Explore Israel: 5 destinations to escape to when you need a break from Tel Aviv
We know, Tel Aviv is great - hip hangouts, all-night party scene, the best street eats in the country; but as they say, the key to Holy Land success is to "live in Tel Aviv, yet spend as much time as possible exploring outside of it." It's time to leave the White City behind and explore all that Israel has to offer. After all, you have no excuse since everything is so close. From a relaxing float in the Dead Sea to a food fest in Jerusalem's top Israeli market to unbeatable sites in the Galilee and unbeatable reefs in Eilat, these five Israeli hotspots are worth traveling to.
Through the grapevine: a guide to Zichron Ya’akov’s Israeli wineries
Zichron Ya’akov may be less than hour away from Tel Aviv, but this quaint little town seems worlds away from the hectic hustle and bustle of the center of the country. As well as being steeped in history and offering a picturesque European feel, Zichron (as Israelis like to call it) and the surrounding area, including neighboring Binyamina, is known as Israel’s wine country. Back in 1882, Jewish philanthropist, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, helped to establish Zichron, named in memory of his father, Baron James de Rothschild, who owned a world-renowned wine estate in France. As part of the early development of the settlement, the Baron sent over cuttings of French grapevines to plant in the location where ancient winemakers had once flourished – a move that paved the way for early pioneers to support themselves by working the land. Those pioneers combined their passion for the land of Israel with a desire to bring back the ancient tradition of winemaking in the area and cultivated the early vines from France. In 1983, the Golan Heights winery started a revolution by bringing New World winemaking techniques to Israel and offering homegrown quality table wines, changing the industry. The effects carried on into the 1990’s and beyond, when the established wineries in the area began to take huge steps to modernize and become players on the international market. The shake up to the scene led to a number of smaller boutique wineries also being established, quite often by farmers and
Party Hard: the best 2017 Tel Aviv Pride Week parties
Tel Aviv Gay Pride Week is here and that means one thing - it’s time to party. Yes, the main Pride parade during the day on June 9, which usually attracts over 200,000 people, is a spectacular street party and march that should not be missed, but there’s plenty more to Pride Week than that. With thousands of tourists flooding the city and the hundreds of thousands of locals who want to join in the celebrations, from June 4 through June 10, Tel Aviv becomes the gayest place on earth. For the nocturnal creatures among us there’s, a whole host of different party lines at the city’s best clubs.
Live it up like a celebrity in the Holy Land
With year-round sunshine, miles of beaches, endless fancy hotels and top chef restaurants, Tel Aviv has a lot of the same qualities as favorite celebrity playgrounds such as Los Angeles and Cannes. Okay, so the slightly complicated political situation means that international A-Listers don’t flock to Israel at the same rate they do to other luxury locations, but the “brave” ones who do make it over here know how to live it up to the max. Whether they are regular visitors, or come once in a while, the VIPs who travel to Israel are spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants, hotels, beaches and historical sites. Take a peek inside what an A-List celebrity’s visit to Israel looks like, star by star.
Live it up like a celebrity in the Holy Land
Madonna When the Queen of Pop comes to Israel, which happens every few years, she expects the royal treatment - and that’s exactly what she gets. Madonna likes to stay at either the classic Dan Tel Aviv or the more modern David InterContinental, both of which she turns into her own private palace during her stays. Last time Madge took up residence at the InterContinental, she stayed in the lavish Presidential Suite, and her entourage occupied an entire floor of the imposing hotel. At her majesty's request, the hotel had plenty of fresh organic produce available as well as a selection of special teas to ensure her throat was in good shape for her performance. When Madonna goes out to eat and drink in Tel Aviv, she does it with style, especially the time she hosted a private party at one of her favorite restaurants, Seatara. The upscale celebrity hangout by the sea was redesigned in the style of a New York lounge according The Material Girl’s specific tastes, with 80 security guards ensuring that the riff raff stayed out. The exclusive shindig started at 1 a.m., with VIP guests enjoying a selection of cocktails, all of which were pink, and fancy appetizers created specially for the event. Legendary DJ Paul Oakenfold provided the music and the celebrations continued until the sun came up.
