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Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)

a travel blog by shoshtrvls

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Day 1 - Where's the Pool?

Jerusalem, Israel, West Bank

We have arrived in Jerusalem. Finally. After checking into the hotel, we made our way down to the pool, where we spent the balance of the day until dinner and bed.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 18, 2008 from Jerusalem, Israel, West Bank
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Day 2 - Water Again, But This Time Underground

Jerusalem, Israel, West Bank

Although we weren’t entirely in sync with local time yet, we were up early for breakfast before meeting Dafna, our guide in Israel, for our first day of touring.

We started at the City of David, and were the first ones to explore Hezekiah’s Tunnel, splashing our way through the darkness. Dafna was right to get here early. It was a fascinating experience but, even alone, quite claustrophobic; I can’t imagine what it must be like later in the day the tunnel filled with people. We ended the walk with Ellery taking a dip in the Shiloach Pool and then backtracked to the start.

Our next stop was the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, where Ellery patiently waited while Dafna did an excellent job of explaining where we were and what had been here before.

Then we paid a visit to the Western Wall. It was hard to get Ellery to focus and, quite honestly, it wasn’t as moving as I had expected/hoped.

Our next stop was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and definitely the most interesting of the day. No, it wasn’t because Jesus was supposedly crucified and buried there, but rather because of the comingling of so many different churches and the beautiful mosaics.

From there we wound our way through the various sections of the Old City – the Armenian, Muslim and Jewish quarters, before stopping for lunch.

After that, it was a drive all around Jerusalem, from the Mount of Olives to Mt. Scopus, and then through some of the settlements and the checkpoint to the Palestinian Territories and Bethlehem.

The afternoon was spent relaxing at the pool, with Heidi, Molly, Jonathan and their friends. Then it was a short walk to the International Arts and Crafts Festival taking place just below our hotel, where we grabbed an easy dinner and enjoyed the art and the performances.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 19, 2008 from Jerusalem, Israel, West Bank
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Day 3 - When In Rome ... In Israel

Bet She'an, Israel

We started with an early morning drive along the West Bank to Bet She'an where we walked through the Roman ruins. They were fascinating but it was much much too hot so afterwards we cooled off at the natural springs at Sacchne.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 20, 2008 from Bet She'an, Israel
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Day 3 (continued) - Jesus Slept Here

Tiberias, Israel

From there is was a drive up the Golan Heights and around the Sea of Galilee to Tiberias.

At the hotel pool, Ellery made new friends (as she always does).

After a brief rest, we had dinner at a nice fish restaurant on the water and finished the day with a stroll on the small boardwalk.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 20, 2008 from Tiberias, Israel
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Day 4 - Where's My Red String Bracelet?

Zefat, Israel

It must be mentioned that we have hit Israel at a time between two religious holidays so the Ultra Orthodox are everywhere, particularly here in Galilee. While I don't mind it that much, it is driving Dafna crazy since we are often stuck in traffic. It has also caused us to begin our days very early in order to beat the crowds. This actually works quite well since the result is that we are back at the hotel early enough to relax at the pool for a few hours before dinner.

This morning we started out with a drive high into the mountains and along the Lebanese border. Although the haze spoiled much of the view, the amount of agriculture in such a high, dry and hot climate was striking.

Our first stop was Manara Cliff, a general all-purpose "adventure" center. There wasn't all that much "adventure" here but Ellery and I took the cable car up the mountain and then repelled down, an activity we hadn't done before. Ellery handled it like a pro. Me, not so much.

From there it was on to the Jordan River for a few hours of what might have been rafting if there was a bit more water but instead was a nice, relaxing float. The water was cool and Ellery ended up swimming most of the way

The last stop of the day was Zfat, the mystical town of Kabbalah and art. Ellery and I both loved this place for its many art galleries and Sephardic flair.

Then it was back to Tiberias and the swimming pool.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 21, 2008 from Zefat, Israel
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Day 5 - Caves and Crusades

'Akko, Israel

We started at the limestone caves at Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese Border. Here we took a small cable car down the side of the cliffs to get to the caves, which were made amazingly colorful with mosses of all different kind, and beautiful blue water washing through. Watching the kayakers paddle through the rough waters made me miss my little kayak in the mountains.

Next it was on to the crusader city of Acco, which was also fascinating. The excavation and restoration work has really paid off here, as the entire city really does come alive as you walk through it. This is helped by the fact that there is a bustling old city around it, narrow walkways filled with shops and fish markets, as well as an active fishing port. (I honestly thought I took more pictures of historic Acco, but evidently I was too busy actually experiencing the city to photograph it).

