Israel: A great place to be born

birthplace-rankingIn a report that might surprise many Americans who have never been to Israel, The Economist reports that their research indicates that Israel is the 20th best place to be born in 2013, only four spots behind the USA and Germany who tied for 16th.

This clip from the article provides some explanation of the factors that were considered in this study: “Its quality-of-life index links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys—how happy people say they are—to objective determinants of the quality of life across countries. Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically significant indicators into account. They are a mixed bunch: some are fixed factors, such as geography; others change only very slowly over time (demography, many social and cultural characteristics); and some factors depend on policies and the state of the world economy.”

Another thing that surprises many tourists is “how modern” life is in Israel. Many expect to see people still dressed like the actors in all the Christmas plays they have seen. There remain some traditional aspects to life in Israel, but don’t be surprised to see a modern, technologically advanced nation when you visit.

Heavy Rains Now – Snow on the Way

Israel has been blessed with an unusually wet winter already, and severe rain has been experienced all over the country since Saturday. However, the rain is expected to turn to snow beginning as early as Wednesday PM. That means you may see scenes like these:

mt hermon snow

Mt. Hermon covered in snow. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com

One of the most common questions asked about the climate/weather in Israel is, “Does it ever snow?” Many are surprised to hear that it does actually snow in Israel, and that Israel has a ski area in the Golan Heights on Mt. Hermon, which is on the northern border that is shared with Lebanon and Syria. By the way, there is a clue in the Bible that Israel gets snow: Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made whiter than snow.”

You can find out more about this ski area, listed by Popular Mechanics as one of “The World’s 18 Strangest Ski Resorts,” at the Ski Hermon website.

Mt. of Olives cemetery with snow. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com

Mt. of Olives cemetery with snow. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com

Every other year or so, the higher elevations of the country also get snow, sometimes pretty heavy snows.

In this photo, the cemetery on the Mt of Olives has a nice blanket of snow. In the distance, you can see the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

If you are interested to know more about the weather in Israel, you can see The Weather Channel’s 10-day forecast here.

All of the precipitation is good news. Not only does it mean stunningly beautiful touring in the late winter and spring, it also replenishes the Sea of Galilee, which has reached dangerously low water levels.

Free Wi-Fi in Tel Aviv

Israel HaYom is reporting that free Wi-Fi will be available throughout the city:

Public wireless network will enable residents of Tel Aviv and visitors to enjoy free high-speed Internet connections.  The project will include 80 Wi-Fi relay stations at a cost of around 6 million shekels ($1.6 million).

The installation will be staged and begins shortly. If you are looking for other free hotspots, ride the train. Israel Railways offers free Wi-Fi service on their trains as well as an interesting way to see certain parts of the country.

Mt. of Olives Cemetery is almost full

Hasidic Jews at Mt of Olives grave, tb012603214

Hasidic Jews visit the Mount of Olives cemetery. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.

According to reporter Rick Westhead, “For the past 3,000 years, Jewish families have been bringing their dead to the Mount of Olives cemetery.” The result of this historic connection to the Mount of Olives has not only been a lot of political and theological tensions, it has also pushed the plot of land to its limits. The cemetery over which most tourists get an overview of the Old City of Jerusalem is almost at capacity. Read the full article for some interesting facts and fables about this unique cemetery.