This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for March, 2012

Wildflowers in Jerusalem Forest

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 30, 2012

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If you’re looking for a free activity during the school holiday or Passover, the Jerusalem Forest is beautiful at this time of year. These photos were taken last week. I’m not sure of the name of the orchid (above) because I haven’t had time to look it up. If you know what it’s called, please tell me!

If you are traveling by public transportation, get off at the Yefe Nof stop of the Jerusalem Fright Rail. Cross the street so that you are on the same side as the big Yad Sarah building. Walk two blocks down Yefe Nof to Pirhei Hen. Turn right and walk down Pirhei Hen to the gates of the Jerusalem Forest. You will see a map of the area on a large sign. This walk is ideal if you don’t have a car because it begins and ends within walking distance of public transportation (far end of Yad VaShem; walk through Yad VaShem to Herzl Boulevard, at the Har Herzl Light Rail stop).

Yefe Nof Map

Sign with Map of Jerusalem Forest Routes

The blue route is about 3 km, running from Yefe Nof to Yad Vashem. Remember that the end of the Yad Vashem is about a kilometer from the entrance on Herzl Boulevard, so plan accordingly. The trail is well-maintained and fairly easy. It would be a struggle to get through all the way with a baby stroller but it’s fine for young children. There are picnic tables and benches and a lot of shade.

At the Yad Vashem end, the trails branch off in different directions. If you take trails going down to the valley, you will end up at a picnic area by a busy road. Don’t try walking along this road — there is no sidewalk and the cars move fast. When you’ve finished eating, take one of the trails going up the hill. They all seem to end up at the Garden of the Righteous Gentiles, where you can see some of the outdoor exhibits.

If you have a lot of stamina, you could continue through the indoor exhibit halls of Yad Vashem or walk around Har Herzl. It’s quite educational but probably better saved for a second trip.

Another orchid that I haven’t yet identified, with some white cyclamen:

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Lots of wild cyclamen grow in the forest but they won’t be there for much longer.

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Below, a plethora of pimpernels!

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This gives you an idea of the path.

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I tried to re-create a photo of the Russian Orthodox Convent Church in Ein Kerem that I took two years ago. It wasn’t easy because the trees had grown, so I scrambled down the hill until I found a spot where I could see between the branches.

Church of Russian Orthodox Convent, Ein Kerem

If you look carefully you’ll see lots of Barbary Nut Irises (called “Afternoon Irises” in Hebrew because they bloom in the afternoon). They’re small, grow in shade area, and they’re not densely packed together, so they’re easy to miss.

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This was the only photo I got of a wild grouse. Quite a lot of them live in the forest but you have to be quiet and have good eyesight to find them.

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Inhabited cave. I took the photo at an angle because I didn’t think the guy would appreciate being on Flickr.

Inhabited Cave

Monarch butterfly. The Israeli monarchs are not as orange as the North American version.

Monarch Butterfly

These trenches are were built by the Turks, before World War I.

Trenches, Jerusalem Forest

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Damaged CityPass Posters: Who Do I Call?

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 29, 2012

CitiPass Poster, Central Bus Station

These photographs were all taken on March 27, 2012. When I photographed these CityPass posters, I was only trying to confirm that all the posters were in Hebrew. So I don’t have a complete set of all four posters (one at each shelter) of the Central Bus Station. I only have photos of three of the four. I noticed, after I looked at the photos, that the two posters in the busiest locations had the contact information obscured.

The poster above is on the side of the Central Bus Station, closest to the center of Jerusalem. You can see the main entrance of the bus station on the right. Someone has inserted tickets under the glass to cover the URL and phone number.

The poster below (opposite the one above) has been pulled out of the frame by its lower right corner and tickets have been inserted under the glass. This poster was photographed by the pathway that leads to Binyanei haUma. You can see the underground rail construction site on the right.

CitiPass Poster, Central Bus Station

This is an undamaged poster, photographed below, at the shelter closest to Center One.

Undamaged CityPass Poster, Central Bus Station

This is the  location of the shelter with the undamaged poster, just beyond the empty sign posts — sign posts that could have been used for Arabic, English, or Russian posters.

