Category — Israel
Israel proved to be one of the most interesting and rewarding stops on our round the world trip.
Even in the short time we spent there, it shifted our world view, giving us a much more informed context for understanding a country and a region that is so easily misunderstood.
It is a fascinating place, where visitors can easily immerse themselves in ancient history, religious philosophy and the roots of Western civilization.
Our report and recommendations on travel to Israel is posted here.
June 17, 2009 3 Comments
I doubt he knows this, but Mr. Thurber, my 9th grade Latin teacher, made quite an impression on me.
His language lessons were built around the history of the Roman Empire, fascinating stories of personalities and conflicts that were larger than life. They instilled in me a love of history and an appreciation for Roman civilization.
When I learned that the ancient Roman port of Caesarea was just ten miles from the Haberman house, I knew we had to visit.
In 22 BCE Herod the Great he began construction of a deep sea harbor at Caesarea, where he built storerooms, markets, wide roads, baths, temples to Rome and Augustus, and public buildings. The ruins remain.
Every five years the city hosted major sports competitions, gladiator games, and theatrical productions. The amphitheater still hosts regular concerts by major national and international performers.
More recently, the port has become an upscale shopping and dining destination. It is also home to the annual Caesarea Jazz Festival.
Today, Caesarea is the only locality in Israel managed by a private organization rather than a municipal government.
The Caesarea Development Corporation manages municipal services while marketing a real-estate development, managing the nearby industrial park, and running Israel’s only golf course – designed by Pete Dye, no less.
More pictures from Caesarea are here.
June 15, 2009 2 Comments
The Dead Sea is dying.
Recently the Dead Sea has been shrinking about three feet per year because Jordan has been diverting water from the river that feeds the sea from the north.
The picture below marks the spot where the sea shore was in 1985.
Most scientists believe the Dead Sea will never disappear entirely because the evaporation of water slows down as surface area decreases and salinity increases.
And if nothing else, the Dead Sea is salty. Swimming in it is an odd sensation; it’s simply impossible to sink.
We stopped in at Ein Gedi, near the lowest point of land on earth (1,385 feet below sea level) to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits the salty water and mud have provided since King Herod’s day.
June 12, 2009 3 Comments
Masada stands at the eastern edge of the Judean Desert on an isolated plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. Today, this nearly impenetrable fortress is an imposing symbol of Israeli resolve.
About 100 years later at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War against the Roman Empire, a group of Jewish extremists called the Sicarii stormed the the Roman garrison at Masada and took control of the fortress.
The Romans decided not to take this act of war lying down. The Roman governor brought a legion to Masada and laid siege to it. After about three months of fighting, the Romans finally breached a wall with a battering ram.
When they entered the fortress, however, the Romans discovered that the 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings on fire and committed mass suicide rather than face certain capture, defeat, slavery or execution by their enemies.
Only two women and five children survived.
June 10, 2009 1 Comment
In Jerusalem’s Old City, Christian pilgrims visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, located on the site where the faithful believe Jesus was crucified, then resurrected.
Nearby, pious Jews gather at the Western Wall of Temple Mount, whose foundation, according to Jewish tradition, was built by King Solomon. Many Jews believe The Wall is near the spot God gathered the dust He used to create Adam.
A few hundred yards away is The Dome of the Rock, the oldest Islamic building in the world and the third holiest site in Islam. Muslims believe that from this spot Muhammad ascended to heaven on the back of his horse, before returning to earth to record his vision.
Is it possible to pack more historic, cultural and religious significance into an area less than a square mile?
I am not a particularly religious person, but my skin tingled as I walked the cobblestone streets of a city whose sites that have been fought over for centuries. A place that stands at the heart of so many of the great conflicts of human history.
It is impossible to visit Jerusalem’s Old City and not be moved.
June 8, 2009 3 Comments
My friend Martha and I worked together in the 80s at a video editing facility. She was my only married friend back then, with a real house and even a dog.
She stood by me as my Maid of Honor (guess that’d really be “Matron,” though the word has bad connotations) when Craig and I married.
Years later, we both found ourselves with baby daughters in our arms. Imagine my dismay when my friend and her husband and the baby that matched mine moved to Israel.
I just couldn’t understand how she could choose a such dangerous country in which raise her daughter.
I had all the images in my mind from the news: teen boys, faces partially obscured by scarves, throwing rocks at cars; rockets shot into the desert; barbed wire; mourners following caskets; bombed buses and blown up cafes.
And the political situation, age old. I pictured Arafat. I pictured Rabin. Broken treaties, broken hearts, dusty and sad.
How could she voluntarily move to a place of such endless and historic conflict?
June 5, 2009 5 Comments
She mentioned the final showdown between God and Satan as casually as one might mention a Red Sox — Yankees weekend series. But then, Martha’s not a New Testament kind of girl.
We had come to Israel to visit Martha and her family (Michael, Gerry, Ellie and Nati), our long time friends and one-time neighbors. Mike and Martha had made aliyah, not once, but twice in the past fifteen years.
The second time they returned to Israel was difficult for us to understand. Our children had become good friends, and it was difficult for us as non-Jews to understand the cultural and religious importance of living there.
As we planned our RTW, we resolved to visit the Habermans in Israel, making it a non-negotiable stop on the itinerary.
And now, here we were, looking at the place many Christians believe the end will begin.
“See way over there?” Martha asked. She was pointing at what looked like some villas and townhomes in the distance. “A real estate developer is selling homes and condos to people who want to be close by when Armageddon begins.”
June 3, 2009 1 Comment
“Why have you come here? You were turned away at the King Hussein Bridge Crossing, and now you are here. Do you think we are stupid? We don’t know?”
It was hard to turn away from the scene unfolding in front of us. The young Arab woman began to beg the Israeli security officer to reconsider — but the officer was having none of it. She said: “You have been told you cannot enter Israel. You must go back to Jordan.”
Over the previous ten months we had made dozens of border crossings. Every single one was routine. More than once border officials barely looked at our passports. Entering Israel, it seemed, was another matter.
Thirty-six hours earlier we had landed at Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport after an eight hour flight from Delhi. The quiet efficiency of Amman’s airport contrasted sharply with the chaos of Delhi.
After we had collected our luggage we made our way to the airport exit. “Welcome to Jordan. Go in peace,” the security guard said as he waved us through with barely a second look.
We had flown to Jordan to travel Israel to visit friends. Our OneWorld RTW tickets got us as close as Amman. We planned to spend the night there, then travel overland to Israel.
The Jordanian-Israeli border opened to tourists in 1994.
I have to admit I had reservations about traveling to Israel, particularly after their election brought Benjamin Netanyahu back to power. In the weeks after the Israeli election, Netanyahu did not sound like a man eager to restart the Middle East peace process.
As our cab left the Amman airport we saw a vivid reminder we were in another part of the world: A sign that said “Iraqi Border – 355 km.” Somehow, I never imagined driving past a sign like that with my children in the car.
Once we settled in our hotel in Amman, we began to explore our options for getting to the Israeli border. There are three border crossings open to tourists, and our friends wanted us to meet them at the Sheik Hussein Bridge (as opposed to the King Hussein Bridge).
There were several travel agencies near our hotel, so Dani and I went to inquire about a bus from Amman to Nazareth that we had read about.
We walked in the first travel agency we saw. A young woman greeted us, and I asked her: “Do you know anything about a bus from Amman to Nazareth – I think it is run by Trust Transport?”
The woman looked confused, then concerned: “You want to travel to Israel?”
June 1, 2009 3 Comments