Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Back in Israel June 2017

Almost 2-1/2 years after my first trip, I'm back in Israel again. This time it's a family trip -- Mike, Kate, Sam, and Nancy. Actually, I didn't blog while we were there (June 4 to 11) -- the WiFi in our Jerusalem hotel was spotty and we did more things in the evening, so I never got around to it. So this is being written almost a month after we got back. When you click on the links to the photos, it takes you to that day's album. If you click on the first photo, you can go through each photo and see the captions.

Day 1 -- Sunday, June 4 
We had a late Saturday night flight (about 10:45 pm), arriving in Israel around 4 pm on Sunday. Got through Immigration and customs easily -- luggage didn't take too long. Our cousin Ahuva had arranged for a taxi to meet us -- which he did. We made it to our hotel, Little House in Rehavia where Kate and I stayed on our first trip, by about 5:30 pm. We unpacked a little and Kate, Sam, and I took a quick walk to the edge of the Old City to show it to Sam. Interesting posters reflecting a recent visitor to Israel. And then off to dinner at Ahuva and Jon's apartment. As it wasn't Shabbat, you'll see a photo of us with Ahuva.

One of the fun things in our hotel are the posters with inspirational sayings. I took photos of many of them. Probably my favorite is "Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day."

And then to sleep -- it was a long day.   Photos Day 1 

Day 2 -- Monday, June 5 
Yay Israeli breakfast! All sorts of salads, yogurt, bread, etc. Nancy, Kate, and Sam set off for the Old City, starting at the Tower of David. I'd pre-purchased combo tickets for the museum and the Night Spectacular (light and sound show) which we will attend in the evening. We'll be meeting up with our Rabbi and her family -- she's on Sabbatical and they have been living in Jerusalem since January. The Tower of David is an important historical and archaeological site. Within its ancient guardrooms, the museum tells the 4000 year old story of the city. It focuses on the central events that took place in the different periods of Jerusalem's history and on the sanctity of the city for each of the three monotheistic faiths. (This was summarized from the brochure.) It was a lot more fun climbing around outside than our last visit -- no rain or snow making it slippery. Of course it was hot. 

From there we did the southern Ramparts Walk -- along the top of the wall running around the Old City. The young man at the ticket counter looked at Kate and Sam and said "18 Shekels". Then he looked at Nancy and said "You're old; I think there's another word for that. 8 Shekels." I decided for a savings of 10 Shekels, I wouldn't correct him but accept his translation of Senior. (At the time of our visit a Shekel was worth $0.28). It was an interesting walk -- fantastic views of the city but hot and there were stairs. We did have a nice view of the Armenian section of the Old City. And it ended near the Dung Gate, which brought us into the city near the Kotel -- the Western Wall. It was fascinating to see an artificial turf soccer field amidst the ancient buildings. I will have to admit that I don't really find the Western Wall spiritual and amazing, knowing that many of the people there would not be happy about me praying there [since we came home, Prime Minister Netanyahu reneged on his agreement with the Women of the Wall to allow for an egalitarian place of prayer at the Wall]. You can see women hanging over the divider in order to watch a Bar Mitzvah on the men's side.

The area with the columns is the Cardio -- the main thoroughfare from the Romans. Lunch was at our favorite grill -- Shwarma and falafel and grapefruit juice. We wandered around the Jewish Quarter. Note the Israeli soldiers who were visiting the Wall. Eventually we found our way back to the Jaffa Gate (by the Tower of David) and strolled back along the outdoor Mamilia Mall. We stopped for some "medicinal" gelato (it was hot -- we needed to cool off). You will see a photo of the street entertainer -- an older, Chasidic Jew who was initially playing "Let It Be". Next song was Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry". And the last we heard was Lead Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". I was muttering, these are so not your values. I can only assume this was a child of the sixties who moved to Israel and became religious.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Mike was on the outdoor deck on our floor of the hotel (see the photos of the kumquat trees and flowers). Later we met Rabbi Debra and daughter Hannah Mathilda at a restaurant in Mamilia Mall. Sam tried the fish special for the evening (look at the size of the lemon), Nancy had a salad and, of course, a mint lemonade smoothie. And then there were the desserts. As we walked to the Tower of David, we were joined by Rabbi Debra's husband Craig and their son Emmett (he had a piano lesson earlier). Didn't think to take photos of them. Did get some photos of the full moon over the Tower of David (no photos allowed during the Night Spectacular). Here's a link to the Tower of David. And here's a link that describes the Night Spectacular -- you can click on a short video with excerpts from the show.

