Beauty and the Beach

An architectural masterpiece  on Tel Aviv’s coastline canvas will enhance the city among the leading cultural capitals of the world

By David E. Kaplan

It is said that the 21st century is destined to be the century of cities rather than countries. This forecast is evident in the vocabulary of today’s tourists –  at least before Corona –  of visiting Paris, Barcelona, St. Petersburg or Shanghai rather than mentioning the countries in which they are situated – France, Spain, Russia or China!

Down by the Riverside. On the banks of the Yarkon River and a few steps from the sea, Tel Aviv’s future World’s Jewish Museum.

More than half the world’s population has already moved to cities and this is expected to rise to 80% by the middle of this century. With so many cities vying for center stage, Tel Aviv is now going beyond its branding of being the “Bauhaus Capital of the World” – reflecting early 20th century clean, utilitarian architecture – to an uncertain and exciting future of flirtations and fluctuations. This has given rise to one of the most poignant descriptions of Tel Aviv as a city “waking up each morning and deciding what it’s going to be.” The  new spectacular sculptures ascending to the heavens across the Tel Aviv landscape,  attest to this branding and in a few short years’ time, there will be a major addition that encapsulates the city’s essence and affirms its rising global status. That addition will be the new  World’s Jewish Museum designed by the legendary award-winning Canadian-born American architect – Frank Gehry, whose masterpieces have disrupted the very meaning of design within architecture. These “disruptions”  are powerfully projected in such monumental works as the La Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

It was hoped before the Corona pandemic that this world-scale museum, cultural and entertainment center would have been completed before May 2023, in time for the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence. However, when completed, the World’s Jewish Museum on the 22-dunam (5.5-acre) site overlooking the Mediterranean along the bank of the Yarkon River at the northwestern edge of Hayarkon Park and steps from the Namal ( Port of Tel Aviv), will be the hub of cultural and recreational activity and the heart of the city’s vibrant waterfront.

Marvel on the Med. Adjacent to the Medetrrnean and the Hayarkon Park that attracts over 15 million visitors a year,  a model of Tel Aviv’s  World’s Jewish Museum.

While engendering great excitement, there are however, those that remind us that society cries out with so many pressing needs from education and health to socio-economic inequalities and criticize the need for such expansive and expensive adventures.

There is however a strong counter argument.

Look to Bilbao in Spain and what Gehry achieved for the status of that city and just as important – the benefit for Bilbao’s citizens!  

From Bilbao to Tel Aviv

Architects and city developers talk about the “Bilbao Effect” referring to the “WOW factor” that followed the opening in 1997 of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in northern Spain. From being a lack-luster industrial city totally off the tourist’s map, Bilbao emerged virtually overnight as one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Frank Gehry’s stunning monumental structure hailed as “one of the most admired works of contemporary architecture” and which the late esteemed architect, Philip Johnson, called “the greatest building of our time”, rapidly reversed the city’s fortunes which had fallen victim to an industrialization that had either aged or moved elsewhere. Within the first year, the museum with its distinctive titanium curves and soaring glass atrium attracted over 1,300,000 visitors exceeding all expectations and infusing $160 million into the local economy. In its first five years, the Museum generated more than a billion US dollars for the Basque country, more than ten times the museum’s cost. Whatever the staggering costs of financing alluring cultural magnets, the returns far exceeded the outlay. Widely credited in putting Bilbao on the map, Gehry’s masterpiece has subsequently inspired other iconic structures around the world, which will soon be joined by the World’s Jewish Museum in Tel Aviv.

Maestra and Masterpiece. Famed architect Frank Gehry with a model of the future World’s Jewish Museum in his office.

Back to the Roots

It may at first seem strange that Gehry, who doesn’t identify as Jewish, took on a uniquely Jewish project in the Jewish homeland?

His explanation is a long journey – nearly as complex as his architectural designs, but it includes this admission:

 “There’s a curiosity built into the Jewish culture. I grew up under that. My grandfather read Talmud to me. That’s one of the Jewish things I hang on to probably— that philosophy from that religion. Which is separate from God. It’s more ephemeral. I was brought up with that curiosity. I call it a healthy curiosity. Maybe it is something that the religion has produced. I don’t know. It’s certainly a positive thing.”

What intrigues the architect  – who was born Frank Goldberg – is that “The Talmud starts with the word ‘WHY’.”

So little surprise that on the model of the museum sitting in Gehry’s offices, the word Lamah (“why” in Hebrew) is carved into one of the buildings, although the architect remains usure whether it will be included in the final construction.  

 Reframing the Jewish Narrative and Showcasing Achievement. Gail Asper holding a World’s Jewish Museum folder in the Frank Gehry-designed Galleria Italia at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in March, 2018. (Photo by Etye Sarner).

Fellow Canadian Gail Asper of the Asper Foundation – the visionary behind the museum – explains that “The site will have the greatest story that’s never been told about the Jewish people. It will celebrate the joys not the oys. The museum is more about how Jewish values have transformed and improved the world.” 

For Asper, having Gehry bring her vision to fruition “is like hearing angels sing,” she says. “Frank immediately loved the vision. I know that beautiful architecture inspires the soul and Frank designs incredibly breathtaking, inspiring buildings. I love Bilbao. I love the Disney Concert Hall. I love what he does. And for all the countries in the world to not have some extraordinary breathtaking Frank Gehry building, Israel absolutely deserves that. And Israelis deserve that. They put up with an awful lot living in Israel. They pay high taxes. They’re dodging rockets, even in Tel Aviv.” 

Inside Story. An artist’s impression of the inside of the World’s Jewish Museum Tel Aviv.

The Museum will provide a cutting-edge, educational and inspirational experience that explores the contributions that Judaism, the Jewish people and Israel have made to civilization in numerous fields over the past 3,500 years, from the Bible to enterprise, science, education, culture and social justice. Says Gehry:

Most of the buildings until this point to represent Jewish causes and issues have included the Holocaust  because that was such a searing, burning, terrible issue in our lives. This museum will really be about celebrating the achievements of this culture over time, and some of it is extraordinary, and a lot of it has not been told as it will be in this museum.”

Shape of things to Come

Gehry is passionate about restoring art back into architecture. He laments that “a lot of the world no longer considers architects as artists. So I think what’s needed is architects who are artists.” Historically, he asserts, “architecture was considered an art”, but that changed following WWII when “it got mixed up with other issues like commercial developers.” In the aftermath, a debate has persisted over whether architecture is an art or just the creation of a solid structure for the benefit of society.  For Gehry it is both as we will one day see and be bedazzled by the allure of his first building in Israel, Tel Aviv’s World’s Jewish Museum. Israelis and tourists from abroad will visit the museum to see the building  as much as its exhibits within. The packaging will be no less fascinating than its contents. This was the case of Bilbao.

Taste of Tel Aviv to Be. Gail Asper with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, center, and Moe Levy, executive director of the Asper Foundation in Winnipeg. (Courtesy)

Alluring Architecture

Since the Bilbao success –  a deliberate choice in using contemporary high-profile architecture as a tourist draw card – the term, ‘Architourism’ has gained currency. There is no doubting the seductive value of these highly photogenic and iconic buildings  to lure visitors. Apart from Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, one has only to think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York, Danish architect, Jørn Utzon’s Opera House in Sydney, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Cesar Pelli’s Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur that has featured in movies and TV productions, most notably the film Entrapment, where the building ‘starred’ alongside the late Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones.

The building was no less the star of the show!

There is no denying the power of man-made marvels capturing people’s imagination. From ionic structures in ancient times such as the Acropolis and Colosseum to the more  modern examples such as the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or Empire State Building, all achieved celebrity status as powerful visual metaphors of their cities. Imaginative architecture brands a city to lure visitors and commerce.

Success of Structure. Hardly any other city has benefited from a museum as much as Bilbao. The Guggenheim Museum has made Bilbao so alluring that it attracts millions of tourists annually  from all over the world.

In a few years, adding to this illustrious list of iconic global edifices, will be Frank Gehry’s World’s Jewish Museum that will further lift Tel Aviv to new prominence in the world of contemporary design.

I marveled at this thought when last Friday morning, I stared at the vacant sight where construction has yet to begin and with the model of the museum in my mind, thought  of Tel Aviv’s exciting tomorrows.


World’s Jewish Museum architect and visionary Frank Gehry discusses his vision for the design of the building.






While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

Tel Aviv on Track

Tracking history, City launches new railway park

By David E. Kaplan

While the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo (Jaffa) is never boring – known as “the city that never sleeps” – boring is exactly what is happening in Tel Aviv these days as the city works on constructing its underground railway.  They even roped in the spirit of Israel’s fourth Prime Minister, Golda Meir, for the formidable task by officially naming one of the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) – “GOLDA”. While the endearing characteristics of  the “strong-willed, straight-talking grey-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people” takes on all that stands in her subterranean way, on the surface, the city’s landscape is being enriched with a special park memorialising  its colourful railway legacy.

Railtrack to Footpath. Park Hamesila (“Train Track Park”) meanders through downtown Tel Aviv with Jaffa in the background.

Located in the southwestern part of the city between the trendy Neve Tzedek quarter and Eilat Street in the vicinity of the historic German Templer neighbourhood of Valhalla, stands the new Park Hamesila. In Hebrew, the “Train Track Park”, it is named for the first railway between Jaffa and Jerusalem, which was inaugurated in 1892.

Past and Present. A train powered by a steam locomotive on the railroad tracks in Tel Aviv in 1945 (left). Park Hamesila (the tracks park) in Tel Aviv, seen from the air in 2020.(Zoltan Kluger and Tomer Applebaum)

Due to the current Corona virus lockdown, the first stretch of the park has not been formally dedicated, although many members of the public have flocked there in recent weeks.

