15 December 2016

Happy Hanukkah ~ חנוכה שמח

A selection of menorah with the distinctive nine branches 
 As I am about to go on holiday tomorrow, I wanted to do a blog post about Hanukkah even though it is not for another ten days.  Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and it lasts for eight days.  It is not celebrated on the same day every year. This is because the Jewish calendar is lunar so the 25th of Kislev, which equates to the first day of Hanukkah can in fact be celebrated on any day between late November to late December.  This year, Hanukkah will begin on the 25th December and it coincides with Christmas.  Jewish people around the world celebrate Hanukkah which in Hebrew means dedication and during this eight day festival they commemorate the Miracle of the Oil by eating fried foods like sufganiyot סופגניות (jelly filled doughnuts) and other foods cooked in oil.

The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched menorah (also called aChanukiah/Hanukiah), one light is lit on each night of the holiday, progressing to the eight on the final night. The typical menorah consists of eight branches with an additional visually distinct branch. The extra light, with which the others are lit, is called a shamash (Hebrewשמש‎‎, "attendant") and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest.  Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as doughnuts and latkes. Since the 1970s, the worldwide Chabad Hasidic movement has initiated public menorah lightings in open public places in many countries.

14 December 2016

Thank you very much ~ תודה רבה

A website called Expat Focus brightened up my day today.  When I glanced at the Live Traffic Feed at the bottom of the page I noticed that a visitor from Cannock, St. Helens had visited my blog via . When I had a look at this website I noticed that they were focusing on Israel and had a list of Israel centric blogs which may be of use to fellow expats and tourists alike and my blog was amongst those featured.  Thank you very much ~ תודה רבה  I really appreciate the positive review.  Here is what Expat Focus  wrote about my blog: 

 Brightly Coloured Sunflowers

This serial expat was introduced to life in another culture when her family moved to England when she was a child, and since then she has lived as an expat in various different countries before landing in Israel. Her life long expatriate experience is something that she regularly reflects on and is able to eloquently communicate in her blog. For anyone hoping to learn Hebrew, whatever age you are, you will find encouragement here as well as recommendations for the best places to test out your newfound knowledge.

13 December 2016

Sainsbury's OFFICIAL Christmas Adverts 2014 and 2015

I tend not to use my blog to advertise but these official Christmas adverts from Sainsbury's are a work of art.  They are so incredibly well made and the overall message is a positive one, that "Christmas is for sharing".  So, as Christmas approaches this year let us remember to reach out to those who are less fortunate than ourselves.  I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.  I am preparing to go away on holiday and I hope to return to Israel and get back to blogging  in the New Year.  

Christmas Eve 1914


Made in partnership with The Royal British Legion. Inspired by real events from 100 years ago. 

This year’s Christmas ad from Sainsbury’s – Christmas is for sharing. Made in partnership with The Royal British Legion, it commemorates the extraordinary events of Christmas Day, 1914, when the guns fell silent and two armies met in no-man’s land, sharing gifts – and even playing football together. 

The chocolate bar featured in the ad is on sale now at Sainsbury’s. All profits (50p per bar) will go to The Royal British Legion and will benefit our armed forces and their families, past and present. 

To watch a short film of the story behind our Christmas ad: 

To watch the making of our Christmas ad:


Mog's Christmas Calamity by Judith Kerr


Mog sets off a chain of unfortunate events which almost ruin Christmas for the Thomas family. Can she pull it all back to save the day? 

This year, we worked in partnership with Harper Collins Children's Books and world renowned author and illustrator Judith Kerr to create a Christmas story based on her much loved character Mog. We hope that families will come together this Christmas to enjoy this very special story #ChristmasIsForSharing

If you enjoyed the story, you can buy the beautifully illustrated book here. Every penny of the profit from sales of the book will be donated to Save the Children to be used towards improving child literacy in the UK

Take a look behind the scenes of our 2015 Christmas advert:

30 November 2016


Knights Templar playing chess,  Libro de los juegos,1283
"Chess is an exercise of infinite possibilities for the mind, one which develops mental abilites used throughout life: concentration, critical thinking, abstract reasoning, problem solving, pattern recognition, strategic planning, creativity analysis, synthesis and evaluation, to name a few." - Edutech Chess

A couple of days ago, I read an article on the BBC news website, it was entitled, "Does anybody still care about chess? by David Edmonds"  I wanted to stand up for the game and say that I care about chess seeing as I play on-line chess everyday with different opponents from around the world via a very good website called  Before that,  I had been playing chess for years against my computer but I must say that playing with real people around the world  is so much more satisfying.  I joined in August 2015 and my favourite is a timed 10 minute Blitz Live Chess game and I also enjoy trying to solve the daily puzzle.  Chess is a strategic and tactical board game and is said to be good for mental training.  No two games are alike and above all it is good fun thinking about possible moves whilst at the same time anticipating the moves of your opponent.  

