Today in Israeli History: British Mandate

Herbert Samuel, T.E. Lawrence and others at Cairo Convention

British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel at the Cairo Conference

I am inaugurating here a new blog feature where I will periodically highlight something historical that is connected with the day on which I am writing the post. These will be fairly short, and hopefully will open windows onto interesting people and events throughout this land’s history.

Today I will start with the British Mandate era. Following World War I, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate Period began here, lasting just over a quarter of a century until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The start of the British Mandate was 93 years ago today, on July 1, 1920.

Often, when you hear Jews discussing the British Mandate Era here, they describe it in negative terms. People complain that the British were pro-Arab and anti-Jew. It is for this reason that they nicknamed the Jerusalem location of the High Commissioner’s mansion as the “Hill of Evil Counsel.” The name relates to a site which, according to Christianity, Judas met with the leaders of the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus. But that site was almost certainly not at this spot, as it is too far from Roman-era Jerusalem. Rather, the name stems from the fact that Jews here thought that the end of such a long period of Muslim rule would bring good things for their life. But when they discovered this was not 100% the case, they sarcastically nicknamed it after that event.

That same building, located a short 10-minue walk from my home, also gave its name to the next neighborhood over from me: Armon HaNatziv (Hebrew for “The Governor’s Mansion”). Nowadays, the building is occupied by the United Nations, so many Israelis might think the “Hill of Evil Counsel” name might once again be appropriate.

[Read more…]

Spring is Springing in Israel

Fresh produce in mahane yehuda market, Jerusalem

These mangold leaves were fresh in the shuk this past week

One of my favorite things about food in Israel is that almost all of our produce is grown locally and is only available when it is in season. While I sometimes miss being able to make any dish at any time of year, like I could in the States, I know this is more environmentally friendly and that the produce is better too. Plus, you get really excited when a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t seen all year comes back into season!

With that in mind, I wanted to start keeping track of the various things as they come into season at the shuk (outdoor market) here in Jerusalem. I’m not going to be doing this in a truly formal fashion, but I do want to do my best to at least increase the available information about what is in season when in Israel. And while I did find this series of posts from the author of the Israeli Kitchen blog up at the Green Prophet website, I figured I’d take it a drop further. Just another part of my exploration of culinary Israel!

[Read more…]

Jerusalem From The Inside

Under construction tunnel for Jerusalem Train

The currently under-construction tunnel for the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed train. (Photo from Batim MiBifnim site.)

Of all the annual cultural events, festivals and public spectacles in Jerusalem, Batim MiBifnim/Houses From Within stands alone. To those lovers of Jerusalem who have been before, it is one of the most anticipated events of the year, while to many others it remains one of the most overlooked treasures in the city’s cultural calendar.

Every year, over the course of a weekend, scores of Jerusalem public buildings, institutions and private homes open their doors to visitors. Many even offer guided tours. And best of all, the entire event is free of charge!

[Read more…]

Jerusalem, Meet Jerusalem: Nahalaot

Nahalaot Street, Jerusalem

Nahalaot, Jerusalem

This coming Friday, July 20, I will be leading the next in my continuing series of Jerusalem walking tours — Jerusalem, Meet Jerusalem. Following logically from my prior tour of the first three Jewish neighborhoods built outside the walls of the Old City (Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Machane Yisrael and Nachalat Shiva), I am now giving a tour of one of the more unique neighborhoods in Jerusalem: Nahalaot. Nahalot finds it origins just a few years after those earliest neighborhoods, and expands on the settlement patterns those first three neighborhoods established.

[Read more…]

New Walking Tour Series: Jerusalem, Meet Jerusalem

An early drawing of Mishkenot Shaananim, Jerusalem, Israel.

Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the first neighborhood built outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, in a 19th Century engraving (late 1860s?)

For some time now I have wanted to apply my knowledge as a licensed tour guide in Israel to help my friends and acquaintances learn more about their country. Obviously, the bulk of my work will be with incoming tourists, but most Israeli residents and citizens love to explore their own country almost as much as foreign, visiting tourists. So one of the things I am beginning to do is run a series of short walking tours in different neighborhoods of Jerusalem, the city I live in and love.

I am entitling the series “Jerusalem, Meet Jerusalem” because it is largely designed to help Jerusalemites better get to know the city they live in. But of course these Jerusalem walking tours are also open to tourists and Israelis from other cities!

