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Israel, Part 1
Israel: A Remarkable Paradise
Carved Out of the Desert

Beverly Cohn – Editor-at-Large

sually when I'm invited on a press trip, my family and friends are very excited for me. When my trip to Israel materialized, I eagerly shared with everyone what for me what was great news. Their smiles suddenly faded and were replaced with looks of deep concern. "Be careful." "Be careful." "Be careful." I heard that over and over again, with one email from a friend reading: Don't leave the group. Don't eat in any outdoor cafes. Don't use the buses. Don't use any underground parking… Have a good time! Don't. Don't. Don't. That was the "bon voyage" sentiment that came at me from just about everyone.

El Al plane
El Al Airlines has stringent security measures, making it the safest airlines in the world. Courtesy Photo

While I'm fully aware of the recent hostilities taking place in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, not for a split second did I have a single worry. After all, I was headed to a country that probably has the best security in the world. No El Al plane has ever been hijacked or shot down, which is due in large part to the routine security measures at airports and the state-of-the-art defense systems in place in that tiny country, no bigger than the state of New Jersey. In addition, many of El Al's aircraft are equipped with anti-missile technology.

After my United Airlines flight out of LAX arrived at JFK in New York, I headed over to the El Al ticket counter to pick up a boarding pass for the next leg of my journey. A friendly Israeli gentleman greeted me and escorted me to the check-in line, at which point a young woman interviewed me.

"Why are you going to Israel?" she asked.

"I'm going on a press trip," I replied.

"What is the purpose?"

"The purpose is to write a feature on my experiences."

"Where exactly will you be going at which hotels will you being staying?"

At this point, I took out my itinerary as prepared by the Israel Ministry of Tourism, which outlined the destinations we would be visiting. She read it carefully and then asked me some more standard questions:

"Did anyone give you a parcel to take with you to Israel?"


"Did you ever leave your luggage unattended?"


I had already received a note from Israel Tourism asking me to be patient and not take offense at any questions that might be considered invasive, so I was fully prepared to even account for my bra size, should I be asked that. After about ten minutes of questioning, I was then escorted to the ticket counter where I was issued a boarding pass and a special invitation to wait in the El Al Lounge for my connecting flight, which would depart in about five hours. Not to worry though, like most Jewish "homes," the food area was overflowing with wonderful treats and before I knew it, the five hours had flown by and the boarding of my flight to Israel commenced.

I queued up to get on the plane, and when I handed my boarding pass to yet another security officer, he very politely said, "Wait here." I have to admit that was the only moment of concern, as I couldn't imagine why I was being detained. He addressed another gentleman behind the counter who picked up the phone and spoke in Hebrew. As I do not speak Hebrew, the only thing I understood was "Beverly Cohn." The security guy came back in short order and beckoned for me to proceed to the plane. I asked if there was a problem and he smiled and said, "Not to worry." Once on board, I was looking forward to the 10-½ hour flight to the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, and I'm pleased to tell you that delicious free food just kept on coming throughout the duration of the flight.

Lady Gaga performing
Unlike some other performers, Lady Gaga refused to cancel her appearance in
Tel Aviv. Courtesy Photo

I share this reassuring experience with you because following the latest conflict, many people cancelled their booked tours or business conventions, as did many well-known entertainers. Some of the notable talent that backed out included Neil Young, America, Backstreet Boys, and Kansas. One entertainer who did not cancel was the amazing Lady Gaga, and I'll talk more about her incredible performance in Part Two. Knee-jerk reactions to visiting Israel are largely based on uninformed misperceptions about its people, politics, and the realities of normal day-to-day life in that country."

Most people think Israelis live in constant fear of the next rocket attack. Also, they have gotten much bad press with many stories beginning with incendiary and provocative headlines like, "Israel Kills Civilians" or "Israel Murders Children." What is glaringly omitted is how many rockets were fired into Israel and that they were acting in their own defense. Despite the occasional hostilities, life goes on as usual. People wake up in the morning, have their breakfast, which generally includes fresh vegetables, eggs, and cheeses with coffee or tea, and then go off to work or school. Life is active and the streets are alive day and night with people enjoying themselves at lovely cafes. They attend the ballet, opera, movies, as well as classical or rock concerts.

security check at the Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv
Stringent security measures at the Ben Gurion Airport gives you assurances that your safety is their Number 1 concern. Courtesy Photo

Whether you are a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim, or whatever your religious background you might be, Israel is a magical place filled ancient religious and cultural wonders and is a fascinating, fun destination for a family vacation. You can be assured that one of Israel's primary concerns is the safety and security of its visitors. To paraphrase Israel's old tourism slogan, "Go To Israel. Stay with friends."

welcome sign at the Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv
This sign greets you on arrival at the Ben Gurion Airport setting the tone for the memorable vacation you are about to experience. Photo: Beverly Cohn

Part Two is a detailed account of my exciting adventures in Israel, which included visits to the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, King David's Tomb, the Room of the Last Supper, the Muslim Quarter, including the Arab market, Capernaum, the ancient Jewish fishing village where Jesus began his ministry, Masada, Yad Vasahem – the National Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust, floating in the Dead Sea, and so much more.

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Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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