Jerusalem people gather to remember deaths in Itamar

When I came back from Tel Aviv at the first day of setting up at the robotics event, I was sad to hear about the earthquake in Japan, and fear of a nuclear disaster.
Even more so as I have worked with at least 6-7 Japanese people in the last year and half.

The other tradgedy just after then was five members of a Jewish family were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist who broke into their house.

Only brief snippets of this was on the mainstream news, not mentioned much apart from in Israel news and Christian supporters of Israel was the fact that people in Gaza celebrated the deaths and threw candy at children in the streets.  The news channels took the step of showing deeply upsetting pictures of murdered people, to try and provoke the mainstream media to encourage condemnation of these horrible acts.

I went down to Zion Square, a busy junction where Ben Yehuda Street meets Jaffa Street, often used for events and protests sometimes.

This was more like a tribute event, rather than a protest, there were police here guarding the event.

Later when I went home, some police barriers were still there and some signs but the people had gone.

Tel Aviv – robotics competition Part 2 Meet the robots

Another 5am start – urrrgh….

But it was worth it also.   As the robotics event was already in full swing, I did get to miss out on the Lego event that happened earlier in the week sadly, as my colleagues from work were helping out on the monday and tuesday.

The electronic signs didn’t show English, but some other signs around the corner did show which gates at Jerusalem bus station are for which city.

Tel Aviv bus station is hugely complicated.   Its a bit reminiscent of the now gone Tricorn shopping centre in Portsmouth, UK, for its concrete angles.   When your bus gets there you are high up as its like a multistory car park, quite a clever design really and you have to use lifts or escalators or steps down.

I just seem to go round and round looking for an exit, and got into an abandoned wing of the shopping centre which looked a bit seedy and smelt of wee.  Got to like the “Parkings” sign!

Back at the Nokia arena, I got to visit some of the contestants there…

Meet the robots!  They are all made of mostly steel, weigh upto about 40 kilos, have an upright arm for grabbing objects, share the same control system (wireless by laptop)  and are sponsored by companies big and small.   There is a bumper, a rubber or foam insulator around the whole thing to protect from knocking into things.   I don’t know much about the rules and specs they had to be built to, but I do know they are not mean to attack each other or people 🙂

The teams are almost all Israelis, secular and religious Jews, Arabs and a team from the military too, plus was one foreign team from Bosnia.

Part 1: Setting up at the arena
Part 2: Meet the robots
Part 3: Robot inner workings
Part 4: Competition

Tel Aviv – robotics competition Part 1 The Arena

I am up at 5.30am, its dark, I  get some tea and go out onto balcony to get some fresh air and be ready to leave the house at 6.

My friend Dan picks me up and Theuno, another volunteer from South Africa and we head off to Tel Aviv.

Instead of doing normal IT administrator work and helping our staff in the office, I have got to work on a community project, its for a robotics competition where groups of young engineers get ready to design, build a remote controlled mechanical device in teams.

Its nice to be out of the office and doing something different, and this type of event where youth with a passion for building their own contraptions and have to obtain sponsorship from large companies in Israel to find their projects, get to pitch their creations at this exciting event.

Its no secret IT and technology has been part of Israel’s best and most exciting exports to the rest of the world, this month I got blessed to go to this event, and I am planning to go to a Microsoft technology event also in Tel Aviv later this month.

A not too long drive and we are at skyscraper laden modern city of Tel Aviv, didn’t manage to get take out coffee on the way down but there is a Aroma coffee place built in the side of the building here.

This is Tel Aviv’s Nokia stadium.

Maybe it will have to be the ‘Nokia Windows phone stadium’ soon, given Nokia’s recent plan to abandon their Symbian operating system and use a Microsoft’s Windows mobile.   Bugs and frustrations in Nokia’s touch phones have caused even long term fans of Nokia to abandon to other handsets, especially given problems with the faux-iTunes-alike Ovi media software.    Switching to a non inhouse software environment is likely to result in a huge job losses for software engineers in Finland’s biggest name in IT, and staff and visitor here I see are mostly calling each other or browsing the web on iPhones.

The stadium is apparently owned by Tel Aviv municipality, and built in 1964, in 2005 it was renamed the Nokia Arena.   I guess naming sporting complexes after sponsors is becoming common place just like London’s millenium dome became the O2 arena.

This wiki article on the stadium also mentions a brief bit about the robotics competitions done here.

The stadium is fairly small perhaps by European standards holding about 11,000 people, the centre stage is less than a football pitch.   Its mainly used for Macabbi Tel Aviv basketball club to play.

