Sunday, October 31, 2010

MEGIDDO

After hibernating all summer and refraining from going on trips under the scorching sun, the time has arrived to "get up and go out" again! So yesterday we left Golda in the care of our son and went to visit Megiddo, together with half of my daughter's family, which means her and the two younger children, Noam and Yasmin.
Megiddo is located on a hill of about 60 meters height, at the Carmel ridge, in northern Israel, near Haifa, in the vicinity of a Kibbutz with the same name. And the name Armageddon mentioned in the New Testament derives from Har Megiddo, which is Hebrew and means Mount of Megiddo.  This place is OLD, VERY old. Without knowing anything about the history of Megiddo and Shivta, one can see clearly by comparing the photos of both sites, that Megiddo is much much more ancient!
By the year 3000 BCE Megiddo was already a city of great importance. Because of its strategic location it guarded an ancient road which connected Egypt with the land of Mesopotamia in the North. Named
"Derech ha Yam" ( the way along the sea), it became later a very important and strategic trade route of the Roman Empire, called Via Maris.
But since tools and pottery shards from very early times were discovered,  human habitation of the place can be traced back as far as to the year 7000 BCE, which would be the Neolithic Period!
Megiddo was the target of many battles throughout its history, between Egyptian armies and Canaanites, between Egypt and the kingdom of Judah and in our times between the troops of General Allenby and the Turkish army in World War I.  The tell is composed of up to 26 layers of ancient ruins and cities, built one above the other over thousands of years. It is uninhabited since 586 BCE, which preserved the ruins quite well, never deranged by newer settlements. So imagine, the upper, undisturbed latest layer is about 2500 years old!!
I don't intend to dig here too much into the history of Megiddo, that would be too complex -  there is plenty of information to be found on the Internet. The photos will present an impression of the place, the ancient dwellings will give a hunch of the grandeur and an idea of the importance!
Dwellings from the Israelite period are present. There are two entrance gates, the Canaanite and the Israelite. The Canaanite palace. A northern and a southern palace. Four temples in all, from different periods. A huge granary. A very impressive water system, which can be explored, 187 stairs going down, walking through the tunnel, ascending 87 stairs up on the other side and stepping out at the foot of the tel. We saw stables which could host hundreds of horses, many of the feeding troughs intact, first thought to be from the time of Solomon, but now dated 150 years later to the time of king Ahab. A burial chamber, which was found empty and its date is undetermined. Stairs leading down to a plastered water pool. A circular altar ground from the Canaanite era, where animal bones have been found. Assyrian palaces from the period when Megiddo was the capital city of an Assyrian district.
Many of the finds at Megiddo can be clearly identified and classified, about others the archaeologists and historians argue, have opinions or simply know nothing.
To visit there is a wonderful experience and time out! The place is beautiful, the view from above is absolutely  breathtaking, a big part of Israel :-) can be seen turning around, from the Iron Valley (Wadi Ara) to the Jezreel Valley, the Carmel range, Nazareth, Mount Tavor, the Moreh hill and the Gilboa mountains! Further to the southeast one can spot Jenin and the mountains of Samaria and to the south the city of Um al-Fahm, yes half of Israel almost! 
Many palm trees have been planted long ago on the site, they fit perfectly with the ancient stones, and together with the ruins give you a feeling of being lost in time...
Resources: Wikipedia, the flier distributed at the entrance of the Megiddo National Park, and the vast knowledge of my husband.
Photographs by Uri Eshkar

