Abandoned Israel and the story of the Mysterious Rifle Casing

Dirty Cliff - s

A new project of mine led me to be a tour guide to “Abandoned” Israeli sites. I offer these tours FREE of charge. Why? Because these rarely visited places should be seen by people who could appreciate them. So last Friday I led a little guided tour to one of my favorite places. On the way back, when walking on the dunes up the Hof Hasharon cliff, I’ve stumbled upon a completely hard-sand covered rifle casing. I know that not so far from this place there was a mandate British Police post, which task was to watch over the coast line and prevent illegal (Jewish) immigration in the 30th and the 40th of the 20th century. I was curious whether this casing could be that old.

After putting it in water and scratching the base of the casing, me and my friends could read the engraving in the metal: US 15 VII.

Casing revealed US 15 VII

Searching for these signs over the internet, led us to a correspondent at the International Ammunition Association:

Ammunition Assosiation

So… A Lewis automatic machine gun. And yes, it was used by the British army. I guess they had some field training, firing range to calibrate the gun or maybe even an actual warning shooting toward an immigration ship which tried to approach the beach. More then 70 years the casing was buried in the sand, and now it had some of its story told.


More interesting stories are waiting for us out there, and you are welcome to join me in revealing them. Check it out and sign in for a tour: derelictisraelfreetour

Ros Plazma



I had the privilege to document Ros Plazma when he volunteered to paint for the ‘Land of the Little People’ crowd funding campaign. He did a great job in imagining a shot we’ve produced on video half a year later. In this shot the children are standing on top of a well and looking inside. What are they seeing? That is yet to be discovered…


the land of the little people-s

(Ros Plazma painting. February 2014)


(a frame from work in progress ‘Land of the Little People’. July 2014)

(Ros painting video)

A few days ago Ros called me and asked if I would like to come and document a ‘wall painting’ work he is doing. How could I refuse?

Crowd Funding Land of the Little People

After a lot of work we’ve launched our crowd funding campaign!!!

Join our gang by pledging to our campaign:


Geppetto from South Tel-Aviv

Anton 18-s

A year ago, while filming a movie at the Neve-Tzedek quarter in south Tel-Aviv, I “accidentally” picked through one of the house’s window. I know it’s not a very polite thing to do, but the next thing I did was even ruder: I knocked on the window and asked the interesting looking man inside the room if I could possibly take his picture. The man raised his head from the thing he was doing and luckily agreed. That was my first encounter with Anton Avramov. “What are you doing?” I asked him with growing curiosity, and he pointed his finger toward the hangers hanging over his head and said: “I create figures from metal wire”.

The Artist-s

After that coincidental meeting I couldn’t just leave things for chance and scheduled a meeting with Anton where I was going to document him during his work. When we met again, Anton wanted to sculpture a whole band of musicians. He arranged his working tools on the floor of the workshop’s yard and started working with an amazing pace. While I was filming him working, the little figures started to round on the table: A pianist, a trumpeter, a drummer, a harmonica player and a guitarist. “How did you come up with working with a metal wire?” I’ve asked him, amazed. Anton kept his fingers working and told me his story.

Anton 14-s

Anton grew up in Bulgaria, and as a little child he liked playing at his uncle yard. He was especially drawn to the copper wires his uncle stacked at the back of the shed, but it was out of his reach, and his uncle forbade him from touching the material since it was very expensive. In 2002 Anton immigrated to Israel and lived in Kibbutz Ein-Hashofet. As a youth Anton worked at the Kibbutz factory where they manufactured chokes for light bulbs. Anton was very happy to discover that chokes are made from copper wires. The turning point was when his boss gave him a pliers as a present, and he started to play with the desired material. But the pliers had no cutter in it, so Anton had to work with the wire without cutting it. “I can’t really say, it’s very natural for me” Anton told me, “When I see objects I imagine them as one continuous line”.

Anton 4-s

Anton discovered his art by chance, after looking for it in architecture and acting studies. From the acting he probably got his unique and dramatic appearance and his love for inventing characters. Since he began sculpturing with metal wire he made a large variety of artifacts: little delicate figures, portraits and even gigantic objects made with vice, welder and metal chain cutter.