Left, my friends from work help with fabricating some new pieces of polycarbonate used for part of the stage system, the current thin pieces got brittle and cracked, our DIY supremo Robbie cut these pieces and put the holes in, we had to remove the metal hinges and fix them to the new better quality 6mm plastic sheets.  A ratchet spanner makes easy work of this.

There are in-house stage staff that put up the large partitions and projector screens which are done by pulleys and also by men working up in the roof.

I chatted to a few people there, cheekily asking if there is possibility of free tickets to any bands seeing that Guns N Roses and The Scorpions have played here. 😀   Years ago, U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers played in Israel in 90s and many fans want them to come again, but I think they played in a Ramat Gan in another part of Tel Aviv, like Elton John, Metallica and Justin Beiber in the last year or so.  I have noticed Israelis are big into live gigs.

Was a long old day taking the large numbers of stage and shelving parts of this event, and got to know some local chaps, some are soldiers and some are studying engineering helping do the set up but not actually competing in the game.

A scissor lift and various forklifts are amongst lots of gear used by the stage hands here.  As well as the semi-permenant tent structures, if you look carefully the white square on the ground is an outdoor lift that can move large amounts of equipment from a truck down to the basement, however it wasn’t working today. 😦

As we went home for Shabbat, there is more set up to be done sunday but there is a different team of people to help then, the event starts on monday and I will be back wednesday to see how the competition goes 🙂

There is even people coming from Lego to showcase smaller robots made from off the shelf parts 🙂

Its jolly exciting.

Part 1: Setting up at the arena
Part 2: Meet the robots
Part 3: Robot inner workings
Part 4: Competition

www.firstisrael.org.il

mystery head of state visits Yad Vashem

Just before this shot, I saw some large limousines and police cars outside with flashing lights, it dawned on me people from the government had come to visit the museum.  There was a moment of hesitation if it would be frowned upon to take pictures, but I got a pic of these men heading towards the entrance.  It seems the man in the middle with the hat who had a the smart very senior looking green uniform with a lot of badges and tassels appears to be a head of state of a visiting nation.

I have been told that if a senior member of a foreign government comes to Israel, there is a policy that they have to come to Yad Yashem at least once, to gain understanding of what many of the grim events the Jewish people have faced before they got a nation of their own again.

These flags were hung out on a street close to the King David hotel.   I have seen other countries hung out here when there is visiting dignitaries coming, another time recently was the flag of Cyprus.

Not sure what nation this is, maybe a small Caribbean island I think?

Yad Vashem visit

A month ago, I went with some friends from work to see Yad Vashem museum.

This concrete bridge over car park has a a scripture from Ezekiel 37 : 14 “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.”

The triangular building on the left is where the exhibits are, in the middle is a ticket hall, although entrance is free, but brochures can be bought and radio headsets can be rented for languages other than English and Hebrew and a cafe and toilets are in the basement.

The museum doesn’t allow the public to take pictures, but I did get one of this tall domed roof hosts photos and documents of children.   I touched on recently how members of the public with families who perished have been invited to submitted to Google recently in conjunction with Yad Vashem.

There are many things that I feel shamed reading about, how Christians accused Jews of being ‘Christ killers’ and how the British denied boat loads of Jews desperate for a safe place to call home from docking with (The British Mandate of) Palestine.  This was many things that were shocking in addition to the  precise way the Nazis committed large scale genocide.

You would think that lessons would be learned from a murder on a mass scale like this.

There are number of things today that deeply trouble me.   One is that are worryingly parallels between Nazi fascism and today’s rhetoric from Arab nations, and bits of this are echoed in the western media.  Some of these things was the Nazi’s call to boycott Jews, as some vintage propaganda posters were shown in a cabinet.   Other similarities are the Nazis burning books, and countries today turning off their internet to try and keep the public in ignorance.

Its crazy today that some people try to change history and pretend this awful event never happened.   There is also a secondary type of hatred, and that is from people who consider the previously mentioned people to be a credible authority of information.

It was only a few years after this terrible part of history before the birth of the modern state of Israel in 1948.   A nation born in a day.  Isaiah 66 : 8 says “Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.”

This photo I took at the end of the museum, is this amazing view of the north of Jerusalem onto a forest.   This beautiful and dramatic view is a nice and concludes a visitor’s trip by showing the land that the Jewish people waited so long for.

www.yadvashem.org.il

My mention on Google’s holocaust records project.

Next, a head of state spotted…

From Karmiel to Mount Carmel

I stayed with a friend in Karmiel whilst on my journey around northern Israel, it is a little tricky to get there as bus times are a bit hit and miss, requiring a journey at Tel Aviv, Haifa, Akko or Tiberias.   The railway network doesn’t cover the greater Galilee area.

