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First Posted: Dec 29, 2013
Feb 9, 2016

Israel Travel

by Debora Johnson

Picture Galleries:
A Bit of Acco
Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians
Many Faces of Israel
Interiors Photographed of Holy Places (Churches, Mosques and Synagogues)
Jewel of Wonders/Random Photos/Part 1
Jewel of Wonders/Random Photos/Part 2
A Glimpse of Israel from the Rooftops

Other Israel Trip Articles:
Baruch Hashem, B'esrat Hashem, Besiyata Dishmaya, Alhamdulillah and Insha 'Allah
Israel Trip/Private Guide Graeme Stone
Kafr Bir'im, Kafar Bir'em, Kefr Berem and Kfar Bar'am
Shtreimel
Israel Signs
Tekoa, Gush Etzion/Jerusalem

This travel page of our trip to Israel does not begin to cover what we saw and experienced in Israel. It does, however, give an overview of the trip.

To say that Israel is a vacation would be a misnomer. Our trip to Israel was an exploration into the multi-faceted life existence of persons from universal backgrounds and cultures. It was an attempt to try to understand the political circumstances that surround the Middle East dilemma--which, of course, is an impossibility. One can try to intellectually parse the day-to-day existence of this Jewish State; however, after visiting for a brief two weeks, I can only say that, too, is not possible. I can only come away with intellectual, visual, oral, internal and external glimmers that I viewed through my own cultural prism and had a visceral reaction of "awe". I found this trip to be one of the most exciting--if not the most exciting trip on a multiplicity of fronts--that Bill and I have ever taken. It was a journey through thousands of years of history, through biblical teachings from a myriad of religious groups, through a kaleidescope of cultures that have brought us to the present day.

To regurgitate what has already been written about Israel would be futile--so much has already been written and from every perspective. However, this link will give an encapsulation of Israel's story.

We started with an itinerary that had been worked out here in the United States by a wonderful company called ITC (Israel Tour Connection) . I worked with Marlene. She and her husband are the owners of the company. Marlene was a joy as were the rest of her staff. This was a 14-day custom trip for Bill and me. We had a guide/driver and car for seven of those days. The initial itinerary was not set in stone, but rather a cursory review. It was made to be changed. Between Marlene and Graeme Stone, our guide, lots of sparkle was sprinkled on the itinerary. Graeme just kept dipping into the sparkle jar and the sprinkling of sparkle continued--non stop! That is one of the many glories of "custom travel".

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Graeme Stone, Excellent Israeli Guide
grums@bezeqint.net

I will not list day-by-day travel but will include an overview of many of the places we visited on our own and while with Mr. Stone. To say Graeme Stone was most amazing would be an understatement. I am going to write a separate page about Graeme Stone--as he was "the trip". Never has the saying "win the hearts and minds" had such clarity! Thank you, Graeme.

The following time line should be helpful to help become acquainted with the often tempestuous historical events of the Middle East. It will most certainly punctuate the diversity of the region and bring some modicum of lucidity to today's frenetic political arena.

Time line Years

    Ancient Israel and Judah
    Prehistory

  • Hebrews
  • Israelites
  • United monarchy
  • Northern Kingdom
  • Kingdom of Judah
  • Babylonian rule
  • Persian rule
  • Hasmonean dynasty

    Rome and Byzantium

  • Herodian kingdom (Tetrarchy)
  • Roman rule
  • Palaestina Prima
  • Palaestina Secunda
  • Jewish-Sasanian commonwealth

    Caliphate and Crusades

  • Rashidun
  • Kingdom of Jerusalem
  • Ayyubid dynasty
  • Mongols
  • Mamluks
  • Ottomans

    Zionism and the State of Israel

  • Old Yishuv
  • Aliyah
  • History of Zionism
  • British Mandate
  • Independence
  • Arab-Israeli conflict

From a religous and cultural perspective Bill and I wanted to try to experience Israel from a Jewish, Christian and Muslim mirror. Although this is an impossibility, we gave it our best. Thus, we visited a potpourri of synagogues, churches and mosques, paying special attention to the history and cultural influences. In the Old City of Jerusalem we visited the Christian, Jewish, Armenian and Muslim Quarters. In the Christian Quarter, there was the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering or Way of Grief).

