Saturday, April 30, 2011

All good things come to an end....

And finally it was the last day- we all slept in after the late night before. The kids were really enjoying hanging out with Lina & Kaya and didn't feel the need to go and do anything.
We met up with my friend Mik Gordon (Noemi's son from Kibbutz Bet Haemek) and his wife Moran & beautiful baby girl Ma'ayan for lunch at Cafe Bialik which is owned by a fellow kibbutznik Merav. We had a nice visit with them and then ventured out for some shopping.

Mik & Ma'ayan

We went to Nachalat Binyamin which is a juried crafts show- it was huge and every vendor had something totally unique!
I made my favorite purchase of the trip and we also scored a few gifts
 Mike was impressed with this photo
 checking out the booths
 Caught the royal wedding in a kiosk!

Very cool bracelet- I'm in love

In the afternoon we headed back to the Warshawskys' apartment and then the grownups headed out for some drinks and snacks in an outside cafe.
Headed out to the airport at 8 pm for a midnight flight. We are now resting comfortably in the airport lounge in Philadelphia waiting for our connecting flight. I didn't want to leave but I admit I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed!
 waiting in line at Ben Gurion airport
Waiting for bags in Philly

Favorite moments of the trip:

Mike loved Ceasaria (excluding my trip down the stairs). The North felt like our vacation because we had the cutest little cottage. He loved touring the vineyard.
Talia liked floating in the Dead Sea
Elizabeth liked getting to the bottom of Masada and getting lots of water & floating in the dead sea
I loved it all- hearing my kids practice their hebrew- seeing all of my friends and family, navigating every city with a Hebrew atlas, finding my way around places I've never been or been 20 times and seeing it through fresh eyes. 

What we'll miss most:

Talia: the weather
Elizabeth: being away
Mike: seeing the Mediterranean
Jody: being greeted with a sing-song "Shalom" wherever I go

Thanks for coming on this magical journey with us!

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Home Stretch

Mike: We woke up around 8:00 and managed to get out the door at a reasonable time. We said goodbye to our new friends at Abirim (incidentally, if you are ever looking for a nice, quiet, clean cabin in the north-this place is perfect, and headed south.

We stopped at the ancient city of Akko. The city is unique in that it has a very colorful history, yet also serves as a functional fishing village. We took a tour of the old bath house, which was used for centuries until 1947. We also walked around the shuk (marketplace) where everything was for sale, from fresh fish to hookahs. After a quick snack of hummus and pita, we took off for Haifa.

Back in 1989, Jody took a semester at the University of Haifa and wanted to show it to us. We were surprised to find that the little college on top of the mountain is much bigger today. What we thought would be a 10 minute "peek our head in" stop, turned into a typical Jody moment:

Jody: We only went into the multi-purpose building so the kids could use the bathroom. The guard knew by my accent that I must have been on the overseas program and told me to go say hello. I really didn't think I'd know anybody but when I stuck my head in the office, Tamar & recognized each other right away. She was the administrator I think back in my day and is now the head of the program. That wasn't the funny part. Sitting with her was a familiar woman- when I said my name, she jumped up and said- I thought you look familiar! It was Keren Dror-Yoseph who worked in the Boston Jewish community as long as I have- most recently in the Boston-Haifa Connection (before that JCDS). She and her family moved back to Israel a few years ago and now she's the Admissions Director for the Overseas program. We had a great time visiting and Tamar even pulled out a copy of my report card!. The kids were impressed that I had all A's & B's. (I was impressed too because I don't remember ever attending a class while I was here!!).
Jody & Tamar

Jody & Keren

We left the University and Samantha the gps took us in circles trying to find a decent place to eat. We were hoping to go to the Clandestine Museum but the kids were too hungry, so we looked in the guide book for a suggestion and ended up at Fatoush- a Lebanese Restaurant in the German Colony of Haifa.

We then headed South to go see Morah Lizzi- the girls Hebrew teacher from MWJDS who moved back to Israel last Fall. She lives in a town called Tel Mond near Netanya. It was great to see her!!

