Jerusalem, Haifa and our return to Tel Aviv

Please excuse the length of my ramblings and feel free to scan or skip parts, but this is also for Anna and I to keep to remember our trip.

 So what should have been an uneventful flight from Eilat to Tel Aviv and a cab ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, turned into over 24 hours of aggravation-they sent Anna’s luggage to Haifa instead of Tel Aviv and we did not receive her baggage for two days. Instead of driving it to Haifa to us in Jerusalem they sent it back to Eilat and then to Tel Aviv and then it finally made its way to us in Jerusalem.

 WEDNESDAY MAY 21, we went to our hotel in Jerusalem – the Hotel Arthur – located near the always jumping Ben Yehuda Street. It’s like a mini-version of Times Square, except on Erev Shabbat, Friday evening, when miraculously, around 4:30 p.m. everything goes quiet. Stores and restaurants close, most transportation, including the light rail stops, and the streets fill with people either going to the synagogue or going to family and friends homes to celebrate the coming of the Sabbath. It is a wonderful feeling, as if time stops for awhile and we can get off the merry-go-round.

 The rest of our time in Jerusalem was wonderful. We first checked out where Anna would be doing her internship. It turned out to be in an office building quite near where we were staying, but not very close to where she will be living.

 Our first night in Jerusalem we had dinner with a friend of mine, Eleanor that I had not seen since we were in the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization together in high school.

 THURSDAY, MAY 22: Not remembering what Anna and I did the earlier part of Thursday but later in the day we rushed through part of the Old City to get to a tour of the tunnels under the old City of Jerusalem. It was quite a fascinating tour. We even passed a little cubby hole where Jewish women go to pray because it is considered the part of the wall of the Old Temple closest to G-d (or something like that – not sure if I’m repeating it accurately). There were many women squeezed into this little area praying.

 When the tour ended we found the open area at the Western Wall overflowing with people as one of the special units of the Israel Defense Forces was being sworn in. Family, friends and the community were out in force to cheer them on.

 FRIDAY, MAY 23: My dear friend Laura Myers, whom I met in Israel 40 years ago, and lived with for many years in Massachusetts, met Anna and I at the Israel Museum.

Anna and I had not been to the Israel Museum, so we saw some interesting exhibits and also went into the building (I’m blanking out now on it’s name) that holds some of the actual Deal Sea Scrolls.

 Friday evening we walked to Eleanor’s house for Shabbat dinner, shared with her husband Mike, and several of their friends, including another friend, Cheryl (Cherie) Gitlin that I knew from Detroit and had visited when I lived in Israel 39-40 years ago. It was a lovely evening and Eleanor served up a wonderful vegetarian feast for us !!

 SATURDAY, MAY 24: Anna and I spent a quiet Shabbat lounging at the King David Hotel. After sundown we watching the City of Jerusalem come alive again and at 10:30pm we again walked to the Old City to see a light show of the History of Jerusalem, shown on the walls of King David’s Citadel.

 SUNDAY, MAY 25:

Anna and I returned to the Western Wall. This time so we could get close enough to touch it and to leave our written prayers in the cracks of the wall. It can be a very emotional experience. For my non-Jewish friends, this 2000 year-old Wall was not itself part of the Temple, but part of the massive retaining wall that King Herod built to create the vast plaza now known as the Temple Mount. It is the “most important existing Jewish shrine” because of it’s connection to the ancient Temple, the House of God.

Haifa

 We drove from Jerusalem along the cost to Haifa. We eventually made our way up the winding roads and crazy round-a-bouts to the Crowne Plaza Hotel where we were staying for the next three nights. We then all had a lovely dinner on the merpesat (patio) of friend Anita Weiner’s apartment (which is in a building connected to our hotel). It was a glorious evening that included a vegetarian feast consumed while overlooking the lights of Haifa and cities to the North.

 MONDAY, MAY 26: Anita, Anna and I went to the Central Galilee Region – Michigan’s Partnership Region in Israel where Metro Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids partner with three municipalities in Israel: Migdal HeEmek, Nazareth Illit and the Jezreel Valley to build long-lasting people-to-people relationships and collaborate on a variety of programs and shared resources to strengthen both communities.

 I had the opportunity to meet Ziva Ohayon Recht, Director of the partnership, when she spoke in Detroit several months ago. I told her of my impending trip to Israel and my interest in learning more about the partnership. She connected me with Einat Rafaeli, a lovely young woman who spent the day with us showing us around the region. Our tour included a visit to an elementary school for high-risk children, where we met with a wonderful group of 4th and 5th graders. They are part of the Youth Futures program. They shared with us how much the special services they receive mean to them.

 We also visited the Lavido factory where they make skin care products. Their products are extracted from organic products grown under their supervision, which reflects their respect for the land and its produce. Their factory was started with seed money from the Partnership.

 TUESDAY, MAY 27: Anna, Anita, Laura and I visited Ein Hod, an artist colony near Haifa, but only a few shops were open. We then went to Zichron Yakov, a little town with a couple lovely streets of shops and restaurants.

 Anita found a charming little restaurant overlooking the valley and the sea, where we enjoyed lunch. It was then on to Yehuda’s apartment. If I understood them correctly, he has the largest collection of Baroque classical music that he has put onto 1600 CD’s and has an elaborate system to play the music on. He wanted us to listen to a few of the selections as the sound is better than sitting in a concert hall, and the view from his apartment, overlooking the mountains of Haifa, was breathtaking.

 In the evening Anna and I walked along a promenade high in the Carmel Mountains, overlooking the lights of the City and the Haifa Harbor.

 WEDNESDAY, MAY 28: Anna and I took the train from Haifa to Tel Aviv, where we found the street our apartment.

Tel Aviv

 The apartment is 1-1/2 blocks from the beach. It is in an area of some new hotels and new apartment buildings, right next to structures falling apart or being torn down and renovated. We are close to the open-air market called HaCarmel market where we walk to buy our groceries. It is an experience everyone should have!!

 Because we are trying to keep the place cool, we leave windows open. Don’t remember if I mentioned it before or not, but most Israeli homes, apartments, hotels, etc. do NOT have window screens. We were told it is because they like to wash their windows every day and screens make it too difficult. I have yet to see anyone wash their windows, but I have seen a lot of bugs flying in the open windows. Anna has welts on her to prove it. Although I will say there are far fewer flies and mosquitos sharing our quarters than I would have expected.

 Have I mentioned the cats? For those of you who have never been to Israel, you can not fathom the number of homeless cats EVERYWHERE. Breaks my heart to see them on the streets, scrounging for food. This is a problem of long-standing that this country, with all it’s high tech inventions and medical breakthroughs, has been unable to solve !!!

 THURSDAY, MAY 29: I woke earlier than Anna and spent 1-1/2 hours walking along the beautiful promenade built along the Mediterranean and then Anna and I spent the afternoon relaxing at one of the many beaches along the sea.

 In the early evening Laura arrived. While Anna was busy online, Laura and I took a lovely walk along the promenade, where we witnessed a breathtaking sunset, and a wedding taking place near the beach. Tzipi and Anna joined us for dinner at a restaurant overlooking the sea.

 FRIDAY, MAY 30: Tzipi picked us up and took us to the shuk in Jaffa, where we did some souvenir shopping among the throngs of shoppers, and had lunch at a mid-East restaurant well known to the locals !! We then walked a bit through the Neve Tzedek neighborhood – established in 1887 and the first official Jewish district of Tel Aviv, outside the walls of Jaffa. The neighborhood is filled with homes with red-tiled roofs, colored walls, cafes, restaurants and boutiques as well as many synagogues. The neighborhood is home to the internationally famous Batsheva Dance Company.

 In the evening Tzipi took us to meet one of her daughters, Adi and Adi’s charming husband and two beautiful little girls on their Moshav. We then ate dinner at a great little Italian restaurant that was sort of in a back alley of the HaCarmel Market..

 There seem to be so many little finds of cafes and restaurants in areas I would never walk through alone at night in the States, but people don’t seem at all concerned here as there are lots of people out, cars and cabs passing through.

 SATURDAY, MAY 31: Still battling a bad cold, sore throat and cough so Laura and Anna went on a bike ride to Old Jaffa while I rested and drank “nana” – hot water with mint, picked from Adi’s garden.

 In the afternoon, Anna, Laura and I spent a relaxing time at the beach. It was Shabbat so the beaches were very crowded, but it was a beautiful day, full of sunshine and crashing waves. I ventured into the ocean a short distance, while Anna and Laura went further out to enjoy “riding” the waves.

 In the evening the three of us went with Tzipi back to the Neve Tzedek neighborhood where we saw the lovely Suzanne Dellal Center, which was renovated and restored in the 80’s as part of the neighborhood renovation plan.. “The large plaza in the front of the renovated site is used for open-air performances for the general pubic.” When we were walking around it, while waiting for our table to be ready at a nearby restaurant, we came across a party that had ended in the courtyard. They had a lot of little sandwiches, wine and desserts left, and told us to help ourselves, so we had appetizers before dinner at another charming little outdoor restaurant !!

 SUNDAY, JUNE 1: Laura returned to Jerusalem today for the remainder of her stay in Israel. Anna and I trudged through the Carmel market to do our grocery shopping and came home and had a great lunch of fresh bread, cheese, veggies and fruit.

 This afternoon Anna’s good friend Carli, from New Zealand, who was in Israel on a Birthright trip, has joined us for a couple days.

I am exhausted after trying to recall everything we did the past days, so I am off to bed! Enjoy.

MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE PHOTO POSTING

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