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Showing posts from 2009

Hachatzer - OUTSTANDING

We recently went to Hachtzer, a meat restaurant in Jerusalem, for the second time.  Contrary to the usual experience, our second visit was as satisfying as the first visit.  The restaurant is simple in decor - warm and comfortable.  The food has mediterranean and middle eastern influences but cannot be pegged down to a particular style.  Somehow, the chef combines interesting spices and flavors to make each dish truly delicious and special.  Both times we opted for the tasting menu which I highly recommend.  The waiter will ask if there are any particular dislikes (such as intestines or other parts of an animal) and subject to that limit, the dishes served are meant to give the diner a true sense of the restaurant.  Both times I left completely stuffed and thoroughly satisfied.  It is not an inexpensive meal but one you will dream about for days!
Hachatzer - 7 Derech Bet Lechem, Jerusalem - 02-671-9922

Waffle Bar - Worth One Visit

The person who answered the phone at the Waffle Bar refused to take a reservation when we called earlier in the day promising that there would be room when we arrived; of course, when we showed up, we were asked why our party of seven had not made a reservation. And, yes, this is not the place to go if you are looking for intimate dining or an extensive menu of "real food."  But the Waffle Bar with its booths and stools and big screen tvs reminds me of a modern day version of a 1950s teenage diner (think Happy Days).  The waffles with endless choices of toppings, the French crepes and the chocolates in a variety of interesting flavors will make anyone with a sweet tooth happy - both adults and children.  There is enough choices of pastas, toasts and focaccias to buffer the stomach before getting to all the desserts.  Not sure I would rush back but a fun place to take the kids if you are in the neighborhood.
Waffle Bar - 41 Bet Lechem Road - 02-673-0760

Chanukiot in the Old City - Beit Shmuel Tours

During this past Chanukah, our family joined a Hebrew tour that explored the Chanukiot found in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was lovely to walk through the Jewish Quarter in the evening hours and see the various outdoor chanukiot on display and even join in some Chanukah singing. While we probably could have wandered through the Jewish Quarter ourselves, our tour guide clearly knew all the nooks and crannies.The tour was offered by Beit Shmuel which is affiliated with the World Union of Progressive Judaism. While I enjoyed what we saw on the tour, I felt that the tour was clearly geared towards secular Israelis, and as such, the tour content was a bit too basic for me. More upsetting, however, was that the tour guide made us feel a bit out of place among the other families, who were all Israeli, despite that we did not request any help with the language nor did we have trouble comprehending. I plan to do some of Beit Shmuel's other interesting Jerusalem …

Jerusalem Time Elevator - Not Just for Tourists

The Jerusalem time elevator is a virtual reality experience meant to condense the 3,000 years of Jerusalem history into approximately thirty minutes. It is an interactive show with moving seats and large screens that create a feeling of passing through time and space. Chaim Topol narrates the show and fiction is mixed with non-fiction to make it interesting. I would not make a special trip to Jerusalem for what is clearly a tourist trap that could use some refreshing; however, even tourist traps can be fun. And my kids and I found it entertaining and even informative.
Jerusalem Time Elevator - Beit Agron - 37 Hillel Street, Jerusalem - Tickets can be ordered through www.time-elevator-jerusalem.co.il or 02-624-8381 One can buy tickets at the door but pre-ordering avoids the lines AND is actually cheaper

Ice Skating in Tel Aviv

This is the first time that I am posting something on my blog that I did not experience personally. But I am deferring to my children on this one. They went ice skating at the indoor rink located in the Luna Park in Ganei Hata'aruha (Tel Aviv). According to my children (who have skated at some of the best rinks in New York) the rink is small and the ice does not get cleaned often enough. However, sometimes even a taste of things back home is enough and it is nice that now there is something not too far away.
ISkate - www.iskate-lunapark.co.il - 03-642-7080. Pre-reservation not required though there may be a wait.

Sarona - German Templer Colony

From the late 1800s until 1948, the Templers (German Christians) lived in an agricultural settlement right in the heart of Tel Aviv (next to what is now the Kirya). The settlement has been slated for preservation and is currently undergoing renovation for what will become a combination of historical buildings, cafes and shops. One can wander the grounds alone and even have a lovely picnic there, but a guided tour will be more informative. While no buildings are currently open, our tour guide provided a lot of information regarding the area, the grounds and the individuals that lived there. In addition, we were able to enter the underground tunnel that connects the two wineries on the settlement. It was fascinating and I look forward to what will be there when the preservation is completed.
Sarona - see www.sarona.ahuzot.co.il for information (in Hebrew) or call 03-516-6188 to schedule a tour (in Hebrew)
NOTE: I hope to obtain a list of tour guides who give English tours of Sarona …

Neve Tzedek - the Soho of Israel

NeveTzedek, established in 1887, received "protected area" status in the 1980s which means that all structures must be renovated or rebuilt in keeping with the existing style.  Thus, NeveTzedek, with lots of charming residences, shops and cafes, has retained an old world feel (and dare I say it - a very non-Israeli feel).  But, of course, beyond the superficial appearance, this is a place with lots of interesting stories and tidbits.  It is only recently that I took an actual tour of NeveTzedek where I actually learnt about the history of NeveTzedek and its well-known inhabitants.  On the tour, I visited many of NeveTzedek's memorable sites, such as ShimonRokach's house (see 3/24/09 blog entry) and the Suzanne Dellal Center.  Our fantastic tour guide, Paule Rakower, was informative and enjoyable.  NeveTzedek is a great place to wander about but it is even better appreciated through a tour.
Paule Rakower - krpaule@hotmail.com - 03-546-4917 You can ask to be put on the m…