Live it up like a celebrity in the Holy Land
Barbra Streinsand The Dan Tel Aviv hotel is used to hosting top international celebrities and making sure that they feel as comfortable as possible. But when Barbra Streisand was last in town, the hotel also had to make sure that her cute little dog Samantha, who goes everywhere with her, was happy too. The hotel provided a special carpet so that the little pooch could sleep in as much comfort and luxury as her superstar owner did in the Royal Suite. Babs is no stranger to mixing with A-listers, but during her visit to Jerusalem she had dinner with a particularly interesting bunch. The likes of Bill Clinton, Sharon Stone and Donna Karan joined her for dinner at the Holy City’s most modern 5-star inn, The Mamilla Hotel. The eclectic group, all in town for President Peres’ 90th birthday celebrations, dined at the hotel’s Rooftop restaurant overlooking the Old City. Apparently hungry from all the rehearsals and shoulder-rubbing, Babs ordered a hearty meal of fried gnocchi with black mushrooms followed by a burger and iron salad.
Live it up like a celebrity in the Holy Land
Bono U2’s frontman Bono has been to Israel with his bandmates in the past for work, but the last time he came, it was purely for pleasure. Always up for a good time, the singer spent a wild night out in Tel Aviv hitting up some of the city’s trendiest spots. He started off with a relaxing meal at The Container in Jaffa Port. Then he travelled north to Patio Bar, also by the sea, to enjoy some outdoor drinks on the terrace. There Bono sipped away on Jack Daniels and was happy to talk to fans, who snapped away on their cameras and phones to get a shot of the rockstar. Underground club Radio EPGB is where the party really got going, with Bono dancing away into the early hours. After living it up in Tel Aviv, Bono took some down time in Jerusalem with his family. They stayed in King David Hotel, which is where presidents and royalty stay when they come to the Holy City. When signing the hotel’s famous guestbook he shared a little poetic note about Hope being like a faithful dog - "With great thanks for great room in great hotel in great city, Bono," is how he summed up his stay at the hotel.
8 perfect places to spend the night under the stars
Israel is a beautiful place to explore during the day, but when the sun goes down and the moon and stars start to glitter, the landscapes take on a whole new level – offering a very different appreciation for the local “nightlife." Head to the great outdoors and soak up the peaceful quiet. 1. Bedouin Hospitality © Shutterstock In Bedouin culture, primary importance is placed on receiving guests with warm, open-hearted hospitality, as they enjoy an exotic and delicious home-cooked feast served in authentic tradition, followed by an evening of pleasant Bedouin entertainment. Fall asleep under the stars Bedouin-style in a large luxurious tent of soft cushions and blankets surrounded by the tranquility of the desert air. Many Bedouin experiences also include camel rides and desert trips for the following day. Mamshit Ranch (08-9436882, 08-6552829) Off route 25, about 3.5 miles from Dimona. 2. ‘Star man’ night tours © Shutterstock Star gazing under the desert sky can be a really beautiful experience, but what if you actually knew what you were looking at? Astronomy expert Ira “The Starman” Machefsky is famous for his insightful tours that include naked eye observation of the sky, identifying constellations, and understanding how the sky works. Ira, who has over 40 years of astronomy experience, uses his “portable observatory” in the vast desert behind Mitzpe Ramon - the clearest, darkest skies in the country - to reveal the hidden treasures of the universe, and what has
Road trippin’: a cross-country roundup of this year's festival 'May'-hem
Whether it’s Thelma and Louise and their wild ride through the desert in the ultimate act of sisterhood, the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s Vacation who endured an array of comic mishaps during their cross-country drive, or a group of drag queens setting out across the Australian Outback in a tour bus called ‘Priscilla,’ it’s safe to say that road trips are never boring. Okay, so epic movie road trips are all well and good, but what do they have to with Israel, this tiny country that’s only the size of New Jersey? Well, what Israel lacks in size it makes up for with diverse landscapes and plenty of awesome stuff to do along the way. A classic road trip through Israel would start with the rugged Mount Hermon in the far North, through the lush green Galilee, down the coastal plain and across the breathtakingly sparse Negev desert all the way down to the tropical waters of Eilat. So in theory traveling the length of the country and seeing all these spectacularly different terrains can be done in a day, but the whole point of a road trip is to take it easy, make plenty of stops and have awesome adventures en route. Luckily this month there is a whole host of fun festivals taking place throughout the country, providing perfect stops for an epic Israeli road trip. Move it Billed as a ‘3-Day Celebration of Movement & Dance,’ the annual Bodyways festival is all about celebrating freedom of expression. With the stunning hills of the western Galilee as a backdrop, this gath
