A Favorite Place: Jalan Bisma – Ubud, Bali

A new organic garden is at the end of Jalan Bisma!

We love Ubud; our favorite road in this Bali town is Jalan Bisma. You’ll see why.

Near the town center, Jalan Bisma includes a good mixture of rice fields, home stays, restaurants, and spas.  Our favorite place to stay there is Vera Accommodation; we like the sunny rooms, great breakfasts, very reasonable price, and wonderful family.

BismaVeraroomsw

Vera Accommodation, within a Bali family compound, has five rooms for rent.  We first stayed here when John was nine – and we’ve been back four more times.

BismaVeradeckw

View from our deck at Vera’s

BismaVeraRoomw

Our room is light and airy

From the desk in our sunny room, we look out onto rice fields.

BismaPlantingw

When we first arrived, we could watch from our windows a farmer planting rice.

The rice –which is an important staple in the Balinese diet – grows quickly.

A rice field along Jalan Bisma

A rice field along Jalan Bisma

BismaDucksw

Ducks crossing Bisma Road to go from one rice field to another.

BismaKidsKitesw

Boys playing with their kites near the end of Jalan Bisma.

BismaRaeggew

The Bisma Reggae band plays here–and serves good noodles.

At night, Barry and I would often wander over to the reggae place for the music and noodles.

Although I would never let a dog get up on a table especially if I am eating,  one night a friendly dog came up for a few pats while we sat at Bisma Reggae.  The Bali dog wasn’t begging, but perhaps that is because we were eating vegetable noodles and not pork ribs :) .   He proceeded to climb up, curl up at the end of our table, and nap for a bit  before trotting off down Bisma Road :) .

Dog-and-Barryw

The friendly dog at the end of our table .  Nalu, don’t get any ideas that you can do this.  :)

Uma Sari pool - clean, air conditioned, friendly staff (see Made), reasonable price, breakfast included -- and on Jalan Bisma

Across the street from Vera’s – the Uma Sari pool – clean, air conditioned, friendly staff (see Made), reasonable price, breakfast included — and on Jalan Bisma

Gail enjoying the Uma Sari pool

Gail, our friend from Seattle, enjoying the Uma Sari pool

Ganesha protects travelers and residents - here at Uma Sari on Jalan Bisma.

Ganesha protects travelers and residents – here at Uma Sari on Jalan Bisma.

Rice field harvest - along Jalan Bisma.

Rice field harvest – along Jalan Bisma.

Harvesters

Harvesters

View from our room at Vera Accommodation.

View from our room at Vera Accommodation – harvested rice fields.

Ducks are an important part of the ecology of the rice fields - along Jalan Bisma.

Ducks are an important part of the ecology of the rice fields – along Jalan Bisma.

Jalan Bisma ducks.

Jalan Bisma ducks.

Even the slugs along Jalan Bisma are beautiful

Even the slugs along Jalan Bisma are beautiful

Birds whirl over the rice fields near sunset

Birds whirl over the Jalan Bisma rice fields near sunset

Ubud is a center for yoga of all kinds, so of course, Jalan Bisma has a  yoga site.

Spiritual Evolution!

Spiritual Evolution!

At Vera Accommodation, August presents the offerings.

At Vera Accommodation, August sometimes presents the offerings

The Balinese practice their religion and traditions each day.  It isn’t for show.  Whether tourists are there or not, the Balinese make offerings to their gods each day.

August at the family temple.

August at the family temple.

Krishna, Ayu, Dewa, and Barry on the path from Vera Accommodation to Jalan Bisma.

Krishna, Ayu, Dewa, and Barry on the path from Vera Accommodation to Jalan Bisma.

Ayu and August at Vera Accommodation.  Made's paintings are on the wall.

Ayu and August at Vera Accommodation. Made’s paintings are on the wall.

Dewa and Barry hanging out at Vera Accommodation.

Dewa and Barry hanging out at Vera Accommodation.

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Tofu Rica – my choice – at Nick’s on Jalan Bisma.

At Nick's Pension on Jalan Bisma.

At Nick’s Pension on Jalan Bisma. We also use Nick’s beautiful pool

At the end of Jalan Bisma - on the main road, you'll find the chef's place: Warung Boga Sari, a favorite

At the end of Jalan Bisma – on the main road, you’ll find the chef’s place: Warung Boga Sari, a favorite

Vegetable sewers xxx with peanut sauce - yummy - at Boga Sari

Grilled vegetable and pineapple skewers with peanut sauce – yummy – at Boga Sari

The fresh salad with mango at Boga Sari

The fresh salad with mango at Boga Sari

Along Jalan Bisma

Along Jalan Bisma

New buildings are going up to accommodate tourists.  Many of the laborers in Ubud now are women from Java

New buildings are going up to accommodate tourists. Many of the laborers in Ubud now are women from Java

A new restaurant on the Jalan Bisma rice fields.  The owner invited Barry to come play the available guitar any time. :)

A new restaurant on the Jalan Bisma rice fields. The owner invited Barry to come play the available guitar any time. :)

A new organic garden is at the end of Jalan Bisma!

A new organic garden is at the end of Jalan Bisma!

A few humble places still remain along Jalan Bisma

A few humble places still remain along Jalan Bisma

Jalan Bisma also has tourist agencies, high-end shops, and even a charity to raise money for the Sumatra chimpanzee xx

Jalan Bisma also has tourist agencies, high-end shops, and even a charity to raise money for the Sumatra orangutans

Among many other tourist enterprises on Jalan Bisma, you’ll see Honeymoon Bakery, the Honeymoon Guest House, a backpacker’s hostel, and Lily’s Spa – where you can get a 60-minute good massage for about $6.00.  And the rice fields are still there and enough wildlife to attract birders.

Bird watchers on Jalan Bisma

Bird watchers on Jalan Bisma

When you go to Ubud, be sure to check out Jalan Bisma.  You are likely to love it.

Aloha & Sanpai jumpa, Renée

Angola Update: The Not So Good News

Angola - from

A few months ago,  our “Barry’s Gleaning” post reported good news about Angola and the building going on there to create good housing for those who had been living in slums near the capital city of Luanda.  The source was the China Daily, a Nov. 17, 2014 article, “Changing the face of real estate in Angola” by Li Jing in the business section.  What the Chinese have accomplished in Angola was presented in glowing terms.

The China Daily article notes:

“With its abundance of resources that include crude oil, diamonds and gold, the southern African nation has seen scores of China’s State-owned enterprises and private companies enter its borders hoping for an economic opportunity.

In 2008, CITIC Construction Co, a State-owned enterprise and one of the largest construction companies in the world, joined the nation’s reconstruction efforts.  [See the CITIC website:<http://www.cici.citic.com/iwcm/cici/en/ns:LHQ6MTc1LGY6NDM5LGM6LHA6LGE6LG06/channel.vsml]

‘We are an active and responsible player in the country’s post-war reconstruction process,’ says Liu Guigen, president of the African regional division of CITIC Construction . . .

That year, the company won a bid to build housing in Kilamba Kiaxi, one of the capital city of Luanda’s six urban districts that is located 30 kilometers from downtown. . . .

Last year, the $10 billion project was completed with a total of 20,000 residential homes, 200 retail stores, 24 kindergartens, nine primary schools and eight middle schools. CITIC claims 90 percent of the homes are already occupied.”

That article sounds wonderful and a win-win situation for the Chinese company and the people of Angola.

However,  we’ve found another view that emphasizes the importance of questioning all your sources and not being too sure about what you read.

Travel writer Paul Theroux has quite damning things to say about the Chinese builders in his book The Last Train to Zona Verde:

The Last Train to Zona Verde - The Guardian describes the book as

The Last Train to Zona Verde

In a book review for The Guardian, Robin McKie says The Last Train to Zona Verde is “uncompromising and unsettling.”  <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jun/01/train-zone-verde-theroux-review>  This accurately describes Theroux’s  look at the Chinese in Angola:

“The first Chinese workers to arrive in Angola were criminals, prisoners of the Chinese justice system–thieves, rapists, dissidents, deserters, and worse, an echo of the earliest immigration from Portugal.  . . . The first workers the Chinese sent were convicts shipped in chains, to work off their sentences in forced labor.  Angola, having begun as a penal colony of the Portuguese, became just recently a penal colony for the Chinese.  These Chinese convicts were the labor force for China-Angola development projects–the ugly oversized pastel buildings, the coastal roads, the dredging of the del-water port of Lobito–and after they had served their sentences, the agreement was that they would remain in Angola.  Presumably, like the Portuguese degredados, they would elevate themselves to the bourgeoisie or a higher class of parvenu.

Possibly, again like the Portuguese convicts, the Chinese would become the loudest racists, and for the same reason. ‘The inferiority complex of the uneducated criminal settler population contributed to a virulent form of white racism among the Portuguese, which affected all classes from top to bottom,’ the political historian Lawrence Henderson wrote of the early settlers.  The Portuguese convicts became the most brutal employers and the laziest farmers, and a sizable number turned furiously respectable, in the way atoning whores become sermonizing and pitiless nuns.

After the first wave of Chinese convicts (‘We started seeing them around 2006, a man in Luanda was later to tell me), more shiploads of semiskilled Chinese workers arrived.  As with the early Portuguese convicts, they were all men.  Then, a few years later, women were allowed to work in Angola”  (282-283).

. . . “Some Africa watchers and Western economists have observed that the Chinese presence in Africa–a sudden intrusion–is salutary and will result in greater development and more opportunities for Africans. Seeing Chinese digging into Africa, isolated in their enterprises, offhand with Africans to the point of rudeness and deaf to any suggestion that they moderate their self-serving ways, I tend to regard this positive view as a crock.  My own feeling is that like the other adventurers in Africa, the Chinese are exploiters.  They have no compact or agreement or involvement with the African people; third is an alliance with the dictators and bureaucrats whom they pay off and allow to govern abusively–a conspiracy.

Theirs is a racket like those of all the previous colonizers, and it will end badly–maybe worse, because the Chinese are tenacious, richer, and for them there is no going back and no surrender.  As they walked into Tibet and took over (with not a voice of protest raised by anyone in the West), they are walking into the continent and, outspending any other adventurer, subverting Africans, with a mission to plunder” (265).

