Tag Archives: food

summer time

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We usually have a short spring, and then a fairly long summer. And summer is my favorite time of year. Doesn’t matter, a heat wave or two. I can sit them out, inside. It’s rare that Jerusalem gets uncomfortably hot, because we’re on a mountain. And even when it does, since almost all the houses are made of stone, it stays quite cool inside… even when it’s terribly hot outside. And nowadays, just about everyone has air conditioning… so that makes it still easier. In the past, I didn’t care much for air conditioning. But I’ve been convinced.

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summer food

For me, an important part of summer is getting out early to take my morning walk… while it’s still relatively cool. Then I get a day’s work done, and still have time left to sit out on the balcony, where it’s always quite comfortable… or enjoy the light of day even in my salon till after eight at night. I have to admit, when people were still arguing here, about whether to have daylight savings time, I was against it.

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clothes hanging out to dry in the warm sun

For one thing, it’s nice for people who get up late in the day. But for people like me, it means getting up in the dark at the beginning and the end of the season, and there’s something discouraging about that. All the same, it’s very pleasant to sit with friends at the end of the day and enjoy the colors of the setting sun in late evening. And aside from the colors, which are at their best during this season, I also enjoy the fruits of the season; wave after wave of wonderful and tasty fruits.

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Nechama listening to a conversation between friends

I start out my day with a couple glasses of cucumber juice, which has proven to be a very healthy ingredient in my life. This was Chana’s idea, and it has proven better than any pill or medicine. I know a lot of you like to start the day with a glass of beer or coffee. But for me, drinking that cucumber juice feels as natural as a cat stretching himself, when waking up from sleep.

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And speaking of cats… you can see that all the animals in the neighborhood are affected and inspired by the coming of summer. Nachshon here, above, is playing panther, as he walks between the neighboring houses. As much as I care for him though, I’m hoping he doesn’t catch any of the local birds. But if he does, it’s all part of nature, and we have to accept that cats have their own way of looking at the world. We’re not going to convince them to be vegetarians. Why, even Nechama likes to have a light repast of herring in the afternoon.

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Noga feeding Nechama a herring

The children come by from time to time, each one with stories of the real world. The world that is constantly changing and challenging. They too have their ups and downs, and I take great pleasure in watching how well they deal with it all. I often have the feeling that they’re handling life’s challenges better than I did, and have reached a style of existence that I could only dream of at their age. Which is an exquisite feeling. It seems to me that since the computer became part of everyone’s life, I’ve been living in the ‘future’. But now, with waze, that feeling has been intensified.

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my son, Jonah

When Jonah was here this week, he spoke of the probability that cars would drive themselves within his lifetime. And that the person who would otherwise be driving the car could be enjoying a cup of coffee, and still working while on his way from one point to another. I thought of how much I used to enjoy driving when I was a young man. But that changed long ago. I think it was when they forced us to wear seat belts. And now with all the traffic jams, it’s become something of a pain. Not to speak of the difficulties of parking in the big city. Yes, having a car drive itself would definitely be an improvement. Less people killed and maimed on the highways too.

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cottage cheese is a popular summer food

So let me wish you all (at least those who live in the northern hemisphere), a joyful summer, with easy going long days; good reading and studies, and the pleasure of successful work. May you enjoy pleasant communication with human and animal neighbors. Listen to good music. See beautiful sights,

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the park behind my home

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a most unusual holiday

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Walking around town on Purim, my pleasure was looking at the faces of carefree people enjoying themselves in the streets. People talking to strangers and friends, amusing one another with costumes and jokes. All too often, in recent years, I’ve seen people sitting or standing together in groups, in the cafes of Ben Yehudah Street or in restaurants… and each individual occupied with some sort of business by way of his or her cell phone. But on this day, the streets were filled with unhurried people, moving along with grace and good cheer, and alert to the others around them. Entertainment wasn’t just passive. People were relating to one another.

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Last week’s post was in the spirit of Purim. But since then, I’ve received a number of questions about the holiday. And this year, my experience of this holiday was a bit different. Usually, I invite friends to feast with me in my home. But this time I chose to walk about in the city. We are counting down to an important national election, which will take place on this coming Tuesday. There is a certain tension in the air. And I was wondering if I’d sense that out in public. But I didn’t.

