Tzfat’s Karo Synagogue is Calm and Cool

Tzfat has more knooks and crannies than any city I’ve seen. Narrow alleys give way to mountain vistas and open doorways allow you to peer into other alleys with mryiads of doors and gates.

Though in Tzfat at least half a dozen times, I never entered the Joseph Karo Synagogue. Karo, a tzadik legend, and the author of the “Shulcan Aruch” where many of us turn to with our questions on Jewish law, was born in 1488. He was a victim of the Jew haters of that time that were forced to flee Spain. His family moved to many inhospitable places until as an adult, Karo finally settled into his last residence, including at the end his grave, in the Tzfat cemetery.

A synagogue was built in his honor on the spot where he headed the Rabbinical Court of Justice but it was destroyed in the earthquake of 1837. It was rebuilt several years later but is probably not as grand as the original.

Joseph Karo was one of the great kabalists of his time and Tzfat embodies the spirit of artists and mysticism. Sitting quietly in this blue oasis, it is easy to feel spiritual and creative at the same time. Below are photos of the interior of the synagogue and two watercolors I did, including one of a gate in Tzfat (Sefad).










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Meet Our New Pet Lizzie

When my husband decided to move to Israel, despite the fact that he is Orthodox, he specifically chose to live in a town that is not mostly Orthodox. A dazzling array of Jews live in Naharyia , mostly with Sephardi and Ashkanaz roots. The mixture includes secular, traditional, Lubovitch, other Chassidm, modern Orthodox, Reform and Conservative.

A visit to Faisel’s Market (a huge, and famous, Arab market in Naharyia), will allow you to feast your eyes on a passing parade of Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze. They load up their carts with fruits and vegetables from tables piled high with colorful fresh produce and walk down aisles where shelves display a variety of groceries to please the palates of all those groups.



Originally founded by German Jews, Naharyia now hosts Jews (and non-Jews) from all over the world, including Morocco, Russia, Lebanon, the States, England, South Africa, France, Ethiopia and Tunisia.


The one thing I have to say I miss here though is the variety of animals. In Cincinnati a doe was delivered on my front lawn and stayed there until nightfall when mommy came back for it. The geese overrun the neighborhood, and I have a family of groundhogs under my back porch and a bachelor groundhog under my front stoop. It is not uncommon to see raccoons, possums, and mallard ducks. They come in pairs to swim in the water above the tarp on my pool, and under the tarp is a breeding ground for hundreds of frogs.

After getting over the shock of seeing a lizard scurrying around our apartment several days ago, and twisting our brains to figure out how it got there (we are on the seventh floor), we decided, in the spirit of Naharyia’s diversity to embrace tolerance and accept the lizard. We named our lizard Lizzie.

Since we also, not happily, share our apartment with tiny ants, we were not concerned about what Lizzie would eat, but we worried that it might die of thirst.

After trying to figure out how Lizzie could access water (a bowl, for instance, would be hard to scale), we settled on an ashtray, one of many that my husband had brought home when we were expecting guests and I had sent him out for serving dishes.

Now, like mother hens, we watch the ashtray to ensure that the water level is sufficient to keep our lizard hydrated. While Lizzie is not quite as cuddly as the cats I have owned, or as trainable as the dogs we have lived with, Lizzie does not require much attention.  We have decided that Lizzie not only fits the spirit of our new found home, but we are thrilled that we do not have to walk her, shake her fur off our clothes or clean kitty litter.



Short Walk Yields Surprises and Treasures

I was rescued from biking today by a friend who wanted to walk. We walked a brisk hour and ten minutes to and in Shevei Zion, a moshav next door to Naharyia. It’s population is somewhere between 500 and 1000 people. It offers more than places much larger. Today, I will share photos of just one of the homes there that has beautiful cement sculpture and bicycle flower pots.

These works of art are whimsical, colorful and lifesized. They are incredibly original. The best part is it is just another home there and if you find it, it will be a happy accident.


Senorita3 copy

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If you like colorful art, and have children in your life, check out http://www.TurnipTimes.com for info on the book “Forty Days and Forty Nights, Rain, Rain, Rain”


To Stretch or Not to Stretch–That is the Question

There are many types of stretching. Stretching on awakening to confirm that everything is still working –practiced mostly by the geriatric crowd, stretching into a yoga pretzel, stretching one’s credulity – something we are forced to do every day when confronted with the slanted news–and stretching for self-improvement.

