Friday, March 30, 2012

Tel Aviv Marathon

The annual Tel Aviv Marathon is underway here in Israel, following up on the Jerusalem Marathon just two weeks ago. Luckily, the runners have a bit better weather in store. No rain or gusty winds like the athletes had in hilly Jerusalem.  If you were to go into Tel Aviv today, you would find the streets packed with runners about to take off.

Runners are treated to a great tour of the city of Tel Aviv throughout the marathon course. Here they are at the starting line:



During the marathon's 26.2 miles, the runners will pass through a portion of their run over the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv in the middle of Hayarkon Park, Tel Aviv's "Central Park" so to speak.


Passing through Tel Aviv side streets and near the Tel Aviv Port are also sights along the way for marathon runners.



And of course, as much is evident, portions of the marathon will be right by the waters of the Mediterranean, the Sea upon which Tel Aviv rests. 



Here are pictures of last year's winners, coming in around 2 hours and 45 minutes. Simply amazing! I think it would definitely take me at least 5+ hours, if not more. I'm not interested in finding out anytime soon. Good luck to the runners out there today!



Even if you don't get excited about marathon events, something to smile about is the fact that marathons are usually planned during the time of year when the weather is most mild and springlike, on its way to the most beautiful temperatures of the year. So with that in mind, it's exciting to know that warm daily weather is literally just around the corner! 

If you didn't make it out to run in this year's marathon, there's always next year. Yes, they've already got the date: March 15, 2013. See here for details.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Capernaum, Tabgha & Mount of Beatitudes

Israel is not only a land filled with holy sites for the Jewish faith, but also for the Christian and Muslim faiths. When my recent guests were here last week, a Christian and an Episcopalian, they of course wanted to get their fill of everything they could see in a limited amount of time. Somewhere I had never been before was to visit the Christian sites atop the Sea of Galilee, which is exactly where we headed over the weekend (among several other pistops).

CAPERNAUM: Located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum is a place where Jesus is said to have lived and prayed during his lifetime. Main attractions in the area are the ruins of Peter's dwelling where the apostle once lived and also the neighboring synagogue where Jesus is said to have prayed and healed.
 Located atop the Sea of Galilee on the lake's northern coast, Capernaum sure has an idyllic setting if this indeed was a place Jesus once called home.


Here is the entrance to Capernaum's little village, which you saw in an aerial shot in the above images.

 And this is the ruins of Peter's dwelling, on top of which a church has been built in more recent years. This site holds a lot of symbolic healing for people of the Christian faith. The third picture down are the ruins of the synagogue where Jesus is said to have healed his followers.


As you can see, Capernaum sits perched directly on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee, as seen in the images below.


 TABGHA: The quite cove of Tabgha is just minutes away, literally, from Capuernam. It was here that many important Gospel stories took place including the most well-known at this site, the Multiplication of Loaves & Fishes. All those New Testament stories started coming back to me on our visit here.

Christians have marked the miracle of the loaves and fishes with this iconic church, which is the heart of Tabgha. In the church you will find a mosaic with loaves and fish, identifying the spot where the multiplication is believed to have happened.


As you can see, Tabgha, like Capernaum, is situated right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It was brutally hot during our visit there (because the Galilee is located below Sea Level, just like the Dead Sea) and so many people opted to put their feet in the water for a dip. After all, why not go for a dip in the holy waters of the Galilee, Israel's most beautiful body of water?


MOUNT OF BEATITUDES: Even if you're not a Christian, you've probably heard of the Sermon on the Mount, and this spot on the Mount of Beatitudes is exactly where the sermon is believed to have taken place. It is perhaps Jesus' most famous sermon. This setting overlooks both Capernaum and Tabgha, just minutes away by car.  

 The Byzantine style church is the central spot to visit atop the Mount of Beatitudes. As you can see, it's a lovely view looking out over the calming Sea of Galilee.



 And that sums up our visit to the trio of holy sites atop the Sea of Galilee. Not far from here is Tiberius which you can get to easily by car, the largest city in the Sea of Galilee region. If you're ever in Israel and wanting to visit these sites, I will tell you that they're open on Shabbat, which is a luxury because most things are closed on the weekend. Hope you enjoyed seeing this small part of Israel, where I hadn't yet visited previously!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Nachalat Binyamin Markets


If local artisan craft markets are your type of thing, then the Nachalat Binyamin Markets in central Tel Aviv are a must for you while on your visit to Israel. Located at the corner of Nachalat Binyamin Street and Allenby, this local fair always attracts a big crowd.

Every Tuesday and Friday, the vendors and artisans line the streets right next door to the Carmel Shuk, which is Tel Aviv's central food market. Between the hours of 10 am to 5 pm roughly, you can visit the craft market and shop to your heart's content.

Rest assured you will find unique finds at the Nachalat Binyamin Markets because there is a rule that the vendors must produce original artwork that is both unique and handmade. Thus, you're sure to find something you haven't seen elsewhere. Cutting boards, jewelry, wallets and handbags are just the start of the list.

The architecture surrounding the markets is quite eclectic, adding to the fair's appeal. I have heard that they are considering restoring many of the buildings on this street in order to "pretty up" the area. We'll see if that notion turns into a reality.

I had not been to the Nachalat Binyamin Markets in a few years actually, not since my Birthright Israel trip back in 2006. However, with friends in town this week, we decided to make a pitstop there in order to check out the local fare.


If you find yourself in Jerusalem, the best markets are on Fridays at either Bezalel in the city center or at the local fair in the German Colony. You'll find the same kind of thing, but on a much smaller scale than what you'll see in Tel Aviv.

If you haven't yet been, it makes a nice day trip to head to the Nachalat Binyamin markets. You'll find different items every week and you might just find the perfect gift for yourself or a friend. Enjoy!