Photos Day 2

Day 3 -- Tuesday, June 6
Sam started the morning with a run -- he'd gotten directions to an old train station where the tracks had been converted to a walking/running path. Another yummy breakfast and then we took a taxi to Yad Vashem (the Israeli Holocaust complex). Unlike some other recent visitors, we spent the entire morning there. We all went through the main exhibit, the Holocaust History Museum. It's a long hallway with nine galleries on either side that tell the story of the Holocaust from a Jewish perspective. The chronological and thematic narrative is punctuated by a look into the world of Jews who lived -- and died -- under the Nazis and their collaborators. The exhibits incorporate a wide variety of original artifacts, testimonies (videos and written), photographs, documentation, art, and multimedia displays. (from the brochure) No photos were allowed but at the very end of the hallway is a beautiful view over the valley below -- a reminder of life. We also went through the children's memorial (again no photos allowed), which is hollowed out from an underground cavern. It's dark inside, children's photos show briefly, there are "stars" (lights) representing the 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered, and you hear the names of the children with their ages and country of origin. Definitely a chilling experience. As I remarked on my first visit, here they do not speak about people being killed or dying -- they were murdered. We did enjoy coffee "smoothies" (or as they call it, iced coffee) before Mike took a taxi back to the hotel and Nancy, Kate, and Sam took the Light Rail to Machane Yehuda -- the Market.

First stop was for lunch at a very nice Lebanese restaurant. We took the waitress's advice and each ordered a different dish she recommended. Needless to say -- one dish was large enough to feed all three of us. My favorite was the rice dish Sam ordered -- the spices were incredible. My dish was good. Kate's roast eggplant with falafel was huge (there are photos). We then found the spice guy we'd discovered on our first trip. He gave us sample of all sorts of things to try -- another meal. Sam bought some spice mixes for a friend who likes to cook and some tea mixes. Nancy bought tea mixes and crystallized ginger (sweetened with date honey not sugar so there aren't any sugar crystal -- but the ginger is really, really strong!) and dried litchi. We also stopped for Etrog mint lemonade at the Etrog Man's stand. Then we wandered back along Jaffa St., eventually found Ben Yehuda St. and its pedestrian mall. Cool things that we saw (and that are in the photos) are a Trompe-l'œil mural, sign for a Kosher McDonalds, and the 24/6 Market (of course it's closed for Shabbat). Monday evening, Hannah Mathilda told us about a less than great poem she saw in a poetry contest. We found banners/signs hanging along Ben Yehuda St. with poems from the contest (I was going to link to the website but it doesn't have anything about these poems only others). And then back to the hotel. Later in the day, Nancy and Kate joined Ahuva at the dedication of a sculpture of an olive tree -- a joint project between an Israeli artist (a friend of Ahuva) and an Arab artist. The mayor of Jerusalem did not show up, but one of his Commissioners did. On the walk back we saw the Belgian consulate and the street that Prime Minister Nethanyahu lives on. We attempted to have a light dinner (salads, veggie sandwiches) at Shush Cafe (down the block from our hotel). There is no such thing as a light meal.

Day 3 photos

Day 4 -- Wednesday, June 7
Sam started the morning with another run -- through the large park near us. Mike and Nancy took a taxi to the Israel Museum and met Kate and Sam who walked there. Once we were inside, we agreed on the time to meet in the gift shop and Mike and Sam went off on their own while Nancy and Kate stayed together. We saw three interesting special exhibits. The first, No Place Like Home (sponsored by Ikea, big banner in the gift shop), looking at different rooms in the home as well as typical objects used in untypical ways. (see the photos) Next was Ai Weiwei's exhibit Maybe, Maybe Not. From the museum's description: "For the first time in Israel, a solo exhibition by multi-disciplinary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who addresses such timely issues as human rights and freedom of expression, as well as attitudes towards migrants, labor, and mass production." He was in the news this past year because Lego wasn't going to sell him Legos for one of his projects (they said they didn't want to promote protests), so people from around the world sent him Legos. You'll see in the photos that one of his displays includes a large number of ceramic sunflower seeds. As Kate said, only in Israel would there be a sign cautioning people to not try to eat them. The next special exhibit was "In Full Color: 60 Years of Design by Dan Reisinger". From the museum: "An extensive survey of the work of the prolific graphic designer, Dan Reisinger, whose impact on Israel's visual language continues to be felt in our time. Reisinger's designs reflect both aesthetic developments and the evolution of Israeli society." Among other things, he did extensive design for El Al airlines. Besides photos from the exhibit, you'll see in the photos the perpetual calendar I bought in the gift shop. We also went to the exhibits of synagogues from around the world including India. The exhibit we missed was Cats and Dogs -- based on things we bought in the gift shop, it looks like it was a lot of fun. 

We all had lunch at the museum (interesting salads and sandwiches) and Nancy, Kate, and Sam had coffee smoothies. Mike then took a taxi back to the hotel while we went across the street to visit the Rose Garden. The last time Kate and I were here, there was snow (an entire 1 to 2 inches!) which kept the museum closed and brought everyone out to build snowmen. It was fun to see the roses without the snow. As we were walking along by the Knesset (the Israeli equivalent of the US Capital Building), Nancy was surprised to smell lavender. She discovered the "shrubs" along the sidewalk were actually lavender plants -- WOW!

At one point in the park, we saw a very different looking bird (Kate described it as having chopsticks for a beak but a crest like a blue jay or cardinal). It was a Hoopoe -- the national bird of Israel. I took some blurry photos but here's a link to an article about it so you can really see what it looks like. We also got to see a group of Israeli soldiers picnicking and relaxing in the park. On our walk back to the hotel, we passed the Monastery of the Cross (very old, it's name reflects the legend that the wood for the cross associated with Jesus came from trees in this valley).

Back at the hotel we finished packing and then waited outside for our taxi to take us to Tel Aviv. I neglected to take a photo of Mike's suitcase carefully tied onto the luggage rack on the trunk of the taxi. It made it to Tel Aviv.

It was delightful to be back at the Lily and Bloom Hotel that Mike and Nancy stayed at at the start of our synagogue trip to Israel. We were greeted with cool glasses of water, the lady at the desk not only accompanied us up to our rooms but manhandled my suitcase. After we settled in, we walked the few blocks to Rothschild Boulevard and met our other cousin, Lois, at our favorite restaurant, Rustico. We had a lovely anniversary dinner (yes, 47 years). Mushroom pizza for Kate, fish special for Sam, Nancy and Mike both had the mushroom risotto. Then Lois took us a few blocks up the street and treated us to gelato for our anniversary.

Day 4 photos

Day 5 -- Thursday, June 8
The breakfast spread is far more extensive here -- you can get custom made eggs, coffee, espresso, cappuccino, tea, and more. The evening before, the helpful lady at the front desk printed out train schedules to and from Akko and told us to ask at the desk the next morning for a taxi to take us to the nearest train station. Once we decided which train we wanted (Nancy, Kate, and Sam), we asked for a taxi. The man at the desk said as it was rush hour, we'd do better going up to the corner and taking the sherut (a sort of mini-van/mini-bus). He did write the name of the train station in Hebrew on a piece of paper for me. It was quite the experience -- apparently they run on a very tight schedule so you're expected to jump on and sit. Money for fares gets passed up to the driver and change passed back. I was surprised to get a handful of change back -- I thought the fare was 6 sheckels so gave him a 20-sheckel bill. It's actually 5.90 sheckels so I got back 2 sheckels plus a bunch of agrot (they're like cents, 100 to a sheckel). I've yet to have figured out how to spend agrots. We easily made our train (were able to buy our tickets with our credit card from a machine) and found seats together. I took photos from the train -- we passed by the Tel Aviv University station, Haifa, a lot of interesting scenery (including the Mediterranean on our left), and finally reached Akko.

