May 03, 2008

Israel Part 2

Click if you haven't read Part 1.



Tuesday: Leave the hotel early-ish, make a stop at the Bahai gardens. The Bahai religion (if I remember correctly) believes that all major prophets in religions were valid prophets. Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, all valid. Don't quote me on that, and that's as far as my knowledge goes. Anyway, at their shrine, they have surrounded it with these gardens, which are absolutely amazing. That's looking down. We didn't get to go beyond the first few levels because only members of the Bahai faith could go all the way UP. If we had started at the bottom and gone down, we could have seen the whole thing, but we didn't. So after that, we began the drive to Tzfat. We went through the Golan, which was quite nice. We saw the Sea of Galilee from the road. It was really pretty. We stopped at this "Peter's Fish" Place where the food was pretty not good, so I didnt eat much. Nice view of the lake, though. That night, we got into Tzfat. It is the center for Jewish Mysticism in Israel. There are four cities in Israel that stand for the four elements: Jerusalem=Fire, Tiberias=Earth, Eilat=Water, and Tzfat=Wind. It is so true. The streets we wandered were all these sort of back alley ways, with stairs going up to higher levels, and houses on all sides, and there were evening prayers going on while we were out, so all the synagogues were buzzing with prayer and energy. At one point, we went to a little art gallery. The guy working there was awesome. He talked about how when you walk around at night in Tzfat, you feel the intensity of the spirituality. He said it was really magical. I totally got it. We were walking around and it was almost as if the air around me was vibrating. Actually, this same guy from the gallery told us that we should go check out some of the Synagogues. We went to only one, but it was intense. It was, of course, segregated (men and women) and it was my first time in a women's section of an Orthodox temple. So we were sitting there, and watching the guys below praying. There was one other woman up in the balcony with us. Both mom and I picked up on a nearly palpable energy buzz in there. We talked about it afterwards. It (in the synagogue, and just being it Tzfat in general) was one of the two really intense hits of Godly energy that I got in Israel. I had falafel that night for dinner. It was really good. Oh, and our hotel room was adorable. My favorite one on the trip. Gorgeous view, biggest bathroom we had the entire time, and a REAL BED.
Wednesday: We leave early (the breakfast wasn't that fantabulous), and head out through the Golan again on our way to Jerusalem. It was really beautiful, again, of course. The area used to be occupied by Syria, but Israel chased them out. Not without a fight. We stopped at a memorial for a kibbutz (communal farm) that was completely destroyed by syrian missiles twice. Apparently there are some who claim that they practically had to raise a generation of children in bomb shelters. When the Syrians were chased out, they left all these land mines, and since not all of them have been found, Israeli army is going through the area foot by foot to clear them all out. In the mean time, there are wire fences around areas they have not checked with yellow signs on them saying not to go there for danger of stepping on a mine. It's strange because here you are in this beautiful countryside, and then you see one of those signs, and it gets somber. There is a lot of that type of thing in Israel... We stopped at a memorial for the area in the valley below us. There was a kibbutz (communal farm) that was destroyed twice by the Syrians. So that night we drive more and more. We drove through the West Bank which was nerve wracking for my parents, but I really felt totally comfortable. It was intense seeing the like...5 barbed wire fences on the border with Jordan. So we got into Jerusalem that afternoon. Wanted to go see these Chagall windows where apparently my grandparents' names are on a wall for donating to Hadassah (which built the hospital that the windows are in), but turned out we went to the wrong hospital. Their names were there anyway, though. Then we got to our hotel, had a bite to eat at the restaurant at our hotel, and then headed out. By the way, our hotel was a YMCA. It was gorgeous on the outside and in the lobby, but the rooms were, as mom put it, one step above a hostel. The beds were uncomfortable, and the room was boring. It was large, though. We had more space than we had had in any hotel before it. So on our first evening out, we went to Ben Yehuda, which is sort of a downtown pedestrian mall type place. Lots of jewelers, lots of little shops along the sides, lots of street performers, lots of restaurants. We went to a fantastic little restaurant tucked away into an alley called Adom. I got a burger. It was totally amazing. My favorite part was this aioli that they had...SO good! They served it with the bread, and i practically jumped for joy when I saw that it was on my burger, as well.
