Ramallah in the central West Bank

August 1st, 2015 | General | No Comments »

Manarah Square © Abutoum

Manarah Square © Abutoum

Ramallah is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank located 10 km (6 miles) north of Jerusalem at an elevation of 875 meters above sea level, adjacent to al-Bireh. It currently serves as the de facto administrative capital of the State of Palestine. Ramallah was historically a Christian town, but today Muslims form the majority of the population, with Christians still making up a significant minority.

Ramallah has been described as the seat of power of the Palestinian Authority and serves as the headquarters for most international NGOs and embassies. Many foreign nations have located their diplomatic missions to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, including, as of 2010, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Korea, South Africa, Norway, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, China, Poland, Portugal, The Netherlands, Russia, Jordan, Brazil, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Germany, India, Japan, the Czech Republic, Canada and Mexico.

By 2010, Ramallah had become the leading center of economic and political activity in the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority. A building boom in the early years of the 21st century saw apartment buildings and “five-star” hotels erected, particularly in the Al-Masyoun neighborhood. In 2010, “more than one hundred” Palestinian businesses were reported to have moved to Ramallah from East Jerusalem, because “Here they pay less taxes and have more customers.” One local boasted to a journalist that “Ramallah is becoming the de facto capital of Palestine.” This boast was seconded by the New York Times which, in 2010, called Ramallah the “de facto capital of the West Bank. According to Sani Meo, the publisher of This Week in Palestine, “Capital or no capital, Ramallah has done well and Palestine is proud of its achievements.” Some Palestinians allege that Ramallah’s prosperity is part of an Israeli “conspiracy” to make Ramallah the capital of a Palestinian state, instead of Jerusalem.

Ramallah is generally considered the most affluent and cultural, as well as the most liberal, of all Palestinian cities, and is home to a number of popular Palestinian activists, poets, artists, and musicians. It boasts a lively nightlife, with many restaurants including the Stars and Bucks Cafe, a branch of the Tche Tche Cafe and the Orjuwan Lounge, described in 2010 as two among the “dozens of fancy restaurants, bars and discotheques that have cropped up in Ramallah in the last three years.” One hallmark of Ramallah is Rukab’s Ice Cream, which is based on the resin of chewing gum and thus has a distinctive taste. Another is the First Ramallah Group, a boy- and girl-scout club that also holds a number of traditional dance (Dabka) performances and is also home to men’s and women’s basketball teams that compete regionally. International music and dance troupes occasionally make a stop in Ramallah, and renowned Israeli pianist Daniel Barenboim performs there often. The Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, founded in 1996, is a popular venue for such events. The Al-Kasaba Theatre is a venue for plays and movies. In 2004, the state-of-the art Ramallah Cultural Palace opened in the city. The only cultural center of its kind in the Palestinian-governed areas, it houses a 736-seat auditorium, as well as conference rooms, exhibit halls, and movie-screening rooms. It was a joint venture of the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Japanese government. Ramallah hosted its first annual international film festival in 2004.

Read more on Ramallah, TravelPalestine.ps, SnowBar Garden Pool & Bar, Wikitravel Ramallah and Wikipedia Ramallah. Photos by Wikimedia Commons.

Tel Aviv

July 29th, 2015 | General | No Comments »

Tel Aviv from Shalom Meir Tower © Shmuliko/cc-by-sa-3.0

Tel Aviv from Shalom Meir Tower © Shmuliko/cc-by-sa-3.0

Tel Aviv or Tel Aviv-Yafo is the second most populous city in Israel, after Jerusalem, with a population of 414,600. It is located in central-west Israel, within Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area, Israel’s largest metropolitan area, containing 42% of Israel’s population. It is also the largest and most populous in Gush Dan, which is collectively home to 3,464,100 residents. Residents of Tel Aviv are referred to as Tel Avivim (singular: Tel Avivi).

Tel Aviv was founded by the Jewish community on the outskirts of the ancient port city of Jaffa in 1909. Immigration by mostly Jewish refugees meant that the growth of Tel Aviv soon outpaced Jaffa’s, which had a majority Arab population at the time. Tel Aviv and Jaffa were merged into a single municipality in 1950, two years after the establishment of the State of Israel. Tel Aviv’s White City, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, comprises the world’s largest concentration of Bauhaus buildings.

After the Israeli Declaration of Independence, most countries established their embassies in a Tel Aviv, as the status of Jerusalem in accordance with the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was considered unclear. After Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 and had declared in the Jerusalem Law, the “complete and united Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 called on all States that had their embassies in Jerusalem to close and relocate them. Today, all diplomatic missions are located in and around Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv is a technological and economic hub, home to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, corporate offices and research and development centers. It is the country’s financial capital and a major performing arts and business center. Tel Aviv has the second-largest economy in the Middle East after Dubai, and is the 31st most expensive city in the world. With 2.5 million international visitors annually, Tel Aviv is the fifth-most-visited city in the Middle East. Known as “The City that Never Sleeps” and a “party capital”, it has a lively nightlife, dynamic atmosphere and a famous 24-hour culture.

Read more on Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Tourism, Wikitravel Tel Aviv and Tel Aviv. Photos by Wikimedia Commons.

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