Sunday, January 28, 2018

This and that from my Dec. 2017 trip to Israel


Here are a few more things that might  interest you from my recent trip.

My friend Haim whom I have known for 45 years since we were both members of Kibbutz Merom Golan picked me up at the airport.  He lives about 20 minutes north of Beersheva on Kibbutz Shoval, but with the marvelous roads, he can get to Ben Gurion Airport in an hour!

His kibbutz like almost all others has gone to "semi-privatization."  That means that while there are still members, each has their own home, and pays for services on the kibbutz.  There are non-members that also live on the kibbutz, residents, that have fewer rights that members.  Haim is a resident while his wife is a member.  The dining room is still open but they eat there infrequently although many still gather for the Shabbat evening meal.  They recently remodeled their home (which was over 50 years old), and I was excited to see it.

About half of the new residents are children of members who are returning to the kibbutz for the better quality of life, and that includes two of Haim's wife's daughters. 

 Some of the newer homes are below.  Note the gorgeous cloud formations.
With the great roads and the very modern train now reaching Beersheva and to south.

Recycling has become more organized and many towns and cities now charge for plastic bags at the grocery stores.  This visit was the first time I had seen orange recycling cans and I saw them both at this kibbutz and the town of Nitzan mentioned below.  There are separate containers for cardboard.
Israelis still have the large gold cages for 2 liter soda bottles and often there are containers for large cardboard boxes for recycling too.

The night we came back from the Golan, I dropped off Nava and Havazelet and went to return my car to Shlomo Sixt in an industrial area north of Modi'in. The rental car place had moved, and Google Maps was no up-tod-date on the location.  (Haim had driven me there to get the car, and his directions on Waze were right now.)  After trying for almost a half hour and asking several people for help, finally one guy at a gas station knew where I should go and I made it ten minutes before the car rental was to close.

My next adventure began when I tried to get a cab to pick me up and take me back to Havazelet's.  The people at the car rental called several places they knew plus two that Havazelet knew, but none had free cars.  So I walked two blocks to a supermarket as I was told cabs drop people off there often.  I saw none, so went inside the store, and the clerk called a cab for me. I thanked her profusely!

 My friend Amalia picked me up about two hours later and I visited with her at her home in the Nitzan community.  She and her family moved there the early 1990s as the community was developed and within a few years, there were 100 Orthodox families there with a range of Orthodox observance and countries of origin, and they all prayed in one synagogue.  Each week, a different nusach was used, depending on the origin of the leader of the service.  Once I attended a service with the Eastern European traditions being used, another week, it was Yemenite, and another Moroccan.  It was a wonderful to see the people from different backgrounds participating together in prayer.

With the evacuation of Israelis from the Gaza Strip, 600 people came to Nitzan, and settled in temporary homes between the town of Nitzan and Highway 4.   Evacuees were given funds to build in the area, and as of now, over 450 of them have built homes mostly north and toward the sea from the older Nitzan.  They were given a 1/2 dunam of land (5800 sq ft), and most have built large homes on their small plots.  There are still close to 150 families who have struggled economically and are still in temporary housing.  Its a sad story.

The next day Amalia and I gave me a tour through the new area--where a lot of homes have gone up since my last visit almost 2 years ago.  Since the area was now so big and it was raining, she drove.

Her ex-brother-in-law was born in England so his home looks a bit like a cottage:
I liked the new home below as it has been around for a few years and flowers filled the small yard as did a cute metal design of children.  But many of the plots were just homes on top of homes.  The families had large homes in Gaza and wanted something similar to what they had had.  Many were multi-stories.
We then drove to the new community of Be'er Ganim, which is just to the south of Nitzan.  It is made up of people from six or seven moshavim that were evacuate from Gaza.  Since they were from moshavim, they were allotted one to three dunams of land for their homes.  They were given agricultural plots outside of town.  This land was formerly crop land of Kibbutz Nitzan, I believe.
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When I saw the area in 2016, only a few homes were occupied, but many more people have moved in.  Unfortunately, they exit to the highway the same way as the residents of Nitzan do, so the traffic jam is horrendous from 6:45 to 8:30 a.m.  Amalia tries to leave home by 6:15 to not get caught in the log jam.

