17 days in Israel our way

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Jun 6th, 2013, 04:44 PM
  #21
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
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Is there a way we can be in touch? We are planning a return to Israel, also, after 19 years away. I have posted a question today. We probably can only go for 10-12 days, and will be visiting family and friends, also.
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Jun 6th, 2013, 04:54 PM
  #22
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virginiafish

I read your post and that is a gracious and ambitious task you are taking on. If you add an email address or other contact info to your profile, I will contact you. I could not recommend a tour company though.
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Jun 12th, 2013, 03:58 PM
  #23
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I spent a few days organizing photos so now back to the TR

Just to backtrack a bit, here are a few photos taken in Zfat, mostly in the artist colony section. You will also see a building showing the signs of war, those bullet holes date to the 1947 war. Lastly, you will see a mortar. That is called the "Davidka" and played a key role in the battle in 1947. The Jewish defenders of Zfat were about to be attacked and had little in the way of effective weapons, however the Davidka made a very loud noise for its size, sounding like a heavy weapon. That sound discouraged the attacking armies and saved the day. There are some photos of the synagogue that I mentioned above. There are also a few of photos of Akko.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/basings...7634073337201/

Here is also a link to some photos taken in the Golan Heights. The Syrian flag is clearly seen. It is hard to believe that there are people dying down there as I took the pictures.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/basings...7634072785937/

Next are some photos taken at Megiddo - these are ruins of one of the most ancient and important cities that was inhabited from 7000 BC to 586 BC. Its location at a trade crossroads connecting Assyria to Egypt made it the scene of many battles in ancient times. According to prophecy, this is where the battle of the end of times will be fought. It is thought the place name Armageddon is derived from the Har (mount)Megiddo through its various Greek and other references.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/basings...7634078175966/

Here is also a link to Massada and a few photos taken around the Dead Sea. The story of Massada is a familiar one where the Sicari sect of Judaism escaped during the Jewish resistance to Rome. The mountain top of Massada had been the site of palaces and other structures built by Herod. Around 73 BCE the Romans completed their siege of Massada building a ramp to the mountain top. They found the 960 inhabitants had committed suicide rather than be taken into slavery. It was over 100F when we were there.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/basings...7634073600939/

We visited the Dead Sea near the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. There it was 104F. DW took an calf high dip in the sea - I passed. Having been there before, I knew I did not like it. To me it feels like hot oil. There is a steep path going down with a steel railing. The railing is nearly useless since the the highly saline water has coated it with a brown oily substance. Lord help you if you get it on your clothing - it will only come out with difficulty if at all. The scenery around there is terrific. One can see the mountains of Jordan across the sea.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/basings...7634078470086/

Next: On to Jerusalem where I do something really stupid and pay the price
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Jun 12th, 2013, 05:54 PM
  #24
 
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Thank you for your kind offer. We have decided that it may be too much of an undertaking and will take a more relaxed 3-4 day trip for the 90th celebration stateside. Thanks all.
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Jun 17th, 2013, 04:46 PM
  #25
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In Jerusalem we stayed at the Eden Jerusalem Hotel in the Talpiot region of the city for five nights. I have mixed feelings about the hotel. The hotel itself was quite nice - basic but very clean rooms, large bath that doubled as a safe room shelter with a thick steel door and excellent breakfasts included in the very reasonable for Jerusalem price. The breakfasts were an assortment of middle eastern salads - very tasty, hard boiled eggs, cheeses and breads. There was a coffee machine that made pretty much any type of coffee one would want as well as chocolate. DW thought these were the best breakfasts of the trip and her being a semi-vegetarian I could see why. There was a lot there for her and it was all good.

