I know I'm back, but wait, there's more!!!
Trip Start Jun 26, 2007
19Trip End Jun 2008
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Remember, back in the beginning of October, we were supposed to go camping, but Rascal told us that at 3 months old, he was not quite ready to camp? Well, he told us now that at almost 10 months, he is not only ready, but very excited to go camping. No, really, he did tell us. So, we rented a car & packed up the tent & headed north. Our goal was to see the Golan. We did not have reservations anywhere; just total spontaneity & adventure. The route we took was as far east as you could go without crossing into Jordan. Last time, we drove up the west side of the Sea of Galilee so this time we ventured up the east side. We know that most of the beaches along the sea allow camping. So we pulled into the first one & it was very rocky. It did not seem like it would be a great camping experience. We pulled in & out of several more, but they either did not allow dogs or it wasn't good camping conditions. So now we are hot & hungry so we pull off on this secluded road to eat lunch. Evette had packed us some yummy tuna salad & crackers. It truly was a no-outlet, secluded spot.
After lunch, we decided to drive as far north as we could & then head west across the country towards the coast. We were not happy with camping areas around the Galilee, so, maybe the Mediterranean would be better. As we were driving, we came across this old Syrian Mosque that had obviously been bombed.
As we continue along the Syrian Border, we see lots of signs like this & right around here we hear bombing . As we continue past the Lebanon border, we see lots of bunkers & more signs like this . Poor little Rascal has to make a "pit-stop", but Mommies decide a firing zone is not the best rest stop.
Continuing along, we pass this big wind turbine farm. Apparently, this is a very big energy/power source.
Next stop, Nimrod Fortress. Nimrod Fortress is an ancient fortress situated in the northern Golan Heights, on a ridge rising about 815 m (2675 feet) above sea level & is one of the largest fortresses which survived in the Middle-East since the Middle Ages. The fortress controlled one of the region's main roads. The fortress was built around 1229 to pre-empt any attempt on Damascus by the Sixth Crusade.
We were able to take Rascal & explore the whole castle. It was really awesome climbing through the rubble & into tunnels & caves & experiencing the history. As it was nearing Shabbat, I saw this woman lighting candles right there in the castle.
So, now it is getting to be dark & we have had no luck finding a campground. They were either too rocky, too crowded or did not allow dogs. We continued driving across the top of the country to the West Coast of Israel & drove to Nahariya, which was one of our favorite spots on a previous trip. We thought maybe we could pitch a tent on the beach, although it has been such a long day at this point, we were praying for a motel. We drove around & asked at some of the small hotels, but they either said "no dogs allowed" or they wanted an outrageous amount to allow him. Finally, we found this small, Mom & Pop looking place that we could not even tell if they were open or not. Luckily, "mom" wasn't home because "pop" said "sure, no problem, I love dogs." The next morning we met "mom" who said she would have said "no." But, now that she saw what a good boy Rascal is, we are welcomed back anytime.
April 26, 2008
Ah yes, after a good night's sleep; we pack up & continue on our journey. We head to the beach way up North near the Lebanon Border. Rascal had an awesome time. He made 2 friends to romp & play with , but there is nothing like a mommy!
Ok, time to continue our adventure... We now drive back across the top of the country to the Golan Heights, exploring & stopping if something looked interesting. Along this really curvy road, I almost hit a cow. This HUGE cow was just walking down the middle of the road right at a curve. It was pretty scary. Then a little bit later the same thing happened again, but with a kangaroo. Ok, I know what you are thinking. Evette did not believe me either, but it sure looked like a kangaroo!
Now we are looking for a spot to stop & have a BBQ/picnic. We packed a tiny grill & I brought all the fixin's for shish kebobs. We see the entrance for Goren Park. We drive through the very large park & every picnic table area is occupied. We are driving & driving & not one spot is free. Suddenly, what do we see? The best, most beautiful spot in the park. This beautiful, large clearing with a front row, perfect view of Montfort Castle. It even has these large, flat rocks we can use as a table/cooking area. As I'm setting up to cook lunch, Evette & Rascal check out the site & say "hey, why not camp here?" We had seen several tents set up along our drive through the park, so we knew camping was allowed. They walked to the park office to find out the cost & Yea! It was free! As I prepare lunch, Evette sets up camp & Rascal explored the area to make sure it was safe for his mommies. I'm thinking, "Gee, why is the best site in the park available?" Oh well, who cares? It's ours now.
