Header Photo Credit

*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tel Aviv Hot Spot: Ze Pequeno on Ladies' Night

If you are a Tel Aviv female and you aren't going to Ladies' Night at Zé Pequeno, you are wasting your money somewhere else. Not only is this new Tel Aviv hot spot is a cool, fun, warm and friendly bar, but their lady's night special is simply unbeatable.

Ladies' Night Special:
I have never heard of a better deal. Every Wednesday night, they offer their famous Ladies' Night Special. It goes like this: if you are, of course, a lady, you pay 26 shekels for a pink plastic cup that must hold about 1/3 of a liter which gets you free refills all night. You can fill it with nearly anything you want all night (top shelf alcohol and bottled beer excluded). This means, you can start with a cup of Champagne, then move onto a Weihenstephan wheat beer on tap, top that off with a glass of red wine, and then ring in the whole night with a rum and coke or whisky and soda- all for 26 shekels. All you gotta do is fill your cup at the bar.

Aside from the fact that the name, taken from the 2002 Brazilian movie "City of God", is semi-unpronounceable, this bar is super fun. Centrally located in Tel Aviv on Ben Gurion Avenue just on the corner of Ben Yehuda Street, Zé Pequeno is slightly hidden behind its sister café, Buskapa. The two places are separate, but equally cool. Just know that if you're looking for the bar and not the café, you should choose the entrance behind the friendly Russian security guard hanging out on the sidewalk.

Zé Pequeno's decor isn't much to write home about, which I kind of like. It's simple and relatively small. The central wooden bar is large and square and takes up most of the space with nice, tall leather bar chairs with backs running around its perimeter. It leaves room for about two small, high-seated tables for couples, 3 larger, high seated tables for 5 to 7, and one slightly cramped sofa area with two low, wicker sofas.

The place doesn't start filling up till about 10-11pm, so if you get there any time before then, the music is pretty mellow (think Van Morrison's "Moondance") and not too loud and the lights are dimmed, but not too dimmed. Once the crowds start rolling in, the music gets a bit more peppy, and much louder (think the Killer's "When you were young") and the lighting gets much dimmer. Personally I prefer getting there early,just because I hate it when a bar isn't completely packed to full capacity, but you still have to scream in order for someone to hear you. It ruins the conversation, and I always wake up with a sore throat.

There is usually a total of three servers- two cute bartenders and a hostess/waitress. On busy nights you'll find a hostess as well. In my experience, the bartenders have been sweet and seem to do their best to keep everyone happy, but when the place gets pack, there isn't much that can be done- two is too few. Also, the fact that there is only one waitress that wanders around the tables taking orders means that if you're sitting at a table, it will usually take a while for you to get your drink. So don't come super thirsty. The pace in this place is a bit slower. But, again, I also kinda like that too.

All in all, Zé Pequeno is a good, chill place to grab a drink with friends in the center of the city and an AMAZING money saver if you hit it up on Wednesday evenings.

Adress: Ben Gurion 22, Tel Aviv
Telephone: 054-222-6950
Mon-Thurs: 8pm-4am
Friday: 8pm-4am
Saturday: 8pm-4am
כתובת:בן גוריון 22 תל אביב
 טלפון: 054-222-6950
שעות פתיחה:
א' - ה': 20:00 - 04:00
שישי:  20:00 - 05:00
שבת:  20:00 - 04:00

Friday, December 17, 2010

Middle East Peace Process 2010 Recap: Is the US actually doing anything?

Cartoons for the Week of Sept. 20-26, 2009 Copyright © 2009 Universal Press Syndicate

First the US was madly against Israeli West Bank settlement construction and Biden, Clinton and Obama were pushing hard for a settlement freeze. I think we all remember that big to-do with VP Joe Biden when he came to visit.  How can we forget how offended he was when he came to promote the freeze last year and Netanyahu stupidly took his visit as an opportunity to tell the whole world that he isn't interested in listening to the US and instead, planned on starting up the settlement building once more.

