This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for April, 2012

Video: Happy 64th Birthday, Israel!

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 26, 2012

In Israel, Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers comes right before Independence Day. Firework displays are held all over the country, so we made our annual trek up the hill to watch the fireworks in the center of Maale Adumim. This year I decided to do something a little different — a video instead of photos.

We were very close to the site. I had to clean ashes off my lens in the morning. In some parts the video looks out of focus because there was so much smoke hanging in the air (the strong wind had died down). Some of the fireworks exploded so close to the ground that the guys down in the wadi had to run around extinguishing the little brush fires. The colours were much more intense in real life, of course. If I try this again, I may lower the exposure compensation so that the highlights don’t get blown out quite so badly.

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

Pattern: Filet Crochet Matzah Cover

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 24, 2012

Matzah Cover

Matzah Cover Pattern

To download a full-sze version of the chart, click the image above. On the Flickr page, right-click the image and choose Original. Click the Download link and save to your hard drive.

The matzah cover design is 11.5 inches high and 12.5 inches wide, at a gauge of 6 squares per inch. I don’t recall what thread or hook I used, but they must have been fairly fine. Mine was designed to cover a 3-compartment matzah holder for square machine-made matzah. Of course, a fabric backing or matzah holder is optional, but it gives the cover a nice finish.

The chart is 96 squares high and 85 squares wide.

Matzah Cover, 1873

And for a little visual inspiration, here’s an embroidered matzah cover, surreptitiously photographed at the Israel Museum. It is designed to cover large round matzahs. The triangular tabs at the bottom, labeled “Kohen,” “Levi,” and “Israel” for the three matzahs representing the three parts of the Jewish people, are attached to layers that divide three compartments. The name embroidered below the crown is Avraham Shtern-something. I can’t quite make out the last two letters after the resh. Probably polychrome silk on silk satin, although I can’t swear to it because I’m going by a photo, not the actual artifact (and they’re not likely to allow me to handle the fabric, in any case). It’s almost certainly professional work, judging by the materials, the gold bullion letters, and the stones set in the crown. The ruffled lace edging looks like chemical lace.

Matzah cover

Posted in Crafts, crochet, tutorial | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tutorial: How to Make a Needlework Chart with Visio

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 20, 2012

Visio for needlework chart

Crocheted matzah cover

This year I didn’t pack my filet crochet matzah cover away right after Pesach. Someone who saw my Flickr photo requested the pattern and I decided to make it available. The only problem was that I didn’t have any charting software.

Years ago, on my Windows95 machine, I had an old copy of PC Stitch, which was adequate for charting but not ideal. To be honest, it felt like an old DOS program that had been ported into Windows, which was probably what it was. I decided to use MS Visio 2007 (part of the Office suite) to see whether it would work. Voilà — A chart in one evening!

Note: I know that some people use Excel for charting. It is easier to use and more readily available than Visio. Visio’s main strength is that it is a graphics program with a built-in grid (you’re laying your grid lines on top of the background grid lines, which don’t show in the finished drawing). You can export your finished design as a PDF or JPEG. You can re-use the grid for other designs by hiding or deleting your current design layer.

How to Make a Needlework Chart with Visio

  1. Launch Visio and open a blank block diagram, stretching the canvas until its large enough for your design by pressing Ctrl and dragging the edges.
  2. Make sure your Drawing Tools toolbar is visible (right-click the toolbars and make sure the Drawing toolbar is checked).
  3. The grid is visible by default. If it isn’t, click View > Grid.
  4. Snap-to-Grid is enabled by default. If it isn’t, click Tools > Snap & Glue.
  5. Click the Line tool on the Drawing Tools toolbar and draw horizontal and vertical red lines, 10 squares apart.
  6. Select the red lines and save them to a layer called “grid_red” (Format > Layer).
  7. Lock the “grid_red” layer (View > Layer Properties).
  8. Draw a grid of black lines. This isn’t as tedious as it sounds: Draw one black line. Duplicate (Ctrl-drag or copy/paste) them until you have 9 parallel lines positioned correctly. Select all 9 lines and group them (Ctrl-G). Copy them (Ctrl-drag) them between each pair of red lines.
  9. Save the black lines to a layer called “grid_black” and lock it.
  10. Creat another layer called Design (View > Layer Properties. Click New). Check the Active checkbox so that all things you draw from now on will be saved to that layer (this should happen anyway because you have locked the grid layers).
  11. Draw a black square, no line, to fill one of the squares. Using Ctrl-drag to duplicate the box, start filling in the letter shapes. If there are long horizontal or vertical lines, stretch the black square to fit. Copy and paste duplicate letter shapes.
  12. Save file. You can export as JPG or PDF (File > Save as).

