This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for September, 2010

Tatted Etrog Bag Pattern

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 27, 2010

Dried Etrog

I have the feeling that this pattern will be of little interest to anyone but me! This week we are in the middle of Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.  My husband has been saving etrogs (the fruit that is held and waved with the other Four Species) for years, since he came to Israel and long before I met him. He hangs them in the sukkah for decorations. At first, he used to tie heavy thread to the stem end of the etrog but sometimes the stem breaks off. So a few years ago he started asking me to make bags for the dried etrogs from the previous year. Fortunately, I only have to make two bags a year, for my husband’s and my son’s etrogs, but every year I have to remember how I did it.

I’ve knitted, crocheted, netted, knotted, and tatted bags. Tatting is by far the easiest and fastest method. If anyone is interested in a crocheted version, let me know and I’ll post a pattern. But I’m not expecting a huge clamour for the pattern because hanging dried etrogs in little bags isn’t a very widespread practice!

If you don’t have a bunch of dried etrogs crying out for little bags, you can use this bag to hang other decorations, like fresh fruit, satin balls that have lost their hooks, coloured eggs, whatever is roundish and strikes your fancy.

Tatted etrog net

Tatted Etrog Bag

One shuttle
Perle cotton 8

1. Large ring: R1-3-3-3-3-3-2. Close. The base ring has 6 picots separated by three stitches. You don’t have to make such a large ring if you are enclosing an object with a rounded bottom. I make a large ring to accommodate the sharp point at the bottom of the etrog.

2. Small ring: Leave 1″ thread. R2+2, joining the picot of the small ring to one of the picots of the large ring. Close.  Repeat 6 times so that 6 small rings are joined to the large ring, each small ring separated by 1″ of thread.

3. Small ring: Leave 1″ thread. R2+2, joining the picot of the small ring to the thread loop of the previous round. Work in spiral fashion around and around until your bag is about 3 inches long. I find that 5 rounds is sufficient to cover the etrog.

4. To close the bag, cut the thread from the shuttle, leaving a tail of about 12″ from the last ring. Run the tail through the loops. Insert the etrog and pull the tail end like a drawstring.

Chag sameach! (and thanks to Penelope for pointing out to me that I’d forgotten #4.)

Fresh etrogs for sale at work:

Etrogs for Sukkot

Neighbour reading at night in his sukkah, which is much more elaborate than ours. In case you’re wondering, the sukkah is constructed in a public courtyard and I was walking along a public path, so this isn’t the same as photographing someone in his house.

Sukkah at night

Posted in Crafts, Israel, Judaism, needlework | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Video: Where Good Ideas Come From

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 27, 2010

This is a video promo for Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. I enjoyed it. He makes some good points about connecting with other people and ideas. At Harvard we were constantly encouraged to interact with students and teachers at wine and cheese parties, deans’ teas, in library conversation rooms, and so on. Then I came to Israel in the 1990s. What a difference! At Hebrew U, no one seemed to talk to each other. Some scholars in the National Library reading rooms were rumoured to hide their notes when they went out for coffee so that no one could steal their ideas. I wonder whether the academic culture has changed since then.

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Paratroopers’ March

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 16, 2010

Paratroopers' March

My officemate phoned me this morning on his way to work to tell me that the paratroopers (tsanchanim) were passing by our building on a “masa kumta” (march at graduation from basic training). According to one of my co-workers who was in the paratroopers,  the march starts at about 4:00 in the afternoon at Tel-Nof, and ends 100 kilometers (!!) and 16 hours later at Ammunition Hill (Givat Hatachmoshet). At this intersection, family members and friends join the soldiers for the last two kilometers. It’s quite a sight!

In the photo below, a soldier is helping his friend keep up by dragging him by the hand. He must be strong — he’s carrying a heavy stretcher on his back and a lot of other equipment on his vest. The soldier between them is one of many who were chanting, “Mem Peh meshuga. Mem Mem meshuga.” Loose translation: “The platoon commander is crazy. The company commander is crazy.” I guess it keeps their mind off their sore feet and boosts morale.

Paratroopers' March

This guy has an ice pop wrapper hanging out of his mouth. He’s wearing a red ceremonial banner that identifies their unit, “Efeah,” a kind of snake. (One of my co-workers served in that unit and gave me the background info on the march. He also identified the rifle. It’s a Belgian FN MAG M240, in case you were wondering.)