*****

Theroux’s view is a good reminder to question everything.  Is the China Daily’s glowing view correct or Theroux’s point of view?  Obviously, we need more than those two accounts.

Have you been there?  What do you know?

Aloha, Renée

Thought for the Day: Tattoo – Pray

Bruce Lee quotation.

Bruce Lee quotation.

Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one

–  Bruce Lee

This message is tattooed on Colin’s arm.  Originally from New Zealand, Colin has been working in Australia and was vacationing in Bali.  After a class at the Yoga Barn in Ubud, Colin showed me this good message!

Aloha & Sanpai jumpa, Renée

Bali’s Very Special Dog – Perhaps the oldest dog breed on Earth: Barry’s Gleanings

A wonderful companion - the Bali Dog

“Bali’s Very Special Dog” by Ibu Kat

“Visitors to Bali often comment on the many dogs roaming the streets and guarding the gates to family compounds. Because of the wide variation in colouring they are often mistaken for mutts or mongrels, but in fact the Bali Dog is a distinct breed. Researchers at the University of California Davis believe that the Bali Dog, with its unique and valuable gene pool may be the oldest dog on earth.

The Bali Dog - comes in many colors.  It may be the oldest breed on Earth

The Bali Dog – comes in many colors. It may be the oldest breed on Earth

Between 2000 and 2003, Dr. Niels Pederson from the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at University fo California Davis led a team that tested the DNA of 3,500 indigenous dogs from all over Bali. Bali has two unique indigenous dogs, the Bali Dog and the highland Kintamani which have been living on the island virtually unaltered for at least 5,000 years. Genetic research shows that the ancestry of the Bali Dog can be traced back about 15,000 years.

According to Dr. Pederson, Bali’s dogs are the richest pool of genetic diversity of all the dogs on the world. ‘The true pure canine breed is the indigenous Bali Dog,’ said Dr. Pedersen. ‘Its lineage goes all the way back to the first proto-dogs that evolved from the wolves. Their genes are highly valuable for further research, as they are a window on the ancestral dog.’

A Bali Dog walks along the rice fields

A Bali Dog walks along the rice fields

Although expats and tourists become emotional about vanishing species such as the orangutan, Bali Starling, Java rhino and the many other creatures which are rapidly disappearing across Indonesia, the ubiquitous Bali Dog remains invisible to conservationists. There seem to be so many of them – too many, some say. Yet this precious and unique pool of DNA is quickly becoming contaminated by the introduction of imported dogs.

Because the Bali Dog is not yet a formally recognized breed, it is not being bred for purity. After thousands of years of uncontaminated DNA, the Bali Dog is now under threat from casual inbreeding with imported dogs. The so-called “breed dogs” are a status symbol here, but many are products of uncontrolled puppy mills where extreme inbreeding is the norm. Casual interbreeding with imported dogs introduces their weaker genes. The Bali Dog is so genetically diverse, it presents many different ear and tail types as well as colours.

A Bali Dog - at Kitty Villa

A Bali Dog (brown with a black muzzle and face) –  safe at Villa Kitty near Ubud, Bali

[Villa Kitty, a rescue and adoption site especially for cats and kittens, is run by the fabulous Elizabeth and her caring staff.  They rescue dogs too.

Every Sunday, Villa Kitty offers a great meal as a fundraiser to anyone interested in visiting the facility near Ubud.  <http://www.villakitty.com>]

The Bali Dog may be black or white, or white with black or brown spots or patches of various sizes. There’s a wide variety of beautiful brindles including grey and black, solid brown with caramel and black stripes, and the more common sandy brown variety with black stripes. The most unusual colours for a Bali Dog are pure golden and grey. Also rare and highly sought after for ceremonial sacrifice is the un-neutered male pure brown variety with a black muzzle and face. [Yikes, I don’t know if this is still happening. I hope not!]. Genetic testing proves that regardless of the wide range of colour and markings, all these dogs shared the same pure DNA pool.

Bali Dogs make wonderful pets. Once the owner has won its trust, it can be highly trained. This is naturally a very clean dog and many owners claim that it seems to house train itself from an early age.   The breed is extremely adaptable to many situations and climates, even growing a thicker coat when moved to colder parts of the world. Its wide genetic diversity makes it immune to the diseases and genetic disorders typical of selectively bred dogs. If well looked after, the breed can live over 16 years. There are stories of Bali Dogs traveling many miles across country to return to their original homes.

A Bali Dog

A Bali Dog

Although they like to run in packs and make a lot of noise, the breed is seldom aggressive and bites are rare if the dog is not provoked. They hate to be confined and can easily clear walls of over three meters [almost 10 feet] high, from the tops of which they also like to survey their territory. They’re commonly known as ‘street dogs’ because of their love of running free and socializing with each other, and although they many seem feral almost all Bali Dogs are in fact owned. They’re commonly seen hanging out in the doorways of their home compounds, alert to intruders. These dogs are smart and funny and often have huge personalities. They are great guard dogs, their distinctive barks alerting their owners to different kinds of intruders (‘Snake!’ ‘Stranger!’ ‘Evil Spirits!’).

Before plastic arrived in Bali, these dogs played an important part in the ecosystem by consuming the organic waste. Enthusiastic ratters, they also had a strong role in managing the rodent population on the island. When the government started culling dogs after the 2008 rabies outbreak, the rice harvest in some areas where the dogs had been eliminated was destroyed by the uncontrolled rat population. Bali Dogs also keep snakes and other unwelcome wildlife away from the house.

Because of the heat and huminity xx, many of the Bali dogs suffer with skin problems.

Because of the heat and humidity, some of the Bali dogs suffer with skin problems – even if they are owned.  This Bali Dog got all of Chris’s and Barry’s leftover rib bones.  That didn’t help his skin, but he started looking for us :)

So if you’re in the market for a dog, why not choose the breed with the oldest and strongest genetic heritage, best adapted to the local climate, a terrific guard dog and a smart, funny companion – the Bali Dog.

A wonderful companion - the Bali Dog

A wonderful companion – the Bali Dog

To adopt a Bali Dog or if you see an injured dog on the street, call BAWA at 081 1389004 or BARC at 0361 975 038. [These organizations are doing wonderful work in educating people and in rescuing dogs].  Remember that these are charities, so please make a donation when you take a rescued dog in for care.”

Written by Ibu Kat in UbudLife No. 21 Dec. – Feb. 2015, p. 68-69.

Aloha & Sanpai jumpa, Renée

Barry’s Gleanings: Wine is Healthy – Here’s Why

A glass of wine with friends at sunset - wonderful

Since alcohol often doesn’t do good things for a person’s brain, I’ve  wondered why wine is often touted as healthy – being good for your heart and a way to burn fat.  A Danish study may explain the paradox.

“In 2002, four Danish scientists began examining grocery receipts. This may sound like a waste of taxpayer dollars, but in fact it was the kind of experiment other scientists describe as “elegant.” For years, science had been grappling with the unexplained health benefits of wine—wine drinkers seemed more resistant to coronary heart disease and certain cancers, but no one knew why.

Predictably, there was a large-scale effort to rip wine apart in search of whatever compound was working its peculiar magic on the human body and turn it into a pill. (Resveratrol was one). The Danish group came at it from a different angle. They didn’t need a gas chromatograph. They needed receipts. They wanted to know what else all those healthy wine drinkers were buying when they visited the supermarket.

Altogether, they examined 3.5 million transactions from 98 supermarkets. They found that wine drinkers didn’t shop the same way as beer drinkers. Wine drinkers were more likely to place olives, low-fat cheese, fruits and vegetables, low-fat meat, spices, and tea in their carts. Beer drinkers, on the other hand, were more likely to reach for the chips, ketchup, margarine, sugar, ready-cooked meals, and soft drinks.

Perhaps the health of wine drinkers isn’t caused by wine so much as by the fact that wine drinkers like wine in the first place. The greatest predictor of health, these results suggest, doesn’t come down to this or that nutrient. It comes down to what a person finds delicious.”

–Adapted from The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzker   in “Very Short Book Excerpt – Vino Veritas” June 2015 The Atlantic Monthly (p. 17).

Pass the fine cheese and grilled vegetables.

A glass of wine with friends at sunset - wonderful

A glass of wine with friends at sunset – wonderful

Aloha & Cheers, Barry & Renée

Servas Israel Tour – Bethlehem, Palestinian Authority, Servas Goodbye, and Evolving Thoughts

Israel
CHRISTMAS IN ISRAEL WITH SERVAS

I speak neither Hebrew nor Arabic.  I’m neither Jewish nor Muslim.  I try to live Quaker concepts: equality, justice, simplicity, service, integrity, pacifism, and seek the light of God within each person.  Although Christian, I like Hindu ideas (of  karma and an understanding that many paths lead to the top of the mountain) and Buddhist views (of compassion and right work).  I graduated from Horton Watkins High School with its about 95% Jewish students; I admire the emphasis on learning.  Barry, my husband, comes from a Jewish family.  One stepmother was Jewish.  I’ve read Anne Frank, Sarah’s Key, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, seen Shindler’s List, . . . and gone to the Holocaust Museum in Frankfort.   We have good  friends who live in Jerusalem and are Israeli. In other words, I have a pro-Jewish point of view.

But I also love the poetry and stories of  Naomi Shihab Nye, whose father was Palestinian and mother American.  And we’ve met good people everywhere we’ve traveled.    Although the U.S. news about Israel is usually grim, Barry and I were very interested in what we would find as we participated in the Christmas in Israel Servas 2014 Tour.

So what do I think now after my five weeks in Israel?

I’m more conflicted than before. Perhaps a reason it’s taken me so long to write about this great trip (besides being busy) is because much about Israel is complex.   Our final day tour with some of the other Servas members was a trip to Bethlehem, controlled by the Palestinian Authority.   That day revealed the complexity and contrast in several ways.