And so the peace process turned into a debate about West Bank settlement construction.  For several months, Hillary and the PA argued with Netanyahu to extend the settlement freeze, which Netanyahu really didn't want to do. No one could get past this issue.  It became THE issue. The White House seemed ready to give Israel military equipment in exchange for an extension on the settlement freeze.  But it wasn't going anywhere.

And then the US dropped it.

Suddenly the White House had enough and decided that the settlements would no longer be the main issue. They wouldn't be important at all.   And this happened right as the House approved a bill that put loads of cash toward an Israeli military security missiles base.

I know, it sounds strange to me too, but whatever. I'm going with it.

So, now we're here.  Where is that, exactly? Well, the settlements are underway making Palestinians pretty upset.  They are getting fed up with this whole Peace Process thing. The United States is fed up too, but since Obama doesn't have all that much going for him right now, he seems to have taken this on as a new project and he isn't a quitter.  But it's gotten so bad that now, the Palestinans, who everyone seems to want to free fro Israeli tyrrany, proclaimed their intention to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state.

"No!"  (says the US!) "You can talk to us and to the Israelis and we can pretend we are trying to make peace, but don't do something rash like declaring a STATE!"  That would just be madness.  Madness,yes, although Brazil and Venezuela are already backing it...and the EU might support it if it ever becomes "appropriate".  Not like anyone is supposed to know what that means.

Anyway, I'm not going to take a side right now. I just want to point out how the US looks kinda/really/unbelievably lost here.What have Hillary and Obama gotten themselves into this time?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vaffelim or Bafflot- וופלים או בפלות: Alit stirs up trouble by making the debate official

If you know anything about Israel, you know that little chocolate wafers are a staple food. It's a right of passage for every young Israeli soldier to learn the distinct way to open the package in one fell swoop - fast and clean.  They are a go-to snack with coffee, being cheap, light and sweet. And the biggest Israeli brand of these sweet little tasties is Alit.

Alit makes most of the basic chocolate sweets in Israel. Think of it as the Israeli "Hershey's". And Alit has done something that Hershey's is always hesitant to do: it has officially changed the name of a classic.

Alit made-over the name and face of this Israeli snack food after holding what I assume to be a nation-wide vote, although from their video, it looks like they only hit up central Tel Aviv.

According to the company's website, 1,147,035 people voted in total and just over 57% went with the "hip, young and cooler" Baffelot. I personally had never heard of the term "Baffelot".  Somehow after four years of living in Israel and eating these tasty cakes nearly every morning, I never came across one person who called them Bafflot.  So, to me they are Waffelim because "Baffelot" just sounds like a cheap bastardization of a legitimate term.

One of my friends claimed "Baffelot" was an army thing.  Another friend clamied it was a Jerusalem thing.  That the whole competition was really a competition between Tel Aviv vs. Jerusalem.  But after doing a very insignificant amount of research, my findings could find absolutely no correlation between those who say wafelim and those who say baffelot.

Plus, looking at Alit's silly ad where the old CEO argues with the young, "hip and cool" cartoon company mascot, I get the strangest feeling that this little competition was rigged.  Could it be?!?! Is it possible that they were planning to change the name from the very beginning even BEFORE the vote?!!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The First Israeli Horror Movie "כלבת" ("Rabies") has reviewers foaming at the mouth!

Film critics are calling "Rabies" by directors Ahron Keshales and Navot Paposhaddo the first Israeli horror film. And reviewers do seem quite horrified.

In fact, the movie has been branded with scathing reviews from nearly every newspaper and film reviewer out there. The Jerusalem Post titled their review, "Cure for ‘Rabies’: Don’t see it", and  ioncinema.com declared that "Keshales Gives Israeli Cinema a case of the "Rabies".  One or two reviewers didn't take the movie quite as seriously and manged to enjoy themselves, but on the whole, the film didn't quite make it big.

Despite reviews and massive hype, I had to go see "the first Israeli horror film" out of pure curiosity.

(I also happen to be friends with one of the lead actors in the film. No, I'm not going to tell you who. You'll just have to guess.)

