Israel Trip Report

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Sep 11th, 2007, 02:15 PM
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Israel Trip Report

09/07/2007
Rough Flight

Packing to the trip was difficult with two kids, our daughter kept taking things out everytime we turned away, but we finally managed to leave, get some pizza and on our way to the ariport for our 22:50 flight.

We got through several levels of security pretty quickly, and made sure our daughter stayed up hoping she would sleep through the flight, however she got more and more excited as the time to get on the plane got closer. Luckily for us, we found out this was a "kids flight" since many children were on board, all over the age spectrum. Our daughter found a friend very quickly, and they played a bit together.

When we finally got in, we found out we are not sitting together, a couple (who happen to be Bella's friend's parents) had reserved the front seats four months before us, so one of us had to sit in the front with the baby, and the second behind them with our daughter and an un-lucky passenger (who didn't want to exchange seats even though the baby slept through most of the flight).

Bella drove us nuts! She was not being bad, just awake and excited, always wanting to run around, or jump. At 02:00 she had enough and asked to get off and go home ... at that point we wanted that as well, however around 02:30 she fell asleep through most of the flight.

Jake, however, stayed asleep for along time, could have been the humming on the plane, but we only wish he slept like that at home.

Finally, after ten and a half hours, half of them rough, we landed in Israel.
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Sep 11th, 2007, 02:16 PM
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Saturday, Sep 08, 2007

We finally landed in Lod airport, got through passport inspection and customs with no problems and went out to get our rented cars from Budget. A simple ordeal it seems ... but maybe not so simple.

They lost my parents' resevation, but that was easily rectified, however to find a car seat was another story. We needed two, but they seem to have only one that was actually complete. Every chair they brought us was broken, missing pieces etc. After two hours ... TWO HOURS ... with two tired kids after a 10 hour flight and 15 hours traveling we finally were on our way.


It's 18:00, we were hoping to be with our relatives in Sdot Yam by now and we are tired, too tired to even sleep driving a rented car in another country. But we get there in one piece, and now our journey can really start.

We managed to stay awake for several more hours, hopefully bypassing the jet leg by going to sleep at night and waking up refreshed in the morning, reguardless of time zones.

Pictures at: http://www.travelpod.com/travelblogp.../YES/tpod.html
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Sep 11th, 2007, 02:16 PM
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Sunday, Sep 09, 2007

We woke up in the morning very refreshed, had our coffee in the back yard (50 yards from the ocean) and a typical Israeli breakfast (omlette and a salad). By the time we all took showers (finally) and got ready to go it was almost noon.

We decided to go to the the ruins of Caesarea Maritima a city built by Herod The Great which served as the capital city before the middle ages occupied by Roman procurators and governors, Pontius Pilatus, praefectus and Antonius Felix. The city is mentioned several times in the new testament, this is where St. Paul was imprisoned. The city also had a Jewish massacare which let to the Roman war.

It was a very impressive city, built right (the city was built in13 BC with sewer and irrigation) on the harbor, and now serves as a tourist destination with restaurants, cafes, and shops. We walked around for several hours with a cousin who used to work in a museum and was very knowledgeble about he whole site, and put everything in context for us.

Afterwards we went to see the Roman aqueduct, and to eat falafel in Karkur at Deborah's Falafel, a very famous stand with excellent falafel and pitas.

Pictures at: http://www.travelpod.com/travelblogp.../YES/tpod.html
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Sep 11th, 2007, 02:17 PM
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Monday, Sep 10, 2007

We had a lazy morning today, and only got up around noon and watched people on the Sdot-am beach do some watersports. Actually we both got up quite often in the middle of the night, and since we're on vacation noon seems reasonable. We decided to go to Tel-Aviv - Jafa, and since it took us a pretty long time to drive there, we managed to do a bit of the Tel-Aviv boardwalk and some of the old city of Jaffa.

Jaffa is where the profit Jonah hails from (remember, the story with the whale?), and where the Andromeda Rock resides. Andromeda was a Greek mythological figure who was chained to a rock to be sacrificed to a sea monster for her mother's bragging; she was then saved from death by Perseus, whom she later married.


We spend the majority of the time in Jaffa, eating Shawarma in Jaffa Shawarma (across the street from the famous Abulafia Bakery), walking around the touristic area and the old city. We saw a bride and groom taking their wedding pictures with a professional photographer, when they were walking down the street we walked to the edge, but Bella decided to walk behind the bride. We called her over and got yelled by the photographer who wanted her in the picture. So we sent her to the bride to say "mazal tov" which she did, the bride knelt and Bella gave her a kiss. As she got up we overheard her say "print this one".

