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!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tel Aviv's Boardwalk Expansion

PhotoCredit: Jesse Fox for the Sustainable City Blog
Last year, the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality put a lot of work into lengthening and expanding one of the most fun and iconic stretches of Tel Aviv- the boardwalk.  The work they did extended the boardwalk southward past the newly renovated Yafo Port down to Bat Yam and northward past the Tel Aviv Port up to Hertzliya.

This extension not only creates a unifying force between the north and south of Tel Aviv-Yafo, but it also looks fantastic and is surprisingly practical.

The new extended stretches of boardwalk feature green, landscaped grass,  wood-laid bridges and walkways and beautiful views of the city.  Most importantly, they have constructed well marked bicycle lanes, and opened up spaces which were previously closed off to the public such as the Tel Aviv Marina by the Gordon Beach.
Yotam and I bike along the boardwalk: view from the boardwalk bridge just north of the Tel Aviv Port
So, if you are looking for something to do during a free morning, evening or afternoon in Tel Aviv, take your bike out and ride from Bat Yam or Yaffo all the way up to Hertzliya.  Bring your bathing suit and take a dip in the water on one of Hertzliya's beautiful beaches.  Dry off in the sun, and then head back home for a cool relaxing shower.

There is still more work planned for the Tel Aviv boardwalk, but plans have yet to be solidified. And until the next wave of construction is underway, I really think the most recent modifications have been significant and more than welcome.

View of the Port from the Bridge

Herzliya at Sunset

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ramat Gan Safari Night Tours: Great Way to Spend A Summer Evening

It was nearly a year ago that I discovered there was a Safari not too far from where I live.  In fact, its only a bike ride away from my apartment in Schunat Ha Tikva, being located in Ramat Gan's "National Park" or "Park HaLeumi".

The Safari has normal daytime hours during which you can enter and wander the car by foot, or drive your own car and watch animals from the window. Bus tours are also available, but I have heard that they leave something to be desired.

At the very center of the Safari there is an enclosed Zoo with chimps and elephants, and just beyond is the Lion territory.

Now, I'd thought about going during the day, until I heard that the Safari runs guided night time tours of the park of two kinds: Safari Layla (Night Safari) and Safari Chatzot ( Midnight Safari).

Both tours are approximately two hours long, with the Night Safari being slightly more tame, oriented towards families and visitors of all ages (5 and up) while the Midnight Safari is specifically geared towards young couples and groups of friends, with Sex and Reproduction being the main topics of discussion.

While I don't think they offer either of these tours in English, I still think the experience is exciting and entertaining even if you don't understand what the guide is talking about.  I mean, we're talking about catching glimpses Zebras, Antelopes, Giraffes, Lions, Elephants, wide varieties of birds and even Hippos.

So, when Yotam and I decided it was time to check out the tours ourselves, we naturally went for the romantic, young-people's sex and reproduction tour.  I mean, it sounded the most.... unique.

The only way to order tickets is over the phone (03-6305328) .  When you call, note that the Midnight Safari runs during months of good weather only- September- October, April-May, and June-July and the starting time changes depending on the season.  Keep in mind, though that tours typically begin around 10:00pm- 10:30pm.

We ordered two tickets (each ticket is 89 shekels- a bit pricey, but we decided to spoil ourselves) and headed over at around 9:30pm.

The tour was absolutely delightful. We sat most of the time on a long, tractor-pulled train, and our guides drove us through the park shining night-vision light on most of the animals so as not to disturb them.  Look at the Giraffe below!

This was our awesome train that looked like a tractor-train-zebra all morphed into one

Girraffe right by our train!

Then they took us to the Lion's den where there were lions sleeping on on top of the other, petting one another and playing around:

How cute is this lioness?

And finally they took us into a unique taxidermy room filled with animals who died on their safari from natural causes.  The animals were unbelievably well preserved, and we were able to explore the room (which is not otherwise open to the public) while they told us all kinds of crazy things about the anatomy and reproductive instincts of all different animals displayed there. Check out the pics below:

Cheetas and Leopards

Bears! Oh My!


And even chimps. 
Now that the weather is warm, its really the perfect time to go.  The mornings and afternoons are getting hot and crowded, so reserve yourself a fun, cool evening to wander around the awesome Ramat Gan Safari!

