Surprised by Israel – Part II

The Old City is an integral part of Jerusalem, but I was surprised to see bullet holes in the walls.

Old City Jerusalem wall.

Old City Jerusalem wall.

Bullet holes are visible in the Old City Walls - these likely from the shelling in the 1948 war to establish Israel as its own country.

Bullet holes are visible in the Old City Walls – these likely from the shelling in the 1948 war to establish Israel as its own country.

Buskers are here too.

As in many cities, you will find street performers.  We heard "Fiddler On the Roof" several times. :)

As in many cities, you will find street performers. We heard “Fiddler On the Roof” several times. 🙂

You’ll find street art, hip cafés, smokers, religious pilgrims, fashionable women, and  lots of cell phone users.

Café outside the Old City Walls.

Café outside the Old City Walls.

You’ll find many high-end shops.

Well-crafted goods (expensive) are everywhere in Jerusalem.

Well-crafted, expensive goods are everywhere in Jerusalem.

Danny is getting his favorite olives from a favorite Arab shop.

With Barry watching, Danny is buying wonderful olives from a favorite Arab shop.

You’ll find friendly Israelis and Arabs interacting .       You’ll eat tasty new dishes.

Schm xxx with fresh squeezed orange juice and toast = xx

Shakshuka with freshly squeezed orange juice and toast.  Thanks, Danny!

Israel is composed of intertwining Jewish, Arab, and Christian communities.

An Arab community near the Christian Visitation Church.

An Arab community near the Christian Visitation Church.

You’ll find water sports in Israel.

Paddle boarders in Haffa.

Paddle boarders in Jaffa.

Jaffa boardwalk.

Jaffa boardwalk.

It’s warm in Israel – even in December –at least while we were there.

While Ruth was working, Danny showed  Barry & me highlights of Jaffa.

While Ruth was working, Danny showed Barry & me highlights of Jaffa.

Yoga on the beach.

Yoga on the beach.

Fishing is also a choice.

Fishing is also a choice.

You’ll find old buildings:

In Jaffa - an old passageway and buildings.

In Jaffa – old passageway and building.

Renovated buildings – the outside must conform to the original building facade :

Jaffa dwelling.

Jaffa dwelling.

And new –

Jaffa building

Jaffa building

You’ll find music festivals:

The beautiful Sea of Galilee - setting for the Jacob's Ladder Festival.

The beautiful Sea of Galilee – setting for the Jacob’s Ladder Festival.

Jacob's Ladder Festival - Folk and Blues.

Jacob’s Ladder Festival – Folk and Blues.

Music on the stage - and off.

Music on the stage – and off at Jacob’s Ladder Festival.

The young get tips at the festival too.

The young get tips at the festival too.

There’s everyday life:

Basketball kids on a kibbutz.

Basketball kids on a kibbutz.

Airbnb on the Golan Heights xx

Airbnb on the Golan Heights.  Barry, Ruth, and me with our great Airbnb hosts.

We saw jet trails and lights in Jordan from our Airbnb on the Golan Heights. You’ll see school kids on field trips.

At ancient ruins near the Golan Heights xx

At ancient Jewish ruins in the Golan Heights

Ruins from xxxl

During the 4th-8th centuries CE.  Ruins from ancient Qasrin: Talmudic Village and synagogue

You’ll find good wines:

Wine is now an important part of Israel's production. xxx

Wine is now an important part of Israel’s production.

Wine tour and tasting at the Golan Heights Winery.

Wine tour and tasting at the Golan Heights Winery.

Winery tour.

Winery tour.

Golan Heights Winery gate.

Golan Heights Winery gate.

Arab villages in Israel are very interesting.  Ruth and Danny took us to Abu Ghosh village to enjoy the great food.

We loved the Abu Gosh xx food - with Ruth and Danny.

We loved the Abu Ghosh food – with Ruth and Danny.

“His pot of gold gives sparkle to the whole town,” said The New York Times  in a piece about Jawdat Ibrahim.  (<http://www.nytimes.com/1999/06/16/world/abu-ghosh-journal-his-pot-of-gold-gives-a-sparkle-to-the-whole-town.html&gt;)

Jixxx 's Illinois State Lottery winning of 22 million has changed the life of the Abu Ghosh village too.

Jawdat Ibrahim’s Illinois State Lottery winner – This article is posted in the Abu Ghosh restaurant.

A poor Arab among second-class citizens, Jawdat Ibrahim (one of six children whose father died when Jawdat was 4)  fled his childhood home of Abu Ghosh to live with his uncle in Chicago.  He became a tow truck driver, rescuing cars buried in Midwest snow storms – and then he won the Illinois State Lottery in 1990.  With his 22 million U.S. dollars,  not only has Ibrahim  opened restaurants and provided scholarships in Abu Ghosh, but he also sees himself as an emissary of peace – a bridge in Arab/Israeli relationships. As well, he has fun.  Mr. Ibrahim organized Abu Ghosh residents to make the largest ever plate of hummus, winning recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records.  Ibrahim donated the tasty hummus first to Israeli soldiers and then to schools, hospitals, and needy people.

Largest hummus created by the Abu Ghosh village.

Largest hummus created by the Abu Ghosh village.

Recently, the Abu Ghosh hummus Guinness record was surpassed  by a group in Lebanon.  Jawat Ibrahim plans to create an even bigger batch of  hummus early this summer to recapture the title. Random things surprised me.

Santa was there in the Old City Jerusalem.

Santa was there in the Old City Jerusalem.

At dusk in Eilat - a typical tourist beach town -- except  you can see Egypt across the water. xx

At dusk in Eilat – a typical tourist beach town — except we could  see Egypt’s  Sinai Peninsula across the Red Sea.

