The Dead Sea is truly a wonder of the natural world; it is the lowest place on Earth and
its waters have such a high concentration of salts and minerals that it can sustain no life
whatsoever. Throughout history both ancient and modern, locals and tourists alike have flocked
to its shores to bask in the beauty and tranquility that abound here, and also to experience the
alleged healing powers of the environs. The unique combination of atmospheric pressure, dry
air, and extremely high mineral content has been said to cure a wide range of ailments,
including respiratory and skin disorders. The famous King Herod built his famous winter palace
here, on the cliff face of Masada overlooking the northern Dead Sea, over two thousand years
ago; the dry desert climate has preserved the ruins magnificently.
First-time visitors are often brought to giggles by the expectedly odd feeling of floating
so easily in the heavy water; classic photo ops include reading a book or newspaper, and
flashing a good old-fashioned “two thumbs up”. One may then find a waterside mud pit and
proceed to slather thick layers over all exposed body parts; let the mud dry for about 20 minutes
before rinsing thoroughly with fresh water. The result? Skin as soft as the finest imaginable silk
for the next several days. A pre-dawn hike up the mountain fortress of Masada offers one of the
most breathtaking sunrises anywhere in Israel; enjoy the view while touring the impressive
remains of a once-bustling royal village. After hiking down the treacherous Snake Path, the next
stop is nearby Ein Gedi, a true desert oasis complete with natural flowing springs forming
waterfalls and picturesque swimming holes.
Unfortunately, however, this magical place is in severe danger of imminent extinction,
due mainly to two reasons. Over the last one hundred years, humans have begun diverting large
quantities of the Jordan River’s flow to be used for local purposes farther north, mostly
agriculture and drinking water. In addition, huge factories pump water through their facilities in
order to extract the minerals necessary for a wide range of world-famous beauty and skin care
products. This dual-edged sword of removing water and preventing its replacement by natural
processes has led to the increasingly fast-paced recession of the shoreline; the hotels and spas
that once lined the water’s edge now sit several hundred meters away, accessed by various
shuttles and trams. Various plans have been proposed to restore the Dead Sea to its former
glory, including a pipeline that would transport water from the Red Sea in the south. However,
do to regional squabbling and a general lack of willingness to seriously commit the necessary
resources, the situation continues to worsen instead of showing any indications of reversal. If
we allow this greedy and selfish behavior to continue, then the number of generations that will
live to enjoy this truly awe-inspiring natural wonder can literally be counted on one finger.
Another weekly update is here , and we celebrate the only way we know how , with whisky. but enough of that. we hope you have a wonderful new year ! full of fulfilment and joy! much love from the TBI crew!
Hey everybody ! new gun laws are in town and we are right on our way to become a small ‘merica in the heart of the middle east ! weed is annoying some of the cneset members , so ,they decide to get rid of them , cannabis reform in Israel takes another hit. I go to an Anime convention! and it sucks cuz israelis can’t do that stuff … not in our DNA i guess… Shabat Shalom and be well
Author, painter, lawyer, and community leader Udi Peled joins us in the studio to talk about the kibbutz movement, pros and cons of communal living, odd student jobs, traveling, living abroad, art …in short, Israel and stuff
Israelis love their coffee; this is a well-known fact to those who have ever visited or lived in Israel. You will find a similarly qstocked coffee station in almost every kitchen, office, staff room, hotel room, meeting space of any conceivable form: electric kettle, instant and Turkish coffees, milk, sugar, maybe even decaf or freeze-dried. For Israelis, having a cup of coffee is as much a social affair as it is a caffeine boost; it’s about taking a few (say, 30) minutes out of the day (several times daily) to relax with friends or coworkers and maybe chat about current events or the weather. We drink it all throughout the day, whether at home or at work or even abroad (I travel with a sealed package of my preferred brand safely checked in my suitcase); in the summertime we like it on ice or from one of those frozen slushy machines that you find absolutely anywhere you seek one out. I am fascinated by this unlikely coffee culture and I believe that we can trace three distinct social influences that merged to create something unique and entirely Israeli; these three cultural powerhouses are the former Ottoman Empire, Europe, and the U.S., in that chronological order.