The map shows how the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and Gaza are situated within Israel, a country about the size of the U.S. state of New Jersey.  Note how the Arab countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt border Israel:

Israel

Israel

https://www.google.com/search?q=maps+of+israel+palestine&biw=1440&bih=682&tbm=isch&imgil=vt7l1KebrytSuM%253A%253BT3eSLKz1IilShM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.pbs.org%25252Ffrontlineworld%25252Fstories%25252Fpalestine503%25252Fadditional.html&source=iu&pf=m&fir=vt7l1KebrytSuM%253A%252CT3eSLKz1IilShM%252C_&usg=__puMbXYo6aVb3OB4A22OGtkry_3E%3D&ved=0CCsQyjc&ei=MDacVbDqL4K5oQSkxIHoDQ#imgrc=jv4Kp0F98kM2ZM%3A&usg=__puMbXYo6aVb3OB4A22OGtkry_3E%3D

Before we went to Bethlehem, we stayed in Jerusalem at the clean, comfortable Eden Hotel, owned by Line,  a gracious and efficient Jewish woman; friendly Muslim women cooked our yummy buffet breakfasts. <http://jerusalemhotel.co.il&gt;.  Throughout our trip, we experienced many such examples of Jewish/Arab cooperation and interaction within Israel.

We tour members met that Saturday evening to say farewell to our Servas Israeli hosts.   For ten days, they had housed and fed us, shared their lives, shown us important historical and religious sites (especially Christian for this Christmas season); we know them as wonderful, generous  people.  Many of our Israeli hosts and their family members had incredible stories of suffering, survival — and miracles — in order to be alive –and live in  Israel.

That night, we all met at a Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem, one of the five Hand in Hand schools in Israel: A Center for Jewish Arab Education in Israel.   <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXE4ofvd9vk>. Hand in Hand students learn to read and write in both Hebrew and Arabic — and from third grade on, in English, too.   The schools are public and open to all children.  Besides teaching the languages, the schools are committed to respecting all who live in Israel: “Learning Together, Living Together.”  <https://www.handinhandk12.org/inform/our-schools>

The setting was perfect for our Servas interactions, which are to promote peace and understanding around the globe.   That night we again enjoyed  presentations, games, dancing, and singing.  My favorite part was making a necklace from the beads contributed from each of our tour members.  There were amber beads from Poland; green beads representing the Belarus flag,  pretzel beads,  silver bicycles,  Jewish flags …..  I love my necklace and the friendships and connections it represents.

Stringing our beads into necklaces.

Stringing our beads into necklaces.

Some Servas members arranged the beads by size and shape;  I made mine in the order in which I could reach the bowls that held the beads.  I added Muslim prayer beads, Buddhist prayer beads, and a Christian Coptic cross so that my necklace connects not only countries but also religions.

My Servas Israel Tour necklace linking beads from around the world

My Servas Israel Tour necklace linking beads from around the world

We wrote about our experiences with our Servas Israel Tour.  Igor  from Russia and Anna from Germany in the middle.  At the back xxxx from Germany, Tarit, xxx xxx, and xxxx from India.

We wrote about our experiences with our Servas Israel Tour. Igor from Russia and Anna from Germany in the middle. At the back –  Imelda from Germany; Tarit, Kashi Lal, and Sudhir Kumar from India.

Sudshuna zxxx and Gelinda xxx with their necklaces.

Sudeshna and Brigitte with their necklaces.

Maria from Poland

Maria from Poland

Servas Israel Tour members

Servas Israel Tour members

The Hand in Hand schools exemplify Jewish/Arab interaction and cooperation.  After an act of vandalism at this school, the Hand in Hand children flew a banner pledging  continuing Arab & Jewish unity.

Arab and Jewish unity

Arab and Jewish unity banner

Among the other presenters, Barry and I got to share Maui highlights.  We hope Servas tour members and our Israeli hosts come visit us.

Our son John + his dog Nalu (

In Maui, our son John + his dog Nalu (“wave” in Hawaiian) in Iao Valley

Again, we’d had another wonderful evening experiencing fellowship together.

****

Then on Sunday morning, those of us going to Bethlehem met at the hostel where some of the tour members were staying.

Claudia and Manda

Claudia and Manda

Before we left, Manda gave a moving tribute to our Servas 2014 Christmas in Israel organizer – the wonderful Claudia.

Although we had been in Israel, our Servas tour hadn’t gone to Bethlehem for Christmas Eve because, we were told, it would have been even more crowded and chaotic than on other days.  And since Bethlehem is under the control of the Palestinian Authority,  our Israeli Jewish hosts are not allowed to go there.

We Servas members travelled the six miles (10 km)  by public bus and met our Arab Israeli local guide in Bethlehem.

From the bus, we could see the sign to Rachel's Tomb.  History and religion are everywhere in Israel

From the bus, we could see the sign to Rachel’s Tomb-in the West Bank. History and religion are everywhere in Israel

On the bus, we sat across from three friendly, bright Arab boys.  They knew a little English and wanted to know where we were all from: Russia, Poland, England, Sweden, U.S., Germany . . .  The boys could identify each of us.   If the boys are Arab Israeli, they have the same education and health support as the Jewish Israeli children; the Palestinian Arab children under the Palestinian Authority do not have the same opportunities.

View from the bus into Palestinian Authority Territory

View from the bus into Palestinian Authority Territory

View from the bus - going into Bethlehem

Going into Bethlehem – we could see some boarded up buildings

In Bethlehem

In Bethlehem, outside the Church of the Nativity

Marilyn and Igor with an Arab vendor in Bethlehem

Marilyn and Igor with an Arab vendor in Bethlehem

In Bethlehem at Christmas

In Bethlehem at Christmas

Christmas in Bethlehem

Christmas nativity scene in Bethlehem

Vendors in front of us - and behind us.

Vendors in front of us – and behind us.

In 339 AD, Constantine and his mother St. Helena had a church built above the place of Jesus’ birth.

At the left, our efficient and nice Arab Palestinian guide who got us through all the lines

At the left, our efficient, friendly Arab Palestinian guide who got us through all the lines

Maria and Stephan xx entering xxxx

Maria and Stepan entering the Church of the Nativity through the Door of Humility.

The Door of Humility, the small rectangular entrance to the church, was created in Ottoman times to prevent carts being driven in by looters and to force even the most important visitor to dismount from his/her horse to enter the holy place.  Except for Stepan, the rest of us needed to stoop to enter.

From: <http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/bethlehem-church-of-the-nativity>.

Inside the xxx church.  Note the wall on the right.

Inside the Church of the Nativity. Note the wall on the right is being repaired

A wooden floor had been built over the original mosaic floor.  Part of the renovation is to restore the floors.

A wooden floor had been built over the original mosaic floor of 339AD.  Part of the current renovation is to restore the original floors

Inside xxxx in Bethlehem

Inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – honoring the birth site of Jesus

Explaining the restoration

Explaining the restoration – The Palestinian  Presidential Committee for the Restoration of the Church of the Nativity

Inside the church was crowded, dark, under reconstruction

Inside, the church was crowded, dark, under reconstruction

While we waited in our crowded lines, a tour guide screamed across the church nave at another guide, “Don’t cut in line! Wait your turn!”

The other guide yelled back, “We didn’t cut.”

The first guided screamed, “If I’m lying, you can cut off my head!”

Yikes, this is the birthplace of Jesus!  Have we learned nothing?  We were at one of the holiest religious sites on Earth, and a few people were acting rude and ridiculous.  Shocking, actually.

According to the World Heritage site, the Church of the Nativity is managed by the three churches: the Greek Orthodox Church, the Custody of the Holy Land (Roman Catholic), and the Armenian Patriarchate. Now an advisory committee formed by the Palestinian President is involved too.   Historically, the three churches that have joint control over the Church of the Nativity have not cooperated with each other.  A Huffington Post article written in Dec. 2013 tells of the renovation efforts. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/12/bethlehem-church-of-the-nativity_n_4432606.html.  Over a year later, little seems to have been renovated, but it’s the first major renovation in 600 years, so perhaps more has been done than we could see.

Scaffolding was everywhere

Scaffolding is everywhere

Ulrike xxx, Mariaxx, and Igor.  The ceiling is peeling.

Ulrike, Maria, and Igor. The structure needs reinforcement; the ceiling is peeling.

inside the church

Inside the church

In line to see the birth site of Jesus

In line to see the birth site of Jesus

Inside the Church of the Nativity

Inside the Church of the Nativity

The paintings look restored – and beautiful.

Paintings of the stations of the Cross xxx within the Church of the Nativity

Paintings of Jesus  within the Church of the Nativity

Waiting in line

Waiting in line

Waiting

Waiting

This fourteen-pointed star indicates the actual spot where Jesus was born

This fourteen-pointed star indicates the actual spot where Jesus was born

Throughout history, this part of the Middle East has had religious significance and people fighting over it.  For instance, in 1847, the theft of the silver star marking the exact site of the Nativity was a factor in the international crisis over the Holy Places that ultimately led to the Crimean War (1854–56).

Across from the birth site, a “baby in a manger” marks where Jesus was placed.  The replica of baby Jesus must be a popular theft item since it has a cage around it :(

“Jesus in the manger”

People from around the world hoped to see the birth place of Jesus

People from around the world see the birth place of Jesus.  Svetlana A.  at the right

Outside the Church of the Nativity - monasteries xxxx

Outside the Church of the Nativity  are the monasteries of the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the Armenian Apostolic

A mass in the Church of the Nativity

A mass in the Church of the Nativity

St. George - the Crusaiders are celebrated here tool

St. George – the Crusaders are celebrated here too!

A Bethlehem shop owner, Mitri, sent a bus for us – and so we went to his souvenir shop in Bethlehem, which offered a good variety of gift items; the payment was in U.S. dollars.

Bethlehem pilgrims: Igor, Roselleexx and xxx.

Bethlehem pilgrims: Igor (Russia), Rossella (Italy) and Sudhir Kumar (Bhopal, India).

xx and Vldorxx with his new flute

Irena and Vladimir with his new flute

Lunch in Bethlehem

Lunch in Bethlehem

Bus tire - Where we just looking for things?

Bus tire – Where we just looking for things that weren’t right??

As we were waiting to get back on our bus to return to Jerusalem, someone pointed out that the tire looked bald.  The Arab bus driver immediately asked what was wrong and said the tires were just fine.

