General · History · Lifestyle · Tel Aviv

Lady Godiva in Tel Aviv

Thank you Theodor Herzl for having created Israel in Israel. Did you know that here we have 300 days of blue skies a year?  It’s fall and we reach the 30°. Yes, that is a big deal for a Belgian. And no, I’m not only here for the good weather. What is it that makes this country so special? Why do people leave behind their good lives in far away countries to start over here? It’s loud, it’s chaotic; life can be rough and tough. Welcome to the jungle?  It’ll take more than this post to explain the phenomenon and many have tried. Books have been written about the success story of this tiny little country, like this one: Start-up NationThe book addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel – a country only 60+ years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources—produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada, and the UK? How is it that Israel has, per person, attracted over twice as much venture capital investment as the US and thirty times more than Europe?

In Israel there are about 7 million inhabitants of which 76% are Jews, 16% Muslims and about 2% Christians, Druze and other religions. Tel Aviv has around 400,000 residents of which half are under the age of 35. How does such a young country create its identity?  I can only share with you my perspective. Who are we and who do we want to be? We Wonder, We Wander. Tel Aviv has European and American influences yet is it is Middle-Eastern and Meditteranean. The population consists of immigrants from all over. Ashkenazis, Sefardim, so many roots and cultures mixing in. On a sociological level, many try to define that Israeliness. What is typical Israeli? What does “Rak be’Israel” (only in Israel) really mean? By locals is it mostly used for the bad side; I’m all about balancing it up.

Why is it so difficult to just stand in line here? Because we are ‘The Chosen People’? Why do cars need to honk all the time? What’s with the Chutzpe? Israel. The only country with Katiushes coming from Lebanon, Scuds from Irak, bombshells from Syria, Suicide bombers from Gaza but a bedroom apartment in a dump building is more expensive than in Paris, London or NYC. The only country in which we can build computer programs to fly drones and high technology, but to get a technician for the tv we wait a week and he might show up between 11 and 6. Israel Post. Packages I send/receive in the mail hardly ever arrive. Fed Ex Israel does not deliver packages at all. Making aliyah, going to the bank, dealing with bureaucracy definitely confirm the ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ slogan. And why don’t cars let ambulances pass? Some men go to the beach in their underwear; wtf? Politeness, aesthetics, style, finishing are just not always priorities here (yet?).  My daily encounter of having to explain to Israelis I’m not French but Belgian. Why give me an english menu while I just spoke Hebrew with the waitress? Maybe I will always be considered a foreigner here. And in my country of origin. Everywhere. But all by all: I’m in love with Tel Aviv and I do feel at home here!

I used to have a little radio item called Lady be Tel Aviv in a show by two journalist friends Attila Somfalvi and Raz Shechnik on 102fm in which we would discuss these ‘Rak Be’Israel’ items. Every week I’d share some experiences like the above . We’d talk about semantics (and how there is no right translation for certain words like stam, titchadesh, bekarov etslech, baktana) or the advantages of dating an ‘olah chadasha’ (no fighting for family diners) with an accent (quite impossible to have a serious fight). Listen to the Purim item (08-03-2011) or live in the studio (25-03-2011).  

“Fragments of Tel Aviv” photos by our special guest photographer Kara Bieber from London. Backed by the Anglo Israel Association, Kara is in Tel Aviv undertaking a major photographic project highlighting the very best of creative talents in the country. Aimed at showcasing Israel’s image as a hub of creativity and innovation, the completed body of work will form an exhibition and possibly an accompanying book which will be launched in London in 2013 . Visit Kara’s website – Facebook page 
History · Lifestyle · Tel Aviv

Jewish Holidays Indian Summer

What better than to start your summer when most summers are over? I’m not a beach person really; I mostly hate the sand everywhere. But at this time of the year I love it. The big heat and humidity of July August is gone. And so are the many loud tourists. Finally it’s calm, I’m back and the city is mine again. I feel my feet in the white sand, I swim in the clear sea and spend hours just enjoying the weather until after sunset. When does one have time to spend days at the beach? Never. Or during the Jewish holidays. You almost have no choice. Nobody’s working anyways.

This month we celebrate Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year 5773), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). Each holiday has its history, meaning and traditions; and families have their own rituals around them. Rosh Hashana is the New Year and starts at sunset (like all Jewish Holidays) with a big traditional family diner. One of its main symbols is the dipping of apples in honey. To have a sweet year. On Rosh Hashana God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book called the Book of Life and waits until ten days later, at Yom Kippur depending on wether the sinner repents or not, to “seal” the verdict. During those Days of Awe, a Jewish person tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against other human beings (bein adam lechavero). Leonard Cohen’s song “Who by fire” is inspired by this prayer from the liturgy of the Day of Atonement:

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed
How many shall die and how many shall be born
Who shall live and who shall die
Who at the measure of days and who before
Who by fire and who by water
Who by the sword and who by wild beasts
Who by hunger and who by thirst
Who by earthquake and who by plague
Who by strangling and who by stoning
Who shall have rest and who shall go wandering
Who will be tranquil and who shall be harassed
Who shall be at ease and who shall be afflicted
Who shall become poor and who shall become rich
Who shall be brought low and who shall be raised high.

