Celebrating the Greatest Hero of All Times: Mom

Celebrating the Greatest Hero of All Times: Mom

This is my first Mother's Day without my mom, who passed away last summer. This milestone in my life leaves me reflecting on motherhood with much gratitude for all that she has done for me. Additionally, the past four years, coping with my daughter's many health challenges has literally stretched my boundaries and pushed me to the ends of my limits, teaching me the power of motherly love, and what it truly means to be a mother. It is a lifelong mission, and a constant test to my my strength in every possible way, both physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It has taught me to never lost faith or give up hope, and to embrace and accept my most vulnerable moments of grief and despair.

No motherhood is ideal or perfect, and sometimes we only reckon with what our mothers have done for us after they're gone. Likewise, we sometimes only understand our shortcomings and limitations in these dire times when facing extreme existential conditions such as illness and war. And we've had plenty of both in the past few years.

Although my daughter is physically with me 24/7 for the past few years, demanding constant care, I can identify the most right now with the mothers of the Israeli hostages, who have been stolen from them by a merciless enemy, and there is no way of telling what's going on with them at any given moment. My daughter has been struggling not only with physical illnesses but also with post-trauma following her medical treatment, which made very little sense to her from her neurodivergant vantage point (she is autistic). Add to that neurological effects of multiple successive epileptic seizures and yet another traumatic hospitalization - and you end up with a person that is very hard to understand and at times even recognize, and seems to be captured by a psychotic enemy as unpredictable as a terrorist group. I had to witness her in that state of suffering, wrestling with her demons right in front of my eyes, within my arm's reach, yet unable or not permitted to help her. It's been a real torture that I can't express with words how awful it has been, and how helpless I was. 

For an entire week during Sukkot (the Jewish holiday leading to Simchat Torah, in which the October 7th massacre took place), my daughter refused to eat. On October 6th she refused to drink as well. It was as if she was fasting to beg for mercy and forgiveness and attempt to prevent what was about to happen. For months I have been living at the edge of a cliff, with her body mass reaching lows that I have only seen in photos from the holocaust. To be honest, there were times when I not only feared for her life but also started preparing myself mentally for that awful possibility. That is how much in despair I was.

Yet, even in these awful times, I have still not lost hope. Or perhaps that is faith I'm talking about. Its hard for me to differentiate between the two. In the moments when I felt the most helpless and in despair, I have prayed hard and surrendered to the awfulness of the situation, the possibility that our life will never be what it was before, that we shall never experience happiness let alone mundane joy of all the small things we shared in our short life together.

Alongside this grief and deep sadness, there was also a Knowing that I have done all I could do to keep her well and alive and help her get out of this awful crisis. I have cried and prayed and asked for strength to carry through whatever more obstacles I may need to overcome. Fortunately and most gratefully, I'm writing this with a much lighter heart, as there was finally a breakthrough a couple of months ago, and my daughter started improving, taking gradually more and more responsibility over her own well-being and her life, and as a result feeling more agency and power. This gets a person on the positive cycle of thinking and doing that feeds positivity, hope and continued improvement. There are still many very taught days, but we are no longer in the depth of despair that we've been inhabiting for ever so long. And I can finally say she is beginning to recover from this awful ordeal that lasted four years. 

I know these are hard times for many people right now, and I do not want to sound preachy or positivity-toxic, which is why I have given you so many personal details so far. We still have many rough days, and moments where that despair is beginning to resurface. Yet I know from experience, as someone who has been in those depths and have come up after a long dive into the depths of despair, and I know we may end up back there again... I sort of can say that I now know the way. Or at least what may help one get back on track to get at least a breath from time to time. So what I'm saying is from a place of love and compassion, not as a preachy know-it-all (which is probably how I sound when I speak very passionately about somethings I discover in my life).

It is extremely important especially in times like this to shine light and be grateful. It is not easy to be grateful, and to many of us human it does not come natural at all. We should be grateful not only for what we receive and what we have, but also for what we've lost or we feel is missing in our lives. The way to wrap one's brain around that is to try to understand what is it that we learn from this thing that we need to place great effort to find any sense of gratitude about it. What can we learn from it? What does it force us to do that we would otherwise not dare to?

We must learn how to be grateful for what we have received, and also for what we are able to give and help others with, despite the many personal challenges we may experience and struggle with at the moment. So on this Mother's Day, I would like to thank my daughter, my mother, my grandmother, my aunt and my entire maternal lineage for all that you have given me in this lifetime, and beyond.

