Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Night Show Spectacular

During the day, the Tower of David complex on the edge of Jerusalem's Old City, is one of the main attractions in town. Constructed over 2,000 years ago by Herod the Great, the Tower of David still remains intact - amazingly - despite the passage of time. Interactive exhibits and a great lookout from the minaret attract hundreds of visitors daily.

But visiting during the day is not the only option at the Tower of David.  If you haven't yet been (or if you happen to be planning a visit to Jerusalem in the near future), then you need to add an item to your list. At night, the Tower of David's Night Spectacular turns the walls of the Old City into a living piece of history.

Amidst the archaeological remains of the David Citadel and set to the sound of pulsing music, the story of Jerusalem unfolds through breathtaking, larger-than-life virtual reality images. There is no narration, just a few biblical verses spoken in both Hebrew and English. The 45-minute show details vignettes from different periods of history presented with blazing colors and dramatic soundtracks.


In just under an hour, you will experience an endless stream of images that memorialize Jerusalem's 4,000 year history and while sitting in the very place where many of these historic episodes of history occurred.

You will watch as time periods meld seamlessly into one another. You will see King David playing his harp on the rooftop of the Old City and then there will be the Queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon's palace. The show will take you to the city's various churches and monasteries, showing you the people of the time as you pass through each period. Hearing the church bells ring, you will almost feel that you can step right into the churches which are displayed across the wall. Another beautiful scene you will see is Muhammad's night journey from the Al-Aqsa mosque to heaven.

The Night Show Spectacular in Jerusalem was heralded by the New York Times as one of the "must-see shows of a lifetime". It is not your typical lights, sound and special effects show. Viewers report being moved to laughter and tears as they watch mystifying, lifelike scenes of beauty unfold before their their eyes and ears against the backdrop of the Old City walls. Quiet a special experience to take part in while on a visit to Jerusalem.

Tickets can be purchased for almost any night of the year, except for Friday nights when the city shuts down for Shabbat, of course. Most nights, in fact, there are two show viewings available. But since it's almost December, be sure to bundle up! Don't be deceived by the fact that you are visiting Israel, our nightly temperatures are already dipping into the mid-40s F (or around 10 C). Prices are 45 NIS for regular tickets (the equivalent of about $12 US) and there are special rates for children, students and soldiers. If you are interested in visiting the Tower of David Museum during the daytime, there are special deals available for you. For more information on tickets and showtimes, follow this link

Be sure to come to see this magical show put together by the Skertzo Group from France, who specialize in technical productions at historic sites. Taking over a year to put together (and reviewing 4,000 years worth of history), the Night Show Spectacular cost over $2.5 million US to put together. It will be a dazzling treat for your senses. Enjoy the above video as a sample of what you might see!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

On November 2, 2011, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art opened up its highly anticipated New Museum Wing after nearly a decade in the making. Situated on an historic piece of property that used to be the original home of Tel Aviv's first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art's new addition was named the "Herta and Paul Amir Building". 

Designed by Cambridge, Massachusetts based architect Preston Scott Cohen, the new wing is a unique and original shape that some believe resembles an elongated, white Rubik's Cube. Its modern and chic style is a truly remarkable and bold statement in the Israeli art scene. Due in part to its unveiling, the city of Tel Aviv has declared that 2012 shall be "Art Year".

Over the last few years, nearly $55 million has been poured into the creation of this new wing which was built upon a triangular footprint of approximately 4,500 square meters. The building combines Tel Aviv's existing Modernism and turns it into a contemporary and progressive architectural masterpiece.


It is definitely noticeable. It's white, it's bright and it gives the area a gleaming piece of architecture for visitors and locals to admire when entering the Tel Aviv suburb where it is located.

The structure was built with 465 pieces of flat, interlocking, precast concrete panels of all different shapes and sizes. With three floors above ground, it also extends two floors below the ground. 


Atop the masterpiece is an 87-foot high atrium which casts light at all different angles down into the world's largest collection of Israeli art. Fittingly named, the architectural exhibition is called "Lightfall". The twisting surfaces of the interior are just as beautiful as the artwork they showcase. Currently, the artwork on display includes the Israeli Architecture Archive as well as a new selection of visual arts and photography.


The Tel Aviv Museum of Art welcomes more than 500,000 visitors every year. People come from all around the world to experience the impressive display of permanent collections and temporary exhibitions in a wide variety of artistic mediums - painting, sculpture, prints, drawings, photography, video, architecture and design. The museum also has an impressive sculpture garden as well as a youth wing for the little ones. The new wing is definitely worth a visit and will continue to be a staple of Tel Aviv's ever-changing skyline. Visit the museum's website at this link. Or, make your way in person to 27 Shaul Hamelech Blvd. in north Tel Aviv to see the highly anticipated masterpiece in person.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Malcha Mall Events

Malcha Mall is surely Jerusalem's largest and most popular shopping center. Seen in the picture below, Malcha Mall is a three-story facility which even houses a Zara and an H & M. We're pretty happy about that.

