Israel is known for many things, but usually not for (people) breaking world records. It’s a tiny country about the size of New Jersey, but not small enough to become the smallest country in the world. Yet Israel holds the world record in transporting 1088 passengers on a single airplane. This is the story of how the Mossad rescues Ethiopian Jews.
It all began in 1973, when then chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef published a Halacha (religious) ruling that Ethiopian Jews, calling themselves “Beta Israel”, were Jews in every sense. Two years later the Israeli government decided to apply the “law of return” to Ethiopian Jews, allowing them to immigrate and become Israeli citizens. In 1977 prime minister Menachem Begin ordered the head of the Mossad (the Israeli secret service – ssssshhh, don’t tell anyone!) to bring the Jews of Ethiopia.
Just as Israel was on its way of full recovery from the pandemic, a sudden increase of COVID-19 cases on June 21 reminded us that it’s not entirely over, yet. The case numbers are still low – first an increase from 49 to 125 per day. Later last week it peaked at 230 verified cases. Before that, COVID-19 cases were single digit or in the low 10s. Health experts emphasized that they do not expect another major outbreak.
Today the Israeli Minister of Tourism announced that starting May 23 Israel will allow a limited number of organized groups to enter the country. All tourists visiting Israel are required to take a PCR corona-virus test as well as an antibody test to prove they were vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, within 72 hours of boarding the flight.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.