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I am just starting to do my reading, but tell me where to start on planning a trip to "the Holy Land" (for 2006)

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Dec 29th, 2004, 12:40 PM
  #21
 
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Rex - you are welcome!

Yes, if you friend is an observant Jew then anywhere in the West Bank might make him uncomfortable.

I really just wanted to say a few words about Bethlehem. It is in close proximity to Jerusalem - 6 miles south west, actually - and because there is a good sized population, many people who live there work in Jerusalem. Bethlehem is just inside of Palestine. To drive to and from Bethlehem, one must pass through a checkpoint. Normally, there is no problems for tour buses or tourists. However, if there is unrest in the area, Israel will often close the checkpoint/road to Bethlehem, and no one is allowed to enter or leave from there. This can happen at any time, so there is no planning for it. Even tour companies, who might include Bethlehem in their itineraries, may have access denied to them at any particular time.

When I went to Israel in 1998, it was a relatively peaceful time, so there was no real worry about getting to Bethlehem. However, there had been trouble recently and our tour bus could not drive directly to Manger Square. We were dropped off a few blocks away and had to walk up a (mostly) unpaved street to the church. Trust me, we all stuck VERY close to the tour guide! (He was Palestinian)

You might remember a couple of years ago when a group of Palestinians were running from the Israeli army and entered the Church of the Nativity? During that time, the roads to Bethlehem were closed.

Personally, I think seeing Bethlehem is worth it. Even though I was a bit uncomfortable it drove home that things are not all rosey in this part of the world. Plus, the church really is something to see. I believe it is one of the oldest in the world, too. If the roads are clear and open, everything should be fine. The Israelis do put safety above all else, especially for tourists, so I would not do what the family did in the article you posted!

As far as not planning, I leave that up to you! If I can give any info that you or your B-I-L can use then that's enough for me.
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Dec 29th, 2004, 02:51 PM
  #22
 
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When we were in Israel in May 03, our tour group could not go to Bethlehem because of safety issues. We were just there in Nov. We had the opportunity to visit Bethlehem. This was the first group our tour company had taken in 4 years.
It was a wonderful opportunity. The borders are subject to closure at any time.
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Dec 29th, 2004, 07:16 PM
  #23
 
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Hi Rex,
I'm just posting because I said I would after meeting with my (jetlagged) friend who just got back. She loved Israel and when I asked her if she had a chance to go back to Israel or Prague (which she also loves), which she would pick, and she honestly couldn't say--so that just gives you an idea of how much she liked it.

The only negative of their trip was that our rabbi's passport was going to be expiring in a few months, and even though they planned to come back well before then (and had RT tickets), he wasn't able to fly out with them--had to get his passport renewed first and flew out 3 days later. So, be alert to this issue before you go.

He's going to be leading another group in November along with a Muslim and Christian cleric...I'm even thinking of going on this one. Don't know if you'd information on it (when it's available), but if you would, let me know and I'll pass it on.

BTW, my friend did study Hebrew before they left, but said she didn't need it at all. (I lived there for 6 months and can only speak a few words--you'll be fine with "shalom"--actually, we'd all be fine with shalom!)

Shalom,
Paula
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Dec 30th, 2004, 10:27 AM
  #24
 
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Rex, I said on the other post that I would tell you about our recent church trip if you were interested.

We flew into and out of Tel Aviv through Chicago and London. The trip home was 26 hours long. We stayed in Sheraton and Dan hotels. All of our meals were included except lunch, and the hotel buffets were wonderful. The food is kosher, and the divinely fresh fruit and vegetables were a delight. My brother, who went with my husband and me, and I drank grapefruit juice like there would never be any more.