Taking a walk in this park is a stroll down memory lane as one recalls its fascinating history.

Off the Beaten track

Buried by urbanisation and long forgotten by modern day Tel Avivians, the past has now come alive on a revived track that once steam locomotives, transported merchants, tourists, pilgrims and visiting dignitaries and statesmen from the ancient port of Jaffa to the ancient city of Jerusalem. Today, this same stretch is abuzz with joggers, cyclists, parents pushing prams and the most common site of Tel Aviv, the dog and its beloved owner.

Early Days. Constructing the original railway line in Jaffa in the late nineteenth century.

In 1913, some 180,000 passengers passed on this stretch of track on route to Jerusalem. An illuminating thought is that of inflation. A beer or ice-cream today would cost more than a first-class ticket back then – that is, 50 grush (cents) for a special cabin and 30 grush for a second-class ticket.

Not all however, were impressed with the service!

Hemda Ben-Yehuda writing in the ‘HaZvi’ newspaper in 1907 was one unhappy traveler accusing the developers of “scrimping”:

The really terrible thing, is that the railway is lacking a number of truly necessary things. Where, for example, is the drinking water in the railcars… ashtrays for cigarette ash? And last but not least, where, I respectfully inquire, is the lavatory?”

A far more intellectually elevated assessment of the railway was that of another Ben-Yehuda – the esteemed  Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922) – the celebrated reviver of Hebrew as a modern language.

During its initial construction, Ben-Yehuda, who saw the laying of the track as a symbol of the victory of enlightenment, and who coined the Hebrew word for train, “rakevet’, wrote in his newspaper Ha’or the following:

The roar of the engine is the roar of the victory of education over ignorance, work over sloth, wisdom over vanity, progress over backwardness, the mind over foolishness, a victory of the pure and health-giving spirit over the spirit of polarization and bitterness, a victory of the educated over the foolish. Let those who are enlightened rejoice, the educated of Jerusalem!”

Not too far from this new park, is HaTachana, the city’s first train station. Hidden from the public eye for well over half a century, HaTachana, was reopened in 2010 to the public. Situated between the fashionable Neve Tzedek neighbourhood and the alluring Mediterranean Sea, the historic train station complex is again bustling – a main junction no more for travelers but for revelers, out for a good time at HaTachana’s pubs, restaurants and boutique shops.

Trip Down Memory Lane. Nineteenth century Jaffa railway station and tracks restored.

The idea to lay railway tracks in Palestine was initially proposed by the Jewish British financier, banker and philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore back in 1839, after the first public railway was constructed in England. In order to develop modern industry, Montefiore was well aware that a major hurdle was the lack of suitable transport for machinery and raw materials – hence a modern railway was the obvious solution. However, negotiating with the Ottoman Turks for a license proved a bureaucratic nightmare and took a further 51 years for the first track to be laid on the 82-km long route from Jaffa to Jerusalem. Montefiore, for whom Israel is so indebted for his contribution to much of its development in the 19th century, would not live to see the fruits of his vision. The license to build was finally awarded in 1888 by the Turkish Sultan, Abel el-Hamid to Yossef Navon who was able to raise the necessary capital from Europe in order to lay the tracks and build the stations. It was close to a four-hour ride and when that first train rolled into Jerusalem to the welcoming applause of local residents, it heralded a new age of modern transportation.

Staying on Track. The path for pedestrians follows  the nineteenth century tracks  that  connected the ancient port of Jaffa with the ancient city of Jerusalem.

It operated continuously until 1948, and then started up again in 1952 under the ownership of Israel Railways, which inaugurated its first ride with a sack of cement, a bag of flour and a Torah scroll, symbolizing physical and spiritual sustenance as well as industry.

A Walk in the Park

An Appeal that Fell on Deaf Ears. Theodore Herzl meets Kaiser Willem II in Jerusalem.

Well, on the day I visited the new park, I felt that my fellow strollers, needed very much that “physical and spiritual sustenance” feeling the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown. It was invigorating being out and stretching the limbs.  It was no less invigorating letting the mind too “wander” and I wandered back to the late 19th century, reflecting on two particular passengers on the train on the very track I was now walking – the visionary of the State of the State of Israel, Theodor Hertzl and the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II. Within days of each they both travelled on the train in 1898 from Jaffa to Jerusalem.

Each had their own reasons to visit Jerusalem.

In the autumn of 1898, the Kaiser announced his intention to journey to the Holy Land. The declared reason for this grand state visit was to dedicate Jerusalem’s Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, scheduled to open on October 31, the German holiday of Reformation Day. Undeclared however, was the Kaiser’s desire to strengthen the German presence in the Holy Land, and forge closer ties with the Ottoman Empire against England, France and Russia.

Serene Setting. Ottoman-era railway becomes Tel Aviv’s newest park.

Political manoeuvering was no less the intention of Herzl!

The father of modern political Zionism secretly left Vienna to travel to the Holy Land to meet with one man –  the Kaiser, who had taken the earlier train with his wife and entourage from Jaffa to Jerusalem.

The reason Herzl wanted to meet the German Kaiser was to request  if he would ask the sultan – with whom he was in good terms with –  to consider granting to the Jews a chartered company in Palestine under German protection. Herzl had a persuasive argument that would be of interests to all parties. Most important – it would have laid the ‘TRACK’ towards a future Jewish state.

History records the Kaiser made no such promises to Herzl!

A Golda Moment. The Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), “Golda”, getting ready to go to work. (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

Maybe it would have been better for Germany if he had. Instead of  supporting Jewish statehood, the Kaiser tied his country’s destiny with that of the Ottoman empire that would lead to both their defeat in the Great War (1914 –1918) and the path to the British Mandate and eventual state of Israel in 1948.

History has interesting twists and turns as I followed the park’s no less twisting and turning track.

With no thoughts of the distant past, some very animated kids passed me on scooters careering happily into the future.

Under the Surface. At the ceremony marking the start of work on Tel Aviv’s Metro Red Line (Photo: Motti Kimchi)





While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

A Walk In The Park

While man is frequently at war with the environment, not so for Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan whose work is harmoniously in sync with its surroundings

By David E. Kaplan

Back on welcome “grandparent” duty following our release on parole from lockdown,  meant a return to one of my favourite parks – the Edith Wolfson Park on the eastern edge of the city of Tel Aviv. If its Tuesday, “we, the grandparents”, are usually there with our grandson. Perched high, the park offers a magnificent view of the city from its most iconic vantage – a massive sculpture by famed Israeli artist Dani Karavan. Called “The White Square”, the monumental work overlooks “The White City” as Tel Aviv is famously known because of its white Bauhaus architecture and is a complex geometric work that is an ode to the city itself.

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An Ode To Tel Aviv. Dani Karavan’s ‘The White Square’ at Edith Wolfson Park in Tel Aviv.

If Tel Aviv is a city not so much to see but to experience then so to is Karavan’s sculpture where it is less viewed than it is walked, climbed, roller-skated and rollerbladed upon. I invariably join the “kids” in sliding down the sculpture’s colossal “sundial” on carboard as well as scampering up the large “pyramid”. The sculpture exudes physicality  – it is a metaphor for Tel Aviv of open-ended action befitting its reputation as “the city that never sleeps.” If you are generally “into art”, then visiting The White Square you literally, “get into” this art as you climb in, over, upon and through it!

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White Square Overlooking White City. The hill in the park with Karavan’s The White City is topographically the highest vantage view of Tel Aviv.

My first encounter with this monumental sculpture was of complete surprise. I came upon it with my first visit to the park in 2018 when my grandson, Yali, was only a few months old. I stared at the structure and thought, “Déjà vu – I have never been here before! Why is this massive sculpture so familiar?” And then I remembered that nearly a decade earlier, I co-wrote an interview with this sculpture’s creator – Dani Karavan, where he described this renowned work and I wrote about it including providing captions for photographs of what I now weekly ‘experience’.

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Structuring Dreams. Symbolizing fertility and peace, the olive tree in Karavan’s White Square at the Edith Wolfson Park in Tel Aviv.

Dominating the sculpture is a 65-foot cement tower that can be see from afar as well as providing from the top, a majestic vista of the city. The tower symbolizes both the steel siren that once stood there and its function – security – watching over the city. The “migdal” or watchtower, is an enduring image that so characterized early settlement life in Israel as a state-in-the-making, providing security to its people working in the fields.

Beside the tower, is a large geometric piece composed of east-west facing shapes representing the surrounding urban neighborhood, much of it built in the Bauhaus style of architecture that has recognised Tel Aviv as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Next to this is the pyramid-like structure symbolizing the tents lived in by those who built the city well over a century earlier, and then there is a dome-like structure with an olive tree at its center, depicting the orchards that surround Tel Aviv.

Lastly, there is the sun dial, possibly the most popular attraction as I can every Tuesday attest to, noting that it is used as much for skateboarding as it is for any other intended purpose.

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‘Time’ for Fun. Karavan’s Sun Dial (above) enjoyed most by skateboarders (below)

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Portrait Of An Artist

So who is this internationally acclaimed sculptor and Israel Prize recipient who lives in the same house in Tel Aviv, that “I  grew up in” and whose work can be seen across Israel, Europe, and Asia?

Karavan credits  being most influenced by his father when “I turned from painting to sculpture.” His father, Avraham Karavan, was the chief landscape designer for Tel Aviv from the 1940s through the 1960s.My father grew up in Manchester and I think he was very inspired by the English gardens. He always wanted to recreate nature – gardens as nature. I understand now that I am following in his footsteps: When I approach a site, I often develop the project in a similar way to his way of creating gardens.”

