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.
Buskers are here too.
You’ll find street art, hip cafés, smokers, religious pilgrims, fashionable women, and lots of cell phone users.
You’ll find many high-end shops.
You’ll find friendly Israelis and Arabs interacting . You’ll eat tasty new dishes.
Israel is composed of intertwining Jewish, Arab, and Christian communities.
You’ll find water sports in Israel.
It’s warm in Israel – even in December –at least while we were there.
You’ll find old buildings:
Renovated buildings – the outside must conform to the original building facade :
And new –
You’ll find music festivals:
There’s everyday life:
We saw jet trails and lights in Jordan from our Airbnb on the Golan Heights. You’ll see school kids on field trips.
You’ll find good wines:
Arab villages in Israel are very interesting. Ruth and Danny took us to Abu Ghosh village to enjoy the great food.
“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>)
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.
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.
The markets are colorful and fun.
The sands look golden in Israel’s Negev Desert, which cover nearly 4,700 square miles of this small country.
With good farming practices of soil enrichment and irrigation, Israelis have been able to produce much food.
Another surprise for us in Israel were the incredible stories we heard from Israeli families.
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.
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.
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>.
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.
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 is now also a tourist site with restaurants and arts.
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>.
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.
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