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Four weeks in Israel, March 2019

Pauline

Forums Admin
Trip Plan
Fly Heathrow UK to Ben Gurion Israel.
Pickup rental car.
Zikhron Ya’akov, 1 night in hotel.
Haifa, 7 nights in vacation rental.
Amirim (upper Galilee), 7 nights in vacation rental.
Kfar Blum (Galilee panhandle), 2 nights in hotel.
Jerusalem, 11 nights in vacation rental.

Monday March 4 2019 - Zikhron Ya’akov

We have arrived! We are in our apartment in Haifa, the same one we rented a year ago. Last year we were here for 4 nights, but this time we have the full week.

Our flight on Sunday morning, from Heathrow to Tel Aviv, went well. We spent Saturday night at the Sofitel at Heathrow and were up early for our 8am flight. British Airlines has a new service – checkin and bag check right in the Sofitel! They started this a couple of months ago and the agent said it is very popular. The airport was in that early morning quiet phase where everyone is up early and tired. As we got on the airport transportation to our gate I heard Hebrew being spoken and spotted some Haredi (Orthodox Jews) with their long black coats, black hats and long sideburns, just like in Shtisel. I felt like I knew them a bit after binge-watching the two season recently.

We were in Premium Economy which was comfortable. Ben Gurion Airport, outside Tel Aviv, has been an absolute zoo the last two times we have flown in. This time everything was (mostly) orderly! We were through passport control in 15 minutes instead of spending an hour in a huge unruly crowd like last time.

This was our first time picking up a rental car at the airport and our first time renting from Eldan, a local company. When I booked online I thought I purchased all the insurances, but we had an extra insurance to purchase which drove up the price. Driving here is quite chaotic so I feel like we need all the insurance, even though on our last two trips we have not had any incidents. The good news is that we got a fabulous car – a Suzuki sort of small SUV, but smaller than our VW Golf at home – and it drives really well. Much better than our first trip when Hertz gave us a Honda Civic that squealed when you braked and made a worse noise when you took a corner.

We were out of the airport an hour earlier than I expected. We drove north 1hr 30min to Zikhron Ya’akov, a small town on the coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Amy recommended this town to me on an earlier trip and we never made it there. I had programmed Waze to some random place in the town, thinking the Hebrew letters it was displaying was our hotel, but we eventually found the hotel. We had a nice drive through the town and still reached the hotel before it was dark.

We spent the night at Beit Maimon, which gets great reviews and was nice except for one thing – very strong fragrances from the cleaning products in the rooms and hallways. The first room was horrible but they let me do the sniff test to two other rooms and we found one that was not as bad. Still, I would not stay there again just because of this. I talked to the manager and he said there were no better options for cleaning products and he doesn’t smell it any more.

We walked into the town center (15 mins) in the dark (I bought a new flashlight for this trip) and people were out and about. It is a very cute town with a pedestrian historic area full of shops and restaurants. It has an interesting history too.

From Wikipedia: “Zikhron Ya'akov was founded in December 1882 when 100 Jewish pioneers from Romania, members of the Hibbat Zion movement, purchased land in Zammarin. The families came from Moineşti in Moldavia and a central merit in organising the move belongs to Moses Gaster, scholar and early Zionist. The difficulty of working the rocky soil and an outbreak of malaria led many of the settlers to leave before the year was up.

In 1883, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild became the patron of the settlement and drew up plans for its residential layout and agricultural economy. Zikhron was one of the first Jewish agricultural colonies to come under the wing of the Baron (along with Rishon LeZion and Rosh Pinna), who renamed it in memory of his father, James (Ya'akov) Mayer de Rothschild.”

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, sharing two starters – hummus and fresh pita, roasted vegetables. Excellent.

It was cool that evening but I only needed a cotton sweater and a scarf when we were out on our walk. It is in the low to mid 60sF during the day in this area, but is supposed to be 10F lower in Amirim where we go next week, so I packed warmer jackets, but we did not need them yet.

The next morning it was sunny and we could appreciate the view from the hotel to the sea. Zikhron sits high up on the end of the Mt Carmel range. The breakfast room was a typical Israeli breakfast – salad (lots of options), tahini, cheeses, bread, fresh orange juice, coffee, and they will make you an omelet if you want.

We checked out and drove 10 minutes to Ramat HaNadiv, memorial gardens built in 1954 with the crypt for the Rothschilds in the center. The gardens are large and we spent an hour walking around them. Very lovely with views to the mountains and the coast. We had planned to spend a couple of hours on the hiking trails nearby where you can visit some Roman ruins but the trails were very muddy so we will leave that for next time. There were big rain storms here recently and everything is still damp. The woman and the information center warned us about the mud and we had a look for ourselves.

We drove down to the seaside, aiming for Tel Dor or Habonim Beach, but the roads to get to the beach were dirt, rutted out and had huge, lake-sized, puddles. We could have left the car somewhere and walked in, but we had all our luggage in the car so didn’t want to do that. This area is very developed, one town after another along the coast, yet there is no paved road to the beach and the coastal paths!

Driving around today made me think of driving in Sicily (Italy). Busy roads with aggressive drivers, a lot of “ramshackle” looking towns with buildings started but not finished (carcasses of buildings), cars parked every which way. In short, the disorder that makes me think happily “I’m not in England anymore”.

