10 May 2016

Official working cats and feline companions with Twitter accounts ~ simply purrfect

Only in England, a country which is devoted to its pets and has many animal welfare charities and is home to the largest and most renowned dog show in the world  would you also have official working cats and feline companions with Twitter accounts.  I like the way the British have a great sense of humour and do not take themselves too seriously.  Having said that, Julian Assange is an Australian citizen and he has been living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012.  At least he now has a kitten to keep him company.  Larry, the No 10 Downing Street cat and Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office.
The Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. I'm a 9 year old tabby, brought in to deal with the huge rat problems inherited from Labour. Unofficial.
Downing Street, Westminster
Joined February 2011

***  Palmerston, the resident cat at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Chief Mouser.
Official account of the Chief Mouser and former resident of

***  Julian Assange's new kitten ensconced at the Ecuadorian Embassy, London
I live in the Ecuadorian Embassy with Julian Assange : Interested in counter-purrveillance // Yo vivo en la Embajada del Ecuador con Julian Assange
Ecuadorian Embassy, London 


7 May 2016


Fresh saltwater crabs from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea

It is interesting to live in a place where the religious dietary laws of that country prohibit the consumption and combination of certain food products.  In previous countries I have lived in, the consumption of pork and alcohol was prohibited (although both products were still available but were not consumed by devout people of faith).  Whereas here the list is more comprehensive and not only includes specific foods which are forbidden but also a combination of foods such as not being able to eat meat and dairy dishes during the course of the same meal.  Among the numerous laws that form part of kashrut are the prohibitions on the consumption of unclean animals such as pork, shellfish (both Mollusca and Crustacea), mixtures of meat and milk, and the commandment to slaughter mammals and birds according to a process known as shechita. There are also laws regarding agricultural produce that might impact on the suitability of food for consumption.

I'm not sure if the saltwater crabs in the photograph above from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea classify as a blue crab or Chesapeake Blue crab.  They certainly have a blue tinge to their legs and claws.  The Wikipedia article states that although this crab species Callinectes sapidus is native to "the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod to Argentina and around the entire coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  It has recently been reported north of Cape Cod in the Gulf of Maine, potentially representing a range expansion due to climate change.   It has been introduced (via ballast water) to Japanese and European waters, and has been observed in the Baltic, North. Mediterranean and Black Seas.  The first record from European waters was made in 1901 at Rochefort, France.   In some parts of its introduced range, C. sapidus has become the subject of crab fishery, including in Greece, where the local population may be decreasing as a result of overfishing."

It is possible to buy these crabs at the Ha-Carmel market and also at fish shops in Jaffa.

Black Mulberry juice

Mulberries are in season here so we have been making fresh mulberry juice.  The juice has a gorgeous dark purple colour and is packed full of nutritional benefits.  Here is a recipe from BBC Food for an Apple tart with mulberry and blackberry ice cream
Plate from book: Flora of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (1885) 
Original book source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany
Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber

4 May 2016

Habima Square ~ Habima Theater ~ Charles Bronfman Auditorium

Habima Square is situated at the top end of Rothschild Boulevard and is a large paved area directly in front of the Habima Theater with cafes, a large water feature and a beautiful sunken garden (a formal garden set below the main level of the ground surrounding it).  The garden is a great focal point and provides a sense of calm away from the hustle and bustle of city life.  What I like most is that when you sit on the steps made of timber decking you can hear classical music playing softly in the background.  It is very soothing and good for the soul.


The Charles Bronfman Auditorium which also overlooks the Habima Square is said to be the largest concert hall in Israel. 

2 May 2016

Tapping the Potential

Here is a remarkable, up-lifting and life affirming story of a woman named Kristine Barnett who would not let a diagnosis of autism define her son Jacob who was 2 years old at the time.  Mrs Barnett trusted her maternal instincts and did not give up hope for her son.  Instead of solely concentrating on all the things which Jacob couldn't do as an autistic child, Mrs Barnett used all her energy to focus on all the things which Jacob could do which led her and her family on an incredible journey of discovery.  Mrs Barnett wrote a book about her experiences entitled, "The Spark, A Mother's story of nurturing genius". 

 KRISTINE BARNETT is the mother of Jacob Barnett and his 3 younger siblings. She runs a daycare that includes both typical and special-needs children. She is also the founder of Jacob's Place, a non-profit organization designed to help children with autism, as well as an award-winning sports league for autistic children. 

