Tag Archives: Yom HaAtzmaut

Israel at 70 AND Tel Aviv!

20 Apr

I’ve seen many a “tels” (hills/archeological site)over the past several weeks on the shvil, but nothing compares to seeing TEL Aviv! Over the past two days the shvil has taken us along the Yarkon River. The Yarkon starts at Tel Afek (north of Petach Tikva) heads past Rosh HaAyin and ultimately ends up flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. This morning we walked through Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Park (which is kind of like the Central Park of Tel Aviv.) We dodged many a mountain bikers, runners, and motor bikes as we walked along our way. Around 1pm we arrived to the Tel Aviv port…6 weeks and we reached the Mediterranean!

For much of the trail last week as we approached Jerusalem it seemed like we passed more sites from biblical and rabbinic times as we made our way to Tel Aviv this week it certainly felt like we saw more sites from the 20th/21st century..really bringing to life along the shvil the feeling that Israel truly is an “Alt Neu Land.” (Old/New land.) We’ve walked past ancient wells and sky scrapers where people are working on cutting edge technology.

Yesterday was a highlight of my trip as it was Yom HaAtzmaut and the country was alive with celebration. As we walked along the Yarkon River hundreds of people were BBQing, partying, singing, and dancing. We were welcomed to join many a parties to which we did not say no. Since our food for the most part has been vegan I gladly enjoyed kebabs, chicken wings, and chicken skewers. We enjoyed a few l’chaims and when we arrived to our night camp there was a dj set up for a party so we danced the afternoon away.

Israel is no doubt a complicated place and its moment of independence is certainly no exception…this being said, I could not have been happier to celebrate this milestone birthday for Israel, a place that I love so dearly.

70 is a number that appears often in our tradition. 70 is the number of Jacob’s family members that travels down to Egypt together as one soul. 70 is also the number of nations that spread out after the Tower of Babel. Even in this number we have complexity…on the one hand it signifies unity and on the other it signifies disunity or separation. The number 70 also pops up in the book of Numbers when a group of 70 elders is elected to help Moses lead the people…so perhaps, being 70 is a good omen for Israel this year…a year of wisdom, leadership, and responsibility to its people.

Shabbat shalom from one of my most favorite cities in the world! Tel Aviv ya chabibi!

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65 Things I Love About Israel

16 Apr

65 Things I Love About Israel

In Honor of Yom HaAtzmaut – Israel@65

(in no particular order, except I am counting up cause it’s the Omer.)

1. Galgalatz – there’s nothing like a radio station whose playlists sound like old mixes your camp friends made for you.

2. El Al – despite the screaming babies and the feeling that you are on a pick up truck bound for the shtetl, it’s all worth it as soon as you see that little white airplane on the map, bound for Tel Aviv.

3. Israeli Dancing – Even though you don’t land in Israel anymore to find people dancing the Hora on the runway (did that ever happen?) Our early Israeli pioneers brought us many a ways to put aside our rhythm challenges and slowly follow the person next to us in such classics as Mayim and Yoya.

4. Super Sol, Super Pharm, etc. – they are all just super, not for any particular reason, but just cause who doesn’t like saying “super” in an Israeli accent?

5. The kova tembel – it’s like peter pan meets a fly fisherman…you can crumple it up easily and shove it in your pocket, it provides shade from the hot Israeli sun, and it may look foolish, but it’s a Zionist classic!

6. Bedouin tea – is it the sugar? Or those small Middle Eastern tea glasses? Or the one mint leave? Who knows?….but, I love it.

7. Israelis feel like your mother – I once was laying out on the beach in Tel Aviv and the guy who charged us for our beach chairs told us we better put on sun tan lotion or we are going to burn. And maybe that day we got one of the worst sunburns ever…best to listen to your “mother” everyone once in awhile.

8. The presentation of condiments – Classic Israeli dining décor…all the little dishes Israeli restaurants use for salt, pepper, jams, you name the condiment and Israelis have a cute little dish for it.

9. Kan kan mayim – along the same lines Israelis love a real nice pitcher of water, but only in Israel can you get a salad in your pitcher of water. I love cucumber, lemon, mint water. So refreshing!

10. Heshbon b’vakashah – I don’t mind asking for the check. I think its actually kind of nice that it’s up to me to decide when I’m done dining as opposed to impatient American culture that asks me to eat and pay as fast as I can.

11. HaTikvah – I’m a sap. It gets me every time.

12. Hadag Nachash –  You can’t get much for free anymore in Israel, but for some reason I always feel like Hadag Nachash is doing a free concert somewhere. Although, sometimes I get nervous that American Jewish teens think Shirat HaSticker is right up there with such classsics as Shir HaShalom and Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.