It is hard to escape his distinct style, which blends sculpture, architecture, and the landscape into unique and monumental pieces. Putting the question to Karavan that his work appears “as if you are sculpting the landscape”, he replied:

“That’s correct. This is what characterizes my work, which is rooted to a physical environment and not to an atelier [an artist’s workshop]. I was once privileged to meet the distinguished sculptor Henry Moore and observe him work in his environment – how he molded a model the size of a suitcase handle and enlarged it ninety-nine times its size. For me it is the opposite, because the large environment where I work emerges as part of my composition.”

One example the artist cites is the large sculptured wall of the Plenum Hall at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). Called Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, the wall depicts an abstract Jerusalem landscape, the surrounding hills, and the Judean desert. It is one of the most recognised works of art in Israel as it appears almost daily on TV screens as a backdrop as the people’s elected representatives take to the podium to address the Knesset.

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Art To Inspire. Considered Israel’s most recognised sculpture, Dani Karavan’s Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem in the Knesset Plenum Hall. (Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Another example Karavan cites “was my first big piece as a sculptor,” the Negev Brigade Memorial. Although a  monument to commemorate those who fought in the Palmach Negev Brigade in 1948, the artist is quick to add:

 “I am not an artist who creates memorials. I create homages.”

The late Uzi Narkiss, a commander of the Negev Brigade’s Seventh Battalion, had suggested to Karavan to build a lookout so that visitors could climb up and physically experience the landscape. Observing the surrounding hills leading down to the valley, the views of the rolling landscape, the folds of the ground, the rocks and the bushes, all emerged as the material of the final work.

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Movement Ahead. A precursor to the land art movement, Karavan’s Negev Brigade Memorial that pays homage to members of the brigade who fell fighting during Israel’s War of Independence.

Explains Karavan:

“I had to integrate the landscape of the desert, its particularities, in order to tell the story of this brigade. My father helped me to plant acacia trees, indigenous to the Negev desert. As water was scarce, he knew which trees should be used. He always kept in mind the water. The line of water I created as part of the monument is not only a symbol of life, but also a tribute to the Palmach Brigade who had the mission of insuring the water supply to the kibbutzim in the desert.”

It was a groundbreaking project. “Up until then,” continued Karavan, “site-specific environmental sculpture did not exist. To some degree, it is similar to architecture, where the architect designs specifically for a particular environment.”

Further explaining, he adds:

 “I am not a sculptor that seeks a place, but rather the place seeks me. Michelangelo said that the statue already exists within the stone; I say that the sculpture already exists within the environment. I just unearth it. This is essentially my contribution to the evolution of sculpture. I wanted that sculpture be something people can climb and children play on – that it will be full of life and not pieces where people visit once a year to lay flowers.”

Looking at the children playing all over The White  Square, he has succeeded.

“My works could not exist without people. I want them to experience the work and feel like it is embracing them. At the same time, I never try to impose the way people should interact with my work. The work itself inspires people and leads them to explore the different forms and spaces. The fact that children engage with my works is not because I designed it for that purpose, but because my works give them a sense of freedom to use them in any way they would like to, without aggression, without violence—in a peaceful way.”

While Karavan can mold material to articulate his dreams and visions, he laments “an inability to influence better relations with our Arab neighbors. My father arrived in Israel in the 1920s. He came as an idealist and I inherited that idealism. What better vision to work for than the pursuit of regional peace and happiness? If you ask what I still want to do, yes, I need to finish my autobiography, but also to collaborate with a Palestinian artist on a project toward peace.”

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Man And His Work. Dani Karavan

From time immemorial, the olive tree is a symbol of peace and I thought of this quote of the artist again when I saw last Tuesday perched in the middle of The White Square the olive tree – the sole vertical living organism amongst the concrete.  It was the right milieu to reflect on the artist’s 2019 response to the question “What is his hope for humanity?” from famed landscape designer Lily S. Kwong:

Karavan replied: “I hope people will be more tolerant of others and to each other. I hope for more education all around the world. I hope that in most countries, art will have a key role in people’s daily lives.”

I felt assuredly of the artist’s hope of art playing “a key role in people’s daily lives,” when watching my grandchild with all the other children ‘explore, engage and encounter’ at the Edith Wolfson Park in Tel Aviv.

 

Some of Karavan’s most important works:

A Walk In The Park1Negev Brigade Memorial, Beersheva, Israel

 

 

 

A Walk In The Park7Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem – Knesset wall relief, Jerusalem, Israel

 

 

A Walk In The Park3Kikar Levana, Tel Aviv, Israel

 

 

A Walk In The Park4Culture Square, Tel Aviv, Israel

 

 

A walk in the park7The “Path of Peace” sculpture by artist Dani Caravan. An environmental sculpture which is one of the attractions of Nitzana

 

 

A Walk In The Park5UNESCO Square of Tolerance – Homage to Yitzhak Rabin, Paris, France

 

 

A Walk In The Park6The Axe Majeur, Cergy-Pontoise, France

Soaring Stuff

Susan’s House in Jerusalem inspires youth through art

By Stephen Schulman

Most of the buildings in the industrial zone of Jerusalem do not greatly differ from those in many other parts of the country. In their functionality, they tend to be rather uniformly drab and dreary. One building in particular with its wide external corridors lined with doors of many workshops is no different from the rest. Nevertheless, what makes it so special is that opening one of the doors leads you into a very special workplace – Susan’s House.

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I was fortunate enough to be part of a group that visited, toured, saw this magnificent project in action and learned of its history.

Started in 2002, Susan’s House is a living memorial to Susan Kaplansky, a gifted artist who had prematurely passed away at the age of 38 leaving her husband Eyal and four young children behind her. Susan, a gifted artist, fervently believing in the healing powers of art, had used her talents to work with disadvantaged children. After her death, Eyal started this workshop and artists’ studio to continue her work and perpetuate her memory.

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Inspirational Couple. Eyal and the late Susan Kaplansky in 1991.

The workshop produces and sells a wide range of arts and crafts ranging from special glassware, jewelry and ceramics to unique stationery and greeting cards made from recycled paper. All of these products have two things in common: they are carefully crafted, and they are made by a dedicated group of thirty youngsters whose ages range from fifteen to eighteen. Each of these young people comes from a difficult background both Jew and Arab. Most are school dropouts and currently unemployed, socially marginalized and at risk – a sad reminder of problems that exist in both communities.

 

At the beginning of the tour, we listened to an introductory talk by Avital Goel, the workshop supervisor who explained that Susan’s House gives them employment and a wage. He went on to explain that under the guidance of a team of social workers and volunteer artists, the teenagers are given vocational rehabilitation, guidance and real life work experience that enables them to become contributing members of society.

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Creative Hands. Learning skills that will empower these teens towards rewarding futures.

They gain self-esteem and the ability to respect others. They not only learn a trade but become part of a working community that is also a home where they learn social skills and in so doing, gain self empowerment. “They work together as a team learning how to manufacture and sell. They also learn the value of money, how to spend it correctly and be a wise consumer. All the youngsters not only eat a wholesome lunch together every day but are also, in turn, given the responsibility to buy the provisions and help prepare the meal.”

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Noble Art. Made from recycled material, exquisite arts and crafts for sale made by youngsters at risk.

The real highlight was a talk by two seventeen year olds – Aviva from a poor Jewish neighborhood and Ahmed, a Muslim Arab from East Jerusalem. Both of them, with complete self-assurance, spoke about themselves, their lives, backgrounds and their work at Susan’s House. Their honesty, openness and sincerity was palpable, their enthusiasm for their workplace was genuine and infectious and there was not one of us sitting and listening to them who was not moved!

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Youngsters Fine Art. for sale from jewelry, glassware and ceramics to greeting cards made from recycled paper. Fine Art. Youngsters at risk are discovering their talents and creating fine artworks

During our stay, production continued, and it was business as usual. We walked around, watched work in progress and then visited the aesthetically arranged shop, which was staffed entirely by the youngsters, to purchase items to take home both as presents and as memoirs of a most illuminating and rewarding visit.

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Young Craftsman. Finding their path through creative expression

Susan’s House is proud of the fact that its five hundred or more graduates have acquired life skills and gone on to become functioning and positive members of society with more than sixty percent serving in the army or doing national service. As a result of its success, another branch has opened in Eilat.

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Creating Fine Futures. The workshop supervisor Avital Goel (centre) with staff and talented teens in the workshop.

Coincidentally, Susan’s House is located on 31 Wings of Eagles Street (31 Canfei Nesharim –  31 כנפי נשרים). A most appropriate address for a noble institution that has been giving so many young people the means to soar!

 

*For more information: Phone: 02-6725069 or email: susanshouse.j@gmail.com

 

 

 

About the writer:

image001 (4).pngStephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a master’s degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

 

 

 

Heritage Hike

Stuck at home this Independence Day because of Corona? Take a virtual journey of Israel’s Independent Trail. From Hebrew city to Hebrew state, the trail begins with the founding of Tel Aviv in 1909 and ends with the Establishment of Israel in 1948.

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Embedded in the ground are 10 markers along the one-kilometer brass strip of Independence Trail.

 

By David. E. Kaplan

Walks these days are mostly to the supermarket or pharmacy. While hardly fun, adventurous or cerebrally challenging they are essential. However, no less “essential” is to ensure the mind remains active even if our legs are taking ‘a back seat’!

Prior to Corona, Lay Of The Land toured Independence Trail that was inaugurated in 2018 in honour of Israel’s 70th Independence Day. Only one kilometre (0.6 miles) long, it is rich in 40 years of intense nation-building history. Opting to use a guide rather than the free Municipality of Tel Aviv’s Independence Trail App, our guide began:

 “It was 40 years of wandering before the Biblical Hebrews entering the Promised Land of ancient Israel, today you will be exposed to those 40 tumultuous years of establishing modern Israel during the first half of the twentieth century.”