Malcha proves to always be busy, no matter when you make a visit there. You sort of have to push your way through the crowds, especially on a Friday, just to make it to your store. Despite this, it's the biggest mall we have in Jerusalem so if you need to visit a central mall, this is the one you will visit.

Malcha is also home to several events and promotions through the year. For instance, over the summer they hosted an outdoor "beach" party with sand, umbrellas, music and drinks. This week, there has been an ongoing TLC Fair, with special sales of all kinds of pampering products. Handmade soaps, feng-shui items, cozy winter selections and massage products; you name it, you will find it. In addition to the special TLC selections, there is a great deal where you are able to select a special quality gift item for just 10 NIS after spending 299 NIS in the Malcha Mall during the TLC Fair's dates from November 20-24.


So if you haven't yet been, GO! Additionally, every Friday, the Malcha Mall becomes the grounds for the weekly Culinary Fair. I happened upon this fair by accident one week and was so excited to see a delicious array of foreign and quality foods throughout the Mall. I was most excited about my run-in with the potsticker dumpling stand, a delicious delicacy that not only happens to be one of my favorite foods, but also, something that is fairly hard to come by in Israel. You will have better luck in Tel Aviv (as opposed to Jerusalem) for a wider selections of foods. In Jerusalem, you will be a bit limited by the plethora of Kosher restaurants in addition to the division of dairy restaurants, of which there are many, separate from the meat restaurants, of which there are few.

Chocolate stands, fresh bread, dessert displays, you will find it all at the weekly Culinary Fair. It's sort of like an indoor Farmer's Market. If you find yourself in Jerusalem on a Friday, perhaps stop by Malcha Mall for a delicious host of culinary treats. Or, better yet, you can visit Zara, one of Israel's preferred shopping stores -- and the only one you will find in Jerusalem. Shabbat Shalom and have a restful weekend!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kikar Hamedina

After multiple shopping trips with girlfriends here in Israel, I can assuredly say that the Israeli fashion scene hasn't been all that inspiring (sorry, Israel...). However, with the holidays coming up (well, the holidays are coming up in the US starting with the Black Friday rampage), I got to thinking that I have never introduced to the blogging world Kikar Hamedina. There is hope yet for the shopping elite. Kikar Hadmedina is Israel's "Rodeo Drive" so to say. The poshest, fanciest stores in all of Israel can be found here around the broad circle you see below in this image of Tel Aviv from the air.

Though from the above image, it might look like that circle is lined with apartment complexes, I can assure you that there is more than meet's the eye. Kikar Hamedina is the place in Tel Aviv to buy fashion items from the world's top designers. The clientele will be of the wealthier crowd.

You will find labels such as Gucci, Yves Saint Lauren, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Chanel and the like. Some of Israel's trendiest designers make their home in Kikar Hamedina, along with high-end jewelry stores and unique boutiques. You will be hard-pressed not to find something stylish and fashionable on a shopping excursion to Kikar Hamedina.

There are a few bakeries and cafes situated throughout the circle, so keep your eye out for a trendy spot to stop and dine while you watch the shoppers and visiting businessmen stroll by.

So, if you're in a crunch to find a fashionable item for an upcoming event (and your budget allows you) then make your way to Kikar Hamedina and you will likely be able to satisfy your shopping fix.

Centrally located in the north of Tel Aviv, just a few minutes away by foot is the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Check back in soon for an update about this museum which just so happens to be the central art museum of Israel. Happy shopping!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving in Israel

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. There is something so special about the traditions, the gathering of friends and family, the fall decor, the autumn scents and the delicious spreads that fill your table annually. I am about to celebrate my second Thanksgiving while living abroad in Israel; however, I will not be alone in doing so. Hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans have chosen to make their home in Israel too, and every year, it is possible to find somewhere in Israel to celebrate this most beloved holiday with your fellow expatriates. Here's your 411 on some of this year's Thanksgiving happenings in the holy land:

Option 1: Nefesh B'Nefesh's Annual Thanksgiving Dinner 

Nefesh B'Nefesh will be hosting their annual Thanksgiving event in Tel Aviv on Thursday, November 24, 2011 at the Basel Hotel at 156 Hayarkon Street, between Gordon and Ben Gurion Streets. The feast will include a 3-course meal with all the trimmings, drinks, wine and entertainment. The dinner will take place between 7:30 pm and 11:00 pm, with a pre-registration fee of 90 NIS. If you pay at the door, it's not only 120 NIS, but also, there's a chance there might not be room available. So book early!  This Thanksgiving meal attracts singles and young couples in their 20s and 30s mostly. See  more information here.



