As 2012 comes to an end it seems natural to reflect on the past year and take a look at some highlights from the JPost Lifestyle section. I am proud to say that the section has grown over the past 12 months, with an increase in columnists covering a wide range of issues, as well as more features delving into the world of Jewish celebrities and beyond.
In terms of arts and culture in Israel, 2012 was a busy year. A whole host of top international acts visited the country, including Madonna, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Cirque du Soleil.
It wasn’t just international talents that made the headlines, though. Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void, which tells the story of a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) family whose younger daughter is in the process of meeting young men to marry, enjoyed widespread international success.
Celebrity escapades on Twitter and Instagram also grabbed headlines in the Lifestyle section this year. Perhaps the most frequent celebrity to make the news with her presence on the Web was Israeli model Bar Refaeli. The most controversial incident was the picture she posted of herself looking a little “hungover” dressed as Santa.
And who can forget the storm that US reality star Kim Kardashian caused when she posted pro-Israel and later pro-Palestinian comments on Twitter in light of the IDF's Operation Pillar of Defense to root out terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
Jerusalem-born Oscar winner Natalie Portman raised a few eyebrows among our readers in August when she married her non-Jewish fiance at the time, Benjamin Millepied, in a “Jewish” ceremony on Shabbat.
We couldn’t have an annual review of the Lifestyle section and not talk about food highlights; it just wouldn’t seem right. It was a proud day when two Tel Aviv eateries were included in Newsweek Magazine's list of the 101 Best Places in the World to Eat. Abraxas North and Habasta were both featured in the prestigious list of restaurants chosen by 53 of the top chefs in the world.
Even world renowned food bloggers got in on the act this year when they came to Israel to explore the rich and varied culinary world.
It’s not just the food that’s been attracting people to Israel this year. The country's diverse natural beauty also caught the attention of the world media, with National Geographic including the Israel National Trail in its list of the world’s 20 most “epic trails.”
Tel Aviv has invested a lot of money and resources into gay tourism, which paid off in January when the “city that never sleeps” was voted as the world’s best gay city by LGBT travel website Gaycities.com. The website also named the city's Hilton Beach as one of the 10 best gay beaches in the world.
In with the new
This year has seen a host of new columnists join the Lifestyle family. Perhaps one of the most popular is Tanya Powell-Jones with her “Wandering Jew” column that explores the Jewish travel aspects of major cities around the world. It was her look at the Berber Jews of Morocco that garnered the most interest with readers and created the most debate among talkbackers.
Another highlight of the year was the introduction of Yehoshua Halevi’s “Israel the Beautiful” photo essays. His introductory essay looking at the rich colors and textures of the fall in Israel was a good sign of things to come.
Gayle Squires combines her love of food and travel with the ever popular “Come to the Table” series. Her unique take on the Rosh Hashana honey cake has to be tasted to be believed.
To make room for all these new writers, some of the more veteran columnists put down their pens - or laptops as the case may be - and decided to take a break. While travel columnist Wayne Stiles continually produced interesting insights into biblical sites throughout Israel, it was his timeline of the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City that stood out as a personal favorite.
Healthy eating specialist Kathryn Rubin also decided to take a break. Her pre-Pessah look at the benefits of bread was well received and started an interesting discussion among readers. Kathryn will be back in the New Year with plenty more advice on how to maintain a healthy diet.
There’s lots in store for the Lifestyle section in the coming year, including a brand new Lifestyle page with a sleek new design, a range of new sections and added features. With more new columns in the pipeline and plenty of fresh ideas, it promises to be an interesting year to come.
The writer is JPost.com's Lifestyle editor.