After lunch, we drive around & do more exploring before enjoying the sunset on our inflatable couch/camping mattress on the edge of the cliff overlooking the castle.
The next morning, as we are packing up camp, a truck pulls up to collect our trash. I said to the man "we got the best site in the whole park!" He says to us "asur lihakim shahm" which means "forbidden to camp here." Apparently, we were camping on the main trail & this was the overlook spot for the castle. There was no guardrail or anything, just cliff, straight down. Oops! Oh well, no real harm done & we had a great time.
April 27, 2008
Next stop on our adventure is Pa'ar Cave Nature Reserve. It is an underground drain tunnel that developed along a fissure in the center of a ravine. The ravine has no upper drainage & is closed in on all sides. The cave is tunnel shaped. It was very pretty, but not as big as we thought it would be.
So, driving right along, we see the Yehiam Fortress National Park. The date of when it was built is not known, but it was part of a major defensive settlement in the Western Galilee, along with nearby Montfort Castle, during the Crusader period.
In 1946, when the settlers of Kibbutz Yehaim settled the site, the walls of the fortress were used to defend against Bedouin raids and later to protect themselves while under siege during the Israeli War of Independence.
It was not as exciting as the Nimrod Fortress, but it was interesting. On the way out, we stopped at the Yehiam factory store where they manufacture our favorite beef sticks.
We now drive back to the West Coast & start driving south. We are looking for a nice beach spot so Rascal can have some fun too. We have not yet been to Caesarea, so it's seems like a good choice. Caesarea was originally called Straton's Tower after its founder Straton, who is believed to have been a ruler of Sidon in the 4th century BCE. In 96 BCE the city was captured by Alexander Yannai and remained in the Hasmonean kingdom until it became an autonomous city by Pompey. After being for some time in the possession of Cleopatra, ruler of Egypt, it was returned by Augustus to Herod.
Once the site of a Phoenician port, over the course of 12 years Herod built Caesarea into the grandest city other than Jerusalem in Palestine, with a deep sea harbor aqueduct, hippodrome and magnificent amphitheater that remain standing today. The lack of fresh water at Herod's new city required a lengthy aqueduct to bring water from springs at the base of Mt. Carmel nearly ten miles away. In order that the water would flow by the pull of gravity, the aqueduct was built on arches and the gradient was carefully measured. Later Hadrian and the Crusaders would attach additional channels to Herod's aqueduct. Herod renamed the city Caesarea in honor of the emperor. The population of Caesarea was half gentile and half Jewish, often causing disputes among the people. In 6 CE, Caesarea became the home of the Roman governors (Procurators) of Judea. The city remained the capital of Roman and Byzantine Palestine.
Caesarea was also the site where the Romans tortured and executed Rabbi Akiva following the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE.
We hung out on the beach for awhile so Rascal could run & jump & play.
At the close of the Passover holiday at sundown on the 8th day (7th day for Reform Jews and Jews in Israel), Moroccan and Turkish Sephardic Jews worldwide have a celebration called Mimouna which is usually celebrated in their homes. Mimouna is a celebration of freedom, community values, togetherness, friendship, and is a demonstration of great hospitality. It is also a celebration of the renewal of spring, and fertility. In the sense of Mimouna being a new beginning, eating these sweets symbolizes a sweet year. Mimouna is celebrated with great vigor in Israel, where families gather at picnics in parks and on beaches to eat, drink, sing and dance.
Evette & Rascal & I went to a Mimouna outdoor festival. It was like a huge carnival with booth after booth after booth of cotton candy, sweet crepes, candies, cakes, ice cream & other foods too. There was music as well. It was massively crowded & Rascal was not having much fun, so we had a sweet crepe & went on our way.