My review in short:  this is a film that isn't going to make waves in the world of Israeli cinema or cinema in general. Maybe it was trying to be ambitious- and maybe the hype makes it easier to hate the movie.  I didn't hate it (the fake blood was funny, as was the ridiculous plot, second rate acting and the ridiculous b-movie style) but I definitely didn't think it was good.  It was ... what it was.  A poorly made horror movie with a really loose plot that strayed from some essential horror movie conventions in an attempt to try and make the movie somehow "Israeli'.

There's one main problem with the movie. ( Stop reading here if you are planning on seeing the movie and don't want me to spoil your fun. )

Main problem: the film is trying to be particularly Israeli, but doesn't go the whole nine yards. At the end of the film, the final line specifically insinuates that the stock horror movie doesn't work in Israel simply because the entire country is full of assholes who are ready to kill one another at the drop of a hat. Everyone in Israel is the victim, and everyone is the killer. Or so the movie seems to claim.

This is incorporated into the film by removing a central horrific figure.  The guy who you think is gonna be the crazy killer in the beginning of the film never actually kills anyone in the movie.

It's an interesting idea, but the problem with this is: a) it makes the plot is really loose, arbitrary and hardly compelling b)the characters aren't particularly Israeli in dress, character, language, or appearance. In fact, they are surprisingly American.

For example, four of the main characters are clean, pretty kids dressed in clean tennis outfits on their way to play a game at some country club.  It has to be noted that there simply are no Israelis that dress in clean, preppy tennis gear like that and/or play tennis at exclusive country clubs (I mean, there are no exclusive country clubs in Israel).

It becomes a bit boring...and a bit too silly.  And this is coming from an easily frightened blonde American who covers her eyes when she even thinks that something scary might happen on screen.

So, go see it if you want to have a few laughs, if you want to support Israeli cinema, or if you;re just plain curious.  But if you are hoping for a great horror film, or a spectacular Israeli horror debut, this one isn't it.

Here's some free footage so you can get an idea (sorry to all you English speakers, but the movie is in Hebrew!)

Me and Yotam, excited for the movie

This is what happened to us after the movie

It was very gruesome

And then it got trippy

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Israel Loves GLBTQs: Dr., can you check my butt?

Courtesy of 365Gay.com
If you didn't know already, get with the program. Israel is a progressive and tolerant Mecca in the Middle East. Well, at least, when it comes to being gay and loving it.

Tel Aviv is especially well known for being a city of free love, gay pride and colorful characters. According to Wikipedia, the city was named as "the gay capital of the Middle East" by Out Magazine and "the final gay fronteir" by Ynet News.  This year thousands came to participate in Tel Aviv's famous Gay Pride Parade.

Courtesy of Haaretz.com
Well, now Israeli healthcare provider "Clalit" or "כללית" wants you to know that they love gays too!  That's right! Your Israeli doctor has no problem checking your butt for a possible allergic reaction to latex, nor does your doctor mind when a non-gender-specific individual sneezes all over the place in the lobby! He also somehow doesn't get annoyed by annoying lesbians who don't want to get fat but want to have babies!!!

I just had to post these three new ads, wonderfully directed by Adi Halfin, are targeting a well-established audience in Israel: The GLBTQ community.( If you aren't familiar with the long, politically correct and well-thought out term, GLBTQ refers to Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Trangenders and Queers). And yes, they get sick too and need medical care just like heterosexuals do.

Courtesy of backseatblogger, although I think this guy stole all his pics from somewhere else.
The ads are specifically for the Clalit Clinic at Gan Meir "גן מאיר" (Meir Garden, or Meir Park)- the annual starting point for the Tel Aviv Gay Parade.  Check them out

Lesbian Ad:

GIRL1: Omg, this car is amazing. It's not like any car you've ever driven. First of all, the seats-- they are all...Leather. And the speed- Oh the speed! You just hit the gas and it's VRrrrrrrrrrrrom, vrrrrrrrrom, vrroooom!
GIRL 2: No no! Speed? I don't think he should have a license at all! Let his friends be the ones with the car- why him?
DOCTOR: Ahem. Maybe first we should talk about the process.....the sperm donation...?
(girls giggle and hold hands)
DOCTOR: So, which one of you will be carrying the child?
(Girls point at one another)
GIRL 2: But we decided it would be you!
GIRL 1: But you're older than me.
GIRL 2: By two months!
GIRL 1: I'm dying to see you fat already.
GIRL 2: But your genes are better than mine. You're Morrocan.
GIRL 1: So, I'll get fat, and you'll be pregnant. (Pause) I'm calling your mother.
Text: Clalit Clinic at Meir Gardens. Feel Comfortable.