Paratroopers' March

On the left are two officers (they already have their berets and have insignia on their shoulders). The one on the right is wearing a flag with the paratroopers’ emblem.

Paratroopers' March

After they crossed the intersection, they continued marching up Golda Meir Blvd. This isn’t a great photo. I only included it because it shows the place where I work. It would have been fun to photograph them from the sixth floor balcony but I couldn’t be in two places at once.

Paratroopers' March

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Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 15, 2010

Italian Synagogue, Jerusalem

Or “How to photograph a small museum collection in thirteen minutes….”

Yes, these photos and the ones in my Flickr set really were taken in thirteen minutes, with the exception of the courtyard shot, which I took after we had left the museum.

I went with several fiber enthusiasts to see an exhibit at the U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art. Our small group, led by Haya, a Jerusalem-based weaver, included Phyllis Kantor, an American weaver of Judaica, and Megina Schlein, Judaica embroidery teacher and author. Haya was intrigued by an unusual piece of lace that reminded her of pomegranates. I wanted to show it to other lacemakers to see whether anyone recognized the style. Ten minutes before closing time, I asked the man at the desk whether it was possible to purchase a photo of this unusual lace Torah scroll binder, since a sign said that photography was forbidden. He said, “You can take pictures if you don’t use a flash.” Woohoo! This is by no means the complete collection, although it’s a small museum. Here are a few highlights.

The photo above is the Torah ark of the restored Italian synagogue, which is still used for services. The men sit below in the pews. The women’s section is above, behind the carved wooden panels. It’s a very small synagogue but it looks rather impressive when photographed with a wide angle lens. (I’m very glad that I thought to take the lens with me, although I never imagined that they would let me photograph inside the museum.)

Here is a view of the synagogue in the opposite direction, towards the bima, where the Torah scroll is read:

Italian Synagogue, Jerusalem

The museum is located on Hillel Street in downtown Jerusalem. If you are walking down the street from King George, it’s on your left, past the Absorption Ministry and a small shopping mall. The photo below was taken in the courtyard. The original photo was terrible. We were rushing off and I didn’t have time to change from a wide-angle to regular telephoto lens, so I had to correct the distortion with Photoshop. The colours were horrible because the sky was white and cloudy behind the building, so I coloured it sepia.

U. Nahon Museum of Jiwish Italian Art

The collection included some splendid eighteenth century ketubbot (marriage contracts). This detail shows an idealized picture of Jerusalem surrounded by the signs of the zodiac. You can see the other ketubbah photos in the Flickr set.

Ketubba deail

Ketubbah (Marriage Certificate), Italian, 18th cent.

Another ketubbah, with a naked Adam and Eve painted in a naive style. They are flanked by an Italian couple in period dress.

Ketubba deail

The photo below shows several charity collection boxes. The doors are wood with metal hinges and reinforcement. They are set into marble. The inscriptions above the boxes indicate different funds. From left to right: Rabbi Meir (possibly the fund of Rabbi Meir Baal haNes), Jerusalem, hospital, candles, charity, old people’s home, and building maintenance.


Torah binder (also called wimpel or binder), 19th century bobbin lace, very similar to Milanese in style. Cotton threads on silk backing.

Italian Torah Binder

This is the mysterious lace Torah binder that led to my taking all these photos. It’s cotton bobbin lace on a silk backing.  It looks very freeform, but one person has said that she can see pattern repeats. A couple members of the Arachne lace list think it’s some form of Binche lace.

Torah Binder

Another Torah binder, made from 16 squares of linen joined with lace inserts. Each 20×20 cm square has a word embroidered in chain stitch in Hebrew, forming the dedication:  “Blessed is he who gave the Torah to his people, Israel, in his holiness / I shall pay my vows to God / By Tamar, wife of the honoured teacher, Moshe/ The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree / Year 1572” (Baruch shenatan torah le-amo yisrael bikedushato /  Nedarai la-shem eshalem / na’am marat Tamar ishat km”r Moshe yz”v / Tsadik katamar yifrach / Shanat [1572]).

Torah binder

Carved Torah ark, Eliyahu’s chair on the left, candlestick in front.


