Apr 15

Israeli History – Historical Places in Israel – Atlit

The Town of Atlit in Northern Israel is situated on the Mediterranean coast South of Haifa. It was originally a Crusader outpost. In 1903 the new village was founded with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild.

Atlit is best known for the place where the British built a military camp in 1938 and was used by them as a temporary holding Camp from 1939 until 1948. At first thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe were detained in the camp and later it was used for holocaust survivors deemed to be illegal immigrants to Palestine. This was a direct result of the infamous “White Paper” that limited the number of Jews that would be allowed into the country.

Boats, which were arranged by the Mossad and operated by the Haganah and volunteers from the Diaspora carrying refugees from the Holocaust and from Arab Countries, would arrive covertly late at night to unfrequented beaches in Israel. Many of the boats were intercepted by the British and the people were taken ashore and transported to Atlit, some managed to avoid British Patrol Boats and the immigrants actually made it to shore but were ambushed by the British on the beaches and rounded up and sent to Atlit. The Atlit Camp had barbed wire around it and armed guards.

One of the most heroic stories of those times is that of the bold and brilliant Palmach military operation led by Nahum Sarig Palmach and Yitzchak Rabin on the 10th October 1945 who successfully broke into the Atlit illegal immigrant detention camp and freed all 280 detainees who escaped and made their way on foot to Kibbutz Yagur, a distance of approximately 5 km from the camp.

After 1948 the camp was used as an absorption centre for the thousands of Holocaust survivors and refugees from surrounding Arab Countries.

Today the Atlit Detention centre is a national monument.  In 1987 the Council for Israel Heritage Sites was allocated part of the 25 acres of the original camp to reconstruct and serve as a museum for visitors to learn about this very special time in Israel’s history. It enables visitors to have a firsthand experience of how traumatic it was for the immigrants detained there in conditions very much like those they had been subjected to in the extermination camps.

There is a ship at the site that is comparable in size and appearance to the ships that were used to transport the immigrants, a model of the barracks that housed the prisoners as well as a model of the reception area which was extremely traumatic as the detainees had to remove their clothes to be disinfected and had to shower, all bringing back memories of the concentration camps that they had recently been rescued from. Atlit also has a memorial to those who died while making their way by land and sea to the Land of Israel.

Mar 20

Golan Heights – Northern Israel – Israel

The Golan Heights is situated in the north of Israel and borders on Syria.    The area had been part of the Ottoman Empire and after the First World War it became included in the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine.  However this was changed when in 1923 an agreement was reached between Britain and France ceding the Golan Heights to French Mandated Syria.

 

Golan Heights IsraelAfter 1948 the Golan Heights became the Armistice Line between Syria and Israel and for 18 years the Syrians used the high positions on the Golan to attack Israel by shelling Kibbutzim and settlements in the Galilee as well as Israeli water projects in the Hula valley.

 

 

In June 1967 during the 6 Day War Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria and in 1973 defended its position after a heavy attack by Syrian armored forces and at great cost.  Israel counter attacked and drove deep into Syria only to withdraw later but remain on the Heights.  In 1981 Legislation was passed in the Knesset that replaced the Military Authority and extended Israeli Civil Laws and Administration to the Golan Heights.

 

 

 

 

Today the region of the Golan Heights in Northern Israel is a magnificent mountainous area extremely popular with local holidaymakers and visitors from abroad offering a wide variety of activities, glorious scenic vistas, interesting Nature Reserves and many archeological and historic places of interest.

Golan Heights IsraelThe region of the Golan Heights comprises lush agricultural land in the South and awe-inspiring volcanic topography further north.  There are activities year found. Winter offers opportunities for both professional and amateur skiers alike to take advantage of the snow covered slopes of Mt Hermon. Summer is a perfect time for swimming in the many streams, spring brings with it a plethora of beautiful wild flowers and the pleasing autumn weather is perfect for hikers. Not to be forgotten are visits to the many boutique wineries in the area.

The Golan Heights is truly a beautiful place to visit and the many guest houses offer a wide variety of accommodation and many excellent restaurants to suit all tastes.

Jan 25

Places To Visit In Israel – Israeli Sightseeing – Zichron Yaakov

The picturesque town of Zichron Yaakov was founded in 1882 with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. He was a Jewish philanthropist who had assisted in the establishment of many of the early communities, often helping with financial support.