The downside of the hotel is its location. It is on a very nice residential street and is near several bus lines so that is good. However, if one wants to walk - well, when I asked how long a walk it would be to the Old City when making my reservation I got the standard "15 minutes" reply. When we did it, it took nearly an hour although one could cut 10-15 minutes of uphill walking from that by entering the old city through the Zion Gate rather than the Jaffa Gate but we did not know that at the time. The walk is not particularly interesting and is along a heavily trafficked avenue with its attendant bus and truck fumes. After our first walk to the Old City, we drove. There is little of tourist interest within an easy walk. Parking on the street in front of the hotel was never a problem.

We had spent significant time in Jerusalem in the early '70s just after the war and the growth of the city since then was amazing, yet the Old City stayed the same other than some additional security arrangements to approach the Western Wall. Arriving in the Old City we walked through the Suk and it hadn't changed at all - still crowded, colorful and interesting. We ended up at the Western Wall and spent a fair amount of time there. My mom passed in September so the first thing I did was to say the traditional memorial prayer "kaddish" at the wall. She would have liked that. Afterwards I explored the tunnels along the walls that are actually now prayer rooms. The people there ranged from secular to ultra-orthodox and hassids in their traditional dress and fur trimmed hats. There is a fence between the sections for men and for women with separate entrances, consistent with orthodox regulation. It was a moving experience.

The photo link below has views of the Western wall and tunnels. There are also general views of Jerusalem. If you are still with it, about halfway through is a photo of DW buying some scarves from a distinguished looking gentleman. He is the Muchtar (secular leader) of the Syrian Orthodox community in Jerusalem and a delightful person. We spent well over an hour in his shop just talking and learning about his community. If you are there and pass by a shop selling just scarves (it is not on the main drag through the Suk) and see him inside, drop in - you wont regret it.

We actually visited his shop on our second day visiting the old city. It was a Syrian Orthodox holiday celebrating the Holy Fire and the Old City was closed to tourists until late in the afternoon. When we entered the Old City, we enjoyed parades of Palestinian scout groups and others carrying their own holy flames. "Our" Muchtar suggested a restaurant and we went there for dinner. The garden setting as seen in the photos was lovely and there were large groups celebrating the holiday. The group of about 30 at the next long table were served a whole sheep, head and all and dug in. Our own dinner was far less spectacular and in truth pretty average. I had a decent mixed grill and DW ordered a falafel platter that she had to send back - it was fried to golf ball consistency. They replaced it and the new platter was better, but not by much. I was very surprised that an upscale Arab restaurant with falafel on the menu would not do a better job with it.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/basings...7634078303828/


We also visited the Old City one night when it takes on a very different atmosphere that we liked better. Walking the alleyways at night was atmospheric and set a mood and many of the shops and restaurants were open, but without the crowds. IMO one "feels" the Old City best at night. We felt perfectly safe at all times. For a late dinner, we ate at a place called Amigo Emil (go figure) and it was a very good traditional middle eastern restaurant and reasonably priced. I had a dish that looks like burritos. It is a chicken/sumac mixture wrapped in a flat bread and was delicious.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/basings...7634078414304/

Other places that we visited in Jerusalem were the Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem which was completely different from when we were there last and very moving as one would expect. The flow of Yad Vashem pulls you through the holocaust history in an informative and compelling way. A separate building is dedicated to the children who were lost. This is large pitch dark space with thousands of points of light reflected in mirrors. It takes some time to get used to the darkness. Names of children who were lost are intoned as one gropes one's way through the space. It is very effective and one can't help but be caught up emotionally in the experience.

We also spent much of another day at the Israel museum, a museum of art and archeology that is beautifully done.
Views from both museums are beautiful.

We also spent a few hours of our Jerusalem stay seeking out the street where we stayed years before and true to the theme, it was completely different. When we were there, there were only 8 buildings and we had a view of fields and flocks of sheep. Now it is a fully developed large neighborhood with views of --other buildings. One thing that remained though was the unusual monster slide that my then 3 year old son played on and remembers to this day. The slide is in one of the photos.