We headed north towards Haifa, stopping in Ein Hod, a small artists town just up in the mountains a bit from the road. This place is busy on weekends but was sleepy today. Friday and Saturday are the weekend days in Israel. Today, SundayMonday, is like our Monday Tuesday. We walked all around then decided to push on.

I have read about the Druze towns in the hills near Haifa and we drove to Daliyat al-Karmel to see it. Or we tried. We drove up and up on a winding road to the top of the mountains, then reached a roundabout where it was left for Haifa and right for Daliyat al-Karmel. We went right thinking we would continue through mountains until we got to a pretty Druze village. It was solid town and traffic and people all the way. Intense driving (I was driving and I am an aggressive driver, but these guys put me to shame), lots of traffic. Signs no longer in Hebrew/Arabic/English and now only in Arabic. The town never ended. We probably turned around just before Daliyat al-Karmel, or maybe we were there, but I had enough. Back the way we came, which seemed much shorter on return of course, then to the University of Haifa and down in busy traffic to Carmel, where we are staying.

We checked into the apartment and instead of driving to the larger natural foods shop that I had planned to go to, we walked to a smaller one a few blocks away. Israeli natural foods shops are great – everything we need, plus a few new things to try (Seitan bolognaise sauce, vegan cheese that is good, pretzels). We found a very good bakery on the way back and now we are nicely settled in the apartment. Dinner at home tonight – spaghetti bolognaise! And chocolate rugelach for dessert.






 
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Pauline

Forums Admin
Tuesday March 5 - Haifa

It is 2 hours later here than in the UK but we managed to be up by 8 this morning, so maybe we have adjusted. It is probably due to getting up at 5am to make our Sunday flight. But we both felt lazy today.

The last time we were here in Haifa, a year ago, we did not get to see as much of our neighbourhood and the city as I would have liked. We only had 4 nights, so 3 days, and we spent 1 day in Acco, 1 day exploring a bit of the Galilee and the remaining day in Haifa. This time we want to see more of Haifa.

Haifa is where the Carmel Mountains meet the Mediterranean Sea. Mount Carmel slopes steeply down to the sea and Haifa is built on its slopes. At the top is the University and the Mount Carmel Nature Reserve with lots of hiking trails. Going down the slope, next is our area, Carmel Center, or HaCarmel (which means The Carmel). From our area it is very steep down to the port with neighborhoods the whole way down and roads zig-zagging down the hill. It flattens out around the German Colony and Wadi Nisnas (the Arab-Christian neighbourhood). There are steps so you can walk straight down, or up, the hill. Buses and cars go up and down on the zig-zagging roads. And then there is HaCarmelit, The Carmelit, an underground funicular that takes you through the neighborhoods, starting in HaCarmel at the top and going to Paris Square near the port at the bottom.

On our last visit I did not know about the Carmelit, plus we had not worked out how to get a Rav Kav card for using public transportation, so we walked down all the stairs and took a taxi back up. This time we took the Carmelit down and took a bus back up.

We had planned to get off at the second last stop, which I though was called Solel Boheh, but it was called something else and we missed it. We got off at the bottom and walked for about 15 minutes to the German Colony and the Tourist Office. This part of Haifa is interesting because it is a mix of modern buildings and old, well-worn buildings. Parts of it seem very rundown. Not rough, just uneven sidewalks, buildings a bit wrecked. Once you get to the German Colony it all changes to much more upscale. Lots of cafes and restaurants and shops.

The Tourist Office was even more unhelpful than last time but I did get a map of the city, a brochure about Haifa and we purchased the last pamphlet about the Haifa Trail, a long walking trail through all the neighborhoods. And they have a public restroom, so does the Carmelit station. The woman at the desk could tell us which bus to take everywhere we asked about and not much else.

Even though we were up in good time, we didn’t get an early start and now it was lunch time. We walked over to the Wadi Nisnas, which we had explored on our last trip. I don’t know how we missed the two famous falafel places located across from each other on the tiny lane off another tiny street. Falafel Hazkenim and Falafel Michel face each other.

We chose Hazkenim. I had read about long lines but that must be on weekends. It was busy but there were only a couple of people in line. As we walked in we were greeted by one of the two men behind the counter and given a fresh, hot falafel dipped in tahini. Fabulous. Then they made falafel for us. We ate them at the country trying to not drip down our clothes (with moderate success). Fantastic. Fresh warm pita cut open at the top with several falafel, then salad and pickle and tahini, and a last falafel on top. Joe tells me that the only good falafel is in Haifa and north, and that there must be green in the falafel (parsley?). These were green.

After lunch we decided to take the bus back so we could see the neighborhoods and views.

We bought some fruit from the corner fruit and vegetable shop, then went home thinking we would take naps and head out again, but we did the former and not the latter. Good thing we have the whole week here! Dinner at home. I think this will be a slow week for us. We both had colds or allergies or something over the winter at home and were not walking at our usual 20 miles a week pace. Whatever, we are here and we will do and see what we can.

The weather was a bit cool. Steve wore a jacket, I had my cotton sweater, but it warmed up during the day and was nice and sunny. No rain.







