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Israel Festival 2012

Strange Fruit - Stars of Israel Festival 2011
The Israel Festival is now in its 51st year and runs from late May until mid June 2012 in Jerusalem.


About the Israel Festival

The Israel Festival is designed to encourage artistic meetings and experiences transcending national and political considerations, allowing collaboration between local and foreign artists. The Israel Festival seeks to promote emerging art forms.

As in previous years there is an exciting and diverse program featuring international and Israeli artists, covering a range of artistic disciplines, Jazz, classical music, multi-disciplinary and dance. Many of the shows are available free or as street theatre. The Israel Festival 2012 performances take place in a variety of venues across Jerusalem.


Israel Festival – More Information

Please see the Israel Festival Official Website for a full program and links to discounted tickets.

Yardenit Baptismal Site

Pilgrims at Yardenit Baptismal Site
is located at the northern end of the lower or long Jordan River, near where it flows south out of the Sea of Galilee.  The Yardenit, (meaning ‘little Jordan’ in Hebrew) is visited by hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims every year, many of whom revere it as the baptismal site and come to be baptized themselves.  Some pilgrims choose to have second baptisms or rededications at the Yardenit.  


Yardenit as a Baptism Site

The baptism of Jesus is described in all four gospels.  Christian traditions differ regarding the site for the baptism of Jesus.  Some prefer the Yardenit, while others favor sites near Beit Shean and Jericho such as the Qasr al Yahud Baptism Site .  Those favoring the Yardenit associate it with a place called Beit Abara mentioned in the Gospel According John.  They also note that Jesus went from Nazareth or the Galilee to the Jordan to baptized and cite the Yardenit is located on the Jordan close to the Galilee.


Beyond its religious significance, the Yardenit, especially when not crowded, is a charming location to drink coffee and enjoy shady, tranquil views of the lower Jordan River and possibly even see some wildlife.


The site is reasonably wheelchair accessible.


Getting To The Yardenit

On road 90 south of Tiberias and just north of Kibbutz Degania – make the turn towards Kvutzot Kinneret and the site is almost immediately on your left.


Yardenit Opening hours

8:00 – 18:00


Yardenit Pictures

The Soreq Stalectite Cave

The Soreq Stalactite Cave is a 5,000 square meter cave in the Judean hills not far from Bet Shemesh. It has a dense concentration of magnificent stalactites. The cave was discovered accidentally in May 1968, by a quarrying crew.


We have seen several stalactite caves in the United States and Europe but none are so well preserved and lovingly cared for as this one. A visit to the cave is an extraordinary experience.


For more details see – Stalactite Cave


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Mevo Modi’im Goat Farm

We are a goat farm on the Carlebach MoshavMevo Modi’im located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.


We do hands on activities such as goat milking, cheese making, spinning and weaving, nature batik picture and clay work, olive pressing (seasonal) and wheat grinding.


IsraelInsideOut readers receive a discount with one of our vouchers.


Tours are by appointment only:

Judy 0544 283 646 or Mevo Modi’im Tours


See our website at Mevo Modi’im Website

Red Sea Jazz Festival 2011, Eilat

The Red Sea Jazz Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The Red Sea Jazz Festival has taken place in Eilat since 1987, and is one of the most popular music events in Israel drawing fans from all over the world.


Red Sea Jazz Festival 2011 Featured Musicians

This year the Red Sea Jazz Festival includes the following Israeli musicians and bands: Yoni Rechter, Israel All Stars, Zohar Fresco Trio, Yonatan Voltzok Sextet, Burlesque + Organic Sound Unit, Erez Bar Noy Sextet, Gilad Abro Trio, Yael Deckelbaum, Joy & Sadness, and the Shai Maestro Trio.


The foreign performers in Eilat this year include: Eddie Palmieri & La Perfecta II, Lizz Wright, Steve Smith & Vital Information, Tuba Skinny, Gretchen Parlato, The Pedrito Martinez Group, Jesse Palter & the Alter Ego feat. Sam Barsh, Grégoire Maret, Michael Kaeshammer, Jason Moran & the Bandwagon and Raul Midon.


Red Sea Jazz Festival – Other Events

The Red Sea Jazz Festival will also host various open events including Jazz film shows, food fairs and many open music events in different places around the city of Eilat.


Red Sea Jazz Festival Schedule

The Red Sea Jazz Festival takes place on August 21-24 (Sunday to Wednesday) in the Eilat Port and in various places all over the city of Eilat.


For more information and tickets please see the Red Sea Jazz Festival official site (available also in English)


About Eilat

Please see Eilat & Things not to Miss in Eilat for information on Eilat

Succot (Sukkot) Events in Israel 2011


Succot (Tabernacles) or Sukkot is the longest festival in the Jewish High Holidays of September-October and lasts a full week. Sukkot in contrast to Rosh HaShana & Yom Kippur there is less sense of awe and more of relaxed fun (in fact there is a Biblical precept to be happy.) For a more detailed description see A Tourist’s Guide to the Major Jewish Festivals in Israel In 2011 Succot falls 13-20 October inclusive.


Succot Events in Israel

Sukkot – As part of the happy and relaxed atmosphere everybody is on vacation and plans to make the most of the end of the summer. There are numerous Sukkot events planned all over the country changing on a daily basis. There is something for everybody. Here is our list which we will be constantly updating between now and Succot as we get more information. For a Hebrew Version see אירועים בסוכות -עברית

The IsraelInsideOut Sukkot Event Lists


Tel Aviv Succot 2011 Cycle Event – 14 October

For the third year running many of the streets of Tel Aviv will be closed to allow cyclists to ride around Tel Aviv. There are a series of events over 7Km, 21Km & 40Km – some for fun and some races. The starting line will be in Kikar HaMedina (State Square) in the heart of Tel Aviv. You can come along and cheer and also register to take part at Tel Aviv 2011 Succot Cycle Event



Israel Nature & Parks Authority

The Israel Nature & Parks Authority has Sukkot events scheduled at almost all their sites – some requiring preregistration and payment others you can just show up. Most of the information is currently only available in Hebrew  – meanwhile here are the links


Israel Nature & Parks Authority – NorthSouth – Central IsraelDead Sea


Abu Gosh Music Festival

The Abu Gosh Music Festival is a twice yearly celebration of classical music. Most of the performances take place in and around the churches of Abu Gosh. This Succot the concerts are Wednesday 19 – Saturday 22nd October. For more details see Abu Gosh Music Festival For more details about the village see Abu Gosh



Jerusalem March

The Succot Jerusalem March has become an annual tradition in Jerusalem with thousands of people taking part – some even making the journey from distant countries just to take part in the Jerusalem March.


