10)My cousin picking me up at 12:30am on Shabbat and driving me an hour and a half home, taking me in, feeding me, driving my ass around to Daliyah-al Carmel, Nazareth, Tiberius, Tsfat, Akko, Rosh Haqra and Jerusalem, being my tour guide and companion up until Howard broke his arm while overlooking what is arguably the holiest site in the world the Temple Mount. Thanks for everything.
9)The folk dancing on the beach, like 50 plus people dancing relatively complex unique dances in concentric circles that were tiled onto the promenade at the beach in Haifa.
8)My first meal, in the Druye village of Daliyah-al Carmel, with suddenly a dozen small plates on the table and people taking what they want from each of them and homemade lemonade.
7)The sunset on the Papa Andreu restaurant in Jerusalem, a full hour plus writing postcards with a view of the Temple Mount and Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepluchre, 3 of the holiest sites in the world.
6)Touching the Western Wall, with 2000 years of tumultous hope and despair and god and prayers.
5)The hummus lunch in Jaffa with an amazing lemon-pepper sauce for the pita bread, the loud waiter and the packed atmosphere.
4)The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The oldest continuously used church in the world, since 325AD or so, so much aura there it was surreal.
3)The book The Haj by Leon Uris about Israel coming to be at the Palestinian Refugee camps after the war of independence of 1948. It added so much to my trip.
2)Actually travelling into the West Bank. I was probably safe but it was so much to take in and hot and disorienting.
1)Surviving. That is always the first aim of any journey.
Pictures coming in the next day or two!
I haven’t been blogging much lately but it’s not because I don’t have anything to say, it’s just that I’ve been busy travelling. Here are some bullet points of the past days:
*Howard broke his arm yesterday while at the beginning of giving me a tour of Jerusalem. His wife Tali was nice enough to continue the tour while he was getting his arm in a sling.
*I went to Palestine today. Think about that. It isn’t even officially a country like almost every other place on earth and I now count it as country 44 I have visited.
*While I was in Palestine only a few hours, I went to Bethlehem and visited the Church of the Nativity, the traditional place where Jesus was born. The church was built in the 4th century, 300 years after his death but this is the the longest continuously used Church in the world. The smell of incense was intense and you could feel so much history and sanctity there, making even people like me who are not religious feel something. I also bought some souvenirs there, including a small Nargileh, or Turkish water pipe. I got some apple tobacco to go with it. It’s not something I will use often but even if it is mostly for show, I am proud of that posession I have yet to even get back safely to Germany.
*After returning from Bethlehem, I made it to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in Christianity. It was also built in the 4th century, more than a millenium before Columbus discovered the New World, on the spot where Jesus was supposedly crucified. It was hard to fathom where you were but you could sense that a lot had happened there.
*Earlier this morning I was also on the Temple Mount above the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Islam. You walk around and read about conquering armies from the 7th century. It is also considered to be the “center of the world”, though I would suspect that New York, in some ways, has taken that spot for the non-religious side of life.
*So, in a 24 hour period I visited the holiest site to Jews and Christians and they are only about 300 meters from each other. God(s) has/have a sense of humor, do(es)n’t (t)he(y)?
*Tomorrow I am off to Tel Aviv for one last night. I also have all of Friday in Tel Aviv so that should be plenty of time to do all I want to do. I would like to spend more time here and may even spend the morning in the Old City of Jerusalem only because it has the most energy of any place I have visited so far. The other possibility is to stop somewhere in between but I’ll have to do some reading in the Lonely Planet tonight. I also need to journal some more tonight.
*My camera seems to have broken. the light meter doesn’t work anymore. This happened outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It could be a sign but I am going to try and get it fixed before I give up on her.
2 days in Israel are down. It is hard to explain all I have seen because it is jumbled, mixed in with olive groves, eternal sunshine, ancient sites that are written about in the Bible with little kids kicking a half-flat soccer ball against it. It is loud, chaotic, people on cell phones everywhere, lots of skin showing by Israelis while the Muslims and Druze are more covered as you would expect.
I am in northern Israel, about an hour south of Lebanon. Yesterday we visited a Druze village and I had my first exposure to Israeli food, hummus, tahini, different salads, pita, lamb and rice, man oh man is it good! They also make a good lemonade in this country.
There was some folk dancing down on the beach last night and today we had a full day, visiting Nazareth and then driving through a small village next to it where Jesus performed his first miracle turning water into wine and then to the Sea of Galilee, visiting a kibbutz and a place for christians to go and be baptised in about the same spot that Jesus was baptised. We had a great fish lunch on the eastern side of the Sea and it was fantastic. We made it to Tsfat, the home of Jewish mysticism and then got back around 7pm tonight.
Tomorrow is Akko where I plan to take 2 rolls of film hopefully, some grottoes right next to the Lebanese border and then Tuesday off to Jerusalem!
Man oh man, am I outta control!
So Maya from Norway is currently in Israel on business. She happened to get sent to the town (Haifa) where my my mom’s cousin and family live. She said it was beautiful and the family was really nice and it sent a bug straight up my ass.
I’ve wanted to visit Israel for some time. It’s one of the most important places on earth to visit, unlike Nicaragua or Norway (no offense, Maya) or Latvia or many other places I have been. But Israel has one of the holiest cities on earth and many of the Bible’s locations are there.
I found an amazing deal online last night. I was told that anything less than 500 dollars would be a good deal. I found tickets for 340 bucks/person, including the super expensive train to the airport (~300bucks/person without the 50% off card that we have). I had to talk Franziska into it, it’s hard for her to think more than a semester into the future and to be honest, this semester is only in the middle of the second week. There is the off chance that she might not be able to make it because of some special school project but the chances are pretty small (knock knock knock) and so today, when I saw her at lunch at the 1euro for a kebap special through Baden FM where Oli works, I talked to her about it. I told her that I had read a little bit about Israel and then, out of nowhere was this little sparkle in her eye, a look I hope to see often in life, and she said, all casual and shit, “Let’s go to Israel.”
Really, baby? I asked. Yep, she said. Woohoo! So, after lunch, we went home by tram and we booked tickets for a two week trip to Israel! How exciting is that?
What this probably means is that I will, if it’s okay with her and her family, go up to Hamburg with Franziska for Easter. I was going to plan something for the week, like Sardinia but because we’re doing a pretty big trip just 6 weeks later, maybe we can spend the week up north, hanging out and visiting Hamburg and Kiel. It’s funny when I consider spending a week in/around Hamburg “not doing much” for Easter….hahahah
So, 2009 holidays are shaping up baby!