Paragliding in Israel

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Only in Israel can you leap off the same mountain on which King Saul fell onto his own sword. Or retrace the route Jesus took when he leaped off an abyss to escape a lynch mob. See Israel from another perspective.

Paragliding is becoming one of Israel’s most popular extreme sports and its hard not so see why. With such amazing landscapes below both geographically and historically, seeing the country from a new perspective whilst enduring the thrills of trying something so exciting, makes paragliding an incredible experience.

Its going on dusk here on the cliffs of Mevo Hama on the southern Golan Heights. The setting sun is a deep yellow and it’s starting to silhouette the hills across Lake Kinneret to the west. More than 30 paragliders are already in the sky hovering over the 400-meter plateau. One after another, they yank their chutes by the lines like they’re pulling up a kite, turn around and literally push themselves off the edge of the cliff for half an hour of soaring before the sun sets completely. Syria and the outskirts of Damascus on the eastern horizon, the fading white Gilad mountains of Jordan to the south and the shadowy, craggy slopes of Galilee to the west; it’s a stunning view that only a privileged few get to see
“Everyone starts paragliding for a different reason and enjoys it for different reasons,” says Amir Malik, who picked up the sport with his wife some six years ago. “For some it’s the quest for the altitude, for some the challenge of finding thermals. For some it’s the aerobatics. Some do it for the silent flying along the ridges and some for the noisy flight with a motor on their backs. I personally joined the sport because it was my dream to fly. I really wanted to fly with a motor in the skies of Israel. That was my dream but with time, after my Level 1 course, I realized that free flight was the kind of flying for me. I even bought a motor and tried it, but I saw that it wasn’t for me.

“I enjoy high flight, the higher the better. Flying just before dusk as the sun sets over Lake Kinneret is the ultimate flying experience for me. My most beautiful moments of my flights till today are the evening flights from Mevo Hama.”

Click here to read the rest of this article at the new Tourist Israel website.

Check out the New Tourist Israel Site

Friday, 31 July 2009

Tourist Israel and the Tourist Israel blog now have a new home. We've integrated the blog into our new site at which has been designed with a greater emphasis on new stories, pictures, and user interraction in response to feedback we have received.

The new site is now live, but isnt totally finished - we've got loads of new features we'll be adding over the coming weeks.

So please update your subscription links by clicking on the RSS or Email icons below. Or if you arent subscribed yet, subscribe now to be kept up to date with the latest articles.

10 Steps to Plan your Successful Israel Vacation

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Whilst it might not be big geographically, Israel has a huge array of attractions and places to visit. With this is in mind, many travellers are quite daunted by the prospect of travelling to Israel, and are unsure of where to start when creating an itinerary. Here are our top ten tips to creating the perfect Israeli vacation.

Step 1 - When to Go

Israel has a mild climate all year round meaning there really isnt a time to avoid visiting Israel. The summer months are, however, generally very hot, with average temperatures over 30 degrees celsius, whilst the winter months can be unpredictable with storms often lasting a few days at a time. Having said this, the winter months can also see some very pleasant spring-like weather. The best months for travelling to Israel are, in our opinion, May and October as the weather is most temperate and comfortable, although there are really no no-go months. Read more about the weather in Israel, here.

Step 2 - How Long

Often the length of a trip to Israel is dictated by work vacations or school breaks, meaning there is only a limited time window. It is safe to say, however, that whether you have one week, or one month, you wont come anywhere near to seeing everything this country has to show. Ten days to two weeks are probably the best length of time to get a good feel for Israel, allowing you to tour around and spend a few days in the major tourist destinations of Jerusalem, the Galilee, the Dead Sea, and Tel Aviv.

Step 3 - Getting to Israel

Most tourists arrive in Israel by plane. Israel's main airport is Ben Gurion Airport and airlines fly here from around the world. From the USA and Canada, direct flights come from New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Toronto, although many travellers opt to travel via Europe as this can not only work out cheaper, but breaks up the length of the journey. From Europe, there are flights from most major cities, and increasingly, fares are being offered by low-cost airlines.

Step 4 - Getting Around

So you know when you're in Israel, but how you get around, dictates where you stay and what you'll do. Some travellers decide to base themselves somewhere, and then take day trips or overnight trips, whilst others opt to tour around, staying a few nights in a number of places. The easiest way to get around in Israel is by rental car. With most major international car hire firms having branches here, it is a cost effective and easy way to travel around. If you are unable to drive, then the Israeli train network is very comfortable, although not too extensive, although the bus network is very extensive, covering most of the country. A word of warning though, public transport is very limited between sundown on Friday and Saturday night due to the Sabbath.

Step 5 - Splitting the Trip

Knowing how you will get around will now allow you to plan how you wish to split up your trip to Israel. It really does depend on how much time you have, as to how long to spend somewhere. In 2 weeks, we would suggest that you spend 5 nights in Jerusalem, 2 at the Dead Sea, 3 in Tel Aviv, and 4 in the Galilee region. Eilat takes the best part of a day to travel to from most of the country, and therefore in 2 weeks, there isnt really time to get here, unless you really want to!

Step 6 - Where to Stay

Obviously where you can stay depends largely on your budget. Hotels in Israel vary from hostels and campsites, right up to high-end boutiques and even converted mansions. Hotels in Jerusalem range from a large number of hotels geared up to tourists ranging from some prestigious, historic properties, to some cheaper, more generic alternatives. Many Hotels in Tel Aviv, have, in recent years become boutique hotels, whilst there are also some great beach front properties and hostels. Spa-style hotels dominate at the Dead Sea, where there are a lot of spa-style resort hotels, as well as some great quality hostels. Hotels in the Galilee range from large resort hotels, to the very popular small bed and breakfasts called Zimmers which can be very luxuirous, quaint and relaxing!

Step 7 - What to Do

There will probably be some places you've known you want to go to for some time. There will also be places such as the Western Wall and Yad Vashem Museum that most tourists to Israel take time to visit. There will then be places that you havent even heard of yet, that you'll want go to! The best thing to do is to look with an open mind in the area you are staying for things which appeal to you rather than to look for certain types of attraction. There are some seriously unique places to go in Israel, and its so easy to overlook them!

Step 8 - Packing

The trips fast approaching and you're now wondering what clothes to take to Israel with you! From the perspective of being respectful, take some clothes with long sleeves and trousers as these are required in certain places. In most of the country, however, you can wear anything (and we mean anything) and noone will raise an eyebrow. Look at the weather for that time of the year, and pack accordingly. We'd always advise, even in summer that you bring some warmer clothes as the evenings can get quite cool once the sun has set, especially in the desert.

Step 9 - Other Practicalities

Will my kids like the food in Israel? Can I get a wi-fi connection? Will I be able to call home?... Loads of questions will no doubt enter your mind as the trip approaches. Yes is the answer to all three of the above questions. Remember, Israel is a very westernised country, and all the services you expect and take for granted at home, will be available! So sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.

Step 10 - Enjoy Yourself

You've arrived, so enjoy it. Relax and stay safe. Remember that Israelis are really hospitable people, and will be more than willing to help you if you have any questions. Have a great time, and dont forget to send us your photos when you get home!

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Life's a Israel

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

With so much coastline, Israel is not short of beaches. Here are some of our picks along the Mediterranean and Sea of Galilee coastlines.


Located about half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa, Caesarea has two of Israel's best beaches, the Harbor Beach, and Aquaduct Beach.

One of Israel's most unique beaches is at the Caesarea Harbor. This archaelogical site is one of the world's oldest ports, and inside the cove lies a quaint and well maintained beach - the Harbor Beach. Although an entry fee of 25 NIS fo adult/20 NIS for child is required, this beach has great facilities, including a lifeguard, changing rooms, and an all important bar/cafe. Combine this with a visit to Caesarea's ancient ruins, for an even more special day.

The Aquaduct Beach might not be in Caesarea's National Park, but has a stunning location of its own. Located in front of an ancient Aquaduct, the beach is breathtaking although facilites are not as good.

Read more about Caesarea here.


