Ariel Sharon Park, Tel Aviv

Built on and around a 60 meter high mountain of trash known as Mt. Hiriya, Ariel Sharon Park in Tel Aviv, Israel is a unique project of environmental rehabilitation, community education and engagement, and recreational greenspace.

The park uses cutting-edge technology to clean up land, air and water polluted by decades of accumulated garbage. At the base of Mt. Hiriya, three recycling plants respectively convert construction materials into gravel, dry organic materials into mulch, & sewage waste into energy. Through anaerobic digestion, microorganisms break down organic materials. The process creates methane and carbon dioxide, more than enough biogas to power the recycling plants. This renewable energy source is also carbon neutral. ArrowBio recycling technology harnesses the natural forces of gravity, flowing water and wind to sort all kinds of solid waste materials. 80% of materials that pass through these plants are recycled.

The public park is opening in stages and is set to be fully open in 2020. At around 2000 acres, it will be more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park. As of early 2018, visitors can enjoy walking and cycling trails, thriving wetland areas, long views of Tel Aviv and the surrounding area and guided tours.

 

 

NAME THAT COUNTRY

Shakshuka has roots in North Africa but is practically the national dish of our Middle Eastern mystery country. This country is a cultural melting pot, with Eastern and Central European, Mediterranean, North African, and Middle Eastern culinary influences (not to mention Balkan, Ethiopian, Yemini, North American, Iberian…)

There are many variations on Shakshuka, but basically it is a stewy mix of peppers and tomatoes in which eggs are poached. Eaten with good, crusty bread, it’s nutritionally balanced, with complex flavor that manages to be intense and mellow at the same time. Click here for a recipe.

This mystery country is increasingly known as a food and wine destination. See our Culinary Tour for a glimpse of the possibilities.

 

Can you name that country? 
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Merry Christmas from Bethlehem!

Bethlehem

Bethlehem

Bethlehem is located in the West Bank, about 6 miles south of Jerusalem in the Judean Mountains. It’s home to one of the largest Arab Christian communities, now about 40% of the population, but once around 85%. It’s a small city of about 25,000, with tourism as the main industry.

Besides being the traditional birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem is the birthplace of King David and the site of the tomb of Rachel. Rachel’s tomb, on the edge of town, attracts Jewish and Muslim pilgrims, but Bethlehem’s star attraction, by far, is the Church of Nativity in Manger Square, in the center of town.

The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

The original church was built upon orders from the Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena around the year 327. The emperor Justinian rebuilt the church a couple hundred years later, and that church still stands, the oldest church still in use in the Holy Land. Beneath the church is a cave believed to be the actual spot where Mary gave birth to Jesus. The earliest written accounts of Jesus being born in a cave date from the 2nd century, but the oral tradition is likely much older. Many houses in the area are built up against caves, which were used for storage and animal shelter.

The very spot upon which Jesus was born, according to tradition. This is in a cave under the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.

The very spot upon which Jesus was born, according to tradition. This is in a cave under the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.

Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem? Most scholars think not. Two of the four Gospels, Matthew and Luke, place the nativity in Bethlehem, although the details differ. The other two Gospels, Mark and John, don’t address Jesus’ birth at all. According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah would be descended from King David, and David was born and raised in Bethlehem. Accordingly, the prophet Micah foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. It could be that the writers of Matthew and Luke symbolically placed Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem in reference to that prophecy. Journalistic accuracy was not intended or expected.

Personally, I don’t think it matters where exactly Jesus was born, but I do find it interesting to think about the context in which the Gospels were written and their intended audiences. Although they carry an eternal message, the form that message takes tells us a lot about the world of the first Christians. Matthew cites the genealogy of Jesus back through David and ultimately to Abraham. That would have been meaningful to a Jewish audience. Luke’s genealogy goes right back to Adam to encompass all of humanity and he exults the newborn Jesus as savior of the whole world, not only of the Jews. Luke was writing for a Greek, gentile audience.

Getting to Bethlehem is easy, just a short drive from Jerusalem. Tourists pass through an Israeli check-point from Israel to the West Bank Palestinian Territories. Israelis are not allowed to enter, so if you’re on a guided tour, a Palestinian guide will meet you on the other side.

Christmas Eve Midnight Mass is held on December 24-25 at the Roman Catholic St. Catherine’s, next door to the Church of Nativity. Tickets (no charge) are required to attend the service. Christmas is celebrated in Bethlehem on January 6-7 for the Greek, Coptic and Syrian Othodox Churches and on January 18-19 for the Armenian Orthodox Church.

NAME THAT COUNTRY

As the cradle and world center of the mystical Kabbalah tradition, Safed (also spelled Tsfat, Tzfat, and a number of other ways) is one of four holy cities in our mystery country. Located at and elevation of 3,000 feet in the far north of the country, the town’s sweet air, crystalline light and mountain views attract many artists as well as spiritual scholars and pilgrims.

Can you name that country? 
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NAME THAT COUNTRY

This is Jaffa, also known as Yafo. It’s one of the world’s oldest ports, a major commercial hub in the Mediterranean as early as the Bronze Age, at least. Just behind the headland, and peaking around the end, is a thoroughly modern city, where settlement began less than 150 years ago.

Christians know Jaffa as the place where Peter raised Tabitha from the dead and where a vision on the roof of Simon the Tanner’s house compelled him to preach to Gentiles, as well as Jews. Jonah set out from Jaffa port on his fishy adventure, as told in the Biblical Book of Jonah and in the Koran.

Can you name that country? 
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Foto Friday – Israel

Some images from our friend Larry Bell and his July 2017 group to Israel ~

archaeological dig score!

archaeological dig score!

Bedouin lunch in the Negev desert

Bedouin lunch in the Negev desert

mural of the Cardo, the main thoroughfare of Roman Jerusalem

mural of the Cardo, the main thoroughfare of Roman Jerusalem

at the Harod Spring, where Gideon's army of 300 was selected to fight the Midianites (Judges 7:1-8)

at the Harod Spring, where Gideon’s army of 300 was selected to fight the Midianites (Judges 7:1-8)

in the Pilgrims' Tunnel in Jerusalem

in the Pilgrims’ Tunnel in Jerusalem