For roughly 400 years, what we call Israel was a forgotten backwater of the Ottoman Empire, and the overwhelming majority of its residents at the time were Arab farmers who worked land that was owned by wealthy families from all over the Middle East and North Africa. The Turkish people of that era shared many cultural traits with the Arab world, including strong black coffee served in small cups, often cooked over an open fire in a special hourglass-shaped pot. For many Israeli minority groups, such as Arabs, Bedouins, and Druze, this tradition is still the daily norm; furthermore, many of the early Jewish settlers adopted this local custom and their descendants still swear by it today. What we call in Hebrew “black coffee” or “Turkish coffee” is also known as “mud coffee” because a single serving can be prepared by simply stirring boiling water right into the cup, allowing the grounds to eventually settle to the bottom of the glass, forming a thick layer of “mud”. Varying preparations depend on personal preference, such as the inclusion of cardamom (hel), sugar, and occasionally even a drop of milk.
In the late 19th Century, Europeans started showing up in Israel in growing numbers, representing a diverse array of countries and their corresponding cultural traits. Strolling through certain neighborhoods in Tel Aviv in the 1930s and 1940s, you might think you were in Paris, Berlin, or Prague; young families paraded along the boulevards and the cafés were filled with artists, intellectuals, and businessmen. They sat for hours enjoying cup after cup of imported espresso, especially with a dollop of hot foamed milk; the cappuccino/café latte/café au lait later became known in Hebrew as “upside-down coffee” (café hafuch). Along with many other facets of European culture that became a part of the daily landscape in Israel, the café culture remains to this day among the most vibrant and easily recognized institutions. In addition to the many popular café franchises all around the country, almost every kiosk, convenience store, and gas station in Israeli has an espresso machine that sees regular use. Israelis like it short, long, double, decaf, extra foam, steaming hot, for here, to go, any which way; as long as it’s made just the way they like it.
The ancient people of Israel having witnessed their fair share of miracles, it’s no surprise that their modern counterparts are constantly on the lookout for them; therefore it seemed perfectly natural that when Nestle first introduced their miraculous new powdered coffee in 1938, they called it Nescafé. In Hebrew the word nes means miracle and, surprisingly enough, café is coffee, a true coincidence. Although Nestle is a Swiss company, this particular product certainly fits right in line with what became an increasing obsession with the fast-paced, high-tech, always on-the-go consumerism that the Americans seemed to have perfected and were now mass-producing and exporting to every corner of the free world. Today, even with the growing trend of the capsule-fed home espresso machines gaining traction, you will be hard-pressed to find an Israeli home, office, or hotel room without at least one of the many popular varieties of instant coffee. To be sure, as a hardcore lover of strong, freshly brewed, unsweetened black coffee, I myself have trouble finding the appeal of this beige powder. Nonetheless, millions of Israelis start their day with this very same miracle, even in the Diaspora.
A sick TBI this time folks, as both your hosts came down with something. this time on Talkin’bout Israel and stuff, we talk’bout Netta , and the recent copyright scandal.
What are copyrights ? other than helping Prince sue little girls; what are they here for ? should artist have complete control over their creations ? or rather , the public has a right to build on those giant shoulders for the advancement of all of us !?
for answers, maybe go to like an expert… we’re just a couple of guys, rambling.
Here are a few notes –
When a tourist comes to Israel for the first time, what do they expect to see? The ancient city of Jerusalem with its historical and religious relics and anecdotes? The cutting-edge powerhouse of high-tech, culinary flair, and world-class beaches that is Tel Aviv? Or perhaps the rolling green hills of the Galilee or the magical healing powers of the Dead Sea? Shwarma or vegan hamburgers? Ancient or modern? Religious or secular? Which is the true Israel? Short answer: a hybrid of all these great things along with a great many more.
Long answer: regardless of whatever preconceived notions you’ve developed before your arrival as a result of your cultural and religious upbringing, media exposure, social influences, etc., one can objectively identify three distinct Israel’s, each with its own special brand of Israeliness and a population with a shared set of social character traits. Each one as vital as the next to the existence of what we call Israel today, in the year 2018. Each one as similar to the others as it is different.