Jacob L. "Jake" Barnett (born May 26, 1998) is an American physics student and child prodigy.  According to a memoir penned by his mother, he was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old and was home-schooled by his parents.
Barnett was admitted to the Perimeter Scholars International in 2013, a one-year non-degree master's level program at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario.  At the age of 15, he was the youngest student admitted to the program since its inaugural class four years prior in 2009. He completed the program in 2014 and has subsequently been listed as a doctoral student at the Perimeter Institute.

1 May 2016

Bagels (Yiddish: בײגל‎ beygl; Polish: bajgiel)

The photograph above shows freshly baked bagels on sale at the Ha-Carmel market in Tel Aviv.  It wasn't until I read the Wikipedia article that I learnt just how popular this humble circular bread dough was around the world.  Claudia Roden also mentions bagels in her The Book of Jewish Food and gives a standard recipe with different variations.

A bagel (Yiddish: בײגלbeygl; Polish: bajgiel), also spelled beigel, is a bread product originating in Poland, traditionally shaped by hand into the form of a ring from yeasted wheat dough, roughly hand-sized, which is first boiled for a short time in water and then baked. The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior. Bagels are often topped with seeds baked on the outer crust, with the traditional ones being poppy, sunflower or sesame seeds. Some also may have salt sprinkled on their surface, and there are also a number of different dough types, such as whole-grain or rye.  They were widely consumed in East European Jewish communities from the 17th century. The first known mention of the bagel, in 1610, was in Jewish community ordinances in Krakow, Poland.

The bublik in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and the obwarzanek in Poland are essentially larger bagels, but having a wider hole. Similar to bagels, these breads are usually topped with sesame and poppy seeds. Other ring-shaped breads known among East Slavs are baranki (smaller and drier) and sushki (even smaller and drier). In Lithuania, similar breads are called riestainiai, and sometimes by their Slavic name baronkos.

In Finland, vesirinkeli are small rings of yeast-leavened wheat bread. They are placed in salted boiling water before being baked. They are often eaten for breakfast toasted and buttered. They are available in several different varieties (sweet or savoury) in supermarkets.

German pretzels, (which are soft and are either formed into rings or long rectangular shapes) are somewhat similar to bagels in texture, the main exceptions being the shape and the alkaline water bath that makes the surface dark and glossy. In addition, traditional Mohnbrötchen, which are covered in poppy seeds, have a similar flavour to many bagels in that they are slightly sweet and rather dense in texture.

In Romania, covrigi are topped with poppy, sesame seeds or large salt grains, especially in the central area of the country, and the recipe does not contain any added sweetener. They are usually shaped like pretzels rather than bagels.

In some parts of Austria, ring-shaped pastries called Beugel are sold in the weeks before Easter.  Like a bagel, the yeasted wheat dough, usually flavored with caraway, is boiled before baking. However, the Beugel is crispy and can be stored for weeks. Traditionally it has to be torn apart by two individuals before eating.

In Turkey,  a salty and fattier form is called açma. However, the ring-shaped simit, is sometimes marketed as Turkish bagel. Archival sources show that the simit has been produced in Istanbul since 1525.  Based on Üsküdar court records (Şer’iyye Sicili) dated 1593, the weight and price of simit was standardized for the first time. Famous 17th-century traveler Evliya Çelebi wrote that there were 70 simit bakeries in Istanbul during the 1630s Jean Brindesi's early 19th-century oil-paintings about Istanbul daily life show simit sellers on the streets.  Warwick Goble made an illustration of these simit sellers of Istanbul in 1906.  Surprisingly, simit is very similar to the twisted sesame-sprinkled bagels pictured being sold in early 20th century Poland. Simit are also sold on the street in baskets or carts, like bagels were then.

The Uyghurs of Xinjiang, China enjoy a form of bagel known as girdeh nan (from Persian meaning round bread), which is one of several types of nan, the bread eaten in Xinjiang.

In Japan, the first kosher bagels were brought by BagelK (ベーグルK) from New York in 1989. BagelK created green tea, chocolate, maple-nut, and banana-nut flavors for the market in Japan. There are three million bagels exported from the U.S. annually, and it has a 4%-of-duty classification of Japan in 2000. Some Japanese bagels, such as those sold by BAGEL & BAGEL, are soft and/or sweet; others, such as Einstein Bro. bagels sold by Costco in Japan (コストコ), are the same as in the U.S.