This year the Sukkot Jerusalem March will take place on Tuesday 18th October 2011. There is a small admission charge to take place along the 3 routes –

  • Family – 5Km – Kikar Safra (0800-1000) to Gan Sacher
  • Medium- 8Km – Mount Scopus (0730-0930) to Gan Sacher
  • Hard – 15Km – Gan HaKipod (Ramot) ()700-0900) to Gan Sacher (there is also the possibility to enter in a competitive team)


A Family Happening will take place in Gan Sacher 1000-1600 with Children’s Activities, Food Stalls, A Craft Fair and entertainment.


There will also be a Ceremonial Jerusalem March through central Jerusalem – with marching bands, performers, international participants and dancing troupes. The Ceremonial Jerusalem March starts at 1500 along a route in downtown Jerusalem – King George – Agron – King David – Old Train Station.




Visit the President’s Succa

There is a long standing tradition of a public reception in the President’s Succa. Perhaps the origins can be traced back to biblical times. This year will be no exception and President Peres will welcome the people of Israel to his Succa on Monday October 17th. You will be able to visit the official residence of the President. There will be a stage will local performers and some exhibitions covering Israel’s space program and agriculture. Of course there is the opportunity to engage President Peres in small talk as he mingles and greets his guests.

Please remember to bring along official picture ID.


President’s Succa Opening Times


Monday October 17
Rehov Hanasi 3


 Israel Museum – Succot Children’s Activities


Over Sukkot The Israel Museum has Free Admission for Children – October 13-20 and free general admission October 19

Journey to Faraway Lands

Sun – Wed, Oct 16–19; Fri, Oct 21, 12 noon

Discover distant cultures in an active tour of the Museum galleries!

Participants receive a passport, postcards, and stamps.

Ages 5 and up NIS 15; NIS 10 for Family Membership holders

Green Sukkot Kit

Sun – Tues, Oct 16–18, 10 am – 3 pm

Special Recycling Workshop: “self-service” or “full-service” activity kit with instructions

Ages 3–9 NIS 15

Sukkot Story Time

Sun – Tues, Oct 16–18, 11 am

Storytelling (in Hebrew) with puppets in the Youth Wing Library

Ages 4 and up NIS 20

Look What a Bit of Color Can Do…

Sun – Tues, Oct 16–18, 10 am – 3 pm

The Activity Yard offers activities about the significance of color in works of art.

Ages 7 and up NIS 30; NIS 25 for Family Membership holders


Israel Museum Free Admission for Children – October 13-20 and free general admission October 19



Tower of David Sukkot Program

Special Succot activites at the Tower of David Museum on Sunday – Tuesday 16-18 October 1030-1600. A special Sukkot play, tours of the Tower of David, focus on water and arts and crafts. Most of the activities are in Hebrew.

Advance bookings 02-6265333 or *2884



Begin Heritage Center – Succot Events

Explore Jerusalem with Sir Moses Monetfiore. The Begin Heritage Center is organizing these tours of historic Jerusalem in the adjacent neighborhoods of Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Shananim. There will be period actors to help you get into the spirit of Jerusalem over 100 years ago.

October 16-18

The Begin Heritage Center museum itself will be open for extended hours. All activities need to be pre-registered.  A combined walk/museum tour ticket can be purchased.  Reduction for families. Walks will leave the Center every hour on the hour, between 10 AM and 5 PM.  30 NIS. Museum will be open from 9 AM until 7 PM and on Friday on Holiday Eve until 12:30 PM. Registration: 02-5652011; 5652020.    


City of David over Sukkot

Always one of the most popular sites in Jerusalem the City of David has a full Succot program organized, including an opportunity to visit the just opened Pilgrim’s Ascend to Zion Tour. (I have just taken part – a very emotional, extraordinary connection to ancient Jerusalem) Please be aware that some of the programs are on a first come first served basis. There is now extremely limited parking in the immediate vicinity of the City of David.

See the City of David Succot Site


The City of David also runs some activities at the Jerusalem Tayelet – Segway and Bike trips and the Hasmonean Water Tunnel. They also have activities at Emek Zurim Sifting Project.



Mass Priestly Blessing

This twice annual highlight of the Jerusalem religious year will take place on Sunday at around 0900 at the Kotel. Whether you are a priest planning to bless or a regular guy or girl waiting for the blessing – this is one not to be missed. Make sure that you are early as it is bound to be packed.




Jerusalem City Succa – Kikar Safra

1730-2000 October 16-18 – Children’s Activities – Here Come the Train (road safety), Building Lego trains, and giant soap bubbles!



Free Jerusalem Walks over Succot

1100 & 1300 October 16-18 – Guided walks in the vicinity of the City Buildings – Kikar Safra



Jerusalem Street Parties over Sukkot

Water Parties

Different neighborhood parties around Jerusalem – celebrating the ancient Succot Water Drawing Ceremony 13-18 October 2000-2300


Second Hakafot

The famous after the festival – dancing with the Torah – in different Jerusalem neighborhoods. Traditionally, the main event takes place in Liberty Bell Park (although we can’t confirm this yet for this year.) October 20 2000-2300


Bread Wine & Art

Bet Lehem Street Monday 17 October 1700 – 2300



Jerusalem – Special Art Exhibition

Jaffa Gate Jerusalem Sunday October 16 1700-2300

A sale of art and crafts by some very special people – designed by special needs craftspeople. There will be live performances during the course of the evening.

Tamar Festival – Dead Sea – Succot

Four days of live music over Sukkot on the shores of the Dead Sea. Check out the Tamar Festival Website for more details.



Maianot Festival – Sukkot 2011


Emek HaMaianot – 15-18 Oct 2011 

The first Maianot Festival will take place over Succot 2011. The festival will be hosted in several locations in Emek HaMaianot around Bet Shean, such as the Huga Gardens and Sachne – Gan HeShelosha Park.

