The Carmel Mountains

On Friday morning we woke up early and checked out of Chef Hostel, piling into the car to drive up to Haifa. The drive there was easy enough and quite pleasant, but once we were in Haifa and had to find the home of my mother’s friend, we were completely lost. While we made the journey from Tel Aviv to Haifa in record time (about an hour and a half) we spent another 30 minutes driving oh so slowly up the mountain and driving in circles to find the little street that we had to get to.

We finally found my mother’s friend – a man who had been her leader in a Jewish youth group when she was 15 and who was responsible for my journey to Israel – and we got into his car and headed up to the Druze village of Isfiya, which I had visited once many months prior. My mother was elated, chattering away while my father and I enjoyed the beautiful views. Once there, we stopped off at a Druze restaurant and ate until we were stuffed. We all ordered a main dish but could have just as easily satiated ourselves on the many salads that our table creaked beneath.  Continue reading

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Tel Aviv with the family

Early in January, my family and I headed to Tel Aviv for a brief visit. In case it hasn’t been clear, I’m not crazy about the city but everyone else wanted to see what it was like and my mother had a good friend from her kibbutz days there that she wanted to see.

We arrived just before 3pm and checked into a hostel (prices are absurd in Tel Aviv) right in the city center before hopping into a cab and heading to Abu Hassan in Jaffa for hummus and masabacha. The food, as always, was divine and I stumbled through my orders in elementary Arabic. My mother wasn’t crazy about the masabacha because for some reason she didn’t like the taste of too much tahini in hummus. Continue reading

Welcoming in 2012 in Israel and Palestine

After our devastatingly exciting New Year’s Eve (note the sarcasm) we woke up very early on New Year’s Day to start 2012 with a refreshing dip in the Dead Sea. Even though I have been living in Israel, only two hours from the Dead Sea, for 7 months, I hadn’t yet visited so my first dip into the salty water was as exciting as it was for my brother and father.

It was wonderful. I didn’t want to leave and only got out of the water when my parents insisted we do so. My brother and I spent the entire time giggling and trying different ways to turn in the water, executing complicated yoga poses and trying to swim despite the current. I was so tempted to go out a long way. However, it seems the water can be quite lethal and no one wanted to accompany me, so I did not. Continue reading

New Year’s Eve, Israeli style

We left Jerusalem a little later than planned because I was printing my father’s Christmas present and proceeded on a long, long drive to kibbutz Kfar Menachem, where my mother had volunteered forty years ago. I was a little disappointed by the fact that we didn’t drive through the ultra-orthodox city of Beit Shemesh to get there. My parents refused to detour through the city; they said they’d seen enough in Me’a She’arim.

Kfar Menachem is sweet enough. We toured the kibbutz with a friend of my mother’s from her late teenage years and met with another friend of hers for supper at a very very tasty Druze restaurant located beside (or as part of) a gas station. We stayed at a nearby kibbutz, where we felt that the lodging was over-priced, the cafeteria was hard to find, and the people were unfriendly. This being his first experience of Israel outside of Jerusalem, my father was unimpressed. Continue reading

Ir David and Me’a She’arim

On our final day in Jerusalem, my family and I finally visited the City of David (Ir David), which I had been wanting to go to for a very long time. I was excited and slightly apprehensive as the organization that runs the City of David, Elad, has a very political agenda and I didn’t feel entirely comfortable giving them my money.

Elad is an organisation whose stated mission is to “Judaize East Jerusalem” and has been behind the controversial eviction of Palestinian families within the City of David, which is in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan. In recent months, a Palestinian community center in Silwan has been slated for demolition to make room for a parking lot and tourist center near the City of David. This Palestinian community center was the only one of its kind in this neighbourhood. Elad has also backed the settlements in Silwan. Continue reading

Christmas, Yad Vashem and Haram al-Sharif

Christmas morning we woke up and it was raining. It was also a Sunday and thus, most museums were closed (though Sunday isn’t a weekend here, this is similar to how museums in the West often close on Mondays).  After much deliberation, we chose the most cheerful place we could possibly go on a rainy Christmas Day: Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum). It was one of the only places open.

We took the newly installed Jerusalem light rail, a 10 year construction project that runs from East to West. Unsurprisingly, the construction of the rail, like much in Israel, was plagued by controversy as it passes through settlements in East Jerusalem as well as through Arab East Jerusalem. I also read an interesting article about how the light rail served, in a way, as a connecting bridge between East and West, with the author observing Palestinian families who evidently didn’t often come into West Jerusalem take the train to the end of the line and then get straight back on a return train taking them back to the East, as if they were on a sort of sight-seeing venture.  Continue reading

Glorious Jerusalem, Holy Bethlehem

Jerusalem, glorious Jerusalem. By the time we got to Jerusalem, on the 23rd of December, it had been two weeks since I’d been in the city and boy did I miss it! I had been driving my family nuts talking about all the wonderful things we could do there. Getting back to Jerusalem was like returning home.

We arrived late in the evening on Friday and missed the welcoming of Shabbat at the Western Wall. Instead, we grabbed 7-shekel falafel sandwiches at a stand across from the Damascus Gate and wandered through the Old City at night. My mother was amazed by the cleaning job that had been done on the walls and buildings, and my brother and father were astounded by the beauty of this living and breathing Old City. Continue reading