Northern Israel - Zichron Yaakov

Photo: Ilana Shkonik אילנה שקולניק

Zichron Yaakov is situated about a half hour drive from Haifa and 15 minutes from Caesarea. It has a particularly attractive location at the southern end of the Carmel mountain range overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Local visitors and tourists from abroad are drawn to the quaint pedestrian mall in the center of the town with its many lovely small stores, offering local art and souvenirs and an array of quaint restaurants and coffee shops all adding to the special and unique atmosphere.  There are art galleries and artists workshops to explore. There is a part of the street paved with cobblestones and lit by gaslight and on either side the visitor can see the buildings that have red shingles roofs dating back to the 19th century.

There are museums that are housed in two of the original buildings.  One is Beit Aharonson which is devoted to the Nili underground resistance organization. This spy ring was pro British and operated during the First World War in what was then Turkish controlled Palestine. This organization was under the leadership of Aaron Aharonson and his sister Sarah Aharonson who was acclaimed around the world as an agronomist. The Aharonson family was part of the early settlement of the area. Another museum is that dedicated to the First wave of immigration to Israel (First Aliyah).

Zichron Yaakov in Israel winemaking barrel ship in the 19th centuryThe early farmers of Zichron Yaakov cultivated vineyards and today wine has become one of the area’s biggest industries. The winery has a visitor’s center that offers visitors free guided tours

There are other interesting places to see around the Zichron Yaakov area. Visit the tombs of Baron de Rothschild and his wife which are situated in the beautifully maintained Ramat Hanadiv Gardens. Close to these gardens is a nature reserve with striking views of the coastline. An interesting place to visit in the same area especially for families is Kfar HaNokdim that features activities from the past like camel rides and Bedouin hospitality.

Nov 13

Israel – Israeli Places of Interest – Ein Gedi

At the lowest point on earth on the shores of the Dead Sea in Israel and nestled at the foot of imposing cliff and mountains, is the vibrantly green oasis of Ein Gedi. This exciting location is a combination of spas and various tourist attractions together with a beautiful and ancient vista of history and archeology that makes it perfect for an unusual desert experience.

Ein Gedi OasisEin Gedi Nature Reserve stretches from the shores of the Dead Sea which is 423 meters below Sea Level up to the Plateau of the Judean Desert 200 meters above sea level. One of Israel’s most important nature reserves it has four fresh water springs, two of which feed the streams Nahal David and Nahal Arugot that flow throughout the year.  Visitors can enjoy the sight of rivers running through canyons bordered by abundant vegetation and can spot animals coming to drink at the river.

Ein Gedi archeologyEvidence has been found of human settlement going back to the Chalcolithic period more than 5000 years ago and from about the 7th century BCE Ein Gedi has been significant in Jewish History.  The area around Ein Gedi was included in the territory of the Tribe of Judah. When fleeing from King Saul, David took refuge in Ein Gedi it was a place where rebels fled to from Jerusalem. Temples and Synagogue were built that strengthened the Jewish grip of the area. Visitors to the reserve can view the lovely mosaic floor of a Synagogue dating back to the third century BCE.

Dead Sea beauty treatmentsTourists from around the world visit this internationally renowned health spa and rejuvenate themselves with the mud baths, mineral waters and hot springs that are available or bathe in the Dead Sea’s healing waters. There are other interesting activities available in the area such as excursions by jeep, desert safaris and tours of Masada and Qumran which are the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

Accommodation is available at Hotels, Kibbutz guest houses or camping on the Dead Sea shore.

Oct 30

Famous Israelis – Israel Culture – Chaim Topol

Chaim Topol is a famous Israeli Actor and musical theatre performer.
He was born to Rel (Goldman) and Jacob Topol on the 9th September 1935 in Tel Aviv Israel which at that time was the British Mandate territory of Palestine.

Chaim began acting in amateur theatrical plays during his mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Force and after completion of his National Service established a satirical cabaret theatre group in Tel Aviv called “The Spring Onion” together with Ephraim Kishon, an army friend.

In 1957 he married Galia Finkelstein and they have 3 children Omer, Adi and Anat who is also an actress. In 1960 he significantly contributed to the founding of the National Theatre of Haifa.

Topol acted in a number of Israeli films the best known being Sallah Shabati which was an adaptation of a play written by Ephraim Kishon about the difficulties experienced by Yeminite Jewish immigrant family. The film received an Oscar nomination in 1964 for best foreign language film and Topol won the Golden Globe Award for best new actor of the year. In 1966 Topol made his first screen appearance as Abou Ibn Kaqden in an English Language Movie “Cast a Giant Shadow” starring Kirk Douglas.

Chaim Topol is best known for his role of Tevya the Milkman in the blockbuster movie Fiddler on the Roof and while on active service in the Israeli Army he was informed that he had won a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for best actor in the film version and was given permission to attend the award ceremonies.