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I was thinking that the holiday provides us with a much needed mood break. Both personal problems and the issues of the day seemed forgotten as I watched the friendly crowds walking one way or the other. People were walking in the middle of Jaffa Street as well, with the streetcar politely ringing its bell to make its way through civilian groups that had taken to the streets.

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Kurt Vonnegut, a great 20th century American writer, tells us a wonderful adventure story in ‘Cat’s Cradle’, in which he invented a religion whose messages to mankind are revealed in songs. There you will find the following:
“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’
Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.”

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Humans are rational beings. We have the indefatigable desire to understand. And even when we don’t, we have the need to rationalize what happens around us. On Purim, we remind ourselves that there are things happening all around us, that we don’t understand. Traditionally, the masquerading and the costumes are meant to remind us that things aren’t always what they seem to be.

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a little angel

Most of us live a regular day to day regime. There is a time for a wide variety of choices. But we realize that we have to make those choices. We can’t have everything. There are obligations incumbent on all of us. Each of us has a role to play. And there are times when we’re barely in touch with our own emotions, or have time for free thoughts because of all the things that are obligatory or routine. And yet, we have our fantasies. Not just the forbidden fantasies… Sometimes, light hearted silly fantasies. Usually pushed aside as we go about our daily routine and work, this traditional holiday of masquerading encourages fantasy. There are those who don’t have the need. But to go along with the spirit of the holiday, they wear pom poms or silly animal ears. Not as a disguise. Just to signal that they are part of what’s happening.

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two blue people with dog

The holiday commemorates an event that happened some two and a half thousand years ago, in ancient Persia, which had a large Jewish population after the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The most important minister in Persia, second only to the King, planned to wipe out all the Jews of that empire. And had it happened, it would have been something like the holocaust, which annihilated most of the Jewish communities in Europe a little over 70 years ago. As it turned out, the hand of fate intervened in this story, after the plan had already gotten the approval of the all powerful King. The evil minister fell from greatness to dishonor. Instead of watching the extermination of the Jewish people, he himself was executed, together with his closest associates.

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We fast the day before Purim, to remember our fear, as the catastrophe was approaching. And then we celebrate. Jews are actually encouraged to drink to drunkenness (an uncommon practice in our culture). A great banquet is held in many private homes. And most of the population take part, either in producing the banquet or being a guest at the banquet of a friend. People masquerade in costumes. Not just children; adults too. Joking, clowning, and juggling is the order of the day. It is common to watch humorous skits which have a farcical nature.

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A book telling the long story is read in the synagogue or in a public place, and every time the evil minister is mentioned, people make a great noise with noisemakers, in derision. Sweet cookies, representing the ear of the villain of the story are eaten. Charity is emphasized. People bring baked and cooked foods as presents to their neighbors. The pictures on this post were taken a week ago, on Friday. Here in Jerusalem, we celebrate one day later than in most of the world. The reason for that was mentioned last week.

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A Taste of America

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credit Yakov Nahomie, and special thanks to Ronnie!

Today is the holiday of Purim in Jerusalem, which commemorates the deliverance of our people from a terrible plot to kill all the Jews of Persia, some 2400 years ago. The holiday has been popular ever since, and is somewhat similar to Halloween, in that it is common for people to dress up in costumes and masks for the occasion. It’s the one day in the year when it’s a religious good deed to get drunk! I mention that it’s happening today in Jerusalem because the holiday was celebrated in most other places in the world, yesterday. That is because when the holiday was first declared, it was decided to celebrate it on a certain day according to the Jewish calendar, but that in all walled cities it would be celebrated one day later. And since this rule applies only to cities that were walled cities at the time, Jerusalem has the singular honor… there aren’t too many other cities that were walled at that time, and exist to this day. And Persia, if you’re wondering, is not a mythological state. It’s still around. Except they’ve changed their name recently. Now they’re called, Iran.

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Last week, when I heard that our prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu was going to visit America, to tell congress there to do their bit, and keep Iran from making atomic bombs, it gave me an idea. I would volunteer to help him. After all, I’m pretty good at English, and this is a very important issue. We could do it as a team. He could be the straight man, and I could tell the jokes. As you probably know, Israel is like a family. Everyone knows everyone… and half of us are related, one way or another. So I got in touch with my sister in law who’s ex boyfriend just happens to have a second cousin who is married to the cook in the prime minister’s mansion. And asked her to get the message across to Bibi. That’s what we call our prime minister. You can just imagine my disappointment when I wasn’t invited to join the delegation.

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After Netanyahu made his speech to congress on Tuesday, there was much discussion here the next day. People from all across the political spectrum here in Israel thought it was an excellent speech. Some said it was even powerful. But about half the country said, ‘well it was just words. Will it really stop Iran from making the bomb?!’ Listening to this, I got a little dejected. I kept thinking, if only he had taken my suggestion. If I’d gone with him, we could have really gotten those congress folks off their seats, and changed the course of history! And what’s more, I would have gotten a taste of America! That’s what I told Chana, when we were driving through the rain in the northern Negev, looking for a picture that was worth a thousand words.

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So she told me, ‘But you could still get a taste of America’. Remember, Chana, I told her, ever since they forbade smoking on airplanes, I’ve no interest in traveling abroad. ‘No problem’, she answered. ‘I know a place just a few kilometers from here, where you could have a taste of America’. So off we went, to a gas station at one of the larger intersections found in the Negev. Around the gas station, a number of coffee shops and restaurants have settled in. And among them, McDonald’s. They’ve got a big sign there, that promises ‘Big America’. And if you don’t eat meat, you can get their Egg McMuffin plus coffee, for only 14 shekels! They call it, ‘the happy meal’. We walked in and stood in line. And I tell you, just standing in line already made me feel half American. We both ordered children’s portions. I didn’t want them to have to call for an ambulance when I was finished eating. I’m a cautious guy.

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But what we didn’t know, was when you order a child’s portion, you also get a toy, and a chance to win the big prize, after the guessing contest. All the food came in cardboard buckets, and on the bucket, there was a reproduction of the Mona Lisa that just about knocked my eyes out. Eating would be enough, but here we were, filling our bellies, and filling our eyes with high powered culture. The object of the guessing contest was figuring out how the Mona Lisa on the cardboard bucket differed from the original version of the painting, painted some time back by someone named DeCaprio or DaVinci or some kind of Italian name. We didn’t get to see the original. But I suppose everyone who’s been to Europe has already seen it. Though I couldn’t remember if I’d ever seen it, I could see that the lady in this version of the picture was frowning. I was sure that if the original was so famous, the lady there had probably been smiling. And guess what? No sooner did I give my answer, then we got a prize for each of us. It was called a ‘Gogo Squeeze’, and the package assured us that it was made of 100% fruit!

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almost an identical copy of the Mona Lisa

After we finished our Gogo Squeezes, we started opening our toys. We had each gotten a little plastic doll in a hygienic plastic bag, as befits a classy American restaurant like McDonald’s. Chana got the girl doll, and I got the boy doll. In the interest of heterosexual fantasy, we decided to trade presents. I opened up my present and laid her down on the table, just looking at her and wondering what to do now. A twelve year old boy ambled up to my table, and mumbled something out of the side of his face. What’s that, I asked? ‘If you want to get her to spread her legs, I could tell you how, but it’ll cost you 20 shekels’, he said. Please go back to mumbling, I whispered, pointing to Chana with my eyebrows, while trying to hide my blush with the napkin, generously provided by Mac.

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his recommendation: transcendental meditation

Cunningly, I pulled my wallet out under the table, and passed a twenty to the young man. He pocketed the money without anyone noticing the transaction. ‘What you’ve got to do’, he said, ‘is the simple exercise of transcendental meditation’. You compose a sentence that is the bare bones expression of what you want, and say the sentence over and over again for twenty minutes with your eyes closed. It works for more than 70% of all who’ve tried it, and has proved itself all over the world. Something like ‘legs apart’ will do. ‘Just close your eyes and say it over and over again. Ask the lady across from you to tell you when the 20 minutes are over. You won’t be disappointed’. Man, that was really a taste of America.

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national trauma week

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autumn leaves in winter

We have a saying here, when someone tells us something that is no longer relevant. We say, ‘that’s as interesting as last year’s snow’. But this week, despite a rather aggravated case of political heebie jeebies, with national politicians changing parties after each fresh edition of an opinion poll. All of a sudden… under a blue sky of momentary sunny weather in the midst of winter, normal, rational men and women lost all interest in anything but the weather. It started slowly at first… If I remember correctly, last weekend, there were a couple of comments made… you know… ‘such beautiful autumn weather, and next week it’ll probably snow’. The sort of idle talk you might hear as someone reluctantly looks for something, and then gazes through the window at the colorful leaves left on a tree.

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rosehips

But later there were solid rumors. Not just the ‘I heard Jake say’, but those rumors that make you stop and take stock: the report that the assistant director of the Jerusalem sanitation department demanded all snow removal machines be checked to see if they had a full tank of gas in their tanks. It only took a few hours until every news item had to find its place in line on national news behind the weather report.

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mini graffiti found on a schoolyard fence

By evening, when the weather appeared at the top of the Channel 1 news roundup, it was in fact reported that the coming snow fall, this week, might exceed that of last year. Immediately after that hit the airways, a silence moved through private homes from the Negev desert to Mount Hermon. Around the country, fathers looked at mothers, mothers looked at children. And children rolled their eyes heavenward; our version of the ‘gasp heard around the world’.

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I like to keep warm with some hot kube soup in winter

Now, those readers who live somewhere outside of Israel may not remember last year’s snow. I think most of us Israelis would find that completely excusable. After all, we’re a very small country, and we always have one kind of trouble or another. Why should our little troubles interest the big boys on the international stage of events? Of course you don’t remember. But there isn’t a cat over the age of two in Jerusalem, or a man, woman or child in all of Israel over the age of five, who can’t recall all the details of last year’s snowfall.

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and how wonderful that artichokes have come into season…

Needless to say that it snowed last year. And it could be that the clever fellow in charge of keeping the snow removal equipment ready for action, had heard that the price of benzene was about to go down, and wanted to impress his superiors that he was the sort who knew how to save a penny. Of course, if it had just been that, the whole incident would probably be forgotten by now. But it got kind of cold, and everyone turned on their electric heaters at the same time. And then when the electricity failed, everyone called their closest friends to see if it had happened to them too. That paralyzed the cell phone system. And then, when a few hundred cars got stuck on the main highway to Jerusalem because of ice and snow, with bob sleds and skis sticking out of a wide variety of hybrid passenger cars, the truckers bringing food to the supermarkets were unable to think of anything better to do than take a nap on that cot they have behind the driver’s cabin.

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one of my neighbors keeps all of his emergency equipment out on the balcony

Not only were all the shelves in the supermarket left vacant, but those who insisted on buying those items left behind in the mad rush to stay supplied, were further frustrated when they got to the cash register. Because all the communication lines were down, and it was impossible to check whether credit cards were stolen, or invalid because of pathological buying habits on the part of the consumer. And so, the clerks were asking for real money! As a loyal Israeli, I hate to say it, but that meter plus snowstorm last year led to confusion, chaos, and then out and out pandemonium, as my fellow citizens began to realize that they couldn’t go on with their everyday lives in the middle of a snow storm.

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what could be better for an evening meal than Portobello mushrooms

And now, just the memory of what happened last year, was enough to give rise to an aftershock, a year later. Of course, it’s easy to laugh at others. So I feel an obligation to disclose my own share of disquiet. Remember the tablet I bought recently, in an attempt to be just as up to date as all the kids? And how I went out of my mind trying to peck out messages with two fingers instead of ten? That was after trying to write an article describing my impressions of the ‘ever growing gap between rich and poor’ on my smartphone, and discovered too late that the phone was so small I couldn’t find it after putting it aside for dinner, and then had trouble reading what I myself had written on its small screen.

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and here I am taking the above picture, captured by Chana

So now, equipped with a rather addictive tablet that I had learned to use after infinite suffering… and despite the fact that its batteries are able to keep it functioning for nine hours without recharge… I stopped using it altogether so that it would remain fully charged when the electricity failed in the upcoming snow storm. That is to say, I too was taken in by the mass hysteria, and willing to make any sacrifice to avoid the consequences of last year’s snow!