Genesis Land/Eretz Beresheit - kitsch at its best

I have been to Genesis Land, better known as EretzBeresheit, twice already with visiting tourists. Both times my children have come along. EretzBeresheit, located in the Judean desert, takes the visitor back to biblical times. Eliezer, Abraham's servant, greets visitors at the entrance and takes them on camels to Abraham's tent where biblical stories, along with light refreshments, are served. And, of course, Abraham comes to visit. On the day we attended, we also made pitas and baked them in a fire - one of the many activities that can be arranged. Did I find it a bit kitschy as we all adorned ourselves with robes in the spirit of biblical shepherds? Of course. But was it tons of fun for the kids and even the adults - absolutely!
Genesis Land - EretzBeresheit - www.genesisland.co.il - 02-997-4477 - advance reservations required

Zapari Junga Junga - bird park and more

Zapari/JungaJunga is located in the heart of the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv.  It is a small bird park (though the largest in the Middle East) that contains all sorts of birds and small reptiles. There are areas where one can touch, hold and feed the animals.  In other areas, the birds are displayed among waterfalls and trees. And, of course, there are bird shows.  At the end of the bird park, there is a large shaded area that contains lots of inflatables and climbing structures.  The play area contains a snack bar and plenty of seats for parents.  Between the bird park and the play area, my kids were happy to spend an entire afternoon at Zapari and JungaJunga.   It is an ideal place to take the children (up to the age of ten or eleven) on a hot summer afternoon.  And, of course, one can wander around Yarkon Park afterwards.
Zapari/JungaJunga - Yarkon Park, Tel Aviv - 03-642-2888

Meat and Wine - A Masterpiece!

I have not been to Meat and Wine in several months, but each time I go back there I am reminded just how good the food is.  I had my usual favorites - the tuna tartare appetizer and the hamburger.  Though, my dinner partners had other dishes that were just as excellent.  The restaurant can get very crowded, reservations must be made quite in advance and the signature beef ribs have not been offered for several months now, but in the end this is one place where the meal will never disappoint. 
Meat and Wine - 16 Shenkar Street, Herzilya Pituach - 09-956-7006

Manara Cliff/Tzuk Manara

Manara Cliff (TzukManara) is one of those places that will not impress those of you who, like me, are used to the big adventure places of America; but it certainly has its appeal and will please the children. Located near KiryatShemona, Manara Cliff boasts the longest cable car in Israel, a zip-line, an omega and rappelling. All of the activities are on somewhat of a small scale and so will not necessarily take long to do. I am not sure that it will keep the family busy for an entire day nor would I drive up north solely to go there. However, Manara Cliff, which is set among the beautiful mountains of the North, can certainly provide several hours of fun for the family.
Manara Cliff - Kibbutz Manara near KiryatShemona - www.cliff.co.il - 04-690-5830

Beit Shearim - Israel's Catacombs

BeitShearim is an ancient Jewish town located in the Western Galilee.  What makes BeitShearim fascinating is the several combs that contain burial chambers and coffins reached through corridors, steps and courtyards.  There are carved reliefs, inscriptions and paintings contained throughout the caves.  My children did not appreciate the site as much as I did, but I believe that with the proper tour guide, this place could come alive for children as well.  Also be sure to stop at KiryatTivon, a lovely town located nearby.
BeitShearim - 04-983-1643-  to make the most of the visit arrange for a guided tour
TIP:  BeitShearim is part of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.  If the entire family is visiting, it may be worthwhile to purchase a yearly family membership which entitles the family to free admission at all the sites that make up the Authority.

Ayalon Institute (Bullet Factory)

The Ayalon Institute, located near the science park of Rechovot, was established in 1945 by the Haganah in its fight against the British. Located beneath a kibbutz, the Ayalon Institute served as a bullet factory producing over two million bullets between the years of 1946 and 1948.  It is a fascinating place with lots of amazing stories.  Somehow this historical site seems to be under the radar in terms of publicity but it is an extremely worthwhile place to visit, especially for school age children and above. Tours are by appointment only and are with guides.  There are both English and Hebrew tours.
Ayalon Institute - Rechovot - 08-940-6522

Aresto

Even if Aresto Cafe and Restaurant would not offer fabulous brick oven pizza or gnocchi that melts in your mouth, it would still be a worthwhile stop - where else can one sit among ancient antiquities while steps away from the beach?  Aresto is located in the Caesarea port and is literally set among the ancient Roman walls.  The port itself has been completely renovated so on a nice night, an after-dinner stroll is a must.  The service at Aresto can be spotty and while the fish menu is extensive it is nothing extraordinary (I would stick to the pizzas and pastas); but come on a nice spring day or a cool summer evening, order a nice glass of wine and a pasta and pizza, and sit back and relax.  Life cannot get better.
Aresto Cafe/Restaurant - Caesarea Port - 04-636-3456 Reservations in the evening are strongly recommended.

Beit Aronson and a Day in Zichron Yaakov

BeitAaronson is one of those small historical sites that are hidden gems. The Aaronson family members were part of "NILI" - the Jewish underground movement that helped the British fight against the Turkish occupation of Palestine during World War I.  Without revealing too much, the Aaronson family story has become legendary.  Part of the premises has been preserved as the original home with the remainder converted into a museum.  A visit to the museum will take about an hour.  Once done, you can stroll down Hameyasdim street, the main street in ZichronYaakov, which is filled with lots of cafes and small shops.
BeitAaronson - 40 Hameyasim Street, ZichronYaakov - 04-639-0120 Tours are generally offered every hour on the half hour BUT call in advance as there are often group bookings.  English tours can be arranged.