An upscale neighborhood just 20 minutes north of downtown Tel Aviv, Herzliya seems worlds away, and its beaches are extremely popular. Herzliya Beach is a long clean, lifeguarded stretch of beach which runs from the Marina in the South to the area of Nof Yam in the North. The beach gets incredibly crowded in the summer, especially at weekends, however.

Read more about Herzliya here.

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv's 14 mile long stretch of coastline has so many beaches, that we've dedicated a whole page to them here.

Hilton Beach is located in the north of the city, and is one of the city's youngest, trendiest beach, and unofficially the city's gay beach. Gordon-Frishman beach is right in the center of the city and is packed in the summer as people chill out from their hectic days. The Banana Beach is great for a relaxing evening drink, whilst the Dolphinarium Beach is renowned for its Friday music festivals! And maybe, the most laid back beach in the city, Alma Beach is quieter because it has no lifeguard.

Sea of Galilee

There are lots of open access points to the beaches surrounding the Sea of Galilee, although these are unserviced. If you dont require facilities, the best beach is Tsemach Beach on the eastern shore, where you can also rent basic facilities for a small fee.

Where do Tourists Really Like to go?

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Forget London and Paris, two of the world's tourist magnets, each attracting tens of millions of tourists each year, it seems that Jerusalem is a more favored destination!

A survey by Travel + Leisure magazine has ranked the 'City of Gold' the 17th best tourist destination in the world, making it more popular than London, Paris, and Barcelona.

And why would be surprised...

Jerusalem is really a unique city - nowhere else holds such importance to so many people being holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The ancient sites lie next to modern attractions, and a Western infrastructure supports it all. Plus, the rest of Israel is nearby, with Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea well under an hour away. Read more about travelling in Jerusalem here.

Despite Jerusalem's popularity, Tel Aviv did not make the top 20 list although it did rank seventh among cities in the Middle East and Africa. That really isnt bad

Now all we need is some more tourists to enjoy it and make us number one next year!

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New 7 Wonders of the World - Dead Sea

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Dead Sea is now the only remaining Israeli contender in the competition to find the new 7 Wonders of the World among the 77 remaining worldwide contenders.

Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov announced an international campaign for the Dead Sea to win the competition, by emphasizing the uniqueness of this natural wonder.

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, some
420 meters below sea level. Being nominated as a wonder would probably be more beneficial to this wonder than many others. Firstly, it is shrinking at an alarming rate of meters every year, and secondly, it is shared between the Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians meaning saving it is a coexistence priority for the three peoples.

Gura Berger, spokesman for the Megillot Dead Sea Regional Council, said that "part of the idea behind listing the Dead Sea for this competition was to raise international public awareness about this bad situation. I believe that winning is to be able to tell people that the Dead Sea is vanishing at a rate of more than a meter a year."

Berger said the municipality had organized a rock festival dedicated to helping the Dead Sea and "calling people to vote," as well as the "Tour of the Dead Sea" campaign and many other events.

"Winning in such a competition means a lot [not only] in terms of tourism, but also about caring for the environment," said Berger. "If we win, it means that we care where we live… and this is the real victory."

According to Amnon Lieberman, media adviser to the tourism minister, there is "no doubt [the nomination] will increase tourism and attract public attention from all over the world. This competition will allow us [also] to emphasize why the Dead Sea is so unique."

Asked whether he was optimistic about the final nomination of the Dead Sea, Lieberman said, "This candidacy is still lasting after a year. It has already been through two phases, and I hope that we will get to the final phase."

The voting for the final round will begin July 22 at, and is expected to continue into 2011. Please vote and help to save this true wonder of the world.

For more see the full article at JPost or visit our Dead Sea Travel Guide.

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What's happening in Israel this July

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Sorry for the belated release of our monthly guide to the coolest things happening in Israel

July 9 - Jerusalem International Film Festival

July 11 - Mayumana, the Israeli act who are likened to Stomp launch their new show, Momentum

July 13 - The Maccabiah Games - the Jewish Olympics kicks off across the country

July 19- Suzanne Vega comes to perform in Tel Aviv

July 21 - The Pet Shop Boys perform in Tel Aviv

Have a good month

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Easyjet to Start Flights to Tel Aviv (and other flight news)

News just in that leading British low cost airline Easyjet will launch six times weekly flights from London Luton Airport to Tel Aviv from this November. We covered speculation about Easyjet starting flights to Israel earlier in the year and it is great to hear that they have come true!

Flights will start on November 2, with fares starting at £71.98 one way.

More news when we get it here!


Last week, US Airways launched flights from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv opening up an important new route to the USA

And, yesterday, Germany's second largest airline, Air Berlin launched twice weekly flights from Berlin to Tel Aviv

We hope to have more exciting news on new ways to get to Israel soon

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Miami and Ibiza, Tel Aviv and Netanya

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Tel Aviv has long been referred to as a mini Miami because of its architecture, setting, and relaxed culture. Now, the city of Netanya, about 30 miles north, wants to be the Ibiza of the Middle East. The city, a holiday resort currently popular with British families, and home to a large ex-patriate British, Russian, and French population is setting about redefining itself.

Ibiza, the Spanish island renowned for its nightlife and party lifestyle is being used as a model for rebranding the city.

As Ynet Reports:

Netanya has a dream – to look as much as possible like Las Vegas. To this end, the city's Council Member for Cultural Affairs Zuzi Zilberberg is currently studying up on the branding steps taken by Spanish island Ibiza in a bid to make turn Netanya into the Ibiza of the Middle East that will attract young people from around the world.

"In my opinion, the beaches in Netanya are no less spectacular than the ones in Ibiza," said Zilberberg this week. "I think that our beach fronts are an inextricable part of our culture. Let's see what we can do to attract the youth masses to our beaches, just as Ibiza did."

Zilberberg believes that there is great tourist potential in Netanya's beaches, and, according to her, will take all measures necessary to attract Spanish Christian pilgrims to the city. "Netanya is on the way to the holy sites in the north," said Zilberberg, "and I suggest they come to Netanya to stay here for at least a night to enjoy the cultural bounty Netanya has to offer."

Zilberberg, a Spanish speaker, said that Spaniards will soon be able to enjoy Spanish-language plays in the city as a result of an initiative she is currently promoting that will establish a Spanish theatre group that will perform in Israel and abroad.

Some of her Spanish dreams came true this week when Zilberberg hosted 21 Spanish mayors in Netanya on Monday for a tour run by ELNET, a Belgian-based, pro-Israel organization founded with the objective of influencing European public officials on EU-Israeli relations.
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Coldplay to come to Tel Aviv?

Monday, 29 June 2009

Rumours are sweeping the internet about Coldplay coming to Israel this September. There is a long-standing campaign to bring the very popular group to Tel Aviv, where they have a huge fanbase, including online petitions and pleas to the group. If the rumours are true, the group will play in Hayarkon Park, Tel Aviv, on September 30th. They will be playing in Israel in the same month of Leonard Cohen and Madonna - so theres loads of great musical options this September!

We'll keep you posted!

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6 Days of Meat ... and a Day of Rest

Saturday, 27 June 2009

This Monday is Vegetarian Monday in Israel.

As YnetNews reports:

Israel's finest restaurants join initiative aimed at persuading Israelis to give up meat once a week, contribute to efforts to curb global warming

Vegetarian Monday, an initiative, which has already been introduced in other countries around the globe, is coming to Israel and will seek to persuade meat eaters to go veggie once a week and contribute to the fight against global warming.

A report published by the UN details the grave ecological impact of the livestock industry on the air, water sources and soil. The report estimated that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The authors of the report also said that by having one meat-free day a week, people could help effectively tackle climate change.

About two weeks ago, former Beatle Paul McCartney launched the Vegetarian Monday initiative in Britain and Australia. Sir Paul, a life-long vegetarian, told The Independent: "Many of us feel helpless in the face of environmental challenges, and it can be hard to know how to sort through the advice about what we can do to make a meaningful contribution to a cleaner, more sustainable, healthier world.

