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, 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!