Israel Travel Tips

Hidden Treasures at the Avshalom Stalactite Cave

The Avshalom stalactite cave is considered one of the most beautiful stalactite caves in the world. Small in size compared to others such as the Postojna Caves in Slowenia, but huge in its variety and abundance of stalactites, stalagmites, drapery, flowstone, shelfstone, helictites, and more. Following a short movie about the discovery of the cave and the riches it holds, visitors enter in groups together with a guide (sometimes you may even be guided by myself).

Scientists have done extensive research in this cave, from climate changes through the millennia to “what’s the chance you get hit by a stalactite?” (well, the title of the research is different, but my title keeps people attentive to the end 🙂 ). The Avshalom cave, also named Soreq cave because of the vicinity to the Soreq stream, is one of many nature reserves in Israel operated by the Nature and Parks Authority. The cave is located near Beit Shemesh, about 30-40 minutes drive from Jerusalem. More information about the cave and the opening hours can be found here.

The walking path through the cave allows visitors to view about 80% of the cave. However, there are some treasures that are partly or entirely hidden to the public. Below you can discover some of the hidden secrets. (Please understand that these areas are not accessible to the public for a good reason – to preserve nature and the fragile ecosystem inside the cave.)

Avshalom stalactite cave

The colorful lighting system inside the Avshalom stalactite cave not only adds to its beauty, it also helps reduce damage caused by exposure to light.

Stalactite cave

Mushroom shaped stalactites and stalagmites are only two kinds of the many speleothems found in the Avshalom cave

Mushroom shaped stalactites and stalagmites

Reflections in the pool. The brown color is from iron oxide. You’ll need to come by and visit to find out where the iron originally comes from – you’ll never guess.

Where are the snakes? Here they are - snake fossils in the Avshalom cave

Here they are – snake fossils in the stalactite cave

Share this:

Museum of Islamic Art

Located in Jerusalem’s Talbieh neighborhood, the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art features an impressive collection of Islamic art as well as a one-of-a-kind collection of antique timepieces. The museum was founded by the late Mrs. Vera Bryce Salomons who had the wish to display the achievements of Israel’s Muslim artists and artisans. For more information and opening hours, visit the Museum for Islamic Art website.

Illustration of Mohamed in early Islamic book

Illustration of Mohamed in early Islamic book

Museum of Islamic Art

Qibla indicator and compass

Museum of Islamic Art

Chess figures

Inclined plane clock

17th century inclined plane clock

Museum of Islamic Art

Antique watch

Marie Antoinette watch

The most valuable timepiece: the Marie Antoinette watch made by the famous French-Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet

Share this:

Book Review: Beyond the Mountains of Darkness, by Eliezer Ya’ari

About two years ago I met Eliezer Ya’ari at a cafe in Jerusalems Baka neighborhood. Eliezer Yaari is a known TV journalist and news broadcaster in Israel. He drew my curiosity when he talked about his new book on Sur Baher (or Sur Bahar), an Arab (Palestinian) village east of Kibbutz Ramat Rahel.

Beyond the mountains of darkness by eliezer yaari

“Beyond the mountains of darkness” by Eliezer Ya’ari

I had been to Sur Baher once, with a bus driver who lived there. Until recently I used to live in the nearby Arnona neighborhood, the same place where Eliezer Yaari is living. Both Arnona and Kibbutz Ramat Rahel are within walking distance to Sur Baher, but the Jewish neighborhoods and the Arab village are worlds apart.

The above mentioned Jewish neighborhoods are part of the State of Israel since 1948, yet Sur Baher – only a few hundred meters further east – was under Jordanian occupation until the Six Day War in 1967. Under the Jerusalem Law many East Jerusalem neighborhoods, including Sur Baher, were annexed and became part of Jerusalem. So far history.

Anyone living in Jerusalem will notice the marked difference between Israeli Arabs who have been part of the state since 1948, and Arabs whose neighborhoods and villages have been annexed by Israel following the Six Day War. By and large Israeli Arabs see themselves as Israeli citizens, whereas most of the Arabs in East Jerusalem, that is the parts of Jerusalem that have been annexed in the Jerusalem Law, see themselves as Palestinians. At least so it seems. Now to the book.

By mere coincidence Eliezer Yaari walks into Sur Baher. He talks to people and takes pictures. One new acquaintance leads to another, and visit by visit he discovers a world that has been so close yet so far. In his book each person is given a short biography. But he also talks about education, terror, the high school exams, the Jewish Agency, and Wadi Humus. Chapter by chapter Ya’ari brings us closer to this – for most Israelis let alone foreigners – unknown world. In his book the people of Sur Baher share the story of their life, their aspirations and frustrations, their struggle and their hope.

At first sight the stories may be of “ordinary” people, but they are everything but ordinary! When telling a story, Ya’ari also provides the context so the reader may understand.

Beyond the Mountains of Darkness by Eliezer Yaari provides a fascinating insight into the life of East Jerusalem Palestinians in particular and on the relationship between Arabs and Jews in general. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Arabs and Palestinians in Israel, and the Arab-Jewish conflict.

Share this:

Israel Photo Tour

Recently John and I did a 6 day photo tour, starting out at Acre via Tiberias, the Golan Heights, Jordan valley, Dead Sea and the Northern Negev. Below is a visual testimony.

Khirbat al-Minya

Khirbat al-Minya

Chorazin synagogue

Chorazin synagogue

Golan heights

Golan heights – view of Sea of Galilee and Jordan valley

Belvoir crusader fortress

Belvoir crusader fortress

Small Makhtesh

Small Makhtesh

Small Makhtesh

Small Makhtesh

Zohar fortress, Nahal Zohar

Zohar fortress, Nahal Zohar

Maresha (Marissa)

Maresha (Marissa)

Maresha (Marissa)

Maresha (Marissa)

Maresha (Marissa)

Maresha (Marissa)

Maresha (Marissa)

Maresha (Marissa) – Bell Cave

 

If you like to get more information on how I can help plan your Israel photo tour, fill in the contact form and I get back to you as soon as I can.

Additional information and booking

Share this:

Jazz at the Beit Haamudim

Not only does Tel Aviv offer picturesque beaches, beautiful (wo)men, and sun almost all year round. The city is also a top destination when it comes to culture holidays. Jazz aficionados will love the Beit Haamudim (pillared house) pub that offers live Jazz performances every day at around 10 p.m. except Friday. Along with the music and the great audience you can enjoy a fresh beer, a glass of wine or some light meals and snacks. The Beit Haamudim is located at 14 Rambam St., Tel Aviv (accessible through the Nahalat Benjamin pedestrian zone). Follow the link above for an up-to-date program.

Life Jazz at the Beit Haamudim

Life Jazz at the Beit Haamudim, from left to right: Alon Benjamin, drums; Alexander Levin, sax; Yoav Shlomov, guitar; Tomer Bar, piano

Share this:

Old Yishuv Court (Museum)

The Isaac Kaplan Old Yishuv Court Museum is located in an ancient 500-year-old house in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The museum tells the story of Jewish life inside the city walls, from the 16th century up until 1948 when the Jordanians conquered the Old City and expelled the Jews.

Old Yishuv Court

Old Yishuv Court Museum

The house and its rooms surround an inner court, the “Chatzer”. Each room held a family: parents, 3-4 children and sometimes the grandfather or grandmother, or perhaps an old aunt. The water in those days was drawn from a cistern in the courtyard. Of particular interest is the bedroom from the mid 19th century. At that time the city’s population counted a mere 15,000 inhabitants, among them 6,000 Jews. The bed displayed here – one of a total of 6 that were available in the city – was a luxury item. A husband would rent the bed for his pregnant wife to give birth. The inscriptions and amulets were placed in the room to protect the infant and mother.

Living conditions in Jerusalem were difficult in those days, to say the least. Much throughout the 19th century life expectancy in Jerusalem reached about 35 years. 4 out of 5 children would die before reaching the age of 1. Reasons for the high death toll in the yishuv were, among others, lack of hygiene, water pollution, population density, young age of the mothers, poverty and malnutrition, lack of medical care, and more. And if that wasn’t enough, every once in a while a deathly epidemic or a famine would take its toll from the inhabitants.

Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Weingarten

Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Weingarten, mukhtar of the Jewish Quarter (photo by John Phillips, from his book “Jerusalem: A Will to Survive”)

Until 1850 most Jews living in Jerusalem were from Sephardic (meaning “Spanish”) origin, many of whom refugees that fled from the Spanish inquisition at the end of the 15th century. The house became home of the Weingarten family, descendants of Shlomo Pach Rosental, one of the first Ashkenazi Jews to settle in the Jewish quarter in the early 19th century. From 1935 to 1948 Mordechai Weingarten held the title mukhtar (the head of the neighborhood) of the Jewish Quarter.