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one of my friends recently complained after seeing my dining room table on the blog without its customary bottle of whisky. So here you are, two bottles, and my tablet squeezed in, on the bottom right.

Dare I mention that the anti-climax was more than a little disappointing? A special train shuttle had been scheduled to ferry tourists from the ‘House of the Rising Sun’ village to Jerusalem every 20 minutes after the highways would all be frozen. The cellular companies invested heavily in new equipment to avoid the embarrassment of a breakdown in service. And drivers were asked to abandon the public avenues and thoroughfares so that emergency vehicles could administer to those incapacitated by the storm. All the supermarkets increased their wares by seven fold, and the customers did not disappoint. The sale of gas heaters would have topped all peaks of the last ten years had not department stores run out of those heaters to sell. We whipped ourselves into a frenzy… and then… nothing went wrong. Each of us felt whipped by the cruelty of nature. There was snow. But then there was rain that washed it away. All the preparations seemed wasted. It was a disaster.

choices in the digital age

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stepping into a new age

Even before the digital age, in the age of modernity, a lot of attention was given to the problem of alienation. City life seemed more alienated than country life. There were people who felt they were little cogs in a big machine. They resented the work they did. As Chaplin described it so well, man was made to feel like a robot… an accessory to the machines that were supposed to save time and enable us to reach still greater accomplishments. Many of those early complaints have since been solved. Our lives have been getting easier for some time now. And those of us who want it, have more leisure time than ever before.

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But the problem of alienation has continued to threaten us. It seems worse now than ever before. Not only are we alienated from our fellow man, but we find ourselves disconnected from our own roots, tastes, and personal space. Some sixty years ago, we discovered the advantages of shopping in the supermarket. It was fun for a while; easier and less time consuming than making our purchases in a number of little ‘mom & pop’ stores. It seemed cleaner to buy a steak wrapped up in nylon, divorced from the sight and sound of the cows who were slaughtered to make that steak. And easy too, to buy a Mac burger from a ‘drive through’ window, and get inexpensive food immediately. It was around that time, that we found shirts that didn’t need to be ironed, and could see far away places and enjoy live entertainment on TV.

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We had hardly gotten used to the idea that we could keep milk and cheeses, meat, and cooked meals in the refrigerator… and then there were refrigerators that didn’t need to be defrosted. In every area of our life, there were vast improvements. But the changes never stopped. They kept on going, and always faster.

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Nowadays, when I go into a supermarket, I feel coerced to buy more than I want. What’s this business of ‘two for the price of one’? I don’t want anonymous presents. I want to buy goods at a fair price, and to decided myself, whether I’ll buy one or two. And food… Do I really want to buy meat that was made from animals who never walked around… who were imprisoned in tiny cubicles, and fed an unnatural diet including antibiotics so they’d grow faster? Do I want to eat vegetables and fruit that have been created by an alteration of their genetics, or an implantation of foreign DNA?

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an old fashioned alarm clock

Do I want my relations with my fellow man to be of the facebook variety… with little tweets from my friends by way of Twtter? A few weeks back, I was searching for recent literature that was inspiring and had a positive view of life. I got a lot of recommendations, and I have begun reading those books that were mentioned. But there were also people who wrote to me, asking, with all the wealth of literature that has been produced in the last two thousand years, why would I concentrate on that which has been published in the last twenty? The answer, of course, is that I felt out of date… and wanted to know if I’d missed something important. But we can ask ourselves the same question when it comes to life style. Do we really want to limit ourselves to the latest inventions and applications or would we prefer to have the choices provided by the many stages of history.

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the café at the horse ranch

At the beginning of the digital age, we learned that we could do many things easier and faster with the help of the computer. We could alter and improve our photography with the press of a button. We could revise a document without having to copy all of the text in order to incorporate a few changes. We could design a home or an airplane a lot better and easier with computer tools. But now, with the advent of the ‘cloud’ we discover that we are no longer in possession of our own documents. They’re always available, but no longer in our hands. We can’t help but wonder if they still belong to us, or are they just ours on loan? The computer, that valuable tool has become indispensable. But we are more or less forced to update it every day.

