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Showing posts from 2010

Design Museum Holon - simply stunning

In the words of GalitGaon, the creative director of the Design Museum of Holon, "the building itself is the biggest object in our collection". I found the exhibitions of the museum too avant-garde for my taste, but I was blown away by the building itself and its brilliant design. Upon admission to the museum, one is given an audio guide (with a screen) that highlights the many unique aspects of the building that combine creativity with practicality. And, there is a small film that discusses the challenges in constructing such a special building. If you do nothing else on your visit, make sure to see the film and use the audio guide. Also, there is a gift shop that is very pricey but offers some very unusual and interesting objects. If you have time, there is a lovely indoor outdoor cafe tucked in the belly of the building where one can enjoy a cup of coffee among the amazing architecture.
Design Museum Holon - 8 PinhasEllon Street, Holon - 03-215-1515

Gabriela - Good Dairy Dining

Gabriela is the dairy counterpart to Gabriel, an upscale meat restaurant located on the Ben Shetach pedestrian mall in downtown Jerusalem. Gabriela is located right next door, and like Gabriel, offers both indoor and outdoor seating. But, there were two pleasant differences. First, Gabriela offers a much more reasonably priced meal. Second, I am one of the few individuals who has never been a huge fan of Gabriel, but I thoroughly enjoyed the meal at Gabriela. I find that here in Israel there are an abundance of great cafes but few dairy restaurants that leave me satisfied. Gabriela definitely feels the void. We sampled pizza, pasta and fish dishes and all were good to excellent. And the chef makes good use of dairy ingredients to create delicious desserts. I left with a good feeling in my stomach but not at a huge expense to my wallet.
Gabriela - 5 Shimon Ben Shetach, Jerusalem - 02-624-6261 - reservations recommended

Uno - Unbelievable Italian Food

Uno restaurant is a dairy Italian restaurant located in an office building in Tel Aviv; during the day there is a self-service cafe side which is a lovely place for a quick lunch. But don't be fooled. The sit-down section of the restaurant which is open both for lunch and dinner is for serious foodies. My husband and I shared several appetizers, a fish and pizza. We also indulged in three (yes three) desserts. Everything was presented beautifully and tasted delicious. The wait staff was attentive and helpful. This is a restaurant where the aim is to please the customer in terms of presentation, service and above all taste; it delivers the goods on all three fronts. It was a dinner that we savored long after the meal was over.
Uno - 2 Weizman Street, Tel Aviv - 03-693-2005

De Karina Chocolate Factory - delicious!

De Karina Chocolate Factory, located in EinZivan in the Golan Heights, was established several years ago by Karina, an Argentinian immigrant, who is a third generation chocolatier. All the chocolate is hand made (no machines). Our pre-arranged visit included a guided tour through the small factory, chocolate tasting and a chocolate making workshop. The entire visit took under an hour and was enjoyed by everyone. Be sure to buy some of the delicious chocolate at the shop on the way out. And there is a small cafe that looked lovely.
De Karina Chocolate Factory - www.de-karina.co.il - 054-252-7040 - advance reservations recommended

Mount Bental - magnificent views and military significance

Mount Bental is located in the Golan Heights 1170 meters above sea level, making for some amazing panoramic views. The mountain also contains bunkers and trenches and was the location of a pivotal battle during the 1973 YomKippur War. I would not suggest a special trip to visit Mount Bental but if you are in the area it is a worthwhile stop.
Mount Bental - Golan Heights

Israel Electric Company tours

The Israel Electric Company offers free Hebrew tours of its facilities in Haifa, Hadera and Ashkelon. The tours are offered during holidays and summer vacation and are labelled for ages 11 and above. However, our tour of the Hadera facility included many children far younger than 11. The guided tour begins in the visitor center where there is a short film and several displays explaining the theory of electricity in general and how electricity is produced and distributed here in Israel. The tour culminates with a bus ride through the facility grounds (including a stop at the adjacent port where coal is unloaded). Throughout the tour, the accompanying guide provides explanations. The tour runs for about an hour. My children were not particularly interested in the tour, but I thought it was well-done, interesting and educational. Since the tour is meant for the general public, the guide's explanations were on a very simple and understandable level. Private tours can be arra…