We got back just in time to join the rest of the family for dinner at The Crusader Restaurant in Cessarea's port. The dinner was delicious and was added by the fact that we were on a terrace with the waves crushing below us.

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Sep 12th, 2007, 02:51 PM
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Tuesday, Sep 11, 2007

We left the kids at home, got our directions and headed out early towards the Be'er Sheva and the Dead Sea. The plan was to go through the Judea desert on the way there, and go back through Jerusalem on the way back. The trip was to take around three hours, we stopped and got a few baked goodsd for breakfast, and filled up our car 180 NS (around $45 for 3/4 of a 4 cylinder car).
Now we know why in Israel only the rich people drive SUVs.

It was a hot day, for a while we were driving with full air condition on,our chests were freezing while the sun was shining through the windshield burning our faces. The road through the desert was long and winding, the Sodom-Arad road, very dangerous but with beautiful desert scenery. We saw the Bedouin, camels, mountains and stopped at a lookout point when we got closer to the Dead Sea. It was beautiful and also had a fort (named Zohar Fort) below the lookout, and if you ventured off the "safe zone" you could see car wreckage. However the stench was horrible, people stopped there not only for the views.

Once we got to the Dead Sea, and our ears stopped popping from going so low below sea level, we entered a strip with the beaches and the hotels. We found a public beach (free to go on, but 10 NS a chair) and went in the water, which smelled almost like sulfur. Once you go in you can actually feel how heavy the water are, and you simply cannot sink. It takes a while to get your baring and stop flopping like a turtle, but once you do it's enjoyable. After about an hour we got out (at this point you feel every sore or scratch you ever head), took a shower on the beach with clean water and did a bit of present shopping.

We wanted to go to lunch at Ein-Gedi, an oasis in the Judea dessert. We drove a bit and go there, the "restaurant" was a communal dining hall like in a kibbutz, and smelled like bug spray so we walked out. Cheri told me that I must have stepped in something because I smelled like piss, it turned out that my shirt picked up the smell from the overlook we stopped before. Yuck. We were going to go all the way back to Arad to come to Masada from the other side (otherwise you have to climb the "snake path" being that it was hot and we didn't eat this wasn't going to happen), however on our way we notice that there is a cable car from our side.
Great, saved us another hour of driving.

They did a great job at Masada, the visitor center is beautiful, air conditioned and best of all .. they sell snacks. We paid about 100 NS for a round trip ticket on the cable car, and watched a short movie explaining about the historical significance of Masada. We were the only ones in the room, so we sat down and ate our snacks.

The cable car service is quick, and we got brouchers which guide you around the site, but it was very hot (and this was the end of summer), and the ruins are ... well ... ruins. We walked around a bit, seeing the bath houses, Herod's castle, their houses, supply storage and great views from on top of the mountain.
We spend about one and a half hours on Masada, and it was an excellent trip, but hot. The heat is different, it's a dry heat and you don't feel yourself getting dehydrated, so you have to be aware of drinking all the time. We went back down, they didn't have any serious food, and 60 NS for a new t-shirt was out of line (actually everything there was expensive) so the shirt went into the trunk.

On our way back we looked for places to eat (we didn't eat the whole day, but since it was so hot we really didn't mind), not to mention trying to find the right road, but we did. We stopped at an stop where I could get a new shirt and ate a Yemnite dish called Malawach which was excellent.

Overall a great day, long drive and hot. We did not engage in the Israeli national sport of tailgating and passing cars just for the hell of it.

Pictures at: http://www.travelpod.com/travelblogp.../YES/tpod.html
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Sep 12th, 2007, 03:03 PM
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Great report, appreciate your sence of humor! And the photos bring back my memories!

Are you posting from the road? Still in Israel?
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Sep 13th, 2007, 09:54 PM
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Yes, we are in Israel until the 21st.

Thanks for the kind words.
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Sep 13th, 2007, 09:55 PM
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Wednesday, Sep 12, 2007

We spend ending the Jewish new year in the emergency room of Hillel-Yaffe hospital. We came back tired but happy after a day at the Dead Sea and Masada looking forward to a few hours rest.
Our son had a different plan.
He cried for 4 hours, wining, not being comfortable and miserable. For a baby that usually doesn't cry much it was very worrysome. We woke up our hostess who is a nurse and she said let's go to the emergency room.
A parent's worst nightmare, being in a foriegn country with kids in the hospital (even though Israel's healthcare is very good).