Tishbi Winery

A couple of years ago my mother and I wanted to go on a wine tour but needed something not too far. Tishbi Winery has a winery in Binyamina where guided tours can be arranged, either in Hebrew or English. Because the location is slightly off the beaten track, the tours, especially during off-season, tend to be small and intimate. We actually were given a private tour followed by a wine tasting. It was a lot of fun and more personalized than some of the other winery tours which are more commercialized and impersonal. And there is a cafe located on the premises where one can have a lovely meal before or after the tour.
Tishbi Winery - www.tishbi.com - 04-638-0434

Mey Kedem Water Tunnel

The Romans built a complex water system stretching from the EinTzabirin Springs to the aqueducts in Caesarea. A network of canals, tunnels, clay pipes and aqueducts transported the water from the springs (23 km. northeast of the city) to the city port. Mei Kedem is one of those sites; visitors can now explore a 280-meter stretch of a 6-km. tunnel in Alona Park which is right near Binyamina and ZichronYaakov. There is a small film beforehand (in English upon request) followed by a guided tour of the water tunnel. Flashlights and water shoes are required and a change of clothing is recommended. The experience takes about an hour. Kids will love it!
Mey Kedem - Alona Park - 04-638-8622 - www.meykedem.com

Mark Morris Dance Group - CULTURE ALERT

Mark Morris Dance Group, a United States modern dance troupe, has scheduled several nights of performances in the Tel Aviv opera house.  The first performance takes place on December 29th. I do not know much about this particular dance group but what interested me is that the group only performs to live music; therefore, a group of musicians will be accompanying the dance group.   In general, I find the caliber of dance in this country to be poor so I always run to see the performances of visiting dance groups that perform internationally.  Also, I have yet to attend a dance performance here in Israel that was accompanied with live music. Having grown up on dance performances at Lincoln Center where the orchestra is a pivotal component, I am excited to hear the live music that will accompany the performance.  Now if I could only figure out a way to convince the New York City Ballet to come perform here, I would be all set!
Tel Aviv Opera House - 19 ShaulHamelech Street, Tel Aviv To orde…

Palmach Museum

The Palmach Museum tells the story of the Palmach, the underground military organization of Jewish fighters, from the time of World War Two through the end of the War of Independence. Unlike traditional museums, there are no cases and displays of artifacts and documents. Rather, one is lead from room to room as the story of a specific (fictional) unit is told through 3-D visuals - lights, noise, film, etc.  I know that certain people feel that it is way too commercial and kitschy.  I would agree that the experience lacks the feeling of authenticity but the technique mentions to keep one's attention and be moving and powerful.  It can also be scary so I recommend this only for older children.
Palmach Museum - 10 Haim Levanon Street, Tel Aviv - 03-643-6393.  Because groups are guided from room to room you need a reservation to enter.

Atlit Detention Camp

I visited the Atlit Detention Camp a few years back and found it to be a very informative and moving experience.   Atlit is where the British detained Jews who illegally entered Palestine while fleeing Europe during World War II.  There is a newly acquired ship on the grounds.  Other than that, the structures are pretty much as they were back in 1945.  In addition, there is an information center and an interesting film.  Older children can gain a lot from the experience.  I strongly suggest arranging a guided tour to make the visit worthwhile.
Atltit Detention Camp - Atlit (situated between Netanya and Haifa off of Road Number 2) - 04-984-1980 - CALL IN ADVANCE

Bayit Bagalil

I have been to the Carmel Spa several times and I understand the appeal for many.  However, if one wants a true getaway that is intimate and cozy, Bayit Bagalil located in the northern town of Hatzor Haglilit is the place to go.  It is much smaller with only 26 rooms; it has the feel of a true bed and breakfast rather than a large hotel. Price includes dinner and breakfast (which is more than enough food).  Breakfast is generally buffet but dinner is sit-down style with waiters.  There is a pool, lovely patio areas and a comfortable living room with a fireplace.  There is a small spa on the premises but the choice of spa treatments are limited and fairly ordinary.  This is not the place to come if you want excellent spa services, huge grounds or lots of activity (the Carmel Spa would be the place for that).  But if you want to be away from it all with nothing to do but read a good book, relax, and hang out with a significant other, this is the place for you.
Bayit Bagalil - 04-680-8200 …

Topolino tops the charts

A couple of weeks ago our friends in Jerusalem took us to Topolino, a small dairy cafe located right outside Mahane Yehudah.  It has been a long time since I left a restaurant beyond stuffed but wanting to eat more.  The ambience is nothing extraordinary - it is a small space where diners are basically on top of each other. But the food is outstanding. The waiter was beyond helpful in his suggestions.  There were lots of interesting variety among the starters, the pastas and the fish. And all are excellent and fresh.  Of course, dessert is outstanding. Finally, do not forego the coffee.  After a cup, I realized what truly outstanding coffee is.
Topolino - 62 Agrippas Street - 02-662-3466  - reservations for dinner are a must

Kurtosh comes to Raanana

Kurtosh, a Hungarian bakery named for the Hungarian pastry by the same name, has several branches in the Tel Aviv area; several weeks ago, a branch opened in Raanana. I have tasted very excellent baked goods in this country but I have to say that the baked good at Kurtosh are exceptional. We once made an evening run to Tel Aviv just to get some of their cake. Without a doubt, the tri-chocolate babka is the best item on the menu (and best I have ever tasted) but the other desserts very good as well. I am told that soon the Raanana branch will be offering breakfasts and sandwiches. The only negative is that Kurtosh is a dairy bakery (eliminating it as a dessert after a meat meal for those who keep kosher). Let's keep Kurtosh Raanana in business!
Kurtosh - www.kurtosh.co.il - Raanana branch - 158 Achuza - 09-771-7119

Segways in Tel Aviv

Jerusalem had them so of course it was a matter of time until Tel Aviv got segways. There is a company that now offers guided segway tours either on the beach promenade or through the Yarkon Park. It is very easy to ride and control a segway - the vehicle operates no greater than 13K per hour, it works to stay upright and it is very easy to stop. And it is a fun ride. My husband and I opted for the Yarkon Park tour in the evening hours. We really got to see the Yarkon Park (which I never realized was so big or beautiful) and its points of interest. As the sun was setting and we were whizzing through the park, life could not have been better.
Segways in Tel Aviv - www.segways.co.il - 03-544-7373 - reservations required and one must be at least 16 to ride

Yakimono Sushi Bar - spectacular sushi

The Yakimono Sushi Bar is located in the lobby of the Tel Aviv Hilton.  There is no ambiance, the prices are astronomical, the menu is not particularly creative and the service is mediocre (other than one Asian waitress who is not always there).  BUT the sushi is simply outstanding.  The rice is cooked to perfection and the fish is beyond fresh.  It is the best kosher sushi that I have tasted but I am told that the sushi rivals the best in the world.  My personal favorites are the salmon skin handroll and the tempura maki sushi.  Save it for a really special occasion but for sushi lovers, it is not to be missed.
Yakimono Sushi Bar - Tel Aviv Hilton - 03-520-2222 - reservations recommended.