Finally, back to Tel Aviv to our friends Amy & David. The girls were excited to see Lina, Kaya & Shai. We were heading out to meet my friend Yaron Golan & his wife Nili. Yaron is a friend from Kibbutz Gadot- I spent 3 weeks there in the summer of 1985 with LGI (Let's Go Israel). The summer that changed my life!!!

We got home after midnight and the kids were all still up watching the movie "Grownups"!! It's 10 am and they are all still asleep. We leave on a midnight flight tonight.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tsafon- crazy day in the North


Yesterday we went to mom’s old kibbutz, (Beit haEmaek) and hung out with Noemi (her kibbutz mother) and Abby (her friend). I liked this kibbutz better than Ein Gedi because I didn’t feel like I was on the outside looking in (like I did at Ein Gedi). At Beit haEmaek we had a snack at Noemi’s, walked around the kibbutz, and then we hung out at Abby’s.

The kibbutz was really fun it was cool to see how people live together in a big community even though it has changed; people now own their houses and have their own piece of land instead of all sharing.

Mike: We woke up early this morning to get an early start to the day.  Despite our best intentions, we still didn’t get out the door until 10:30.

Jody: That’s because Israelis don’t have real showers. There is a giant bathtub with a seat in the corner but no curtain or door around it. In order for me and the girls to wash our hair we had to lean over the edge of the tub and have someone hold the sprayer! Then to clean your body, you sit in the seat and hold the sprayer. It makes for a big mess in the bathroom!

Mike: Our first stop of the day was at the ancient ruins of Baram. The old synagogue was high in the mountains and had a decent portion of the building still standing. There were several other buildings that were part of the overall village dating back to the third century. The views were amazing from there.

Jody: It was pretty incredible to see the synagogue with so much of the building still intact. In many of the ancient ruins we’ve seen you they’ve either rebuilt or you have to use your imagination.

Mike: The second stop of the day was the Galil Mountain Winery in Yiron near the Lebanese border. We had a private tour of the winery including a step-by-step lesson of how the various wines are made. Galil gets their grapes from several kibbutz vineyards in the region and it is up to the master vintner (who studied at Cal-Davis where they also have a great masters program in brewing) to blend the wines to get the perfect combination. I’ve decided that if this whole app development thing doesn’t work out, I’m going to be a master vintner…I’ll start by mixing different kinds of Two-Buck-Chuck in my basement. The tour concluded with a wine tasting which proved to be an educational experience.

Jody: The girls were quite surprised that they were each poured a glass of wine and taught how to use their 5 senses to see if the wine was any good. Up until the actual tasting of the wine they thought it was cool. They both thought the wine tasted gross. Turns out Elizabeth has a good nose for smelling the bouquet!

From Yiron we followed the Lebanese border North for awhile which led to lots of conversations with the kids about the safety of Israel’s borders. I’ve squeezed in quite a few mid-East history lessons (which surprises Mike because I’m terrible when it comes to Americna history!) After a picnic lunch of humus, cucumbers, kosher salami, loquats and apple, we went to Kiryat Shmona which is in the Golan Heights. We took a cable car ride up a mountain overlooking the Hula valley which is lush with fish ponds and fields of green. The ride was really steep and Mike is a little bit hinky about heights, so it was fun to watch him look out the window. We were amazed by the number of religious (black hats) people  that were there to enjoy the amusements. Mike & the kids went on this sort of roller coaster/alpine ride thingy. They controlled the brakes – which I don’t think they used at all- and went flying around this track. The dudes with the peot (side curls) had to take off their kippot or they would go flying. They were given baseball caps to wear instead.

There was a bungi jumping spot also and when it was time to daven ma’ariv (afternoon prayers) they were all gathered facing the bungee jumping and shukiling (rocking back and forth while praying) like crazy! I guess it must have been facing east towards Jerusalem, but it was a pretty funny site.

We left there and headed across the Golan to the Syrian border to see an ancient castle (Nimrod Fortress) it was pretty impressive as we were driving towards it, but when we found that there was an entrance fee we turned around and drove back down the moutnatin. This whole region is mountainous and the views are absolutely spectacular.
We drove up, down and around so many moutnatins today I lost count. For much of the drive we were able to see Mt. Hermon  which is in the northeast corner of Israel and is al mountain made out of limestone- actually has skiing! We could see the snow, which was weird because it was about 75 degrees where we were.

The last stop before heading back for dinner, was Har Bentar which is a mountain on top of an ancient volcano. From the top you can see into Syria. There is a new set of wind turbines nearby that provide power to 400,000 Israeli homes! We learned a bit about the past wars with Syria and the disengagment. We also noticed more army vehicles in this area then anywhere else in the country even though it’s a very quiet border.

A nice surprise for me was driving by Kibbutz Gadot which was the first place I stayed in Israel in 1985 with the Let’s Go Israel folks from the North Shore. Tomorrow night we are having dinner with a friend, Yaron Golan, who was a kibbutznik that we hung out with that summer.

Dinner was in a druze village (Tarbusha) at a Romanian/Hungarian restaurant called Transylvania. The owner spent a year studying cooking in Romania and the place is beautiful. We tried to eat there last night but he was closed (he was there but wasn’t working) because he had worked so hard during Passover. When we came in tonight he remembered us and brought us a plate of homemade tabouli on the house. In the end he told us not to tip him either, but of course we did. He didn’t speak a lot of English and the menu was only in Hebrew. I’ve had a blast speaking Hebrew all over the place and when someone really doesn’t speak English it’s that much easier for me.

We came back and packed up because tomorrow is our last night. The suitcases are all organized so we only have to bring one little one in to our friends apartment in Tel Aviv. I’m sad that this amazing adventure is coming to an end!!

Kibbutz revisited

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Everyday I realize how glad I am that we are not on a tour- I think we’d miss breakfast every day and they’d be calling us from the bus wanting to know when we were planning on joining the group. The way we are seeing Israel is from the inside rather than the outside. We’ve stayed with people, the kids have met kids, heard Hebrew being spoken, visited sites that we can’t find in our guidebook. It’s been amazing!

Today we got a late start and headed out to Rosh Hanikra. Since we missed visiting my Kibbutz due to the side visit to the hospital, we included it in our plans for today. We hit Keshet cave first- Keshet means rainbow. I stayed behind because of my ankle, but apparently it was quite a precarious hike! I spent the time mapping out our trip tomorrow. Using the Hebrew atlas that my cousin Marc gave me and our Fodor’s guide to Israel, we are all set to visit the Golan tomorrow.

After Keshet cave we made our way to Rosh Hanikra. After dining on salami, humus, cucumbers & loquats that we packed, we headed down in the cable car. There were quite a few black hats visiting today as well! Rosh Hanikra is a series of grottoes that were carved over thousands (millions) of years by water and sand that got into crevices. The water in this area is turquoise blue and beautiful. There was once a railway trail here that the British built from Tripoli, Lebanon, trhough Beirut, Israel and to Egypt. During the war of Independence the Hagana (secret Israeli army) blew up one of the tunnels to make sure weapons weren’t brought into Israel. Holocaust surviviors also came into Israel secretly on freight trains on these tracks.

A quick trip into Nahariya- my old stomping ground (right near the Kibbutz I lived on in college) and Talia got herself a few pieces of clothes and Elizabeth found a Hello Kitty something or other in Hebrew. We tried to find a Byzantine church that was listed in our guidebook but our stupid gps couldn’t find it.

We have a lot of trouble with the gps- we’ve named it Samantha because that’s the name of our gps at home. It has trouble with English translation and often tells us that streets don’t exits. Also it insists that we “left, keep left ahead” all the time.  Or she tells us, “when possible make a u-turn ahead”. She never wants us to keep right. I have to use a map at the same time to make sure we are headed where we want to go!!!

And finally, the Kibbutz. We parked behind the Chadar Ochel (dining room) and walked towards Noemi’s house. She came out to greet us and gave Mike and the girls a big hug. I love when someone who loves you automoatically loves your family even if they’ve never met each other. She had given our meal away yesterday and told me she would only make tea- but we sat down to a feast of tuna salad, egg salad, cabbage salad, Israeli salad, olives, sliced vegetables, and pastries. Then we took a walk around the Kibbutz. A Kibbutz used to be a socialist community where everyone worked in whatever job suited them and everyone was paid equally for their work. They ate together in a dining room, laundry was done in the laundry, and children were cared for in children houses. 95% of Kibbutzim have privatized and now it’s just a community that lives close together. The services are still there, but you have to pay for them. If you want to eat in the dining room you pay for it. If you want to build on to your house, you pay for it. (Although the old way there were limitations on how big your house was allowed to be.) So there have been a lot of changes!!