Of course our son embarassed us, when we got to the hospital he was feeling better, the doctor gave him a quick check up, physical, ears, nose and throat but couldn't find anything. Now we found out the difference between not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals, no extra tests. When our one year old daughter was sick and we had to take her to an American hospital we spent several hours doing all kinds of unnecessary tests, not now. We stayed another 2 hours in the hospital before being released.

They wouldn't charge our insurace so we had to pay out of pocket (850 NS about twice what they charge Israelis), but that's OK, as long as everyone is healthy.

When we got back, at 7:30 we knew the plans for our 8:00 trip will be moved to another day, we went to sleep for several hours waking up in time to take a shower and go to Kibbutz Geva for a Jewish New Year celebration.

Geva still celebrates in a communal forum, and it was very nice. They had a short ceremony (short is always nice), good food and afterwards everyone went outside for dessert. Our daughter had a blast running on the grass and after dogs and playing with the other kids.

Pictures at: http://www.travelpod.com/travelblogp.../YES/tpod.html
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Sep 13th, 2007, 10:15 PM
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Thursday, Sep 13, 2007

Since we were having a short day (i.e. we were invited to go somewhere in the afternoon) we went to a nearby Druze town named Dalit El Carmel where a huge bazzar is held everyday. We got some gifts and walked around in many shops selling junk with great stories behind them ("This pot was made in Hebron, aftewards it was sent here where we, the Druz, painted it and baked it twice in our ovens. I use it at home and I'll make you a special price"), if the story is good we'll stick with it.

We also ate lunch there, if you go ... this is a great place to eat, and make sure you stick with the basics (hummous, fallafel).

The Druze religion is a bit of a mystery and very little is known about it outside the community, but they do believe in one G-d and have five principles which they live by "guarding one's tongue (honesty), protecting one's brother, respecting the elderly, helping others, protecting one's homeland, and belief in one God. Another well-known feature of the Druze religion is a fervent belief in human-only reincarnation for all the members of the community. They reject polygamy, tobacco smoking, alcohol, and consumption of pork." (Wikipedia)

They serve in the Israeli army and enjoy a prominence in the Israeli political scence as well as army command surprassing their proportion in the population by far.

After we finished we took our daughter for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea, which was nice and warm and before we knew it we were on our way to Qiryat Gat for dinner.

Photos at: http://www.travelpod.com/travelblogp.../YES/tpod.html
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Sep 14th, 2007, 09:14 AM
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Not very often do we see such a detailed report about Israel. Thanks for taking the time to post.
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Sep 15th, 2007, 07:46 AM
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Zlaor, nice to read your report. As one who lives here it's always interesting to hear a visitors view of things. Yes it still hot but it is less humid than a couple of weeks ago . Keep on enjoying yourselves!
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Sep 15th, 2007, 02:55 PM
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Sep 14, 2007

We split up during the first part of the day, my parents and I went to a memorial service for memebers of Kibbutz HaOgen,. Affterwards we went to a late lunch at my foster brother's house in Ramat Ha-Sharon, which was a spread that inclued chicken, kabob, rice, lasagna, and many other delicacies. Afterwards we went to the 60th anniversary of the kibbutz I am from. It was nice to be in the kibbutz again, and see the many face I haven't seen in many years.

We lest at around 20:30, our daughter was getting tired and cranky (plus her and my wife met so many people today I don't blame them for wanting to leave). This was faulty planning on my part, we should have stayed for a nap and do the brunch another day.
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Sep 15th, 2007, 03:09 PM
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Saturday, Sep 15, 2007

intended to take my wife and kids and show them around where I grew up, however as we always say "men plans and G-d laughs". We woke up late, my plan was to spend an hour or two in the Kibbutz and come back for a nap, but Bella went with my dad to the beach and came back just in time for a nap ... no big deal.
My wife didn't want to go, so it was just Bella and me after nap time.

We went to the kibbutz, visited my uncle, walked around a bit, me showing to (and showing her off to people I met on the way) Bella places I remember. I know it's meaningless to her but it was important to me. We visited my uncle and cousins and she had fun playing with her new cousins (even though the one she was looking forward to play with was asleep, but we'll see her again.

I also showed her a kibbutz staple, two statues of jamusim (sort of water buffalos) which a kibbutz memeber has built many years ago, and a new generation did an outstanding job landscaping around it.

