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.