 
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Pauline

Forums Admin
I just finished the novel “Forest Dark” by Nicole Krauss and there were some great parts but overall I didn’t like it. Maybe I just didn’t understand it. I loved the details about Tel Aviv, Safed and the Dead Sea area. The characters had lunch in a vegetarian restaurant in Jerusalem that @ItalophileNJ told me about (figs). But overall the story did not hold together for me. A lot of it was about Kafka (that may explain why).

Here are the quotes. I figured out how to copy from a Kindle book!

About Tel Aviv and Israel: “I found myself speaking freely about my many memories of Israel, of stories my father had told me of his childhood in Tel Aviv, and of my own relationship with the city, which often felt to me more like my true home than anywhere else. When he asked me what I meant, I tried to explain how I felt comfortable with people here in a way I never did in America, because everything could be touched, so little was hidden or held back, people were hungry to engage with whatever the other had to offer, however messy and intense, and this openness and immediacy made me feel more alive and less alone; made me feel, I suppose, that an authentic life was more possible. Many things that were possible in America were impossible in Israel, but in Israel it was also impossible to feel nothing, to provoke nothing, to walk down the street and not exist. But my love for Tel Aviv went further than that, I told him. The shameless dilapidation of the buildings, sweetened by the bright fuchsia bougainvillea that grew over the rust and the cracks, asserting the importance of accidental beauty over that of keeping up appearances. The way the city seemed to refuse constriction; how everywhere, always, suddenly, one ran into pockets of surreality where reason was exploded like an unclaimed suitcase at Ben Gurion.“

About Tel Aviv: “One day a stubborn man came and traced lines in the sand, and sixty-six stubborn families stood on a dune and drew seashells for sixty-six plots, and then went off to build stubborn houses and plant stubborn trees, and from that original act of stubbornness an entire stubborn city grew up, faster and larger than anyone could have imagined, and now there are four hundred thousand people living in Tel Aviv with the same stubborn idea. The sea breeze is just as stubborn. It wears away the facades of the buildings, it rusts and corrodes, nothing is allowed to stay new here, but people don’t mind because it gives them a chance to stubbornly refuse to fix anything. And when some know-nothing comes from Europe or America and uses his foreign money to make the white white again, and the porous whole, no one says anything because they know it’s just a matter of time, and when soon enough the place looks decrepit they’re happy again, they breathe more easily when they pass, not out of schadenfreude, not because they don’t want the best for him, whoever he is who only comes once a year, but because what people really long for, even more than love or happiness, is coherence. Within themselves, first of all, and then in the life of which they are a small part.”

About Safed: “Nothing was ever finished here: the world built over and over again on the same ground, with the same broken materials. Epstein stumbled, and the loose earth poured into his shoe.”
 

berliej

10+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Monday March 4 2019

We have arrived! We are in our apartment in Haifa, the same one we rented a year ago. Last year we were here for 4 nights, but this time we have the full week.

Our flight on Sunday morning, from Heathrow to Tel Aviv, went well. We spent Saturday night at the Sofitel at Heathrow and were up early for our 8am flight. British Airlines has a new service – checkin and bag check right in the Sofitel! They started this a couple of months ago and the agent said it is very popular. The airport was in that early morning quiet phase where everyone is up early and tired. As we got on the airport transportation to our gate I heard Hebrew being spoken and spotted some Haredi (Orthodox Jews) with their long black coats, black hats and long sideburns, just like in Shtisel. I felt like I knew them a bit after binge-watching the two season recently.

We were in Premium Economy which was comfortable. Ben Gurion Airport, outside Tel Aviv, has been an absolute zoo the last two times we have flown in. This time everything was (mostly) orderly! We were through passport control in 15 minutes instead of spending an hour in a huge unruly crowd like last time.

This was our first time picking up a rental car at the airport and our first time renting from Eldan, a local company. When I booked online I thought I purchased all the insurances, but we had an extra insurance to purchase which drove up the price. Driving here is quite chaotic so I feel like we need all the insurance, even though on our last two trips we have not had any incidents. The good news is that we got a fabulous car – a Suzuki sort of small SUV, but smaller than our VW Golf at home – and it drives really well. Much better than our first trip when Hertz gave us a Honda Civic that squealed when you braked and made a worse noise when you took a corner.

We were out of the airport an hour earlier than I expected. We drove north 1hr 30min to Zikhron Ya’akov, a small town on the coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Amy recommended this town to me on an earlier trip and we never made it there. I had programmed Waze to some random place in the town, thinking the Hebrew letters it was displaying was our hotel, but we eventually found the hotel. We had a nice drive through the town and still reached the hotel before it was dark.

We spent the night at Beit Maimon, which gets great reviews and was nice except for one thing – very strong fragrances from the cleaning products in the rooms and hallways. The first room was horrible but they let me do the sniff test to two other rooms and we found one that was not as bad. Still, I would not stay there again just because of this. I talked to the manager and he said there were no better options for cleaning products and he doesn’t smell it any more.

We walked into the town center (15 mins) in the dark (I bought a new flashlight for this trip) and people were out and about. It is a very cute town with a pedestrian historic area full of shops and restaurants. It has an interesting history too.