Earlier, we’d seen 10-year old boys selling gum in the Bethlehem Manger Plaza.  One kid asked me for $100 for a pack of Wrigley spearmint!  I laughed – but did get a pack – for much less.

The pack of gum sold by an Arab Palestinian boy.

A pack of gum sold by an Arab Palestinian boy.

The kid is sure to have a great future in sales.  But why isn’t he out playing or doing sports?

Some buildings we saw in Bethlehem were dilapidated or boarded up.  At the time, Israeli news reported an embargo on concrete into the West Bank and Gaza.  The Israelis couldn’t be sure that new shipments of concrete wouldn’t again create tunnels such as those used the previous summer to send Arab fighters and missiles into Israel.

The conflict in July 2014 resulted in many deaths – especially for Palistenian civilians since Israel has the superior missiles and also defense system.

“Amnesty International, which has a number of people on the ground in Gaza and consistently condemns Israeli and Palestinian abuses alike . . .Palestinian armed groups have stored munitions in and fired indiscriminate rockets from residential areas in the Gaza Strip . . . and have also reportedly urged residents in some areas of the Gaza Strip not to leave their homes after Israel had warned it would attack the area, all of which have the effect of putting Palestinians at risk in the fighting.”

From: http://www.vox.com/2014/7/30/5937119/palestinian-civilian-casualties-gaza-israel

An ABC view : http://abcnews.go.com/International/israel-gaza-conflict/story?id=24552237

The Gaza Strip is a Detroit-sized area on the border with Egypt up against the Mediterranean Sea that is one of the most densely packed places on Earth with 1.8 million people living in just 139 square miles. Technically part of the Palestinian Authority, it has been governed since 2007 by the militant group Hamas.

An Al Jezzera story: http://abcnews.go.com/International/israel-gaza-conflict/story?id=24552237

The Washington Post story tells about the conflicting reports on casualties – the numbers of civilians killed <https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/the-un-says-7-in-10-palestinians-killed-in-gaza-were-civilians-israel->disagrees/2014/08/29/44edc598-2faa-11e4-9b98-848790384093_story.html

The irony is that if the radical Arabs would stop trying to eradicate Jews, and the Israelis wouldn’t retaliate (yet not be killed) all who live there could help each other.  The tax rate on everything in Israel is 18%!  Much of the money goes to defense.  It could go to education and health of all its citizens.  The Palestinians are obviously suffering economic hardship.

The situation is complex.  If Israel hadn’t had their “Iron Dome” this last summer or if Hamas had not stored muttons and fighters in heavily populated areas, the death rates would have been much altered.  Palestinians, many of them children and civilians would not have been killed in the retaliation.  This is not a sustainable situation.

I can understand that Jews can’t trust other countries.  While we were in Jerusalem, we met recent Jewish immigrants who feel that France is again no longer safe for Jews.  Jeffrey Goldberg asks, “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe” in the April 2015 issue of The Atlantic (p. 62-75). 

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/is-it-time-for-the-jews-to-leave-europe/386279/

I understand why Israel retaliates against Arab attacks.

And I can see how Palestinian frustration and revenge can work too.  The problem is that the few cause trouble for all.  Basic religious tenants promote love and peace.

Jewish people need a safe country, and the Palestinians need a safe country too.  All want their children to be happy and have opportunities.

As a global community, we must work together and respect each other.   Our leaders must find ways to peace beyond bombs.  And individually, we can develop inner peace and hold respect for those who are different from us.

I believe that Gandhi is correct:  “An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.”   The Israeli/Palestinian situation is complex, but surely they can evolve their relationship in sustainable ways to live together in peace.

Whatever your view, the result now is suffering for both sides.

A wall along the Bethlehem/Jerusalem route

A wall along the Bethlehem/Jerusalem route

Would we go back to Israel?

Yes, I would love to return to Israel.  Next time we would rent our own car and so miss the inconvenience for us of Shabbat.

I would visit Servas hosts everywhere – including Palestinian Servas members in Hebron.

Barry and I would visit Ruth and Danny, Claudia and Shumel, Rohee and Etai, and other wonderful people we met.  I’d love to go back to Lotan or do another kibbutz experience.  The music festival was great. I want to go when it’s warm enough even for me to swim in the Sea of Galilee.  I’d like to bike or hike the Gospel/Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum <http://www.gospeltrail.com>.  And I’d like John to experience the Taglit-Birthright Israel opportunity: http://www.birthrightisrael.com/Pages/Default.aspx.

Our friends Danny and Ruth with their son xxx and Barry

Our friends Danny and Ruth with their son Guy – and Barry in Jerusalem

As poet Elizabeth Alexander says, . . .

What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light. From<ryfoundation.org/poem/182812
A recent article from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) about Kenya could also apply to the Israeli/Palestinian situation: “[I]t is important to recognize that there are no military solutions to preventing or countering violent extremism. In a statement to the White House more than 41 non-governmental organizations, many of whom work worldwide with vulnerable communities, urged the President to seek alternative measures to ending terrorism. The letter states: ‘Military capacities are ill-suited to address either the drivers or entrepreneurs of violence. Eighty-three percent of terrorist movements that ended between 1968 and 2006 were done so through political settlements or improvements in policing. An emerging body of evidence argues that domestic governance capacities are more effective than increased military capacities in sustainably addressing community grievance.’ . . . The NGO statement to the White House calls for an evidenced based approach that prioritizes civilian led prevention efforts to address human rights grievances and build inclusive governance structures. It calls for reversal in cuts to the State Department’s democracy, rights and governance programs. If we want democracy to flourish, we must invest in programs that can actually make that happen.   From <http://allafrica.com/stories/201507241562.html?utm_content=Link+469009&utm_campaign=E-Newsletter&utm_source=This+week+in+the+world&utm_medium=Email>

With a similar understanding, American/Palestinian poet Naomi Shihab Nye often focuses on the ordinary, on connections between diverse peoples, and on the perspectives of those in other lands. In Hugging the Jukebox, she writes: “We move forward, / confident we were born into a large family, / our brothers cover the earth.”  Surely, there is room for all.

Go visit Israel.  See for yourself.

“What if the mightiest word is love?”  May all beings be happy and free.

Aloha and Shalom,

Renée

Servas Israel Tour – continued – Dinner with Servas Members and a Day in Jerusalem

Jerusalem - important to Christians, Muslims, and Jews

On Friday, we met for dinner with our tour members and Servas Israeli hosts to mingle and share information about our countries.

On the way, we saw old armored vehicles along the road – preserved to remember the many who fought and died so that Jewish people could have a country.

Convoy vehicles from the Israeli War of Independence - 1948

Convoy vehicles from the Israeli War of Independence – 1948

According to “The Convoy Skeletons” by Gil Gertel & Noam Even,[T]he vehicles that brought food, water and arms from Tel Aviv to besieged Jerusalem in early 1948. . . were extremely vulnerable. Piles of stones were placed along the width of the road forcing the drivers to halt. Then snipers hidden between the rocks in the hills near the road, would open fire on the riders and vehicles.

Most of the trucks belonged to various kibbutz cooperative transport companies. Many of the drivers volunteered; the return trip was also via convoy. . . .

LESSER KNOWN FACTS
* During the battle for the road to Jerusalem, 230 convoys set out to bring supplies to the besieged city. . .

* Over 3100 trucks made their way to Jerusalem carrying 10,500 tons of supplies. . . .

* In February 1948 – 1299 trucks made the uphill trip to Jerusalem, in 81 convoys.

The armored vehicles symbolize the courage of those who guarded the convoys and who sacrificed their lives to bring supplies to the besieged city of Jerusalem. In the battles on the road to Jerusalem, more than 400 fighters were killed,

From: <http://www.gemsinisrael.com/e_article000003340.htm>.

Some of our Servas dinner companions: from the right - tagitxx, Sudeshna, Svetlana Pxx, Olga, xxx

Some of our Servas dinner companions: Svetlana P, Olga, Svetlana A.,  Sudeshna, and Tarit

Our Servas Israel hosts served great Middle Eastern food including hummus, wonderful olives, breads, . . .

Lola from Spain, Manda from Sweden, and Israeli Servas hosts.

Lola from Spain, Manda from Sweden, and Israeli Servas hosts

Israeli Servas host sharing his culture

Israeli Servas host sharing stories

Note all the flags:  each represents a Servas Israel Tour member.

Note all the flags: each represents a Servas Israel tour member.

Olga, Svetlana xx, Svetlana P, all from St. Petersburg xxx Russian

Olga, Svetlana P., and Svetlana A., all from St. Petersburg,  Russian

My favorite presentation was the one from Russia (and you will understand why).  The Russian women showed crafts and  gave a slide show about beautiful Lake Baikal, located in the south of Siberia.  We learned that Lake Baikal, which is about 25 million years old, is the largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the world; it  contains about 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water and at 1,642 m (5,387 ft), the deepest and among the clearest of all lakes.   It contains more water than all the U.S. Great Lakes combined!

Baikal is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two-thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world.  In 1996, Lake Baikal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   The temperatures are cool:  a winter minimum of −19 °C (−2 °F) to a summer maximum of 14 °C (57 °F).   Lake Baikal is very beautiful and a wonderful place to visit.

Olga giving the Lake Bakal presentation.

Olga giving the Lake Baikal presentation

Then the Russians ladies gave us typical Russian treats to eat and Lake Baikal water to drink.  When the bottle came around, I poured a cup for Manda and another for me.  I took a big gulp —- then I realized it wasn’t clear, cold Lake Baikal water, but another liquid for which Russia is famous: vodka!

For Manda, it was the first time she’d had alcohol in 20 years!  But no harm was done – and we all got plenty of laughs out of the presentation. We could see that Russians are fun-loving people.   Beware, however,  when a Russian offers you “water”!

Stepan from the Czech Republic played his violin for us - wonderful!

Stepan from the Czech Republic played his violin for us – wonderful – and how cute with his hat!

Sasha and Angelica from Belarus (where, among many other things, Russia sends its Olympic skaters for training)

Sasha and Angelica told us about Belarus (where, among many other things, Russia sends its Olympic skaters for training).  Their photos were spectacular.

