The Israeli-American Council (IAC) has partnered with the Taglit Birthright Israel program to launch a special Hebrew track called IAC Shelanu. The new program offers a 10-day trip to Israel designed specifically for Israeli American young adults, ages 18-26. IAC Shelanu, in partnership with Taglit Birthright Israel and Israel Experience, will be conducted in Hebrew, aiming to engage this group of young leaders and create future Jewish-Israeli community influencers. Registration opens Sept. 9 for the December 2014 program.
According to a recent study commissioned by IAC and conducted by Israeli polling company Midgam, about 17 percent of second-generation Israeli Americans are married to non-Jews and Hebrew fluency drops from 53 percent to 19 percent for those living in the United States more than 10 years.
IAC Shelanu aims to provide an Israel experience that will help these young Israeli Americans and other Hebrew speakers connect on a deeper level with their Jewish-Israeli identity and expand their knowledge of and acquaintance with the state of Israel, its history and culture.
IAC Shelanu provides a unique experience for its participants, including a recruitment process by IAC that focuses on identifying, selecting and encouraging potential leaders. IAC Shelanu will then follow up with participants upon their return to ensure an enduring impact on their lives and further involvement in pro-Israel advocacy. Participants will be encouraged to participate in an IAC Shelanu alumni program, which will develop their connections to one another and to Israel while fortifying them with the network and skills needed to be ambassadors for Israel.
Based in Los Angeles with offices nationwide, IAC serves an estimated 750,000 Israelis in the United States today with a large variety of programs and events for all ages, and supports a wide range of other community nonprofit organizations. For more information about IAC, visit israeliamerican.org. For more information about IAC Shelanu, visit freejourneytoisrael.org/iacbirthrightisrael.
Members of the Gitxaala Nation at the 2014 Qatuwas Festival. (photo by Kris Krug)
Vancouver, Erev Tisha b’Av (Aug. 4): As Jews across North America are preparing themselves for the sombre, mournful fast commemorating the destruction of the holy temples in Jerusalem, Jews in Israel and across much of the world have already begun fasting. We fast to mark the calamities that befell our people on the ninth of Av throughout history, and to acknowledge that we are still living in exile, awaiting the building of the third Beit Hamikdash.
For a moment, imagine that we are in Yerushalayim while the Temple stands and hearing news of a siege of the city. Food is growing scarce and we realize that the walls will soon be breached, and destruction leveled upon us and upon our holiest of places. Invasion, murder and desecration are almost certain. If we survive, we will almost certainly be forced into exile, and our city would be burned along with the centre of life for all Jews, the Holy Temple.
As I sit, I reflect upon our history, my history. I reflect upon 2,000 years of exile, upon the Holocaust, upon the war in Gaza. I wonder what may come tomorrow. Exactly three weeks earlier, I was away from the city, visiting my mother on Denny Island, B.C. I went there to spend time with her, to go fishing with my stepfather and to eat Mom’s cooking. I hadn’t planned on meeting people from other nations that have faced destruction, assimilation and exile also, or to learn from their resolve.
Waglisla, Heiltsuk territory, three weeks earlier (July 15): I stand in the grass under the blazing sun, straw hat on, squinting at the dancers. They wear traditional garb: robes, cedar hats, blankets and paint; they sing. Today is the 17th of Tammuz and I haven’t eaten since the night before. I am at the 2014 Qatuwas Festival, an annual gathering of the First Nations of North America’s West Coast – from Alaska to Oregon, where the nations have traveled by glwa (gil-wah, an ocean-going canoe), some for more than 30 days to reach their destination. Qatuwas, the Heiltsuk word for “people gathering together,” has its roots in 1985 in Waglisla (Bella Bella), when a group of local residents built a glwa to paddle 500 kilometres to Vancouver for Expo ’86. They now make a journey each year to a different nation to build connections, morale, identity and community. Nearly 30 years after Qatuwas began, there are hundreds gathered on the grass field in Heiltsuk territory.
My mother moved to Denny Island about two years ago and I’ve taken the 10-minute ferry to Bella Bella to see Qatuwas for myself. I sit in the shade with Jessica Brown, a beaming, bright young woman from Heiltsuk Nation, who is part of the host committee for Qatuwas. She smiles while she speaks about the festival:
“It’s pretty amazing. Last summer, we left Bella Bella and paddled for 32 days on the water, and stopped at every first nation – for a day in the life of each nation. You can be there for a funeral, or you can be there for a lahal tournament or a powwow. It’s a journey of healing, drug and alcohol free, and it’s supposed to be about resurgence, revitalization.
“Young people on the canoe say that the water is a healing process, from the effects of colonization, continuing and ongoing.”
As I contemplate my physical hunger, my fatigue, I feel connected to my spiritual hunger, our collective desire as Jews to return to the Holy Land, a holy time. At least some of my emotions are shared by the nations celebrating at the Qatuwas Festival. Like us, they have suffered innumerable losses. Spirit, though, as it is with knowledge, faith and hope, can never be taken away from one person by another. They can only be given up.