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the walled Old City of Jerusalem. "The site is venerated as Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified, and is said also to contain the place where Jesus was buried (the Sepulchre). The church has been a paramount - and for many Christians the most important - pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century, as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus. Today it also serves as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, while control of the building is shared between several Christian churches and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for centuries. Today, the church is home to branches of Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy as well as to Roman Catholicism. Anglican and Protestant Christians have no permanent presence in the Church and some have regarded the alternative Garden Tomb, elsewhere in Jerusalem, as the true place of Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection." It is a few steps away from the Muristan .

Also, don't miss the Garden Tomb .

Image: Attribution: Dennis1980 at the German language Wikipedia
The Garden Tomb
Image: Attribution: Dennis1980 at the German language Wikipedia
"The Garden Tomb located in Jerusalem, outside the city walls and close to the Damascus Gate, is a rock-cut tomb which was unearthed in 1867 and has subsequently been considered by some Christians to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. The Garden Tomb is adjacent to a rocky escarpment which since the mid-nineteenth century has been proposed by some scholars to be Golgotha (it is also known as Skull Hill and Gordon's Calvary). In contradistinction to this modern identification the traditional site where the death and resurrection of Christ are believed to have occurred has been the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at least since the fourth century. Since 1894 the Garden Tomb and its surrounding gardens have been maintained as a place of Christian worship and reflection by a Christian non-denominational charitable trust based in the United Kingdom named The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association. ..."

We walked through the restored Jewish Quarter and Cardo, an ancient shopping street filled with modern day stores. Of course, we visited the Western Wall, the last remnants of the Second Temple. There we placed our prayers in the wall. I did not realize that men and women are separated at the Western Wall.

 
Bill and I placed prayers in the Western Wall.

Note: "...Jerusalem (CNN)The Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites, will soon have a prayer space for mixed-gender ceremonies and non-Orthodox Jews following a historical Israeli Cabinet decision on Sunday to finally allow such an area.

'While I know that this is a delicate issue, I think that this is a fair and creative solution,' Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Sunday. Many Jews throughout the diaspora rejoiced.

'Today the government of Israel recognized the diversity of Judaism around the world and partnered with us to co-create a space where all can pray at Judaism's most holy site,' said Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which has been lobbying for a shared prayer space for more than two decades...." Israel to expand who can pray at holy Western Wall

We explored the Rabbinical (Kotel.) We visited the Mount of Olives and took in a breathtaking view of the Temple Mount .

There was the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested, the olive trees and the Basilica of the Agony .

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Garden of Gethsemane

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The Church of All Nations, also known as the Church or Basilica of the Agony, is a Roman Catholic church located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest.

We saw the Rabbinic Tunnels and walked alongside the massive foundation stones of the Western Wall.


The Rabbinic Tunnel and massive foundation stones of the Western Wall

There is also the newly renovated Israel Museum the home of the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed; as well as the model of the city during the Second Temple period. We were fortunate to see the Herodian Exhibit while we were there. The night we visited the museum was open until 9:00 pm. Bill and I had a lovely dinner there, as well. You can spend many hours in this museum; it is so beautifully done. Bill and I did not do Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial of the Holocaust because we have seen the camps in Poland and also the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Being from a Jewish family I understand the Nazi killing of six million Jews and others.

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Esther/Owner of Tekoa Stables
Horse-back-riding at Takoa: Graeme sprinkled more glitter. He booked us horse-back-riding with his friend, Esther, who owns Takoa Stables. It is located outside of Jerusalem and is in one of the settlements. We could see Herodian in the distance as we were riding. The ride was private--Bill, Esther and myself. It was really a special moment in time. Tekoa, Gush Etzion/Jerusalem and our ride.

Tel Aviv: Bill and I guided ourselves all around Tel Aviv and to Jaffa. We stayed in Tel Aviv for three days at the Shalom and Relax Hotel. They were wonderfully warm and helpful. Celine was great. Shalom and Relax is a small boutique hotel. As with most of the boutique hotels the rooms are small but well done. The focus is on service to the people staying at the hotel and a non-herd mentality. We do not mind a small room as Bill and I really only sleep there. The breakfasts were beyond belief as were the staff. The hotel is well located right near the boardwalk that goes down the beach. You can get bikes from the hotel if you want them. The good restaurants are close. We really liked Barbunia and ate there twice. To get around we used the city buses, our feet and a taxi or two. Know the word for meter when you get in a taxi. Try pointing to the meter and if the driver does not respond--say "be-vakasha le-haf'il et ha-moneh" or just "moneh". They get moneh and a pointing finger. Insist on the meter. That way there are no questions about the cost. Be mindful that you are not being driven around the long way to your destination, as well! We walked through the tree-lined boulevards of Tel Aviv. See the Neve Tzedek neighborhood if you have time and energy, and see the world's largest concentration of Bauhaus Architecture.

