Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Adventure of a Lifetime

One week! One full, busy, amazing week.
We went to the HaCarmel shuk and rubbed shoulders - really - with lots and lots of people.
I learned new words like todah (thank you) and bavakasha (please; you're welcome), slicha (excuse me) and kama ze (how much).
We saw the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee.We enjoyed a fish dinner in En Gev, fresh fruit shakes in Tel Aviv, and McDonald's on Ben Yehuda Street.
 We prayed at the stone retaining wall of the Temple and I sat on a lion statue over 2000 years old.
We walked and walked in Tel Aviv (well, I sat in Nayna's purse most of the time) and we drove through the Jezreel Valley.
And now it's time to pack up and go back to America.

We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to go through security and passport control at the airport, so we left our hotel by taxi at 9:30 pm.
After smooth sailing through security questions and luggage check, passport control and carryon security we had more than enough time before our plane left. With shekels to spend, we ate a late dinner and did some last minute shopping.

But now what do we do? It was past our bedtimes and we were all getting sleepy.

Finally we were able to board the plane and settle in for our 15 and a half hour flight to Los Angeles.
Nayna tried several times to upgrade us to business class or at least a bulkhead seat where Papa and Nayna could stretch out their legs, but the plane was full and no one canceled their ticket.
I'll have to admit, while Papa watched movies and snoozed and Nayna listened to a recorded book and took cat naps, I snuggled into my cozy purse bed and did the bear thing - hibernation. What a wonderful gift God gave us bears. When I woke up, we were on the ground.

Jet lag again!
Our bodies still think it's 10 at night, but the clock says it's 8 in the morning. Time for breakfast.
After waiting for about a half hour for a shuttle, we were driven to our next terminal on the other side of the big airport.
By 11 am we were in the air again for our short flight home.
 Papa couldn't keep his eyes open. Nayna took a 15 minute power nap and then snapped pictures of the patchwork scenery.

Yay! We made it home safe and sound.
I was welcomed with open arms.

What an adventure! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shabbat Shalom from Israel

Shabbat shalom!
This is how we great each other when the sun goes down on Friday. We wish each other not only peace, but well being. We want everything in their life to be good.

We ate dinner at the hotel and had a special meal.

 There were all kinds of salads, and chicken soup and gefilte fish (Papa calls it fish spam). He passes it up. Nayna explains that it tastes so much better when its fresh made instead out of a jar. Papa just smiles and says, "no thank you." Instead, he filled his plate with beef brisket and chicken, plus potatoes, couscous and vegetables. And just when I thought I couldn't eat another bite, I spied the dessert table. Okay, maybe a little cake and colorful gelatin and fruit.
An attendant sees that Nayna and Papa are taking pictures of each other and offers to take one of them both. Shabbat shalom from Israel.
Waddle, waddle waddle.
We all went back to the hotel room to rest from our busy, busy week.

Saturday was our last full day in Israel. The week went far too fast.
Our plane wasn't scheduled to leave Ben Gurion Airport until 1:30 Sunday morning so we booked our hotel stay for Sunday. That way we wouldn't have to wander the streets of Tel Aviv with all our luggage in tow on Saturday.
One more breakfast to fill our tummies. But it was different. There were no hot scrambled eggs and potatoes, no pancakes or waffles or omelets. And no fresh squeezed orange juice. Everything had been prepared on Friday. It was okay, though, we still had plenty of good salads and hard boiled eggs, cold cereal and breads and cheeses to enjoy. We walked away full and satisfied.
What to do when everything is closed? We took a long walk through Independence Park to the Promenade.

 The path meanders next to the Mediterranean Sea all the way to Jaffa.
 But again, it was a very warm morning and the busy week caught up with Nayna and Papa. They were tired and ready to wander up the path a little ways and then find a bench to people watch.

And we weren't disappointed. So many different people to watch - all shapes and sizes and ages.

On the way back to the hotel, Nayna snapped a few more pictures.

Someone had created a whole apartment in an area where a concrete apartment building had been.
This was our hotel - The Grand Beach.
Remember that funny apartment Nayna took a picture of when we walked to get our rental car on Wednesday? she took this picture from the top floor of our hotel, by the pool, which was a very popular place to be on a Shabbat afternoon.
Before we entered our room, Nayna took a picture of this mezuzah on the doorpost. Actually that's what it means in Hebrew.
There is a small parchment rolled up inside a mezuzah (which, by the way don't all look like this one. There are all kinds). On the paper is written the Shema - Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and the V'ahavta - Deuteronomy 11:13-21. God told His people to write these words on the doorposts of their houses and on their gates. Every Jewish person in Israel has a mezuzah on his or her doorframe.
 Nayna and Papa have one at their house too.