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Catching the Moon

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 13, 2010

Catching the Moon

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Two Synagogues in Safed

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 12, 2010

Painted Synagogue Ceiling

The first two photos depict the painted ceiling of the Abuhav synagogue in Safed. Named after Rabbi Yitzhak (Isaac) Abuhav of Portugal, this building was originally built in the sixteenth century. It was twice destroyed by earthquakes, in 1759 and 1837. The current building was dedicated in 1847. The wall behind the arks is the only part of the original structure to have survived the earthquakes. The painted ceiling is decorated with musical instruments used in the Temple in Jerusalem, symbols of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and four crowns: the Torah crown, the priestly crown, the royal crown, and a crown unique to Safed, the crown of impending redemption.

Apart from its painted ceiling, the other striking feature is that the synagogue has three aron kodesh or arks for the Torah scrolls. The ark on the right side holds one of the oldest (nearly 500 years old) Torah scrolls still in use.

Both photos were taken with a 10-22mm lens. I took the photo above from the bima itself. The one below was taken near the stairs of the bima.

Painted Synagogue Ceiling

The photo below shows the carved, painted Torah ark of the Ashkenazi Ari synagogue in Safed. This synagogue, built in the sixteen century by Greek Sephardi immigrants,  is named after Rabbi Isaac Luria (the “Ari”). It was destroyed in the 1837 earthquake and rebuilt 20 years later. The ark, carved from olive wood by a Galician craftsman, shows the Eastern European influence in its design.

Painted Torah Ark

The last photo shows the inscription above the doorway of the Ari synagogue. It reads: “How awe-inspiring is this place, the synagogue of the Ari of blessed memory.”

Doorway of Ari Synagogue, Tsfat

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Annual Company Meeting

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 7, 2010

Ceiling Lights

Our annual company meeting was held a couple days ago in the Jerusalem Convention Center (Binyanei haUma). For obvious reasons I’m not posting pictures of my co-workers milling around, trying to wake up with strong cups of coffee. (It’s the month of Elul according to the Hebrew calendar. During the month of Elul, there is a custom of reciting Selichot or penitential prayers just before Rosh Hashanah, usually between midnight and dawn. That accounts for the bleary looks on my co-workers’ faces.)

I was asked to take the photos at the last minute because the guy who usually does it (another co-worker) had a flare-up from an old wrist injury and didn’t think he would be able to manage to hold a heavy camera with a flash for hours on end. He added, “You’re going to be bringing your camera anyway, right?” Well, yes … although I wasn’t planning to drag along a flash and three lenses.

It was an interesting experience, very different from photographing people at a social event like a bar mitzvah. At a social event, people are dressed up, in a good mood, and they expect to be photographed. At the company meeting, they’re not dressed up, they’re not in a great mood, and they couldn’t give a toss whether their photos grace the intranet at work. It was like trying to hunt wild animals in a cage. My camera turned me into Public Enemy Number 1! It was too crowded for me to stand in a corner with a telephoto and I gave up using a flash early on because it was too intrusive.

The candid shots were probably my worst work ever. I’m so glad that they won’t be seen outside the intranet. On the other hand, some of my photos of the people on stage were not too bad. The awards presentation was very tricky because the hand-shaking line of execs had positioned themselves so that the recipients had their backs to the audience. After a couple shots of people’s backs, I scooted over to the left, so that I could manage a 3/4 shot during the first handshake.

Here are a couple unusual photos I took. You didn’t really want to see guys at a podium giving PowerPoint presentations anyway, right? The photo below is a toe portrait of one of our most senior vice presidents/founders of our company. This is an example of “Israeli business casual.” No suit, no tie, not even a pair of shoes. He is on a stage in front of the whole company, speaking into a microphone, right leg slung over the arm of the chair, and flexing his big toe, as if to emphasize the point. I think this is one of those “only in Israel” situations.

Expressive Toes

This object is a shofar, a ram’s horn that is blown like a trumpet during the Elul and particularly during the High Holidays. It belongs to the sandaled VP with the flexed toe. He blew it before the meeting and as everyone was getting up for lunch. I turned on the flash and managed to get a quick shot of his performance.