Jerusalem Light Rail, Central Bus Station

Posted in CityPass Jerusalem Light Rail | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

CityPass’s Web Site: Hebrew Only

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 29, 2012

CitiPass site in Hebrew

[Note: This is part of a posting I published on March 28, 2012. I thought it would be better to put it in a separate posting.]

The CityPass site (screen capture above) is only in Hebrew. All the links work but I’m told that they do not answer their phones or faxes. One note about these screen captures: I created them yesterday but the situation was the same when I checked the site in December. The Jerusalem Light Rail started operating in August, 2011.

The English link is disabled:

CitiPass site - English link

The Arabic link points not to an Arabic translation of the Hebrew site but to a two-page PDF file with the same information as the Hebrew posters in Jerusalem Light Rail stops.

If the PDF exists, why aren’t these posters displayed at train stops, since Arabic is one of Israel’s official languages? That’s a very good question. There is no option for Russian, let alone Amharic.

CitiPass site - Arabic link

CitiPass Info in Arabic

CitiPass Price List in Arabic

Posted in CityPass Jerusalem Light Rail | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Wildflowers on Mount Carmel

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 28, 2012

Thistle silhouette

The Etsba Ridge of Mount Carmel is covered with flowers at this time of year. We went for a 1.5 hour hike over the ridge. Identifing flowers is a very tedious process because I’m no expert. I have to thumb through books of flowers in Israel, check photos on the Web if the book photos aren’t clear enough, and sometimes confirm a guess with one of our experts at work. I’ve provided the English names in this posting. If you want the Latin name, click the photo to go to the Flickr page. I’ve provided Latin names in the flower descriptions.

Etsba Ridge, Carmel Mountain

The Carmel Forest has made a remarkable recovery from a devastating forest fire that was started accidentally in 2010. The fire claimed 44 lives, including 40 Prison Service cadets, who were on their way to a course when their bus was overtaken by flames, and three senior police officers, including Haifa’s Chief of Police. The fire burned for four days and was the deadliest in Israel’s history. The photo below shows a line of burned trees. Many of the larger trees have been cut down.

Burned trees, Carmel Forest

Sun’s Eye Tulip:

Sun's-Eye Tulip

Splendid Bindweed and Pimpernel: Bet you thought pimpernels were scarlet, like the book! In Israel they’re a dark bluish purple.

Splendid Bindweed and Pimpernel

Greek Sage:

Greek Sage

Barbary Nut Iris:

Barbary Nut Iris

Common Gladiolus:

Wild Gladiolus

Snake-Tongue Orchid:

Snake-Tongue Orchid

Broomrape (parasitical plant) on sedum:

Broomrape (parasitical plant) on sedum

Asher spots the first poppy of the season. Red anemones, red buttercups, and red poppies all look very similar and many visitors assume that every large red flower is a poppy. But they don’t bloom at the same time. The anemones bloom first, followed by the buttercups, and finally the poppies.

Asher spots the first poppy

Corn Poppy:

Corn Poppy

Garland Chrysanthemum:

Garland Chrysanthemum

Etsba Ridge photographed from a moving bus:

Etsba Ridge, Carmel

Golden Drop. Asher wasn’t sure which one because they don’t often have red tips, but he was sure it was a golden drop. It was a large, beautiful specimen:

Giant Golden Drop

Turban buttercups:

Turban buttercups

Syrian Cornflower Thistle:

Syrian Cornflower Thistle

Close-up of flowers. Most of these flowers are tiny, which means that you really have to keep your eyes open to spot them.

Flowers on the Carmel

Hairy Pink Flax:

Hairy Pink Flax

Very rare Carmel Bee Orchid. Chaim spotted this, but neither of us got a really sharp photo because it was in deep shadow. Asher missed it, so I had to describe where I’d found it.

Carmel Bee Orchid

Etsba Ridge with Wild Chrysanthemums in late afternoon:

Etsba Ridge with Wild Chrysanthemums

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Video: Family with Tickets Fined NIS 933 on Jerusalem Light Rail

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 28, 2012

This video is in Hebrew.

This family came to Jerusalem and bought tickets for the Jerusalem Light Rail for the first time. They did not insert their tickets into the ticket reading machine on the train to validate them (the machine stamps a date and time on the back of the ticket). The paper tickets are stamped with the date of purchase, so it is obvious that the tickets were purchased and are valid. They were told by inspectors that they had violated the law and were asked to present their Israeli ID cards (teudot zehut).

