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Israel

 

 

 

 

We arrived at newark airport. I had prepared anxiously (no really) for the expected strip search questioning by the mossad by reviewing my hebrew school and bar mitzvah parsha in addition to my adult synagogue history. The fearsome appearance we presented surprisingly led to benign questioning by the very highly trained agents. I am prepared to chant the first sentence of my bar mitzvah to all who request it. 

We slithered into our slightly (hah) crowded seats and sardined like drugged ourselves into sleeping (hah) across the atlantic and mediterranean. 
Watching the plane travel across the seat back map that becomes alive with the realization you are traveling more than 7 miles high and over 600 miles an hour in our aluminum can of incredible technology begins my journey out of the comfort zone of my normal daily life. 
We touch down to cheers across the plane after a smooth crossing....more out of relief of the impending freedom from their steerage seats than the safety of landing. There is a shared sensation on a flight to israel unlike our other travels due to the deep spiritual nature of the expected experience of the americans visiting the homeland of their joined geographic roots. 
To our surprise we landed during a rainfall. The clouds quickly lifted to reveal a more modern and technologically advanced experience than our last visit 20 years ago. Clearly israel puts forth an impressive first impression. 
Our guide uri greets us and in heavily accented slightly broken english begins our tour. He continues his charade for a few minutes before he breaks out of character into his fully up-accented english speech pattern. Ah...jewish humor. 
We approach tel aviv/jaffa observing a modern, dense metropolis. What a wonder has been created here. Skyscrapers now dwarf the concrete blocks we remember from 20 years ago. Uri explains that the socialist roots of israel’s founding have been replaced by a more capitalistic and therefore greater wealth disparity than its early roots. Ah greed. The price of capitalistic success or reaganistic concentration of wealth we have viewed in our own culture?
We are instructed that there is no political correctness in israel and all questions are acceptable. This will be fun. I so enjoy the feeling in the initial hours of our journeys as my brain explores new thoughts and absorbs a new cultural experience from its normal job of coaching my patients through their worst anxieties and childhood dental phobias. 
Our first stop will be a large building where great numbers of people congregate to purchase products produced and marketed to them by large corporate entities....a mall. The reason for this is the opportunity to elevator to the highest view in the middle east...the 49TH floor observatory of the azriely round tower. Uri orients us to the geography (and explains the derivation of the word orient (google it...interesting)). On the banks of the eastern mediterranean tel aviv is a crowded becoming more vertical city as evidenced by the multiple cranes. Beach and metropolis joined...voila chicago. Uri explains that german templar settlers in william penn like planning set up the framework for tel-aviv and haifa. These early settlers of german heritage joined the nationalistic fervor of post world war 1 germany and supported the nazi movement. There were swastikas flying in tel-aviv in the 30'S...how ironic. Being under british rule at the time they were eventually rounded up and deported to australia by the british. Their neighborhood now confiscated is now the seat of the israeli defense forces (idf). How fitting. 
We return to the bus to explore joppa...the ancient port that seeded the metropolis of tel-aviv. We climb to a majestic panoramic view of tel-aviv and lapped by the waves of the gorgeous mediterranean. Uri explained the history of this old port and its early jewish settlers and how their expansion northward led to the development of tel-aviv. We walked down from view to the old city of joppa. In 1909 members of my mother and fathers future families first met....before either of my parents were born....would i or my children exist if not for this couple meeting but not marrying. 
And now our first israeli food experience...i forgot how good schwarma is. Chicken, lamb and beef are roasted .... Sliced off...mixed in giant pita flats...mixed with humus, tahini, salads and rolled up tight into a delicious and soon repeated lunch. Yum. 
Now we walk the cobblestone streets of joppa for .... Shopping. Old jewish merchants... (head covered) bearded ..grizzled old men...davening (praying) ... My roots exposed like a tree around whom whose dirt has washed away. I never met my grandfather or great-grandfather but these men time travel me back to seeing my roots. 
Interspersed with these flea market dusty shops of judaica....galleries of fine works of high art and silver and gold high end judaica....juxtaposition of ancient and modern. Purchases in hand we head to our hotel. 
We arrive at our high rise by the beach. Unpacked to approximate normalcy we head for the beach. The warm mediterranean laps the silky soft sand....smiling we stroll into the water. A couple naps on the beach refresh us...laps in the pool revive us...and now meal two. 
Group meal in hotel....expectations low....results? ... Off the charts. Appetizers of highest of quality and presentation and flavor. Succulent dinner...all the a view of the beach volleyball games. 
Day 2
before i report on my second day as a tourist i reflect on my growing reconnection with israel. As a child i clearly remember the capture of eichman and the trial and the telling of the horrors of the shoah. 
I remember the great fear in my family in 1967 as the destruction of israel seemed so eminent and the pride of being a jew when israel defeated the massed armies around her... The pride that helped mold my love of my tribe and israel as a teenager. Instead of ancestor’s images of bearded jews humiliated by brown shirts and images of naked bodies strewn and ashed by the nazi killing machine my self image and self confidence increased by the images of the israeli defeat against overwhelming odds. We survived. 
We enjoy our first israeli hotel breakfast. Refreshed by being offered the luxury of sleeping horizontal instead of strapped to a chair revived us all. 
Salads, fish, cheeses, breads, an array of sweets and fruits of explosive fresh flavor. Israel breakfasts are legend and this was no exception. 
Our first stop was the rabin center. This great man spent his life building and defending israel. After much of his life fighting for israeli's creation and defending it from enemies he led it fighting for peace. The museum shows how he was pilloried by zealots who feared any negotiation with arabs. 
His loss to his country mimics our loss of john kennedy. The museum mapped out the original lines of israel. Probably 1/4 the size of the eventual 1948 borders. It looked like 4 unconnected zip codes ... Totally indefensible borders yet even these small jewish enclaves of a few hundred thousand jews was too much for the countries of egypt, syria, jordan and their allies. They immediately attacked the jewish settlers...and were defeated after the loss of 1% of the population ... 80,000 jews were killed in the war of independence. The attack of the arab coalition and their defeat led to the borders we knew as children. 
The six day war caused by the amassing of arab troops on their borders and blockade of israel’s southern port at eilat led to a miracle defeat of the arabs overwhelming force by destroying all the air forces on the ground. This finally allowed jews to pray at the western wall....the holiest jewish site for thousands of years previously off limits to jews. 
In 1983 on the holiest jewish holiday, thru sneak attack, the yom kippur war was a costly victory with heavy casualties. 
The terrorist attacks of the infitada we all remember...bombs blowing up restaurants, malls and buses. 
As rabin tried to negotiate with his neighbors progress was made. A treaty with egypt led to israeli return of the giant area of the sinai peninsula...but if and only if israel kept the gaza strip....egypt refused it and today such a source of terrorist infrastructure....missiles raining down on israeli cities from this slip of land that egypt knew was ungovernable and is still israel’s greatest threat. I remember images of israeli soldiers removing jewish settlers from the gaza and for what? 
Rabin negotiated peace with jordan who had actually warned israel of the impending yom kippur war of 1983. He was assassinated by a jewish religious extremist at a peace rally attended by hundreds of thousands. 
Religious extremism again destroys hope for peace. How tragic.
On to the israeli museum with exhibits of early photographs and unearthed glass artifacts ... Dry in comparison with the emotional rabin museum. On piece of art you can see on the picture link has numbers on it....the tattoo serial number placed on the artists mother. 
After stopping at a market a lively picnic lunch and picnic in a park refreshed us. 
The group went off to the interactive palmach museum tracing the history of the early military of the jews which became the mighty israeli military of today. We left the group and spent the late afternoon with cousins. We visited my 88 year old psychiatrist cousin and his two children and their 5 grandchildren. A visit of a only short time but we have forged a relationship with the next generation of my israeli family that i hope to keep connected. I owe them for living here in this sacred land to pass onto the next generation.
Day 3
these are the golden days of my traveling psyche. Having overcome the fatigue and jet lag of the initiation to the new cultural experience the thirst for immersion supersedes all other levels of my normal consciousness and i become ozzie the explorer. My mother would not get the reference.
Instead of using energy peeling off my normal levels of daily anxiety, my senses fully open to each day to each sight, smell taste and my antennae search to connect with the environment to be in the experience. I know as the end of the trip approaches the lack of feeling rooted or my re-centering into this new normal will like the third trip to the buffet satiate me and begin to make my head feel stuffed. But today .... Now it all tastes amazing. 
I apologize in advance if the next section is my naiveté and my agenda expressed. 
There i feel is a lot of anger brewing in the belly of this society. We have walked and ridden many kilometers thru tel-aviv. There is a juxtaposition of concentration of wealth evidenced by giant high rise buildings gloriously sprouting against life on the street which does not look so luxurious on the ground. Giant towers of glass where life in the clouds avoids seeing the troglodytes below. Decaying buildings, angry looking graffiti, public transportation not belching smoke or recycled from other countries like cambodia but not nearly as modern as istanbul or france. 
This was the culture of a strong social fabric and it feels like it's been torn. No lawlessness that i even sense but such a large number of residents live in housing built 60+ years ago and from the outside not well maintained. Just as my initial sense of nice, france was in error to some extent, i may be missing something, however there is a lack of evidence of country pride. 