DOCTOR: Natan Shtein=Levi? Natan?
(Clicking of high heels on floor-pan out to hot blonde)
BLONDE: *Sneeze!* Not Datan. Dida. Dida Joy.
BLONDE: Dida, Dida.
DOCTOR: Ah, Nina!
DOCTOR: Ok, Nina. Eh, first I have to clear something up......Where did you get that gorgeous handbag?! Err, so, you're congested? Yes? Come on in....

Gay Ad:

DOCTOR: Hello, er, Roni?
RONI: Yes.
DOCTOR: Please, have a seat.
RONI: No, it's ok, I prefer to stand.
DOCTOR: Ok. So, what's the problem?
RONI: Uhhh, I have a pain.
DOCTOR: Where does it hurt?
RONI: Uhhh, in... in the back? In my lower back?
(Doctor shrugs)
RONI: Down below....?
DOCTOR What happened? Did something happen?
*Phone Rings*
DOCTOR (on the phone): Hello? How are you buddy? Ok, and he wore a condom? And you? Oy, I forgot... you....I forgot. Ok, well, when you get back to Israel come in to see me and we'll make sure its nothing serious. My pleasure. (hangs up the phone.)
I'm sorry. So, where were you saying it hurts?
RONI: In my butt! (Fade out)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Israeli Carob Trees Smell Like Sex

The Israeli carob tree smells like semen. It smells like wet, fresh, potent semen. Yes, I'm talking about what some of you out there refer to as sperm, cum, jizz,baby batter,man chowder, man seed, nut, protein shake or spooge.

Seriously, I have no idea how I never noticed this until this year, my fourth in Israel.  Maybe, after cutting down on my casual smoking my sense of smell has been revived.  Maybe this year, the autumn scents have been especially strong. or maybe its hormonal. Whatever the reason, it has become overwhelming.

It started in October, the beginning of blooming season, and, despite the fact that it's December, the smell still lingers. Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat, you name it. In Jerusalem it's especially obscene. It's inescapable, really. I smell it on my bike rides to work, on my walks down the street, and on short weekend hikes.

The likeness is so uncanny that I frequently find myself peering into dark corners searching for the perv who might be standing there jacking off, or the couple who might be getting off by messing around in public.  But I always end up face to face with the nasty Israeli carob tree.

Gag me.
Obscene Carob Tree Photo courtesy of survivaliq.com

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Arab/Palestinain Propeganda: Extremists on Both Sides

I typically don't put up posts of this nature.
However, I believe that the Western World is quite familiar with Israeli's anti-Arab sentiments, but frequently forgets the constant barrage of anti-Semitic propaganda that is distributed and promoted in the occupied territories and other Arab countries.

This video, despite its obvious cut-and-paste nature, drives a point home that is important to remember: that in the Middle East, extremism is everywhere.

New Trends in Arabic Anti-semitism from Henrik Clausen on Vimeo.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Otto Bar on Rabin Square: New Tel Aviv Hot Spot!

Surprisingly stylish and well designed, Tel Aviv's Otto Bar (אוטו בר), or Otto 76, is a great place to grab a well-made drink with a lady-friend or pick up a billiards game with the dudes. The owners couldn't have picked a better location. The place is smack-dab across from Rabin Square at 76 Even Gvirol- the center of the white city near some of the hippest, coolest Tel Aviv restaurants and pubs.