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 22, 2008 from 'Akko, Israel
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Day 5 (continued) - Shabbat At The Western Wall

Haifa, Israel

Then it was back to Jerusalem along the coast, with a quick stop in Haifa at the Baha'i Gardens and a drive through Tel Aviv.

We made it back well before sundown (Dafna’s fears of traffic were for naught) so after an hour or so at the very crowded hotel pool, Ellery and I changed and headed to the old city and the Western Wall. I really wanted to have an “experience,” to feel something, whatever it is people keep telling me I should feel in Israel. But the bottom line is – nothing. I watched what was going on with the same interest as I watched observances in other countries and I was not moved. Alas.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 22, 2008 from Haifa, Israel
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Day Six - Lights, Camera, History!

Jerusalem, Israel, West Bank

A quick report for a lazy day.

Today was spent almost entirely by the swimming pool. Ellery made yet another new friend (also from New York, like all the rest) and spent much of the afternoon with her and her family in the Old City. (Hopefully, she didn't whine with them the way she does with me).

I also took a quick trip to the Old City, to buy tickets to the Light and Sound Show at the Tower of David. And it was actually a good show -- 5,000 years of history in lights (minus the 100 or so years between the 1850's and today -- best not to offend anyone, I suspect).

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 23, 2008 from Jerusalem, Israel, West Bank
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Day 7 - Ahavaland, Here We Come

Mizpe Shalem, West Bank

Our last day in Jerusalem …

We started by revisiting the Tower of David Citadel, this time to view the museum and the ruins. It’s a very well done exhibit and presentation of the history of Jerusalem – once again, without the last 100 or so years.

Then I finally convinced Ellery that no trip to Israel would be complete without a trip to the Dead Sea, so we hired a taxi and headed to Mineral Beach. The landscape changes on the drive were drastic – from the landscaped greenery of Jerusalem, to the barren and hilly desert dotted with Bedouin camps, to the deep ravines that lead to the Dead Sea, and finally the steep craggy cliffs overlooking the Dead Sea. While we did not get to Masada, it was easy to see why a fortress on these cliffs would be so valuable.

Mineral Beach was definitely an experience. No question but that you can locate every single scrape and scratch on your body as it comes into contact with the salty water. Ellery couldn’t take it for long, nor really could I. But we did the obligatory mud slathering and floating, and then spent the rest of the time in the cool fresh water pool. (There was also a sulfur pool but it was incredibly hot and smelly).

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 24, 2008 from Mizpe Shalem, West Bank
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Day 7 (continued) - Final Thoughts on Israel

Jerusalem, Israel, West Bank

After a few hours we returned to Jerusalem (necessarily stopping at the Ahava factory) and rested for a bit before heading out once again, this time heading to Ben Yehuda Street – which I’m not sure we ever actually reached, but we did find a wonderful little area with tons of outdoor restaurants and cafes, where we sat for a last, long dinner in Jerusalem.

As you can probably tell from the prior posts, I wasn’t taken with Israel. Not unexpectedly, I guess, I found most of the people very harsh and not welcoming or friendly at all. From people in shops to the hotel staff to, well, just about everyone. This was particularly true of our guide, Dafna. While she did a fine job as a guide, everything was quite rushed – I realize and appreciate that she wanted to beat the crowds, and that was nice, but she left no time for wandering or relaxing. More importantly, she had not a single nice word to say about anyone, whether she was speaking about the Palestinians or the Ultra Orthodox Jews or people she had guided before. When she wasn’t on the cell phone with her kids or her friends or the next tourist, she complained that people didn’t realize how much things cost, that people didn’t realize what it took to be a guide in Israel, that people didn’t tip, and on and on. (OK, got it, Dafna, you expect a tip.)

Fortunately, the people of Israel redeemed themselves in Shuki. Shuki was our taxi driver to the Dead Sea and to the Allenby Bridge. Shuki was in all respects Dafna’s opposite. He was relaxed, he was happy, he was in no rush, and he expressed respect and fondness for everyone. We were with Shuki for maybe 4 hours total, and Shuki alone made Israel a place I would want to return to.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 24, 2008 from Jerusalem, Israel, West Bank
from the travel blog: Israel, Jordan and Egypt (2008)
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Welcome to my travels. On this site you'll find recent trips and some very old trips. You'll note that for some trips I wrote very detailed reports (at least in the beginning), for others, I didn't even take notes of where I was on what dates. Nevertheless, I've done my best to document, to...

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