Taste and Color of South Tel Aviv - walking tour

Despite that most of the time one can manage in English in this country, every once in awhile there is a tour available only in Hebrew that conveys the inside scoop and charm of Israel and should not be missed. This includes the 36 "tours of experience" in Hebrew offered by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality (the municipality offers a few very plain vanilla tours in English as well). Several weeks ago, I joined Carmela Ohev Zion for a walking tour of NeveTzedek and Florentine appropriately called the "Taste and Color of South Tel Aviv". Carmela grew up in NeveTzedek so she was able to convey much of the flavor and color of the area prior to its current gentrification. In fact, we spent about thirty minutes on her childhood block where she shared the many interesting, funny and heartwarming stories about the varied immigrant families that settled there from the 1940s and on. We even made a short visit to her aging mother who still lives in her childhood home. For …

Herzl Museum - History Made Fun

The Herzl museum, along with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem and the Palmach museum in Tel Aviv, represent the new wave in museums; rather than viewing historical documents and objects behind glass displays, visitors move from room to room as technology mixes with history to tell a story. I had heard that the Herzl museum was the least effective of the three. Having now visited all three, I would have to disagree. The Menachem Begin Heritage Center is based on actual history (Menachem Begin's life) but at times is a bit too tedious and fact oriented. The Palmach museum based on a fictional story of a Palmach unit is very engaging but in the end is more fiction than history (similar to a well-done fictional film loosely based on a historical event). The Herzl museum achieves the perfect balance. The museum does an excellent job of conveying the details of Theodore Herzl's life while at the same time being entertaining and engaging. It is a great way for o…

Solomon's Chariots - Eilat mountains

Eilat is not only about the beach and ocean. A fun activity (though probably not in the heat of the summer) is a chariot ride among the red mountain. Solomon's Chariots leads groups in NahalShlomo and Wadi Tzfahot. The clients sit in chariots and guide the donkeys that lead the chariots (not difficult at all). Once on the trail, there is a stop while the leader makes pitas and hands out tea. A bit kitschy but alot of fun among nature. It is a nice off-beat activity to do while in Eilat.
Shlomo's Chariots - www.merkavot-shlomo.co.il - reservations recommended

Eilat water activities

When we first moved here, everyone told us that we must go to Eilat for Chanukah vacation. After that vacation, I vowed never to return to Eilat. I found it to be overcrowded and depressing. Also, while Eilat is warmer in the winter than most other places in Israel, it is still not warm enough to feel comfortable in the water (and some days it is even chilly and cloudy).
At my kids' urging, I decided to give Eilat another chance by vacationing there for a few days in the middle of August. Again, everyone told me that it is ridiculous to go to Eilat in the heat of the summer. Once again, "everyone" was proven wrong. Yes, Eilat is very hot during the dog days of August but it is a dry heat so not as uncomfortable as other places, Also, there are fewer crowds than during Chanukah vacation. And, finally, summer is the best time to partake in the water activities of Eilat, which is one of the primary attractions of Eilat. We parasailed, snorkeled, went in glass bottom …

Royal Gardens Hotel - Eilat

Many hotels in Israel boast that they are 5 star hotels. I like to say that most are the equivalent of 2 star hotels with 5 star prices while my husband likes to say that most have 5 star lobbies with 2 star rooms. The Royal Gardens Suite Hotel easily falls into this category on all fronts. Our accommodations consisted of a bedroom and a small living room/kitchenette area. I found the rooms to be dated and tired, though clean. In contrast, the public areas, such as the lobby, are beautiful and fresh. The pool area is fabulous with lots of small pools and springs and all sorts of different types of seating - beds, chairs, folding chairs - scattered throughout. In addition, the staff was attentive and helpful. Finally, the hotel is well located - literally two minutes from the beach. Given the cost, I would not say that this is the best value for your money but it is a fun and relaxing place to vacation.
Royal Gardens Hotel - www.isrotel.co.il - 08-638-6666

