Saturday, February 22, 2020

Special things Israelis say in specific situations

What happens in your country when a waiter drops a tray in a packed restaurant and everything on the tray shatters to pieces?

Is there an awkward silence? Does everyone avert their eyes from the embarrassed waiter as he quickly sweeps up all the broken pieces? Maybe there are a few softly muttered curses from him or the floor manager..?

Do you know what happens in Israel in such a situation? 

The entire restaurant, including the manager and all the staff and the people passing by outside, and the person who sneaked in to use the toilet will gleefully shout out in unison: "MAZAL TOV!!"

It means "Congratulations" in Hebrew and everyone is playfully 'congratulating' the waiter on his pending marriage. 

The final act of a Jewish wedding is the symbolic breaking of something by stepping on a covered glass. It is done to remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Then it is time to congratulate the couple and dash off to go and stuff yourself.

There are a few other unique expressions or sayings you will only hear in Israel in specific situations, though not in dramatic situations such as dropping a tray of glasses. And yes, of course I am happy to tell you about them 😁.

One of these is the word "tithadash" said to a man or "tithadshi" said to a woman. You will only hear it if you bought or received something new.  

I just cannot think of an equivalent in English. It means something like "Enjoy the new thing."  You will usually hear it from a salesperson who just sold you something or from your friends when they realize you got something new. 

And it only counts for something cool new like a new pair of shoes, car or furniture. Not something boring new such groceries or dishwashing liquid.

Another difficult-to-translate Hebrew word that you only hear in specific situations is the second meaning of the word "bevakesa". 

Bevakesa technically translates into "please" (the first meaning) but it is a bit of an awkward word. Maybe it is because Israelis are not all that polite in the first place 😁. I definitely do not hear it a lot. For example in a packed train or elevator we will never say, "Can you please move aside?". It is more like "Can I get out!?"

The second meaning of "bevakesa" translates into something that means more or less "here, take this thing that I am happy to give to you". You will hear it from old-school Israelis or polite Arab waiters when they bring or give you something.

There is no similar word in English, is there? 
The Arabic word "fadala" however means exactly the same thing.

Be aware that the second "bevakesa" is often said in a passive-aggressive and/or sarcastic way. 

Let's say that you bother a lazy clerk on her extended coffee break for a form or signature or something like that. When she finally hands you the thing and says loudly "Bevakesa!" she didn't really mean that she is happy to serve you. Her tone will definitely let you know that this is more of a #politenotpolite situation. Just smile nicely and reply thank you.

Then there is the expression, "Be' teavon" which means "with good taste" - exactly like the French "Bon appetit". I have found that here in Israel people use it sometimes in a odds situations.

Let's say that you are handed food in a restaurant or in someone's house who invited you for a meal. This is a normal situation to hear "Be' teavon". 

But let's say that you are innocently eating your lunch sandwich in a park and a stranger walks by and says "Be' teavon" or you are just dipping a cookie in a cup of coffee at work and one of your work colleagues says "Be' teavon". Then it means more like "ah, I see that you are stuffing your face again". 

New immigrants or tourists sometimes also say it because they often hear it from the native Israelis. Please don't. Unless you are serving people or have made the food, don't say "Be' teavon"! Just nod your head to acknowledge the person and be on your way. There is really no need to comment on the fact that someone is eating something.

There are also the words "acheri hachagim" which means "after the holidays". There are SO many Jewish holidays celebrated here in Israel that you have to consult your calender carefully if you are planning something.

Often "acheri hachagim" is just used an excuse so check the dates catefully if you suspect that someone is just stringing you along!

And there you have it, a few of the sayings that you will hear in Israel in specific situations. Some are fun, some are surprisingly polite and some are on the sarcastic side, which is actually quite a good description of your average Israeli!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The tumuli field of Ramat haNadiv

Ramat haNadiv is a small nature reserve nestling close to my town, Zichron Yaakov, in the northern-ish part of Israel.

The reserve was established in 1965, and is actually a burial place for the Baron Edmund Rothschild and his wife Ada. The baron supported the early settlers in the area with money and advice from the leading scientists of the day. 

That is also why the park is called Ramat haNadiv, it means more or less 'Benefactor Heights'. The tomb, that you can visit during the weekdays, is surrounded by a beautiful garden.

And this garden is surrounded by a small reserve. Since we live in Israel, the reserve is not just about the local fauna and flora in their natural state. There are also several ancient archeological sites that you can visit.

One of these archaeological sites is the tumuli field at the southern end of the Ramat haNadiv reserve. The singular for tumuli is tumulus which means "a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves." 

So yes, the tumuli field is an ancient burial site.

The tumuli are not arranged tidily in rows in the way that we are used to in modern graveyards. They seem to be haphazardly scattered all over the hills. Apparently there are 40 of these tombs in the area but I personally have only across a few of them.

The tumulus in the photo is the largest that I have seen in the nature reserve. I think that it is because the Israel Trail passes nearby and modern-day hikers take the time to add another rock to the grave. This grave also overlooks the coastal plains and the Mediterranean sea.

