This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for August, 2010

Shulik the Taxi Driver

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 31, 2010

We spent part of our vacation in Rosh Pina this month. We don’t own a car and neither of us has a driver’s license, but we manage with buses and taxis. The driver who took us from the intersection of Yesud haMaalah to Rosh Pina was a good driver and we took his card. When I got out of the car, I noticed that “Shulik’s taxi” was painted on the outside of the car, a somewhat unusual occurrence.

While we were walking up one of Rosh Pina’s main streets, I stopped to photographed this amazing garage. It was covered with farm tools, pieces of cars, and rusty bits of machinery. In fact, the yard was full of funky and whimsical mechanical sculptures. Then I noticed that “Shulik’s taxi” was parked in front.


We called him to order a taxi to the Hula nature reserve.  When he heard that we were right outside his house, he invited us inside.

His house was filled with beautifully arranged collections of old objects — bins of carved walking sticks and canes in the living room, a long shelf of Turkish coffee pots over the doorway, oil lamps in the dining room, and Russian spoons and dolls in a corner. I was impressed by not only the size and quality of the collections but the artistry with which they were arranged. Considering how much stuff he’d accumulated, his house didn’t feel cluttered.

Shulik (Abshalom) Shamai is 76 years old and a second generation Rosh Pina native. When he’s not driving a taxi, he collects things. He looks exactly like the picture on his card, even down to the buttoned shirt, shorts, and sandals! I didn’t ask him to pose in the photo. I only noticed the similarity later when I photographed his card.



Old cash register in the front yard:


Interior view of porch with a collection of ships’ bells. He rang one, which he claimed was from the Altalena.


Outside view of his porch, showing the striking mechanism of the tubular bells.


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Lost in a Good Book

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 30, 2010

Lost in a Good Book

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Photowalk at the Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 27, 2010

I signed up for a photowalk that was advertised in the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) bulletin, let by photographer Douglas Guthrie. I had never done a photowalk before and it sounded interesting. I think there were seven of us, not including the large group of Greek pilgrims that preceded us.

The Monastery of the Valley of the Cross is located in the Rehavia neighbourhood of Jerusalem, not far from Gan Sacher and the Israel Museum. The current building complex dates from the eleventh century, and was built on the spot where the tree believed to have been used in the cross of Jesus had grown. An earlier monastery was constructed in the fourth or fifth century, but very little remains from that period. Most of the current site dates from the crusader period, with some nineteenth century additions and renovations. It’s constructed like a fortress, with a small, low doorway to keep out invaders and high, smooth walls. The monastery is open to the public (15 shekels).

This photo taken in the courtyard shows the ornate style of the top floor, a later addition to the crusader-era building.

Courtyard, Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

A small museum houses a collection of vestments, chalice veils, carvings, cooking implements, and icons. This photograph is a detail of the gears of the old clock mechanism that was in the tower.


Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

I was the only one who brought a tripod. I thought it would be overkill but it turned out to be essential for the photographing the church and the museum. The interiors were very dark. The beam of sunlight below was not photoshopped but I did underexpose the shot slightly to emphasize the light.

Angels in the Light

Just to give you an idea of the dark interior and difficult lighting, here’s a view of the right side of the nave taken with a single exposure.

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

The photo below  is a HDR image of the church. The flattening of the three exposures shows many more details of the frescoes. The frescoes themselves are not in very good shape. They are faded and badly damaged.

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

Iconostas photographed using ambient light and tripod:

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

The eye in the triangle represents the eye of God and the Greek letters mean “the eternal one” — ‘o ων, if I remember correctly. It’s been a long time since I had to use my knowledge of iconography or Greek.

Eye of God

Fresco above doorway depicts Jesus flanked by his mother Mary (the Theotokos) and John the Baptist (the Prodromos).