Opera In the Park - Tel Aviv at its finest

Every summer for the past several years, the Israeli opera performs an opera in Yarkon Park that is free and open to all. This year's performance was Carmen. As usual, events in this country, especially free ones that attract large crowds, make me apprehensive. But, once again, I was pleasantly surprised. The event was well organized and the crowd well behaved. We arrived two hours prior to the 9 PM start, enabling us to snag some of the well placed and coveted plastic chairs. There were many who simply brought blankets and spread out in the back. It was amazing to turn around at one point and literally see tens of thousands caught up in the energy of the event. Mayor Ron Huldai introduced each of the scenes - adding a charming feature to the night. Food and drink are available for sale but feel free to bring your own nourishment. Just be aware that glass bottles and folding chairs are not allowed in.
For more information on future Israel Opera events go to www.israel-ope…

Herzliya - Fun in the Water!

One of the perks of living where I do is that the Herzliya beach is literally fifteen minutes from my house. Herzliya has a wonderful marina with lots to offer such as scuba diving lessons, surfing camp and cafes right on the beach. And, of course, there are the boats. The "Tornado" is a small speed boat that is not for the faint of heart or those with queasy stomachs; but for those who are more adventurous, this is the activity for you. For approximately twenty minutes, the boat speeds through the ocean hitting wave after wave (and leaving the passengers soaked). Do insist on life jackets, even if the boat operator tries to discourage you. The "Holiday" is for those seeking a more subdued experience. It is a twenty to thirty minute boat ride, albeit on a slower and bigger boat. For those who crave the action, the "Holiday" does have mesh-type platforms built into the front of the boat where one lies on one's stomach - in essence, catching the …

Ben-Gurion House - a piece of history in Tel Aviv

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's Tel Aviv residence (he also had a residence in Kibbutz Sde Boker) is a small gem tucked away in central Tel Aviv. The house and its personal objects are preserved as if David and Paula Ben-Gurion still live there. Most impressive is his large library - essentially several rooms - that contain some 20,000 books. On one of our visits we saw a short film (in English) depicting Ben-Gurion's life. It is worth a visit if you are spending the day in Tel Aviv. Admission is free.
David Ben-Gurion House - 17 Ben-Gurion Street - 03-522-1010

Better Place - Is the Electric Car the Wave of the Future?

Shai Agassi, a dynamic Israeli businessman, believes that the electric car is the wave of the future. To convince the rest of us, his company, Better Place, has opened a beautiful visitor center located at the Glilot interchange. Yes, there is no doubt that this is brand marketing at its best (almost at a cult level) but the 90 minute tour is interesting and a lot of fun. There is a short film followed by the opportunity for those with a driver's license to drive one of the demo electric cars. Children ages eight and above can ride in the backseat. Those of you fascinated with high tech and sources of energy will love this one. English tours can be arranged. And best of all, it is free!
Better Place - www.betterplc.co.il - you can arrange sign up for tours online or by emailing visit@betterplace.com


Dig for A Day - Bet Guvrin with a twist

Bet Guvrin, located on the Bet Shemesh road, is a national park that consists of various underground complexes dating back to the Hellenistic period. One can explore the park on one's own but, for a slightly different (though pricier) experience, one can join Archaeological Seminars' Dig for A Day which entails digging and sifting in one of the underground caves in the hopes of finding pottery and other remains. Younger children will enjoy that activity as it is similar to digging in a sandbox, albeit an ancient one! But the highlight of the day, certainly among the older children, was crawling through an unexcavated cave system. Our dynamic guide, Assaf, really tried to bring the various activities all together and to make history come alive. The entire activity takes approximately three hours. Be sure to bring water, hats and clothes that are comfortable and that can get dirty.
Dig for a Day - www.archesem.com - 02-586-2011

Museum of Banking and Tel Aviv Nostalgia - not just for bankers!

