Monthly Archives: January 2014

10 ‘TOP’ THINGS I SAW IN ISRAEL.

Jerusalem Skyline.

                                                              Jerusalem Skyline. [click to enlarge]

I had not really intended to travel to Israel but some friends had booked a tour of The Holy Land and I jumped on the bandwagon. I will not dwell on the conflicting politics of the Middle East. I can appreciate the Jews’  Zionist desire for their own historic land and culture but I found it hard to come to terms with their expansionist tendencies putting them in conflict with their Palestinian neighbours. What now of a two state solution?

In brief and In no particular order…………….

1.  MEET THE LOCALS.

A mixed bunch of Jews, Christians and Arabs. English is widely spoken. From the start, on the Easy-jet flight out, one realised the culture shock with 90% of the passengers being Orthodox Jews with their traditional dress and hairstyles. The overhead lockers were full of large black hats. Can be a bit prickly – the Jews – not the hats. Beware guns are everywhere!

2. SEA OF GALILEE/BIBLE LANDS.

Mount of the Beatitudes.

Much religious tat around here but the scenery is magnificent and brings the Bible to life. Highlights are the villages Jesus was ‘said’ to frequent and where he performed his miracles – think feeding the five thousand, walking on water and changing water to wine etc. A special hilltop was The Mount of Beatitudes a very spiritual place. Close to the Golan Heights are acres of minefields overlooking the UN buffer zone to war torn Syria. The Jordan River baptisms are an American theme park but there are lots of fervent takers. I spotted a long hiking route through the area which would make an interesting trip.

Nazareth pilgrims.

3. ROMAN CITIES.

Caesarea aqueduct.

Caeserea and Beit She’an are wonderful evocative Roman cities excavated to reveal everyday Roman life.

Beit Sh’ean Roman street.

4. MASADA.

Talking of Romans this spectacular hill top fort has become the symbol of Israeli resistance in a three year siege [70AD] culminating in mass suicide . Hence the presence at the attraction of lots of School parties and Army fledglings learning their history–

Spend a day on this mountain.

5. THE DEAD SEA.

Dead Sea Scroll Cave.

A Dead Sea Scroll Cave?

Not necessarily the scrolls but the wonderful touristy floating on the water. At 425m below sea level the lowest place on earth!

6. JERUSALEM OLD CITY.

.

Dome of the Rock.

A hotchpotch  of society, races and architecture. Spend as many days as possible wandering the alleys here. Soak up the unique culture and activities. Highlights are the Wailing Wall, The Temple Mount Islamic sites with the Dome of the Rock, the Jewish quarter and synagogues, the Arab markets and Mamluk architecture, Garden of Gethsemane and Mount of Olives, the Via Dolorosa  and the Christian churches culminating at queues in the Holy Sepulchre.  ? the crucifixion site – but also visit the wonderful Garden Tomb, in a bus station!,  for an alternative evocative historical view.

The Wailing Wall

7. YAD VASHEM HOLOCAUST  MUSEUM.

Architect Moshe Safdie’s austere memorial to the 6 million Jews killed at the hands of the Nazis. I found this a humbling and emotional [if not harrowing] experience. Despite it’s sombre dimensions the museum highlights  wonderful snapshots of personal experiences through pictures and diaries. Needed more time to take it all in.

8 BETHLEHEM.

Separated lives.

A must visit but rather a let down. Interesting for a close up view of the Israeli partition fence/wall and in our case the tourist bus being stoned by local Palestinian kids. Fair dos as some had been shot the week before by Israeli soldiers. The famous Christmas tree was in the square being decorated by a firm from Liverpool!! The Church of Nativity has a star marking the supposed site of Christ’s birth. This is all in the Palestinian Controlled Sector.

It all started here.

It all started here.

9. TEL AVIV MUSEUM OF ART.

A modern exciting gallery, by architect Preston Scott Cohen, houses a large collection of Impressionist and post-impressionists. Also highlighted are 20th century avant- garde pieces and lots of contemporary exhibitions. I was lucky to catch a roomful of Andy Warhol creations. You name it they’ve got it here, mainly funded by worldwide rich Jewish corporations and families. One area of beautifully lit, geometric floor levels has a stunning 27m hanging installation, Lusitana, by Joana Vasconcelos. A colorful textile and artifact giant organic piece  interweaving onto all floors. Brilliant.