Thursday: Today we had a guided tour. Private tour guide. British, not exactly...kindly, but very funny, brisk, but smart, and she definitely knew what she was doing, and knew a lot about where she took us. We started out by going up the tower of our hotel. Usually, one couldn't go up, but because our guide used to work at the YMCA we stayed at, we could go. Then we went to see how the line was for getting into the Dome of the Rock. It was VERY long, so we didn't do that. We instead decided to go down to the old City of David. You see, where David made Jerusalem the Capital was not actually inside the walls of the present day Old City. They are excavating it, and we got to see what they have so far, including some tunnels and such. Then we went to the wall. It was really awesome, but I didn't feel THAT much. I prayed, but I prayed FOR something...You will understand later in the post. We went and got lunch real quick, right near by, and then headed back for the tour of the tunnels. See, they have done a lot of excavation of the wall. It goes way below what we actually see today, and they have created a tour to show what they have found so far. It was really cool. Then we went shopping. We went through the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian quarters. We saw this Armenian pottery shop in the Christian quarter. It was really gorgeous. Also, we went to a few of the stations of the cross, the ones we happened upon. For an afternoon break, we went to the Austrian hospice, which was one of my favorite parts. Not to sound shallow, but let me have a shallow moment for a sec: the guy working there was SERIOUSLY fantastically good looking. So anyway, we had coffee and struedel. As we left, the older (but still quite energetic) woman working there did a little magic trick type thing where I chose a sugar packet and she somehow made it seem as though a little gummy candy came out of the packet. It was so cute. Made me feel like a little girl again, but in a good way. I think I might have blushed...can't remember. Anyway, we then headed to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, which was pretty intense. Not much to say, though. I enjoyed it, but not as much as some of the gothic cathedrals in France. it felt so...not commercialized, but there were so many people, it was impossible for me to really get a vibe from it. We then parted ways with our tour guide and went to another restaurant called Chakra: another fantastic meal. I started with asparagus in a parmesan sauce, which was to die for, and then had a goat cheese ravioli with a really simple but delicious tomato sauce. I swear, some of the best food I have ever had in my life was in Israel, Jerusalem specifically. We walked home and went to bed.
Friday: We went to Yad Vashem today. If you don't know, this is the big Holocaust memorial/Museum right outside of Jerusalem. We had quite an experience with the cab driver...we had been warned to make them turn on the meter, to not let them convince us to pay the permanent fare. So we ge into this cab, and Dad yells at him to turn on the meter. Mom asks for the map to make sure he doesn't take us a long way. Once we get out, Dad pays him, and the cab driver is all, get out of my cab, i never want to see you again. I mean, he took the money, of course, but he was PISSED. So anyway, Yad Vashem. It was...i know I use this word a lot, but for lack of a better one, it was intense. They went through chronologically, and by the end I was so worn out...I didn't cry, though. I wasn't burdened, exactly, either. I saw it less as a depressing reminder, but almost as a...I don't even know how to explain it. It was depressing, yes. It was horrible. The videos of survivors were chilling. But I wasn't depressed coming out of it. I saw it more as a...look at this. All this happened. An entire government was out to kill us all (us being Jews, among others, but being Jewish, that's what I thought of), and what happened? We survived. Sure, our numbers were greatly decreased, but we still survived. We did this. We can do it again, if need be, God willing we will never need to. Afterwards, we decided to go to the market for the "affirmation of life" as Mom put it. It certainly worked. As it was a Friday afternoon, everybody was preparing for Shabbat. The market was packed. It was so much fun.
For lunch, I had a wonderful fried haloumi (cheese) sandwich. As we walked on, we got some bread, cheese, and nuts for a picnic dinner in front of our TV in the hotel room (we needed a break).