To my daughter, Tamya: 
It was truly for you that I have founded my perfume business and shared this gift with the world. It enabled me as a young sole-parent to not only put food on the table, but also be happy switching to my motherly role at the end of a long working day. I always wanted to work doing what I love. And you gave me no choice but to accomplish this dream pretty early in life. 

My mother, Ada:
You taught me how to be truly grateful and not take anything for granted. I was a very bad student at that... I thank you for instilling in me the love for plants and flowers especially, and for raising me close to nature, teaching me about the healing properties of the local plants as well as faraway spices. The loss of your the sense of smell also gave me the opportunity to sharpen my sniffing skills from an early age, to be confident with what I know, and to help her you navigate through this scentless world.
But the most important lesson of all that you've taught me was to never judge people, always give them the benefit of the doubt, always see the good in people. Yes, even or especially in times of conflict and when they've hurt me the most.  Through your eyes, the world was always full of miracles and beauty and I will always miss your perspective and childish wonderment at the most mundane things that I still tend to take for granted. I'm still trying to learn that, so thank you for being so patient with me.

My grandmother Ruth:
I'm eternally grateful for your inspiration, worldliness, attention to detail and the written language, and for always believing in me and giving me a strong foundation of confidence and support through the toughest times, and not any less - through the happy and triumphant times. I hope to carry your relentless optimism combined with an urgent lack of patience for any injustices, big or small, and to always put my actions where my words are. I really hope that I could still make you proud after all that our people have gone through since you've passed. I also hope to be always able to be as generous and warm as you have been to me all my life, be someone that my family can count on when in need. 

My Aunt, Liora:
You live your life to the fullest and fiercely defending what you believe in. I was fortunate you didn't become a mom till much later in life, and had you all to myself! You taught me discipline, hard work and determination, and standing up for my rights. I hope the next generations  of women and girls won't need to fight as much as you did for that! 

Frozen in Time for Six Months

Frozen in Time for Six Months
I was sitting in my rose garden during the early afternoon hours of October 7th, 2023. It was an especially beautiful autumn day, quiet, sunny and warm but not too hot. Just the way I like it. The roses were in full bloom. They too enjoy sunlight without excess heat. We were just about to complete a few weeks of the Jewish high holidays. All of which were unusually quiet — without any loud party noises from the neighbouring Arab villages, with the customary gunshots-in-the-air that accompany any celebration in those communities, about as mandatory as serving generous platters of food and turning the music all the way up to eleven so that all the villages around could hear. There was none of that. That alone should have been suspicious, but I simply chose to enjoy it instead of reading into it.  

At some point that Saturday afternoon, I checked my village women’s  WhatsApp community and all of a sudden messages about war in the South started emerging. There was a sense of panic in them, but I ignored them as rumours, because I checked the news and there was absolutely nothing about it. Everything seemed so out of touch with the reality around me: beautiful garden, quiet, peaceful and festive atmosphere, sun, birds chirping… I even had the blind insensitive insolence to tell my neighbours not to get caught in fear by the rumours, and simply be in the moment and in touch with what’s real: earth, air, sun, garden… a little later I walked to the synagogue, there were already people who knew more than I did but didn’t say much more than that their sons or husbands were called for reserve duty in the army. Yet, everything still seemed normal. I think people didn’t want to upset anyone in the synagogue so there was not much conversation about it.

It wasn’t till the evening, that I went to visit a friend and she told me the magnitude of what was happening. Still happening. Whole villages and towns taken over by ISIS-Hamas terrorists. Entire families taken hostage or gone missing, babies burnt alive. She said they were more cruel than the Nazis, and had other things to tell, but I asked her not to tell me. I was still in denial, but it started sinking in.

I’m just an average Israeli, who this war relatively didn’t really affect, but knows so many people whose lives are forever changed by that dark day. Israel is a very small country, and we are all connected, with strongly knit communities. In a sense, we are all part of the same family or tribe if you will, even though there are many differences even among the Jewish population, many sub-cultures, including but not limited to religious beliefs and affiliations and degree of religiosity (in Israel there are not only Jews but also other ethnic and religious groups, including Christians of various denominations, including the indigenous Assyrian and Maroon communities that speak Aramaic, as well as Druze, Bedouins Suni Muslims, Adyghe AKA Circassian and Bahai’i); Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews of many cultural backgrounds, political leanings and opinions, etc. there are many connections and no such community lives in a vacuum. Partly because of the obligatory military service, that makes all those people train shoulder to shoulder and spend 2-3 years of their youth in close quarters with all the different types of Israelis that exists. And partly because most of us are Jewish, and have our thousands of years of standing up together to face antisemitic violence, and instinctively knowing that sticking together saves and protects us.

