Apart from knitting, Joyce Feinberg had never made anything in her life, knew nothing about arts and crafts and was so busy making a living here in Israel that she had no time for sewing or ceramics, even if she'd wanted to take them up as hobbies.

Today her small apartment in Beth Protea in Herzliya is bursting at the seams with the fruits of her handiwork – all things she has made since moving into the English-speaking retirement home four years ago.

Of all her creations – stuffed bears, a papier mache doll, a blue elephant, ceramic dishes galore of all shapes and sizes - she is proudest of her small crocheted bags, colorful and useful, made from plastic bags (or what we call in Hebrew 'nylon' bags), the kind you pick up by the dozen in the supermarket to wrap your milk, your fruit and vegetables or anything else you like.

"I'd never held a crochet hook in my hand," says the lively ex-South African. "I'd seen someone crochet these bags and I asked a friend to teach me simple chain stitch. I cut out the bags into long strips which I roll into balls of twine. It takes ages, but I feel good because I'm doing something for the environment."

She shows me the bags she has made and they truly are remarkable; it's hard to believe that these beautifully crocheted bags are made from the plastic that most people throw in the garbage.

"Look at this one," she says, holding up a white bag which seems to have red flowers scattered on it. "That's the writing that was on the bag," she explains with delight.

Joyce settled in Israel in 1963, a young mother of three small children, with her husband, Harris. The family first went to live on kibbutz and later in Ra'anana.

From the cushy life in South Africa with a beautiful home and servants, Joyce was plunged into a life of hard work to help support the family. Although a trained nursery school teacher she did not work in her profession.

"I've had twenty-five different jobs," she says. "I worked in whatever came my way."

These jobs included working in a beauty parlor, a gift shop, clothes shops in five-star hotels and traveling around the country selling everything from doormats to candles.

But she still found time to join the army as a volunteer when her children were at university. She was also a champion bowls player and has a sideboard full of trophies to prove it. For many years she volunteered, teaching bowls to the blind and proudly shows me two gold medals she received for coaching two-time winner Avshalom.

She's also very proud of her children; her son is a lawyer, one daughter is a professional jewellery maker and another a dental hygienist.

Joyce has been with Esra since its inception and was also involved with fund-raising for a retirement home for Anglos, long before Beth Protea was built.

She finds the craft lessons at Beth Protea, which are held every day, a great boon. The only problem is that she makes so much with her magic hands that her living space is filling up with things and she feels an answer might be to sell some of her creations. She sells her things at very reasonable prices and they make wonderful gifts.

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Gloria Deutsch

Gloria Deutsch is originally from Liverpool England. After gaining a B.A. degree in English she worked as a librarian. Gloria came to live in Israel in November 1973 and for the last 36 years has l...

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