Apr 06

Israel – Places in Jerusalem – Mahane Yehuda Market

Israel’s largest open air market is located in downtown Jerusalem. This is the Mahane Yehuda market which has become the core of the authentic Jerusalem experience and enjoys great popularity with tourists and locals alike. The market itself has hundreds of vendors offering everything from fruit and vegetables, stalls with huge selections of herbs and spices, meat, fish and varieties of cheese to suit all palates as well as house wares and clothes.

Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem

photo: www.goisrael.com

Visitors from all walks of life enjoy wandering around this exciting place with its enticing aromas, its exhilarating colors and picturesque characters and vendors.   The market was originally established towards the end of the 19th century between the neighborhoods of Mahane Yehuda and Beit Ya’akov and at that time was known as the Shuk Beit Yaakov. The shuk expanded rapidly and rather chaotically during the time of Ottoman rule. In about 1928 due to very poor sanitary conditions the authorities of the British Mandate closed the market and began building permanent stalls and roofing that would enable the merchants to begin trading under better conditions.  At this time the market became known by its present name.  Early in this century extensive renovations were again undertaken, roads were repaved and some areas covered.

The modernized and improved market has resulted in the opening of various Coffee shops, high quality bakeries, fashion boutiques and photography and art galleries as well as modern gourmet restaurants.

Mahane Yehuda open air market

photo: www.goisrael.com

The Mahane Yehuda Market has today become a symbol of life in Jerusalem. There have even been songs and literary pieces written describing its bustle and ambience. It is definitely a must do on the agenda for tourists.

Apr 10

Israel Cities – Places To Visit – Beersheba

Beersheva (Beersheba) is a Negev desert City in the south of Israel and is the seventh largest city in the country with a population of approximately 200,000.  It is also known as “The capital of the Negev”.

Archeological findings have suggested that people have lived in the area since the 4th millennium BC and that the city has been rebuilt many times over the centuries after being destroyed time and again.

In the Old Testament Bible, Beersheba is mentioned in the book of Genesis in connection with the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac who built an alter there, and Jacob. Later, the area became the territory of Shimon and Judah (Joshua 15:28 and 19:2). Beersheba is also linked in the bible to the prophet Elijah.  King Saul, who was Israel’s first king built a fort in Beersheba during his battle against the Amalekites.

Around the end of the 19th century when Palestine was controlled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire, a police station was built in an effort to keep the surrounding Bedouin population under control.  At that time a town was planned with the streets laid out in a grid pattern and then during the First World War a military railway was laid linking Beersheba to the existing Hejaz line. The rail link remained active until October 1917 when General Allenby’s troops made up of British and Australian cavalry, broke through the Turkish defenses and took control of the Wells of Beersheba.

During the time of the British Mandate of Palestine Beersheba became a key administrative centre. In 1928 during wide scale Arab rioting, 133 Jews were killed and 339 injured.  Many Jews left Beersheba and the rest of the Jewish population left after an Arab attack on a Jewish bus in 1936.

The 1947 U.N. Partition Plan included Beersheba in part of the allotted Arab territory and in 1948 the Egyptian army was stationed in Beersheba.  During Israel’s War of Independence Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who was convinced that Beersheba and the surrounding outposts would be of great importance to the security of the fledgling Jewish State, gave orders for the city to be placed under Israel’s control. On the 21st October 1948 after surrounding the Egyptian forces, Beersheba was in the hands of Israeli soldiers.

Today Beersheba is regarded as the gateway to the Negev and is a thriving modern city with a number of interesting places for local tourists and visitors from abroad to enjoy. Visit the Old Turkish Town with its well preserved old buildings and a wide selection of cheap stores and many ethnic restaurants.  On the edge of the old town there is Abraham’s Well, and the Negev Museum housed in what was the residence of the Turkish Governor. Just next to the Old Town is the British First World War Cemetery where British, Australian and New Zealand troops were laid to rest.

Beersheba also has some colorful and interesting markets, there is the municipal market which can be found in the area between the Old Town and the Central Bus Station and the Thursday Bedouin Market with its wide array of unusual merchandise that is located outside the city on the road to Eilat.

The Tel Beer Sheva Archeological Park outside the city is a Unesco World Heritage Site and well worth a visit.

Mar 15

Touring Israel – Israeli Areas To Visit – Mitzpe Ramon.

The small town of Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert is approximately 140 km north of Eilat and 80 km south of Beer Sheva.  The town is situated right on the edge of the Ramon Crater which is the largest of three craters located in the Negev.

View of the Ramon Crater - photo taken by Dafna Tal

viewing the Ramon Crater photo Dafna Tal

 

 

When visiting Mitzpe Ramon it is a good idea to start at the very edge of the Crater where the Visitors centre is located. The Mitzpe Ramon Visitors Centre displays large models showing the geology and geography of the area as well as an audio-visual presentation that describes in detail the formation of the craters and the Negev as well as the local flora and fauna and the history of settlement.  There is also an observation deck with a spectacular view of the crater itself.

