Spring delights

I thought I’d post a couple of photos of the nice things we’ve been enjoying lately – plenty of sunshine, green grass for our birds to browse on, and flowers.

As you can see, our baby peafowl have grown quite a bit, but as peafowl generally don’t breed until two years of age (to the best of my knowledge), we don’t expect any egg-laying or breeding this season, though the male is becoming more colorful with each day.

The plant in the bottom right corner is actually a wild herb that sprang up in my garden quite unexpectedly. It smells wonderful, but I have no idea what it is. A guess, anyone?

In the upper right you can see a gorgeous desert view from a day trip we took. It lacks the lush greenery that can be seen in other parts of the country at this season, but I still find it majestically beautiful.

Advertisements

An update and a book review

First off, I would like to thank all the amazing people who left me comments and private messages following my last post. We are slowly coming to terms with the tragedy, and I was finally able to sleep a whole night. Above all, I’m praying for strength for my poor friend and her children, and for wisdom for our government, who must finally wake up and understand that the only way to increase its citizens’ safety is by harsh measures and an unapologetic stance, rather than by finessing and beating around the bush and PC talk.

In the sleepless nights that have been my share this past week, I’ve been reading John Seymour’s The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency. There’s nothing to take one’s mind off things like reading about malting or raising goats. Though much of the information in there will never be relevant for us (such as anything that has to do with raising pigs and rabbits), I’m loving the book; it’s the ultimate, most well-rounded and practical DIY guide to all things a homesteader, on whatever scale, might need, from tilling land to baking bread, from building fences to raising and managing livestock, and everything in between. Sure, it branches off into chapters that have enough fodder for specialized books on their own, and the savvy reader can find manuals that focus on, say, just animals (such as, for instance, my The Basic Guide to Backyard Livestock, and other, more detailed works) but it’s the best introductory condensed guide to self-sustainability I’ve read so far.

It could have been us. Or you.

Last night, a friend and neighbor of ours was brutally murdered by a cruel and cowardly terrorist, and while I can’t either think, speak or write about anything else this morning, I hardly know how to begin talking about this either.

It all began very trivially for us last evening. We were on our way home from my Mom’s, and I was irritated with my husband for stopping by to make some unnecessary little purchases, rather than drive straight home, while I was tired and (as usually these days, being in the third trimester) in need of a bathroom.

In retrospect, these few minutes of delay were just what prevented us from being on the spot while the terrorist was driving by. A little earlier, and the news could be reporting of several victims, not one.

So, as we were approaching home, I saw several private vehicles lined up, and a military jeep close by, with soldiers questioning someone. “Another patrol,” I sighed, thinking in frustration of this extra delay. That is, until I saw the ambulance. And a car with the front window all shattered with what looked like bullet marks aimed at the driver.

My heart sank. I knew that car.

Still, I was frantically praying, “please not them, not this family”, while in the utter chaos that reigned on the scene, we were checked, cleared, and told to drive on very carefully. A couple of hours later, we had already heard the heart-shattering news – that today, we are to attend the funeral of a friend with whom we stopped to chat only yesterday, thinking little it would be our last conversation.

The roles could have been reversed. It could have been us. It could have been anyone driving by in a car with an Israeli license plate.

I hardly know how to conclude this post, except perhaps with this: every day, Muslim terrorists prey upon roads in the West Bank, looking to shoot, stone, burn or run over unarmed Jewish civilians who seem to be the easiest prey. Every day, They know that, once caught, they have nothing more to fear than a stay in prison in the conditions of a passable hotel, where their “human rights” will be ensured by the hawk’s eye of humanitarian organizations, where they can pursue academic degrees at leisure, and from where, finally, they can hope to get out by some political-propaganda-fueled “gesture of goodwill” on part of our idiotic government. As long as they are in prison, their families receive generous pensions funded by sleekly run, well-funded Muslim and European organizations. Once they are out, they are celebrated as heroes, and can go back to their career of murdering innocents.

There is no death sentence, for anyone, ever (since Adolf Eichmann, at least), even if they were caught red-handed in the act and laughed and boasted in the face of the court. I say this needs to change. I hope it will change, so that Jewish blood can no longer be shed with impunity.