My sister-in-law grew up in the Western Negev desert, the region that is now called “Gaza Envelope” due to the constant shelling and rocket attacks it has suffered from Gaza since 2006. Her family was trapped in their home for the whole day, with the terrorists trying to infiltrate their kibbutzim (they are from Yad Mordechai and Carmia) and by pure luck or serendipity, their kibbutz community guards and security team were able to push away and prevent from accomplishing carnage within. Fortunately, her parents were abroad at the time. And also, they live in Ashqelon, which while in the south and always suffers lots of rockets from Gaza, it was spared the attacks not from lack of trying, but because eventually the IDF and the Police were able to stop the terrorists from continuing to concur and massacre more towns and villages within Israel.

My sister-in-law spent the whole day communicating with her family on the phone, by the end of which she looked traumatized and depleted of all life force, as if she was personally there herself. Two or three days after the attack, she fled our village with my three nieces and joined her family from the South in a supposedly safer part of the country. So did my other brother with his wife, two kids and a newborn baby, who was just a week old when the war began. Like them were 80% of my village, which is located a mere 12km from the Lebanese border. In the first weeks and months of war, we were all prepared to get attacked here similarly by Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy militia based in Lebanon, which started launching rockets on all of the Northern parts of Israel since October 8th, and hasn’t stopped since. Every day there are terrorists infiltration of the border-fence which is damaged in multiple spots. And while all of the villages and towns within 0-4km from the border were ordered to evacuate, many fled and left the region (or even the country) from fear of this terror of October 7th repeating itself in the North, only with a much stronger and more equipped and even better funded militia.

Another childhood friend of my sister-in-law, whom I love dearly, lost both parents Raffi and Orit (who is one of my classmates in an online course of visual journaling) on that day, and her brother, Itai Svirsky was taken hostage and brutally murdered in captivity by Hamas after releasing a torturing video of him, Noa Argamani and Yossi Sharabi. 

My aunt’s friends from Kfar Aza, Aviva and Keith Siegel (both in their 60s), were taken hostage too. Aviva was returned home as part of the hostage deal that took place in November, but Keith is still there, for 148 days. If you do a quick search online you will hear about the horrible conditions they were kept, how the men and the young women were all sexually abused and assaulted in captivity, including her husband.

The elderly parents of a neighbour from my village are Nurit and Amram Cooper, both in their 80s. They were brutally kidnapped from Nir Oz on October 7th. Thankfully, Nurit was one of the first hostages released on October 23rd along with Yocheved Lifshitz. From the moment all the hostages were taken, their families worked hard on finding a way to pass medical care for them, knowing that this may be a very long ordeal. Many of the hostages were disabled, elderly and chronically ill, requiring daily prescription medications. The families diligently produced a detailed list of the medications and doses they need, and gathered the medications. At the beginning of the war, I tried to help them reach out to several humanitarian aid organizations which you’d typically expect to step in and help out hostages in the midst of conflicts. International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and we were even creative enough to approach organizations that specialize in sending aid to Gaza. They were all unhelpful or unresponsive at best, cowardly offering absolutely nothing. The later unravelling of UNWRA’s affiliation with Hamas makes me suspicious that they are neither humanitarian nor neutral, and that either their operations in Gaza is controlled by Hamas, or that they are simply antisemitic and very hostile towards Israelis with no goodwill. The fact that Doctors Without Border’s facebook page is entirely in Arabic now, is another pointer to that direction. And of course, approaching the Palestinian aid organizations was a very naive move, as they couldn’t care less for the our hostages well being. on the contrary: they are more than likely relishing in their suffering.

My neighbour from Kfar Vradim, Romi Gonen (23), was taken hostage from the Nova festival and not returned in that deal either. She was last reported with a badly injured arm, and last time she was seen, her fingers were changing colours and not in a good way. I pray every day that she and the other 16 women still kept hostage are returned alive and well and are able to get treated for the sexual assaults that many of them have suffered, and most likely are still suffering. There is a very real and frightening reality that many of them may be returning pregnant (some of the female hostages that came back home had to undergo abortions and are struggling with serious mental health issues, none of which is published in the media).

