Gem in the Galilee

My dad and my husband have this routine:

My dad, an archaeology enthusiast, always keeps his eyes peeled for the undiscovered artifact when he visits Israel. My husband always ribs him, “They’ve already found everything there is to find, Paul.”

I take my dad’s side on this one and whenever archaeologists make a big discovery in our area in the Lower Galilee, I’ll usually send the article to my husband and my dad with the subject line: “So there’s nothing left to find in Israel…”

I am reminded today, too, how much there is still yet for me to discover here in this region — not ancient artifacts, necessarily, but unexplored paths, little known attractions, charming exhibits and people.

I wasn’t the one to stumble upon Hemdatya, a particularly special bed and breakfast in the Lower Galilee; my husband (the one who says there’s nothing left to find) did. Ilaniya, the historic community on which the b & b is located, is across the street from where he works and the company often recommends the place to out-of-town visitors.

My husband was so charmed by Hemdatya and by the owner, Atalia, when he was there recently with his colleague, he invited me to breakfast  there to see exactly what a gem in the Lower Galilee it is.

I was smitten.

Atalia (l) owner of Hemdatya Bed and Breakfast, and me

Atalia (l) owner of Hemdatya Bed and Breakfast, and me

With Atalia, yes, who was a gracious, sweet and entertaining hostess (not to mention an amazing chef!). But with the grounds themselves, and more so with her vision for Hemdatya, which is a haven for any traveler interested in ecotourism, organic agriculture, or permaculture. It’s also a charming, potentially romantic retreat for both foreigners and locals looking to get away for some low-key relaxation.

Hemdatya is located on a historic Israeli village about 15 minutes from the Sea of Galilee called Ilaniya, originally a farming community and agricultural training center for long-ago pioneers. The stone buildings of the b & b —  renovated with both historic conservation and sustainability in mind —   are constructed much from nearby materials.  Hemdatya installed and employs a system for collecting rain water and recycles gray water throughout the site. The water from the rooms (bathrooms and kitchens) drains into a biological purification system and from there irrigates the orchards that grow vegetables, fruits, and grapes for wine.

We ate in the main kitchen — a traditional Israeli breakfast of breads, salads, cheese, and shakshouka. The cheese was from goat milk; gifts from the local goats. And the eggs in the shakshouka were from the local chickens.

Breakfast at Hemdatya

Breakfast at Hemdatya

Many tzimmerim in Northern Israel can claim goats and chickens, but not many can claim the fruits and veggies grown not just organically, but according to the ethics and principles of permaculture. No pesticides in her gardens, says Atalia. No need.  Using permaculture, the gardens grow in harmony with the “pests.”

After breakfast, Atalia gave us a tour of the five guest rooms (each with a small kitchenette and eco-friendly bathroom) which are so delightful in their decor, you can tell attention was paid not just to construction and conservation, but also to aesthetics. I gushed to Atalia (and I meant it), “I am sure all of your visitors are as struck as I am at how enchanting these rooms are.”

Last, we toured the grounds. Vegetables grow everywhere, from little gardens in front of the farm-house guest rooms

Peppers grow on Hemdatya in Israel

Peppers grow on Hemdatya in Israel

to the grape vines that overhang the entrance to the jacuzzi room.

Grape vines at Hemdatya in Israel

Grape vines at Hemdatya in Israel

The gorgeous stone pool sealed the deal and I am already planning in my mind a getaway in the near future:  a writer’s retreat, let’s say, just me, my laptop and my thoughts. Or a birthday weekend.

Hint, hint. 

 

 

 

 

 

Give me your tired your poor your books

It’s no secret I love old books.

I cry over them like they’re wounded, abandoned puppies crouching behind a garbage bin in the rain.

Sometimes I rescue them, but then have no use for them. (Again, like puppies.)

Often there’s a story behind the compulsion to save them.

I’ll save any Little House on the Prairie book I see, simply because I lost my original set of them in a flood. (For the same reason, I’m drawn to Choose Your Own Adventure.)

I’ll save many an illustrated children’s book from the 1960s because the art makes me want to shake my hips in a way I don’t know how.

I’ll save a book inscribed to Marty or to Catherine. Especially if it was inscribed before I was born.

I’ll save, on the rare occasion I find one, a COUPLES or a SISTERS or anything by Christopher Pike with the express intent to read them with my daughter when she’s 12.

I like old books.

I like to imagine the shelves they once sat in, the boats they traveled by, the author, the editor, the sweat poured into their being.

Which is why, when I discovered in the kibbutz giveaway pile a year ago a Scholastic Book of Poetry edited by Ann McGovern, I snatched it up and placed it on the saved books shelf on the top floor of my house.

