Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tel Aviv Fruits of Abundance

Israelis love anything organic and fresh, which is why fruit stands are scattered in almost every corner of the city. Here is a typical fruit stall in Tel Aviv's HaCarmel Market, the shuk where I buy most of my day-to-day needs. Carmel is where I regularly go to while I was still in Tel Aviv City, Israel. Although, if I need just a few pieces of tuna cans or a small bag of rice, I can always have them at 24 hours along Yerushalayim street or even at Andromeda Store located at our apartment's ground floor. Still, the best market to head to during Fridays is HaCarmel.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

My Top 5 Must-Revisit Places in Tel Aviv (If I Get the Chance, that is!)

A few months more and it will be 3 years that I am out of Israel. I left Tel Aviv November 19, and as a boarded the plane bound for France that day, I swore that I will be back.

Three years (almost) and it still remains a dream. But if I have to, I can wait three years more. I’ve plenty of time still to gather the necessary resources (read: 100% money).

It’s a good thing I don’t need a visa anymore to visit the White City. Hopefully, a round trip ticket will land on my lap, as well as a few thousand dollars – and I will hop on a plane to Israel in a heartbeat.

Here are the top five places in israel that I will visit again – If given the opportunity:

1. Yafo

Specifically, I need to visit Shuk HaPishpeshim, walk the length of Yerushalayim and Yefet, check out Jaffa Beach, and stay at the Clock Tower square. I don’t think a week then passed by that I didn’t get to see these places in Yafo.

2. Carmel

While there is a vegetable store and chicken and lamp shop in Yerushalayim, I spent my Friday mornings going to this market just to get everything I need. I would love to visit the Makulit, a friendly Israeli vendor who sells vegetables endemic to the Philippines and Southeast Asia such as kangkong and gabi.

3. Takana Merkazit

This is the Old Central Bus Station and mall that caters to Pinoys. I remember everyone at work going to Takana during Thursday evenings to have their dollars changed to shekels, buy phone cards, and check out cell phones and other gadgets.

4. Tel Aviv Beach

When I was new in the city, the only place that was easy for me to go; since it’s nearest the apartment is the beach. One of the best in the world, my revisit will certainly not be complete If I don’t get to walk along the beach of Tel Aviv again.

5. Bnei Dan

Quiet, romantic, home of Hayarkon Park, Ph Embassy – It will certainly be a dream-come-true not only if I am able to to travel to the White City Israel again, but also if I get to walk this street again. The list is actually endless. Either I will edit this post to add more or simply write another article. But definitely, I will also be able to write a post about my revisit to Israel.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Tips and Advices to an Exhilarating Vacation in Israel

Finally, your dream of seeing the Holy Land will turn into a reality. You have booked yourself to a flight to israel and in a few weeks‘ time, you will board that plane and travel half way around the world to see all the wonders that this uniquely beautiful and vibrant Middle Eastern Country has to offer.

Here are first few tips to follow so that you will have a truly enjoyable and exhilarating Tel Aviv vacation:

1. Got your passport ready?

You won’t be able to go through Ben Gurion International Airport if you don’t have a passport.

Make sure that you have an appropriate visa to present as you arrive at the airport.

There are countries that do not require tourist visas if the visitor’s stay is a short one, like 30 days or less.

It’s best that you inquire at the Israeli Embassy of your country to find out if you still need to have a tourist visa stamped on your passport.

2. Print your e-ticket

Make sure that you buy your round-trip tickets to Israel on a single airline. And if you are given an electronic ticket, it is a must that you print a copy of your itinerary as this might be required by customs personal upon your arrival. .

3. Make a tour plan

Before you even fly to Tel Aviv, Israel, you must be able to draw out a specific tour plan or itinerary.

Try to be specific by assigning every day of your entire stay to specific places; this way, everything becomes convenient and easy as you visit and enjoy top sites in TA, the Old City, and other Israeli cities.




4. Know how you can go around the city or country

It’s good if you already have been booked to city tours ( day or night tours, via walking, bus, or even Segway) that abound in the city. Some are free while others require you to pay a minimal fee. It’s advisable that you join few of them since tours come with professional guides that are great sources of information about the place that you visit.

With city tours, you maximize your knowledge and enjoyment of various sites and places such as Tel Aviv-Yafo, the Old Jafa Port, Jerusalem, Old Acre, Haifa, and many other historic and Biblical sites in israel.

