Sunday, May 31, 2009

Literal Videos

This morning I discovered a whole new (for me) YouTube phenomenon called "literal videos". Check out the literal video of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart".

The totally lame original is here for those of you too young to have been subjected to it when it first came out. There are quite a few of these literal videos on YouTube. I also like "Losing My Religion". This all originated with some guy called DustomcNeato, you can see his originals on his DustFilms website. I feel it's my job to point these things out.

No Smoking

I'm tired today. I have little energy. Perhaps I'm getting sick. I have no strength to blog. I should rant and rave about Dudu Topaz's (famous Israeli entertainer) arrest in connection with the beating of a number of TV execs. I assume they did not like his show. Better yet I should have blogged about, the Knesset rejecting the "loyalty oath" proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu. This bill stated that all those who wish to retain their citizenship declare their loyalty to Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and will serve Israel either through military service or some alternative. This bill blatantly targets Israel's 20% Arab minority. I do like the following quote of Avishay Braverman, Minority Affairs Minister who hoped "bills such as this one will not be brought before this government or any future government, and sanity will once again play a role in the governing of the state of Israel." Since when has sanity had anything at all to do with governing Israel?

The big news around our house is that tomorrow, June 1, blackwifeo is giving up smoking. So am I. This will not be easy and I expect all of you (OK, both of you) that read this to provide support and encouragement. She is rather nervous and worried and full of self-doubt, its funny, because we all know she can do it. So if she's a little snappier and grumpier than usual, have patience peter. I, on the other hand, should have no trouble, I give up all the time.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tel Beer Sheva

The boy wanted to go to the desert. Seeing as we covered "Cultic Practices In The South" in our archeology lecture on Tuesday, I figured we may as well go visit Tel Beer Sheva. The Tel was awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO (along with Megiddo and Hazor) in 2005. Off we set, at 6am this morning.
During excavation of the site this "horned altar" was uncovered. Interestingly, the altar stones were incorporated into one of the storehouse walls. It's believed that around 701 BCE, King Hezekiah of Judah abolished certain cultic practices as part of a religious reform (2 Kings 18:1-4). The altar, the original is in the Israel Museum, was probably destroyed during this period and its stones reused in the wall.

Most of archeology reflects the remains of Iron Age "stratum 2", more or less at the time of the first temple. Much of the site has been reconstructed and the walls rebuilt, with lines showing their original height. I prefer sites that are less rebuilt, where the archeology is left as is. There is a very nice tower in the middle of the site. It gives a great view of the whole site.

Of course, there is a water system. At the main gates the residents dug a 70M well to reach ground water. The shafts and reservoir of a large water system have been carefully uncovered and partially restored. It's impressive. The reservoir itself was cut out of the rock by hand. A huge amount of work.

As usual we arrived a little early (the site opens at 8am) and were sitting around when Chen drove up with the keys. She went inside the ticket office and let out a scream. She found a mouse in the cash register. So needless to say the boy and I were enlisted to trap the rodent. We weren't successful. We tried again before we left, seeing as we were still the only visitors. No luck. Maybe if we had caught it Chen would have let us in for free (It only cost 13NIS a person).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mercy's Buttermilk Rusks

Saul's mom Mercy made the best rusks. Growing up I remember going to Saul's house in Walmer and hoping that his mother had made rusks. They are hard and crunchy, sweet and milky. After we moved to Israel, I set about trying to fnd out how to make these. Blackmothero came to the rescue. She spoke to Roselie, Steven's mom, who live near Saul's back in the old country. Roselie had the recipe. So my mom wrote it down, in code (or in her own handwriting, which can be used as code). See: Note: These rusks are enjoyed by young and old. If your teeth aren't up to it, they "toonk" well in tea. They are especially beloved by babies as they are very hard and can be gnawed on for hours.

Ingredients: Aniseed and/or Raisins and/or Nuts
3 lbs (1.3kg or 8 cups) Self Raising Flour3 Cups Buttermilk
1 1/3 Cups Sugar1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vinegar1/2 lb (225g) Margarine or Butter
Yolk of 1 egg 2 Heaped tsp Baking Powder

Sift the self-raising flour into a big basin. The rub the butter (or marg) into the flour until there are no lumps. (I do this by hand but my mother used to use a Kenwood). Add the salt and the Baking Power and mix thoroughly.