I have chosen, for the sake of this article, to omit any mention of Judea and Samaria, along with the large Israeli and Palestinian populations residing there; it’s simply not the subject today. I will make no mention of the Palestinian Authority, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, or other points of contention that I deem irrelevant to the current topic. The Israel I speak of today is the internationally recognized parliamentary democracy located within the “Green Line”, the international borders determined in 1949 by the armistice ending the War of Independence. Today, as many guides at Massada tend to do, I speak not of how we died here, but of how we lived here.
TO HEAR IT
In my opinion, the single most important city in the history of mankind; despite its remote mountain-top location, Jerusalem has been the prized jewel in the crown of every major European and Middle Eastern powerhouse all the way back before King David and up until the ending of the British Mandate in 1948. She is the spiritual stronghold that alone has the power to bind the region together or tear it apart. Her ancient secrets literally ooze out of cracks between the worn stones and nobody is impervious to the sense of awe and importance obtained by simply strolling her alleyways, passages, tunnels, and courtyards. Her hilltops and valleys are home to many of the holiest sites of the three major monotheistic religions. Likewise, the surrounding foothills region is home both to traditional religious communities as well as modern shopping malls, ancient monasteries carved into the rocky mountainsides overlook the high-tech agricultural work that the kibbutznikim perform in the fields below.
Jerusalemites appear to be inherently aware of the austere importance of this heritage which they presently embody and their mindset is a balance of humility and pride, appreciation and acknowledgement of the weight of their burden. Even the city’s secular residents seem, on average, to be far more spiritually aware than in most other places around the world. Of course, a great deal of her residents are religiously observant, and this manifests itself through countless different branches and subdivisions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as well as through the appearance of a multitude of smaller and lesser-known religious followings, such as the Makuya, a group of Japanese Christians residing in Israel and studying the Old Testament in Hebrew! Strolling the modern streets of West Jerusalem, it is impossible to ignore the wealth of human history hiding just below the surface. Rambling the ramparts of the Old City walls, you can almost hear the Roman legions camped in the valleys below.
However, Jerusalem is not all history and archaeology and old dusty rocks and stories; she is also a vibrant modern city with a booming tourism industry alongside a thriving cultural scene that includes fine dining, museums highlighting both old and new, an internationally renowned university, a wide sampling of music and the arts, and much, much more. The Machane Yehuda market has, in recent years, become the new hub of Jerusalem nightlife, with thousands of people from all around the world filling its narrow alleys with dozens of different languages and culinary styles in the wee hours, long after the vegetable and spice vendors have closed up shop. The municipality presents an impressive sound and light show projected on the Old City walls outside the Jaffa Gate. Jerusalemites observe national book week and Ramadan, they have a Pride Parade and the Via Dolorosa, alongside a wide variety of ethnic foods from across North Africa and the Middle East you can find an impressive offering of locally brewed IPA’s and lagers. The Jerusalem foothills area has been producing some of the world’s finest wines continuously for literally thousands of years. Yet if you go for a drive down the hill and across the coastal plain, it is as if you had been transported 2,000 years in time, to an entirely different, though no less authentic, version of Israel.
There is not a shadow of doubt that Tel Aviv in the year 2018 is the single most socially liberal and progressive city in the world. Playing home to the world’s most vibrant and fastest-growing LGBT community has brought with it a massive upsurge in cultural wealth over recent decades, while fostering the world’s second largest center of technological innovation (after Silicon Valley) has led to a corresponding increase in actual material wealth. This is a different Israel; here you will much more easily find a vegan restaurant than a kosher one. Tel Aviv has almost as many sushi bars as falafel stands; thousands of certified yoga instructors offer their services in private studios, public parks, or down at the famed beachfronts. I was born and raised in Southern California, home of ‘Baywatch’, but I can safely and proudly say that, by and large, Tel Aviv’s beach culture makes SoCal look like a landlocked desert wasteland. The end result? New York City on the Mediterranean Sea; a city that truly never sleeps and, frankly, has no reason to, seeing as evening temperatures in the warm season (half the year) hover around the high 70’s and low 80’s. Did I mention the endless parade of absolutely gorgeous people of every imaginable color, shape, size…?