The large tumulus that seems undisturbed for thousands of years

The other tumuli that I came across on my hiking (and photographing 😁) adventures in the reserve are on the other side of the Carmel mountains. They still have a beautiful view but do not face the sea. Which makes one wonder - what's the diffs? Why does one grave get the sea view and the others face inland? 

One can probably speculate that the sea-facing grave is the final resting place of an important person or something. But the truth is just that no one really knows.

The rectangular shape of the tumulus is clearly visible in the open grave.

There are some information boards about the tumuli nearby for the curious hiker. These boards mentioned that these graves are from the Early Bronze age which means about 2500 to 2000 BC. 

The tumuli consist of a rectangular burial chamber, surrounded by a circle of flat stones and covered by a heap of soil and rocks. The tumuli that were excavated showed that they contained one adult, sometimes buried together with a child and one artifact. The archeologists think that the graves belonged to a group of shepherds who lived in the area.
The early Early Bronze age is really waaay back in time but that does not really surprise me. Even Neanderthals used to live in nearby caves in these same Carmel mountains. It makes sense that later on there was also a settlement of people, probably Canaanites, who lived on these mountains that overlook the sea on the one side and have an amazing vantage point inland on the other side.

I find a kind of poetic synchronicity in the fact that ancient shepherds and a modern-day billionaire banker have found their final resting on the same mountain range. The Baron' grave attracts visitors from all over the world while only us locals know about the graves in the tumuli field. 

Their bodies have however all become part of the same earth. And I am sure that their souls are happy with the beautiful place their loved ones have buried them.

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Monday, December 30, 2019

The amazing clock collection in Jerusalem

In the attractive and characteristic neighbourhood of Rehavia in Jerusalem, not far from the president's residence, there is this a small museum called the Museum of Islamic Art

It is a gorgeous museum filled with amazing artifacts. Personally though I think that the museum should be called the Museum of Eastern Art. Most of the artifacts pre-date Islam and/or originate from non-Arab speaking countries such as Turkey, India and Iran. 

It is very likely that this watch was part of the loot of one of the greatest robberies in the art world.

Are clocks from the East?

I will definitely write about all the amazing artifacts I found in this museum (you know me and museums). But in this blog post I am going to focus on the wonderful collection of clocks that I met at the museum of Islamic art. Yup, that is right, gorgeous shiny clocks and timepieces made mostly from solid gold.

The clocks are beautifully displayed.

If you ask me how do clocks and watches tie in with Islamic art, then you are asking the exact same question that I asked the receptionist.

Why not?

The answer was: "They do not really have much to do with each other. But the same woman who created the museum in the first place also needed a place to exhibit her father's large clock collection. So why not? 

Why not indeed? 

The woman responsible for the museum's existence is Vera Bryce Salomons. She loved Eastern art and was a serious collector and built the museum as 'showcase for the Islamic civilization and the Arab cultural legacy'. She  hoped to create a bridge between the Jews and Arabs of Israel via art. Like seriously, who doesn't like to look at pretty old things? (Okay maybe the Taliban...
and ISIS too.)

The amazing companion clock would reset the time of the removable pocket watch so that they are both in sync.

What to do when your dad leaves you a bunch of old stuff?

Vera's dad,  Sir David Lionel Salomons was an English banker with a BIG thing for clocks. He collected nearly 200 of the most amazingly crafted timepieces. Most of them were made in the 18th or 19th century. We can definitely understand where his daughter got her collector's gene from...

Do you also see the "face" in the clock?

One of Sir David's most favourite horologists must have been Abraham-Louis Breguet (born: 1747, died: 1823). He collected many of the watchmaker's amazingly intricate and beautifully crafted clocks and even wrote a book about him called Breguet 1747–1823

A musical fan that keeps the time too
Breguet lived in France, though he was born in Switzerland and was THE watchmaker of his time. All of the A-listers of the time, members of the nobility and other famous people, were his customers.

The best work that he created throughout his entire career must be timepiece that he was commissioned to make for Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France.

The "Marie-Antoinette" from the front.

And from the side.

Marie-Antoinette's wearable

Sadly Marie-Antoinette died at the guillotine before the watch was finished. Breguet himself  had to flee France during the revolution because of his royal connections and the work on the watch stopped for seven years. It was eventually finished in 1802, almost twenty years after it was first commissioned. 

The final cost of the Marie Antoinette (No.160) came to 30,000 francs. A tidy sum even today but a HUGE amount of money in 1802.

The watch has the following functions:

Perpetual calendar
Minute repeater
Power reserve
Pare-Chute (shock protection system, invented by Breguet)
Independent seconds hand

Pretty cool for a watch made 200 years ago, right? 

A gun watch...with a little bird on top!

Enter the villain…

And his name was Naama, Naaman Diller. His backstory started all the way back to 1930's to the hospital room his mom shared with Arik Einstein's mom after the two women gave birth. 