 

snapling at the Ramon Crater photo Dafna Tal

From the Visitors Centre a trail called The Albert Promenade leads along the Craters edge to a bird balcony where visitors can view birds flying below.  All along the promenade there are striking sculptures of environmental interest. There is also a complex called Bio Ramon with a presentation divided into areas showing a collection of desert animals and plants and a part with a reconstruction of a desert setting all of which is really interesting.

Mitzpe Ramon was originally founded in 1950 as a military outpost and in later years a place of various immigrant groups were sent to make their homes and although it remains a small town it has also become the ideal stopping point for travelers wishing to view the Crater, experience the excellent air quality, magnificent landscapes and outstanding views of the night sky makes it a delight for Star Gazers.  The wonderful hiking trails in the area are also very popular amongst local visitors and tourists alike.

Accommodation is available in Hotels, Guest House, B&B’s and camping grounds.

Mar 01

Tour Israel – Israeli Cities – Jaffa

Jaffa is one of the oldest port cities in the world, it has been inhabited since approximately 7.500 years BCE and the harbor has been in use since the Bronze Age.

Photo: www.goisrael.Com

Jaffa has been ruled by the Egyptians, and the Canaanites as well as other ancient civilizations and eventually by the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt. It was later destroyed after its capture by the Romans who slaughtered thousands during Maccabean times.

Old Jaffa is mentioned a number of times in the Bible’s Old Testament, in the books of Chronicles, Joshua, Ezra and Jonah. Both King David and King Solomon used the port for the import of timber to build temples.

In the new Testament there is a mention that Peter performed the miracle of the resurrection of the widow Tabatha in Jaffa as well as receiving a vision where he is instructed by God that there should be no discrimination between Jews and Gentiles.

Marina in Jaffa

Photo: www.goisrael.com

The city became a tumultuous area after the Death of Jesus with nearly all the great powers seeking to control it amongst them the Crusaders and the Ottoman Empire until British control. At that time the Arabs led riots and Pogroms against the Jewish residents causing them to establish the city of Tel Aviv.

Today Jaffa is part of the municipality of Tel Aviv and although no longer used as a port, the old city has been beautifully restored and has a varied population consisting of Jews and both Muslim and Christian Arabs.

Old Jaffa

Photo: www.goisrael.com

There is so much to see in Jaffa, starting at the Port which has a marina and fishing boats can be seen coming and going all day, regularly bringing in catches of fresh fish which can be eaten at the many fish restaurants located at the harbor or bought directly from the boats along the wharf.  Stroll through the winding cobblestone alleyways and discover art galleries, cafés and restaurants. Walk up the path to the top of Jaffa hill where restored archeological excavations can be found. Also at the top of the hill is St Peter’s Church. While touring Jaffa, don’t forget to visit the Clock Square and the Flea market.

There are many attractions that draw tourists to Jaffa with its lovely restored buildings and narrow lanes which house art, curio and souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes and the beautiful views of the sea and beaches of Tel Aviv. At night Old Jaffa becomes a very romantic place to stroll around with its lovely special effects lighting.

Feb 15

Israel – Cities in North Israel – Nazareth

The Israeli city of Nazareth is located in Northern Israel in the heart of the Galilee region. Approximately 25 km from the Sea of Galilee and 9 km from Mount Tabor, it is the largest Arab city in Israel inhabited by both Christian and Muslim Israeli Arabs. There are also many Jewish Israelis living in Upper Nazareth.

View of NazarethNazareth is regarded as “the Cradle of Christianity” because it was here, according to tradition, that the angel Gabriel announced to Mary the news of her conception by the Holy Spirit’s power. It was also the place where Jesus spent the years of his childhood and youth.  Most people who come on a tour of the Holyland will visit Nazareth.

Basilica of Annunciation Nazareth, IsraelAbout 2000 years ago Nazareth was a small Jewish village which, during the Byzantine period, became a Christian stronghold and soon became a very popular place of pilgrimage because of its connection to Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Soon the building of churches began, the first being that of the Church of the Annunciation which was placed at the site of the home of Joseph and Mary. Many churches were built over the years, destroyed and rebuilt as the rulers changed from Christian to Muslim over the centuries.

The 19th century bought about renewed interest as Christians returned to take up residence in Nazareth and began to rebuild the Churches and monasteries.  Today there are approximately 30 churches as well as mosques and ancient synagogues. The Basilica of the Annunciation heads the list of places to see. It is modern and was consecrated in 1969 after being built over the foundations of previous structures from the Byzantine and Crusader periods. The dome of the Basilica rises 55 meters high and shaped like a Madonna lily which symbolizes the Virgin Mary.

