a different side of Israel

Category: Travel (page 3 of 7)

Travel and tourism to Israel, photos and personal experiences when touring Israel, places and people to see.

Hanukkah is just around the corner

Winter is finally here in Israel. It arrived a few weeks back, and now it’s making another comeback.

I’m going out camping this weekend and I hope the weather will play nice.

Nevertheless, I’m excited that the cold season is upon us, since we don’t get much of it here in Israel.

In addition, Hanukkah is just 5 weeks away, and that’s always a good thing. Hanukkah is the perfect excuse to eat lots and lots of oil without feeling guilt, and decorating the home with colorful lights. Needless to say, Hanukkah gifts are always the best of the holiday gifts in the Jewish calendar. Perhaps we’re influenced by the tradition of Christmas gifts, which happens in December as well, but it doesn’t bother me too much. As long as the kids are having fun, and experiencing the Hanukkah tradition, there’s nothing wrong with spoiling them a bit with a Jewish gift.

I found yesterday that the supermarket downstairs is already selling strawberry-jam doughnuts, and I wonder if it’s a good idea to eat them by the campfire this weekend. (I’m joking of course)

Meet The Candidates: Ron Huldai

Raviv Druker and Offer Shelach interviewed Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv, who’s running now for a third tenure in office. The interview took place more than half a year ago, but is no less relevant today.

Before the actual interview, Raviv Druker mentions that Huldai is very shy of the media — an assertion Huldai later admits, while adding that he’s been burnt by the media in the past.

The image that Druker and Shelach construct during this interview is that of a person who says little but does much. A person with a very pedantic and didactic personality, who believes in what he’s doing. After all, he’s been a military officer for many years, as a well as a high school principal.

They ask him: Do you like the job? And he cannot say he does, although he feels satisfaction when things are being done.

They take him for a walk outside, and count how many positive comments he receives from people on the street compared to negative comments. They also take him to the Yarkon promenade, where the Ussishkin Arena once stood — until the city council approved its demolition despite loud objections by sports fans.

I find it amusing that both Dov Khenin and Ron Huldai, the two major contenders in this race, are — hmm, for lack of better words — full blown geeks. Druker himself says that perhaps a turbulent city such as Tel Aviv needs someone sober to do the gray work behind the scenes.

Meet the Candidates: Dov Khenin

Municipal elections are taking place all over Israel this coming Tuesday, November 11th. The race in Tel Aviv is drawing extra attention this year, not only because Tel Aviv is the country’s economic and cultural capital, but also because of the interesting candidates.

This is Dov Khenin, one of the candidates for the Mayor position, speaking:

This is what the Israeli Tourism Board thinks of us

Do you think that’s an honest depiction?

Think Israel from Israel on Vimeo.

Examining King Solomon’s Legacy

As I wrote yesterday, the location of the Solomon Mines may have been finally located. Yet those mines aren’t the only underground achievement attributed to the legendary King Solomon:

The Real Indiana Jones

CNN reports:

Archaeologists believe a desert site in Jordan may contain the ruins of the elusive King Solomon’s Mines…. Thomas Levy of the University of California San Diego, who led the research, said carbon dating placed copper production at Khirbat en-Nahas (Arabic for ‘Ruins of copper”) in the 10th century — in line with the biblical narrative of Solomon’s rule.

King Solomon Treasures

Dr. Thomas Levy has succeeded where Harrison Ford keeps failing. Through hard work, and without any acting skills, he and his team are advancing archeology in this region and uncovering the history of this land.

I wonder what they’ll find down there.

Transit Governments

  • Tzipi Livni has decided last night to forego her last attempts in assembling a parliamentary coalition. This means we’re heading into general elections within 3 to 4 months, probably somewhere in middle February 2009.
  • Municipal elections in Israel are slated for November 11.
  • While the US Presidential elections are due November 4.
  • On top of it all, Abu Mazen, president of the Palestinian Authority, is ending his term in office come January. Hamas has already declared that his people will not regarded Abu Mazzen as a legitimate president if the dejected man decides to remain in office despite the deadline. If such a scenario materializes — and there is high probability it will — then the West Bank might turn into a bloodbath between Fatah and Hamas.

Back to Olmert… As the head of a transit government, he has no public mandate to craft new policies or to resume diplomatic negotiations, yet nevertheless he is still Prime Minister for at least 3 more months.

And as of today he has to deal not only with the Iranian threat, the financial crisis, and the possibility of a looming chaos in the West Bank; but also with the growing tensions between the Settlers and the Israeli army.

If you haven’t heard yet, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) dismantled tonight a tiny unauthorized settlement outside of Hebron — that belonged to far-right-extremist Noam Federman. As a result, several people in the Jewish Settlers community called out to kill Israeli soldiers as retaliation!

Despite his lack of public or parliamentary support, and while several indictments are awaiting him in court, he has to face the threats of both a Palestinian civil conflict as well as a Jewish civil conflict.