13. The Israeli Scouts – These are really the happiest Israelis I have ever met.

14. Israeli breakfast – I essentially could eat Israeli breakfast everyday for years and not get sick of it. Eggs, salad, cheese…brilliant.

15. Israeli movies –  After most Israeli movies I feel like killing myself cause they are usually so depressing, but I still watch them anyway cause it’s Israel and it’s Jewish and it’s Hebrew and I am just happy to see Israeli culture on screen.

16.  Nana – How’d “mint” get such a cute name? This is an amazing herb that the rest of the world should learn to use as much as Israelis do!

17. Pargiyot – When this is translated on english menus in Israeli restaurants it is often written as “young or baby chicken.” It’s delicious, but I sort of wish they would just call it chicken.

18. Festivals – Israel knows how to put on a good festival from arts festivals to film festivals to the light festival in the old city. It’s always quirky and a lot of fun.

19. Choco – move over Nestles there is nothing like chocolate milk in Israel. It’s rich, but light all at the same time and it doesn’t taste like chemicals.

20. Culinary explorations with the sweet potato – I learned from Israel the wonderfulness of putting sweet potatoes on salads and in ravioli. I am sure they have done more and I hope to experience it!

21. Israeli Wineries – Move over Nappa Valley, Israel’s wine country (I actually feel like most of the country is wine country), is tasty, a great way to explore Israel, and  get to know Israelis outside of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

22. Matula – I know what you’re thinking…why on earth do I love Matula? Well, it holds a special place in my heart as it is where I spent a good several hours figuring out how to use my Orange cell phone I also am proud to say I have met the former mayor of Matula. Different trips, but both special times.

23.  Mitzpe Ramon –  Israel’s very own “grand canyon” only with alpacas instead of donkeys.

24. Sesame coated pretzels with hummus – an absolute love and Israeli snack classic.

25. Volcano Chocolate Cake –  on every desert menu in Israel and they all describe it as unique to that eating establishment.

26. Neve Tzedek –  Williamsburg meets a cute street in Europe. All I want to do is sip a coffee here and feel like an artist.

27. Nescafe – I mean it’s not the best cup of coffee ever, but it’s such a distinct taste and it is often the free cup of coffee you are offered whenever you are at a meeting or a conference in Israel.

28. The road to the Dead Sea – I love the moment when the scenery completely changes and one second you had the backdrop of Jerusalem and the next it is the desert.

29. The Elvis rest stop in between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – Post cards of Elvis in some of Israel’s most famous tourist destinations. The King lives!

30. Café Afukh – I love that ordering a coffee in Israel automatically means a latte!

31. Nachalat Binyamin – This artists market never gets old. From great jewelry and judaica  to more kitchy stuff like Artik bottles turned into clocks or toilet paper holders from old Zionist posters.

32. Orna V’Ella – This Sheinken street restaurant has two amazing things…gay waiters and the best sweet potato pancakes (yeah there’s that sweet potato again). The pancakes come with this chive sour cream sauce that I essentially could bathe myself in…it is that good.

33. Ein Bokek – When I came to Israel in 2002 during the end of the second intifada Ein Bokek felt like the safest place in Israel. It will continue to always hold that place in my heart as sort of a refuge and is my favorite spot for taking a “dip” in the Dead Sea.

34. Israeli Supreme Court  – this is sort of an unknown tourist attraction, but it’s really cool to take a tour of the architecture that used the bible for inspiration and when I went to visit I was even allowed to sit in on a trial.

35. Abu Shukri – it’s worth getting lost in the old city in order to find this place for what I think is some of the best hummus and falafel in Israel.

36. Austrian Hospice – Nearby Abu Shukri is the Austrian Hospice, which I highly recommend you go into and head up to the roof. Bring up a Tuberg or a Goldstar and just stare out at the wonders of the Old City.

37. The Colony Hotel – This is what Israel was like during the British Mandate period. British tea here in the afternoon and the hope that Ari Ben Canaan could come by. #ExodustheMovie

38. Mount of Olives – You know that church with the golden tops…be the person who has actually seen it up close!

39. Temple Mount – This may be a controversial love, but I liked the idea of thinking about being closer to the holy of holies and seeing the old city from this point of view.

40. Kesem HaMaga – is a really wonderful spa in the North in a moshav called Beit Lehem Haglilit. There are hot tubs and bottles of Tishbi wine to relax with.