At least two youth from my village were at the Nova festival as well, and thankfully have manage to escape the hell just in the nick of time. Perhaps unwounded physically, but mentally it will be forever burnt in their psyche. One of them has fled with his parents and siblings to Australia to run away from it all and receive the care he needs away from the war zone that Israel has become.

On a more personal and direct level: I live up north, very close to the Lebanese border, but not close enough to warrant evacuation, which was the destiny of around 100,000 civilians from the north of the country, and another 150,000 from the South. I’m one who is not considered affected by this war directly. I still live in my house. We hardly had any direct attacks on our village (only three, sirens sounded so far (ah-hum, four since I started writing this piece), which meant we had to go into a bunker or a shelter, or the most safe place we can find). Scary moments, but nothing comparing to what my friends and family from the South had to endure for years, even before the massacre of October 7th. All businesses were pretty much shut down and stopped frozen in time since that day, as thousands of people had to go on reserve duty in the army to protect us. Many families are operating with only one parent for five months now (correction: six, this piece was really painful to put on paper).

Today is April 7th, 2024. If I was still married to my daughter’s dad we would be celebrating 30 years of marriage today. Instead, we’re mourning six month of being frozen in time in that horrific day of the October 7th massacre. This was essentially like experiencing a day in the holocaust, with more than 1,200 Israeli people murdered brutally in their beds or while dancing in a music festival till dawn. As a nation, these have been horrible six months, where all life revolves around security issues and an imminent threat to our safety and mere existence in our homeland. The constant feeling of love for my people and the amazing country we've built here, despite the constant threat of hostile neighbours wanting to come and ruin it all with burning hatred. Unfortunately for them, our love from within is stronger than their hate, and the more they want to kick us out of here, the deeper into this earth our roots grow.


Caléche, Hermes' first fragrance, somehow eluded me and I never gave it much thought. Perhaps I was not sophisticated enough to appreciate it till now. I am easily blinded by ornate bottle designs of the Art Deco style, and mesmerized by the decadent stories that often accompanied them. Somewhere down the rabbit hole of exploring vintage floral bouquets, I have decided to give this one a try. The following are my impressions based on a vintage EDT I found in a flea market as a part of a fancy wooden coffrett, comprised of fragrances from several different classics, which based on the lineup, I assume is from the late 80s.  

Caléche is a refined, sophisticated and quite an old-fashioned perfume, in the sense that it is a Chypre with such strong floral leanings and a relatively heavy sprinkle of aldehydes on top, that it may be easily mistaken for an aldehydic floral fragrances. It reveals many layers of richness, and quality of materials that is rarely seen in the current releases makes a world of a difference - a sensation that lingers and is being felt throughout the perfume's performance. 

Caléche has a classic Chypre Floral structure, centred around sensual white florals that are softened and blurred by candied violets, and a generous dose of aged sandalwood which are perhaps the perfumer's Guy Robert's special signature. It gives off a feeling of luscious, smooth and luxurious silk fabric, dyed and printed with rich colours and romantic designs. 

The white flowers - gardenia, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang ylang, are all very tasteful and not at all vulgar. The sandalwood softening and enveloping like a silk wrap, and the sweetness from the flowers and violets balanced by additional, dry and sharp woody notes of vetiver and cypress.  

I think it is a classic case of Chypre Floral - even with its robust old-growth oakmoss, it still smells very floral. And anyone attempting to compose this genre, would find that when adding up so many white florals, they truly shine and take over the composition. Yet unlike other floral creations, there would be a lot of depth once the flowers fade out. Another recurring theme in many retro aldehydic florals (and Chypre) is a smooth and woody vetiver at the base. Here it especially smooth and soft, with all the sandalwood mentioned before. I am very curious to smell how the perfume extrait would play out with this one. 

Top notes: Aldehydes, Neroli, Bergamot, Mandarin

Heart notes: Orris, Ylang Ylang, Gardenia, Jasmine, Rose, Lily of the Valley

Base notes: Oakmoss, Sandalwood, Olibanum, Amber, Musk, Vetiver, Cypress, Tonka Bean, Cedar, Coumarin

Eau de Campagne (Sisley)

Eau de Campagne (Sisley)

I'm late to discover Sisley's Eau de Campagne, one of Jean-Claude Elena's earlier creations. Eau de Campagne is just about as old as I am or perhaps two years my senior, and true to form, it radiates the 1970s greenish and trimmed style that is so characteristic of the decade. 