When I’ve laundered the cover, blocked it, and photographed it properly (the photo above really doesn’t do it justice), I’ll post the pattern.

Posted in Crafts, crochet, tutorial | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Photo Walk, Passover 2012

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 11, 2012

Bird of Paradise

I had planned to visit the Ein Hod artists’ colony today but my plans fell through. A friend in Maale Adumim suggested a photo walk together, since she was planning to go out to photograph a few flowers anyway. So we wandered around central Maale Adumim and took a few photos in the early afternoon. Afterwards I walked to the mall to buy some fish for yom tov lunch.

The first photo I got was a young gazelle buck grazing close to haGittit Street. This was about as challenging as photographing a cow at a dairy. He didn’t know he was supposed to bound away over the hills. After a while I started posing the critter, by walking to the other side and making chirping noises so that he would turn his head towards me. I like this photo because you can see his budding horns quite clearly.

Young gazelle buck

Poppies in the ruins of the St. Martyrius Monastery, which I’ve never seen. (Need to find a tour group that’s going there.)

Poppies in the ruins

Succulent plant

Three gerbera

Rose with split toning:


Kalanchoe flowers:

Kalanchoe flowers

Bird of Paradise

Palm fronds

Sun flare through palm leaves

Masses of flowers on the road divider between the mall and the library.

Masses of Flowers

Masses of Flowers

The Death Star. It’s a disco ball hanging in front of a big digital screen with ads running all the time. I underexposed it to make it look a little more mysterious:

The Death Star

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Nahal Prat Hike

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 10, 2012

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

My husband was working yesterday and my son went up north with friends, so I accepted an invitation to hike along Nahal Prat/Wadi Kelt. I haven’t seen this area for a long time. If you don’t like crowds, this is not the hike for you during the Passover holiday! The pools and parks are jammed with picnickers. However, if you are fit enough to hike the trail (medium difficulty, not recommended for very young children), you will quickly reach areas without crowds.

The Nahal Prat route from Anatot to the car park on the highway near Nofei Prat is about 5-6 km. Add another kilometer if you’re coming by foot from Anatot. When the upper and lower parking lots get full, the Parks Authority start turning people back. They won’t let taxis through. Add another kilometer if you walk to Ein Al Fuwar (Ein Mabu’a). There is a charge at the Anatot park entrance. At the other end, Ein Al Fuwar is free (and as full as you expect it to be!). You will find the hours, entrance fee, and other useful info in English at the Israel Nature & Parks Authority site.

We took the scenic route by foot from Anatot. The normally brown and dusty hills are covered with desert rocket, white mustard, and horehound flowers in spring:

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt) Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

Near the bottom you pass the Firan monastery (Russian Orthodox). It is open to the public (modest dress required) during certain hours.

Firan Monastery

In this view of the monastery church, you can see the original hermits’ cells in the cliff wall. I don’t think they’re inhabited at the moment. This photo was taken quite a distance away, which is why it’s a bit hazy.

Firan Monastery

At the bottom of the trail are couple pools and a picnic area. A very crowded picnic area.

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

This boy brought over a pan of shakshouka (eggs poached in sauteed tomatoes and peppers). Some people bring enough equipment to furnish a small kitchen. This is not your average picnic.

Boy with pan of shakshuka

A woman asked me to photograph a couple teenage girls by the cold water pool and gave me her email address to send her the photos. (I sent five photos this morning. She thanked me and said the photos were lovely.)

The Nahal Prat trail follows a stream that flows year round, past several natural pools, stands of wild mint and pampas grass, and lots of rock ledges. The trail crosses the stream several times. Although there are rocks placed as stepping stones, they’re slippery. You have to be quite agile to keep your shoes dry the entire trip. I only got one toe wet, at the last crossing.

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

Wild mint:

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

Pool with high walls and small waterfall:

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

The rock formations are stunning, full of natural caves and ledges:

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

The ponds are teaming with matzah-eating fish. I’ve heard that you can get a fish pedicure as well, but I’m just not into fish nibbling my toes. If you stick your feet into the water they’ll swarm around your feet. It’s a bit disquieting.