We met up with friend Revital and had lunch together.  I have helped lead a discussion on HaSafran, the Jewish librarian list, about a need for more books about prominent Israelis and so I asked both Revital and Amalia if they had ideas.  Revital is the head of the Hof Ashkelon regional library and Amalia is the director of Informal Education for middle school and high school students in Israel.
Haim too also gave me a list.  Amalia and her daughter Maital
Maital painting birds on a tambourine

 came up with a novel idea, and that was to write about prominent people on money in Israel.  Approximately every ten years, the monetary bills in Israel have new people on them.  The ten and 100 shekel notes.
 Series A bills from 1985 to 1999 had the following people:
1 Shekel:  Maimonides
5 shekels:  Levi Eshkol
10 shekels:  Golda Meir
20 shekels:  Moshe Sharett
50 shekels:  Agnon
100 shekels:  Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
200 shekels:  Zalman Shazar

Since 2014, new bills have been in the works.
The poetess Rachel
The poet Leah Goldberg
I like the idea of creating a book for children ages 10-14 which tells of the history of money in Israel since statehood and then also tells about the people and places  on the bills.  What do you think?

I spent the last few days with Havazelet in Modi'in.  The cornerstone of Modi'in was laid in 1993 and it was built as a modern planned city with high standards of urban living between  Tel Aviv and Jerusalem near the site of the ancient city of Modi'in, where the Hanukkah town existed.  It was built  Residents began to move in in 1996.  It has many green areas, and the area where Havazelet lives limits residential buildings to four stories with the bottom one used for enclosed parking.  in the past, multiple children slept in one bedroom, but Israelis have grown accustomed to each child having his/her own bedroom in many cases.

I went to two wonderful exercise classes with Havazelet:  Zumba Gold (for seniors but still pretty active) and a bone strengthening yoga stretching class.  I loved the message on the stairs in the building of one of the classes!
There is another new planned town in Israel to the north called Harish.  It is ESE of  Cesaria, and just off of Highway 6 before the Wadi Ara road, so it will be very easy for residents to get to work nearby.  In 2016, the town had fewer than 2,000 residents but eventually it will have 100,000.  My second cousin's two daughters and their husbands bought apartments in the town and movement in last fall.  It was the one place that they could afford.

My hair was so long that I asked Havazelet if I could get a haircut.  Luckily the styling who came to her house was able to cut my hair.  He did a great job--unfortunately, I have not been able to recreate the style but it still is better than what I had before....back to bangs again!

The outside of a large mall.  Bags are checked by guards at the entrance
Inside a modern mall

Another mall
 One night we took a bus to the Modi'in bus station and then another  into Jerusalem to near the Israel Museum where we heard an interesting concert of songs of Arik Einstein.  A professor narrated the story of Einstein's life and events in Israel that connected to the songs that he had written.  The words of the songs were reflected on a screen.  It was a fascinating story.  I had not known the details of his life, and how his singing partner became observant and then very observant and left music behind.  Arik's wife and children followed the same path but Arik could not. 
The one song I knew, "Ani v'Atah"-- You and I will change the world

I had thought the song was to a lover, but it was about repairing the world, in teams.

We got "caught" on the way back with no bus from the Modi'in station for an hour back to her home.  It will be better when the train makes it through town.
A "tayelet" in Modiin.  I love the cloud formations.
 You can see all the cranes in the background.  Construction is going on all over the place as it is an amazing place to live and very centrally located.
Our selfie at the end of a lovely walk
 Below you can see homes in Havazelet's neighborhood.  There was a beautiful sunset my final evening in Israel.

