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A Family Road Trip in Israel

My father is Middle Eastern. I have been to Israel a few times, but never with him, and never through the eyes of a local and native. There was something magical about seeing where my father grew up. There was something so lovely about imagining him, young, unwrinkled, touching the shores of the Mediterranean Ocean. It was all so dreamlike. My husband and I are both the children of immigrant fathers – his from Morocco and mine from Israel. We first bonded over having fathers that did not quite understand America’s love of baseball, fathers that prepared strange foods (Shakshuka, Albondigas), and fathers that still saw America as a land of great hope and social change.

When I was married in August, 2013, my father had one wish. He really wanted to bring his new son (my husband, Michael) to his native homeland. The three of us embarked on an epic journey to Haifa, Megiddo, Gamla, Tiberias, Caesarea, Bethlehem, the Mount Beatitudes, Capernaum, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Golan Heights. Oh my!

Jaffa Old Port, Israel 2014 via The Walkup

The ancient port city of Jaffa is famous for its a lighthouse, known as Jaffa Light, that is located above the port. From its base one can look at multiple synagogues, mosques and stone-streets in one direction, and the modern city of Tel Aviv, with its looming skyscrapers, in the other direction.

TheShuk, Tiberias and Tel Aviv via The Walkup

The beaches of Israel are world famous.  This small country is blessed with three seas — the Mediterranean, the Dead and the Red (the Sea of Galilee, also known as The Kinneret, is really a lake, though it does have beaches too).  The Shuks, the word for an outdoor marketplace, can be found in every major city throughout the country. My favorite Shuk was in Acre (Acco). These strawberries were so juicy, and the fresh pomegranate, pomelo and orange juices are a huge (and cheap) treat.

Rosh HaNikra and Ancient Aqueducts via The Walkup

Driving towards the tip of the country in the north, we casually passed ancient Roman aqueducts! These connect to Caesarea, a marina from antiquity named by King Herod in honor of Augustus Caesar. For some time, this bustling port was considered a center of early Christianity. It was also conquered by the Byzantine empire, the crusaders, and more. On the site exists a hippodrome, an amphitheater and many old bathing houses.

On the cliffs of Rosh Hanikra,  a geologic formation in located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Western Galilee, we found white chalk cliffs face opening into beautiful grottoes. We took a small, red cable-car to the site on the Lebanese border. The mode of transport claimed to be the steepest cable car in the world, with a 60 degrees gradient!

Bahai Temple in Haifa, Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem by The Walkup

The Bahai Temples in Haifa are a practice in perfect symmetry. The gardens boast identical stairways, lights, balustrades, fountains, shrubbery and lawns. These gorgeous gardens are on the World Heritage List. Known as the Shrine of the Báb, this magnificent hanging garden sits atop Mount Carmel, one of the highest vantage points in all of Haifa, Israel. They are one of the most visited tourist attractions in Israel.

A encountered a small boy lighting candles at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Old City, Jerusalem. He kindled the flames at an altar steps from where Jesus was buried. Outside, the market continued at its busy pace and men were selling halva, nuts and Turkish delights.

Haifa at night, Bethlehem, Acco by The Walkup

A well needed cup of morning coffee came from Lavazza, one of the only companies that seems to believe in “to-go” cups throughout Israel. People tend to enjoy their coffee while seated with friends, over a paper, or in the retreat of a cafe seat. The day entailed a visit into Bethlehem, but ended with a gorgeous nightscape over the Mediterranean.

Fishing in the North, Jachnun and Shabbat in Tel Aviv

On Saturday, or Shabbat, most people are sleepily relaxing. Storefronts were closed, and family were taking days at the beach. A specific dish known as Jachnun, a slow-cooked Yemenite Jewish pastry, could be found at many brunch spots around Tel Aviv.

Old City Jerusalem by The Walkup

In many ways, this country is both ancient and modern. It boasts a booming tech culture, and yet retains its footing in history. Its richness of art and culture expertly blend new and old.

What will you discover when you explore your father’s hometown?


Earth Day

I happen to love the planet upon which we live. I even like it’s color scheme: 70% ocean blue, 25% gritty caramel crust, and a sundry 5% beautiful sulfurs, gems and other colorful carbons and chemicals.

Whole Earth CatalogThe Last Whole Earth Catalog: Access to Tools (1971)  The WHOLE EARTH CATALOG functioned as an evaluation and access device. With it, the user should know better what is worth getting and where and how to do the getting. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Published regularly from 1968 to 1972, this tome led the counterculture back-to-the-land eschewing industrialism. 

Although the Earth has seemingly been around for 4.54 billion years (but who’s counting?), Earth Day was only first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by more than 192 countries each year. We humans were a little late to the game of terrestrial appreciation.

Earth Day 2014 from The Walkup featuring Aesop, West Elm, Great Dane and more!

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Yesterday was Easter in New York City. The brownstone lined streets were finally blooming cherry blossoms and dogwoods. The windows in industrial lofts of factories of yore were glinting and gleaming. The bulbs planted in apartment window units were peaking through moist soil.  I even spotted someone dressed in a bunny costume.

TriBeCa Groupmuse, Classical Music for the Masses!

For those of us who did not have a family dinner, or whose relatives are somewhere far away – California, Texas, Illinois – there are always local friends. My husband’s colleague, and good friend, invited us over to their gorgeous TriBeCa loft for something called a Groupmuse. In the afternoon light, the minimal and mid-century inspired home looked glorious!

TriBeCa Groupmuse, Classical Music for the Masses!

A Groupmuse is halfway between a chamber music concert and a house party. It’s equal parts musical and social. Using the power of the internet, Groupmuse has launched a way to support local musicians by fostering chamber music house parties. One can host, attend or play in unorthodox settings bringing back the idea of the original parlor concert or salon. It feels simultaneously nostalgic or antiquated yet futuristic – a clever juxtaposition.

TriBeCa Groupmuse, Classical Music for the Masses!

We had the pleasure of experiencing a solo suite for Cello by Bach (Chaconne in D minor), as well as an Hungarian duo (Op. 7) by Zoltán Kodály. During it all, the wine was flowing, the crudités were crunching, and my husband and I were making new friends in an intimate and culturally invigorating space. The two talented young musicians, Sebastian Baverstam, playing the cello, and Emily Smith, playing the violin, were so open and accessible after their performance ended. We asked questions and easily conversed. The event became an easy and far-from-elitist way to understand classical music.

TriBeCa Groupmuse, Classical Music for the Masses!

I love the idea of music accessibility, and bringing its comforts to the home, rather than an intimidating concert hall, opera hall or architecturally important venue. So often live performance is seen as academic and esoteric – now Groupmuse aims to create a new audience for the important notes of Tchaikovsky, Dvorak and composers being forgotten by the young.

TriBeCa Groupmuse, Classical Music for the Masses!

Groupmuse, in essence, is a social network that directly connects musicians, audience members, and willing hosts, so that the community can organically generate its own house concerts, and so that the classical music experience becomes as socially appealing as it is musically appealing, as part of a radical new effort to introduce classical music to Millenials.

TriBeCa Groupmuse, Classical Music for the Masses!

Started in Boston, the performances have now expanded to San Francisco and New York City. Join the social symphony!