Other places to visit in Nazareth are St Joseph’s Church located next to the Basilica of the Annunciation. This church has an underground cavern that is believed to contain Joseph’s workshop and the Synagogue Church traditionally thought to have been the original synagogue where Jesus studied, prayed and preached when he was young.

The Nazareth Village is well worth a visit. It is a reconstruction of Jewish lifestyle at the time of Jesus and what Nazareth was like 2000 years ago. Visitors are greeted by authentically dressed inhabitants and the parables of Jesus are brought to life in their original setting.

A tour of Nazareth’s old city is completed by a visit to the market with its colorful souvenir, artwork, spice as well as lovely fabric stalls and enjoying some of the local foods. Your authentic Middle Eastern experience will be complete.

Accommodation is available in Christian Hostels and excellent Hotels to serve the needs of the tourists who visit the area in large numbers especially around Christmas time when the city is really beautiful with wonderful decorations and its holy ambience. There are also many restaurants serving delicious foods that attract visitors throughout the year.

Jan 31

Israel – Northern Israel – Tiberias

The Northern Israeli city of Tiberias is situated on the Western shores of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). It is situated near 17 hot springs and is sometimes called the City of Water.

Ruins at Tiberias on the Sea of GalileeTiberias is 200 meters below Sea Level and is the lowest city in Israel. It is a very popular vacation destination attracting thousands of tourists as well as local holidaymakers.

The city itself is regarded as one of the Judaism’s four “Holy Cities” the others being Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed and has a long history as a place of Jewish study and culture in both ancient and modern times. It was established by Herod Antipas the son of Herod the Great and named after the Roman Emperor Tiberius in 20 CE.

Mount of Beatitudes -  the site of the Sermon on the MountTiberias has places that are of Importance to Jews and Christians alike, from the 2nd to the 10th century CE it was the political and religious centre for the Jewish population particularly in the 16th century when Sephardic Jews from Spain fled the Inquisition and settled in the city, amongst these were the well known sage and philosopher Moses Maimonides (Rambam) and Moshe Chaim Luzzato, the renowned Kabbalist teacher.

After its establishment, it was a place during the time of Jesus where many miracles took place and a lot of churches were built there and in the surrounding areas.  A popular site is the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount.

Tiberias has been inhabited continuously and there are a variety of buildings and ruins from different periods that have been well preserved and in the Old City many sites can be seen from the time of the Crusades and the Ottoman Empire including the Church of St Peter.

Tiberias on the Sea of GalileeVisitors to Tiberias can enjoy the tranquil and peaceful surroundings as well as visit the many unique religious sites in the area as well as take advantage of the water activities on offer.

Watching the sun set on the Sea of Galilee is an experience not to be missed. The light makes the water appear almost luminous and the water takes on the color of the sky which is flushed with hues of gold, blue and grey and patches of pink, definitely a sight worth waiting for.

Visitors can swim in the Kinneret or take a boat trip, or even visit Hamat Gader with its lovely tropical gardens, crocodiles and beautiful exotic birds.

There are numerous Hotels available to suit all budgets and 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.

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.

Sep 03

Israel Museums – Visit Jerusalem – The Israel Museum

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem was founded in 1965 and is one of the world’s most prominent art and archeology museums with wide-ranging exhibits of Judaica, biblical archeology, fine arts and artifacts from countries in South America, Africa, Oceania and the Far East. The various collections embody the precious history of human culture from modern times going back nearly a million years.

Israel Museum - Shrine of the BookThe museum’s 20 acre campus encompasses a number of different wings offering captivating exhibits, activities that will please visitors of all ages, the lovely Billy Rose Sculpture Garden as well as special events.

Model of Temple Mount at Israel Museum JerusalemWithout doubt the Shrine of the Book which is part of the Israel Museum is the most popular exhibit.  The distinctive onion shaped roof was designed to look like the covers of the jars containing the Dead Sea Scrolls; they were found in Qumran in1947 and are the oldest manuscripts ever discovered.
There are also other rare manuscripts including the 10th century Aleppo Codex which is believed to be the most ancient complete Hebrew Bible.

Situated next to the Shrine of the Book is a model of Jerusalem reconstructing the city and the Temple as they were  before the destruction by the Romans of the city.

Israel Museum JerusalemThe impressive Billy Rose Sculpture Garden is regarded as being one of the finest current outdoor sculpture exhibitions and includes works by celebrated artists Jacques Lipchitz, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, and David Smith and more recently works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Mark Dion, James Turrell, and Micha Ullman.

There are many other interesting exhibitions, especially the Judaica wing which includes religious objects from worldwide Jewish communities as well as reconstructed old Synagogues from Italy, Germany and the newest addition a Synagogue from Cochin India.

The largest section of the Museum is the archeology wing which contains the world’s largest collection of artifacts found in Israel.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year both local and tourists from abroad.