Anton finished his band of musicians and set them on the table. Suddenly, it seemed as if they were coming to life and started playing music. You are welcome to watch the clip and judge for yourself:

Video: Yaniv Berman

Artist: Anton Avramov

Music: Old Fish Jazz Band

Land of the Little People

Land Banner 2


‘Land of the Little People’ is a work in progress project about four young kids who live in a village of professional soldiers. Not so far away, in the wild fields that surround the village, there is an old abandoned army base. The kids build their stronghold in one of the only standing structures in the camp – a stone shed with an ancient dry well inside. When a war breaks out the fathers go to war and the mothers sit in front of the television and listen to the never-ending news reports.  The kids, with no one to supervise them, go back to their camp. To their amazement, they find two soldiers, who deserted their units, hiding in the secret shed. The kids decide to do whatever they can in order to make the soldiers go away. In their struggle, they use all means necessary known to them.

You are welcome to visit the project web-site and blog at: http://www.landofthelittlepeople.com

Musicouple – Liat & Yogev

Suzan Dalal - 1s

It’s great fun to work with music and talented musicians. After my work with Joca Perpignan who gave me a wonderful Brazilian joyride I jumped on the wagon of Liat & Yogev. I met them through a good friend called Eyal Atzmon who play with them in a band called Ha’rochvim (The Riders). Liat plays the violin and Yogev plays the guitar. They decided to join forces and work together on a show. They’ve named themselves – Musicouple. I had the honor to produce a few videos for them while they were recording wonderful covers in Nir Averbuch’s studio.

After they’ve accomplished forming a musical repertoire, I was called to make a commercial video introducing them at work – playing in several different situations – from a studio recording to performing in front of audiences. We shot the video in Tel-Aviv in one day, jumping from one location to another.

And here is another clip:

Liat & Yogev, I wish you all the luck in the world and I can’t wait to watch you on your premiere!

LY - 8s(Drinking Arak from left to righ: Yogev Cohen, my hand, Nir Averbuch & Liat Rozenberg)

BenHaim Winery

BenHaim 1s

I always thought that most of Israel’s wineries are situated in the Golan Heights, so you could imagine my surprise when I discovered that I have a boutique winery just under my nose in Ramat-HaSharon, adjacent to Tel-Aviv north border. I was amazed to realize that I pass right next to the place twice a week when I jog by the road leading from the city noise to the grapefruit orchards of Kibbutz Glil-Yam. So what can one do with a winery by the house? The first thing to do is to knock on the door and ask to have a taste.

BenHaim Winery is a small family business with an interesting history. Itay BenHaim is a big man that rides a Harley, and he’s got a large smile and loud laughter of a man that’s got wine in his soul. Those qualities, most likely, led him to be the vintner. Itay doesn’t waste much time on talking and opens a bottle of a 2007 Cabernet-Sauvignon. Deep into our drinking he starts telling about his great grand-father who built wine barrels in Romania. The oak wine barrel have a very important role in making the wine. It gives the wine the right amount of oxygen that it needs during the maturation process. When the BenHaim family came to Israel in the early 40th, they kept their Wine Barrel production tradition. In those days their barrels were bought by Carmel Mizrahi famous winery, but also by Assis company that used the barrels for their juices.

old photo - s

(BenHaim Wine Barrel Factory. Haifa, 1951)

Many years later, when the wine barrel factory wasn’t profitable anymore, the BenHaim family decided not to surrender and to continue their heritage in the wine industry. They acquired their vineyard on the biblical mount Meron at the Upper Galilee. After the grape harvest the fruits are being broken and chilled next to the vineyard, and only then sent to the winery in Ramat-HaSharon, in order to preserve its qualities. Itay BenHaim emphasizes the fact that they make the wine by the ancient methods and tradition. It means that the wine is being aged in the barrel for 24 to 30 months before it goes for another aging period in the bottles.

Drinking makes you heavy, so Itay makes us stand on our feet, and leads us to the barrel room, where he do most of the work, monitoring the aging process of the wine. Like a good Romanian, Itay has a weak spot for Port Wine. He proudly introduces the barrel where he’s slowly aging a 9 years Port Wine. By the end of 2013 the Port will grow up to be 10, and then it will be launched to the market in a special edition. He gives me a taste of the Port and I’m in heaven. Well, I’m also part Romanian…

We head back to the welcoming parlor. BenHaim Winery is not a big place, but it has a lot of character in the interior design, with outdated wine barrels stacked together from wall to wall, among them all kind of wine bottles from the rich history of the winery. For the main course Itay frees the liquid from a 2005 Merlot. When I ask Itay about the many awards that his winery won, he humbly suggest that that’s not what counts, but by the evening of that very same day the members of the jury of Terra Vino 2012 gave BenHaim winery 6 awards, among them the very prestigious award for the best Boutique Winery in Israel. And so, with the wine filling our body and soul, Itay sits before the piano and start playing a merry/light headed tune. “I’ve also got a Saxophone hiding somewhere” he says, but with all that drinking he couldn’t find it. By the end of the visit my head is light. But no worries – after all I’m not so far away from home…