Before heading to Dave’s flat, I saw a fox outside.   He looked a bit different than a common British garden and dustbin explorer.   This one was grey rather than brown and red.   Sadly you can really only see his eyes glowing here.   Hes not scary though.

The beautiful, mostly ex-Russian community of Karmiel is very clean and tidy with well kept gardens and trees by every street junction.

Waking up in the morning I was greeted by bird song.

Whilst at the north of Israel, I got a chance to go with some people to a church close to Karmiel.

Only a few months ago there was a devastating fire that affected this place resulting in deaths of prison workers scrambling to get people out of the jails.

As this a short distance from Mount Carmel (two different places with similar sounding names) close the where the prophet Elijah went to.

This church is on the outskirts of an Arab village on top of this mountain overlooking Israel’s third largest city Haifa.

Where actually this one isn’t the closest to Karmiel where was staying, it is one hours drive away, it was worth it.

There is some beautiful views at the top of a steep hill which requires negotiating around some zigzag bends to get up there.  We would of been late, so thought we would do some photos on the way back down.

The church has the service in three languages, English, Hebrew and Russian, some of the Russian Israelis who don’t speak English or Hebrew had some of radio headsets I have seen at quite a few churches now.   There are also a few Arab believers here.

At the end I only got a quick chance to speak to people including the senior pastor David Davis, I was really impressed with this church and mentioned to him about some Jewish believer friends who had moved from the UK and Germany, he gave me a copy of his book the Road to Carmel to give to them, although I have read it myself, its really encouraging testimony, and on how he got to Israel, and worked with actors and people in the theatre industry and drug users in both the US and Israel.

I highly recommend checking out this congregation for both Israeli believers or visiting foreigners looking for a congregation whilst checking out northern Israel.   Its also an example of God working with reconciliation between Jews and Arabs.  I regret not being able to get a nice picture of the outside of this church which is how you imagine a congregation could of been back there with large archways all the way around the front, this church was built in the late 1990s.

www.carmel-assembly.org.il

Some amazing views, however not the amazing ones seen earlier driving up some zig zag roads as it was now foggy in the afternoon!

After another bus from Karmiel to Akko, to get a train to Jerusalem, which was a long journey, the bus station gets interesting views of the surrounding hills here.

On the train I got a glimpse out of the train a remainder of some famous names in IT that are here.   This time I get to spy on Google!  Ha ha ha!

Karmiel food bank IT work

Whilst I was on a break up north, I did one day of work just doing preventative maintenance and planning for back up power.

This cabinet has switches and routers for our Karmiel food bank.

The top device sticks out and the cables protrude too much stopping the glass door from closing.

There are two UPS battery back up units here, some of these small shoebox sized units have not been reliable in other systems I have used and my guess the batteries which normally have a life of 3 years or so, probably need replacing.

The server room sits down the corridor, I plan to do is to install a bigger UPS here and run all of this equipment here and the other room too.

I need this week making diagrams on how the wiring for this is going to work.  The electrical sockets in the computer room need to be labelled as ‘IT only’ as a vacuum cleaner or some other device with too much power will overload the system.

The wiring closet will need to have all of this junk removed, but, there is a fire hose here, not the best place to have this..

The new UPS needs to have a network port, as I want to check its status 160Kms away in Jerusalem, as we are not at this site very often.   Ideally I would like to see this item appear on my Spiceworks monitoring software.   In the past UPS manufacturers like APC require it to be connected to a PC via serial port (hopelessly out of date)  to check and monitor and issues with the power, and you have to pay extra for software.   Spiceworks integration would make this great.

Fixed a our server that handles back ups at this site, every once in a while this machine would turn itself off or crash.  When I visited this site, I notice the power supply on the back of this PC has a fan not working, when poking it with a pencil it would not turn.   I got a new power supply from a local computer store in town.   I found some scrap batteries which were left from UPS devices that had been serviced with new batteries by the IT guy who was there before me.

Left: Some UPS devices that are spare I need to bring back to be tested and possibly fit new batteries in.  These are quite important as they are needed to stop spikes and brown outs in the power from cutting out the computers and other important equipment.   Right: scrap stuff labelled to be recycled.  I am not sure exactly where old batteries are supposed to be disposed of in Israel.  It seems irresponsible to throw them in the bin as all batteries are highly toxic.

I also done some tuning and updates of several PCs at this building, and set up Skype and a few other small jobs.

Nahariya – The North coast!

After finishing visting Akko, I thought I would get back on the train, and head north one more stop.

Israel’s north bound railway comes to an end at this station.   There are a couple more towns above before you get to Lebanon.