We have a wonderful Lardy International wooden chess set at home in its original box which is Made in France.  The Staunton chess pieces are made of Boxwood and are very smooth and finely carved with a green piece of felt at the base of each piece.  They are very tactile and well made.  Unfortunately, I rarely get an opportunity to play a game of chess with them as I cannot play on my own. That aside, it interests me that there is a general assumption out there that chess is only played by men.  Not so, I am a woman and I have been playing amateur chess for years.  I am sure there are many other women around the world who also play chess.  As the extract below from Wikipedia states, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) also organises the 
Women's World Championship.

Lardy International wooden chess set, Made in France
Staunton chess pieces made of Boxwood 

Chess is a two-player strategy board game played on a chessboard, a checkered gameboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid.  Chess is played by millions of people worldwide, both amateurs and professionals.  Each player begins the game with 16 pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. Each of the six piece types moves differently. The most powerful piece is the queen and the least powerful piece is the pawn. The objective is to 'checkmate' the opponent's king by placing it under an inescapable threat of capture. To this end, a player's pieces are used to attack and capture the opponent's pieces, while supporting their own. In addition to checkmate, the game can be won by voluntary resignation by the opponent, which typically occurs when too much material is lost, or if checkmate appears unavoidable. A game may also result in a draw in several ways.
Chess is believed to have originated in India, some time before the 7th century, being derived from the Indian game of chaturanga. Chaturanga is also the likely ancestor of the Eastern strategy games xiangqijanggi and shogi. The pieces took on their current powers in Spain in the late 15th century; the rules were finally standardized in the 19th century. The first generally recognized World Chess ChampionWilhelm Steinitz, claimed his title in 1886. Since 1948, the World Championship has been controlled by FIDE, the game's international governing body; the current World Champion is the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen. FIDE also organizes theWomen's World Championship, the World Junior Championship, the World Senior Championship, the Blitz and Rapid World Championships and the Chess Olympiad, a popular competition among teams from different nations. There is also a Correspondence Chess World Championship and a World Computer Chess Championship. Online chess has opened amateur and professional competition to a wide and varied group of players. There are also many chess variants, with different rules, different pieces, and different boards.

20 November 2016

Sufganiyot ~ סופגניות

Nothing heralds the coming of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah חֲנֻכָּה quite like the appearance of these Sufganiyot ~ סופגניות or jam filled doughnuts in the shops.  I must admit even though I have lived in Israel for almost two years I have not yet been tempted or inclined to taste these calorie laden seasonal delicacies.  I prefer to "eat" them with my eyes.  Traditionally, fried foods are eaten at this time of the year "in commemoration of the miracle associated with the Temple oil.

 The Hebrew word sufganiyah and the Arabic word sfenj derive from the words for sponge sfog in  Hebrew ספוג and isfanj in Arabic إسْفَنْج.  There is a long North African history besides the Jewish tradition of associating sfenj (the smaller deep-fried donuts) with Hanukkah.  In Israel, where Central and Eastern European Jews mingled with North African Jews, the Yiddish ponchkes (similar to the German Berliner, the Polish pączki or the Russian ponchik) became a part of this tradition.

The ponchke-style sufganiyah was originally made from two circles of dough surrounding a jelly filling. stuck together and fried in one piece.  Although this method is still practiced, an easier technique commonly used today is to deep-fry whole balls of dough, similar to the preparation of sfenj, and then inject them with a filling with a baker's syringe (or a special industrial machine).  This method has resulted in the modern sufganiyah being identical to the German Berliner 

Bakeries and grocery stores build excitement for the approaching holiday by selling sufganiyot individually and by the box; they have become a favourite for schoold and office parties.  Angel Bakeries, the largest bakery in Israel, reportedly fries up more than 250,000 sufganiyot every day during the eight-day Hanukkah festival.  Each batch uses 100 kilograms of dough and makes 1,600 sufganiyot.  Local newspapers add to the excitement by sending out food critics each year to rate "the  best sufganiyah in town."  