At about 7:30 my final night, my cousin Miriam who lives on a "dati" village near by picked me up to visit her family, have dinner, and rest, and then head to the airport.  It was very sweet of her to take me at 1:30 a.m. 

I knew that a blizzard was expected in Boston and many flights had already been cancelled.  However, my Alitalia flight to Roma was on schedule and the flight from Rom to Boston was not cancelled until just before I landed in Roma.  After waiting for two hours to get my suitcase and three hours in line to get a new flight out two days later, I headed to the hotel which Alitalia kindly paid for for for one night.  The next day I headed into Rome with a new friend and explored it for a day.  More on that later.

The visit to Israel was wonderful.  I'm so glad that I went....though two days more would have been perfect.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Fun-filled and Busy Trip to Israel

Timna and sons Jonah (9) and Zeke (6) and her fiance Jonathan together with Nadav, his wife Leah, and son Eli (4) spent eight jam-packed days in Israel from April 9 through 16.  Timna and Nadav's mom Dina, affectionately known as "Savta" (Hebrew for Grandma), had spent a few weeks in Israel before the rest of them arrived, and she joined them for the first half of their trip.  The three boys and Jonathan had never been to Israel before, and it had been over 16 years since the other three had visited.  We all got along beautifully and had a number of adventures, well planned by Timna and Nadav.

Timna rented a five-bedroom house for us as a base in Shoshanat Ha-makim, about ten minutes north of Netanya, and across the street from the beach.  Savta arrived early and stocked the kitchen, and then Nadav and family arrived and spent Saturday checking out the beach

and exploring Hadassah Neurim, the place Nadav volunteered for a month with teens at risk in 1998 as part of Hadassah Gap Year course in Israel.
The next morning we all headed north in our two rental cars after stopping for yummy coffee at a gas station!  Even gas stations in Israel have great coffee, and Timna was delighted to see they had soy milk too.

After a 2.5-hour drive, we stopped for lunch outside of Kiryat Shmona at Cafe Aroma, Israel's top coffee shop and a fabulous quick stop for lunch, and met up with Savta's 2nd cousin Zoya and her husband Boris who live there.
We got a two-week pass to six of Israel's national parks, and our first stop was at Tel Dan Nature Reserve.  The Dan River which runs near it is one of the three sources of the rather small Jordan River.  Since it was spring, things were still green, but in a month or two, much will turn to brown.

 It was important to drink a lot of water every day.

Our next stop was to the Banias waterfall, the only waterfall that flows year round in Israel.  We went on the new suspended bridge hike with spectacular views.

We stayed in a very cute boutique hotel, Suites and Spas, in Kiryat Shmona with a lovely secluded play area in the center, and had dinner at a fish restaurant, Dag al HaDan, on the Dan River.

Eli played ping pong for the first time and Jonah was great at foosball!

The next day we spent mostly on the Golan Heights, first stopping at Nimrod's Fortress. an anti-Crusader castle built in the early 13th century, where we all enjoyed walking and discovering.  It was high up on a hill so the soldiers to watch for enemy below.

 An inside bathroom
 And one of  two big cisterns for storage of rain water
 Arches make the door tops stronger than straight rectangular doors.

Lion carving and inscription below
We had a wonderful lunch of salads and falafel at a restaurant in the Druze town of Mas'adeh.

And then headed south to near the Nahal Yehudiya national reserve to hike to the Hexagonal Pools, Brechat Hamishuhim. In 1983, Dina and family had hiked there but Dina had to stay behind with three-year-old Nadav when the walk got too rugged (down a ladder).  This time she made it to the end while Leah stayed behind  at the refreshment stand with 4-year-old Eli, on this hot sunny day.  The road was rocky but definitely improved!

Below was the first view of the pool!

After a quick stop at Kibbutz Ein Gev to see the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which is actually a lake,

we drove the Hamat HaGeder, where the ancient Romans discovered hot springs.  It is located in Israel but where Syria and Jordan meet so was unsafe for Israels to go there until 1967 .  Now there is a modern hot springs as well as the ancient ruins.

