Thursday, June 30, 2011

White Night Tel Aviv

Since being declared the White City by UNESCO in July 2003, the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality has been marking the honor in an annual one-night fest offering a slew of special events for the benefit of the residents and visitors of Tel Aviv. This one-night fest is known to the world as White Night Tel Aviv (Layla Lavan Tel Aviv), and is taking place today, June 30, 2011.

Think New Year's Eve style streets, packed from side to side with music blasting, people dancing and a grand time being had by all. Several key events will also be going on during White Night throughout all of Tel Aviv's city limits. Here are a select few as advertised in The Jerusalem Post (view select events via Jerusalem Post):

Tour of Rothschild Boulevard
Various musical and theater street shows will line the beautiful boulevard.
Rothschild Boulevard, Bialik Street. All night long

Matti and Shlomo Open Air Concert – until the sun rises
Matti Caspi and Shlomo Gronich will perform in an open-air concert, offering authentic Israeli music until the sun rises.
Northern Tzuk Beach, 1 a.m. Free admission

Indie city
Various concerts by some of Israel’s best rock bands.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Shaul Hamelech 27.

Israeli folk dancing
Starting at 9 p.m., Israeli folk dancing with Sarah Aviv with special guest dancers.
Gordon Beach. From 9 p.m.

Night market
The flea market in Jaffa will be open all night, offering special stores and arts & crafts stalls. There will also be numerous street theater performances, music, exhibitions, galleries and more.
Flea market, Jaffa. Free admission

All-night parties
R&B and hip hop will be playing all night in Bialik Square. Afrobeat, funk and hip hop artists will perform, starting at 10 p.m.

Tel Aviv’s famous Dizengoff Center will host a Pop-Shop party, where Dizengoff Street meets King George Street. The mall’s stores will be open through the night.
All parties free of charge

Yehudit Ravitz at Zappa
Israeli music legend Yehudit Ravitz will perform songs spanning her whole career, as well as new hits at a special concert.
Zappa Club, Raul Wallenberg 24. Free admission

At Jaffa Port
Ahinoam Nini and Mira Awad will perform their “Together and Alone” evening at the Jaffa Port, and artist Ruba will open her one-woman show “Out of Place,” a collection of recent works dealing with issues of belonging and identity. There will also be workshops with stylists Doreen Attias and Ravit Assaf.

A night at the opera
The Israel Opera will join in the celebrations in a concert of opera hits that will begin at midnight into the wee hours. The opera stars will each perform a few arias, accompanied by pianist Eitan Schmeister and Michael Ajzenstadt as host.
(03) 6927777, NIS 65

Tel Aviv by day
Tel Aviv by night

As if that were not enough, the fun continues with the listings of events featured in the Haaretz newspaper (apologies for any overlapping information):
Nahalat Binyamin Houses  
Meeting place: Magen David Square, at the entrance to the Carmel Market. 7pm, 9pm.

The House on the Hill; Bialik Street and its surroundings 
Meeting place: the King George St entrance to Gan Meir. 7pm, 9pm.

Tel Aviv “Say Cheese” photo tour 
Meeting place: corner of Alenby and Bialik streets. 8pm, 10pm (NIS 50).

Neve Tzedek Magical Allies  
Meeting place: Kir Hameyasdim at Suzanne Dellal Square. 8pm, 10pm.

Along Rothschild Boulevard  
Meeting place: corner of Ahad Haam and Hertzl streets. 7pm.

Rothschild after midnight  
Meeting place: corner of Rothschild Blvd and Hertzl St, by the kiosk. 11:15pm.

Around Dizengoff Square  
Meeting place: next-to Cinema Hotel at Dizengoff Square. 8:30pm, 10:30pm.

The Songs of Tel Aviv  
Meeting place: corner of Ahad Haam and Hertzl Streets. 7pm, 9pm.

The oil lamp tour of Tel Aviv’s Pantheon and the Trumpeldor Cemetery  
Meeting place: the King George St entrance to Gan Meir. 10:30pm, 12:15am.

Old Jaffa  
Meeting place: the Clock Tower Square. 8pm, 10pm.

