Snails in the desert


This bush recently seen in the south, shows something strange.  Lots (well more on the other bushes in addition to this photo) of small white snails stuck onto the branches of the bushes.   Its seems in the hot dry desert sands that these snails survive by getting moisture from plants.

trying to buy phone credit

Recently, I tried to put 50 Shekels (9GBPish, this PC doesnt have pound symbol 🙂 worth of credit on my mobile phone.   This is hard in itself, Cellcom’s web site is of course in Hebrew and has options to view this site in Arabic or Russian but not English.

Every now and then Cellcom send me a text with some offers, but it appears in funny squares as my handset doesn’t have Hebrew support, although I have seen my Motorola V8 phone sold here on Orange IL.

Google translater is an absolute boon.   Not only does it do Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and all European languages with Latin type alphabets, a recent update means it does Welsh, Afrikaans and Icelandic, total of 51 tongues.

I decided to be a bit ambitious and register on Cellcom’s site to buy credit online by opening up Firefox with several tabs for Cellcom’s site and google translator.   Well it nearly worked, I can convert whole URLs or paragraphs and it kind of makes sense, and I have to enter my first name in English and in Hebrew, Jonathan > Yonatan > יונתן

On the next page I have to enter something called an “A” number.   My understanding is this is something like a National insurance or social security number, and leaving it blank or entering something dumb like 123456 didn’t work.   So when I get credit from my phone I have to buy a paper voucher and rely on a friend to key it in with Hebrew spoken automated system.   Oh well.

Put Hebrew support on Windows XP

(and Arabic and Persian and any other right-to-left language)

Have been doing this in my current job and also when I was at the UK branch of NICE Systems, an Israel based VOIP telecoms recording software company, mainly as one of the proprietary web based databases had to have the Hebrew support to operate.

These tips will come in handy if you want to set up a computer to Hebrew speaking staff or for someone learning languages at home.

To start with you will need your XP CD handy as Windows will need to fetch some files off it, if you have a computer like a Sony Viao/E machines/Packard Bell etc PC which don’t provide you with CDs to restore your operating system you will need to check your C: drive for a folder called i386.

Go to Control panel and Region and Language Options.   Tick the box that says “install files for complex script and right-to-left languages (including Thai)”

Click Apply and ok.   Windows will now ask you for your Windows CD, if you don’t have it, choose a path where your i386 folder is, ie: C:\i386.   Once done, you can go back to the “languages” tab and click Details and then choose Hebrew.

You can test now this by going to

If you live in Israel don’t forget to set your time zone to Jerusalem GMT+2 hours.   To do this double click the clock in the bottom right hand corner and then click on time zones.

Don’t forget if you are or your users have two or more languages and you don’t want to use the little blue square language control icon on the taskbar, you can use Alt + Caps lock to switch keyboard layouts.  Some of my users need Russian as well as about 10-15% of Israelis originate from the ex-Soviet Union countries.

If you need a Hebrew keyboard, take a look on ebay, you can get sticker sets very cheap to give you the necessary symbols to type in Hebrew.


Pomegranates are funny. They look completely unlike any other type of fruit, looking like a Christmas tree bauble with the odd tapered bit that sticks out to opposite end of where they are joined to the tree.

They are not that popular at home as they are a bit quirky. Buying cartons of the concentrated juice here is a bit to syrupy for my liking, however juice squeezed from shop with a juicer in Jerusalem is really nice.

You can chop one open and scoop out those pretty little seeds that look like rounded red gem stones, stick them on breakfast cereal, with yogurt or with other fruit.

I have a tree in my garden but I am a bit annoyed that someone stole all our good (not yet ripe) fruit and the only ones that remain are the rotten ones, for some reason they can go bad by the skin splitting open. I did get to grab a couple whilst at a friends flat which had a tree which is above the balcony.

The scriptures talk about these funny little fruits quite a lot, as part of the produce specifically described that Hebrews would grow here, as an exotic desert, and as a bronze ornaments on the wall of a majestic looking house.



I took a walk along a main road that leads up to one of the government buildings, I was thinking of going scrumping (old British slang name for mischievous children who steal fruit from neighbours gardens, strangely this wasnt on Wikipedia when I looked) but far from being an act of theft, the bible talks about fruit overhanging the wall is ok to take. Actually I can’t find this passage but some other laws on fruit can be found Leviticus 19:10 Deuteronomy 23:24 But seriously, the fruits high above the pavement are too high for me to grab. Picking fruit is fun though, as like getting blackberries in September back at home in the UK, I am guessing the very dry climate isn’t suitable for them here.

But these fruits to me are yet one of the many tangible things from the bible I get to see everywhere in Jerusalem.

Rosh Hashana & rain

This weekend during Rosh Hashana it rained. This maybe a fairly unpleasant dampener or our British soil is decidedly non trivial here in Israel with its desert climate. Some of the other volunteers say it has not rained since March. I would bet that many Christians and Jews in the land have prayed and God has answered on this turn of the new year, we are now in 5770 in the Jewish calender. I think it rained four times in total, once when I was taking a walk through the park which was actually quite refreshing and the gentle wind meant I was mostly dry but the time when I was home.

