Black pills

Lying on the table next to the white pills, the black pills look strange and somehow incongruous.  Yet they are therapeutic.  They are pure carbon, actually activated charcoal.  How did I come to be taking black pills?

I have suffered from digestive problems for many years, and have been on a limited diet (no milk products, no fat or oily food, no meat, no cabbage or waxy skinned vegetables).  A few months ago I had a chronic cough, that did not seem to be due to a cold.  I went to my GP and he diagnosed acid reflux as the cause and switched me from the antacid Ompradex to Lanton, which cured that problem.  However, a few months later I was again stricken with problems of acidity and went to my GP who sent me to a gastroenterologist.  He diagnosed hyper-acidity and switched me back to Ompradex.  That solved that problem.

But I still suffered from lower abdominal pain and occasional bouts (every three months or so) of throwing up, usually after a large rich meal.  The gastro had no cure for that.  At night I would often lie awake with pain, discomfort and bloating.  Should I go back to the gastroenterologist?  I decided to ask my friendly pharmacist (who happens to be an Arab).  He recommended carbon tablets as the best way to get rid of trapped gas (methane).  Carbon in the form of charcoal (not diamonds) is one of the best adsorbents.  It absorbs organic substances but also is excellent at adsorbing gas.  Previously I had used Maalox anti-gas tablets, but I had never before thought of taking carbon tablets.  Now I am taking them regularly, and they seem to be working.  The lesson is take the advice of a pharmacist before going to see a specialist.


New Appointment

Dear readers, I have been appointed a Visiting Professor for three years at the Chemistry Department of Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva.  I received the treasured yellow parking sticker that enables me to park anywhere on campus.  I will be pursuing research into the synthesis of chemically modified analogs of DNA in collaboration with a young member of the staff, Barak Akabeyov.  In addition, I will be helping him and others with writing grants and papers in English.  This will involve me in spending some time on the campus, which is about 10 mins drive from where we live.  I am telling you this because it might affect the time I have to write blog articles and might reduce my output.

I have been writing this blog, IsBlog, since about 2000, that is an amazing 18 years, with an almost daily posting (excluding Shabbat) since about 2013.  In fact I have posted 3,467 articles, amounting to ca. 1.6 million words.  I have already published a collection of my humorous and diy articles in a book entitled “Humorous Husbandry” that is available on   One day I would like to publish a selection of my articles about Israel and the Middle East, but time so far does not permit that.  I originally said I would continue writing these articles until there is peace between Israel and the Arabs, but that may take forever.

In fact, I have now been a Visiting Professor at all three top Universities in Israel, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and now Ben Gurion University.  I wonder how many people have had that distinction.  Also, I am now approaching the age of 80 years old (anyone who would like to see my abbreviated scientific cv can go to: ).  I must say that when I started out as a young post-doctoral fellow at the Weizmann Institute in Israel in 1964 I never expected that I would still be engaged in active research at this advanced age.  One never knows what adventures lie ahead.

Last inheritance

This story concerns my mother-in-law Millie Silverstein’s last inheritance.   She died last January at the age if 101, and since she lasted so long, money had of course to be found to pay for her stay in the nursing home in Netanya.  The monthly maintenance fee and the cost of the carer (metapelet) was several thousand dollars per month.  This was excluding the cost of food and the room that was paid from an escrow account from the money from selling her apartment.

Millie was always an excellent saver and was very frugal, and she managed to save two UK accounts, one for each daughter. When her own funds in Israel ran out, these funds were used to pay for her expenses.  Luckily each daughter was a co-signator of her a/c, so it was easy to liquidate them and transfer them to Israel.  As her apotropus (legal guardian) in Israel I was well aware that the funds were running low, and when she died there was a bit over NIS 100,000 (ca. $30,000) in her a/c.  I had to inform the bank of her demise and give them a copy of her death certificate and then they immediately froze the a/c.  So I was not able to pay some of her final expenses from it, and I paid them myself.  Also, the bank would not release the money without a court order, so we had to probate her will.

