Israel six

August 31, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Posted in Daily blogs and thoughts | 1 Comment

DAY 6  SUNDAY  8/8/10

We awoke bright and early and met up with our guide, Doran Hoffman.  We also met up with Steve and Marsha, two fellow Americans from Connecticut that we had met the day before in the non-Shabbat elevator at the Carlton hotel.

“Boker Tov,” I said to Doran.

“Boker Tov,”  he answered.  “You speak Hebrew?”

“Yes, and you just heard most of it,” I smiled.

Doran helped us get our bags into the luggage van that would meet us that night, and herded us into the mini-bus for our first day of touring.

Doran, our Israeli tour guide, was a wonderful element to our trip.  He spoke English pretty darn good, but with enough of an accent to help us remember where we were.   We stopped at two other hotels and picked up another dozen fellow tourists, making 17 people in all.

Our first stop of the day:  Ceasarea.

Okay, before you skip ahead and say that we’ve been there already, Doran took us on the OTHER side of Ceasarea.  We visited the Ampitheatre, the remnants of King Herod’s palace, and we got to see the drain where the gladiators washed the blood off their hands after they won a fight.  The fellow who lost the fight didn’t have to wash – gladiators fought to the death.

It turns out that Doran is more than a tour guide – he’s got a degree in Archeology and he was so wonderfully informative about the ruins, how they were built, the way that the Romans lived and how the city fell during the Crusades.  Then to the Muslims.  Doran was a walking history book and made the tour phenomenally entertaining and informative.

Our next stop was the Naval Museum in Haifa.  We’re driving up a highway, and there’s a sign for “Bus Stop.”  So Doran pulls the bus up the sign, which is on the side of the highway beneath an underpass.  He lets us out.  Then Doran turns off the engine.  “The bridge will stop the bus from getting too hot,” he told us.  Well, it did say “Bus stop.”  I guess when you’re an Israeli, you know all the good parking spots.

The naval museum would have taken hours to tour, and we only had about 45 minutes.  We walked through one of the first Israeli submarines, built in the 1950’s by – guess who?  A Germans shipbuilding company!  As the Israeli’s say, “We forgive, but we never forget.”

Next stop was the Baha’i Gardens which sits on the side of a mountain overlooking the city of Haifa.  The Bahai’s are a faith that was an offshoot of the Muslim’s.  The Gardens contain the shrine of the Bahai’s founder.  The shrine was under renovation and enclosed in fabric, so we couldn’t see it, but the garden’s are spectacular.  I’m not sure of the exact size, but they look like they cover about a mile of the hill, with finely a terraced stairway that we did not walk up or down.

When you enter the garden, there are armed guards who remind you it is a sacred site and ask you to respect a few rules, such as no eating and no bare shoulders for women.

We stopped for lunch in downtown Haifa at an inexpensive place that Doran knew of.  Me and Jodi had Falafel, or was it shawarma this time?  If you’ve never tried it, you’re missing something.

We left Haifa and headed north to the Westernmost border of Israel and Lebanon, where we visited the limestone grottoes at Rosh Hanikra.  The grottoes are caves and tunnels worn into the limestone by the Mediterranean sea.  We parked the car at a small tourist parking lot at the Lebanese border, then took a short cable car ride down the side of the mountain towards the sea.  The grottoes are paved and lit, and easy to navigate, if not a bit slippery.  There are some sections where the sea rushes in through holes in the limestone and makes a cool sight, crashing against the rocks.

Leaving the grottoes, we went to the border fence with Lebanon, where Doran got an armed Israeli soldier to come out and pose for pictures with us tourists.  One of the people in our tour tried to take a photo of me and Jodi using my camera, but it didn’t come out.  Too bad, would have been a neat picture.

Now it’s about 5PM, and we left Rosh Hanikra to go to Akko, one of the oldest cities in Israel.  Supposedly, the city was around 1600 years BC, and the better written records mention it in 750 BC.  The walls in the city are thousands of years old, and have been inhabited by Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, the Crusaders, Arabs, Turks, the British, and finally the Israelis.  When we got there, there wasn’t much open, but we had a chance to walk through the town and see the views from up on the citadel, overlooking the Mediterranean.  We even found a guy squeezing fresh Pomegranate juice, which was delicious.  He even had his pomegranates chilled, for our enjoyment.

I shot some cool video of a gang of little Arab kids, ranging in age from I’d guess 10 to 15, jumping off the high walls of the city, into the Mediterranean, which had to be a good 50 or 60 feet below them.  I shot the video from far away, so they wouldn’t see me.  I didn’t want to encourage them any more than they were encouraging each other.

Our final stop of the day was at Kibbutz Lavi in the Galilee mountains.  The Kibbutz has a hotel (with air conditioning) where we would spend the next two nights.  Dinner was served buffet style, and the choices were not as elegant as we had experienced in Tel Aviv or Ceaserea.  Still, fresh salad is good, and all their salad’s are grown on the Kibbutz, so it doesn’t get fresher than that.

During dinner, I sat with Doran to talk politics.  I know what I read in the American papers, but I wanted to know what he thought about the Israeli news that makes it to the states.  On the topic of a nuclear Iran, he said “if there’s a nuclear Iran, there will be no more Israel.”  He went on to remark that the Iranian government says they want to kill all the Jews in Israel.  Someone else from our group asked “doesn’t that scare you?”

“Of course it scares me,” he replied, “but in Israel we are surrounded by people who want to kill us.  You just have to go on living.”    That attitude seemed to be prevalent in a lot of the people we talked to.  The Israeli’s live in caution, but they don’t live in fear.  In the USA, we freak out when some NumbNuts on television starts screaming that a chicken egg was found with salmonella.  I think in Israel, the attitude to the chicken egg salmonella story would be “so what?”  When you have two or three neighbors pointing guns at you, why get excited about eggs?

Leaving the dinner room, we stopped at the bar.  I wanted a shot of Vodka.  The bartender told me it would be 23 shekels (about $5.50).  He took a 12 ounce glass, put some ice in it, started pouring from a bottle of Absolute Citron and said “tell me when to stop.”

“Bevakasha!”

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1 Comment »

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  1. keep all the stories coming. Am enjoying them. Many of the places you spoke about during your tour I saw with your Dad. I’m sure a lot has changed but certainly not the history.


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