Well, this has been a jammed pack day. Back into the car we go & it's off to Netanya for a quick visit to Evette's cousin. We passed this memorial to the fallen paratroopers.
Yom Hashoah is a day set aside for commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. The meaning is "literally the "Day of (remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.
The date was selected by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on April 12, 1951. The full name became formal in a law that was enacted by the Knesset on August 19, 1953. Although the date was established by the Israeli government, it has become a day commemorated by Jewish communities and individuals worldwide.
Since the early 1960s, the sound of a siren on Yom Hashoah stops traffic and pedestrians throughout the State of Israel for two minutes of silent devotion. Literally, people stop in their tracks. Cars & motorcycles stop & shut off their motors & get out & stand next to their vehicles. Everything is silent & still. It was very emotionally overwhelming. The siren blows at sundown the evening before and once again at 11:00 A.M. on this date. All radio and television programs during this day are connected in one way or another with the Jewish destiny in World War II, including personal interviews with survivors. Even the musical programs are adapted to the atmosphere of Yom Hashoah. There is no public entertainment on Yom Hashoah, as theaters, cinemas, pubs, and other public venues are closed throughout Israel.
May 2, 2008
We went on a field trip with Evette's classmates to Ramla. We had a tour-guide & a whole day itinerary planned. The transportation that was set up for us was 2 hours late, so we had to cut out a lot of our planned activities. We did visit a Palestinian School. The Principal spoke to us along with 2 students. It was very interesting to hear their views on things, especially the kids.
The Arab Muslims conquered the land from the Christians Byzantines. In the beginning of the 7th century, the land was ruled by the Khalifs of Umaya whose capital was Damascus. In the start of their rule, neighboring Lod was the regional city ruled by SULAYMAN brother of the Khalif ALULAYED. This ruler began the construction of a new city in 716 near the sands by the shore and therefore named it Ramla from the Arabic word RAML, meaning sand.
Through the city passed the great route from Damascus-Syria to Cairo-Egypt. Also passed the route from Jaffa near the Mediterranean shore, to Jerusalem located in the high mountains. These facts led to Ramla's great military and commercial value.
As Ramla grew and developed, the neighboring city Lod began losing the importance it gained through generations and most residents moved to the new city.
In the 10th century, the Khalifs of Fatima took the throne in Egypt and control over Israel and neighboring countries. A famous Khalif who was a religious fanatic persecuted the non-Muslims. The Jews from Jerusalem found temporary refuge in Ramla.
After our visit at the school, we walked through the streets a little bit & had lunch at Samir's, which is famous for their hummus & falafel. Lunch was very good & very cheap. After lunch, we walked around the Ramla shuk before heading back home in time for Shabbat.
Evette & I went to Tel Aviv. We were walking along the promenade & came to a large crowd of Hari Krishna's dancing. Wow! Not exactly what I'd expect to see in Israel. Of all days to not have my camera! OY!!
Today is Rosh Chodesh. Evette & I got up early & went to prayer service with the Women @the Wall. Women at the Wall is an organization in Israel, with members and supporters around the world, who have organized a series of Women's prayer groups at the Kotel (Western Wall) each month on Rosh Hodesh. The groups have included women reading from the Torah and wearing tallit, tefillin, and kippot.
The Kotel is a central Jewish holy site, part of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount on which the Second Temple stood before the Romans destroyed it in 70 CE.
The Kotel is in the control of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Based on a decision of the Israeli Government, security personnel have prevented the Women of the Wall from holding organized prayer groups in the women's section of the main public area of the Kotel plaza. In addition, members of the Women of the Wall have reported that their efforts to assemble in the women's section in the plaza in front of the Kotel have been met at various times with violent and abusive behavior from Haredi worshipers.