On our last day in Jerusalem, which was also our final day in Israel, we decided to visit the Machane Yehuda outdoor market - photos below:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/basings...7634073193961/

It was here that I payed the price of cumulative stupidity and carelessness. When I travel, I use a money belt and also divide cash and credit cards across several pockets for safety. However, somehow as I used a card I would carelessly ignore my own practice. The morning of visiting the market I went to the ATM to withdraw enough for the day's expenses and the van to the airport the next morning. The ATM decided at that moment not to recognize my debit card so I borrowed the one DW carries from a different bank. That one did not work either. We saw another ATM across the street and that one worked fine. Not thinking I put her credit card in the same wallet as mine where over the past few days all of our credit cards except AMEX had carelessly migrated. I stupidly did not notice and put my wallet into its usual place in those pants - a place I thought pretty safe. It was a cargo pocket with a velcro flap. Off we went to the market. Arriving there we saw a juice stand and decided some refreshment would be nice and I pulled out the wallet and payed for the juice, replacing it in its usual place. Now when I travel, I look like a tourist and make no effort not too, which wouldn't work anyway. So here I am, white baseball cap and camera in hand, speaking English with DW walking through this crowded market, jostling others and being jostled as well snapping away and being totally absorbed in the experience. Dear reader, look at those photos in the market - while taking one of them, my pocket was picked. I did not realize it until reaching to pay for a purchase and coming up with nothing.

We left the market and spent the rest of the afternoon notifying the credit and debit card carriers and freezing accounts after which I went to the police station to file a report - an interesting experience in itself. The police were pleasant but grilled me as if I were applying for a security clearance.

Luckily we only had one week in Europe to go and I still had my AMEX card, passports and a good stash of dollars in my money belt so we would be OK for the remainder of the trip.

We cancelled our van to the airport since we could not pay the driver in local currency and just extended our car rental another day leaving at 4AM. The drive to the airport was an easy one at that time in the morning and I want to thank those who suggested that we leave for the airport from Jerusalem rather our original plan. Returning our car to the airport - something NOT in our original plans, turned out to be complicated. There were signs to the company that tries harder and we followed them to a little shed in a parking lot surrounded by other rental companies. What are you doing here?? the rep said as we entered. This is not where you return your car. Well, we followed the signs to rental returns and your name - that is what we are doing here I replied. This is the wrong place he shot back. Apparently the company that tries harder requires a special pass to enter their parking area at the terminal which is where the cars are to be returned notwithstanding the signs directing one elsewhere. The entrance to the return at the terminal btw does not have their name on it so how would one know. Even if we could find it, we could not enter since they did not give us the pass on renting the car - understandable since we were to return the car elsewhere, but still....

Finally, they guided us to the proper place with a pass, we returned our junker and headed to the Air France counter, ready for another battle to have our luggage checked to Zurich without charge. To our surprise, the matter was corrected while in Israel and we boarded our flight without hassle and on time.

Next: Well, that is it. The rest of our trip was in Switzerland and Lake Como, Italy. The TR will be on the Europe forum.

On last thing, we also visited Hula Lake, a pretty place where I was able to get some nice bird photos - a nice way to end this TR.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/basings...7634072472281/
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Jun 19th, 2013, 04:59 PM
  #26
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Does anyone have any idea what kind of bird is in the first photo in the link above?
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 11:01 AM
  #27
 
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If you are talking about the little colored bird in the first photo on the left, it appears to be a European Bee eater. Merops apiaster is the Latin name.
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 11:22 AM
  #28
 
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By the way, in summer large flocks of these birds arrive in Israel, particularly in the north along the Syrian-African rift. They are a boon to bee keepers as, true to their name, they can devour large quantities of bees in flight.
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 12:07 PM
  #29
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Thank you KatPen - that is the one! One question though, since they eat bees, why would they be "a boon to bee keepers." One would think the opposite.
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 12:51 PM
  #30
 
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Of course you are right...I meant "bane"
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 05:12 PM
  #31
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That makes sense. I thought that perhaps they specialized in Africanized bees or some other type that competed with honey bees.
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