Akko (also known as Acre) is in the northern part of Israel, on the Mediterranean Sea. See Wikipedia page showing location on a map of Israel. We'd been told it was a relatively short walk from the train station to Old Akko. It would have been if there had actually been signs pointing the way (I'm convinced the taxi drivers stole the signs.) Kate was happy as we passed a fire station. Sam and Kate's instincts were good -- walk towards the water and then turn right to get to Old Akko. That was working fine -- we got to the water. Unfortunately between us and Old Akko was a naval base. We didn't think they'd let us cut through so we had to partially retrace our steps. Eventually we got there and found the ticket booth where we could get a map in English and combo ticket for a number of the attractions (we skipped the Turkish Baths), which included a ticket for the restrooms. Here's a website for Old Akko which is a good supplement to my photos. Old Akko is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a mix of many religions (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Baha'i). "The important land routes meeting here are the north-south one following the coast and the road cutting inland; Acre also benefits from one of the very rare natural harbours on the coast of Israel. This location helped it become one of the oldest cities in the world, continuously inhabited since the Middle Bronze Age some 4000 years ago." The Crusaders were here, the Ottoman Empire was here. During the British occupation of Palestine, they converted the old fort to a jail. Among the inmates were members of the Jewish underground fighters. While trying to dig an escape route, they discovered the underground Crusaders Citadel. You'll see photos as we wandered through the Citadel. Near the end, instead of a gift shop, there were crafters booths. Of course I gravitated to the glassblower. I picked out a pretty pair of glass earrings which Kate and Sam got for me as a belated Mother's Day present.

We then wandered through the Okashi Art Museum (he only sounds Japanese, he was an Israeli who did incredible landscapes). Then we wandered through the various markets and found a place for lunch. I was instructed not to make eye contact with the cats who were hoping to share. During lunch, Sam was asking Kate for various phrases in Hebrew. At one point he asked how to say "too much food" -- but then said, "trick question, there's no such thing as too much food in Israel." The Templars' Tunnel took us down to the waterfront. Eventually we were able to make our way back to the Underground Prisoners' Museum. As it is run by the Israel Department of Defense, security was a little tighter getting in. It was fascinating, sad, and uplifting (for those who've read Exodus, the prison break is an important part of the story). We saw more old walls, wandered the ramparts, saw lantana bushes (here in NJ we're lucky to grow them in small pots!), and finished up at the Treasures in the Wall museum. I thought it was going to be artifacts found while they were restoring the old walls. "Acre's Treasures in the Walls museum presents life in the Galilee during the 19th and early 20th centuries through crafts, art - even children's books." I especially took photos of old glass.

We strolled back to the train station, bought our tickets and something cold to drink, and headed back to Tel Aviv. The train had more passengers -- lots of soldiers heading home for the weekend (they get Friday and Saturday off). My favorite was the young man in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops with a huge gun hanging over his shoulder. Also the young woman in uniform with a Victoria Secret's bag.

We took a taxi back to the hotel, cooled off a little, and then headed out to dinner. Our helpful people at the desk made a reservation for us at a Georgian (as in Russian) restaurant. It was quite the adventure -- they didn't open until 8 pm (which is when we arrived) and were only just starting to fill up by the time we left. As usual, way too much food. Mike also had a good day -- he spent part of it at the beach relaxing and part of it on the outside deck at the hotel.

Day 5 Photos

Day 6, Friday, June 9
After another yummy breakfast, we set out for Independence Hall. We joined several tour groups for the presentation on the declaration of Israel's independence, Friday, May 14, 1948. At the time the building was the original Tel Aviv Art Museum (the artwork in the photos are reproductions -- the originals are in the current museum). We heard a recording of the original broadcast and sang along to Hatikvah. Very, very moving. From there we had hoped to visit the Haganah Museum (one of the underground Israeli defense groups). According to our map, it was only a block or two away but we couldn't find it. Finally I went back into Independence Hall and asked the man at the desk where it was. He gave me directions (across the street, up a block) and then said "But it's not open on Fridays."

 We went through Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish settlement in Tel Aviv. It's now full of art galleries and restaurants. From there we went through the Old Train Station -- now shops and restaurants, stopping for something cold to drink. (Did I mention it was really hot?) And then we reached Jaffa Port and Old Jaffa. There are beautiful views of Tel Aviv from the top of Old Jaffa. This was Nancy's third time in Old Jaffa and finally the Wishing Bridge was open! We wandered through the area where the artists shops are, stopping at several favorites. Nancy got another "soft painting". We visited with Kineret Meron, daughter of artist Michal Meron. Nancy's synagogue has a beautiful illustrated Torah done by Michal Meron. Kineret was excited to hear that -- we were considered guests and given cold water to drink and a snack of nuts and dried fruit. Kate visited the Michal Maron gallery in Venice and got to meet Michal's husband as she was in Israel at the time. When we were in Israel, Michal was in Venice. We each bought a few prints.

Then back down to the port area and lunch at an outdoor Greek restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean. Lots of food. We headed back to the hotel. Things were busier than usual as the Tel Aviv Gay Pride parade took place earlier in the day. There were lots of people enjoying themselves. Dinner was interesting (a polite way of saying not so great).

Day 6 Photos

 Day 7, Saturday, June 10

 Sam started the day with a run along the walkway along the beach. After another good breakfast, Nancy, Kate, and Sam walked the pedestrian walkway on Rothschild Boulevard to the other end. This led us past the complex with the concert hall and theater (Les Miz!) and eventually to the Tel Aviv Art Museum. Unlike my last visit, we entered through the annex and found a fascinating exhibit on "Constructive Responses to Natural Disasters". There were displays for Hurricane Katarina, the Tsunami in Japan, Haiti earthquake, and others. There are many groups and organizations working on how to better respond to these types of disasters and help the refugees. Kate, who has a certificate in Disaster Preparedness and Response, really liked this and was able to get a book about the exhibit in the gift shop. Then we got to the museum proper and enjoyed the artwork, especially the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists (including Marc Chagall!) We went out through the main entrance to the sculpture garden (note the cat who found a nice shady spot to nap). We found a nice place for lunch (mint lemonade!) and then we went to the beach. We didn't rent lounge chairs, just walked down to the water and got our feet wet. Then some cold drinks (in beer cups!) -- mint lemonade slushy for Nancy, passion fruit slushy for Sam, and a coffee slushy for Kate. Our last dinner in Tel Aviv was back at Rustico (having cleverly stopped by in the afternoon to make a reservation). Mushroom risotto again, Kate and Sam shared a pizza, a dessert that could have fed dozens of us (focaccia bread spread with Nutella and mascarpone cheese and baked). And then it was back to the hotel to pack.

Day 7 Photos

Day 8, Sunday, June 11

 A nice big taxi that fit all of us and our luggage. We'd been warned to get to the airport early to get through security. We made it through so early the United counter wasn't open yet. Eventually we were able to check in and check our luggage. Then back through Immigration. We spent time in the Dan Club (the El Al club, part of United's Star Alliance). Then some more security and finally on the plane. It's a longer flight back (going against headwinds). I watched Moana (delightful) and the very first Star Wars (to me it will always be "the first" Star Wars movie). US Customs wasn't too bad, the wait for our luggage wasn't awful. We made it home! As usual, it took a while to get my body back in sync with the time zone.

It was a good trip. Got to see family again. Revisited things we'd enjoyed in the past. Added some new places and experiences. Still have things we didn't get to see. I hope my next trip is in the spring -- no snow, flowers, and not as hot. (Kate says Purim is a wonderful time to be in Jerusalem, so that may be what we aim for.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Days 10 & 11 (10/17 and 10/18/15)

 Day 10 -- Saturday, October 17

We were up early to go to services at Morehet Yisrael (the main Conservative synagogue), their services start at 8:30 am. Because we did arrive a few minutes early, we were given the honor of opening the Ark for the Torah service. Eventually other members of our group arrived. It was very crowded as the 37th Zionist Congress was going to be starting and many of the US delegates from the Mercaz party (the Conservative Jewish group) attended the service. The regular Rabbi was not there but his substitute was a very nice Italian Rabbi. After the service was a nice kiddush (cookies and fruit). We then went next door to the Fuchsberg Center for a learning session (we discussed several lines from the Torah portion, Noah). This was followed by lunch in their cafeteria where we were joined by several Lone Soldiers (young men from the US who volunteered to join the Israeli army but had no family in Israel).

We chose to spend a quiet afternoon at the hotel although Mike went for a short walking tour. Eventually we were able to find a taxi and went to the home of friends -- Ittai and Yael Gavrieli -- who live just outside of Jerusalem, about 1/2 hour from the hotel. We were very pleasantly surprised to find that Yael's father, Elad Peled, and his brother and sister-in-law, and their daughter Hila would also be there. Elad Peled is an Israeli hero -- he was a member of the Palmach, a commander during the Six Day War, and involved in the Yom Kippur War. He received his doctorate from Teachers College (as did his wife Zimra) and was a very close friend to Mike's parents. Elad was the director general of Israel’s Ministry of Education and the Assistant Mayor of Jerusalem under Teddy Kollek. Here's a link to a lovely article about him. Ittai and Elad drove us back to the hotel.

Day 10 photos

Day 11 -- Sunday, October 18

We had to be at the bus by 7 am but we had late check-out, so we could leave everything in our room. The group had an early appointment for a tour of the Kotel Tunnels where we walked along the Western Wall's massive foundation. This was a different set of tunnels than the ones Kate and I went through in January. We took time to visit the Kotel -- the Western Wall -- and left notes from CBI members as well as tzedakah (charity). We also explored the Southern Wall excavations at the Davidson Center (Kate and I saw this in January, but it was still impressive to see the steps that lead to the Temple).

Lunch was in the Jewish Quarter (we went to the BBQ Grill -- I had shwarma in a pita, Mike had grilled chicken in a pita and an old-fashioned Coke). We also did a little shopping.

Then it was off to the Israel Museum where I finally got to see some of the things I missed in January. We started with a quick look at the model of the Second Temple. This was followed by the Shrine of the Book -- the Dead Sea Scrolls. And then we were on our own. I wandered around the sculpture garden and saw the Ahava (Love) sculpture and others (Henry Moore, Alexander Calder stabile, Picasso sculpture and more). Went into the main museum and saw a few things as well.

And then it was back to the hotel to finish packing and catch our shuttle to the airport. Originally our flight was leaving an hour earlier than the group's, which is why we were heading out early. As it turned out, their flight was delayed by at least five hours (until 5 am on Monday!)

Getting through security and customs was relatively easy. Because Mike has United Club membership, we were able to hang out in the Dan Club. The return flight was much quieter plus I had an eye shade, so I did sleep fairly well. Didn't realize we were getting both dinner and breakfast. We landed early in Newark (about 3:45 am) but Customs doesn't open until 4:15 am, so we had to sit on the plane. Made it through easily and didn't have to wait too long for our luggage. The chilly weather (frost on the car!) was a shock after the hot weather in Israel. We made it home by about 5:30 am.

Day 11 photos

The trip to Israel was really good. Yes, there were some unpleasant incidents going on but we felt safe. As I discovered back in January, Israel is a real place with real people who manage from day to day. It was interesting to see other parts of the country though probably the best was just relaxing in Tel Aviv and spending time with family and friends. Mike and I have a whole list of things we need to do the next time, so we know we're going back. After all, as it says in my last photo "Life is sababa".  (Sababa means cool or copacetic.)

Days 8 & 9 (Oct. 15 & 16)

Still playing catch-up!!

Day 8, Thursday, October 15

We left Kibbutz Nof Ginosar today to start heading south along Israel's border with Jordan to the Dead Sea Region. The landscape is even wilder than before -- almost looks like a moonscape. Masada is interesting. It was Herod's mountaintop palace and fortress, which "still displays ingenious water systems, elaborate frescoes, mosaic floors, and bathhouses." It was also the site of the last stand of the Jewish rebels against Rome in 73. And it was very, very hot. We took the cable car to the top -- there are paths to hike up. By the time we took the cable car down, it had gotten so hot they closed the hiking trail. For those who either read (or saw the mini-series) The Dove Keepers, there is a photo of the dovecote.

After lunch (falafel, of course), we headed to  Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, an oasis with waterfalls. We took a short hike to the lower falls and waded in the pool of water. Mike & I only made it up to the middle falls where we met up with a group of boys from a boarding high school on a class trip. On the way back, I actually saw two ibex (wild goats, called Yael in Hebrew), a male and a baby. See the photos.

Then it was off to the Dead Sea. I chose to just watch and take photos of Mike (and other CBI'ers) floating in the sea. The mud is interesting. I'll enjoy the salts in my Ahava products -- they smell nicer and aren't as messy.

From there we drove to Jerusalem. Along the highway we saw some Bedouin villages (someone did see a man riding a camel). We stopped on Mt. Scopus to look out over Jerusalem and say a shehehayanu blessing for reaching the city. After checking into the hotel, Mike and I found a nice restaurant across the street for a quiet dinner.

Day 8 Photos

Day 9, Friday October 16

The Dan Panorama had an even more extensive breakfast buffet -- although it reminded me of the Japanese breakfast buffets with lots of typical Israeli breakfast items (salad, hummus, labneh, cheese blintz) and then things that they seemed to think would appeal to non-Israelis (broccoli, lasagna). First stop of the day was Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial and museum. As I was just there this past January, I passed on going through the main exhibit, the Holocaust History Museum. Mike joined the group to tour that part while I got to see many of the other exhibits along with two of the other group members who'd both been to Yad Vashem relatively recently on Birthright trips. One of the most moving exhibits is the Children's Memorials (no photos allowed inside). There is also a very nice gift shop here -- and I feel I'm supporting a very good cause by shopping here.

Next stop was Machaneh Yehuda -- the large market (aka Shuk). Kate and I toured the market along with SIL Ruthi back in January. I was able to find the Georgian restaurant where we had snacked and took Mike there. He had the plain cheese pizza-like lunch; mine had a thicker crust and after it came out of the oven, an egg was broken over it and an additional chunk of cheese was added. The idea was to tear off pieces of the crust and dip it in the melted cheese and runny egg -- quite good. I also managed to find the Etrog man again and enjoyed a mint etrog lemonade.

Then we had some quiet time at the hotel until it was time to head to our cousins' apartment. It was fun walking along the same streets Kate and I had traversed numerous times in January -- and even better there was no snow. We had a lovely evening with Ahuva and Jon, catching up on what everyone is up to.

Day 9 Photos

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Days 6 & 7 (Oct. 13 & 14)

WiFi on both the tour bus and our hotel was spotty, which is why I'm behind on blogging.

Day 6, Tuesday, October13

We packed up and left Tel Aviv today, heading north. First stop was Atlit, the detention camp where the British held Holocaust refugees caught trying to enter Israel "illegally". Refugees, helped by Palmach and Haganah members, were taken across the Mediterranean on rickety boats. Sometimes the boats didn't make it and sank. Those that did make it to "Palestine" were boarded by the British who put everyone in the camp. As you will see in the photos, there were buildings with beds, usually very cramped, barbed wire around the camp, and general feeling not to different from the camps in Europe. At least the prisoners were fed and taken care of. Initially many of the prisoners were sent to detention camps in Cyprus, later some were sent to other parts of Europe. In addition to walking through some of the reconstructed buildings, we went through a ship similar to those used by the refugees. (Much of what occurred in Cyprus, on the ships, and at Atlit was recounted in Exodus by Leon Uris).

Our next stop was for lunch at the Tishbi Winery. We were served salad, pizza (quite good), yummy mushroom ravioli, and gnocchi. There were also samples of a red and a white wine (we will try to buy some of the white wine at duty free in the airport). In the wine tasting room, there was artistic looking equipment; outside you could see the real equipment for making the wine -- looked like a small food-grade chemical plant. The big stainless steel screw was used for removing sediment and other solids from the crushed grapes.

Next stop was Tzippori with both Roman and Jewish ruins. We were joined by Professor Lee Levine (family friend of Rabbi Orenstein) and world-renown expert on the ruins at Tzippori. There were fascinating mosaics, including the Mona Lisa of the Galilee (see photos) and, in an ancient synagogue, illustrations from various Jewish texts plus the wheel of the zodiac. Interestingly, the way the archaeologists knew this was a Jewish settlement was by the mikvahs they found.

Then it was off to Kibbutz Nof Ginosar Hotel -- where we would stay for two nights. The Kibbutz is located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, so there were many non-Jewish visitors as well. Matt Silver, son of CBI members Sheryl and Dave, went to Israel as a Lone Soldier several years ago. He was "adopted" by a family living at Nof Ginosar, the Boylands, who had a son in the army named Guy. Matt and Guy became very close friends. Unfortunately last year, during the Gaza unrest, Guy was killed while helping to clear the tunnels. We had dinner with Guy's parents, Adva and Glen, and then met with them after dinner to learn more about the Kibbutz. The only quiet place we could find with enough chairs was the bomb shelter (it had air conditioning). Adva grew up at Ginosar, but eventually left, traveling to New Zealand where she met Glen, Eventually they moved back to Ginosar to raise their children. Adva is the manager of the hotel gift shop -- which meant many of went the next morning to buy lots of things.