Initially, they refused to show their ID cards to the inspectors. The inspectors called the police, who threatened to arrest them. They presented their ID cards and received five fines, one for each family member, for a total of NIS 933 ($250).

Note: Tourists are asked for their passports. I’m not sure what happens if someone claims to have no documents. Although Israelis are required by law to carry their ID cards, I do not know of a similar law for foreigners.

Posted in CityPass Jerusalem Light Rail, Israel | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Who is CityPass? And Why Are We Stuck with Them for 30 Years?

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 28, 2012

CitiPass site in Hebrew

There has been some misunderstanding about who or what CityPass actually is. You need to know who they are because we are stuck with them for the next thirty years. Read on….

CityPass (not to be mistaken for CityPASS, the American company) is a consortium that was formed specifically to build and operate the Jerusalem Light Rail. Its membership is as follows (source: Calcalist):

Last Thursday the Ministry of Transportation granted full operating authority to CityPass. The contract is for 30 years. You can read the general details in this Globes article.

CityPass is not the Jerusalem Municipality and it doesn’t care about your rights as a passenger. CityPass is a conglomeration of businesses trying to a lot of money in as little time as possible. Your NIS 6.60 ticket doesn’t keep them running. Your NIS 186.60 fine does. The CityPass ticket inspectors, I’ve been told, are required to fulfil a quota of fines (“duchot” in Hebrew), so if you see a huge grin on an inspector’s face as he writes your fine, it’s not your imagination. CityPass has had a lot of financial problems because ticketing problems forced them to run the train for free during the first months of operation. Now they’re recouping their losses, at our expense — and they still have ticketing problems.

What are your chances of being fined? Very high if you are a tourist, a non-Hebrew speaker, elderly, Arab, or from out of town. If you live in Jerusalem and use the system regularly, your chances are lower because you know how to validate your ticket but you can still incur a fine if the ticket reader is broken or locked (a friend of mine was on a train last Saturday evening and discovered all four ticket readers in the car were locked; she was lucky an inspector did not board her car), if the ticket reading machine did not read your Rav Kav card properly, or if you boarded the train and then discovered that you did not have any rides left on your Rav Kav.

It is not possible to buy a ticket once you’ve boarded the train.

It is not possible to buy a ticket from an inspector.

It is not possible to explain to the inspector that you made a mistake or ran out of rides or that the ticket reader was not working. You will receive a fine (NIS 186.60 or $50) because that’s how the inspectors keep their jobs.

The system is designed so that a large number of new users will make mistakes. Paper tickets do not have terms or conditions printed on them, so you have no way of knowing that they are valid only for one day. The ticket selling machines do not tell you this condition and the only notice is in a verbose Hebrew poster (photo below). The notice does not appear in other languages. You might find it on their Web site if you’re fast enough with your iPhone! Rav Kav cards don’t tell you how many rides are left. The card reading machine on the train has a yellow display with light grey dots. When you validate your card or ticket, a message will flash on at lightning speed and then disappear. If you are standing too close or too far away or you’re not fast enough at reading the message, well, too bad. These machines do not provide receipts to indicate that your ticket validation was successful. There is a beep and a light but you may miss them if you’re distracted. I didn’t notice them the first two times I went on the train. The “success” and “failure” beeps are similar, but at slightly different pitches. If you’re boarding a quiet train you might hear the difference.

Update: Originally I had a section here on CityPass’s Web site. I’ve moved it to its own posting.

Unless you are adept at reading Hebrew and able to take in information very quickly, your chances of knowing the conditions of your tickets are not high. Here is the CityPass information. It is displayed four times at the Central Bus Station, with empty sign posts between. You’d think they would rent the space or add posters in other languages, but, no, that would probably reduce the incidence of fines.

If you are able to read Hebrew, I strongly recommend that you click on the photo below (on the Flickr site, right-click and choose “Original Size” ) and read it at your leisure, because you may not even get close to the poster at a crowded train stop.