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Exploring History. A golden path takes these young visitors on an interactive walking route through the history of Tel Aviv along Independence Trail. (Photo by Ricky Rachman)

How better to begin this hike of 10 stops with a cup of coffee and where better to enjoy it than where the hike officially begins – The First Kiosk Of Tel Aviv at the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street, one of the most central spots in Israel.

Kickoff at the Kiosk

The aroma of coffee was irresistible and adhering to the adage “When in Rome”, we all ordered “café hafuch” – Israel’s famous “upside down coffee”.

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Frequently compared with a latte, it is creamier and is also made in reverse. If in a latte, the milk goes on top of the espresso, a café hafuch uses steamed milk on the bottom, and then a shot of espresso is carefully poured on top of the steamed milk and finally topped with milk froth as well as nutmeg or cocoa powder.  The most iconic aspect is the “reverse” – so typically Israeli of hitting the right button but ‘Israeli style”.

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“The First Kiosk Of Tel Aviv”. The trail begins here at Tel Aviv’s first kiosk built on Rothschild Boulevard in 1910 the year after Tel Aviv was established on sand dunes in 1909.

“Today, as you can see,” said our guide, “Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard is lined with restaurants and cafés but when the street was first established in 1909, not all the residents were in favour of any commercial activity. While some were agreeable about setting up shops in the neighborhood, others were against, but a year later a small kiosk opened where we are today.”

Situated in the exact same spot where the original once stood and modeled after the eclectic architectural style of the time, the small kiosk is today called Espresso Bar.

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Bustling And Boisterous. Much of ‘Independence Trail’ is along Rothschild Boulevard the social nerve centre of downtown Tel Aviv.

Next, we walked on to the Nahum Gutman Fountain.

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Fountain of Knowledge

Gutman’s mosaic fountain reflects the simplicity of the early days of the “First Hebrew City” as it was once the fashion to call Tel Aviv.  Israel’s famed artist, who was also an accomplished illustrator, photographer, and writer “went to school here, played in these streets, absorbed its sights, sounds and smells and projected them in his colorful exuberant art,’ informed our guide. “He was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in 1978 and as you can see, the mosaics around the fountain tell the history of Jaffa – the ancient port city from which Tel Aviv was born.”  In a kaleidoscope of color – the artist’s leitmotif – myths and stories from Jewish and Israeli history are emblazoned, from Jonah and the whale to Moses Montefiore and Theodore Herzl.

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Colourful Past. The Nahum Gutman Fountain depicts the history of Jaffa from ancient times until the creation of Tel Aviv. (Photo by Ricky Rachman)

Our next stop was the personal home built in 1909 by Akiva Aryeh Weiss, whose name is literally cemented to the beginning of Tel Aviv.

 Home Truths

Akiva Aryeh Weiss was one of the founders of the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood, which later evolved into Tel Aviv. As President of the then newly established Building Society, Weiss presided over the famous 1909 lottery in which 66 Jewish families drew numbers written on seashells to determine the allocation of lots in the about-to-be established city of Tel Aviv.

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Weiss, who immigrated from Russian Poland to Palestine in 1906 “was a jeweler and watchmaker, and founded the textile industry in Mandatory Palestine, building the earliest textile factory, the Lodzia House,” continued our guide.

“One of Weiss’ dreams, which became a reality was the establishment of a Jewish diamond industry in Palestine.”

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The House That Akiva Built. Built, planned and erected by Akiva Arieh Weiss himself, the cornerstone of the house, the first in the new area known as Ahuzat Bayit, was laid in the summer of 1909.

Now restored, the cornerstone of Weiss’ Tel Aviv house located at 2 Herzl Street was laid in 1909. Originally a single-story structure, the upper floor was added in the 1920s.

Towering Truths

Our third stop was the visitor’s center with its history of Tel Aviv in the Shalom Meir Tower in Herzl Street. Although once the tallest building in Tel Aviv  – and when built in

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Busy Builder. Several constructions built by Yosef Eliyahu Chelouche are today’s heritage sites all around Tel Aviv.

1965 was the tallest building in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Oceania – far more historically significant is its prestigious predecessor – the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium. The country’s first Hebrew-speaking high school and originally known as HaGymnasia Ha’Ivrit (High School in Hebrew),  the cornerstone laying for the school took place on July 28, 1909, the same year as the city’s founding. Designed by Joseph Barsky and inspired by descriptions of Solomon’s Temple, it was built by Yosef Eliyahu Chelouche, whose family founded Neve Tzedek (“Oasis of Justice”) in 1887 and were again among the founding settlers of Tel Aviv in 1909. These are the proud ancestors of Lay of the Land cofounder, Yair Chelouche who was too enjoying the tour and contributing to the history of the area.

“The school was a major Tel Aviv landmark until 1962 when the site was razed for the construction of the Shalom Meir Tower,” added Yair.

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Major Landmark. Designed by Joseph Barsky inspired by descriptions of Solomon’s Temple and built Yosef Eliyahu Chelouche, the Gymnasia Herzliya on Herzl Street was the country’s first Hebrew high school. It was a major Tel Aviv landmark until 1962 when the site was razed for the construction of the Shalom Meir Tower.

Some of the schools celebrated alumni include Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, the poet Nathan Alterman, the artist Nachum Gutman, the physicist Yuval Neeman, the present mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai and the journalist and chairman of the Yesh Atid party in the Knesset, Yair Lapid.

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Did Alterman write poetry about Tel Aviv?” asked a member of our group.

Sure,’ replied our guide. “An immigrant from Warsaw, Alterman viewed Tel Aviv as the successor to the cities he had known in Europe. In contrast to the Hebrew poets who preceded him, who felt more connected to religion and biblical landscapes, Alterman was an urban poet who shaped an abstract theatrical world of music boxes, horse-drawn carriages and streetlights in Hebrew poetry.”

Looking up at the tall Shalom Tower, the guide told us a popular joke in Tel Aviv of the 1960s after the tower went up that encapsulates the trajectory of modern Israel.

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Tel Aviv On A High. Housing the Visitors Center with the history of Tel Aviv, the Shalom Meir Tower commonly known as Migdal Shalom was Israel’s first skyscraper

“A Tel Aviv taxi picked up a New York tourist who was boasting about his city, how skyscrapers appear suddenly like wild mushrooms when suddenly the taxi turned into Hertzl street and the tourist, who was looking up at the tall Shalom Tower, bellowed:

“WOW! What building is that?”

To which the taxi driver replied:

“I don’t know; it wasn’t there yesterday!”

The imagery of Alterman’s Tel Aviv was a far cry from the city of today, but that vibrancy portrayed by the poet’s pen was all too evident as we proceeded along bustling Rothschild Boulevard to our next stop – the Great Synagogue.

Spiritual Centre

The Great Synagogue on 110 Allenby Street, served as Tel Aviv’s spiritual and religious center long before Israel’s independence.

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These Walls Have Ears. Completed in 1926, the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv on 110 Allenby Street is rich in history some of which is revealed in memorial slates recording historical events that occurred here during the British Mandate period.

“People who attended services here included Tel Aviv’s first mayor Meir Dizengoff, prime ministers David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett and Menachem Begin. It also hosted the inaugurations of Israel’s chief rabbis and the funerals of national icons such as the pioneer of modern Hebrew poetry Haim Nahman Bialik and the Zionist leader Haim Arlosorov, assassinated in 1933 while walking on the beach in Tel Aviv.”

 

We marveled at the building’s features, notably a huge dome, elaborate lighting fixtures, and magnificent stained-glass windows – replicas of synagogue windows that were destroyed in Europe during the Holocaust.

“Not widely known,” revealed our guide, “The Declaration of Independence was meant to be declared here on the 14 May 1948.”

“So why was it not?” I asked.

Ben Gurion knew that the moment he made the announcement Israel would be under aerial attack and if the new State’s leadership were altogether under one so identifiable a roof as the Great Synagogue, it would make for an easy target for low-flying enemy planes. Instead, the Declaration took place around the corner at a much smaller building, which will be our last stop on the tour.”

Ben Gurion’s concern was “not unreasonable,” continued our guide. “Arab planes bombed Tel Aviv three times and one Egyptian pilot was taken prisoner when his plane was forced down nearby.”

Also “nearby” was our next stop: the Haganah Museum.

Freedom Fighters

Located on Rothschild Boulevard, the Haganah Museum was once the home of Eliyahu Golomb the founder and first commander of the Haganah. A paramilitary organization, the Haganah was the forerunner of today’s Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and from1930 to 1945, this house was the Haganah’s secret headquarters.

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Initially protecting the pioneers on kibbutzim (cooperative farming communities) from an attack in the 1920s and 1930s, the Haganah went on to facilitate the illegal entry of more than 100,000 Jews into Palestine after the British government’s 1939 ‘White Paper’ restricting immigration. “In this way,” explained the guide, “the Haganah paved the way in providing the essential manpower that proved so critical in the War of Independence.”

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Elijah Golomb Defense Museum. This four-story museum display is one of the most advanced and sophisticated of its kind. Designed with huge video screens, models, backdrops and stories from the organization’s history from its inception to being an IDF, the historical story is told through the personal story of a young Palmach member and a Holocaust survivor who takes part in prominent events during the struggle, such as ‘The Night of the Bridges’.

So tranquil is Golomb’s residential room and office on the ground floor today, it is hard to conceive that this was the nerve center of a war for the survival of the Jewish People in Palestine.

“It’s one thing to fight but without finance little can be achieved,” said the guide as he led us to our next stop – the historical headquarters of Israel’s national bank.

