Many Realities

Emili and I riding a camel in the Negev desert.

I saw the movie “Ajami”, written and directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, several months ago. It’s about an Arab/Christian/Jewish neighborhood in Jaffa, Israel and the daily lives and struggles of the people who live there. “Ajami” was nominated for a ‘Best Foreign Film’ Oscar award but didn’t win; I thought it was a good movie even though I watched it in Arabic with Hebrew subtitles and I don’t speak either language. My friend Aya lives in the Ajami neighborhood and as I stood on her balcony one evening with a glass of wine in one hand and my camera in the other, I snapped pictures of the sun setting over the Mediterranean Sea. The lives of the people in the movie and the lives of the people I know who live in Ajami are as night to day, apples to oranges, two very different realities.

The view from Aya and Arik's balcony in Ajami.

There are many different realities in Israel, from the Jewish reform, to the conservative, to the ultra orthodox, to the secular Israelis, to the Ethiopians, to the Yemenites, to the Druze, to the Bedouins, to the foreigners, to the Muslim Arabs, to the Christian Arabs, to the Christians, to the Russians, to the illegals, to the Kibbutzniks, to the Sephardic, to the Ashkenazi. When we first moved here, I was surprised to find so many distinct groups of people with so many differing views and opinions and most of them seemed to dislike the others. For me, in America, the groups were fairly easy to understand – there were mainly whites, blacks and Hispanics and they were struggling to get along with one another. It was so much more complicated than that here.

A mine field in the Galilee.

As I was living a normal life in Tel Aviv a few years ago, citizens of Sderot, a small town only 40 miles to the south, were fleeing from scud missiles shot at them by Hamas (a Palestinian terror group) from the Gaza strip (this has been going on for the last 7 years, but has subsided as of recently). One of my seamstresses lives in Sderot and occasionally when we were speaking on the phone to discuss the children’s costumes that she was sewing for me, the phone would go dead because a rocket had torn down the phone lines or she had to hang up and run to her bomb shelter because the rocket warning siren had just sounded. As the citizens of Israel live in relative peace as of today’s date (May 17, 2010), the citizens of Gaza and the West Bank live under extreme restrictions and living conditions. Sometimes I try to explain to people that living here can be compared to when I lived in Chicago; you know where the “dangerous” neighborhoods are and if you’re smart you don’t go there. A drive by shooting or a suicide bombing, are we really safe anywhere these days? I think not.

View of Jaffa from Neve Tzedek.

The situation in the Middle East is not easy to understand, follow or come up with a solution. But if I can tell you anything about understanding the situation here, I’d tell you not to believe everything you read and to consider the source of your information. The perception of the situation here is so skewed outside of Israel that it’s clear to me that you must be a very good interpreter to understand what is really going on. It also doesn’t help that no one seems to want to write about non-eventful, beautiful days here, which contributes to the perception that everything here is bad and that the whole country is constantly fighting a war. One of my best friends, Storm has been here 3 times to visit me. The first time she arrived, Israel was experiencing quite a few suicide bombings, so we didn’t go to many public places. The second time she was here there was fighting in Gaza and the calls that Storm received from her concerned family and friends from America were panicky. They asked her if she could hear the bombs exploding and this was all after we had spent a fun afternoon at the mall. The fighting that her family had heard about on the news was about an hour away from where we were. I was relieved that she had left Israel thinking that it was a normal enough place and she felt that my family and I were o.k. here. I thought that her visit gave her the information to have an educated opinion of the situation in Israel. I think it’s all too easy to read an article in the newspaper and formulate an opinion based on the writer’s opinions. But we can’t all jump on airplanes and visit foreign places just to be able to have an educated opinion about the situation there. Sadder yet, most of us don’t really care about the situation in the Middle East or the Congo or Chechnya or anywhere else for that matter because it doesn’t really affect our daily lives (point taken!). But before someone gets on a soap box or starts formulating opinions, they should be correctly informed, very informed.

View of Tel Aviv from Jaffa.

 

Magical Mushrooms

What is it about mushrooms that we all find so enchanting? Is it the colors? Is it the many shapes and sizes? Is it that our imaginations see these fat little fungi as trees in fairy landscapes? I have been particularly taken with the delicate underside of the big umbrella part of the mushroom. I’ve needle-felted quite a few mushrooms and used them as Christmas ornaments, but this time I decided to go beyond my ornament designs and add the many layers of the underside, called gills. I felted the mushroom cap as usual, starting with a felted ball, I cut the ball  in half, hollowed out the half circle, I felted the underside of the half circle and then I attached the felted stem to the middle of the cap.