Arafat died two days after our arrival and I understand the country went on war alert, but we were never aware of any danger. They do, indeed, take good care of their visitors. At one place, a ticket taker said we might be getting tired of standing in line but they were delighted to see lines again. We did not get to go to Bethlehem, Jericho, or the Temple Mount.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 10:54 AM
  #25
 
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Continued . . . As someone told you, Jaffa (or Joppa) is adjacent to Tel Aviv. We only drove through it and through Nazareth. We went up to look out over the plain of Armageddon and to Tabgha to see the Church of Multiplication that has a mosaic floor depicting the loaves and fishes.

We went to Capernaum and visited the ruins of an old synagogue and a new church built with an open floor view of what is thought to be the house of St. Peter's mother-in-law whom Jesus healed. Had lunch at Kfar Nahum on the Sea of Galilee, a fish restaurant serving St. Peter's fish (only fish that can keep its mouth closed under water, thus the kind that could hold gold coins with which to pay one's taxes). It is served whole (yes, head on) and is quite good with a mild, sweet flavor. We rode a boat across the Sea of Galilee.

Went to the Mount of Beatitudes, saw the church there, and sat on the slope. Went to the Yardenit kibbutz that has facilities for baptism in the Jordan River. Both my husband and brother were baptised along with many, many others.

Visited Bet Shean. a large site with a Roman theater and ruins. It is thought it was destroyed by an earthquake because all the pillars have fallen in the same direction. It had a hot bath section with stones shaped like mushrooms to sit on.

Stopped at Casaera Maritime built by Herod as a resort and where there is still a standing aquaduct. Went up on top of Mt. Carmel where there is a fabulous statue of an irate Elijah calling down fire from heaven on the prophets of Baal. Stopped at Bet Shearim to see a mosaic floor from an ancient synagogue and went to Gideon's Spring where God selected the 300 men who drank while looking around instead of lying down, and where the water is still safe to drink now.

Drove up on the Golan Heights and went through a bunker from I believe the '67 war.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 11:23 AM
  #26
 
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More . . . Then to Jerusalem. Saw the Upper Room and David's Tomb. Went up on the Mount of Olives where you look across the Kidron Valley to the Eastern Gate and see the beautiful Dome of the Rock beyond. Went to the Garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive trees and to the adjacent Church of the Nations that houses the Rock of Agony on which Jesus prayed. Saw the heartbreaking Yad Vashem holocaust museum.

Went to the Western (Wailing) Wall and through the Arches Tunnel that parallels the ancient wall and is excavated down to the level of 2,000 years ago. Stopped in the Church of St. Anne and sang quietly to hear the wonderful acoustics. Walked along some of the Stations of the Cross to the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda.

Saw the house of Ciaphas with its dungeon and the ancient steps beside it thought to be where Jesus walked and was held overnight during his trial. Beside it is the church of St. Peter en Gallentu with a rooster on the dome, the site of Peter's denial.

Went to what British Gen. Gordon felt was Golgotha and to the Garden Tomb. Seems the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the Catholic holy place and the Gordon site with the Garden Tomb is the Protestant one. For me, the Garden Tomb was the highlight of the trip. It is a very peaceful and lovely garden, and the empty tomb gave me goosebumps.

After Jerusalem, we went to Qumran and then Masada. My brother walked up (took him 50 minutes), but we rode the cable car. Spent the night at a resort hotel on the Dead Sea where you really can't sink.

Then stopped at a Bedouin camp where we rode camels and were served baklava and hot, very sweet tea and very bitter coffee. Drove on to Eilat on the Red Sea and went to Petra in Jordan. Petra is amazing.

On the way back to Tel Aviv, we went into the Timna National Park with formations from erosion that look like some of those in Utah, as well as a replica of the desert Tabernacle of Moses. It was so interesting to see since I don't do well with cubits and could never really picture what it would look like.

