Karmiel September visit

Although it may seem summer has finished in UK, its still extremely hot in Israel and this time of the year.

I have a list of about 9-10 IT related jobs in our large warehouse at the north of the country in Karmiel again.

Therefore I schedule a time to do some preventative maintenance up there, and get all the small jobs fixed.   I had to set up PCs for a two new members of staff, one of the PCs has the VNC remote software not working so it required a site visit.    In the picture I am changing out defective cooling fans in PCs as the heat and dust puts extra strain on our PCs here used for keeping inventory of our food distribution, databases of families we help and donations amongst other things.

Lunch time.   For me, I stretch lunch break very slightly to do some procurement of parts.   I got 3 new cooling fans for the PCs here, two I ended up using straight away, also a hardware store just by this nice junction meant I could get some insulation tape some electrical plugs also.

I needed to set up and test Skype with the other two buildings, also install Dropbox and few other apps, test and inspect two small UPS systems which are defective and need to scrapped.   I have two more UPS units I can send up from another building.

This is outside our Karmiel warehouse, it doesn’t look that big, but it contains a lot of space on the inside.

Later, I went and stayed with one of the volunteer staff from this site:

Outside the place I stayed.   All these flats look brand new.   Karmiel is a fast expanding city.   this balloon thing in the distance is a fancy sign post advertising flats for sale.

Unlike what you see in the news, this part of town has Arab Bedouin families but they seem to live side by side without any troubles.

Getting up in the morning I can hear people using power tools and roosters crowing.

The outskirts of the town, more construction going on.  This is a Jewish neighborhood with most of the people working in construction are Arab.

Arab towns (several less than a couple of miles away) are expanding too of course.

Karmiel isn’t particularly religious city, but religious Jews and religious Arabs with often 5-10 children mean rapid expansion of housing is necessary.

Beautiful rolling hills in the distance from this junction by the industrial estate.

Well got most of the work done, making some adjustments to the wireless routers will be another day as well being able to monitor the VOIP telephone system switch and get a better UPS back up power system.

Time for some much needed couple of days off while I am working away to see a few places….

Off to Tiberias again next……

Advertisements

More IT work in Galilee

Here is my good friend and fellow Hebrew student Jimmy, these days hes helping Bridges for Peace up in this building now loading up pallets of food that will be transported around to Israel’s most needy families.

Some of the new equipment I received has European electrical plugs on it, rather than Israeli ones which often happens.  This will work, but without a grounding pin, there is safety issues and the equipment may not be protected by surges or storms although there is a UPS system here.  As I didn’t bring any more electrical cables with me, I cut off the the plug and wire on a Israeli fitting.

Added an extra network switch here to provide more room for expansion for this building, especially as putting an extra PC for a new member of staff.   I did have some rolls of velcro but I left them behind, so it wasn’t possible to make all the wiring look neat sadly, it needs some re-jigging to enable the glass door to shut also. 🙂

I needed to change some settings on the wireless networks, so took my work Sony laptop and found I got 4 out of 5 bars at the other end of the huge warehouse here.  I was quite impressed the wireless had such good coverage.   I would like to get an extra router running as a spare sometime a bit later.

This cupboard holds our communication equipment, these mysterious warning stickers are from the previous business that was here as there was chemicals that were stored here previously.   I made some interesting discovery based on some stuff in the bible I had been reading lately….

Karmiel IT visit visit in November

In case you have just found this blog, I am a volunteer IT system admin person looking after the computer systems for a Christian charity in Israel with three buildings to take care off.   This building is special as its 180kms from where I normally work and I also go and visit once in a while when something urgent needs sorting out or I have a number of regular jobs to do.   I like this trip as it does mean I can combine it with a weekend away somewhere, like seeing Netanya, Akko, Nahariya, Cana, Tel Aviv, Nazareth or Tiberias and often stay with colleagues or friends close by.