Lusitana.

Lusitana.

10. TEL AVIV BEACHES.

Over a kilometer stretch of golden sands, protected by breakwaters giving clean safe bathing. Extremely popular with locals and tourists. The sea was warm enough in December with air temperatures in the high 20s. Beach volley ball and racquet games are added entertainment. Book a hotel on the beach front to enjoy the atmosphere and then watch the beautiful sunsets from your favourite terrace bar.

OK then  — No 11. THE FOOD.

Couldn’t miss the food out!

Felafel, Hummus and Salad – food heaven.

Israelis seem to eat and drink coffee all day. The ubiquitous Felafels and Hummus on the street and in the cafes are tasty and wholesome. The salads are to die for. Freshly pressed Pomegranate juice revives the weary tourist. Search out some good fish restaurants.

Wouldn’t you just love to own a cafe you could name The Last Supper.  

Breakfasts are a banquet in their own right. I was there during Hanukkah, Festival of Lights, and every evening there was a surfeit of delicious traditional doughnuts, sugar heaven.

Ah well back to the New Year’s Diet.

It takes me some time to digest [no pun intended] and interpret all the nuances of this amazing country. Lots of conflicts and questions. But what is the solution?

The New ‘Fence’

TRICKLE CHARGING THE BATTERY.

Pendle viewed from the car.

                                                                    Pendle viewed from the car.

Two weeks further on with my foot convalescence and it was time to drive again. My temporary raised surgical shoe wasn’t allowed for insurance reasons, this meant using normal shoes for driving and taking the former if I had to walk anywhere. A right pain! [or rather left]  Despite starting my car up a few times over the last weeks the battery was completely dead when I came to use the car. So it needed a spell of trickle charging to bring it back to life. So town, friends and relatives are now in reach but it was only today whilst the sun shone that I thought of driving up Longridge Fell for my favourite views. Glad I did as all the usual vistas  [Pendle, Yorkshire three peaks, Bowland, Morecambe Bay and North Wales, aren’t we lucky with our location]  were clear and despite being frustrated that I couldn’t wander up any of the fell tracks I positively felt a surge of optimism and joie de vivre.

This lead me to thinking about recharging my own batteries. I suspect in the circumstances it will be a trickle charge of trips like today rather than any jump starting.

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do as on top of the car not starting my house phones died [what a wonder is internet shopping when you are house bound?] my mobile seemed to block all texts and to top it all my computer then came up with the blue screen of death! Couldn’t get round it for a week until my son was able to work his magic and restore the workings without any loss. A good reminder to always back up to an external hard drive. Anyhow here we are again but I realise my deficiencies in the modern technologies.

                                                          I’ll continue trickling.

CABIN FEVER.


                                                             Sunset from home.

  Cabin fever – no not the feeling you get from a luxury Caribbean cruise but the feeling you get cooped up in the house for three weeks with your foot in the air. The boredom and restlessness have only been partially relieved by  good books and some climbing DVDs. The cricket I was hoping to enjoy was a disaster. Didn’t seem able to concentrate to get round to sorting through my recent photos of Israel for a post, still coming to terms with that strange conflicting trip. TV was even worse. Friends have been very supportive, particularly those who took me to the pub.

But somehow I imagine my body and mind must need outdoor activities and some interaction with nature. Even simple things like watching, from my bedroom window, the morning sunrise seemed to be uplifting. I found I started to anticipate and appreciate a lot of minor events outside that window; birds flying by, the laughter of kids in the road, the hail hammering on the glass and the swish of bending trees in the gales we have been experiencing. There has been some awful weather over the holiday period, that was one aspect I was happy to have an excuse to avoid. There is another storm blowing in as I write this.

Sunrise across the field.

Sunrise across the field.

Galeforce.

Xmas and New Year have passed without much fuss, another positive aspect of my confinement!  I’ve not starved, the toe is healing, the stitches out and the crutches ditched.

   There have been a couple of bright and sunny days this week so have managed to hobble down the road for a brew and chat with neighbours. Great to get out of the cabin under my own steam. I’m still wearing the fashionable platform surgical shoe and this gives a lovely mismatch with the walking boot on the other foot. All seems to be progressing well, there is new life in 2014. The surgeon said it would be 2-3 months before I would hopefully feel the benefit !?!?

                        See you at the crag and up the fell soon.