The markets are colorful and fun.

This man was yelling that his tomatoes were so cheap that he must have stolen them. :)

This man was yelling that his tomatoes were so cheap that he must have stolen them! 🙂

What would you like?

What would you like?

The sands look golden in Israel’s Negev Desert, which cover nearly 4,700 square miles of this small country.

Hill after hill of sand and rock near Lotan in the very southern part of Israel.

Hill after hill of sand and rock near Lotan in the very southern part of Israel.

Kibbutz Lotan lemon tree.

Kibbutz Lotan lemon tree.

With good farming practices of soil enrichment and irrigation, Israelis have been able to produce much food.

Much hard work and experimentation has changed the desert into productive farmland such as this plot at Kibbutz Lotan.

Much hard work and experimentation has changed the desert into productive farmland such as this plot at Kibbutz Lotan.

Another surprise for us in Israel were the incredible stories we heard from Israeli families.

Hanakkah with xx Rohee and her family.

Hanukkah celebration with  Rooee and her family.

We had a feast.

Our Hanukkah  feast.

Eitai xx demonstrating an old steam engine.

Etai, with his dad and nephew, demonstrating an old steam engine.

The stories of the people who make up Israel are most amazing. During WWII, an infant who was left along the path to a church in the early morning hours wore a gold locket declaring,  “Whoever takes care of me, God will bless.” Later that morning, the child’s Jewish parents were sent  to a concentration camp where the mother was killed. The child’s father escaped twice and managed to survive in great part because he spoke seven languages. After the war, he searched for his child.   For the same morning that he had left his daughter, town records showed that an infant girl found on the path to the church had been turned over to the Nazis and killed.  With no family left, the father bought a ticket for the U.S.  But on the way to the ship, he saw a gypsy fortuneteller who cautioned him, “Someone is waiting for you.”

He sold his ticket and went back to his town.  He saw a girl he thought might be his daughter and followed her; she was his child!    The girl was brought up on a kibbutz and has raised a healthy family.  One granddaughter is now training for the Israeli Olympic swim competition! That story has been made into a play.

Letters from L

“Letters from Leokadia”

In another example,  a Servas host’s mother had been operated on by the notorious Nazi Dr. Mengele, infamous for the selection of victims to be killed in the gas chambers and for performing unscientific and often deadly experiments on prisoners.  It was a miracle that our Servas host’s mother lived – and a miracle that she was able to have a child.

Another’s story was that her grandfather acting as a recruiter for Israel had gone to Morocco to get Jewish immigrants to help populate what they hoped would be their new country.  He married a 16 year-old Moroccan Jewish girl who wanted to immigrate but was too young to go on her own. They got stopped at what was then the British mandate/ Israeli border and sent to a refugee camp in Cyprus.  The couple did manage to get into Israel, but it wasn’t easy.

Another woman’s mother was 17 when she got to what was then called the British Mandate for Palestine region (1922-1948) and later became the State of Israel.  Although she had lost her whole family to the Nazis, the mom was sent back to Germany. We heard many such stories.

Since the State of Israel was established in 1948, the country has opened its arms to immigrants.  Now with so many anti-Semitic problems in Europe, many are immigrating from there – especially the French.  We met U.S. citizens immigrating too.

A U.S. family from Florida with six children.  They are immigrating to Israel.

A U.S. family with six children are new immigrants to Israel.

Also, Israel encourages 18-26 year old youth from other countries to investigate their Jewish heritage with a 10-day free trip to Israel.  For more information on this incredible program (especially for non-practicing youth with even a slim Jewish heritage), go to <http://www.birthrightisrael.com&gt;.

Wherever we went, we saw that layers of history coat the land of Israel. Caesarea, for instance, is a coastal Israeli city and an important site in Christian history  built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE.  This  was where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus and an important Roman city during the Byzantine Period of the 6th-7th centuries.

Mosaic floor of a Byzantine mansion xx

The Bird Mosaic floor of a Byzantine mansion  – end of 6th century in Caesarea.  The mansion apparently burned down during the Arab invasion of 640 CE.

The fortifications seen  today in Caesarea were rebuilt by Louis IX, King of France, who came to the Holy Land in the 13th century during the Sixth Crusade.

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea is now also a tourist site with restaurants and arts.

Rohee getting glass-blowing instruction on the Caesarea boardwalk.

Roee getting glass-blowing instruction on the Caesarea boardwalk.

Watching kids in Caesarea

Watching kids in Caesarea

Israel is expensive.  Jerusalem has much on-going building.    The taxes are high: 18% on everything.  An apartment in Jerusalem for a one month rental of a very nice one bedroom furnished Windows of Jerusalem Tower apartment is $146.10 (U.S.) a night or $4,529.00 a month.    Windows of Jerusalem Vacation Apartments by EXP® Israel | 5 Star Luxury Vacation Rental Apartments I <http://windowsofjerusalem.com/?utm_content=4218058754&utm_term=rentals%20jerusalem&utm_campaign=Campaign+%231&utm_source=Bing&utm_medium=cpc&gt;.

Jerusalem building

Jerusalem building

Craig’s List Jerusalem offers a 2 bed/2 bath renovated apartment in the German Colony for 3,600,000 (U.S. $911,854). <http://jerusalem.craigslist.org/reb/4916541698.html> German colony Gem apartment – Loyd george street jerusalem2 You can see history and religion wherever you look in Israel.

View into Jerusalem.

View into Jerusalem.

Caesarea sunset.

Caesarea sunset.

Buildings and trees spread over Jerusalem.

Israel is rich in history and many resilient  people.

There’s much more to Israel than I’ve shared.    Go see for yourselves.

Shalom & Aloha, Renée

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

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