The Maianot Festival will feature different types of events; organized walks on nature paths, bike trips, leading Israeli singers, and kits events.


When is the Maianot Succot Festival

The festival will start on Oct 15th with folks singing with top Israeli performers in Huga gardens at 21:00.

On Oct the 16th the Maianot march will take place between 7:30 to 11:00 at Gan Hashlosha (Sachne). At 21:00 Amir Benayon will perform in the Roman Theater in Bet-Shean.

Oct 17th there will be nature walks in the area and Greek Nights with Simon Parnas in the Roman Theater at 20:30

Oct 18th: Bike rides starting at HaKantara Park, at 15:00 Kites events in Sede-Nahom, and at 21:00 a show by Yehuda Poliker at the Roman Theater

Throughout the festival days there will be additional special events staged at multiple tourists locations around the area.

For additional Information (Hebrew only) please see Maianot Sukkot Festival Info

Kol HaOt – Jerusalem in the Eye of the Beholder

Meet some well known Jerusalem artists and hear them discuss their work and how Jerusalem has influenced it. English storytelling – Tales of Jerusalem.

Inbal Hotel Sunday and Monday 16-17 October 1730 – 2230


Haifa International Film Festival

Some 300 000 people are expected to take part in activities at the 27 Haifa International Film Festival. The Haifa International Film Festival will take place Oct 13-22 held on  Mount Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean.

For full details see Haifa International Film Festival website.


Acco (Akko) Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre

Just up the road from the Haifa Film Festival is the Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre. This well known and large theatre festival is now in its 30th year. There are shows, street theatre and the chance to enjoy art and Acco (Akko) (a very special historic and cultural town with stunning views over the port and the fortress.)

For more details see the Acco Festival website.


Weizmann Institute Science Fair

The world famous Weizmann Institute is hosting its 11th annual science fair for young scientists. There will be six different areas covering a whole range of sciences from astrophysics to music and from medical imaging, stem cell research through to famous scientists in history.

Weizmann Institute Rehovot – October 17 – 18 1000 – 1800

For more details (in Hebrew) see Weizmann Science Fairwebsite


Sukkot at Ein Yael

Ein Yael is a living museum located in the suburbs of Jerusalem – just near the Jerusalem Zoo and Malha Shopping Mall. It is incredibly popular with children – lots of hands on activities and period recreation of life in ancient times.


Ein Yael as a special Succot program – live music, theatre, guided tours of the archaelogical site & Roman road, environmental activities and nature activities.


Sukkot -16-18 October 1000-1600



Sukkot at Mini Israel

At Mini Israel there will be five different Succa compounds where a variety of well known children’s heroes (Power Rangers, Care Bears, Sesame Street etc) will be inviting children and the entire family to celebrate Succot. Shows at 1200 & 1500. There will also be science and cooking Sukkot events.

Oct 15-18 1100 – 1700




Bazir Hadash – Fringe Theatre in Yavne

October 16-18

Contemporary arts festival taking place in Yavneh – street theatre, music, dance, theatre – local and international talent. Admission is free or for certain performances there will be a nominal charge,



Visit an Exhibition over Succot

There are several exhibitions taking place in Israel that will run over Succot. Here are some recommendations:



Moshe Safdie Profile


One of the world’s most renowned and prolific architects, still engaged in projects across several continents, reflects on a career that almost wasn’t.

Had Moshe Safdie become a farmer, some of the most striking buildings on the planet might never have been built.

One of the world’s most noted architects – as well as urban planner, theorist, educator and author – Safdie was born in Haifa in 1938 into what he describes as a typical pre-state childhood spent raising bees and chickens and attending Scout meetings with his school chums. He remembers the economic austerity, as well as World War II, yet it was a time of boundless passion for the budding State of Israel.


“When we were 13 or 14, we all pretty much figured we’d go to Nahal [an infantry brigade known in English as the Fighting Pioneer Youth] and then form our own kibbutz,” he says. “I was going to study at Kadouri Agricultural School, where Yitzhak Rabin had studied.”



But the winter he was 15, his parents moved the family to Canada following six weeks of sightseeing in Europe as they awaited their paperwork. “I was uprooted,” he recalls. “It seemed extremely traumatic to leave Israel in its infancy, being an ardent Zionist and socialist – if a 15-year-old can be that, and I was.” In Canada, farming was no longer an option. An aptitude test taken toward the end of high school revealed that Safdie’s strengths in math and art pointed toward the architectural field. “Had I not left Israel,” he reflects now, “I might not have been an architect.”




Inspired by culture and nature

Guided by the belief that “a building cannot be experienced as independent of the land in which it is rooted,” Safdie’s designs are specific to place and culture. “My immediate inspiration comes from the site itself, the land, the physical context and the culture of the country, as well as the particular character of the institution I’m building for,” he says. “Each embodies a culture, a history, a memory and particular symbolic issues.”




He draws his larger inspiration from the vernacular, indigenous architecture of world cultures, as well as Mother Nature. “I am interested in how nature evolves designs to respond to the survival of an organism and in applying these principles and sensibilities to architecture.”

Much of his approach is a byproduct of the six years he studied at Montreal’s McGill University, where he wrote a groundbreaking thesis on experimental prefabricated housing. After working for a few years in Philadelphia, he accepted an assignment to use his thesis as a basis to create the master plan for the 1967 Montreal International and Universal Exposition. “I proposed a habitat – a sort of a fairy tale – and it got approved and built. That was the beginning of my professional practice,” he explains.

After the 1967 Six-Day War, Safdie returned to Israel for the first time in 14 years at the invitation of Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek and the International Congress of Architects. Kollek and Housing Minister Mordechai Bentov engaged him for several restoration projects in the ancient quarter of the capital city and the reconstruction of the area linking the new and old sections.

By 1970, he had opened an office in Jerusalem and started spending one week a month in Israel. “I did this for 30 years,” he says, speaking from his Boston-area headquarters. “I do a little less of it now, but I still come to Israel often.” Safdie Architects also has branch offices in Toronto and Singapore.

