Kicking off Christmas in Jerusalem

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This past weekend we were invited to a German Christmas Market held at a church in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was a perfect day and start to our Christmas season, both surreal and totally normal at the same time. Much like expat life.  We drank fantastic cups of steaming gluhwien while the children ate German waffles and the moms eyed the tables covered in crafts and decorations.  All the while, the seemingly unaware market was surrounded by ancient churches, mosques, and temples, stone streets older than anything in the United States, and both old and new marks of a history of tension and religious conflict.

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Living in Israel does have a surreal affect on you, some days you could be anywhere in the world and others you are in THE Holy Land, eek! If I am being honest, the city of Jerusalem is not my favorite place in the country. The tension you feel there is palpable and many warnings about potential unrest make me want to run to the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee. That said, in the last month I have made the 1.5 hour trip to the holiest place on earth twice, and both times were amazing and fulfilling adventures. I’d say Jru is growing on me, especially when the Christmas spirit is all around you and you’re with some of your favorite people in the country!

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Since it was a rather last minute decision to attend the market, we were unprepared with only a few shekels in hand. Thus, I wasn’t able to splurge on much. However, I did come across a Palestinian artist who was on a mission for peace and unity through her art. My creative heart was inspired by her project and I purchased two sketches, one of Bethlehem and one of Jerusalem, and a painted sketch on a postcard of some of the famous architecture from around Israel.  The whole interaction with the artist made me excited for my own shop this coming weekend.

The kids were less than impressed with the vendors and were waiting patiently for Der Weihnachtsmann, aka Father Christmas, aka Santa, to arrive. They sang Jingle Bells as they waited and finally he appeared ringing a bell and carrying a large sack full of chocolate Santas for each of the children. It was adorable how they sat and listened to him tell his story in German. Even though they couldn’t understand any of it, the heart of the story was clear.

Afterward our party of almost 30 departed and 21 of us attempted to find a place to eat together at 5:00pm on Shabbat (Sabbath) in a highly religious city. Which means the majority of places were closed for another 2 hours. We finally discovered an Irish Pub and it was perfect for our group, including our horde of children hopped up on chocolate.

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It truly was the perfect way to kick off our December –  loosely planned, a bit chaotic, full of joy, and drenched in the Christmas spirit. When you live an expat life, at Christmas time you sacrifice a lot of your traditions, but it can lead to a richer and deeper connection to the season and your family. I hope those of you far from home find your village to celebrate with and make the most of the holiday season as you add new traditions and memories to your collection.

Happy December,

kdg

Fall in Israel – Rosh Hashanah

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The weather, the holidays, and the spirit of Fall in Israel are all definitely different from our beloved Virginia, but we are enjoying the adventure. This was a big weekend for us and the country as we celebrated the New Year, also known as Rosh Hashanah. Until last year, I used to be unfamiliar with the Jewish/Israeli holidays, aside from their dates pre-labeled in my calendar over the years. For all of you like me, living in Israel means three days off of school, celebrations and toasts, religious observances, lots of new traditions, and it is a great time to travel or explore for us non-observant expats.

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Since we have missed our Fall traditions from back home, we took the long week and went camping at Horshat Tal in the Golan Heights with a few of our favorite outdoorsy friends.  We also toasted the new year at our favorite Israeli winery, Pelter Winery and one of our favorite Israeli craft breweries, Galil Brewery (they have pumpkin ale!). It was a wonderful time to be removed from the pressures of school and work and just be together and laugh a lot. Plus, I checked a few things off our Fall bucket list!

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I know I say it all the time, but experiencing the cultures of the country we live in (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and those of the people we befriend is truly one of my favorite things about living abroad. It makes me so happy to listen to the boys sing holiday songs, share the salutations in the language, and try traditional eats and treats. Their favorite Rosh Hashanah treat is apples dipped in honey, eaten to symbolize a sweet new year.

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It is especially fun to experience each of the holidays through our youngest at a local Hebrew gan (pre-school). On the Friday before the holiday the parents were invited to join a toast to the new year. The littles all wore white, the traditional color worn on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and for holy days. There was a rabbi who talked (in Hebrew of course) about the holiday and blew the shofar for us. We sat and watched the children sing and clap to songs they had clearly been learning leading up to it. I couldn’t help but smile at the tiny hands holding up glasses of tirosh (children’s wine) toasting and shouting “Shana Tova”!