From Wikipedia: “Zikhron Ya'akov was founded in December 1882 when 100 Jewish pioneers from Romania, members of the Hibbat Zion movement, purchased land in Zammarin. The families came from Moineşti in Moldavia and a central merit in organising the move belongs to Moses Gaster, scholar and early Zionist. The difficulty of working the rocky soil and an outbreak of malaria led many of the settlers to leave before the year was up.

In 1883, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild became the patron of the settlement and drew up plans for its residential layout and agricultural economy. Zikhron was one of the first Jewish agricultural colonies to come under the wing of the Baron (along with Rishon LeZion and Rosh Pinna), who renamed it in memory of his father, James (Ya'akov) Mayer de Rothschild.”

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, sharing two starters – hummus and fresh pita, roasted vegetables. Excellent.

It was cool that evening but I only needed a cotton sweater and a scarf when we were out on our walk. It is in the low to mid 60sF during the day in this area, but is supposed to be 10F lower in Amirim where we go next week, so I packed warmer jackets, but we did not need them yet.

The next morning it was sunny and we could appreciate the view from the hotel to the sea. Zikhron sits high up on the end of the Mt Carmel range. The breakfast room was a typical Israeli breakfast – salad (lots of options), tahini, cheeses, bread, fresh orange juice, coffee, and they will make you an omelet if you want.

We checked out and drove 10 minutes to Ramat HaNadiv, memorial gardens built in 1954 with the crypt for the Rothschilds in the center. The gardens are large and we spent an hour walking around them. Very lovely with views to the mountains and the coast. We had planned to spend a couple of hours on the hiking trails nearby where you can visit some Roman ruins but the trails were very muddy so we will leave that for next time. There were big rain storms here recently and everything is still damp. The woman and the information center warned us about the mud and we had a look for ourselves.

We drove down to the seaside, aiming for Tel Dor or Habonim Beach, but the roads to get to the beach were dirt, rutted out and had huge, lake-sized, puddles. We could have left the car somewhere and walked in, but we had all our luggage in the car so didn’t want to do that. This area is very developed, one town after another along the coast, yet there is no paved road to the beach and the coastal paths!

Driving around today made me think of driving in Sicily (Italy). Busy roads with aggressive drivers, a lot of “ramshackle” looking towns with buildings started but not finished (carcasses of buildings), cars parked every which way. In short, the disorder that makes me think happily “I’m not in England anymore”.

We headed north towards Haifa, stopping in Ein Hod, a small artists town just up in the mountains a bit from the road. This place is busy on weekends but was sleepy today. Friday and Saturday are the weekend days in Israel. Today, SundayMonday, is like our Monday Tuesday. We walked all around then decided to push on.

I have read about the Druze towns in the hills near Haifa and we drove to Daliyat al-Karmel to see it. Or we tried. We drove up and up on a winding road to the top of the mountains, then reached a roundabout where it was left for Haifa and right for Daliyat al-Karmel. We went right thinking we would continue through mountains until we got to a pretty Druze village. It was solid town and traffic and people all the way. Intense driving (I was driving and I am an aggressive driver, but these guys put me to shame), lots of traffic. Signs no longer in Hebrew/Arabic/English and now only in Arabic. The town never ended. We probably turned around just before Daliyat al-Karmel, or maybe we were there, but I had enough. Back the way we came, which seemed much shorter on return of course, then to the University of Haifa and down in busy traffic to Carmel, where we are staying.

We checked into the apartment and instead of driving to the larger natural foods shop that I had planned to go to, we walked to a smaller one a few blocks away. Israeli natural foods shops are great – everything we need, plus a few new things to try (Seitan bolognaise sauce, vegan cheese that is good, pretzels). We found a very good bakery on the way back and now we are nicely settled in the apartment. Dinner at home tonight – spaghetti bolognaise! And chocolate rugelach for dessert.






Pauline the Druze villages in the "old" days used to be interesting and you could enjoy the Druze culture but have become totally commercial and rather chaotic, especially over the weekends
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Wednesday March 6

Today was our drive north. We headed out of Haifa, going through the Carmel Tunnels (cash lane, 10 NIS, payment booths on north end of tunnels and you tell them where you entered tunnel, or, going the other way, where you are going). Traffic was thick and fast on the drive north, but calmed down once we were north of Akko.

I read about an aqueduct near the highway north of Akko on the Trip Advisor forums and we wanted to find it. We saw it from the road and exited at Lohamei HaGeta'ot. There is a small museum there and from the grounds there is a good view of the aqueduct. I was hoping it was Roman, but I looked it up and it is 18th century Ottoman.

Lohamei HaGeta'ot (The Ghetto Fighters)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lohamei_HaGeta'ot
"Alongside the kibbutz are the extensive remains of an aqueduct which supplied water to Acre some 6 km away, until 1948. The aqueduct was originally built at the end of the 18th century by Jezzar Pasha, the Ottoman ruler of Acre, but was completely rebuilt by his successor, Suleiman, in 1814."

On Google Maps I had found more of the aqueduct a bit further north, but we drove around and could not find it.

We continued to Rosh Hanikra, right on the border with Lebanon. The border is up on the top of a hill, so all you see is a tall fence in the distance. You can’t look into Lebanon. There is a military outpost here too. There are buoys in the water marking the border.