Don't be surprised if you pass by the entrance several times on your first trip there. First off, I was certain the place was called "Auto Bar" and when I tried to look up the address, I didn't understand why there was nothing on the internet about this place. Then, once I figured out that "Auto Bar" was really "Otto bar" and I jotted the address down, I still had trouble finding it. The bar is hard to catch, being that there is no real door. The face of the opening corridor looks like a storage unit filled with crates of beers, and unless you know what you're looking for, you might have to do a double take.

The Entrance to Auto Bar, 76 Even Gvirol

The relatively new Otto Bar can be plagued with long lines, since that is the way of hot new Tel Aviv bars, but if you make it there during the week, you should have no problem waltzing right in. Passing the hostess, one enters the dimly lit storage unit and follows the music down a short flight of stairs. The stairs open up to a vestibule lined with light wood-paneled walls and glass windows. Behind the glass more aesthetically stacked beer crates, wine glasses, wine bottles and kegs sit peaking through iron metal fencing.

Walk through two swinging wooden doors to enter and you have a view of the entire bar before you. The bar is low and very central, taking up most of the floor space as typical Tel Aviv pick-up bars do. But this isn't a pick-up bar. Well, not completely.

The Bar.  

While the seating is tight and the bar area can get packed, there are some benches and booth-like seating off to the sides near the billiard tables. These are good for groups of friends, or simply side make-out sessions. But, their bar tenders are unbelievably good looking, so I recommend trying to get their early to stake out a seat at the bar.

High-quality beer appreciation culture is also taking hold of this Mediterranean city and Otto Bar caters to the beer lover without question. They have an extensive beer list in addition to their wine, champaign/kava and cocktail lists which I personally appreciate being a sel-proclaimed beer-o-phile. Apparently their prices are a bit steep (their 1/2 liters (Chetzis or חצאים are 400ml) but I don't expect any less from a hip new place like this.

Pretty wine.  Pretty cups. Pretty wood.

People, you can't find Sam Adams in most Israeli Bars- bug Otto Bar has got crates of it!

What makes the Otto Bar even more attractive is its fantastic decor. I do have to give them kudos on that. The Otto Bar has classy and warmly lacquered wooden paneling to give it a cozier, classier ambiance, while the walls are a rustic stone giving it a touch of "we're having a party in the basement" kinda feel. The seats are upholstered in dark brown leather (or faux leather) with those buttons that make the seats look like grandpa chairs from the 1940s and all supporting columns are tastefully tiled in black and white. If they had a piano and a lounge singer, it would bring the decor together. But they don't.

The music is good, though it isn't too unique. Lost of interesting 80s music like Squeeze, early Depeche Mode, Brian Ferry and the Police mixed in with some pop music of the 90s and Indie Rock of today. They are nice background tunes that make it easy to mix and mingle, but they don't make you want to get up and bust a move.

Overall, I'd say Otto 76 draws a crowd that ranges from their md 20s to late 30s which keeps the scene tame and charming and dress-code-free. I showed up in a tank top, jeans and sneakers, but I was eying a number of other women in tight mini dresses and stilettos.

Billiars.  Otherwise known as Snooker.

I'm crap at playing, but I must say, I always enjoy it.

Tacuma, Hagar and I smilin' it up. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Love Affair with a Pomegranate

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It’s the height of pomegranate season in Israel.  A walk through any shuk (שוק-market place) and you’ll catch a glimpse of the extraordinary bulbous fruit at nearly every produce stand.  It’s deep, earthy smell of soury sweetness is in the air.  And so, I dedicate this post to the pomegranate- a fruit that has tantalized the hearts of man for thousands of years. 

The pomegranate is an ancient fruit, and holds symbolic meaning which many believe to have been the true forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden.  Pomegranates were also one of the first fruits brought back to Moses as proof that the Promised Land was really as good God told Moses it would be:

For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass” Deuteronomy 8:6-14

The fruit is mentioned frequently in the Bible, typically in connection with beauty, love, romance, and bounty.