I leave Qatuwas in peace. The days are long here on the central coast in summer, but the sun is slowly burning towards the horizon. Spirits are high on the ferry back to Denny Island.
Vancouver, Erev Tisha b’Av (Aug. 4): The hour of the fast is nearly upon us. Soon I will get into my car and drive to shul to sit and pray on the floor like in a house of mourning, and mark the beginning of the fast of Tisha b’Av. I have a flash from three weeks prior, when I asked Jessica about the land we stood on at Qatuwas.
“We’re not treaty people,” she said, “and that means that we’ve never given up access to our land. We basically consider ourselves the Heiltsuk Nation, a sovereign nation.”
“Am I in Canada?” I asked with an intrigued grin.
“No, you’re in Heiltsuk territory.”
As Jews across Israel and the Diaspora prepare to mourn on Tisha b’Av, I’m inspired by the strength of our people and by that of the First Peoples of Canada.
Despite the destruction, chaos, hatred and exile, we still hope to be free peoples in our own land. For us, the land of Zion, Yerushalayim. Am Yisroel chai.
Benjamin Grobermanis a born and raised Vancouverite. He is a freelance writer, and is pursuing a bachelor of education degree, with aspirations to teach in a Jewish high school. He is a resident of Vancouver’s Moishe House.
A ziplining selfie: Dangling over river gorges in Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park. (photo by Baila Lazarus)
The mission: to explore British Columbia from as many geographical perspectives as possible. The means: a 10-day road trip on Vancouver Island. The locations: whatever would take us off the city or country roads. The result: eight ways to see the province like you’ve never seen it before.
From the air
1. Nothing says “new perspectives” like sleeping in a ball suspended from three trees about 15 feet in the air. Making Lonely Planet’s 2014 list of top 10 extraordinary places to stay, the Free Spirit Spheres near Horne Lake, about 45 minutes north of Nanaimo, are just that. Designer Tom Chudleigh has built three round wooden “rooms” about 10 feet in diameter, so guests can feel like they’re sleeping in a tree, but with all the amenities of a hotel room. A perfect “glamping” scenario, the rooms have electricity and are outfitted with dishes, a small fridge and a few appliances, and the site has showers, a full kitchen and even a sauna. Prices start at $155 per night. freespiritspheres.com.
2. Search ziplines on Vancouver Island and you’re bound to come up with three: WildPlay, south of Nanaimo; Adrenaline, west of Victoria on the way to Sooke; and West Coast Wild, 45 minutes east of Ucluelet. We chose the latter due to its number of lines (six) and lack of suspension bridges (a request by my co-traveler). The $99 cost was a great deal for two hours of stunning scenery, a guided nature walk and exhilarating zipping. Even for non-risk-takers, this is a great adventure. Sit and hang on for a smooth ride or test your mettle by hanging upside down and striking a pose. wcwild.com.
3. One of the best values of the trip was a floatplane tour from Victoria Harbor with Harbour Air Seaplanes. The $100 30-minute tour takes off from in front of the Empress Hotel and flies over the Capital District, passing over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Saanich, offering a glimpse of Butchart Gardens from the air. harbourair.com.
From the water
4. Tofino and Ucluelet – indeed, much of coastal British Columbia – are known for their whale-watching excursions. For an alternate option, try a bear-watching trip instead. These boats ply the inlets and shorelines, giving passengers a more varied view of the topography and making it easy to spot and follow wildlife. (Unlike trying to anticipate in which square metre of ocean a whale might breach.) On a tour with Jamie’s Whale Watching, we spotted a mother and two cubs and were able to watch them forage for food right by the water’s edge for about 45 minutes, giving everyone the opportunity to get a good look – and good shots. jamies.com.
5. It’s not often you can get a view of the shoreline from a kilometre out without standing on a boat or floating platform of some kind, but at low tide near Tigh-Na-Mara in Parksville, it’s a mud-walker’s dream. Meander through ankle-deep puddles or stick to the muddy flats, examine tracks left by crabs or other marine life and lose yourself in the vastness. Turn around, and the buildings on the shoreline look like miniatures.
6. Don a helmet with headlamp, some sturdy shoes and gloves and you’re ready for caving in Horne Lake Provincial Park. About an hour from Nanaimo, these tours – offered through the park – give a glimpse into the world of beautiful crystal and rock formations, and geological history. Tours range from a Family Cavern 1.5-hour tour for $26 to a High Adventure four-hour tour for $125. Note this is not a walk in the park. There is very rough terrain and the caves are very cold. hornelake.com.
From high above
7. If you’re interested in getting a bird’s-eye view, but still want to be standing on terra firma, two locations near Victoria offer outstanding vistas. Driving up the Island Highway about 30 minutes from Victoria, take the turnoff to Whittaker Road and keep right to go up Ebedora Lane. At the top – where the Aerie and Prancing Horse are located – you’ll have stunning views of Saanich Inlet.