However, if you want to go around Tel Aviv by commuting, taxis are cheap and aplenty. On the other hand, two of most common modes of public transportation in Israel are the auto bus and sherut. Both are identified via number, although auto bus strictly picks off and lets off passengers in designated bus stops while sherut can practically stop on any point. You must have more or less 6 shekels as fare for sherut and auto bus.

5. Bring the appropriate clothes

Summer

If you will visit during summertime, then you must pack your luggage with boardshorts, cotton shirts, and sneakers. The mighty Tel Avivi sun can do serious some beating as far as damage to the skin is concerned, and so the best accessories are those that can protection from UV rays such as sunglasses, visors, towels, and a bottle of sun block.

If you happen to lack in summer wear, you may stop by and purchase good-quality summer apparel at Castro, a premium israeli-owned clothing brand, or even Fox.

Winter

You are truly fortunate if you are able to experience snow in Jerusalem, since this is a rarity in the city as well as the rest of the country, except for Mount Hermon and other surrounding places in Golan Heights.

Despite the absence of snow during a normal winter season, it is very cold. This is which is why you mustn’t forget to bring along one or two scarves, gloves, jackets, winter caps, and ear warmers – great protection against the extreme weather.

6. Be ready with your currency

You can call Tel Aviv a shopper’s paradise as the city has its share of great shopping centers and streets where you can satisfy your shopping needs. Some of the most popular shopping spots in Tel Aviv are Dizengoff Mall, Ramat Aviv Mall, and Shefayim Center.

Affordable wear can also be found at the shops along Allenby Streets, where shirts can be had for 25 to 50 shekkels, while sneakers are available at 100 NIS. Judaica shops are also found at Allenby and Ben Yehuda Streets.

Be ready with your shopping money, which must ideally be in Shekkels. You can convert your US$ dollars to the Israeli currency at numerous money changers that are found in strategic places throughout the city. Have your International Master or Visa Card available as well. They are widely accepted in major stores, hotels, and establishments within the country.

7. Know some Hebrew

While you are still a few weeks or days aways from your flight to Tel Aviv, why don’t you use your spare time becoming familiar with the language – which is Hebrew?

Some of the most common Hebrew Words that you must be familiar with are Kama (How much), Toda Rada (Thank You very much), Beseder (Fine), Bevakasha (Please), and Boker Tov (Good morning).

You don’t have to go through formal courses just to be able to learn much about Hebrew/. Many basic courses on the Internet are free and more than enough to help you to obtain a good grasp of the language.

Be familiar with usual Hebrew lines for everyday greetings; or when talking to the taxi driver, or you’re in the market, restaurant, or Tel Aviv hotel where you stay.

A Hebrew-English dictionary – not the bulky, comprehensive one but just pocket-sized, is handy as you can use it as a reference when conversing with a local.

8. Be familiar with the local custom

While you’re getting familar with Hebrew, why don’t you go further by learning about various customs and ways of the Israelis. Be particularly aware of things that are offensive to locals.

Even if you are a guest, and might reason out that you are not in the know when it comes to israel’s customs and social habits, this is a flimsy excuse. You don’t want to insult your host because of your ignorance, do you?

9. Aware about Shabbat?

Don’t be surprised when everything comes to a stand still (well, sort of) as soon as dusk of Friday sets in. Shuk HaCarmel is closed, as well as most other markets. This is the same with shopping centers, restaurants, bars and clubs. Auto buses are nowhere in sight.

This is in observance of the Shabbat, wherein everyone refrains from any work activity starting Friday sunset up to Saturday evening the next day, when the three stars begin to appear in the night skies.Although there are some stores who are open for business on this day, albeit illegally.

Best activity to do during shabbat? You can enjoy some promenade along Tel Aviv beach or enjoy picnics at Hayarkon Park. I don’t know if it’s traditionally allowed to play Matkot during Shabbat; but beach paddle, which is the unofficial Israeli pasttime, is a game that’s just perfect to while the time away.

Perhaps you are bound for a well-deserved holiday in Israel – whether to explore its city‘s beaches, nightlife, and shopping; or become immersed spiritually during an enlightening stay in Holy jerusalem. Either way, you only need to become aware of these simple tips and advices and you will immensely enjoy your stay in this Jewish state.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shawarma and Falafel – “Unofficial” National Foods of Israel


Anyone who has been in Israel long enough will surely have eaten and fallen in love with Shawarma and Falafel. Indeed, these two food fares are some of the most delectable dishes in the state. Despite being Arab in nature, both the two have acquired become national foods (unofficially) of Israelis.