CityPass poster

Note the empty sign posts between ticket machines (Jerusalem Central Bus Station):

Jerusalem Light Rail, Central Bus Station

While the train is operating it is difficult to get close enough to the posters to read them. The ticket machines (if they’re operating) have long lines and people are clustered by the benches, under the shelter. I had to wait for a train to pull out of the station in order to take this photo.

Jerusalem Light Rail, Central Bus Station

I apologize to readers who follow my blog for its photography content. I will post the Carmel wildflower photos soon!

As for the Jerusalem Light Rail situation, I plan to blog soon about your rights and what you can do if you are harassed or intimidated by a ticket inspector or receive an unwarranted fine.

Posted in CityPass Jerusalem Light Rail, Israel | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

CityPass Rip-Off

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 26, 2012

Today was my second trip (ever) on the Jerusalem Light Rail. I got fined 180 NIS for not knowing that the paper tickets are good only the day you purchase them. There’s nothing written on the ticket itself. Who ever heard of a ticket expiring? Money doesn’t expire, bus tickets don’t expire, so why do Jerusalem Light Rail tickets expire?

The inspector on the right took my ticket. He didn’t tell me there was anything wrong. He just looked at my ticket and said, “Can I see your ID card to check something?” I gave him my ID because I’m a law-abiding citizen and it never occurred to me that something was wrong with the ticket. He announced in a loud, obnoxious voice, “You have broken the law! You must be fined!,” making no attempt to hide his satisfaction. Understand this — although I made a mistake, I can’t undo it by offering to pay (I had a valid Rav Kav in my bag) because I have already broken the law. There is no recourse. I will receive a 180 NIS fine in the mail for making a mistake about a 6.60 NIS ticket.

CityPass Inspectors

Here’s the front of the ticket, showing the date I purchased it. There is no indication that the card is good only on that day. The writing at the top says to insert it in the direction of the arrows. The writing above the date says “Single ride.”

Citypass ticket front

Here’s the back of the card. I did notice that the machine hadn’t stamped the card but the implication didn’t register because I was tired after a long hike in the woods. Also, I assumed that because I had paid for a ticket, the ticket was still good. If the machine stamped the card with “Invalid,” I would have used my Rav Kav card. Now I know (too late) that the machine where you run your card through has a display that tells you if it’s valid. But I got on at Herzl, we were pressed into the crowded car like sardines, and I was standing too close to the machine to see that it had a display, let alone read it.

Citypass ticket back

My husband saw a poster at one of the stations, so he went to check it out. He said that he read through two columns of text before he found the line about the paper tickets only being good the day they’re purchased. Can you imagine busy commuters stopping to read all that print when running for a train?

So the moral of the story is this: Don’t ever, ever make a mistake on the Jerusalem Light Rail. It’ll cost you and it’s unpleasant and humiliating to be labeled a law-breaker in front of dozens of people.

Remember to tell your tourist friends that they can’t save time or money by buying a bunch of the paper tickets and using them throughout their stay. They’re stuck with having to buy single tickets every single day. And good luck with that! When I got out at King George and Jaffa Street, possibly the busiest intersection on the route, two out of the four machines (both sides of the track) were out of order.

The money does not go to the municipality of Jerusalem. It goes to CityPass, the company that destroyed our downtown businesses and streets for years, and who now staffs its trains with inspectors who must either get a quota or a commission. CityPass was forced to cancel files caused by riders receiving wrong or outdated codes on their Rav Kav (the CityPass smart card — I still have a bunch of rides with the old code that were mistakenly sold to me on Dec. 2 by a bus driver and now they’re worthless).

Posted in CityPass Jerusalem Light Rail, Israel | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

Etsba Cave (Me’arat Etsba)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 26, 2012

Etsba Cave, Carmel Mountain

Our hike over Etsba Ridge included a foray into the Etsba cave (Finger cave). One of the explanations for the name is that it looks like a thumb and has three chambers, corresponding to finger joints. It is one of the most interesting caves in the region and should be explored with a good flashlight.

Etsba Cave, Carmel Mountain

Etsba Cave
You can park in the Nahal Oren (Oren stream) parking lot and climb up to the cave opening. The view of the Carmel ridge and Haifa is stunning.