Our big kid had his own Rosh Hashanah celebration at the international school and learned about the holiday in Israeli Culture class, which is one of his favorite classes. He just loves the teacher too! She has them singing fun songs, speaking in Hebrew, and excited to share it all at home with us. Let me tell you, we have learned a lot because of it! Fun fact, similar to our beloved Greeks, the Israelis see the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity, health, fertility and happiness and they are particularly important and given as gifts at Rosh Hashanah.

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To learn more about the holiday check out this fun video. I can really get behind the heart of starting fresh and walking into the new year on a sweet note!

Here’s to a sweet (and intentional) new year!

Shana Tova!

kdg

Origami birds courtesy of fellow gan mom, Noa, check out her blog post: I’m on Leave

Brew Adventures & Inspirations

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Almost seven years ago we started our homebrewing adventure. I surprised Tom with a Mr. Beer homebrewing kit and in our tiny blue kitchen he crafted his first brew. The first beer recipe came with the kit and, while it was easy to drink, it was fairly un-remarkable. Regardless, he was surprised by how simple the process was and was hooked. Not to mention, this was a hobby I could totally get on board with!

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As we began exploring this new world of beer, we discovered more and more craft beers. If you didn’t already know, craft beer is made at smaller breweries and not mass produced on large scales like those from corporate breweries. Often times their smaller scale lends to more inventive and complex beers, as well as better quality ingredients. In the interest of learning more, we started seeking out new craft brews and Tom started absorbing knowledge.

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While it took me a little longer to develop my palate, I loved every brew tasting and brewery tour along the way. It was on those adventures that I discovered my passion for photographing beer. I found myself inspired by the rainbow of natural colors that comes with a flight of tasting glasses arranged on a wood board. Much to my Tom’s chagrin, I found myself asking him to wait to taste until I had the perfect photo. Last summer I was humbled when the Virginia Tourism company contacted me to purchase one of my images and feature it in their #VAcraftbeer photo competition.

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Many brews and several years later, Tom is now brewing here in Israel in our bomb shelter. Yes, you read that right, we have our very own bomb shelter equipped with it’s own A/C unit making it the perfect place for fermenting. Using equipment he’s gathered via online purchases and at the occasional stop at a homebrew store, he has been exploring a myriad of beer styles. Among the recipes he has tried are: a Belgian wit ale, an Irish-inspired red ale with roasted chestnuts, a pumpkin ale, Belgian ale with honey and sage, and a barleywine – aptly named the “Bomb Shelter Barleywine” since it was fermenting (and then aging) down there for months.

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We’ve also had a blast exploring the nascent Israeli craft brew scene. A few of our favorites include: Alexander Brewery (4), Busters Beverage Co. (5)Dancing Camel Brewery (6), Galil Brewery (1), Jems Beer Factory(3), Libira Brewery (2), and Shapiro Beer (7).

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There is also this fantastic place called the Beer Bazaar, with several locations around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, they focus on distributing local brews, including their own, and have pubs with selections on tap. Not only are the beers delicious, but the people behind them are fun to hang out with!

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A about a month ago, another brave homebrewer gathered a few other homebrewers together to create an American expat “brewmaster” event.  With the help of our friend, Shayne (below top left), they invited the guys behind the Beer Bazaar, Shapiro, and Busters Beverage Co. to spend the day with us at this beer tasting event and homebrew “competition”. The professional brewer took the time to taste and rate each of the homebrews. After their thoughtful deliberation, they shared their thoughts with the novices. Tom was awarded best aged beer for the Bomb Shelter Barleywine and he was humbled by the response and feedback he received from crowd, especially the pros. Like most of us creatives, he is often his harshest critic, so it was great to see how positive the reactions were to his craft.

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We don’t know where this homebrewing journey will take us one day when Tom retires, but I love the idea of opening a family brewery back in Virginia. Until then we will continue to learn and drink better beer. On that note, the next time we head home to Virginia for a little rest and relaxation, we will be touring a few breweries, new and old favorites. I will, of course, be documenting our brew tour and exploring the colors of the beer world, from the golden wheat to the ruby red ales to the dark brown stouts. Stay tuned here and follow along on Instagram and at my hashtag #dgbrewphotos.