Rosh Hanikra are caves (grottos) along the water. We parked, bought our tickets (they have senior rates!) and took the very short, steep ride down in the cable car. It was lunchtime and not very busy. There were a few school groups but they were leaving. We walked around the grottos on our own. Then along the water. There are two tunnels that remain from the train used by the British Mandate to run from Egypt to Lebanon and on to Turkey to connect with Europe. They are closed now. The north tunnel goes into Lebanon (you cannot go through).

We had planned to drive inland to explore a couple of areas – Ma’a lot Tarshiha (interesting small town) and Klil (organic village), both recommended by Joe – but we didn’t feel like the extra driving and instead drove south and went to Nahariya, a seaside town. We parked and did a nice walk along the seaside promenade. There were not many people about. Large signs say you cannot swim there. Nice sandy beach, beautiful water, no swimming. Must be some reason. Probably currents.

We walked up the busy main street and found a bakery where we got Jerusalem bagels (maybe they are called Arab bagels – those elongated bagel-like things – for a light lunch (we brought bananas and dates with us too). Dates in Israel are like nothing you’ve eaten before. Much bigger, rich and wonderful. We bought some the day we arrived in Haifa, from Neot Smadar, the place we were near last November in the Negev.

Steve did the drive out and I did the drive back. The traffic was not as bad going back. We stopped for gas even though we were only at ½ tank and could not figure out how to get gas with our credit card. As you would expect, all the commands are in Hebrew. We’ve never had great success with gas stations here. But the attendant did something that made it work and we paid in cash.

We drove back home but did a short detour to drive around the neighbourhood just past our apartment. It is Kababir and once was an Arab village but now looks like the rest of Haifa (nice three-storey apartment buildings, a few shops). It goes down the hill and ends on a cliff overlooking the town below and the sea. There is a large mosque at that point. The neighbourhood is still Arab.

Back home around 4pm, so we walked out to do some neighbourhood things. Got bread at the excellent bakery, had coffee at our local coffee shop, Two Sugars, a little hole-in-the-wall place that is mentioned in the tourist guides, bought more of the fabulous oranges I got the other day at our local fruit and vegetable place, went to the small supermarket to just nose around and ended up getting hummus, crackers, even those cooked beans you get in Italy, Lupini I think.

Dinner at home. An excellent day. It was sunny and getting warmer. It does get cool in the evening.









 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
I just finished the novel “Forest Dark” by Nicole Krauss and there were some great parts but overall I didn’t like it. Maybe I just didn’t understand it. I loved the details about Tel Aviv, Safed and the Dead Sea area. The characters had lunch in a vegetarian restaurant in Jerusalem that @ItalophileNJ told me about (figs). But overall the story did not hold together for me. A lot of it was about Kafka (that may explain why).

Here are the quotes. I figured out how to copy from a Kindle book!

About Tel Aviv and Israel: “I found myself speaking freely about my many memories of Israel, of stories my father had told me of his childhood in Tel Aviv, and of my own relationship with the city, which often felt to me more like my true home than anywhere else. When he asked me what I meant, I tried to explain how I felt comfortable with people here in a way I never did in America, because everything could be touched, so little was hidden or held back, people were hungry to engage with whatever the other had to offer, however messy and intense, and this openness and immediacy made me feel more alive and less alone; made me feel, I suppose, that an authentic life was more possible. Many things that were possible in America were impossible in Israel, but in Israel it was also impossible to feel nothing, to provoke nothing, to walk down the street and not exist. But my love for Tel Aviv went further than that, I told him. The shameless dilapidation of the buildings, sweetened by the bright fuchsia bougainvillea that grew over the rust and the cracks, asserting the importance of accidental beauty over that of keeping up appearances. The way the city seemed to refuse constriction; how everywhere, always, suddenly, one ran into pockets of surreality where reason was exploded like an unclaimed suitcase at Ben Gurion.“

About Tel Aviv: “One day a stubborn man came and traced lines in the sand, and sixty-six stubborn families stood on a dune and drew seashells for sixty-six plots, and then went off to build stubborn houses and plant stubborn trees, and from that original act of stubbornness an entire stubborn city grew up, faster and larger than anyone could have imagined, and now there are four hundred thousand people living in Tel Aviv with the same stubborn idea. The sea breeze is just as stubborn. It wears away the facades of the buildings, it rusts and corrodes, nothing is allowed to stay new here, but people don’t mind because it gives them a chance to stubbornly refuse to fix anything. And when some know-nothing comes from Europe or America and uses his foreign money to make the white white again, and the porous whole, no one says anything because they know it’s just a matter of time, and when soon enough the place looks decrepit they’re happy again, they breathe more easily when they pass, not out of schadenfreude, not because they don’t want the best for him, whoever he is who only comes once a year, but because what people really long for, even more than love or happiness, is coherence. Within themselves, first of all, and then in the life of which they are a small part.”

