Archive | June, 2011

Mahjong And More In Zichron Yaakov

29 Jun

mahjong tiles
I learned how to play mahjong while living in England. And now, more than five years later I’ve found a group of women who play mahjong here in Israel. This group meets in Zichron Yaakov, about a 45-minute drive north from Herzliya. The group plays by different rules than I learned in England. There’ll be a period of adjustment for me as I get used to these new rules, demonstrated resoundingly by my very first hand. The tiles in my opening hand were perfect for a game in England, but here they amounted to zilch.

Benjamin's Pool

Benjamin's Pool, built in 1891, to pipe water into the town so residents didn't have to carry water from the springs.

After a couple of rounds of mahjong we went into the Zichron Yaakov town center for lunch. I was thoroughly charmed by Zichron Yaakov. It sits perched on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. The town was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild and named in honor of his father, James (Jacob) Mayer de Rothschild. (Zichron Yaakov means Jacob’s memorial in Hebrew.) The Baron helped the settlers succeed in their agricultural endeavors. Two of Israel’s best wineries, Carmel and Tishbi, were founded in Zichron. These days the town center has a bohemian atmosphere, boasting boutiques selling crafts and jewelry, coffeehouses and restaurants all in a picturesque setting.

Wall bedecked with flower pots

Wall bedecked with flower pots


We had lunch at one of the Tishbi winery restaurants. The menu is vegetarian and kosher. (I had a yummy couscous salad.) It was a lovely day and we sat outside enjoying our food but feeling sorry for the scrawny cats that wandered between the tables hoping for scraps of food to fall their way. One of my dining companions made sure some did. Inside the restaurant a wide array of Tishbi wines are for sale and I learned that if I brought an empty wine bottle I could get it filled with the house wine and corked for just 19 shekels ($5.50). Such a deal!

Ceramics embedded into wall

Clever decorations embedded into a wall


We wandered through the town center for a bit after lunch and popped into a few of the stores. I was most impressed by Tutneyar, a shop selling handmade paper. A wide selection of beautiful handmade papers were on display and many had been fashioned into clever lampshades, booklets and other uses. They conduct papermaking demonstrations and I just may go back to participate in one.

Indeed, there are many reasons to return to Zichron Yaakov.

Zichron Yaakov water tower

The Baron himself looms large on the Zichron Yaakov watertower.

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Curious Visitor

21 Jun

Red dragonfly

Here's looking at you, kid!


Red dragonfly

I think this might be a ruddy darter


Red dragonfly

Was he attracted to the rust on the plant stand?

I spotted this dragonfly the other day when I stepped out onto our back patio. I tiptoed as close to him as I dared and began taking photos. I was amazed at how close he let me come. He would fly away at times then return to the rusted old plant stand.

A Day at the Cinema

19 Jun

Cinema City

Cinema City at Ramat HaSharon

Elvis and Hanna

Elvis rocks out near a poster for the movie "Hanna"

Cinema City

Display of movies airing at Cinema City at the entrance to the mall area

Yesterday I went to see Hanna at Cinema City. It’s the second movie I’ve seen in a movie theater since we moved here. Both times I went to Cinema City in Ramat HaSharon, a multiplex with 18 screens housed in a shopping mall. It was one of the few public places alive with action on Shabbat when most shops and restaurants are closed. Hanna is an action/thriller, about a 16-year-old girl who has been raised by her father in a remote location in Norway, has never had contact with the outside world and has been trained to be an assassin. Preposterous premise, right? But it was well acted, action-packed with a few comic moments and surprise twists. Movies are usually shown in the original language with Hebrew subtitles. Great, this movie was made in the U.S. so no language problem, right? But the movie changes locale frequently; some of the scenes that take place in Morocco were spoken in Arabic, so I missed out on that, but did okay with the German dialog that took place in Berlin.

In Israel, or at least in Cinema City, one gets an assigned seat when purchasing a ticket. Tickets for the 3:50 p.m. matinee were 38 shekels ($11). I paid 19 shekels ($5.50) for the smallest tub of popcorn (tasty but oversalted). I rather like having an assigned seat. I chose an aisle seat and, since I arrived while the commercials were running, I was able to easily slip into my seat without having to peer around the theatre to see what was available. Yes, just as in the U.S., they run endless commercials before the movie starts, and then several trailers.

Choices for moviegoing in Herzliya are pretty good. There is an art house cinema in Herzliya called Cinematheque which I hope to go to some day, as well as a small theater in one of the hotels at the beach which generally plays arty/foreign films. There’s another cinema complex at Seven Stars Mall with more typical blockbuster fare.