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

Lamps hanging over the right aisle:

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

The photowalk itself was an interesting experience, although I don’t think I took very good photos. On the one hand, it was a good opportunity to set up a tripod and take lots of photos without feeling conspicuous. The safety-in-numbers aspect was definitely a positive factor. Those who wanted advice on technique were able to get help from Douglas, who was a patient teacher.

But I found that I did a lot less thinking than I normally do when shooting by myself. Afterwards, as I went through the photos, I kept thinking, “Oh, why didn’t I use this particular lens? Why didn’t I try to get a detail of that interesting object?” I think my photos were competent but not particular inspiring from an artistic standpoint. If I go on another photowalk, I’ll have to try not to get distracted by people around me and to think more about what I’m doing.

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Torah Scroll Dedication

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 26, 2010

Hakhnasat Sefer Torah

Hakhnasat Sefer Torah

Yesterday I was on my way home from work. Suddenly the minibus stopped because a crowd was blocking the street. I had to walk down the block but I stopped to take few photos of the event. The Torah scroll was being dedicated by the Moroccan synagogue in our neighbourhood. It takes about a year of full-time work for a scribe to write a scroll. When it’s finished, there’s a big celebration. The scroll is likened to a bride, and I’ve seen processions in which the scroll was carried under a chuppah.

There was quite a crowd of men and boys dancing around the man carrying the scroll (it gets handed around and is carried down by different men). I managed to get a good photo of the scroll in its silver-covered case, one of the few shots that I managed to take in sunlight. Most of the street is lined with apartment buildings, which cast long shadows over the street.

The photo below was greatly cropped, so I rendered it as black/white to offset the grainy appearance. A soldier lifts up his young daughter so that she can kiss the scroll.

Hakhnasat Sefer Torah

Ever have the feeling that everyone is staring at you?!!  🙂

Hakhnasat Sefer Torah

I always try to find a high place to stand when photographing a crowd. I ran up a flight of steps and was standing on the landing outside the flat of Rabbi Nahum Rabinovich, the head of the Birkat Moshe Yeshiva and a prominent rabbi (he has his own Wikipedia entry). While I was taking the photos, the rabbi came out to watch, so they were actually looking at him. I moved to one side so that he could go down the stairs to the circle of dancing teenage boys.

Hakhnasat Sefer Torah

They brought the Torah scroll over to him. I remained on the landing for a few minutes and took these photos.

Hakhnasat Sefer Torah

Since the Torah scroll is like a bride, she is joined at some point by her “sisters,” the other Torah scrolls from that synagogue. At this point there were no staircases for me to get a good high view and it was getting dark but I managed to take this photo. (The staircase to the women’s section of the Pnei Shmuel synagogue doesn’t have enough room to manoeuver a camera and it’s above a large porch. My balcony used to be a good place to take photos of the street in front of the synagogue but the trees have grown high enough to block the view.)

Hakhnasat Sefer Torah

This collection wouldn’t be complete without a photo of the outlandish vans that provide the music at these events. The lights blink, music blares from loudspeakers, and sometimes steam or smoke pours out of the top (it’s meant to be a special effect, not a mechanical malfunction). They really are something to see. This is actually a rather restrained version of this type of vehicle. I’ve seen some that are much larger. The bulbous lights on top are meant to represent the finials or bells (“rimonim”) decorating the handles of a Torah scroll. This photo was taken from my balcony. It was about the only thing I could photograph above the trees.

Hakhnasat Sefer Torah

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Moon Setting over Mount of Olives

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 25, 2010

Moon setting over Mount of Olives

I was washing dishes this morning, around 6:15 a.m. The full moon was very low in the sky, so I grabbed my camera, mini-tripod, and a 250 mm lens. This photo has been cropped quite a lot because it’s not that big a lens and the horizon is over a mile away. The tower of the Augusta Victoria Hospital is barely silhouetted by the moon. Hmmm. I suppose I could try to recreate the Amman twin towers shot with the full moon and this tower. Just have to ask my friendly neighbourhood moon-watcher if he would mind doing the calculations.