Since its founding in 1989, Women of the Wall has fought a legal battle asserting a right to conduct organized prayer at the Kotel and challenging government and private intervention in its efforts, which ultimately led to two Israeli Supreme Court decisions and to a series of debates in the Knesset. In its first decision, on May 22, 2002, the Supreme Court authorized Women of the Wall to hold prayer groups in the women's section of the main Kotel plaza undisturbed. Four days later, Haredi political parties introduced several bills to overturn the decision, including a bill that would have made it a criminal offense for women to pray in non-traditional ways at the western wall, punishable by up to seven years in prison. Although the bill did not pass, the Israeli Supreme Court reconsidered its earlier decision. On April 6, 2003, the Court reversed itself and upheld, 5-4, the Israeli government's ban prohibiting the organization from meeting at the main public area at the Wall, on the grounds that continued meetings represented a threat to public safety and order. The Court required the government to provide an alternate site, Robinson's Arch. The Robinson's Arch site was completed by October 2003. (the above info from Wikipedia).
It was a neat experience to be a part of this women's event.
May 6-7, 2008
Today is Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Memorial Day. It is different in its character and mood from the American Memorial Day. For 24 hours (from sunset to sunset) all places of public entertainment (theaters, cinemas, nightclubs, pubs, etc.) are closed. The most noticed feature of the day is the sound of siren that is heard throughout the country twice, during which the entire nation observes a two-minute "standstill" of all traffic and daily activities. The first siren marks the beginning of Memorial Day at 8:00 P.M., and the second is at 11:00 A.M., before the public recitation of prayers in the military cemeteries. All radio and television stations broadcast programs portraying the lives and heroic deeds of fallen soldiers. Most of the broadcasting time is devoted to Israeli songs that convey the mood of the day.
Yom Hazikaron is not conceived as a religious commemoration by the majority of Israelis, but as part of the civil culture. The siren sound seems to inspire awe and sanctity no less than any traditional religious ceremony.
Last night, 5/6, Evette & Rascal & I walked to this big field where there was a ceremony for the men & women who were killed from a particular troop. They read each name & told stories in between about some of the individuals. These fires were set throughout the ceremony on these rope structures that were built just prior to the ceremony. It was a very moving ceremony.
On the morning of 5/7, Evette & I took a taxi to Har Herzl, the national military cemetery. A couple of blocks before reaching Har Herzl, traffic was stopped - the taxi had to take a major detour & dropped us off with thousands of others to walk across the street & into the cemetery. The chaotic intersection that was nearly impossible to cross just moments before, stood absolutely still for two minutes at 11am. We thought that this siren, twice as long as the other ones that I have written about, might have made less of an impact on us because it is the third one in a week. But we were wrong.
Upon entering Har Herzl, we were handed two things: flowers to put on a grave & a card with the Kaddish written on it. There is a boy buried here from Philadelphia who was a huge Eagles fan. We tried to find his grave among the 10's of thousands, but with no luck. Then I decided that so many graves were covered with flowers & vases that family members had brought, so I wanted to find a grave that had none, or maybe 1-2 & put the flowers there.
Har Herzl was beyond packed. We could not get anywhere near where the actual ceremony was taking place, but it was being broadcast throughout the ceremony on speakers. So we just picked a section and joined the families there. Each grave was surrounded by family members visiting. I was particularly struck that truly; each grave had someone to visit - even if the deceased was killed in the War of Independence in 1948. Children were visiting grandparents that they had never met, siblings were visiting their brothers that they last saw 30 or 40 years ago, and parents were visiting children they never expected to bury.
May 7 - May 8, 2008
The evening of May 7th went from a somber day of memorial, to an evening & following day of celebration, barbeques, fireworks, parades & other celebrations. Yom Ha'atzmaut is Israel's Independence Day when members of the provisional government read and signed a Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv. The original date corresponded to May 14, 1948. In the State of Israel it is a formal holiday; so almost everyone has the day off.
Yom Ha'atzmaut in Israel is always preceded by Yom Hazikaron--Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers. The message of linking these two days is clear: Israelis owe their independence; the very existence of the state; to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.
We had a small BBQ at our apartment with our friends Jill & Matt.