Pictures at: http://www.travelpod.com/travelblogp.../YES/tpod.html
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Sep 16th, 2007, 01:48 PM
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Sunday, Sep 16, 2007

We marked a whole day out for Jerusalem, and got an early start (10:30 or so) with my cousin who lived there for two years. We drove around Mt. Scopus and Mt. Olive to the Dung Gate (one of the six gates around the walled old city of Jerusalem) and parked the car in metered parking for 2 hours. We walked to the gate, which is the closest to the westeren wall and smelled like urine and sweat which amplified under the sun.

We went to the wailing wall (last remnant of King Solomon'sTemple, stationed on Mt. Moriah where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Issac and Jacob's dream about the angels going up and down on a ladder took place), took some pictures and were on our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Since we didn't know how to get there we asked a monk who told us there are two ways to get to it, around the walled city or through the Muslim quarter (Jerusalem is divided into four quarters: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian). We chose to walk through the Muslim quarter for a bit, following the Via Dolorosa (Latin for "Way of Grief", believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion)..

The Muslim quarter is tight with merchants, on every side of the cobblestone streets; each one is very aggresive wanting you to go into his store with the best merchandise and best prices. We managed to avoid most of them and got to Via Dolorosa with little problems. Once there one of the "tour guides" haunted us all the way up offering his services and badgering my cousin.

Via Dolorosa is nice, full with stores and history. It is a tight cobblestone street with arches above your head. We followed it all the way up, but didn't know where to go from there, so we trailed a Polish tour group through the crowded Arab market (while being pushed and cursed at for being too slow). We got to a monestary and asked them if they know where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is?

They didn't but their tour guide simply told us to follow the group. We stopped at an old monestary (from around 300 BC) and didn't want to listen to the long winded explanations in Polish and were contimplating going back and through the Jafa gate. Luckily and Israeli rastafarian walked by and we asked where the church is, he said it was literaly through narrow corridor and down some stairs. He even volunteered to show it to us, which he did.
We were literaly a few steps away.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Jesus was prepared for burial and buried, it is very ornate with huge carved stone columns, gold placments and paintings. Cheri lit a candle for her mother as we walked around. We stood in line to view the tomb, a very nice monk let several people in at a time so it took us 20 min. or so to get in. The wait was made entertaining by a Polish girl with bad attitude behind us who asked us "why are we standing in the que"?

Once we viewed the tomb we started racing back since our time limit has expired on our parking and we were hoping our car wouldn't get towed.
It didn't.

We went to eat lunch at a restaurant called Eldad Vezehoo (31 Yaffo St.), a good French fusion restaurant but a bit expensive (220 NIS for 3 with drinks). We walked around the artisan area of Jerusalem and ate dessert and coffe in "Tmol Shilshom" (5 Yoel Salomon St.), a coffee house / restaurant which doubles as a used book store. Dessert cost 140 NIS with tip for three, but it was good.

After walking a whole day on cobblestone we decided to pack it in, went to a scenic overlook to take some pictures and went home.

Overall a good day, a bit stressful but full of history.

Pictures at: http://www.travelpod.com/travelblogp.../YES/tpod.html
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Sep 18th, 2007, 07:01 AM
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Monday, Sep 17, 2007
Miracles in Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee

We decided to have an easy day and go to the Church of Annunciation (St. Gabriel) located in the downtown Nazareth, and afterwards take a drive to the Sea of Galilee.

Downtown Nazareth one has to experience themselves, we believe that it is a miracle that we made it out in one piece, without a scratch on the car deserves to be commended and a church built for us. Traffic is horrendous, with cars literally inches away from one another going in all sort of directions, as the drive you have to pay attention to every vehicle on the road because they might do (and usually do) something unexpected. For example, we tried to make a right turn on the road while cars are wheezing by on every side, and another car is reversing onto the road from a side street we made the turn but mind you this was a main road.

The signs to the Church of Annunciation are OK, but they are missing a sign in a major intersection which threw us off a bit and we miraculously stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. Once we made it around the church (which is huge) we drove around in bumper-to-bumper traffic looking for a parking spot, when we found one it was on the other side of the street. When in Rome, do as Romans do we decided and jumped the median to fetch that parking space. Nazareth smells of many spices, food and people not a bad smell by any means, but distinct.