Photo Credit:(clockwise)Painting by IlseKlyn, photo by Graur Codrin, painting by CraigStephens

Native to the Mediterranean, specifically eastern Iran, the fruit made its way to other areas of the Mediterranean and Asia with the help of Greek and Roman trade. Many Greek myths feature the pomegranates as symbols of fertility, royalty, power or sinfulness, and the exotic crown-shaped fruit has been absorbed into nearly every major culture today including Chinese, Islam, Christianity and Hindu. 

Not only are pomegranates exquisite in form and precious to countless religions and cultures, but they are also terrificly tasty.  Throw some pomegranate seeds in a salad and you've added a sweet crunch thats to die for. Mix up some pomegranate juice with apple and pear juice, and add yogurt if you like for a smooth fruit drink.  Place a chicken in the oven and cover it with pomegranate seeds and lemon essence for a sweetly sour delectable dish. The recipes are endless.

If you're looking for a unique Israeli take on the pomegranate, pick up a Rimon Wine - they are a winery that makes their wines entirely from expertly fermented pomegranate juice. Their winery is in the stunning Upper Galilee Region of Israel, which, if you plan to travel in Israel, you should find time for wine and pomegranates aside.  I've tasted their wines a number of times and have been pleasantly surprised.  They're sweet, but not too sweet: a nice port-substitute and a perfect garnish for a warm pound cake or bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Of course, with such a rich relationship with man, the name, pomegranate, also has an interesting story.  "Punica Granadum" is the official genus name, named after the Phoenicias who, with their advanced seafaring, greatly contributed to the spread of it's cultivation. The Latin "pomum" (apple) and "granatus" (seeds) influenced the fruit's name in many Romance Languages. In English, the pomegranate was first recorded as being called "The Apple of Granada", which is thought to be  attributed to a mis-transaltion of the French "pome-grenade".  The Hebrew, "rimon" (רימון), almost identical in Aabic, "romman, or rumman" (رمان) is also used to refer to a grenade or shell.  

Despite the pomegranates Middle Eastern heritage and mythical reputation, today the fruit is widely known for its incomparable health benefits. As it turns out, the fruit isn't just sweet and crunchy, it's also rich in vitamins A, B, C, iron, calcium, potassium and more.  According to recent studies, it neutralizes free radicals in the human body faster than red wine or green tea, meaning it may help prevent cancer, and has also been found to help treat those suffering from high blood pressure! 

So, now I revel in the perfection of the pomegranate season in Israel.  And, of course, living next to an open air Tel Aviv market where the fruit is fresh and fragrant isn't too bad either!  

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Travel in Israel: Mount Tavor (Har Tavor)

If you are looking to travel in Israel, I suggest a day trip to Har Tavor (Mount Tavor). Located in the Lower Galile Region and just overlooking the wide pastoral expanses of Emek Izrael (Jezreel Valley), Har Tavor is a round bushy mountain with a turtle-shell curve and a soft fur of leafy trees. 

Har Tavor is well known among Jews and Christians alike for being both the site of the Biblical battle between Barak and the army of Jabin (Canaanites) during the reign of Deborah the Prophet as well as the site of Jesus' transfiguration.

Church of the Transfiguration
The top of the mountain, accessible by car, is home to a stunning Church of the Transfiguration erected in the early 20th century. The church boasts some spectacular murals, beautiful mosaics,exquisite architecture and various artifacts from the thousands of years of visitors who came on pilgrimage. The church itself was constructed atop layers of ruins of what was once a Byzantine church, and before a Crusader church. 

Har Tavor actually a stop on the "Jesus Trail" for those of you who are interested in "walking in the footsteps of Jesus" on your travels in Israel .  (Either way, you should take a look at the site: their header picture of a big comfy yellow couch in the middle of the desert on a Jesus trail does make the hike seem pretty miraculous.)

If you're planning on hitting up the Church of Transfiguration as you travel in Israel, here are their visitors hours:  8:00-12:00, 2:00-6:00.  Closed Saturdays.  Modest dress required (no shorts or sleeveless).

The Hike
There are a number of nice hikes in the area. Hiking up the actual Mount Tavor is part of the Israel National Trail, Shvil Yisrael (שביל ישראל) which runs the entire length of Israel from top to bottom, (or bottom to top, whichever way you look at it).  This means that the trails are well marked and well traveled.

