Hello again, friends. It’s been awhile and we decided it’s time to check in with you again and share our fun trip to Israel. Until a few months ago, we had not planned a trip to the near east again so soon after visiting Turkey last year, but the offer was unbelievably inexpensive, and the company reputable, so we had to do it.We have put together vacations ourselves, but sometimes it’s easier to let someone else do the legwork. In this case the agency was Gate1, and we would definitely use them again. Other similar reliable discount travel opportunities are available from Groupon, Affordable Asia and TripMasters, whom we used this time last year for our trip to Costa Rica to escape the frigid Minnesota winter. In Tel Aviv, we were met at the airport by our driver and our guide for the week, Mika. Mika is a Sabra woman with a four year old son living in Jerusalem. Sabra is a slang term in Hebrew for one who is both a Jew and born in Israel.
Well, now we’re living in Philadelphia, so…
- the winters are not so cold, and
- we’re really close to half a dozen airports so we can take advantage of more discount travel offers.
In this case, the flight with the best discount was was on Royal Jordanian Airlines out of JFK, airport on Long Island, New York. So we just had to get ourselves there, which was pretty quick and easy on public transit, and voila — a trip to Israel for half what it would have cost us to arrange it ourselves.
|January 2017 Israel Trip|
|Click on the date to see the post|
I’ll include maps to show context of where we went in Israel each day. We flew into Amman, Jordan for a layover, then on to Tel Aviv. The airports were both very modern and convenient. As you can see from the curved line that goes through the middle of Europe, the flight path brought us way north over Scotland, Iceland and Greenland to save distance using the curvature of the Earth. I guess this is the normal routing.
The juxtapositions of ancient and modern we encountered every day of this journey made it fascinating and rewarding, and gave us much greater depth into things about which we were only vaguely aware before. The city of Tel Aviv is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean sea, and has a metro population of three and a half million, similar to Minneapolis and about half that of Philadelphia. For the week we visited, the weather was pleasant and mild, mostly 50s Fahrenheit, though it snowed very briefly on Friday evening. Tel Aviv is known as a powerful center of finance and technology.
I had been to Israel on a business trip in 1998, between the 1st and 2nd Intifadas when Israeli-Palestinian relations were so much less stable. Some people are nervous about traveling to Israel now, but, from a safety perspective, there are at least half a dozen US cities that are much more dangerous than any place in Israel or the West Bank. The news may make it seem worse than it is. From my perspective, anyone interested in learning about people, or history or religion or geo-politics, will have as much fun as Ann and I had on this trip.
The Art too! The historical art and religious icons, and the modern art we saw were fantastic. This tree sculpture in the Tel Aviv/Yafo (Jaffa) area is very evocative of the Jewish diaspora. The artist’s intent is to represent how, despite frequent mistreatment by others, the tenacious descendants of Israel have retained their identity and their ability to thrive wherever planted, and even thrive when it is not clear where they call home, or how long they can do so without being pushed elsewhere.
I have worked with a large population of Hmong, the southeast Asian montagnards from China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. They have a similar story of being forced from one area to another, of having to adjust, and a similar resilience. The ability to maintain that audacity of hope, if you’ll excuse me borrowing that wonderful phrase, characterizes many peoples throughout the world and its history.
The Jews have been dispersed in waves for millenia, with the Ashkenazi from central Europe to the Americas, Sephardic from Spain and North Africa to the Mid-East, and Yemenite, Ethiopian and Asian Jews. And yet all retain that central culture that helps them cooperate for mutual support, and makes them long for Jerusalem, their most holy place.
But it’s not just the Jews that are drawn to Jerusalem: Muslims and Christians are drawn there also, as the “Holy Land” figures prominently in all of our sacred writings. Mika Rabinovich as our guide and interpreter, did a marvelous job of describing not only the meaning behind many of the archeologicall sites we toured, but the cultural backdrop that makes each of these places important to each of these peoples, going from the stone age, through the Canaanite period, the Hebrew period, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian and Assyrian periods, then through the Roman, Greek and Byzantine eras, the Arab, Crusader and Ottoman periods up to the British Mandate and modern Israel. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, and definitely enough to account for some of the ambiguities that lead to the current tensions in the region.
I was amazed at how many plants grew out of the rocks, and this became my symbol reflecting the strength of spirit that permits people to thrive in the most hostile situations. Even the Dead Sea, which we toured on Friday, is rich in minerals that can be a source of life and rejuvenation. We saw a lot of rocks and cut stones while we visited the Holy Land. But even in this angular hardness, we saw signs of flexibility and adaptation everywhere.
I wish I had a recorder to have captured all that great information, and a video camera that could show all the places we went and things we saw. But in lieu of that, I’m hoping that this blog will give you readers a flavor of our trip, and may inspire you to seek knowledge of these ancient, wonderful and terrible things that have shaped our world and our sense of self within it.
Just one coping mechanism that I saw, and have seen elsewhere, such as the island of Crete, is the drip or trickle style of irrigation, possibly invented by a Jewish person, for areas where rain is not a reliable source of water for the crops. As I post about the time we spent traveling in Israel, I’ll try to share details that I found interesting, along with links to further information, and hopefully won’t miss too many of the important items.
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