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Bauhaus Architecture

There is the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site--nicknamed, The White City. Many of the historic buildings are built in the Bauhaus or International style, forming part of the White City of Tel Aviv, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. The 1925 Lederberg house, at the intersection of Allenby Street features a series of large ceramic murals designed by Ze'ev Raban a member of the Bezalel school. The four murals show a Jewish pioneer sowing and harvesting, a shepherd and Jerusalem, with a verse from Jeremiah 31:4, 'Again I will rebuild thee and thou shalt be rebuilt.'"

We enjoyed the Carmel Market--the largest bazaar market in Tel Aviv. The market is bordered by Allenby Street "Allenby Street is a major street in Tel Aviv, Israel. It was named in honor of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby. Allenby Street stretches from the Mediterranean sea in the northwest to HaAliya Street in the southeast. It was first paved with concrete in 1914. During the day, it is a commercial street with many small businesses and clothing stores. At night it becomes a hub of nightlife, known for its cafes, pubs and restaurants. Many public buses run along Allenby Street. See the 1925 Lederberg house, at the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard ("Rothschild Boulevard was initially called Rehov HaAm ('Street of the people'). Later, the residents requested it to be renamed in honor of Baron Edmond James de Rothschild. One house, on the corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street, was built in 1909 by the Eliavson family, one of Tel Aviv's sixty founding families. In 2007, the building was purchased and restored by the French Institute. Israel's Declaration of Independence was signed at Independence Hall on Rothschild Boulevard.

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Independence Hall

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Soldier near Independence hall (left) Meir Dizengoff, First Mayor of Tel Aviv (right)

See Rabin Square and the memorial to Yitzhak Rabin and on to Dizengoff. "In the street's heyday, it was described as the 'Champs-Élysées of Tel Aviv'. In Hebrew slang, a new word was coined based on the iconic status of this street: 'l'hizdangef'), literally to 'to Dizengoff oneself, i.e., to stroll down Dizengoff.' Since the 1970s, Dizengoff Street has declined. The advent of the shopping mall, Dizengoff Center is cited as a principal reason for the decline, along with changes in the configuration of Dizengoff Square. ..."

Oh, don't forget the Carmel Market. Magen David Square and the market is principally located along Carmel Street (which becomes King George Street after Magen David Square. It has expanded over time to streets such as Nahalat Binyamin Street. The market is open every day of the week, except on Shabbat (Saturday), and sells mostly food but also a variety of items such as home accessories, and flowers. Tuesday's and Friday's are the signature days at the market as several independent artists and vendors sell unique crafts, art, and jewelery along Nahalat Binyamin Street. We were wanded when entering and exiting the Carmel Market. We also took the #10 bus to Jaffa. However, take note that the #10 bus gets you back to Tel Aviv but not anywhere near the Shalom and Relax Hotel. Jaffa Port is a lovely port with winding streets filled with art galleries and cafes. We had a wonderful lunch at Puaa Restaurant. The view of the Tel Aviv coastline from the central square is lovely. Make sure to climb the hill to the Jaffa Fort.

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Carmel Market (A bit of a taste!)

After Bill and I explored Tel Aviv together for three days we met Graeme to continue our Israel trip with him for 7 days. He chatted with us to try to discern what was most important to us on this trip. He was beyond terrific. It did not take long for him to figure us out--politics--we want to see for ourselves. We left for the Mediterranean Coast to see ancient history against the backdrop of ancient Caesarea. We saw the amphitheatre, aqueduct and hippodrome. "Caesarea is a town in Israel located mid-way between Tel Aviv and Haifa (45 km), on the Israeli coastal plain near the city of Hadera. Modern Caesarea as of December 2007 has a population of 4,500 people. It is the only Israeli locality managed by a private organization, the Caesarea Development Corporation, and also one of the most populous localities not recognized as a local council. It lies under the jurisdiction of the Hof HaCarmel Regional Council.