"Having one designated meat-free day a week is a meaningful change that everyone can make, that goes to the heart of several important political, environmental and ethical issues all at once."

Creative dishes

Jana and Ilan Gur, owners of the Al Hashulchan food magazine, heeded the call and have recently launched a similar campaign in Israel. "Our initiative is part of a global effort to fight the environmental damages associated with meat consumption," explained Jana. "This is a good solution for those who wish to reduce meat consumption, but find it hard to refrain from eating meat altogether."

Ilan added: "We call on restaurants – come up with creative, interesting vegetarian dishes, so that people can easily give up meat. All the restaurants we approached to participate in the campaign enthusiastically accepted.

"On Mondays the restaurants will publish a list of specials based solely on vegetarian dishes made especially for this initiative."

According to Ilan Gur, "We don't preach full vegetarianism, we only ask people to eat less meat… today people lead a vegetarian lifestyle for various reasons, and one of them is the concern for the environment."

Some of the country's finest restaurants have already joined the campaign. As of next week the participating restaurants will offer a wider variety of veggie dishes, and every Monday they will serve a vegetarian special menu, in a bid to have patrons give up meat for a day.
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International Jazz Festival in Israel

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Caesarea, the ancient Herodian port on the Mediterranean coast. Every summer, the amphitheatre at Caesarea comes to life once again with concerts of a huge range of artists from Israeli classics to modern international acts.

Every summer, the port also hosts a jazz festival. This takes place not in the amphitheatre but along the promenade and attracts people from across Israel.

This years festival features world-class jazz troupes, including the Four Saxophones Octet, the Harry Allen Quartet, the International Swing Quintet with clarinetist Antti Sarpila and the Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Big Band, as well as Israeli jazz group, Swing de Gitanes, who will recreate the sound of Django Reinhardt’s Hot Club de France Quintet every evening on the harbor promenade.

The festival started today, and runs tomorrow and Saturday, at 6:30pm at the Caesarea Harbor Promenade.

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48 Hours in Tel Aviv

Friday, 5 June 2009

Reuters decided to spend 48 hours in Tel Aviv, and here's what they did.

Got 48 hours to spend in Tel Aviv, the cosmopolitan, urban heart of Israeli culture?

With its vibrant nightlife, delicious eateries and Mediterranean beaches, the city tries hard to tempt visitors and next week hosts the annual conference of IOSCO -- the world's financial regulators will debate ways to avoid new crises.

And there's no better time to visit than now, as Tel Aviv, dubbed the first modern Hebrew city, celebrates the centenary of its founding in 1909 by Jewish immigrants to Ottoman Palestine.

The work week starts on Sundays, so weekends typically begin Thursday night. While much of Israel closes from Friday night to Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, many shops, cafes and restaurants in Tel Aviv remain open.

Unless noted otherwise, restaurants are reasonably priced, though dinner reservations are highly recommended.


6 p.m. - Start the evening with a stroll down Rothschild Boulevard. The wide promenade, named after a scion of the banking family who financed early Jewish settlements, is dotted with coffee shops, sushi stands, restaurants and the occasional street performer. Enjoy a stop at Max Brenner (, now a famous chocolate chain. Its 20-page menu is dedicated just to desserts.

At the south end of the boulevard is Independence Hall (, the cramped, modest building where David Ben-Gurion declared Israel's statehood in May 1948 as British rule over Palestine ended in war between Arabs and Jews. Take a detour along any small street to see some of the 1930s Bauhaus buildings that helped earn Tel Aviv a UNESCO World Heritage site designation.

8 p.m. - Enjoy dinner at Nanuchka on Lilienblum Street, a Georgian bistro nearby with unique Black Sea cuisine and charming atmosphere. As the night rolls on, the music gets louder as diners flock to the bar. There are several other pubs, nightclubs and late-night snack joints just around the corner.


9 a.m. - The Hotel Montefiore ( in the center of town is the place to start your day. Its Israeli breakfast of eggs, cheeses, vegetables and fresh juices is a great choice and will give you energy for the entire morning.

10 a.m. - The Diaspora Museum at Tel Aviv University ( tells the story of the Jewish people and the communities they built as they scattered across the globe. A favorite exhibit has detailed models of synagogues from around the world.

12 a.m. - Special on Fridays are a pair of outdoor markets that run parallel to each other in downtown Tel Aviv.

The downtown area was a target of Palestinian suicide bombers in the 1990s and earlier part of this decade. But with the relative calm of recent years it has returned to become a popular spot, crowded with locals and tourists alike.

Down one street is the Carmel market, packed with food, clothes and any kind of houseware you can think of. Customers push their way through in search of the freshest fish, cheapest underwear or biggest pomelo -- a giant relative of the grapefruit popular in Israel -- before Sabbath begins at sunset.

Running parallel is the Nachalat Binyamin Street fair, where scores of artists sell their colorful creations, and musicians and performers entertain passers-by.

1 p.m. - Walk along Shebazi Street in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood, known for its abundance of boutiques and cafes. Take a rest and enjoy a glass of wine at Jajo Vino or just keep walking until you reach the restaurant Dallal ( for a delicious lunch.

3 p.m. - Head to the ancient port of Jaffa (, just south of central Tel Aviv (, just south of central Tel Aviv and now part of the city. It's a half hour walk down the beach, just a few minutes by cab. It still has Arab residents, though most of Jaffa's population fled fighting in 1948 and many ended up in Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, some 50 km (30 miles) to the south. Now artist studios and restaurants dominate Jaffa's Old City. They overlook the old stone harbor and Andromeda's Rock, a spot associated with the Greek myth of the princess being sacrificed to a sea monster.

4 p.m. - Have fun bargaining for all types of antiques and souvenirs at Jaffa's flea market, open late night in the summer. You can find there some good cafes and falafel/shwarma stands. Walk up the hill to St. Peter's Church (, first built in 1654 and twice destroyed since. It is one of the largest buildings in the Old City. It holds daily Mass and is open to the public.

7 p.m. - Stick around Jaffa for dinner as well. For a cheaper meal, head to Dr. Shakshuka right near the clock tower, who specializes in the eponymous dish long loved by Sephardi, or Middle Eastern, Jews. From the word "shake," it's a spicy mixture of eggs, tomatoes and onions -- and deceptively delicious. More pricey restaurants are also nearby, like Yoezer Wine Bar or Cordelia.

9 p.m. - Tel Aviv's own port is a newly renovated boardwalk located at the north end of the city. A lot of money was put into its development and it shows. Finish off the night in one of several outdoor bars, listening to the waves crash against the quay. If you have the energy, venture into one of the port's lounges or nightclubs. The party lasts until sunrise in Tel Aviv.


10 a.m. - Enjoy a relaxed, late breakfast at the beachside restaurant Manta Ray. While it's well known, you can always tell a cab driver it's next to the Etzel Museum, commemorating one of the Jewish militant groups, also known as the Irgun, which fought British troops and local Arabs during the 1940s.

11 p.m. - Tour through the Tel Aviv Museum (, which you'll notice is across the street from Israel's conspicuously located military headquarters. The museum has a wide selection of works, but most of its exhibits focus on Jewish and Israeli art. If you have extra time, see what's playing at the Opera House ( next door.

1 p.m. - Spoil yourself at the restaurant Herbert Samuel, on the street with the same name, overlooking the sea and promenade. You may pay a bit more for great food and service, but you are guaranteed a good time.

3 p.m. - From there, set out in search of a nice spot on the beach to sunbathe and get in some people-watching. Walk along the sections of beach, each with a different feel, until you find one that suits you. The sound of paddleball players and the high flying kites will keep you entertained.

Stop along the way for a refreshing fruit shake at Yotvata on the boardwalk. You may notice one walled-off beach designated for religious bathers -- women or men only on alternating days.

The northern-most beach, Metzitzim, is a safe bet. Stay for a while, there is no better way to end your day than with a Mediterranean sunset.


Its TIME: Tel Aviv is Plain Beautiful

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Time Magazine have this week written about Tel Aviv. Let's let them speak for themselves...

The Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv — all 4,000 of them — are easy to spot. Built from the 1930s to the 1950s, they are curvilinear and sleek like the first-class decks of ocean liners. It's as if a fleet of dazzling white ships had sailed in from the Mediterranean and kept right on going before dropping anchor along Tel Aviv's leafy boulevards.

This is Tel Aviv's centenary year, so the boisterous Israeli seaport is in even more of a party mood than usual. And there are few better ways to celebrate the city than by strolling around its Bauhaus-style landmarks, stopping off at a few sidewalk cafés and restaurants along the way. Tel Aviv's Bauhaus buildings open the door to the mind-set of the early Zionists who went on to create the Jewish nation in 1948. They are elegant 1930s socialism writ in concrete. Many Israelis quip that the dwellings have survived in better shape than the ideals of the nation's founders.

When waves of Jewish immigrants arrived in the 1930s, escaping the rise of Nazism and persecution in Europe, Tel Aviv had to expand to accommodate them. Back then, it was the ancient Arab port of Jaffa, with a few Jewish settlements trying to take root in the nearby swamps and sand dunes. Most of the arriving immigrants were young, poor but fairly well educated and idealistic, and Tel Aviv's city planners sought an egalitarian architectural style in sync with the socialistic winds sweeping through Europe. They turned to Bauhaus. Founded in Weimar in 1919, the International or Bauhaus style rejected the monumental wedding cakes, dripping with decoration, that prevailed in late 19th century architecture. The movement's leaders — Walter Gropius followed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe — sought a new holy grail in design: the unity of form and function, expressed in ways that were modern, simple and sparse.

Tel Aviv was to prove a perfect laboratory for Bauhaus, after urgent tinkering. The young Jewish architects who arrived from Germany, Poland and Russia with blueprints tucked under their arms were used to gloomy winter climes where sunlight was as rare as gold. In Europe, designs were made to trap sunlight, not block it. All that changed on the Palestine Mandate's dazzling shores, where designers realized that the fierce sun and parboiling heat were to be shunned. Gone were the big windows, replaced by narrow strips. Rooftops were given shade, balconies grew overhangs and designs were retooled to let the cool sea breezes meander through. Call it Mediterranean Modern.

Not all the Bauhaus buildings have weathered a half-century's pounding by Tel Aviv's sun and corrosive sea air. Over the years, developers walled in balconies and slopped a few extra floors on top of these once perfect structures. But after the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, Tel Aviv chose over 1,000 of these buildings for preservation and ordered that they be restored to their original shape.

The city is crisscrossed by dozens of streets lined with Bauhaus beauties, so take your pick. Our walk started at the old kiosk on Rothschild Boulevard — a city landmark and a favorite rest stop for late-morning dog walkers. Strolling up the boulevard, we passed more than a dozen Bauhaus buildings with their trademark details, such as the "thermometer" (a glassed-in stairwell rising up the side of the edifice) and the rounded balconies on which you expect a ship's captain and a socialite to appear with martinis. Taking the nautical look to extremes, a few Bauhaus buildings even have a row of portholes running along the side. The clean Modernist lines are usually set off by palm trees, or explosions of magenta and tangerine bougainvillea — a tropical extravagance of color that Gropius and Mies never would have dreamed of in their wintry Weimar. We trust that the dour old minimalists would have approved.

What a great article and a great city!

Why not subscribe to future posts? There are loads of ways to interrace!

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What's Happening in Israel in June

June is another action-packed month in Israel. There's loads going on - this list barely scratches the surface.

5-9 June - the Blue Man Group perform at Tel Aviv's Exhibition Center. This three man group are bald and blue - and that's what makes them special!

12 June - Tel Aviv's Gay Pride Festival takes over town

17 June - Jaffa has its Blues Festival

19 June - one of Israel's most iconic modern singers, Aviv Geffen performs, but this time he's on piano.

20 June - The RS:X Class Windsurfing Championship comes to town.

23 June - Its the GLBT Film Festival

30 June - Joe Jackson comes to Tel Aviv

Have a great month and let us know what you're goind

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Another Israeli Show Makes it Big

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Mayumana is described by many as Israel's answer to Stomp. The gripping percussion show is now making a name for itself outside of Israel. A recent article in Haaretz, explains how the show has progressed onto the world stage and become popular enough to go on many tours. You can now see the shows around the world, but there is probably nowhere better to see them than in Jaffa at the place where it all began. You can read the article below.

Mayumana has come quite a way to reach the point where it's no longer automatically compared to acts like Stomp, Cirque de Soleil and De La Guarda, and instead has begun to share stages with them.

The Mayumana company, which started out 13 years ago with open auditions before friends in Tel Aviv, has grown into an international success story: It employs 100 people around the world, fills auditoriums even in these recessionary times and stars in major ad campaigns (including for Coca Cola and Fiat). Tomorrow, Mayumana will present it's new show, "Momentum," at the Jerusalem Theater, in the first of four Israel Festival performances, each before an audience numbering 1,000.

In keeping with the spirit of Mayumana, "Momentum" combines movement, live music, drumming, humor and tons of rhythm. For the first time, it also includes advanced technologies, which make it a highly complex undertaking and thus more prone to mishaps. "All it takes is for the lighting director to miss a cue for the whole thing to get messed up," says Eylon Nuphar, a founder of Mayumana and co-creator of the show. "But if we were to sit here and count all the things that could go wrong, we'd be here for two days and miss the Israel Festival," she adds with a chuckle.

And there were mishaps. The first time they performed Momentum, in Spain in December, "nothing worked," says Boaz Berman, who founded the ensemble together with Nuphar and was involved in creating the current show. "It uses computer programs and advanced technology. Everything has to work in perfect synchronicity with the sound and lighting, and the actors receive timing instructions via earphones. Essentially, it's really two shows - the one on the stage and the one backstage."

So what did you do?

"We were on the verge of a nervous breakdown," Berman recalls. "Right at the start of the Spanish tour we performed in front of 1,000 people, and only then did we really understand how complicated it was to work with these technologies and how unprepared we were. After that we brought in professionals who worked 24 hours a day, technical guys from England and Holland. By the time we reached Madrid, the show was good. And a month later, it was fantastic. It took some time to stabilize. We were afraid, because the expectations were very high."

Hear the name Mayumana, and the first thing you think of is drums. Indeed, it all began 17 years ago when Nuphar took drum lessons from Berman. As a teenager, Nuphar, a 38-year-old New York native and daughter of a tap dancer, was a gymnast and long-distance runner. In high school she focused on music and theater, and later went on to study photography and video editing, belly dancing and Oriental music both in Israel and elsewhere.

Berman, 46, was born in Tel Aviv. His mother is a pianist, and as a kid he would tap out rhythms on whatever surface came to hand. He, too, has a wide-ranging background: He studied music at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance conservatory, Afro-Cuban drumming in New York, was a member of the Israeli kick-boxing team, competed in surfing competitions in the U.S. and worked as a diving instructor in Tel Aviv. As a young man, he played music with leading Israeli artists such as Yehuda Poliker.

This may explain why the multidisciplinary approach is so key to Mayumana, whose members are dancers who can sing, actors who can dance, and so on.

Shortly after Nuphar and Berman met, they became a couple. In 1996, they decided to form an ensemble that would combine a variety of performing arts skills (hence the name Mayumana - from the Hebrew word meyumanuyot, meaning "skills"). So they gathered some friends together and began practicing in the building that once housed the Limor cinema, next to the Tzavta club in Tel Aviv. "We started with a group of people who we chose, and the two of us were also a part of it, and we started rehearsing," says Berman. "After two or three months we realized that these weren't the people we could continue with. We let them all go except for one, and we held auditions. We auditioned exactly 700 people, out of which we chose six.

"Our goal was to put on a show that would be different from anything else out there. We were so fired up that we were sure we'd succeed. The people who worked with us then did it for free, because they all believed in us. We worked all day every day, and when we had enough material we started doing open presentations to friends on Wednesdays, which evolved from week to week."