Money Matters

The Bank of Israel Visitor’s Center showcases the history of the Jewish State’s financial system. The historical headquarters of Israel’s national bank, the Centre’s exhibits reveal the country’s historical development of money with exhibits from ancient coins to banknotes, and coins issued from pre-State days to the present.

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Particularly entertaining were the interactive activity stations that explain, by means of computer games, the functions of the Bank of Israel, the history of money, and the contribution of the central bank to the economy. No less fascinating were the short films on the essential role of the Bank of Israel in maintaining price stability, supporting economic growth, employment, and reducing social gaps in Israeli society. It is sure going to have “one job on its hand” in the immediate post-Corona era!

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In Safe Hands. The Bank of Israel Visitor’s Center on Lilienblum Street presents the historical development of money in Israel.

Back then, our next stop was the Tel Aviv Founders Monument.

The ‘Plot’ Thickens

The Founder’s Monument and Fountain is dedicated to the men and women who established Tel Aviv in the first half of the 19th century. Nestled into a green space on Rothschild Boulevard, it is a serene spot, dotted with benches, centered around a small pool and fountain, and located opposite the home of the first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, on 16 Rothschild Boulevard.

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Founder’s Monument And Fountain. Located opposite the home of the first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff on 16 Rothschild Boulevard, it was here that the historic lottery for the distribution of plots held on April 11, 1909, took place.

The historic lottery for the distribution of plots was held on April 11, 1909. As the families could not decide how to allocate the land, they held a lottery to ensure a fair division. Sixty-six grey seashells and sixty-six white seashells were gathered with the names of the participants written on the white shells and the plot numbers on the grey shells. A white and grey shell formed a pair, assigning each family a plot.

It was on this very site that the founders’ monument was planned 40 years later and established in 1951, on Dizengoff’s birthday.

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Designed by Aaron Priver, on one side is a sculpture divided into three sections. The bottom shows sand dunes and wild animals that roamed the area before the establishment of Tel Aviv. The middle section depicts the first homes, mostly one-story, and the top represents the Tel Aviv of 1949, with specific landmarks, and the Tel Aviv of the future as envisioned at the time.

On the other side of the monument is the list of the sixty-six founding families of the city of which includes the Chelouche family that founded the quaint neighboring district of Neve Tzedek over twenty years earlier.  Pointing out his family’s name on the monument, Lay of the Land co-founder Yair Chelouche related how his great-great-grandfather Aharon Chelouche acquired the plot of land that became part of Chelouche family folklore.  “There were no land surveyors. The seller and the buyer would meet on the land to agree on the size of the land and the price. To measure the plot from one end to the other, the buyer took a stone and threw it, and where it landed was the end of the plot.” Smiling, Yair continued, “Aharon must have had a very strong arm because the family ended up with a huge chunk of land.”

Two decades later, representatives of the Chelouche family would join other family members in 1909, this time not throwing stones but picking up shells with their plot numbers on it.

The genesis of Tel Aviv was brought “home” to us when passing 9 Rothschild Boulevard.  “Stop,” bellowed Yair, and then revealed, “here was the house of my great-grandparents, the first house that my great-grandfather, Yosef Eliyahu Chelouche built for them when they left Neve Tzedek for the “new” city of Tel Aviv.”

And so began the saga of “the city that never sleeps” – Tel Aviv.

Horsing Around

Our second last stop was at a statue. While most cities in Europe and the Americas are replete with leaders and warriors perched defiantly on horses, such artistic depictions are rare in Israel. So, it is with some curiosity that we looked upon the bronze statue opposite the Founders Monument of a man riding a tired-looking horse. The rider is not a general but a civil servant – Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff. He may not have made his mark on a battlefield, but he left a far more enduring legacy.

For miles and miles in every direction from this small statue, the rich urban development that is Tel Aviv today, can be traced to the superlative efforts of Tel Aviv’s first mayor who encouraged its rapid expansion and conducted daily inspections, paying attention to details. How did this indefatigable mayor travel each day to inspect the progress of the projects throughout his growing city?

By horse of course!

No wonder both rider and horse look exhausted.

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Giddyup. The statute of Meir Dizengoff, Tel Aviv’s first mayor riding his horse from his home to City Hall, then located on Bialik Street. With cars on the side, the image conveys how commuting has transformed over the century.

Created by the artist David Zondolovitz, the statue was unveiled in front of the mayor’s historic residence, our final and tenth stop and the most important of all.

What was the end of our trail, was the beginning of the modern State of Israel!

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Independence Hall

On May 14, 1948, the house on 16 Rothchild Boulevard – then serving as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art – hosted the historic ceremony of the Declaration of Independence.

Our guide related the events and atmosphere of that day.

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Crowds began to swell in the afternoon at cafés and balconies along the boulevard. People were waving little flags and singing and then at three o’clock, journalists from around the world started filing into the Tel Aviv Art Museum. They were joined by dignitaries to the rapturous applause of the crowd.

At exactly four o’clock, David Ben-Gurion started the ceremony by banging the gavel.

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Israel On Day 1. Seventy-three years ago, David Ben-Gurion declaring independence in 1948.

Outside and around the country, people were listening to the ceremony in the first broadcast of Israel Radio.

Ben-Gurion read the declaration, which opened with a historic prologue on the Jewish connection to the land and then it went on to assert that:

 “We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, named the State of Israel.”

He was followed by Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon who with a cracked voice, read the ancient prayer:

 “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

The crowd shouted “Amen!”

Ben-Gurion signed the declaration, then the members of the People’s Council were invited one by one to come up to the stage and sign the declaration alphabetically. The ceremony ended with the singing of “Hatikva,” the national anthem.

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Birth Of Israel. The Hall of Independence on Rothchild Boulevard is best known as the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the 14th of May 1948. The chairs are set out around the table as they were in 1948 and the names of those who attended the signing of the declaration are written on the chairs. Visitors can listen to a recording of the declaration ceremony and see a 16 minute film about the historic event. Two of the signatories were women Rachel (Kagan) Cohen and Golda Meir; three of the signatories went on to become Prime Ministers; one became the President and 14 of the original signatories served as cabinet ministers in the Israeli government.

As we finished the tour of Independence Hall, we came out and saw again the Espresso Bar formally The First Kiosk Of Tel Aviv where it had all begun.

All agreed.

It was time for another cup of café hafuch.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve In The Upper Galilee

By Stephen Schulman

The pretty village of Jish is situated on a picturesque hillside in the Upper Galilee. However, unlike most others in the Arab sector, its skyline is not dominated by the ubiquitous minaret of the village mosque; instead, the cross stands proud, for Jish is home to 10,000 Maronite Christians who constitute 65% of the village’s population.

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Overlooking the Christian Galilee village of Jish, the cross stands prominent (Photo: Stephen Schulman).

In the afternoon of the 24th December, I was one of a group that was graciously hosted at the family home of Shadi Khaloul, a leading member of the Maronite community. In his 40’s, affable, articulate and outspoken, Shadi filled us in on its history, its contemporary status and regaled us with his own story.

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Shadi Khaloul, a leading member of the Maronite community (Photo: Stephen Schulman).

   The Maronite Catholic Church, although having formal communion with Rome, maintains its own rites and canon law is unique in having its own liturgical language: Aramaic, spoken in Israel in the time of Jesus and shared with Judaism. The church was founded by Saint Maron, whose followers moved from Syria to Lebanon where many of them live today while the rest are dispersed around the globe.

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Interior of modern Maronite church in Jish. (photo by Shmuel Bar-Am)

Whilst being Arabic speaking, they see themselves as Aramean Maronite Christians with their own distinct identity and in 2014 they officially gained the status of a national minority. They are not required to do military service but most of them prefer to serve. Shadi is no exception, having done his stint as an officer in the paratroopers.

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The new Maronite church in Jish (Photo: Stephen Schulman).

After completing his army service, Shadi, like so many other post-service young people decided to see the world and seek his fortune. He worked for some years in Las Vegas and with the passing of time found his true ‘pot of gold’. “I was studying at a comparative religion course where I discovered that the lecturer and students were completely ignorant of my religion and its vernacular, so I was asked to prepare a presentation. I then felt that more important to me than material wealth was to return home and devote myself to the cultivation and learning of Aramaic in my community.”

He has been true to his word and his tireless efforts have borne fruit. Aramaic studies in the Jish schools have been given an official status and the Ministry of Education approves and funds their study. While it is not compulsory, the great majority of students opt to learn it. Children who never understood the prayers now not only take delight in understanding the words but in also speaking the language!

Concerning the present situation, Shadi sees the Maronite community as an integral, contributing part of Israeli society where they have security, equality and freedom to freely worship and perpetuate their culture. “The Maronites have always felt an affinity with the Jews. After all, we have a common language. In 1948 in the War of Independence, we did not side with the Arabs.”

He does not mince his words.

In 1860 in Lebanon under Turkish rule, we sought a measure of autonomy where we could live peacefully side by side with our neighbors. The result was a massacre of our community where approximately 20,000 were killed. Learn from our bitter experience. Here in the Middle East, the reality is that you must be the majority to ensure your safety!”

Leaving Shadi’s home, our group strolled through the village to savor the festive atmosphere. Many of the homes were gaily decorated and festooned with lights. Before leaving, we congregated next to the beautiful new church with a tall Christmas tree in its courtyard.

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Delivering presents to the community (Photo: Stephen Schulman).

Our final stop was Mi’ilya, a small village north of Nahayaria whose approximately 4,000 residents are Melkhite Greek Catholics. A distinguishing feature is the King’s Castle: the ruins of a Crusader fortress upon which a church has been built. Walking up to the ruins to visit the church, we were met by the local inhabitants, many of whom were dressed in their red Santa Claus costumes. The atmosphere was festive and as Chanukkah and Christmas coincided, our greetings of Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday), as in Jish, were happily returned.