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Share your favorite brewery and/or brew with us in the comments below, maybe you can introduce us to a new one!

Cheers,

kdg

Ein Hod Artist Village

{Guest post by: Keturah Maraska}

Have you ever thought about running away to live amongst other artists? Well, if you ever do feel the urge I have the perfect location – Ein Hod. Last week I was lucky enough to join a group of ladies for a tour of this quaint little village and learn a bit more about the wonderful artistic culture here in Israel.

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This Israeli artist colony is nestled just south of Carmel Mountain National Park and has a great view to the Mediterranean Sea thus providing the perfect picturesque inspiration for new pieces of art. Artists first began to move here in 1953 when artist Marcel Janco invited some of his talented friends to join him in settling in a colony with like-minded individuals. The original group of villagers was part of the Dado movement arising post WWI. Though there were just a few initial residents of Ein Hod, the village has grown to approximately 150 artists and their families.

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What makes this village unique is that only artists are allowed to own homes and live in town. Artists are not permitted to deed their property to their descendants unless they too are artists who are living and working in the community. This policy maintains a creative culture inside Ein Hod, even leading to second and third generation artists living in the neighborhood.

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Artists in Ein Hod consist of photographers, potters, painters, jewelers, sculptors, those who work with textiles, and even musicians. During our tour we had the privilege to meet a few of the artists and experience short demonstrations of their craft. First, we encountered the Magal sisters. These twins are second-generation Ein Hod residents. They are potters who use glaze to paint their pottery before they fire it. They do not paint and then glaze, but use the glaze as the paint, which makes the process more complicated since the glaze melts and blends during the firing. This technique is laborious and tedious, but these women spoke of their work with a passion that filled the air. The final product is vibrant in color and often very detailed. My favorite pottery items are the sheep they painstakingly create by rolling and looping each piece of “wool” before glazing and firing the final product. As I admired their work it was clear the Magal sisters love what they do and are extremely proud of their craft.

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As second-generation artists, the Magal sisters first found themselves in Ein Hod due to their father’s love of painting. His original oil works are available for a hefty penny; however, the sisters produce silk screens of his work which are much more economical. The sisters are also quite proud of the work their father produced and will gladly discuss his inspiration – the Mediterranean Sea and elements of Jewish culture.

Another artist we met was the potter Tal Shahar who opened her Ein Hod workshop in 1985. Shahar shares her workshop with budding potters and serves as their mentor and guide. Her palette is more earth tone than the Magals though she does paint her creations at times. Cups, dishes, and vases that Tal produces in color are usually developed by using a pigment and underglaze. One more unique technique that Tal employs is the Japanese style of Raku – firing at a high heat, them removing and “smoking” the ceramic so that it darkens and cracks in spots. I have seen this technique before, but I did find Tal’s finished products rather beautiful. The most interesting were a white design made through useof the “naked” Raku process. (For more information on ceramic pigments and stains visit this site).

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Finally, our tour guide, Lea Ben-Arye, demonstrated her silkscreen technique for us on the steps just outside her store. Nestled under the trees in a corner, Ben-Arye’s shop is the perfect location of group lessons in silkscreen. She has her own technique that allows her to reuse her stencils and create unique designs. Her husband Dan Ben-Arye works beside her creating jewelry, wooden sculptures, etc. She said he likes to learn from the other artists in the colony and then develop his own technique. Their store is filled with many of their creations from scarves, necklaces, wooden benches, and Dan’s newest passion – photographs of the clouds of Ein Hod. The one item that really caught my eye was their necklace design of a pomegranate and Star of David in one – both very symbolic of Israeli culture and life.

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Should I ever decide to run away this would be high on my list of places to end up. Art is everywhere – from the garbage cans, to chairs, to roadblocks, etc. Sculptures are on just about every corner. You can’t help but have some pop of color catch your attention around each bend in the road. Traffic is almost non-existent so strolling through the streets and admiring all of the craftwork around you is not only possible, it is almost demanded. Oh, and don’t worry, there are great restaurants and a coffee shop or two to fill your stomach and please your eye with “art on the plate” in order to energize you for the next set of galleries and workshops on your list of “must-sees”.