The way I see things, the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yaffo really should be expanded to include many of the surrounding suburbs, such as Ramat Gan, Petach Tikvah, the Sharon region, and Holon and Bat Yam, where many of its artists, professionals, and entrepreneurs make their homes; much like LA’s vastly sprawling suburban metropolis. Tel Avivim and many other Israelis often refer to the “State of Tel Aviv”, a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the socioeconomic and cultural bubble in which its residents appear to thrive. Truly, when in Tel Aviv, it is all too easy to either forget or simply ignore the often harsh realities of life outside the city limits. 24/7/365 you can find something to do and somebody interesting to do it with; culinary tours, street art and graffiti tours, massive groups of rollerbladers cruising the boardwalk late at night, and yes, even archaeological excavations and one-of-a-kind museums. Even Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, has become a sort of secular jubilee here, with tens of thousands of Israelis flocking to ride their bicycles on the empty Ayalon highway.
Yet Tel Aviv is not in fact as isolated as it seems, even here we can see shining examples of the potential coexistence that could one day reign in the region. To the south of the Tel Aviv Port are three adjacent strips of beach; locals know them as the gay beach, the dog beach, and the religious beach. Not surprisingly, those target audiences do in fact perpetuate the justification of the names by going to the beach that fits their state of mind and personal style. Yet they don’t have any conflict with one another, it is as if each group is almost unaware, albeit implicitly tolerant, of the others. Of course a great many Tel Avivim still appreciate the beauty of Israel’s natural treasures, and spend their weekends and holidays traveling to the north or south, staying at campgrounds or luxury guesthouses. Young people playing matkot along the water’s edge or eating watermelon on their straw mats or developing code in the high-tech parks are every bit as Israeli as their less urbanized counterparts. They do reserve duty in the IDF, generate economic growth, and serve as a collective welcoming party for millions of visiting tourists from around the world each year.
Make no mistake, the term is simply a geographical distinction; while the greater Jerusalem and Tel Aviv metro areas make up the better part of the country’s central region, there is still quite a bit of Israel to go around. The so-called “Periphery” is comprised of both large cities and small towns, agricultural communities and industrial parks, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Druze, Circassian, Bedouin, Baha’i, and the list goes on. This Israel is perhaps the most difficult to describe, being the largest both in area and in population diversity. However, Israel can no sooner continue to exist without its small, outlying communities that pepper several international borders than it can without Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Here you will find the “salt of the earth”, the kibbutznik and the moshavnik, the small business owner, the career civil servant, the nurse, the sculptor. Without this Israel, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem would simply have no reason to exist; this is the true ingathering of the exiles, the true harmony between ancient and modern.
The cities of Netanya and Ashkelon offer a more affordable and less clamorous beachside option for immigrant families from around the world. Haifa and Beersheva host some of the largest R&D and production facilities of some of the world’s largest high-tech companies. Eilat and Nahariya provide Israelis with a place to get away and work on their tans for a long weekend without having to leave the country. The incredible natural beauty of sites like Rosh HaNikra, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, Mitzpe Ramon, and countless other national parks and nature reserves harbors a magical quality that hypnotizes both Israeli and tourist alike. Despite existing on a smaller scale, Israel contains almost every bit as much natural diversity as a country like the USA; arid deserts give way to fertile plains and rolling hills give rise to staggering peaks.
The cultural diversity of this Israel influences the atmosphere no less so than the varied landscapes; the multitude of different peoples cohabit the cities side by side, while most small towns tend to have one defining ethnic element. Here, the secular Jewish families from the kibbutz will drive over to the Arab village on Shabbat to eat hummus and do some shopping; the Arab doctor who speaks three languages fluently drives from his small village to work at the nearby regional hospital; close-knit communities preserve cultural and religious traditions going back thousands of years, while their children study politics, humanities, or the arts at the university. In this Israel, you can still get a cheap, fresh falafel without four different types of fancified tahina; you can spend a hot afternoon cooling off in a natural spring pool or at your local shopping mall; you can work your fields in the morning and play music in the evening. And yes, whenever you feel like it, you can dust off your passport and go for a short jaunt into one of the neighboring commonwealths of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, just to get your fix. This is the Israel that I personally fell in love with, although I do very much love the other two as well.