Next blog - the trip back to America.

Monday, June 17, 2013

People, People Everywhere

Friday in Israel.
Unlike where I live in America, Friday and Saturday are different here. Friday is preparation day because on Saturday - Shabbat or Sabbath, most things close down and people take a day of rest.
Nayna and Papa had shopping to do and knew that by four in the afternoon, stores would close and the buses and sheruts wouldn't be available.
Back to the Hacarmel shuk to find treasures. A sherut ride up Ben Yehuda Street to Allenby Street and we were there.
Wow! I thought it was crowded on Monday, but now EVERYBODY was out shopping. Here's a picture from when Nayna was there several years before. She said not as many people were there then as they were this time.
 The long narrow street was wall to wall people on a mission. People who live in Tel Aviv went to buy food for their Shabbat tables. Tourists were there to find one more good deal before everything closed up. I took one look at it all and burrowed myself into Nayna's purse only to take an occasional peek. And - besides it being a warm morning anyway, all those extra bodies made for discomfort when wearing a fur coat.
Papa and Nayna made their purchases in the main shuk area and then made a mad dash down a side street and out to the open area. On Fridays, people bring their homemade things to sell and set up tables along the street. There were jewelry and toys, paintings and wall hangings, wind chimes and clothing. Anything you could ever want.

After finding our gifts, and one more yummy fruit shake we walked back down Allenby and caught a sherut for Frishman Street - one more time. Nayna had a hankering for a shawarma and knew a place on Ben Yehuda street near the supermarket.

I found out, a shawarma is thinly shaved lamb or turkey meat stuffed into a pita with Israeli salad, sauces and fries piled on top. Okay, my mouth was ready for this treat. But it was closed! As in not there anymore. And so, after a stop in the market for some packaged spices and Bugles chips, we decided to walk to our hotel and find another shawarma place on the way. We walked, and walked, and walked. No shawarma. We were hot and tired and we walked, and walked and walked some more. And then we were at our hotel. Oh bother.
Time for a nap!
More about Shabbat in my next blog.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Kotel, Western Wall or Wailing Wall?

Kotel, Western Wall, Wailing Wall . I've heard all three used. I'm confused. Which one is it?
Nayna explained it to me.
Kotel means wall in Hebrew. Jewish people use this word, or they'll sometimes say Western Wall because its the retaining wall on the Western side closest to the Temple Mount. Non Jewish people sometimes call it the Wailing Wall because of two reasons. They hear people crying there as they pray and it sounds like wailing. Another is because a long time ago, Jews could only go to their holy place - the Temple area once a year and they would cry and wail because of the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.
Did you know that I stood on Mount Moriah? That's where God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. And that's where the Temple stood - on this very mountain.

 There is a short divider between the men's and women's section. We walked up to the Wall - women's side and found a place to pray. Nayna says that she feels God's presence at the Kotel. People all around us were praying too - I could hear their whispers. I felt like I was in a holy place.
I noticed lots of small pieces of paper tucked into every nook and cranny around the stones. I found out that people write prayers on these pieces of paper. I got tears in my eyes when I realized so many people were asking God for help. I'm glad He's big enough to respond to every one of these prayers as well as the ones spoken by everyone at the Wall.

We still had time before we needed to meet Papa in the Plaza so we found an empty, white plastic chair and sat by the wall. I could hear singing and men's voices praying on the other side of the divider. It was much louder on their side.
I looked up and admired the stones in the wall. They were made of limestone and they were huge! Little birds and pigeons swooped and soared around bushes growing out of the cracks between the stones.

It was time to leave. I was sad because I could have stayed near the Kotel for a long time. It was so peaceful as we sat in the shade.

We met up with Papa and began our short walk out to meet our taxi driver.
There were so many IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers in the Plaza and an area nearby was set up with a stage and big white screen. I felt very safe with so many young men and women in uniform. I found out later that they were being commissioned for duty in the Golan Heights. We prayed for their safety as we were leaving.

 Nayna pointed out this section on the Southern end of the Kotel It's called Robinson's Arch and was a stairway from the Old City streets up to the Temple. Here's a picture from
that shows what it might have looked like.

 This is the last picture Nayna took at the Kotel - a permanent hanukkiah next to Israel's flag. Do you know the difference between a hanukkiah and a menorah?
Join me next time when we continue our journey back to Tel Aviv and our Friday escapades.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

History At Our Fingertips

The Israel Museum! What an amazing place. It was hard to wrap my mind around it all. I've seen movies with all kinds of things. Nayna calls them Hollywood props and they're  made in a studio by artists. But this is the real deal. They were dug out of the ground by people called archeologists who look for old things. 
These sarcophagus - stone coffins are from Egypt and date back over 5000 years.