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Built For A King. King’s Castle in Mi’ilya was built over the ruins of the 12th century Crusader fortress that first belonged to the Crusader King Baldwin III, and was called the “King’s fortress” (Photo: Stephen Schulman).

Leaving the fortress, our group visited the village community centre that was humming with activity. The village has a special pre-Christmas custom when families bring their Christmas presents to the centre for safe keeping. The Scouts then store them in separate rooms according to the neighborhoods before being fetched on Christmas Eve. We arrived as the presents, with the aid of many happy young volunteers, were being loaded on light vehicles on their way to their happy recipients!

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Two young girls posing at the grotto scene at the church in Mi’ilya (Photo: Stephen Schulman).

On the way home towards Tel Aviv, there was much time for reflection. Here we were, on Christmas Eve, returning from a visit to two Christian villages whose residents, living within the Jewish state, enjoyed complete freedom of worship. I remembered the words of Shadi Khalloul and of a fellow Maronite Brigitte Gabriel of the sad plight of Christian communities in the Middle East. How distressing those basic rights that we take for granted in our country and about which much of the world remains silent, are not accorded in many of our neighboring states.

 

About the writer:

image001 (4).pngStephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a master’s degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

 

 

You ‘Beer’ The Judge

Israel’s burgeoning boutique beer industry is foaming at the brim.

By David E. Kaplan

Just think of it – twenty years ago in Israel, there were the two stalwarts of Maccabi Beer and Goldstar with few imports from abroad.  The soft drink was king; beer the lowly pawn.

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Today, it has all changed.

While ancient Israel may well have been known as “The land of milk and honey”, 21st century Israel could well be on the way to becoming “the land of hops and barley”.

In the land that gave the civilized world wine in the era of our Patriarchs – evinced by the many ancient presses found all over the country – it was only a question of time for a thriving beer industry to emerge. If the choice of beers was once limited, today it is difficult keeping up with the new labels as an ever-increasing number of enterprising brewmasters are entering the market.

The writer invites you to join him on a pub crawl and get a taste of what’s brewing in Israel.

A ‘Jem’ Of A Beer

I enter the Jem’s Beer Factory – a pub restaurant – in the heart of a courtyard in  the center of Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, situated in the city’s outdoor food market which has been partially renovated and restored to a boutique food court. At night, the courtyard is buzzing, and Jem’s is packed. I meet as arranged the owner who is normally at the headquarters in Petach Tikva. There are ten Jem’s Beer Factory pubs located mostly in the center of the country.

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A ‘Jem’ of a selection.

 “All our advertising is by word of mouth,” says Jeremy (“Jem”) Welfeld – or as likely – word of lips!

The name ‘Jem’ is derived from the name “my younger sister coined for me when we were kids.” That’s the simple part of a long journey that began when Jem gave up a lucrative job as an event planner at the While House, “during the Clinton and Bush administrations” for brewing beer in Israel.

Quickly discovering that his new vision would require a variety of skills “beyond drinking a lot”, Jem studied Microbiology and The Advanced Sciences of Brewing and arrived in Israel armed with a battery of diplomas and a wife and their two kids.

Many hops later, Jem’s Beer Factory churns out many thousands of litres a month. “About a third of our production goes out in bottles, the rest out on tap”, says Jeremy. The range includes an American Pale Ale, an American Indian Ale which he describes as “deep color gold like the city of Jerusalem, with more hops and of course, more date honey,” and a Midnight Stout, “black as coal with a creamy tan head, thick as the afternoon haze over Tel Aviv.”

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“Cheers”. Founder of Jem’s, Jeremy Welfeld with barmaid at his restaurant pub in Kfar Saba. (photo D.E. Kaplan)

If Jem is poetic in describing his beer, he is no less philosophical why he enjoys the business. “Beer is a catalyst to play with people.”

Puzzled, I enquired, “What do you mean?”

 “Israel is a very intense country on a lot of different levels and beer is the perfect equalizer; it lets everyone calm down at the end of their day. It is perfect for the Israeli climate and with only 5% alcohol, it is the beverage of friendship.”

 Rich In History

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Dancing Camel brewmaster David Cohen.

“Our goal”, says brewmaster David Cohen, an immigrant from the USA and founder of Dancing Camel brewery, “is to brew an exciting beer that makes people think and smile. Sure, we make traditional styles, but they are nuanced in a way that is distinctly Israeli. This country is rich in herbs, fruits and spices that belong in beer but have never been tried before. I want to help define what Israeli beer means. You know when I’ll be satisfied? When I hear people in London, Brussels and Seattle talking about how exciting Israeli beers are.”

The market may be competitive but what this writer found most refreshing – apart from tasting the various chilled beers – was the camaraderie amongst the various brewmasters. This is evident at the annual Beer Festivals in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where the various brewmasters have little hesitation praising their competitors and their beers. “We are a rare club,” continues  Cohen whose passion for beer began in 1987, “at a time when the American microbrewery scene was first hitting the East Coast,” and decided to brew his own. “It was the thrill of tapping into a craft that’s as old as time itself and for most, as mysterious. Suddenly, I was connected to the Babylonians of 4,000 years ago, the Trappist Monks of Belgium, the pilgrims that landed on Plymouth Rock, the brewers of medieval London. I began to study different beer styles and flavors – to learn what ingredients and processes impact flavors and how. What I discovered was how complex beer really is and how much each reflects the unique cultures, climates and tastes of different civilizations.”

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Once the hobby got under Cohen’s skin, there was no turning back, nor to bringing to ‘fruition’ his other passion – Aliyah (Immigrating to Israel).

The combination of these two passions is Dancing Camels and as to the derivation of the name, “that’s a long story that goes back 500 years.” In the meantime, Cohen’s customers are ‘dancing’ the nights away downing his beer.

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Alexander the Great

Back at the 2013 European Beer Star competition in Munich, judges swigged 1,512 beers from 40 countries to find the best beer. Israeli boutique brewery Alexander located in the Hefer Valley won the gold medal in the English Style Porter category.

Alexander’s ecstatic CEO, Ori Sagy, a former pilot who plotted the course for his brewery’s trajectory, told local media, “Our vision is to make Alexander Israeli beer fresh, excellent and as good as the best breweries in Europe and the USA. After a series of blind tastings, the jury, composed of professionals in the field of breweries from across Europe, selected our beer as the best English Porter Beer. We therefore received recognition in the beer capital of the world that ours is indeed up to par with the best breweries in Europe and the USA. For us, this is a great joy and honour.”

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From Pilot To Brewer. Former Israeli pilot, Ori Sagi at his Alexander Beer brewery in Tel Aviv. (Moshe Shai/ Flash90)

This was followed in 2014 by another gold medal at the prestigious World Beer Cup in Denver, Colorado.

Established in 2008 the brewery takes the name of the nearby Alexander River. However, in case one is confused over “Which Alexander?” – particularly after a few pints – the river is named not after the conquering Macedonian but after Alexander Yannai, once king of Judea. “This beer is historically kosher,” assures an employee with a wide grin.

With the Alexander River home to the country’s largest habitation of soft-shelled turtles it was only ‘natural’ that the turtle featured on the brewery’s logo. The added inclusion of wings on the turtle’s shell is a nod to Sagy’s previous career as a pilot.

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The Line Up. Alexander’s cavalry ready to charge (your glasses)!

Beer and humour go hand in hand, so it was quite fitting to see written high on the wall in the brewery bar the quote from the legendary rock musician Frank Zappa:

You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline”.

This brewery with a pilot in the cockpit is flying high.

Southern Comfort

In Israel’s dry desert sits Negev Brewery, “ready to quench the thirst of any passerby who steps inside,” as the invitation to the public reads. With a backyard bar, Israel’s sole southern brewery is a popular ‘waterhole’. With a relaxed southern desert vibe, visitors come to sample the boutique beer that now distributes to 450 clients throughout Israel.

Negev Brewery started out as a home-brewing project dreamed up by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev graduate Yochai Kudler. Returning home to Kibbutz Orim in the Negev Desert, he continued brewing but mostly for friends. Wanting to expand and build a modern facility, Yochai found an empty building in the industrial zone of Kiryat Gat where he opened Negev Breweries in 2010. In the summer of 2011, Norman Premium, an Israeli importer and distributor of premium beers purchased Negev Brewery.

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In Good Spirits. The Negev Brewery handing out sample shots at an event. (Photo: Negev Beer)

Today Negev Brewery is run by CEO Sagiv Karlboim, Gilad Dror and Tomer Ronen.

Like the purity of the desert, there is a purity in the philosophy  behind Negev Brewery. The desert brewery is environmentally conscious with the wastewater collected used to irrigate the garden which is being developed to host tastings of their array of beers namely: Amber Ale, Porter Alon and Passion Fruit. Like most microbreweries, Negev Brewery does not filter their beers or add preservatives. This means that the beer is best when fresh and as they say, “don’t think that sediment in the bottom of your glass is anything but a positive indication of unfiltered beer.”

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Desert Delight. The flavorful brews at Negev Brewery in Kiryat Gat (photo credit: Rebecca McKinsey/Times of Israel)

Negev’s brews are available around the country, in pubs, restaurants and stores that sell wine and beer

Says Tomer, “the company is very particular about the ingredients that go into its beers,” and refutes that beer is fattening.  Setting the record straight, “It’s the peanuts you eat with your beer that make you fat!”

The Booze Brothers

The story of Shapiro Beer begins with two brothers Itzik and Danny Shapiro in their parents’ basement in the German Colony neighborhood in Jerusalem with plastic bowls and improvised tubes. Toying with flavours and recipes, they soon had a following for their brews, but it wasn’t until Itzik spent a summer working at a microbrewery in Colorado that they began giving some serious thought to turning their hobby into a business.