Of course the court took many months and required further documents, and then further months.  Until a few weeks ago we received the court’s decision, her will is valid and they appointed Naomi (her oldest daughter) as the trustee, but since I am Naomi’s apotropus, I can be the trustee in her place.  I went to the branch of the bank in Beer Sheva where we now live and saw the manager, and he said it should be a straightforward case, but he cannot handle it, I will have to return to the branch in Netanya where the account is located.

It took two weeks for the original official letter from the court to be mailed from Netanya to Beersheva. I was informed by the manager of the branch of the bank in Beersheva that all I need is the court letter and the original of my legal appointment as Naomi’s guardian.  But, after travelling to Netanya (2 hrs each way) the Manageress of the branch there read the documents carefully and decided that she could not decide and release the funds and said she will let the bank’s legal department consider the case.  Very frustrating, but stay tuned.

PS. Because life intervenes I have not been as active posting blogs as usual.  I had medical tests and a trip to Netanya (as above).  More soon.



Space Odyssey

When we moved to Be’er-Sheva we faced the usual problem of too much stuff and not enough space.  We did ditch about 10-15% of our worldly goods, much to the benefit of WIZO and the Netanya AACI bazaar.  But, we still needed to find space for a lot of things.  For example, we retained hundreds of books, but had no space for bookcases in the spare rooms, so we put them in the corridor.  Problem solved.

I have about 100 paintings, where to store them?  The single small room set aside for my studio did not seem to be big enough to accommodate them.  I was intending to put them in the shed in our front yard, but that gets very hot in summer and probably wet in winter.  Not a good environment for paintings.   By putting about a third of them up on our walls that reduced the load.  Then I designed a holder, a space-saver, using the high ceilings in the studio to store the paintings.  I  drew a kind of high table with paintings underneath and above.  It could hold even the largest paintings and still have room.

Through our daughter and son-in-law we met two very useful gentlemen, Geraldo the carpenter and Hananiya the handyman.  Geraldo is an immigrant from Uruguay and does not speak English, but we can get by on my poor Hebrew.  Hananiya is an American who has been here for 9 years, and does all sorts of jobs.  Between them they have helped me a lot.  Geraldo made the walk-in closet in our bedroom and recovered the kitchen cabinets for us.  Hananiya has recently put up the pergola that covers our front yard and serves as a succah.

Today Hananiya came over and put up the shelves in my study that has given me lots of desk space, and Geraldo brought his wooden construction of my drawing to store my paintings.  It is excellent, very strongly made and can store all my paintings without problem.  Altogther a good day for space-saving.

Bureaucratic battle

When I reached 75 years of age I was entitled to a free parking sticker for blue and white sections in Netanya.  So I went to the specific office in the old City Hall downtown and at first they gave me a temporary sticker to put on my car and then eventually I had to go back and collect my permanent sticker.  This had the year of 2015 clearly printed on it. Naturally I parked around Netanya and did not expect to receive parking tickets.

During 2016 and 2017 I started to receive parking tickets of 100 shekels each when I parked in various places.  Being particularly stupid, I assumed this was a mistake, that the parking police had ignored my “old person’s” sticker and that somehow this mistake would be rectified.  After all, why should I have to go to the dreaded parking police and deal with the terrible bureaucracy.  Over time the tickets began to mount up, until I received a registered letter from the City telling me that I owed them 1,500 shekels.  One of these tickets was for NIS 250 for parking on a red and white section, when I was in a frantic hurry and took a chance.

When my daughter found out about my negligence, she insisted that we must take care of this before I left Netanya.  She wrote an explanatory letter to the appropriate office, but we received no reply.  So we arranged to visit this office in the new City Hall on the outskirts of town to deal with the problem and she came as my translator.  When we got there she explained the situation to the clerk, who was very nice and explained that I should have renewed my old-person’s sticker every year, so I was not actually covered for the two years it was not valid.  But, I explained to her that I am an old man and misunderstood the Hebrew when they told me the sticker was “permanent.”  So she directed us to another office in the same building, and there the clerk was very helpful and said that if I renewed the “old person’s” sticker for 2017, they might be able to forgive some of my tickets.

