Shiluach Haken – Sending Away the Bird

We’re experiencing the nearly annual ritual of pigeons setting up a nest in our back yard. 

There’s a Torah commandment (????? ???) for sending away the mother bird of a nest in order to take the eggs. 

I’ve always performed the mitzva, without a bracha, under the assumption that it’s already in my possession, being that the nest is in my backyard.  I saw a ‘cellular shu”t’ last week from Harav Eliyah of Tzfat, I think, who says it’s not a mitzva at all if it’s found in your back yard. 

Oh well, I guess it’s just a nuisance then…

Beautiful Panoramic Photo of Tel Azeka – Free Nature Site

Day trips in Bet Shemesh – Haelah Junction Area

The story of David and Goliath is told in detail in Samuel I.  King Saul and his camp were on the mountain top, and Goliath and the Philistines were in the valley below taunting anyone who would dare come and fight him.  Young David took his slingshot went down the valley and knocked Big Bad Goliath down with one shot.  According to Jewish tradition, the monumental event occured in the Valley of Haaeleh and Tel Azeka.

Tel Azeka

There’s a nice KKL (Jewish National Fund) park at the bottom of the Tel, and an easy footpath up the hill to the breathtaking views of the valley below.  The steps up to the top of the hill are incscribed with quotes from the Scriptures renacting the great story of David vs. Goliath.

Getting there from Bet Shemesh

Take Road 38 south from Bet Shemesh towards Beit Guvrin.  About 2KM after the gas station by Zecharia, make a right turn at the junction leading to Re’em.  (If you’ve reach Haelah Junction, you’ve gone too far).  Shortly after the turn, about 1KM, there will be a left turn into Park Britannia.

Enter the park and drive along a winding narrow paved road.  You will see 2 or 3 parks on the left side of the ride, keep going until you reach a junction.  There will be a sign to turn left towards Tel Azeka.  Make the left turn and drive up about 1KM uphill and pull up to a parking area for the park.  Admission is free.  Follow the footpath up to the top of the hill for a wonderful view.  You can also bring your BBQ from home and have a cookout at the bottom of the hill.  A nice way to enjoy history for free and with relatively easy access.  The hill can easily be climbed by all ages.  The last time our family went, there was a family in front of us with a grandmother in her 80s.  She made it to the top ahead of us!

Panorama Photo of Tel Azeka and Haelah.

The stitching of 5 photos here is a bit sloppy, but you get to see this stunning panoramic of Tel Azeka, which is on the perimeter of the shefela, and near Haelah Junction.  On the far left is the village Zecharia.

Tel Azeka Panorama - Click for Full Size
Tel Azeka Panorama - Click for Full Size

Ramat Gan Safari – A Baboon in Israel

A visit to Israel should include a stop at the Ramat Gan Safari & Zoo. Located just minutes from the airport, it’s a great place to spend a day. The kids will love seeing wild animals such as Hippos, Rhinos, Lions, and more in natural settings. They’ll also love seeing the 3 meter tall Ostriches that bend down to peek into your car to see if any snack food is available.
FYI – feeding the animals is a strict no-no and could be dangerous, even life-threatening to the animals. however, many of the visitors seem not to care. Hopefully, someday the park authorities will crack down on these miscreants.

Here’s the stately Baboon perched upon his stoop looking at all us silly humans:

Baboon at Ramat Gan Safari, Israel
Baboon at Ramat Gan Safari, Israel

Baboon with a relaxed pose

Israel has made recycling a top priority

Imagine if all the power needed to run Israel’s cars was harnassed from the rooftop sun collectors and sent to the Israel Electric Company for a net gain in GDP with no additional outlays

Israel is a country with little natural resources coupled with expensive sea-based transportation of imported goods. What can be done to keep the cost of energy and products down? In short – recycling and use of renewable energy.

Cleaning Solar Panels
Cleaning Solar Panels

With the hot and sunny climate, Israel is the ideal location for widespread use of solar energy. Nearly all homes today are installed with solar panels for heating household water. Soon, the Israel Electric Company will begin a pilot program to allow individuals to collect energy from solar panels and send them to the Israel power grid, and get paid!

Israel established in the late 90s a government ministry (????? ??????) to deal with environmental issues. This ministry – Eychut Hasviva, has worked diligently over the last 5 years to establish many new recycling programs. All plastic and glass bottles under 1 liter in size are purchased with a deposit fee, with convenient recycling ‘vending machines’ at the supermarkets for return and cash payback.

Most major cities in Israel now have collection points for larger plastic bottles (over 1 liter), and a new pilot program has been initiated for paper materials collection in designated bins.

Plastic Recylcing Bin
Plastic Recylcing Bin

According to the Israel Export Office hybrid car sales have risen 300% since 2007.  Brace yourself, Israel has committed to creating a green / electric car network by 2011.   Imagine if all the power needed to run Israel’s cars was harnassed from the rooftop sun collectors and sent to the Israel Electric Company for a net gain in GDP with no additional outlays.  What a way to reduce foreign energy dependence and to reshift the power balance in the Middle East.

Hiking in Israel – Photos of Nahal Kisalon

Hiking in Israel is absolutely wonderful.  There are literally hundreds of trails for all shapes and sizes.  All of the trails are clearly marked with painted stones guiding you through the path.