View from Etsba Ridge, Carmel Mountain

The cave is large enough to stand upright, but it can be slippery from the constant drip of water. These photos of the cave’s interior were taken with the flash on my camera. You’ll need quite a few attempts because it’s very difficult to focus in pitch black darkness. If you have a helper with a flashlight who can illuminate an area to focus on, that makes the process a lot easier. I didn’t, so these photos were really hit and miss and I was lucky to get a few decent shots of the rocks and stalactites.

Etsba Cave, Carmel Mountain

Etsba Cave, Carmel Mountain

Etsba Cave, Carmel Mountain

Etsba Cave

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Fun Day in Ofer Forest

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 25, 2012

Swinging Masha

(Above: Swinging Masha). At least we got to go out for a line fun day before Cisco takes over in the summer. This year we went to Ofer Forest, near Haifa and Mount Carmel. The flowers were gorgeous. I’ll post them separately. Here are a few photos from the rest of the day.

We met at the Modi’in train station at 8 a.m. After plenty of espresso and biscuits, we boarded a train headed for Tel Aviv. A snack box, blanket, and inflatable pillow (presents) were waiting on our seats. During the trip masseurs and a masseuse made the rounds. You really need to unwind after a one-hour train ride! :-)

Massage on the train

Massage on the train

We disembarked in Atlit, where buses took us to an activity center at the top of one of the mountains in the Ofer Forest. They fed us a substantial brunch — after all, it was only an hour since we’d last eaten.

Brunch

The tour company provided photographers, with a lot of cameras, battery grips, and a flash gun. You really need a flash gun for photographing pastries and salad. They’re notoriously difficult subjects. Besides salads, we had eggs, shakshouka, and foccaccio straight from the oven (our third feed that day). There was plenty of beer. You can work up a big thirst from all that cheese (and it was already 11 a.m.

Photographing Salads

Brunch

After the brunch, there was zumba, roller-coaster rides, stretching, and just vegging out. I went on a 1.5 hour unauthorized hike with Asher and a few others:

Hiking in Carmel Mountains

The Ofer Forest (Ya’ar Ofer)/Hof haCarmel region is known for its beautiful scenery, cycling and hiking trails.

Carmel Forest

In the afternoon we were bused to the parking lot of Etsba ridge and went on a more serious hike over the ridge and into the caves. I’ll post those photos later.

We ate dinner at a winery in Caesarea. No photos of that because it was dark and who wants to see 120 sweaty people eating all that steak, goose, chicken, and fish? And red wine — lots of red wine. Our AA said that the winery was shocked that our group consumed 200 steaks. It was a very successful outing, with lots of activities and food and superb weather.

Posted in Israel, photography | 3 Comments »

Goodbye, VideoGuard – Hello, Videoscape

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 18, 2012

Goodbye, VideoGuard - Hello Videoscape?

Cisco is purchasing NDS for 5 billion dollars. John Chambers, Cisco CEO, quipped, “That’s one million dollars for each one of you!” Not that it will reach our pockets… It will be about six months, after the various anti-trust/regulatory hurdles have been cleared, before we start to see serious changes. We don’t know what will happen. We hope we will have jobs a year from now. In case you’re puzzled by the title of this posting, VideoGuard is NDS’s conditional access system. Videoscape is Cisco’s product. According to the Jerusalem Post, Cisco sees this acquisition as an opportunity to expand its deployment of Videoscape. No surprises there.

At 2:30 last Thursday we received an email inviting us to the official announcement of the Cisco takeover at the Dan Panorama hotel on Mt. Scopus (formerly the Hyatt), via live video from the UK. In the photo below, Abe Peled, NDS CEO (soon to be a Cisco Sr VP), walking across the stage. Seated, from left to right, John Chambers (Cisco CEO), Marthin de Beer (Cisco Sr VP, Video & Collaboration Group), and Dave Habinger (outgoing NDS CEO). The announcement was chaotic because we’re located in so many different time zones, so Israel heard before the UK and India, China heard but not Australia, and so on and so forth.

Announcement of Cisco Buyout

Announcement of Cisco Buyout

Several hundred of us were crowded into a hotel ballroom. I was lucky to get a seat in the pit at the front.

Announcement of Cisco Buyout

Announcement of Cisco Buyout

At least they fed us well. Roast beef, sushi, salmon, pasta, egg rolls, and fancy desserts.

You never starve at NDS

Posted in photography | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

 
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