The Alpha Diaries – Operation Pillar of Defense

We were called on Friday evening. We left everything – our work, families and daily duties – and went to serve our country. That’s how we live our lives here in Israel, and it has nothing to do with our political believes. Though I can’t say I was eager to fight, I was ready to follow my friends into battle. By Saturday morning Alpha Company was ready to march. This time luck was on our side, and by the end of a very long week, a cease-fire was declared and Operation Amud Anan AKA Pillar of Defence came to an end. I can’t go into specifics about what we did that week, but I did took some photos and video footage so I could later spread the taste of oil and sand. Since it was such a weird experience we’ve decided to make a clip with Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine man as soundtrack. When I’ve uploaded it to YouTube it was immediately blocked due to copyright reasons. I found even more trippy version of the song made by William Shatner, and I think it took it further more into a delirium. Shifting from being a normal citizen and a soldier is such a strange transformation that I think this short clip captured a little of what that could do to your conception of reality. The contrast between an armed soldier and a free minded individual is huge, but that’s exactly what beautiful and unique in being a reserve soldier in the IDF.

If you liked that, take a ride with Alpha Company and watch the documentary “The Alpha Diaries“.

Photo Gallery:

The smooth sound of Samba – Joca Perpignan launches new album

I always thought that Brazilian music has a unique calming quality. It might be the Portuguese language that flows most elegantly in a song, combined with a very enthusiastic rhythm. Since the Carnival is thousands of miles away from here, every opportunity we’ve got to enjoy the Samba is very special.

Joca Perpignan was born and raised in Brazil, but for more than 20 years he lives and creates in Israel, where he specializes in flavoring everything with Brazilian music and rhythm. He’s involved in many interesting projects, contributing his percussionist skills to many talented local musicians, like Idan Reichel, Mati Caspi, Yoni Rechter and many more.

And now, after he already made one album in Brazil, he launches his new album, called: “Manso Balanco”. This album combines Brazilian music with middle-eastern motives, which Joca absorbed during all the years he performed with local musicians. In “Manso Balanco” Joca collaborates with song writers like the great Samba poet Delcio Carvalho, and South-American musicians like the guitar player Marcelo Nami, Percussionists Juares dos Santos and Rony Iwryn, and local Middle-Eastern musicians as vocalist Din Din Aviv and Palestinian-Israeli Mira Awad. The Album was produced by Joca and his two long time partners – Uri Kleinman and Marc Kakon.

The meaning of the name “Manso Balanco” is smooth movement. I believe this name testify, more than anything, for the good nature of Joca’s character, that plays his music in the same smoothness with which he talks and sing. In the following concerts, Joca intends to place the percussion instruments at the front of the stage, a place usually occupied by strings and keyboards.

Here is a small taste of “Manso Balanco”:

The article in hebrew on YNET

My Photographic Time Tunnel – About Leica and Serial Numbers

It was and it’s still is a dream to hold a Leica camera in your hands and use it as a tool for taking pictures. Ever since I’ve started my Photographic Time Tunnel journey I was hearing about Leica cameras, held by legendary photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andreas Feninger and even the Israelis Alex Levac and David Rubinger. One story that captivated my imagination was about a Leica without a serial number. I’ve heard it from Aaron Gurevich, a camera collector I once met, who knew the owner of that unique Leica. The story, that sounds much like an urban legend, is about a Jewish war survivor who lived in Germany after WWII and was treated at the Red Cross hospital near Wetzlar. As a patient who was enjoying the benefits of the Red Cross health care, he was given a weekly amount of cigarettes packages. I believe that in those days they knew less about the negative effects of smoking, so this guy could enjoy the positive effect while relaxing on his balcony. Getting cigarettes in those post-war days was a very difficult thing, so one of his neighbors who had a hard time living without smoking, made a deal with him: The neighbor will receive one package of cigarettes a week, and in return he will give that Jewish patient a part of a camera, that he will steal from the factory where he was working. Luckily for the both of them, the patient didn’t need so much cigarettes and he thought that a camera could be a cool thing to have, so he agreed to go forward with his neighbor’s deal. And so the weeks passed, when one could smoke again, and the other collected camera parts. After a few months the neighbor requested a double package of cigarettes and in return he delivered the outer shell of the camera – the body. At the following weekend, with all the camera parts in hand, the neighbor sat and assembled the camera, exactly as he was doing at the factory. The camera was a Leica, and since it didn’t leave the factory doors as a product, it didn’t held a serial number. Many years has passed and the Jew left Germany and moved to Israel. By the late 70th he sold the camera to a photographer and camera collector by the name of Ezriel Kalman.

