In Sepia: Holyland pictures collection part 7

Part 1234 5 6 7

Busy alley full of cafes and bars close to Jaffa Gate.

Sometimes you often see graffiti, most of it is in Hebrew, some of it looks quite interesting, sometimes its done legally.

These pomegranate fruits are put in the corners of the tops of the walls, just like King Solomon did.

Opticians shop has an modern but characteristically Jerusalem look to it.

Part 1234 5 6 7

Jerry rigged IT and network bodging

As all IT systems admin people know, all policies, procedures should be documented, and correct stocks of tools, software, spare parts and test equipment should always be on hand.

Some call it bodging, kludging or jerry rigging, I sometimes call it redneck IT.  Just like every other trade, often you find you have to make temporary fixes or make do with some crude repairs to make some workable to get the job done, until budgets and resources allow for a better method.

Actually me and the rest of the team have done a lot of work to avoid spaghetti cabling, PCs that were falling apart and introduce safer and better methods but every now and then, you can may have to use some eccentric ways of working..

1. Power supply kludge. This USB external hard disk had its power supply lost.  I looked everyone to find it, I needed to get some work done in a hurry, so you can reuse a normal ATX PC power supply as a power supply to run anything that needs 5 or 12 volts.  To do this I used a piece of cable with barrel connector off another adapter which was not compatible.  The wires are pushed into these 4 pin disk drive connector.   Next the block connector that normally connects to a motherboard has the black and green pins shorted together with a small piece of wire to act as an on switch.   At the moment I am not using this external drive for anything important, just for backing up the contents of the below Toshiba laptop that belongs to a friend.

2. Tuna fish projector stand. (No picture) Once a month, in our foodbank we have some teaching, music and worship with all the staff and volunteers.   To make the projector display at the right angle, I normally have to grab several tins of tuna underneath to get the projector to display at the correct angle.

3. Reusing Windows licence key. This is my favourite IT bodge of late.  Sawing bits of plastic out of dead computers to reuse Windows licence keys.  This Toshiba laptop belongs to another volunteer and is running Vista, and is doing some odd things which Vista PCs often do and its horribly slow.   I used a recycled Windows XP licence key from another wrecked Toshiba laptop I fished out of a garbage bin last year, this just means a square piece of plastic has to be sawn out of the bottom of the scrap system.   I then tape this onto a CD case and install a genuine copy of Windows XP Pro from the CD in my collection and restore a back up of my friend’s files, along with Open Office and Firefox and some other useful apps.   Everything is much much faster and smoother now.   The recycled licence key works perfect and so does the online genuine advantage checks.   This build took a long time as Toshiba don’t offer XP drivers for this computer and took hours of Google searching to get all the right ones.

The unusual red symbols on the keyboard is because this as a Canadian keyboard and has some French specific keys.   Yes this violates the Windows licence agreement, but you can’t easily buy a new copy of Windows XP anyway.

Bye bye Compaq laptop, you served me nearly 3 years (after being retired from me previous employer) until the video card fried itself.  I have a kind person who is giving me a replacement laptop which needs some minor fixing when I get back to the UK, and most of the remains of my Compaq went to Russia, Greece, Ukraine and Czech Republic via ebay. 🙂

Of course if you have old broken laptops or PCs (in the UK or Israel) which are not worth fixing or going to get thrown out or are just sitting in a cupboard, I can make use of the parts and raise some support for my charity work in the Middle east.   Please message me if you want to help this way.  I can also rescue files off systems that won’t start in most cases and make sure all data is securely wiped.

I saw this picture on a humour site today, which made me laugh.   Reason being we actually we have a server room which is also a converted from a toilet.   It doesn’t have the pan still there, but there are still the tiles though.

What do you do when a once hugely expensive Macintosh G5 tower system at work breaks and a new motherboard costs a bazillion shekels and has to be imported from somewhere?

Well, after reusing the memory, hard disk and other pieces I was wondering what to do with it.   You can be completely heretical and build a new PC into the chassis of the Mac like here, but this takes a lot of craftsmanship skill to cut and file the insides to fit.   The shiny, precision made aluminum case is too pretty to throw in a bin, but my boss says it most go.   I decided to put in out on the street with a piece of paper, with ‘Free – please take!’ in the end.  When I went home from work it was gone…..

Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo part 3 – The Birds

1. Noah’s Ark and Servals – 2. Wild plain3. The Birds

Please comment if you know what sort of bird this was 🙂 there was meant to be some other exotic birds in the big greenhouse but they were hiding and no where to be seen.

Raptors (no not the Rapture!) ie: a walk in cage with eagles, buzzards, vultures and kites.  There is a pile of mice or rats that they were eating.