At this point, Roy Ofer came on board as Mayumana's producer and he urged them to perform publicly.

Nuphar and Berman may have split up soon before the premiere performance in 1998, which was called "Mayumana," but their joint vision and deep friendship endured. Today, they say that they and their current partners act "like one big family," and often eat Friday night dinner together. The "Mayumana" show was a smash and ran for almost a year at Tzavta, before moving to another venue in Old Jaffa, called Beit Mayumana (previously home to the Gesher Theater).

"As in other matters where we understood relatively early on that we were doing things the right way for us," says Ofer, "we came to the conclusion that we needed our own home theater - even if that was not the conventional way to go. Because going outside means compromising, and we're not prepared to compromise, just to bend. We have our own people who we work with, and we rarely involve people from the outside. On tours abroad, we have our own way of doing things. We don't just perform and leave. We performed in Madrid for eight months, we were in New York for six months, and so on."

Why, in Mayumana, don't you use the term "troupe" or "dance" or "dancers"? Instead you talk about the "company,"movement" and "actors."

"In a troupe, the members all do one specific thing - dancing or drumming or whatever," Berman explains fervently. "With us, everyone does everything, even though on the face of it they're completely disparate - one is a professional dancer, another is the national archery champion, another one's an actor, this one's a contortionist. Our job is to unite them. It's a group of people, not a troupe."

One defining trait of Mayumana, and a reflection of Berman and Nuphar's perfectionism, is a three-hour rehearsal prior to each performance. ("No Broadway ensemble does anything like it," says Berman). They also become closely involved in any ads that they shoot, and insist on a filmed run-through before every television appearance. "From the outset we do things our way," declares Berman. "We don't compromise or cut corners. There was a time when we didn't do any television in Israel, because no one would agree to our demands for a filmed run-through and to speak with the director before the broadcast."

The three partners who run Mayumana devote most of their waking hours to it, but Berman and Nuphar haven't been performing with the group for some time. Berman stopped doing so about a year and a half ago, and Nuphar retired from the stage after she was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. Since recovering, she occasionally lectures about her experience with the illness and is also working on a book.

Nuphar and Berman say the division of labor between them is harmonious. Both do everything and when one needs some time off - such as when Berman's wife gave birth last week - the other gladly steps in. "The division of labor varies from project to project, in accordance with what's going on in our lives," says Nuphar.

Berman adds: "For this show, we also wrote the music. We've been going in a more musical direction and really want to develop that."

In addition to the four teams currently at work around the world (one with the Mayumana show, two with Momentum and one on special projects) - which meet every two years for a vacation at Kibbutz Kfar Blum - the group also runs a volunteer-based therapeutic foundation that combines its defining elements of rhythm, movement and music. Groups the foundation works with include the Bet Ashanti shelter for juveniles in distress, the Kfar Izun drug rehabilitation center, and disabled IDF veterans. They've also established a special ensemble in Jaffa, comprising children from the three major religions.

This wide-ranging activity is perhaps especially surprising given that Mayumana is an entirely privately run group. Ofer says they have never requested any funding from the Culture and Sports Ministry because they have never needed it.

Berman notes that, despite this, "At a lot of events abroad, the state hitches a ride on us. The embassy says, 'Here is Mayumana. They're ours,' without them having contributed a cent or any assistance."

Are they resentful? Not really. Proud is more like it.

"We like extreme sport," says Ofer. "Bungee jumping, jumping out of planes and working on Mayumana - with all of them you're dealing with a similar level of adrenaline, and I'm speaking from experience. Still, we've become a proper company by now - there's no comparison between what we once were and what we are today."
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Pet Shop Boys Coming to Tel Aviv

Monday, 25 May 2009

Tel Aviv seems to be attracting more and more big name acts on their European tours, and is fast becoming a city not-to-miss for artists from around the world.

The latest act to announce they are coming to the city as part of their European tour are the Pet Shop Boys. The British Electric Dance duo will be in the city on July 21 for a single concert which will be held at the Israel Trade Fairs Center in Tel Aviv.

The show will be held as part of the "Pepsi Max Music Show" series with the first 1,000 tickets going for NIS 260. The price for the additional tickets will be higher. "Alive Productions" is bringing the popular duo to Israel.

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Dinner in the Tel Aviv Sky

Three things about Tel Aviv:

  • It has great restaurants
  • Its a fun city
  • It always has to be different and reinvent familiar concepts
If you believe these three things you wont be so surprised about the latest restaurant to open in the city. Named 'Dinner in the Sky' there aren't many restaurants with such literal names, and there aren't many like it in the world - and we can be sure of that!

Modelled after a Belgian restaurant which went up every evening, the Tel Aviv Dinner in the Sky opened this week. Diners get strapped to leather seats attached at the base to a metal table, before being lifted 40 meters into the sky. The views are great (although we havent been up there ourselves) and the experience cannot be matched.

There is a video on the Jerusalem Post website here.

be cool in israel

White Night Wednesday

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Every year "the city which never sleeps" sleeps even less when, as part of the White Night Festival, loads of events happen in Tel Aviv through the night. Its called White Night after the White Bauhaus buildings the city is famous for and if you are in the city this Wednesday, you might find it hard to resist the temptation of slipping out into the night and celebrating for yourself.

Here's a selection of the official events taking place. All events are free unless it says otherwise, and the schedule is subject to change. Check before going to the events.

There's too much to post here so the list of what's going on can be found here but there really is something for everyone, from music - classical to modern, through to sporting and historical events. There are speeches, exhibitions, poetry, tours, and food.

Its a shame we wont be in Tel Aviv this week to see it for ourselves, please let us know how it goes though and what you get up to.

be cool in israel (and have a super-cool white night)

Where to Stay, The Israel Trail, and More

We've been hard at work at Tourist Israel over the last few days. We've added a huge range of new pages to provide even more information about travelling to Israel.

  • The Israel National Trail Stretches the length of Israel from North to South and offers great fun for hikers of all abilities. Whether you want to spend three weeks hiking the length, or just an afternoon doing a small walk, read more here.
  • There are so many hotels in Israel that travellers are often stuck for choice. With such choice, its very easy to miss the coolest hotels which will give the best experience. That's why we've added a small selection of our pick of hotels to the site. You can see where to sleep in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Galilee, Dead Sea, and Eilat.
And there's more to come...

We've also added new functionality for users to give us feedback. This is really helpful for us as we try to shape the future of the site. It gives us ideas of what to add, what to change, and tells us what's good and what's bad.

be cool in israel

Coast to Coast Cycling

Cycling is becoming more and more popular in Israel. More and more trails are opening and existing ones are being constantly upgraded. In fact, every Regional Council has their own cycling guy. Stunning tracks run across the country, suitable for everyone from the most experienced to novice bikers. This one article from Australian Mountain Bike Magazine recounts one such trail, from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee. A snippet of the article is below, or you can read the whole thing here.

Israel isn’t the obvious choice for overseas mountain biking. I, for one would never have expected that this tiny fleck of land wedged into the nexus of Africa and the Middle East and struggling with endless conflict, would even have enough space to build trails, let alone the time and energy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Though it’s a fraction the size of Tasmania, Israel is a land of many scapes – from dusty desert in the south, through undulating semi-arid hills or humid coastal shrubbery in the centre, to fallow fields, fragrant pastures, mountains and snowfields in the north – and even on a relatively short ride, you can end up crossing streams, negotiating soft tilled soil, picking your way through rocks and, as it’s quite densely populated, negotiating traffic. With its immensely varied terrain, and trails a matter of minutes from cities and towns, putting rubber to dirt in Israel is super-accessible.