When I’ve heard that story I set a goal to meet Ezriel and get to the bottom of the tale. Ezriel Kalman has a little camera shop at King George Street in Tel-Aviv. I knew this place with its little display window, stuffed with old cameras, but it was always closed. I assumed it was one of those places frozen in time, waiting for some legal lawsuit to be settled between the children of the owner (I know a camera shop up in Herzliyya Main Street, which stands like that for the last 12 years. I even called one of the children so he might let me peek inside this time capsule, but he didn’t even want to hear what I had to say). Anyhow, I was informed by the friend who told me the story of the numberless Leica that the shop is not abandoned, and if I want to meet Ezriel I better visit the place early in the day.

I met Ezriel sitting in front of his shop, talking with the elderly by passers. He maintains a special corner with bowl of water for the dogs, which he loves dearly and has an informal dialog with. To my surprise it didn’t take long into our conversation, until he voluntarily told me the story of the numberless Leica, with some minor changes from what I originally heard. You know how those stories change from one teller to another, until you hardly recognize the specific details. But the story still contained a Leica and it didn’t have a serial number on it. I told Ezriel that I would love to see that special camera and try to make it work for my article, but he firmly said that he won’t take it out of the safe and that he is afraid that the people at the Leica Company will hunt him down for it. I was a little bit disappointed, although the whole time I suspected the story was too good to be true. Ezriel noticed the disappointment in my eyes, and said he has a better Leica to show me. How could it be any better? Well, it was his father’s Leica, which he bought in Bucharest at early 20’s. Actually, I prefer to see and renew a camera that served a few generations of the same family. We scheduled a meeting for the next week, so Ezriel will have time to dig some photos his Leica produced back then in the 30’s and 40’s. That gave me enough time to do some research about Leica – the Rolls Royce of cameras.

Well, Rolls Royce might be the wrong equivalent, since the story of the Leica is really the story of how film cameras became smaller and easier to use. Leica is actually all about being more compact and accessible (If you’ve got the money to buy it). It all started with an optical engineer by the name of Oskar Barnack, who worked at the Ernst Leitz Company. Oskar loved photography, and the story says that he suffered from asthma and had difficulties carrying all the heavy photography equipment to shoot outside, so he was experimenting with minimizing the camera equipment and film. In those days, I mean 1911, everything was huge (Equipment and the size of film), so making it smaller was an essential part in evolution. Oskar Barnack wanted to utilize the standard 35mm film used by Edison and the Lumiere brothers for the movies industry, and instead of using it vertically as in fast running film cameras for the moving pictures, he placed it horizontally in the stills camera, making a frame of 24x36mm picture size negative.

It took Oskar many years and some prototypes until the company authorized the manufacture of his first 35mm camera, and in 1925 the first batch of cameras where commercially available to the public. Ernst Leitz Company called them Leica, which is taken from the words Leitz Camera. The small camera was a great success – so small in size, it was all that Oskar Barnack meant it to be – a camera you could take with you outdoors and take pictures while having fun. Today we are used to small size cameras combined even in our cellphones, enabling us to snap as much as we want, but back in 1925, a camera so small was a great invention and the beginning of a new era in photography. An American advertising poster from those years showed that the Leica fits inside the shirt pocket, and announced that this is the “Camera of the Future”.

“Leica II” that came in 1932 was another leap into the future, with the extraordinary Rangefinder mechanism incorporated into the camera. That made the Leica even better, making it easy to focus the lens on the subject. Today we take things like comfortable camera size and easily to achieve focus for granted, but in the early 30’s of the 20th century, these innovations where truly a great leap. With these new tools in the market, a new generation of photographers emerged with the art of Journalism and Street Photography.

I didn’t know what kind of Leica Ezriel’s father bought in Bucharest, but after getting all this information on the history of Leica, I was ready for a surprise. Any Leica camera could have been a treat, but when Ezriel unfolded the camera from her warn leather cover I couldn’t be more amazed. Not only was it a “Leica I” model, the serial number engraved into the metal body of the camera showed a three letters number: 671, which means this camera was from the very first batch of 870 Leica cameras made in 1925. “Is it still working?” I’ve asked Ezriel with a slight thrill in my voice. “Yes” he said, a little surprised by the question, “Like always”.