Israeli flags are not flying from many windows or even flag poles. Those that are are old and like so much of the building stock decaying....the lack of flag flying and the condition of those remaining was startling....not decayed like my own inner city but even in philadelphia you see tremendous growth in rebuilding and reclamation of the urban core. The majority of the construction here is new expensive high rise luxury housing. This is not to say at all that i taste a lack of individual pride but it looks like a two class society ..... The super wealthy and everybody else....and the everybody else is slipping. Israel i believe once had a stronger socialistic safety net floor that provided all with a life within a smaller standard deviation. That's not in evidence. Enough of that song now. 
The other strong juxtaposition is the secular hedonistic lifestyle ... Bars, clubs, uber stylistic revealing clothing which so clashes with the orthodox long skirts, black hats and wigs of the orthodox. 
There is not a highly visible arab component here. Signs are in hebrew and many in arabic but i do not sense an arab presence ...again my apologies for my errors if i am missing that taste bud.
The hotel dining room over looks thru giant windows the mediterranean. The softest, whitest sandy beaches. No shells...no seaweed...no syringes. That is the view each morning on one side....the other is plates heaping with fresh fruits and vegetables and breads and salads and fish. 
After savoring the fruits of the vine and tree we board our brand new motor-coach to travel down the coast to the site of kibbutz machon ayalon. During the british mandate occupation when it was illegal for jews to have guns a few dozen young jews risked their lives and worked under ground making bullets for 3 years .... 3 million bullets in a munition factory hidden by the sounds of the kibbutz laundry and the smell of the bakery. It stayed hidden and secret until the british left in 1948. Without this factory today there may not have been an israel. We were here 20YEARS ago but the explanation and presentation were worth a return visit. Like the rabin museum...a don't miss. 
We drive thru famous parts of tel-aviv learning about the development of this technology centered city....silicon valley in california and tel-aviv are used in the same sentence. We walked thru the oldest parts of the city and learned of its architecture. 
Then dropped off at the carmel market we walk deeply into the matrix world of the stalls. Deeply we walk to find the best humus restaurant ... In an old synagogue. Stained glass windows, talmudic books on the walls, even a torah mounted like a picture on the wall...torah as art...not sacred scrolls? 
Lines of people waiting for their portion like those that cue up for manco and manco just for a bowl of humus and the few options. No falafel ... Just humus. It was superb. We sat next to a young israeli who told us this is the best humus...that he frequents this restaurant often. He said that polling shows a large segment of 20-35 year have humus every friday. .??
We schmy around after lunch thru the art market...tables not semi permanent stalls like the carmel market and then taxi back to the hotel. 
Shabbos approaches. We go to the beach. Life is always good on the beach. Friday and saturday are their weekend. Sunday is a normal workday. The beach was crowded even as the sunset (gorgeous) glowed. 
We walk the hard sand where the waves reciprocate over a very short amplitude. Warm water, setting sun...we have always been drawn to water and this water is so soft as it laps and licks our feet. 
We sit at a beach bar and we savor our vodka and coke zero respectively and a plate of olives ... Seasoned and varied in size, shape and taste and watch the sun sink into the sea. 
Shabbos dinner in the hotel. At one table families in wigs, long skirts, fringes exposed under shirts ..... At another short tight revealing skirts and circus like f-me heels. What a country! 
Buffet plates piled high with the normal israeli salads but it's shabbos....the best chopped liver ever....gefilte fish that never swam in a can....lamb shank....goose .... Lipitor dispensers should be on the walls...like the prophylactic dispensers that we saw as we crossed each country border in africa. Bet you re-read that sentence a couple of times. 
Shabbat shalom and good night. 
Day 4
We leave the both soaring and crumbling tel-aviv and head north along the mediterranean. Now we see giant office parks emblazoned with the names of the giants of technology. 50% of israel’s economy is technology. Texting, voice mail, firewalls, intel chips, and windows itself all heavily dependent in israeli technology. 
Instead of crumbling concrete we see modern apartment high rise complexes. We learn how the area north of tel-aviv was swampland that was drained to make arable. How malaria killed 60% of all children and 80% ....80% percent of children died in the 1920S before they were 10. Incomprehensible. 
A quick stop at caesarea. A beach in the shadow of a roman aqueduct that was covered by sand for centuries, exposed and now gives shade to bathers. 
We stop at a early pioneer settlement zichron ya’akov, founded by baron von rothschild whose wealth was so instrumental in the early stages of settlement. This elfriths alley little street has cute shops to meander thru while appreciating the architecture of the pioneer period. 
Now on to a druze village. Uri explained that the druze broke off from other muslim sects about 1100. Their beliefs allow them to accept living under whatever group rules where they live. When in israel, accept peacefully....when in jordan..do the same. This technique has allowed them to survive. They have even fought in the israeli army. Survival is their strongest mantra. Imagine ... There would be peace in the region if all arabs were druze. 
So many cultures have disappeared just as more animal and plant species are gone than exist today. Survival of the fittest. Most cultures who lost their own real estate disappear in their personal diaspora. Jews survived by obedience to their traditions. 
So we meander thru the druze and buy more ballast for our suitcases. They are most friendly and helpful and with their peaceful background we are glad to expend shekels. Then on to our druze lunch .... Spectacular. Humus, falafel, tahini, couscous parsley salad, pita, mushrooms, israeli pickles, stuffed grape leaves (still warm ... Not canned),israeli salads....plate after plate till we were double stuffed. 
Now a fun experience. Half the group horseback riding on the carmel ... Half on atv on mud covered vehicles on rock covered muddy paths up and down the mountain. Luckily they told me to keep my thumbs up so when the steering wheel flew around i still had opposable thumbs. 
Onto haifa which is a gorgeous city and port on the mediterranean. A stunning view awaited us from the famous baha'i gardens. The curving coastline, crowded old city along the harbor glistens in the late afternoon sun. 
After dinner cousins of gail who we had met 40 years ago came to our hotel. This cousin has five children ...came with his wife and 3 of them. Each of the daughters has 4 children and teaches and works in technology and speak perfect english. The son...the yeshiva student... He does not speak english. He just studies to become a rabbi.
We have now met and re met and connected with over a dozen relatives whose names and lives we had no connection. That is changed....like an archaeological dig...we are reconnected to our past. 
We have in our hearts the depth of destruction of the holocaust in a more blood line loss. Gail learned of relatives she never knew about who burned in auschwitz. That was quite sobering. 
Day 5
a new hotel for breakfast a new buffet of smoked fish options. The dining room view of haifa framed by the glistening mediterranean. The topography changes as we climb towards the galilee. Also uri points out the layers of exposed soil levels. Limestone over a layer of clay. This was informative as we stopped at a roman cistern. 
To allow concentration of populations one needs water. This was accomplished by bringing water down via aqueducts. But to conserve the water it needed to be stored...cistern. The limestone is porous...water flows thru it...till it reaches the clay layer which hardens and seals from the water. The cistern ... An underground reservoir would be closed off at night when running water was not needed...and reopened in the morning. 
Our next stop was zippori (sephoris), the capital of the galilee in the second temple period. We saw a mosaic show room, learned how mosaics were constructed and walked thru excavations of this 2000 year old city. 
In an ancient synagogue floor mosaics with hebrew letters and menorah but also curiously was a zodiac sign. Judaism evolves.... And parts were kept, changed and deleted. There were many more sects of judaism...we are the disciples of those that survived. 
The house of a very wealthy man when excavated exposed mosaics of incredibly distinct artistic ability. 
Driving ever northward towards the lebanon border. Radar installations, destroyers huddled just below the sea border and incredible views of the coast and rocky beaches. The sandy beaches (silky sand) of tel aviv came from currents carrying sand from the nile. This far north rocky beaches predominate. The type of rock formation cause under water canyons to form....grottoes. 
We cable car from exquisite views above to these turquoise water caverns. This incredible natural beauty....tens of thousands of years of waves have carved out this delicious site....the last 60 years a tense border over which rockets, bombs, missiles ..... And young men and women have crossed and some not returned to their mothers embrace. 
We motor east closer to the syrian border....smoke visible in the distance. 100,000S of lives just kilometers away have been devastated by the greed for power by men no less evil than the most despicable of all time. Religion used as a rallying bugle call of hatred. Lust for unlimited power by a thug whose family business is controlling an entire country....millions of humans subjugated for decades .... Willing to kill, maim, starve, and poison child and adult alike...so as to not lose control of their power. 
At the same time these lives ruined, we innocently motor to the naot factory to leave more shekels. The naot factory is on a kibbutz. 
On to our home for the next two nights another kibbutz. Our rooms are gorgeous and luxurious. A pleasant surprise for a kibbutz resort
we meet for dinner and feel like we have time traveled to the catskills at their height. Giant mounds of food await as the hordes descend.
We complete our celebration of gail's birthday amongst the indigenous of our tribe...sabras in their 70S and 80S...old men and women...the pioneers of this country. Once fierce heroes who fought for this slice of land...the horrors they saw escaping europe...the depravation they survived building this homeland that we jews in america owe so much to. 
They transformed jew from victim to warrior....they forced us to have an identity that transcends bar/bat mitzvah and yom kippur services to a 365/24/7 international presence. We have a flag ... We have a homeland ... We have a mighty force that would never allow a holocaust to happen again. Gas chambers can never choke us to death....crematoriums will never burn with jewish flesh again as long as israel exists as the defender of our tribe. 
If millions can cheer donald trump...if he can name a people escaping their own poverty and crime and wanting a better life for their children as evil...then some future hitler can blame jews as the scapegoat again...even in the usa. We imprisoned japanese -americans. We as jews need a plan b and that is israel. 
Day 6
I must start today with the emotional and thought provoking brought on by my/our experience. We met talked to and ate with several members of the idf. These young people who sacrifice part