Israelis are super active and keen on the outdoors, and are increasingly drawn to the knobbly tyre. Riding guides and groups are able to run multi-day trips, taking in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the region, without losing the mud-and-grit emphasis. The Holy Land is becoming a major riding destination. I took a three-day trip northern Israel with the Israel Travel Company, run by ex-Melbournian tour guide Zel Lederman in conjuction with a very professional mountain biking crew: our guide Yoel, and the logistics and catering team, Oded, Guli and Amanda. The route starts at the Carmel National Park behind Haifa (Israel’s third-largest city), overlooking the Mediterranean, to Yardenit on the Jordan River, by the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
For more information on cycling in Israel, see the pages on our site, or alteratively contact a guide such as Zel Lederman (, who carried out the tour from this article.

be cool in israel

Taking the Kids to Israel with the NY Times

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The New York Times this week ran a piece about visiting Israel with the kids. Nothing special there.

The difference was that they wanted to avoid museums as much as possible, yet still have an educational experience for their kids. And keep the vacation fun and adventurous.

“JUMP! Just jump!” I could hear Sarah, my 12-year-old daughter, pleading. My feet were dangling in the air and my body was squeezed into a manhole-sized opening in a dirt floor, with only a flickering candle illuminating the darkness. I grappled around and held my breath before dropping to the ground.

Up ahead, Sarah’s two older brothers were scrambling through a cloud of dust into a hollowed-out chamber dug 2,300 years ago. We were in the remains of Maresha, about 50 miles south of Tel Aviv. Its residents excavated caves to produce limestone for construction, and then created an intricate network of tunnels to connect the caves so they could be used as workshops, storage chambers and reservoirs.

Covered with chalky sediment, we climbed up a rickety wooden staircase and emerged into daylight. Our tour guide had warned that caving wasn’t for the claustrophobic, so the children’s grandmother had remained above ground. “How was it down there?” she asked.

“Like ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ ” responded 14-year-old Charlie.

“No, more like ‘The Temple of Doom,’ ” argued 16-year-old David.

My husband and I shook off the dust and smiled. This was what we hoped for when we booked the trip. Our goal was to learn as much as possible about Israel’s history in 10 days without spending too many precious vacation hours inside museums, temples or churches. We wanted our children’s holiday to have a whiff of adventure. If the caves of Maresha reminded them of Indiana Jones, we were on the right track.

Teenagers thrive on action and intrigue, and Israel fits the bill. The entire country is kid-friendly — lively and colorful, laid back and casual. Outside of some ultra-Orthodox areas, no rigid rules or dress codes apply; you can wear jeans and T-shirts just about anywhere. You can go caving and then show up at a nice cafe for lunch without changing clothes, and nobody cares.

Israel is a young country that has been dogged by regional conflict from its very beginnings. Whether you’re touring ancient archaeological sites or modern military monuments, some discussion of Middle Eastern strife inevitably crops up. Every Israeli — from gun-toting soldiers we met on top of the Golan Heights to tent-dwelling nomads we met in the Judean Desert — has an opinion on the contention, and few refrain from expressing their thoughts.

This continuing dialogue, heightened by endlessly televised news about the conflict, served as a dramatic backdrop for our three-generation trip. We crisscrossed the country, which is about the size of New Jersey. Few destinations offer such a vast array of experiences in such a small space — or so many educational opportunities that feel like plain fun.

We started with an open-air jeep ride up the Golan Heights, which rise steeply from the Sea of Galilee. As we bumped along the rocky terrain, our guide described Israel’s capture of the area during the Six-Day War in 1967. He broke off to jump out and grab a gigantic pomelo off a tree; flicking open a switchblade knife, he served us pieces of the surprisingly sweet, juicy fruit. Nearing the crest, we could see Jordan, Syria and Lebanon spread out below, a grid of roads and fences marking the borders between green and brown patches of land.

We disembarked at Mount Bental and toured the Israeli Defense Forces bunkers used in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. “Look!” Sarah whispered as we entered the situation room. I stumbled, and found myself face to face with an Uzi submachine gun, on the shoulder of a pony-tailed girl barely older than my boys. A group of female soldiers was gathered around a map, conversing in Hebrew. Three pairs of eyes took in every detail: the olive-green fatigues, the polished black boots, the backpacks, the cellphones, the sunglasses . . . and the guns, nonchalantly draped across backs, looped through cargo belts around waists. My children stood riveted, casting sly glances at the soldiers until one broke the ice with a broad grin. They welcomed Sarah into their fold and posed for photos, hands on triggers.

Our Golan Heights excursion unleashed a torrent of questions about the war for independence and Israel’s 1948 declaration of statehood. We found answers at the Ayalon Institute, formerly a clandestine munitions factory built by the Haganah (the pre-independence armed forces) under a kibbutz near Tel Aviv. Restored and opened to the public, the institute is not mentioned in many guidebooks and gets little press. Yet Charlie — who devours detective novels and has twice toured the International Spy Museum in Washington — declared it his favorite site.

The place conveys a real sense of danger; had the Haganah members been discovered, they would have been hanged. The factory operations were concealed by a bakery and laundry; a 10-ton oven and a large washing machine hid entrances to the shop floor, which housed as many as 50 workers who, at the peak, produced 40,000 bullets a day. The noise of the washing machines camouflaged the din of the manufacturing process below ground.

David was especially fascinated by the sunlamps that munitions workers used to get an artificial tan. “It’s like an alibi,” our guide explained. “They pretended to leave the kibbutz each morning to work on a neighboring farm and then they sneaked back into the factory to make bullets. People would be suspicious if they looked too pale.”

Next we traveled to Akko, site of a medieval Crusaders’ fortress and later an Ottoman citadel. When the Turks were defeated by the British in 1918, the fortress became a high-security prison that held Jewish freedom fighters. Today the Underground Prisoners Memorial Museum pays tribute to them. A gloomy, ominous air hangs over the prison cells, with their thick stone walls, iron bars and narrow windows. Our group was mesmerized by the gallows room, with a noose centered over a trapdoor in the floor.

The Akko complex was impressive, but nothing could have prepared us for the majesty of Masada, the sprawling mountaintop fortress built more than 2,000 years ago by King Herod (and later the site of a mass suicide of Jewish defenders besieged by Roman troops). Nimble as a goat, Charlie raced straight up the “snake path” — a trail with sharp switchbacks — in half an hour. It took me another 20 minutes, including water breaks. Our group met at the summit, stunned by the vastness of King Herod’s vision. There were dozens of ruins, many decorated with detailed mosaics and frescoes.

Descending from Masada by cable car, we gazed at the shimmering Dead Sea, the deepest salt lake on earth, sitting 2,621 feet below sea level. No trip to Israel would be complete without a dip in the Dead Sea. At Ein Gedi, one of many day spas dotting the shoreline, we soaked in warm mineral-springs pools, glopped on piles of clammy black mud and bobbed like corks in the sea’s waters. Later, at the gift shop, Sarah insisted on buying a tub of black mud to share with her friends; she was already envisioning a Dead Sea spa party in her bathroom.

We stopped for dinner at Genesis Land, a Biblical-style encampment in the Judean Desert. Here tourists can take a camel trek and eat traditional cuisine under “Abraham’s Tent.” The adults considered it the equivalent of a medieval theme park with fake knights and jousting contests. But the children adored donning Bedouin smocks and sharing shish kebab, hummus and pita bread around low tables.

In Jerusalem, we spent the better part of four days exploring. The walled Old City is informally divided into four quarters — Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish — with a vibrant clash of languages, cultures and religions. During our stay, American visitors were advised to stay out of the Arab market (popular for inexpensive souvenirs) at night because of tensions in the Gaza Strip. Otherwise, we were free to roam.

The highlight was a walking tour of the turreted stone ramparts commissioned by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. We hiked up several steep flights of stairs and inched our way, single file, along the perimeter of the Old City. The ramparts are not for those with vertigo, but they gave us a glimpse of a wholly different side of Jerusalem: a rooftop cityscape with women hanging out wash, children playing soccer and gardeners tending their grape arbors. In the distance was the golden Dome of the Rock; up close was the gleaming marble Citadel, another gift from the great King Herod.