In a cup beat the egg yolk and vinegar, and put it aside. Pour the buttermilk and sugar into a pot and stir while warming to a little hotter than tepid (not very scientific). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the egg and vinegar.

Now add all the liquid to the flour mixture in the big basin. When mixed in, pour the gooey mess onto a flat surface and start kneading. Knead "well" until the dough is smooth. Check it out:At this point I usually section the dough into three for plain, aniseed and raisin rusks. Knead in a few handfuls of aniseed, making sure they are distributed well. Do the same with the raisins and/or nuts. Now grease a deep baking pan, the instructions say use two 5"x12" tins, but I use the one we have. Roll off balls of the dough and place them into the pan so the touch one another.Heat the oven to 325 Degrees F (165 Degrees C). Cover the tin with aluminum foil and cook for 15mins then for a further 30 mins (or until brown on top). While the rusks are still warm, break them apart and lay them on a large pan. Leave them in a cool oven (75 degrees C) overnight until completely hard and dry. Enjoy the crunch with coffee or tea.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Who is who?

So which is the real Dr. Evil?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

No More Knives

I realized there's another money saving reason to to be vegetarian this evening during dinner. Vegetarians do not need knives to eat their food. All we need are forks and spoons. At the table the family could think of no vegetarian food that requires knives to eat. (We always eat dinner at the table with place settings and everything, right). True, you need a few kitchen knives for food preparation. You need a bread knife, a paring knife to aid in grapefruit segmentation (thanks bso) and a vegetable knife for chopping salads. But, you never need add a knife to a vegetarians place setting at the table. We have no hard steak to cut, no chicken to debone and degrizzle. Even fake veggie chicken breast is soft enough to eat with a fork.

So should you choose vegetarianism, you can toss most of your knives. You really should still keep one or two to spread Marmite on your toast.

And there you thought I had no good ideas on how to survive the current recession.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gillian Welch

Not much needs to be said about this song. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings have played together for many years. Rawling plays a 1935 Epiphone Olympic which was thought of as being rather low end in its day. It all goes to show, I think it is one of the cleanest sounding acoustics I have ever heard. Unfortunately the sound quality on this clip is not great, do yourself a favor and listen to Welch's album "Revival". Her voice, their harmonies and the guitar work is wonderful. I love this song, the detail and the imagery are perfect.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I was born and grew up in Port Elizabeth (PE) in South Africa. I have not been back to SA since 1984 and, in truth, I have no real desire to. But, I often think of PE. I sometimes dream about being back there, and of course, it's just as I left it. Sometimes I can smell the salty wind that blew each afternoon, and often in the early mornings I can hear the birds outside my window on Mill Park Road.

Lately these memories have been sharpened. A while back my brother pointed me to the Port Elizabeth Daily Photo website. Every day this guy called Firefly posts a picture of Port Elizabeth, it's people, places and events. Its become a daily ritual for me. Each morning, I get my coffee and sit down at my machine and wander back 30 plus years to my perfect youth. Some of the pictures stir up vivid memories. Like this one of the Willows. We held countless Habonim seminars and getaways in those cabins. My first serious kiss took place during a weekend seminar, laying around and listening to the sea. Below is another picture that whisked me back to those warm summer nights during school holidays. Looking at the lights of Happy Valley below, I can hear the croaking frogs and hear the gentle murmur of the Baakens river. It was a magical place.

Every morning I silently thank Firefly for his excellent pictures. It's wonderful that can I travel back more than three decades and thousands of miles for a few seconds every day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I see on Ynet (Israeli news site) that all the trains in Israel have been halted since 18:15 tonight, because of a fault in the central control office. Now it seems to me that the trains here have way more issues than necessary. They are always repairing the track or going on strike or just generally not working. Last week I took the train from Herzliya to the kid's school. It's one stop. Cost 11 NIS. The train arrived on time, but was completely full with people standing all over. The trip was uneventful but for some poor chap who thought I was the train conductor and could tell him where he could get water and how long to Netanya South. I told him this was the first time I had been on a train in Israel and had no idea. "Oh", he said, "You just started working today". So I just gave up, I pointed him to the toilet behind us and told him its two stops to Netanya.