Day 1

We arrived at newark airport. I had prepared anxiously (no really) for the expected strip search questioning by the mossad by reviewing my hebrew school and bar mitzvah parsha in addition to my adult synagogue history. The fearsome appearance we presented surprisingly led to benign questioning by the very highly trained agents. I am prepared to chant the first sentence of my bar mitzvah to all who request it. 

We slithered into our slightly (hah) crowded seats and sardined like drugged ourselves into sleeping (hah) across the atlantic and mediterranean. 

Watching the plane travel across the seat back map that becomes alive with the realization you are traveling more than 7 miles high and over 600 miles an hour in our aluminum can of incredible technology begins my journey out of the comfort zone of my normal daily life. 

We touch down to cheers across the plane after a smooth crossing....more out of relief of the impending freedom from their steerage seats than the safety of landing. There is a shared sensation on a flight to israel unlike our other travels due to the deep spiritual nature of the expected experience of the americans visiting the homeland of their joined geographic roots. 

To our surprise we landed during a rainfall. The clouds quickly lifted to reveal a more modern and technologically advanced experience than our last visit 20 years ago. Clearly israel puts forth an impressive first impression. 

Our guide uri greets us and in heavily accented slightly broken english begins our tour. He continues his charade for a few minutes before he breaks out of character into his fully up-accented english speech pattern. Ah...jewish humor. 

We approach tel aviv/jaffa observing a modern, dense metropolis. What a wonder has been created here. Skyscrapers now dwarf the concrete blocks we remember from 20 years ago. Uri explains that the socialist roots of israel’s founding have been replaced by a more capitalistic and therefore greater wealth disparity than its early roots. Ah greed. The price of capitalistic success or reaganistic concentration of wealth we have viewed in our own culture?

We are instructed that there is no political correctness in israel and all questions are acceptable. This will be fun. I so enjoy the feeling in the initial hours of our journeys as my brain explores new thoughts and absorbs a new cultural experience from its normal job of coaching my patients through their worst anxieties and childhood dental phobias. 