In-D-Negev is starting tomorrow

For the second time ever, the alternative music festival “Indie Negev” (or In-the-Negev) is going to rock the weekend away.

It’s happening this weekend (October 24-25) in Mitzpe Gvulot, which is a camping site just outside the Gvulot kibbutz. Tickets are no longer available for purchase via the phone or the web, but if you arrive there relatively early on Friday, you can buy an admission ticket for only 80 Shekels, which will give you access to all the performances throughout the entire weekend. That’s one heck of a deal.

The lineup includes many newcomers, as well as big alternative names such as the Giraffes, Geva Alon, Asaf Avidan, and Ruth Dolores Weiss. All these names just mentioned are due to perform one after the other on Friday night, which is apparently the creme de la creme of the festival.

To arrive via public transportation, take bus no. 379 from Tel-Aviv central station, or bus no. 35 from Be’er-Sheva central station. There is also a dedicated forum which allow guests to coordinate carpooling.

Succot Festivals – Quick Guide

Succot has always been a festive holiday, but this year it is truly the holiday of festivals. Here’s a very partial list:

Yotvata — a Kibbutz near Eilat, and home of the best chocolate milk in Israel — is hosting a festival of flying balloons in the desert.

Shanti lovers have 3 different festivals to choose from this year: Sagol (“purple”) in the coastal plane, Zorba the Buddha in the south, and Bereshit (“genesis”) in the north.

Are you looking for music? In-di-Negev is a whole weekend of alternative music, happening for the second time this year in the Negev desert. The Guitar Festival is the place to go if you enjoy jamming near the campfire. And if you want to enjoy quality performances by big-name mainstream artists, the Tamar Festival (“palm festival”) is offering just that.

Still want more? Well-established sci-fi festival Icon is drawing geeks from across the universe, who arrive to congregate at the Cinemateque in Tel Aviv.

And what about the kids? The Virtuoso Festival in Jerusalem (happening today and tomorrow) offers a mishmash of circus performances for only 20 Shekels.

With so much to do, and such great weather, please, please, don’t stay at home! 🙂

Festivals of Past Years

Since this year’s Acco Festival has been postponed (ie. canceled), I want to present you with two examples of short acts that had been featured in the festival in previous years. I chose two videos that contain no words, one by an Arab ensemble, and one by a Jewish ensemble. Enjoy!

For and Against the Cancellation of Acco Festival

As you may have heard, during Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) violent clashes between Jews and Arabs erupted in the northern city of Acco. An Arab driver drove through a Jewish neighborhood during the holiday, offending the local population and igniting riots and backlashes. The driver claims he was driving his family back home, only passing through the Jewish part of town. Other eyewitnesses claim he drove wildly, risking all the children who had been playing out on the road, while listening to loud music in his car.

Whichever version hits closer to the truth doesn’t matter now. He was being highly provocative in his actions, and the anger in well understood. Nevertheless, it’s saddening how the actions of one individual can sweep whole populations into conflict.

As a result of these riots, the mayor of Acco, Mr. Shimon Lankri, decided on Friday to cancel the upcoming “Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater“, which takes place during Succot each year. This annual festival has proven itself to attract a large amount of visitors, and is considered to be one of Israel’s best fringe theater festivals.

I was looking forward to visiting the Acco Festival myself this year, and am very disappointed that it was canceled in the last moment. Many artists and politicians alike have been urging the mayor of Acco in the past few days to call off the cancellation, and use the festival as a way to calm down the tensions.

Port of Acco
Image via Wikipedia

Is canceling this year’s festival the right thing to do? Well, personally, I can understand the mayor’s agenda. He says he cannot guarantee the visitors’ well-being while the racial tensions are running high, and I can certainly agree with this argument. Moreover, even though he did not express it explicitly, I believe that the cancellation is a sort of punishment for both sides. The festival is one of the city’s most successful cash-cows, and postponing it has an immediate effect on many of the residents. It’s as if Mr. Lankri warns his residents, “If you can’t get along, you’ll only be hurting your own livelihood. So next time think twice before you turn this town into a war zone!” And frankly, he’s got a point. Sometimes people need incentives to play nicely together, and this sort of move also puts the pressure on community leaders to be mature and responsible, instead of hot-tempered and provoking.

On the other hand, perhaps resuming everyday life as fast as possible is the best remedy in order to put behind this “incident”. Perhaps the mere act of announcing cancellation has been enough of a warning, and now it’s time to announce the festival is back on track. After all, it’s well known that tourism equals peace.

Shana Tova and Gmar Chatima Tova

It’s dimming earlier these days; wind is getting stronger. Yes, it’s autumn again, and the air conditioner is no longer a man’s best friend.

In short, a new year is upon us, and I want to wish you all a Shana Tova (Happy new year) and Gmar Chatima Tova (May you be inscribed in the book of life)!

