Israel Travel Tips

Birds in Israel

Israel lies between Asia and Africa and is not far from Europe. Every year, millions of migrating birds come from Europe to spend the winter in warmer, tropical or subtropical climate. And there are plenty of local birds. This makes Israel a paradise for bird watchers and bird photographers.

The following is a gallery of birds I photographed. Clicking on a photo lets you view a larger image.

I will be updating the gallery from time to time, so bookmark the page to revisit.

Enjoy!

Heiko

Tel Aviv Wildlife

Tel Aviv is known as a “wild city” with its jungle of bars, cafes, clubs and (beach) parties round the clock, at least when not under CoVID-19 lock-down. But this post is dedicated to the nature lovers who will find an abundance of animal wildlife right in the city.

One of the best places to explore the diversity of nature is the Yarkon park that stretches along the river with the same name. Starting at the mouth of the Yarkon river we see the black-headed gulls, whose heads turn white during the winter time. They usually visit Israel as migrating birds.

Black-headed gull

Perhaps a mile to the east I saw some great cormorants high up in a eucalyptus tree. They are truly impressive birds. Just don’t stand under their tree, as they produce lots of fertilizer.

Tel Aviv wildlife

Great cormorant on an eucalyptus tree

The Eurasian hoopoe has been elected to be our national bird. It was on a rainy day when I met this poor fellow who was just out getting his lunch. This bird is everything but shy. I was kneeling perhaps 1 foot away from him when I took the picture.

Tel Aviv wildlife

Eurasian hoopoe looking for food

In the last 20-30 years the rose-ringed parakeet population in Israel has been literally exploding. Without natural enemies, this invasive species is rapidly displacing local birds. They may look cute, but are a hazard to the local wildlife. Like parrots, they can be trained to speak, but without that education, they are quite noisy birds. This one is having a feast in what looks like a rosewood tree.

Tel Aviv wildlife

Rose-ringed parakeet having lunch in a rosewood tree

Another invasive species is the common myna, whose original home is India and surrounding countries. Not too long ago they were a rare sight, but now they are everywhere. Their hairstyle is often copied by (local) human males who use pomade, wax or what not to get that special look.

Tel Aviv wildlife

Common myna

Tel Aviv wildlife

Common myna – what a hairstyle!

Following the Yarkon river there is a bird watching place with ponds etc. to attract water birds. A little egret perched on a convenient tree trunk in the water poses for us photographers at no charge, every so often turning his head and getting into different postures so we all be happy with the photos.

Tel Aviv wildlife

Little egret

Little egret caught a fish

At another part of the bird watching place I found this common moorhen busy looking for food. He wouldn’t rest a second, always on the move.

Tel Aviv wildlife

Common moorhen

Tel Aviv wildlife

Common moorhen, another photo

Both inside the bird watching place and again a little further along the Yarkon river I met with a couple of Egyptian geese. Since the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel the Egyptian goose has no problems entering Israel (just kidding). As its name indicates, this bird is originally from Egypt, but can be found in much of Africa except the desert. Like some humans, they pair for life.

Tel Aviv wildlife

Egyptian goose

Yet another common bird here is the hooded crow. They are practically omnipresent. These birds are smart and have an excellent memory. They are often seen in larger groups, but he (or was it a she?) made it worth my while by posing nicely in front of the camera. Although this bird shows little color, it is a fine example of natures aesthetics.

Yarkon park

Hooded crow

So far I shared with you only birds. The next animal came as a total surprise to me. After I “shot” the Egyptian couple (geese) and continued my way, all of a sudden a golden jackal came out of the woods and calmly crossed my path right next to me. I’d never seen this before. Jackals, relatives of wolves and coyotes, are extremely shy. In recent years I’ve noticed them inside Jerusalem next to where we lived, and also in Tel Aviv near the Yarkon park where I live now. You can hear their howling at night, but I’ve never ever actually seen one. The only place I caught one on camera was in the Golan heights at a distance of perhaps 100m or about 300 feet, at dawn.

Tel Aviv wildlife

Golden jackal

Tel Aviv, a young city born in 1909, was envisaged to become a garden city. The municipality hired Patrick Geddes, a pioneering Scottish town planer, biologist and sociologist. Geddes master plan was adopted and Tel Aviv today offers not only the cultural and culinary amenities of a metropolitan city, but also many retreats in nature.