My major complaint about the trains is the unreasonably long wait in the car at train crossings. You often have to wait more than three minutes, especially if there are trains coming in opposite directions. I once called and complained and they told me the trains need to stop for this long because of suicides. I swear. Someone once committed suicide by jumping in front of a train in Kfar Shmiryahu. So now the barriers go down for three minutes, there is a guard physically posted at the crossing whenever the trains are running and they installed a special radar to warn of obstacles on the track (It messes with BBC reception on AM). All this to stop suicides. Surely if you want to commit suicide by jumping in front of a train, you won't let radar stop you. Perhaps the plan is that during the long wait at the barriers suicides will reconsider.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


In keeping with our recent Saturday tradition, the boy and I visited the ancient city of Zippori (or here for Hebrew) this morning. We set out at 6am as usual and followed Phillipa the GPS's directions, we promptly got totally lost in Nazareth but still managed to arrive at Zippori before the gates opened.

We were the first visitors of the day, we paid our 25NIS each and had the whole park to ourselves for two hours. I have never seen Zippori before and I found it stunning. The mosaics are breathtaking, I enjoyed every second of the visit. Nothing I could write can do justice to the craftsmanship of the Roman mosaic artists (click on the pictures to get larger versions). There are hundreds of different works, each spectacular. What are these guys doing, drinking, talking or gambling?
Many of the floors designs are as timeless as anything you would see today. Look at these perfect geometrical designs

Zippori was destroyed by an earthquake in 363 CE and many of the floors only partial pictures, but somehow that only enhances their beauty . Zippori was destroyed and rebuilt many times during it's history. Originally thought to have been built during the time of the first temple, Zippori was conquered by the Romans around 55 BCE. For many years it was a mixed Jewish, Roman settlement.
Rabbi Judah Hanasi moved here with the Sanhedrin and built many synagogues and it is here that he reputedly wrote down the Mishnah. During the Byzantine period, churches were built and the Crusaders built a fortress.

The Dionysus House, a mansion that was destroyed in the 363 CE earthquake, houses the famous mosaic of "Mona Lisa of the Galilee", it is stunning. I was fascinated with the Roman era toilets, complete with bathroom tiles.

We visited the ancient synagogue and the Roman theater. Here blacksono is looking back in time at a Roman passion play .

On our way out we stopped at the water reservoir. I have developed a fascination for ancient water systems in this dry land. The aqueduct was cut into a fault in the rock and spans 250M. It was a wonderfully cool walk down in the tunnels. Incredible to think this all was carved out by hand.

As usual there was all sorts of wildlife out in the early morning. This guy has probably seen it all.

All in all I recommend Zippori. The mosaics alone make it worthwhile.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Friday is always a difficult blog day for some reason. So I think having a theme will help. So from now on it's "Food Friday" (until it isn't). We had a huge Friday night dinner here, but that not today's subject. No, today I'm going to show you how we make jachnoon.

Brian taught me this, he knows, as he is married to a Yemenite. Jachnoon is a traditional Yemenite dish, prepared Friday and cooked overnight on low heat and eaten Saturday (therefore not breaking the Sabbath). Like most Yemenite dishes jachnoon is made from flour and margarine. We (and almost everyone else in Israel) buys it frozen at the super. As you can see we only use the highly recommended "Opera" brand.

Firstly, you line the bottom of the tin (a juchnoon tin costs 27NIS about $7) with bread. I'm using an old pita as we are currently out of bread. It's believed that this absorbs some of the run off marg and makes the jachnoon less oily. Next you push the jachnoon into the tin packing it quite tightly. Note the oily goodness. The jachnoon is covered with aluminum foil and a few eggs are placed on the foil. . By morning these eggs are well cooked and I'm told they're delicious.