Funny looking dolls aren't they? But they aren't dolls at all. They are gods. People prayed to these things expecting answers. About the size of an adult hand, they could be carried around. I'm sure glad my God is bigger then that and isn't made out of clay or stone.

When Nayna saw this she laughed. It's about the size of a dessert plate and around 8 inches tall. She said it must have been the first latte cup. Did they have Starbucks or Aroma back then??
These churns were found in Beersheva and Golan 5 to 6 thousand years ago. They were rocked back and forth to make butter from milk. So I wonder if they ate bread with butter and honey?
We kept going from room to room and each one was filled with more treasures. 

This room had lots of glass. Beautiful glass of all shapes, sizes and colors. This was one of Nayna's favorite rooms.

There were displays of jewelry. 
This jewelry was found in the tomb of a young woman from Jerusalem in the mid 2nd century . It's thought she must have been married to a Roman soldier because all the jewelry was imported from other places.
I found this lion in the Greek room. They all think I'm pretty cool huh?
 The helmet was worn by a Roman soldier. It looks so uncomfortable to me. But that's what kept him safe.
This was reconstructed from a synagogue. Isn't it beautiful? Even back then, they made their buildings very fancy.

This doesn't even begin to show you what we saw. There was so much more.
We saw that everything would close in an hour so we made our way back through the maze of rooms.
The last exhibit we went to was Herod the Great. Its only at the museum until January 2014 and they had people guarding everything. Nayna wanted to take pictures, but she was told no.
I can tell you about it though.
We saw his marble bathtub and a huge beautiful basin as well as part of his bathhouse, and things from his palaces - plates, bowls, pitchers, coins with pictures of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, and the big display held pieces of his shrine and sarcophagus.
Nayna found a picture of it online so you could see it.
Next we're going to the Kotel - the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Trip to the Israel Museum

So much to see and so little time. I think it would take my whole life here and I'd still run out of time to see everything.
Papa decided that he'd rather go to the Israel Museum instead of the Dead Sea and Masada. It would be so hot there, he told Nayna.
And so, after another big breakfast - burp! scuse me! - we walked up Nordau street and caught the #5 bus for the Tel Aviv train station so we could catch the #480 bus to the Jerusalem central bus station. We're getting pretty good at this public transportation thing.
I love watching the countryside change from city to fields, to mountains to city all within an hour.
This time, instead of taking the lightrail, or another bus, we decided to use a taxi.
Now that's an experience!
They weave in and out of traffic, almost drive up on the sidewalk and narrowly miss other cars and buses. I peeked out of Nayna's purse and snickered as Papa and Nayna gave each other funny looks.
The Israel Museum is big! We'd never be able to see everything.
On our way to the Shrine of the Book, Nayna reached up and set me on a very old carved stone from a synagogue.

We stopped to look at a scale model of second Temple Jerusalem.

 And then I saw what looked like a white Hersey Kiss with water sprayed over the sides. "Do we get to see all kinds of kisses?" I asked.
Nayna snickered. "No, silly bear. That's the Shrine of the Book. Its where the Isaiah scrolls found in Qumran in 1947 are housed.
We walked through a door and into a dimly lit hall where glass cases held all kinds of things they found along with the scrolls. There were cloth and coins, arrows and jars and plates. In some ways the people who lived back in Qumran more than 2000 years ago were so different, and yet, maybe they weren't. I've seen bowls and plates and even combs that look a lot like the ones I see now. I wonder what they ate and what they used their coins to buy. Did their moms sew them new clothes when they were children? Did they play with balls and have puppies and kitties as pets?
At the end of the hall was a door that led into a big room with the Isaiah scroll in the center. Because its so old and they want to protect it, they frown from anyone taking pictures of it, but I wanted you to see what it looked like, so Nayna found a picture on the internet.
It was cool! The Hebrew words look much the same as now so people who know Hebrew can read the scroll just like those who read it for the first time.
Now it was time to go into the big building and look at lots of really old things. We walked outside into the sunlight. We were surrounded by concrete and it was hot. Nayna found some handy hands to sit on for a moment.The ones in the shade where nice.
There is so much more I want you to see, so I'm going to save it for the next blog. I want to take you into the building where we saw things from the beginning of time when things were made. I'll tell you all about it and show more pictures from Nayna's camera.
See you in the 1st century BCE!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