Our first stop will be a large building where great numbers of people congregate to purchase products produced and marketed to them by large corporate entities....a mall. The reason for this is the opportunity to elevator to the highest view in the middle east...the 49TH floor observatory of the azriely round tower. Uri orients us to the geography (and explains the derivation of the word orient (google it...interesting)). On the banks of the eastern mediterranean tel aviv is a crowded becoming more vertical city as evidenced by the multiple cranes. Beach and metropolis joined...voila chicago. Uri explains that german templar settlers in william penn like planning set up the framework for tel-aviv and haifa. These early settlers of german heritage joined the nationalistic fervor of post world war 1 germany and supported the nazi movement. There were swastikas flying in tel-aviv in the 30'S...how ironic. Being under british rule at the time they were eventually rounded up and deported to australia by the british. Their neighborhood now confiscated is now the seat of the israeli defense forces (idf). How fitting. 

We return to the bus to explore joppa...the ancient port that seeded the metropolis of tel-aviv. We climb to a majestic panoramic view of tel-aviv and lapped by the waves of the gorgeous mediterranean. Uri explained the history of this old port and its early jewish settlers and how their expansion northward led to the development of tel-aviv. We walked down from view to the old city of joppa. In 1909 members of my mother and fathers future families first met....before either of my parents were born....would i or my children exist if not for this couple meeting but not marrying. 

And now our first israeli food experience...i forgot how good schwarma is. Chicken, lamb and beef are roasted .... Sliced off...mixed in giant pita flats...mixed with humus, tahini, salads and rolled up tight into a delicious and soon repeated lunch. Yum. 

Now we walk the cobblestone streets of joppa for .... Shopping. Old jewish merchants... (head covered) bearded ..grizzled old men...davening (praying) ... My roots exposed like a tree around whom whose dirt has washed away. I never met my grandfather or great-grandfather but these men time travel me back to seeing my roots. 

Interspersed with these flea market dusty shops of judaica....galleries of fine works of high art and silver and gold high end judaica....juxtaposition of ancient and modern. Purchases in hand we head to our hotel. 

We arrive at our high rise by the beach. Unpacked to approximate normalcy we head for the beach. The warm mediterranean laps the silky soft sand....smiling we stroll into the water. A couple naps on the beach refresh us...laps in the pool revive us...and now meal two. 

Group meal in hotel....expectations low....results? ... Off the charts. Appetizers of highest of quality and presentation and flavor. Succulent dinner...all the a view of the beach volleyball games. 

Day 2

before i report on my second day as a tourist i reflect on my growing reconnection with israel. As a child i clearly remember the capture of eichman and the trial and the telling of the horrors of the shoah. 

I remember the great fear in my family in 1967 as the destruction of israel seemed so eminent and the pride of being a jew when israel defeated the massed armies around her... The pride that helped mold my love of my tribe and israel as a teenager. Instead of ancestor’s images of bearded jews humiliated by brown shirts and images of naked bodies strewn and ashed by the nazi killing machine my self image and self confidence increased by the images of the israeli defeat against overwhelming odds. We survived. 

nationalistic fervor of post world war 1 germany and supported the nazi movement. There were swastikas flying in tel-aviv in the 30'S...how ironic. Being under british rule at the time they were eventually rounded up and deported to australia by the british. Their neighborhood now confiscated is now the seat of the israeli defense forces (idf). How fitting. 

We return to the bus to explore joppa...the ancient port that seeded the metropolis of tel-aviv. We climb to a majestic panoramic view of tel-aviv and lapped by the waves of the gorgeous mediterranean. Uri explained the history of this old port and its early jewish settlers and how their expansion northward led to the development of tel-aviv. We walked down from view to the old city of joppa. In 1909 members of my mother and fathers future families first met....before either of my parents were born....would i or my children exist if not for this couple meeting but not marrying. 

And now our first israeli food experience...i forgot how good schwarma is. Chicken, lamb and beef are roasted .... Sliced off...mixed in giant pita flats...mixed with humus, tahini, salads and rolled up tight into a delicious and soon repeated lunch. Yum. 

Now we walk the cobblestone streets of joppa for .... Shopping. Old jewish merchants... (head covered) bearded ..grizzled old men...davening (praying) ... My roots exposed like a tree around whom whose dirt has washed away. I never met my grandfather or great-grandfather but these men time travel me back to seeing my roots. 

Interspersed with these flea market dusty shops of judaica....galleries of fine works of high art and silver and gold high end judaica....juxtaposition of ancient and modern. Purchases in hand we head to our hotel. 

We arrive at our high rise by the beach. Unpacked to approximate normalcy we head for the beach. The warm mediterranean laps the silky soft sand....smiling we stroll into the water. A couple naps on the beach refresh us...laps in the pool revive us...and now meal two. 

Group meal in hotel....expectations low....results? ... Off the charts. Appetizers of highest of quality and presentation and flavor. Succulent dinner...all the a view of the beach volleyball games. 

Day 2

Before i report on my second day as a tourist i reflect on my growing reconnection with israel. As a child i clearly remember the capture of eichman and the trial and the telling of the horrors of the shoah. 

I remember the great fear in my family in 1967 as the destruction of israel seemed so eminent and the pride of being a jew when israel defeated the massed armies around her... The pride that helped mold my love of my tribe and israel as a teenager. Instead of ancestor’s images of bearded jews humiliated by brown shirts and images of naked bodies strewn and ashed by the nazi killing machine my self image and self confidence increased by the images of the israeli defeat against overwhelming odds. We survived. 

We enjoy our first israeli hotel breakfast. Refreshed by being offered the luxury of sleeping horizontal instead of strapped to a chair revived us all. 

Salads, fish, cheeses, breads, an array of sweets and fruits of explosive fresh flavor. Israel breakfasts are legend and this was no exception. 

Our first stop was the rabin center. This great man spent his life building and defending israel. After much of his life fighting for israeli's creation and defending it from enemies he led it fighting for peace. The museum shows how he was pilloried by zealots who feared any negotiation with arabs. 

His loss to his country mimics our loss of john kennedy. The museum mapped out the original lines of israel. Probably 1/4 the size of the eventual 1948 borders. It looked like 4 unconnected zip codes ... Totally indefensible borders yet even these small jewish enclaves of a few hundred thousand jews was too much for the countries of egypt, syria, jordan and their allies. They immediately attacked the jewish settlers...and were defeated after the loss of 1% of the population ... 80,000 jews were killed in the war of independence. The attack of the arab coalition and their defeat led to the borders we knew as children. 

The six day war caused by the amassing of arab troops on their borders and blockade of israel’s southern port at eilat led to a miracle defeat of the arabs overwhelming force by destroying all the air forces on the ground. This finally allowed jews to pray at the western wall....the holiest jewish site for thousands of years previously off limits to jews. 

In 1983 on the holiest jewish holiday, thru sneak attack, the yom kippur war was a costly victory with heavy casualties. 

The terrorist attacks of the infitada we all remember...bombs blowing up restaurants, malls and buses. 