The two women stayed friends and it seems that Naaman constantly compared himself to Arik Einstein, one of the most  beloved and famous singers of Israel.

Luckily for Naaman, he was selected to train as a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. Israeli pilots undergo rigorous training and the selection process is amazing tough. Even today, fighter pilots are considered the cream of the entire Israeli Defence Force and modern-day heroes. Naaman might not have been a famous singer but being an air force pilot was more than enough.

During one of his training flights he flew over his kibbutz to show off to the people he grew up with. Naaman was not the first, and definitely not the last trainee pilot to do this but that day a particular nit-picky general was visiting the area. And just like that Naaman was kicked out of the pilot trainee program.

The ultimate sulk

It is thought that Naaman must have taken this setback really bad because he turned into a daring and sophisticated burglar. 

And then he set his eyes on the famous clock collection in Jerusalem. He started to case the joint and discovered there was a problem with the alarm system and that everyday a truck parks right underneath a convenient window. He managed to squeeze his skinny ass through this window and stole 106 of the irreplaceable timepieces. Including the Marie Antoinette (No.

From the day (Sunday morning April 17th, 1983) the museum workers discovered the robbery, the clocks just vanished into thin air and nobody knew what happened to them.

I am pretty sure that the thief did not add this chronometer in his bag of stolen goods.

How to sell a famous stolen piece of art

The entire world of clock makers, collectors and buyers were of course aware of the robbery. So when Naaman's widow tried to sell some of these clocks to an art dealer, the dealer immediately contacted the museum. Later a lawyer, acting on behalf of the widow,
tried to work out a deal with the museum about selling them back some of the clocks.

In front is a quarter repeating ring watch made with gold and pearls.

Just before Naaman Diller died of cancer in 2004, he told his divorced wife that he was the daring thief. He left her all the clocks but it was a bit difficult for her to sell them. Even after twenty years.

Eventually the police got involved, as it works with stolen goods. They managed to retrieve nearly all of the stolen clocks from their hiding places in Europe, Israel and the USA.

Pocket watches made in England for the Turkish market with numerials in Arabic script

The shining end

And now the clocks are back in the museum of Islamic Art, shining brightly in their beautiful display cases. Securely in the basement with no access to any windows and a door that looks as if it belongs in high-security bank.

Just more of the beautiful clocks in this special collection

Directions and opening hours:
I highly recommend visiting these amazing clocks with their long and exciting history.

Remember that the clocks are only one part of the museum of Islamic Art. There are lots of other interesting things to see. I definitely felt that I got a TON of value for my entry fee.

The address is: 3 haPalmach street, Jerusalem
Check the museum's own website for opening hours and ticket prices.

If you'd like to receive my occasional "Letter from Israel" in your email box, how about signing up at the box in the top-right corner. I am a fierce hater of spam myself and I promise that I only send out these emails VERY occasionally - though I really should be a bit less lazy.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The subtle art of standing in a queue in Israel - a survivor guide

This is NOT queue in Israel, it is waay to calm and orderly

If you visit Israel as a tourist, or are a new immigrant you may get the conclusion that Israelis do not have the queue-standing gene.

They just seem to stand around in a bunch and then use their elbows to move forward when the train or bus arrives or when going through a building's security entrance.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Praying for rain

As a South African living in Israel, I cannot help but constantly compare the two countries. Of course there are many differences but one of the major similarities is our dependence on rain water. 

And since most of South Africa (though not the Cape area) gets its rain during the summer months and Israel gets its rain during the winter months, we are waiting for the rainy season at the same time. More or less during the month of October. It is then autumn in Israel and springtime in South Africa.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Timeline of a 'situation' in Israel

The word 'situation' has a special meaning in Israel. It is usually used when talking about the security situation in Israel but actually compass quite a wide range of things. Such as the situation that Israel is surrounded by not too friendly neighbours. Or the situation that there are a network of sirens throughout the country to warn us about incoming missiles.

Two weeks ago another type of situation unfolded in Israel and this blogpost describes my own personal experience.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Rockefeller Archaeological museum

For some odd reason, the Rockefeller Archaeological museum is NOT on the list of must-see museums in Israel.

And it definitely should be.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

10 reasons why it is easy to be a vegan in Israel

Israel has been known as the Vegan Nation for quite a while now and has apparently the highest number of vegans per capita. Even McDonalds Israel have started to serve vegan burgers. 

So when a recent vegan Instagram acquaintance visited Israel and posted how easy life in Israel is for vegans, I did some looking around. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The time of the jellyfish

Photo credit: Wikipedia commons
It is right in the middle of the summer  in Israel. The temperatures are often touching the 40’s and
everyone is irritable and grumpy. So maybe it is a good idea to go and cool off in one of our beautiful

Friday, July 12, 2019

With help from the heavens

Life in Israel is pretty much similar to life anywhere on the planet. People die and get born, go to school and university and we celebrate birthdays and weddings. We are also confronted daily by numerous billboards trying to sell us anything from cars to sunglasses.