McDonald's, The Sea of Galilee And Me

Another day, another breakfast. I'm sure I'm going to be a roly poly fuzzy wuzzy when this vacation is over.
Today we went to the Sea of Galilee, as they say over here, Kinneret.  That means harp in Hebrew.
First though, we needed to rent a car. That meant a walk to the car rental place which was about a 4th of a mile. Already at 10 in the morning, it's very warm and humid.
We passed some interesting sights - a funny looking apartment building and a chair. I knew Nayna needed a minute to cool down so I asked her to stop and take a picture of me.
We got a little Peugeot car that was perfect for just the three of us. It came in handy throughout our trip when we needed to turn around in the middle of a street and when we drove the winding curvy roads at the Sea. We also rented a GPS to help us find our way, but the lady in the box got us lost a few times. We got to see new apartment buildings being built in Herzlia and big beautiful houses in Caeserea.
Our first stop was at the aqueduct in Caeserea. It was first built by Harod in the 1st Century CE. Can you imagine, those stones are over 2000 years old?
The Mediterranean Sea was beautiful with it's colorful water. There was a big sign saying NO SWIMMING, so we stayed in the parking lot. Besides, we had a long way to go before we reached Galilee, and Nayna and Papa didn't want me smelling like a wet bear in the car.
Our GPS lady told us to go back towards Tel Aviv, which was not the way Nayna went 6 years before on her way to the Galilee, so we told her bye bye, and turned her off. They'd find a gas station and ask directions. Any self respecting bear would do that too! Well, I thought it was a good idea, anyway. We found a gas station/McDonald's in Hadera. We were hungry! It was past lunchtime. We got good directions and ate hamburgers. They aren't like the McDonald's in the US. They call them New York Burgers and they're big with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles. Yummy. Nayna was so busy eating, she forgot to take a picture. But that's okay, you'd probably see the hamburger and want one!
When we were driving down the highway, Nayna giggled and had Papa take a picture of this truck. She said, "We're not in Kansas, anymore!"
We drove for awhile and then turned off the highway away from the Sea and in towards the middle of Israel. 
We passed rolling hills and valleys with growing vegetables. There was a big field of corn, just like where I live.
And then I saw lots of buildings. Nayna said that was Tiberias, and at the bottom of the hill that the city sits on is the Sea of Galilee. We wound down the narrow streets through the city and then I saw it for the first time. Wow! It was beautiful. I hear there are big, scary storms that happen without warning here, but I can't imagine that now.
We got lost trying to find Kfar Nahum or Capernaum like most people know it, and found another gas station to ask directions, but it was closed. As we were getting ready to leave the parking lot, Nayna began to laugh and said, "look!" In the US, we'd see cows or maybe sheep, but there in a field, munching brush was a camel. And in the distance was another one, and to the side of that one was a bunch of them. Do they come in bunches, or herds? 
We still didn't know how to get back to the road we needed to go around the Sea and found ourselves up at the top of the hill. A sign pointed to the Mt. of Beatitudes, so we decided to stop there. There was a big church and a beautiful garden path and a very nice bathroom. We got out of the car and a hot, humid wind hit us. With our car air conditioner on, we forgot how hot it would be outside. We walked around the garden path and we saw a rubber tree. Nayna sang part of a song about an ant and a rubber tree. It was funny. "Woops there goes another rubber tree plant," she sang.
The garden was beautiful, but there was a big brush fire in the hills around Kfar Nahum. The wind brought the smoke and ash up the hill and it was hard to breath, so we went back to our car to continue our travels.
Finally, we found the right road by the Sea and the entrance to the town of Capernaum, but the gate had closed at 5 pm, 15 minutes before we got there. Rats!
Time to drive around the Sea towards En Gev and the fish dinner Nayna and I looked forward to eating.
I looked away from the Sea and saw a big mountain. Well, a big hill. Nayna said not far on the other side was the Golan Heights and Syria.
We were getting close to En Gev. Look - there's a fisherman and a big fish. My tummy was full of rumbles. We bears like our fish, don't you know.
En Gev is a working kibbutz. In Hebrew kibbutz means a communal settlement. Everyone lives together and shares everything. This kibbutz has a big resturant that is known for its fresh talipia, or St. Peter's fish.
Of course, Nayna and I shared the fish and bowl of rice because it was so big. Some people get all squeemy wheemy when they bring the fish - head and all. They don't like their dinner looking at them. All I could see was sweet, warm fish sliding into my tummy.

Papa cracks me up. He's not a fish kind of guy and ordered mushroom fettuccine alfredo.
As we ate, the sunbeam slowly strolled down across the lake.
After a relaxing dinner, it was getting dark and we needed to drive about an hour and a half back to Tel Aviv.
We decided to give our GPS lady one more chance and she took us a different way home through the Jezreel Valley. I wished it was light outside because I think I would have enjoyed the scenery. But I was full of fish and my eyes got really heavy. I slipped back into Nayna's purse and snoozed the whole way back.
When we got to our hotel room, I woke up long enough to peek at the clock. It was almost 11 pm! What a fun day we had.
Lila tov!