptical of her info. I’d always heard almonds are one of the healthiest foods one can eat and blithely went on snacking on my home-roasted almonds. Two weeks later I broke out in one of the worst cold sores I’ve ever had.

Coincidence? Did the power of suggestion bring on the outbreak or are almonds really cold sore inducing? Guess I’ll never know for sure.

Bougainvillea Gone Wild

15 May

Though native to South America, bougainvillea thrives in the Mediterranean region. The plant’s lack of fragrance is more than made up for by the intense coloration and profusion of its blooms.

Magenta Bougainvillea

Just around the corner from us


Bougainvillea and tree

One block over


Flowers in an alley

On Ha'gvura with hibiscus


Bougainvillea petals

Beautiful even in decline

There is a There There

9 May

Sculpture titled There

There by Ram Katzir

This sculpture sits on a grassy island in the center of a traffic circle at the intersection of Hanassi, Yehoshua Bin Nun and Medinat HaYehudim streets. It was my first landmark in Herzliya Pituach. In the days after we’d first arrived, I began to explore the neighborhood on foot. I never left the house without a map in hand, yet I was still comforted when I saw the statue. Then I knew I was only a few blocks from home and could easily make my way back, even if I hadn’t brought my map along.

You can’t tell by this photo but the statue looks identical from the front and the back. If you approach from one side you expect to see a face on the other. But the statue is faceless.

My impression of the sculpture is probably not what the artist intended but, for me, the sculpture brings to mind the Golem of Prague, a mythical being made of clay and brought to life by a 16th-century rabbi to protect the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks. But unlike that mythical Golem who became a violent monster, this Golem appears to me to be benign and a bit whimsical. I fancy he is carrying a child on his shoulders.

The sculptor is Ram Katzir, born in Tel Aviv but living and working now in Amsterdam. His title for the sculpture is There and the sculpture in Herzliya is not the only There there is. Click here to see the original There in a much more scenic setting. And click here for other versions of the statue.

Mystery Outside My Window

8 May

Baxter and Lulu Enjoy The View Outside My Studio Window

Baxter and Lulu Enjoy The View Outside My Studio Window

Canary Island Palm Dates

Canary Island Palm Dates


Date Palm Berries

Some of the date palm berries have become lodged in another plant


I chose a nice spot for my studio, a small room at the front of our house looking out onto our courtyard. The courtyard has been planted with palm and ficus trees as well as several other plants. The kitties love to visit me while I’m working at my computer and gaze out the window at birds and the occasional stray cat.

One day while working on my computer I heard a kerplunk right outside the window. I looked up, expecting to see one of the neighborhood kids whose ball had perhaps fallen in our yard. No kid in sight or any other source of the noise that I could fathom. Day after day, I’d hear a thunk here and a kerplunk there.

The mystery was solved when I stepped outside and examined the yard outside my window. A tall palm tree in our courtyard has been dropping little orange berries on the ground. Some of them have even lodged inside the leaves of another palm tree. And there were scores of old dried up berries on the ground.

Wikipedia tells me the palm tree is a Canary Island Date Palm but, alas, the dates are not edible. The tree is used frequently as an ornamental and is often trimmed to look like a pineapple.