He and his wife, Jerusalem-born photographer Michal Ronnen Safdie, live in the Boston suburb of Cambridge. He relocated to New England shortly after becoming director of the urban design program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 1978. Twelve years on, his practice had grown too large to allow him time for academia.


Communities forged of strangers

Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie” premiered at the Safdie-designed National Gallery of Canada in October and will travel around North America over the next two years. The exhibit’s curator, Donald Albrecht of the Museum of the City of New York, said Safdie is “especially adept at realizing the aspirations of a surprisingly diverse group of clients. He has created buildings where communities are forged of strangers, memory is enshrined and identity is created in built form,” Albrecht says. “Few architects have been able to so fully realize their philosophies in practice.”

Safdie’s works in Israel offer some prime examples. Safdie identifies Yad Vashem, the multi-building Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority, as one of his most challenging assignments “from the point of view of coming up with architecture that can resonate with the charge of memory and history.”

Designing Ben-Gurion’s new airport presented a different sort of challenge. “I recognized that the building represents the country, and it has to be Israel’s airport – not just any airport.” To achieve that feel, he utilized indigenous native materials such as Jerusalem stone, and purposefully designed the airport’s central rotunda “as a gateway to the country where passengers arriving and departing pass each other in a celebratory way.” He incorporated collected rainwater elements throughout the airport, “to show the significance of water in our culture and ecology.”

In terms of time spent, the mammoth Mamilla project straddling Jerusalem’s Old and New cities was the most monumental, and often frustrating, accomplishment of Safdie’s 40-year career. Encompassing the David’s Village luxury residence, Mamilla residential and shopping complex, David Citadel and Mamilla hotels, an underground parking facility, the Hebrew Union College campus and commercial and recreation spaces, the project “took 35 years of my life, against extraordinary obstacles.”


In his 1984 book Jerusalem: The Future of the Past, he wrote of the HUC campus design that he “did not want a group of buildings, but a singular fabric of many parts.” The $32 million compound, utilizing stone, concrete, glass and aluminum, was under construction from 1976 to 1988. Three years before it was completed, ground was broken for the Safdie-designed $20 million Skirball Cultural Center for American Jewish Life at HUC’s California site, dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and American democratic ideals.

A ‘Jewish architect’ with global renown

Probably due to his association with major Jewish projects such as Yad Vashem and Skirball, many people label Safdie as an Israeli and Jewish architect more than they do other well-known Jewish architects such as Frank Gehry, Robert Stern, Richard Meier and Peter Eisenman, observes Safdie. “I don’t think anybody would introduce them as ‘Jewish’ architects, but I have been, to my surprise, introduced as ‘a leading Jewish-Canadian architect.’ For better or worse, it’s part of my identity. But in practice and person, I have generally transcended the political constraints of being an Israeli architect.”

In fact, throughout his career, this Israeli citizen has gotten commissions for major work in Muslim countries including Senegal and Iran. Two years ago, he designed a mosque in Dubai. “I just came back from designing the Asian University of Women in Bangladesh.” Safdie was feted at its completion by the prime minister and foreign minister of this Muslim country.

Not that his universal approach is universally understood. He mentions an article in the UK newspaper, The Guardian claiming that his recent planning work at Jerusalem’s City of David/Silwan area would deprive Palestinian residents of their rights, “which is the opposite of the truth. My plan made it possible to regularize and legalize their rights.” He maintains close relationships with Palestinians and often receives professional inquiries from students and faculty in Middle Eastern countries, “so I know my work is appreciated in places like Saudi Arabia. On the whole, I have been very much accepted in Muslim and Arab countries.”


‘Trilogy of loyalties’

Safdie is a citizen of Israel, Canada and the United States, and considers himself fully engaged in all three countries. “I vote in practically all the elections – I don’t think I’ve ever missed an Israeli election,” he says. While many Jews maintain a dual loyalty to their Diaspora home and their ancestral homeland, Safdie has what he calls “a trilogy of loyalties.”

The four Safdie children, and four grandchildren, live in California and New York. That’s half a world away from Aleppo (Haleb), Syria, where Safdie traces his ancestry; his father arrived in Haifa in 1935. The family’s surname, originally pronounced with an accent on the final “e,” indicates its origins in the mystical city of Safed in the Galilee, from where they migrated to what was then Aleppo in the 16th century.

Safdie speaks Arabic and retains a great interest in Mideast culture. He has an abiding curiosity about other regions as well, having traveled for pleasure to Egypt, Cambodia, Bhutan and even, in 1973, China. “I spent a month there during the cultural revolution,” he says.

All of this informs his architectural style, as does his keen interest in physics and biology.

To absorb himself in the milieu of each project, Safdie spends significant time at the site and its environs before taking out his sketchbook – later turning over his sketches to seven staffers who make “umpteen” models in the office. Once he’s deep into the design phase, he listens to appropriate musical selections to sustain the mood.

“When I was working on Yeshiva Ben Porat Yosef [in Jerusalem, 1970], I listened to Sephardic liturgical music, and I listened to Sikh and Indian music when I was working on the project in Punjab,” he relates. “At home, I appreciate with equal measure [Egyptian singing legend] Umm Kulthum and Bach.”


The architecture of Moshe Safdie

Moshe Safdie’s distinguished career has encompassed urban to rural, small-scale to mega-scale, highly specialized to multipurpose edifices in cities across the world.

A few examples of his major projects are the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1991), the Harvard Business School master plan (1992), the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and Vancouver Library Square in British Columbia (1995); Exploration Place Science Center in Wichita, Kansas (2000); the Salt Lake City (Utah) Main Public Library (2003); the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts (2003); the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia (2006); and the Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto (2007).

In Israel alone, his hand is behind some of the most high-profile modern architecture, mostly in Jerusalem: Yeshiva Ben Porat Yosef (1970), Yad Vashem Children’s Holocaust Memorial (1987) and Transport Memorial (1995) and Holocaust History Museum (2005), Hebrew Union College (1988), the planned city of Modi’in (1989), David’s Village (1993), David Citadel Hotel (1998), Mercaz Shimshon Cultural Center (2001), Ben Gurion International Airport (2004), Mamilla Hotel and mall (2009) and the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv (2010).