If you will, please pray for the widow and six children, aged from 11 to 8 months, who were left bereft by the horrors of last night.

Debt-free life and peace of mind

Image result for freedom and peace
An important part of simple, peaceful life is discharging your debts; not always easy, as circumstances can be different, but it is an essential. And when I say debt, I include mortgage in the definition as well; I’m not saying a mortgage is always wrong, and never acceptable, but today people tend to forget that mortgage really is a state of debt; that a mortgage means one is not really an owner of one’s home, or at least, an owner only conditionally – because if something happens and the payment cannot be made (in a case, say, of an illness and/or unemployment), the owners face a very real danger of losing their home.

Owning the roof above one’s head, free and clear, is therefore an important part of one’s peace of mind. If your home is your own (as much as any earthly possession can truly be our own), a reduction or loss of income is, of course, a blow – but at least you have your safe haven, which is yours, and you don’t owe anyone anything for being under that roof.

Having said that, I will allow myself a little vent and say that, at least in Israel, paying for a home without a mortgage is a near-impossibility, as the prices of land, and consequently housing, are very, very high. Most young families – unless they are fortunate enough to inherit property, or to have parents who can assist them in a very material way – face being bogged down by very considerable, suffocating debt.

Is there no cheap land or housing to be found here? To be sure there is; and we did find it when we were first married, even though it wasn’t exactly the home of our dreams, and we have moved since. We rented for a couple of years, and these days we once more live in a home we have bought outright, no mortgage. It was hard, hard to find and involved many compromises, but we did it. When people here are rioting for “affordable housing”, I think they ought to amend and say they actually mean, “affordable housing in the tiny over-crowded piece of land that comprises most of the country’s population” – which, in all fairness, I don’t think possible. Yes, there are sparsely populated areas with¬†affordable housing – but the problem is, to live in such an area means fewer opportunities of employment.

Obviously, each situation is unique, but there may be several options. Working from home, or mainly from home, is one; re-considering the possible length of commute is another – some people park their cars at the nearest train station, and make the chief of their daily journey by train. Or a family may move to a less expensive area as a temporary measure, to obtain low rent, and scrimp and save for a few years to be able to buy a home in a better area with no or lower mortgage.

Another thing I wish for is that we weren’t so bogged down with the difficulty of building regulations. Say “Israel” and “building” in one phrase, and you’re up to political flare-up. These difficulties, along with government avarice, have caused housing prices to soar in recent years. For illustration, the little house we had bought back when we first married (and since sold at twice the price), now costs five times more than it had a decade ago. Did the salaries rise five times over, on average? No, of course not. They stayed more or less the same. Thus the housing issue continues to be really, really tough, and people keep looking for creative solutions.

I believe there is no real solution but a government decision to take the plunge and make use of the abundant land in politically controversial area. In the meantime, people will have to keep searching high and low for individual housing, financial and employment solutions, and pave their own way towards freedom and debt reduction.

A winter day in Israel

Winter in Israel is the pleasant rainy season with lush grass and flowers that are at their most prolific sometime mid-February. Here in the hills we have the occasional frost and snow, and a great deal of wind, but many winter days are very inviting, tempting us to focus on outdoor chores and spend most of the daylight hours outside.

As you can see, the hills are gradually turning from brown to green, and our bedding is hanging out in the light breeze after a big rain.

Our chickens are enjoying a run outside, reveling in the abundance of fresh grass and bugs. The weather has been so pleasant that they have gone on laying, though daylight is now at its lowest ebb, and we are relatively well supplied with eggs, compared to previous winters.

Those of you who are now shoveling snow and melting ice for their chickens to drink probably think we have a really cushy life, but wait until the summer with its dust storms and heat! In the meantime, I wish you all nice weather and an enjoyable festive season.

Women in the IDF: an opinion

fe26a688ebe3d633a99fddca6fa4cb1b

I have read, more than once, articles by people in the US who say, “if the Israeli army drafts women, they must be doing something right, because they’re a darn good army!”