Safari Slideshow: Oksana’s trip to Ramat Gan, Israel was created by TripAdvisor. See another Ramat Gan slideshow. Create your own stunning free slideshow from your travel photos.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Leaving Tel Aviv: Hiking Yehudia and Nahal Zavitan

Springtime is the perfect time to get out of the city and go hiking. The weather isn't too hot yet, but the sun is out and the flowers are in bloom.  So, about a month and a half ago (early April), my boyfriend Yotam and I grabbed our packs and drove up to Ramat Ha Golan to hike Nahal Yehudiah.

Like many hiking trails in Israel, Yehudiah is tended by Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael (KKL or קקל).  They are responsible for keeping the trains clean and hike-able, providing information to hikers and, of course, taking your money for all of their hard work. But as much as I hate paying for hiking, they do provide an invaluable service and keep the areas safe for visitors.

It was when we arrived that the rangers there informed us that the Yehudiah hike was closed until further notice. Apparently the only true season for this water-filled hike is the summer when the sun is out and it is hot hot hot, and the water is no longer dangerously cold. While this did put a slight damper on our plan, we were allowed to make our way down to the beginning of the trail (the yehudiah waterfall) which is really a beauty.

We decided afterwards to pick up the hike across the street at Nahal Zavitan. The route we took is about a -5 hour hike and begins at the parking lot of the Yehudiah trail, going up to the top of the stream.

The most impressive thing about the Zavitan hike are the areas where you can see exciting hexagonal rock formations (Meshushim- משושים= hexagons). These vertical hexagons of rock were formed when molten lava cooled extremely quickly. This quick cooling caused the lave to naturally form into hexagons of solid rock are a stunning sight.

Here was our basic route (follow the purple from starting at bottom right):

And it looked mostly like this along the way:

Meshushim- hexagonal rock, visible all along the stream

Stunning Rakafot flowers (Cyclamen persicum)

More Meshushim!

This is a hike I highly recommend to all, firstly because it is so easily accessible, secondly because it is very well tended, and third because the water and the foliage there is just breathtaking. It's probably best in the early or late summer -especially Yehudia which is a hike made for swimming/ wading through cool pools.  So, hopefully, we'll find the time to make it back there before September and I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Israeli Art for All! Omanoot.com Launches New Visual Arts Section!

Omanoot.com, the new Israeli start-up which has already emerged as a unique website showcasing Israeli art and promoting Israel through the arts, has just launched its brand new Visual Arts Section allowing visitors to peruse and BUY Israeli artwork.

What Omanoot really does best is concentrate amazing Israeli art into a site that defines a culture by its artistic content. So if you support Israel, Omanoot's new Visual Arts section offers you a unique and beneficial way to do keep on supporting it!

The stunning new Visual Arts section showcases a handpicked selection of both established and emerging Israeli artists, and artists working in Israel. Not only is the new design stunning, but the artwork and artists have been carefully selected to feature diverse pieces and absolutely gorgeous works.

From L to R: Jacob Feldman, Funky Allenby StreetDina Bova,Where do We Come From?; Dina Bova, Eyes Wide Shut

Although the "St-art"-up , Omanoot went live in January 2011, their only fully functional section was their Film section which allows visitors to stream, for FREE, nearly 20 different independent films by Israeli screen writers and directors. It also allows your to peruse trailers of well known movies, such as Ajami, by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani.

Omanoot has been showcasing Israel’s flourishing film scene to an international audience since its launch in January and has already received exuberant attention from the media, the general public, and significantly, from the artists themselves.

Now, with the new Visual Arts section, you can browse artworks, peruse informational artists’ pages and explore the world of the Israeli visual arts. And, your can purchase limited edition prints as well as original artworks of photography, painting and mixed media works.

While the originals are for the true collectors, the prints are priced quite nicely and range from ~$250-$300 per print.  For those whose walls are far from bare, these artworks also make stunning one-of-a-kind gifts that support the arts and support Israel.

Omanoot Featured Artist, Ahikam Seri, Curious After Terror Attack

So, if you haven't taken a look, now is the time! I really think this site is onto something big...

