Archive | Israel

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Tel Aviv, Jewish Life on the Mediterranean

Posted on 09 June 2012 by christie

Tel Aviv, beautiful city on the Med

Tel Aviv, beautiful city on the Med

Tel Aviv is an extremely livable city and felt like home. The city is located on the gorgeous Mediterranean coastline and its beach offers much opportunity for sunbathing, swimming, paddle ball or just people watching at one of the many restaurants. Tel Avivans are out enjoying life at every hour of the day. Lively outdoor restaurants, cafes, bars and interesting trendy shops seem to be on every block as you wander around the city streets. Beautiful parks, playgrounds, and outdoor markets are plentiful among its neighborhoods. We went to a few awesome markets, including a farmers market, furniture market and a flea market. Our favorite was the antique market where we both bought special pieces of jewelry to remember our time in Israel.

Tel Avivans enjoying life

Tel Avivans enjoying life

Tel Avivan Life
The sense of community and togetherness is what we loved most about Tel Aviv. Brett says it reminds him of growing up in Northeast Philadelphia. People come together everywhere, be it the beach, park, outdoor cafe or local food market. Tel Avivans are simple and un-pretentious people that value working, being with family and friends and enjoying their daily lives. It was quite a different experience from being in Jerusalem and Tzfat, where religion rules people’s lives. In Tel Aviv, people seem to be more focused on family traditions such being together for Friday night Shabbat dinners, rather than the strict religious aspect of Judaism. There is a vibrant gay community and we were fortunate to experience “Pride Week” during our visit. Continue Reading

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Beyond Kosher: Israel’s Fine Wine Hits the World Stage

Posted on 06 June 2012 by brett

Backyard Wine Making

Backyard Wine Making

To most, Israeli wines are only used for religious reasons. Until this week, I could not name one Israeli wine brand besides Manischewitz. It’s true, Israel has traditionally produced mostly Kosher wines of “lower quality”. The topics of quality vs. quantity and increasing non-religious consumption came up severals times as we toured Israel’s wine country. In total, we drove 700km from Tel Aviv to Zichron Ya’akov, Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee. I’m proud to say that we covered a good taste of what Israeli grapes have to offer.

Israel has a distinctly Mediterranean climate with hot, humid summers (April – October) with very little precipitation and a cold, rainy winter (late October to March). Its latitude is similar to San Diego, California. Baron Edmund de Rothschild, a co-owner of Chateau Lafite recognized the opportunity to pioneer modern Israeli winemaking . Around 1882, he sent Israel grape varietals from southern France to help Jewish entrepreneurs kickstart a new industry. We learned that many of these growers were of Romanian descent. His vineyards were planted in Zichron Ya’akov (e.g. Carmel Winery) and Rishon Le Tzion, south of Tel Aviv.  Continue Reading

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The Picturesque Countryside of Galilee & Golan Heights

Posted on 05 June 2012 by christie

Countryside views of Golan Heights atop Nimrod Castle

Countryside views of Golan Heights atop Nimrod Castle

Safed is a great base to explore the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights region. The scenery is astonishing and one of the most picturesque places we’ve been during our travels. As we drove through mountains and valleys were were mesmerized by the magnificent long stretches vineyards, orchards, ranches and farmland. Unfortunately this lovely area has become heavily militarized due to past attacks from Syria and more recent conflicts with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Continue Reading

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Israel’s City of Enchanting Mysticism, Tzfat (Safed)

Posted on 04 June 2012 by christie

Beautiful sunset views of Tzfat

Beautiful sunset views of Tzfat

Tzfat (Safed in Arabic), is a charming ancient city where spirituality, mysticism and artistry come together to create a harmonious and enchanting atmosphere. As Israel’s most elevated city (900m), it’s perched high in the Upper Galilee mountains about two hours northeast of Tel Aviv. We rented a car in Tel Aviv to make our way into the countryside. It was surprisingly hassle-free navigating around Israel with signs in English and no check points (unlike our experience in Jordan). Little is known about Tzfat’s early history, but archeologists have found evidence that the city was inhabited since 1500 BC. The city flourished during the 15th and 16th centuries with the settlement of Sephardic Jews who fled from the Spanish Inquisition. Many were practicing Jewish Mysticism (Kabbalah). Shortly thereafter the city was declared one of the four holy cities of Israel.

Alleyways meet Judaism in Tzfat

Alleyways meet Judaism in Tzfat

There is warm and almost magical feeling in the air as you wander through Tzfat’s labyrinth of narrow cobbled stone alleyways. It’s easy to find hidden beauty as you turn each corner, encountering centuries old synagogues, antiquated stone houses, stunning turquoise doors, and decorated iron gates. The spiritual city is home to a mix of traditional Hasidic Jews and modern Supernaturalists practicing Kabbalah through mystical teachings of Judaism. There are a number of bohemian travelers as well as student groups that come to Tzfat from around the world to study Judaism and connect with their inner soul. Continue Reading

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Jerusalem, the “Holiest City”

Posted on 30 May 2012 by brett

Old City, Jerusalem

Old City, Jerusalem (Israel)

If you haven’t visited Jerusalem, go! I am still hitting myself for not going until 36 years of age. There is a special feeling in Jerusalem hard to describe…. and I’m not saying that because I was raised Jewish. One super interesting discovery (of many) is that Old City is one square kilometer and consists of only 36,000 residents. An astonishing 72% are Muslim (26,000), 6,000 Christians (17%), and 4,000 Jews. Of the Christians, 2,000 are Armenian. The city is divided into four quarters: 1) Muslim 2) Christian 3) Jewish 4) Armenian. We wondered why a country “Armenia” has its own quarter? The answer is that Armenia was granted its space because it’s the only country 100% of one religion, Christianity.

Wailing at the Western Wall

Wailing at the Western Wall

With so many religious types, it’s truly amazing that Jerusalem chugs along in harmony. All we hear on the news is about Israel’s struggles to keep peace with the Islamic world. Our experience in Jerusalem (and Israel) has been nothing but friendly and peaceful. Of course, religious fanatics are there and very serious. The funny thing is that they typically ignore you as a tourist because they are so focused on their religious task at hand. Continue Reading

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