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

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