Inside the house are also two synagogues: the Or HaChaim synagogue and the ARI synagogue, named after Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi known by his Hebrew acronym Ha’ARI Hakadosh (“The Holy ARI”). According to tradition, the ARI was born in one of the rooms in this house, in 1534. Educated in Egypt, the ARI eventually moved to Safed in the Galilee, where he became a leading rabbi and kabbalist. Today he is referred to as the father of contemporary Kabbalah. During the 1936 Arab riots the ARI synagogue was looted and burned down.

Pashkvil

Pashkvil

The exhibition includes a collection of pashkvilim (singular pashkvil) or posters usually raising religious issues and calling Jewish citizens to obey the halakhic or religious laws. These pashkvilim offer a valuable insight into the 19th and 20th century Haredi Jewish society.

Share this:

Camel Riding at the Negev Camel Ranch

The Negev Camel Ranch or CameLand is located along the northern Incense Route, next to the ancient Nabatean city of Mamshit. Owner Ariel Ullmann, a zoologist by education and environmentalist by nature, raises riding camels since 1986. Set in a biblical landscape, the Negev Camel Ranch offers camel riding tours, desert hospitality and lodging.

Camel tours can be booked for one hour or more and lead through the desert landscape surrounding Mamshit, along the ancient Incense Route. If you want to experience the tranquility and serenity of the desert, this is the place.

Camel riding

Negev Camel Ranch

In addition to camel riding, the Negev Camel Ranch offers accommodation in desert huts that can house up to 5 people.

For further information, visit www.cameland.co.il

 

Share this:

Mahane Yehuda Market

Mahane Yehuda market

Mahane Yehuda market

Mahane Yehuda market has long been a landmark in Jerusalem. Some even describe it as a “national treasure“. One thing is certain – if you want to meet authentic people, you need to look no further. This picturesque marketplace lies outside the old city near the center of modern Jerusalem, between Jaffa road to the north and Agripas street to the south. It’s easily accessible by public transport, either bus or tram.

Knafeh (or kanafeh)

Knafeh (or kanafeh), a local dessert

Hundreds of vendors sell a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, meat, spices and other food. Want to taste the Levantine cuisine? You will find plenty of cafes, restaurants (including the famous Machneyuda gourmet restaurant), bars and pubs, turning the market into a culinary destination. One of them is the Que Pasa Tapas Bar which also sells a nice variety of local beer.

Mahane Yehuda market is not only visited by Jerusalem residents – religious or secular, Jewish or Arab, rich or poor – but also by a growing number of visitors from other parts of Israel as well as foreign tourists.

From Beit Yaakov market to Loan and Savings market

Mahane Yehuda or “camp of Yehuda” got its name from the nearby neighborhood by the same name, which was founded in 1887 by three business partners: Johannes Frutiger (a Swiss Protestant banker), Shalom Konstrum, and Joseph Navon. The neighborhood was named after Joseph Navon’s elder brother Yehuda. Originally the market was called the Beit Yaakov marketplace after another nearby neighborhood. There Arab merchants and fellaheen (farmers) from Lifta, Deir Yassin, and Sheikh Badr sold their produce to the predominantly Jewish residents of the new neighborhoods. By the 1920s the sanitary conditions deteriorated so much that the British mandate government had to order the vendors to vacate the place.

Mahane Yehuda

Halva’a ve-Hisahon (Loan and Saving) market

This is when the Halva’a ve-Hisahon (Loan and Saving) bank jumped in and provided low-interest loans to the vendors, but under one condition – that the market be named after the bank. There is still a sign left in an alley of the market that attests to this agreement. Recently the marketplace has undergone further renovations.

Que Pasa at the Mahane Yehuda market

Enjoying a (local) beer at the Que Pasa

Friday is a particular busy day, when many locals go shopping for Shabbat. As the weekend approaches, people relax in the coffee shops and bars inside the market compound.

Mahane Yehuda market, Jerusalem

Young ladies smoking nargila (narghile or water pipe) at a Mahane Yehuda pub

Lebanese cuisine

Manou Bashouk Lebanese cuisine

Share this: