Thursday, July 1, 2010

Israel: A brief Summary

Warning.....this is an abridged version of the trip.....so I skip some big stuff....here goes! I got back from Israel on June 24th. All I can say is that the trip was absolutely beyond words. Our journey began at JFK airport in New York, where about 40 of us, travelers, met for the first time before our flight to Zurich, Switzerland and then another short (four hour) flight to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. When we got off the plane after what seemed to be a full day of traveling, we met a small group of 8 Israeli soldiers in the airport that toured with us throughout the duration of our Israel experience. The real trip started when we drove up north into the Golan Heights. Throughout the next 10 days of bus touring we proceeded to work our way south, visiting cities such as Tel Aviv, Haifa, Svat, and Jerusalem on our way. During this 10 day expedition, we did our fair share of hiking in such acclaimed destinations as the Golan Heights (near the Syrian border), Mt. Arbel, Masada, and even through the unrelenting heat of the Negev desert. One of the many extraordinarily staggering views that seems to be burned into my memory was "Bahai gardens" in Haifa, where we stood atop a series of terraces that seemed to recede down into the city of Haifa as far as the eye could see. The view from the top, overlooking the whole port of Haifa was unreal, and the atmosphere led the viewers eyes miles out into the horizon, where the city seemed to disappear into the mist. Soon after, we boarded the bus, and headed to Jerusalem. It was definitely a lesson in frugality to spend about 2 hours in the Israeli market place in Jerusalem, also known as "The Shuk", where all prices are negotiable, and the demeanor is more or less every man for himself. After leaving Jerusalem, we headed south. One of our stops along the way was Masada, a mountainous plateau riddled with ancient ruins from the first Jewish-Roman war. We woke up at 3 Am to start the hike up Masada, which consists of 700+ large stone steps carved into the bedrock that ascends to the city. One mis-step to your right would result in a nasty tumble down a jagged rocky slope, for hundreds of feet. Thankfully, everyone in our group who started the climb, made it to the top, and got to enjoy the spectacular view of the sunrise over the dead sea from the top. The echo from the top was loud and crystal clear; we could even distinguish specific peoples' voices echoing back. After we hiked down Masada, we made a quick pit stop in the pool at the hotel, then headed out to the dead sea, and then the Bedouin tents, where we ate delicious food, and rode camels into the sunset. After a short run-in with a spider-scorpion and an "Israeli desert scorpion", also known as a "deathstalker" or a "Palestine yellow scorpion", we were back on the bus headed back up north. On our final day, Shorashim (the trip organizer) took us deep into the heart of the old city of Jerusalem where we were so casually surrounded by the remnants of thousands of years of such important periods in Jewish and world history. The aura of this place was really something that cannot be explained. At this point, the organized trip was over, and many of my friends boarded a plane that night, and flew back home, however, a handful of us extended our trips and stayed longer. I remained in Israel for an additional 7 days with a friend from Ringling who many of you know (Uri Lotan...blog linked on the right side of my blog) after the trip finished. During those 7 days, I ate a lot of falafel, visited Tel Aviv and Jerusalem again, and traveled to a small Arab village called Abu Ghosh, near where my friend's (Scott Davis) buddy, Raz lives with his family. The next morning, we woke up early, and hitch-hiked into Jerusalem.......and got picked up by an elementary teacher driving a Jaguar. We then took a 4 hour bus ride to Eilat, where it was 115 degrees F, and it was basically too hot to do anything but walk around near the port. When we returned to Abu Ghosh, we went to a restaurant that claims to have the original "mother recipe" for hummus that has been passed down since hummus was invented. Now I am a natural born sceptic, but I just want to say......that hummus was ballin' outa control.....extremely delicious.....even served with falafel, pickles, olives, and a big stack of fresh baked pita. To say the least, I left Abu Ghosh content. On the last night, we drove to Tel Aviv, and met up with a few of the soldiers who were around and a few people who had also extended their trip. I flew home that night. I tried to pick a handful of pictures that would sum up my experience, so here are the pictures I chose......






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