About Safed: “Nothing was ever finished here: the world built over and over again on the same ground, with the same broken materials. Epstein stumbled, and the loose earth poured into his shoe.”
It’s a strange book in many ways. Don’t recall the context of the quotes but partly seems that in my experience Israelis are much more in-your-face than people are in the US. Certainly my family are and the people I ran into were. Some of it in good ways.;-) And compared to Brits.... when I recently spent 10 days in London I don’t think anyone even acknowledged my existence except for commercial interactions.
 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
You passed by Lohamei haGhettaot and didn’t visit! I was there my last trip, very moving place. Now you have a reason for another trip.
We were in Rosh haNikra years ago, at the time of The Good Fence. .... oh well.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Thursday March 7

Today was overcast and cold (low 50sF?) with a bit of rain. The perfect day to be indoors. We drove up to the Haifa University, at the top of Mount Carmel. The city stretches all the way up the mountain to the University, where it ends. We wanted to visit the Hecht Museum. The signs direct you into the University grounds, but the armed guard would not let us in. I think only University staff get to go in there. Instead we had to park in a dirt parking lot outside the university – probably the free parking that students use. Great views because it was right at the edge of the cliff. From there we walked to the University and found the museum.

The museum is fantastic. A good amount of Roman things (mosaics, mileage markers, tombs, etc.) and older things too. Some finds from Hippos, a Roman city on the western edge of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). A good selection of coins – the original shekels (Israeli money is call shekels today). On set of coins was from the Jewish Revolt when the local Jews revolted against the conquering Romans (and lost).

The centrepiece of the museum is the Ma'agan Mikhael Ancient Ship, a wooden ship which sailed the Mediterranean during the Persian Period, 400BC. It is a 2400 year old ship found in 1985 off the coast of the Mediterranean. The original ship was 12.5m long and 4m wide with a capacity of 15 tons. It would have had a crew of 4-6 mariners. A rare one-armed anchor was found attached to it.

After the museum we drove back to Carmel Center and managed to park near a vegan restaurant that we wanted to try, Umm Kulthum. There is a lot of street parking in Carmel Center, but it is usually fully parked. The restaurant is tiny, with maybe six tables. We had an excellent lunch – hummus and a dish with vegetables on top of Taboon, Druze-style bread (like a thin flatbread).

We drove home but someone was in our parking spot! And there was no street parking. The car had a phone number on it so I Whatsapped it to Koby who manages this rental and he phoned them. Meanwhile it was a good excuse for us to check out the beach area. It was about 3pm and the sun was coming out.

Last year we went to a beach area recommended in the guide books, Bat Gamlin Beach, but it was not very interesting or nice. Amy told me to check out Dado Beach on the southern side of the town. That beach is beautiful. The promenade goes for miles I think. We did a nice walk out and back for a few miles. Some parts have restaurants and cafes nearby, some are a bit wilder. It was lovely walking in the sun.

Home for a light dinner, after that big lunch!

I am starting to really like Haifa, but Steve feels it is too big of a city for him. I like that it has coastline on three sides because of the way it is on a peninsula. And all the green from the wadis (canyons) and the steep hillside. Neighborhoods are built out on the hill tops as far as they can go. There are many highrises, which make me nervous, but also a lot of neighborhoods with low rises. Each neighbourhood feels like its own small town, with its own shops. There is a lot of traffic, but we saw a sign saying diesel vehicles were not allowed in the city. There is garbage on the streets and sidewalks in some spots. Many of the buildings have that run-down seaside look, but I kind of like that.

Tomorrow we are going to explore the neighborhoods down the hill from Carmel Center to the port – walking down the stairs and having a good look around. It will be Friday, the start of Shabbot, so we will be looking for challah (bread). We’ve been making our own on Friday mornings for the last couple of months, so now we are experts .










 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Friday March 8

Woke up to sun and brilliant blue skies. We headed out for a walk around the neighbourhood. It is Friday, the first day of the weekend, and things were bustling. We went to our usual shops – bakery, fruit and vegetable shop, coffee shop – and they were packed. In the vegetable shop people were buying what looked like a week’s worth of vegetables for a large family.

Carmel Center seemed different – more lively and fun – with all the people about. Young people handing out political brochures (there is an election in early April), people filling all the outside seating at cafes and restaurants. I had read that Carmel Center was a great area with lots of shops, restaurants and cafes and today I saw that for the first time. On our previous trip it seemed so different from Jerusalem. A big busy road through the center with businesses along the side but I could not figure out what was what. Today we walked slowly along both sides of the main street for several blocks, checking out many of the places.

We ended up at the Louis Promenade which is at the edge of the cliff and looks north, over the residential areas that spill down the mountain, to the port, to the water (there was a bloody cruise ship!), across to the white buildings of Akko, and all up the coast to the white cliffs of Rosh HaNikra where we visited the grottos two days ago. We could even see a mountain covered in snow – Mount Hermon in the Golan?

We made our way home, had avocado toast sitting out on the terrace, then went out for a bit of a hike. We threw away our plan to walk down through the neighborhoods. With weather like this I wanted dirt under my feet.

Well, dirt and stone, lots of stones. We’d had a bit of a slow day so it was 3pm when we started the hike. We were walked a section of the Haifa Trail that goes past the apartment we are renting. It felt odd to be wearing hiking trousers and shoes and carrying a backpack, but after 5 minutes on city street we found the staircase leading down to Wadi Siah, the wadi that runs behind our apartment.