"For the love of matkot" : an interview with Amnon "The King" Nissim
Yoni Cohen sits down with Amnon “The King” Nissim, owner of Israel’s only museum dedicated to the unofficial national sport. Tucked away in an old apartment in Tel Aviv’s picturesque Neve Tzedek neighborhood lies one of Israel’s more offbeat museums. The apartment belongs to 72-year-old Amnon Nissim, and the museum is dedicated to Israel’s unofficial national sport of matkot. Amnon, who has been playing the paddle ball game since the age of six, decided to turn his home into a mecca for all things matkot after a fateful meeting fifteen years ago with Morris Zadok, a sports shop owner who is just as crazy about the game as he is. Morris was impressed with Amnon’s matkot collection, and together they decided to open what was then a “matkot palace" where people would dedicate all sorts of matkot paraphernalia. Over the years the collection has grown and the museum now contains hundreds of paddles, each with their own unique story that Amnon is more than happy to tell. © Ido Biran Amnon, what is about matkot that you like so much? Matkot is a game that brings people together. When I play, I’m playing with that person, not against them. If there is a good game then both players enjoy it. It’s not like tennis where one wins and one loses. Where is your favorite place to play matkot? Under the hotels at Gordon beach. It’s where the best players in the country some to play. The mayor of Tel Aviv even gave us a designated area to play there. He really likes me, he calls
What lies beneath: Israel's secret caves and hidden springs
Israel's famous (and infamous) historic sites, national parks with scenic views and well-known trails are a given. But if you scratch the surface a little, there is a whole host of hidden treasures lurking beyond what can be seen at first glance. Nestled within many of Israel’s mountain ranges are some incredible secret caves begging to be explored, and hidden throughout the country are hundreds of intimate springs and pools just waiting to be jumped into. Sorek Cave Hidden within the western slopes of the Judean Hills is a magical fairy-tale world of stalactites and stalagmites in a multitude of shapes and sizes. The cave, which is also known as Avshalom Cave, was discovered accidentally in 1968 and was kept secret for years, for fear of causing damage to its incredible natural beauty. Luckily, now its fascinating formations, made from years of dripping water (some of which date back 300,000 years) are on display to the public. From Jerusalem, follow signposts from Bar-Giora Junction for about 5 km. From Tel Aviv, turn south from the Shimshon Jct, then east to the sign posted road for 5 km. Bell Caves Not exactly hidden, but still well worth a visit, Beit Guvrin, the 1,250-acre national park, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site three years ago - and for good reason. This significant archaeological site houses more than 800 bell-shaped caves in the park and 2,000 in the entire area - some of which are linked by underground tunnels. There is even one that is 1.28 met
New bus station, same old 'balagan': the hidden gems of Tel Aviv's HaTachana HaMerkazit HaChadasha
At first glance, Tel Aviv’s monstrous New Central Bus Station may seem like a major urban design 'fail', and in many ways it is, but scratch the surface of this building that locals both love to hate and hate to love and there are actually plenty of hidden surprises. For example, away from all the 'balagan' of cheap clothing stores, there is actually a fully functioning Yiddish museum. Yung Yidish boasts an impressive collection of Yiddish books and memorabilia as well as a stage for hosting modern Yiddish bands. © David Benardete The bus station serves as a center for many of the city’s foreign worker and refugee communities as well, including the Filipino community. At any given time, you can find groups of Filipino women in deserted stories singing karaoke and getting their groove on. The bus station isn’t immune to the hipster invasion of South Tel Aviv, with a plethora of indie art galleries and pop-up shops springing up all over the place. There are also plenty of dance and theater companies who use the space to practice and perform, such as the Mystorin Theater Group. © David Dector Deep below ground level is where the action really gets funky though. It’s always good to know where the best nuclear bomb shelter is in the city, and with a capacity of 16,000 people, the one here is at the top of the list. Also, make sure to check out the nearby bat cave, which has actually been declared a nature reserve because of the huge amount of bats that have set up