Independence Hall - Historical Gem

In today's day and age, the new genre of museums seems to be about virtual reality, sophisticated videos and high tech displays. Independence Hall is the complete antithesis of all of that glitz. Independence Hall served as the home to the first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, and later on as an art museum. But, more importantly, on May 14, 1948, the declaration of Israel as a sovereign state and the signing of the Declaration of Independence happened at that location.  The room has been restored to the way it looked on that day.  There is a short and rather primitive film followed by a twenty minute talk given by one of the museum curators who on both my visits successfully recreated the events and emotions of that monumental day.  Despite the lack of bells and whistles, or perhaps because of that fact, I was truly touched by this little gem of a museum. 
Independence Hall - 16 Rothschild Boulevard - 03-517-3942 - call in advance as one can only enter the museum as part of one …

Pizza Agvania

I recently came across an Haaretz article listing Pizza Agvania as one of the top ten pizzas in Israel and I would have to agree with that assessment. The pizza offered at the locations in this chain is nothing like typical American pizza with the focus on thick crusty doughs. Instead, at Agvania, the pizza is razor thin and it literally cracks in your mouth. Pies are divided into 1/4 slices so each slice is the equivalent of two regular slices. I am partial to the regular pizza but the tomato/basil/parsley pizza is also delicious.
Pizza Agvania (locations that I have visited): 19 Sheinkin (I like this location because it is large and has ample seating) 31 Ibn Gvirol
AND NOW IN RAANANA ON AHUZA

Nahal Sefunim - a great hike but not for the weak or weary

Israelis know how to hike and hike well. For the most part, like the boy scouts, they are always prepared - sufficient water, hats, and food provisions. My husband and I, on the other hand, are Americans who did not grow up with hiking in our blood. As a result, we have found ourselves in tight spots. We recently decided to do the Nahal Sefunim hike which is about an hour from central Israel. I read about on a hiking website but did not pay sufficient attention to the details. We did not come prepared and chose to do it at a less than ideal time - midday of one of the hottest days in August; fortunately the entire family managed to get through it (including my six year old); we were rewarded with the wonderful feeling that one gets at the end of a great day of hiking.The hike, which is circular, tracks Nahal Sefunim which is located in the Carmel Mountains region BUT this is a dry hike - at least in the summer months. The highlights of the hike includes spectacular views of the…

Decks - Dining on the Kinneret

Decks is a unique restaurant that will impress your visitors from abroad. Located on the outskirts of Tiberias, the restaurant basically consists of a large glass enclosed room and a smaller deck that juts out into the Kinneret.  Do ask to be seated on the actual (but covered) deck where the views are simply outstanding.  Decks is primarily a meat restaurant (though there are many good fish choices); the various types of meat are sold by weight and then cooked on open pits.  We generally order several appetizers (including the onion loaf, the focaccia bread and the middle eastern platter) and a combination of meats for the entire table; but we skip the dessert which is probably the only mediocre thing about the restaurant.  The meats come out on a special plate with coals beneath to keep the food warm.  The combination of the sea, the fresh slabs of meat and the stunning views make it a meal to remember.  
Decks - 04-672-1538 - RESERVE AHEAD!!!

Kayaking on the Jordan River

Kayaking on the Jordan River does not come close to kayaking on the Delaware, but it is fun, especially if it ends up in a spontaneous splashing water fight (as it did between my kids and some visiting American college boys in another raft on the river). There are basically three companies that offer kayaking on the Jordan River - Kfar Blum, Hagoshrim and Dag Al Hadan. We have used both Kfar Blum and Hagoshrim. There are slight variations on the routes (Kfar Blum has a nice plunge at the end but Hagoshrim seems to be a bit longer) but in general the experience is the same. One can take a raft which seats 6 people or a kayak which seats 2 people but requires more effort. There is an adventure expedition which is two plus hours but the standard route is approximately one and a half hours and perfect for families. The several times that we have kayaked we did not make reservations in advance though it can be packed during holidays and summer vacations.
Hagoshrim - www.kayak.co.il - 0…

Nahal Snir

One of the national pastimes in this country is hiking and there are in fact some wonderful hikes in this country. My youngest child is just reaching the age where we can start hiking as a family so I am hoping to be able to blog about a lot more hikes in the future.Nahal Snir Nature Reserve is a great hike for families with children pretty much of all ages. The hike runs along Nahal Snir which is one of three rivers that feed into the Jordan River. It is a lovely walk among waterfalls, streams and foliage. At various points on the trail one ends up walking in the water but it never gets too deep (and for most of the hike there is a trail along the water so those who really do not want to get too wet need not). The Israel Nature and Parks Authority manages the site; at several spots staff members stand guard to insure that hikers do not go into the water where not allowed. There are several points where one has to climb on rocks but nothing too strenuous. The hike takes about an…

VIP Movies

I just took a visiting guest to the VIP movies in the Raanana mall. It is more costly than an average movie ticket (120 shekels) but it is truly a fun evening with all costs included. You can get to the theater around forty minutes early and I suggest getting there as early as possible to enjoy the evening. It is set up as a small cafe with a food buffet available that includes quiches, fruits, cakes, nuts, pretzels and drinks. There is also alcohol available. The ushers announce when the movie is about to start. Before going into the theater, everyone stocks up on popcorn, sodas and ince cream. The movie is shown in a small theater with comfortable Lazy-boy chairs that recline and have leg rests. The ushers gave out blankets so that everyone could stay nice and warm. Definitely a great night out!
To order VIP tickets beforehand go to www.ticketnet.co.il