We stopped by Abby’s house- she had been adopted by Noemi a few years before me when she came on a year from London. I knew her because she then moved to the kibbutz and moved there. I’ve seen her each time I’ve been back. We went to her house to use her wifi (that was the last blog you saw) and had a great time visiting with her and her parents who were visiting from London. I love meeting new people and finding out where they are from and learning about them.

We headed out with a parting gift of fresh avocadoes (grown on the kibbutz) and fresh baked bread from the neighboring Druze village at 8:30 pm. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Who brought the cool kid?


Mike: On our way up to cottage up north, we stopped at the ancient city of Caesarea. This port city was built by King Herod (who also built the palaces of Masada). It had a colorful history for the next several centuries.

Jody: We watched a few videos to understand more about what happened- just like Masada, the architects of the time outdid themselves. We learned how the lighthouse and the breakwater were built. Then had a great lunch- we’ve gotten really good at ordering lots of different things that we like and sharing. This was our last Passover meal - eggplant salad, lamb kebobs, Israelis salad with laban (a sort of sour cream cheese that tastes like feta), red mullet (fried fish) and home fries.

It was warm, the sun was shining, there was a nice breeze and we could smell the ocean. We walked around and saw the ancient bath-houses which have incredible mosaic floors and the hippodrome where chariot races & gladiator fights took place as well as the theater which is now used as an ampitheatre for concerts and plays. We were headed back to the car and looking forward to a visit to my old Kibbutz- Bet Haemek- with Noemi, my adopted Kibbutz mother.

Mike: Walking down the steps from the bath house, I heard a noise that could be only be described as sandpaper and yipping. I turned around to find Jody tumbling down the same ancient stairs that drunken Romans did a millennium ago. Unfortunately her ankle turned and swelled up to the size of a golf ball. Immobile, I was able to get her a ride back to the car from one of the maintenance dudes. Our GPS found a hospital just 5 kilometers away and we experienced what an Israeli ER was like. We also discovered this is a region where English is not spoken much as I lost my lovely interpreter to the x-ray room (I can’t wait for Tufts to figure out our Hebrew bill from this place). Luckily the x-rays were negative and it is only a sprain.

Jody: all I can say is I’m glad it was me and not one of the kids as I can sit out some of the sightseeing. At first I couldn’t even put any weight on it, but after 4 motrin, ice and elevation I can get around. We didn’t get to the kibbutz, but we were headed to that region tomorrow so we’ll get to see Noemi and show the family around. I can’t believe I was there as a student 22 years ago!!!

The hospital was in Hadera and was actually an interesting experience. There were many arabs being treated there and the 2 doctors I saw – one Arab & one Jewish were sitting in an office side by side. You can read about the conflict in Israel all you want, but the cooperation between the 2 communities doesn’t make the news.

At this point in our trip we were headed to the North and a lovely little cottage that we rented for the next 3 nights. I found this place on line about 2 weeks ago and trusted my instinct after emailing with the couple who owns it. The price was right, they didn’t ask for a deposit and it’s a good jumping off point for daytrips in the north. It’s in a little town called Abirim, nestled in the mountains of the Galil off rt. 89. When we arrived, it was exactly what we hoped it would be. There is one bedroom, a sitting room, tiny kitchnette and a loft for the kids to sleep in.

We headed out to the nearby Druze village to break Passover and ate wonderful breads filled with zaytar (spice) and beef. We found a little fruit market and loaded up our fridge with fresh loquats (indescribable if you haven’t had them, like a cross between an apricot and a peach but not really-with big seeds inside), strawberries, bananas etc. We also picked up a vat of humus and some veggies and salami/pastrami for a picnic lunch tomorrow.

We found a Maccabee Tel Aviv v. Jerusalem soccer game to watch on tv and settled in for the night. There’s no wifi here, so hopefully we’ll find some tomorrow on our travels so we can upload this blog!

 Mezuzahs on the all the xray rooms!
 Our little cottage