May 14-16, 2008
Remember back in January, I told you how crazy it was because Pres. Bush visited Jerusalem & we live so close to the President & Prime Minister? Well, not only did he return, but so did 100's of other World leaders & dignitaries & celebrities, such as: Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger, Joschka Fischer, Vaclav Havel, and Condoleezza Rice, as well as leaders from China, Mongolia, Uganda and Kazakhstan. They mingled with moguls like Sergey Brin of Google, Terry Semel of Yahoo and press baron Rupert Murdoch as well as Buddhist monks, rabbis and novelists, Jewish communal and political leaders from abroad and some 150 prominent Israelis from business, politics and the media. Once again, life was rerouted & at a standstill for 3 days. "Facing Tomorrow" was the aptly named theme of the high-profile Presidential Conference 2008, organized by President Shimon Peres and the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, held in Jerusalem in mid-May. And indeed, the mega-bash celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary, focused on the future, praised the past and paid scant attention to any of the unpleasant issues presently facing Israel and the United States.
May 21, 2008
Today, Evette & I finally went on the City bus tour. It is a panoramic bus tour of 29 historical sites around Jerusalem that is narrated in 8 different languages. We've been meaning to do this for months; 12 to be exactJ It was a lot of fun & we got to see several things, although briefly, that we missed.
Here are a few highlights of the tour: This is a British Pillbox. Pillboxes or blockhouses were miniature forts developed by the German army to give their trench lines extra strength. The term pillbox was used by the British soldiers because the reinforced concrete construction was the same shape as the boxes in which chemists supplied tablets during the war. Pillboxes generally measured 30 ft. along the front and were about 10 ft. wide. German machine-gunners were often housed inside pillboxes. With very thick walls, they were difficult to destroy by artillery barrages. They would fire through the narrow slits in the walls.
These are the Holy Land condominiums. They cost equivalent to $1,000,000. In my opinion, they are hideous!
This is Teddy Stadium. Teddy Stadium is a multi-use stadium in Jerusalem. It is named for long-time Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek who was in office during the time of its construction and was one of its prominent advocates. Two football teams (soccer to us), currently use the stadium. It has a capacity of 21,600.
According to the Torah (Lev. 23:15), we are obligated to count the days from Passover to Shavuot. This period is known as the Counting of the Omer. An omer is a unit of measure. Every night, from the second night of Passover to the night before Shavuot, we recite a blessing and state the count of the omer in both weeks and days. So on the 16th day, you would say "Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer."
The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, and Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah.
In the time of Rabbi Akiva, who witnessed the destruction of the Second Temple and who was the greatest Torah Sage of his generation, twenty four thousand of his disciples died in an epidemic. The underlying spiritual cause of the epidemic was the students' lack of respect for each other. This sad event and others took place during the Counting of the Omer. As a result, the Omer period has become one of semi-mourning in which we don't hold weddings or festivities, nor do we shave or get haircuts. But because the epidemic was suspended on the 33rd day - Lag B'omer - Lag B'omer has become a joyous day of celebration. This information is from www.jewfaq.org .
In the evening, we took Rascal & walked to the park as it is very popular for people to build giant bonfires. It looked like the parks were on fire. Rascal did not like it one bit. After all, this is where he comes to "Rascalate."
May 24, 2008
Today we took what was our last jaunt to the beach in Tel Aviv. We had a great time relaxing & reading in the sun. Then our friends Ruti & Sivan met us at our favorite burger joint for dinner. After dinner, we all went to Yafo.
Jaffa is an ancient port city located south of Tel Aviv, Israel on the Mediterranean Sea. Today it is a borough of the city.
It is mentioned four times in the Hebrew Bible, as one of the cities given to the Tribe of Dan (Book of Joshua 19:46), as port-of-entry for the cedars of Lebanon for Solomon's Temple (2 Chronicles 2:16), as the place whence the prophet Jonah embarked for Tarshish (Book of Jonah 1:3) and as port-of-entry for the cedars of Lebanon for the Second Temple of Jerusalem (Book of Ezra 3:7). It was also an important city in the Arab Middle East. During the Crusades, it was the County of Jaffa, a stronghold of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. (as per Wikipedia)
Jaffa (or Yafo) is one of the most ancient port cities in the world. Some claim that Jaffa was named after Japheth, one of the three sons of Noah, who built it forty years after the Great Flood.