The hike started out on a nice trail. We came across people on the trail but only a few – two guys sitting on a big rock and playing guitar, two women hiking up, a few people around the spring. After a nice easy bit the trail became more steep and quite rocky. We had to watch our feet. It was a bit wet and slippy because we were walking down the center where the water runs when it rains. After only 30 minutes we came to a spring and some ruins. Two men were in the spring and one of them might have been doing religious rituals so I did not put my hand in the water and did not take a photo. Another couple of men looked like they were meditating, looking at a large cave in the rock. This spot had an historic monastery and only a few fenced-off ruins remained.

From there it was only a bit more scrabbling and we came to a paved path that probably goes all the way to the town. We were not at sea-level yet, but we could now sea the sea and beach and hotels where we walked yesterday. At this point there were more springs and pools and some families were there.

Our trail did not take us down to the sea, but back up the side of the wadi to our neighbourhood. Straight up on badly maintained stairs, up a hillside covered in wildflowers. The stairs were so steep and each step not that big that I was almost walking up with hands and feet. The stairs were very overgrown too. A bit of maintenance is needed! When we were ¾ of the way to the top, where we could see the houses, the stairs ended and there was no clear trail. We went left but the trail was unclear and went along a steep edge. We went right and it seemed like this might be it (it wasn’t) but it got more and more overgrown and we spent about 15 minutes walking through waist-high weeds and nettles. It ended at an abandoned building with no wall, luckily, so we walked through the yard and up onto the street.

Looking more carefully at the map I see we should have continued to the left, our first try, but we walked back along the street and could not find any marked place for the trail.

We walked back to the apartment. The walk was only 3 miles but it took us 2 hours. It seems like I am complaining, but we loved the hike. It was so nice to be out in sunshine, in warmth, walking through this delightful canyon between city neighborhoods.

Dinner at home. We have a big day tomorrow! We are meeting up with Erez who runs the Israel by Foot website (and who wrote an article for us) and we are going to do a hike near Nazareth, where there are wild Irises!









 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Saturday March 9

The mud! Israeli mud puts our English mud to shame. I just spent an hour scrubbing the clay-like goo off our shoes and trousers. More like concrete than mud!

Erez runs a website called Israel by Foot – www.hike-israel.com. I found this website when searching last year for hiking information and posted about it on Slow Europe. Erez noticed the traffic from Slow Europe to his site and contacted me to say hello. His site gives detailes on hikes all over Israel and you can purchase detailed maps for each hike. I purchased three for the Jerusalem hikes we did last November. The hikes were excellent and we would never have found them without his website.

Erez suggested we meet up since we were staying in his area on this trip. He and his wife Roneet live in a small town between Haifa and Nazareth. There is an area north-east of Nazareth which is known for its wild irises and this is the time of year to see them. We met at 11:00 on a small road on the edge of town, near where a trail starts.

We started out on the Israel National Trail and then continued on another trail. The countryside was green and gorgeous. There were towns nearby, up on the hill tops, but you felt you were away from everything. Erez and Roneet brought their dog Rocky with them and Rocky found a group of three tortoises after we had been walking only a few minutes. They were beautiful but they scurried off the trail.

We walked on through fields of wildflowers, down the valley with Mount Tabor in the distance. We were walking to a smaller hill beside Mount Tabor in the Jezreel Valley. When we got to the foot of this hill, there was a park area filled with people and cars and loud music blaring from cars or speakers. We sat beside the river and had our lunch.

Then we walked up the hill through fields of wildflowers and ran into a lot of other hikers. But only a few Irises. There should have been lots of them. Israel had a very wet winter and things are not as usual. But we did see a lot of other flowers. Some wild tulips, bright red.

We had a great view to Mount Tabor from the top of our hill. Mount Tabor is in the New Testament and is the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus, where he spoke to the prophets Moses and Elijah. Erez said that he sees many tour buses going up the road to the top. It is on the Christian tourist route.

We walked back the way we came and got back to the cars around 4pm – 7.5 miles. Part of the hike was along a small river and the banks were extremely muddy with no way to avoid the mud. We did okay on the way out but on the way back Steve and I both sunk up over our ankles. We then had to stand in the river to try to get the mud off our shoes, but it didn’t really work. Our shoes and socks were caked in mud. Erez is very tall and seems to have stepped over the mud, but Roneet sunk in with us.

Roneet pointed out a huge shopping mall very close by and suggested we visit. Big mistake. It is the end of the weekend and this place was packed. We found a spot in the multi-storey car park and made our way into the mall. It was one huge food supermarket with tons of stuff. We looked around a bit but there was too much stuff to choose from, so we made our way back to the car and headed home.

Waze decided to take us through part of Nazareth on crowded streets with aggressive drivers and people walking out on the road (because the sidewalks were unwalkable) and even a kid dashing out in front of us – yikes! Finally we got to the highway and had an easy, but tired, drive home. It is only 50 minutes drive from Haifa to Nazareth area.

We’ve never been into Nazareth. I’ve read that the traffic is horrendous, so we may give that a skip.

It was a lovely day and a real treat to spend the day with two native Israelis, to get some understanding of regular life here.