One of the best parts of hiking in Israel is that many of the trails are a mere 5 min walk from a city or village.  Here’s one beautiful view near Nahal Kisalon which is nestled in a forest between Eshtaol, Kisalon, and Beit Meir.  There is so much to see in this region of the country!

Nahal Kisalon - Hiking in Israel

Bet Guvrin Caves – Israel Parks

Beit Guvrin (Bet Guvrin) is a national park in Israel, about 15km east of Kiryat Gat. This cave city was dug out in the 3rd-2nd centuries BCE (Hellenistic Period) and sits about 400m above sea level, with soft chalky rock. The inhabitants profited from raising pigeons. This cave shows pigeon nesting holes that were dug out in symetrical lines.

Beit Guvrin (??? ??????)

Recently Added Photos of Beit Guvrin Caves. Notice how these top openings are cylindrical. That’s impressive for 2,000+ years ago. The cave dwellers used these holes for sunlight. They covered them with leaves and straw in the winter months to protect from cold and rain.

Beit Guvrin Caves

Beit Guvrin Caves

Beit Guvrin Caves

Israeli Bull (and Cows)

Ok, so maybe the title is a bit misleading. These bulls and cows *happen* to be in Israel. I guess that makes them Israeli. Unless they are like 50% of the Israeli population of humans, e.g. they came from another place.

Israel is a small country, with small parcels of land. Cows require a lot of room to roam, and pastures. Both of which are limited in the Holy Land. Most Kibbutzim have dairies that produce milk for local consumption, but cows and bulls just don’t roam here that much. There are, however, a few “dude ranches”. I have seen cattle grazing in the Golan, and more so, near Park Britannia, and Beit Guvrin.

And without further ado…Here are some Holy Exposure photos of cows in Israel:

Cows in Israel

The art of bull dodging in Israel

Thank G_D this bull and I had a reasonable distance . At least it gave me a chance to make a run for it! I’m not kidding, this bull was about a split-second from starting to charge me, until he saw that I had ducked and run.

Bulls in Israel

Bulls have to scratch their ears too…

Bulls in Israel

Flowers in Israel

What makes an outstanding flower image?

Here are some of the important factors:

1. Exposure/Lighting – Time of day is the biggest factor here. Just at dawn or before sunset are the best times to photograph outdoors. Just before sunset the color temperature is great for flowers. The color saturation is best without the powerful sun overhead. However, you have to be careful not to get shadows into the image.

2. Tripod – Never try to take a serious photograph of nature with the camera in your hand! The slightest of camera shake renders the fuzzies.

3. Bokeh – Look at the image below for a good example of bokeh (the out of focus background). For this effect, you’ll need a quality lens, and you’ll want to open the aperture as much as you can. This will also mean a lower shutter speed, which is another reason why you’ll need a tripod. A nice bokeh will also give the image a 3D illuminating quality.

4. Luck and perseverance.

5. Time. You’ll need to shoot a lot of images to achieve good results in just a few. See rule #4.

See our earlier posting with some examples of Flora in Israel

Here’s a couple more:

Israel Cactus

Even a weed can look dramatic…

Flowers in Israel

Sheep and Goat Herds Grazing in Israel Photos

There’s always something so serene about seeing a flock of sheep or goats by the side of a road grazing. They seem so relaxed and without burden. Actually, the job of the herdsman is anything but relaxing. He is generally responsible for the well-being of a hundred or so animals, and the finances of his family.

The Torah (Bible) tells many examples of true leaders of the Jewish people from their beginnings as herdsmen, such as Moses (Moshe Rabeinu), King David, Joseph, and many of the prophets as well.

Here’s some photos of herds in natural settings around Israel:

Goats grazing in Israel

Sheep in Israel

Sheep in Israel

Sheep Grazing in Israel Sheep Grazing in Israel

Nature Photos – Ramat Bet Shemesh

You know the old expression “right under your nose”? Ramat Bet Shemesh was plopped down about 9 years ago atop some of the most beautiful nature trails in the center of Israel. Here are some photos from the hill surrounding Ramat Bet Shemesh. An easy 5 minute walk off the main roads into the fields will open your eyes to some really beautiful nature spots in Israel.

These images were taken in Spring just a few meters past Nahal Hayarden, where I’m told there will be new build it yourself plots (B’nei Beytcha) offered shortly. Go and enjoy yourself before the land is appropriated for new construction. (Be careful, however, not to go at night. There are many animals prowling about, such as jackals and dogs, possums, and even porcupines, that may not be as hospitable as we’d like).

Nature - Ramat Bet Shemesh

Nature - Ramat Bet Shemesh

Nature - Ramat Bet Shemesh

Nature - Ramat Bet Shemesh

Flora of Israel

These were shot on a hiking trail about 5km south of Bet Shemesh. I went out for a hike just before daybreak.

The ground was wet, it had rained slightly overnight. I wanted to capture the luminescence of these plants. I tried a bunch of shots with a tripod with low shutter speeds – then just for a change, i pulled out my SB-28 and gave them a fill flash. Here’s the results. They seem to pop out of the image – like three dimensional.

Flora of Israel with flash

Flora of Israel 2 w/ flash

Technical Info: Both were shot with Nikon F100, 28mm-105m with Macro, 1/125.
Both had fill flash from a SB-28.