April 16, 2008

After Israel, Part 1

So I know it's crazy late, but here it is:

Wednesday: Go to school as usual, but take off early to catch a plane to Atlanta. Get to Atlanta, go to First class lounge because we were flying First class or Business elite the whole way. Do some shopping, fall in love with a Longchamp bag at the Duty free store, but unfortunately, it's a grand total of $665. Get on the plane to Tel Aviv, watch 4 movies: Dan in Real Life, Juno, and two others I cannot remember. oh yeah, Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Thursday: Get in at 4 O'Clock, pciked up at the Airport by dad's friend Sydney. He takes us to our awesome modern hotel, the Melody Hotel in Tel Aviv to check in, and then to his apartment a few blocks away for dinner with his girlfriend. It was simple, pasta with meat sauce, but we were all exhausted and jet lagged, and just being in their company was wonderful. I hadn't seen them in years. Then we walked home and slept. And slept. And slept.

Friday: We slept in, then got up and walked to Sydney and Leah's appartment, then walked with them to the Yemenite Market. It was only a taste of what was to come, but it was still amazing for my first market experience.
There's Papa being strange, but the general crowds in the background give you a pretty good idea of how it was. Wrestling through the crowds, and all the smells of the raw meat, the spices, the sweets and candies. For lunch we stopped at this little cafe that sold only drinks and 3 different kinds of hummus: hummus plain, hummus with foul (a fava bean puree), and hummus with pine nuts. Then you get plates of pita bread and just dig in. Again, this was just the beginning of a legacy of little hummus cafes at lunch time, but this was probably the best one we went to. It was really difficult to find. Tucked back behind some chicken vendors, etc. Then that night, we walked with Sid and Leah to a restaurant caleld Agenda. It was sort of like..tappas, but not. You started out with a bunch of little middle eastern salads and some falafel (again the best falafel I had) and then you ordered a kebab. We did not order such delicacies offered as the turkey testicle kebab or the mutton fat kebab, but stayed with the ever traditional lamb, chicken, or beef kebab. Then we walked home and slept again.

Saturday: We got picked up (late) by a mini bus thing, then got dropped off at a bus station where we transferred to a larger tours by Egged bus. We were going to Masadah and the Dead Sea. The dirve out to Masadah was beautiful, and the diversity was amazing. We would go from green to brown to tan to a green Kibbutz, or farm, in the middle of a dessert. There was the dead sea on one side and huge brown cliffs on the other side. Masadah was really amazing. It was a mesa shaped rock where the Jews hid out as a last resort from the Romans attacking the rebels of the Bar Kokhba rebellion. As they knew that the romans were coming, the leader decided that they would rather die than go into slavery. He organized it so that all the men would kill their wives and children, and then they drew lots in some way to determine who would have to kill both a friend and himself. When the Romans arrived, they only found dead bodies and a few women and children who explained what had happened. The story is heroic. The place is...well it was really hot that day, but it was still really cool and I would have loved it BUT: our tour guide walked with a cane, and that made doing Masadah very difficult, so she hurried us through, explaining things briefly. We never got a chance to wander around on our own, and suddenly, there we were in the bus again on our way to a spa by the dead sea. She skimped on masadah, this amazing site so that we would have 2 and a half hours at the spa. The SPA. Obviously, we had no choice. We go to the spa, put our stuff in lockers, changed into bathing suits, and took the tram down to the...sea side. If you could call it that. As you walked down to the water, the beach was MADE of salt. We of course went and got in the water and floated. It was so cool. Walking out was difficult because your legs would start to rise up and it would be hard to get them back down. Once I was down (I finished before Mom and Dad), I went to shower off and then tried to dry off a bit. By this time, Mom and Dad were ready to go too. We then went up to the black mud station. This was probably my favorite part of the day. So because the Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth, all the water and salt flow down to there, which is why there is such a high concentration of salt. Along with the salt come the Minerals. The area is FAMOUS for the minerals. The Skin care company Ahava is based right around there. So at the spa, they have these big bins of black mud that you take and slather all over your body. It is way cool. It makes your skin soft and apparently is good for your hair (although I didn't notice much of a difference). So you put it all over you, or wherever you want to put it and then you sit in the sun to let it bake on for a while. Then, you wash it off with sulfur water. It stung like a betch, but the results were awesome. So then we just wandered back up, showered off, changed, and got back on the bus to go back to Tel Aviv. We got home that night, feeling gross and exhausted, but altogether happy. We had dinner with Sid and Leah.

Sunday: I wake up, feeling gross. Then I go back to sleep. Then, I wake up again and start throwing up. It was a nasty day. We were going to go to the Museum of the Diaspora, but since I was..sick...we didn't...here's a picture mom took...
Crazy, isn't it? At about noon, we started the drive (all five of us, but different cars) to Haifa. On the way, we stopped at Caesaria where my parents got out and walked around while I stayed in the car. Then we go to Haifa. Haifa is this amazing city on a hill. One's social status in this city is based on how high on the hill you live, which i found somewhat entertaining. We pulled in at our hotel and checked in and chilled out for a while but then the adults decided to go out to dinner while I stayed at home and ate butter crackers, pringles, cookies and like two bottles of coca cola and watched Ocean's 13 and a documentary on The Beatles, with slight focus on John Lennon. Then I slept. And all was well.

Monday: I woke up feeling much better. We decided to go to Akko, a medieval, mostly Arab city with lots of Crusader ruins. It was pretty fun. We went into the underground city and walked through the narrow tunnel (which mom backed out of--claustrophobia). I got some nice pictures, but nothing THAT exciting.We did spend a fair amount of time there, however. There was a small alley, a little shuk and only two shops were open. They said that because of all the bombings etc. tourism was practically down to nothing, and that all the other shops (at maximum, the shuk might have held about 20 shops) had closed. It was actually quite sad. We drove back to the hotel, left Sid and Leah to drive back to Tel Aviv, rested a bit, and then left to walk to a chinese restaurant that turned out to be terrible.

Now, a word about Haifa. It is amazing, specially at night. Because of the fact that it's on a hill, when you look down from the upper level, Carmel, at night, it is just this...sea of lights. And you can see the Medterranean with all the docks and boats...it's absolutely fantastic.

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