Foto Friday – Viewing Israel with Rafael Ben-Ari

February 25, 2011 - 7:48 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Art, design, Foto Friday, General, History and Culture, Picture of the Week, Travel 

Rafael Ben-Ari is a noted Israeli photographer and educator with over 20 years experience. He’s worked for Israeli and international newspapers and magazines, traveled extensively and his photographs has been presented at exhibitions and countries around the world.

Ben-Ari also runs Israel Photo Tours, which offers one-on-one private photography workshops and lessons in Israel. These are day tours, says Ben-Ari, “for photographers on all levels who are serious about their craft and wish to improve their skills while seeing Israel.”

Ben-Ari’s experience with cameras ranges from analog 35mm, digital, and SLR to panoramic and underwater cameras. Light is essential to his work and on location, he makes use of both artificial and available light and light. His students, he states, “learn the art of using light to capture the true essence of Israel”.

He suggests various tour itineraries, such as the ancient, sun-washed city of Acre for those who love the picturesque…

© Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

The dusty Negev desert for those interested in archeology and nature…

© Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

Jerusalem, the city central to Judaism…

© Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

The places holy to three monotheistic religions…

© Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

And for a change of pace, the beaches, sun and fun of Tel Aviv.

© Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

There are a lot more wonderful pictures to view on the Israel Photo Tours website, along with contact information, itineraries and testimonials.

Nostalgia Sunday – 1 Year Later: GLBT Youth Center

Sometimes its important to look back at the not-so-distant past and take a measure of how far we’ve progressed — or not.

Despite yesterday’s infernal heat, thousands of people, gay and straight, gathered in Tel Aviv to mark the one-year memorial anniversary of the GLBT Drop-in Center killings that took two young lives, injured 13 physically and damaged countless others psychologically.

Last year, photographer Gil Lavi documented the spontaneous outpouring of emotion and mourning that followed the horrifying event. The shooter has still not been found.

At the time, Lavi wrote: “This occurred inside a community center for gay and lesbian youth who are afraid to come out to the wider community. A man with a loaded gun came in at around 11pm and opened fire. The statements coming from the police say that he wore a mask. You could say that all those youths who depended on this center for their free expression are forced to wear a mask on a daily basis. Their mask doesn’t cover their face, rather their soul.”

This year, there are signs of increasing tolerance on the horizon and — at least as far as the secular community is concerned — they come from an unexpected source. Orthodox rabbis and educators from Israel and abroad have created and signed a statement of principles “on the place of our brothers and sisters in our community who have a homosexual orientation”. “We hope and pray that by sharing these thoughts we will help the Orthodox community to fully live out its commitment to the principles and values of Torah and Halakha as practiced and cherished by the children of Abraham, who our sages teach us are recognized by the qualities of being rahamanim (merciful), bayshanim (modest), and gomelei hasadim (engaging in acts of loving-kindness).”

Let us hope that these prayers provide much-needed direction to the children of Abraham and come true, speedily and in our days.

Nostalgia Sunday – The Tallest Building in the Middle East

December 6, 2009 - 6:25 PM by · 4 Comments
Filed under: General, History and Culture, Nostalgia Sunday, Pop Culture, Travel 

migdal_shalom_skyscraper 2It happened as we were discussing the lovely Nahum Gutman print (pictured right). My co-worker and I were trying to figure out the north-south axis of the old Herzliya Gymnasium at the center of the piece. Gymnasia Herzliya, as it continues to be known, is one of Tel Aviv’s best high schools but from an architectural standpoint, the razing of the old building in 1958 was a tragedy. So much so that a few years ago, some good souls banded together and put up a gate in the shape of the old building in front of the new.

But back to what happened. “I think that the front of the building is the side of the Kolbo Shalom,” I said to my co-worker. He looked at me and said, “You must really have been here a long time to call it that.”

He then proceeded to tell me his childhood memories of taking the bus to visit the Shalom Meir Tower, the skyscraper that was built on the site of the old gymnasia. Everyone has a story about that building which, for decades, was the tallest building in the Middle East.

It was – and is – 142.00 meters high, 36 floors including an observation deck. In it’s heyday, there was the department store called Kolbo Shalom. A wax museum featuring the great Zionist and Jewish leaders of the era – have your picture taken with Herzl or Ben Gurion! A mosaic mural wall by Nahum Gutman about the history of Tel Aviv – still well worth a visit. And of course, the Ministry of the Interior, where a thousand tears were shed each day, many by me, trying to navigate the red tape of becoming a citizen and staying sane. (I am not sure it worked).

But back to the Shalom Mayer tower! There is a great deal of factual information available at Emporis, a website devoted to tall buildings around the world, and there is a nice Wikipedia entry, that reads, in part:

“50,000 cubic metres of concrete, 4,000 tons of steel, 35 kilometres of water pipes, and 500 kilometres of wiring were used in the tower. The building has a cream hue tile facade which was created especially for the tower and was manufactured in Italy.”

That light color and repetitive pattern make it a favorite photographic subject for Tel Aviv locals who bring out the magic in an otherwise plain edifice that has in recent years been outstripped by high-rises in Tel Aviv, Givatayim and Ramat Gan such as the Azrieli Center, the Platinum Tower, Yoo Tel Aviv — not to mention Dubai, which today boasts the tallest buildings in the Middle East.

Today, the Shalom Tower itself is a nostalgic relic of a time when tall buildings were hard to come by, especially in our little corner of the world. In recognition of that fact, the Bauhaus Center shop has a small-scale ceramic Kolbo Shalom on offer. Order online or visit them at 99 Dizengoff St., Tel Aviv.

The Ministry of the Interior has moved to nicer offices close by the Azrieli Tower but people still cry there a lot.

And if you want to see that pathetic attempt to replicate what was once the magnificent Herzliya Gymnasium, visit the present Gymnasia Herzliya at 106 Jabotinsky Street and look for the front gates.


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