Shawarma

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This is a pita sandwich that’s filled of  lots of strips of meat; which can be beef, turkey, chicken, or beef, and fat. The meat is cooked evenly as the spit rotates in a slow fashion in front of a heat or flame, much like a rotisserie.

Specialty restaurants in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, or even just small food kiosks; have one or two skewers cooking two different meats everyday to accommodate eager, hungry clients. In Israel, shawarma is a national food, I must say. It was brought to the country by the Arabs and Mizrachi Jews of the country. The fare started as lamb-based during the 70’s and 80’s. In the 90’s, poultry meat, especially the turkey meat, became a popular option.

The best-tasting one can be had using the freshest of pita and some delicious cucumber salad. Most restaurants sell it with hot (and a little soggy) French fries and hummus. I love to have it with a few pieces of jalapenos. Yummy! Photo by: Ronny Nussbaum

Falafel

Falafel
This is another great food that Israelis have learned to love to include in their daily fare. It is a ball made from grounded chickpeas and deep-fried in hot oil. Traditionally an Arab food, it is served in pita; which the bread working like a pocket to accommodate a number of balls.

Many food stores allow their customers to be the ones to place the balls into the pita. I try my best to squeeze in 10 to 12, pushing the balls further down onto the bottom of the pita. I like my sandwich best with green salads, onion, hot sauce, hummus, and tahina. Wow, mine was a really packed one! If your hunger can’t be satiated by my sandwich, I don’t know what can!

Falafel is not an original Jewish food. However, the Israelis have taken this dish as their very own. Again, it was brought to the country by the Mizrahi Jews and adopted by the earliest Jewish groups of immigrants to the land of Palestine. I just love this food, and considered it as a regular snack while I stayed in Israel - especially whenever I strolled along Ben Yehuda, or had to take a quick bite while I did my grocery at Shuk HaCarmel.

There you have it – two of the most popular Israeli dishes that you must try if you get the chance to go to Tel Aviv, Israel. They may not be originally Jewish, by the people have embraced them as their own, and even made variations that might be considered as a whole lot better. Which of the two I like better? Hmmm, do I need to choose? All I can say is that I can brag about being able to eat both in a sitting. Both are simply favorites! Pic source: Premshree Pillai

Friday, September 14, 2012

Take a Peek at Tel Aviv Yafo



If you are in Tel Aviv, you will certainly not miss Jaffa. This is an old Mediterranean city that traverses and mixes with the modern touches of a great City. Imagine being in a port that has weathered everything for more than 3000 years?

The Municipality sees immense potential of Jaffa, in terms of Tourism and Economic development. Local and international vacation goers and travelers consider this Mediterranean Israeli port as one of the finest destinations that they can visit and enjoy.

The places boasts of the historic Jaffa Hills, where you can roam around its maze of galleries, museums, Judaica Shops, archaeological ruins, churches, cafes and restaurants, among many others. There are small budget and backpacker hotels that you can go to and book for a great and affordable stay in the city.

Here are a number of historic, popular places that you can go to in Yafo:

1. Clock Tower – Originally built in order of a Turkish King, this tower now serves as the gateway to the city's northern areas. Surrounding it are multitudes of cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, and Castro, a major Israeli clothing retailer.

2. Shuk HaPishpeshim – A very popular flea market. The best time to go the market is on a Friday morning. The traffic of people, both buyers and sellers, is at its peak before lunch time. You can get anything that your heart desires from Pishpeshim; used clothes, home appliances, segway, gizmos and gadgets, fishing equipment, shoes, ladies’ accessories, and so much more. With 100 shekkels or even less, you will have your fill from Hapishpeshim.

3. Jaffa Beach – Less number of people go here compared to that in TA beach, which stretches farther into North of the City, where the top Tel Aviv hotels are situated. It is one of the best beaches to go to for some quiet time with the family, a walk with the dog, or some play with the Frisbee or Matkot, a paddle game that is considered as the unofficial sport of Israel.

4. Yerushalayim Road – one of my favorite roads in Israel. Here, I can have all the fresh, luscious fruits that I want as fruit stands abound along the stretch of the road. There are two groceries that sell some of the cheapest home and food items. Yerushalayim also boasts of affordable meat shops and chicken stores; they allow me to stay put, instead of having to travel to Carmel Market.

Just at the corner of Yerushalayim and HaYamit is the Superpharm Store, which is a complete source of the Israelis’ medicine and toiletry needs. You can go to its Dollar Store for any item that you might want to send as gifts to young kids.

Simply, one of the places that you mustn’t forget to visit while in Israel is Old Jaffa.