As rabin tried to negotiate with his neighbors progress was made. A treaty with egypt led to israeli return of the giant area of the sinai peninsula...but if and only if israel kept the gaza strip....egypt refused it and today such a source of terrorist infrastructure....missiles raining down on israeli cities from this slip of land that egypt knew was ungovernable and is still israel’s greatest threat. I remember images of israeli soldiers removing jewish settlers from the gaza and for what? 

Rabin negotiated peace with jordan who had actually warned israel of the impending yom kippur war of 1983. He was assassinated by a jewish religious extremist at a peace rally attended by hundreds of thousands. 

Religious extremism again destroys hope for peace. How tragic.

On to the israeli museum with exhibits of early photographs and unearthed glass artifacts ... Dry in comparison with the emotional rabin museum. On piece of art you can see on the picture link has numbers on it....the tattoo serial number placed on the artists mother. 

After stopping at a market a lively picnic lunch and picnic in a park refreshed us. 

The group went off to the interactive palmach museum tracing the history of the early military of the jews which became the mighty israeli military of today. We left the group and spent the late afternoon with cousins. We visited my 88 year old psychiatrist cousin and his two children and their 5 grandchildren. A visit of a only short time but we have forged a relationship with the next generation of my israeli family that i hope to keep connected. I owe them for living here in this sacred land to pass onto the next generation.

Day 3

these are the golden days of my traveling psyche. Having overcome the fatigue and jet lag of the initiation to the new cultural experience the thirst for immersion supersedes all other levels of my normal consciousness and i become ozzie the explorer. My mother would not get the reference.

Instead of using energy peeling off my normal levels of daily anxiety, my senses fully open to each day to each sight, smell taste and my antennae search to connect with the environment to be in the experience. I know as the end of the trip approaches the lack of feeling rooted or my re-centering into this new normal will like the third trip to the buffet satiate me and begin to make my head feel stuffed. But today .... Now it all tastes amazing. 

I apologize in advance if the next section is my naiveté and my agenda expressed. 

There i feel is a lot of anger brewing in the belly of this society. We have walked and ridden many kilometers thru tel-aviv. There is a juxtaposition of concentration of wealth evidenced by giant high rise buildings gloriously sprouting against life on the street which does not look so luxurious on the ground. Giant towers of glass where life in the clouds avoids seeing the troglodytes below. Decaying buildings, angry looking graffiti, public transportation not belching smoke or recycled from other countries like cambodia but not nearly as modern as istanbul or france. 

This was the culture of a strong social fabric and it feels like it's been torn. No lawlessness that i even sense but such a large number of residents live in housing built 60+ years ago and from the outside not well maintained. Just as my initial sense of nice, france was in error to some extent, i may be missing something, however there is a lack of evidence of country pride. 

Israli flags are not flying from many windows or even flag poles. Those that are are old and like so much of the building stock decaying....the lack of flag flying and the condition of those remaining was startling....not decayed like my own inner city but even in philadelphia you see tremendous growth in rebuilding and reclamation of the urban core. The majority of the construction here is new expensive high rise luxury housing. This is not to say at all that i taste a lack of individual pride but it looks like a two class society ..... The super wealthy and everybody else....and the everybody else is slipping. Israel i believe once had a stronger socialistic safety net floor that provided all with a life within a smaller standard deviation. That's not in evidence. 

Enough of that song now. 

The other strong juxtaposition is the secular hedonistic lifestyle ... Bars, clubs, uber stylistic revealing clothing which so clashes with the orthodox long skirts, black hats and wigs of the orthodox. 

There is not a highly visible arab component here. Signs are in hebrew and many in arabic but i do not sense an arab presence ...again my apologies for my errors if i am missing that taste bud.

The hotel dining room over looks thru giant windows the mediterranean. The softest, whitest sandy beaches. No shells...no seaweed...no syringes. That is the view each morning on one side....the other is plates heaping with fresh fruits and vegetables and breads and salads and fish. 

After savoring the fruits of the vine and tree we board our brand new motor-coach to travel down the coast to the site of kibbutz machon ayalon. During the british mandate occupation when it was illegal for jews to have guns a few dozen young jews risked their lives and worked under ground making bullets for 3 years .... 3 million bullets in a munition factory hidden by the sounds of the kibbutz laundry and the smell of the bakery. It stayed hidden and secret until the british left in 1948. Without this factory today there may not have been an israel. We were here 20YEARS ago but the explanation and presentation were worth a return visit. Like the rabin museum...a don't miss. 

We drive thru famous parts of tel-aviv learning about the development of this technology centered city....silicon valley in california and tel-aviv are used in the same sentence. We walked thru the oldest parts of the city and learned of its architecture. 

Then dropped off at the carmel market we walk deeply into the matrix world of the stalls. Deeply we walk to find the best humus restaurant ... In an old synagogue. Stained glass windows, talmudic books on the walls, even a torah mounted like a picture on the wall...torah as art...not sacred scrolls? 

Lines of people waiting for their portion like those that cue up for manco and manco just for a bowl of humus and the few options. No falafel ... Just humus. It was superb. We sat next to a young israeli who told us this is the best humus...that he frequents this restaurant often. He said that polling shows a large segment of 20-35 year have humus every friday. .??

We schmy around after lunch thru the art market...tables not semi permanent stalls like the carmel market and then taxi back to the hotel. 

Shabbos approaches. We go to the beach. Life is always good on the beach. Friday and saturday are their weekend. Sunday is a normal workday. The beach was crowded even as the sunset (gorgeous) glowed. 

We walk the hard sand where the waves reciprocate over a very short amplitude. Warm water, setting sun...we have always been drawn to water and this water is so soft as it laps and licks our feet. 

We sit at a beach bar and we savor our vodka and coke zero respectively and a plate of olives ... Seasoned and varied in size, shape and taste and watch the sun sink into the sea. 

Shabbos dinner in the hotel. At one table families in wigs, long skirts, fringes exposed under shirts ..... At another short tight revealing skirts and circus like f-me heels. What a country! 

Buffet plates piled high with the normal israeli salads but it's shabbos....the best chopped liver ever....gefilte fish that never swam in a can....lamb shank....goose .... Lipitor dispensers should be on the walls...like the prophylactic dispensers that we saw as we crossed each country border in africa. Bet you re-read that sentence a couple of times. 

Shabbat shalom and good night. 

Day 4

We leave the both soaring and crumbling tel-aviv and head north along the mediterranean. Now we see giant office parks emblazoned with the names of the giants of technology. 50% of israel’s economy is technology. Texting, voice mail, firewalls, intel chips, and windows itself all heavily dependent in israeli technology. 

Instead of crumbling concrete we see modern apartment high rise complexes. We learn how the area north of tel-aviv was swampland that was drained to make arable. How malaria killed 60% of all children and 80% ....80% percent of children died in the 1920S before they were 10. Incomprehensible. 

A quick stop at caesarea. A beach in the shadow of a roman aqueduct that was covered by sand for centuries, exposed and now gives shade to bathers. 