Our last stop in Jerusalem was at the Western Wall tunnels, a series of hidden passages — only recently opened to the public — that peel away layers of history to reveal the full length of the Western Wall from the Herodian period. The children were amazed to learn that the same King Herod who built the mountaintop fortress at Masada had also engineered the grand expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. As we strolled the ancient cobblestone street that ran along the Temple Mount, Charlie let out a low whistle. “King Herod was the man,” he said. “Can you imagine what he would build if he were around today?”
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Condé Nast Traveler says Viva Tel Aviv

There's a huge article in the June edition of Conde Nast Traveler dedicated to Tel Aviv. We've picked out some interesting bits, or you can read the full article here.

Tel Aviv is a city of paradoxes, which makes for a productive creative tension. The first is that it is the center of modern Hebrew culture, where a new national identity was forged, but it's also extremely internationally minded. Most young people speak English and travel as often and as far as they can. Perhaps it's because Tel Aviv faces the ocean, and the west. And also because Israel's Arab neighbors either don't allow Israelis in or are considered too dangerous to visit. When the neighborhood is out of bounds, the wider world seems much more approachable. "Somehow the distance from here to New York or Berlin seems shorter than to Jerusalem or Haifa," says my dinner companion Shlomzion Kenan. A novelist and former book critic for the daily newspapers Ha'aretz and Yediot Aharonot, Shlomzion is a veteran of the Tel Aviv literary scene. Her sister, Rona Kenan, is one of Israel's best-known singers. "Tel Aviv is less nationalistic and more of a melting pot. It's a really international city, a place where cultures meet and evolve."


The second paradox is that Tel Aviv was founded by ascetic Zionist pioneers but is now one of the world's most pleasure-seeking cities. In its early years, there were plenty of cafés serving coffee and cakes to German and Austrian immigrants, sweating in their suits, pining for Berlin and Vienna, but few luxury restaurants. For a long time after the establishment of the state in 1948, there was little food culture. Meat and even fresh eggs were an expensive treat. Israel was virtually a one-party quasi-Socialist state. Bourgeois pleasures were frowned upon. Meals were fuel, taken quickly. No longer, I discover the next day at Orna and Ella, a restaurant on Sheinkin Street, the hub of The Bubble and Tel Aviv's hip, sexy heart. Outside the window, a parade of tanned, pierced beauties of both sexes stroll by. "Israel is a young country—we're not like France or Italy, where food is part of the culture and they are very proud of it. Dealing with food, and the joy of food, was considered something bad," says gastro journalist Keren Tsur, over Orna and Ella's legendary sweet potato pancakes.


The center of modern Jaffa is Clock Tower Square, the heart of a multimillion-dollar renovation program launched by the Tel Aviv municipality. The improvements are steadily rippling out: Just a few years ago, the shops flanking the square were empty or derelict. As property prices soar in Tel Aviv, young couples are moving to Jaffa. The shops in Clock Tower Square now house tony boutiques and antiques vendors. The flea market is packed with tourists browsing everything from 1930s furniture to Oriental carpets. Tel Aviv municipal bureaucrats may be overkeen on skyscrapers, but they have also realized that Jaffa is an asset. "I hear the buildings talking to me," says Eyal Ziv, the architect in charge of renovation, with a laugh. "One after another, they ask me to restore them." Eyal grew up in Old Jaffa and has a rare passion for his work. "Restoration is like a coral reef. We start with a centerpiece building, and it spreads out around it. This is not just about buildings—it's about people. You have to go with the vibrations, work with them and not against them. I listen to what the people want and also what the area says to me." What was once a Turkish prison is becoming a luxury hotel, and the old train station, long unused, is being renovated with space for artists. The run-down port is being transformed into a hip seafront district.

be cool in israel

Another Take on the Pope's Visit

Friday, 15 May 2009

If you didnt already know that the Pope has been in Israel this week, you do know. This has sparked huge talk and interest in the Holy Land for lots of reasons including talk of it as a pilgramage destination for Christians. The Daily Show talked about the Pope's visit the other day, and really explained things well...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Roadus Triptum
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

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Lost on Tel Aviv Beach

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Sometimes we get bored, sometimes we are passionate. It doesnt really matter what the reason is though, when the result can only be described as incredible!

Three fans of the TV show Lost decided, that to mark the finale of the fifth season of the show, they would recreate the entire cast of the program...on Tel Aviv beach!

Revital Falke, an artist, created the figurines from modeling clay; Yaron Jacobson, a blogger, helped with recreating the scene; and Amit Herman, a photographer, documented the entire process.

We cant get pictures sadly, but if you click here, there are loads to see.

be cool in israel

Let's Talk Music

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Madonna, Macy Gray, and Leonard Cohen will all be in Israel over the next few months. American music is really popular in Israel.

Increasingly, however, Israeli music seems to be becoming popular in the US. Idan Raichel, an Israeli musician who creates music with artists from a range of communities from around the world, has recently released a new album Within My Wall. The album includes singers from backgrounds as diverse as Colombia and Ivory Coast. And best of all, it seems to have become popular outside of Israel.

Having reached #1 on iTunes World chart, #1 on Amazon World and Dance/Electronic charts, #15 Amazon–all music chart, its becoming a phenomenan.

NRP music recently interviewed him

Israeli music producer Idan Raichel collaborates with many musicians from around the world. So far, he has worked with more than 90 artists.

"I see myself as the director of many, many scenes," he says. "We are 90 musicians: The youngest is 16 years old, and the eldest are 64, 79, 83 and 89 years old. For those listeners who are not familiar with the Israeli society, we are all kinds of immigrants. So we have singers from the Ethiopian community in Israel, and musicians from the Moroccan community. And we are proud to have all these singers joining us by MySpace, or by just writing to our Web site."

It's all part of his ongoing recording work with what he calls The Idan Raichel Project. Raichel (pronounced RYE-kell — "with phlegm," he says) writes, arranges and performs on many of the songs, but he works with a far-reaching cast of musicians to record his compositions.

Raichel says he started to play the accordion at age 9 because he loved gypsy music. By the time he was 18, he was serving a mandatory military stint in the Israeli army — where he joined the army rock band. Now, at 31, he's a platinum-selling artist in Israel.

Here, he speaks with host Liane Hansen about The Idan Raichel Project's latest album, Within My Walls. Featured on it are singers from Colombia, Rwanda and the Cape Verde Islands — as well as from within Israel.

"You can compare it to a huge stage — opera stage," he says. "In every second, there are so many actors — sometimes the set is so big and colorful — and so many singers. And the director's job is just to focus each time; to get the focus on someone else. But it's all happening all the time."

For more, see the Idan Raichel website,

be cool in israel

Madonna Concert in Israel

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Depeche Mode this week, Macy Gray next, Leonard Cohen in September, and now, its been announced that Madonna plans to extend her Sticky and Sweet tour to include Israel.

The singer will put on a one-night performance, but her trip to Israel will last a few days during which she will visit various sites. According to speculations, Madonna will be landing in Tel Aviv a week before her show and stay in Israel during Yom Kippur.

The Sticky and Sweet concert includes over two hours of Madonna singing her greatest hits from throughout her career, and a gypsy section with symbols from Judaism displayed on a large screen in the background.

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What's Happening in Israel in May

Sorry its a bit late, but this is the first of our monthly run-downs of what is happening in Israel each month.

10 May - Depeche Mode are performing in Tel Aviv. They arrived yesterday and their concert is hotly awaited.

11 May - Lag B'Omer - celebrated across Israel with barbeques this festival is a real family occasion.

14 May - The Tel Aviv Philarmonic Orchestra celebrates the city's 100th birthday

20 & 22 May - Macy Gray performs in Jerusalem on May 20th for the Student Day Festival with Geva Alon, Idan Reichel,Yehudit Ravitz and Shalom Hanoch and then on 22nd in Tel Aviv

17 May - Eilat Parade

24 May - The Israel Festival kicks off

27 May - Enjoy Tel Aviv White Night when the city becomes even more 24/7

28 May -30 May - Abu Gosh Choral Music Festival - one of Israel's most

Have a great month.

Normally the Air Force Fly in Formation to Celebrate...

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Israel isnt like most countries. Anyone whose visited will tell you that it is really a land like no other, where anything can and has been accomplished. From technological inventions (including Microsoft and Google software, VOIP, Antivirus, Firewall etc) to health advancements (Teva is the world's largest generic drug maker), Israel makes inroads in all fields.