Sudeshna sang for us - beautifully

Sudeshna sang for us – beautifully

Kashi Lal Sharma from Bhilwara,  India celebrated his 80th birthday on this trip - and shared experiences he's written about in his book.

Kasha Lal  from Bhilwara, India, celebrated his 80th birthday on this trip – and shared experiences he’s written about in his book

Servas Israel members and guests mingle - Anna from Germany on the right xx

Servas Israel members and guests mingle – Anna from Germany on the right

Friendly Israeli Servas hosts

Friendly Israeli Servas hosts

Pray for Jerusalem

Franco Collodet sharing his “Pray to Jerusalem” experience

Send Your Prayer to Jerusalem

Send Your Prayer to Jerusalem

Besides getting to know Servas members and learn about other countries, we also heard from Franco Collodet, an Italian sociologist and philosophy professor from the Institute Volterra-Elia of Ancona.

In several earlier pilgrimages, Franco Collodet has walked the roads of Europe — to Rome, Lourdes, Fatima, and Santiago de Compostela — tracing the ancient routes that arrive in major places of worship.  Collodet says he is inspired by integration among peoples.

In his latest pilgrimage, Collodet walked 4,100  kilometers (2,547.62 miles) from the Cathedral of Ancona in Italy to Jerusalem, arriving on Christmas 2014!   He shared highlights of his “Send Your Prayer to Jerusalem” experience.

Go to: <http://www.sendyourprayertojerusalem.org/index.php/franco>.

Servas members from Germany - Anna, Tomas, ulrike

Servas members from Germany – Gelinda, Thomas, Ulrike.  On the far right, Claudia from Israel with Adam from Poland behind her.

Servas hosts and tour members had a wonderful evening together.

Our following day tour was Christmas in Jerusalem. 

At 10:00 a.m., we met at Jaffa Gate of the Old City and viewed the walls surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem – a city of many faiths.   

Old City Jerusalem wall

Old City Jerusalem wall – bullet holes attest to the passion with which different groups want possession of this important religious city.

Modern entrepreneur outside the Old City walls

Modern entrepreneur – outside the Old City walls – note cell phone in hand :)

Inside the Old City walls: from left, Servas tour members: xxxx, Italy; xxxx, Germany; Roselee, Italy, & in foreground, Marilyn, U.K.

Inside the Old City walls: Servas tour members – Anna Maria from Italy; Ulrike from Germany; Rossella from Italy, & in foreground, Marilyn from the U.K.

Walls painted like this show the householder has been to Medina on a pilgrimage

Walls painted like this show the Muslim householder has been to Mecca and thus holds the honorific title of hajji.  The pilgrimage to Mecca is called the Hajj (or Hajji)

A good Muslim is to go at least once on a pilgrimage to Mecca xxxx

A good Muslim is to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.  Another Arab Israeli Muslim who lives here within the Old City Walls has done so.

Homes are hidden behind doors and walls within the Old City walls.

Homes are hidden behind doors and walls within  Old City Jerusalem.

Mazes xx of narrow walkways wind around inside the Old City walls of Jerusalem

Mazes of narrow walkways wind around inside the Old City Walls of Jerusalem

A young Jewish boy seems to point us on our way.

A young Jewish boy points us on our way.

A synagogue on the left, a mosque on the right within the Old City Jerusalem walls.  Igor from Russia and Gelindaxxx from Germay xxx

A synagogue on the left, a mosque on the right within the Old City Jerusalem walls. Igor from Russia and Gelinde from Germany

In some places within the walls, archeological digs reveal previous civilizations in the Old City Jerusalem

In some places, archeological digs reveal previous civilizations in Old City Jerusalem

We walked to the Christian Quarter and saw the Franciscan Church of ST. SAVIOUR- St Salvador, a beautiful Italian style church decorated for Christmas.

Inside the Christian xxx

Inside the Franciscan Church of St. Saviour – St. Salvador

Christmas decorated altar at the xxxx

Christmas decorated altar at St. Saviour/St. Salvador

 

 

The Crypt of the Basilica marks the place where after the Resurrection of Jesus, Mary lived and died.

The Church of the Schepuche

The Church of the Sepulcher

Churches from many parts of the world decorate an altar within the Church of the Scelpacure.

Churches from many parts of the world dedicate  an altar within the Church of the Sepulcher

Christmas in Jerusalem

Christmas in Jerusalem

At the heart of the Christian quarter,  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher honors the site where Jesus was crucified, buried, and arose.  The Stations of the Cross end here.

Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Painting within The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Painting within The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The site of the tomb of Jesus

The site of the tomb of Jesus

Israeli tour guide Nir xxx

Israeli tour guide Nir Oral – sharing the facts

Pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

At the tomb of Jesus

At the tomb of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crypts within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Because this church is controlled by three religious groups, they have yet to agree on how to restore this area that suffered a fire.

Crypts within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

 

 

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is controlled by – the Greek Orthodox, who own its central worship space, the Catholics,  and the Armenian Orthodox.   The three groups have yet to agree on how to restore the crypt area damaged by fire.

We also visited the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

May Peace Prevail on Earth

May Peace Prevail on Earth

Mt. Zion - important capture in the Israeli War of Independence - 1948

On Mt. Zion – an important capture in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948

Modern Israeli

Modern religious Israeli walk along the Old City Walls.

The Jewish Quarter within the wall of Old City Jerusalem.

The Jewish Quarter within the walls of Old City Jerusalem.

We walked then through the Jewish Quarter of narrow alleys to visit at the Wailing Wall and then climbed up to Mt.  Zion.

Some Jewish people do live within the Old City Walls.

Some Jewish people do live within the Old City Walls.

Pizza and yamakas xxx near the Wailing Wall inside the Old City walls.

Near the Wailing Wall inside the Old City walls: pizza and kippah (or yarmulkes), the head coverings that Jewish men wear to indicate that God is present above them.

Young Israeli soldiers on a field trip near the Wailing Wall.

Young Israeli soldiers near the Wailing Wall.

Protected minora  xx near the Wailing Wall -

Protected menorah near the Wailing Wall

Nir, our great Israeli Servas guide, explaining the  history of Jerusalem

Nir, our great Israeli Servas guide, explaining the history of Jerusalem

The Wailing Wall - a wall from the Jewish 2nd Temple that was destroyed in xxxx.  The dome of the Rock, the Muslim temple gleams in the background as well a minaret on the left.  xxx

The Wailing Wall – the wall from the Jewish 2nd Temple –  destroyed in 66 CE. The Dome of the Rock, the Muslim temple, shines in the background

The Muslim shrine located on the Temple Mount within the Old City Walls of Jerusalem, The Dome of the Rock, is considered by some the “most recognized of Jerusalem’s landmarks.” It was first completed in 691 CE.

The site’s great religious significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, the Foundation Stone, at the heart of The Dome of the Rock.

Although the Israelis captured the Dome of the Rock in 1967 during the Six-Day War, the country gave the Muslims authority to manage the Temple Mount to “keep the peace.”

In 1993, King Hussein of Jordan donated $8.2 million to refurbish the dome with 80 kilograms of gold!  No wonder it glows in the sun.

Then we walked on to visit The Last Supper Room.

Within the Room of the Last Supper

Within the Room of the Last Supper

Within the room where Jesus and the disciples celebrated Passover - the Last Supper.

Within the room where Jesus and the disciples celebrated Passover – the Last Supper.

And we saw Dormition Abbey – a golden, highly decorated church that contains the tomb of the Virgin Mary.

Mary's Tomb

Mary’s Tomb

In the Doxxx Abbey

In Dormition Abbey

 

Jerusalem - important to Christians, Muslims, and Jews

Jerusalem – important to Christians, Muslims, and Jews

We walked again along the walls of Old City Jerusalem back to the Jaffa Gate  – to end another wonderful day full of history and religion and new friends.

Aloha & Shalom,

Renée

Servas Israel Tour – Part III – Places of Spirit: Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Tabgha, and the Jordan River

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Twelve Apostles on the Sea of Galilee

Day 4 – Thursday,  25 December 2014 – our wonderful Servas Israel Tour continued.

We traveled to the Sea of Galilee on Christmas Day guided by Iris Salomon- Har Even, host in Oranit.

At 10:00 a.m., we met up at the National Park of Capernaum (Kfar Nahum)

Patiently waiting:  Standing- Manda, Lola, Servas host Debbie, great leader Claudia. Sitting: Shaxx, xxx, mum xxx, Vldamir xx

Patiently waiting: Standing- Manda, Lola, Servas host Debbie, great Servas leader Claudia. Sitting: Vladimir, Sudeshna, Imelda,  Kashi Lal, an Israeli Servas member, Brigitte, and Marilyn.

And Jesus went forth ...

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues” (Matthew 4:23).

We started at Capernaum (Kfar Nahum), where Jesus lived and began preaching.

The magnificent Sea of Galilee with commorants xx flying above.

The magnificent Sea of Galilee – cormorants  soaring above.

Walking on a pier into the Sea of Galilee: xxx, Olga, Svetlana, Stephanxxx

On a pier on the Sea of Galilee: Svetlana P, Olga, Svetlana A, and Stepan

“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter and Andrew, his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

And He saith unto them. ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men'” (Matthew 4:18).

And Jesus

And Jesus met brothers.

Looking for shells at the Sea of Galilee - Brigitte and Angelica

Looking for shells at the Sea of Galilee – Brigitte and Angelica

Entrance to Caphernum xx

Entrance to the National Park of Capernaum

Church in Caphurnum xx

At Capernaum

The church has three pink domes.  Here's a painting of it within the church.

The Church of the Twelve Apostles has pink domes, shown in this  painting  within the church.

Church of the Twelve Aposals xx

Church of the Twelve Apostles

I felt as though I should sit down and confess to something :)

I felt as though I should sit down and confess to something :)

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

Here by the Sea of Galilee and at Tabgha, I did feel spirituality everywhere: in the air, in the water, in the light – in the religious sites.

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee is a Greek Orthodox monastery:

“The Church of the Twelve Apostles  takes its name from the Gospel  account of Jesus choosing the Twelve in this area of Galilee.