Lots of different parrots, the white Cockatoo reminds of one of famous British Christian author/speaker and Jerusalem resident Lance Lambert’s pets

Orthodox Jews (teacher and kids from religious school I think) are watching the penguins being fed.

1. Noah’s Ark and Servals – 2. Wild plain – 3. The Birds

Portsmouth and Jerusalem

The antisemitism watching blog ‘Seismic Shock’ (front page here) has come up with good stuff again.
I was particularly interested about the boycott Israel meeting that happened in my home city of Portsmouth.
I was hugely relieved that there are no names of churches from my city involved, but usual attacks from various characters mentioned by Seismic and general political blogs like Harry’s place (not specifically pro-Israel, but have very good expose of unpleasant extremism stuff regularly)
The focus on the blog talked about the get together from various Methodist churches, it is sad when antisemitism comes from not just from stereotypical skin heads but from within churches, and this creates division and gives a poor impression to non Christians in my community.
For me this is not a representation of Jesus, but slander aimed at a nation that is not perfect but we are biblically obliged to pray for.  Its important we reject the common error of replacement theology (that is that Israel of the bible was permanently rejected by the new covenant of the church which Paul says is false in Romans)

In addition to this, modern day BNP-style political thugs the EDL, were on the news for protesting and intimidating Muslims also in Portsmouth outside the Jami Mosque.

Some people maybe scared to visit Israel because of fears of terrorism, but in reality, I feel safer on the streets at night in Jerusalem than Portsmouth.  As the recent above story and immense dislike of the neighbouring city of Southampton, there is a fair amount of political craziness from Pompey.

Someone else I know did this kind of comparison of two cities they have lived in and showing the nicest parts of each.

There is some similarities here, both cities once had the same football club owner at the same time.   Both have a lot of history, although Portsmouth is 800+ years old, Jerusalem is about 4 times older and has about 700,000 people compared to Portsmouth’s 200,000 odd.

Both places you walk somewhere and bump into someone you know in the street.

Some of these comparisons are often more to do with the relative (Israel = 7 million, UK = 65 million) size of the country, thus the logistics of supplying things into this place as opposed to any political reasons.  Some things come out in the shops much later here in Israel (like the iPhone that wasn’t officially on sale until Autumn 2009)  also because of reasons like the unique nature of the Hebrew language which I guess was only probably implemented recently.

I have not mentioned things like terrorism threats as actual attacks are these days a rarity and certainly less deaths than an average robbery or domestic murder in a western city.

There is a wide range of different ethnic groups here, people are free to practice their own religion without much interference.

Of course both places share some bad things like lack of parking too.

Better things in Jerusalem

Excellent family life, most children have two parents, divorce/separation rate seems low

Not much crime or drugs

Not much issue with drunks/alcoholism

Vast range of places to eat out

Vast range of coffee shops and easy to get wireless internet

Fruit and vegetables are plentiful locally and cheap

Old city markets are great to get beautiful carpets, ornaments, spices, ceramics

People like to socialise a lot, but not always around alcohol, so going out is safe and fun for everyone in almost all cases.

Warm Mediterranean climate, its been often over 30 degrees in November.

Attractive design of buildings with consistent white stone facade on the outside gives this city a unique character

Most houses have their hot water heated using solar panels on the roof

Police and soldiers in the street all around give a sense of security and safety

Mobile phone usage seems quite cheap and there’s no problem with signal (despite this city is on several mountains)  120% (ie: lots of people have two) of Israelis have mobile phones.

Bus service is cheap and quite easy to get anywhere – just remember to hold on tight once you get on as they don’t wait for you sit down…

Immigration unlike many other countries is actively encouraged (if you are Jewish) A blessing to Jews who have previously lived in nations that were hostile or dangerous to them.

Better things in Portsmouth

Food (tinned/packaged) is much cheaper

You are never more than 1/2 a mile from a curry restaurant

You are never more than 100 yards from a pub

Road safety is above average, and most people’s cars have to be in safe and good order

Electrical fittings, switches, etc in shops and houses are not often wobbly or fall off in your hand

Health & Safety is strict, so you won’t walk past building sites where workman work around the public without fencing etc.

Bus drivers are mostly polite and don’t drive off until you have sat down

Relatively good amount of political stability

Going to bordering countries (France, Spain, Channel Islands) requires simple security clearance without being asked lots of questions

Its easy to buy spare parts for your car, IT hardware, other specialised things without having to have them imported from somewhere else

Very little risk of drought, and water infrastructure works well

Note: I don’t really like political debates and so I am quite fussy about whats allowed in comments below.  Sensitive subjects are welcome in a private message.

Camping on the beach

I went camping with our young adults group at church, on the coast at Rishon LeZion which is south of Tel Aviv.

Sunflower Man! Camping on the beach, my friend here thinks he is a Middle East superhero from this big orange towel.