I needed to do some more work at our food bank at Karmiel, a few jobs to do, mostly because of recent thunderstorms made the power go off causing all the PCs to reboot suddenly there, including the main servers and telephone equipment, this is not good as the UPS battery back up system appears to be useless as the batteries had not been changed in a while, they normally only last 3 years.

I get the new batteries from an electronics shop run by a Russian man and his wife, he has an amazing knack to talk on the phone in Hebrew and write in Russian at the same time!    I got someone from work to order the batteries (he doesn’t speak English) and I had them a few days later.

I don’t have a decent mobile toolbox, heck I don’t even have a car to get up there, I borrowed a old ladies’ shopping trolley off someone in our headquarters, put the new batteries and my tools and software CDs in there and took the bus up to Karmiel, I left at lunch time as the only bus that goes in a straight forward linear direction from Jerusalem to Karmiel is at 2pm.

Karmiel is quite different from Jerusalem.   Quiet, clean and orderly.   I have been to Wales a couple of times in the last couple of years, and Karmiel is quite similar, the city is surrounded by hills.

I got into the warehouse about 30 mins early and got into the wiring cabinet and disconnected the UPS systems, opened them up and replaced the batteries and quickly tested them.  The other jobs to do, was to do some site survey for a bigger UPS system but this needs a heavy duty shelf to hold at least 25 kilos worth of equipment inside a cabinet.  The cabinet will also have a 48 port switch quite soon.

Also needed, was to install the new antivirus application, this is the third time I have had do this, seeing as our AVG licence ran out, and I previously installed Bit Defender antivirus was terrible and never worked right, Panda antivirus (free for non profits) was ok but too basic and wouldn’t protect us properly from online threats, this time I had three years subscription to Avast so I could get this installed and not have to worry about it for a long time!   Not only was this over 50% saving of the licences compared to Bit Defender, it saves a lot of time having to carefully test and plan installing this all over again now we have it for 3 years.   Normally you can install antivirus using remote software like VNC, but I wanted to do in person, in case in crashes the server it would not be easy to sort out from 180kms away.

Last thing to do, was set up a nice HP Officejet printer in an office, the desk on the user’s PC is very cramped so I put it in the corner of the room and switched it from USB to network connection, so it can be shared among multiple staff and I can see if it (and all the other PCs, servers and printers online and working using my Spiceworks remote software.

Once I got a whole days’ worth of work done, I took the friday off, saw my Messianic Jewish friends who moved from my town of Portsmouth to close by in Karmiel, Israel, which was really nice to see them, I got another early morning bus at about 8.30 over to Nazareth, my second visit to Jesus’s home town to go and stay in a legendary mansion converted to a youth hostel.

Check back soon!

Journeys of Jesus – Travelling between Nazareth to Jerusalem

Revisiting part of my trip to Nazareth from a few months ago.

In my job I often have to go up to a warehouse in Karmiel, a large food bank which supplies food for the poor in the greater Galilee area, to service computer equipment which requires me to visit every so often.

One of the unique things I like about my job is going to visit this site to do a few days work and doing some sightseeing around the Galilee, meaning I can see Nazareth, Cana, Akko and Tiberias not too far away.   As there is no dedicated IT person based up there, so maintenance requires a fair bit of planning if I need to take a laptop, tools and software CDs, this means I am doing a 2.5-3 hour trip up there from Jerusalem, which makes me think is a trip Jesus would be very familiar with, although Karmiel is much further up than Nazareth.

In Matthew 20: 17-19 the scriptures talk about Jesus “going up” to Jerusalem even though its south of course, part of this is to do with the high elevation that the city is on as well as its great significance for Jewish and Christian people alike.

Getting to Nazareth is quite easy on an Egged bus or even with this above Nazareth based coach operator.

Being in the middle of the Galilee region of Israel, there aren’t railway connections here like all of the (Ashdod / Ashkelon / Herzilya / Yaffo / Tel Aviv  / Netanya / Haifa / Akko / Nahariya) coastal cities have in Israel.

