Azrieli Center – Tel Aviv

•June 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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Background: The Azrieli Center, completed in 1999, is a set of three skyscrapers (one circle, triangle, and square) in near the Ayalon Highway and HaShalom railway station. It was built by David Azrieli and is known for its framed white design and architecture. The circular tower (187m, 617ft) was the tallest building in Tel Aviv at one point. The bottom houses one of the largest shopping malls (canyon in Hebrew) in Israel and at the top of the circular tower is an observation point and restaurant.

Impressions: The view from the top of the Azrieli Center is great (but tinted blue because of the windows). You can see pretty much all of Tel Aviv (Jaffa is harder to see because it’s hidden by some tall buildings) and you realize how flat the city is. But that lets you see for miles, out to the Mediterranean and into Israel. It was a nice, peaceful view of the city, and a great last experience of Tel Aviv…

PS: At the bottom is a strange park with triangular prisms, where Rana says she will have her wedding..

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Tel Aviv University

•June 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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Background: It’s a university in Tel Aviv.

Impressions: Tuesday and Wednesday were holidays in Israel (Shavout) so Rana was nice enough to give me a tour of her campus. Tel Aviv University has a pretty campus, some parts reminded me of UCSD, and it feels more like a college/university than the Weizmann or Caltech did. The Medical Center (Sackler) is where Rana spends 15 hours a day but it’s amazing that the medical school is one big building.

Also, because Rana didn’t want to take a photo with her school I’m posting a picture of her in front of a pirate playground at the Azrieli Center (see above post): click to zoom

Ayalon Institute – Rehovot

•June 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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Background: The “Ayalon Institute” was the code name given by the Haganah (Jewish paramilitary group) for a clandestine underground munitions factory during the British Mandate, underneath Kibbutzim Hill, just north of what is now Rehovot. The “institute” was operated by a pioneer group (Hatzofim Aleph) beneath an ordinary, functioning kibbutz (whose members ignorant to the operation were known as “giraffes”) and created more than two million bullets in three years which would be used to fight during the war. It was the largest Jewish bullet factory at the time until the War of Independence in 1948, when all the equipment was moved to Tel Aviv (and no longer needed to be kept a secret). The Ayalon Institute became a National Historic Site in 1987 and made a museum.

Impressions: The Ayalon Institute is pretty impressive when you think of what actually happened. The members dug a 250 sq meter room four meters underground, whose entrances were covered by a bakery – to cover up the smell of gunpowder (underneath a giant oven), and a laundry machine – to cover up the noise (see photos). Inside were rows of machines used to cut and cast bullets, a small firing range to test, a tanning salon (to cover up the workers’ stories and keep them healthy), and alarms to alert the works if a giraffe or the British were coming. The bullets were smuggled out underneath large milk cartons and shipped to the Haganah. Any spark could have exploded the entire room, and seriously damaged the kibbutz in the process. During the tour you go down through the bakery and get to see the original machines and how they were operated. It’s crazy to think they spent years down there manufacturing bullets in such a small space in dangerous conditions, and that they never got caught.

Be’er Sheva

•June 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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Background: Be’er Sheva is the largest city in the Negev and the 7th largest in Israel. Its name, also known as Beersheba, literally translates to “well of seven” (seven wells) and “well of oath.” In Genesis 21 King Abimelekh seizes a well dug by Abraham (seen in the photos), and an oath of peace was made between the two when Abraham offers the king seven ewes in return for the recognition as the owner of the well. Elsewhere in the Bible, Be’er Sheva is the location of an altar built by Isaac, where Elijah takes refuge from Jezebel, and where Jacob leaves before having his dream. The ruins of the ancient city can still be seen (see next post). In the past the city had been a popular replenishing point for travelings crossing the Negev, but now has become a major city. Due to its proximity to the Gaza Strip, Be’er Sheva was recently the recipient of a lot of missiles coming from Hamas.

Impressions: When I told my lab I was going to Be’er Sheva over the weekend they told me not to. There’s nothing there they said. It’s pretty much true. There isn’t too much to see in the desert town besides the tel and an Air Force Museum outside the city. Another main tourist attraction is Abraham’s Well (see photos), basically a hole in the ground with a nice fence around it (it was closed when we were there). On Thursdays there’s a large Bedouin Market filled with goats and chickens, etc. Though its in a desert, we kept seeing signs and reading about small rivers and streams running through the area, but all we found was this strange white creek (see last photo). Nevertheless, it’s still to see that the country is trying to tame the desert, something Ben Gurion said needed to be done if the country was to thrive.

Tel Be’er Sheva – Be’er Sheva

•June 4, 2011 • 1 Comment

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Background: Tel Be’er Sheva National Park is the historical city of Be’er Sheva and is located just outside the city, near Omer and Tel Sheva. The “tel” (a man made hill)  is about 20m higher than its surrounds (300m above sea level)  and has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BCE.  A tel is characterized by layers upon layers of settlements, in this case starting with the ancient Chalcolithic and Iron Age settlements, with Persian, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman, and Arabs building new layers of cities, temples, and fortresses on top. Historically, Tel Be’er Sheva is the biblical Beersheba, where various Old Testament stories occurred (Abraham dug a well, Isaac built an altar, Jacob dreamed his stairway to heaven dream, and where Elijah took refuge. The site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

Impressions: Tel Be’er Sheva is similar to Tel Megiddo, but looks much more like a city. The ruins here are much more complex and intricate; you can see walls and streets and the remains of houses, and it really feels more like a tel and a complete city, than a set of ruins. At the beginning stands a replica of the large four horned altar (the original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem), thought to be built by King Hezekiah of Judah. A large metal (and ugly) tower stands in the middle of the tel, and has great views of the ruins and the surrounding cities. Under the tel is a dimly lit subterranean water system (last photos in the set) where you are required to wear hard hats. There are also a ton of friendly lizards scampering around. The site isn’t easy to get to so there are generally not too many visitors, which made our visit nice.

Yom Yerushalayim

•June 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today (June 1st), is Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), which commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six Day War in 1967, between Israel and Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. The war was the shortest in Israeli history and ended in the capture of the Old City and East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Jerusalem Day is a minor religious holiday, celebrated in the city by ceremonies, memorial services, parades, etc. Above is the flag of the municipality of Jerusalem.

Lebanon

•May 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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Just kidding (but not really).

Rosh HaNikra (see below), is right on the Israeli-Lebanese border, and you can go right up to the militarized zone and touch no-man’s land / Lebanon. So I can say I touched Lebanon. Sort of. This is the closest I can get as I can not enter the country (I have an Israeli entry stamp) until I get a new passport, because Israel and Lebanon, where the Hezbollah plays a major role in the government, have no peace treaty.