One of the boys stuck a piece of matzah between his toes.

Fish eating Matzah

Fish carrying off a piece of matzah.

Fish Eating Matzah

There are a few spots where you have to climb on iron bars. You don’t need to be a professional rock climber but you do need to be in reasonably good physical shape to manage the steep slopes.

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)

If you are walking from the parking lot at the end of the hiking route to Ein Fuwar, there are two routes. The road is the longer way (about 1.5 km) but it’s smoother and easier on the feet. The dry wadi is quicker but it’s murder on the feet — lots of gravel, sand, big and small rocks.

Unfortunately, my battery went dead before the end of the hike (forgot that I’d shot video of the matzah baking), so I can’t show you Ein Fuwar. You’ll have to imagine a tiny swimming pool surrounded by about 200 people — haredi and Sephardi families, Arab teenagers, anyone who’s looking for a free activity during Passover (which is about 85% of the country). The site has porta-toilets and a refreshments counter, which were both pronounced acceptable. I noticed that the patio includes the mosaic floor of an small church (you can see the outlines of the rotunda).

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Baking Matzah

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 6, 2012

Homemade Matzah

This is something that almost no one does — bake their own matzah for Passover. Lots of people do matzah-baking demonstrations and educational classes before the holiday, but this family is actually baking their own matzah for the Seder, in a home-made wood-burning oven. I walked up to their house at noon to take a few photos. I also recorded some video footage but I won’t have time to edit it until after the first day of Passover. Too much to do!

Matzah must be made in 18 minutes, from the moment that the water and flour are combined until the baking is finished. A timer is used. The water has to be mayim shelanu, water that has “rested.” It’s poured into jugs the night before and rested in a cool place until it’s needed for baking. (For an overview of the details, see this site.) You’ll notice that all the utensils are steel: table cover, rolling pins, mixing bowl.

Mixing flour and water in a steel bowl:

Mixing matzah dough

Rolling with a steel rolling pin on a steel-covered table:

Kneading Matzah Dough

Baking Matzah

Handing a raw matzah to the baker:

Baking Matzah

Preparing to put it in the oven, made of cinder blocks and metal plates (the upper compartment is for baking. The lower compartment is filled with burning wood and there is a plate in front to protect the baker from the heat):

Baking Matzah

Baking Matzah

Finished matzah drying on a cloth:

Matzah Drying

OK, back to the kitchen with me. Only a couple hours left before we start Passover!

Chag Pesach Kasher ve-Sameach!

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

Burning Chametz

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 6, 2012



I took these photos this morning of the burning of chametz. Something about fire fascinates kids. They don’t seem to mind the heat (and it is hot today!).

We burned the last of the leavened food around 10:30 this morning. It’s tough coming up with interesting menu ideas when you have a bunch of house guests, can’t eat bread, cakes, rice, legumes, or matzah (our custom is not to eat matzah for the month leading up to Pesach in order for it to be more special when we have it), and the thought of one more potato makes you sick…..

Breakfast menu, day of Seder:

  • Leftover chametz (as long as it’s before the cut-off time, which is 10:09 this year, according to our custom)
  • Cheese slices
  • Rice crackers
  • Hard-boiled eggs

Lunch menu, day of Seder:

  • Tuna salad with lots of cut up vegetables in it
  • Vegetable salad
  • Potato-kohlrabi kugel (I didn’t have enough potatoes for a kugel, so I added a large kohlrabi; it was really good)
  • Cheese slices


The whole neighbourhood smells like a forest fire, which makes drying the laundry a bit problematic. Oh well, no one’s going to notice a bit of smoke on their bath towels, right?

Ever wonder what 750 grams of horseradish looks like? A caterer friend had some extra and was giving it away. I thought she’d give me a couple roots but her husband handed me the whole lot. So I’ve dried it, wrapped it in newspaper, and put it in the back of the fridge, for when I have more time.


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

Bedikat Chametz

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 5, 2012

Bedikat Chametz

The evening before the Seder, we perform the ritual of bedikat chametz (Search for Chametz), searching our house for chametz (leavened food) using candles and flashlights. I wrapped ten pieces of cake (normally we use a pita but I threw out the last one while cleaning the freezer) and my son distributed them around the house.

This piece took us a long time to find. He attached it to the pull-chain of the ceiling fan. 🙂

I didn’t take the photo then and there. We recited Kol Chamira and I asked him to re-attach the foil-covered cake to the chain.