Since then Topol has had notable parts in many films and has played Tevye in Stage Productions of Fiddler on the Roof, in London, New York as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and many countries in Europe.

Oct 23

Historical Sites in Israel – Israeli Cities – The Old City Of Jerusalem

The ancient city of Jerusalem has been continuously inhabited for over 3000 years and is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Outside Wall of the Old City Of JerusalemFor the Jews it is the place where the Jewish Patriarch Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah.  In approximately 1000 BCE King David proclaimed Jerusalem as the eternal capital and spiritual centre of the Jewish people.  It is also the spot where King David’s son King Solomon built the First Temple in about 670 BCE directly over the rock of Mt Moriah.

Jerusalem is also holy to Christians as this is the place where Jesus’ ministry was marked by miracles as where he made a triumphal entry into the city and where the “Last Supper” (Passover Seder) took place on Mt Zion in 30 CE. This is also where Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane took place, followed by the trial, condemnation and the route of the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) to Calvary or Golgotha. Christian Pilgrimages to the Holy Land always include a visit to  the Old City of Jerusalem including a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

More than a thousand years after The First Temple was built,  the Dome of the Rock was built over the site of Solomon’s Holy Temple, on what is known as the Temple Mount (Mt Moriah), as a shrine for Islamic pilgrims who believe that it was the site where Mohammed ascended to heaven and is thus holy for Muslims.

There is a mystical quality about Jerusalem that is unique and does not exist anywhere else in the world perhaps because of its exciting and splendid history and the hallowed atmosphere that surrounds all the holy sites. The captivating feeling in Jerusalem also probably emanates from the narrow alleys, vivid markets, magnificent stone walls and ancient buildings.

The city is surrounded by a wall which is nearly 4 km long and has seven gates. There are many towers including the Tower of David and the city is divided into 4 quarters:

The Jewish Quarter
The Christian Quarter
The Armenian Quarter
The Moslem Quarter

Oct 21

Life in Israel – Israeli Culture – The Kibbutz

Kibbutz is the Hebrew word for communal settlement.  In Israel it is a unique socio-economic rural community originally agricultural, however over the years Kibbutzim have branched out to include industrial enterprises and hi-tech projects.

The Kibbutz has gone through a number of changes over the years but the original ideology of a society that is committed to social justice, mutual aid, the principle of joint property ownership,  all receiving an equal education and all members having a home and all it implies according to their needs still remains in many kibbutzim.

It is 100 years since the first Kibbutz (named Degania) was set up near the shores of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) by a group of young East European immigrants motivated by the ideals of Zionism and socialism.

Even though there have been many setbacks, both economic and idealogical, the kibbutz has become the largest community based movement in the world with 268 Kibbutz communities stretching from the Negev in the South to the Golan Heights in the North of Israel and a membership in excess of one hundred and seventeen thousand people.

80% of the Kibbutzim came into being prior to 1948 when the State of Israel was established. Each kibbutz is run autonomously by its members both economically and socially but the strong bonds that exist between them has been formalized into national federations that co-ordinate with each other and share many activities.

A Kibbutz is not a village as no public roads runs through it and it is legally a completely private area. The economy is based on communal finances and economic and social activities are shared.  There is a community kitchen with meals served in a communal dining room. Some Kibbutzim have tried sending food to members’ houses but the general consensus seems to be that members prefer communal dining facilities.

There have been many changes in the way the Kibbutz was run in the past and the way a number of kibbutzim are run today. Originally members joining a kibbutz were expected to transfer any assets that they had to the kibbutz.  Now total equality has ceased and the concept of equality is provided mainly through food, health care and education. Children’s houses no longer exist and families live as a unit. Self management has been replaced with representatives elected by ballot. There are a number of other differences in various kibbutz movements but generally the kibbutz movement carries on. Many Kibbutzim also have hotel style guest houses for visitors and tourists to stay at while traveling around Israel.

Many people from around the world travel to Israel to volunteer on a kibbutz for a few months where they work in exchange for food and housing and get to experience the uniqueness of this way of life. Many Kibbutzim also have guest houses for visitors and tourists to stay at while traveling around Israel.

Oct 06

Israeli Figures – Famous People in Israel – Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky

Natan Sharansky is an Israeli politician, author, human rights activist and a former Soviet refusenik.  He was born Anatoly Borisovich Scharansky in Donetsk in the Ukraine on the 20th January 1948. At that time the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union.