Friday, October 29, 2010

GOLDA

You might think this little cat won the lottery us taking her in! Hm, no no, WE won the lottery! She is really such a reason for joy! And she got already quite independent. I do not have to feed her anymore, she eats by herself! And she knows very well to tell me when she is hungry! She screams her lungs out! She LOVES chicken liver! When I let her run free (oh, she got one of the bathrooms for now), she follows me where ever I go! She uses her cat toilet ONLY! There was not one mishap! 
She is not afraid of anything! She climbs the stairs like a pro! She scrambles up my legs to reach my head! That is fine when I am wearing long trousers, but she has no remorse for me to climb up my naked legs too! Autsch! 
She is very curious and inquisitive! Everything interests her! Especially Dafi's tail! Dafi is very patient with her and tolerates her. That can not be said so far about our other two cats! I think they feel threatened by this very active black bundle. If she comes too near they hiss at her and run off! It doesn't bother her at all, she will approach them again! 
Sometimes she looks surprised! Sometimes she looks stupid! Most of the time she looks sweet!
To play with her is so much fun! She loves to play with my fingers, she grabs them and bites them. 
When she sits in my lap and licks herself clean, she thinks, I need a wash too! She goes topsyturvy, she runs, she jumps, she climbs, she falls down, she gets up, she rolls around, she plays with the wool ball and the marvel, she is a happy lovely kitten!
And look at this cute white sparkly spot she has right under her neck! Yes, we love her!
Ha, and would you believe it: This time I took most of the photos!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

WITHOUT WORDS

MY WINDOW VIEW

I found a small drawing one day in an Israeli magazine for children, HaEzbaon - it told a sweet story about a little girl flying off with a balloon, and getting stuck on a tree, and being rescued by... oh well, just see for yourself! To be read from right to left of course!
One of the wonderful things having grandchildren is that you can spoil them and make stuff for them and they will always love it!! I created this wall hanging from that drawing, using a basic color scheme of red, blue, yellow and green,  for my then small twin granddaughters (who turned fifteen two days ago), now it went on to a wall in the room of their little sister Yasmin and it still is pretty and loved!
Cotton fabric, machine pieced, hand appliqued, which was quite a challenge, the pieces being so small, machine quilted in the seamlines, 103 cm x 115 cm
Photos by Ran Erde

Monday, October 25, 2010

GOLDA

Meet our new family member: Golda.
On our way to Shivta this Shabat we stopped very early in the morning for a coffee break at Park Golda Meir deep in the Negev Desert. This is a lovely picnic area with palm trees and an artificial lake, named after the former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir. Except of two or three men sitting with fishing poles at the lake, the place was empty of people. We settled down on a bench and poured our coffee when we heard the crying. About twenty meters away under a big garbage can sat the tiniest little kitten. Mi, mi, mi, mi.... I crumbled some cake and went over there to feed it. It was too small to eat by itself and certainly cake crumbs were not suitable for it anyway. Its mother was nowhere to be seen. It was pitch black, with beautiful big blue eyes, and very very thin. I already felt the tears in my eyes... I went back to our bench and we started to pack up and leave, when it came over. It sat down at my feet and looked up to me - and broke my heart! 

We had to go, we had the day in front of us, Shivta was waiting. We left, me crying and feeling so sorry for it. Oh, I wanted to save it, I wanted to give it a good life! I asked my husband in the car if he was planning to go back home the same way as we came and he - suspicious and knowing me very well - replied, no, we are driving back via the Dead Sea and Jerusalem (and he also knows how much I love that detour!). So, after our wonderful long morning at Shivta, after another picnic nearby, we headed for home - and I was pleading... 
We have a dog, and two cats, is what he said. That is enough, is what he said. You are crazy, driving home with a little cat in your lap, all that way, he said. I just looked at him - and in the end I broke his heart and at the intersection he turned left!!!

It was three o'clock and the park was swarmed with people, most of them having a barbecue, which is called "mangal" here. We went to look for the kitty, but it was not there. Another round near the place we saw it in the morning - no kitten. But somehow I sensed it, my husband was already near the car, but I went back once more - and then I saw it - still alone, scrunched under a picnic table, a tiny black ball, scared and full of dirt and sand, quietly hiding from all those people and all this action going on around it, smoke and noise and children running  and laughing. 