Saturday: We met up with Sid and Leah at the Old City today. We walked through the Armenian quarter, and then went back down to the Wall for a last hit. This time I didn't pray for anything. I just...stood there and sort of meditated on all the devotion around me. Since it was Shabbat morning, lots of people were there. All these women praying..it was intense. I slowly got more and more sucked in, until at one point I sort of woke up from a daze, and found myself COMPLETELY pressed against the stone, at all points of my body, as if I wanted it to absorb me. It was intense. This (along with Tzfat) were my two intense hits. After this we wandered through the Muslim quarter (it was actually open..) and did some shopping. Then we went out for yet another hummus-and-pita-lunch-with-Sid-and-Leah. Then we parted ways, and the three of us went back to the hotel room and chilled out for a while. Nothing would have been open, so why bother wandering around, right? As the sun went down, we went out. We went back to Ben Yehuda. We had no idea where we would eat, but we just sort of wandered around. There was so much going on. There was a group of Chasidim dancing with a flag that said "Moshiach" (Messiah) on it. There were drummers. Street performers. It was really fun. But that was only the beginning. We went to a cafe called Cafe Rimonim. I guess I had been having a bad night, or was in a bad mood or something because I remember mom making me get a milkshake to make me feel better. Cookies and Cream. SO GOOD. So slowly, as we sat there eating (or in my case gulping), we saw the city slowly come alive again after being so still for Shabbos. We walked around some more. It was so crowded...I loved it. This might have been my favorite night...finally, around midnight, we walked back to the hotel and crashed.
Sunday: We got up and caught a (much more pleasantly driven) cab to the Israel museum where we saw the Shrine of the Book, which is where some of the Dead Sea scrolls are displayed, and where it gives all the information we have about those who wrote them. It was really interesting, although it did get a bit boring after a while. It was an awesome day, really windy, sort of overcast, rained a bit occasionally. My hair looked awesome.. So anyway, we saw that and then we sat in the gardens for a while and looked at the sculpture until we met up with Miriam in the garden. Miriam was my Hebrew school teacher last year. The cooles one I had, pretty much the reason I went every week (I didn't go every week, but if I did it was because of her). It was really great to see her again. So the four of us went to see the scaled down version of what they believe the Second Temple looked like, and then we went to this art display they had going. Miriam and I sort of split from my parents and most of the time just sat and chatted about life. About everything, really. Moving, school, acting, boys, friends, parents, life. It was great to catch up. I loved it because I almost felt like I was talking to my equal. I mean, not in experience, of course, but it was like, our age difference hardly mattered. I felt totally comfortable talking about everything. So afterwards, she took us to this little bookshop/cafe in the upstairs of a building for an early dinner before we caught our flight out. I had spaghetti with parsley, roasted garlic (apparently I smelled the entire trip home), and olive oil with two little cakes of sun dried tomato ricotta on top. Like I said, some of the best food ever in Jerusalem...The cafe was totally adorable. The four of us got to chat a lot. It was really relaxed and nice. Mom mentioned how the trip began and ended with Miriam: she was the one who sort of put the idea in our heads that we should go, and she was the last person we met with before leaving. It was bittersweet saying goodbye, but we might see her this summer, and I am quite certain that our paths will cross again at some point. So then we finished packing (all the last bits) and got on a shuttle to the airport. Now, Ben Gurion is known to have some of the best security in the world, and I don't doubt it, but what I found impressive was that they really didn't do that much. Our bags weren't searched in front of us. We had to go through metal detectors, of course, and out bags were scanned, but there really wasnt much other than that, and we got through really fast. Somebody on mom's travel boards said that at that airport, they don't search luggage, the check people. We did have a man come over and ask us questions about why we visitted, who we saw, where we had been, etc etc. Really, it was the easiest security I have ever been through, but my faith in there ability isn't tarnished at all. I hold them in the highest respect, and think they must have something down since it is considered so safe to fly through there. ANYWAY enough about security. We sat for a while in the lounge, and then got on a plane home. It was sad. I didn't really want to leave. I slept a lot more on the plane ride back. Watched..Dan in Real Life, Enchanted, and Becoming Jane, again. James McAvoy is fantabulous. So we got home at 9ish on Monday morning, and I pretty much lazed around and did homework the rest of the day. And that was that.

1 comment:

The Unix Geek said...

The part about the fields and the Syrian bombs is really quite sad. Your descriptions are wonderful, and the part about "Peter's Fish" is funny. You make me want to visit Israel.

Now, do you feel it is more of a place to live in or is it more of a tourist place?