Option 2: Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel's Annual Thanksgiving Celebration

Another popular choice is the AACI's annual Thanksgiving celebration, which takes place at 6:30 pm in Jerusalem at the Dr. Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center. For AACI members, the cost is 135 NIS and for nonmembers the cost is 160 NIS. Children under 12 are half-price and children under 2 are free. This event attracts local families, so bring your spouses, children and grandparents for a beautiful gathering. For more information about the AACI Thanksgiving Dinner, click here



Option 3: Hebrew University's Hillel Thanksgiving Event

If you went to school on any U.S. college campus, you likely had a Hillel organization providing social activities to the Jewish population. The same is true here in Israel, and so, the Hebrew University's Hillel organization also hosts a special event each year for the Thanksgiving holiday, among many other holidays as well. Last year, my husband and I chose to attend this event which was a fun night with lots and lots of food and entertainment, taking place at the Park Hotel in Jerusalem. Attracting mostly university and graduate students, the Hillel Thanksgiving Dinner came at a reduced price of only 40 NIS per guest. If you are in your 20s and living in Jerusalem, I would recommending going to this great Thanksgiving celebration. For more details on this year's Thanksgiving Dinner, check out Hebrew University's Hillel website here.


Option 4: Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel Thanksgiving Dinner

I have heard that the Inbal Hotel, one of Jerusalem's finest, is also an annual host to a delicious Thanksgiving meal. Since there are so many American guests who frequent this hotel, which is a beautiful one even by American standards, it is an obvious choice for a Thanksgiving meal. The price tag, however, is hefty. For more information on the Thanksgiving Dinner available at the Inbal Hotel, please see their website here.



Option 5: Jerusalem's American Colony Hotel Thanksgiving Dinner

Another hotel option in Jerusalem is the American Colony Hotel where they host an annual Thanksgiving meal. This year, the American Colony Hotel will begin their Thanksgiving celebration at 7:00 pm on Thursday, November 24, 2011 with a delicious buffet spread. Salads, pumpkin and chestnut soup, traditional turkey stuffing, a spread of meats and vegetables as well as pumpkin pie and delectable desserts will dot the Thanksgiving buffet table. The price tag for this meal is hefty at $75 US, but it's allegedly mouth-watering. For information about the American Colony Hotel, visit their website here. For Thanksgiving specific information, please see this link here.



Option 6: Mike's Place Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

One of the hipper options in town in either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem is at Mike's Place, a popular American bar that attracts, as you guessed, a largely American crowd all throughout the year. As per their annual tradition, Mike's Place will be offering a Thanksgiving meal this year on Thursday, November 24, 2011 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Dinner will include tomato soup, roasted turkey, sweet potato yams, roasted potatoes, corn on the cob, stuffing, cranberry sauce, cornbread, green beans, wine, soft drinks and apple pie for dessert. The three-course meal will cost you 120 NIS each. For more information on the dinner, see this flier here. But the fun does not stop there. After your tummies are full, the partying begins. Mike's Place will be throwing a bash with tons of giveaways for everyone coming dressed up in the traditional Cowboys & Indian theme. See information on the party here. If you're looking for a good time on Thanksgiving, Mike's Place is the place to be.


Option 7: Tel Aviv's Beit Heseg Thanksgiving Dinner

Last but not least, every year the Heseg House in Tel Aviv throws a Thanksgiving Dinner for lone soldiers, who are Israeli soldiers who have moved to Israel from abroad and are completing their service military service here in Israel. My husband was one of those soldiers between November 2003 and November 2006, albeit from Colombia. Not only would you be able to eat and mingle with the lone soldiers at this beautiful mansion on Thanksgiving, but also, your attendance will cost you nothing. Entrance to the Beit Heseg Thanksgiving Dinner is free. You just need to sign up in advance to ensure you will have a spot. The fun will begin at 7:00 pm at the Beit Heseg Mansion at Rothschild 46 in Tel Aviv. This is the same place that issued my husband his academic scholarship over the last three years, so we've been there many times and it's a beautiful place. For more information, see here.


And the options do not stop there. If you search local hotels in your specific city, whether you are in Haifa, Tel Aviv or Eilat, I am sure there are at least a handful of hotels in each city as well as university run programs offering a Thanksgiving meal next Thursday. Here in this blog I have highlighted just a few of the more popular options that I have been aware of in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv area.  If you know of any more, please feel free to comment on this blog post. Wherever you choose to enjoy your Thanksgiving this year, I wish you a happy holiday in the company of good people and even better food. In the spirit of the holiday, let's not forget to give thanks for everything we're thankful for this year!