When Bank Discount wanted to build a large tower on the corners of Herzl and Yehuda Halevi Street in south Tel Aviv, permission was granted on condition that the bank renovate the adjacent Schiff house which was built in 1910. From this, the Museum of Banking and Tel Aviv Nostalgia was born. While the museum aims to explain the growth of commerce and banking in Israel in terms that are understandable to laypeople, there are many exhibits that also highlight the general history of modern day Tel Aviv. One moves with a guide through rooms that contain short films, interactive displays and hands-on exhibits that will appeal to all ages. There are several rooms that are clearly designed for groups of young children and a room containing an interactive game that is aimed for older children. I spent a little more than an hour at the museum and enjoyed every second of it. This is truly one of those hidden gems in Tel Aviv. And, best of all, admission is free!
Herzlilienblum - Museum of …

Hatachana - Tel Aviv railway station renovated and rejuvenated

Hatachana (the "railway station") located between Jaffa and Neve Tzedek, is a fascinating place where history, commercialism and renovation all come together to form a charming and historically meaningful area. From the late 1800s until the beginning of the State of Israel, the railroad station complex serviced the rail line that operated between Jaffa and Jerusalem. In addition, during approximately the same time frame, the Weiland family, a German templer family, established a personal residence and factory alongside the railroad station. In 2005, the Tel Aviv municipality took over the railway complex and began the process of renovation. In order to fund the project, the complex contains many shops and cafes (see www.uonlybetter.blogspot.com for more information about some of the shops). However, the commercialism did not come at the expense of historical authenticity. The original structures have been lovingly restored; in addition, there are numerous plaques o…

Daliat-el-Carmel - Druze village

The Druze are an Arabic-speaking people who do not practice Islam, but have a secretive religion that draws heavily on the Bible and venerates Yitro (the father-in-law of Moses). They are extremely loyal citizens of the State of Israel. Daliat-el-Carmel is a Druze village located in the Mount Carmel region somewhere between Zichron Yaakov and Haifa. The drive to the village is absolutely stunning as the road winds among the picturesque mountains. Daliat-el-Carmel is known for its bazaar in the old city. It may be that on weekends, the bazaar is more impressive, but on the recent weekday morning that I visited, I found the bazaar to consist of one street of run-down shops selling primarily cheap tchockes made abroad. The only find was one shop that sells items specially weaved by the Druze. I am fascinated by this group and would like to learn more about them first-hand but, unfortunately the experience was a disappointment as the bazaar and adjacent streets lacked charm, ambience…

Elton John - enjoyable

I, along with approximately 45,000 other people, went to the recent Elton John concert at the stadium in Ramat Gan. I enjoyed watching Elton John who at the age of 63 is still a very talented performer. But, this entry is more about the logistics of the performance - something that makes me tense before any big event here in Israel. I am pleased to report that the concert was well-organized; management of the crowd was excellent. Yes, we hit traffic on the way and yes, there is no parking at the stadium so street parking is the only option. In addition, there were lines at various points (and it was hot and sticky). But, overall, the evening was orderly and lacked in chaos, no doubt thanks to tremendous pre-concert planning and to the large numbers of staff located throughout the stadium. Israel has come a long way since the last time Elton John landed in Israel. Back in 1993, he was so mobbed by fans that he left the country before even performing (he was convinced to return t…

Ramat Hanadiv - a natural gem with a great cafe

Ramat Hanadiv, located between Zichron Yaakov and Binyamina, contains an underground crypt which is the final burial place of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the well-known benefactor, and his wife. However, the majority of Ramat Hanadiv consists of carefully managed open space that contain gardens, a nature park and a visitors pavilion. The gardens are absolutely beautiful and meticulously maintained. There is a rose garden designed as a traditional European garden, a palm garden with a variety of palm trees brought from all over the world, a fragrance garden containing various fragrant plants and spices that is specifically aimed at the visually impaired, and a cascade garden. It is lovely to stroll among the gardens which are set in a hilltop with panoramic views. Make sure to see the short film (Hebrew with English subtitles) at the visitors pavilion to learn about the story of Ramat Hanadiv.We did not have the time or energy to go to the nature park where there are actual walking…

The architecture of Jaffa

Tel Aviv is known as the fun-loving party city of Israel but in fact, it is a city that is rich in history, albeit relatively modern history. Therefore, I happen to enjoy walking tours of Tel Aviv since that is a good way to learn about the history of the country.Paule Rakower (White City Tours) gives a tour of the architectural styles outside the old city of Jaffa from the Ottoman period, through the British mandate and concluding with modern day Israel. This is the second tour of Paule's that I have attended. Some people may find her style to be a bit dry but I find her to be a wealth of information. For approximately two hours, we walked right outside the walls of Old Jaffa and looked at various architectural styles. I am not an architectural buff but I found the information fascinating and Paule always adds in some interesting historical facts and stories. Also Jaffa is undergoing a lot of restoration and renovation and has a great vibe. Besides the flea market, there ar…

Nabucco on Masada - Magnificent

Sometimes a cultural experience here in Israel is so well-done and world class that it makes me happy that I live here. Last night's performance of Verdi's opera, Nabucco, conducted by Daniel Oren at Masada certainly did the trick. The experience is not for the faint of heart. The opera began at 10 PM and ended at approximately 1 AM. There were three ways of getting there and back: By bus, by buying a hotel package at one of the Dead Sea hotels or by driving. We opted for the bus option which meant that we left Tel Aviv at around 5 PM and did not return until 4 AM. And, being that Masada is located in the desert, it was quite a warm evening. Finally, the seating in a temporary open-air theater was not the most comfortable. Notwithstanding all the inconveniences, the event was extremely well-organized from start to finish with some very nice touches such as the distribution of fans, seat cushions and ices. The space outside the theater was set up with couches, tables a…

Scala is Superb

Scala is located in the David Citadel hotel in Jerusalem, but unlike many hotel restaurants, this hotel restaurant is truly a culinary experience. When I entered the room, I liked the decor but did not like the fact that there is not a whole lot of space between tables (common among hotel restaurants). However, the food from beginning to end was outstanding. We had short ribs and lamb chops - usually the meat disappoints in Israel but that was not the case here. The house bread was fantastic. And one of the desserts was so good I ordered a second one! The service was excellent. We asked the waiter for a wine recommendation and a dessert recommendation. The choices were right both times. And what especially impressed me was that he recommended a very reasonably priced wine that he thought was better than the more expensive one my husband was contemplating. If in Jerusalem, this is certainly a great choice for a special occassion.
Scala - David Citadel Hotel, 7 King David Stree…

Mamilla Hotel - new kid on the block

Last week my husband and I spent a night at the Mamilla Hotel which is a newly opened hotel located alongside Mamilla Avenue - the outdoor shopping mall. It is nice to see Israel hotels with a modern and sophisticated decor that rivals the ambience of high end international hotels. The breakfast buffet was in a nice room and offered lots of delicious choices. The hotel staff was eager to please - the only mishap was putting us in the lowest floor possible after I requested a high floor when they asked my preference. I am not sure, though, how the hotel will age. Also, and this is my pet peeve with almost all hotels here in Israel, the daily rates are obscenely high - the amount we paid for a non-holiday weeknight exceeded what I have paid for comparable hotels in major cities like New York and London.
Mamilla Hotel - 11 King Solomon Street, Jerusalem - www.mamillahotel.com

La Guta Got Much Better

I went to La Guta a few years ago after many people ranted and raved about how amazing the restuarant was. Frankly I was disappointed by everything including the tightness of the space, the ambience and food. So, when friends of ours dragged us to the new location in Baka, I had low expectations. The evening surpassed those expectations by a long shot. First of all, the restaurant's new location consists of several different rooms making the dining more pleasurable and giving each table a bit of privacy. We ordered numerous dishes and enjoyed every one of them. It was as if I had returned to a totally different restaurant - one that I hope to return. And I strongly recommend La Guta for special occassions.
La Guta - 34 Derech Beit Lechem, Jerusalem - 02- 623-2322

Litvak Gallery - putting Tel Aviv on the art map

Litvak Gallery is a newly opened art gallery located in central Tel Aviv. The space itself is lovely - very open with a nice flow. Currently through May 15th, the Litvak Gallery is showcasing work by 23 of the world's leading glass artists, including the well known Dale Chihuly. Everything, but two pieces, are for sale. But, most of the people, like me, viewed the visit as a very enjoyable trip to the equivalent of a small art museum. The glass exhibit was phenomenal - walking through the gallery I really felt that Israel has reached new levels of cultural sophistication. I recommend bringing older children as many of the pieces are whimsical and fun. AND most definitely use the audioguide (English available) - it added so much to the experience.
Litvak Gallery - Museum Tower - 4 Berkovitz Street, Tel Aviv - www.litvak.com

Kibbutz Revadim - back to Biblical times

Kibbutz Revadim, located not too far from Ashdod and right off Highway 6, is a small non-descript kibbutz. However, it does contain the Ekron Museum of the History of Philistine Culture, which basically consists of a recreated Philistine street showing ceramics, weaving and an olive oil press. This is only for those who are die-hard biblical archaeological buffs such as my mother who enjoyed the experience very much. Naama Lanciano, the Kibbutz member who cares for the site, has herself over they years developed an interest in biblical ancient history. Once she realized that my mother was a kindred spirit, she was quite informative and chatty - even bringing us scholarly articles. Unfortunately, like many other historical sites here in Israel, I think that with the proper creativity, a guide could make this into a fun place for children. As of now, not sure that for the general public it is worth the trip.
Ekron Museum of the History of Philistine Culture - Kibbutz Revadim - cont…

Artist Colony Inn - an authentic bed and breakfast

Tucked away in the heart of the artist colony in Safed is the Artist Colony Inn, a bed and breakfast recently opened by Benay and Jeff Katz (North Americans in origin but both have been in Israel for a very long time). The Inn, which is an old Safed house that has been lovingly and exquisitely restored, contains four guest rooms. The public areas include a small lobby and several outdoor courtyards/patios. We stayed in the Avital room which is the most spacious and most expensive; the room's only downside is that it is right off the small lobby and so some lobby noise filters in. Next visit (and I do hope to visit again) I would probably opt for the Lianna room which is slightly less expensive but big enough to be comfortable. The other two rooms are nice but not as spacious. Benay makes a delicious and plentiful breakfast that is served in the lobby. Overall, the inn has a relaxing and quiet feel which is reminiscent of small New England bed and breakfasts. It is tiny so tha…

Gan Eden Restaurant - truly the Garden of Eden

We spent a night in Safed last week and were looking for a place to eat. We were told to go to the Gan Eden restaurant located about ten minutes away from the heart of Safed.  Tucked away in an unassuming but quaint old Safed house, at first glance I did not think that this small dairy restaurant would dazzle me but dazzle it did. We ordered based on the waiter's recommendation (which we always do when trying a new restaurant). We sampled just about everything - bread straight from the oven, soup, fish, pasta and dessert (including a homemade modified version of a Krembo).  The food was fresh, homemade and delicious.  I do not even see a reason to recommend any specific dish since they were all great.  And put it this way, one week later and still dreaming about the food.  
Gan Eden restaurant - Har Canaan, Safed - 04-697-2434 (reservations preferred)

The 11th Floor restaurant - don't rush to catch the elevator

I have been hearing a lot about the 11th floor restaurant located in the Crowne Plaza City Center Hotel in the Azrieli  so I finally decided to check it out.  Yes, it is on the 11th floor and yes, it has city views of Tel Aviv (but not as breathtaking as the views from 2C, another restaurant that is located on the very top of the Azrieli Towers).  The restaurant is also a bit more upscale than your average hotel restaurant.  That said, it really did not blow me away. The ambience and decor were adequate.  The sushi was fairly good but that is probably the only memorable part of the meal.  I could see that this would be an excellent place for a business lunch or for any other reason; I have heard that there is a well-priced business lunch with food in abundance.  But I am not sure I would strongly recommend this restaurant for a nice night out.
The 11th Floor restauarant - Crowne Plaza City Center Hotel - Azrieli Towers, Tel Aviv - 03-777-4067