But it is also known as the Church of the Seven Apostles — a reference to Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance by the Sea of Galilee to seven of his disciples — Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John and two other disciples” (John 21). . . .

After the Six Day War in 1969, when Israel pushed its border back to the Golan Heights, restoration of the church began first with the removal of a thick layer of cow manure covering the floor –   since the church had been used for many years as a barn.

Between 1995 and 2000 the church was redecorated  by a Greek iconographer with an eclectic array of Byzantine-style frescoes inspired by works in Orthodox churches and monasteries in various parts of the world, in particular the Balkans.  The church glows in the light.

The Church of the Twelve Apostles occupies a site to the east of ancient Capernaum, where survivors of a devastating earthquake in 749 relocated their village.Church of the Twelve Apostles

The Greek Orthodox xxx Church of the Twelve Apostles

The Greek Orthodox monastery – Church of the Twelve Apostles

A small, cross-shaped building with white walls, the Church of the Twelve Apostles has two central domes surrounded by six smaller ones, each topped by a cross.  As you can see, brightly-colored frescoes and icons cover most of the ceilings and walls of the church.

Beautiful frescos glow on the walls of the church

Beautiful frescos radiate from the walls of the church

Inside one dome, Christ the Pantocrator (All-powerful) is surrounded by a chorus of 12 prophets who foretold his coming.”

From: <ww.seetheholyland.net/church-of-the-twelve-apostles/>

Monk Inxxx against great odds was able to renovate this church to the beauty and serenity we see today.

Monk Irinarchos in the 1990s – against great odds — was able to renovate this church to the beauty and serenity we see today.

xxx, xxxx etc.

Ulrike, Gerlinde, Israeli Servas member, Maria Rauch, Maria, and at the far end, Barry

Rebuilt wall of the White Synogague. xxx

Rebuilt wall of the White Synagogue – Brigitte coming through the small opening

Tabgha (ancient Heptapegon) on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee is the accepted site of Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:30-46) and also of the fourth resurrection appearance (John 21:1-24).   Until 1948, it was the site of a Palestinian Arab village.

The site’s name is derived from the Greek name Heptapegon (“seven springs”).

Church of Heptapegon

Church of Heptapegon

Its pronunciation gradually changed to “Tabego”, and was eventually changed to “Tabha” by the Arabic speakers. St. Jerome referred to Heptapegon as “the solitude.” From: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabgha&gt;.

Iris recommending a great book for Holy Land information.

Our guide Iris recommending a great book for the Holy Land

The Chronicle of Pilgrimage to the Holy Land: The Adventures, The Events, The Holy Sites  Go to: <http://www.amazon.com/Chronicle-Pilgrimage-The-Holy-Land/dp/965724000X&gt;.

Angelika and Sasha from Belarus xx

Angelica and our terrific photographer, Sasha from Belarus

At the Church of the C

At the Church of the Heptapegon – Seven Springs

The Church of the Heptapegon – Seven Springs is built over where Jesus laid the fish and the five loafs of bread on a big rock before distributing the food that would feed five thousand (Mark 6:30-44).

Church of Caph xxx ; don't tell anyone, but when I first saw this church, I thought it was ugly!

Church of the Heptapegon; don’t tell anyone, but when I first saw this church, I thought it fortress-like!

However, I loved the views from inside!

Inside the church, the Christmas manger was set over the ruins of xxxx

Inside the Church of the Heptapegon, the Christmas manger  set over ruins of Capernaum

Inside the hexagonal church xxx and xxx in the left foreground; Barry on the right.

Inside the hexagonal church,  Imelda and Ulrike in the left foreground; Barry in center

View from inside looking xxx

View from inside the Church of the Heptapegon

View looking xxx at the ruins of Caph

Another view from the Church of the Heptapegon –  ruins of Capernaum and in the distance, the domes of the Church of the Twelve Apostles

Ruins of Caphurxxx - protected under  the church

Ruins of Capernaum – protected under the church

Stephan, Irena, Vladmir xxx outside the church

Stepan, Irena, Vladimir  outside the church

Ruins

Ruins of Capernaum – and a wall of the White Synagogue

In

“The White Synagogue,” built in the  late 4th Century A.D.,  is on the ruins of the “Synagogue of Jesus” – Iris and Debbie

Irena xxx

Irena from the Czech Republic in the White Synagogue

Rebuilt wall of the White Synogague. xxx

Rebuilt wall of the White Synagogue –  Gerlinde at the small doorway.

Doors to the Church of the Heptapexxx.

Doors to the Church of the Heptapegon.

Then we saw the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha – also so named because of Jesus’ miracle.  The church is modern but stands on the site of 4th and 5th-century churches. It too preserves splendid early Christian mosaics as well as the traditional stone on which the miraculous meal was laid.

Church

Inside the church – Icon of Christ inside the Church of the Multiplication

Mosaics in the church at Thabxxx

Mosaics in the church at Tabgha

Church at Txxx

Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha

Manda from Sweden, Igor from Russia, and Tomas from Poland.

Manda from Sweden, Igor from Russia, and Tomas from Poland.

One of the wonderful aspects of this Servas Israel Tour was getting to meet others from around the world.

Church of the Multiplication

In the Capernaum National Park

Church of the Multiplication

Church of the Multiplication

Church at T  - Pope xxx was here.  Gift of Bishop of Krakov.

Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee. Gift of the Bishop of Krakov.

The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter is  north of the Church of the Multiplication and was built on rocks at the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  It’s considered the place where Jesus appeared the fourth time after his resurrection (John 21:1-24), during which, according to Catholic teaching, Jesus again conferred primacy of Simon Peter.

Door into the church

Door into the church

Pope John Paul II was a pilgrim to Tabgha in March, 2000.

Stephan xxx & Irena from Chec Republic xxx

Stepan  & Irena from Czech Republic climbing on the rocks outside The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

After a delightful time at these holy places, we next traveled to the Jordan River, the baptism site of Jesus:

Baptism in the Jordan River

Baptism in the Jordan River

My brother Alan said he would’ve done the immersion, but it was December, already getting dark,  and I’m a wimp, so I didn’t! However, many Christians braved the cold and were re-baptized in the Jordan River.  Many collected water from the river to take home.

In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

This Nigerian Christian had just gotten baptized.

This happy Nigerian Christian had just gotten baptized.

Behind schedule on this wonderful day and way after sunset,  we said our goodbyes and headed back with our hosts to their homes.  On our way to Barry and my Servas home, we got to stop at a fantastic Japanese restaurant: Osaka –  Asian Kitchen and Sushi Bar  in Ra’anana – wonderful. <https://www.facebook.com/osakarestaurant/posts/552482348116139&gt;.

This day – Christmas Day 2014 – was personally the most spiritual of our Servas Israel Tour.  I hope you will get such an experience too.

Shalom and Aloha, Renée

Servas Israel Tour – Part II – Fantastic – Haifa and Nazareth

Church of St. Gabriel

Our fabulous Tour Israel with Servas continued.

Day 3 – Wednesday 24 December 2014 

Our morning began with a great breakfast with our Servas hosts: Shoshana and Shmuel.

Shoshana and Shmuel

Shoshana and Shmuel: Yes, that’s a Corvette convertible on her t-shirt and the two of them riding in it!

We were lucky to be handed off to Shlomy, Servas Coordinator Claudia’s husband, and while we waited to meet up with others, he gave us an impromptu tour of Haifa, a city he loves.

The Ba'ha'i xxx Temple Sxxx in the front.

The Ba’ha’i Temple –
Shlomy in the front

We started at the Bahá’í Gardens:

 

“The Bahá’í teachings emphasize that each person is in charge of his or her own spiritual development. <http://www.bahai.org/action/response-call-bahaullah/walking-spiritual-path&gt;.

Bahá’í members recognize and celebrate all religious leaders.

Looking up to the Shrine of Báb.

Looking up to the Shrine of Bab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa comprise a staircase of nineteen terraces extending all the way up the northern slope of Mount Carmel.  At its heart stands the golden-domed Shrine of the Báb,which is the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith.”  From: <http://www.ganbahai.org.il/en/haifa/&gt;

From the Bah'ai steps looking down on the German town orange tiled roofs.

From the Baha’i steps looking down on the German town orange tiled roofs

 

German town in Haifa - established in

German town in Haifa – established in 1869

Haifa church.

A Haifa church

Haifa apartments.

Haifa apartments

Haifa treats.

Haifa sweet treats

Haifa street.

Haifa street

A Haifa hot drink spot.

A Haifa hot drink spot

Falafa's anyone?  Delicious.

Falafa’s anyone? Delicious

Haifa vegetable market.

Haifa vegetable market

Haifa apartment resident.

Haifa apartment resident

In much of the art throughout Haifa is a plea for peace.

“I was born in this city and I have no other homeland but this homeland. I sometimes wonder: ‘When will it be possible to enjoy Haifa’s beauty without fears of wars and bloodshed’.”

In the Museum Without Walls:

Spring, in memory of Kamil Shahade

“Spring,” in memory of Kamil Shehade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artworks scattered along the Art Route explore the themes of tolerance, an Arab-Jewish and multicultural dialogue, and the local heritage of the neighborhood.  The exhibit was inaugurated in 1993 by the Beit HaGefen Arab-Jewish Culture Center, Haifa Municipality, and the Wadi Nisnas Neighborhood Association as a shared multicultural celebration.

Shlomy xxx in the Wadi Nasui xxx district of Haifa.

Shlomy showing us the Wadi Nisnas district of Haifa

 

Art in the Wadi Nasui xxx neighborhood.

Art in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood

 

A gate; a fence - a choice

A gate: a fence – a choice?

Artists at work in Haifa.

Artists at work in Haifa

Wisdom of Crowds –
This exhibition was in Haifa’s  Beit Hagefen’s Gallery.    “The almost absurd starting point of the exhibition Wisdom of Crowds is . . . to find new platforms for a democratic discourse in the public space. . .It calls to replace the eroded values of political, social and cultural life, for a more just, egalitarian and democratic society, and wishes to serve as a catalyst for radical thought about new, albeit imagined, platforms for realizing this claim, tapping into the potential held in the public local sphere” (<http://beit-hagefen.com/slider_more.php?cat23=136&gt;). 
Wisdom of Crowds - event in Haifa

Wisdom of Crowds – event in Haifa

Dialogue - not arms.

