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25 Things You Should Know About Tel Aviv

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For the 400,000 residents of Tel Aviv, Israel's very own Sin City, priorities include basking in the sun, finding the best espresso, and partying all night long. It's that very laid-back lifestyle that helped draw more than 3.3 million visitors in 2014. Read on for more facts about the city by the sea.

1. Founded in April 1909, Tel Aviv was the first modern Hebrew city. The area, once a large expanse of sand dunes, was originally called Ahuzat Bayit. A year later, the name was changed to Tel Aviv, meaning "Spring Mound." 


2.
In 1949, David Ben-Gurion, who became the country's first Prime Minister, declared Israel's independence inside Tel Aviv's Independence Hall. At the time, Jordan controlled Jerusalem, so Tel Aviv served as the political capital until 1967.

3. Rainy days won't bring down city dwellers: Tel Aviv enjoys 300 annuals days of sunshine.

4. … Which means residents and tourists alike spend plenty of time outdoors. There are 13 official beaches over 8.7 miles. Each year, 8.5 million bathers come out to soak up the sun. Those not in the mood to splash in the water challenge friends to a game of Matkot, the Israeli version of raquetball, usually played on the sand or concrete.

5. National Geographic has deemed Tel Aviv the ninth best beach city in the world.

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The best way to get around: Rent a bike for about $5, then cruise along the beachside promenade. There are more than 150 bikeshare stations around town.

7. One '90s trend is alive and well here: Once a week, nearly 300 rollerbladers hit the streets together for a group skate organized by Tel Aviv Rollers.

8. Tel Aviv is home to more than 100 sushi restaurants. As of 2010, it had the most sushi restaurants per capita after New York City and Tokyo. 

9. That's not the city's only claim to food fame. The Italian government awarded Tel Aviv's Pronto the title of "Best Italian Restaurant Outside of Italy."

10. On the sweeter side: Max Brenner, the international chain of chocolate restaurants and bars, began its empire in Ra'anana, a suburb of Tel Aviv.


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In the mood for something lighter? Juice stands can be found on virtually every cornerand beachgoers often snack on watermelon with Feta cheese.

12. Often referred to as the Miami of the Middle East, Tel Aviv has been named one of the world's top party cities. Because Shabbat is observed on Friday, Thursday nights draw the biggest crowd, with revelers raging until dawn. Not surprisingly, it's also been called the city that never sleeps.

13. Another, more controversial nickname: "The Bubble," which references residents' largely secular approach to life, as well as how easy it is to forget about the political reality outside the city's borders.

14. Residents work as hard as they play. Tel Aviv University is the country's largest university and is ranked among the world's top 100 universities. Recently, researchers at the university developed a therapy that may treat mantle cell lymphoma, the most aggressive form of blood cancer.

15. Known as one of the world's most innovative cities, its startup scene is rivaled only by California's Silicon Valley. The city is home to more than 1500 companies(mostly tech) that employ 43,000 workers.

16. To help attract international startups, Tel Aviv offers incentive packages to entrepreneurs abroad. This includes temporary accommodation and workspace, as well as consulting and legal advice.

17. Thanks to young entrepreneurs and their startup fortunes, the city's property prices have increased by 84 percent since 2008.

18. In December, the $776 million Meier-on-Rothschild Tower complex opened. At 510 feet, it's Tel Aviv's tallest building. The 141 apartments range from $3 million to a $44.2 million, 15,263-square-foot penthouse with eight (!) bedrooms.

19. Tel Aviv's most impressive pieces of architecture are its 4000 Bauhaus buildings, known as the White City. Named a World Heritage Site, the white concrete structures are perched on leg-like pillars and have flat roofs.


20.
In 2013, the mayor allocated $100,000, about a third of the city's total tourism budget, on a campaign to attract more gay tourists.

21. Now, the city hosts the largest Gay Pride parade in Asia and the Middle East. In June 2015, 180,000 people came out to celebrate, 30,000 of whom were tourists.


22.
With more than 200 museums, Israel has the highest number of museums per capitain the world. Tel Aviv is home to country's three largest.

23. Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, is the biggest in the world specializing in the history of Judaism and the Jewish diaspora.

24. For 29 years, Tel Aviv's Nahalt Binyamin street has hosted an Arts & Crafts fair twice a week. Roughly 220 artists exhibit and sell their work, which includes glass dinnerware, jewelry and door signs.

25. Tel Aviv is home to the country's largest sports club, the Maccabi Football Club, which holds more titles than any other in Israel. Their biggest competitor: Hapoel Tel-Aviv, also located in the city.

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London's Big Ben to Cease Chiming Until 2021
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Starting in late August, one of London’s largest—and noisiest—national symbols will go silent: As BBC News reports, Big Ben (which has rung on the hour for 157 years) will cease chiming until 2021. The measure is intended to protect workers completing restoration work on both the clock and its surrounding structure.

Big Ben will still chime on New Year’s Eve, Remembrance Sunday (a UK holiday that honors veterans), and other special occasions, but its last hourly bong will sound on Monday, August 21. Meanwhile, scaffolding has already been erected around the clock tower, and repairs have begun.

The clock tower last received extensive conservation work in the early 1980s. Officials say that the clock’s hands, pendulum, and inner workings all have problems “which need to be dealt with immediately to ensure that the clock can continue to work properly,” according to Parliament’s official website.

“Surveys are still being carried out to identify the extent of the works required to the tower itself, but we have already identified areas of concern, including cracks in masonry, leaks, erosion, and severe rusting of metalwork,” officials added. “There is a risk that if not addressed as a matter of urgency, the clock may fail or [structural] problems may become acute.”

Big Ben’s clock will be dismantled piece by piece, so its four dials can be cleaned and fixed. Its faces will be temporarily covered, but an electric motor will continue to drive the clock hands so it can keep telling time. Architects also plan to modernize the clock tower by making it more energy-efficient, and adding an elevator, toilet, and kitchen.

"This essential program of works will safeguard the clock on a long-term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home—the Elizabeth Tower," the clock's keeper Steve Jaggs told the BBC.

For the uninitiated, the name “Big Ben” is often used to describe the tower, the clock, and the bell, but it originally described the largest of the clock’s five bells, which stands more than 7 feet tall and weighs more than 14 tons. As for the clock’s surrounding tower, it was dubbed Elizabeth Tower in 2012, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 60-year reign.

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25 Things You Should Know About Jackson, Mississippi
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There aren’t many cities in which you can see a rock concert on top of a prehistoric volcano. It’s equally hard to find a place with the deep ties to the blues, international ballet, and pine-scented products that Jackson enjoys. Here are 25 surprising facts about Mississippi’s intriguing capital.

1) The settlement on the Pearl River that gave birth to Jackson was first called LeFleur’s Bluff, named for French-Canadian trader Louis LeFleur, who had founded a trading post on the site. In 1821, four years after Mississippi achieved statehood, the state legislature decided to erect its capital city at this strategic locale. Lawmakers also chose to name the city after General Andrew Jackson, who had become a national hero by defeating British forces at the Battle of New Orleans, the final skirmish of the War of 1812.

2) Chemist and native Jacksonian Harry A. Cole invented Pine-Sol floor cleaner in 1929. It's now owned by the Clorox Company.

3) The international honor society of two-year colleges, Phi Theta Kappa, claims more than three million members. Founded in 1918 at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, its world headquarters is now located on Eastover Drive in Jackson.

4) Completed in 1842 in the Greek Revival style, the Mississippi governor's mansion is the second-oldest continuously occupied governor's residence in the United States. Virginia’s is 29 years older.

5) The Jackson Zoo, which today houses mammals, birds, and reptiles from four continents, had humble beginnings. In the early 1900s, firefighters at the city's Central Fire Station (now the Chamber of Commerce Building) passed the time by keeping a menagerie of wild pets, including deer, squirrels, and alligators. The city bought land to establish a zoological park in the 1920s, and the firemen's pets became the first animals on display.

6) On June 11, 1963, the first human lung transplant took place at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. The center's chairman of surgery James Hardy, who led the transplant team, achieved the first heart transplant in a human (using a chimpanzee's heart) one year later.

7) During the Civil War, Union commander Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee fought the Battle of Jackson on its way to Vicksburg. Jackson's factories and warehouses were burned, leaving behind nothing but their brick chimneys (thus the city's contemporary nickname, Chimneyville). The Union army spared the city's non-strategic buildings, including city hall, the governor's mansion, and the capitol.

8) The blues were born in the Magnolia State. In 2006, the Mississippi Blues Trail was established to educate the public about this uniquely American art form. One-hundred-and-eighty-nine historic markers are spread out over the state, with each sign planted at a locale that played some role in shaping the blues genre. Jackson alone has 13 such sites. On Roach Street, for example, you’ll find one dedicated to legendary blues pianist Otis Spann, who was born at the spot on March 21, 1930.

9) In 2001, Roderick Paige became the first African-American person to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Education. The longtime college football coach and advocate for improving urban educational opportunities had graduated from Jackson State University in 1955.

10) On the capitol’s north side, you’ll find a naval figurehead shaped like a flying eagle, which once belonged to the USS Mississippi, a battleship commissioned in 1904. Before the navy sold the ship to Greece, it gave the figurehead to the state, where it is currently affixed to a huge planter near the capitol building.

11) Every October, the 12-day Mississippi State Fair brings thousands of visitors into Jackson. Popular attractions include Ferris wheels, an antique car show, and a biscuit-making booth. In recent years, organizers have experimented with newer events, like a beard-growing contest that debuted in 2009.

12) Jackson was the setting for Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 bestseller The Help. When its movie adaptation was shot in 2010, numerous scenes were filmed in the city. Among the many Jackson landmarks to appear onscreen was Brent’s Drugs, a beloved Duling Avenue soda shop. After the shoot, its owners were able to keep a few movie props as souvenirs.

13) Seventy-five million years ago, present-day Jackson sat on a volcanic island. Roughly 2900 feet below the intersection of East Pascagoula Street and I-55, a long-extinct volcano has its origins. Today the Mississippi Coliseum, a 6500-seat multipurpose arena, sits on top of its caldera.

14) On a related note, the Coliseum hosts the annual Dixie National Rodeo and Livestock Contest, the largest annual rodeo east of the Mississippi River. Launched in 1965, it awards nearly $250,000 in prize money each year.

15) Author Eudora Welty was born in Jackson on April 13, 1909. One of the 20th century's most esteemed writers, Welty wrote award-winning short stories for The New Yorker, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for her novel The Optimist’s Daughter, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of the Arts, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Today, her house at 1119 Pinehurst Street is a national historic landmark.

16) Another Pulitzer Prize-winning Jacksonian is playwright Beth Henley, a 1981 recipient for her three-act black comedy Crimes of the Heart. The play was made into a film starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek in 1986.

17) On February 15, 1839, the state legislature passed the Mississippi Married Women’s Property Act. The act stemmed from a lawsuit in which a Chickasaw woman sued to retain ownership of her property (a slave) that her husband's creditors had tried to seize. The court decided that case based on the Chickasaw tradition of matrilineal inheritance. It was the first piece of legislation in American history that gave wives the right to hold property in their own names.

18) In 1943, prisoners of war from a camp near Jackson were recruited to build a large-scale model of the Mississippi River basin to make predicting flood patterns easier. With supervision from the Army Corps of Engineers, they put together a 200-acre, hydraulic-powered replica of the Mississippi delta. After 79 simulated floods, the model was abandoned in 1973. Its remnants can still been seen in Butts Park.

19) Future NFL superstar running back Walter Payton played at Jackson State University from 1971 to 1974. By the time he graduated, he had set an NCAA record for most points scored—464—within a four-year period.

20) James Meredith, the first African-American student admitted to the University of Mississippi, nearly gave his life in the fight for civil rights. On June 6, 1966, he launched a solo march from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson to promote voter registration among African-Americans in the south. (The historic Voting Rights Act had been passed into law the previous year.) On the second day of the march, a white man shot Meredith and he sustained several wounds. By the time he was able to rejoin the march near Jackson, it had grown to 15,000 participants and had registered more than 4000 new voters.

21) Mississippi chose to observe Prohibition for 33 years after the Volstead Act was repealed. In 1966, one event turned the last dry state wet. Hinds County sheriff Tom Shelton launched a surprise raid at the Jackson Country Club, where prominent citizens, including the governor, were celebrating Mardi Gras with illegal liquor. Most of the revelers were arrested, prompting the state legislature to quickly pass a law allowing individual counties to decide whether to legalize alcohol—effectively repealing statewide Prohibition.

22) What does Jackson have in common with Moscow, Helsinki, and Varna? They’re the only four cities that get to host the two-week International Ballet Competition (IBC), where the world's best dancers compete for medals, scholarships, and fame. Jackson dance instructor Thalia Maria convinced the IBC to make Jackson its sole American host city, and the capitol has welcomed the tournament every four years since 1979.

23) The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and Mississippi State go head-to-head in the annual Egg Bowl, shorthand for The Battle of the Golden Egg, a college football rivalry dating back to 1903. The showdown has taken place in Jackson on 29 separate occasions.

24) Baltimore native James D. Lynch was the first African-American person to hold any major political office in Mississippi. In 1869, he was elected Secretary of State, an office that he would retain until his death in 1872. Lynch also participated in the 1872 Republican National Convention as a delegate. He's buried in Jackson’s Greenwood Cemetery.

25) Pascagoula Street is home to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures. The brainchild of longtime Jacksonians Okolo Rashid and Emad Al-Turk, it is the first American museum designed to show the story of Islamic culture and history. When it opened in 2001, former governor William Winter praised the facility. “It definitely breaks a stereotype,” he said. “It’s at odds with what the average American would think about Jackson, Mississippi.”

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