I often think about how often Jesus himself traveled between the two locations, if I were some other kind of mobile tradesman and lived here before cars and buses, there is a number of challenges, stopping for food and where to stay overnight, risks of attacks by bandits/robbers, extreme heat, mosquitos, having enough (3 litres a day per person minimum) water for the journey, steep hills, presents all manner of challenges.

I am wondering if people at the time of Jesus owned camels and donkeys or if they were rented.

 

Arab people in rural parts of the country may have camels (which are still expensive today)   or ancient Peugeot 504 pick up trucks are the other favourite, this one is full of sheep.

Some historians have said it takes 3 1/2 days by foot to go from one of these famous cities to the other.   I thought I would do some research.

Here is a map I have made with Google Maps,

You can get a closer look of this Google maps anotation:

This distance of 103kms (64 miles) one is ‘as the crow flies’ and goes across the separation barrier that fences off Judea and Samaria, what we know today as the West Bank.  (contrary to what you see in the media only 5% of the boundaries of the West Bank is concrete wall, the rest is a chain link fence)

I have only just noticed when doing this, the line passes straight through the West Bank city of Nabulus.  Given the highly mountainous terrain of this country, its unlikely it would be as simple as going via a compass back in Jesus’s time, there were plenty of political issues back then don’t forget, some places would not been safe then, especially given Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan, a Jewish man robbed and beaten up was cared for and put into a hotel for the night by a kindly stranger who as a Samaritan an ethnic group then enemies of Jews.

Closer look of this one also:

This one was suggested by Google’s planning system using today’s actual roads albeit a lot longer way around, without going through checkpoints, is quite a bit further at 151km (93 miles)

Look at the link and see carefully the main roads in Jordan, and the shape of the borders between Jordan and Syria create a pattern which looks strangely symmetrical to the route I have sketched out.   Quite bizarre.

To be honest though, its hard getting an idea of time and distance of going to and from the two great cities by foot or donkey in any more accurate terms given the challenges or land boundaries, steep hills and uncertain historical road systems, but I think it gives you a little bit of an idea.

A day in Christian IT work in the Galilee

As I have mentioned before, my job as a volunteer IT support and system administrator for the charity Bridges for Peace means I am normally based in one of two offices in Jerusalem, and on odd occasions I work up in Karmiel, which is a city in the centre of the Galilee.

This means a 180km visit by car or bus when I have to do work up there.  The food bank I work does a huge amount of service in helping the poorest people in this area especially new immigrants to Israel mostly from Russia or some of the other ex-Soviet Union nations.  Every so many months I need to do a trip probably not that different from journeys Jesus did himself.

I have learned since being here this site requires careful planning as its an awful long way if something breaks unexpectedly.

This empty room in the middle of the warehouse seems like a good place to put the server.  This server will replaced later this year as its running Windows 2000 which is very old now and we need a new more reliable system that helps us with our day to day food bank operations up here.   This room is good as it means an easier job of adding some extra wiring here as its close to the network cabinet which is in the cupboard opposite the door.

This rack full of network kit needs a good sort out.   I manage to swap cables around to enable computer network use in some offices that moved around.   We only have 5 staff up here and there will be at least 3 more and there is not enough ports on the 16 port switch here so I have to put in another switch.   The glass door on the cabinet does not shut as the wires are in the way.   I think I can rotate the brackets on the switch at the top 180 degrees so this sits flush better and should make the glass door shut properly.

There is an other switch supplied by Bezeq (Israel’s no.1 telephone company) for several VOIP phones.   Not quite sure how this works as I think they maintain it.

The black things are UPS power back up units to keep equipment running in case of power failure or spikes in the electricity supply, these are a few years old, most of the equipment was set up when this building got running in 2007 and the chances are the batteries are no good as they have a 3 year or so life span.   I want to get a new UPS that has network connectivity so I can see the status of it using my Spiceworks network management software.   These small ‘shoebox’ type UPSes should be able to be refurbished with new batteries and they could be used on regular office PCs in another part of the building.

When I was staying at one of the staff’s place over night, looking out of the balcony, I get to see an Arab bedouin house across the road, and modern (Jewish) flats in the distance.   Here in this city, these two types of communities seem to be get on well it seems.   It does mean you get woken up up by roosters at 5.30am though!