A little worrying that this buffer stop looks not really adequate for the job, and on closer inspection appears to be leaning back a bit as it looks like its bumped at least once by a train.   Behind is a simple chain link fence and a main road.   Could do with a sand bank or something maybe.

There is as well, left behind pieces of track across the road that continue further north, as it once went all the way to Beirut, once upon a time.

In the centre of town, this big billboard shows “The resort for fun lovers” The blue and yellow pattern looks like a reverse Ukrainian flag, wonder if its influenced from immigrants from the ex-Soviet states.

From what I read, this city was found in the 1935 during the British Mandate period and became a city in 1961.

This river that flows out from the middle of the city to the Mediterranean is carrying a lot less water than it ought to, showing the urgency of the drought problem here.

A tank rotating gun section in the front of the garden of this hotel, upon closer look, there is a plaque in Hebrew which appears to be there in memorial or a young soldier who died in battle.   An unusual shrine maybe.

Nahariya has a pleasant selection of different shops and nice beaches, but it is quite touristy, there wasn’t much history I could find there.  I walked a couple of miles north up the beach toward a tall hill, as I wanted to find the ski lifts that go up and down some cliffs towards the Lebanese border, but I couldn’t see them, the hills ahead were probably a good 6/7 miles further ahead, so I decided to call it a day and get the train back to Netanya.  Discovered that I am going to those cliff tops with a short break with work in a month or so. 🙂

Haifa and mount Carmel next!

Jerusalem roof top exploring

I have always wondered if its possible to go on the roofs of the apartments here.  Most of the time the hatch on the top floor is locked.

Whilst I was watching some films at a friends house, they told me theirs wasn’t.

Curiosity meant I had to check it out and get some pictures…

Yes those are solar panels, almost every block in Israel has them as they run the white cylinder things which run your hot water.  There’s some garden rubbish up here, which is odd seeing its got to be tricky to carry things up the ladder.  I guess it might of been from someone who trimmed a tall tree.

I would like to be Jason Bourne and run along roof tops, that scene from that film set in Morocco has some houses that quite similar to here.

Years ago, some extra footnotes in a bible I had mentioned that people during the time of Jesus dried flax on their roofs or used it for guests to sleep on.  Not sure if there is stuff in the scriptures to prove it, or if there is evidence in archaeology.  Where I live in this area in East Talpiyot part of Jerusalem the flats were built between the 80s and the 90s.

View from here over a school and a small allotment where some residents have some vegetables.

You see a lot from up here!  my house is about 1.5Km away in about the middle in the distance….

Akko – Just Islam here?

Akko is a very Islamic city, its not near any of the Palestinian territories, however Akko was run by the Eastern Empire (also known as Byzantine)  in 395AD, about 900 years before Islam came about.

The bible only mentions it once in Judges 1 : 30-32.

Here you can see the familiar upright pencil shaped minarets the accompany mosque and buildings that are under Islamic authority.

From a distance its noticeable that this tall thin tower is a tiny bit lop sided.  This ought to be concern, seeing as one ancient one fell over in Morocco recently, resulting in about 75 people dead.

As other parts of the city are needing extensive work done on them like this below building is crumbling.  This court yard is called Khan al-Umdan and was built by the Ottoman Turks in 1784.

Whilst editing this I have just found the bit of nougat I forgot I had which was 10 shekels off the young chap who took this photo for me, he had all kinds of other nut cake and halva and Turkish delight on a stand here.

I set out to see if there was any part of Christianity here, and if there are Arab believers today.  There were of course, Crusades here, which is a regrettable part of history, from people calling themselves Christians acting in no way Christians should be.

There are symbols of a Jewish community in the old city as you can see below, and I went in a synagogue which was a few metres away from a mosque.

Unlike Jerusalem’s old city which has more defined quarters for the different communities with in the walls, here its more tricky to find where Jews and Christians live.  Are things peaceful between Arabs and Jews here?  Well I guess for most part, I do remember seeing on the news about some problems in the past sometimes.

Left: Seems to be a church here, in a cellar type building.  Right: Small synagogue tucked away.

I didn’t find any churches that were open for casual visits whilst I was there.  This one was an attractive looking building but it was locked.  Of course its hard to tell if some churches are actual operating places of worship or just dusty bits of history.

The other little known faith that is here I have read about is the Baha’i faith, which has origins from Iran, and has a unusual temple with big gardens up in Haifa, but also has a place here.  I don’t know much about this though or get time to see it.

Its only when I got back home, I have found on the web Evangelist Baptism Church Akko, which has a mixture of Arab and Jewish believers in Jesus.  Check out their site here.