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.

Foto Friday – Elyssa Frank has a TLV secret

May 28, 2010 - 7:45 PM by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Art, Foto Friday, General, Life, Sports, Travel 

Photographer Elyssa Frank is passionate about Tel Aviv. You can tell from the albums she posts on her Facebook page MADE in ISRAEL. A few days ago, before the dust storms hit and our skies turned yellowy-white, Frank took a stroll somewhere.

Frank likens the expanse of mossy rocks and sea to the Irish countryside… Mediterranean-style.

And through her lens, the shells that wash up on the shore become jewels…

The album is entitled “Someone shared a beautiful secret with me…” and Frank won’t disclose the location. But it’s easy to spot a few landmarks, like the old lighthouse… and the running path by the Israel Electric Corporation’s Reading power station pretty much gives it away!

Nonetheless, it’s nice to know that between the dance clubs, restaurants and sports facilities there are a few quiet spots left at the Tel Aviv Port.

More of Frank’s street photography is available on her MADE in ISRAEL page (check out the series on the headphone street party that took place last weekend). Portfolio collection viewings available upon request.

Foto Friday – Ron Shoshani’s Israel Eye Candy

March 5, 2010 - 2:49 PM by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Art, Foto Friday, General, Israeliness, Picture of the Week, Profiles, Travel 

The first thing people think when they see works by Ron Shoshani is that they aren’t really photographs. They are. But given our generation’s obsession with artifice, Shoshani takes care to ensure that his models – in his case, buildings, cities and even rocks – wear a healthy layer of makeup.

“Everything undergoes cosmetic treatment these days – models, TV presenters, even chefs dress up their food. We put makeup on everything. And that’s how I relate to photography. But the subject has to have a good basis. And when I take pictures, I look for and show the beauty.”

Using what he calls his ‘Secret Sauce’, Shoshani is able to make things appear as if they’ve been sprinkled with a dash of ‘Ever-So-Much-More-So’. “I always check the weather before I go out to photograph. Some things look better in daylight, others at night. I generally examine a site 2-3 times before the actual shoot. And I wait for the right day.” Working with a digital camera, he takes an initial set of photos after which the real work begins.

“The ‘Secret Sauce’ is to select the site, get it under the right weather conditions and then I start the maquillage. I can work on a frame for three days, I can work on it two weeks – post-processing or retouching – what people call Photoshopping, though I don’t necessarily use that.”

Israel becomes beautiful through Shoshani’s lens, particularly Tel Aviv, a city that can appear unlovely and unkempt to the uninitiated. “Every major city in the world has an image, like a poster, that shows it is an interesting cosmopolitan place. I wanted to create that sort of image, that makes people say ‘Wow, I want to go there!’”

Shoshani is also well-aware that his audience has both little viewing time and a limited attention span. “People view thousands of images a day and the amount of time people will spend on looking at a photo is maybe a quarter of second. So I try to create ‘eye candy’, one shot that will make you stop and think and see things not as they usually are. I try to make people look in wonderment. The photo of Tel Aviv skyline… you can look at it a long time.”

Shoshani’s work hangs in the lobbies and meeting rooms of Israeli companies. “They are proud of Israel and want to show that it’s a modern, technological and inspiring place.” Many more images are on view at his Facebook page and framing-quality prints may be ordered directly by writing to (Shoshani says his prices are “comfortable”). Since posting his work on Facebook, Shoshani has received thank-yous from all over the world. “I got over 600 comments in three days. People were very emotional, writing things like ‘You should show this to the world’. I’m happy to. It’s not Zionism. I just think this country has an enormous variety of things to see.”

Nostalgia Sunday – Netanyahu’s fixer upper

February 22, 2010 - 12:01 AM by · 2 Comments
Filed under: General, History and Culture, Israeliness, Movies, Music, Nostalgia Sunday, Politics 

The members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet went on a little trip today up to visit historic Tel Hai in the Galilee. Going on tiyul is quite common this season — dozens of people are hiking Shvil Yisrael, the Israel National Trail this month — but it’s unusual for members of Knesset to move en masse out of their comfort zone and into the periphery.

However, this was a special occasion. Today being the 90th anniversary of the battle at the Tel Hai compound — itself refurbished thanks to the efforts of The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS) — it was selected as an appropriate time and place for a cabinet meeting to approve a comprehensive plan, the largest ever, to “strengthen the national heritage infrastructures of the State of Israel”.

What is a national heritage infrastructure? As set out in Netanyahu’s plan (called TAMAR which in Hebrew is the acronym for “national heritage infrastructure”) it consists of about 150 “tangible/material cultural resources” (archaeological and historic sites) and “intangible/nonmaterial cultural resources” (archives and collections of literature, poetry, philosophy, arts, crafts, music and song, dance, theater, film, traditions, holidays, festivals, ceremonies, etc.) all in need of rehabilitation and/or enrichment. TAMAR will cost almost NIS 400 million, and will be funded by private donations to be matched by allocations from the budgets of 16 government ministries.

The list of sites — which is not yet finalized — includes 37 archaeological sites, 39 museums and collections, and 62 sites relating to Israel’s Jewish and Zionist heritage — many literally crumbling to bits, such as the magnificent painted ceiling in Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim Yeshiva. There are also 13 projects in the “intangible/nonmaterial” category that would restore cultural resources like the backlog of yet-uncatalogued movies still in cartons at the Israel Film Archive – as well as upgrade the archive building itself.

Two additional trails will be created in addition to Shvil Yisrael, promised Netanyahu, one a historic trail of archaeological sites from the biblical, Second Temple and other eras in the history of the Land of Israel, the other a trail tracing the places and events that gave rise to the modern-day State of Israel.

Netanyahu couldn’t have given a better example than this one: dowdy, dingy Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. “It is good that the city is open to the world and good that the city is alive and moving forward. But at 16 Rothschild Boulevard, there is a small auditorium in which the State of Israel was declared. There, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, declared the State of Israel.

“The hall is run-down. I am not saying that it is about to fall over but as far as the many young people and others, who flock to the street, to Rothschild Boulevard, are concerned, they do not know it. They do not visit it at all. And therefore, we will rehabilitate Independence Hall.”

The long-term payoff for TAMAR, say the plan’s authors, will be NIS 630 million in annual tourism revenue, job creation in the amount of 3,500 permanent positions plus 800 more during the 5-year period of the plan’s execution, and development of tourism to the Negev and Galilee regions. Later this week, the cabinet is due to approve the national transportation plan joining the Galilee and other regions to an accessible national transportation grid.

The cabinet also made a separate decision today on a new building for Israel’s National Library, funded by a donation from Yad Hanadiv (the Rothschild Foundation).

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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