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Abandoned Elhadef House

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 23, 2010

Elchadif House, Yesud haMaalah

Elchadif House, Yesud haMaalah

I loved Funky Slug’s images of Potter’s Manor. I dream of roaming around an abandoned mansion, photographing decayed splendor. No such luck in Israel but I did manage to get a few photos of the interior of the Elhadef house in Yesud haMaalah, one of the oldest agricultural settlements in Israel’s Hula Valley. As you can see, the walls aren’t in very good condition. These photos were taken from the safety of the front window. No photographers were harmed in the making of these images….

Both of these photos are HDR (one in black and white, obviously), made from three exposures, handheld, and post-processed with Photomatix.

I just realised I forgot to photograph the outside of the house! It was the day we walked 17 km (about 10.5 miles) in very hot weather and high humidity, with no shade, so I wasn’t thinking clearly. Here’s the plaque affixed to the window. It describes the original owner, Nissim Behar Elhadef, as the “flower king” of Yesud haMaalah after he tried to set up a perfume factory in Yesud haMaalah. The house (and most of the village) was built by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who supported many of the developments in this region. Yesud haMaalah was founded in 1883 by Polish immigrants

Beit Elhadef plaque

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Sometimes Things Don’t Work Out…

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 22, 2010


This is the square Orenburg shawl, moments before it was unraveled. It didn’t work out. See those deformed cats’ paws near the needle? That was the final straw. I finally faced the fact that this yarn, needle, and pattern were not a happy match.

The linen thread was working but not quite. It’s a little too slubby to knit up evenly. Sometimes I had to peel off 3-inch-long bits of unspun flax. I’m not sure the 2 mm nickel-plated Inox needle was such a good choice. It was a bit too slippery for me to knit fine yarn evenly and I think possibly it was a bit too small, although I did like the hole size in the swatches. The flip side is that if I were to have chosen a larger needle, the finished shawl would have been the size of a tablecloth. So either way there’s a trade-off. One thing’s for sure — I’m going to go back to my trusty, ancient aluminum-coated needles for my next attempt. You haven’t heard the last of this!

Shawl being unraveled with a ball-winder:


The former shawl, reduced to its elements. The linen is a nice yarn but better suited for fine weaving. NO, I am not going to look for a 32-dent reed for my table loom so that I can knit a bunch of napkins. This thread would work for a doily or tablecloth, preferably knit from the center outwards. The thread doesn’t have enough stretch for knitting off the edging selvedge.


The next possible substitute. I’ve had this yarn in my stash for about 15 years. It was an impulse buy in London on one of my first visits after I married an Englishman. Tonight I’ll cast on some stitches and see how the tension works with a 3 mm needle. Or maybe 2.5 mm.


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Goodbye, Vacation — Hello, Real Life!

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 20, 2010

Initial Call-up Notice

We just got back from a five-day sauna — er, vacation — in the Hula valley region north of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). It was hot. And humid. Yesterday my husband and I walked 17 kilometers in the heat. That’s no exaggeration! He checked on the hiking map. We walked from the Yesud haMaalah junction to Yesud haMaalah itself, north to Dubrovin farm, north to one of the Hula nature reserves, south back to Dubrovin farm, where we had lunch, back to Yesud haMaalah, then back to our hotel at the Yesud haMaalah junction, with a short detour to the cemetery.

As for real life, my son, who will be 17 in September, just got his first army call-up notice. He’s growing up so quickly! He hasn’t yet decided whether he’s going to go in as soon as he turns 18 or whether he’ll do a program for the first year. Right now we have to start gathering all the medical documents.