8. Across the inlet, stand in the shadow of history as you make your way up Observatory Hill. Built in 1918, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory was, for a short period, the largest functioning observatory in the world. The road winds up the hill, offering lookouts with views to most of Saanich.
Baila Lazarusis a freelance writer, painter and photographer. Her work can be seen at orchiddesigns.net.
Eli Ben Zaken, centre, with sons Ariel, left, and Eytan. His daughter, Ilana, is also part of the business. (photo from castel.co.il)
The third in a series featuring nine Israeli wine producers features Eli Ben Zaken of Domaine du Castel, in the Judean Hills, 10 miles west of Jerusalem. The first two articles – on Barkan and Shiloh wineries – were published in the Jewish Independent on May 2.
Christopher Barnes: When did you found the estate?
Eli Ben Zaken: There was no official foundation because I never thought of really making a winery. I planted in ’88 a few vines in a small plot next to the house in the Judean Hills, in Moshav Ramat Raziel. We made wine in ’92, we bottled it in ’95, it was a great success. Not many bottles – just about 600.
CB: How fast did you grow?
EBZ: We grew 2,000, 3,000 a year, and then eight, and then 12, 15, 20. By the year 2000, we made 80,000 bottles. Then we stayed around 80,000.
CB: Tell us a little about the terroir, the soils and the climate in the area that you make your wine.
EBZ: It’s a very good wine country. In fact, the region was making wine for the Temple thousands of years ago. It’s very good, it’s clay and limestone, it’s stony, it’s well drained because it’s hilly. It has a good influence from the sea compared to other regions, which are also very good, but different, like Upper Galilee and Golan Heights. They don’t have an influence from the sea because they are more continental. The days would be much warmer, but the nights also much cooler. They will have maybe more color and more body, but certainly they will lack the elegance that we have because of the influence of the sea, which is always keeping us at a balanced level of temperature. Usually, the heat is not too hot, and the summers are less cool, it’s true. Today, we can know the difference.
When I was the first to plant vines, by mistake maybe, in the Judean Hills in [the] modern era, today we have in dunam – a dunam is a 10th of a hectare – we have about 300 dunams, and the region has nearly 3,000 dunams. That means all the industry has understood the importance of the hills around Jerusalem and have planted vines.
CB: How many different wines are you making right now?
EBZ: We were making, at the beginning, one wine. In ’98, we added a second red wine. Our wines are blended wines with Bordeaux grapes, like cabernet, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet franc, malbec, they are always blended. The white is a chardonnay, 100 percent, barrel-fermented, classical Burgundy wine method. We’ve made a rosé for the past four years, which is merlot, cabernet franc, malbec – early picking, pressed like a white wine, and really it is very fresh and light, a nice summer drink.
CB: Tell us a little bit about the influences in terms of your winemaking. You mentioned that you made Bordeaux blends. Was that something intentional that you decided on, or how did you come about that?
EBZ: I really started making the things I like to drink. I was not bored drinking wine and, actually, I didn’t like it [at first] because I was given low-quality wine to taste. When I got into wine I was already in my thirties, and got more and more into gastronomy and drinking wine. When I decided to make some wine at home, it was really as a hobby.
CB: How would you say your wines are unique versus the other types of wines that are made in Israel?
EBZ: I don’t think I like the word unique in the sense that everyone is unique, not mine as opposed to the mass of the others. They’re also unique. As I said, what is very, very interesting is the terroir of the Judean Hills, the elegance of the wines. Someone was pointing out in an article I read lately that all the wines from Israel got top marks from Parker – the really “top, top” were Judean Hills wines. Somehow, at the end of the day, this is what appeals most, but then, I’m biased.
CB: Of course, of course. Is it a family business now?
EBZ: It is, yes. I have three kids. They aren’t kids anymore, the youngest is 41! They’re running the winery. I am the winemaker, but I have to ask for permission to do things. My daughter and my sons are in the business. I have a daughter and two sons. I let them make their own decisions.
I can say, at my age now, I can look back. I was led in that path without [the] intention … of becoming a winemaker or making a business of wine. I was led through that path by God, destiny – it’s hard to tell, but certainly I did things which, by chance, were firsts: the revival of the Judean Hills as a wine region, I brought the petit verdot first in Israel, I made blended wines when blended wines were the cheaper wines in the wineries in Israel and top wines were single varieties. I was lucky in the way I went, doing firsts.
– This article is reprinted courtesy of the Grape Collective, an online publication for all things wine. For more information, visit grapecollective.com.
When driving in the area, be careful, as deer sometimes meander across the roads. (photo by Lauren Kramer)
I’ve lived in Vancouver for just 14 years, so I know I’ve just barely begun to discover all the beauty in the Lower Mainland and beyond. But recently, when I suggested to friends who’d lived in the city all their lives that they join us in Port Moody, their response stunned me. “What’s there?” they asked. It occurred to me then that though I’ve been taking the (close-to) hour-long drive to Belcarra every year I’ve called British Columbia home, for many, even locals, it remains one of the Lower Mainland’s best-kept secrets.