Nearby there were some outside showers which are there to wash sand and salt off you, these were being used by some divers in frogman outfits to wash off their prize catches.

The only thing is they proceeded to gut the fish also here, not so pleasant for other people at the beach to have to walk in fishy guts, yuck.

Crabs, along with lobsters are not kosher, therefore very few Jewish people even completely non-religious eat any type of shellfish.   I am wondering if there are Arab owned fish restaurants that cater for tourists that want all type of sea food.

I slept on the beach without a tent, this was great as the temperature was just right once in a sleeping bag borrowed from another Bridges for Peace staff member, it was super comfy so I slept really well, and there was time for worship, football and card games before it started to get dark.

The next day after a bit of a lay in and getting some lunch – off to a place called Midras back towards Jerusalem for caving!  This was kind of scary, I have done this before, but this seems extra difficult, these rabbit hole sized gaps are small meaning pushing yourself on your stomach had to be done, as well as alternating between feet first or head first and sometimes going around tight right-angles, with people behind you.  My fear was people stopping in front of you meaning you cannot head any direction.  Every so many metres of distance was a small cave that maybe 6 people could gather in.

Here this cave was interesting, it reminded me of the Sarlacc, the creature embedded in the ground with teeth from Star Wars Return of the Jedi, however after climbing down, its actually a Columbarium Cave which means dovecote in Greek.  Doves were raised for food or for ritual purposes and was popular during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Our friend Stephenson who is originally from the Caribbean was quite nifty at climbing these little alcoves to get on a platform at the top.

This pyramid shamed structure made of dressed stone is the only one of its kind in Israel, the top three rows are missing.  Its likely it was erected as a shrine to those buried in the caves nearby.   This is known in Hebrew as a Nefesh. (soul)

This tomb has a sliding stone to close it shut, just like the tomb of Jesus and other ancient tombs built for wealthy people I have seen in Jerusalem.
It was in use at the end of the first century until the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE)   Sadly it was vandalised 15 years ago.

There is a lot of tombs and holes around the place, some not so obvious as hidden by bushes.

This was a really good weekend with some exploring and fellowship with folks I know well and new people too.

Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo part 2 – Wild plain

1. Noah’s Ark and Servals – 2. Wild plain3. The Birds

Sand Mice, loads of them!!!

Lemurs!  There is an open air cage you can walk through and see them. This tortoise is apparently there dedicated to ex-Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek

The plaque on overlooking this simulated Savannah Plain says “The hart and the gazelle the roebuck and the pygarg and the antelope and the mountain sheep….”Deuteronomy 14 : 5

Tigers and lions are only around from 10am, as they tend to wake up late.

Peter spots the footprints on the pathway between the cages, the bear’s are much bigger than his.

Brown bears!

This is a superb zoo and I thoroughly recommend a visit.

1. Noah’s Ark and Servals – 2. Wild plain3. The Birds

Karmiel overnight work project

Last week I had to go to our remote site in Karmiel, this required wednesday and thursday away, its a 2.5-3 hour drive away.

Packing stuff to take.  laptops, tools, CDs, iPod for the long bus journey, overnight bag and clothes.   Think I will make sure there are some tools and CDs already at this site, so there is less to carry in future.

Also my bike helmet and lights as I need to ride to the main station.

I didn’t get any pictures of Karmiel sadly, as when we finished work it was dark.

There are these amazing hills that surround this town though, as this picture I got on thursday morning before work shows.

Servers to be patched and updated, unfortunately we hit some snags that meant we need to come back and do this another time.

Me and my colleague got lots of small little problems done here, quickly visited a local PC store to get some cooling fans and mice to replace broken ones, and now one of the PCs no longer sounds like an elderly blender.  I managed to set up the remote software (UltraVNC) properly so we can remotely take control of systems from HQ to fix a majority of problems that may happen.   Also managed to write some more documentation and update our software licencing spreadsheet.  Some things like the wireless routers we didn’t have time for, so I took one back with me and I will configure it and have it shipped back.

All these things mean that our staff can carry on feeding poor families without being held back by technical issues.   Its always good to do preventative maintenance that will look out for IT problems than can cause far more trouble if left in the future.

Heading back to Tiberias, its a real joy to go along these roads, the scenery is beautiful.  From Tiberias we caught the Egged bus back to Jerusalem.

Into Tiberias, (the main city overlooking the Sea of Galilee) as traffic was hectic and it was dark once we got there.  Left: In the middle of the high street was this ruined building, but I am not sure how old it is.  I would guess Roman seeing as this city is named of a Roman leader.  Right: It may be a little hard to see past this tree, but there is a fish shop there, right opposite the sea where Jesus and his disciples used to fish.

Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo part 1 – Noah’s Ark and Servals

1. Noah’s Ark and Servals – 2. Wild plain3. The Birds

I went with two friends to the biblical zoo not far from the town of Gilo.

