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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

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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.

be cool in israel

The Toronto Star Visits Tel Aviv

Another big newspaper, another great review of Tel Aviv. The Toronto Star just visited the city and here is what they had to say:-

TEL AVIV–It's a Wednesday evening and the trendy Boya restaurant is bustling.

Located in this Mediterranean city's upscale port area, Boya is the hot place to be and be seen – where diners sit on terraces watching the sun set while eating tapas dishes laid out in neat rows along the seawall.

This is where the city's inexhaustible nightlife begins and ends – usually in the wee hours of the morning.

It typifies what Tel Aviv is for both the young and the young at heart. Even though it celebrates its 100th birthday this spring, the city is still in its infancy in a country that often counts its years by the thousands.

"Israel is a country of contrasts, and those contrasts are magnified here," explains Rivka Cohen Berman, our ever-patient guide, during our eight-day visit that starts in the country's fun capital, Tel Aviv.

The name of the city itself describes the country's complexities, she says. In Hebrew, a "tel" is a mound of ancient ruins and "aviv" means spring, so really Tel Aviv means "Old New Land." The name was meant to symbolize the rebirth of the Jewish people in the Middle East.

Even before Tel Aviv built its first road (some say it was Herzl St., named for Zionist pioneer Theodore Herzl), there was its older sister Jaffa, located immediately to the south and connected to Tel Aviv by an amazing boardwalk along the Mediterranean Sea.

Jaffa is a small but ancient port that tradition says was built by Japhet, the son of Noah (of ark fame).

The oldest working port in the world, Jaffa is strategically located between Asia, Africa and Europe and over its history has been ruled by ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Greeks, Crusaders, Ottomans, British and – finally – the modern state of Israel.

Tel Aviv, on the other hand, is a contrast in modernism, including its architecture (the city is home to one of the world's best collection of Bauhaus-style buildings), upscale shopping, fashionable restaurants, and, of course, its booming nightlife.

Which brings me back to the Boya restaurant, where we sip wonderful Israeli wine and nosh on seafood and pasta and the most fabulous molten chocolate cake – all before heading out for a night on the town.

Although our group picks one of the quieter spots to sit outside, sipping a cocktail and watching the world go by, Tel Aviv has a couple of very famous nightspots, including the legendary Whisky a Go Go, where Israel's top celebrities like to dance the night away. But be warned, the action usually doesn't get started until after 1 a.m.

Israelis love food and in Tel Aviv they celebrate the art of dining. A multicultural city with immigrants from more than 100 countries, its food choices are truly eclectic and chefs take great pride in teasing taste buds with exotic culinary creations.

The city is not kosher – shellfish is widely available (although pork is still scarce) – and from Friday evening until Saturday evening, known as Shabbat or Sabbath, when most everything in Israel stops, the restaurants and clubs in Tel Aviv are still hopping.

After our late night, we're up bright and early the next morning to head out for a tour of the city's famous Bauhaus buildings, designed between 1924 and 1939, when a group of graduates from the Bauhaus School of Art and Design in Germany came to Tel Aviv. The buildings make up what is locally known as the "White City" – 4,000 buildings that boast some of the finest examples of Bauhaus architecture in the word.

Our walking trip starts at one of the city's many Espresso Bar kiosks, where young men and women leisurely sip cappuccinos and lattes.

Cohen Berman leads us along Rothschild Blvd., where the best examples of the Bauhaus style stand, all sporting their trademark box-like balconies, straight lines, flat roofs and wooden shutters.

At the intersection of Sheinken St., one of the trendiest in the city, Cohen Berman points out that many tourists come to the area to soak up the city's cosmopolitan flavour and engage in retail therapy.

But the shopping in the old Carmel market, known in Hebrew as Shuk HaCarmel, is much more fun. The largest open-air market in Israel, the Carmel is always bustling with shoppers loading up on everything from second-hand clothing to some of the finest olives, cheeses, baked goods, nuts and fruit available.

Just 60 kilometres from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is also the commercial centre of Israel.

It also boasts a world-renowned philharmonic, theatre companies, an opera company and many museums, including Israel's Diaspora Museum, the Museum of Art, Museum Ha'aretz, the Nahum Gutman of Art and the Rubin Museum.

This really is a city of amazing contrasts.

Caesarea's New Golf Course Opens

Friday, 1 May 2009

Caesarea's 18 hole golf course has been rebuilt by renowned golf course designer Pete Dye and was opened today!

"I normally design golf courses for a client but as this is Israel's only 18 hole golf course, I have designed this course for an entire country!", stated Pete Dye on his site visit to Caesarea in 2008.

The course is 7,163 yards ( 6,512 metres) long off the tips but can be played from four sets of tees all the way up to a more welcoming 5,266 yards ( 4,787 metres). Whereas the previous course had no water features, the Dye course has two holes where water comes into play. Another factor which will add greatly to the pleasure of playing the course will be that the variety of grass has been changed from a hostile kikuyu to a far friendlier and less water consuming paspalum which permits the links style of golf to be playable, the ball responding to the humps and hollows on its way to the flag. Although friendlier than most Pete Dye courses, the Dye trademark bunkers dot the course and provide hazards for wayward shots.

One of the key new features is a spacious double-ended practice range, short game practice area and an attractive nine hole par three course equally designed by Pete Dye and his Associate, Tim Liddy.

"We are delighted with the new Caesarea Golf Club course", stated Caesarea PGA Golf Professional, Andy Santos. "The design of the links style course is spectacular and can be enjoyed by both low handicappers and beginners. The new paspalum grass is excellent and course conditions will be much, much better than in the past."

Caesarea Golf Club will host the 18th playing of the World Maccabiah Games in July when the best Jewish golfers from over 20 countries throughout the world come to Caesarea to test their skills against the new Caesarea course.

With a world class golf course, another box can be ticked for those golfers looking to travel to the Holy Land.

Be Cool in Israel

Mad About You Israel says Paul Reiser

Paul Reiser, star of the award-winning television series Mad About You, visited Israel lsat month, going to Haifa, the Dead Sea, Masada and Jerusalem.

“It looks better, it looks younger, snappier,” says Reiser, who made the trip his first overseas trip with family for some time. He went on to say "It's amazing. It's like no other place."

Another visitor stunned by Israel!
be cool in israel