Now 73, Safdie is still creating – and traveling the world – at breakneck speed. This year he has five new projects opening: Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore (February 17); the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri (September 16); the United States Institute of Peace Headquarters, Washington, DC (September 21); and in November, the Khalsa Heritage Center in Punjab, India, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Also under construction are projects including an addition to Safdie’s Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles; the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel, in Jerusalem; and a high-density residential development in Qinhuangdao, China.

(c) Your Israel 2011

This article is brought to you by Your Israel Experience– a website dedicated to all the beautiful things in Israel

Israeli Apples Exported to Syria

Export of Israel-Grown Apples to Syria under IDF Supervision


Beginning today, February 15th 2011, apples grown by Israeli civilians in the  Golan Heights will be exported to Syria, in accordance with the directives of the Israeli government and at the request of the International Red Cross (IRC).


The apples will be transported via the “Quneitra” crossing, normally used for the crossing of United Nations personnel, lasting several weeks. IRC representatives in Israel and Damascus will coordinate the export of the produce, in cooperation with and under supervision of UN officials and the IDF. The IDF is responsible for escorting and securing the crossing of trucks alongside the Syrian border.


30 trucks, carrying 12,000 tons of apples will cross into Syria every day over the coming weeks. 2011 marks the sixth consecutive year in which Israel-grown apples are exported to Syria.


(c) Your Israel 2011

This article is brought to you by Your Israel Experience– a website dedicated to all the beautiful things in Israel

Israeli Cloud Computing

Israeli ‘cloud computing’ solutions such as CloudShare and Gizmox are helping to propel a massive worldwide move to virtual information technology services. A cloud has descended on the computing world – and in that cloud, the lion’s share of the applications we work with, and even the data we produce, eventually will reside.


As the cloud rolls in, Israeli companies are working hard to make sure it’s as safe and useful as possible. With the recent rise of mega-data companies like Google and Amazon, the concept of “cloud computing” has spread like wildfire through the tech world. Cloud computing is based on the concept of IT-as-service, with most of the infrastructure – both hardware and software – owned and operated by service providers.


Online cloud services, from Google Docs to movie-making and video-conferencing tools, give businesses access to an always-available, safe and robust network without the need to build a costly dedicated IT system. By 2012, it is estimated that 80 percent of Fortune 1000 companies will be buying cloud computing services, and 30 percent of them will pay for cloud computing infrastructure. A similar explosion is expected among mid-size and small businesses as well, given the potential infrastructure savings that is a prime motivator for companies to move to the cloud, says expert Eddie Resnick, who helps companies review and choose cloud services. Although the cloud is largely in the hands of big organizations like Amazon that can provide wide-ranging IT services, there are plenty of opportunities for small companies’ niche products and services to establish a presence in what promises to be a major industry in Israel. Israeli infrastructure and security tech Israel’s got two of the most important components that will be necessary for successful wide-scale deployment of the cloud – IT infrastructure technology and security technology, says Resnick.


Tel Aviv-based CloudShare allows IT service providers to produce “virtual machines” for their customers, showing them how applications, business scenarios, Internet appliances, training programs and sales efforts would work – without the need to install anything on the customer company’s computers. “A year after coming out of stealth, CloudShare has built the first comprehensive cloud platform for simple, turnkey IT access for companies to power their application development, testing, demos and training,” says CloudShare CEO Zvi Guterman. Security is perhaps the area of greatest concern to potential cloud users. What good is saving money in the cloud if your data is insecure? Israeli startups, which have a strong tradition of developing applications for IT security, such as Check Point, are working to make the cloud safer as well.


Gizmox’s Visual WebGui is a totally open-source, in-the-cloud web application development platform similar to – and meant as a secure replacement for – Adobe’s Flex, Microsoft’s Silverlight and other solutions being promoted by companies like IBM and Mozilla. VWG is touted to be perfectly immune to hackers. “Since we’re just sending metadata and update commands, and the client does not contain any code, there’s nothing for a hacker to monkey with,” explains CEO Navot Peled. In late 2008, VWG announced a hacker contest for the first time in the software industry, offering $10,000 to anyone who could successfully compromise the platform. The contest ran for four months, and can be still accessed on the corporate site. “Not a single one of the tens of thousands of hackers who tried were able to break the system,” Peled reports. The VWG platform is already being used by Cisco, Sony, the US Army, the governments of Germany, Thailand and Canada, and several Israeli ministries, as well as thousands of individuals and small companies. And in January, Gizmox introduced Instant CloudMove, the first automated tool-based solution for transforming enterprise client/server applications from desktop to cloud/web and mobile deployment.


Beyond business, Israeli companies have developed unique applications that harness the cloud power to make life a bit more entertaining. Libox, founded in 2008 by Erez Pilosof, who previously founded Israel’s Walla! web portal, lets you stream and share music, photos, movies and any other media file on different devices. Creating private “clouds” between your devices allows you, for instance, to listen to music stored on your home computer or iTunes playlists at work or on your cell phone. “We are changing the way people think about storing, sharing, and using media,” says Pilosof. These and dozens of other creative uses of the cloud – from data backup to helping farmers manage their crops – guarantees that Israel is going to continue to be a world center of cloud application development.


(c) Your Israel 2011

This article is brought to you by Your Israel Experience– a website dedicated to all the beautiful things in Israel

Israeli Wine Update

Israel’s mostly-cooperative climate; new, quality grape varieties; and the expertise of young winemakers who’ve studied abroad, add up to up to a wine revolution.


Noah may have started off on the wrong foot when he planted his vineyard in Israel, but at least his descendants are getting it right. Around the world, Israeli wines are winning prizes and accolades, which is intoxicating news indeed for local winemakers.  Top American wine maven Robert Parker says, “The wines are getting better all the time and some of them are superb.” Wine magazines like Wine Spectator write “…Quality is on the upswing” and leading wine critics – and just plain folks looking for something to drink with dinner – are discovering that Israeli wines aren’t just for Friday night Kiddush (blessing) anymore.


So what’s changed since the average bottle of Israeli wine was a sticky, syrupy non-experience? (Which is an apt description of the wine produced by the Carmel Winery when it was founded by Edmond James de Rothschild in 1882.) Plenty. Both in terms of knowhow and the unbridled Israeli passion for winemaking.  Zichron Yakov was the first location in Israel where Carmel Winery began making wine.


