Monday, April 30, 2012

Yemen, So Close Yet a World Away

If you could get in a boat in Eilat and sail south on the Red Sea to the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, you would arrive in the Republic of Yemen, a nation rich with oil reserves but with a population that is one of the poorest on earth. Yemen, a colorful land that played an important home to Jews throughout the ages, has recently been in the headlines due to its role in the Arab Spring protests.

The L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem is hosting a stunning photographic exhibition entitled “Travels to Yemen 1987 - 2008”. The lens of renowned Israeli photographer Naftali Hilger’s camera offers a rare glimpse into a society caught far behind the rest of the world.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Google Takes to the Streets of Jerusalem

“To help you explore Israel’s history and present, we’ve launched imagery of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Haifa on Street View,” Google announced on its official blog yesterday. “You can explore the narrow streets of Jerusalem’s Old City and each of its four quarters, walk along the Via Dolorosa and see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, visit the Western Wall and the Mount of Olives,” Google said.

In the coming months, Google will add imagery of the Dead Sea, Nazareth, Eilat and other Israeli towns. In the meantime, virtual visitors can already take 360 degree tours of some of Israel’s most popular attractions.

While not providing specifics, Google officials said at the official launch yesterday that they had met with security officials and had worked to ensure that Google Street View doesn’t constitute a security threat to Israel.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hiking Upstream of the Damaged Yitla Gorge

Last week Haaretz reported on the damage caused to the Yitla Gorge in the Judean Hills by the construction of a railway bridge, as part of the high speed line to Jerusalem scheduled to be completed by 2017. “The gorge we knew no longer exists,” said Avraham Shaked, a nature preservation coordinator with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

The mini-canyon of Nahal Yitla, a valley located to the northwest of my home in Moshav Neve Ilan, was considered as one of the “deepest and most impressive in the Jerusalem Hills.” The “Yitla Stream is situated in the heart of one of the best preserved Mediterranean grove areas in the Hills,” said Ze'ev Hacohen, a ranger from the Nature and Parks Authority. It “functions as a habitat for a variety of cliffs plant species and as a nesting site for predators species like falcons, buteos and eagle owls," he said. Yitla is not actually a stream, as there is no water in the valley.

Despite the ominous reports of environmental damage, on a hike upstream from the site of the controversial railway bridge I discovered beautiful, pristine green scenery in totally serene surroundings.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Author Interview with Kim Wright

Last year I read and reviewed a debut novel, Love in Mid Air - a story of American housewives that can best be classified as “chick lit”. I began corresponding with author Kim Wright because her follow-up book had nothing to do with that genre, but rather with the path authors must take in order to get their books published. As an aspiring novelist I have been following Kim’s advice for some time, and I’ve watched as her writing has gone off in new directions. I interviewed Kim to learn about her books and her plans for the future.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What Can Israel Do About the Suffering in Syria?

A total of 21 people were killed in Syria on Saturday despite President Bashar Assad's acceptance of a six-point plan that calls for an immediate cease-fire with rebels and an eventual democratic transition. According to officials at the United Nations, which is pushing the cease-fire plan, the estimated number of Syrians killed in the 13-month conflict is more than 9,000.

Israel and Syria are still technically at war, with much more than a disputed border separating the two nations. Yet Israelis cannot help but empathize with Syrian civilians bravely fighting the oppressive rule of Assad’s government. Unlike NATO’s intervention in Libya, it doesn’t seem as if the West desires to get involved in Syria’s internal strife. Is there anything that Israel can do to alleviate the suffering in Syria?