Coming to Tel Aviv always feels like coming home to me, even though I am not Jewish. Originally arriving to the city very hesitantly – like many people, I’m sure – it took just a few hours to turn me into a fan for life. Was it the comfortable climate? Was it the warmth of its people? Was it its glorious food? Make it a combination of all of the above. Either way, since then, I have visited the white city many times. It became one of my getaway cities over time, a place where I can come to hide from the everyday hustle of a promoter’s life, a city that gives me energy and inspiration while at the same time relaxing me more than any other place.
Sharing the city
For my girlfriend and travel companion, it was her first visit to this mostly unknown, hidden treasure. It was fun to share some of my favorite spots and discovering some new ones, because Tel Aviv is a city that is constantly changing while maintaining its vibe.
Tel Aviv is only about an hour away from Jerusalem so a visit to the holy city was inevitable. Our guide Karen was very well informed about all matters from the past and from today. She took us to some unique viewpoints and even into places where you would never come as a regular tourist. Jerusalem has always been a complicated city and it will probably always remain that way. But all its diversity is what makes it what it is today.
When can we go again?
We’re on the plane home now and while at the beginning of the trip there seemed so many days ahead, now it feels like they went by too fast. We’re already looking forward to our next stay and yes, I promise to get in touch with my friends there before landing. Sorry guys.
Thank you Marilyn for the tips. Thank you Melissa for arranging the tour guide. Thank you Iris for breakfast and ever lasting friendship.
Fleamarket JaffaBrown Hotel rooftop by night Vegan food @ Buddha Burgers – Ice Cream @ Anita Neve Tzedek Neve Tzedek Hotel Montefiore Old Jaffa Fleamarket Dizengoff Square Juice spot on Ahad Ha’am Benedict 24/7 Breakfast
Tel Aviv boardwalk
Under construction Tel Aviv old vs. new architecture Rothschild Boulevard
Here are some suggestions for those interested in discovering Israel. If you book a vacation for a week or ten days you can stay in Tel Aviv and enjoy the city and the beach life. Then take a few days to visit the country:
Renting a car is easy and cheap (Suncar) and all road signs are in English, Arabic and Hebrew so you shouln’t worry about getting lost. If you only plan on visiting Jerusalem then you could use public transportation like the bus, the service taxis departing from Tel Aviv’s central bus station or the train. In Jerusalem make sure to visit the Old City including the Wailing Wall, the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Quarters in the narrow streets and the Church of the Saint Sepulchre. You should also visit Mount Scopus, the Mahane Yehuda food market, The Knesset (Parliament), Yad Vashem and the Eretz Israel museum. Contact us for more info and we can find you a guide in any language.
The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and almost one of the official wonders of the world. It is a natural spa with many benefits for the skin. Located more than 400 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea is an experience; from rubbing mud on your skin till floating in the sea reading a book.
Another amazing place to visit in that area is Massada. ‘Massada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau (akin to a mesa) on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, theSiege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Jewish rebels and their families hiding there.’ (source: Wikipedia) You can walk the snake path up and down, many do it on sunrise or sunset for its beauty and also because of the heat. For the lazy ones: there is a cable cart.
In the North you can make various trips to the Galil (Nazareth, Sea of Galilea, Jordan River), to the Golan Heights, to Caesarea, Haifa and Acco. Many accommodation options vary from “Zimmer” (guesthouses or luxury bungalows) to resorts.
And this is why I haven’t posted anything in two weeks. On Thursday July 18th we organized the opening ceremony of the 19th Maccabiah games. Major production, big success. You may say the Maccabiah games are like the Jewish olympics. Here are a few of my photos:
From the official Maccabiah website
“MACCABIAH OPENING CEREMONY: PARADING IN A CELEBRATION OF NATIONS AND COLORS”
The 19th Maccabiah begins tonight (Thursday), as some 9,000 athletes representing more 78 countries get ready to compete in 42 sports.
The 19th Maccabiah Games kicked off Thursday night with a gala opening ceremony at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium that was attended by thousands of spectators. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres were set to take part in the event to honor the 9,000 athletes representing 78 countries, the largest number of competitors ever at the Maccabiah games.
The ceremony begun with a colorful parade of the athletes and the atmosphere in the stadium was enchanting. It was a celeration of music, colors and Jewish spirit from all over the world. Next to come, lighting of the Maccabiah torch, as well as performances by popular musicians from Rami Kleinstein and Harel Skaat to newer talents such as the Grammy-winning, Israeli-born violinist Miri Ben Ari; the Canadian-born singer Kathleen Reiter, winner of “The Voice Israel” and “The X Factor” (United States) finalist Carly Rose Sonenclar.
In Flemish they say ‘Liefde gaat door de maag’ – literally translated ‘Love goes through the stomach’ – and yes you can cook your way into capturing love. Wintertime is cocooning time and that means time for new culinary challenges. As Israel’s population consists of 76% Jewish people, Christmas is not as widely celebrated as in the rest of the world. While recently traveling to New York and London, I kept seeing that same cookbook in shops and homes called Jerusalem, without giving it too much attention; until I got my own copy as a Christmas gift.