Daniel Rogov, resident wine and restaurant critic at the Hebrew-language Ha’aretz daily says of the industry today: “We have a retinue of winemakers who are internationally trained and internationally experienced, some Israeli-born, some not. We have world class winemakers and that’s very important.  “Second, the wineries have gone really state-of-the-art. The big and medium wineries all have very modern facilities, and all the techniques for making very fine wine. Third, and most important, we are learning more and more and developing our vineyards better in terms of technology,” says Rogov.  Three years ago, he points out, Mark Squires, who writes for Parker, visited Israel and wrote about our wines and gave them a great deal of praise. “Some 13 or 14 wines scored over 90, which [means they are] really outstanding wines,” Rogov says.


From Rothschild to ribbon-winners

Whether it’s on the wind-swept hills of Israel’s Golan Heights or the low-lying lands of the Negev, there’s a branch of a major winery or one of some 200 or more independent, boutique wineries in operation. Carmel Winery‘s wine development director Adam Montefiore notes: “Israel has joined the world of quality wine producers, and added to its history in this area, which is as long as anyone’s.”


A quality wine “…has to have good balance between all its elements – the fruits, the tannins, the woods have to be in fine balance,” Rogov explains. “For it to be a good quality wine, it also has to have what I call a good structure; that it’s built so that it will last for more than just a short period of time – it will cellar nicely for a minimum of five years, in some cases 75-80, but not with kosher wines. And third of all, one of the axioms I subscribe to is: Not all wines have to be great, but all wines have to give the drinker pleasure.”


“It’s in the eye of the beholder,” says Montefiore. “What I consider a quality wine differs from what you or your wife thinks. Wine is like music – everyone can choose what they want. Some people like basic music, some people like Bach. Some like rock or hip hop… So basically a wine that’s tasty to someone is a good wine. And it’s the variety of wine that makes it so interesting.”


Citing success at growing grapes at higher altitudes like in the Upper Galilee, Golan Heights and more recently the Judean Hills; Israel’s mostly-cooperative climate; the planting of new, quality grape varieties; and the expertise of young winemakers who’ve studied abroad, Montefiore isn’t surprised by Israel’s achievements. “Add to that the desire of the wineries themselves to make better wines and the current increase in the pursuit of quality and it adds up to a wine revolution,” says Montefiore.


“Revolution” is a word he frequently uses to describe various turning points in Israel’s wine-making history, beginning with Rothschild’s early efforts and culminating with his Carmel and other large wineries that are competing with the production of high-quality wines by the country’s smaller boutique wineries.

It’s a winner’s revolution as well, at least based on Carmel’s September triumph. One of its wines won the Decanter International Trophy, a prize considered the “Oscar” of world wine awards. His company’s Yatir boutique winery was also cited by Parker, “the highest possible third party recommendation,” Montefiore insists. “When someone like Parker tastes Israeli wines and says they are good, then its official.”


Indeed, when Parker first reviewed Israeli wines in 2007, he awarded 14 of them more than 90 out of a maximum 100 points (world-class). Meanwhile, UK wine critic Oz Clarke included two Israeli wineries, Domaine du Castel and Yatir, in his Pocket Wine Book 2010. Clearly, Israeli wine has earned a place at the table alongside other outstanding international wines.

Israelis need “wine education”

That’s pretty amazing in a country where Rogov notes “people still drink Diet Sprite with their meal when they dine out.” So there’s plenty to teach Israelis about the value of good wine. “I’m not saying that we’ve arrived,” says Montefiore. “I’m saying we’re on a journey, and if we look where we were some 20 years ago, and we look where we may be in another 20 years, it’s very exciting.”


Some new trends in Israeli wine-making include planting more vineyards at higher altitudes like the Upper Galilee, Golan Heights and Judean Hills. Old vineyards are being re-used to produce better-quality wine, and Israelis are becoming bigger fans of sparkling wines, both cheap and expensive.


Both in general and specifically, regarding Israel and consumers of kosher wine, Rogov notes three distinct new directions: “Number one is going from low quality to high quality; number two is a move to preferring red wines over white wines. Another direction, in Israel and with consumption of kosher wines in general, is people drinking more wine because they recognize this as part of cultured life,” not necessarily involving ritual, he adds.


Montefiore insists, however, that currently the “most exciting thing is the revolution at Carmel.” With its 40 percent of the industry, “when the biggest winery turns around and starts producing high-quality wine and says: ‘We’re producing quality table wines instead of Kiddush wines, and we’re going to reduce the amount of wine we produce to increase quality, it’s an amazing turnaround for the industry.” It’s also a sequel to the developments that launched the quality Israeli wine-making that’s becoming so widespread.


Golan gold – apples to grapes

Wander around Israel and there’s plenty of evidence of ancient wine-making, even remnants of a production site on the Spice Trail near Avdat built some 2,000 years ago. So it’s no surprise that similar evidence also turned up on the Golan Heights, notes Golan Heights Winery marketing director Arnon Harel. But it was apples, not wine, that Golan farmers were interested in when a professor from the University of California at Davis visited the scene in the 1970s.


“He was brought in to look into apple growing, and he said that we had ideal conditions in the area to raise wine grapes,” says Harel. “It was an experiment and we didn’t know if it would succeed.” So it was that seven Golan Heights communities and one in the Upper Galilee formed the Golan Heights Winery, launching an experiment that transformed the production of Israeli winemaking.


With the help of American-imported technology regarding which barrels and containers to buy and other insider information, Harel and his associates “…were surprised because suddenly we were producing high-quality wine in Israel, where before that, we produced mostly sweet wine.” When the first bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon was opened in 1983, Israel had a prize-winning wine of its own.


“They brought in international experience, which allowed them to tap into new things,” one observer of the Israeli wine scene notes about the winery, located in Katzrin, the largest Israeli town in the Golan Heights. “That started the whole wave in Israel of everybody trying to make better wines, followed by the boutique wines revolution… They were the catalysts. They planted in high altitude areas and decided: ‘We want to make the best wine possible.'”