Be warned: the beauty doesn’t start until Barnet Highway, when you leave the congestion of Vancouver and Burnaby behind and enter a landscape of lush forests and ocean vistas. The trees tower on both sides of the highway as you turn onto Port Moody’s Ioco Road and any residue of stress is replaced by a clear sense of joie de vivre, or what I like to call “B.C. moments,” those rare times of year when you sigh in wonder at the sheer exquisiteness of this province and say to yourself, “This is why I live here.”
The curvaceous Ioco Road is home to some of Port Moody’s most luxurious homes, many of them nestling the sloping hillside and prefaced by rolling lawns, manicured flowerbeds and, for those perched overlooking the ocean, private docks. Between the acreages are forested sections with wildflowers and towering trees aplenty. With our car’s sunroof open, we saw eagles glide gently in the blue skies above us, the sun warm on our shoulders.
One of my favorite summer destinations in this area is the Village of Anmore, a semi-rural residential community that’s home to White Pine Beach on Sasamat Lake. The lake’s sandy beach and warm waters are a perfect playground for kids building sandcastles, athletic swimmers and those who want nothing more than to drift away on an inflatable mattress and soak up the sunshine. The air is filled with the delighted shrieks of children playing in the shallows as families grill their meals on portable gas barbeques, the smells lingering in the air. Our sandwiches didn’t seem quite so tempting!
You have to be organized if you’re headed to White Pine Beach and, in my house, that means preparing the night before for the day ahead, packing picnic baskets, shopping for food, and ensuring that towels, swimsuits and beach paraphernalia are ready for an early departure. On weekends, the parking lot fills up by 9:30 a.m., and those spots are coveted. Once they’re all occupied, the gate on Sunnyside Road closes to vehicular traffic and access to the lake requires a long walk. Still, it’s well worth it to have a rejuvenating day on the lake that reminds you how good it is to be alive.
If you’re keen to kayak, canoe or challenge yourself to a long hike, continue north up Sunnyside Road until you reach the glacial waters of Buntzen Lake, a larger body of water surrounded by numerous hiking trails. The Buntzen Lake Trail, an eight-kilometre route that circles the lake, is a glorious walk through the shady forest and one of the shorter hiking paths in the area. The massive lake offers an off-leash canine beach, a large grassy picnic area shaded by towering hemlocks, a swimming beach and a dock from which kids can learn to fish – a skill they’ll be able to use every summer. For $45 you can rent a kayak for a full day from Anmore Grocery ($60 for a canoe, 604-469-9928) and, if you’ve not stocked up on provisions, call ahead to order croissants, muffins and/or sandwiches.
After a day on the beach, it felt glorious to drive around Port Moody, soaking up its views. As we careened along Bedwell Bay Road, we admired the mansions, envious of their ocean views. While at the Belcarra picnic area, Burrard Inlet glimmered before us, a rocky beach begging to be explored at low tide, preferably with ice cream in hand.
Sure, we got lost on those winding roads, but that was all part of this glorious day drive. At one point, we slowed for two deer that cautiously picked their way across the road right in front of us, posing cooperatively for photos before they disappeared into the forest. The road clear, we headed back into Port Moody, stopping at Suter Brook Village to replenish on smoothies and healthy snacks. Then, we reluctantly traded the wonderfully rural ambience in Port Moody for the road construction, stoplights and heavy traffic of Burnaby and Vancouver, knowing one thing for certain: we’d be back for sure this summer.
For maps and information on Belcarra Regional Park, which encompasses Belcarra, Anmore and Port Moody, call 604-520-6442 or visit metrovancouver.org.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.
There’s immense beauty along Chuckanut Drive whatever time of day you choose to meander those winding roads. (photo by Robert James)
The spring sunshine is warming your car, tempting you with a day drive on an open road that promises breathtaking scenery and interesting stops along the way. Where do you go? Head south, I say. An hour from Vancouver across the Peace Arch border, just as you veer out of Bellingham, there’s a sign for Chuckanut Drive. Take it. You won’t be disappointed.
The scenic byway that connects Whatcom County to Skagit Valley, Chuckanut Drive begins in Bellingham’s historic neighborhood of Fairhaven. From there, it winds along the rocky shoulder of the Chuckanut Mountains, following the shoreline 200 feet above sea level. On its curvaceous route, it offers incredible views of Chuckanut Bay and Samish Bay, the Olympic Mountains, the San Juan Islands and Lummi Island. We’re not just talking about pretty scenery. These are the kind of views that compel you to stop, take out your camera and marvel at the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, delivering “aha!” moments that remind you exactly why you chose to live in this part of the world.
Some drives can get monotonous, but this is not one of them. Chuckanut traverses two very different landscapes. At its northern end, there are mountains, ocean, cliffs, trees, bays and islands. Its southern end takes you through the delta of the Skagit River, past wide, open farmland. It’s a great route for a long, peaceful drive.