Music Events
The Indie City event will host two stages of Tel Aviv’s leading Indie musicians at the Tel Aviv Museum on Rothschild Blvd from 6pm – 2am.
Among the various happenings at the Dizengoff Center Urban Legend event is the Balkan Beat Box’s “Boom Pam –Alakazam” show (NIS 149 – 179) at 1am.

Glass artist Dale Chihuly presents about 100 works from almost all his series at the Litvak Gallery. Museum Tower, 4 Berkovitz St. Tel Aviv. Phone: 03-6959496.
The Eretz Israel Museum will offer discounted entry to a number of exhibitions from 8pm to midnight. 2 Haim Levanon St., Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv.

The Israeli Opera will put on a night concert of popular arias and songs from musical theater, at 12:30am. Tickets can be purchased from the Israeli Opera box office on 03-6927777 for NIS 60.




Special Events
(continued from Haaretz newspaper)

The fun does not stop even stop there. Numerous musical ensembles will perform side-by-side street theater shows and watch out for a feast for the eyes as 50 Bauhaus buildings will be illuminated against the night sky on Rothschild Blvd. HaTachana – the old railway station turned marketplace near Neve Tzedek – will host a song night, with The Tel Avivim and Tzeirey Tel Aviv (The Tel Aviv Youth). The “Pishpeshuk” project is back, with Jaffo’s flea market running throughout the night. This year’s theme will be about the purity of witches and magicians and will include an open stage at the market square, unique stores, art stalls, street theater performances and a Jaffa mosaics exhibition. As the sun rises on Friday morning, a yoga workshop, including meditation and song, will be held on the Tel Aviv Port deck at 5:30am. Whew! That's a lot to choose from, so clearly you cannot go wrong. There is something here for everyone!


Tel Aviv may be Jerusalem's rival (every country has a rivalry between their two largest cities...) but you cannot  argue with the fact that Tel Aviv is an amazing place, like no other. They have one of the most electric nightlife scenes I've ever experienced and they definitely know how to party. Any reason for a celebration and leave it to them to make it a recurring holiday, getting bigger and bigger with every year.

You didn't think the fun was over yet, did you? As the sun rises tomorrow morning, the partiers will be heading home....just for a few hours....until they are recharged and refreshed to attend the 2011 Tel Aviv Water War in Rabin Square. Details coming in the next post!


Enjoy White Night!

Monday, June 27, 2011


The last stop on our ulpan field trip (after visiting the First Aliyah Museum in Zikron Ya'akov and the beautiful living memorial at Ramat Hanadiv) was to somewhere I had never heard of prior to my visit. Despite not having heard of Atlit previously, it was a place that left me forever changed after my visit.  



Atlit, Israel is a coastal city located just south of Haifa and it is most well known for its detainee camp where survivors of the Holocaust were shuttled and housed after the end of the horrific war. The detainee camp was actually established and used by the British Mandate government in the 1930s, in order to serve as a refuge for those escaping Nazi-controlled Europe; however, the camp is most well known for it post-WW2 life. 


Following the drawn-out end of WW2 and the liberation of concentration camps across Europe, the British authorities filled hundreds of illegal boats and ships holding thousands of Jewish refugees hoping to escape to a better life. Because Arabs in the area wanted to limit Jewish immigration (instead of open their arms and embrace these poor victims of war), the British mandate eventually succumbed to Arab wishes and refused to allow the Jewish refugees to enter the land of Israel. Instead, they were detained in this camp in Atlit.



Imagine coming from the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust. You have lost your family, your friends, your children and all of your loved ones. You have experienced things that no human being should ever have to feel and you have witnessed things that no human eyes should ever see. You are, astonishingly, holding onto life by a thread by virtue of some miracle. You have no available connections to your previous life and no idea what you will possibly do in the future, let alone the present. 




At this time, cue in the arrival of hundreds of ships headed for a new life in Israel. A place where you will allegedly be surrounded by other survivors, by your people, by hope, possibility and compassion. The journey there is rough and many people die on the journey over. The ships are overcrowded and the sanitary conditions are dire. After the tumultuous journey at sea (and the years-long struggles of the Holocaust), you arrive only to discover that here too you are not wanted, here too you are not permitted.