We stop at a early pioneer settlement zichron ya’akov, founded by baron von rothschild whose wealth was so instrumental in the early stages of settlement. This elfriths alley little street has cute shops to meander thru while appreciating the architecture of the pioneer period. 

Now on to a druze village. Uri explained that the druze broke off from other muslim sects about 1100. Their beliefs allow them to accept living under whatever group rules where they live. When in israel, accept peacefully....when in jordan..do the same. This technique has allowed them to survive. They have even fought in the israeli army. Survival is their strongest mantra. Imagine ... There would be peace in the region if all arabs were druze. 

So many cultures have disappeared just as more animal and plant species are gone than exist today. Survival of the fittest. Most cultures who lost their own real estate disappear in their personal diaspora. Jews survived by obedience to their traditions. 

So we meander thru the druze and buy more ballast for our suitcases. They are most friendly and helpful and with their peaceful background we are glad to expend shekels. Then on to our druze lunch .... Spectacular. Humus, falafel, tahini, couscous parsley salad, pita, mushrooms, israeli pickles, stuffed grape leaves (still warm ... Not canned),israeli salads....plate after plate till we were double stuffed. 

Now a fun experience. Half the group horseback riding on the carmel ... Half on atv on mud covered vehicles on rock covered muddy paths up and down the mountain. Luckily they told me to keep my thumbs up so when the steering wheel flew around i still had opposable thumbs. 

Onto haifa which is a gorgeous city and port on the mediterranean. A stunning view awaited us from the famous baha'i gardens. The curving coastline, crowded old city along the harbor glistens in the late afternoon sun. 

After dinner cousins of gail who we had met 40 years ago came to our hotel. This cousin has five children ...came with his wife and 3 of them. Each of the daughters has 4 children and teaches and works in technology and speak perfect english. The son...the yeshiva student... He does not speak english. He just studies to become a rabbi.

We have now met and re met and connected with over a dozen relatives whose names and lives we had no connection. That is changed....like an archaeological dig...we are reconnected to our past. 

We have in our hearts the depth of destruction of the holocaust in a more blood line loss. Gail learned of relatives she never knew about who burned in auschwitz. That was quite sobering. 

Day 5

A new hotel for breakfast a new buffet of smoked fish options. The dining room view of haifa framed by the glistening mediterranean. The topography changes as we climb towards the galilee. Also uri points out the layers of exposed soil levels. Limestone over a layer of clay. This was informative as we stopped at a roman cistern. 

To allow concentration of populations one needs water. This was accomplished by bringing water down via aqueducts. But to conserve the water it needed to be stored...cistern. The limestone is porous...water flows thru it...till it reaches the clay layer which hardens and seals from the water. The cistern ... An underground reservoir would be closed off at night when running water was not needed...and reopened in the morning. 

Our next stop was zippori (sephoris), the capital of the galilee in the second temple period. We saw a mosaic show room, learned how mosaics were constructed and walked thru excavations of this 2000 year old city. 

In an ancient synagogue floor mosaics with hebrew letters and menorah but also curiously was a zodiac sign. Judaism evolves.... And parts were kept, changed and deleted. There were many more sects of judaism...we are the disciples of those that survived. 

The house of a very wealthy man when excavated exposed mosaics of incredibly distinct artistic ability. 

Driving ever northward towards the lebanon border. Radar installations, destroyers huddled just below the sea border and incredible views of the coast and rocky beaches. The sandy beaches (silky sand) of tel aviv came from currents carrying sand from the nile. This far north rocky beaches predominate. The type of rock formation cause under water canyons to form....grottoes. 

We cable car from exquisite views above to these turquoise water caverns. This incredible natural beauty....tens of thousands of years of waves have carved out this delicious site....the last 60 years a tense border over which rockets, bombs, missiles ..... And young men and women have crossed and some not returned to their mothers embrace. 

We motor east closer to the syrian border....smoke visible in the distance. 100,000S of lives just kilometers away have been devastated by the greed for power by men no less evil than the most despicable of all time. Religion used as a rallying bugle call of hatred. Lust for unlimited power by a thug whose family business is controlling an entire country....millions of humans subjugated for decades .... Willing to kill, maim, starve, and poison child and adult alike...so as to not lose control of their power. 

At the same time these lives ruined, we innocently motor to the naot factory to leave more shekels. The naot factory is on a kibbutz. 

On to our home for the next two nights another kibbutz. Our rooms are gorgeous and luxurious. A pleasant surprise for a kibbutz resort

we meet for dinner and feel like we have time traveled to the catskills at their height. Giant mounds of food await as the hordes descend.

We complete our celebration of gail's birthday amongst the indigenous of our tribe...sabras in their 70S and 80S...old men and women...the pioneers of this country. Once fierce heroes who fought for this slice of land...the horrors they saw escaping europe...the depravation they survived building this homeland that we jews in america owe so much to. 

They transformed jew from victim to warrior....they forced us to have an identity that transcends bar/bat mitzvah and yom kippur services to a 365/24/7 international presence. We have a flag ... We have a homeland ... We have a mighty force that would never allow a holocaust to happen again. Gas chambers can never choke us to death....crematoriums will never burn with jewish flesh again as long as israel exists as the defender of our tribe. 

If millions can cheer donald trump...if he can name a people escaping their own poverty and crime and wanting a better life for their children as evil...then some future hitler can blame jews as the scapegoat again...even in the usa. We imprisoned japanese -americans. We as jews need a plan b and that is israel. 

Day 6

I must start today with the emotional and thought provoking brought on by my/our experience. We met talked to and ate with several members of the idf. These young people who sacrifice part 

of their or in some cases entire young lives defending the land that we as jews must stand behind as a memory of those who died in the shoah and as the safety net for our tribe if/when the world again scapegoats our .01% as the evil of the world. 

Non jews must stand behind israel as the bastion of peace, stability and technology in an otherwise misogynistic dictatorship enslaving part of the world. The razor wire border we stare at 1 mile from the outpost on tel flores separates the fertile irrigated environmentally aware israel from the dead earthed chaotic refugee laden syria. We americans live in a metaphorically parallel universe. The chaos in our inner cities we view from our suburbs, our cars and our gated communities. Our once fertile lands chemically toxified by our corporate isis food providers. Killing is killing is killing. 

These young responsible adults live on these bases learning the skills of negotiation, leadership and teamwork while also developing the skills needed to defend their homeland. Leaving their families for weeks at a time the development of responsibility and maturity is a lesson we americans could learn as way to inculcate these skills into our next generation.

What are we doing wrong that in our country that on a daily basis we tolerate murder and mass murder as acceptable?....there is nothing we can do. Really? Why don't we put as much effort into mobilizing ending terrorism from within as we do destroying stability abroad? Vietnam, iraq, afghanistan .... Death and destruction ... We have been defeated over and over again to the profit of defense contractors and the capital paid by the canon fodder of our youth. 

The fabric of our society is under attack from within. We use financial cost and incite hatred of our own government as the enemy instead of investing in our next generation or requiring responsible behavior. 

Another israeli breakfast at the high option buffet. A very special day filled with emotion in meeting personally several israeli soldiers at two army outposts. 