Visiting the place will give you more understanding about the history of Tel Aviv Israel, and how it came to be the modern Jewish City that it is today.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rains of Tel Aviv

I remember in Tel Aviv, I decided to buy some bread from Piece of Cake, one Friday morning.

It was a gloomy day. I thought it was one of those days.

I had gotten used to Tel Aviv, Israel’s dark-grayish skies that seemed like rain is forthcoming, but would not deliver.

But, that day it did. And rain poured down like madness.

People inside the bakery came to the windows to check on the waters as they gushed through the sidewalk gutters, like fast-flowing stream.

Rain waters created a torrent of sorts, quickly rising up to the levels of the sidewalks of HaYamit.

In Israel, rains are few and far between.

Hence, for most Israelis, rain is like a blessing. Manna from the heavens is more like it.

I can only imagine the awe and gratitude those people in Piece of Cake must have felt.

How I wish I could bring them all to Manila and experience its monsoon rains.

Ten minutes and it has done. The rains were gone.

The skies, however, treated them to a spectacle of rain waters.

I treated myself to some piping-hot, freshly baked potato bourekas.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Riding Sherut around Tel Aviv



Sherut, the bright yellow-colored min van operating as a shared taxi service, is a popular transportation means in Israel and one of the most visible vehicles in most of the streets, boulevards and highways in and out of Tel Aviv. Unfortunately however, they do not include Yerushalayim Street in Jaffa where I lived in their usual routes and so I had no other choice but to take the autobus when going to Allenby or Tachana Merkazit. [The picture here shows a sherut in Tachana Merkazit (Central Bus Station) turning right at the corner, presumably to go straight to the sherut terminal].

But from these points, there are plenty of sheruts to take. Number 4 from Allenby brings passengers to any point along Ben Yehuda Street. On the other hand, the Sherut (no 5) that starts its route from Merkazit will take you all the way to Bnei Dan Street, where the HaYarkon Park is located. You can take No. 5 if you need to go to Dizengoff Main or in any of the upscale boutiques that line Dizengoff Street.

It is also in Merkazit where one can take the sherut going to Jerusalem. You only need 20 Shekels, which is the Israeli currency, to pay the fare to Jerusalem. I guess it must cost much more now because the last time I took sherut to Jerusalem was in 2010. I should say that it is definitely a much faster way to go to the Old City, which is more or less, 30 minutes, as compared to taking the air-conditioned buses.

Needless to say, sherut is one of the most convenient ways of going around or even touring Tel Aviv. Many Israelis are quite dependent in this taxi service. In fact, sherut is one of my favorite means of commuting around the city. It is fast, convenient and needs only 10 or 11 seats to fill up. Best of all, it doesn’t have its own stop, which means if you are a passenger, you can get off wherever you want – just remember to say “Ani po” to the driver, which is Hebrew for “I am here.”

On an occasion of riding the sherut, there was a passenger standing up on the aisle of the vehicle. While I should say he did quite a good balancing act, I do not know if this is permitted. But I think it is in the discretion of the driver if he would allow a standing (hunched is more like it as I believe it is not possible to stand straight inside) passenger. As it turned out, another passenger got off upon arriving at the nearest block. Apparently the driver intended the vacated seat for the poor passenger.

To the uninitiated, it is a rule to help in moving the fare from back passengers to the driver. So do not be embarrassed to extend your arms. If you position yourself at the back, it is alright to tap at the person in front of you and give him your money. He will do the same to the person seated in front of him and so on until your money finally reaches the driver.

What’s great about the sherut is that they ply their routes even on Shabbat, not like the autobus, which disappears from the streets starting at 5 PM of Friday afternoon. However, you must be ready to shell out more than the usual fare, up to double the amount, you take the sherut on Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Jewish Holidays. Indeed, with autobus out of sight during these days, sherut is one of the few options left to go around the city, and a convenient one at that.
Image credit: isotype75

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mugraby Hostel - Tel Aviv Hostels

When I was new in Israel, I decided that I want to continue my online writing gig which I have been doing all the while in Manila. However I had yet to install a computer with Internet access. So what I did then was to travel riding my bike to Allenby at Mugraby Hostel just to rent a computer. It is one of the few internet cafes I knew then and so I really did not mind going there all the way from Jaffa.

What I didn’t realize that it is also one of the most popular Tel Aviv Hostels. Anyway, Mugraby Hostel is special for me as it is in their Internet café that I discovered the wonders of blogging. By accident I happened to enter a website that discussed blogs and online marketing. It defined a blog as an online daily journal. I really got interested about the topic and I really thought it was cool to have a blog myself. And so My Share of Sun in Israel was born.