At the Atlit camp, already in the worst physical and mental states imaginable, the unthinkable happened. It disgusted me beyond words to see how these survivors were greeted, which was as you will read in a minute, an almost exact duplication of the despicable treatment towards these individuals in the concentration camps they had just left behind.

Upon their arrival, malnourished and deeply pained, the survivors were told to form a line, men to one side and women to the other. They were unwillingly sprayed with DDT, which was thought at the time to cleanse, though we know now that is not at all the case. They were told to then undress and to enter a vast room where showers were waiting for them. Does this sound at all familiar? If you know anything at all about the Holocaust, then this will sound awfully eerie to you. The profound lack of empathy and compassion toward these innocent victims at this essential turning point in their lives is one of the most disappointing and despicable examples of the lack of human regard that I have ever heard of. Way to kick someone when they are down.


Essentially, these victims were transported from one concentration camp to another at a time when they should have been greeted with the utmost amounts of human compassion and positive regard. Instead, they were met with barbed wire fences lining the proximity of the area, dozens of shared cabins filled with bunks comprising the living situation, guards standing duty on multiple watchtowers overhead and limited supplies of food and water. No matter where they turned, the Jewish people seemed to be faced with a lack of human regard. Throughout history, they seem to always be fighting an uphill battle to simply have the most basic human rights which should be a given to every human being in the world: food, water, shelter, life.


Here, between the years of 1939-1948, several detainees stayed and lived in imprisonment never knowing when the detainment would be over. Additionally, underground movements placed bombs in a few of the incoming ships' holds, killing thousands of incoming refugees. Imagine this type of world where you literally have nowhere to be accepted. Finally, in October of 1945, the Palmach (the special forces of the Haganah) led a raid organized by a young Yitzhak Rabin in which the special forces broke into the detainee camp, releasing 200 detainees who then escaped to freedom. Following this event, the British mandate began deporting the illegals to internment camps in Cyprus where many stayed until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. At long last, come 1948, the Jewish people had a place to call home - the same land inhabited by their ancestors generations ago. As you know, this establishment has resulted in unending strife and disarray between the Israeli and Palestinian populations who both feel a rightful and historic connection to the land.


The detainee camp in Atlit may be a somber story but it is an important one to be aware of. I hope to have educated or enlightened just a few of you to this unimaginable history in hopes of never again letting history repeat itself, which it always seems to have a tendency of doing anyway.

Classmates on our visit to Atlit were profoundly moved by the sacrifice that generations before us made in order for us to be alive today and living in Israel freely and legally. I know it made me appreciate the endless list of struggles that resulted in the freedom and accomplishment which we perhaps take for granted.
* black and white images borrowed from US Holocaust Museum website (see here)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The First Aliyah Museum

The other day, I highlighted the memorial garden Ramat Hanadiv, one of the three stops on our ulpan's day trip up north. However, prior to even setting foot on this living legacy, we started our morning tour by visiting the First Aliyah Museum in Zikron Ya'akov. You already know how much I love the small town of Zikron Ya'akov (see previous post here) so I was delighted to be returning there. This return visit would give me the chance, however, to visit the First Aliyah Museum which I heard was a must-see, especially for a new oleh (immigrant).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term Aliyah, the Hebrew word implies "return", as in a return to one's homeland (and in this case, specifically a return to the Jewish homeland). So, you may hear Jewish people throwing around conversation about "making aliyah", which would imply making the move to Israel, back to one's roots. Though I never imagined that I would be making aliyah in my lifetime, I can now say that I have done it, thanks to my husband. It has been a very rewarding experience and one that I did not see coming. 



Every Jewish person has the right to capitalize on the law of return. And I can tell you that having gone through the process, no other country makes it so compelling for you to move there. After filing an application which contains your basic information, a letter from your Rabbi, proof of  your Jewish identity (mother is Jewish or you have Jewish heritage somewhere in your family line) and  2 passport-sized photos, among other things, you are eventually contacted by a shaliach (aliyah counselor) whom you will eventually meet in person before being given permission to make aliyah. The whole process is relatively simple and pain-free. 