Last week, something else incredible happened. We could have a blog for every time Israel continues to amaze us - but this was very cool.

In celebration of Israeli Independence day, there was a special flyover along the Mediterranean Coastline. Usually in Israel and most other countries, something like this would be organized by the Air Force. But not in Israel this year.

El Al, who arent even officially Israel's National Airline, decided they would organize a flyover of their own. As the picture shows, they flew 4 Boeing jets along Israel's coastline from Ashkelon in the south, over Tel Aviv, to Netanya in the north.

So come and be cool in Israel - it'll be full of surprises, and you'll never know what you'll see or hear next!

Tourist Israel

Focus on: Golan Heights

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The latest page on Tourist Israel, Israel's Cool Travel Guide is dedicated to the Golan Heights. We suggest you read it in context at

The Golan Heights rises up to the East of the Sea of Galilee. Eagles are nesting at Gamla, and dear are roaming at Odem, whilst man gazes at the spectacular landscape from Mount Bental and skis at Mount Hermon. The Golan is a land of beauty.

Ski @ Mount Hermon

Mount Hermon Ski Resort, Israel's only ski resort has 50 days of skiing a year in the winter months. Whilst not a world-class resort, it is pretty cool to be able to ski less than three hours away from the desert, and attracts almost 300,000 visitors a year. The resort is also open in the summer months and is really popular for its diversity of plant life and magnificent views. The lifts are open all year round so if you're there in summer, you can hike and swim in the many streams. In spring the plains are at their most beautiful, carpeted with multi-colored flowers. In autumn the cooler weather attracts hikers to the many wooded trails.


A national park with a difference! On a rocky camel-shaped outcrop, it is the site of a Jewish city founded 2000 years ago. Dubbed the 'Masada of the North' by some, the site is one of Israel's many gems not so much for its antiquities but for something else. Its stunning views, and observatory attract bird enthusiasts from around the world coming to see the Griffon Vulture (as well as the view of course!)

Mount Bental

Bental offers literally breathtaking views across both Israel's Galilee and the flat plains of Syria. A cafe here called Koffee Anan is a clever pun - it means Coffee in the Clouds in Hebrew, and is the name of the past head of the UN - you'll see the significance of this if you visit.


The Banias waterfall is known as one of Israel's most tranquil spots (and after seeing Israel you'll realise just how amazing it must be.) Not only can you take some relaxing walks here, but also realise its importance in the New Testament.

Some More on the Pope

In case you've not already realised, the Pope is coming to Israel next week.

With him are expected to come 10,000 Christian pilgrims.

He will be travelling across the country visiting the following sites:

  • Jerusalem
  • Yad Vashem Museum
  • The Temple Mount & Western Wall
  • The Church of Dormition, site of the Last Supper.
  • The Latin Patriarch
  • Gethsemane Church and Garden of Gethsemane
  • Bethlehem
  • Nazareth
  • Church of the Annunciation
  • Church of the Holy Sepulcher
For any Christian, these sites are all of great biblical importance and seeing them for real brings the scriptures to life. Whether you focus on religious sites, or just throw a few into a leisure trip, you're bound to have a great time in Israel.

The World's Oldest Patch of Earth - in the Negev

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Unchanged for 2 million years, an area of ground in the Negev desert has been found by researchers to be the oldest unchanged area of earth. The NY Daily News reports:

If only they could pave highways with this stuff.

Scientists have discovered a patch of the earth's surface that remains virtually the same as it was 1.8 million years ago - and it looks pretty good for its age.

Researchers are calling an expanse of "desert pavement" in Israel's Negev Desert the oldest continuous surface on earth, the current issue of the journal GSA Bulletin reports.

Most of the earth's surface is constantly, if not always rapidly, evolving - through erosion, volcanic activity, the movement of tectonic plates underneath the earth's surface, and just plain old weather.

But an unusual feature of deserts, which have little tectonic activity and terrain that's resistant to their hot, dry weather, is that large surfaces of ground can remain virtually the same for millions of years.

"This is something we were not sure about until now," Ari Matmon, who headed up the study, told

Matmon's team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem confirmed the age of the terrain by measuring concentrations of an isotope found only on the earth's surface. It also indicates how long the surface has been exposed to the elements.

The patch of terrain is four times older that the next oldest areas of desert, in Nevada, reported, though there are individual rocks much older than any patch of ground. Those remain the oldest objects on earth.

Early Plans for a Trans-Israel Railway

Monday, 4 May 2009

Israel's Minister of Transport presented a big plan for a nationwide railway network todat. It wont be built right away, but will be finished by 2020. This exciting plan will include railway lines to Eilat in the south and Kiryat Shmona in the north as well as a Jezreel Valley line, Acre-Carmiel line, and an eastern line along Road 6 (the Cross-Israel Highway), as well as a fourth track along the current Ayalon Highway section of line in Tel Aviv.

He also announced that the currently delayed Tel Aviv light rail project, is being worked on and he will ensure that it gets underway.

We look forward to riding the rails

The Jesus Trail Opens Ahead of Pope's Visit

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The Pope is set to visit Israel shortly, and he, like anybody else will now be able to take a walk in the footsteps of Jesus. The Jesus Trail is a new, 40 mile long walking trail in the Galilee in Northern Israel. From Nazareth, Jesus' home town, it winds through pretty towns, villages, and agricultural settlements, places mentionned in the New Testament.

The trail is a fantastic idea! A way of combining the religion and history of the Galilee with its stunning landscapes in an active way. It is perfect not only for Christians on pilgramage but anyone else who wants a hiking route!

Tour Guide Moaz Inon who planned the trail said "we believe by hiking and walking the trail, you will be able to meet and interact with the multicultural nature of the people that are living in the Galilee today".

ABC News have run a story on the trail, and here are some of the places they most liked.

Our first stop on the trail was the ancient Roman city of Sephoris. It was the main local town in Jesus' day, as well as the headquarters of the local Roman government. Jesus would have been a regular visitor and some now think he may even have worked in the town as a carpenter.

Then we came to Cana, the location for Jesus' first miracle, the turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana mentioned in John's gospel.

The trail winds through the narrow streets and alleys marked by special yellow and white markings.

Further on we came to the Horns of Hittin, a famous topographical landmark. This time no biblical reference, but the very spot where, in 1187, the famous Muslim military leader Salahaddin defeated the Crusaders, signalling a bloody end to the Second Crusade.

From this dramatic high ground, there are breathtaking views down to the Sea of Galilee. When I walked the trail, it was warm and I was grateful for the cooling breeze. I wouldn't recommend it for July and August.

The trail's organizers hope for 5,000 visitors this year, but more than 100,000 a year within the next decade. They have already had hundreds of walkers, and e-mails from across the world are streaming in with inquiries.

When the final stretch of the trail hits the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, you start coming across some of the most famous places in Jesus' ministry. On a hill above the sea, the Mount of Beatitudes marks the spot where Jesus delivered the famous Sermon on the Mount.

Several hundred yards below lies Tabgha, where the gospels of Mark and Matthew tell the parable of the loaves and the fish, and the feeding of the 500.

Guiding me along the route was researcher Anna Dintaman, who is busy writing a guide for the trail. She knows the trail better than anyone, which she says gives her a special insight.

"Even when you come on a tour bus, you still feel it's the biblical Disneyland or something; but when you're walking and see there's real people living, there's real agriculture, real business, I think that puts you in touch with the reality of the history," she said.

The trail finishes at Caperneum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. When I finally got there, the sun was setting and it was difficult not to be affected by the beauty of the landscape. Whatever the strength of your religious belief, the Jesus Trail is a fascinating tour of this part of the Holy Land; just remember, don't try it in the summer.

The trail sounds great and as soon as we get a chance to visit, we'll post more on the site. The site of the trail with route details and more information is:

If you have any experience of the trail, questions or any other comments let us know either by posting a reply to this post or sending an email.

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