The Church of Annunciation, or St. Gabriel, is held in Roman Catholic tradition as the place that where the virgin Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel and told that she has been selected to be the mother of Jesus. The church standing is a third church built on the site, finished in the 1960s and it is humongous. In the middle of the church is a well where supposedly the whole revelation happened. There are intricate pictures from all around the world depicting Mary, which we happen to find very interesting, how each culture sees the story through their own eyes. We happen to come exactly when a bus full of pilgrims arrived, and they held an impromptu mass so we simply walked around the church.
Bella was needing potty, so accidentally we asked a person who owns a gift shop with a bathroom another miracle.

After a short bathroom break, we managed to miraculously squeeze through the Nazareth traffic and make our way onto the Sea of Galilee (Kineret). On our way out we got a good look at a few of the gorgeous mentions that are built in and around new Nazareth (to distinguish from the old city). After a few "scenic" stops we arrived in Capernaum (Kfar Nachum) to eat lunch. Capernaum is an old village from about 150 BC to about AD 750 which is suppose to have a few miracles to its name. "The town is mentioned in the New Testament: in the Gospel of Luke it was reported to have been the home of the apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John, as well as the tax collector Matthew. In Matthew 4:13 the town was reported to have been the home of Jesus himself. According to Luke 4:31-44, Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath days. In Capernaum also, Jesus allegedly healed a man who had the spirit of an unclean devil and healed a fever in Simon Peter's mother-in-law. According to Matthew 8:5-13, it is also the place where a Roman Centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant." (Wikipedia).

We ate at the Kfar Nachum restaurant right up on the Sea of Galilee, the food was a step above canned food (about 200 NIS for four people), but the location was fabulous. Another group of pilgrims stopped with their tour bus, and they ate in between taking a dip, which looked very inviting to be honest. After our meal we went down to go in, however we were very disappointed that we couldn't walk on the water. On our way home we stopped at a monastery (which was closed) and at Kibbutz Genosar to look at their museum, they suppose to have an ancient fishing boat from the time of Jesus which was recently discovered. However they were closed also, we were told to "come tomorrow, the boat will be even more ancient" by one of the bus drivers.

Our daughgter was winy almost all the way home, it's a miracle she made it.

Pictures at: http://www.travelpod.com/travelblogp.../YES/tpod.html
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Sep 20th, 2007, 03:07 AM
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Even though some folks told us not to go to Acre, we decided to do so anyway, and we weren't disappointed. The drive along the coast and through Haifa is very scenic, Acre is a very interesting city, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We had a bit of a hard time getting there, mainly going through downtown Haifa, and the signage is not as "tourist friendly" as one might think, but we made it. We could tell that lots of work has been done, a beautiful riviera had been built to match the old city, and new roads have been paved, but they still need to work on the garbage problem.

Acre has been around since 1500 B.C., has been assaulted and captured by Cleopatra VII, Herod, Alexander the Great, Saladin, Richard the Lionheart (during The Siege of Acre which was the most important event of the Third Crusade) and Napoleon (who gave up on it).

We parked by the lighthouse and walked on the fortifications to the fort, sat down for a cup of coffee and baklawah and continued walking through the Acre marketplace. After a bit of shopping we went to the citadel (complete with underground passageway leading to a fortress of the Knights Templar from the 13th century), and home.

Afterwards we had dinner with family at Be'er Ya'akov (Jacob's well), an end to a long but fun day.

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Sep 20th, 2007, 12:13 PM
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NOT to go to Acre? Unless for safety reasons... it's a very interesting place!

When I was there, somebody was filming, and people were milling around in ancient costumes! Unfortunately, being on a tour, we didn't have time to become movie stars
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 09:41 AM
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You scare me! We will be in Israel from 14-21 October and will rent a car to drive from Jerusalem, via Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee and to Tel Aviv. Is it really all that scary to drive there? We are from SA where we drive on the left side of the road - that is already a big challenge!
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Sep 24th, 2007, 07:05 AM
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Elzeth, it's a challenge to drive in any foreign country (I've driven in several). Just be careful (as my cousins said "drive like a girl) and follow the rule of thumb of the road, and don't be afraid to be a bit aggressive.

I simply kept being courteous, and let them "win", if there is such a thing on the road. If someone tailgates you, simply let them pass you, etc.

I would say that the Sodom-Arad road (which it doesn't look like you'll take) was most dangerous curve wise, but Nazareth was certainly like driving in Egypt, even though the Arab drivers were more courteous then the Israelis.

It's an experience, and isn't that what traveling is all about?
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Sep 24th, 2007, 07:06 AM
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FainaAgain, we still haven't figured out why we were told that from people our age (mid 30's). Maybe because there aren't enough "Schick" places there?

Who knows?

We loved it and would go back next visit.
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