We start Yom Kippur with a big dinner before commencing a 25-hour fast. I consider myself a secular Jew but this tradition is one I keep. I go to synagogue and I pray; in my own way. I question myself, I look back at the past year. Have I been a good person? A better woman? What do I expect and wish myself and my beloved family and friends for the coming year? Oh what am I lying, I ask myself those questions every day. Anyways; Yom Kippur is the day Jews ask for forgiveness. A day to repent. The end of the fast is sounded by the Shofar, a ram horn blown by the rabbi in synagogue. And then we go and eat again. What touches me is that Tel Aviv, a city that is not known for its silence nor religious practice, feels sacred on Yom Kippur. Just this holy silence for a day. And as soon as it’s over, Tel Aviv ignites again in its dynamics. This video by a colleague from StreetIsrael shows the power and impact of Yom Kippur on daily life.

During Sukkot Jews build a Sukkah (booth) where meals are eaten and the Mitzva is to host people in it. Sukkot refers to the temporary dwellings that we are commanded to live in during this holiday. Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (“Rejoicing with/of the Torah”) mean the end of Sukkot and mark the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle.

Chag Sameach & Shana Tova dear readers…

Wishing card from the Israeli website Nostalgia Online archive

 

History · Lifestyle · Restaurants · Tel Aviv · Uncategorized

Good vibes at Jaffa Flea Market

There’s no doubt about it, the hotspot for your summer Tel Aviv nights in 2012 is the Jaffa Flea Market. The area has been developing immensely in the last few years and maybe it’s only the beginning. One could write about the flea market itself – ‘shuk hapishpeshim’ in Hebrew – for furniture and antique shopping or for wandering around the old galleries looking for cheap souvenirs (from Chamsa bracelets to little scarves, from jeans and leather to Thailand merch). I’d rather tell you about its most charming and magical spots: “Pu’a” for lunch and “Fleamarket” for dinner. Jaffa is only a few blocks away from south Tel Aviv and Neve Tzedek but it brings you in a completely different atmosphere. Call it Tel Aviv’s Soho or Camden, Jaffa is over 4000 years old and bursting with energy.

Pua was established in 1999 and is described as a ‘beloved, veteran and unique café-restaurant’. It is so quiet in there. The place is named after owner Puaa Ladijensky. Their menu is plain and simple; it is homely and healthy and most of the dishes are based on typical Israeli and Middle Eastern ingredients. Their green Tehina is legendary. Believe me, it’s a great “show off spot” when you have foreign guests. Serve them a fresh Limonana as you sit down (Lemonade with fresh mint) and they’ll forget about the heat. The décor at Puaa is the outcome of constant love and care. The place is full of ornaments and all of its furniture, including the tableware, is for sale.

  

photo credits Pua: http://www.rol.co.il/sites/eng/puaa for reservations: 03- 682 38 21

Flea market has been opened recently by 9 partners including famous chefs and bar owners. It’s located next to Pua on an alley called Rabi Yohanan. We Europeans love to sit outside in the hot breeze but for locals there’s the inside with AC in a super stylish design conserving the Flea Market’s vibe. The menu has a creative mix of Mediterranean dishes combined with the chefs personal inspiration. If you like seafood, get the grilled Calamari in its own black ink. Our favorite dish is called “Shoarma of Ossobucco” and is served with little al dente black lentils in creme fraîche and a yellow smooth sauce I couldn’t name. Never have I intended to become a food critic or write a gastronomy blog. I just like to share with you the places I love.

For reservations: 03- 620 22 62

photo credit Eyal Marilus

photo credit Aviad BarNes

photo credit Daniel Chechik

Architecture · Art · Entertainment · General · History · Lifestyle · Music · Restaurants · Tel Aviv

Live music on Jaffa Port’s waterfront

Tel Aviv is divided into 9 districts that have formed naturally over the city’s history. The oldest of these is Jaffa, the ancient port city out of which Tel Aviv grew. There’s much to write about Jaffa, I’d talk about the flea-market or the ancient city but let’s focus on the port today. The Old Port of Jaffa is reputed to be one of the oldest ports in the world, notably being the port from which Jonah set off in the famous Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale. Its long and fascinating history as  strategic port in the Eastern Mediterranean continued until only recently when new ports were built south of Tel Aviv in Ashdod and north in Haifa, to cater for modern-day shipping methods. Still functional as a small fishing port, the port is currently a recreational zone featuring many restaurants and cafes with lots cultural and artistic activities.