What a difference a few years makes!

Today, their state-of-the-art brewery is in Beit Shemesh, however “it’s a Jerusalem beer,” asserts Itzik.

Known as Shapira in Hebrew and Shabeera in Arabic it is most popular in the nation’s capital.

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All In The Family. Tamar Shapiro, who runs the brewery with her siblings, shows off her family’s wares. (Photo: Shapiro Beer)

Offering eight beers, there first – Pale Ale – remains there most popular beer. Based on their first home brew recipe, it is a classic golden coloured, American style pale ale, dry hopped with Cascade giving aromas of citrus and grapefruit.

Their label is the Lion of Judea swigging down ale. At the annual Jerusalem Beer Festival, the local brew customarily receives a ROAR of approval from the crowd.

The cool thing about a microbrewery is that it’s flexible,” said Dani. “You can make a test batch and if it’s good, you sell it. If it’s not good, you drink it!”

Clearly no downside!

BlockBUSTER Beer

“In our family, we always spoke about ambition and reaching your dreams through hard work,” said Denny Neilson the founder of Buster’s Cider Factory located in Beit Shemesh.

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Busters Beer. Pam and Denny Neilson at Buster’s Beverage Company in Beit Shemesh. (Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman)

Denny is another fascinating personality blending into the environment like the ingredients in his beer. Formally in the telecommunication business for 30 years before immigrating with his family to Israel in 2003 from Tennessee in the USA, Californian native Denny says, “I started making wine and brewing beer at home.  We are kind of “do-it-yourselfers” and when the local folk expressed how much they liked it, we opened up a store, called Winemaker.” Soon afterwards, he had an award-winning beer under his belt called Isra-Ale. Thereafter, he began making alcoholic apple cider, and once the recipe was perfected, he introduced it to the Israeli market as Buster’s Cider. It became so popular that mass production followed, and in the summer of 2014, he introduced Israel’s first alcoholic lemonade named Buster’s Hard Lemonade. Today the Buster brand of alcoholic beverages is available at retail outlets throughout the country.

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Family Brewery. Now running the brewery is Matt Neilson (right) with mom Pam who runs the visitor’s centre. (photo D.E. Kaplan)

To the question I put to Denny a few years ago  as to how he came up with the name ‘Buster’, Denny replied,

Well, you can probably hear him barking. Buster is our family dog, a Golden Retriever we love so much that we decided to name our beers after him.  So when people ask about the recipes for our drinks, we always joke only Buster knows – and he’s not talk’in.”

Sadly, today Buster has passed on but not his legacy that lives on with satisfied beer drinkers across the country.

Denny’s wife Pamela runs the Visitor’s Center while Matt their son is, “the main man today,” says his proud Dad.

“I’m the science guy,” asserts Matt with his hand on the tap.

We were a large group that sat, danced on the pub’s patio and listened to Pamela present the history of the brewery ‘From Tennessee to Beit Shemesh’, all the while sampling the frothy fruitful delights of the warm Neilson family.

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Sweet Surrender. Enjoy these fruity delights from Busters.

Beit Shemesh is first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible  in the Book of Joshua. After Moses, it was Joshua  who gave direction to the Jewish People. Many Busters later, I reflected on this “direction” and was thankful I was not driving home!

 “Cheers”

Having ‘done the rounds’, I was indebted to the brewer from Negev Breweries’, Tomer Ronen, who assured: “You won’t put on weight from beer; it’s the peanuts that is fattening.”

Staying clear of the peanuts and having ‘weighed’ all aspects of these boutique beers across much of the country, the only thing left to say is:

Le’Chaim! ( “cheers”, or in Hebrew – “to life”)

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Out Of This World. Young revelers from around the world having fun at a Bazelet Beer Festival in Israel. (Photo: Shishi Bagolan/Facebook)

 

A Taste Of Tel Aviv

Israel’s Vibey City Also Vegan Capital of the World

By David. E. Kaplan

I recall some 25 years ago, the celebrated English novelist and former politician, Jeffrey Archer, addressing an ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association) public lecture at City Hall in Ra’anana. It was a riveting talk on his bestsellers interspersed with anecdotes and a revelation that he still had his sights on residing at “10 Downing Street”.

He had plenty of positive things to say about the Holy Land but concluded with one negative – its cuisine. “OMG where am I to go for dinner after this lecture. Your country may have plenty to offer, but good food is not one them!”

The audience laughed.

A quarter of a century ago, Archer was dead right.

Today he would be dead wrong!

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Affirming this transformation is none other than that esteemed writer’s country’s public service broadcaster – the BBC. Its ‘Good Food’  ranked Tel Aviv in the Top 10 Destinations For Foodies In 2020. Israel’s “City that never sleeps” came in seventh following  Galway in Ireland, Lyon in France, Los Cabos in Mexico, Holland, Malta and Marrakesh in Morocco.  In ranking Tel Aviv so highly, the BBC’s Good Food spotlighted the city’s well-deserved moniker as “the vegan capital of the world.”

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Vibey & Vegan. Tel Aviv has been designated the “Vegan capital of the world”.

 

Writes BBC Good Food:

With vegan dishes at the heart of Tel Aviv’s culinary tradition, it’s always been a great destination for lovers of plant-based food. Backed by vast agricultural land, this seaside city serves up veggies that often travel farm-to-fork in the same day. In recent years, Tel Aviv has upped its game to become the world’s self-designated vegan capital, with slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza. This young, LGBT-friendly beach buzzy city has boutique Bauhaus-style hotel hangouts with cool cocktail bars, and a burgeoning crop of cheffy restaurants, but the budget-eats steal the show. For stellar street food, there’s nothing like Tel Aviv’s hummus, falafel and shakshuka, served at hole-in-the-wall joints, street stands, and stalls lining local markets such as the sprawling Shuk Hacarmel. Just four-five hours’ flight from the UK, this is an exotic break that doesn’t require a long-haul schlep.”

BBC’s Good Food picked up on Israel being in the vanguard of healthy eating, focusing on what grows in the field rather than what dwells on it. For one Israeli company, Aleph Farms, its philosophy is that man’s eating experience should not be at the expense of the life of an animal. In October, Lay Of The Land published an article Israel leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World revealing this company served the world’s first lab-grown steak.

However, not only is Israel looking to ‘cultivate’ meat involving no slaughtering of animals but is catering to the ever-increasing appetite of VEGANS which was glowingly acknowledged by BBC Good Food. It highlighted that the country has in recent years “upped its game,” offering “slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza.”

Tel Aviv is home to at least 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens and hosts annual vegan festivals.

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Smooth Operator. Bana is one of Tel Aviv’s super-cool, new vegan-friendly restaurants (Bana)

Viva La Vegan

So, with 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens serving most of Israel’s 200,000 vegans, going meat-free isn’t only easy, it’s a chance to chew on the best chow in town.

As one food critic noted:

 “Thanks to the sun-kissed climate, high quality fruit and veg is never too far – you can see it in the colour, taste it in the flavour and smell it in the aroma of what’s on your plate.”

In Tel Aviv, “there is a real emphasis on freshness of produce,” says vegan restaurant owner Merav Barzilay. Though he founded Meshek Barzilay on an organic farm 15 years ago, he says it was an easy move to the city. Tel Aviv’s proximity to fresh vegetables “means a customer can eat a tomato the same day it was picked in the field”.

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Looks Good, Tastes Good, Is Good. A vegan burger at Meshek Barzilay in Tel Aviv (Meshek Barzilay)

For Tel Aviv’s green chefs, preparation for the day ahead, starts with a stroll through the kaleidoscope of colour and chaos  of its “shuks” (markets) selecting fresh produce.

“That’s the beauty of the marketplace – everyone is feeding each other,” says Cafe Kaymak’s Jo Cohen, one of the first vegetarian coffee shop owners in Tel Aviv. Sourcing for his multicultural kitchen from the nearby Carmel Market, “We draw from many different wells,” he says, “Turkey and Greece as well as Japan, Morocco, Tunisia and, of course, the Middle East.”  His signature vegan dish, galean mjadra, is a spicy hot-pot of lentils, paprika, almonds and berries cooked and presented on a bed of bulgur wheat and topped with salsa and tahini.

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By George! Nanuchka has a been a culinary institute in Tel Aviv for the last 20 years, it started as a Georgian restaurant and bar but during the last 5 years changed its skin and became fully vegan.

In the past seven years, the explosion of plant-based restaurants has transformed Israel’s population of just eight million into the largest vegan nation, per capita, in the world. Israel’s Tourism Ministry now promotes the country as a “vegan nation” – and Tel Aviv is at the heart of this culinary movement.

Nothing surprising in this phenomenon, explains Sharon Berger in the Forward:

“Unless you have been living under a rock you will probably already know that Israel has become the leading vegan country in the world, with 5.2% of the population eschewing all animal goods in their daily diet. This number has more than doubled since only 2010 when 2.6% of the population was vegan or vegetarian.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Israeli staples naturally includes a large amount of vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes already, including hummus and falafel, the country’s best-known dishes.

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Culinary Unveiling. In colorful Levinsky Market in South Tel Aviv, OPA is the highly curated work of vegan chef extraordinaire Shirel Berger. Working exclusively with produce from a farm 40 minutes north of the city, Berger creates understated Mediterranean-style dishes such as squash with maple-smoked pumpkin relish, jalapeño and lemon; and guava with macadamia milk, sourdough crumbs and betel leaves. (Photo by Tommer Halperin)

“The fresh produce is top quality and the Mediterranean diet has lots of flavours in its naturally vegan dishes,” says Ruthie Rousso, a Tel Aviv-based food historian and critic. “The Israeli diet is based on the meze (the little salads you eat before the meal). So giving up on meat is not the biggest sacrifice.”