The tin is sealed with its lid and placed in a low oven (I use 85 degrees C, or 185 degrees F) overnight. I will post pictures of the results in the morning.

Here is the finished product. Served with Azizza's tabbouleh, 5% white cheese, chopped salad and Schoog (hot sauce). The family enjoyed it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

No More Socializing

When we first came to Israel, the kids went to local school. One thing I could never understand was the driving need for Israeli parents to be friends. Every school outing they would try get all the parents to come along. At bonfires, tiyulim (field trips), teacher evenings, they were always trying to get the parents to hang out together. The end of the year parties were pretty much an excuse for the parents to meet. If god forbid your child did some extra-curricular activities like soccer, macrame or group screaming, there too you were expected to meet and enjoy socializing with the other parents. At the beginning of the year, there were the "getting to know you" gettogethers, then all through the year the obligatory festival parties or meals and at the end of the year you were expected to attend "farewell" parties. Now really. We have enough friends. We don't have enough time to see the ones we have already acquired, so why look for more? No wonder no one in Israel has time for hobbies.

When our two offspring moved to the American School, I was happy to see that a quality school understands that all we want is to be left alone. No end of the year parties for parents and only the minimum of parents needed to volunteer to give rides on field trips. Nice and impersonal, that's how I like it. So why, why, why do I have to go tonight to a post Poland Holocaust Trip Evening, where "students share their experiences and photos with parents etc. etc." The boy went to Poland. O.K. He showed us the journal and the pictures. It made an impact, he "got it". This must be because the trip was organized and run by the locals. They're very social are my people. Next there will be a Facebook group and monthly Post Poland decompression meetings for parents. No, I say. No.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Conversation in the House of Black

Guest post by Jo
7 PM. Master bedroom, Jo (Blackwifeo) on the bed, Blackpetero in his chair (where else) patting BlackLola who refuses to leave the upstairs floor, even though bdo never feeds her or changes the cat box

So you really believe that the fact I posted our address on the blog was why we got robbed?"

Wifeo: "Well its a possibility. I mean, one is supposed to be anonymous online and not post personal details, and somebody told me that that may have had something to do with it."

Man-in-blacko: "Jo- you will believe anything. That's ridiculous."

Wifeo: "hhhm. well its possible."

Pierre-le'noir-o: "so tell me, where are the 3 garbage bags of laundry that were downstairs?"

Wifeo: "They got sent out to Lootzik the Laundromat, who is now not Lootzik the Laundromat any more."

"so we spent countless thousands of shekels getting the Jonathans etc working again, and now you are sending out the washing. I bet Lootzik, who is now not Loootzik bought the Laundromat solely based on the fact that you send in the laundry to them all the time."

Understandably-defensive-wifeo: "It's not every week!!! and its not ALL the washing (I do the undies). And after you bitched about the socks getting lost, I haven't sent those in once. Anyway, its once in a blue moon, when I am so inundated that I cannot catch up. Oh, and Aziza still doesn't know how to run the machine, and black motherinlaw has not been over to help me for 3 weeks, cause Aunty Tony was visiting from San Diego. Don't forget that you fired her, remember?."

Pietro-nero: (in a typically petero tone of voice): "So we are actually saving money by having a big American size washing machine and dryer and not using it."

Sweet-pucked-upon-wifeo: "Well, its summer and we shouldn't be using the drier anyway- --are you going to hang up the washing everyday?"

Aswad-Beetero: "Not only is this whole thing ridiculous, but I hate the way they fold the washing. Lootzik did a better job. I mean what is the point."

Wifeo: "well, its too late, its gone, finito la comedia!"

Schwarzapetero: "oh, and its a good thing the cats are not in the house anymore"

Fed-up-wifeo: "oh shutup already, I am trying to play Lexulous"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gypsy Girl

In a galaxy far, far away, we once owned a record shop. Alon, Jonny and I were foolish youngsters with dreams in our hearts and no brains in our heads. We did have killer parties though. Somehow I found the 12" single of Creulla De Ville's "classic" hit Gypsy Girl (I still have it here in my office). We knew nothing about the band (luckily Wikipedia knows all), and had no idea that the two leads were twins, that the female was the excellently named Philomena Muinzer, and the reason they never made an album was that the drummer "absconded with the recordings". Well, we danced and danced to this song at those parties in Ein Karem.

p.s. I had a completely different song picked out for today, when the black wife asked about this song in a blog comment. This needed mentioning to prove I listen!