The place to begin is in Fairhaven, an historic district filled with galleries, restaurants, bookshops, crafts and artisans. Consider picking up a picnic lunch for the drive at one of the many delis and restaurants in the village, unless you’re planning to eat at a restaurant on Chuckanut Drive.
Once you leave Fairhaven, don your sunglasses, wind down the windows and set your car stereo to your favorite music. If you’re in the mood for a short hike, pull over at Mile 18, the Teddy Bear Cove trailhead, where a wooden staircase takes you down a steep trail to the beach. It’s the unofficial nudist beach, so don’t be surprised if you encounter a bit of bare skin along the way. The beach is a great place for spotting seals and is full of nooks and crannies where you can enjoy a private picnic lunch surrounded by sea gulls, crashing waves and whiffs of salt in the air.
An alternative place, one where exposed flesh is much less likely to be seen, is Larrabee State Park, a magnificent, 1,885-acre site along the shores of Samish Bay, with a lush growth of Northwest foliage. A short walk gets you down to Clayton Beach and tidal pools. Bring water shoes and a swimsuit – it’s so beautiful that you might even find the courage to defy the cold Pacific with a quick dip. This is another great place for your picnic lunch, if you’re having one. If not, your next stop could be the Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive (theoysterbar.net; 1-360-766-6185), a seafood restaurant with ocean views to die for and cuisine that’s just as inspiring. Much of its fare is local and, in fact, some of the non-kosher variety is grown minutes away at Taylor Shellfish on Samish Bay. However, if seafood isn’t your preference, there are more restaurants along the way.
If you are feeling energetic, there are several trailheads leading to hikes that range from three to six miles long. Regardless, make sure you’ve brought along U.S. dollars, as you might need them when you reach Mile 8, at which point organic produce and farm stands come into view, selling local honey, vegetables, cheese and flowers. Miles seven through one careen past farmland, with a few stores along the way, such as the antique shop, espresso stop and hot dog stand at Mile 3. When you reach Burlington, you’ve come to the exhilarating end of Chuckanut Drive, at which point you may well choose to turn around and do it again the other way. If you’re ready for home, though, take the faster route back to Canada on the Interstate 5 – filling up on gas before you hit the border!
If you go:
• Remember your passport! You cannot cross the U.S.-Canada border without one.
• Check border waits before you go to avoid long lines. On the radio, News 1130 AM delivers the wait times every 10 minutes with its traffic report.
• To get to the exit for the northernmost end of Chuckanut Drive, take #250 off the I-5.
• Pick up a driving guide to Chuckanut from Whatcom County Tourism’s Visitors Centre at 904 Potter St. in Bellingham, call 1-800-487-2032 or visit bellingham.org.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.
Shiloh Winery overlooks the Shiloh River and the Judean Hills. (photo from shilohwinery.com)
The second in a short series featuring nine Israeli wine producers features Mayer Chomer of Shiloh Winery, situated above the Shiloh River overlooking the Judean Hills.
Mayer Chomer: Shiloh Winery was opened in 2005. That’s when we started running operations. We started in a very small garage, making boutique, very selected wines. I think that we’ve been making good product, good wines. Now the winery has built up to 10,000 cases and we’re growing.
Yossie Horwitz: Can you tell a little about the winemaker, the philosophy of the winery, what types of wines you’re trying to make?
MC: So, we started wanting to make just quality wines. We’re not interested in the volume business. We wanted to make very, very unique wines, quality wines, and obviously we wanted to distinguish ourselves from the rest of our colleagues and competitors. So, our philosophy is really making no compromises in our process: making and investing as much as we can in our equipment and, obviously, trying to be and to make always the best wines possible based on our grapes, our varieties that we have available and, you know, we invest a lot of money planting our vineyards so we can really control our quality. We’ve been just – thank God, you know – selecting good grapes based on a lot of research and making the wines that you see in the market. Thank God, people are acknowledging it by its quality.
YH: What types of wines do you make? Do you make single varietals or blends?
MC: We do have several series. We have the Mosaic, which is our flagship, a blend of five different grapes. We have a series that we call Secret Reserve. We have a merlot, a shiraz and a cab – straight cab. We also have the Shor series. Shor means bull in Hebrew, and the reason why we call it the Shor is because we inherited the lands of Joseph. It recognizes the bull that he slaughtered in the Bible. We also have barbera, merlot and a cab. And we have a lower blend; we call it Mor. We have a white wine, we have a dessert wine – we have all kinds of range!
YH: What’s special about the terroir where your grapes come from?
MC: I can tell you all the things about my terroir, but I’m going to answer you with a quote from the Bible…. The Bible says that Joseph got an extra blessing from the patriarch Jacob…. You know, many people … comment [o]n the Bible, one of them was Rashi, who was very famous, he asked: “What is so special about this blessing? Why did he [get] this land? [Does] Shiloh ha[ve] an extra blessing?” And, on this spot, Rashi answers, “Because the fruits are sweeter.” So, we have a gorgeous, gorgeous place to grow and plant our vineyards. As a matter of fact, many of the wineries are planting vineyards in Shiloh because of this quality. Outstanding quality!
