Your Personal Link With The World
New York Jewish Film Festival 2011 Q&A

Q&A after a film screening
By Wise Web Owl [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia

If you live in or near a major city in the United States, chances are you have access to a well-attended, high profile Jewish Film Festival.

As a major part of the Jewish Diaspora and identities of American Jewry, film festivals have grown to number over 100 across the country in the past few decades.

What makes these festivals so successful and sought after by Jews of a variety of backgrounds?

First of all, there are few things more American than Hollywood and cinema glamour; expressing  and consuming the richness of Jewish identity in this notorious American art form is a way to negotiate one’s Jewish roots and often conflicting contemporary American identity.

Second of all, film festivals are forums that offer a variety of expressions of identity for people of all interests, which reinforces the idea that Judaism is one aspect of a much larger picture when it comes to the whole person.

Third of all, the production of film allows us to physically and formally preserve Jewish identity while also challenging this identity to progress and reflect contemporary issues, needs, and interests of the current Jewish diasporic community.

Film festivals are one way American Jews manifest their desire to connect to their roots- which is exactly why film festivals are extremely relevant to Israeli travel.

As space separates the Jews of America physically across oceans and countries from the land of Israel, time separates the Jews of America from vital events informing 21st century Jewish identity- namely, the Holocaust and the War of Independence establishing the State of Israel. American Jews have compensated for that distance by contributing their own time and money to Israel through its vital tourism industry. This is a win-win for both American Jews as well as for Israel: American Jews return to Israel to find their roots and connect with their history, while Israeli tourism benefits from their financial and emotional support.

We cannot all make aliyaah…We can however, commit the time and money to spend as much time there as possible to support local businesses, preserve the historical culture of the country, and encourage the rest of the world to enjoy Israel as much as we Jews tend to.

This support is extremely vital to the reputation, persona, and public relations of Israel as it relates to the non-Jews of the world who perhaps have a different, or lesser, investment in Israel as a Jewish state. Engaging with Israel for personal benefits and growth is important in this time of fading religious and cultural identities, but it is even more important in the need for American Jews to support Israel as publicly and tangibly as possible. Adding to the fight to defend Israel verbally, intellectually, and emotionally is just one part of the equation; to make a difference on the ground in Israel it is key to put oneself on the ground and there is no better way to do that then through travel.

We cannot all make aliyaah, we cannot all move to Israel to permanently reclaim our connection to the Holy Land. We can however, commit the time and money to spend as much time there as possible to support local businesses, preserve the historical culture of the country, and encourage the rest of the world to enjoy Israel as much as we Jews tend to.

group massada sitting Jewish Heritage Family Tours

Overlooking the Ramon Crater
By Dafna Tal [CC BY-SA 2.0], via goisrael

In light of the recent conflict in Israel during the summer months of 2014, many prominent American Jewish scholars, intellectuals and spiritual leaders stood together in their stance that the absolute best way for Americans to show their support for their Israeli brothers and sisters is commit to traveling there, commit to visiting, and allow actions to speak louder than words.

As a travel agency serving the needs of the American Jewish travel community, Gil Travel is dedicated to this mission of supporting Israeli tourism, by promoting connection to Jewish history in the land of Israel. No matter what your interests, Gil Travel is here to provide you with comfortable, safe, and engaging travel through Israel and beyond.

In the meantime of waiting for your next trip to Israel to roll around though, do enjoy those film festivals and allow the cinematic line-up to open your diasporic heart to your Israel-root-connecting-journeys to come.

– Or better yet, check out some incredible international film festivals that take place in Israel each year!

Jerusalem Film Festival- started in 1994 by an Israel filmmaker and judge of the Cannes Film Festival who wanted Jerusalem to have its own cinematic prestige as a festival  host. JFF is held every summer and highlights many films that continue on with mainstream success.

Haifa Film Festival- first international film festival to occur in Israel. This festival takes place every year during the week- long festival of Sukkot in the gorgeous North of Israel, which gives access to incredible film to less populated Northern communities.

Tel Aviv Film Festival- the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv hosts a variety of film festivals each year, including its main festival held each June. Highlights include student works and documentaries that push the edge of contemporary film both in form and in content.

Marrakech Morocco-xavier33300-cc by 2.0-flickr

Vibrant night market in Marrakech
By xavier33300 [CC BY 2.0], via flickr

No matter where you vacation or what time of year you travel, you can never know too much about how to prepare!

Morocco is no exception, for it is a very unique destination with a variety of elements to consider. Before your next trip to Morocco, check out these Gil Travel approved tips!


Moroccan currency is called dirham
By David Holt [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

1. Carry loose change
Tipping is a very important part of daily life in Morocco, so be sure to have a wide range of change on your person to make tipping easier and stay on the right side of the locals. At restaurants, be prepared to tip 5-10% and don’t forget to tip anyone else who assists you with luggage, transportation, or safety.
2. Visit during spring
Morocco is the most lush during the spring months, which are also the best months to visit in terms of weather and climate. Plan around Ramadan as well, for while it is a good time to visit a lot of restaurants might be closed during daytime hours.
moroccan riad morocco tour

Moroccan riad
By Damien Ayers [CC BY 2.0], via flickr

3. Stay in or visit a riad
Riad is a gorgeous house built around an internal garden. This is a standard form of architecture in Morocco and stands alone as an authentic residential experience here.
4. Dress conservatively
Regardless of the weather, dress conservatively. Observe your surroundings to get a sense of how the locals dress and present themselves. Generally, it is a good idea to keep arms and legs covered unless you are at the beach or pool. Opt for light, cotton material that is breathable and fast-drying.
morocco tea-jonl1973-cc by sa 2.0-flickr.com_photos_chigley_3004283466

Preparing peppermint tea
By jonl1973 [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

5. Accept tea and converse
If offered tea by a local, it is expected that you will at least take a few sips and enjoy conversation with them. Sharing tea is an important part of local culture in Morocco and is also a great way to get to know the culture!
6. Pack toilet paper
Bring some extra toilet paper with you to the bathroom, because sometimes they are under-stocked. You can never be too careful!
arabic french bilingual sign, Bienvenue à Rechmaya

French and/or Arabic makes travelling throughout the Middle East more convenient

7. Pick up some Arabic or French before your trip
Arabic and French are the main languages used in Morocco, most signs are in these language as well. Try to learn some common travel phrases before your trip, and jot down some addresses that you need for easy travel. *Note: It is recommended to have the name of your hotel and the address written down in the native language in case you need help orienting yourself.
8. Which hand are you using?
Use your right hand to eat food, especially in sight of locals. The left hand is used for personal hygiene, and the right hand is used for shaking hands and eating.
royal air maroc plane in air white background

Royal Air Maroc in flight
By Aero Icarus [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

9. Royal Air Maroc
Royal Air Maroc is the only airline that offers direct flights from the US to Morocco, and also tends to be the most affordable. Do your research before booking but know that sometimes it is best to go right to the source!

There is so much history and culture in Morocco. Don’t stress over the tiny details. Let Gil Travel take care of you while you enjoy your time there!

Joan-Nathan-author-jewish cooking-israel culinary tour

Food legend, Joan Nathan

As seasons change in the beautiful Holy Land, Gil Travel is gearing up for an incredible Culture and Culinary tour led by author and famous Jewish foodie Joan Nathan. Nathan is deep-rooted connections to the culinary side of Israel, which is reflected in her successful career as an author of cookbooks, articles, recipes and more!

This March, she will be leading a once in a lifetime tour with exclusive experiences made possible only by travelling with a mega-food-star like Nathan. The Culture and Culinary tour of Israel reflects Nathan’s interests and background as much as it does the rich heart of Israeli food; learn more about Joan Nathan herself in this exclusive Gil Travel Interview!


SN: What have your past travels to Israel involved?

JN: “I lived in Israel for a few years working for Teddy Kollek, the former Mayor of Jerusalem. Since then I have fallen in love with Israel and gone back year after year to write about food. I have written two cookbooks on Israeli food- I love the food scene there because it is always changing. I love to go into peoples’ homes and get them talking about food whenever I go back to Israel to visit.” 

Israeli food is more bound to the land of Israel itself- food that has been brought to Israel and reinterpreted in Israel. This is what makes Israeli food so much fun!

SN: How does food impact your relationship with Israel and Judaism?

JN: “What interests me most about Jewish food are the laws of Kashrut, or keeping kosher. These laws really bind you to Israel, and are intended for many people to keep. Accommodating to these laws while cooking has always interested me.”

SN: What is the difference between Jewish and Israeli food?

JN: “Jewish food is kosher food first and foremost. Israeli food is more bound to the land of Israel itself- food that has been brought to Israel and reinterpreted in Israel. This is what makes Israeli food so much fun!”

SN: What are your favorite and least favorite Israeli foods?

JN: “I love all eggplant dishes known to mankind, as well as any variety of hummus. I am not a fan of grilled hearts or goose liver though, both of which you can find in Israeli cuisine. There are so many great dishes though.”

SN: What are some exciting features of the upcoming Culture and Culinary tour to Israel? 

We are visiting places known for good food but not necessarily the stylish places. I am most excited about the really great people going on the trip!

JN: “During the tour, we will be going into homes and engaging with locals directly over food. We will be visiting a good chef friend of mine, Eres Komorovsky to experience his cooking as well as his teaching. We are visiting places known for good food but not necessarily the stylish places. I am most excited about the really great people going on the trip! I am especially excited to share new experiences with my husband who has also been to Israel many times but usually focuses on different things when he is there. We are going to the Albert Einstein Archives too which is a huge treasure and got me really excited for the trip!”

Do you have any questions for Joan about her background, interests, or upcoming trips? Comment below!