In New York City, the "bagel brunch" became popular circa 1900.  The bagel brunch consists of a bagel topped with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomato and red onion.  This and similar combinations of toppings have remained associated with bagels into the 21st century.

29 April 2016

International Photography Festival

Last weekend an International Photography Festival got under way at the port in Jaffa.  It will run from the 23rd April until the 7th May 2016.  The exhibition is spread over a wide area within the port complex and the photographs are inside what appears to be old warehouses.  There is a very comprehensive program of events featuring workshops, talks and dance performances planned to coincide with this festival.  My husband and I visited this festival.  My particular favourites were the thought provoking and challenging documentary style photographs of  a Romanian called Mugur VarzariuHere is an extract from his biography which was featured at the exhibition.  " Mugur Varzariu, a documentary photographer, advocate of change, human rights defender and World Vision ambassador, was born in Bucharest in 1970.  He studied Economics at the Academy of Economic Studies, graduated with an EMBA, spent three years in law school, and worked for more than fifteen years as a marketing strategist before deciding to dedicate himself to social work and documentary photography."  I thought his biography was commendable and his photographs which were entitled "Roma Always" were a visual chronicle of events in the lives of the itinerant Roma people.  

As well, I also liked the joint exhibition of a group of 12 photographers whose names are as follows: Dr. Amnon Duvdevani, Debbie Morag, Vered Sadot, Yoav Manor, Carmel Vernia, Miri Nagler, Matty Karp, Nathan Caspi, Atalia Katz, Dr. Zvi Laster, Dr. Rivka Hillel Lavian and Tali Idan.  The joint collaboration of photographs in this particular exhibition was entitled, "Private Space" and it appeared to be the interpretation between the public and private lives of people and Dr. Amnon Duvdevani had even captured images of animals, lizards and birds who had made themselves at home in the unlikely man-made location of the concrete walls of an underpass.  

I also liked the work of Matty Karp entitled, "Night Windows" featuring a high rise apartment building in New York with sheer glass windows.  The people living in their respective apartments were really testing the boundaries between private and public.  They were in the privacy of their own homes and yet they were exposed to the public through large aquarium type windows without curtains.  As Matty Karp very keenly observed, this visual insight into people's private lives also enables us to see "the sense of loneliness and alienation of life in the big city.  Modern architecture puts the residents of Manhattan in reproduced apartments, where they are exposed as if they were living in a doll house."  

Then there was the very confronting photographs of a little girl by Vered Sadot who appeared to have a Tracheostomy (a surgically made hole that goes through the front of the neck and into the trachea/windpipe enabling a person to breathe).  People who work in the medical profession either may or may not be phased by these photographs of the little girl with the Tracheostomy but for me it was difficult viewing.  I felt incredibly sorry for the little girl who had to live with this contraption lodged into her neck.  Yes, it was enabling her to breathe more easily but what an unnatural life for a little girl who ought to be playing with her friends and enjoying her childhood.  Instead she cut a lonely figure slouched rather forlornly on a couch with the rooms in her house juxtaposed between as Vered Sadot also rightly observed, "part hospital-part home." 

Then there was Yoav Manor's photograph with the accompanying explanation with a quote from Haim Hefer saying, "What does a man need? ... and a roof above his head, so it doesn't rain down on him."  Yoav Manor goes on to say, "A roof above your head is the most basic need.  It is the first element in a person's protected space, and if possible, it wouldn't hurt to squeeze together."