Inbal Baum, a former attorney and founder of Delicious Israel, a company that offers culinary tours, sees veganism’s popularity as a natural evolution of Israelis’ relationship with the land.

“Veganism makes so much sense historically in the Israeli diet because eating from the land has always been significant,” she explains. “Eating vegetables was a way of survival. We don’t call it ‘farm to table’ here, but this style of local-produce-based eating is how my grandfather was able to live when he arrived at the kibbutz back in the 1930s – they ate what they grew.”

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Fresh At Frishman. Anastasia at Frishman St 54, Tel Aviv-Yafo.

Times They Are A-Changin’

You must know that change is about when even ‘the one and only’ shawarma – that Middle Eastern sliced-meat sandwich beloved by all the world over – is being popularised in its vegan form – most notably at Sultana, a completely vegan eatery in Tel Aviv.

Sultana uses ‘forest mushrooms that have a texture reminiscent of chicken’ and promises to be ‘the original shawarma experience, only 100 percent vegan. Chef Harel Zakaim is bent on changing the rules of the game regarding everything we knew about vegetarian-vegan shawarmas.

Weighing in on why veganism is so increasingly popular in Israel,

Israeli-based international promoter of vegan culture, Ori Shavit, believes there are a number of unique reasons why Israelis are leading this global trend. Over and above the sensitivity to animals, she adds “the country is very young and still evolving so people here are less attached to traditional eating and are used to trying new things, love innovations and  not scared to making changes in their diet.”

Shavit points out that when in 2013 Domino’s Pizza launched its first vegan pizza with non-dairy cheese, it was ‘pioneering’ and “only now just becoming available in other countries.” Israel is also the first country outside of the USA to offer Ben and Jerry’s VEGEN ice cream flavours. “As Israel has a relatively small population,” writes Shavit,  “it’s interesting that these two major international chains both chose to launch their dairy-free products in the holy land.”

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Going Green. Pizza goes vegan at The Green Cat, Tel Aviv. Photo: courtesy

Interesting but not surprising.

With Israel in the vanguard of the global vegan trend, it was little wonder that the Holy Land came in the BBC’s Good Food Top 10.

It’s indicative of who we are and how we would want to live.

“No matter where you live,” says Shavit, “the greatest effect an individual can have on the world starts on his or her plate — so no wonder that people who understand that will try to make a better choice for their food.”

Bon Appétit!

 

*Feature Picture: From The Field To The Fork. Each day, Tel Aviv’s top vegan chefs shop  for fresh produce at the ‘shuks’ like the famous Carmel Market

Seven Things I’ve Learnt In Seven months

By Gabi Crouse

Arriving in the Holy land from South Africa in early April of 2019 was surreal – my long awaited dream come true. We were floating somewhere between holiday vibes, newbies and tourists for a while until the dust settled and slowly, we began the descend back down to earth.

To go into detail about the emotional rollercoaster from our arrival to this point is another article in itself – entitled “the all you could feel Aliya buffet”. There is great learning and hardship, to say the least and potential is forever being reached and stretched. The struggle, as they say, is real. But for some, myself included, humour is the metaphorical sugar to help the medicine go down. A policy to live by is when all else fails – laugh! On that note, I would like to share with you some key observations I have about my new life in the holy land.

  1. Every Israeli owns a cat. Not every Israeli is aware of such ownership, in fact, the likelihood of the  situation is that every cat owns an Israeli. These cats are so well fed by the begrudging Jewish mama (who complains all the way to put the bowl of leftovers out) that the odd mouse or rat strolls around on its back feet, chest out and inspects the would-be left over’s from the cats!

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    Looking to be PUR’ified. Time out at the Western Wall, one of Israel’s over two million cats, who enjoy public generosity and warm Israeli atmosphere.
  2. Not all Israelis working at kupot (check-out counters) are limited to only the Hebrew language.  Some of them do speak English but will only let you in on that bit of information after you’ve said something untoward whilst believing you’re safely hidden behind a language barrier.
  3. The Mazgan (Air conditioner) becomes a sacred part of your structure. The reason for this is that when the moment of its inevitable hum begins, all people (including children) thank the good Lord above, perhaps likened to an informal prayer of techiat hametim (resurrection of the dead).
  4. All roads, when traveling on foot are uphill. This is a phenomenon which, I recon, affects olim chadashim (new immigrants) in particular and can be taken metaphorically as well as literally. Meaning that if you walk uphill to a store, enter the store and then leave again, the very same store which was once at the top of the hill is now magically at the bottom of the hill and the walk home with all your purchased items is now uphill again. You have to live here to believe it.
  5. Your level of emuna (faith) is at its peak when traveling by bus. The very fact that we get on another bus, or a connecting bus after just having survived countless near death experiences is the testimonial of truth to my statement.

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    Ride To Revelations. Life in Israel is best revealed as a passenger on a bus.
  6. The Hebrew language is one big exception to the rule. Every time I think I finally have an idea of how all the tenses are used, out pops the exception to the rule. It is this very inhibiting reality which makes me think they keep changing it to keep me on my toes!

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    Language Of Love. Even if struggling with the Hebrew language, no difficulty in recognising the Ahava (Love) sculpture at the Jerusalem Israel Museum.

The last thing is something that is not easy to explain but I’ll try my best.

  1. Nothing is urgent but everything is urgent to Israelis. Meaning that there is casual approach to getting things done in Israel – everything takes time. Registering processes that could take one or two days drag on for two weeks. Everyone seems to be okay with this for the most part. But on the other hand, G-d help anyone who is slightly obstructed on the road which affects traffic flow – the line of cars instantly becomes a symphony of impatience as if every driver is racing against the clock to save the world.

I would like to add one more lesson which I think is the most valuable to any potential oleh. I have learnt to embrace whatever it is that comes your way and understanding the following:

We haven’t ‘made Aliyah’ – we make Aliyah. It is not something we did, it is something we do every day in all the challenges we face. But as long as we don’t mind walking up the hill all the time, we are good to go and G-d willing everything will be alright. 

 

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Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations aswell as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.

Refusing to ‘Cave’ In

Aussie Rocker Nick Cave UpSTAGES BDS

By David E. Kaplan

Good on ya Nick!”

No matter the opposing odds and tough terrain, Aussies charge ahead. They did it over a 100 years ago in 1917 in Beersheba in helping to boot the Ottoman Turks out of Palestine and they will be doing it again in July 2020 when Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave and his band, The Bad Seeds, will be returning to Tel Aviv.

“Bad Seeds” is a misnomer if ever there was one. We need more of these ‘seeds’!

And may they flourish.

The show will take place at Bloomfield Stadium, as part of a world tour promoting Cave’s album Ghosteen, which deals in part with the tragic death of his 15-year-old son in 2015; after a fall from a cliff.

When he takes to the stage in Tel Aviv – he will again be giving the finger to BDS.

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Pulsating Performance. Nick Cave captivated his Tel Aviv audience Sunday night, November 19 2017. (Courtesy Orit Pnini)

When last appearing in Israel to a packed Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv in 2017, Cave defied pressure from the BDS movement and said he came to Israel  “not despite of” but “because of BDS.”

What did he mean?

Calling  a press conference, the rocker said “After a lot of thought and consideration, I rang up my people and said, ‘We’re doing a European tour and Israel.’ Because it suddenly became very important to make a stand against those people who are trying to shut down musicians; to bully musicians, to censor musicians, and to silence musicians.”

He went on to say that he “loves Israel,” and that he wanted to take “a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians.” He concluded by inferring the BDS Movement’s strategy is backfiring.

So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”

On his website last year, Cave slammed ongoing efforts to impose a boycott on Israel, calling them “cowardly and shameful.”

And this is not to say that he is a supporter of the government of Israel. He is clearly not.

“I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies. I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides of the equation.”

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Dare To Dream. The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv

This kind of balanced understanding is a far cry from the venomous position of Roger Waters the most visibly public advocate and roving ambassador of BDS that openly promotes – not the “Two State Solution”  – but the dissolution of the state of Israel.  Cave would have none of it from the Pink Floyd cofounder  with his giant-size inflated pig-shaped balloons emblazoned with a Star of David alongside fascist symbols customarily released during concerts.

If his ancestors took on the Ottoman Turks over a 100 years earlier, Roger Waters  and hid BDS cohorts prove they are no match for this principled rocker.

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A Night Where the Stars Appeared In Heaven and Earth. Madonna performing at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Cave Connecting

Prior to his 2017 concert, Cave had previously performed in Israel ’93, ’95 and ’98 and enjoys reflecting that  when “we came to Israel 20 years ago or so, did a couple tours of Israel, I felt a huge connection. Not just ‘people-talk’ of loving a country, but I just felt on some sort of level, a connection that I can’t actually really describe.”

“At the end of the day,” explained Cave in Tel Aviv in 2017, ‘there are two reasons  why I’m here: one is that I love Israel and I love Israeli people, and two is to make a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians. So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”

Waters can remain at the ‘Dark Side of his Moon’ as there has been no letup of artists touring Israel from pop queen Jennifer Lopez, to the 2019 Eurovision Song Competition  held in Tel Aviv.

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Go Figure. Stunning J-lo at Tel Aviv beach in August 2019.

In keeping with the lyrics of Rhianna who has performed numerous times in Israel:’:

Don’t Stop The Music

 

 

 

*Feature picture: Australian musician and writer Nick Cave has elaborated on his stance regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. https://www.irishtimes.com/ (Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images).