Savta took lots of pictures of flowers along the trip.  These were among her favorites:

We returned to our base house and the next morning headed south.  Savta packed up as she would be flying home that night.  We drove southeast and around the north of Jerusalem during  a rain storm.  We saw Bedouin shacks along the side of the road.

Then we drove down to the Dead Sea. We were more than 1300 feet below sea level.

We saw lots of date palm farms.  Below is our first view of the Dead Sea (in Hebrew, it is called the Salt Sea), with the country of Jordan on the far banks.

We stopped first at Ein Gedi, but the beach was closed and the park was a bit too wet for hiking as it had just rained.  We did see ibex (wild goat) and hydrax (a distant relative to an elephant) though.

So we drove half an hour to Ein Bokek, a resort beach area, had lunch at Cafe Aroma, and then it was beach time!

Three hours after we left Ein Bokek, it rained heavily there and the roads were closed due to flooding!!  We got out just in time!

Our next stop was at Kfar HaNokdim, a half hour outside of Arad, for a Bedouin experience.  First we met with Mohammad, who told us about Bedouin social customs and served us sweet tea and bitter coffee.
 Then we all went for a great thirty-minute camel ride in the rocky desert.

After our camel ride, we were  treated to a feast. Bedouins usually eat vegetarian, dairy meals on regular days, but for special events, they have meat.

Timna and family then drove back to the rental house while Nadav and family drove savta to cousin Mimi's home.  Mimi is Nadav and Timna's second cousin, and she lives in Israel near the airport.  Eli met her family for the first time:  
Oldest daughter Chana, Mimi, youngest daughter Malka, and husband Arnold/Aharon
Eli also met Sophie dog
Cousin Mimi drove savta to the airport and Eli and family went back to the rental house.

The next morning, the two cars headed south again toward Eilat.  The first stop was at Tel Sheva, to run around, stretch legs, and to see one of the many archaeological sites. 

Next, the family stopped at a meat restaurant in Beersheva where most of  ate(chicken) schnitzel for lunch.

 The grouo drove south toward the Maktesh Ramon and saw Bedouin huts and camels along the way.

 The boys took turns in the party car.
In the middle of the Makhtesh Ramon.

The gang finally arrived at  acute motel in Eilat, and the next morning were picked up at 6 a.m. to begin a day-long adventure in Jordan, going to Petra

The guide warned  that it was common for people to touch little kids, and Eli was touched a lot! One man even picked Eli up and took his picture with him!

 Getting freshly squeezed pomegranate juice
Riding a horse back up the hill

 Two sleeping boys on bus ride from Petra to Aqaba.

The next morning, after a brief stop at the Eilat beach, the group headed north to Timna Park, the site of the world's first copper mine and a great place to hike.

the group had a marvelous dinner at Kepasa, a Mediterranean-Italian-Spanish restaurant in Beersheva on the way back to the rental house.

The last day in Israel was spent touring the Old City of Jerusalem with aguide, who took them  to David's Tower, the Western Wall of the Temple, the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, the shuk (market) where Jonah got a shofar,  Zeke got a chess set and a drum and Eli got a drum too, They  also walked a bit on the ramparts and saw part of new Jerusalem and the Knesset (Congress) in the distance.

David's Tower
A Japanese tourist taking our picture as we waited to get into the church

Narrow Old City street

Below is a picture of part of newer Jerusalem with the Knesset (Congress) in the left background.  The group  saw lots of cranes and construction going on throughout Israel, and the roads were a delight throughout the country.
After the tour, the group headed to the old train station for dinner, and the boys had a short ride on the train while waiting to eat.

Late that night, Timna, Jonathan, Jonah and Zeke flew home.
And the next morning, Nadav, Leah and Eli left Israel after an amazing and exciting trip!
It was a fantastic trip for all and hopefully the first of future trips to Israel.