Photos Day 6

Day 7, Wednesday, October 14

 This morning we set out for the city of Tzefat. Along the way there interesting sights, including the Kibbutz's banana orchard. Tzefat is considered a "mystical" city as this is where Kabbalah started. There are many old synagogues -- we visited two, one Sephardic and one Azkhenazi. In addition, there are many crafts people in Tzefat. The candle store was fascinating -- check the photos for some amazing wax figurines (and, yes, a penguin came home with me). We then visited a glass blower's studio -- not only was her glass fascinating, but her story of how she became a painter and then a glass blower, and how it all related back to Judaism and life, was even more fascinating. Lunch was at a little place with falafel or shwarma (Mike and I had falafel, that's Marie's shwarma in the photo). Then is was time to shop. I was very happy that I found the silversmith where Kate bought me hamsa earrings when she was in Tzefat several years ago -- I know have a bracelet to match. And I bought both a painting of pomegranates and a glass of pomegranate juice while Mike sampled some ice cream.

And then it was back on the bus to head to the Golan Heights. We learned why it was very important to Israel to gain control of this area and saw old Syrian bunkers. Israel had a Mossad agent posing as a Syrian business man; after a number of adventures, he was invited by high-ups in the Syrian army to visit the bunkers. He expressed dismay at how hot and sunny these locations were and donated eucalyptus trees to shade the bunkers. These are not trees native to that area. When the Israelis attacked, they looked for the trees to know where to bomb the bunkers. We then proceeded up Mt. Bental which overlooks Syria. You can see where Israel ends -- the land is no longer green. There were two UN observers (Dutch) with fancy binoculars up there keeping an eye on Syria.

Then we went to an IDF (army) base where we saw a tank demonstration. This was followed by a visit to their memorial hall with photos back to 1948 of unit members who had died (the most recent was from last summer in Gaza). And then we sat down to a BBQ dinner with the soldiers. We had 4 soldiers at our table -- all 20 or 21. They are young but mature. The tank leader was sitting next to me -- he wants everyone to know it's safe here because they are making it safe. And they use the smoke screen (see photos) for when a tank is fired on and they want to get away. Plus, he said, it looks great in a demo.

Photos Day 7

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Israel Day Five (Oct. 12)

Our first full day of the tour was interesting. The breakfast buffet at the Carlton was incredible -- it puts the cocktail hour at a b'nai mitzvah to shame. All sorts of cold things -- different smoked fish, fruit, yogurt, salad, cereal, breads; any kind of eggs (including waffles); any kind of hot drink; halavah and dates. (There are photos.)

First stop was at an Ethiopian community center where we heard the story from an amazing woman who came to Israel from Ethiopia, through Sudan, in 1984. It was a fascinating story and afterwords they served us spiced coffee and their version of cornbread. Hospitality is very important to them. We also had the opportunity to buy some of their handicrafts.

Next stop was with Lecket -- an Israeli organization that provides food for those in need. Lecket means "gleaning" and refers to the mitzvah of leaving unharvested crops in the corners of the fields for the poor to gather (Book of Ruth, among other places). The group both collects leftover food from catered events and restaurants and from farmers' fields. Our job was to harvest pomegranates. We spent about 1/2 hour and filled two large bins.

We then went to the other extreme -- an upscale mall in Ramat Aviv, an upscale neighborhood of Tel Aviv. We visited the food court for lunch -- falafel for me. You'll see photos from the mall -- lots of familiar stores. On the one hand, how annoying that it's the same places I could shop at back home. On the other hand, how nice to know that these brands are not boycotting Israel.

Our next stop was close by, on the edge of Tel Aviv University. We went to the Palmach Museum. This group was the original Israeli underground, working during WWII to try to help Jews escape Europe and also working first with the English against the Arabs in Palestine and then against both the English and the Arabs. It was thanks to them that Israel won the war of independence. It is an amazing museum -- entirely multi-media with some exhibits and films (we had English translations to listen to). It was very moving and inspiring.

The bus made a stop at the hotel before heading to the next stop, which was a walking tour along Rothschild Blvd. As Mike and I spent three days walking along there and seeing the same sights, we got off. And finally success -- Mike was able to rent a kayak and paddle in the Mediterranean.

We had dinner at an outdoor restaurant just south of our hotel, next to the Tel Aviv marina. It was very pleasant. Later in the evening, a friend of the family who lived in Englewood for a few years, came by. Over cups of tea, we chatted and caught up on the doings of his family and ours. Jeff originally came to Israel to work as a lawyer. He decided that he wanted to be a rabbi and came to the US to go to JTS. He now still works as a lawyer but has founded a small conservative congregation that has grown to about 70 families in three years.

We finished packing in preparation for moving on tomorrow.

Day five photos