Azrieil Towers observatory

On the 49th floor of the Azrieli towers there is an observatory deck that gives breathtaking and panaromic views of Tel Aviv.  The observatory takes up half of the floor; the other half is devoted to 2C, an upscale kosher restaurant.  For the price of admission, one receives headphones that provide an audio guide to accompany the views.  I very much enjoyed learning all about Tel Aviv, its history and the various neighborhoods.  Unfortunately, there were several things that made it less than a perfect experience.  First, the place serves as a catering hall for private events. While we were there, tables and chairs were being set up. It certainly did not add to the pleasure of the experience.  In addition, the information provided on the audioguide is interesting but it is difficult for those not familiar with Tel Aviv and its buildings to pinpoint the places and buildings that are being described (the directions as to what to look at are not clear).  Also, a 3d film is advertised as p…

Tower of David Night Spectacular - not so spectacular

I finally made it to the sound and light show which runs several times during most evenings at the Tower of David. The show uses advanced technology to depict scenes on the stones and structures of the walls that attempt to convey the history of Jerusalem through sound and sight. While I certainly recommend exploring the Tower of David during daylight hours, I found the Night Spectacular to be more kitschy than meaningful or touching. The teenagers with me did not understand the point at all. There is about a 15 minute stroll to the seating area (scenes are depicted on the walls along the way); once seated, the show itself is around 35 minutes which is a bit brief considering that each adult ticket is 50 shekels. The graphics are amazing but an evening walk through the actual Jerusalem streets may be time better spent at a much better price.
Tower of David - www.towerofdavid.org.il - 02-626-5333

Tapuz - A Taster's Delight

Tapuz, which recently received kosher certification, is an outstanding dairy restaurant located in an orange grove in Moshav Basra in the Sharon area.  The ambiance is lovely. One can choose to sit inside but if the day is nice, I recommend sitting outside on the shaded porch (and if not too hot, in the unshaded part or the private pergolas on the grass).  The setting among the orange trees is relaxing and lovely.  I cannot recommend any specific dish on the menu because, in truth, all the food is very good. I would recommend having a glass of orange juice which is made from oranges grown in the grove, and unlike processed orange juice, varies a bit each time.  Also, do not pass up the desserts which are truly amazing.  The service at times can be a bit spotty but go on a day that you have time to spare, take visitors who will be wowed by the whole experience, and sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.  
Tapuz - Nehalim Street - Basra - 09-746-9322

La Boca - South American cuisine

La Boca is a moderately priced casual restaurant in Jerusalem that offers South American cuisine. I have been there twice and each time it met my expectations - a relaxed night out offering food that is slightly different and interesting.  As I have recommended in the past, opt for the food that is the specialty of the restaurant.  We ordered enchiladas and empanadas for appetizers and were not disappointed.  Our main entree was a shared dish for two that consisted of mixed grill - lamb chops, entrecote, chorizos and spring chicken.  The chorizos and spring chicken were the knockouts.  For dessert we had the churros and pastillas.  The churros were slightly dry but the pastillas filled with halva were very good.Try to snag a table on the enclosed terrace so that you can watch the happenings of Emek Refaim down below.
La Boca - 46 Emek Refaim - 077-214-7755

Beach walk

One of the best parts of living in Israel, and specifically near the coastline, is that there are so many beaches in close proximity.  And each one has its unique flavor.  Recently, one of my friends recommended the beach trail near Kibbutz Gaash.  The trail which is about one to two kilometers runs along the cliffs overlooking the Sharon beach. It is absolutely stunning to walk among the cliffs with the beautiful blue beach in the foreground.  The path is primarily a sandy narrow road and at some points does slightly wind up or down.  It is not an excessively difficult walk but may not be recommended for those with specific issues.  At various points there are wooden decks with benches so that one can sit and enjoy the view.My recommendation - bring a hat, suntan lotion, a bottle of water and a picnic lunch - a perfect romantic outing!
To get there:  Take Road Nunber 2.  Get off at exit for Gaash and go under the highway.  Follow signs for Kibbutz Gaash and then for the Sharon Beach. …

West Side Story is coming to Israel

This is not a review but a cultural alert. I just ordered tickets for the international tour of West Side Story coming to the Tel Aviv Opera House for two weeks in September.  There are few tickets left so if you want to go see this production, move quickly.
West Side Story - September 3rd-14th 2009 - Tel Aviv Opera House To order tickets:  Castel - order online at www.tkts.co.il or call the Tel Aviv Opera House - 03-692-7777

Jerusalem International Arts and Crafts Festival

The Jerusalem International Arts and Crafts Festival is an annual event at the Sultan's Pool which is meant as a showcase for the wares of local and international artisans.  It is open every evening for two weeks in August.  It reminded me more of a state fair (minus rides and animals) than an arts and crafts festival. One pavillion is devoted to Israeli artists and one pavillion is devoted to artists from abroad. There is a large food court between the two pavillions.  In addition, every night there are various shows for the children and musical performances for the entire family.   It is a lovely way to spend an evening in Jerusalem with the whole family.   
The International Arts and Crafts Festival - Sultan's Pool, Jerusalem - August 3-15, 2009  NOTE:  There is a fee for admission to the grounds