The lighting of the shofar  was from the stage while the hall was quite dark. 163mm, ISO 400, f5.6, 1/8 sec.  I didn’t have a tripod but I was lucky to get a table at the front to myself and braced my elbows on the table top. The empty table also made it much easier to change lenses. Instead of grabbing the lenses out of a bag in the dark, I laid them out in front of me with a couple empty glasses on either side to keep them from rolling off the edge.


Rosh Hashana begins tomorrow evening. It’s a two-day holiday, followed immediately by Shabbat, so I’ll be off-line until Saturday night. I won’t be able to post photos for Project365 for two of those days. Oh well! For those of you who are observing the holiday, I wish you “Gmar chatimah tovah” and shanah tovah u-metukah!

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Another “Cooking in the Office” Video: Israeli Salad

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 2, 2010

At last! Yinnon and I made another cooking video at work. The first one, recorded in 2009, showed how to make boiled kubbeh for soup. This video shows how to make the fine chopped vegetable salad, called Israeli salad or Arab salad, depending on who you ask. Interestingly enough, Yinnon, who has worked in many restaurant kitchens, says that Arab kitchen workers call it Jewish salad.

This salad is not for the faint of heart or dull of knife. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever aspire to this degree of skill with a knife. Then again, neither did Yinnon’s wife, and she now chops salad like this.

You’ll notice that Yinnon doesn’t use peppers in this version. I’ll include the “recipe,” although it’s really just a list of ingredients. This is very much a “to your taste” kind of salad. If you want to add peppers or leave out the onion or substitute green onion, go ahead.

Israeli Salad

Tomatoes (about 1 medium tomato per person)
Cucumbers (about 1 small “pickling” cucumber per person)
Olive oil
Lemon juice (fresh)
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, coarsely ground

Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and parsley very finely. Mix and season with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

If you are making the salad ahead of time, Yinnon recommends draining the tomatoes in a sieve. He also stores the chopped ingredients separately and mixes them at the last minute, although he doesn’t mention this in the video.

Posted in Food, Israel, videos | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Hula Valley Nature Reserve

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 1, 2010


Continuing the theme of what I did during my summer vacation…

We visited the Hula Valley nature reserve three times, on the hottest days of the year. It was steamy!

Israel is situated in the flight migration path of many species of birds, including cranes. Tens of thousands of cranes pass over the region every year (unfortunately our vacation was didn’t coincide with the height of the crane migration, so I don’t have any photos). The Hula valley was originally a mosquito-infested swamp. It was drained in the 1950s and turned into rich agricultural land. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we now know that this was an ecological disaster, but at the time, when so many were dying from malaria, it was a reasonable option. Huge machines dug canals to drain the water into the Kinneret. (For additional info, see Wikipedia and Jewish Virtual Library.) Vineyards and fruit orchards were planted.

In the 1990s the Hula Restoration Project was founded;  a small lake called Agmon was created in 1994. It is part of the Hula Nature Reserve and is a rich breeding ground for water birds, catfish, turtles, and other wildlife.

Our first excursion was a night wildlife tour. We rode in a wagon pulled by a tractor while a guide shone a powerful light into the marsh and bushes and gave a running commentary. Since the light was very low, I’ve only posted a photo of a family of martens, but we also saw water buffalo, a lynx, two chameleons, a crab, jackal, and lots of birds. I recommend the tour if you have older children.

Family of Martens

The following morning we rented bicycles and cycled around the lake. The area is perfectly flat and there are paths for walkers, cyclists, and golf carts. The entire route is about 8 km. Despite the heat, there were plenty of critters to photograph.

Monarch Butterfly

These dragonflies are a brilliant red and very difficult to photograph because they dart all over the place.

Red Dragonfly

The following day we went to the southern entrance of the nature reserve. I recommend the 40 minute audio-visual presentation. Watching a bird migration film through 3D glasses while the seats move is not a common experience. After the film and displays, we walked through the steamy swamp on the boardwalk. I took photos of the bird blind,  herons, and turtles. This photo of the lake has the Golan Heights in the background. It was a very hazy day.

Hazy Day over the Hula Valley

The heron was quite a distance away but it stayed still long enough for me to switch lenses. I took this photo with a 250mm lens.


Just playing with my new 10-22mm lens. 🙂 But it is a very long bird blind.

Bird Blind

Bird Blind

I like a turtle with a sense of humour.

Laughing Turtles

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