The Golan Heights Winery now produces four million bottles a year for export and a million that are sold in Israel. Some 60,000 people visit the site annually, as part of the increasing wine tourism in Israel, which naturally ends with tastings.


“We had dreams but we didn’t know if they would work out,” says Harel of the winery’s early days. The key to their success: “You have to love it, and feel connected to the earth you plant in, and be a happy person, because wine is a happy product.”

A boost from boutiques

Similar words are heard from 200 or more Israeli boutique winemakers, who got a jump on the continuing quest for quality some 20 years ago, during another major change in the industry, and continue to produce outstanding wine.  At about the same time as a food revolution began in Israel in the 1980s, with the opening of higher-class restaurants, young wine-lovers started to make their own wine, resulting in the opening of a number of boutique wineries.   “There was almost a whiff of peace in the air with Oslo… Israelis felt unthreatened for the first time in a long time and started traveling more abroad, seeing the wine and food there and saying: ‘I’d like some of that.’ There was a better economy then, as well. So all these things together meant that there was a kind of wine revolution in Israel, manifested by these boutique wineries springing up all over,” says Montefiore.  Today, there are between 200 to 400 Israeli wineries, depending on how you classify them. Some are one-person outfits just getting by, while others have succeeded to the point where they were bought by larger wineries.  A lucky few wineries have achieved international success by dint of the hard work and vision of winemakers who never dreamed they’d go into the business of producing high-quality wine.



That’s what happened with Eli Ben-Zaken, who planted two grapevines outside his house on Moshav Ramat Raziel opposite the chicken coops back in 1988, never thinking of it as anything more than “a hobby… It was never a dream to become a major winemaker.”


But today, as proprietor of the Domaine du Castel family-owned winery in the Judean Hills – which launched the boutique winery revolution and has always pushed the envelope when it comes to quality – he’s delighted he took the path to producing world-class wines despite having no formal training in winemaking.


Having already headed up a culinary revolution in Israel in the ’80s with the Mama Mia restaurant he started with Sergio Molcho, which produced its own pasta, the Egyptian-born and European-educated restaurateur, who came to Israel in 1970 after first volunteering to fight for Israel during the Six Day War, just couldn’t find an Israeli wine he liked enough to serve.


“I was always curious why there was such a difference in quality between Israeli and European wines,” he says as we sit in a wine barrel converted into a chair in the tasting room of his establishment, which produces 100,000 bottles a year, half for export. “So in 1988 I just decided to make some wine for my friends,” based simply on what European winemakers taught him or what he read in books


Four years later, he and his wife Monique had a hit on their hands: The first 600 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which Ben-Zaken called Castel Grand Vin or “The Big Wine of Castel” were given to enthusiastic friends and some were even sold. Domaine du Castel, with its symbol combining the nearby Castel fortress, the Lion of Judah and three stars representing the three Ben-Zaken children Ilana, Eitan and Ariel who would grow up to work in the winery, was on its way.


“It was a strange feeling – as if someone had just taken me by the hand and shown me the path. I couldn’t just ignore it,” the silver-goateed winemaker recalls. People told him he was crazy and should plant in the north, but he knew otherwise. “This area has produced wine for a few thousand years, I think even before the First Temple period…The Romans took Jewish slaves to work in the vineyards in Rome because they were so skilled.”


Ben-Zaken also likes the feeling of continuing that tradition while competing with the world’s best, declaring: “I’m a Zionist, and I’m very proud to show that we can make wines as good as those in Europe.” And he’s proud to have launched the boutique winery revolution that “raised the quality of wine in Israel and has shown the big guys, the large wineries, that there is a market for this in the Israeli public.”


There were only three boutique wineries when he opened. Now there are some 30 to 35, as well as popular wine tours, comprised of foreigners and locals, who travel on what he notes has become a regional wine route.


While on a visit to the winery recently just after harvest – which came early this year because of the intense heat – the grape leaves still clinging to the vines look like rows of dancers clad in greens, reds and browns, and a red tractor stands ready to travel to any of the 37 acres of vineyards.


Some had already been pruned in advance of the next harvest, looking a little sad but also indicating a new beginning. Planting new vineyards, Ben-Zaken says, “is like having babies, very touching. Its new hopes really, like children – you invest in something you will see the results of only much, much later.”


Ben-Zaken himself admits that in the early days “it was really touch and go – we could have failed easily,” but he received a boost from the woman he refers to as the winery’s godmother, Serena Sutcliffe, Wine Master of Sotheby’s in the UK.  The ubercritic wasn’t very likely to taste a wine from a barely-known Israeli winery, but a journalist friend of Ben-Zaken’s had a colleague who was going to be meeting with Sutcliffe and asked if he’d like to send along a bottle.  “I had nothing to lose, it was my first vintage,” he recalls. “And a month later we got a letter saying: ‘It’s fantastic, a real tour de force, extraordinary and unlike any other Israeli wine…’ The letter for us was a marketing tool, but for me a stamp of approval that good wines can be produced here, in Israel.”


What makes his Blanc du Castel Chardonnay, and two red wines, Domaine de Castel Grand Vin and Petit Castel – the latter two blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec – so special? It’s not just the French method of high density, low yield, or its great terroir – outstanding soil and climate – Ben-Zaken says, but “the way it’s prepared… it’s delicate, there’s finesse to it, an elegance. These are not big blockbusters; they are subtle and release layer after layer.” The winery also uses what a guide refers to as “the Rolls Royce” of French oak barrels, each costing more than $1,200, where the wine sits for up to 24 months, in keeping with the winery’s motto: “We give time to time.”  Ben-Zaken also is delighted with letters from around the world – including Japan – “from people saying: ‘We just opened your wine last night and had to write how much we enjoyed it.’ ” While he believes the nation’s wineries need more government support to improve, he’s pleased to be setting the tone for quality wine in Israel and welcomes any challenge from Carmel or the other “big boys,” adding: “When something succeeds in commerce, others still want a piece of the cake.”  Setting the bar high for quality in Israeli wine, he can also afford to laugh now about the fact that his family almost moved from Egypt to Australia – where wine-making is booming and there’s much more land. As for the future, having set such high standards, “We think with the vineyards aging and us learning more and more, we hope we will be able to make more high-quality wine.”