Deca on the Decline

My first entry on this blog discussed my amazing experience at Deca, a fish restaurant in south Tel Aviv (July 31, 2008 entry).  I thought that kosher dairy cuisine had finally arrived.  But last week when I returned, for the first time in months, I was completely disappointed and do not foresee returning to the restaurant.  The food is still very good to excellent (such as the fish falafel balls which are outstanding); but the portions have become so skimpy that one feels that the food is being rationed.  Given the prices, I was annoyed to only get three small slices of bread in the bread basket and even more annoyed when I had to ask for a refill that also consisted of two small slices.  My husband's fish entree was the smallest portion of fish that we ever received as a restaurant entree; when he returned home, he went right to the kitchen in search of more food.   We kept our bill down simply because by the time dessert rolled around, we decided to forego dessert at the restau…

Mystery of Lost Time Exhibit

The Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem recently re-opened an exhibit displaying more than 100 priceless and rare timepieces.  The story behind the exhibit is as fascinating as the timepieces themselves.  The pieces were collected by Sir David Lionel Salomons, the first Jewish mayor of London, and were donated to the museum by his daughter, Vera Bryce Salomons, in 1974.  The timepiece exhibit was open to the public until 1983, when more than 100 of the 200 items were stolen in a brazen Friday night burglary.   Years passed with no leads.  Suddenly, in 2006, a Tel Aviv lawyer contacted museum personnel to inform them that Na'aman Lidor,  a famous Israeli thief,  confessed shortly before his death to taking the items. Almost all the items have been recovered and are now on display.The exhibit includes magnificent watches, clocks, music boxes and jewelery.  The entire collection on display is contained in one room so one need only spend an hour or two.  My only complaint - the audio …

Dr. Shakshuka - a fun tourist trap

I was in the mood for some good inexpensive food and wanted to get out of my town a bit - Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa seemed to fit the bill. The experience lived up to its billing. Dr. Shakshuka consists of a closed room with a series of long tables and an open patio on the side.  The decor is Middle Eastern kitsch and the cuisine is Libyan fare.  When we entered the place was hopping with tourists.  It had a very chaotic laid-back feel. We opted for the tasting menu for 85 shekels a person.  The meal opened with traditional Libyan salads, followed by shakshuka and Moroccan fish.   Then, the main fare was brought out - various meat stews and couscous.  The food was plentiful and while not outstanding, it was good.  All in an inexpensive fun night - and a great place to bring visitors!
Dr. Shakshuka - 3 Beit Eshel Street Jaffa - 03-518-6560

A Matter of Size

A Matter of Size is a recently released Israeli movie that tells the fictional story of several overweight Israelis who decide to address their weight issues by becoming sumo wrestlers.It is a breakthrough movie for Israel that has the potential to be an international sleeper hit (the rights to an American remake have already been sold).   Finally an Israeli movie that is not about war, the Holocaust or any other heavy topic.  It has only one theme, as opposed to some of the rambling Israeli movies that I have seen where everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in; the movie's theme is universal to all. It is light, funny and enjoyable with just the right tones of seriousness.  A feel good movie and one that made me proud!

MOMIX

MOMIX, the Connecticut-based modern dance company has come and gone from Israel.  However, the performance at the Tel Aviv Opera House was outstanding.  I am writing about this experience to once again reiterate that while Israel often lacks cultural performances on the level of a MOMIX, this country is blessed that internationally acclaimed groups often come on tour here.  When they do, they often, as was the case with the Best of MOMIX, choose to perform compilations of their finest performances.  And, unlike America, such performances are accessible to all and the tickets, relatively speaking, are inexpensive.One has to be vigilant about looking through local newspapers and visiting ticket agent websites on a regular basis in order to find out about what is coming.  And, one last piece of advice - book immediately!
Recommended Sources of Culture:    Castel - www.tkts.co.il Hadran - www.hadran.co.il Jerusalem Post Weekend (part of Thursday paper for those who subscribe) and Jerusalem Po…

Nalaga'at Center - Not By Bread Alone

Last night I had the opportunity to participate in a very unique experience.  Table to Table which is an unbelievable rescue food organization that supplies food to 230 food provision organizations sponsored an event at the Nalaga'at Center in the Jaffa Port.   The evening consisted of two parts.  First, we had dinner at Blackout which is a dining experience in the dark. One picks out one's food choices and puts on a bib prior to being escorted by blind waiters/waitresses into a room that is completely dark.  The entire dining experience takes place in the dark to simulate the culinary experiences that blind people face each day.  After, we were escorted to the theater section of the Center where we watched "Not by Bread Alone" - a production put on by actors that are both blind and deaf.The evening certainly left an impression on all the participants and gave them a sense of what life is like for those facing these disabilities.  The production was about one hour lo…

Ramat Gan Safari

I know that I have not posted in awhile.  My only excuse is that I have been abroad and this blog is not about my cultural experiences abroad.In any case last week I returned home and took my children to the Ramat Gan Safari and Zoo. I had been there once before but had forgotten what a great place this is.  There is a safari where one drives through and gets to see the animals up close and personal (and the ostriches all seem to come right up to the car windows).  There is also a zoo part where one walks around and sees the various animals.  I happen to love zoos and have been to zoos all over the world.  This zoo is great for several reasons. It is very clean and well-kept (and has lots of bathrooms).  It has large parts of shade so unlike the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, one can find protection on a hot summer day (though one cannot avoid the extreme heat in the middle of a summer day).  And lastly, it is just the right size to be manageable.
Ramat Gan Zoo and Safari  - www.safari.co.…

Fiddler on the Roof - a Blessing on Your Head

During the first few years I lived here, I often went to the theater.  However, after awhile, I stopped going because most of the productions were amateur and of inferior quality.  So I ignored  a friend's recommendation to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv.  But she was persistent; for that, I owe her a debt of gratitude.  The production which was first staged one year ago in honor of Israel's 60th birthday was meant to be a limited run - 60 shows in honor of Israel's 60th year.   The show was such a smashing success that it has been continued indefinitely.To put it simply, this is the best I have seen in Israeli theater.  The sets, costumes, staging and performances could all rival a Broadway production (without the Broadway price ticket).  The show dialogue (including all musical scores) is in Hebrew. On certain days, the Cameri provides simultaneous English translation. Truth is that the dialogue and scores are so true to the English version tha…