She directed us back to the office in the old City Hall downtown where they deal with these stickers.  There we had to wait while the clerk played with her children who were on vacation.  Then she saw us and told us that she could give me a new sticker for 2017 if I came back with four pieces of paper, copies of my driving license, my car registration, my i.d. card (teudat zehut) that all Israeli citizens carry, and my municipal taxes (arnona) payment, to prove that I lived in Netanya.   I got three of these but I could not find my car registration.  However, upon further searching I found it still inside a blue plastic folder that the city kindly provided, and nearby was a shop that did copies.

So she immediately gave me a sticker for 2017.  The clerk in the previous office said that I could fax a note with a copy of this sticker to them, no need to go back.  A few weeks later I received a call from her and she told me that the case was now being sent to the lawyer who would render a verdict.  Yesterday I received the verdict in the mail, nearly all tickets cancelled (except one on red and white, which I knew were not covered).  Savings for this bureaucratic challenge ca. NIS 1,200.  Worth fighting City Hall!

Israeli experiences

We went to the doctor for our first visit here in Beersheva.  The address given was 6 Rehov Haim Landau.  I put this into Google maps and we got there easily.  Haim Landau Street was essentially a parking lot.  We drove down it, no. 12, 10, 8, and then there was a large metal fence separating the next building that was no. 6.

So we parked and tried to find an entrance thru the fence, but there was none.  So we walked around the building out to the street on the other side that was the main road Golda Meir Street.  There was a small shopping center there, but no sign of a doctor’s office.  We asked in the pharmacy but he didn’t know.  So we walked back to the car and drove all around the building and parked at no 6.  But there was no sign of a doctor’s office there.  So I called them. And she said they were in the clinic on Golda Meir Street.  So we walked around the building back to the shopping center and there next to the pharmacy we saw a sign saying “Asia” in Hebrew and in Russian.  That was the doctor’s office.  When we finally got there they were very nice and the doctor was pleasant, an older man who spoke English.  I didn’t get the impression that he was a great doctor, but he looked at our files on the computer and we chatted and he said no need for any changes and that was that.

I went to the gym Holmes Place, that is in fact an English chain.  It is just across the street, a few minutes walk from where I now live and it has a pool.  The exercise machines were bigger and more intimidating than the ones I am used to from my friendly gym in Netanya.  I had to bring a lock to secure a locker.  I put the key in the pocket of my shorts.  After exercising I undressed and went into the pool and then into the jacuzzi.  When I left the jacuzzi I realized that the air bubbles in the jacuzzi had caused my shorts to “blow up” and the pockets had become inverted.  With horror I realized that there was no key in my pocket. I envisaged having to call someone to cut the lock open on my first visit there.   I rushed back to the jacuzzi and fiddled around in the bubbling water where I had been sitting and there it was  –  the key – saved!

New Year Greetings

Since we are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I thought I would express some thoughts.  We Jews tend to be a pessimistic people, for good reason given our tortuous history.  But, the present looks good, with Israel flourishing and remaining a vital haven for Jews experiencing persecution around the world, such as in France.  Also, we are relatively fortunate, given the current world news.  There have been terrible hurricanes in the Caribbean that have destroyed many towns on vulnerable islands and have ripped up the mainland USA, both in Texas and Florida.  For the life of me I cannot understand why people whose homes are destroyed, rebuild over and over again in such dangerous locations.

Also, the terrible earthquake in Mexico has obliterated towns and brought death and destruction to Mexico City.  Please understand that I feel very sorry for the people caught in these natural disasters, but I am also glad that Israel is not subject to them.  We Jews need a break, a period during which we can recover and rebuild, and that may take a very long time, certainly decades.  However, most of our misfortunes were man-made not natural disasters.  Think of the Holocaust during WWII, the worst case of genocide in History.  I would rather put up with any natural catastrophe than that.  But, we generally don’t have a choice.  At least now we have the ability to defend ourselves in our own homeland.

This has been shown by recent IAF attacks against Hizbollah and Iranian targets in Syria. PM Netanyahu has declared that Israel will not allow Iran to establish any bases in Syria that threaten Israel.  And Russia and the US have been notified of this firm decision.  So we face the future with determination and hope.  From my new home in the Israeli hinterland I wish all my readers a Shana Tovah and a fruitful, prosperous and safe year ahead.  Welcome to 5778.