I hope to be able to share more examples of urban wildlife. You are always welcome to book me for individually designed hiking and/or photography tours. For more information and examples, follow the link here.

Happy and Healthy New Year 2021

Happy New Year 2021

Happy New Year 2021 from Jerusalem, Israel

The year 2000 has been a crazy year. Suddenly, out of the blue, the CoVID-19 pandemic has wrought worldwide havoc. Travel restrictions and quarantine rules have made a visit to Israel almost impossible for non-residents. Let alone the health concern of travelers who expose themselves to crowds. “Social distancing” – the motto of the day – doesn’t go well with travel. Aren’t we visiting other countries to experience and learn more about the country and the people living there?

When asking my travelers about the most memorable experience during their stay in Israel, 8 or 9 out of 10 will mention an encounter with a local. Israel is truly blessed with holy places, remnants of ancient and modern history, beautiful vistas as well as memorial sites. But in the end its the people who fill the streets with life.

Now to the good news. Israel kicked off mass corona virus vaccination on December 20. So far more than 900,000 people have been vaccinated, about 1/10 of the entire population. It is planned that by end of January 2021, about one quarter of the entire population will be vaccinated. I myself got my first out of two shots today, the last day of 2020.

Fighting the corona virus

CoVID-19 vaccination in Tel Aviv, Israel

By April or May the vast majority of Israelis will be vaccinated. With that, it seems, travel to Israel will once again be possible. I’ve been waiting for that day to arrive and I am really looking forward to once again guide you travelers through Israel.

With the best wishes for a Happy, Prosperous, and Healthy New Year 2021 !

Yours

Heiko

Happy Birthday, Israel

Today Israel celebrates independence day. It’s the country’s 72nd birthday. When David Ben Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, he well knew the dangers and threats that lay ahead of the young nation. Then and today, Israel faces multiple challenges. But today, the major challenge on almost everybody’s mind is the corona virus, a challenge that we share with the entire world.

Israel independence day 2020

Israel celebrates 72 years independence

For many of us the COV-19 threat is manifold – physical (health), economic, and mental. Needless to say that as I’m writing this, I’m out of a job – not much work in tourism nowadays. But we have gone through crisis before. I myself can recount hyperinflation, several wars, terrorism, drought, economic depression, and more.

Going back to the early years of the country, the situation was no less difficult. War and the influx of around 900,000 homeless (Jewish) refugees from Arabic/Muslim states put a heavy burden on country and economy. Sometimes brave leaders had to make daring, perhaps unpopular decisions. Take for example the “Wiedergutmachung” or reparations agreement with Germany under David Ben Gurions’ leadership. The late Menahem Begin, then head of the opposition, would rage against David Ben Gurion. But in reality this money was much needed to put roofs above the heads of many new immigrants.

Twenty five years later it was Menahem Begin who made peace with Egypt. Whereas Begin was celebrated a hero at home, president Anwar el-Sadat was brutally murdered three years later.

What unites Menahem Begin and David Ben Gurion is that both saw government not as a popularity contest, but as a great responsibility towards the people. They weren’t afraid to make difficult and unpopular decisions when needed. And they didn’t care about the splendors of the world, living a simple live in every sense.

Today our leaders are presented with a unique opportunity to become immortal. Their wise decisions can save thousands, tens of thousands of lives and help the people to overcome the Corona crisis. Let’s hope they can live up to it.

Talbiye Restaurant by Assaf Granit

Once again I ventured out, seeking yet another culinary experience. This time I took my wife and son to Talbiye, a restaurant belonging to the MachneYuda Group by founder and chef Assaf Granit. We’ve already tasted MachneYuda – the restaurant where it all started – as well as Yudale and Hasadna (the “Culinary Workshop”), each and every one of which I like and recommend. Unlike the MachneYuda and Yudale restaurants, the Talbiye is open on Shabbat. Needless to say, the restaurant is not kosher. 

Talbiye Restaurant

The polenta is a trademark dish at the MachneYuda group of restaurants

The restaurant is located in the picturesque, upscale Talbiye neighborhood in Jerusalem, right under the Jerusalem Theater and near the Museum of Islamic Art, the President’s residence, and the Hansen House.

When we called around 1:30 p.m. to make a reservation, we had no problem getting a table for three at 5 p.m., but I still recommend to reserve a table well in advance.

