Graffiti Heaven in Florentin Neighborhood, Tel Aviv, Israel

I love seeing art when I travel. Fine art exhibited in museums, of course, but also grass-roots arts, such as the arts seen at craft markets or on city walls. Yep. Graffiti can be viewed by some as vulgar vandalism, but it is also the artistic expression of certain segments of society.

In Tel Aviv, Israel, there is an entire neighborhood that celebrates graffiti: Florentin, in the southern part of the city. There, colorful murals completely cover  several city blocks. On my latest visit to the Holy Land several months ago, I went to check it out. I enjoyed looking at all the different works created by different people. The paintings were a collection of many styles, ideas, and political orientations.

Here is a little taste of what this neighborhood has to offer:

After walking around a bit, I noticed works that seemed similar. The style seemed consistent, as if drawn by the same hand. I started actively looking for works by this artist, an activity that became a kind of a game for me and my kids. It reminded me of our trip to London a couple of years ago, and of how we enjoyed doing the same there.

I later found a signed work by the artist in a different neighborhood. That’s how I learned of Sara Erenthal and her work.

As I was about to leave the neighborhood, I saw a big sign on top of a building. Only then did I realize why the municipality allowed all that graffiti. The entire neighborhood, it turns out, is deemed for demolition. Soon brand-new sky-scrapers will replace the old, paint-covered buildings.

So, if you find yourself in Israel soon, go check Florentin out before it disappears. There are special graffiti tours you can take, and even graffiti workshops!

An Unexpected Discovery In Ma’ale Gamla, Israel

Did you ever make a small discovery that brightened up your day? It doesn’t have to be a gold-filled-chest kind of a discovery. Just a little, surprising encounter that made you happy? If so, then you must know how I felt when I found a yard full of art at a most unexpected place!

On my latest trip to Israel several months ago, my family and I were staying at a Zimmer in Ma’ale Gamla in the Golan Heights (a “zimmer” is how Israelis call cabins for rent). Ma’ale Gamla is a tiny residential town overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Its population consists of about one hundred families, and the only store in existence is a little grocery. Tourists mostly use it as a base for exploring the surroundings.

Early one morning during our short stay in the town, my husband and I decided to go on a little morning walk. My husband, a veteran Pokemon hunter, already explored the place the day before. As we walked, he slowly stirred me towards a side street he thought I might find interesting.

Neat houses and greenery lined the narrow, unassuming street on both sides. It was very quiet in that early hour. Suddenly, I noticed a life-size sculpture at the entrance to a driveway.

Turned out this was a Poke Stop called “Peres in a Bathing Suit,” and that this was how my husband found the statue in the first place.

On the other side of the driveway, still along the main road, I saw yet another life-size sculpture, this one of a dancing girl:

A more careful inspection revealed a small cat-sculpture in the corner:

As we walked on, we realized that the entire front yard was packed-full of art: sculptures big and small made out of plaster, metal mesh, clay and even fabric; reliefs; paintings. We stopped to admire them.

As we were standing there, the front door opened, and a man came out to collect his morning paper.

We felt a bit embarrassed, to be caught gawking like that. But the man turned out to be very friendly. When I told him how impressed I was with all that art, he explained that  the artist was his wife. He then invited us over to see the back yard.

The back, too, was full of life-size sculptures:

It also had some small ones, like those two metal ants I found charming:

And, there was an entire collection of oven-glazed clay figurines:

Even the plant pots had faces!

We learned that this artist occasionally exhibited her works in local galleries. After we left, I realized I never asked for her name. Unfortunately, I was unable to find out more about her afterwards.

Seeing her fun work, however, really made my day. Her creativity shaped the space around her house, dotting it with cheerfulness and joy. Looking at everything she made was truly inspiring!

Next time you stay at a guest house, make sure to take a little walk around the neighborhood. You never know what you might find!

Inspiration: A Quiet Place in the Galilee

On my family’s recent visit to Israel we spent a couple of days relaxing in a beautiful, quiet zimmer (guest house) in the Galilee. The guest house, Hemdatya, is located in Ilaniya, the first Jewish agricultural settlement in the Galilee, which was established in 1900.

The guest rooms are converted old structures. They were a part of a farmhouse complex built at the beginning of the previous century. The current owners lovingly restored them, paying much attention to detail and  sound ecological practices. The resulting accommodations are fully up to modern standards, yet keep the old atmosphere intact. The place is a truly magical sanctuary where three generations of my family were able to relax together.

I arrived in Israel with a suitcase-full of handmade gifts for all members of my family. These gifts looked very much in place in everyone’s respective rooms in the Galilee.

This is the laptop bag I made for my sister. I love how it looks on the beautifully-painted tiles of the floor in her room:

For my mom, I made a purse with a matching cell-phone case. Both her gifts looked very much at home on the old, roughly-woven stool we found in my parents’ room:

The handmade i-pad cover I made for my father likewise looked nice on the wooden counter:

All the guest rooms shared a courtyard covered with wild, tall and gorgeous annuals. These amazingly big flowers shone in many different shades of pink:

Each of the rooms had a little patio or terrace outside. There we relaxed in the evenings, enjoying a glass of local wine. This, for example, is the grapevine-covered patio outside my parents’ room:

The floor in their room, my dad said, had the same pattern his grandfather’s house featured in Jerusalem at the turn of the previous century. The mud-covered walls and restored fireplace added a nice touch:

I liked many of the little details and special decor throughout the complex:

And the furniture, too:

Most impressive of all were the amazing breakfasts. Local Circassian women prepared the food from scratch, using  locally-grown vegetables (some from Hemdatya’s very own vegetable garden!). The breakfasts included fresh cheeses made from milk collected from the owner’s goats. Well, let’s just say that I am sure I will fantasize about THOSE for many months to come…


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Inspiration: Openings in Walls

I love walking the streets of history-filled cities and looking at old buildings and openings in walls. Aged walls and the old doors and windows within them are often what give places their soul. I find these architectural features aesthetically interesting. Often, many layers of paint or patches cover them, creating an exciting visual focus. Furthermore, I often wonder about the lives these silent witnesses saw, as well as about the generations of people who lived behind them. Who walked through these doors, I wonder; Who opened and closed these windows?

Sometimes there is an open crack in a door, or a window is left unclosed. These openings in walls are then teasing, allowing a quick, yet partial peek into the lives that currently hide beyond. At other times everything is shut, leaving things to the imagination.

My family and I recently visited Israel, where old neighborhoods abound. While there, I found myself surrounded by the beauty of the past. Remnants of different historical periods were clashing and co-existing all over. History seeped from every corner.

These windows, for example, peeked at me from walls in the old city of Jerusalem. Once traditionally and now by regulations, Jerusalem stone covers all the buildings in the capital:

Yellow window

Old window

In the Lower Galilee, meanwhile, I admired old buildings built from black basalt rock. The black rocks create a very different visual effect when compared to the light Jerusalem stone. I saw these beautiful openings, for example, in the Circassian village of Kafr Kama:

A window with a sotry

Brown window
Blue window
Blue door
Green door
Wood door
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