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When You Wish Upon a Star… Perseids 2010

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 13, 2010


Guess what I was doing at 4 a.m.? Sitting in the desert not far from where I live, trying to photograph the Perseids. I was very grateful that my husband came along. He’s not interested in photography but he is interested in astronomy. Ever the good sport, he made the comment, “It’s not like I’m going say, ‘Hurry up so we can get to the next constellation.'” I was very glad that I remembered to put on bug repellent and take a small flashlight. The light at the bottom is from the highway to the Dead Sea and the industrial area of Mishor Adumim.

I got two photos of the same meteor, combined them with Photoshop, converted to B/W, and cropped to produce the image. We saw about a dozen, some quite large, but this was the only one I managed to photograph after about an hour of sitting on the rocks. Disappointed? Not really, considering that last year I didn’t get a single one (2009 was a bad year for viewing the Perseids, because of the rising moon; this year we had a 2-day-old new moon, which set early). There’s a big difference between one and none!

Canon 450D (Digital Rebel XSi), Canon 10-22mm lens, at 14mm, f/4.5, ISO 800, 30 and 38 second exposures. Combined in Photoshop CS2.

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Hutzot haYotzer 2010 (Jerusalem International Arts & Crafts Festival)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 11, 2010

Thai dancers

Last night we went to Hutzot haYotzer. I haven’t been for a couple years, so I was glad to have an opportunity  to go this year. The festival runs from Aug. 2 to 14, 2010, 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. (midnight, after Shabbat),  in Sultan’s Pool, near the Old City of Jerusalem. This year there are over 150 exhibitors.  I thought the entrance fee (55 NIS, about $12) was quite fair because it is a lot more than a craft fair. There are live performances (I counted four musical venues), a big concert each evening, street theater, a food court, and demonstrations of spinning and glass blowing.

I always go to the international paviliions first. This year the offerings were somewhat more commercial than the last time I was there. Two years ago I found a wonderful Panamian mola that had been cut out of a blouse and made into a bag (blogged here). This year I bought a couple baskets (from South African and Bolivia), a small bag (Guatamala), and a painted turtle box (Indonesia). Or is it a box turtle? 🙂

International Exhibitors

List of exhibitors in the international pavilion.


Beaded figure of a woman from Cameroon


Hungarian lacemaker making a narrow bobbin lace edging. The examples I saw were very similar to Russian bobbin lace, with its trails and plaits.


Chinese artist

Sbun-Nga – Dancers from Thailand

The Thai dance troupe, Sbun-Nga, performed on the small stage in the international pavilion. There were several dance sets, which began with what I presume were somewhat traditional dances. The costumes were lovely. The commentary, over a loudspeaker at the beginning of each set, was in English. If I recall correctly, the woman in the gold cape represents some kind of exotic bird.

Thai dancers

The set in the next photo was modeled on a cooking show. A bare-chested chef wielded a gourd, surrounded by a bevy of writhing maidens with mortars and pestles.

Sbun-Nga Dancers

This set was very funny. How can I describe it. A girl and a carrot. Wait a minute — they’re all holding carrots. According to the commentary, carrots are a sign of hospitality among hard-working Thai farmers (the guys in black). That certainly clears things up!

Sbun-Nga Dancers

Thai dancers

I also found some YouTube videos of their performance in Melbourne this year. They did the Beethoven-with-castanets dance last night. I’m sorry I couldn’t find a video of the carrot dance!

Mosh Ben Ari

The main performer was Mosh Ben Ari, an Israeli singer and composer who sings a mixture of rock, soul, and reggae. (Here’s the official Mosh ben Ari site). We really enjoyed it. My son stayed until the end. We left after about 45 minutes because it was getting late.

Mosh ben Ari concert

My son is somewhere among the masses of arm-waving teenagers in front of the stage (below).

Mosh ben Ari concert

We were sitting near the top of the stands.

Mosh ben Ari concert

I have a few more photos in my Flickr set. The festival was crowded but not unbearable. The food court has improved a lot. Now it’s a lot easier to find reasonably priced kosher food. People who have mobility problems may have difficulty going down some of the rock-cut steps but quite a few ramps have been provided.

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