There is so much to see here, it seems well run, surprising reasonable ticket (45 Shekels, about 7 Pounds) the animals look well cared for and enclosures seem to closely mimic their natural habitats.

Past an open ground which simulates an African plain, there is Noah’s Ark!   But it has a coke machine!!

and internet access!!

This is a serval. I have never heard of these before, its a smallish wild cat, seems bigger than a Lynx I think.   There are several of them! ha! no, tell a lie, I only saw one, and he is asleep 😀

I am actually quite amazed how many animals are native to the middle east, I’ll show some more on the next part of this trip soon….

Check out

1. Noah’s Ark and Servals – 2. Wild plain3. The Birds

Autumn in Jerusalem, around town and at work

This last few months has been quite a varied collection of events.

September my good friend John came down from Portsmouth, originally from Malta, John is of Armenian Jewish decent and I do admire his huge amount of energy and enthusiasm for Jesus, and Israel and the Jewish people, he stayed a few days with me and got to visit a few places and walk along the city walls amongst other things.

I also got an extra person for my department at work which means I am no longer having to look after the computer network on my own.   I also made the decision to extend my time for the second time, and I will be volunteering right into the spring of 2011 when my visa runs out.

In October I had a strange stabbing pain my chest.  I originally attributed this to a strange cold I have had for about two weeks which could of spread somehow.   This was really painful so I decided to stay home from work the next day.   I booked an appointment with the doctors which I got with 4 hours notice, which was good.   As I did mention I bruised my hands from falling off my bike, they wanted to xray me in case I had cracked a rib, although I never got any bruising or injuries to my chest.   This results of this ancient xray machine, who the lady technician told me is probably the oldest in the country proved negative.

The next day after forgetting to take my pills for this condition, I found the pain to be completely gone!   Whatever it was, its no longer there and I am really thankful to the Lord for this.

Had a sad farewell to my friend Matthew from Switzerland as he goes back to Basel, actually twice as did one party at mine and one at his, and also to Taylor, volunteer journalist from the ICEJ as she come to the end of her time here.

Have had some really nice surprises with opportunities God has opened up for me with several  Jewish friends and acquaintances who are planning to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel) one is a friend from my home city.   It will a real honour to put them in touch with people I know that will help them get settled here.   I also have been asked to help with technical set up for a colleague’s son’s Bar Mitzvah early next yet.   All of this is confirmation that I am not meant to get back into regular secular work back in the UK just yet.

I got to go with Christopher my work colleague and a couple from Canada to see some live blues guitar music (a few articles below) and also quick visit to the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem’s biblical zoo, I will cover the zoo visit soon.

This Wednesday I am going up to our food bank warehouse in Karmiel.   This requires a stay with one of the volunteer staff up there, as its 170km bus ride.   Actually I have to get up to Tiberias and get picked up by a van driver and brought up to Karmiel.   The Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning me and my co-worker at there there I hope to do a full back up the server and put on Windows patches, set up wireless routers and sort out a few other things.  Once I get a ride back to Tiberias, I will probably find somewhere to get dinner there before heading home.   I would dearly love to properly explore Tiberias for a few days, being the largest city in the Galilee but this will have to be another time, I only have a few weeks left here.

Work projects at the moment, include a fairly big redesign of our network to sort out the weird kinks that happen sometime, writing up documentation, replace a UPS system, source more memory for servers and a special presentation laser mouse and virtualise a few more PCs that are only used for remote VPN access.

I will probably skip going to the young adults worship event at church as I need pack for a camping trip at the weekend, not sure where it is, but staying somewhere on a beach and going to do some caving.   Looking forward to this.

Overall things are not always easy or go as planned sometimes, but life is good.

Lazer Lloyd gig at the Yellow Submarine in Talpiyot, Jerusalem

On Thursday night I went with 4 friends to see the Elieizer ‘Lazer’ Lloyd and his band.

Poster near my house.   In fact most corners of main roads here in Jerusalem have these neon coloured flyposters with adverts for local entertainment.

Me and Christopher my work colleague outside the Yellow Submarine.   This is an oddly located venue, its behind a shopping mall in a converted industrial unit next to some factories and car garages.

The hallway of the venue has some drawings of the Beatles’ album.

Lazer Lloyd is an American Orthodox Jew who made Aliyah sometime ago, and plays gigs all over Israel.   His style of blues guitar is a mixture of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

Lazer’s drummer Moshe, who is also an Orthodox religious Jew, likes play a pretend invisible trumpet sometimes.  The other guitarist Andy who is not Orthodox looks very much like Stevie Ray Vaughan, I didn’t catch the bassist’s name, but he also very good.

As a live music fan and this was a great night out.

You can check out the Yellow Submarine at

Check out Lazer’s site at