My blessings include working very hard rehabbing old houses in Cincinnati most of the year (call me crazy, but I thrive on work) and then going to the sleepy town of Naharyia in Israel for about four months a year, spread out over two or three trips. When there, my Cincinnati business only takes several hours a day as I cannot be on site, cannot supervise, cannot do my daily twice, sometimes thrice, Home Depot (or Lowe’s) runs, and cannot nag the workers except by email. Now I have only myself (and my husband) to nag. I remind myself of my promises to myself that I will whip myself into shape, lose weight, get out those watercolors, write, and promote “Forty Days and Forty Nights, Rain, Rain, Rain”. This is truly a nasty job to beat myself up but who else will do it? My husband is too busy beating himself up.

After giving myself lots of excuses;  catching up on the bookkeeping (takes about a week), getting over jet lag, getting acclimated to the rhino-weight humidity here, giving myself a well deserved rest, getting over jet lag. Oops, I think I just ran out of excuses.

Yesterday I took my beloved bike out of storage for a spin. Purchased three years ago I have been waiting for my husband to join me but finally gave up waiting. He would rather wear himself out by running on the treadmill and lifting weights. The bike fits my personality – it has one speed, one hand brake and can also be stopped by pedaling backwards. It’s old, reliable, past its prime and a little beat up—that’s me.

My off and on romance with biking never included learning how to use the gears. In fact, I probably didn’t bike for close to 40 years after dropping into a pothole on West 56th Street in New York, flying over the handlebars, and falling (skirt up) in the middle of the street in front of a moving taxi.

After a serious confrontation with my conscience, I biked seven miles yesterday with only one three minute break. It took an hour. Today I biked over ten miles (an hour and twenty minutes with no breaks), began writing this essay, and did a watercolor. My brain is overjoyed, my legs are like jelly and I fear for my sanity tomorrow. Being into one-upsmanship (with me and only me), what will happen tomorrow when I have to top this???

Stay tuned .

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Professor No Taught Me Everything I Know

As a shy, country girl who tried my best to be invisible, I had the self-confidence of an ant racing away from the shadow of a size 10 shoe as it looms large over its existence.

Being “less than” was an identity tattooed daily on my psyche.  Our two-grade class room, all through grade school, was further divided into those that could and those that couldn’t.  Need I mention that I was in the “couldn’t” section? While others were learning, I was secretly reading a book tucked into the storage area of my desk. Why constantly court failure by participating? A particularly degrading day came, when out of school for two days for Rosh Hashanna when I was in first grade, I walked in the next day to find out we were having a test. I zipped triumphantly through the test and handed in my paper. I was confident of a good mark. I got a ZERO! They had learned subtraction while I was still on addition and, of course, I never read the test’s directions.

I entered Junior High School where 90% of the class was on the college tract. Other ideas were advanced at home. “Be a secretary and get married” was the mantra of my daily existence. So it was shorthand and typing for me. However, I did take art classes and I loved it. No matter how much my teacher berated me for having “no control” I cheerfully continued to flow my watercolors like a raging river.  This art teacher, Mrs. Marsden, I later found out, told the rest of the class “Why can’t you paint like Joan? You are all too tight and afraid to experiment.”  That statement whispered into my ear by another student, failed to compute, but I filed it away in the “maybe there is hope for me” cabinet at the bottom of my brain.

High school is supposed to prepare us for life – especially those of us who are on the business tract and not going to college. We took an aptitude test to help us decide where our talents lay. I was told that nothing definite leapt out from my test results, but there was a leaning towards making of an auto mechanic. I had no mechanical skills—couldn’t even change a tire—so I felt wary of ever finding my niche.

After high school I worked as a secretary for a while but boredom took over and I decided to go to the big city from upstate New York and go to art school. I hated it. It was too rigid. They concluded I was without talent, which is what my father had told me before I left home. “No you can’t” from a plethora of Professor No’s, became a chorus of deep throated frogs singing off key and negating my existence. I tried Hunter College. I failed. I went to the Art Students League where you were not graded but even though I sold some art work here and there I realized I might become just another starving artist. I then decided to attend Pace. Pace made me prove myself and matriculate. I worked full time and took 12 credits at night, racking up two A’s and two B’s each semester.