YH: What are the plans for the future?
MC: Well, continue to do good wine, keeping the quality at all costs. And we want to grow, obviously, but we want to grow as per the request of our customers. If our demand will grow, because people will continue acknowledging our quality, then we’ll grow. Otherwise, we will stay where we are, always doing different things and new important things that can be attractive to our customers and clients. But always keeping proportions, meaning we want to be always a quality winery, as opposed to a mass winery.
YH: Can you tell us a little about how you got started in the wine business?
MC: To make this very long story short, I lived in Spain for several years. I was working and doing my PhD. I’m a lawyer by defect!… So I was there and, obviously, Spain is a very important wine region. And every time I would have people over to my house for holidays or for the Sabbath, I was very frustrated that I couldn’t get a good kosher wine. So, back in the [United] States, I was a little bit naïve and I thought, “I’m going to change the world! And I’m going to have just good quality wines, and I’m going to go to Israel and make a good winery.” And that was the beginning of it.
YH: When was this?
MC: This was in 1997. I was in Spain until 2001. So then, when I moved to Israel, I was working for a couple of years and then I decided, “OK, let’s make the dream come true!”
YH: What other regions inform your style of winemaking?
MC: I don’t know if I can answer that. I love French wines as well as Italian wines, which are very different, although they are the Old World. I really respect the New World wines: New Zealand, California. I think it’s important to have a combination of New and Old, just not be limited, but actually just making the best wine possible. We like to make wines that we know customers will appreciate, because customers nowadays start looking for something new, something interesting and attractive. At the same time, you always have that romanticism of good quality, classic wines.
– This article is reprinted courtesy of the Grape Collective, an online publication for all things wine. For more information, visit grapecollective.com.
Wine has been made in Israel since biblical times. The Book of Deuteronomy lists seven blessed species of fruit, including “the fruit of the vine.” Israel’s Mediterranean climate boasts many microclimates, which foster a diversity of wine styles.
The modern Israeli wine industry was greatly influenced by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, owner France’s Château Lafite Rothschild. He started making wine in Israel in the late 19th century, importing French vine varieties and winemaking knowledge, and founding Carmel Winery, today the largest wine estate in Israel.
By the late 1980s, most Israeli wine was low quality, used for sacramental purposes. But the 1990s saw a huge boom in the establishment of quality-focused boutique wineries that were taking an artisanal approach. Today there are hundreds of wineries producing in aggregate more than 10 million bottles per year. Three producers are responsible for 80 percent of the production: Carmel, Barkan and Golan Heights Winery.
This short series features nine Israeli producers about the wines they make, their individual path into winemaking and their terroir. The first in the series profiles Irit Boxer-Shank of Barkan Winery, the second-largest winery in Israel.
Christopher Barnes: How did you get involvd in wine?
Irit Boxer-Shank: Well, it’s from the family. My father used to own the winery, Barkan. Now, he’s just the CEO.
CB: How did that change?
IBS: I started out as the owner’s daughter. I grew up there since I was 10, so I did everything in the winery, from putting on the labels all the way to the vineyards, walking with the workers, and then the winery was sold to a bigger company. My father is the CEO. I’m the winemaker. We’re still there doing our stuff, and we love it, but it’s not family-owned now.
CB: Tell us a little bit about the terroir where your wines are made.
IBS: Well, because we’re a big winery, we do wines from all over the country, from the northe[rnmost] part to the south, including in the desert. We have all kinds of terroir. We have all the varieties. We do a lot of experiments. That’s what’s fun about being a winemaker in Barkan. I love it because I have fruit from all over the country. I have all kinds of varieties, and I can play all the time.
CB: How many different varieties are you making right now?
IBS: A lot of them, and we do a lot of experiments. We bring a lot of new varieties. There is now a malbec that is brand new. We’re going to bring it to the [United] States. Pinotage was the first different variety that we started growing in Israel, then we have marselan and caladoc from south of France. Well, we’re playing a lot with it. Some of them that are not as good, we’ll go back, and we’ll do something else, but we have a lot. Of course, the cabernet sauvignon is the king, it will always be the king, but we do a lot of varieties.
CB: I interviewed a winemaker in Australia who is using 60 different varieties in his wines. I said to him, “How do you keep track of it? How do you know what’s working and what’s not when you have that many?” Is it more of a challenge to make wine with a lot of different types of grapes?
IBS: I don’t think so. It’s like asking a person who has a lot of children, “How do you keep up with them?” It’s like you grow them from the beginning to the end, so you know each of the wines just like you know a person, all the way, very intimately.
CB: You mentioned malbec. How do you decide if you’re going to try a new variety?
