Israel, Here We Come!

Last year in Jerusalem: Danielle with Celebrity Chef Moshe Basson of Eucalyptus. Photo by Eliran Dahan.

I'm frantically getting ready to leave for Israel for 10 days. Aside from trying to figure out WHAT to pack when a climate is warm-to-hot during the day and nearly freezing at night, I'm also eyeing a small canister of mace.

I've not been to Israel since the "Knife Intifada" commenced last fall. More than 28 people have been randomly killed by knives, car rammings, and guns since then.  Among the most recent atrocities: an Arab Israeli, Nashat Milhem, opened fire on a cafe on Tel Aviv's famous shopping street, Dizengoff, killing two. FT&V's Israel-based photographer Eliran Dahan was at the cafe next door when the shooting occurred. Only a week ago, at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate, a border policewoman was killed and a female officer wounded by three terrorists wielding "machine guns, pipe bombs and knives." Damascus Gate is one of the most familiar -- and spectacular -- entryways to the Old City. Built in 1537, it sits on top of a gate dating back to the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It's not a place where a tourist, pausing to gaze up at the gate's crown of parapets, would expect a sudden act of violence.
 
Damascus Gate, Jerusalem. Web image.

But this is the current reality in Israel. As usual, this current reality is affecting the country's hugely important tourism industry. My daughter Miranda, who lived in Israel for two years - and endured the Gaza war along the way - will join me on my trip. When I asked her advice on what to pack, I mentioned that I'd heard many Israelis now carry backpacks fortified by heavy books to thwart a stabbing from behind. We were speaking by phone but I could hear the eye roll.

"So they'll stab you in the leg instead. Or the arm. Or the head. You just can't think that way."  

Miranda definitely takes the "Appointment in Samarra" view of life. So do the Israelis. So will I. But it was my husband who offered me the most heartening reassurance: "If someone tries to attack you, all the merchants will protect you." 

"Why on earth would they do that?" 

"Because you're the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn't barter!" he replied. "Why would they let anyone kill their most lucrative customer?"

And I didn't even tell him I plan to take a second empty suitcase!

I'm excited to be going and glad to visit at a time when it's important to show solidarity, while celebrating everything that is culturally amazing and beautiful about Israel.

Aside from being my eldest daughter, Miranda Frum is also journalist and international model. She'll be serving as FT&V's Style and Fashion Editor, helping me to create a new line of exclusive accessories by some of Israel's top designers. One of the meetings I'm most excited about is the one we've booked with the historic fashion house,Maskit. The brand was founded in 1945 by Ruth Dayan, the wife of the great general and politician, Moshe Dayan. Ruth originally created Maskit to employ and empower impoverished immigrant women, encouraging them to make use of their native arts in Maskit's designs. By the 1960s, Maskit's its iconic "Desert Coat" was worn by celebrities worldwide. In 2010, the brand was revived by head designer, Sharon Tal, an Israeli who worked for Lanvin and Alexander McQueen before returning home. Remarkably, Ruth, 96, remains involved with Maskit as honorary chair. Last summer I returned home with two stunning silk column dresses by Maskit. They fit and flow like couture, but exude the hot, beachy informality of an Israeli summer. 
 
Clockwise from left to right: Maskit head designer Sharon Tal; dresses from the 2015 winter collection; FT&V's Style & Fashion Editor Miranda Frum; Maskit's iconic "Desert Coat."

In addition to launching this new line of products, I'll be meeting a host of new artisans, who produce everything from beautiful soaps to housewares to baby clothes to silver Judaica. I also look forward to reconnecting with our current artisans and adding new pieces to their existing collections. As always, I'll be meeting Israel's finest chefs and collecting their recipes for our FT&V Shabbat and Seasonal Recipe page.

If you have any suggestions or requests, please don't hesitate to contact me: danielle@figtreeandvine.com. Otherwise, you can follow my adventures on Instagram, FB, and Twitter.

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