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It doesn’t take much of an imagination to understand why people would be drawn to this location; it takes even less of an imagination to see why generation after generation would want to stay here; once here, though, your imagination is the only thing that can limit what lies ahead.

keturah

 

 

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Keturah is a Marine wife and mother to two high school boys, and an Elementary school teacher.  Their family is currently transitioning back to the United States of America after a year abroad in Israel. She loved living in Tel Aviv and will miss living on the Mediterranean Sea.

Katie featured her family’s photo session earlier this week and shared about their creative bond and friendship. We are so thankful to have Keturah as a part of our creative community and look forward to  having her share her adventures with us again.

To Market, to Market we go!

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In Kuwait the market is referred to as the the “souk” and in Israel it is the “shouk.” They are similar language and atmosphere, with vendors selling their wares, calling out for you to come over, and the colorful array of people milling about. It is fascinating and quite a sight to see. It is a great place at which to shop and grab a bite to eat. We particularly enjoy sipping a local Israel craft brew at the Beer Bazaar and people watching.

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That said, my favorite part of the Carmel Market (shouk) in Tel Aviv is that it’s adjacent to the arts and crafts fair on Nachlat Binyamin Street.

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Every Tuesday and Friday starting at 10:00am, the artists setup their stalls on what used to be the longest street in Tel Aviv. First created by a group of craftsmen as a suburb of Tel Aviv, it ended up becoming a part of the city limits and was further developed. Nachlat Binyamin is made up of historic buildings dating back as early as 1911.  In 1988 the converted pedestrian street became home to one of the largest arts and crafts markets in Israel, hosting over 250 artists. (Visit-tel-aviv.com).

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The thing that makes the Nachlat Binyamin experience unique, is that it is mandatory that each artist sells their own work. Allowing you to meet and purchase directly from the artists themselves, not a broker or studio employee. This also creates a vibrant culture of creatives working together and developing relationships. Which you know I love!

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I have to credit my fabulous neighbor/explorer, Julie (above), for introducing me to the market as well as the Hatachana Train Station and Neve Tzedek neighborhood.  She introduced me to several artists she had purchased from in the past and with which she enjoyed good rapport. It was through Julie that I met my favorite Israel ceramist and Instagram buddy, Orna Barel.

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Orna’s work is beautiful and inspiring, but beyond that, she is a lovely person. I have been know to message her and give her a heads up that I am bringing friends to the market or pre-order items that I love on her Instagram and she is always welcoming and treats the newcomer really special. {I’m hoping to feature her in a post in the near future, so this is not the last you will hear about Orna!} Honestly, it is creative community in action. On that note, check out Orna on Instagram or at her Etsy shop.

There are so many artists that I enjoy seeing again and again at the market including Smadar Dagan-Yehieli, a fabulous jewelry designer, discovered by my mother-in-law on our adventure to the market. Thanks to our Kiwi friends’ visit, I was introduced to a new-to-me painter, Osnat Shavit, who produces some gorgeous landscapes, still life, and scenes of childhood. There truly are so many great artists to check out.

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To complete the art scene of the market Nachlat Binyamin is a hot spot for sighting some of the incredible graffiti art by MR and other well known Tel Aviv artists.

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Since Julie’s first gave me a tour of the area, I have introduced the market to all our visitors and a couple other expats. After Melissa’s visit to the area, she said I have to bring everyone there when they stay with us; and I totes agree. A trip to the market and the surrounding areas is a must for everyone visiting Tel Aviv!

If you have had the pleasure of shopping the at Nachlat Binyamin we would love to hear what artists you recommend!

Cheers,
kdg

Inspiring Artist: Banksy

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If you read my post a couple months back about urban art, you know I’m pretty inspired by street art. During our visit with our Kiwi friends this past week we talked a lot about the culture of street art here in Israel. The graffiti art that gets the most exposure outside of Israel are the pieces painted on the wall dividing Israel and the West Bank. One of the most well known contributors is the artist Banksy. It just so happens that we noticed a billboard of his art and our friends were interested in seeing some of his work.

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” ― Banksy

I had heard of the name before, but I was unaware of how pivotal Banksy has been in the world of street art. Although he originated in the UK, Banksy has painted several pieces on the wall and recently created the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. We were thrilled to find out that the billboard was advertising (in Hebrew) his pop up gallery running the month April at one of our local malls. It was truly meant to be!

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The exhibit at the Arena Mall, runs three different 4-hour time slots where visitors can peruse and admire several pieces of Banksy’s work all curated by his former spokesperson (and friend) Steve Lazarides. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.