Chasing the Moon

16 Jun

Full Moon

Full Moon on June 15, 2011, at 8:33 p.m. in Herzliya

Lunar Eclipse of June 15, 2011

Lunar Eclipse in progress at 10:02 p.m., June 15, 2011, Herzliya

A post on facebook alerted me to the impending lunar eclipse that took place last night. The post said the eclipse would begin around 8 p.m., so at 7:30 p.m. I grabbed my camera and headed towards the beach. It’s just a 15-minute walk from the house. And what a lovely romantic sight that would be! A total lunar eclipse over the Mediterranean. (Too bad hubby’s away on business.)

I made it to the shore and stood atop a platform where an elevator transports passengers to the beach. I scanned the sky, looking across the sea, searching for the moon. I turned around away from the sea and gasped. There it was, full and sitting low on the horizon, glowing red from the setting sun. It brought to mind Cosmo’s moon in the movie Moonstruck.

And yes, it was full. No shadows crossing its face. What? Did I miss it already? Couldn’t be. It’s supposed to be one of the longer eclipses, lasting about 100 minutes.

I headed back home and hopped on the internet. Ahhh… The eclipse would be at its greatest at 8 p.m. UTC time which is 11 p.m. Tel Aviv time. Time to relax before the big event.

I popped outside between 9:30 and 10 p.m. and caught the beginning of the eclipse. It was a wonderful sight even though I was simply standing on a street corner and not along the shore of the Med.

I went back inside with intentions of catching the final stages of the eclipse a little later. But fifteen minutes later clouds had rolled in, obscuring the moon.

Our Very Own Bougainvillea

9 Jun

I’ve been admiring the many gorgeous bougainvillea plants in our neighborhood, most of which are adorned with copious blooms* of brilliant color. Imagine my surprise when the ugly duckling of a plant in our front courtyard began to sprout delicate but radiant flowers. Why, we have our own bougainvillea bush! I call it an ugly duckling of a plant because only until its recent metamorphosis it appeared as a gangly, sorry sort of plant that had managed to grow tortuously in and around the bars of our garage window. The branches sport deadly sharp thorns. Pruning the thing required the utmost care to prevent the drawing of blood. But with these unexpected blooms the plant is suddenly a beauty. We probably need to do more pruning to really let the plant come into its full potential. But in the meantime more and more colorful blooms keep popping out.

*as explained in an earlier post, not really flowers but specialized leaves called bracts.

View from our kitchen window

As seen from our kitchen window

Bougainvillea thorn

One of those deadly thorns

Bougainvillea plant in our front courtyard

As seen from outside the house. The arrow points to where the plant has grown in and around the bars of the garage window.

First Adventure With Peppino

7 Jun

Today I took Peppino out for our first drive outside Herzliya. My destination was the Italian Ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan. The members of my Italian class, had been invited to a mid-morning coffee hosted by Stefania Mattiolo, the Italian Ambassador’s wife. I didn’t drive all the way to Ramat Gan but just as far as Ramat HaSharon. I parked Peppino in front of Liliane’s house who drove us to la Residenza. Liliane is a very nice woman I’ve met through the IWC. I learned today that her husband is a former ambassador to Israel from a South American country. They have been living in the Tel Aviv district since the 1960s.

Italian Ambassador's Residence in Israel

La Residenza

We had a lovely time at the Italian residence. Stefania served up some great strong coffee and tasty appetizers, both sweet and savory. I believe everyone of our group of eleven had a chance to chat directly with Stefania. She is friendly and personable — we are all on a first-name basis with her. I took the opportunity to inquire about interesting places to visit on my upcoming visit to Italy in November.

Italian Ambassador's Residence in Israel

La Residenza

Later, we all gathered for a group photo and then Stefania invited us all to a Gala Evening she will be hosting later this month in support of the Italian synagogue in Jerusalem, said to be one of the most exquisite in Israel.

My Italian Class

My Italian Class at La Residenza


Our gathering came to a close around noon. I rode back to Ramat HaSharon with Liliane and then Peppino and I headed back to Herzliya. I missed a turn going home and ended up on some back roads near the beach in Herzliya. It took me a while to figure my way back but I had fun getting to know how to handle Peppino.

Meet Peppino, My New Best Buddy

6 Jun

Fiat Panda front

Fiat Panda rear

We bought a second car! It’s a 2005 Fiat Panda. I call him Peppino. Ain’t he cute? He’s very small, perfect for driving around in on the streets of Tel Aviv and zipping into parking spaces the Toyota can only dream of. I just got him today and am still getting used to driving him. Such a different feel from the Camry.

Peppino and I will head into Tel Aviv tomorrow. The Italian Ambassador’s wife has invited the members of my Italian class to a coffee at the Italian Ambassador’s Residence. I’m excited but nervous. It’s in a part of town I’m not very familiar with. Wish me “buona fortuna!”

Fiat Panda Car of the Year 2004

I don't mean to brag, but Peppino comes with excellent credentials!