Roladin factory tour

One more fun factory tour is the tour of Roladin which is a family-owned business that has several cafes/bakeries around the country.   The tours are offered during vacation periods such as Chanukah and Purim.  The tours are located in the factory which is located in Kadima (small town about twenty minutes north of Raanana).  It is a perfect combination - a short and interesting movie, a quick and informative tour of the factory and a baking activity at the end of the tour that is connected to the time of the visit. We visited around Purim time so we made hamentaschen (Hamen's ears).   And, of course, at the end there is a Roladin cafe where fresh baked goods can be purchased. This is a nice tour for families.
Roladin - 09-899-1001- tours must be booked in advance


Tnuva factory tour

Continuing on the review of factory tours, the Tnuva factory tour is actually one of the best factory tours I have seen.  It is extremely well organized and leaves no room for "bad Israeli behavior".  The tour guide even instructs each person where to sit.   Like the Coca-cola tour, there are a lot of sounds and lights and even a cool 3-D moving ride.  But, unlike the Coca-cola tour, you actually do get to see a lot of the factory but in an interesting way.  It is fun and educational.  The tour takes about an hour and a half and moves from room to room.  The tour is for ages five and up.
Tnuva Tours - DerechHaYam Street, Rechovot - 08-944-4233
Advance reservations required.  Please note that the tours are in Hebrew and are only given to private groups during holidays and/or vacations.

Coca Cola factory tour

I have a friend whose family loves all factory tours. If there is a factory open to the public, she and her family are there. Perhaps it is the bad childhood memories of long and boring factory tours where the only upside was getting free samples, but, in general, I do not get excited about seeing assembly lines and learning some useless facts about any product - food or otherwise. That said, the Coca Cola factory tour in BneiBrak is actually a lot of fun for both adults and children.  This may be due to the fact that the tour is very commercialized and done up and actually spends little time viewing the actual factory and a lot more time selling the product; in any case, there are lots of fun things to see and do as you move from room to room filled with lights and sounds and interactive games.  And you even learn a fact or two about Coca Cola.  The tour is recommended for ages eight and up and is appealing for all ages.
Coca Cola factory - 129 Kahaneman Street, BneiBrak - 1-800-596-5…

City of David

I have been to the City of David twice since it has been newly renovated and expanded.  The City of David is the actual location of the biblical city of Jerusalem captured by King David over 3,000 years ago.  The archaeological ruins are amazing and constantly expanding.  This time around I took a guided tour and it was fantastic. Our tour guide really made everything from ancient times come alive.  I finally understood the history of the place and could visualize what had once stood there.  I also watched the 3-D movie which is also well done.  There are several different activities and tours that can be done in and around City of David through the City of David foundation.  I recommend going to the website which is extremely clear and informative.
City of David - www.cityofdavid.org.il Avinoam (the informative tour guide who can be hired for tours throughout Jerusalem) - 050-876-2688

Lechamim

With my sweet tooth, I am always looking for the perfect cookie or piece of cake. And, here in Israel there are plenty to be found.   There is one Tel Aviv bakery that stands out from the rest.  Lechamim sells breads, cookies, cakes, quiches, borekas and all sorts of other baked goods.  There is a takeout counter and a small cafe with service where one can sit and enjoy a good breakfast or lunch.  Recently, the Haaretz magazine listed the outstanding marzipan cookies filled with fruit as one of the best.  I wholeheartedly but don't stop with just those!
Lechamim - 99 Hachashmonaim, Tel Aviv - 03-561-0740

Menachem Begin Heritage Center Museum

The Menachem Begin Heritage Center Museum in Jerusalem is dedicated to the life story of Menachem Begin.  It is set up so that visitors move from room to room as Menachem Begin's story is told through audio guide, lights and sounds (all visits must be scheduled in advance).  The Palmach museum in Tel Aviv utilizes the same technique, albeit, in my opinion, much more successfully.  That is because the Palmach museum tells a fictionalized story of several Palmach members; as a result, the lights and sounds experience and movement from room to room creates the atmosphere of a 3D movie and is quite effective in that case.  On the other hand, the Menachem Begin museum tour is structured to relay the facts about the life of an actual man.  Somehow, utilizing the multi-media technique to convey vast amounts of historical information does not work as well.  Also, because it is a guided and timed tour, the guide moves each group from room to room on a fixed schedule and often there isn'…

Opera

As I have mentioned previously, what I miss most about New York City is the culture -  the world renowned museums, the Broadway shows and other experiences that a large international city offers. However, there is one cultural experience in Israel that from beginning to end truly competes on a world class level and that is opera. Last week I I attended my sixth opera in Israel (La Boheme).  Even with my eyes open, I could just as easily have been at Lincoln Center.  To start with, the opera house itself is an architectural gem. In fact, I strongly recommend joining a tour of the opera house to learn more about the design of the building, as well as learning about the various facets of putting together each opera (e.g., costumes).  Seating is comfortable and there is a teleprompter providing simultaneous translation of the opera so that even opera beginners can enjoy.  The sets have been breathtaking to the point of stealing the show.  The crowd tends to be an older and more sophistica…

Bejuntos - David Broza and Mayumana

Last week I went to see Bejuntos, a performance that combines the music of the Israeli singer, David Broza, and the group, Mayumana. Mayumana uses everyday objects, such as garbage cans, to make music (think STOMP).  The show runs for one hour and forty minutes and takes place in a grungy theater in Old Jaffa.It may be that I don't love the music of David Broza but I did not love the show.  I did enjoy the creative way that Mayumana made music.  However, overall, nothing blew me away. That said, it is always nice to see creative and original performances here in Israel.  And, of course, walking through Old Jaffa is always a treat.
Mayumana House - 15 Louis Pasteur Street To find out more about the performance go to www.mayumana. com To buy tickets go to www.hadran.co.il