 (Ezriel Kalman’s Leica I with serial number 671)

I was eager to try the camera out, but Ezriel seemed reluctant to let the camera out of his hands. In the process of gaining his trust I questioned Ezriel about the history of his camera. Ezriel was born in a little village in Romania called Hârlău (in Moldova) where his father owned a successful photo studio. In those days the custom was to attend the studio and have your whole family engraved on photo paper by a professional man. Ezriel’s father that always thought about new ways to expand his business, heard about the new German invention called “Kleines Bild Film” which means “Film for small pictures”, and took a trip to Bucharest where he had a chance to purchase the magnificent Leica. The idea was simple: on the weekends Ezriel’s father took the Leica to the center of the village where people used to hang, and he photographed them at the street or at the park. Since film could only be developed much later at the studio, each potential client received a card inviting him to come and buy his photo. This line of business was very successful, and soon enough, Ezriel helped his father on the weekends and holydays taking the “Street Photos” himself. The Second World War came, and the Jews of Hârlău had hard time making a living. Ezriel couldn’t go to school, so his father decided to educate him with his own profession. After his father death in the early 60’s, Ezriel left Moldova and came to Israel, where he opened a photo studio. Though he didn’t use the old Leica anymore, it still has an honorable place in his ever growing old cameras collection.

(A photo of a family in Hârlău)

(Two lovers on a bridge)

(Ezriel in work with the Leica)

In recent years, long retired Ezriel Kalman enjoys coming to his little shop every day and occupy himself with buying and trading cameras for his collection. In the few hours I stayed with him in front on his shop on King George Street, only one woman stopped to ask if he is interested in buying her father’s old Rolleiflex. Many other people came to chat with Ezriel on topics ranging from politics to the Olympic Games, or have their dogs enjoy some cool refreshments. I guess it is a great way to pass the time when you’re retired…

It was almost noon and Ezriel finally realized that the only way he could get rid of me was if he would let me load his camera with film and have a little fun with it. I had an idea, why not recreate the old days of street photography and take photos of by passers as if they are potential clients and would come later to acquire their photo. Ezriel, now a little bit tired, agreed to play along, and as in happened, he even enjoyed it.

(Ezriel Kalman with his Leica today)

Loading the “Leica I” with regular 35mm film turned to be more problematic then I anticipated. In this early version of Leica you have to remove the lower cover of the body and insert the film to the exact location behind the shutter. Though Ezriel camera was a German Leica that could stand the wrath of time, it still had 87 years behind it, and thus rejected our efforts in loading the film. Ezriel had an Idea. He unscrewed the lens and helped the film to its place by shoving it while the shutter was open (The camera has a Z option for having the shutter constantly open). While the lens was out, I had time to check it out, and realize the condition of it. The lens is a 50mm f/3.5 Leitz Elmar made especially for the Leica by Professor Max Berek, who adapted the Cooke triplet photographic lens patent (From 1893) that managed to eliminate most of the distortions (at the outer edge) lenses of the time had suffered from. The lens had no coating (that was applied to commercially sold lenses only after WWII), and since it hasn’t been cleaned for at least 50 years it was very foggy and had some ugly spots on it. Either way I was happy to see what it has in store for us. Nowadays people use all sorts of different filters to make photos look like they were made 50 or 100 years ago (we all do it on Instagram), so why not having the real deal?!

(Leitz Elmar 50mm Lens)

After succeeding with film loading, Ezriel suggested that we adjust the aperture to f/9 and the shutter speed to 1/200. We took turns with the camera and placed our faith on the good nature of the Tel-Avivians crowd. It wasn’t easy, since people today tend to take a better care of their privacy, but some easy going spirits donated their bodies for the sake of old time analog photography. As always, I’m using modern Fuji color film, in contrast to the old camera. Here are some photos that came out from the Leica’s belly:

 (Ezriel neighbor at King George Street – The optic store)

I wish I could have more time with Ezriel Leica. Running along with a camera like that could lead to great adventures. But what can I do?! This Leica, with that unique serial number, belongs inside a safe or a museum. I really should learn how to settle with my father’s old Yashica and the DSLR Canon… They are not royalty equipment, but as Ezriel said to me when we just met, it’s not the camera that makes the photo, but the men who pushes her buttons. He is right of course. Cameras are just tools… But we humans need inspiration. And challenge. What will be the next challenge for me now, after writing about a first model Leica? Who knows…? If you have any ideas I would be most grateful if you write to me: berman.yaniv@gmail.com


Ezriel Kalman, Aaron Gurevich, Amir Kriezberg and the people of Tel-Aviv who agreed to model for this article.

You are welcome to watch Leica I on Youtube:

Leica I on Facebook

The article in Hebrew on YNET

Full gallery of photos:


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