Hikinh the mountain should take about 4 hours up and down, or you can choose to simply hike around the mountain in Beit Keshet Forrest.

Here's a map of the area:

For those readers who are not Hebrew Literate, the large white blob in the center of the map is the Beit Keshet forest. Mount Tavor is the small white splotch just by the bottom of the map. We started where the big red hand is pointing. We parked a bit further, by the blue "Park" symbol where there are restrooms and a parking area and walked towards south. Then we continued on towards that red arrow on the far right, before wandering back through the forest straight towards the car. 

Entrance map

We really pottered through the forest, trying to find the best views of Har Tavor, and following the bike path, despite the fact that we were traveling on foot. The bike path is highlighted below in yellow.

 We eventually made it to a beautiful view point overlooking Har Tavor where we inhaled an entire package of cookies with dark black coffee.  It's a great look out point to stop at if you want a bit to eat, but I just don't recommend consuming an entire package of whatever it is you brought.  Trust me.  It makes the next leg of hiking., well, uncomfortable. So stick to the coffee and a sandwich or one/two cookies and you're good to continue on your way.

It's the perfect place for a  cheesy photo.

We then continued our wandering down and around the forest, slowly making our way back to our parked car. Our somewhat disorganized wandering hike took us approximately 5 hours including two snack breaks and several moments when I was certain we'd completely lost the way.

All in all it's a great day trip for anyone who happens to be traveling in Israel.
For more information, visit the following sites:


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Religious vs. Secular: Segregated Housing Endorsed by Minister

Housing and Construction Minister,
Ariel Atias
The Haredim are looking for new ways of isolating themselves and dividing the country.  This time, they it's segregated housing that they want.

According to a recent article by Ynet news, Housing and Construction Minister, Ariel Atias, is fervently endorsing haredi-designated cities.  

The segregated housing issue was discussed by Israeli officials and haradi and secular community representatives at a conference organized by the Gesher Foundation, an organization ironically founded to promote dialogue between the religious and the secular. 

In Hebrew, Gesher (גשר) means bridge, although from reports on their most recent housing conference, it sounds like they are having a tough time trying to meet their goals of " strengthening the fabric of Israeli society through the appreciation of our shared Jewish heritage and common destiny."

The conference, held on Tuesday, October 26th, was held in Jerusalem and titled "Segregated Country".  

Most of the religious in attendance, including Minister Atias himself, made it very clear that they are happy to remain isolated and would prefer living in an area where they would not have to have any interaction with secular Jews.

"I am in favor of separate housing in separate neighborhoods for haredim," said Atias. "I would not let my children meet with secular youth."  

Atias continued by implying that even without a city-backed plan, the haredim would eventually grow to become the majority in many communities and would seize control organically. "Haredim will take over secular neighborhoods if ultra-Orthodox cities or neighborhoods are not planned," Atias said. 

I was particularly confused by remarks made the director of the Gesher foundation regarding the conference. According to Ynet's report, Gal-Dor said he welcomes the Minister Atias' willingness to "take responsibility for building apartments for haredim" and added, "We must find bridges to break the divides and streotypes that exist among the populations."

When did segregation become a "bridge that breaks divides"?  I mean, did I miss something here?

Also in attendance was former Housing Minister Yosef Paritzky and Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus, who exchanged some harsh words regarding housing segregation: 

"I don't care about haredim. We're all minorities and the country has to instate equality both in duties and privileges," Paritzky said. Pindrus, a haredi, responded to Paritzky's remark by saying: "Don't try and educate us. We're 700,000 people who want to live separately according to our own lifestyle."

Apparently Atias already has a haradi city plan in the works.  He's been promoting planning for an ultra-orthodox city in the community of Harish in Wadi Ara since the spring despite opposition from local Jews and Arabs. He has also been criticized in the past for advancing the establishment of a haradi city in Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, which lead to massive legal battles between himself and the city council.

Atias has also been criticized for arguing that Jewish and Arab populations, like secular and religious ones, should also be kept separate from one another. 