During his teens he was a chess prodigy, performing in blindfold exhibitions against adults. Sharansky claims that during his imprisonment in the Soviet Union he played chess in his mind against himself.  In 1996 in a chess exhibition in Israel he beat the world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
He graduated from the Physical Technical Institute in Moscow with a degree in mathematics and became involved with the human rights movement when he worked as an English interpreter for Andrei Sakharov. He emerged as a leading spokesman and dissident for the movement for the rights of Soviet Jewry.

Sharansky applied for an exit visa to Israel in 1973, which was refused. After that he was at the forefront of Jewish refusenik actions until 1977 when he was arrested and in 1978 he was convicted on trumped up charges of spying on behalf of the United States and sentenced to 13 years in prison.  After 16 months in Lefortovo prison most of the time in a special “torture cell” in solitary confinement he was transferred to a prison camp in Siberia.

Sharansky was released from prison on the 11th February 1986 as a result of a campaign waged by his wife Avital in conjunction with international organizations and he arrived at last in Israel on that same night.

In Israel, Sharansky devoted himself to promoting the cause of Soviet Jewry and formed the political party Yisrael B’Aliyah. He represented this party in the Israeli Knesset from 1996 until January 2003, serving first as Minister of Industry and Trade, then as Minister of the Interior, after that minister of Trade and Industry and then Deputy Prime Minister.

In 2006 Natan Sharansky resigned from the Knesset and in June 2008 he was sworn in as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Natan Sharansky has been honored in many ways in the United States. In 1986 he received the Congressional Gold Medal and in 2006 the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He met personally with President George W Bush who was an admirer of his Book “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Freedom and Terror” which has received attention from many quarters.

Natan Sharansky’s book “Fear No Evil” which is his memoir has been translated into nine languages.

Oct 01

Israel Food – Jewish Recipes – Vegetarian Cholent

Recipe: Vegetarian Cholent

Ingredients

  • 8 medium potatoes
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 onion fried in oil
  • 1 cup brown beans
  • 1/2 cup small white beans
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Water
  • Dumpling ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup matza meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 eggs beaten well
  • 1/2 cup oil.

Instructions

  1. Cholent Preparation Peel and slice each potato into four. Place into heavy pot. Wash beans well and add to potatoes. Fill heavy saucepan 2/3 with water. Add slice onion, fried onion, salt and pepper. Cover. Bring to the boil. When boiling stir in dumplings, cover and reduce heat and simmer on low heat or in the oven until the next day.
  2. Dumpling preparation Mix all the ingredients together. Mixture should be loose, (if too stiff add some water.) Spoon the dumpling mixture into the boiling cholent and allow to cook together as mentioned above.

A traditional Jewish stew  prepared on  Friday and kept hot to eat on Shabbat  lunch. It  can be prepared in a crock-Pot.  Also known as Hamin. The above recipe is just one way to cook it. There are many versions with  different ingredients.

Sep 28

Israel Technology – Israeli Achievements – Agriculture

Israel’s achievements in the field of agriculture have been one of the country’s top priorities and some of the techniques that have been developed are those concerned with the conservation of water which could, in turn, be the solution to the hunger experienced in the third world.

For many years Israel has been distributing various technologies all over the world about how to conserve and efficiently use water with new systems of water recycling and reclaiming of water resources. In 1955 the first practical  Drip Irrigation system was developed by Simcha Blass, an Israeli Engineer. This system brings in a high yield of agriculture while at the same time saving water. Today the focus is on desalination of sea water.

By making agricultural research one of the country’s top priorities and despite the serious lack of water, Israel is the only country worldwide that has a higher number of trees today than it had at the beginning of the 20th century. It is also a fact that one dunam of land (1000 square meters)  cultivated in Israel has a yield of up to 30 times higher than the same size of land in a regular agricultural country .

The discovery in Israel that various crops respond and react in different ways according to the color of the shading nets that are used is now being implemented in some European countries and is being intensively developed further all over Europe.

It is probably not generally known that the yield of milk from Israeli cows holds the world record and even more interesting is the fact that Israeli cows produce 40% less methane gas than the cows in other nations produce. This has significance environmentally because of the fact that methane gas is regarded as one of the main global warming contributors.

In the field of production of seed and the development of special varieties of fruit and vegetables, Israel is a world leader. Strains of cherry tomatoes as well as melons and citrus fruit have become top market leaders in Europe and many other countries including South Africa, Iran and Morocco.  60%-70% of spices marketed in Europe come from Israel. Many other Israeli developments are being marketed and grown around the globe.

There are a number of countries in Africa who are inspired and are increasing their productivity by using the models of agricultural communities that are practiced by Israeli Kibbutzim and Moshavim.