[Read more…]

A Walking Tour on Yom Yerushalayim

MMY girls and Fun Joel, Israel Tour Guide at the Haas Promenade / Tayelet

Me and the overseas students from MMY Seminary at the Haas Promenade / Tayelet

As many of you know, today is the 45th Yom Yerushalayim / Jerusalem Day, the holiday that celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 during the Six Day War. In celebration, I was asked to give a tour to a group of overseas students in a gap year program here in Jerusalem. They are studying for the year at the MMY Girls’ Seminary, and they are located in my neighborhood. So the tour was supposed to both focus on the subject of Yom Yerushalayim, but also to tell them more about the neighborhood they’ve spent the year in.

I’ll briefly review the whole tour, but I want to really focus on our last stop, at the Tayelet, or Haas Promenade.

[Read more…]

What Is… Shawarma?

Turkey Shawarma Roasting on a vertical spit. Fun Joel. Israel Tour Guide.

Look at that succulent roasting meat on a spit. Yummmm...

I love food. I love eating it and I love cooking it. Most people would consider me a “foodie.” And Israel has so much amazing food that it is a foodie’s dream country.

That’s one of the reasons why Israeli culinary tourism is one of the niche areas I’ve been developing for myself, in addition to the general tourism that most people want. Winery and brewery tours, visits to other boutique food production facilities, guided tours of shuks (outdoor markets), trips to agricultural installations (both current and historic) and of course meals in some top-notch restaurants. Any of these options can contribute to a specially designed culinary tour, or worked into a general itinerary for a little spice.

But my approach to food and the foodie mentality is not snobbish. To appreciate the culinary offerings of a country, one must often look at the meals of the common man. Working-class restaurants and street foods are among the truest culinary delights that most cuisines have to offer. And this is no more true than here in Israel. Which brings me to this specific post.

[Read more…]

This is Not a Political Post

Mughrabi Bridge, Jerusalem, Old City. Israel tour guide. Fun Joel Haber.

The Temporary Mughrabi Bridge in the Plaza of the Western Wall (photo courtesy of Flickr user Ariela R.)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I hate politics.

But living in Israel and working in the field of tourism, it is fairly difficult to completely avoid dealing with political issues. Nearly every visitor has heard things about the political situation and/or sees things that relate to the issue. So they will inevitably ask some questions.

And it would not be right for me to ignore these questions. So the way I handle them is to respond in as objective a manner as possible, all the while recognizing and admitting that it is actually impossible for anyone to be truly objective. I try to relate the facts as I see them, and try to keep my opinions out of things. When Israel does or has done something wrong, I admit them. But when I see lies or misrepresentations that damage Israel’s image, I will speak out against them as well.

[Read more…]

Israel Mystery Photo #16

Menorah Mosaic. Israel Mystery Photo. Tourism. Tour Guide. Fun Joel Haber.

Look carefully at this one!

For those wondering how the test went on Sunday, I’ll be writing another post soon in which I review the exam. But suffice it to say that I feel fairly good about my performance on it and am just waiting to hear whether or not I passed. Results in a few more weeks, I guess.

And now on to the previous Israel Mystery Photo. As 3 of 4 commenters answered correctly, the photo was taken at the 9/11 Memorial in the forest on the northwestern outskirts of Jerusalem. It is a place that I’d been wanting to visit for a while, and was very happy to hear about even before I visited. I was finally able to get there a few weeks ago, and was not disappointed.

[Read more…]

Top 10 Things to Do in Jerusalem – Part 1

Jerusalem Old City.

The Old City of Jerusalem

I love lists like this, where people list the top things to do in a certain place. But I find that often those lists are just a rehashing of the tourist sites you can find in any Lonely Planet, Let’s Go or Fodor’s Guide. And other times they list a number of places that barely scratch the surface of the location.

So I wanted to do something a bit different with this post. This is not a list of ten places to visit in the Holy City of Jerusalem. This is going to go a little bit deeper. I want to give you some things to do so that you really get a feel for what life in Jerusalem is like. So I have chosen ten categories of things that will help you feel like a Jerusalemite while also seeing, smelling, hearing and tasting everything that my wonderful city has to offer!

Due to length, I’m splitting this post into 3 parts. Now, in no particular order…

[Read more…]