We’re getting there — the end is in sight! The kitchen has been switched over and I did a lot of cooking today. I am so glad we put an air conditioner in the kitchen. The dish kashering station is right outside my building and the sound of religious pop music and propane torches has been non-stop for a couple days now. (On the other hand, I am very glad not to have that job! Torching oven racks and boiling dishes must be horrible in this sharav ( “scorchingly hot, dry desert wind which blows from the Arabian Desert from May to mid-June and from September to October. It last for two to five days at a time” on this site).

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

Countdown to Passover 5572

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 5, 2012

Kashering Dishes for Passover

There must be a universal law that when you’re kashering the kitchen (cleaning the oven, turning the stove on full blast) and kashering dishes (waiting in line beside huge propane burners while yeshiva students dunk your dishes in boiling water) that the weather shall turn hot. It’s hot in Maale Adumim. I live next to a mikveh where they set up the kashering station. I hear the propane burners start at 9 a.m. and they burn all day, until around 10 p.m. I’m lucky — I have a strapping teenage son who does the hot, dirty jobs for me and carries home the heaviest groceries. (I won’t be so lucky next year, when he goes into the army.)

Kashering Dishes for Passover

Kids always hang around to watch. They’re bored, too young to help with much cleaning, and they have to eat outside anyway, so they gather around the steps of the mikveh.


Here’s something I haven’t seen before: pre-cut celery for Passover. For the truly busy hostess….

Pre-cut Passover Celery

When I went for a run this morning, before the heat became intense, I saw two gazelles grazing among the purple flowers (desert rocket). I only had a little point-and-shoot camera with me, so this has been cropped and is a bit grainy.

Gazelles and Flowers

As of today I’m off work for the Passover holiday. This week we had a celebration in the dairy cafeteria. I didn’t have any wine because I was working on some financial documents but the nut tarts were good.

Wine Glasses

Pastries, pre-Passover celebration at work

Posted in Israel, Judaism, photography | 1 Comment »

Light Rail Inspector Law

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 4, 2012

Railway Inspector Law (Russian, English)

This is the law governing the appearance of train officials in Israel. My husband did the English translation (checked afterwards by two people for accuracy) and Masha did the Russian translation (checked by her mother):

Statute for Railways (#6, 2011): Section13: Railway Official on Local Railway. Identification of a Railway Official
48. A Railway Official shall not exercise his authority unless he is wearing a uniform that identifies his position, of a color and form that do not permit him to be mistakenly identified as a police officer; he is openly wearing a tag that identifies him and his position; and after he has shown a railway official identification, signed by the franchise owner of the local railway company, that identifies him and his position.
Addendum 2012, section two: Obligations concerning outward appearance of a railway official:
(3) The railway official identification of section 48 shall bear the photograph of the railway official.

Поправка к закону о железных дорогах (#6, 2011)
часть 13: железнодорожный служащий в городском поезде
Идентификация железнодорожного служащего. Железнодорожный служащий не имеет права вступить в свои полномочия , если он не отвечает данным требованиям: служащий одет в полную униформу определяющую его должность, имеет идентифицирующую карточку с именем и должностью прикрепленную на видное место, и предоставляет удостоверение работника железных дорог заверенную и подписанную ответственным лицом.
Постановления о железных дорогах (поправка 2012)
Форма и внешность служащего железных дорог
(3) на идентифицирующей карточке служащего железных дорог должна присутствовать фотография служащего.

You can download the PDF here.

The law clearly says that you do not have to show your ticket or ID/passport to a Light Rail inspector UNLESS he is wearing a uniform that cannot be mistaken for a police uniform, he has a tag with his name and position, and that he has a railway inspector’s ID signed by CityPass, that identifies his name, his position, and bears his photograph. Currently, a few railway inspectors are starting to carry ID cards, as they should have done from the very first day. If you are approached by a railway inspector, you have the right to request to see his ID. You might want to carry a copy of the PDF, to settle any arguments, because some inspectors are not aware of this law or deny its existence.

As for the resemblance between a train official’s uniform and a police uniform, that is, admittedly, subjective. You be the judge.

CityPass inspectors:

Nasty CityPass Inspectors

Jerusalem Light Rail, Opening Day

Israeli police (photo by david55king, a Haifa-based policeman):

Israel's Finest - Gil and Shmulik

Posted in CityPass Jerusalem Light Rail | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »