Cyclists met some of the audience in Safra Square during the opening ceremony May 4. (photo from Ashernet)
The night of May 4 saw a spectacular ceremony to welcome the scores of participants and visitors to Israel to mark the opening of the Giro d’Italia cycling race. This year, the three-week race started in Jerusalem with a time trial. Cyclists from around the world then raced from Haifa to Tel Aviv, then from Beersheva to Eilat, across the Negev Desert. On Sunday, the teams flew by special aircraft, with all their gear, to Sicily to continue with the race on Tuesday. This is the first time that such a prestigious world-class sporting event has been organized in Israel. The three most important cycling events in the world are, in order of importance: Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta (Spain).
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed a special meeting of the Israeli cabinet in Independence Hall in Tel Aviv on April 20 in honour of the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of the modern state by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. Plans are to restore Independence Hall and turn it into a museum, where the Declaration of Independence will be displayed publicly for the first time. The document is currently stored at the State Archive in Jerusalem.
Children follow the new Independence Trail in Tel Aviv. (photo by Ricky Rachman)
In honour of Israel’s 70th Independence Day, the city of Tel Aviv has introduced a new interactive walking route that takes visitors past 10 of the city’s heritage sites. All of the sites are connected in some way with the Declaration of Independence and the beginnings of Tel Aviv itself.
The trail is just under a kilometre long and features a golden track that illuminates at night. The route begins at the first kiosk of Tel Aviv, at the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street. The walking route brings two stories to life that are central to the story of modern Israel: the birth of Tel Aviv, the first Jewish, self-governed, Hebrew-speaking city, in 1909; and how, in 1948, Tel Aviv would make way for the birth of the state of Israel, fulfilling a millennia-old dream.
Visitors can follow the route with a mobile app, or can guide themselves using a map that features information in eight different languages.
The building of the trail demanded extensive infrastructure work, including the implementation of a unique lighting system that allows visitors to walk along the trail at night. The Independence Trail was inspired by the Freedom Trail in Boston, one of the most popular heritage sites in the United States.
The Independence Trail’s 10 sites are:
The first kiosk was established in 1910, and quickly became a central meeting place. During the 1920s, about 100 kiosks operated in the city under the Association of the Kiosk and Soft Drink Store Owners.
Nahum Gutman Fountain: Nahum Gutman was an Israeli artist who grew up in Tel Aviv along with the new city, and whose work reflected the simplicity of the early days of “the First Hebrew City.” An illustrator, photographer and writer, Gutman was awarded the Israel Prize in 1978. His mosaics around the fountain tell us the history of Jaffa, the ancient port city from which Tel Aviv was born.
Akiva Aryeh Weiss’s house: Weiss was the founder of the Ahuzat Bayit neighbourhood, which evolved into Tel Aviv. As president of the then newly established building society, Weiss presided over the 1909 lottery in which 66 Jewish families drew numbers written on seashells to determine the allocation of lots in the about-to-be established city.
Shalom Meir Tower: former site of the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, the first Hebrew-language high school. The building on Herzl Street was a major Tel Aviv landmark until 1962, when it was razed for the construction of the tower. Its destruction sparked widespread recognition of the importance of conserving historical landmarks. Today, Shalom Meir Tower is home to a visitors centre about the history of Tel Aviv, which is open, free to the public, on weekdays.
The Great Synagogue was the spiritual centre of Tel Aviv, located in the heart of the city’s business centre. The building features a huge dome, elaborate lighting fixtures and magnificent stained glass windows.
The Haganah Museum is located in what was the home of Eliyahu Golomb, the founder and de facto commander of the Haganah. From 1930 to 1945, the Haganah’s secret headquarters were located in this house. Golomb’s residential room, his office on the ground floor, as well as the exterior of the house, were fully preserved. The museum will be open to the public free of charge during 2018, to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary.
Bank of Israel’s Visitors Centre, at the historical headquarters of Israel’s national bank, presents the history of the financial system in Israel. It features an extensive exhibit of banknotes and coins issued from pre-state days to the present. The centre also will be open to the public free of charge until the end of the year.
Tel Aviv Founders Monument is dedicated to the men and women who established Tel Aviv in the first half of the 19th century. It is a quiet spot, dotted with benches and centred around a small pool and fountain.
Statue of Meir Dizengoff, honouring the first mayor of Tel Aviv, who was known for riding his horse from his home – which is now Independence Hall – to City Hall, which was then located on Bialik Street. The statue of Dizengoff on his horse was created by artist David Zondolovitz.
Independence Hall: Dizengoff dedicated his home for the establishment of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In the home, on May 14, 1948, the ceremony of the Declaration of Independence took place.
In addition to the Independence Trail, visitors will be able to enjoy, until the end of December, the Israeli Democracy Pavilion, which features a presentation about the story of the Declaration of Independence. The project, which is a collaboration between the Israel Democracy Institute and the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, takes place in a majestic pavilion on Rothschild Boulevard, in which visitors are shown a film in 360 degrees, highlighting important moments of Israeli democracy. The pavilion is surrounded by arcades reflecting the diversity of Israeli society. Selected quotes from the Declaration of Independence are showcased on the pavilion’s arches and visitors are invited to sign a pledge to uphold the core values of the declaration. Entry to the film is free of charge, and the pavilion is expected to travel to other cities in Israel next year.
The trail crosses the Galilee from Beit She’arim to Tiberias. (photo by Israel Antiquities Authority from Ashernet)
This year in the Galilee, thousands of students have been excavating and organizing the first “smart trail,” in which dozens of stone relay stations along the path transmit information and activities to hikers’ mobile telephones. The trail comprises part of the celebration of Israel’s 70th year of independence, and just opened. It extends 70 kilometres and is divided into sections, tracing the movements of the country’s greatest figures, the Sanhedrin sages, who rehabilitated the Jewish people following the Bar Kokhba Revolt. As did the Sanhedrin, the trail crosses the Galilee from Beit She’arim to Tiberias, passing through magnificent landscape, such as Nahal Zippori, Yodfat, Mount Arbel and Mount Atzmon.
Pigeon bones from 1,500 years ago. (photo from University of Haifa via Ashernet)
Israel’s Negev Desert has not always been a dusty, almost treeless place – 1,500 years ago, many parts of the Negev were green and produced basic foods. And a new study – led by Dr. Nimrod Marom of the University of Haifa and Tel Hai College, in cooperation with Prof. Guy Bar-Oz and Dr. Yotam Tepper of the Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa and Dr. Baruch Rosen of the Volcani Centre – reveals the first archeological evidence of the role played by pigeons in Byzantine agriculture: improving and fertilizing soil in vineyards and orchards. Among other goals, the researchers are interested in understanding how the Byzantines managed to maintain a broad-based agricultural system in the desert, and what led to the sudden abandonment and eventual collapse of these flourishing communities.
Jerusalem Marathon winner Kipkogey Shadrack (No. 1) led the field from the start. (photo from Ashernet)
More than 35,000 runners, including some 4,000 from 72 countries outside Israel, participated March 8 in this year’s Jerusalem Marathon – the largest to date. The winner of the main event was 27-year-old Kenyan runner Kipkogey Shadrack, who completed the course in 2:21.26. Participants set off opposite the Israel Museum in slightly overcast, but dry, weather. Many of the city’s streets were closed from 5:30 a.m. and scheduled to reopen at 2:30 p.m. There were five other courses apart from the 42.2-kilometre main event: a half-marathon, a 10k, a 5k, a family race (1.7 km) and a community race (800 metres) for people with special needs.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the Munich Security Conference. (photo by Amos Ben Gershom IGPO via Ashernet)
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, which took place Feb. 16-18, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu holds a piece of an Iranian drone shot down over Israel last week. Netanyahu warned that Israel could strike the Islamic Republic. Looking directly at Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Netanyhau asked, “Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should, it’s yours. You can also take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran – do not test Israel’s resolve!” The drone, which entered northern Israel from Syria near the Jordanian border, was shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter. In response to the drone incursion, the Israeli Air Force attacked the mobile command centre from which it was operated. During the operations, one of the Israeli jets was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed; its pilot and navigator were able to parachute out of the plane and land safely in Israel.
Earlier this month, customs officials at the Ashdod port discovered a significant amount of military equipment destined for Gaza. Thousands of items of camouflaged military clothing, including coats, combat vests and boots, were due to be moved into Gaza via the nearby Kerem Shalom border crossing. This is one of the biggest collections of military clothing that has been intercepted on its way to Gaza.
September 2016, Jerusalem. At the funeral of former president and prime minister Shimon Peres, U.S. President Barack Obama offers a tissue to Peres’ son Chemi. (all photos from Ashernet)
In reviewing the Jewish year 5777, one name stands out – Binyamin Netanyahu. Despite having to fend off accusations of various wrongdoings at home, the Israeli prime minister has had a successful diplomatic year.
This year, Israel welcomed U.S. President Donald Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s visit marked the first time since the foundation of the state of Israel that a sitting Indian prime minister had visited. Meanwhile, Netanyahu was warmly received by China in March and, a month prior to that, by Australia. Closer to home, he established good relations with Greece and Cyprus.
In September 2016, Israel bade a final farewell to former president and prime minister Shimon Peres. His funeral was attended by many sitting and former heads of state, including former U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Last December, the Israel Air Force received its first F-35 fighter plane from the United States. In January, settlers in the West Bank outpost of Amona fought with police following a court order that declared Amona an illegal Jewish settlement.
On Jan. 8, four people were killed when a released Arab prisoner ran a truck into a group of people on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade in Jerusalem. This act of murder was referred to as the “truck intifada.” In Gaza, Hamas activists handed out sweets in celebration. This method of terror was soon to be repeated many times in countries all over the world.
At regular intervals during the year, announcements were made concerning important archeological finds all over Israel. Israeli law states that the Israel Antiquities Authority must be notified as soon as there is indication of archeological remains and that, only after specialist examination and, if necessary, excavation, can the development proceed.
The year also saw the celebration of the 50th year since the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War ( June 1967).
It has been an outstanding year for Israel’s high-tech sector. In particular, 2017 saw the largest business deal in Israel’s history when Mobileye was bought by Intel for some $15 billion.
The Jewish year ended with a bit of confusion, as the region once again became unsettled as Iran attempts to get a stronger foothold in Syria, along with their continued efforts to arm Hezbollah.
(photo from Israel Antiquities Authority via Ashernet)
A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor, with a Greek inscription, was discovered this summer following groundwork for a communications cable infrastructure near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. David Gellman, the director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Authority, said, “The fact that the inscription survived is an archeological miracle…. We were about to close the excavation when, all of a sudden, a corner of the mosaic inscription peeked out between the pipes and cables. Amazingly, it had not been damaged.” Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Dr. Leah Di Segni deciphered the inscription, which “commemorates the founding of the building by Constantine, the priest. The inscription names the emperor Flavius Justinian. It seems that the building was used as a hostel for pilgrims.”