Lastly, I liked the exhibition which featured photographs under the sub-heading of "The Photographic Image As A Sheltered Space" and the insightful and thoughtful explanation by Menahem Goldenberg, Festival Philosopher.  Here is an extract for your information, "Let's start with a simple basic fact: photography is defined by the frame.  This is an ontological (that is, real) character of the photographic image, which also distinguish it from other images.  In this sense there are two principal questions which organize the meaning in photography: first, who or what enters the photographic space (the frame)?  (And it does not matter whether what enters this space is allowed into it or invited, or whether it imposes itself or pushed into the space accidentally).  Second, where is that which entered the photographic space is located and in what relations it stands with other participants in the space?  (Again, it does not matter whether the occupation of a place and the relations thus established are arbitrary or carefully planned."  Then Goldenberg goes on to say, "We live in times where everyone seems to have a perspective and a point of view of things.  Times in which 'showing things' is an act - or better an activity - mundane, almost obligatory, that finds no constraints or limitations due to preliminary requirements or conditions.  It is an activity that challenges, ignores, and to some extent undermines the very notion of intimacy.  Undoubtedly, though in a general sense, we can say that we live in a reality where we see more than we want, need, or ready and willing to see.  Put differently, as far as the act of 'showing thing' is concerned the problem lies not in the fact that we are not seeing enough but rather in the fact that there are no limits to what we see nor to what is shown.I thought Menahem Goldenberg's accurate and perceptive summary of not only photography but the times we are currently living in which enables people to record and take photographs with great ease and share them on social media was particularly profound.  I hope you will be able to go to the exhibition and see these works and many others which are on show until the 7th May.  As the English idiom goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words" and the photographs in this festival certainly testify to that. 

25 April 2016

Professional Certificate in Conflict Resolution, Transformation and Peacebuilding

Whilst I was perusing the internet in late March searching for reputable courses in Conflict Resolution, I came across a five day course which is due to be held in London from the 9th - 13th May 2016 entitled "Professional Certificate in Conflict Resolution, Transformation and Peacebuilding".  This is one of a number of worthwhile courses on offer at the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS).  Unfortunately, as much as I would have liked, I will not be able to attend this course.  However, I did want to write a blog post about it in order to inform the international readership of my blog which currently stands at visitors from 187 countries around the world.  My hope is to raise awareness of this course by using my blog as a platform to disseminate information.  If more people were to attend courses such as these then perhaps we would have less conflict in the world and more willingness to compromise, to choose diplomacy instead of conflict and to show greater tolerance and understanding towards one another.

I have obtained prior permission from the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) to use copyright protected information from their website for the purpose of this blog post.

Professional Certificate in Conflict Resolution, Transformation and Peacebuilding 9th - 13th May 2016, London, UK


A core objective of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.’

Course Overview

This course provides those involved in planning for long-term and peaceful development with a clear understanding of the principles and processes underlying the sustainable and resilient transition of a post-conflict environment.

Interactive learning will increase participants’ understanding of the key issues in conflict resolution, transformation and peacebuilding, such as the planning and management of security sector reform, humanitarian action as well as the targets and mechanisms for effective state strengthening. By examining in-depth case studies and influential factors behind sustainable peacebuilding, participants will leave equipped to develop plans for post-conflict transition management.

Comprehensive analyses of the mechanisms behind conflict resolution, transformation and peacebuilding will be provided, with subjects to be discussed including:

  • Cycles of conflict and peace: the prevention-resolution continuum 
  • Security sector management for stability: SSR and DDR
  • Planning and managing police reform in post conflict intervention
  • Planning and managing humanitarian action
  • State strengthening: state legitimacy, coalition building, stakeholder engagement and civil society
  • Multitrack diplomacy: applications and methods
  • Gender and sexual violence issues in conflict

Experts in the field will lead this training through interactive workshops, lectures and best practice case studies, fostering innovation, creative learning and networking amongst peers.

Upon completion of this week-long course and subsequent written tasks, the successful candidate will be awarded a Level 5 CMI certificate in Management & Leadership showing the CMI units achieved. The CMI is the only chartered professional body in the UK dedicated to promoting the highest standards in management and leadership excellence. The professional qualifications offered by the Institute are internationally recognised and sought after.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course the delegates will be able to:

  • Develop, construct and implement strategic plans
  • Lead effective organisational change
  • Apply the key principles of conflict resolution and peacebuilding to their organisation
  • Improve transparency and inclusiveness whilst reducing instability
  • Analyse, enhance and evaluate performance
  • Engage stakeholders and mobilise support to promote sustainable peace

How You Will Benefit

  • The opportunity to gain a recognised professional qualification
  • Hear the latest insights, research and developments in conflict resolution, transformation and peacebuilding from leading experts
  • Network and share ideas with colleagues from around the world
  • Enhance your skills and knowledge in the management of conflict transformation

Contact Information
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3137 8640
Fax: +44 (0) 845 606 1539
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