IBS: It’s a long process. We go and try it in different countries. We see the soil and the climate that they’re growing it in, and the best versions of them – like malbec in Argentina, in the south of France. And then we go back home and see if there are very similar [conditions], as similar as we can in Israel, and then we plant just a small plot. If it’s good, we’ll plant more, and then there are trials in the winery to see how to ferment it and what kind of barrels to put it in. It takes us at least eight years to start an experiment on a variety and maybe take it to the market.
CB: Do you buy a lot of fruit?
IBS: No. One of the more interesting things about Barkan Wineries is that we grow everything ourselves. We are also the biggest grower in Israel because all of the grapes are ours, which gives us full, complete control in the winemaking.
CB: Do you have a philosophy of winemaking? Is there something that you feel is your stamp in terms of the process and the styles of wines that you make?
IBS: Well, I discovered that we like using technology to do more of the Old World style. We’re trying to have all the fun from all the different worlds, the New and the Old! That’s something that really characterizes Israelis. We do fusions – that’s what you call the Israeli kitchen cuisine: “the fusion.” We take something from the new and something from the old, and do something from Israel. I guess, in winemaking, it’s also like that.
– This article is reprinted courtesy of the Grape Collective, an online publication for all things wine. For more information, visit grapecollective.com.
An aerial view of the acropolis of Herodium. (photo from commons.wikimedia.org)
In Israel, water scarcity has long been an issue. Even the Old Testament narrates that the Hebrews complained to Moses about the lack of fresh drinking water (Exodus 17:1-7, Numbers 20:2-13) in the arid Zin Wilderness.
Whether the answer to that particular water problem came from Divine intervention or from human ingenuity or both, the fact remains that the people who populated the ancient Land of Israel figured out sustainable solutions to their water shortages. This article focuses on three historical examples of sustainable water practice.
The first of the sustainable water system to be examined takes you forward in ancient history and north of the Zin Wilderness or Desert (Midbar Tzin, in Hebrew) to Herodium, a hilltop palace and fortress built by King Herod that stood securely at the highest peak in the Judean Desert.
Herodium was constructed more than 2,000 years ago in 23-20 BCE. Needless to say, it was crucial to have access to drinking water in this semi-arid and elevated location, and four vast underground cisterns for rainwater and spring water were carved deep into the mountain. Three of the cisterns were built in close proximity, about 80 feet below the summit. The fourth was hewn slightly above, about 16 feet from the summit. The largest cistern could hold up to 400,000 gallons of water. Access to the three lower cisterns was via the northeast side of the mountain, close to Herodium’s only flight of steps.
Water traveled a few miles from the Spring of Artas to drain into the large pool of Lower Herodium. It was carried uphill on donkeys and emptied into the lower cisterns. There were two ways to obtain water from these cisterns. One, exiting the palace-fortress with empty water skins or jars via the stairs until reaching the opening to the three lower cisterns. Water would then either be carried all the way back or, two, be transported to the opening of the higher cistern, at which point water was (ingeniously) funneled into the reservoir. A bucket attached to a man-made vertical shaft then brought this water up to the palace courtyard. This method was less labor intensive and insured the privacy of the “royals.”
As the nursery rhyme states, “some like it hot and some like it cold.” At Herodium, you had both hot and cold – and more. The Roman-style bathhouse featured a below-floor heating system in both the tepidarium (warm) and the caldarium (perhaps the precursor of the hot tub?), as well as a cold bath (frigidarium), or some kind of Roman bath/Hasmonean ritual bath hybrid, according to a Stanford professor of history.
According to David Mevorah, a curator of a Herod exhibit at the Israel Museum, by installing Roman baths, the king helped spread the importance of washing to the indigenous people of ancient Israel. Moreover, at what is called Lower Herodium (apparently the high-rent district of the day), the enormous pool (referred to by local residents today as El Hammam and measuring 70×45 metres or 230 feet) functioned as a swimming pool, a water reservoir and a small lake for boating, according to historians.
Today, Herodium is no longer a hilltop palace-fortress, but an amazing national park located just south and east of Jerusalem. For directions and hours, call the Herodian National Park at 057-776-1143 or visit parks.org.il.
Another (though more modern) solution to water scarcity is located just across the street from the Jerusalem Theatre at 17 Marcus St. Five large cisterns once serviced the Jesus Hilfe Asyl (what later became known as the Hansen Hospital). The Herrnhut Brothers, German Christians affiliated with the Moravian Church, donated the money to build the hospital in the late 1800s. It housed and treated people who were suffering from Hansen’s disease, a bacterial disease that was misdiagnosed as leprosy.
With the water collected, the 70 hospital patients (plus, in some cases, their healthy children) and the German Sisters of Mercy met all their water requirements, including medical needs, personal sanitation, in the kitchen and laundries, and for garden and farm maintenance.
Under the supervision of Jesus Hilfe builders, local workers constructed the cisterns, the largest of which was probably built in 1898. When full, it held 15×15 metres of water. In late December 1902, it even overflowed.
The other four cisterns were fed from rain gutters, which began on the hospital roof complex. Rain was collected from the staircase, the cistern roof and even from the road outside the compound’s high stone wall. Two cisterns were built near the laundry; one cistern was built near the southern garden while the others were situated within the main building, in the central courtyard or kitchen area.