Dialogue – not arms.

We left Haifa to join up with our Servas Tour members in Nazareth.

According to the Nazareth website, “The city of Nazareth was a small and insignificant agricultural village in the time of Jesus. It had no trade routes, was of little economic importance and was never mentioned in the Old Testament or other ancient texts. . . .

During the lifetime of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, it is believed the population did not exceed 500.  Nazareth was a small Jewish village where people knew one another, and like Jesus, lived, prayed and studied in the Jewish tradition. They gathered in the synagogue, meeting for prayer and holidays. . . .The New Testament mentions Nazareth many times, referring to it as the home of Mary and Joseph, the town that inspired Jesus during his childhood and early manhood, the place of the Annunciation . . .

From the 1st to the 4th century AD, the small Christian presence in Nazareth was often persecuted for their beliefs. It was only later towards the 6th century . . . that the town of Nazareth became the Christian pilgrimage site it is to this day. During this time, the Byzantines built one of the first churches on what was believed to be the site of the Annunciation. With the arrival of the Crusaders in 1099, an era of growth began . . .  With the defeat of the Crusaders in 1291 by the Muslim army and during Ottoman Rule (1517 – 1917), Nazareth fell into decline. It was only in 1720, when the Franciscans built a new church, that the site of the Annunciation was again revived. In 1955, the church was demolished to carry out extensive archaeological excavations and was finally rebuilt in 1969″ <http://www.nazareth-israel.com/nazarteh-history&gt;.

Nazareth is now a bustling, growing city of about 74,000 and home to the largest Arab community in Israel.  Nazareth has changed from an isolated village of little importance to one of  most important sites for Christians.

Because I was raised Christian (Episcopalian) and now identify as a Quaker, I did expect a spiritual experience especially since we were there for Christmas Eve!

In Nazareth, we walked the cobble-stoned streets of the Old City, visited the famous spring and  Mary’s well, and saw the remains of a cavern believed to be Joseph’s carpentry shop.  And because we were there on Christmas Eve, we got to see what the people living there do to celebrate.

Nazareth Christmas Tree - outside the site of Mary's Well.

Nazareth Christmas Tree – the largest Christmas tree in the Middle East outside the site of Mary’s Well, the Church of St. Gabriel

Mary’s well was the  our first religious site on the Servas tour that afternoon.  The Church of St. Gabriel,  (also known as the Orthodox Church of Annunciation and The Greek-Orthodox Church), is located over an underground spring, which is  believed to be  where the Virgin Mary was drawing water when  the Angel Gabriel said to her,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy,
the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35).

Near the site of Mary's Well.

Near the site of Mary’s Well

Entrance to Mary's Well -Barry filled a bottle of the spring water for me :).

Entrance to Mary’s Well -Barry filled a bottle of the spring water for me :)

The dark interior of the holy site for Mary's Well.

The dark interior of the holy site for Mary’s Well

Many photos were left for blessings at Mary's Well.

Many photos were left for blessings at Mary’s Well

 

Mary's well.

Mary’s well

Painting of the Annunciation. xx

Painting of the Annunciation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tunnel linking the well to the entrance.

Tunnel linking the well to the entrance

In modern times, Mary’s spring is at the end of the subterranean chamber in the Church of St. Gabriel.

Church of the Annuciation xxx

Church of St. Gabriel – painting of he Annunciation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful painting of the Annunciation.

Beautiful painting of the Annunciation

 

 

 

Church that covers Mary's well.  xx or church of the Annunciation ?

The Greek Orthodox Church, the Church of St. Gabriel,  that covers Mary’s spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nazareth Christmas tree.

Nazareth Christmas tree

 

 

 

 

It was a great spot for people watching.

It was a great spot for people watching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked along the Pilgrim’s Path to the Basilica of Annunciation, the Catholic site that also recognizes and celebrates Gabriel’s visit to Mary.  The Basilica marks the spot for Catholics of the Annunciation.

Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Inside the Church of the Annunciation xxx.

Inside the Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation

 

 

 

Each painting - beautiful and significant!

Each painting – beautiful and significant!

We also saw the White Mosque, built in 1785.  It’s the oldest of the mosques built in Nazareth. According to its website, the White Mosque is now managed and maintained by the al-Fahoum family.  The mosque sends out messages of peace and harmony and seeks good relations especially with the  “different Christian communities in town” <http://www.nazarethinfo.org/OldSite.aspx?levelId=63490&gt;.

The White Mosque - the oldest xxx

The White Mosque

The White Mosque is located in Harat Alghama or the “Mosque Quarter” in the center of Nazareth’s Old Market.

Our Servas guide xxx sharing the history of Nazareth.  Lola from Spain is in front of Adam from Poland.

Iris, our Servas guide, shares the history of Nazareth. Lola from Spain is in front of Adam from Poland.

We ate in the Old Market and got to taste local food and sweets, including baklawa and the Middle-Eastern kenafi or kunafa, a cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup.

At 15:00, we started lining up along the Christmas Parade route, which ran from Paul 6th St to the Annunciation Church (Basilica).

 

Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Adam enjoying the fragrant flowers.

Adam enjoying the fragrant flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another version is that the Palestinians were told to leave by the Arab fighters (so they wouldn't get in the way of the battle).  The history depends on who is telling about the events.

This graffiti on a Nazareth wall says the Palestinians were expelled in 1948 by the Israelis. Another version is that the Palestinians were told to leave by the Arab fighters (so they wouldn’t get in the way of the battle). The history depends on who is telling about the events.

Maria from Poland; Manda from Sweden xxx.

Maria from Poland; Manda from Sweden

 

 

 

 

 

Stepan (the youngest of our group) and his parents,  Irena and Vadimir from Czech Republic.

Stepan (the youngest of our group) and his parents, Irena and Vadimir from the Czech Republic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treats from street vendors.  Adam from Poland, Igor from Russia, xxx our guide, and Olga from St. Petersburg.

Treats from street vendors. Adam from Poland, Igor from Russia, Iris our Israeli guide, and Olga from St. Petersburg

 

 

 

 

Svetlana A. xx found Santa hiding in a van.  :)

Svetlana A.  found Santa hiding in a van  :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting ready for the Nazareth Christmas parade.

Getting ready for the Nazareth Christmas parade

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our group outside the Basilica.

Waiting for the Christmas parade – our Servas group outside the Basilica: Svetlana  A. is in front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Released balloons marked the beginning of the parade.

Released balloons mark the beginning of the Christmas Eve parade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People lined up along the parade route.

People lined up along the parade route.

Gathering for the Nazareth Christmas Parade.

Gathering for the Nazareth Christmas Parade.

 

17:15 – Near the Basilica of Annunciation, we watched the balloon release and the Christmas parade.    We wandered around looking at the parade and the people coming to celebrate.

 

 

 

This guy was in the Christmas spirit; he threw out candies to the parade participants.

This guy was in the Christmas spirit; he threw out candies to the parade participants.

Christian Arab Scouts - march in the Christmas parade.

Christian Arab Scouts – march in the Christmas parade

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Arab  Scottish bagpipers!!   Who would ever guess this would be part of a Christmas parade in Nazareth!

Christian Arab Scottish bagpipers!! Who would ever guess this would be part of a Christmas parade in Nazareth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In his book Green Crescent Over Nazareth: The Displacement of Christians by Muslims, Raphael Israeli notes that in 1918 when the British marched into Nazareth, the city then had a population of about 8,000 – 2/3 Christian and the rest Muslim.  Today, Nazareth, known as “the Arab capital of Israel, has a population made up predominantly of Arab citizens of Israel,  almost all of whom are either Muslim (69%) or Christian (30.9%).

Because the British ruled Nazareth for 30 years, the  numerous bagpipers in the Christmas parade must be one lingering influence.

What can I say?

What can I say? The bagpipes must be a tradition adapted from the British Mandate period.

 

 

 

 

The inflated Santa in the parade yelled out, "Hey, hey, hey!"

The inflated Santa in the parade yelled out, “Hey, hey, hey!”  :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Christmas parade character.

Another Christmas parade character.

 

 

 

 

Arab Christian drummers in the parade.

Arab Christian drummers – girls too – in the parade. :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian parade officials.

Christian parade officials.

 

 

 

At the finale of the parade, we got to see the fireworks as part of the Christmas celebration.

Waiting for the mass to begin at the Basilica after the parade.

Waiting for the mass to begin at the Basilica after the parade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the Nazareth Basilica.

Outside the Nazareth Basilica – waiting for the Christmas Eve mass..

For our Servas Tour, we didn’t go to Bethlehem for Christmas Eve since the town is usually overwhelmed with Christian pilgrims.  Nazareth did have its own special sites, and we got to see and do things we hadn’t expected as part of our celebration.  One surprise was that the Christmas carols, which I love to sing, were sung –  in neither Latin nor English – but in Arabic!  It seemed that everyone participated – especially in the parade.  Santa was there in Nazareth for the young children.

As for the spiritual renewal I expected since we were there where Jesus had actually lived and walked, it didn’t happen there for me.

Instead, Nazareth was a great experience in people watching and seeing historical and religious sites.  Being in Nazareth was also a good reminder that when you travel, experiences – especially others than those you expect – are the ones to keep you in the moment and help you appreciate what is really there.

We returned to Servas hosts Deb and xxx home.  Shlomy, xxx, Barry, Tagit, and xxx.

We returned to Servas hosts Debbie and Nathanel’s home. Shlomy, Nathanel, Barry, Tarit, and Sudeshna.

Aloha and Shalom, Renée

 

 

Servas Israel Tour – Fantastic

The Tunisian Synagogue in Akko.

It was a wonderful, whirlwind tour of the country hosted by Servas Israel.  Barry and I (and John) have been Servas travelers and hosts since 2002, and many of our best experiences involve visiting with Servas members.