Did I mention that I was married before Pace and after Pace? I was. My first husband told me not to go to college. “Your father didn’t send you, why should I?” The second husband decided I should run his office.  In the meantime, we had adopted two children and his consistently telling me that the two children were “not the same as having your own”. That, along with his blaming me for everything wrong that ever happened, threatened to happen, or could possibly happen in his life, gave me cause to chalk up divorce/failure number two.

As the divorce ground on, slowly stripping me of everything that was secure in my life, I enrolled in Georgia State.

My college creative writing teacher told me I was a “no” talent. Mid-way through the second creative writing course with him (after telling me that I also had no talent for poetry writing), he decided to enter my short story into the Southern Literary Festival.

At this point I had become so weary of “You can’t” that I had worked myself up to a 3.5 point average and was told I could graduate cum laude but had to do a successful project. How handy that I had a short story that my creative teacher liked! That would be my cum laude project. Except the professor in charge of that assignment told me that my story was not even college level. After the eighth rewrite (two rewrites after winning second place at the Southern Literary Festival), I gave up.

After my third divorce I smugly informed my father that he should be very proud of me. He told me to be a secretary and get married. I had been a secretary for about ten years, and I had gotten married, and married, and married. Poor dad was speechless.

Husband four didn’t work out either but I am now married to my knight in shining armor who encourages all my schemes and dreams with positive enthusiasm.

I have tried my hand at retail (I had the first ever cartoon store outside of Disney World), created, published and edited a monthly good news newspaper in New Jersey for eleven years (along with an area guide for the local hotels) and I am now a rehabber. I take tired old houses and smack them back to life by constantly encouraging my workmen into finishing projects while trying to come in under budget (we never do). I have dull doors drenched in varying shades of  tangerine or green, add shiny toilets with new plumbing, have crumbling walls plastered and painted. My tenants think I am an artist. My friends think I am superwoman and the energizer bunny rolled into one. But I am just trudging along, trying my hand at whatever pops up, proving to all the Professor No’s in my life, that he/she/they are WRONG.

Below is a watercolor I recently finished and a small seascape that I am working on:



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Rosh HaNikra Grottos

As stated on Wikipedia“Rosh HaNikra (…‎Hebrew: ראש הנקרה‎, “head of the grottos”) is a geological formation  in Israel, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Western Gailee. It is a white chalk cliff face which opens up into spectacular grottos.

The Rosh HaNikra grottos are cavernous tunnels formed by sea action on the soft chalk rock. The total length is some 200 metres. They branch off in various directions with some interconnecting segments. In the past, the only access to them was from the sea and experienced divers were the only ones capable of visiting. Today a cable car takes visitors down to see the grottos…”

Although I have been to see the grottos several times, visitors to our home are encouraged by us to see these beautiful works of nature. Of course, we accompany them. Luckily I never get tired of taking in the majesty and splendor of these rare formations.

The 12 minute film gives the history, fables and facts about the animal and sea life of this area and each time it appears that I am learning something new even though I watch the film each time I visit.




at the left of the above photo you can see one of the cable cars that has just arrived at the bottom of the incline


Tourists all like to have their photos taken at this border — a reminder of how close, no matter where you are in this tiny country of Israel, that you are on the border of another country.


Here, near the crevice in the cliff, are perched a dove and a pigeon.






ImageBecause the pathway through the caverns winds around, sometimes lower and sometimes higher, we could see another tourist at a different point on the pathway towards the top of this photo.


Flowers on the way to the film room in a cave.

There are picnic facilities at the grottos and it is possible to rent bicycles and motorized rickshaws to tour the coastline.

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Simultaneous Rehab Projects

The house this blog has been reporting on has suffered delays in part because of two other projects. One, is a Victorian house that needed lots of fine tuning. Below are the before and after photos of the outside of the house.



Notice the tangerine door. The interior of the door is painted the same color, really brightening up the hallway.

The same color was toned down a bit for the dining room.