I remember, during my first visit to Israel at the age of 24, the first real insight that I arrived at while attempting to process the massive overload of sensory input was that things here are complicated. Very, very complicated. At first I despaired, wondering how I would ever be able to get a grasp on things, how I would ever manage to fill in the overwhelming gaps in my knowledge and experience. (Spoiler alert: tons of reading helps.) However, on subsequent visits before I made aliyah, I slowly came to the realization that the Israelis themselves often have no clue what’s going on around them either! How many Israelis have I met that haven’t been to Jerusalem since their class trip in middle school, or their requisite visit during IDF basic training? How many Israelis have I met that haven’t ever been to a kibbutz? Or speak only one language? Have never traveled abroad? Confidently insist that there are 51 stars on the American flag? Or 49?
Israelis are a mixed bag, any way you look at it. I have not yet met one who isn’t prepared to tell me where the single best hummus in the country is. There are very few personal boundaries; you will often find yourself discussing politics or medicine with a taxi driver, or being set up for a blind date with the granddaughter of someone next to you in line at the supermarket. This is partially because, during IDF service, these barriers are effectively broken down for the sake of cohesion, but also because Israel is a dynamic, rebellious, and ultimately unpredictable land of paradox. See the Bedouin tent camp with a corral full of camels next to a paved parking lot full of tour buses. See the Jerusalemite whose family has lived in the same home for hundreds of years installing solar panels on the roof. See the doctor take orders from his auto mechanic once a year when they climb into their tank for reserve duty. See the famous “rollerblading Rabbi” of Tel Aviv, who somehow manages to reconcile an observant religious and spiritual life in the heart of modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. See the Kabbalists of Tzfat who express ancient mystical concepts in eye-dazzling modern art. See the shockingly well-preserved Roman ruins and the 3D audiovisual spectacular at the visitor’s center.
For a country roughly the size of New Jersey, with a population less than that of Los Angeles County, Israel has, in its 70 tumultuous years, made incredible leaps and bounds. From a backwater of the crumbling Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, Israel catapulted itself to becoming a cultural and economical powerhouse by the onset of the 21st. It is truly a significant player on the world stage; harboring yet-undiscovered treasures from the past as well as yet-undeveloped technological marvels of the future. Israel is by no means perfect, but that’s also what makes it so emphatically human. Just like all other nations, we have corrupt politicians and social dissidence, we have unemployment and poverty, and we have what is probably the most inflammatory land dispute in the history of the world, which sadly has become so entrenched in the quagmire that it will likely take generations to resolve. No, Israel is not perfect, but it is most certainly a very special place indeed.
Hi everybody , where back with a brand new episode!
This time on TBI , we host the lovely Gal Bepole! a twerk and pole dancing instructor who lives in Tel Aviv. Gal is here to talk to us about positive body image, sexuality in Israel in 2018 and the way dancing influenced her life.
We thanks her again.
As always – our recommendations
Tzach recommended you take a look at the graphic memoir “Arab of the future” by French-Syrian author and cartoonist – Riad Sattouf
Mike recommended you take more naps! cuz he apperantly needed one and thought to help the world by insisting that you have one as well…
Gal recommended you challenge yourself! and pay someone to do it.