We start driving round the galilee. The galilee is a lake fed by the jordan river. It is the largest freshwater lake below sea level. 

Our guide uri was tasked by explaining the geopolitical and geological issues concerning this area. I hope i learned my lessons today...but i had a great teacher. As an excellent tour guide uri has shown leadership, historical and geopolitical and geomorphology along with humor. Thank you 

Environmental first: The scourge of malaria...the killer...had to be eradicated. Ben gurion against environmental advice drained the swamps near the galilee. The result were dust storms and loss of six feet of soil. The area has been reclaimed and contains fertile fields today. 

Before the six day war, the galilee was being pumped dry. The need for fresh water necessitated. Now that it’s under israeli control and desalinization as water source its recovery has begun. As we looked over the valley, reveling in it’s beauty and knowing we were looking at views shared by names we know from torah ... You could imagine shepherds dressed in biblical garb ... Our ancestors ... Just one more tribe tending their sheep...not knowing that they would as a tribe continue for thousands of years. Also not knowing that their rules of conduct would cause them to be persecuted for centuries even to this day. 

So in the six day war of 1967, as the arab armies blockaded the guild of aquaba (an act of war) and massed armies on israel's indefensible borders her heroic pilots flew sortie after sortie destroyed the air forces on the ground of her enemies. In days the war was won. 

The residents of the north, after being shelled by syrian mortars forcing their shell-shocked children to live in bomb shelters asked the government to take the golan heights from the syrians. Now this valley fertile once more exists in relative safety. 

We then drove to an army outpost on the golan. On top of tel flores we had our first military encounter. There will be no pictures posted from our military installation visits. 

We met a representative of the fidf.... Friends of the israeli defense force. She explained how when she was in the idf her job was educating these raw 18 year old children that their job was to defend their land, protect her citizens and how to act /react to the differing needs of the hot spots they would encounter. Golan heights, west bank and gaza… each situation requiring a different touch. We viewed the border with syria. In fact depending on your definition of border, we were in syria. Off in the distance puffs of smoke were visible. We saw a un outpost whose job it is to report on israeli action. They stopped reporting on action in the syrian side due to the utter chaos between the warring factions. 

Then we went along the fortified 8 foot fence with sensors notifying authorities if there is a breach and location and i suspect electrified onto an israeli base nachal golom. We shared lunch with soldiers which was a very special connection. These kids are defending their nation… in essence they are protecting the future of jews all over the world.

We learned about bird migrating patterns that cause 700 million birds to fly over israel. It's fertile land and lack of hunting make this the safe passage route to their winter-feeding and mating areas in the southern hemisphere during their summer. 

Shalom 

Day 7

Leaving kibbutz we drive south along the galilee first along the syrian then jordanian borders. We visited beth shean ...a city that had several layers of history that have been excavated. When a city was conquered, they destroyed the existing structures and built right over them. There was a theatre with excellent acoustics and seats thousands. 

The heat in this stone heat sink was intense. Temperatures into the 90S...we looked forward to our next stop. The sachne...a warm spring fed swimming area and park. We swam and heard our skin sizzle. You had to keep moving...as soon as you stopped...fish would nibble at your few...eeewww. I did laps to avoid the sensation. A fun cooling laughing respite. 

Next 3 paragraphs facts i did not know:

Driving thru the west bank on highways seeing where peace has allowed israel’s help jordan develop its bread basket. Had jordan not declared war on israel in 1967, the west bank would still be theirs. They did not join in in 1983 when the arabs attacked israel on yom kippur. In fact, king hussein of jordan warned golda meir a couple of months before the sneak attack on the holiest jewish holiday that it would occur. 

In the 1948 partition of palestine, jordan was to be the arab state and israel the jewish state. The british installed a different sect than the arabs of palestine though they were only 20 per cent of the population that ruled the rest. The king of jordan threw out arabs from palestine. 

The original goal of the plo palestinian liberation organization was the overthrow of the jordanian king. Black september represents the september 1970 attempted overthrow of the kingdom of jordan by yasser arafat and the plo. 10,000 palestinians were killed in one month. The plo and their disciples were expelled to lebanon. This led to the attacks from lebanon, which israel had to invade to destroy their rockets. Check these facts on wikipedia 

Today we entered jerusalem. It was very tearful crossing into this most sacred beautiful city. Very heavy police presence. We will be careful. Walking down the street from our hotel a woman stopped us and thanked us for walking around. 

Day 8

We started the day ....blah blah blah... Great breakfast...we slept till 8:30. A much needed rest. 

First to the supreme court a building with design elements that combine symbols of turkish, british and hebrew law. They have an interesting court system. 15 judges that handle cases as smaller groups than the entirety; individuals can bring grievances to the court; judges are not elected but appointed by political groups, professional and religious groups. No juries (not like here...experts) making decisions. Judges retire at 70. 

Then on to the israel museum which among other things houses a vast storehouse of jewish religious artifacts. This treasure trove of menorah, hanukiah (hanukkah candle holders) kiddish cups (sacramental wine cups), spice boxes (herb boxes for ending the sabbath), shofar (rams horn trumpet played for very holy days), torahs (first 5 books of the jewish bible in scroll form), both sephardic (southern europe...spain/portugal/italy and ashkenazic (northern europe), and books...books...prayer books, hagadot (prayer book for passover seder), etc. Actual synagogues set up as rooms from germany, india and the caribbean. 

Moving and sobering were decorations from total scrolls melted from kristallnacht. (the night of broken glass)

On that night in 1938, 1000+ synagogues were burned, ransacked and 7000 jewish businesses destroyed. This was carried by nazi uniformed thugs and local populace took part. This was the beginning of the final solution...the attempted extermination of the jews ... 6,000,000 jews were killed in the next seven years...more than 1/3 of the world population of jews in the world. The total population of jews in the world today is still less than before that night. 

Then under the guidance of uri we learned about other ancient artifacts on exhibit. Objects giving evidence to jewish inhabiting this area for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence of the temple was found on the original site above the western wall which is the current location of the golden domed mosque built on the site of the original temple. 

There is a prayer in judaism called the shehecheyanu ..... A prayer said to commemorate special occasions. The most moving tear inducing moment for me was exhibit where they found a gold amulet with this prayer written in ancient hebrew script in a burial plot exhumed with the skeleton. This prayer which was said for my birth, my bar mitzvah, my wedding and the same life cycle events of my children and grand children was created thousands of years earlier. Chilling ... Goosebumps... My tribe connects to ancestors not by me reading a prayer book...but by pieces of history buried underground that proves our connection ... Not just hundreds of years...but thousands of years preserved underground. Proof of our lineage....proof it existed on this sacred ground. 

Day 9

Do not believe what you are seeing on cnn. First, you are being given such an untrue view of israel and life in jerusalem at the current time. They make it sound like total anarchy exists. Life looks normal. These people are tough and used to terrorism. They live their lives. 

I know you think we are putting our lives at risk. My support for israel is unwavering. As a jew and as a man of conscience to the world i am proud to be here. I must support my tribe both physically, emotionally and financially. If the world allows israelis destruction, my lineage is at risk. Their continued existence is protection for my children and their children and their children ...

