Category Archives: Israel

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’

50 SHADES OF GREY.

There's hills up there ...

There’s hills up there in the grey …

The more uninteresting the post the more catchy the title has to be ……

After all the storms last week the forecast for today was dry and milder. My walking pals didn’t believe me and declined a short trip. How right they were. It was raining most of the morning but by lunchtime the skies had brightened. I was determined to get a walk of a few miles in as next week I’m going into hospital for that toe operation.

Hadn’t been out long before the greyness descended once more. Nobody else was seen on what is normally a popular circuit on local lanes, maybe the dogs refused to venture out.

'Mile Lane'

‘Mile Lane’   Grey with a bit of green.

Drizzle set in to make everything appear even more miserable. Not much was visible so I was focused on my own inner world [toe operations!!] and on the ground to avoid the puddles.

Mainly grey.

Probably because of my limited vision a highlight of the walk was the sweet aroma of silage feed coming from a barn on route. Childhood memories of life on the farm.

The trees also drew my attention with their barren branches.

As I made my way home through the village the shops were closing on what had been a busy Xmas shopping day but now the street looked shabby and depressing. The miserable little Xmas trees doing little to brighten the place. At least my neighbour’s garden shone brightly in the gloom.

Talking of Christmas trees I’ve just returned from The Holy land and was in Bethlehem just before the famous tree was decorated. On the flight home we met the Christmas Decorators from Liverpool who had been doing the work!!  Watch the videos —

Will post on the Israeli trip soon – a land of contrasts and contradictions.

I can hardly believe that only a couple of days ago I was swimming in the Med off a lovely beach at Tel Aviv with the temperature 27 degrees! No wonder I’m feeling grey today.

Gordon Beach  Tel Aviv.

Gordon Beach Tel Aviv.