However, the Servas Israel Christmas Tour was beyond our normal experience of staying with people we didn’t know and learning of their lives.  “Servas home stays,” says the website, “provide insight into the political, cultural and social realities that face people of diverse cultures and backgrounds around the world.”  Go to -(https://www.usservas.org/Membership/).  On this tour opportunity, not only did we stay with local families but we were also guided around Israel by people who live there.

We did much and saw much, but it is only now that I’m reporting since I’ve had trouble retrieving my photos and only now are we back home.  So here is an overview of the highlights of the first part of that fabulous 10-day tour.

On December 22, 2014, we started our Israel Servas Tour with an evening gathering in Jerusalem.     Other Servas travelers were from Belarus, Russia, Poland, Germany, Italy,  India, the Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.  Surprisingly, Barry and I were  the only ones from the U.S.

Claudia - our wonderful Servas Israel leader.

Claudia – our wonderful Serves Israel leader.

Servas members from Poland in the front, from Germany behind.

Servas members from Poland in the front, from Germany behind.

Even a lovely couple from Belarus xx were able to participate.

A lovely Servas couple from Belarus–Angelika and Sasha.

The people on the tour were varied and interesting.  One Servas woman whom I was sure was from the UK because of her accent and manner is actually from Sweden.  She says that she’s always been an Anglophile :).  I’d never meet anyone from Belarus – and there were two!  One woman is a flamenco dancer; one young couple have built a community center; one had written a book about his studies abroad.  Everyone was open and friendly.  We got to meet not only Israelis but also others from around the world.

Maria xxx and Roselee xx from xx were the first to introduce their country.

Anna Maria and Rosellee were the first to introduce their country – Italy..

Day 2 – Tuesday – 23 December 2014   Guided Tour to Kibbutz Kfar Masarik – Akko – Haifa We had a really full day starting off at 7:30 a.m. at  Kfar Masarik, one of the first kibbutz – started even before the creation of Israel.  Located in the western Galilee, Kfar Masarik was founded by Czechoslovakian and Lithuanian immigrants in 1932.  In 1937, they were joined by Polish immigrants.  Despite opposition from those who reasoned that the sandy soil could not support agriculture, the kibbutz grew, and  in 1940, the kibbutz moved to its present site and was renamed Kfar Masaryk after Tomás Garrigue Masaryk, the first President of Czechoslovakia.

Maria from Poland and xxx from India - Servas members.

Maria from Poland and Sudhir Kuman from India – Servas members.

The kibbutz post office - with our guide and xxx from xxx

The kibbutz post office – with our guide and Brigitte from Germany.

Kibutz preschoolers.

Kibutz preschoolers.

Kibbutz nursery.  No longer do children spend most of their time away from their parents.

Kibbutz nursery. No longer do children spend most of their time away from their parents.

Our Servas hosts in Kfar Masaryk, Haim and Avraham  told us about the kibbutz: The First and Second Aliyah (immigration wave), the situation in the country and in Europe at the time and the establishment of a pioneering settlement outside the main urban centers of the time, including the many difficulties involved.

The big beautiful trees give the kibbutz a park-like setting that must be quite a change when they started here in 1940.

The big beautiful trees give the kibbutz a park-like setting that must be quite a change when they started here in 1940.

They noted the social structure of the kibbutz work – of sharing and equality, the difficulties in everyday life — family split apart from children, laundry services, dining, clothing, and various members’ decisions.  The guides also said a few words about the present privatization, which is happening with most of the surviving kibbutz in Israel today.

Olga & Svetlana, Servas members from St. Petersburg, Russia.

At the kibbutz, Olga & Svetlana A., Servas members from St. Petersburg, Russia.

10:00 – Our guided tour in Acre (aka Akko) started at an elaborate Tunisian synagogue where we learned basic concepts of Judaism. The mosaic motifs on the walls represent an integrated Jewish Heritage & Holocaust Zionism in a unique place.

The Tunisian xxx

The Tunisian Djerba Synagogue.

While many synagogues are in humble buildings, the Tunisian Djellaba Synagogue in Akko is the only one of its kind in the world; all four stories, within and without, display spectacular mosaics (from Kibbutz Eilon).

The wall, floors, and even ceiling were of mosaics1

The wall, floors, and even ceiling are mosaics!

Angels ??

Biblical scenes.

Biblical stories in mosaics.

Biblical stories in mosaics.

Wall of a study room in the Tunisian synagogue.

Wall of a study room in the Tunisian synagogue.

Outside the Acre walls - with Servas Israel Tour members.

Outside the Acre walls – with Servas Israel Tour members: Manda from Sweden, Kashi Liel from India, Svetlana P. from Russia, and  Sudeshna and Tarit from India.

The Land Gate - Akra

The Land Gate – Acre

Servas Tour members at Acra

Servas Tour members at Acre/Akko.

As we toured Acre/Akko, we learned about its significance during the Crusades, Arab and Turkish periods until today. We  visited the fortress walls, went inside the local ruler’s fortress, remotely viewing the Knights Halls.

Maria and Tomas from Poland                  Maria and Tomasz from Poland and, facing the camera, Imelda from Germany.

On the Eastern Wall rampart.

On the Eastern Wall rampart – Angelika from Belarus is in the foreground.

Stephen ?

Stepan – from the Czech Republic.

Acre Citadel - The Knights Hall

Acre Citadel – The Knights Hall

Regrouping before lunch.

Regrouping before lunch – Marilyn from the U.K. in the foreground

Located directly under the city built above it, a perfectly preserved Crusader city is being unearthed and brought back to life in Akko.

The Old City of Akko is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The walls and fortresses, knights’ halls, churches, synagogues, and mosques are all reminders of the city’s conquerors and religions, from the Canaanites and Romans to the Crusaders, Turks, and British.

12:30 Midday break – lunch at a local eastern restaurant/eatery.

A typical meal - lots of salads and choices - yum!

A typical meal – lots of salads and choices – yum!

Then we got to wander through the Acre markets.

Acre market.

Acre market.

Barry & me - and lots of fish in the Acre market.

Barry & me – and lots of fish in the Acre market.

Shopper

Shopper

Dresses for sale.

Dresses for sale.

Bakalava xxx

Baklava – of all kinds!

Shoppers

Shoppers

Lines for popular restaurants.

Line for a popular restaurant.

Acre shoppers and our Servas group.

Acre shoppers and our Servas group.

Cool Acre walkways.

Ancient Acre walkways.

A wall of Acre (Akka xx)

A wall of Acre (Akko)

Ancient Acre sea wall

Ancient Acre sea wall

The Akko Port was first mentioned in relation to the Greek campaign to conquer Egypt in 527-525 BC.

The port had been built during the reign of Ptolemais II (285-246 BC), transforming Akko into an international port city and the gateway to Israel.  It reached its zenith during the conquest by the Crusaders.  In the 13th Century, Akko became the capital of the Crusader Kingdom in the Holy Land.  After the Ottoman conquest, the port was neglected, reduced to a fisherman’s harbor.

Acre sea wall - now a good spot for fishing.

Acre sea wall – now a good spot for fishing.

The 1269 sermon encouraged a Jewish congregation to make Israel its home xxx.

In 1269, a rabbi encouraged his Jewish congregation to make Israel its home.

St. John the Baptist Church - built in 1737 xxx on the site of St. Andrews Cxx

St. John the Baptist Church – built in 1737  on the site of  the Crusader Church of St. Andrews.

Akkra zzz lifeguard?

Akko  lifeguard?

M and S? - from Germany?

Anna and Thomas from Germany.

Beauty in even a gate.

Beauty and history everywhere – even in a gate.

The old wall; the new city.

The old wall; the new city.

During the British Mandate, the Akko Fortress served as the main prison in the north of the country.  Prisoners included hundreds of members of the underground movements: the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi.  The Underground Prisoners Museum in Akko has a new exhibit describing reasons for incarceration, daily prison life, the  Akko Prison breakout, and the story of the Olei Hagardon (those hanged on the gallows).

xx from India

Sudhir Kuman from India

Juice bar!

Fresh juice bar!

Those who live in the old area - especially the Arabs - will not sell their property at any price.

Those who live in the old city – especially the Arabs – will not sell their property at any price.

View from above the Ba'hai Temple in Haifa to the port.

View from above the Baha’i Temple in Haifa to the port.

Then we drove for about an hour to reach  downtown Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel, third largest in the country, with about 600,000 residents in the area, and home to the Bahá’í World Centre (another UNESCO World Heritage Site).

The beautiful grounds of the Baha'i Temple in Haifa.

The beautiful grounds of the Baha’i Temple in Haifa.

The history of the city spans more than 3,000 years.

Haifa has been conquered and ruled by the Phoenicians, Persians, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs,  Crusaders, Ottomans, British, and the Israelis.

Today, Haifa is a major seaport on Israel’s Mediterranean coast and plays an important role in the economy.   It is also home to one of the oldest and largest high-tech parks in the country. Haifa Bay is a center of heavy industry, petroleum refining and chemical processing.  Formerly it was the western terminus of an oil  pipeline from Iraq via Jordan.

Downtown Haifa connects the past and the present and points to the future.  Our Servas guides noted historical factors that affect the status of Haifa as the northern province and industrial and logistics center.  The cultural fabric of life of Arabs and Jews in Haifa points to a possible realization of future peace for other places in Israel.

Then, instead of joining the other Servas members at Castra – the modern center that combines a shopping and art center, Barry and I finished the eventful day by going with our Servas hosts’, Shoshana & Shmuel, to their daughter’s home for Hanukkah donuts and celebration.

Getting ready to light the Hanukkah candles.

Getting ready to light the Hanukkah candles.

Lighting Hanakkah candles! xx

Lighting Hanukkah candles!

Barry getting tips from XShashonna xxx - the queen of donut making.

Barry (I hope) getting tips from Shoshana – the queen of donut making.

Shoshana's daughter and granddaughter make the donuts too.

Shoshana’s daughter and granddaughter help make the donuts too.

Shmuel, me, Barry, and Shoshana eating Hanakkah donuts. xx

Shmuel, me, Barry, and Shoshana with the rest of the family – eating Hanukkah donuts.

I couldn’t eat  just one :) !

It was a wonderful way to end a varied and interesting day.

The following days would be terrific too.

Shalom and aloha,

Renée

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