Foto Friday – We “Like” Kibbutz Shitufi Hanukkah photos!

Whether religious or secular, Israelis love Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. What’s not to love? Like all mid-winter festivals, it celebrates with song, dance and, of course, special delicacies, the light that brightens up the dark of winter.

This year, the Kibbutz Shitufi (the Communal Kibbutz movement) initiated a photo competition honoring the special way in which Hanukkah is celebrated on kibbutz. The competition page on Facebook invited people to upload photos, contemporary and from days gone by. The winners are, naturally, those who will get the most “Likes” and there are still a few hours left before voting closes.

The fields of Kibbutz Alumim provide a dramatic setting for this grand-scale Hanukkia…
Photo by Rafi Babian, Kibbutz Alumim

As always, the children’s performance — in the traditional candle headdress (here updated in fluorescent Day-Glo) — is a centerpiece of the first night of Hanukkah on kibbutz…
Photo by Shimon Mantel, Kibbutz Degania Bet

Hanukkah on Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek is tinged with sadness. The Svivon sculpture at the kibbutz was designed by artist Ora Ben-tov in memory of a tragedy that happened at Hanukkah during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Mishmar HaEmek was bombarded from the air and three children and one women were killed. The statue of this children’s toy, part of a game traditionally played at Hanukkah, was erected 30 years later in their memory.

Photo by Imri Ron, Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek

Hope emerges in the form of a dramatic sunburst that breaks through the winter sky over Hashmonaim, a community named for the Maccabees, heroes of the Hanukkah story.

Photo by Nava Feldman, Hashmonaim

Bringing us back down to earth in true agrarian style, this Hanukkia at Kibbutz Revivim makes good use of the winter pepper harvest!

Photo by Menashe Levy, Kibbutz Revivim

A few words about the Kibbutz Shitufi: It is one of the three types of kibbutzim operating in Israel today, and the one that still preserves a cooperative system. About 60 kibbutzim (~27%) define themselves as fully communal. (Read more about the changes in the kibbutz system in Jessica’s posting from 2010).

There’s still time to vote for your favorites on the Kibbutz Shitufi Facebook page. Good luck to the winners and best wishes for a Happy Hanukkah to all!

8 Israeli wines for lighting up Hannukah nights

December 7, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Food, Holidays 


Hannukah, the holiday of light is upon Israel again. Starting Saturday night, December the 8th, for eight holy days the Jewish people of Israel will celebrate Hannukah. Because the holiday revolves around celebrating a mystery of oil: where one night’s oil burned for eight days in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Jews everywhere celebrate the eight-day holiday by eating oily foods like latkes (fried potatoes) or souvangyiot (a jelly filled doughnut). But now that Israeli is becoming known for its tradition of wine (not yet on conventional wine store shelves though, I thought I’d introduce you to some wine made in Israel that I like; some wines which are traditional, organic, award-winning or just typically Israeli.

1. Yin patish. While not at all popular with any wine connoisseurs I know, I am a big fan of that cheap, regular super-sweet wine that religious Jews drink when they celebrate Shabbat. It’s thick, syrupy, and if you get your hands on it when you are in the army (hence the nickname yin patish or hammer wine), it can leave you with a terrible headache in the morning if you imbibe too much. I love sipping it out of the kiddush cup. Any brand will do. Right now I have King’s Wine in my fridge. Read more

Nostalgia Sunday – Pal-Bell & other menorahs

When I was growing up, lighting candles on Hanukkah was always a major event with each child assigned their own menorah to light. Prominent among the collection of traditional branch candelabras was a brass menorah of a different design: a tall single-handled jar flanked by a double olive branch and surrounded by a semicircle of oil burning lamps. Into these we would shove wax candles.

But up until now, I did not realize the “olive branch” menorah’s provenance as one of the most popular designs to come out of the Pal-Bell workshop, which produced some of the most important Israeliana of the pre-State and early Satehood periods.

Pal-Bell was founded by Hungarian-born designer and sculptor Maurice Ascalon (1913–2003) who came to pre-State Israel in 1934 after formal artistic training in Brussels and Milan. According to Wikipedia, “In the late 1930s, Ascalon founded an Israeli decorative arts manufacturing company, Pal-Bell, which produced trademark bronze and brass menorahs and other Judaic and secular decorative art and functional items that were exported in large numbers worldwide.

“Maurice Ascalon’s well-recognized designs, some art deco, others more traditional, introduced the use of a deliberate, chemically induced green patina (verdigris) to Israeli metalwork, which is now a hallmark of Israel’s crafts industry.”

“During Israel’s War for Independence in 1948, Maurice designed munitions for the Israeli Army and, at the request of the Israeli government, retrofitted his factory to produce munitions for the war effort.”

According to the official Pal-Bell website, the company’s products “were a favorite of tourists visiting Israel, especially during the early 1950s, which saw the company’s height of production. Pal-Bell also exported a large quantity of its items worldwide, primarily to the United States and Britain, where they were sold in retail stores. Pal-Bell’s two factories, located on the outskirts of Tel-Aviv, towards Jaffa, employed as many as 100 people.”