I have turned this into a trip report rather than a reply to your question, although it was really a pilgrimage and not just a trip. If you are still with me and have any questions at all, my e-mail is [email protected] or we are in the phone book under Clifford. P.S. Have you given any thought to another KY/IND get together?
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Dec 31st, 2004, 02:04 AM
  #27
rex
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<<There really is no need to learn Hebrew. Actually, you wouldn't become fluent enough in it to do much good anyway. Remember, it's not simply learning a new language, it is learning a whole new alphabet! The same is true of Arabic.>>

This runs quite contrary to the approach I have always taken - - viewing attempts at language acquistion as not "necessary" or "unnecessary" - - but most definitely (potentially) enriching and rewarding. Especially, given that I have (potentially) a year and a half to prepare for this trip.

You are not alone in saying that it might NOT be worthwhile, nor "payoff". I do not have a lot of experience with arriving in a country unprepared for language adjustment. We were in the Czech Republic (mostly Prague) and Poland for five days in 2003, and I ws definitely "under-prepred" - - and although it did not hinder us from enjoying, more preparation would have helped (to enjoy) more.

I suppose thi would compare best to my first (and only) trip to Japan (a 48 hour stopover, en route to Australia and Malaysia, ten years ago). I feel like I put considerable effort into it for, about 8-10 weeks, I think. And it was so woefully inadequate that it was as if I might not have bothered.

So, anyhow, I would be interested in the experiences of any who specifically DID attempt (especially with success) to learn some Hebrew or Arabic for travel in Israel or Palestine.

And I find it surprising that reading comprehension is viewed as particularly not useful. It's reading that I finf gets me started in any new language. For example - - I am semi-fluent in German - - and I feel that I can generally make it through a newspaper story in Dutch, (admittedly perhaps the language closest to English of all the world's languages), yet that doesn't mean that I would claim much of ANY speaking or listening comprehension ability in Dutch (and of course, the Dutch are so VERY, very accommodating to those who speak English, I have never been tested much!)

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Dec 31st, 2004, 02:19 AM
  #28
rex
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Carolyn - - in response to KY/IN/OH get-together - - yes, a "spring fling" (second annual!?) would be nice. Early morning flight today, for a Boston Hew Year's weekend getaway (mostly time with new son-in-law and his family and their local friends), but when I get back I will post something and write to all the prospects.
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Dec 31st, 2004, 04:31 AM
  #29
 
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If you only have one week, my recommendations are Jerusalem and the Galilee.
For the Galllee, using Tiberias as a base is a good bet, which allows easy travel to Nazareth, Kana, Capernaum and other sites of Christian interest. Tiberias is also on the Sea of Galilee, and has several lakeside fish restaurants, as well as a surprsingly good Chinese restaurant (also lakeside), Pagoda. From Tiberias, you can also spend a day on the Golan Heights, although you may be better off with a tour guide for that day. For the rest of your time in the Galilee, a rental car is a good bet: all the large American companies, including Hertz and Avis, are there, also a large Israeli company, Eldan. Gas is expensive (like Europe -- about $4-5 per gallon, but the distances are not far).
In Jerusalem, a car is not needed -- a lot of the sites, including the old city with its holy sites, are in wal king distance of downtown West Jerusalem. For the other sites, such as the Israel Museum with its dead sea scrolls, the Kenesset (parliament) or even the Jerusalem Zoo, there are many buses and taxis. By the way, there are also several American brand-name hotels in Jerusalem: the most centrally located is the Jerusalem Plaza Sheraton. Also centrally located is the former Hilton, now known as the David Citadel, right down the block from the famous King David Hotel, but is more moderately priced.
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Dec 31st, 2004, 04:39 AM
  #30
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rex - you can probably find a way to learn some Hebrew words phoenetically, ("hellos, good morning, good evening, yes, no, excuse me, thank you" - those are the easy ones) but remember you're not dealing with English language alphabet. I learned some of the language, though never to speak it, but lost it real quick when I realized just about everyone spoke English. The same holds for Arabic... you've seen Arabic script and it's difficult to decipher to a novice. Even the writing of Arabic numbers are different then 1, 2, 3.