I cut the gills from cotton felt. I cut a felt rectangle for each gill. The length of the gills are determined by measuring from the middle of the cap to the outter rim of the cap. I sewed all the gills together on one end till I could wrap them around the stem. I sewed every gill to the underside of the mushroom at the stem and at the outter rim of the cap.  

Sewing the gills to the underside of the cap is very time consuming. After I sewed the gills to the underside of the mushroom cap, I trimmed each gill from the outter rim of the cap to the stem, so the gills are rounded.

She’s in love with a pig!

Smooooooch!

We’ve all been in love with a pig once in our lives, haven’t we? I find that when I’m needle-felting, I need to really be “into” what I’m felting. Because needle-felted sculpture take so long to do, I have to be inspired by my subject. I don’t know if I could needle-felt an armadillo or a hippo for example, not that there’s anything wrong with armadillos or hippos. I’ve always wanted a pig, I think because they’re supposed to be very smart and they seem to have a lot of character. If you’re going to have a pet, why not have one you can talk to, right?

needle felted pig

Here in Israel, the pig is not a popular animal; observant Jews aren’t supposed to eat pork, so if I were a pig I’d want to live in Israel. I’m a bit fascinated by the level of repulsion concerning the pig in the Middle East. When the swine flu was affecting people all over the world, the Jewish religious community couldn’t bring themselves to refer to this particular flu by it’s common label, but made up the term the Mexican flu instead. Needless to say, this didn’t go over well with Mexicans. “Bury your head in the sand”, I say and “everything will be o.k!” I’ve read that it’s common to mark out the word pig with a big black marker in Muslim countries. This is done in bookstores, in children’s books as well. I wonder what the job title of the person who marks out the word pig is. Many Middle Easterners and other Muslims have no idea who Kermit’s main squeeze is, nor do they want to know.

I have fond piggy memories from my childhood. There was a pig farm near where we lived and every time my parents drove by it (must have been 10 times a week) my brother and sister and I would hold our noses and yell Pee-ewww! Every single time. So, I’m not upset that Emili has fallen in love with this particular needle-felted swine, I can think of worse company to keep.

Emili and friend

The Adventures of Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood decided to have lunch with her grandmother one day, so she packed some sandwiches and headed off into the forest.
Red's mother warned her not to dawdle in the forest because there were many shady characters lurking there!
the lurking monsters…
the lurking vampires...
the lurking witches...

 

and she didn't notice the most dangerous lurking creature of all...
The Big Bad Wolf!
Red arrived at her grandmother's house way past lunch and she noticed her grandmother didn't quite seem like herself.
Red said "granny, I'm sorry I'm late, but there were so many interesting things in the forest, I got hungry and ate our lunch, one thing led to another and anyway, here I am!"
"You ate our lunch?!" " Damn it Red, I'm starving!" yelled the Big Bad Wolf.
"Oh my goodness!" declared Red, "I'm such a ninny. I think I left the iron on at home . Gotta go granny! Later!" Red ran out the door and hurried home, never really noticing that the Big Bad Wolf had eaten her grandmother and was waiting to gobble her up too, because let's face it, Red wasn't the sharpest tack in the box." C'est la vie.

Needle felting with spheres

 

 A few years ago, I was looking through  a book about needle felted figures and I thought to myself , “I want to make one of those!”.  I taught myself how to needle felt by looking at a lot of photos of finished pieces, reading what I could find and practicing a lot. I started creating my first needle felted pieces with spheres and other simple shapes.

This little bird in her nest is made by adding shapes together, oval body, little oval-flat wings, ball head, triangle beak. A thin layer of wool over the area where the shapes are connected blends the shapes together seamlessly. I sewed two tiny seed-beads onto the head for eyes. The nest is a sphere, cut in half and felted into a bowl shape. I sewed a beaded string to the bird and Poof, she’s an ornament.

Keeping  with the round theme, I made an apple.

I added a twig  for the stem of the apple.

The apple has a surprise inside! A cute little worm, made completely from spheres!

This little green worm has eaten the entire inside of the apple

exept for the seeds!

The apple started as a sphere, it was felted into an apple shape, cut in half, hollowed out and the inside was  felted white. The twig and big green leaf were added to complete the apple container. The little worm consists of four spheres felted together. The seeds are tiny balls, mostly shaped by rolling them between my fingers.