Updated: Nov 4
Day 1 (June 23, 2018)
The dance show was sold out, so decided to see the sunset. I thought I had plenty of time, but I didn’t.
Day 2 (June 24, 2018)
Started with breakfast on the beach. Met my group and had our first meal together... on the beach.
Day 3 (June 25, 2018)
First full day of tour. Wow! Went to Jaffa - saw Iliana Goor’s home, artwork, Museum. Saw the Egyptian port entry. Lunch at an Arab Palestinian Christian’s home. Saw the Bauhaus architecture. Simple with balconies. Carmel market. Happy hour on roof. Dinner at ultra orthodox Jewish home. They actually use modern medical blood tests to avoid diseases before they get married… interesting.
Right: Christian Arab - Doris
Left: The Cinema Hotel - where we stayed.
Right: Ultra orthodox host (I forgot her name)
Day 4 (June 26, 2018)
Left: Yitzhak Rabin Memorial. Our guide Lior, who is amazing!
Right: Caesarea - wow! Seeing things 2000 years old! Saw a current archeological dig. The amphitheater could sit 5000.
Left: The hotel
Right: Baha’i gardens
Left: Dinner at Fatoush in Haifa
Middle & Right: Lunch on the olive farm. Made pita bread. Wow! What a trip!!
Day 5 (June 27, 2018)
📍Tzfat , Nazareth, Haifa
Today came with a walking tour of a synagogue that was over 1000 years old, a talk from a Kabbalah Rabbi - so interesting - in Tzfat. On to Nazareth - Enunciation spot (did have to ask what that was). An amazing Arab sweet treat called Kannafa. Then back to Haifa and dinner at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the sea. We are in another beautiful hotel.
Day 6 (June 28, 2018)
📍Akko Old Town - Israel
Top Left: The time period - so humbling. The Israelites were around 1200 BC - so humbling.
Top Right: This huge “building” was a hospital in the Crusader period. It was only uncovered in the 1960s.
Bottom Left: I was told recently that I had a great sense of fashion. Look at me now... before going into the mosque.
Bottom Right: A mosque.
Left & Middle: Grotto near the Lebanese border.
Right: Israeli soldier right on the border to Lebanon.
This is the Israeli defense station, literally right next to the Lebanon border. Lebanon is on the other side of the barb wire.
Day 7 (June 29, 2018)
The Kibbutz in the Golden Heights - overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better... it does. I am sitting on the porch of my darling cabin eating breakfast while overlooking the sea. The red sign shows where the mines are left from the Syrians - where you cannot go. The kibbutz were established along the borders. It is so idealic that is hard to imagine any danger. They make their living from agriculture, tourism, and they own a factory that makes valves for water pipes. They are treating us royally. Took a jacuzzi last night, brought in the Shabbat and even went for a drink with my new friend at the pub.... who would have thought...
Day 8 (June 30, 2018)
Left: Breakfast brought to my cabin - ate overlooking the Sea of Galilee on my porch.
Middle: Hiking in Gabala (Camel mountain) - 9000 people were slaughtered here by the Romans. In 1967 the Israelis took over the Golon Heights because the Syrians were bombing citizens. When you are here you can see why they had to take it - otherwise Israel is at the bottom of a mountain an extremely easy target.
Right: Went to where the Yom Kippur war was fought in 1973. Saw a movie about the war at a kibbutz that produces movies. Israel was surprised, outnumbered and the Syrians had much better tanks. But somehow the Israelis managed to keep the Golan Heights and push them back after 3 weeks.
We were right on the Syrian border. Could hear the bombings. This was the Valley of Tears.
Then we went to a Drew house (not Jew/Drew) and had an amazing Syrian meal. These were Syrians that have lived where they are for many years and used to be part of Syria but are now part of Israel. They are very educated and very wealthy. They chose not to become Israeli citizens because it would feel like they were abandoning their Syrian roots. However, Drew’s in Haifa did become citizens.
Ended the day at Lior’s home where we met his family. He is a resident, not a member, of the kibbutz next door to the one we’re at. It is a lovely child centered lifestyle. They just moved into their house two weeks ago. They are required by code to have a safe room with walls that are 2 feet think, chemical neatrilzers etc. that is their son’s room. Got carried away...maybe some of you will find this interesting. I am totally fascinated and attentive to every word.
Day 9 (July 1, 2018)
Woke up with a dove outside my cabin.
The kibbutz- overlooking the Sea of Galilee. One of the most serene peaceful places I have ever been and so kid friendly - but it is right on the Syrian border all houses are required to have a “safe room.”
Left: A Synagogue from the 1300 century.
Middle: A boat ride on the Sea of Galilee (which by the way is really a lake)
Right: Dancing on the boat.
Left: People being baptized in the River Jordan.
Middle: My feet in the river.
Right: Jerusalem - I’ll get better pics later.
