Ashkelon, Israel ~ Visiting Niki on Moshav Nir Yisrael.

We are staying with my older sister Niki on the Moshav where she and her husband Dave have lived for the past 30 years. Gili and Tal, their sons, grew up on the Moshav.  The main reason and priority for being in Israel is to visit my sister. (We saw each other last about six years ago in Chicago where we all reunited for my dad’s 80th birthday.)
 
As our Asian travels found us in India, and Israel is within a reasonably short distance, we seize the opportunity to come and visit and reconnect with her in Ashkelon.   Stopping on our way in Turkey, the flight to Israel is a mere $80 and a short 2 hour hop.  Amazing, considering how long a trip it typically was for me in the past, coming from Chicago.
 
Ashkelon has been in the news quite a bit fairly recently, as missiles have been launched repeatedly from nearby Gaza.  Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has been in overdrive and has succeeded in blocking out most incoming missiles, but the frequent sirens and need to seek shelter (at the height of Hamas’ air campaign) has been stressful for local residents.  There is a 15-30 seconds in which to take cover, after you hear the siren of an incoming missile.  But as they live in an old house, they don’t have a shelter or a reinforced “safe room” (by law all new houses in Ashkelon now have them).  So they stand in the corridor, away from windows. 
 
I last visited about 15 years ago. At the time, there was a view from their living room across open wheat fields. Now there is a row of attractive new houses. Nonetheless, the moshav has a beauty all of its own. My sister’s house is full of art and cats (what a surprise!… Not!)
Walking through the fields and orchards on the moshav with the dogs.
We have a great time accompanying Niki on a daily ritual of walking her dog through the nearby forest, as well as about four other moshav dogs who run out from the front of their homes to join in on the walk. 
 
Niki has a few resident cats and also feeds a group of neighborhood stray cats who turn up every morning and evening for much-appreciated meals. Those who follow our blog know that our home in Granada was cat-central, with regular new arrivals when kids found abandoned kittens in the street.  This love of animals clearly runs in the family.  During the  period of three weeks we spend in Israel, two more (adorable) kittens find their way to Niki’s door.  For years she has provided temporary foster shelter and coordination to find cats in need new homes.
 
Ben having a snuggle with Pinky? Minky or Inky? or is this one Monkey? No wait, it’s… Charlie, of course)
Two very cute black kitties cuddling up together
The garden behind the house.
This old tractor has been next to my sister’s house for years and years.  I remember  Josh (now 30) playing on it when he was two…
Starting out on our walk with Heidi, through green fields
Heidi and neighborhood dogs take advantage of the recent rains to have a quick dip.
One of the dogs is scared of water so Ben carries him across the stream to the other side.
Within minutes, one can walk through fields of emerald green, orchards of orange trees, avocado groves, pomegranate and lemon trees, and an eucalyptus forest. Deep greens and dark chocolate brown earth surround us and go as far as the eye can see.  It is easy to understand why my sister loves living here. The colours of nature and fresh fruit growing all around is a great combination.
Reminiscent of the paddy fields in Viet Nam.
There has been an unusual amount of rain and a huge amount of mud. Seems we are both STUCK! Luckily both of us are pretty comfortable being in mud. (Gratitude to SK and BK for this!….)
Who needs to go to the Dead Sea for mud baths, when we can have them right here on the Moshav near Ashkelon?
Ahh its good to get some sun after the cold in Istanbul and the initial rain in Israel. Fields next to the Eucalyptus forest.
Eucalyptus forest. Eucalpytus trees are one of my very favorite types of trees ~ I always associate the smell of Eucalyptus with Israel.

 

 

Niki’s oil paintings reflect her surrounding landscape of forests and groves, and, of course, her omni-present kitties. ( I have the Stray Dogs of Nicaragua collection and she has the Cats of Ashkelon collection.)

Me and Tal (my nephew) sitting in the living room with 2 of the cats.

Being together with family and having a welcoming delicious meal cooked with love, is indeed a treat especially after traveling and being on the road for so long. 

Niki has been an amazing host, taking time off from work to be with us and show us around, meeting us in Tel Aviv, driving us to Haifa to go see our old neighbourhood… 

Celebrating Ben’s birthday with Niki and Dave and delicious!! gnocchi.
The customary first falafel – same spot in Ashkelon over the years…
Ashkelon also has a beautiful beach with powder soft sand and a nice harbour area with cafes and restaurants.
Thanks Niki for such good times!

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