Right now, I am slowly building up a blog on everything about the city and Tel Aviv tours, something intended to have tourists better acquainted with the city, albeit in a more personal way. Hopefully, I get to post more regularly and eventually fill it up with a lot more informative facts about the city and Israel in general.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Tel Aviv Flights – Want to Fly to Israel?


Everyone loves Tel Aviv. It is seen by many as the most cosmopolitan among the many Cities by the Mediterranean Sea. And this is why Tel Aviv flights are among the most in-demand of all flights going to the Middle East.

What can any visitor expect from this amazingly cool city that will make him immediately fly to Israel? Known to many as the White city, if only because of the thousands of predominantly white-colored Bauhaus structures found all over this Israeli Capital. It can be quiet especially during Shabbat, which usually starts before the Friday sunset and ends Saturday evening shortly after 3 stars appear. Shabbat by the way is the 7th day of the Jewish Week, and is the version of the Sabbath.

You can actually go and walk along Yerushalayim or Yefet Streets (where you can find the famous Abuelafia Bakery) in Tel Aviv Yafo and notice how cars hardly pass by. Most stores are closed except for some, which actually got permission from the government just to operate during Shabbat. By the way, popular Israeli clothing shop, Castro has its branch in front of the Clock Tower open for operation as well as most other branches anywhere in the city even on Shabbat.

Going back to the city's quiet weekend, it can be deceiving as the action can actually be seen on the beaches of Tel Aviv, like the Jaffa Beach, as well as that in front of the rows of Hotels, including Hilton, Marina and Sheraton. If you are somebody who loves to stay at the park for hours, then in Tel Aviv, Israel it is certainly a place to go during weekends or even weekdays. Some of the more visited parks of Tel Aviv are the Bnei Dan Park and the Charles Clore Park.

Another very visible establishment in the City is the coffee shop; it seems to have café on corners of every street. Apparently, Israelis are coffee lover, and more often than not they enjoy having their piping hot cup of coffee or choco with great conversations among friends. As it is, these are reasons why when you are in the city, you can actually have the best of both worlds – lots of quiet time if you need it and piece of the action if you decide on some city fun and excitement. Indeed, there are so many great things to do in Tel Aviv.

Despite the expensiveness of an average Tel Aviv flight, a lot of tourists still have serious plans for their trip to Israel. Normally a round trip ticket from the USA starts at $1,200.00. You can actually trim down the price by making thorough research online for some cheap flights to Tel Aviv. There are actually airlines which offer significantly discounted air fares at certain times of the year. Scouting for tickets can require loads of work but the effort is actually worth it as you will most likely land a ticket with a price that you can definitely afford.

The best time for a Tel Aviv tour is during the good weathers of springtime and fall. One is sure to experience the best climate and is definitely conducive to touring around the city via car service, the traditional taxi, sherut, which is the Israeli version of Taxi or autobus, the Israeli bus. Tel Aviv weather during these times of the year are generally pleasant and so is the perfect time to go to the famous Historical and Biblical Sites found in the city as well as in Jerusalem and other places.

Suffice it to say, for those who want to travel to Israel and enjoy immensely all the country’s awesomeness, Tel Aviv Flights can be had by easily purchasing your plane tickets to Israel from major airline companies such as El Al (the state's national air carrier), Arkia, Cathay, Air France, Continental and US Airways. All of these airlines have website on which you can log on and check on prices. You can certainly compare prices of various plane tickets to Israel in order to land the best priced ticket, one that’s most appropriate for your budget. With little work, you are sure to be seeing yourself fly to Israel in no time at all. The fact is, I have plans myself of going back to country, a year from now or a little later. Even after more than five years of uninterrupted stay, I seem to not get enough of it. I simply miss the place. So, see you all there!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Tel Aviv Apartments – Israel’s Bauhaus

There's no doubt about it, Tel Aviv Apartments of Bauhaus architecture are certainly one of the more unique residential types this side of the world. Bauhaus architecture prevails in the city of Tel Aviv, with more than five thousands of these buildings found scattered in the capital and all over the country. I used to call them white colored box buildings when I saw them upon arriving for the first time in Israel. This is likewise the observation of most; this is why the Jewish City is also known as the White City.

Here is a short clip on Bauhaus Tel Aviv Exhibits, which discusses briefly the particular architecture. It likewise offers detailed view of this fascinating building type, which in my opinion is the most livable, airy, roomy and easy to maintain Tel Aviv Apartments.