This boat was found in 1986 and is 2000 years old. It is made out of 12 different types of wood. It was fascinating how they had to preserve it. They had to excavate it by hand so it wouldn’t disintegrate and contained it in plexiglass. Then floated it in the Sea.
Day 10 (July 2, 2018)
This was a day in Jerusalem. It was so fascinating! We went to the wailing wall and underground to follow the wall below. We followed Christ’s path and where he supposedly was crucified etc.
We went out into the Muslim section. It is all so intertwined with so much emotion attached. It is sacred to all the major religions.
A church was built on top of where the holy temple had been and then a mosque was built on top of that. It was so interesting to see one building: with a different faith on different parts. It was a synagogue in one part, a church in another and a mosque in another.
There are 4 quarters of the old city, each with it’s own very closed society.
Day 11 (July 3, 2018)
Today we went to the Holocaust Museum. It was so moving but I was unable to take pictures. We met a survivor who told us her story. She was six years old when she lost her family and was taken to the camps. She somehow survived against amazing odds. She was on the cattle cars, hid among the dead bodies and more. She was ultimately adopted by an American family. I bought her book. She talks about how she was saved by all these different women. She had typhus. She was able to track down all kinds of records to recreate her journey. She went on to have something like 4 children, 12 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren and was married for 56 years. She actually had a very positive personality. I can’t wait to read her book.
Then Lior surprised us and brought us to the Hadassah Hospital. Here anybody including Syrians will receive treatment free of charge. Within the hospital is a synagogue with 12 windows by Marc Chagalle. There was a audio that explained all the symbolism. Gorgeous!
Then off to the market where we were sent on a scavenger hunt. My partner and I had to buy a lottery ticket. Wish us luck!
And the day is not over yet - off to dinner.
Day 12 (July 4, 2018)
Today we started back at the wailing wall where people leave their sincere prayers in the cracks. Saw rocks from the original temple 3000 years ago.
Went to the City of David (David you are named after a very powerful man) from 1004BCE (3000 years ago!)
Then went to the Israeli museum and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls (no pics) but they were found in 1945 and are 2000 years old. Impressive! A whole building built just to house them. Tells so much about the life back then.
Went to Bethlehem inside of the Palestinian section. Lior could not bring us because Israeli citizens are not allowed in. We had Malid (not as good as Lior). He is a Muslim Palestinian. When I asked him how his life was with rights and restrictions he clammed right up and would not talk about it. What a different feeling. There were beggars that would not leave us alone. Children begging, men pleading “please buy this cloth. I have 5 children to feed.” Etc.
We saw the place of Jesus birth and where the manger was and the three wise men’s alter. It was not that impressive to me. Everything sort of run down. Being renovated by the international community. There were three churches on the site: Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic.
The traffic was unbelievable! We never would have gotten our big bus out if it weren’t for the kid directing traffic. He was really helpful, but wanted to sell wallets to make money. Can you imagine sending your child out into the streets to earn $? As I said a different world. Although it is the birthplace of Christ it is 70% Muslim. We heard the call for prayer while we were there.
Went out for a fabulous dinner with my new friends (did not put pics because that is too ordinary).
Jerusalem is hopping at 11:00 pm.
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Wanted to include this one. The holes in the wall are ancient graves and then the Palestinian homes are built right on top.
A few Jews have bought homes in the Arab section for a huge amount of $. The Arab selling it then has to flee and can never come back. The Jew needs to be escorted with an armed truck to his home.
Also I did not get a pic from the bus (Palestinian side) but you could see the wall dividing the Palestinians from the Israelis and it was loaded with graffiti- in particular a huge picture of Trump with a big X through it.
Lior says it is a big issue: when the Israelites give them cement for houses they send back “gifts”, when they give them electricity they use it to send “gifts”. A dilemma. Plus they have so many children. And would get outnumbered. What should Israel do? As Lior says, “It is an open question.”
There is no mixing of the cultures and all the major religions have a claim to Jerusalem since all major religions have history there. I am saying there are distinct cultures however individuals interact just as they would here, as people. Our driver is Muslim as well. It is obvious the Lior and Chalile, our driver, are friends and have a mutual respect. Well better get to sleep. I am getting carried away.
Day 13 (July 5, 2018)
Started the day with a Palestinian speaker. The Palestinians have actually never had a country. They are more of a geographical group. Interesting to hear his perspective. There are so many problems and issues here. With every possible solution there are different perspectives. Lior always says, “It depends on which glasses you put on.” The Palestinians can be various religions and have been under many different countries’ rules. They are more of a geographical group. They want a separate state that would be economical viable with a port and an airport. However, water is so scarce here that hardly seems likely.
The other issues are they do not have full citizenship rights. They would very quickly over populate the Jews due to their much higher birthrate if given that. Later in the day we went to the West Bank. Who owns its? The Palestinians are very upset with the Jewish settlements and there are places that Israeli citizens can not go. You will see a sign that I took a pic of on the West Bank. On the other hand, they are just sort of neighborhoods outside of Jerusalem, that are less expensive than living in Jerusalem. The mayor of Jerusalem lives there.