This reasoning is problematic on very many levels.

IDF is really very much the people’s army. Most men (excepting the Ultra Orthodox and, of course, Arabs) serve, as do the majority of the secular women. This is considered a rite of passage, and something most Israelis culturally identify with.

It is worth noting, however, that the idea of “everyone doing their part” is rather based upon old-school communist ideology, the same that instilled children’s homes in the kibbutzim to revolutionize the family unit, an experiment that traumatized a whole generation of children. The IDF is notorious for its ineffective management of human resources – it is commonly known that quite often, women in the Israeli army are assigned office jobs with little value, because there are just too many soldiers in auxiliary positions to dispose of. This leaves many, many young women – and, to tell the truth, many young men as well – in a position of basically killing time (a little less than two years) while they could have worked, studied or started a family. Essentially, the massive draft of women turns into an economic drain, and something that stands in the way of a professional, efficient army.

Israel is, to my knowledge, the only country in the world with an obligatory military service for women. Contrary to popular belief, it is not justified by Israel’s precarious political situation, since advanced technology plays a more important part these days than numbers, certainly more than numbers of soldiers who are superfluous.

This wastefulness and inefficiency, however, is not the worst of it. The feminist agenda of integrating women into combat units which were previously comprised of men only has led to reduced capabilities of said units, and a whole host of problems.

The young women who apply to serve in combat units are often highly motivated and propelled by the best intentions, being little aware of the left-wing agenda that is ready to undermine the army’s capabilities in the name of gender equality.

When it comes to physical performance, it’s a no-brainer, really: women are not as strong as men, on average, and less able to carry heavy loads. The thresholds of acceptance into said combat units have been lowered for the sake of admitting women, which is alarming in itself, but in the moment of truth, men often find themselves performing physical tasks for women who are simply incapable to do what must be done. Nevertheless, the young women are still driven to exertion far beyond their physical capability, sometimes to the detriment of their long-term health.

The second thing one must remember is that the vast majority of Israeli military recruits consists of 18-year-olds straight out of highschool. Put a bunch of teenagers in coed army units, and you get a whole lot of sexual tension, and reduced discipline and unit cohesion.

The third, and very concerning prospect, is what might happen if a woman soldier is taken into captivity. The horrors that would fall to her lot are hardly imaginable (though it is horrifying to think of any soldier in enemy’s hands).

Ultimately, the IDF is supposed to have one single purpose: defending Israel with the utmost efficiency. It’s not a place for social experiments, for gratifying feminists or for indulging individual ambition. If combat units function better when they include men only – and hardly anyone can argue against it being the case – no agendas or prickly egos are supposed to interfere with that.

Furthermore, if a smaller, better managed and more professional army would do better to defend me and my country, I’d take this army any day over a large, clumsily managed “people’s army”.

A lot of people might dispute this, but here is what I, and many others who know far better than I, believe: IDF can do without all its women, and a significant part of its men, with rational management. I believe that such management, and maintaining the safety of Israel, are the only principles that should guide our army.

Beautiful hobbit house

I love hobbit houses with lovely rounded corners and natural materials – and, though living entirely off grid seems a little daunting, I’d move into this super cute little house if I only had the chance! Straw bale building fascinates me so much that I’ve been itching to try it for a while now.

It’s a great inspiration to us all to watch people fight back against mass building and insane housing prices by raising shelters that are sustainable, affordable, beautiful and easy to maintain. In Israel, however, the main obstacle in the way of lowering housing prices are the prices of land. Land is scarce (in most regions – some are sadly underpopulated), and there is also the unfortunate phenomenon of widespread land piracy¬†by Bedouins – which, despite the romantic image of the uncivilized nomad, cannot be tolerated in a small country with few and precious land resources (and, indeed, would not be tolerated in any country with a semi-developed legal system).

I hope, and dream, and pray that one day soon, our government will recognize the potential benefits of low-impact living, with eco-friendly building, environmental awareness and reduced energy exploitation, and will encourage people who would choose such a lifestyle, wishing to tread gently and lightly upon the face of this earth.