“In 1948, during Israel’s War for Independence, in order to assist Israel’s efforts, Ascalon re-tooled the factories to manufacture munitions and bomb detonators for Israel’s armed forces.”

“In 1956, Maurice Ascalon relocated his family to the United States, where he co-founded Ascalon Studios, an art and design studio specializing in worship spaces and public sculpture. In February 2003, Ascalon celebrated his 90th birthday in Curnavaca, Mexico, where he had resided for the past several years. In August 2003, after a full life, Ascalon passed away as a result of complications after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.”

“Today, Pal-Bell originals are highly valued collectables among Judaica, metalware and tobacciana enthusiasts.” (The top three photos are of Pal-Bell and Maurice Ascalon).

Items by Pal-Bell and other workshops will be put on display this week at the Eretz Israel Museum, as part of an exhibition called “Judaica artifacts produced in Eretz Israel, 1880-1967″. The exhibit deals with “the development of local Israeli culture, the changes made by the waves of immigration and their impact on the shape and symbolism of the Judaica artifacts; the renewed ties of the people with its land; the creation of the new Jew, the halutz and the sabra, in contrast with the atmosphere of the Diaspora.”

The exhibit has homemade Hanukkah menorahs fashioned from gun butts and bullets, and brave soldiers made of brass. Though not as sophisticated as Pal-Bell products, these Hebrew Judaica artifacts are charming and, as curator Nitza Baharuzi Baroz writes, “relate to the landscape of the homeland, biblical topics and figures of heroes as a symbol of heroism and national pride such as the Maccabees.”

Some can also still be purchased — perhaps even in time for Hanukkah next week — not new but used on eBay.

Rockets, babies and no vacations in Sinai

November 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, Holidays, Life 

holiday, travels and vacations in Sinai, Egypt, beach sinai
I wish was on a beach in Sinai right now

I gave birth two weeks ago and at my new son’s brit mila (circumcision party) me and some women were sharing our birth stories. We heard from his great aunt about her son’s birth during the Gulf War in Israel in the early 90s. As she was wheeled in to the birth room, the nurses were laying down wet towels on the floor to keep out any noxious gas that Saddam Hussein might be sending Israel’s way. They plunked a gas mask on her face, and straight away after the birth she was sent home. Her story had me reeling in laughter, not because it was really *funny* but because how preposterous it seemed to be wearing a gas mask during labor, compared to how normal life in Tel Aviv had become.

That changed a few days ago.

Holding my newborn, and my mom my with my toddler, we heard a strange sound a few days ago. Quieter than the test runs, it was indeed a siren wailing. It was the first time in 12 years that I heard one “for real” in Tel Aviv. Keeping composed as not to frighten her, I calmly told Mom that it was a rocket siren and that we should move quickly to the safe room downstairs. Since we have had the the unfortunate experience of running down the stairs once a day or more, should a rocket explode nearby. Today, in the nearby town of Rishon Lezion, where rockets seem to be falling more frequently, I found myself huddling with shoppers and sales clerks from the Shilav baby store where we went to buy a car seat. I nursed my baby in a bomb shelter, and he didn’t even flinch. Read more

Help kickstart Dry Bones

Even cartoon characters are getting into the digital age. The longest running Israeli comic strip, Dry Bones, created by local legend Yaakov Kirschen, has appeared in The Jerusalem Post since 1973, using humor to comment on the issues facing Israel and the Jewish people

Kirschen’s work has been quoted and reprinted by everyone from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The International Herald Tribune, to Forbes, Time Magazine and Newsweek.

Now, Kirschen’s dream of creating a Passover Haggada with his characters is getting a modern boost, via Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowd-funding platform for creative projects. In a Kickstarter project launched this week, Kirschen is hoping to raise $5,000 to create the new Haggada.

“After the project went online, but even before I told anybody about it, I received seven donations,” Kirschen told me in amazement this week, adding that the Haggada was a perfect subject for Dry Bones’ brand of ironic Jewish humor.

“Even the first identifiably Jewish joke can be found in the story of the Exodus: ‘Are there no graves in Egypt, that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?’ Exodus 14:11,” he said.

In a press release, Kirschen explaine that creating a Dry Bones Haggada has been a long-held dream.

“I always thought of it as a personal project and so it got put on hold, time and time again. Then I saw that this year could be ‘different from all other years,’ the year that I would fulfill my dream. I could use Kickstarter to reach out globally to fans of Dry Bones to make the Haggada a reality. The Jewish community is spread out across the world but we’re all on the Internet.”

The Dry Bones Kickstarter project, like all their others, works on an all-or-nothing basis. Project creators set a funding goal and deadline. Interested funders pledge money; if the project reaches its goal, the backers’ credit cards are charged. If the project falls short, no one is charged. If successful, the backers are rewarded for their pledges, no matter how small.

“The beauty of micro-funding,“ Kirschen explained, “is that anyone can participate. We’ve set a range of rewards for our backers – pledge even one dollar and we’ll recognize that gift with a certificate. Pledge $10 or more and you’ll get an unprotected eBook (pdf) of the completed Haggadah, and we have gifts of original artwork and more.”

The Dry Bones Passover Haggadah project closes on November 16. If you want to have a jolly Pessah next year, go make your pledge now!

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