As a starter we chose the special of the day, the shrimp carpaccio. The main dishes were gnocchi, baby spare ribs cooked in beer & Granny Smith apples, and I had the Tournedos Rossini. I couldn’t help it but order the polenta, too. As desert we shared an apple strudel.

Each and every course was a culinary treat. The three of us unanimously praised the food we devoured with joy. Even the strudel was a delight, which is highly uncommon in this region of the world.

The Talbiye offers a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere, especially when compared to the loud music at MachneYuda. The service is professional, as can be expected. Most if not all of the customers were locals, perhaps because of its location in a more quiet neighborhood.

Verdict: Highly recommended!

Price: $$-$$$

Telephone: +972 2-5811927

Home page: https://www.talbiye.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/talbiye/

Address: 5 Chopin St., Jerusalem (underneath the Jerusalem Theater)

#talbiye #jerusalem #israel #israelguide

Four One Six Vegan Restaurant

Ever since my daughter turned vegan, I’m on the lookout for suitable restaurants. Today we went to the Four One Six vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv, HaArba’a Street, my daughters favorite of all!

Vegetarian and vegan food is very trendy. But the traditional Middle Eastern kitchen has always offered plenty of choices for vegetarians and vegans – humus, falafel, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, fresh salads to name a few. Many meat places have vegan options, too. And then there is a growing list of all-round vegan restaurants, especially when you come to Tel Aviv.

four one six vegan restaurant
Vegan skewer at the Four One Six (416) vegan restaurant

Some of these restaurants display an obvious distaste for meat and anything that looks like it. Not so at 416 – this totally vegan restaurant manages to create dishes that can easily fool die hard carnivores. A peek at the menu reveals “shawarma”, “skewer”, “steak”, “calamari” and more. All of these dishes are 100% plant based, created from plant protein that has been specially prepared and treated by chef David Barzilai.

Talking about home-made: nothing in this restaurant is mass produced, everything is prepared in the restaurant, including the many sauces that make these dishes so delightful.

The FourOneSix features a cocktail bar with a variety of delightful drinks. Aside from the delicious food we also enjoyed the pleasant atmosphere and excellent service.

Will my non-vegan friends enjoy this vegan restaurant?

Most likely yes. The vegan “meat” dishes have a rich, almost meat-like flavor. And the many positive reviews speak for themselves.

Price: $$-$$$

Warning: The servings are very generous.

Telephone: +972 3-775-5060

Home page: https://416.co.il/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/416tlv

Address: 16 HaArba’a St., Tel Aviv

#416tlv #telaviv #israel #israelguide

Tel Aviv Lifeguard Stand Hotel

Bored with your ordinary choice of hotels? Don’t mind getting your feet wet on the way to your room? Check out this beach front venue: Tel Aviv Lifeguard Stand Hotel

This hotel is located on Frishman beach, Tel Aviv, right next to the water. However, the booking procedure is a bit of a challenge, as you need to enter a contest to win one of only 15 opportunities to stay at the Tel Aviv Lifeguard Stand Hotel.

But don’t worry, Tel Aviv has a fine selection of “ordinary” and boutique hotels if you don’t win the challenge. Or perhaps you do mind wet feet or sand in your bed?

#TelAviv #Israel #FrishmanBeach

Seasons Greetings from Jerusalem

This year Christmas and Hanukkah fall on the very same day. Curiously Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday, is not mentioned in any book of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). But the story that led to Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is told in the first and second book of the Maccabees, which is part of the Old Testament of the Catholic and Orthodox Church.

Hanukkah menorah

Hanukkah menorah

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

Museum of Italian Jewish Art

The U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art is a small but beautiful boutique museum, highlighting objects made in Italy by Jewish artists and artisans. The museum is currently installing a new exhibition on the Ghetto of Venice and will reopen on October 18, 2016.

Italian Synagogue

Italian Synagogue at the Museum of Italian Jewish Art

One of the highlights of the museum is the Italian Synagogue, originally from Conegliano Veneto, a village located between Padua and Venice, where Jews had been living from the 16th century on. The synagogue and its contents had been transferred to Israel in 1951.

Marble basin

Marble basin for ritual hand-washing before prayer

Museum of Italian Jewish Art

Entrance to Museum of Italian Jewish Art

Moses hit the rock

Wall painting depicting Moses hitting the rock (Exodus 17:5)