Monday, May 18, 2009


Summer arrived today. Summer here is not marked by a gentle warming sun, sparrows chirping merrily in flowering trees or deep blue skies and pleasant cool breezes. No summer here is brutal. The sun is so hot that it superheats the air into an eye melting liquid. The wind is so dry that the spray from the car wash place across the road evaporates before it reaches the cars. Your black shirt sticks so strongly to your back, you need a shoe horn to undress. There are some pluses, though. With summer comes the tiny mini skirts and see through dresses worn by the young lovelies just off the beach. They grace the many restaurants around squint central at lunchtime. It's easy on the eyes.

But, summer also means sandals and open shoes. God! and those toes. And there are some scary toes out there. Today I walked back to work across much of Herzilya Pituach around lunch time. You must understand that after a pleasant winter of closed shoes, I am not used to this kind of abuse. It was hot, and the streets were crowded with feet being aired for the first time this year. Boy, there were some frightening toes. Look people, I understand it's hot and it is your right to wear what you like. Be it solid new Naot sandals or fancy red open Italian shoes with laces that wind up your shapely legs. Please, please, cut your toe nails. Get rid of that white nail fungus, medicine has made great strides in this area. If your big toe nail has been ripped off, consider socks or something closed. It's for your own good I mention this. The fact that I couldn't face lunch after the walk, well, that's my problem.

I would have posted pictures, but some of you may be eating or considering marriage. If you must have visual pointers, go to uglytoepics.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

International Day

Today was International Day, the day at our school where the parents of the many nationalities attending the school showcase their diverse cultures. Of course, culture means food. This year there 28 countries represented. In my professional opinion Egypt won on the vegetarian food front (some sort of pasta, chickpea and fried onion concoction with spicy sauce), followed closely by India (chana masala, potato curry and chapatis). On the sweet front, the UK won me over with what I believe was hand made shortbread. The meat eaters recommended the South African stall, with borewors rolls (with mustard) and biltong. Thailand had excellent eggrolls. Israel could have done better, the humus was not up to scratch, and the falaffel was cold. They did have milkies and Bamba, which along with soup almonds (shkeday marak) are the only true Israeli foods. The event was well organized, well run and well attended. Our PTA rocks.

I like this day. My kids are very fortunate that they are exposed to so many diverse cultures on a daily basis. The school is truly international and daily on campus you see kids of all languages, colors and sizes, interacting and fooling around as all normal kids will. It's great that to these kids "international" means a lot more than just weird foods.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Every Saturday for the last month or so I have set out "exploring" the Holy Land. This week I took it easy and not only did I not blog yesterday, I slept in this morning. I had arranged to meet "The Beautiful Tal" in Tel Aviv and together we were to visit the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This we did. As we walked down Even Gvirol street, dodging the cyclists and the in-crowd sipping their iced lattes at the streetside cafes, I was disappointed by the lack of photo opportunities. The Beautiful Tal allowed me to photograph her while we ordered her iced chocolate and my borekas, but the pictures do not do her justice. At the museum they took my bag, and strictly forbade any photography. So today's adventure, like the revolution, will not be televised, I'm afraid.

But, this being Israel, there was one memorable incident while The Beautiful Tal and I waited at a bus stop opposite the museum for our ride back. Here's Tal waiting:

So we're waiting and talking, when along comes what can only be called "a dude with a dog". He walks past us, glances at The Beautiful Tal and does a double take. He blurts out something lame like "if I would have know there was such a lovely woman at the bus stop, I would have swapped my dog for a bus". He then proceeds to hit on Tal with all his "charm". He tells her she's the most gorgeous creature he has ever seen and asks for her number. "No!" she says. He asks why. Tal, used to such attention, cuts him down to size and says "because my boyfriend loves me" (implying the boyf will kick this fool's ass). He accepts that he is way out of his league here, and slinks off, but not before asking if I was her father (or perhaps an uncle). Gotta Love Tel Aviv.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Enough Noise.