You might want to become familiar with the Hebrew ABCs (how they look) should you choose to board a bus. While most have a digit, like "the #2" attached to that is often a Hebrew letter such as "alef, bet, gimmel" - or have some local person show you how the letter is written/looks. You certainly won't be able to read or understand the newspaper, but there are plenty of English language newspapers, i.e., The Jerusalem Post which you can find online! I commend your interest in learning the languages, but it would take awhile to be fluent on your end, and then it's a matter of understanding someone who answered you in either language.
 
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Jan 4th, 2005, 03:14 PM
  #31
 
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In response to the Hebrew question, I had studied Hebrew before leaving, but not specifically for the trip. In some small ways I guess it helped - I could make out "Exit" in Hebrew on the airplane. (Of course, "Exit" was written below it in English, so it was a bit of a give away!)

Conversational Hebrew classes are not easy to come by, depending on where you live. A synagogue might your best bet, but most of the time they teach Biblical Hebrew, which really does you very little good in modern day Israel.

Truthfully, the only phrases you will need would be:

Shalom (hello, good-bye)
Boker tov (good morning)
Erev tov (good evening)
Toda (thank you)
Toda raba (thank you very much)

Seriously, most of the time if you start to speak in Hebrew, you will be answered in English. Most Israelis either have come from English speaking countries or have relatives living in them. Virtually everyone who works in the tourist industry speaks English fluently.

However, if you want to take on Hebrew, I would actually encourage you to try it! I enjoyed learning it, and can still remember most of it.
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Jan 4th, 2005, 07:13 PM
  #32
 
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Rex, you've gotten a lot of top-tier advice here. If it was me planning a first trip to Israel my head would be spinning by now.

Let me chime in without having fully digested all that is written above - apologies for repeating things already said.

The great historic sites and sights of Jerusalem can be seen (not absorbed - that takes a couple centuries) in two (week)days; a third would be useful if you wanted to experience some of the more modern (and IMO equally meaningful) destinations, such as the Israel Museum, Yad Vashem, etc.

The Galilee is also well worth 2 days, for the Christian heritage sites along the lake or river, but also to experience the Golan and, hopefully, visit Safed or Rosh Pina, where there are, BTW, some truly excellent B&Bs that will change your opinion of Israeli hotelkeeping overnight. If you have a car (and you should) then I would stay there rather than Tiberius, where hotel prices are high and quality bleh.

I would absolutely include the Dead Sea and Masada for at least one overnight. Take the tram to the top of the plateau; float in the brine reading a copy of the Times, get muddy at Ein Gedi. Stay at the Ein Gedi kibbutz and learn about that aspect of Israeli culture while you're there.

Finally, Tel Aviv is a must, simply to see that Israel is a vibrant, diverse country - Russians, Yemenis, beach joggers - so full of life that it makes you blink when you think of the great icons of antiquity just up the freeway.

The discussions above, such as I can gather, are drawing distinctions about Jewish sites v. Christian sites v. Muslim sites, and how to parse them out.

I would take a different tack. Israel is a tiny place so full of overlapping histories and philosophies and iconographies that the real message of the place (to me anyway) is the durability of the family of man, the connectedness. By all means visit the religious shrines and places of faith, but let the everyday humanity of the country - good and bad alike - soak into your pores and you will be transformed.

Oh, and the veggie burgers at the King David Hotel (not cheap - nothing in the place is cheap) are drop-dead awesome. And they know it - I asked one of the chefs for the recipe and he laughed...
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Jan 4th, 2005, 07:17 PM
  #33
rex
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On the Europe forum, I am enarly a broken record on the subject of how learning as much of a language as you can is hugely "worth it" because of the enrichment it adds to your trip, not becuase you "need" it to get by.

But I am curious - - thouse of you who have made a "serious" effort to learn Hebrew, or Arabic, or Sanskrit, or Korean - - did you find that the ability to read was not valuable to you?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was rather dismayed by how little I was able to get out of several months (if I recall correctly) of trying to learn some Japanese. But If I do decide to do this, I am going to start preparing earlier. And with a view towards retaining beyond this trip.