I went to a Roger Waters show in the all new U arena in La Defence Paris – spoiler – it wasn’t fun. Pride parade in Israel was awesome yet again, though still, after all this time , we remain as primitive as a 3rd world country with out LGBTQ laws … hope you enjoy
This is Tzach from the Talkin’bout Israel and stuff podcast. on behalf of the TBI crew I would like to wish you a lovely holiday and hope you and yours are doing well. Shavuot is less familiar to secular jews in the diaspora but celebrated non the less ! and is the time of year they preform what’s called “confirmation” ceremonies. a late arrival to judaism, introduced by the reformed movement about 200 years ago. the ceremony is a way for a Jewish teenager to “confirm” thier adult commitment to the religion. the link to Matan Tora is natural. Those of you living in warmer climates, i urge to pick up a bucket of your freshest water, and douse the kids while they’re on the phone haha , it’s great fun. Did you know that some synagogues decorate their walls with paper cuts of flowers and the like ? do you know why ? well, Shavuot is the time of bikkurim! and in ancient times , farmers would bring offerings of fresh fruit and crops to the temple. commemorating in the same fashion , some synagogues would decorate with greenery and flowers, but, seeing how it closely resembled a christian tradion, they went with the papercuts instead. Do you know why we eat dairy ? seeing how there are at least 6 reasons within the jewish world, some remind us of the Zohar book , some Gemetria; but most logically is the relation to the giving of the Tora to the people of Israel. with the acceptence of the Tora, kosher laws were also recived, rendering all meat in possesion , not-kosher. there for , they ate dairy. Some Israelies still remember efforts by the dairy company ‘Tnuva’ to advertize on Shavuot years ago. choosing to look mainly at the ritual of the farmers presenting fresh produce to the temple as the main tradition, seeing Shavuot as a holiday where we celebrate Israeli produce. I personnaly see the holiday as a way to remind ourselves to celebrate creation, instead of consumption. and with the reciving of the Torah , please have in mind; that some one Gave it to you. this is our time of year to remind ourselves what kosher realy means, and not get lost in tradition. examine life so it may be worth living. What ever the case may be! i hope you have a great holiday period. in this juncture i would also like wish our Muslim friends a Ramadan Kareem! stay safe with this terrible heat wave we are currently going trough. And how’bout you take a listen to our latest episode – #15 with the lovely Rabbi Scott Westle. We Talk’bout the relations between Israel and the Diaspora. we talk’bout Scott’s time in israel in the beggining of the second Intifada, and as always give you our recommendations. much love, stay safe and celebrate life!
Mike’s good home boiii Rabbi Scott Westle joins us to discuss some really cool stuff !
We talk’bout diaspora israeli relations , we talk politics and religion.
yessir, this one is a mature episode , but on a light fun note
Thanks to Scott for joining us and to you the listener for your ongoing support
As always , our recommendations –
Tzach recommended you take a look at Maus by Art Spigelman
A comic about his father’s experience in the second world war.
Scott’s rec , apart from his love for the ongoing BKV + Fiona staples comic – saga, is that you take a peek at the works of Donald Glover , from his time in ‘Comunnity’ to his rap persona – Childish Gambino – and his latest hit “This is America”
Mike recommended you check out the board game “King of Tokyo”
During more than 3,000 years, countless vicious enemies have paraded across the stage of antisemitism, and we have miraculously succeeded in surviving them all. Even today, with the looming threats of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, ISIS, and more, the people of Israel can never be completely at rest. Yet I am convinced that of all these hate-filled, xenophobic warmongers, the absolute most dangerous enemy facing the Jewish people in the year 2018 is the Jewish people. Jewish businessmen make billions by swindling their brethren; Jewish Israeli politicians line their pockets by defrauding the state and prevent mass social progress to protect their private interests; radical Jewish fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge the bond with their “less-observant” compatriots, thereby creating a religious monopoly on what purports itself to be a pluralist democratic safe haven for all Jews.
In theory, our spiritual leaders tell us that we are a beacon of understanding, the people of the book, a light unto the nations; yet in practice we use our past victimization to justify current atrocities against our very own people. Modern Israel has become a dog-eat-dog battlefield for personal survival at any cost; we ignore history and its valuable lessons as we desperately search for individual material success, totally blind to the exorbitant price of our selfish obsession with personal gain. Our infighting and lack of tolerance for ourselves leaves us weakened and vulnerable, suggesting that we are no more enlightened than those who have perpetually committed themselves to our destruction.
As Passover, also known in Hebrew as the Holiday of Freedom, draws to a close this year, I pray that we, both as individuals and collectively as a people, will find the strength, wisdom, and humility to love our neighbor as ourselves, to not judge others but rather to examine our own actions, to not whitewash past transgressions but rather to strive for an understanding and internalization of the moral lessons contained therein. I pray for a miracle that will enable us to survive the mortal threat of our own greed, self-loathing, and tragic penchant for always wanting more. May all the humans of Planet Earth be blessed with tolerance, understanding, and peace. Hag Sameach!.