I have to speak to the rest of the IT department to get some more telephones installed, test wiring for network ports and telephones, get 3 more PCs installed and test the spare server.   This trip was mostly about planning to give extra capacity for this site for future expansion as I know the Lord will provide more resources so we can help the most needy people in this area.  I will need to do another visit up here in July I think.

The main thing I was doing, is a careful back up of the main server and applying all the latest updates and patches.   This is always a delicate thing for IT administrators to do, it puts you a big security risk if you don’t bother, and if you do it without carefully planning it can crash the server.    One of the team had their monitor suddenly stop working, so a local computer store (thanks to KSP)  I got a new Samsung 18″ wide screen TFT monitor.

I really like this job as I always have plenty of interesting and varied challenges so work is never boring and I get to know everyone in the organisation.   It also means I can combine this with a weekend seeing some friends who moved from home city of Portsmouth UK to Karmiel Israel, and later visiting the city of Tiberias which is right on the Kinneret, or the Sea of Galilee, and a few significant places of the bible, I will show soon.

A day in my work in the GalileeThe Jesus boat in GinosarThe Kinneret LakeTiberias evening light showPreaching and miracles of Jesus in CapernaumTiberias city centre and Muriels and Maimonidies

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.

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.

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.

Quick visit to Karmiel

On Wednesday afternoon I was asked to do an emergency trip to Karmiel to look at some IT problems at our food bank there.

This extra food bank warehouse is much larger than the one in Talpiyot but has only about 6 staff there.  This building operates to help Israelis from Russia or from other ex-Soviet Union countries.   As it is only about 15Km from the border with Lebanon, this area suffered much during the 2006 Lebanon war.   The food bank also sometimes supplies new immigrants with new blankets, sheets, pots, pans and kitchen things who have recently come into the country with very little.

I can normally do changes to the computers in this location using remote software (VNC or remote desktop)  but a visit in person was needed to check out problems and give users some reassurance and assess PCs for any possible future problems.   Some printer issues I quickly sorted out, some wireless routers were set up, I didn’t know we had these are they didn’t show up on my Spiceworks network management software.   These seemed all working but no-one know the wireless keys to access them as it doesn’t appear they have been used, so I had to reset them and ensure they were set up correctly so visiting senior members of staff can get on line when visiting.   The rest of the day I was working on making sure users have a secure reliable browser for internet use (getting rid of Internet Explorer 6 and move to Firefox)   and testing UPS systems (box with car batteries to keep essential equipment safe from power failures)   I had enough to keep me busy for the day, but nothing really too much to worry about.

As the drive in a colleague’s car was about 3 hours from Jerusalem, I decided against trying to get home that day by bus and stay with one of the Karmiel team at his flat about 20 minutes walk away.  The three of us got a couple of pizzas and had a few glasses of Russian beer which was in the shape of hand grenade!   I was quite amazed how my American friend speaks Russian to visitors to the office there with such ease, he has a real gift for dealing with Russian, Ukrainian and other Israelis originating from former USSR states.

This is the food bank in an industrial estate in between factory units that had a strong smell of cellulose paint at one side, and oily smell from several car garages at the other.  Sorry these are grainy phone pics, I brought my camera but left the battery in the charger in my house (bah..)

Although I only got a picture of the petrol station I went for my lunch, the town itself is beautiful.  Its only officially existed since 1964, there are nice neat gardens everywhere, with flower beds in roundabouts and by the sides of busy roads, and although some of the concrete blocks look a bit shabby, several of them have been nicely painted up recently.

View out of the window of the flat.   Looking at each side of the house, every direction reveals several mountains in each direction, its no wonder on the way home, I was not able to find a radio channel in the car that worked!   There are also some Arab towns on the outside of the town.

I definitely need to come back and have a closer look around, this place is a good base point for me (there is an empty apartment I could book out to stay there) to visit northern Israel in more depth.