Got to eat apples and honey with pomegranate seeds, as this purpose made tray shows this a regular custom on this holiday.

apples and honey

apples and honey

I wanted to get to a Synagogue but didn’t really plan what I was doing that much as being tired and have difficulty sleeping lately, but did have bible study at a friends house and got to have a blow at a Shofar. Sunday went to my normal church and just met up with some people and had quite a honest debate about some of the more difficult challenges that us Christian volunteers from various different continents face here.

Airmiles and frequent flier points

Airmiles and frequent flier points

Lately I have become a little obsessive with Airmiles. I now have 1500 of them earned since December which is enough to get a free flight to most central European cities, or two (750 each) free flights to Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and various parts of Scotland (interestingly enough including Lerwick in the Shetland Islands)

I would need about 5000 to fly to Tel Aviv or New York from London, or 10,000 to get to Auckland or Alaska, so at the moment its not that useful for my current travels plans currently, but for any people doing charity work overseas or for people with needing gratis bonus holiday it can be a nice treat.

Catches. The ticket is free including all taxes and charges, and you are flying with a “grown up” airline (usually British Airways who own Airmiles) so meals and drinks are included, although maybe not if you flight its brief one (ie: Heathrow to Amsterdam you don’t get food as its only 1 hour 10 minutes if I remember correctly) But the catch is you have to buy at least one nights stay in one of their recommended hotels. I haven’t checked to see what this or if this comes at a premium, but as Airmiles the company has been around since 1986, if this was really a devious trick the company wouldn’t be around now. Also as far as I know they don’t get fussy about what time you can or cant fly as long as long as all the seats on the plane aren’t all booked out. Points cant be sold or given to anyone else. One last thing, the points don’t have a expiry date but if you don’t accrue any points at all in a 12 month time period they will charge you £30 when you eventually get to book.

Airmiles isn’t a frequent flier scheme, its purely an loyalty scheme to earn a little bit each time to your holiday, the great thing is I can earn incentives from buying things that I would of otherwise have bought anyway. I have converted most of my Tesco points to them, some from fuel (Shell points) for my longish drive to work, also from Scottish and Southern Electric, and buying things through popular online retailers such as ebay, CD wow and All of these businesses I am already a customer before I signed up for Airmiles. Although I have got a Lloyds TSB credit card which earns me 1 mile/£10 spend so combined these can rack up the points a bit sooner, I also got an invite to fill in some simple questionnaires online by a partnership organisation which the points accrued there can be traded for Airmiles.

A good tip to get the extra Tesco points is to take your aluminium drinks cans to the bigger stores where they get crushed and recycled and the points added by the computer operated machine in the car park, ask your work place if you can take home spent inkjet cartridges (you can get 100 Tesco points each for most HP ones, and their T&Cs say you can send in up to 30 a year, so once they are converted to Airmiles, 30x cartridges is nearly enough for a free return flight to France) and to also take your carrier bags to avoid taking new ones.

Don’t forget to earn the miles from each of the respective partner companies, you must log into your Airmiles account on their site then click on the link to take you to the respective retailer (ie CD Wow) to get the points. I didn’t do this when I originally got my Lloyds TSB credit card and when I phoned up to ask if they could add the miles, they said they wouldn’t do it.

BMI miles

On advice of a web site I applied for a BMI American express card to get the 20,000 (will get you as far as Istanbul or Moscow) miles on this. This only needed a £250 spend (couple of months of fuel and grocery shopping easily took care of this) I cancelled the card afterwards as lots of stores don’t take Amex so its not that useful.

This was not as good as it seems you still have to pay taxes and charges but not under any obligation to buy any other services. In reality the ‘free’ flight is actually a third off the usual price of the ticket as the taxes and charges make up the other two thirds. Still this is useful to have this when I plan to fly at somepoint.

I earned a little (500 miles) when I paid the £293 for my ticket from Heathrow to Tel Aviv. I don’t think I get really anything for these though.

I may try the Easyjet or Flybe credit cards, as I am going to Ireland and Spain for a birthday and a wedding in 2010….

furry neighbours

Some weeks ago I was walking back from a friends birthday party today, just said goodbye to our friend Daniel who lives a few blocks away from me and his friend who staying over for the weekend, and I was walking down these stairs in an alleyway and spotted this wee creature :o)

It was very tame I thought it might have been injured, but seemed a little scared and appeared ok, having shiny black eyes and wet pointed nose, its prickles were quite soft so I guess its quite a young hedgehog.

I don’t think I have ever seen one live (sadly they are usually seen dead on the roads at home) before this close up as they are nocturnal animals. It was strange to see one not in a hurry to escape from me.

I passed further down the steps and saw a student on the way up, I told him not to step on him, he thought it was quite cute seeing this prickly mammal resting half way down the path too.

Hedgehog on path


my back

Few days ago I played frisbee with about 10 of us in the park.   Has to be said I don’t really do sport.  If I engage in anything that might involve tackling or taking control physically of some item like a ball from someone else I tend to ending hurting someone.   Instead I took a leap to grab the spinning plastic disc about 6 feet away from me and try to do a goalkeeper type leap and later that afternoon I found that my back was sore.

This kind of worried me, but after some praying and sitting in hard upright chairs for a couple of days, the pain has gone.   Similar things healing has been happening with some other people I work with.  The Lord is good.