While he’d still prefer to spend less time behind a desk, when he does get a chance to walk through his vineyards, the feeling is “nothing but pleasure.” His winemaking success also has reminded him that “we pass through our lives…and the question is not only what we’ve taken for us, but what we’ve left behind, and I’m very proud and happy that I have left something behind.”

One of the most fascinating elements of Israel’s boutique winery revolution is the proliferation of boutique wineries opened by people who get the wine bug and leave their previous careers behind.


Zeev Dunia was previously head of the video and television production department at Jerusalem’s Hadassah College of Technology when he was bitten by the winemaking bug while making a film about the process in 1994-95. “I was a filmmaker for 25 years. At first I wasn’t particularly interested in the subject [of wine],” Dunia says as he pauses to check the grapes. “But as the film was done, which took about a year because it followed the process of wine-making from the vineyard to the glass, I started to develop unconsciously some sort of interest that grew.


“This happens to quite a lot of people – they discover wine and without really having any training, it becomes more and more something you get involved with, and that’s really the magic of wine. If we had to describe what’s so special about it, it’s that it’s never the same. Every bottle of wine is slightly different… the more you get into it, the more it surprises you,” he says.


Dunia now owns and runs SeaHorse Winery in Bar Giora in the Judean Hills. This small but outstanding operation produces about 1,500 cases of wine annually.


“There’s a lot of passion involved, whether you are a grower in the vineyards or a winemaker,” says Dunia, who uses the French method of dense planting and low yield and takes pride in “the unique varieties of wine” he produces, particularly his Zinfandel and his latest addition Chenin Blanc.


A few years ago, the visiting wine critic of La Figaro and a Gallery Lafayette representative at an exhibit in Tel Aviv told him that his wine was “the best wine we have ever tasted in Israel.”

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect himself from the sun, he spends time in his vineyards every day, sometimes to shoo away the deer that have a fondness for his grapes. He says that winemaking grants him a deeper connection to the land on which his grapes grow.


“One thing that has happened over these past 10 years is that I really understand the importance of working the land and what it does to us. Before that, I felt I was a citizen of the world, could live anywhere and do my thing. Now, once you have planted something in the soil, you cannot leave… And I think we should be more attentive to the importance of agriculture, not in the sense of business… It’s our future.”


Still, despite the awards and expansion of Israel’s wine scene in recent years, all is not rosy, with the industry struggling with the issue of export vs. local consumption. While Israelis consume between five and seven liters annually, “that’s simply not enough” to maintain the industry, which must count on local sales to survive, says Rogov, noting similar problems in vineyard-saturated California and Australia.


“Twenty years ago, everyone was uprooting apple orchards to plant vineyards; now they’re uprooting vineyards to plant apple trees, and we may face a situation like that in the end.” Too much expansion is to blame, he says, predicting that as many as half of those passion-driven boutique wineries may close.


The other problem is the lack of an Israeli wine culture, he says. “When Israelis started traveling abroad, they began to realize that wine is a part of the cultured place in life, and you would’ve thought that would’ve increased local consumption. It hasn’t. What it has done is that people who really understand wine are drinking better and better wine, but overall, not more people are drinking wine.


“We have to get people to drink more wine,” he adds. “I’m not talking about turning people into alcoholics but…drinking for the pleasure and the company. So I think more and more people have to be made aware of that.”  Wine is culture,” says Montefiore. “In France they have wine on the table like we have ketchup on the table in Israel…If we can get Israelis to drink more wine and less vodka and coffee, then we’d be a quieter place.  “Thucydides, the Greek philosopher, said that man became civilized when he planted the vine and the olive tree. Wine has been a part of our culture for a very long time, and what we’re trying to do is make it a symbol of modern Israel.”

Ramping up on exports, one sip at a time

The bottom line, of course, is sales, and Israeli wines – branded in a new campaign with the logo “Mediterranean Inspiration” – are making steady progress abroad, with some $18 million worth of wine exported by the beginning of November, continuing an upswing that was only halted temporarily by the recession last year.


Between bringing journalists to Israel who’d never considered Israel a “wine country” to organizing presentations abroad, Michal Neeman, business development manager in the Food and Beverages department of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, senses the export market is promising.


Wine tastings across the United States are bringing increased interest in Israeli wines


Witness a recent event promoting Israeli vintages held in Houston, where there is “a lot of interest in wine,” she says. A luncheon with VIP guests for people from the trade was followed by a tasting event for wine enthusiasts at a local wine bar. “The response was amazing,” she says. “Over 400 people paid to come and taste the wine. Some of the wineries simply ran out of good wine.”


According to Neeman, more unexpected regions are expressing interest in Israeli wine as well, including Japan, Korea and Taiwan. A Japanese delegation is expected this month as guests of the Foreign Ministry, and as part of its branding efforts to promote Israel’s image, they realized they had to play up local food and the emerging quality wines, says Neeman.


While Israeli wines must still struggle with complaints that they are too expensive, overall “interest and curiosity about Israel wine is growing. Now we’re at a point where some people have heard about it; it’s not totally unknown. They are curious to come over,” she says.


“I did a wine-tasting event in Paris in January and there were three journalists who expressed an interest in coming to Israel. That’s a change because for a while it was difficult to bring people here, and now they’re interested… What’s so impressive to me each time and is really nice is that people are amazed by the quality of the wine they drink.” Middle East politics aside, Neeman and her team, in conjunction with other government and industry bodies, are winning over wine lovers, one sip at a time.

That’s only natural, says Montefiore, who believes Israeli wines can be good ambassadors. “While once it was the Jaffa orange and the kibbutz that symbolized Israel, now its quality wine and high-tech,” he notes. Moreover, Montefiore feels that sending someone wine from a particular place in Israel “is like sending someone a picture of a time capsule from that spot. So that’s why wine is such a beautiful product to represent Israel in giving gifts. It’s of international quality and represents the place, agriculture and industry of the country and its culture, and an industry which started 5,000 years ago.”


As for Noah, if he could see the state of Israeli wine-making today, Montefiore is convinced “he’d be so happy that the area where he first planted is now making world-class wines.”


(c) Your Israel 2011

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