I’m into the end of the 2nd week in Israel and right now I’m in a little place called Ra’anana near Tel Aviv on the west coast of Israel. Now to the important part of this post, here’s the lowdown of what I have been doing in Israel during these 2 weeks.
After not sleeping for about 24 hours, I touch down in Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv in the morning and begin my day; needless to say, I am not in the best of moods. I spend the day going to Jerusalem and praying at the Western Wall and exploring the Jewish Quarter, (most of this stuff I do in Jerusalem I have done before on a previous trip). I took all the usual pictures and managed to get ripped off by about 10 Shekels by a street vendor (which did nothing to improve my mood).
After catching some sleep, I realised just how long this day is going to be. We begin by going to the city of David located in the Old City of Jerusalem and explore the ruins and the Southern Excavation. All of which was a lot of fun. We head back to the Jewish Quarter and go to Mt Zion. After this, our group goes to King David’s Tomb, which was pretty boring, as all we did was gawk at what appeared to be a wooden box wrapped in velvet. After this, at around 6pm (it is now fully night in Israel), we explore the Kottel tunnels and the lower parts of the Western Wall, all of which are beneath the Arab Quarter. This was easily the highlight of the day as walked down through the narrow tunnels with the wall on our right. To make matters even more fun, when we reached the end of our tour, we had to walk back through the Arab Quarter at night to get to the meeting place. To be honest, it wasn’t that crazy, but I was a little bit nervous walking through incredibly dodgy markets, where everybody was sporting guns or a weapon of some kind.
This day opened up with our group volunteering to help out at a soup kitchen. This involved preparing food, etc… So began one of the most pointless hour of my life as I was asked to sort through 25kg worth of rice to try and find the ‘bad ones’. Now I don’t know about you, but I have never known there was such a thing as ‘bad’ rice! I even have pictures of me doing this, just to prove it. From there, we took a bus to go and visited the Israel Supreme Court, where there was a court case going on about materials that were being used to build the separation wall. The building itself, was very interesting as it had a lot of symbolism behind it. From there we went and visited Nachlaut and finished the day 2 hours later.
Since this day was Friday, we really didn’t do much except go to the Machne Yehoda market. These markets are the open air, store vendors yelling at the top of their voices type. They are very crowded with people constantly pushing each other; basically a haven for thieves and pick pockets. To cut a long story short, they were quite interesting. From there, our group got on a bus and went down to the Western Wall to be there in time for Shabbat. We prayed and danced around the wall for about an hour. The atmosphere was great, with everybody singing and dancing at the top of their voices. After that, since it was Shabbat, we had to walk back to our hotel, which took 2 hours!
Shabbat, the day of rest. Most of this day was spent relaxing and playing games in the hotel. We went to shule in the morning for about 20 minutes (we were there for the experience). In the afternoon, we were introduced to a new game called ‘the kissing game’. It is very simple, yet a lot of fun. Basically you need about 40 people, everyone sits in a circle and is given either a number or a letter (letter for boys, number for girls). A volunteer sits in the middle, for example a girl. Both a number and a letter are called; the male who is called must kiss the girl in the middle while the other girl who has been called must kiss the boy (before the girl in the middle is kissed). If the male is kissed before kissing the girl in the middle he then sits in the middle. Obviously the roles are reversed when there is a male in the middle.
The game is a lot of fun and has quickly become the most popular game for our group. After this, we had Havdala and after that we had a famous academic called Neil Lazarus who I got a photo with.
This is a very special day. Our group received our 8 soldiers from an intelligence devision. I quickly made friends with a Lieutenant called Shlomo who was softly spoken yet he could do the most amazing card tricks. He was very intelligence and spoke near perfect English; this was the last week in the army for him after 5 years! Next week on Sunday he will go to Thailand for about 4 weeks as a holiday. Today we went to a place called Caesarea which was a place built by King Herod to appease the Romans. We didn’t spend much time there as it rained out after 1 hour. From there we went to Osfia to experience Druze hospitality. The food there was absolutely beautiful, I loved eating every part of it.
Today we finally went to Haifa, which in my opinion, one of the more beautiful cities in Israel. It has a beautiful deep water harbor and nice mountains (more like hills but whatever). Our first stop was the Hanging Bahaii Gardens. Let me say first off that these are the more amazing and beautiful gardens that you will ever go to. The view from the top was wonderful and gave a great view of the surrounding area of Haifa. From there, we explored the Arab section of Haifa, were I purchased a lovely type of sweet food. This food which is orange (if someone knows the name, please tell me) filled me up for about 4 hours!
We started the day by traveling to Akko, a lovely little town near to Haifa. This turn is filled with history from old Mosques to a ‘hotel’ for the Crusaders who were in the area 800 years ago. The hotel consists of a stable and rooms. As well as this we went on a hike and were about 100 metres away from the Israeli-Lebanon border. We explored a bit of Rosh Hanikra before watching a beautiful sunset. When I returned back to the hotel, I knew that something strange was going to happen. We usually have night activities but there had been no mention of what they were for this night. My suspicion was multiplied when Shlomo, my room mate and the rest of the soldiers came into my room and told me to go down with everyone else to the bomb shelter (our group’s meeting place). About 20 minutes later, all the army guys came in wearing their uniform and started shouting at us. To cut a long story short, it was army night. After much shouting and push-ups, we got into army uniforms and were divided into 3 groups. We all had to learn some of the basic skills that raw recruits to an army have to learn. To put it bluntly, most of the night I was laughing or trying to laugh myself stupid after watching a lot of people trying (and failing) to do push ups. The girls were the funniest, with many of them upset that they had to put a little bit of camouflage on (some complained that it would cause a rash which turned out to be bull shit). At the end of the night we got a lot of special items from our soldiers who had clearly raided their base and took whatever they didn’t have to sign out 😀
Today our group went further into the Galilee and arrived into Safed or Zfat. Safed is know as the city of Jewish Mysticism or Kabalah. The city is one of 4 holy cities in Judaism, each of the four representing a different element. Safed is air, Jerusalem is fire, Hebron is Earth and Tiberius is water. I have many an interesting story about Safed and it is easily one of my favourite cities in all of Israel, not in the least because there is a store which makes the best schnitzel. From there we went to a place called Rosh Pina and after that, back to the hotel. Later on in the evening, I got my results back from my HS, the last test you do at school, and found that I was able to do my course. To sum it up, it was a late night involving lots of alcohol.
Today was a short day was we would be going to our relatives place for the week end later on. We went to a Kibbutz which doubled as a museum for those killed in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising called Lochamei Hagetaut or something like that. It was not a fun day and by the end of it, I was exhausted namely because I had such a late night partying. At the end of the day our soldiers left us, which was sad. Thank you so much for giving us such a great time!
At the moment I have a free week end and I am staying at my step Grandfather’ s place. On Sunday, I will spend days in the IDF doing a program called Gadna, which is basically the first week of basic training. I can’t wait to see the reaction on every girl’s face when they realise what they signed up for! I doubt I will be able to do another big post like this, it will probably come when I get home.