One of my favorite spots in the Namal (port in Hebrew) is called The Container. The Container is an industrial warehouse from the 1920s that has been converted into an art project space, bar and restaurant, located on the waterfront. The NY times recently wrote: “The space fuses Red Hook grit with Levantine glam, incorporating a sweeping, 45-seat horseshoe-shaped bar under a warehouse-high ceiling that affords nice views of both the oversize wood oven in the open kitchen and the rotating exhibits on the walls. Adding to the mix is a three-times-a-week D.J. set.” And live gigs:

As my brother is coming to visit Tel Aviv again, we set up a little concert there. On Friday July 6th at 10PM, N8n will perform with his Israeli band led by drummer Ori Raz for another night of good vibes by the water, some good old funk and some new ‘raw’ material. People are advised to reserve tables, entrance is free. Join us!

More info: http://www.namalyafo.co.il/http://www.container.org.il/  03- 683 63 21

Jaffa Port – photo credit Dani Jordan

The Container by night – photo credit The Container

The Container inside – photo credit Liron Erel

The Container inside – photo credit The Royal Excursion

https://www.facebook.com/events/318911194866710/

http://n8nmusic.com/

Art · Crafting · DIY · History · Uncategorized

Got my Singer workin’

Some people got their mojo workin’. I got my Singer workin’. Until now I had a very nice Singer sewing machine ‘borrowed’ from my boyfriends’ mom (it was his grandmother’s). I practiced a lot and made some fun stuff (pouches, pants, aprons, bags etc.) I thought that was a ‘retro’ machine (it has a pedal and works on electricity), until I found out there is an even older machine coming my way.

My belated grandmother was a professional sewer. I had heard the stories, how she would sew uniforms for the kids of the village where she was hiding during the Holocaust and that she had sewn a secret pocket in her bra to put a few diamonds so she could buy food during the war. My father mostly remembered playing “Tram” with it where he would be the conductor. Kids remember the sounds, smells and move of their mothers sewing and threading for a long time and it evokes a lot of nostalgia.

My grandmother, Daisy Ouziel (1915-1985), died from Alzheimer when I was only a kid. I always heard how much I look like her, talk like her, move like her, dance like her. How I bite my lip like her, etc etc. So apparently I’ve also inherited the sewing passion. My uncle took  the machine with him when he moved to Australia with his family. In 2010 he died, sadly. After discussing it with the family, we all came to the conclusion it would make sense to ship the Singer sewing machine to me in Israel.  How beautiful is it to close the cycle, to have this machine here in Tel Aviv in my home. There was a lot of work to do to repair it and get the wheel back to spin, but here it is finally. I got my Singer workin’.

Art · beauty · History · Lifestyle · Tel Aviv · Uncategorized

Random aesthetics in Tel Aviv

Renovated building & old water tower (Nahmani Street)

Renovated apartment building (Ahad Ha’am Street)

Habima Theater (Rothschild Boulevard)

Bauhaus Center (Dizengoff Street)

View from “Bet Ha’ir” – former city hall (Bialik Street circle)

Special event hosted by TLV mayor at the former city hall (Bialik Street circle)

“Bet Ha’ir” – former city hall (Bialik Street circle)

the Felicia Blumenthal Music Center (Bialik Street circle)

Nachum Gutman Fountain (Bialik Street circle)

Gruzenberg Street

Art · Fashion · History · Lifestyle · Uncategorized

In with the Old – Living Fashion

Have you ever seen a historical movie, like Marie Antoinette or Titanic or even Gone with the Wind , and drooled all over the dresses the women in it were wearing? If so, you have to visit the exhibition “Living Fashion. Women’s daily wear 1750-1950”, on display in the Antwerp Museum of Fashion (MOMU) till April 12.

“Living Fashion” presents over 100 silhouettes from the Dutch collector Jacoba de Jonge and gives an overview of the clothing worn by middle-class women between 1750 and 1950. In the 19th century, the growing social importance of the middle classes brought with it a new group of wealthy citizens who wanted to show off their status through their clothing and behavior. To illustrate this relationship between living in that time period and fashion, the exhibition shows specific sets of dresses: from domestic apparel to traveling outfits to maternity dresses, or dresses for sports and shopping. Every activity required specific apparel. In addition to the clothes these early fashionistas wore, daily organization also followed fashion trends. Mornings were for indoor activities, the afternoons for visits and ‘outdoor activities’, and each moment of the day had its own particular dress code.

Seeing all those dresses and keeping in mind how many times women changed clothes in one day, I returned home with the comforting thought that my (very full) closet is actually not that big in comparison. Time to go shopping?

A big thank you to Merrymaker Ruth for joining me in my fashionable time travel.

Talk soon,

Sien Josephine

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