41. Decks Restaurant in Tiberias – I know Tiberias is not the most happening city in Israel. Although if you want to fall in-love with Tiberias I highly recommend the movie, “Ahuva Ahuvati.” Anyways, Decks is worth going to Tiberias for. Great meat and great fun.

42. Zichron Ya’akov – I love walking on the main drag of this town just south of Haifa. I have many art pieces hanging in my apartment from Zichron. Not to mention the Tishbi winery is there for good wine and food.

43. The beaches of Tel Aviv – Whether you are sitting in front of the Sheraton, the Hilton, or the Dan…the beaches of Tel Aviv are such a fun scene. The people watching is the best and who doesn’t love the sound of matkot (paddle ball) as you bask in the sun or go for a swim.

44. Amirim – this vegetarian yishuv is a wonderful place to get away in Israel. All vegetarian, beautiful views, hippies, and the best of Northern Israel.

45. The english edition of the Ha’aretz magazine on Friday – this is kind of like reading the Sunday times. The best sections are the features on a particular town and when they spotlight a particular family.

46. Tekkesim (ceremonies) –Israel is really good at creating meaningful ceremonies. Whether it’s for Yom HaShoah or Yom HaZikaron or for a Birthright event…Israel knows how to mark a moment real well.

47. Machaneh Yehudah – Beyond Marzipan and all the fruits and vegetables the shuk in Jerusalem has actually gotten quite schmancy and European. There are cute places to eat and drink coffee and I believe one of the best restaurants in Jerusalem called “Machaneh Yehudah” is located there.

48. Eilat – The Jersey Shore of the Middle East; trashy and no sales tax! It may be far, but it’s fun to say you’ve been in the Med and the Red!

49. Avatiach (watermelon) – in both its fresh form and in it’s popsicle form. Love, love, love.

50. Hapoel Yerushalayim – this one is dedicated to my friend and colleague Rabbi Jonathon Prosnit who helped me become a fan of Jerusalem’s basketball team. We went to see Hapoel play in Israel’s basketball finals. I have to say with all the cool lights and smoke it was almost like we were at a Phish show, well except for the basketball part.

51. Yom Kippur in Israel – life literally stops. In Jerusalem, folks are dressed all in white and when evening services are over everyone just gathers in the streets and greets each other. It is magical.

52.  The bike lanes in Tel Aviv – psyched that Israel has become so bike friendly and even though Israeli drivers have not gotten any better and I am petrified to be on a bike on the streets of Israel, I’m glad there are now dedicated bike lanes for bikers to stay as far away from cars as possible.

53. Israeli’s charm – sometimes this American Jew is put off by Israelis directness. And then sometimes this American Jew is completely turned on and wishes all Jews could just tell it like it is and be so good looking while doing it.

54. Intermissions during the movies – I love that there is a hafsakah (intermission) during movies in Israel. I don’t have to conserve how much I drink or run to the bathroom before the movie starts because there is a bathroom break built in to the film. Although it’s funny how abrupt it can be.

55. Pants that flare – the 70s will forever be “in” in Israel and I am glad that I can wear all my flare jeans proudly when I’m there.

56. The wide selection of kippot/yarmulkas – as a kippah wearer it’s great that there is literally millions of color combinations, sizes, and sport logo kippot available in the Jewish state.

57. Desert wind in the Negev – just feels like G-d or for the more technical Hebrew term ruach elohim.

58. Magnum ice cream bars – I always thought this was an Israeli company, but I guess it’s British or Dutch anyways, these things are a must next to a big bottle of Ein Gedi water after a long hike in any Israeli park or at a gas station on the side of the road.

59. Aroma – brilliant that they give you a little piece of chocolate with your coffee.

60. Oral hygiene – it’s so much cheaper in Israel to get your teeth cleaned. I do it every time I’m there! Is that weird?

61. French Fries/Tzips – there is something about eating french fries in Israel. They taste so good…whether its’ on the beach, at a bar, or in a falafel sandwich…it’s the best!

62. Hebrew – I love that there are far less words in the Hebrew language than in English and that therefore each Hebrew word is filled with so many meanings.

63. The quick reflexes of an Israeli– I once spilled hot water on myself at a friends in Tel Aviv and before I could feel the last drop spill he had torn off a leave from his aloe plant, cracked it open, and put it on my burn.

64. Directions in Israel – everything is just smola, smola, yamina, yamina, away…trouble is even when I have done that I don’t get where I’m going without asking three more times.  And when I ask each time the directions, funny enough they still remain the same – smola smola, yamina, yamina.

65. Israeli toilets -The half flush or full flush depending on the occasion – brilliant and so smart in how it conserves water. You can learn a lot about a country by its flush.