The neighbors are having a party. That wouldn't be so bad, but god, the music sucks. They have this live singer singing songs directly from the bible (psalms I think). It's torture. I would go off about them, but my lovely wife made me read this article today, and I don't want to be accused of racism. The music though is truly shocking. Just as I thought it could not get worse, the hazanut (Cantorial wailing) started. I'm surely being punished.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Life is Good.

I haven't been on top of my 80% watch lately. Obviously, I'm just too happy and contented here in Israel. Everything is perfect, and it's not the Paxil talking. You see we have a new government, and they're marvelous. Not only do we have more Ministers costing more money than ever before, we have "Honest Bibi" running the show.

Yesterday while driving back from my archeology class (I realized many of the other participants are so old, they saw the destruction of the first temple live), I heard an interesting show on the radio, where they went over Bibi's campaign promises. You know what! He Lied! I can't believe it! He promised not to raise taxes, yet our VAT will be going up 1%. He promised to cut government spending, but guess what, there is a 3% increase (last week this was 1.7%).

The pope is in town. I thought he came to see Depeche Mode - that they're still performing is some sort of miracle. He went to visit the "Wall", and not just the one in Jerusalem. No, he went to visit the security barrier where he told us "it's tragic" seeing walls being erected. It is. But Dude! Don't you think that the whole anti abortion, anti gay marriage, anti birth control, anti ordination of women thing is like a wall between you and the real world? When are you going to tear that down? And those guys are not even trying to blow you up on buses.

But, on the positive side of things, Bar Refaeli, Israel's excellent physical specimen, was ranked the third "hottest" woman in the world by Maxim magazine. She came in right behind Megan Fox ad Olivia Wilde in the top 100. Hey that's 98 percentile. So there is one thing about Israel better than the 80%.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Okkervil River

I have been a member of emusic for a while. I get 50 downloads a month. Some months it's hard to find things I want to download, so I hit the recommendations. Sometimes I'm lucky, sometimes not. Last month I downloaded Okkervil River's album The Stage Names. I had never heard of them. But, I liked their stuff immediately. I think the track "John Allyn Smith Sails" is fantastic, but unfortunately I could not find a decent video. The video below is of "Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe", also a good track. Enjoy.

Their song, "Love to a Monster" must have some of the very harshest words I have heard in ages. It's the best breakup song I've heard this year.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Burn Baby Burn!

Tonight is Lag BaOmer, my least favorite Israeli holiday. Last year I blogged the following rant. I'm quite proud of it.

"On top of it all, today is Lag BaOmer. The day that Israel goes crazier than usual and burns all the wood in the country. We have very few trees here in this desert we call home. All the wood we need is imported from various depleted rain forests around the world. Once a year, we encourage all our children to rob building sites and steal anything that can burn, then set about maximizing our carbon footprint by lighting bonfires on every available patch of land. Everything that can light is burned. The air gets full of soot. No one sleeps because teenagers spend the night screaming at each other over the flames of burning Vodka bottles. The supermarket trolleys that are stolen to move the giant piles of wood lifted from building sites are left standing charred in fire's ashes like the buildings of Hiroshima. Over the course of the night the hospitals are filled with Darwin Award candidates sporting varying degrees of body burns."

Sunday, May 10, 2009


While I try keep upbeat about life, sometimes the despair just takes over. Nothing rocks my world more than when I come in from work only to find the house trashed and the kids shirking any responsibility for the disorder. Either they left the house without a second thought for the others that live here, or else they're completely oblivious to the mess. Where have we gone wrong? Why is it impossible for them to realize that doing some dishes, cleaning the cat box or taking out the trash are just a tiny fraction of what it takes to keep this family running. They are not little children. I understand their difficulty in thinking of their future, but this is the present we are talking.

I hate facing failure in myself. I suppose the despair is just my utter lack of success in getting through to my kids about these simple things. I'm furious that this parenting thing has completely beaten me.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It's the Humus, Stupid.