A classic aliyah package from the Israeli government includes a paid-for one-way ticket to Israel, a lump stipend upon your arrival "home", an additional package of stipends to be paid out over your first 7-8 months in Israel, an Israeli ID card, 6 months of intensive 5-days-a-week Hebrew lessons at a local ulpan as well as other perks including tax breaks, job assistance, car discounts, mortgage deals and other major incentives. It does not stop there, one of the biggest perks is a free college level or graduate education if you are interested in that. There are options in Hebrew and in English, so it's not too good to be true. It's actually very real. I told you the incentives were amazing! Additionally, if you apply for aliyah through a private organization such as Nefesh B'Nefesh, there are handfuls of other financial incentives and additional perks offered to new olim. While simultaneously applying for my husband's greencard for the US, I can tell you that the difference between the two immigration processes cannot be more night and day.



However, it was not always this way. There were many, many people who came before me who paved the road for the amazing opportunities we receive today. And the road was not an easy one by any means. Although the world largely recognizes and associates the founding of the Jewish homeland with those who came in the Second Aliyah, the truth is that they in turn owe thanks to the immigrants of the First Aliyah who made what came later possible. The Museum of the First Aliyah tells their story.


These anonymous pioneers of the First Aliyah came to the land that is now Israel between 1882-1904.  Roughly 20,000-30,000 men, women and children came from various nearby locations in Europe, Ukraine, Russia and Poland hoping to escape the rough life in the pogroms and planning to build a new life in the Jewish homeland. This first wave of Aliyah was composed primarily of family units, rather than individuals. 


Life was not easy for these pioneers. Many died on the journey over and many more died in the arid, unlivable and unforgiving conditions that characterize Israel. Malaria was rampant, the soil was difficult, produce would not grow, diseases were commonplace and death was imminent. On top of this, the pioneers were not wanted nor welcomed, making their struggles duly more challenging. On several occasions, they wanted to give up. Yet, despite everything, they did not. Better yet, they prevailed. Enormous amounts of money were poured into the rehabilitation and development of Israel through the philanthropic and Zionistic efforts of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Though the pioneers were disappointed and frustrated with the manner in which Rothschild's efforts reorganized their farms and land plots, it eventually led to the beautiful landscape that Israel is today. He paid tenured farmers to come into Israel and teach the men how to grow crops successfully in this soil and in this heat, he introduced them to the native Israeli crops of olive oil, olives, grapes, wine, dates and figs, just to name a few. Eventually, produce bloomed, financial stocks rose, vaccinations were provided and life began to blossom. Thanks to the hard work of these men and women, communities developed and modern life in Israel had finally begun. 


It is because of these men and women that future olim (immigrants) were able to make Aliyah. Their blood, sweat and tears nourished the soil and laid the foundation for what was to come later on. They sacrificed everything for future generations, not knowing whether it would be worth it or not. Obviously, I am sitting here in Israel typing these words nearly 130 years later. So, clearly their hard work has paid off. It was a very moving and humbling experience to see the sacrifices they made and to know that their work and effort was not in vain. 


The First Aliyah Museum opened its doors to the public in February 1999. It was established in memory of Moshe & Sara Arisohn, who were among Zikron Ya’akov’s first settlers. The modern exhibits, which are clearly labeled in English, are spread out over three floors and are comprised of reconstructions and a variety of multimedia aids. You will see a series of videos which takes you along one family's journey from their European pogrom, to arriving in Israel, to the trials and tribulations of life in the holy land, and then all the way to their eventual successes. These videos give you an inside look into what it must have been like for those brave families who persevered through so many hardships.

Contact Information:

First Aliyah Museum
2 Hanadiv Street, Zikron Ya’akov. 
04/629-4777 TEL
04/629-4224 FAX
Visiting Hours: Sunday closed, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Tuesday, 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Friday, 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Saturday, closed.
Entry fees: Adults, 15 NIS/pp, Teens 12 NIS/pp, Children 10 NIS/pp, Senior Citizens 8 NIS/pp, New Olim 8 NIS/pp.