I always thought that the best way to promote dialogue and build bridges was through interaction and coexistence, but it seems that the religious communities see things quite differently.

Recipe: The Perfect Pita

Another one of my friends, Roni, turned 30 last weekend (yep- another one) and to celebrate, a group of us friends and most of his family family somehow managed to lure him to a surprise camping adventure in Beit Hananya near Ceasarea.  It was a near perfect surprise....and it's always fun to jump out at someone from behind the bushes. 

Roni was thrilled, and we all enjoyed ourselves. There was music, food and festivities. |What made the entire event especially enjoyable was the high quality of the camp site. The camp grounds in Beit Hananya are the nicest I've seen in Israel: There was a shack with refrigerators open to public use, lights, electricity outlets, sinks, bathrooms and even showers. 

Aside from the fantastic facilities, Beit Hananya also offers activities to parties camping at their site. Our party of maybe 40 or more happily partook in pita making!
Here's a snapshot at how we made some plain dough into delicious pitot.

3 Cups of All Purpose Flour (we used white flour but you can mix it up with wheat flour too.)
2 Teaspoons instant yeast 
2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt (regular salt is fine, 
1 Teaspoon sugar (or honey)
3 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/4-1/12 cups of warm water (not too warm, room temperature is good)

Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl, mix, and then add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cups of water.  Stir mixture well till it turns into a big lump of dough, or in Hebrew, a "gush batzek" (גוש בצק).  Then knead knead and knead.  You'll have to do this for about 5-10 minutes.  Knead till the dough is sticky, but not dry, and all the flour sticks to the lump.  If it doesn't add more water and knead a bit more.

Once the lump of dough looks good, place it in a greased bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough sit for about 2 hours.  The dough should double in size. It should also be a bit stickier than before. 

Now coat your hands with flour, dust the dough ball with flour and dust your working surface with flour.  You're now ready to start making pita doughballs! 

Roni works the dough into dough balls

Notice the iphone.  It has nothing to do with making pitas.

Roni gets moral support from friends and family.
 Apparently dough-ball making can make  you feel like less of a man. I had no idea. 

Dough-ball making is so easy, even little people can do it. 

Now, once you have your dough into a nicely sized ball, you must flatten it.  You can do this in a variety of ways. 
1. With a stick that acts as a rolling pin

(don't forget to dust the ball, stick and surface with flour)

2. Pat it flat in your hands
Nice and patted
3. Or you can roll it with a stick on your hand.
As you can see from the picture above, Roni prefers this method,
although it's by far the least practical. 
Now, the traditional way of making flat pitas Bedouin-style is to cook them quickly on a large heated pan.  If you're making pitas at home, you can either bake your pitas in the oven, or you can fry them on a skillet.

Baked Pitas:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (let the flattened dough sit for about 15 minutes while you do this) and then place your flattened dough-balls on a cookie sheet or pizza stone.  Bake for 5 minutes max for soft, fluffy pitas.  Remove and let cool.  Then eat! yum!

Fried Pitas:
Coat your skillet (frying pan, whatever) with a very light coating of olive oil.  These come out chewy, and I think they taste the best when the dough is especially flat.  Place the flattened dough-balls in the skillet for 1-2 minutes on either side so that each side is seared by the pan. Then remove and eat!

Bedouin Style:
Build a fire beneath a large metal pan.  Once the entire pan is heated, coat it in a bit of olive oil and start cooking.  Place the flattened pita dough-balls on the large pan and sear either side of the bread.  If the pan is sufficiently hot, and the dough sufficiently flat, the pita should cook for less than 1 minute per side.  Our pitas took a bit longer since out flattening methods were not the most efficient.

A nice garnish is Zaatar in Olive Oil, T'china, Hummus or Labane cheese (soft soury cheese). If you can get your hands on Zaatar, a staple Middle Eastern spice, I definitely recommend it with a fresh pita. 

Here I am below, enjoying a fresh pita with a garnish of Zaatar in Olive Oil. 

Zaatar in Olive Oil

Tasty bread!