What I have on hand is a modern rendition, and I am sure that like everything that before contained oakmoss, it has undergone alterations. However, it manages to maintain much of its green and natural charm nevertheless. 

I have purchased it as a sort of a birthday present for myself earlier this spring, in preparation for the heavy heat that is to come in the summer. While living in Canada, I never needed more than a scent or two for humidity and heat. Here in the East Mediterranean, I'm afraid to say these form the majority of the wearable portion of my fragrance wardrobe. Except for the brief winter we have, when I can pull out my beloved Chypres and incense-and-smoke laden Opulents, nowadays, Le Parfum de Therese, Diorella, Philosykos and the like are a mainstay on my dresser. And although I am not truly in need of another fresh scent, I felt like adding another option that would be reviving and refreshing for the hot days. Just to mix it up a bit, you know. 

Eau de Campagne is both citrusy and green, and can be classified as Citrus Fantasy type with a noticeable Eau de Cologne vibe, which makes it timeless, and a green and leafy twist of galbanum and tomato leaf that add an unusual, modern and cutting edge element that makes the wearer feel unique and sophisticated. And this elegant, simple sophistication is what makes it in a way a pre-cursor for Jean-Claude Elena's future minimalist style. 

At the same time, it is quite a classy and some would feel quite masculine type of fragrance. Some women nowadays may find it very brisk and bright, perhaps too sharp, but I also know many who love it. The moss, vetiver and patchouli undertones give off a very similar vibe to Eau Sauvage. Yet it has a more pronounced layer of patchouli, which adds a deep, warm, mysterious and incensey layer. Once it wears off, it becomes a very translucent white musk, which is quite a surprising turn. I think it is mostly ambrettolide, which makes it more pleasant and less artificial or obnoxious as other contemporary white musks. But still, I find it a bit flat and persistent in the end in a way that does not correspond smoothly enough with the beginning of the perfume. I'm quite confident that earlier versions of this would have still had the (real) oakmoss lingering at this stage... 

It is easy to see why it has a cult following. It's special, fun, yet easy to wear. It's fun to have a fragrance that is fresh and woody and green, without depending on iso-E super. It's both rustic and modern. In my mind it's from the same lineage of Le Parfum the Therese and Eau Sauvage, with an innovative pairing of herbaceous, floral and fruit notes, freshness and complexity, layered with a storytelling. 

While the name means "Countryside Water", I resonate more with the watery concept, rather than a typical rustic countryside per-se. There is a feeling of dipping in a cool creek or lake on a hot and humid summer day, and inhaling water mint and other herbs growing on its bank. Tomato leaf bring to mind a country's cottage vegetable garden, something that you'd keep for a hobby, not for sustenance, and to work out a sweat early in the morning. There is a hint of tart fruit (plum?) and an expanse of flowering vines (jasmine, honeysuckle), but not enough to make it truly floral. Distant scent of new mown hay and grazing animals comes across through the somewhat gamey patchouli and dry vetiver.  On the hot days that we've had lately, I've worn it with great ease and pleasure. 

Top notes: Galbanum, Basil, Bergamot, Lemon, Plum
Heart notes: Geranium, Tomato leaf, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley
Base notes: Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver, White Musk 

New Online Workshop: Visual Tools for Perfume Design

New Online Workshop: Visual Tools for Perfume Design
Excited to announce a new, stand alone online workshop: Visual Tools for Perfume Design.
Using visualization and accessible techniques to assist perfume designers in their creative process and brief development. In this online event, we will discover how to utilize simple, everyday techniques and technologies such as phone photography, inspiration boards, journaling and more to help boost your creative process in the realm of olfactory arts.
During the workshop, Ayala will demonstrate through case studies, how she uses visual tools in her creative process of fragrance development, from inspiration and brief development, copy writing and marketing.
Participants will also experience some of these techniques through interactive exercises using simple, everyday materials and tools.
April 30th, 6:00-8:00pm Jerusalem Time (GMT+2)
Link to the Zoom classroom and list of materials and tools needed for the workshop will be emailed to you upon registration.
  • Page 1 of 521
  • Page 1 of 521
Back to the top