The town was built by Herod the Great about 25-13 BCE as the port city Caesarea Maritima. It served as an administrative center of Judaea Province of the Roman Empire, and later the capital of the Byzantine Palestrina Prima province during the classic period. Following the Arab conquest in the 7th century, the city had an Arab majority until Crusader renovation, but was again abandoned after the Mamluk conquest. It was populated in 1884 by Bosniak immigrants, who settled in a small fishing village. In 1940, kibbutz Sdot Yam was established next to the Bosnyak village. After receiving word of the Deir Yassin massacre during the 1947-1948 Civil War in Israel, the town was abandoned by the Bosnyak residents. In 1952 a Jewish town of Caesarea established near the ruins of the old city, which were made into the national park of Caesarea Maritima. ..."

Public Domain Wikipedia
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Bill at Caeserea

Dalyat al Karmel is a Druze town in the North District of Israel, located around 20 km southeast of Haifa. At the end of 2012, the population was 16,000. Daliyat al-Karmel, situated on Mount Carmel, is the country's largest and southernmost Druze town. This is everyday Druze life. Where we were was not touristy. Graeme took us to a large store with items from all over the world. If you have the time and like to shop this is a place to stop. If I had a place to put them I would have purchased a number of Turkish lamps. They were similar to the incense burners and lighting you see in Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches. You have to be in the mood and have the room!

We visited Tishbi Winery for tastings and chocolate, enjoyed the Carmel region at Makhraka-Karen HaCarmel and continued on to Haifa to spend the night. The hotel was excellent: The Haifa Bay Hotel --lovely boutique and wonderfully appointed in every way! It was the best place we stayed on this trip. We were there for two days. They take such good care of you. The breakfasts are terrific and they even give you enough food for dinner during their happy hour. We are in one night and out one night.


Haifa Bay Hotel (An Atlas Boutique Hotel)

Tishbi Winery: The winery was established in 1985 and it produces approximately 1,000,000 bottles annually. The winery is also known by its previous name, The Baron Wineries, named after Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and now carries the family name of the winery owners. The grapes come from wineries in the Ramot Naftali region in the Upper Galilee, the Judean Hills region, the Negev region and the foot of Mount Tabor. The wines are made from the Sauvignon Blanc, French Colombard, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir varieties.


Yikes!

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Tishbi Winery: We had a wonderful time here tasting the wines and pairing them with outstanding chocolates. The lovely young women pouring the wine and explaining each tasting were so much fun. We laughed and giggled. There were certain areas we were unable to see because the winery is Kosher. No admittance! Graeme was also enjoying himself although he could not imbibe in the libations only in the enjoyment of the moment.

We enjoyed the Bahá'í Gardens. In July 2008, the Bahá'í Gardens in Haifa and Akko were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List, in recognition of their outstanding universal value as holy places and places of pilgrimage for the followers of the Bahá'í Faith.

  
Bahá'í Gardens

Continuing on we traveled to Rosh Hanikra where we took the cable car to the grottos of Rosh Hanikra located at Israel's border with Lebanon. "Rosh HaNikra ('head of the grottos') is a geologic formation in Israel, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Western Galilee. It is a white chalk cliff face which opens up into spectacular grottos. The Rosh HaNikra grottos are cavernous tunnels formed by sea action on the soft chalk rock. The total length is some 200 metres. They branch off in various directions with some interconnecting segments. In the past, the only access to them was from the sea and experienced divers were the only ones capable of visiting. Today a cable car takes visitors down to see the grottos. A kibbutz, also named Rosh HaNikra, is located nearby. The Israeli city Nahariya is located about 10 km (6 miles) south of Rosh HaNikra. ..."





The beautiful grottos of Rosh Hanidra.




At the Grotto of Rosh Hanidra on the Lebanon Border

Acco

We toured historic Acco where there is so much to enjoy both above the ground and below the ground. In the old city there is a Crusader City being unearthed and brought back to life. We visited this UNESCO Heritage City including the vast underground Crusader Fortress, the British Prison where Jewish freedom fighters were incarcerated and hanged, and the knight's halls. The city has a rich history of conquerors and religion from Canaanites and Romans to the Crusaders, Turks and British. Acco has a wonderful port, as well. The Khan was built in the late 18th century by Ahmed el-Jazzar. It is supported by granite columns that were brought in from many locations. Merchants unloaded their goods and stored them in rooms at this point.

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UNESCO Heritage City

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