“Our goal at Omanoot is to open wide the doors to the Israeli art market: to make it accessible to a broader audience online, to help develop the next generation of Israeli art collectors and to disseminate the works of Israel's artistic talent” says Omanoot’s founder Edoe Cohen. In the near future, Omanoot will also feature Israeli literature, lesson plans for educators and Israeli music.

Yes, yes and yes.

Endnote: Omanoot, which means “art” in Hebrew, is the brainchild of Cohen, who received a grant from the ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators, a worldwide network of young social entrepreneurs created by American Jewish philanthropist Lynn Schusterman. Cohen is currently working with a team of international volunteers (moi included!) to continue developing and promoting the website.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Sinuses Can Predict Israeli Heat Waves (Hamsin)

Yes, it's true. My sinuses have magical powers.

I realized this last night when I woke up in a sudden sneezing fit that involved runny nose-ness and a strange sensation that I may not ever be the same again.

After I finally sneezed myself silly and collapsed back into sleep after exhausting my nose muscles (do I even have nose muscles?)  I woke up, showered, and decided it was up to me to figure out who or what the culprit was.

Only after I opened my living room window to breathe in the humid, dust-filled, gloomy gray air did I put two and two together.

Hamsin.  The Israeli hamsin (which comes from the Arabic word khamsīn) is characterized by what looks like a dark cloud of sand hanging over the sky, trapping in heat and humidity and making everyone living beneath it uncomfortable. In Tel Aviv they are the wooooorrrrrrrst.

Photo Credit: Baba Yagada

Its totally gross and only escapable if you have full-blast high-power air-conditioning. (which, of course, I don't being semi-poor and more-than-somewhat concerned with the environment.)

The painting above is an spot-on representation of a typical day in a Tel Aviv Hamsin full of hot sand-filled winds.

So, weathermen, if you are looking for a young, hard-working professional who can help you predict the hottest and most grueling Hamsins, I'm your gal.

Long Hiatus in States is Over- Now Jobless Tel Aviv Blogger Starts Blogging again.

Well, I came back from my fantastic vacation in the States visiting family and friends in NYC and Chicago - and really felt like coming back was great, but at the same time, kinda awful.

Why was it great?
Because I missed Israel and I especially missed Tel Aviv. I always do. Plus, the weather we had in the States was notably sub-par, to put it mildly.

Why was it awful?
The vacation was too short. I had too much family to see, too many friends to see, too much shopping to do and too little time to do it.
But really, I could've handled that it it wouldn't have been so awful...if I hadn't lost my job the day I got off the plane.

(inseret wha wha sound here or a canned audience's cries of "awwwwww")

Yep, I know.

So, after a semi-nervous breakdown that lasted approximately two weeks, I find that I can hold my hands up to the keyboard and get back to blogging. Because, in the end of things this is really an opportunity that will allow me to focus on what I love to do and find a job that I love doing.

Sadly I was too busy wallowing in my own melancholy these past two weeks that you missed lots of awesomeness happening in Israel and especially in Tel Aviv. So let me give you a short run-down of the two events that I really should have covered...but completely neglected to blog about:

1) Yom Ya Zikaron (Memorial Day)
Not really a day of celebration, but rather a day when all of Israel comes together to commemorate any fallen soldier or victim of Terror. There are two sirens that sounds through the country twice- one on the evening when the Memorial Day begins and one in the morning of memorial day. When these sirens sound, the entire country comes to a halt and people stand for two mintues in silence.  When I say the whole country stops, I mean it. cars stop and pull over to the side of the road and pedestrians and cyclists stop waking in their tracks. Here's a taste of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSfvInbDjmk  and here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYooy2KcKbE&feature=related

2) Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day)
Israeli flags hang everywhere and citizens, for a short while, allow themselves to feel really good about being Israeli. It's the beginning of spring- soon to be the beginning of summer, and this means it's the beginning of OUT DOOR FESTIVAL SEASON!Parties about everywhere. It's one of the only two nights where parties can go on all night long and police do not answer to any noise complaints.  You can be as loud as you want to be- until the wee hours of the morn.
Here are some clips of great public concerts and parties that happen on Yom Haatzmaut: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hol6--SZOgc  \ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK2KFOObC80

Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) really kicked off the season, and now it's event after event after event.

So get ready for some fantastic updates as Shavuot is right around the corner!