Day 15: Cocktails and Columns

Trip Start May 19, 2009
Trip End Jun 16, 2009

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Flag of Israel  , Galilee,
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

(Day 15, Tiberias, Tuesday) Our morning cabbie lifted our bags into the trunk with difficulty. Although young, he had a white stretchy bandage over his right forearm. Turns out it covered a deep wound caused by a Molotov cocktail suffered in the course of duty. Where and when I didn't ask.

Our car rental downtown took about an hour to complete, between waiting for the car to arrive and all the customers overwhelming the lone clerk. We finally set off, first for a long detour across town to see the stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall at the Hadassah-Ein Kerem hospital synagogue. (GPS is a great thing!) The twelve beautiful windows represent each of the twelve tribes of Israel. A recording narrated the significant features of each window (including the bullet hole in one, left on purpose by Chagall after he restored four of the windows that were damaged in the 1967 war). Lunch in the adjacent mall, and it was really time to get out of town and head north.

We found our way through Jerusalem traffic to the road toward the Dead Sea, in no time back in the stark desert hills, heading past the sea level markers, down down down. This time, we took a left (north) along the Jordan Valley road, past Jericho, Israeli settlements, and Palestinian villages. Our GPS did not work on the West Bank (security reasons, we were told), but the road was a straight shot along the Jordan river (which was somewhere alongside us) anyway, past nationalist ("Oslo traitors to justice!") and religious graffiti, and Palestinians dangling enticing grapes from roadside stands. To our left, the high ridges of the Judean Hills (and frequent antennae, probably the Israeli army on the high ground), to our far right, the mountains of Jordan. In between, the fenced, barbed-wire border with Jordan (or at least the edge of the border zone) accompanied us for a while, too, while the farms in the wide valley in the middle spread out on the other side.

The crossing back into Israel proper at the northern edge of the West Bank went smoothly, the female guard maybe a little surprised at my Hebrew, prompting a few questions then a wave through. The GPS machine resumed operation. We decided to make a late-afternoon stop in Bet She'an and see what is called "Israel's Pompeii," the well-preserved ruins of a Roman/Byzantine city. Although it was about 100 degrees out, we walked around and through the amphitheatre, bathhouses, temples, main streets lined with columns, etc., set next to a hill we were not about to climb, even if the views were great. Of interest was a Roman bathroom, apparently unisex, and tumbled columns from an earthquake in the year 749, still laying where they fell.

We pushed on to Tiberias, a modest resort town on the hills leading down to the Sea of Galilee ("the Kinneret" in Hebrew), a blue respite from the oppressive heat, even if only to look at. The road through Tiberias was lined with hotels on the water, but on the other side of town, we found our lodging, the YMCA. Believe it or not, it's a lovely, quiet, lush place, no gym in sight, on the edge of the Kinneret, a few buildings spread among the grounds, including a chapel, connected by stone paths. (Check out the pictures here.) Our room was simple but boasted an amazing view of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights beyond.

For dinner, we headed back into town, to the Scots Hotel, housed in a stone castle of sorts, where we heard there was a good restaurant with a view of the Sea. When we balked at $50 for the (admittedly lavish) buffet, we discovered that we could eat a la carte upstairs, where we had the place to ourselves, and a better view to boot. The waiter knew his stuff, and soon Kevin was having a cold Palestinian beer and I had a refreshing apple mojito with ginger ale. Aaahh! Dinner was great, too, then it was back to the Y, where Kevin crashed soon after, and I watched Israeli "Cash Cab" in the cool air conditioned, Middle Eastern salon of the reception area, and caught up on email (the internet signal did not reach our building). Guess we're not the going-out types lately, our full days in the unseasonable heat making a quiet evening all the more appealing.
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weekilter on

The Yimca
Your place the YMCA in Tiveriah looks really nice!

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