I took it in the hollow of my hands - now it was ours - now its life would be good, it would be fed and loved and cared for and admired and enjoyed! All the long way home it was sitting in the car between my knees and didn't budge. I was talking non stop, thanking my husband and deciding to call it Golda, if it is a 'she' and Meir if it is a 'he'!  Well, Golda, Goldie, she is! I took it to the vet the next day and he told me how and what to feed it, he thinks it is about three weeks old. I feed it with a syringe for now and it works very well.
This kitty is the sweetest thing! It is very beautiful! It has a strong will and is very determined in what it wants. It plays and jumps and summer salts, licks itself all over to have a good wash, and then bundles up in my lap and takes a nap - it is such a joy and we are all happy to have it!
Welcome you sweet little thing, you are not an "it" anymore, now you are a "she"! 
Thank you Uri!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SHIVTA - שבטה

Shivta, the amazing ancient Nabatean city can be found totally off the beaten track in the south of Israel, about 40 km southwest from Beer Sheva in the Negev Desert. The location was cleverly chosen by its founders, the "Lords of the Desert" the early Nabateans. It was built along the famous Perfume and Incense Road which stretched over 2000 km from India to Egypt and the Levant with many side ways.
Shivta is located between the magnificent Nabatean capital Petra in today's Jordan and the port town of Gaza and connected to other Nabatean cities throughout the  Negev Desert, like Mamshit and Avdat. All three cities, Shivta, Mamshit and Avdat are honored to be on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Precious perfumes and spices, their use already mentioned in the Bible, were transported along this road, through deserts of rock, granite and sand,  on the backs of camels  forming long caravans, often changing the route a bit to avoid robbers. This trade road flourished for hundreds of years, providing the items needed for body cosmetic and for rituals, and gave wealth and power to many merchants.
Shivta, called by the Arabs Isbeita, was build in the 1st century BC as a small farming community by Nabateans, the inhabitants of North Arabia, and mainly served as a caravan stop for the Nabatean traders of the Incense Route. When Christianity came to the region in the fourth century, churches were built and it began to prosper as an important and large Byzantine town.  Most of the dwellings at the site of today are Byzantine.
A protective wall around the city is formed by the outer ring of houses, facing all inside the town.
The ancient water system built by the Nabateans, is quite amazing, collecting every drop of rain in canals and leading them to big reservoirs. The city was spared destruction by the Moslem invaders and never faced an earthquake. Therefore the ruins are very well preserved.
I have been two times in Shivta before, each time in summer and in the middle of the day. That is almost unbearable because of the immense heat and I never got to enjoy the place thoroughly. Yesterday we were clever and have been there at seven o'clock in the morning. 
The air was fresh and the sun just warming, but not grilling us, so we could really concentrate on Shivta's wonders. Another added benefit of the early morning: no one but us was there! And even Dafi, who does not take the heat easy anymore, now that she is already more than ten years old, was smiling!
We strolled through the many streets, visited the houses and churches, discovered a lot of chiseled and embellished stones, delighted in the arches and columns, all under a blue sky with the desert mountains around us - the view breathtakingly beautiful!
Many of the houses had their own wells, water basins and ovens. The walls were built double with rubble stones filled in between them. There are signs that horses were raised or at least stabled there. We found wine presses with storage rooms, lovely rounded entrance stones, remnants of arches for bearing the roofs in many buildings, streets paved with big quarter blocks of stones.
In the churches christening pools in forms of crosses, hewn out of one slab of rock, are to be seen,  and the two rows of columns leading to the altar and apse can be admired.

Pigeons love the place and are models for some nice and awesome  pictures.
Oh yes, and I brought a crocheted bag and pillow. I thought we'll make some unusual photos - and well, I think we succeeded!
In the 7th century due to the Moslem invasion of the area and the lesser demand of perfume and spices the trade route died out and the cities along it where gradually deserted. Shivta was completely abandoned by the 12th century. 
Shivta, Subeita, Sobota, Isbeita, is a marvelous enchanted place, never destroyed, with so much to explore and to appreciate - and far far away from civilization - quiet and peaceful!
Enjoy our day with us - zoom in to see the details!


I crocheted the bag some time ago with torn fabric strips, adorned with yoyos, little handmade felt balls I brought back from a craft market in Hungary, and from beads, I  had rolled with painted tyvek paper strips, wrapped with yarn, and incised with a soldering iron.
Some weeks ago I found a wonderful blog on the net, called "Grossmuetterchen" (Grannies). A  group of women in Germany participated in a project of crocheting granny squares, exchanging them and joining them together as pillows. I really did like and admire that and it inspired me to make this pillow. Have a look at their lovely creations at the blog.

All photographs by Uri Eshkar