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Although, the artist is anonymous, there are tidbits out there about him, all with the disclaimer that everything “known” has never been confirmed or denied. What is known is that Banksy has changed the genre of street art into art for the high-end consumer. There are stories of Banksy walls being dismantled and sold for millions. It is truly amazing that something that can be seen as vandalism to some is also fine art to others.

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As a political activist, Banksy gives a voice to people being oppressed and marginalized in the public arena and challenges the viewer to think beyond their sphere. He is also known for pranking and producing exhibits that push the limits of being socially acceptable. These include his very own theme park Dismaland and his Hang-and-Run prank where he vandalized faux masterpieces and hung them in museums around the world. He is edgy, anarchic, and he frankly does not care about offending others. Take it or leave it, laugh or ignore it. With anonymity it is easy to let the art speak for itself. In addition to the work itself, Banksy has produced documentaries and self published several books making his art even more accessible to the masses.

“People either love me or they hate me, or they don’t really care.”                 ―Banksy, Wall and Piece

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What I like most about Banksy’s style is the juxtaposition of gritty and innocent; bows on helicopters, little girls and soldiers, and bombers with bouquets of flowers. Specifically, my favorite piece is the showcased Girl and the Red [or Gold] Balloon.

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If you are in the Tel Aviv area I urge you to visit the gallery see if his work speaks to you. Also, as the title of one Banksy’s documentaries reminds us, don’t forget to Exit Through the Gift Shop.

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Let us know if you have seen any of Banksy’s work, we would love to hear what you thought! 

Cheers,
kdg

Referenceswikepedia / quotes

Inspiration from the streets

Lindy-Ann and I find that when we are feeling uninspired we need to look at other art forms for a fresh perspective. If you have been following me on Instagram (@dgdesignsnphotography) you may have noticed lately that I am really inspired by the urban art scene here in Tel Aviv, Israel.

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What is urban art?

Urban art is a term that refers to the various art forms found in or about a city. Including graffiti, architecture, sculptures, street photography, and the application of yarn or Perler beads to buildings.

To be honest, I have missed out on appreciating urban art for a long time. Even though I worked as an interior designer at a firm just south of Dupont Circle in Washington D.C., I just hurried past on my way to the Metro. It wasn’t until someone asked me what my favorite thing about Kuwait was and I tried to think of something other than my amazing friends, that I realized it was the urban art that spoke to me.

Driving is worst thing about Kuwait, seriously Israelis do not compare. However, it was sitting in traffic at the longest streetlight rotations of my life (10 minutes long!) when I started to look around and  noticed that the bridges were painted with themes of the Gulf. I pointed them out to my Liz, who had been driving the same roads 2 years longer than me, and she was amazed she had never noticed them.

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As I started to look for inspiration around the city, I found that there really is art everywhere. In Kuwait there are also the swanky blue and white water towers, the geometric and iconic Kuwait Towers, and my favorites spot with painted steps and graffiti by the fabulous the Cocoa Room restaurant. (If you are in Kuwait it is a must!)

Now living here in Tel Aviv, I’m inspired on a whole other level by the gorgeous Mediterranean, landscapes, and ancient ruins melding with modern urban art. There are sculptures of people climbing walls, giant flower pots in the center of traffic circles (kicars in Hebrew), and streets of graffiti. There is literally art everywhere, it is a photographer’s dream.

We recently went on a graffiti tour of the Florentine neighborhood in Tel Aviv, with a fantastic tour guide, Guy Sharett from StreetWise Hebrew. He educated us on a few artists, shared about the gentrification plans for the neighborhood, and helped us slow down and see hidden gems around us. Guy also noted that there is a clear distinction between a street artist and a kid with a can of spray paint, there are unwritten rules of respect among the artists and a vandal doesn’t abide by them. Unfortunately, this along with some of the edgy content lends to the negative stigma of graffiti as an art form. I walked away thinking about how these artists are sharing in creation of the city’s culture and that their art is out there, however temporary it may be, for people to appreciate or if nothing else, start a conversation.

If you are feeling uninspired or negative about your current city, I challenge you to take a closer look and notice the urban art around you. See what speaks to you, some of it won’t and that’s ok, but you may be surprised.

cheers,

kdg