Blacksono and I set off this morning for Haifa. The plan was to visit the Maritime and Illegal Immigration Museums, which I have driven past for years, but never investigated. We left home a little too early for the museums, so we drove up the Carmel and stopped to take in the view from the Stella Maris Church . I had forgotten how pretty Haifa can be, what with it's mountains and all. While gazing out over the city, I remembered, Haifa = Humus. My build-in high tech 3D humus locator engaged and I saw!!!

We were still a little early, so the boy suggested we drive around a bit. Soon we were lost in the maze of streets that's downtown Haifa. At some point we stumbled upon a flea market, with the usual stash of stolen goods . The boy looked for his missing computer, but no luck.

Then I saw it. . Abu Shakker. Humus nirvana. Years ago, Beni took me here on the way back from a funeral in the Kryot. When squints returned from weekend family visits to Haifa, they used to bring us kilos of the stuff. As the sign says, Mother Hegget has been making humus here since 1936. And believe me, they've got it right. So blacksono and I went in.

We were seated at one of the four tables inside, hot pitot (multiple pita breads) were dumped on our table. Our orders arrived in minutes. Check this out:

It was as good as I remember. Creamy and smooth, nutty and warm. As we sat and ate, the place got busier and busier. Ima Hegget was sitting outside preparing the tabouli. She told me that on Saturday mornings they keep making humus, non-stop (a new Hebrew word this, nonnnstopp) and they always sell out by noon. By the time we left, the line to the counter was out the door and one wise guy wanted to know why the "doctor of humus" doesn't give out numbers like in the Kupat Holim (medical services). I bought a kilo to take home for the family.

The boy and I did the only reasonable thing after such perfection. We agreed, "screw the museum" and drove back home, full to exploding and completely happy.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Let's talk nodules. My lovely wife's family are really big on massages. They love to massage each other and themselves, but mostly they love to receive massages. Now my family, we're normal people who don't really get into our backs being randomly palpitated by a complete amateur's sweaty palms. Anyway, blackwifeo's family are all plagued by these things called "nodules" in their backs. You often hear things like "What a day! my back is full of nodules" or "there, there can't you feel it, that's the nodule that's been bothering me". Blackwifeo will often beg for a "back rub" (she knows not to call it a massage around me, masseurs do massages, reluctant fools do back rubs). And I being a kind soul will usually give in after some bribery. She will then proceed to instruct me on exactly where the "nodules" are to be found. "Can't you feel it?" she will ask, "it's right there". Honestly, in 22 years of marriage I have NEVER felt, let alone removed, one of these wondrous nodules. Yet blackwifeo and her family members discuss them, describe them, and it seems have no trouble removing them from each others aching backs.

It seems us ostrinos are just stronger.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Earring

Finding a black earring is hard work. I have searched the world and now have quite a collection of earrings, none costing more than $1.99. I get so many infections from the crap metal, that the alcohol used to clean a crusty, sore ear piercing lives by our sink. So when the lovely and vivacious blackwifeo slyly interrogated me as to what I wanted for my birthday (she very subtly proclaimed, "You're impossible to buy anything for, if you don't tell me what do you want, you're getting nothing", I told her I wanted a "nice" earring (knowing that nice equals expensive for bwo). She bitched and moaned about how busy she is and how it's not possible to find that kind of thing just anywhere. But, she is a shopping savant.

Well yesterday she presented me with my very own hand made, white gold, sapphire filled earring (it looks black, OK, it's a "black" sapphire, they do exist, look on wikipedia). I love it. My bwo rocks.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Wouldn't you want to spend your birthday in an hour and a half accreditation meeting (at least they had cake) follow by a four and a half hour school board meeting. I would.

When I finally came home, blackdaughtero had bought me this trippy usb-powered fan, with funky disco lights. It's super cool.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Gogol Bordello

I have a particular liking for anything out of the ordinary as far as music goes. At one point I discovered "gypsy-punk" music. Let's face it, who would not want this song at their wedding. Thanks to Scarlet for pointing me to Gogol Bordello's "American Wedding". Their whole latest album, Super Taranta!, is filled with joy and energy.

p.s. Have you ever been to an American wedding, where's the Vodka, where's marinated herring?