It was a triple threat, quadruple even, the 1960s publication of a Scholastic book club book with its retro cover, with its pages filled with poems by ee cummings and Langston Hughes and Maxine Kumin and Basho, and peppered with adorable little one-color illustrations. For the cherry on top, there was editor Ann McGovern: a goddess of children’s books and someone I remember from my days as a young assistant at Scholastic. (What I didn’t know until after I completed the project below is that serendipitously McGovern also enjoys creating collage art.)

I’ve been meaning for some time to take a book from my saved collection and turn it into something new. So it serves a purpose other than collecting dust on the shelf. I got the idea after visiting a gallery in Jaffa last year. Passing a wall of framed art, I noticed one was simply a circa 1950s Dick and Jane book cover torn out, framed, and priced at 200 shekels. After I got over my shock that someone tore off a vintage book cover, put it in a frame, and priced it at 200 shekels, I realized, “Wait a minute. I just might buy that. I am someone who would buy something like that.” And if I would, others (with a lot more money to spend) would, too.

I didn’t decide then and there to start my own recycled books-as-art business, but I filed away the idea of it. I liked the prospect of saving old books from doom and turning them into new art. Thinking about it made me happy.

I’ve always loved creating collages. Looking back at old pictures of my childhood bedroom recently reminded me of this. Why not create collages with the old books I’ve saved?

Today, I dug in and created my first.

The process, I learned, is an art in and of itself. It was impromptu and yet fluid. I didn’t know exactly where I was going when I started, but when I went to the old books shelf and saw the Book of Poetry this morning, I knew that was the book to start with.

And so I sat in front of the patio door where the sun shines in brightest, and I read Frost and ripped.

Poetry Collage by Jen Maidenberg

Poetry Collage by Jen Maidenberg

 

I positioned Edna St. Vincent Millay and pasted her next to Paul Bunyan.

I made sure, too, Ann McGovern still got credit and that bits and pieces of the lovely retro cover remained.

And the result makes me happy. Like a rescued puppy brought in from the rain.

 

 

 

A simple Earth Day in Israel

I remember my first Earth Day experience.

It was 10th grade and someone came up with the idea to boycott styrofoam.

The lunch room, of course, used styrofoam trays. And despite the efforts of a few forward thinking, future activists, the school administration refused to reconsider this earth-unfriendly decision.

So the students revolted. At a coordinated time in the afternoon, which happened to fall in the middle of Biology class, we watched the minute hand move slowly towards the 3. At 1:15 pm precisely, a handful of us stood up (after confirming with our eyes that we wouldn’t back out) and walked out of the classroom to the grassy field in front of the school.

We stayed there — despite warnings from the hall monitors and the lunch aides– shouting “No more styrofoam! Heal our Earth!” (or something powerfully catchy like that.) When the bell rang for the next period, I headed to Spanish class. And that concluded my career as a teenage environmental activist. This minor act was the only rebellious thing I did in my entire high school career. And I regret that. I should have staged more walk-outs or at least pierced more extremities.

Nothing changed in the lunchroom after the protest; not at least during my four years at Cherry Hill High School East.  The styrofoam trays hung around  — long after our protests. I bet they’re still hanging around… in a dump somewhere.

20 years later, I hope someone’s wised up and reinstated washable, reusable trays. Even wiser would be to bring your own lunch considering trans fatty french fries and carcinogenic hot dogs are still the stars of the lunchroom and that school lunches are linked with obesity. But I digress.

20 years later, I’m still the good girl I was in high school.

I can’t help myself.

The most rebellious act I’ll be pulling on this upcoming Earth Day, Monday, April 22 is blogging about other people’s trash.

Or picking some up.

Frankly, that’s better than doing nothing, which is what most people will opt to do on Monday.

Nothing.

Earth Day, for most, is just another piece of colored in line-art in a child’s backpack. It’s just another front page feature in Parade Magazine. It’s a photo op.

Surely, some will visit an eco-themed art exhibit or see an eco-film. Some might even take part in a small protest like I did once upon a time.

Not me.

I propose we all do something simple on Monday.

Pick up a piece of trash. Someone else’s trash.

Put it in the proper receptacle — paper with paper. Plastic with plastic. Food stuff in a compost pile.

This one simple act doesn’t require group think. Or a ticket stub.

Just you.

Pick up some trash.

If you want to take one extra step, consider not buying anything on Monday that’s meant to be thrown away.

And stop throwing stuff away. Keep it. Reuse it. Pass it on.

Teach your kids all of the above.

Make Earth Day simple this year.

Be a lone activist … and see how even a quiet, obedient good girl (or boy) can make a difference.

Environment is not a dirty word (and being green doesn’t mean being perfect)

There’s a story I’ve shared quite a few times over the past six years since I became an accidental activist for holistic health and conscious living. The story goes like this: I used to roll my eyes at environmentalists. I … Continue reading