With the advent of medicines to effectively treat Hansen’s disease, the in-patient hospital closed. Over the years, it has been an Israeli Ministry of Health outpatient facility and an early-childhood development centre. At present, it is being used as a Jerusalem municipal cultural centre. Inside the facility, you can visit an informative exhibit dealing with the history of the hospital and health care in Jerusalem. For visiting hours and tour arrangements, email [email protected] or call 054-744-6123.
Another ingenious water system is today located in a Ramla (or Ramle) city park. During the early Muslim period, in the early eighth century, Ramla was a strategically significant town, and served as the administrative centre of Palestine. Ramla was close to the road serving the holy city of Jerusalem and the port of Jaffa. Obviously, maintaining control of such an important location meant it had to be populated. This included providing inhabitants with a viable source of water.
Entering the city park, you’ll catch a glimpse of some long, rounded structures peeking up from the ground. When you descend the steep, narrow metal staircase (that now covers the original stone) leading to the pool, you take a step back in time, into the early Muslim period. This building, however, was not just any old storage unit. This elaborate reservoir, built in 789, is decorated with heavy brick, stone arches and a domed roof. Down below, you’ll find yourself facing an underground dock. It could pass for a medieval fort or a house, except that the floor is missing. In its place, the different chambers are filled with water deep enough for row boating! Altogether, the place gives you a mini-taste of Venice, Italy, except that at Ramla’s Pool of Arches, you never see the sky.
Today, we know arches make the sturdiest of structures, but this was still a novel idea back in the eighth century. Indeed, this construction proved so successful that the 400-plus-metre Pool of Arches withstood the devastation of the 1068 CE earthquake. You can see five of the original six vaults that covered the pool. Fifteen square pillars and 16 cross-shaped pillars support the vaults. Pointed arches exist between each pair of pillars. To compliment the arches, the architect designed small windows above them. These windows were likewise shaped as pointed arches. Locals drew water from 24 square openings in the ceiling.
There are various theories about the reservoir’s original source of water. Some claim it was filled only with rainwater. A more compelling assertion is that water flowed 10 kilometres from Tel Gezer via Caliph Sulayman ibn Adb al-Malik’s water conduit (in Hebrew referred to as an amah). Two points are clear: (1) it wasn’t water from any adjacent spring and (2) we are talking about a part of the world that is hot and dry for months at a time. The engineering and maintenance of this cistern was so successful that archeologists believe it was actively used for 150 years.
The site has a somewhat obscure history and goes by a variety of names, including the Pool of St. Helena and the Pool of Al-Anziya. In the early 20th cenutry, the British repaired the pool, but it was the (post-statehood) Ramla Municipality that converted it for boating.
After you visit the Pool of Arches, make note of the continuation of the city’s old subterranean water system. Ancient water cisterns are located in the White Tower’s large courtyard.
Visitors aged 2 and up can take a boat ride; life jackets are provided. For hours and directions, call 08-977-1595, 08-920-7586 or 052-851-0715. A helpful map can be found at ramla.muni.il/eng.
Deborah Rubin Fields is an Israel-based features writer. She is also the author of Take a Peek Inside: a Child’s Guide to Radiology Exams published in English, Hebrew and Arabic (take-a-peek-inside.com).
The Norman Tel Aviv (thenorman.com), a luxurious boutique hotel, has restored two buildings on Nachmani Street, at the heart of the Tel Aviv UNESCO heritage site for historic Bauhaus architecture. The newly renovated hotel’s management are also dedicated patrons of the arts, seeking to support contemporary artistic expression in Israel. When complete, the complex will be a travel destination that houses and showcases many avant-garde cultural treasures.
“Tremendous care has been taken to restore these buildings to their original grandeur, preserving the eclectic style, Renaissance and oriental influences that characterize the edifice at #23 Nachmani, as well as the striking modernist architecture of the adjacent building at #25,” said Olivier Heuchenne, managing director of the Norman.
The hotel – whose grand opening is planned for this summer – will sport an interior design echoing the luxury and style of the grand hotels of the early 20th century, featuring top restaurants, an extraordinary collection of Israeli artwork, an elegant library bar and the Norman’s signature world-class amenities.
The art collection, comprised of more than 100 works, stands at the centre of this accomplishment, uniting design themes and creating an interactive experience for guests. Featured are works by Ilit Azoulay, Sigalit Landau, Klone, Dana Levy, Assaf Shaham and Tsibi Geva, among others, celebrating a class of leading contemporary Israeli artists whose work is exhibited worldwide.
For Tamar Dresdner, the in-house art curator and consultant tasked with selecting works for display, the opportunity to partake in the restoration is a dream come true. “I’ve been living in Tel Aviv for years,” she said in an interview. “I remember walking past these buildings when they were residential properties and then entering them when they housed offices for businesses and lawyers. I always fantasized about what could be done with the space.”