It seems to me that more Americans with a little bit of ability to communicate in Arabic could only be a good thing!

I am less certain about the value of Hebrew, actually.
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Jan 5th, 2005, 03:57 AM
  #34
sandi
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Gardyloo -

>>Tiberius, where hotel prices are high and quality >>bleh<<

"bleh" did I miss that one in Hebrew class? LOL!
 
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Jan 9th, 2005, 09:14 AM
  #35
 
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Hi rex

It turns out I'm definitely going with family to Israel at the end of June-beginning of July 2005. For me it will be a first trip, the others have been there before, and for longer. We will be there about 8 days. My sister is again using an experienced Israel trip planner to put this together, and she is hiring the same (armed) gentleman with van as the family used last time--they thought him a wonderful companion and guide.
Not being in charge of the details is not my usual mode (I'm sure you can relate ) on this one I am just a lucky guest, but from what I understand so far, we are meeting and departing from JFK and flying to Tel Aviv, and immediately flying to Eilat. The following day we will spend in Petras. Day after that we make our way to Jerusalem by van, with perhaps a stop along the way, remainder of the trip will be based in Jerusalem with at least one day trip to Masada and perhaps another one to Bethlehem.

On their last visit, the family spent some time in Tel Aviv I think, and went to the Golan Heights one day. They also added on a 2-3 day visit to Cairo which won't happen this time.

I know in Jerusalem we will be staying at the King David.
We are Jewish, but have great interest in all cultural and religious sites, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre will absolutely be one of our visits. Depending on the prevailing political and security winds, we are going to try to visit the Temple Mount, but that is not a given.
Certainly after I take the trip, I'll be happy to share details if you feel it will be useful.
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Jan 9th, 2005, 09:16 AM
  #36
 
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oops, that's Petra, not Petras, I must have had a Greek Freudian slip
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Jan 9th, 2005, 09:40 AM
  #37
rex
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I'll be very interested in your observations from this trip, elaine...

I haven't ruled out doing a "three day scouting trip" by myself or with my wife) in May, tacked onto some other destination(s) that I would classify as having equal (or even greater) interest to me. Basically, to Jerusalem only.
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Mar 8th, 2005, 06:41 PM
  #38
 
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On the language issue, I agree with you, Rex. I think learning at least some of the language is important, because it is simply respectful. It acknowledges that we are in another country, and we don't have the RIGHT to have the whole world speak English. I can't believe how much Americans expect that when traveling abroad.

I speak Hebrew at a fairly good level, even though I am not Jewish. Some of the other posters are right -- I often get answered in English. But I can tell you this -- by speaking in Hebrew, I get put in a different category by Israelis, less touristy, more respect.

I'd learn at least a few phrases. That will endear you to Israelis you meet. And it's just courteous.
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Mar 9th, 2005, 01:26 PM
  #39
rex
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Thanks for the post. Since you and others have expressed an interest in my plans, I need to update this post, and say that the trip will probably now get postponed until at least autumn of 2007.
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Mar 9th, 2005, 02:30 PM
  #40
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Hello

Someone a few posts back mentioned boutique hotels in jerusalem. The one I recommend - clean and friendly and safe enough to accommodate friends, colleagues and family - is the Jerusalem Hotel. Dont expect Phillippe Stark designs and Hugo Boss-suited execs at the bar! But a historic, comfy and well maintained building.

Work: 972-2-6283282
Nablus Road, POBox 19130
Jerusalem
Tel 972 2 6283282
Fax 972 2 6283282
e-mail: [email protected]
http://www.jrshotel.com

It is on the E Side but astride the so-called Green Line. Easy walk to the Old City and W Jerusalem sites. Skip the King David and Am Colony and stay here. However I do suggest the Am Colony for a nice lunch on the sunlit inner terrace. Also a cleansing lager in the beer garden during summer. Consider also lunch on the outdoor terrace of the YMCA, opposite the King David Hotel.

Micael

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