To those who think what they read and and see on the news shows israeli intransigence or aggression, you need to know you are mistaken. Billions of dollars have been given to the arabs in the west bank and gaza and they build tunnels to attack and buy rockets instead of schools and hospitals. Imagine a political authority that incites children to sacrifice their lives to kill innocent people and then pays their family. Imagine people from as close as bucks county firing rockets at philadelphia. Imagine people in montgomery county raising their children to sneak into philadelphia to kill and then die for the glory of montgomery county. 

You know me. You know i deeply feel but strive to deeply feel and understand what it's like for the other person. I know the history, i know the facts and i am telling you if you do not do your own research you are no different than believing hitler in germany in the 30S. The international anti semitic powers are at work more subtle than hitler, more sophisticated but no less devious. 

If you are a jew and you do not support israel shame on you. If you are a non-jew, the canary is coughing and you may live to realize you watched and did nothing. 

To my children, i am so proud of your unwavering support and connection to israel. 

With the news of stabbings on our minds we boarded the bus to the old city. We arose very early and entered thru the dung gate. It is the closest to the western wall.
Security was visible as with so much of jerusalem, as one becomes accustomed to soldiers and police toting automatic weapons on every corner and a larger contingent within the old city. We entered the walls of the old city and began our descent to the bottom of the wall. We had been here 20 years earlier and the increased excavation and improvement in explanations was impressive. 
What we think of as the wall is actually approximately half its full height. Deeper and deeper we walked. Our feet became time machines. We walked on blocks covered for millennia. Thanks to decades of archaeological work the base of the wall on bedrock has been uncovered. We walked along the foundation built 2000 years ago. The scale of this construction is stunning. We saw this one block that us 43 feet long and is estimated to weigh over 500 tons. Please google it to learn so much more. 
While under jordanian control, the cisterns and other sub levels were used as dumping areas for their waste. 
Uri explained the history of the mountain that is the center of so much controversy. He explained when the first jewish temple was built...and then destroyed. Then king herod (converted jew) cut the top of the mountain off and built the retaining walls and then the second temple was built on this giant flat space the size of multiple football fields. That was subsequently destroyed ... The retaining walls have remained. The western wall we knew if as the wailing wall as children. When the arabs attacked the incipient jewish state after the un vote in 1948 israel eventually lost control of the western wall. This most holy place for the jewish tribe was not accessible for jews from 1948-1967. 
I remember the pictures of israeli soldiers praying at the wall after the six-day war. The most famous photo was the heroic moshe dayan and his famous eye patch.
When we were here 20 years ago we were able to visit the dome of the rock. No longer. Due to security concerns jewish visitors are no longer able to enter. 
For the first time in the 20TH century in 1967 israel opened all religious sites to all religions. All sites are open to all religions....except jews cannot visit the dome of the rock. 
After an exceptional visit underground we spent time with our personal thoughts at the wall. Touching these 2000 year old stones...feeling the energy, tears and prayers of so many fingers and hands...hearts heavy with pain. But, watching bar mitzvah's at the wall....that jews can touch the wall...worship here ... It's just an incredible natural high. 
We meandered around the jewish quarter to the hachurvah synagogue, situated at the heart of the jewish quarter. Built in the 18TH century and destroyed in 1948, it is considered the most important and most beautiful synagogue in the old city. During the war of independence in 1948, the jordanian army blew up this synagogue. After years of reconstruction the synagogue was rebuilt like the one destroyed. From the roof top we were able to see striking views of jerusalem. 
We went underground again to visit another archaeological site of a home 2000 years old. Baths and ritual baths and dining areas give evidence of the wealth of who lived/visited here. 
Because of activity in the arab quarter which we need to walk thru to get to the church of the holy sepulcher we instead headed to the armenian quarter. We saw a church that is pentecostal ... There were pilgrims from india, who started talking in tongues during their prayers. 
This city must never be held by any group who will again destroy religious sites nor bar some people from visiting them! 
Exhausted from walking from 8 am till 4 pm we returned for r&r and after a delicious dinner and off to the citadel of david where a light show projected onto the walls tells the story of jerusalem. 
Day 10 Relax. No lecture today. We had just a most wonderful fun experience. We went to an outdoor market. Reading market on steroids. Food glorious food. 
We were met by an amazing woman who is a leader of the market and a chef of local renown. She took us deep into the market where the smells and visual stimuli overwhelmed the senses. For each step you took you saw, experienced and lusted for another experience. 
First she brought us a plate of sweets and savories that we moaned about eating and devoured. Then took us on a tour. A tea store we tasted fruited and herbed teas that redefine the dreck that is tetley. Tetley is to tea as mcdonald's is to food. We tasted a lychee blend and a passion fruit blend that re defines the genre. 
Passing giant challahs for the sabbath in addition to secular beads we were forced to look but not touch. 
We went into a spice and nut and cereal stand. We were given little tastings of yogurt and granola. I think she said his granola is famous in jerusalem. Yummy. 
The brightness and color and freshness and quantity of fruit and vegetables overwhelms. The smells of the spices fills your nose and waters your mouth. 
We went to a stand that only sells tahini...ground sesame seeds. The back of the stand us a giant stone grinding wheel...just to grind sesame seeds and other flavorings. Again famous across the area. It redefines the item. 
Then onto the king of halvah. Dozens of giant wheels of different flavors and a lesson what we get compared to what he makes. Omg. 
Then up to the studio if this chef. We wash our hands and put in our bibs. We learn to to de skin tomatoes. Prepare herbs. Peel and dice jerusalem artichokes for a puree. Chop all kinds of vegetables and apples. Slice fish. Caramelize sugar with apples. Grill very thin cuts of meat. Sea bass ceviche robed with heavenly clothing. 
Once we completed the prep work on to her roof restaurant to wine up and watch the market from above. Crowds decreased by children with kitchen knives keeping some people hiding under their beds. 
When we returned to the dining studio we were demonstrated to and fed a glorious feast ceviche, salad, bread, olive oil, grilled eggplant covered in heavenly robes of flavor, roasted fish, sautéed string beans, and grilled steak. 
All too soon we were served the phylo pastry we had constructed.
The images give you insight into the incredible and fun experience we shared. 
Off to the adjacent ben yehudah market mall. Jewelry, antiques and judaica were rescued to adorn and connect us to our tribe. Mezzuzot and challah covers...we will have memories to take us back to this amazing place.
Back to the hotel to rest and revive,,,caffenate and exercise until shabbos dinner in the hotel. Families and groups came together to break bread and bless wine in a loud and boisterous welcoming of sabbath. From the secular to the observant.,. Young and old sharing their jewishness in a public pace together. A buffet of vast quantity and quality of food. A glorious end to a most glorious day. Smells and tastes are nerve endings wired directly to the brain. My brain was gloriously happy today.
Day 11…part 1
Here’s another organization – they are first responders living in neighborhoods so they get to the scene before anyone to care for the wounded. A day in the face of terrorism
Ozzie

 

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