As a result of the national hubub, some purveyors have elevated the basic filling recipe to an art form.  The least expensive version is filled with plain red jelly, while more expensive versions are piped with dulce de lechechocolate cream, vanilla cream, cappuccino and even araq and topped with various extravagant toppings from coconut shavings to meringue and fruit pastes.  In 2014, one Jerusalem bakery produced sufganiah dough saturated with Van Gogh Vodka

In recent years, Israeli bakeries began downsizing sufganiyot to appeal to health-conscious consumers.  The usual 100 grams size, packing 400 to 600 calories (1,700 to 2,500 kJ) now appears in 50 grams (1.8oz) size with different fillings and toppings, earning the name "mini".

13 November 2016

Remembrance Sunday service

 This morning we attended a Remembrance Sunday service to honour the war dead.  The service was organised by the British Embassy and held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission military cemetery in Ramleh.  There were elderly veteran's present as well as Ambassador's, Military Attachésinterdenominational religious leaders and members of the public.  

It was a moving service organised with military precision.  For me the highlights were the reading of the poem In Flanders' Fields written by Canadian Doctor and Soldier
Lt Col. John McCrae and the Act of Remembrance which was an extract from Laurence Binyon's poem For The Fallen.  The last post was played followed by two minutes silence and reveille.  It is such a rousing, emotive sound. Then a piper played "Flower of the Forest" on the bagpipes and wreaths were laid.  After the main service there was a second short service held in a part of the cemetery where there are a number of Commonwealth soldiers of the Jewish faith are buried and the Rabbi and Cantor to the Israel Defence Forces said some prayers adjacent to their graves.  Here are a selection of photographs from today's service.

"They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, 
we will remember them."

 ~ How the poppy tradition began

12 November 2016

Rosinka רוזינקא

Once in a while, you make a discovery and it's so good that you almost don't want to tell anyone about it and you wish to keep it to yourself.  This was the case with Rosinka רוזינקא .  It is written in English with an "s" but the name in Hebrew reads "Rozinka".   Despite that spelling mistake, it ticked all the boxes for me.  I thought I will write a blog post about it and share the knowledge as it deserves recognition.  It is a popular lunch time spot with office workers who work in the vicinity.  The daily fare is nourishing and the variety of dishes on offer range from vegan and vegetarian to meat, chicken and fish dishes, salads, rice and lots of different types of vegetables.  A meal at Rosinka feeds not only the body but the soul.  Essentially it is home-made style food which consist of wholesome, healthy and delicious meals.  The restaurant is meticulously clean.  It is open only at lunch times from 11:45am until 2:45pm Sunday to Thursday and is closed on Friday and Saturday.  

For me, having lunch there was so evocative of my years at boarding school in England.  It was a real trip down memory lane.  This was due to the fact that the restaurant is based on refectory style eating.  People come into the restaurant, read the menu which is written on a black board, queue up and get a wooden tray and are served whatever they would like to eat, pay for the food and drinks and then sit down on wooden tables and chairs.  There is no distracting music playing in the background as one finds in so many other restaurants today.  There is only the contented hum of diners conversing with each other and the gentle sound of knives and forks touching plates.  A real gem of a place. 

The historical plaque outside the restaurant states that, "The word Rosinka stems from the Talmud Bavli (Ta'anit 23) where it indicates a minimal daily fee for a worker, enough to purchase one day's worth of food.  In modern terms, rosinka is the meal element of the minumum wage.  The origin of the word is unclear, but scholars tend to equate it with a measure of bulk or weight equal to a worker's daily meal.

Writings tell of some of the sages, among which were Honi ha M'agel and Rabbi Yona, who were blessed with great powers.  The latter of the two lived in fourth century Galilee and earned his keep as a hired worker.  One day he was called out by court of law to leave his work and pray for rain.  He then asked his employer for the rosinka, and left to pray.

This story teaches three things: First, an employer must discharge a worker when called out for public duty; second, in such a case, the employer must provide the rosinka in full so that the worker can purchase his daily meal; and third, that a worker leaving his place of employment not for reasons of public service or order of the court is not entitled to payment for the missed day."

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