Yotam Ottolenghi is a culinary star in London, overseeing four restaurants, writing vegetarian columns for The Guardian and a familiar face on BBC tv. Born in Israel not long after the 1967 war, Ottolenghi grew up in Jewish West Jerusalem. After some time in Tel Aviv, he moved to London, took a cooking course at Le Cordon Bleu without any intention for professional cooking; and there he met his later-to-be business partner and co-chef Sami Tamimi. Tamimi grew up in the Muslim neighborhoods of East Jerusalem around the same time. What are the odds: a Jewish Israeli from West Jerusalem, an Israeli Arab from East Jerusalem, meeting in the UK, sharing a passion for the same food despite cultural dissimilarities and together manage to successfully create their own brand of Meditteranean based cuisine. Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s story is inspiring; a sign of hope and a symbol for peace.
Jerusalem: A Cookbook is their third book and was already a bestseller before it even came out. I wanted to prepare diner with a few typical Middle Eastern for my Belgian guests. So we started the preparations: it can begin with sewing your own apron first (yes maybe I’ll post a tutorial for it one day) but let’s stick to shopping for this one. We went out to the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, where they have the best fruit & vegetables at the best prices. We also got some spices, tea and herbs like Za’atar (Hyssup), Cinnamon, Cumin and Curcuma (Turmeric). In the little streets of the Shuk (market in Hebrew) one can find great food spots for authentic Hummus, Tehina & Shakshuka like at Shlomo & Doron, to cement the stomach. And then it was time to cook; out of 120 recipes in the book I picked a few: I made roasted cauliflower & hazelnut salad (replacing some of the ingredients to my own taste). Then we had stuffed aubergines with lamb & pine nuts (I used minced beef meat instead) with Mejadra (ancient dish with rice, lentils and fried onion). I also added a plain sweet potato puree and some avocado salad. And some fruit for dessert. בתאבון – شهية طيبة
Maybe one day, peace in the world will come through the stomach too…
The Italians say: “Vedi Napoli e (poi) muore” or: when you’ve seen the magnificence of Naples you’ve seen everything, and it’s safe to die. Italians obviously have never been to the Old City of Jerusalem. Being one of the oldest cities of the world, Jerusalem is marked by religion and conflict. During its long history, it has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. Jerusalem is also a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The spiritual power of this city is omnipresent. It’s hard not to feel even the littlest emotion stir inside you when you touch the stones of the Western Wall, when you enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or when you see the sun touching the golden Dome of the Rock. Jerusalem has been on my “things i absolutely want to see in my life”-list ever since i was a kid. We entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate (inaugurated in 1538!). This gate is named after the port of Jaffa, from which the Prophet Jonah (the guy who got swallowed by a whale) embarked on his sea journey and pilgrims debarked on their trip to the Holy City. For us it was simply because Highway 1, the connection between Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Jerusalem, leads to this entrance. Our “pilgrimage by car” took about an hour an ended in a modern garage. I am very thankful to live in the 21st century and not having to do the whole Jaffa-Jerusalem road by foot, cause when you enter the Old City it’s all little cobbled roads and rocky steps. Not to forget about all the people crawling like little ants in between hundreds of food stands and small souvenir shops selling crosses, menorahs and djellabas. Obviously business is not divided by religion here. If you visit Jerusalem be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be well-rested, for it is a workout if i have ever seen one.
The Old city is divided into 4 quarters: the Muslim, the Christian, the Armenian and the Jewish quarter. Because there is a lot to see in the Old city of Jerusalem and we only had a few hours before the start of Shabbat we concentrated on two places of visit. The Christian quarter contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (or the Church of the Resurrection). It is said that on this place Jesus was crucified (Golgotha), buried (the Sepulcher) and even resurrected. The Sepulcher can be reached through countless other little churches, all connected to one another by narrow hallways. Without our Israeli friends guiding us through the city we probably would still wander around in this maze of holy stones, scented by heavy incense.
Up: the Stone of Anointing, which tradition claims to be the spot where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea.
In the Jewish quarter lies the Western Wall or Kotel. The wall is a remnant of the ancient Temple wall. The Jewish quarter has had a rich history, with a nearly continual Jewish presence since the eighth century BC. The Wall has been subject of many conflicts. According to the legend anyone who prays in the Temple in Jerusalem, “it is as if he has prayed before the throne of glory because the gate of heaven is situated there and it is open to hear prayer”. A lot of people come to the Western Wall to pray and wail (therefore the wall is also known by its other name: the Wailing Wall). There is also a practice of placing slips of paper containing written prayers to God into the cracks of the Wall. Fun fact: the Rabbi of the Western Wall receives hundreds of letters every year addressed to “God, Jerusalem“. He folds these letters and places them in the Wall. Twice a year the Rabbi collects the notes left in the Wall and buries them in the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
There’s a famous Jewish song called “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of gold”). The song was written by Naomi Shemer in 1967 and originally described the Jewish people’s 2000-year longing to return to Jerusalem. A final verse was added after the Six-Day War to celebrate Jerusalem’s re-unification, after 19 years of Jordanian occupation. I believe the saying “Jerusalem of Gold” has a wider meaning, that expands to all religions and nationalities who are touched by the presence of this historical and holy place. It’s a place of emotional, monetary and religious richness. Of gold in every meaning of the word. It’s what people have fought over for thousands of years and are still fighting for. This is a place that has conquered my heart and i hope to return to its splendor and greatness lots of times.