Rokach House

NeveTzedek located in South Tel Aviv is filled with small shops and cafes (another nice area to just wander).   ShimonRokach was the first head of NeveTzedek and he built a house in the area in 1887.  His granddaughter restored the house and it now serves as a museum open to visitors by advanced arrangement.  However, I recommend buying tickets for the evening show.  Actors dress up in character and circulate throughout the house followed by a performance in Hebrew that depicts life during that time period.  A very enjoyable night.
Rokach House - 36 Rokach House - 03-516-8042

Israel Museum - again

For those of you who read this blog and actually think about doing some of the activities mentioned, I am writing again about the Israel Museum to highlight its current exhibition.  The exhibit is called "Bizarre Perfection" and showcases art that is produced through long and labor intensive processes.  The results are unusual and in many cases breathtaking.  I cannot even describe the artwork it is so unusual. But it is worth a quick visit before the exhibit closes in early June.
Israel Museum - 02-670-8811 Bizarre Perfection through June 6, 2009

Walking the Streets of Tel Aviv

People constantly ask me for activities in Tel Aviv.  Truth is that the best activity in Tel Aviv is to just meander the streets which truly contain hidden treasures. There are many areas that are rundown and buildings that are in decline.  But there are also some many nice ares of Tel Aviv and even the older areas have their own charm and beauty.  Yesterday I walked the streets of "Gan HaHashmal" which was Israel's first "electric park" opened in the early 1920s.  In the last few years it has become the home to some trendy small boutiques that showcase Israeli designers.  Later on in the day I stumbled across Basel Street which is located in the northern part of the city. I felt that I had found an oasis in the city.  There is an open square surrounded by small cafes and shops. It isn't very large (by my New York standards) but I had fun window shopping.  I look forward to returning one day to one of the cafes on the square so that I can soak up the sun an…

Bialik Street

I always enjoy exploring Tel Aviv but even more so when I can learn about the history of the city. This past week my husband and I took a walking tour (in English) of RechovBialik with YonaWiseman who gives various Tel Aviv tours, some free and some, like this one, for a minimal fee.  We spent an hour learning about the architecture of Bialik Street and the inhabitants of the various buildings. While Yona may not be the most dynamic tour guide, she is informative and enjoyable.   
After the walking tour, Yona arranged for a one hour English tour of the newly renovated Bialik house which was home to Chaim NachmanBialik, Israel's "national poet" and the most famous inhabitant of the street.  Noa, our guide, was young, energetic and tremendously knowledgeable.  I believe that one can pay to enter the house without a guide; however, I would highly recommend taking a guided tour to better appreciate the house and its famous inhabitant.  Also, for now, the explanations in the h…

Tel Aviv Cinematheque

I still miss the artsy movie of Manhattan that play the foreign and Indie films. The closest I have found to such a theater is the Tel AvivCinematheque. It does not have the bells and whistles of the new state of the art theaters but it plays movies that are not widely shown in Israel. The comfy chairs, the audience of the intellectuals of Tel Aviv and the large lobby all remind me of Lincoln Park Cinema, my favorite Manhattan movie theater.
Tel AvivCinematheque - 2 RechovSprinkik - Tel Aviv For the movie schedule and to purchase tickets go to www.cinema.co.il

Zazoo

Recently my husband and I frequented a cafe located in Pardesiya which is approximately ten minutes north of Raanana.  The food is similar to the food offered in most cafes in this country. However, the cafe's decor is funky - interesting colors and furniture. Not a bad alternative if one is looking for a chance to visit another town.
Zazoo - 27 Haerez - 077-204-2205

Eretz Israel Museum

As you know by now, I sorely New York's world-class museums. Tel Aviv museums really cannot compete on that level but they do have all sorts of smaller museums with their own charm and allure. An example is the Eretz Israel Museum which is a series of small buildings set on fairly nice grounds. The permanent collections are not too exciting but the museum often has interesting temporary exhibits. Currently there is an exhibit of photos of Haredim taken by the photographer, Menachem Kahana. The pictures are amazing. They capture Haredi life but often with a slight twist or sense of humor such as a Haredi man walking around with curlers in his hair. The colors and juxtapositions of the subjects are truly amazing. The exhibit is only one room so it is a nice way to spend an hour or less. On your way be sure to check out the museum gift shop which has some really great wares for sale.
Eretz Israel Museum - 2 Haim Levanon Street, Tel Aviv

Idan Raichel

A couple of weeks I purchased tickets for an IdanRaichel concert in Yaffo through Kastel (a ticketing agency). IdanRaichel's music ranges from Hebrew to Arabic to Ethiopian. The show is appropriately named the IdanRaichel project because it is performed by IdanRaichel and several other singers and musicians from various nationalities and ethnic backgrounds who play all sorts of varied musical instruments. Idan plays the keyboard but he shares the spotlight generously allowing the various members to sing and play the various instruments. The show was packed with people who were singing and dancing in the aisles. It had an electricity that left me with a great feeling. Mr. Raichel knows how to create the perfect balance - the show was amazingly well executed but also had an authentic feeling; it was the perfect combination of different types of music and songs; lastly, it was just the perfect length.
IdanRaichel - www.idanraichelproject.com Kastel tickets agency - www.tkts.co.il

Nachalat Binyamin and Cafe Birnbaum

NachalitBinyamin is the name of a street in the southern part of Tel Aviv.  The street contains lots of fabric stores and is reminiscent of the garment district in New York City down to the gritty feel.  On Tuesday and  Fridays, there is also an arts and crafts market with various artists displaying their wares. It is a lot of fun.  And after you have perused all the artist stands, you can have lunch at Cafe Birnbaum which is an adorable cafe with an array of hot and cold salads and 45 shekels gets you a plate that can be filled and refilled. 
NachalatBinyamin Street Fair -  Tuesdays and Fridays at the end of NachalatBinyamin Cafe Birnbaum - 31 NachalatBinyamin - 03-560-0066