In 1954, Jaffa became part of the municipality of Tel Aviv. Together, they are known as Tel Aviv-Yafo. Modern Jaffa has a diverse population of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Parts of the Old City have been renovated, turning Jaffa into a tourist attraction featuring old restored buildings, art galleries, theaters, souvenir shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes and promenades.
We walked along the port & saw the Ramases Gateway. Yafo was at one time, an Egyptian settlement. The Israeli Antiquities Authority has uncovered what is called the Ramases Gateway - and is in the process of reconstructing the site. The Arch with hieroglyphs are replicas of the artifacts found at this site. The stone walls seen are the original.
Then we walked across the wishing bridge. All of the zodiac signs are represented on this bridge. It is a tradition that when you come here, you put both hands on your sign & make a wish.
We took a bus to Netanya today so we could visit the cemetery where Evette grandparents are & her other "Lutman" family members. We had been meaning to do this all year. I'm glad we had the chance, as this was very important to us.
Afterwards, we took a taxi to her cousin's house so I could see her again before I left Israel. We had a short, but lovely visit.
Finally, we go to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. We knew I could not leave a year in Israel without this experience.
"And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (a "yad vashem")... that shall not be cut off."
(Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5)
Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Knesset. Since its inception, Yad Vashem has been entrusted with documenting the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust period, preserving the memory and story of each of the six million victims, and imparting the legacy of the Holocaust for generations to come through its archives, library, school, museums and recognition of the Righteous among the Nations.
Located on Har Hazikaron, the Mount of Remembrance, in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem is a vast, sprawling complex of tree-studded walkways leading to museums, exhibits, archives, monuments, sculptures, and memorials.
The new Holocaust History Museum occupies over 4,200 square meters, mainly underground. Both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, it presents the story of the Shoah from a unique Jewish perspective, emphasizing the experiences of the individual victims through original artifacts, survivor testimonies and personal possessions.
The Hall of Remembrance is a solemn tent-like structure which allows visitors to pay their respects to the memories of the martyred dead. On the floor are the names of the six death camps and some of the concentration camps and killing sites throughout Europe. In front of the memorial flame lies a crypt containing ashes of victims. Memorial ceremonies for official visitors are held here.
The Children's Memorial is hollowed out from an underground cavern, where memorial candles, a customary Jewish tradition to remember the dead, are reflected infinitely in a dark and somber space. This memorial is a tribute to the approximately one and a half million Jewish children who perished during the Holocaust.
The Valley of the Communities is a 2.5 acre monument that was dug out from the natural bedrock. Engraved on the massive stone walls of the memorial are the names of over five thousand Jewish communities that were destroyed and of the few that suffered but survived in the shadow of the Holocaust.
This was such an incredibly moving, intense experience. It was too much on an emotional level to do the whole museum in one day.
Just a quick, funny fact: on the television news, they report the news as they are reading it from the newspapers & internet.
Pay toilets- In many public places; beaches, parks...you have to pay, not only to get into the bathroom, but for the toilet paper as well. The stalls have no TP. You have to know ahead of time how much you will need & get it from the person handing it out outside the bathroom.
Law & order puppy: Those of you who know us well, know that Evette & I are addicted to Law & Order; the Original, SVU & CI. Here in Jerusalem, we can see all except CI (my favorite!). Anyway, we like to hum along to the theme song & the "dunk-dunk." Rascal is truly a puppy after our own hearts. When the song comes on, he goes crazy & jumps up on our laps. It's quite funny, or at least, we think so.
Hebrew word of the day: hazarti habayitah = i returned home.
So, I am home. Evette & Rascal will follow in one week, June 29th. Thank you all for reading our adventures. I hope they were interesting, educational & sometimes humorous. I will be making a slideshow with the pictures & we will have a narrated showing for anyone interested. I will do 1 last entry in a week or so, noting what I miss & what I don't miss about Israel.
Peace, Shalom & ahavah (love).