Our Day: Today was an optional tour so we were down to 8. So glad I went. Definitely a hike in the afternoon. Saw church of John the Baptist. There is a mosque directly on top of it. (Israel will not destroy places of worship), but the emotional and religious issues are evident again. The spring is right here where people gather for water. One thing gets built on top of another. It is all so intertwined. We saw the monastery where the Benedictine monks live and take care of the places of worship. The ancient area is still there with the old olive press and cave. Just as I was getting a bit “churched out,” an interesting twist. Belushi an Italian architect inserted himself in the murals of the church. Apparently the Catholic Church was not happy, but it’s nice to see a bit of humor. (See 2nd pic below). He’s there with his bow tie among all the ancient people.
Then Lior surprised us with a concert in a beautiful garden by Lieshieh, which means “my present.” He played the Ute, an instrument from Iraq and Persia. He is a Jew from Israel. The songs were handed down and spoke of the longing of the Jews to return to their homeland. Such a special treat!
Lunch in a beautiful restaurant.
Then onto Herod the Great’s fortress built in 4BCE. If you remember he also built Ceasria. He may have been brutal, but he was also amazing. What he built back then was beyond belief and so much has been restored and much is still original. He created a mountain by bringing land from other parts of the land. There was a spa, caves, cistern (for water) and he had his mosoleum there. It was a real hike up with tons of stairs. The caves were built mainly as defense. The Jews took it over after. Herod the great, although he was a Jew himself, was terrible to the Jews and pushed them out. Again history on top of more history.
This is where we saw the West Bank and the settlements from the top of the mountain. Then out to dinner.
There was a light show in Old Jerusulum this week. So fun! Like a big carnival with light productions all over the place. An amazing array of people! Like a carnival. Very festive. Despite what you hear about the dangers. It is just not like that in everyday life.
Day 14 (July 6, 2018)
Friday: We went to the Garden of Yatsevi (not sure of spelling) but an important Christian site. It is looking across at the gate that remains closed until either the Messiah arrives (Judaism) or the second coming of the Messiah (Christianity). All the religions converging again, built on top of each other in the same spot. Some of the oldest trees in the world - olive tree over 1000 years old. Served as “witnesses.”
On to Ein Geri nature Reserve. This is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. There was a community of celibate monks that took ritual baths before gathering for meals. John the Baptist supposedly lived among them for a while. The scrolls were found in caves in jugs.
Then onto Masada. King Herod the Great built this amazing fortress on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. It is awe inspiring to think how it was done back in that time. A lot of slaves for sure. You can see so much of the original structures with the food storage area and baths. There is still some original fresco work. If you remember from Cessaria, King Herod the Great, who built some amazing things throughout the land was brutal to the Jews. It was taken by the Jews in 66 Ad. This was the last place to fall into the hands of the Romans. We stood on top looking down at the long path up the mountain. Lior had us imagine that you were a Jew seeing your brother or family member as a slave helping the Romans. There were 6000 Romans and 1000 Jews. It was certain death, slavery, and their wives and children would have been raped and murdered. They decided to kill their own wives and children then each other to avoid that fate. So when the Romans came they were all dead. I could almost feel the dilemma from on top of the mountain.
Then to the Dead Sea. That is me floating on the Dead Sea. It is like being in a relaxing hot tub, but you have to avoid getting it in your eyes and mouth. It is 30% solid minerals.
An amazing buffet dinner followed by music in the lounge.
Day 15 (July 7, 2018)
Our last day. What an amazing experience. Our group was very special. There were people from all different backgrounds and religions but everyone was intelligent and respectful. We became like a family with our group of 16. I will miss that comradely. Everyone said we were a special group. I made some friends I intend to keep for life. I was hesitant about taking a tour. I am a free spirit and thought I would have a problem with following a leader but I loved it! I never got lost. I saw more than I ever could have imagined. I learned more than I have in years. I had surprises. My arrangements were all set. It was a delight!
I woke up to the sunrise over the Dead Sea.
We went to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Saw Ibexes, Mountain Goats, and “Israeli elephants”, which looked a heck of lot more like a groundhog than an elephant to me. But Lior says they are genetically closely related. I guess I’ll believe him as he seems to know everything.
There were caves chiseled into the rocks that were inhabited by hermits seeking a spiritual path. The story of David and Saul happened in Ein Gedi. (More details if requested). The caves were most likely right on the water. With erosion and evaporation they are now raised. (I just realized I did not put a pic of the caves. I will.) We went up to the waterfall. What an absolute joy, especially after being in the dessert so many days.
This picture is my favorite:
We went back to Tel Aviv, had one last fabulous meal with friends, and I fly home tomorrow.
These are the caves chiseled into the mountains in Ein Gedi where the spiritual seekers went to get closer to God.
Thank you for reading my blog.
I hope you enjoyed my trip to Israel!
More to come.
-Susan R. Schlank