Why Us?

Sometimes I forget we live in the desert. My car was clean yesterday. Then last night it rained mud. Then came the sharav. The hot, dry wind that howled around the house all night and caused all sorts of power spikes at work today. It was so unpleasant that walking was completely out of the question this morning. If this is a taste of the summer to come, I want out of here. Now!

What was so wrong with Uganda anyway?

Sunday, May 3, 2009


I was walking home today. As I approached the Seven Star Mall, a little white car pulled up next to me and carefully maneuvered itself into position behind the last car before the entrance to the parking lot, partly blocking the exit. See the picture above. I was certain the woman behind the wheel was waiting in her car for someone and was amazed when she got out her car and waddled off towards the mall. There were plenty of free spaces in front of the very car she parked behind. So I called to her and asked "Lady, why park there and block the traffic when you can park in the empty spaces in front of that black car?" I'm sure you all know what she answered "What do you care?" or "מה אכפת לך".

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tel Gezer

This morning's excursion was to Tel Gezer (check out the link to the parks board site, it's in Hebrew unfortunately, but very informative). I "called Martin's bluff" and he and Dean met me at 6am and off we motored to Karmi Yosef. The instructions off the web were spot on. We drove through the Moshav and parked on the dirt road that leads to the Tel. It looks unassuming from the road , which in ancient times was the junction of the main coastal highway connecting these lands to Egypt and Jerusalem (about 30km to the east). Gezer's history in a nutshell: Strategically placed with a view of the whole Shefelah (plain), it was initially conquered by Joshua. It was then under Philistine rule and was conquered by King David. According to the Bible, Pharaoh (probably Merneptah) first destroyed the city then gave it as a dowry to one of Solomon's wives. There are something like 26 layers of civilization at the site. Most of the site was dug in 1902 by R. A. Stewart Macalister, who carted off all the good finds to the British Museum and The Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul.

The views are amazing. On one side you can see as far as Tel Aviv and the sea . On the other side is the Ella Valley, leading to Beit Shemesh, hazy in the early morning light .

Their most interesting find was the "Gezer Calendar", a giant replica of which is displayed at the site (the original is limestone, 11x7cm) . It's one of the oldest known examples of Hebrew writing, dating back to the 10th Century BCE and is believed to be a schoolkid's memory exercise.

There is much evidence of strong walls and big buildings , store rooms, guard towers and "Solomon's Gate" . Shards of pottery and ceramics are everywhere. Dean found this "proof", a piece of a handle to a ceramic pot, lying on the path . Of course, we returned it to it's resting place.

We saw some storks , and beautiful spring flowers of all shapes and colors and sizes .

Most interesting is the 10 monolith temple, with stone basin which is believed to be the venue where Gezer and nine neighboring cities forged an alliance. The basin may have served as a container for "blood libation" (according to the sign). Their water system is also particularly impressive. From this entrance they dug 40 meters into the rock till they reached ground water.

After walking the ring path around the Tel we made our way back to the car. Then, we had a "only in Israel" experience. Below one of the houses bordering the road, we met a man watching the bee-eater birds through his binoculars. He asked where we had been and we explained that we explored the Tel. He offered to show us something remarkable in his house. He leads us through his yard, past all sorts of interesting stones, into a gallery . Gershon Harel, our host, has been sculpting (obsessively) for three years. He makes figures out of clay. But, that's not all. He tells us that when he built his house he discovered an ancient (3000 year old) burial crypt in his basement (that's Dean being brave going down the stairs). Macalister and his archeologists removed anything interesting, but Gershon has set it up as a display area. Check it out: , the alcoves and the shadows make it all seem unreal . He certainly has been busy, there are armies of figures . The whole thing is awesome.

Gershon was friendly, intelligent and happy to share his knowledge. There was no overt selling, he was happy for us to just look in wonder. I should have bought some of his owls though.

We were home by 10am. Thanks Mart and Dean for an excellent time.