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Tel Aviv high-rises, Ben and Jerry’s is back, making connections

Ticket prices for Metallica's Israel concert in May were cut following a Facebook boycott. (deep_schismic/flickr)

Ticket prices for Metallica’s Israel concert in May were cut following a Facebook boycott. (deep_schismic/flickr)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Here are some recent stories out of Israel that you may have missed.

Tel Aviv skyline

Some Tel Aviv residents are angry that they were not consulted over plans to double the city’s housing capacity by eschewing city blocks lined with low-rise apartment buildings for high-rise blocks.

The city last week released a plan, dubbed "T.A./5000," which recommends lining Tel Aviv’s main streets with apartment buildings up to 14 stories in place of the current four-story buildings, Ha’aretz reported.

Residents are upset because the municipality claimed that the new plans were drawn up in consultation with city residents.

As of 2008, Tel Aviv had 178,000 living units and now plans to build 83,000 more, according to the newspaper. Eventually, under the new housing push, the city could boast 460,000 living units by 2025.

Couples and young families often struggle to find affordable housing in Tel Aviv.

Another section of the wall

Archeologists have discovered a section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem that may have been built by King Solomon.

The wall, which dates back to the First Temple-period based on potsherds found in the vicinity, is located on the hill between the Temple Mount and the village of Silwan.

Also uncovered in the city wall complex: an inner gatehouse for access into the royal quarter of the city, a royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse and a corner tower that overlooks a substantial section of the adjacent Kidron valley. 

The dig, led by Hebrew University’s Eilat Mazar and funded by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman, a New York couple interested in biblical archeology, is a joint project of the school, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Company for the Development of East Jerusalem.

“The city wall that has been uncovered testifies to a ruling presence," Mazar said. "Its strength and form of construction indicate a high level of engineering. We can estimate, with a high degree of certainty, that this was built by King Solomon toward the end of the 10th century BC."

Artifacts found near the excavation, including clay seals with Hebrew names on them, are indications that the wall was part of the royal structure, the team said.

Beyond Hadera to Gadera

Israel’s Cabinet approved a $7 billion plan plan to create a transportation network that would construct highways and lay train tracks in the north and south of Israel.

The plan would connect the center of the country to both Eilat in the south and Kiryat Shemona in the north.

"The time has come to open the bottleneck and join the State of Israel in one country," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "There will no longer be three countries, no longer a greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area country, which is also stuck, and others in the distant Galilee and the even more distant Negev. We will take our small country, one of the smallest in the world, and will allow Israelis to travel quickly, without bottlenecks, and in comfort."

Nineteen ministers voted for the 10-year plan; four opposed and one abstained. 

It is not yet clear whether the money for the plan would be taken from other ministries’ budgets or if new money can be found.

Helping Jewish Juliets dump their Arab Romeos

The Tel Aviv municipality has launched a program to help Jewish girls get out of relationships with Arab boys, Ma’ariv reported.

The municipal finance committee allocated about $66,000 to "an aid program for immigrant girls at risk" run by the Tel Aviv Municipality, the Absorption Ministry and the World Congress of Bukharan Jews, according to an article in the Ma’ariv-Tel Aviv weekly magazine.

The program will work with up to 120 women below the age of 22.

"This is a war against the trend of scores of Jewish girls getting together with minority men and with migrant workers, and then getting into trouble with their families and the families of the minority men, that often ostracize them for being Jewish," said an unnamed senior official in the municipality, according to Ma’ariv.

High time you came home

A man who left his apartment in Lod for three months returned home to discover that it had been turned into a marijuana nursery, Ynet reported.

The haredi man who owned the apartment had been planning to rent it out but hadn’t found any takers. Upon returning to the property, the owner found that the locks had been changed.

He broke into his own apartment only to discover marijuana seedlings all over the floor, with grow lights strategically placed to help facilitate the plants’ growth.

Metallica bends to pressure

Israelis will pay less to see the American heavy metal band Metallica at the Ramat Gan Stadium after ticket prices were significantly lowered following a boycott campaign launched on Facebook.

The May concert is Metallica’s third visit to the country and the first since 1999.

Ticket prices originally were about three to four times higher than those for performances at European venues. The least expensive tickets for the concert were announced at $159, according to reports.

Even with the lower prices, standing room tickets on the floor in front of the stage will still go for more than $250.

More than 500 Israelis committed to boycott the concert as part of the Facebook campaign.

"After a four-day campaign, tens of news items about us worldwide, over 6,000 supporters and numerous media interviews, we can say that we did it! We won!" read the Facebook page’s status after the announcement of the price reduction.

Meanwhile, R&B artist Rihanna will perform in Israel at the end of May in the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The concert is scheduled to conclude Rihanna’s European tour.

Israelis love IKEA

A second IKEA store was set to open in Israel this week, and reportedly will be the largest in the Middle East.

The store, which was slated to open March 9 in Rishon Lezion, will take the title of biggest way from one in Dubai, but likely will be superseded when an IKEA opens in Abu Dhabi in the near future.

The Rishon Lezion store will include Israel’s biggest restaurant, with 500 seats. In a testament to how much Israelis love the Swedish chain, a third branch likely will open in Haifa in 2012.

Now made in Israel: Chunky Monkey

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company is set to open a new factory in southern Israel.

The factory will open in northern Kiryat Malachi — in a facility that formerly served as a soup factory — at a cost of about $2 million. The company also will open 16 restaurants in spots throughout the country.

Ben & Jerry’s  once had 16 stores in Israel, but the outbreak of the second intifada affected business and the company shut down its Israel operations until now.

Dubai likes Israeli cricket

The Israel Cricket Association was awarded a prize for bringing together Jews and Bedouin in the southern Negev desert.

The catch? The prize came from the Dubai-based International Cricket Council.

The Israeli association won a similar prize in 2001, but the timing of this year’s prize is unusual as Dubai continues to investigate Israel’s alleged role in the assassination of a top Hamas official in a Dubai hotel room in late January.

The association now plans to bring cricket to Arab Israelis in Israel’s North.

Cricket is among the top three sports in many Arab states, Ynet reported.

How about them (Golan) apples?

Apples grown by Druse in the Golan Heights crossed over into Syria this week, the sixth year in a row that the Red Cross has facilitated the arrangement.

The crossing of the apples, in plain white packaging to hide the Israeli origins, allows Druse to find a less crowded market for their apples and allows Syrians who are aware of their origins to show support for the Druse of the Golan, which was under Syrian control until 1967. 

The actual crossing is done by Kenyan Red Cross officers who drive Red Cross trucks, brought in from Jordan, across the border. The operation is overseen by the Israeli army.

About 10,000 tons of apples will cross over into Syria in the next couple of months, Ha’aretz reported.

It’s all relativity

The complete original manuscript of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity went on display in Jerusalem, the first time the 46-page handwritten manuscript has ever been shown in its entirety.

It is being shown at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Jerusalem to mark the organization’s 50th anniversary. The anniversary of Einstein’s birth is March 14.

Einstein donated the manuscript to the Hebrew University in 1925, four years after he received the Nobel Prize in physics. It is on loan to the academy.

The theory of relativity is the forerunner of modern space exploration and GPS technology, and is used to explain everything from black holes to the Big Bang.

"I refer to it as the Magna Carta of physics,"  Hanoch Gutfreund, former president of the Hebrew University and current chair of its academic committee for the Albert Einstein Archives, a complete collection of Einstein’s papers, told Haaretz. "It’s the most important manuscript in the entire archives."

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