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way out back, it’s easy

Our telephone has become our musical library as well as a camera and a computer, with ready access to the internet, our social networking, and answers to all our questions… It’s not just a means of communication, but an indispensable learning tool. However, in order to keep up with the progress made in that technology, we have to buy a newer model every so often… sometimes before we’ve even learned all the tricks available in the previous model. And despite all the ‘time saving’ gadgets, there’re a lot of people complaining that they don’t have time for anything. They might have more ‘virtual’ friends than ever before. But lately, they don’t even have the time to send ‘likes’ to all those virtual friends. And they certainly don’t want to offend anyone. Because if all this ‘liking’ stopped… why, we’d feel so very much alone.

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The illustrations on this post are from the horse ranch in Tzur Hadassah, where I am presently residing, as a temporary resident. If the dog is man’s best friend, the horse used to be his most trusted servant. The horse wasn’t an app. He had a mind of his own. He enjoyed creature comforts… and in his own way, he could talk to the man he worked with.

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He had his reservations and his criticisms. But he also had loyalty. And often, affection for his master. On occasion, he could find his way home better than the man, woman, or child who was driving. He or she could offer comfort at times of sorrow, and never went so fast that one lost complete control. Of course, there’s no room for horses in our city lifestyle anymore. Once an integral part of our day to day life, he is now relegated to the role of a hobby. But there are a few of us still left in this world, who aren’t willing to limit our life experiences to what’s available on the latest iphone or other fantastic gadget. It’s our choice, after all. We can choose between spending an afternoon sending likes to 365 of our closest virtual friends, or sitting down for a cup of tea and biscuit with the old lady at the end of the road… or ride ‘Old Paint’ past the city limits, down the canyon… don’t even have to wear a safety belt.

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Tilapia Rossa

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Happiness is a state of mind, and its approach on cats paws is hardly noticed. To awake to the sounds of birds chirping, and the sun flowing into the room through the window, sunlight spilling on to the table, catching bits and pieces of the immediate environment… when the heart is calm… How simple it is. How difficult to describe.

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On an evening, a few days ago, after Janne returned from work, after exchanging stories of our separate days… music in the dining room… she’d brought some groceries with her. Are you hungry, she asked, taking a sip of the red wine we had bought earlier, two for the price of one. Not hungry, I said… but I could enjoy a bite to eat. It’s been so long since I’ve been hungry. It’s enough to have appetite these days.

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And then I saw the fish. Two reddish fish, complete. With heads and tails, on the cutting board. Patiently, she removed the last of the scales on the fish, and then covered them with flour. There was a sense of the complete, looking at the image of the fishes. Not slices… not pieces, meant to be objects of food… but the actual creature we were about to eat. The fire warmed the kitchen. The corn oil heating up in the pan. The thoughts that had saddened me in past weeks had slipped out the door… and the beauty of the neighborhood, the calm which enveloped me, and Janne’s decision to go back to painting after years of being ‘just too busy’ filled our little world with happiness.

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My senses were wide awake. The feeling was that of being surrounded by good. Our celebration wasn’t noisy. No fireworks, no shouts… Just the smells of the kitchen, the soft purr of the potatoes boiling in the background, and the fish sizzling in the pan… sweet music coming from the speakers in the corner of the dining room and an awareness of the whole. That all encompassing feeling of completeness is peace. And peace is one of the major ingredients of happiness.

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It was the first time for both of us that we ate that particular fish. It’s called Admonit in Hebrew, Tilapia Rossa in English. The taste was an unqualified delight. When I first looked at all the food on my plate, I didn’t think I could finish it. It seemed half of it would be fine for me. But I ate it all… the fish, potatoes and yams. The experience was one of sensitivity, lightness and satisfaction, and … a harmony of the senses, including love and friendship. The fish’s skin was tastily devoured by Charley the cat.

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To my friends and readers, my best wishes for a happy weekend. May we enjoy all our five senses, with peace in our hearts. The days go by… whether appreciated or not. How blessed it is to enjoy an hour.

holiday meeting old friends

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Friends very dear,
but not part of the day to day routine…
forgotten at times unintentionally
and remembered on the holiday.
what a great excuse to get together
I think, we need more holidays…
for the meeting brings back
what was lost
best to celebrate any holiday
we can get our hands on…
I say to my friends…
Christmas is good.
Maybe we could even work in
Martin Luther King day…

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