Extreme Makeover: Dizengoff Square edition
The time has come: renovations have begun on Dizengoff Square. This iconic square in the center of Tel Aviv, which has had more makeovers than most Hollywood A-listers, is set to go through one of its most dramatic changes to date. © flash90 The square, which was inaugurated in 1938, was actually more of a circular plaza with a large roundabout around it that connected the upscale Dizengoff Street with other important routes in the city center. In 1978, the plaza underwent its first major facelift during which it was raised above street level in an effort to ease congestion and provide pedestrians the chance to cross without encountering the vehicles below. © laam The next major milestone came in 1986, when sculptor Yaacov Agam's landmark fountain was unveiled. The 'Fire and Water' fountain has split public opinion ever since, but it’s fair to say that the colourful fountain has become an icon of the Tel Aviv cityscape. © flash90 The fountain, along with the entire square, fell into disrepair over the years and became a bit of a laughing stock among locals. In 2012, efforts were made to update the fountain and paint some benches, but these changes were only surface-level and didn’t do much to improve the square’s image. © flash90 Fast-forward to 2017 where major renovations to restore the square to its former glory and take it back down to street level are in full swing. The fountain has already been painstakingly dismantled, ready to be reassembled in
Sachlav is Israel’s answer to hot chocolate. This sweet, thick and creamy drink made from ground orchid bulbs can be found all over the place during the “Israeli Winter” and is the perfect way to warm up when it gets chilly outside. We've got the inside scoop on the delicious drink that will warm your soul this winter Topping it Off Like with most classic comfort foods, it’s all about the variations and toppings. Sachlav is no exception. While it can be made using just orchid powder and milk, most traditional recipes call for orange blossom or rose water to add extra flavor. Popular toppings are coconut, cinnamon, pistachios and sultanas. Flour Power Sachlav is traditionally made from ground orchid bulbs. The tubers of the orchid are dried and ground up to create a fragrant flour, which is used as a basis for the thick and creamy drink. The flour is made from the orchid genus Orchis, including the Orchis mascula and Orchis militaris species. Herbal Remedy Orchids have been used in herbal medicine for centuries and have been found to restore the body after disease. Orchid root has been found to help cure coughs and colds, meaning sachlav is a perfect option for when Israel’s cool winter nights leave you feeling under the weather. Speak Up In Israel, this winter warmer is commonly known as Sachlav, but for those travelling a bit further afield it’s worth knowing how to ask for it different languages. Here’s a mini guide - Turkish: salep, sahlep; Persian: sa’alab; Arab
Helper’s high: 10 of the best volunteer organizations in the country
Volunteering is part of the culture in Israel. Help others while giving yourself a natural high at the same time – it’s a win-win. Here are 10 of the best volunteer organizations in the country 1. Adopt-A-Safta This initiative pairs young professional internationals and Israelis with Holocaust survivors who need someone to talk to. Young volunteers “adopt” a grandmother or grandfather in need of love and attention, and visit them to share stories, help out with practical advice, or simply lend a sympathetic ear. The goal is to train as many volunteers as possible and connect young professionals seeking to make meaningful contributions with the survivors in need of warmth and connection. © PR (adoptasafta.com) 2. Save a Child's Heart (SACH) This Israel-based international nonprofit organization helps save lives by improving the quality of cardiac care for children from developing countries. Volunteers plan stimulating activities for children and their chaperones during their stay in Israel, helping to comfort the children on their road to recovery. © PR 16 Haviva Reik St, Holon (03-5589656/saveachildsheart.com) 3. African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) African asylum seekers along with Israeli citizens founded the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) over ten years ago in order to assist, protect, and empower African refugees and asylum seekers. The organization is largely volunteer-based and volunteers come from around the world to offer sup