What have we seen this past year?
  • A raging march of corruption allegations sprouting from within government corridors. Yes, former Minister of Finance stole millions of Shekels from Holocaust survivors. Yes, yet another Prime Minister is knotted up to his head with police investigations. Yes, Minister of Justice (a dear friend of these aforementioned politicians) is crusading in an attempt to crush the legislative authority’s independance.
  • Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, American Mutual – big names that have become empty vessels. The beginning of the end of the Capitalistic age? It’s too soon to tell. However, one thing has become clear, as newsman Yaron London said yesterday: “People start to realize that Economy is not a distinct science; Economy is the very heart of politics.”
  • Three children, in three separate families, were murdered by their parents this past summer in our tiny piece of land. In a country that doesn’t seem to give a damn about its social infrastructure, this — sadly — doesn’t come as a surprise.
  • Shahar Tzuberi made us all proud this September when he won the only Israeli medal at the Beijing Summer Olympics. With his modest look and his unrelenting motivation, he proves yet again that Water Sports are gathering momentum in Israel… Splash!

Gmar Chatima Tova

And what may lay down the road?
  • Tzipi Livni may become Israel’s second female Prime Minister, just in time to (presumably) greet America’s first black president.
  • The tumbling economy is raising Anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States, reminiscent of 1929.
  • Municipal elections in November are raising much public attention, with both Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv displaying an intriguing line of candidates. Will Dov Khenin live up to his hype? Will Arieh Deri somehow storm his way back into the center of the political stage, after spending several years in the confiding comfort of a jail cell? Will the Ussishkin Arena ever get rebuilt?
  • Abu Mazen is ending his four years in office this coming January, opening the door for a Hamas-controlled West Bank.
Bottom Line

We have much to lose and much to gain. Emotions are running high, and I think that’s a good thing — We are finally stepping out of our long-embedded apathy. The world is changing before our eyes, and in this Internet-entwined culture of ours, the man in the street has never been so influential before.

Take care and enjoy this holiday season!

Jewish Civil War ?

A pipe bomb exploded this morning on the front door of Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell, wounding the professor’s leg. The bomb had been attached to the doorknob and was activated when Ze’ev opened the door.

Prof. Sternhell is a left-wing commentator and winner of the 2008 Israel Prize in political science. Fliers found in the vicinity of his house promised 1 million shekels to whomever hurts members of the Peace Now organization!

Right-wing extremist Baruch Marzel says his people had nothing to do with the attack, yet refuses to condemn the act.

I don’t know if the purpose of this terrorist act was “only” to intimidate Prof. Sternhell or to seriously hurt him. It doesn’t matter. I expect everyone and anyone in the political arena, from his leftist friends to the most far-right extremists to condemn this attack and to find and prosecute the perpetrator.

Luckily Sternhell only suffers light injuries, but it could easily be a different case if he had opened the door from a different angle, or if his wife had been the one at the door, or one of his two daughters.

There is no one who should speak more loudly against this divisive phenomena than Binyamin Netanyahu. He is the most respected and popular politician from the right of the political map, and by crying out against Jewish terrorism he could quickly diffuse the tensions. The extremists might even actually listen to him. He had been silent before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Now he mustn’t repeat that mistake.


If extreme-left-wing politician Dov Khenin is to be elected Mayor of Tel-Aviv in November, then the contrast between mostly Orthodox right-wing Jerusalem to mostly secular left-wing Tel-Aviv will probably heighten even more.


Paul McCartney’s historic performance in Tel-Aviv is happening tonight! I find it saddening that this memorable day also marks yet another deterioration in inner Jewish relations.

Hydrotherapy in the Kibbutz

Yamit Pool is located in the pastoral kibbutz of Netzer Sireni, and the place offers great opportunities for kids and expecting mothers to enjoy the soothing effect of lying in the water, or the fun of splashing around with Yamit and her dedicated and professional staff.

Yamit also treats children who have special needs with hydrotherapy techniques, and her website boasts a number of enthusiastic testimonials.

The name Yamit implies “of the sea” in Hebrew, and she has taken her birthright to a whole new level.

Turning Demolition into Art

This morning the building standing in Moshe Hess street No. 8 is set to be demolished. It is an old apartment building in the center of Tel Aviv, and several of its residents have been living there for 20-30 years.

Yesterday, for one evening only, the residents along with a group of artists turned the soon-to-be-demolished building into a unique art exhibition. The empty apartments were filled with video-art displays, strange wall paintings and a roof party “to top it all” (so to speak).

Although exploring the building had proved to be great fun, the heat and humidity of Tel Aviv was simply unbearable, and the lack of air conditioning in most parts of this old building didn’t help.

I find this to be a wonderful gimmick. Having the exhibition present for only one evening, it drew a large number of visitors, who turned the small street into a lively city gathering.

Here are some photos from last night’s event,
courtesy of urban photographer Amital Ben-Zvi:

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