One more day left in Haifa and I hope our hiking shoes will be dry for tomorrow.








 

berliej

10+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Saturday March 9

The mud! Israeli mud puts our English mud to shame. I just spent an hour scrubbing the clay-like goo off our shoes and trousers. More like concrete than mud!

Erez runs a website called Israel by Foot – www.hike-israel.com. I found this website when searching last year for hiking information and posted about it on Slow Europe. Erez noticed the traffic from Slow Europe to his site and contacted me to say hello. His site gives detailes on hikes all over Israel and you can purchase detailed maps for each hike. I purchased three for the Jerusalem hikes we did last November. The hikes were excellent and we would never have found them without his website.

Erez suggested we meet up since we were staying in his area on this trip. He and his wife Roneet live in a small town between Haifa and Nazareth. There is an area north-east of Nazareth which is known for its wild irises and this is the time of year to see them. We met at 11:00 on a small road on the edge of town, near where a trail starts.

We started out on the Israel National Trail and then continued on another trail. The countryside was green and gorgeous. There were towns nearby, up on the hill tops, but you felt you were away from everything. Erez and Roneet brought their dog Rocky with them and Rocky found a group of three tortoises after we had been walking only a few minutes. They were beautiful but they scurried off the trail.

We walked on through fields of wildflowers, down the valley with Mount Tabor in the distance. We were walking to a smaller hill beside Mount Tabor in the Jezreel Valley. When we got to the foot of this hill, there was a park area filled with people and cars and loud music blaring from cars or speakers. We sat beside the river and had our lunch.

Then we walked up the hill through fields of wildflowers and ran into a lot of other hikers. But only a few Irises. There should have been lots of them. Israel had a very wet winter and things are not as usual. But we did see a lot of other flowers. Some wild tulips, bright red.

We had a great view to Mount Tabor from the top of our hill. Mount Tabor is in the New Testament and is the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus, where he spoke to the prophets Moses and Elijah. Erez said that he sees many tour buses going up the road to the top. It is on the Christian tourist route.

We walked back the way we came and got back to the cars around 4pm – 7.5 miles. Part of the hike was along a small river and the banks were extremely muddy with no way to avoid the mud. We did okay on the way out but on the way back Steve and I both sunk up over our ankles. We then had to stand in the river to try to get the mud off our shoes, but it didn’t really work. Our shoes and socks were caked in mud. Erez is very tall and seems to have stepped over the mud, but Roneet sunk in with us.

Roneet pointed out a huge shopping mall very close by and suggested we visit. Big mistake. It is the end of the weekend and this place was packed. We found a spot in the multi-storey car park and made our way into the mall. It was one huge food supermarket with tons of stuff. We looked around a bit but there was too much stuff to choose from, so we made our way back to the car and headed home.

Waze decided to take us through part of Nazareth on crowded streets with aggressive drivers and people walking out on the road (because the sidewalks were unwalkable) and even a kid dashing out in front of us – yikes! Finally we got to the highway and had an easy, but tired, drive home. It is only 50 minutes drive from Haifa to Nazareth area.

We’ve never been into Nazareth. I’ve read that the traffic is horrendous, so we may give that a skip.

It was a lovely day and a real treat to spend the day with two native Israelis, to get some understanding of regular life here.

One more day left in Haifa and I hope our hiking shoes will be dry for tomorrow.








Pauline , you seem to be having a great time. Weather will be warming up a bit more this week. We like Nazareth and it is worth a visit, but yes the traffic is horrendous.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Sunday March 10

Our hiking shoes were not dry so no hiking on Mount Carmel for us today, or for the trip. We avoided hiking up there earlier in the week because we knew it would be muddy after all the rain last week, but leaving it to the last day was not a good idea. Oh well, another time.

Instead we had a great day walking down the Haifa Stairs and exploring more neighborhoods. We left our place and walked through Carmel Center to the edge just past Louis Promenade where the stairs start. Because central Haifa is built on a steep hillside, the roads zig zag down the hill, making it a perfect setup for stairs straight down connecting the roads and neighborhoods. The Carmalit underground funicular also goes up and down this hillside, as do the buses and cars.

The Gadera Stairs are the first set down but on the next level down you have a choice of steps. We continued on the Dunya Stairs, then the Atzmon Stairs, walked by the Baruch Shpinoza Stairs, then down the Ha-Emeq Stairs, and probably more.

We walked down, down and stopped first on Mossada Street. My guidebooks says this is a good neighbourhood full of cafes and restaurants. It is. We walked along the street and stopped at a café for coffee.

Then we continued down to the Madatech Museum of Science. This was built at the turn of the 20th century to be the country's first academic institution, The Technion, Israel's Institute of Technology. The palm tree that Albert Einstein planted in 1923 is still there. We did not go in but we probably should have. We used to visit all the museums and galleries when we traveled, but these days we opt for hiking or walking neighborhoods instead. We still do some museums, but not that many.

We continued through the Hadar Carmel neighbourhood which seems like the town center. The City Hall is here and the streets are flatter and busier, full of shops. We walked to the Carmalit stop and road back to the top, to Carmel Center.

This was a fun walk around the town and we could have continued for hours.

We had intended to end up in the Wadi Nisnas, the Arab neighbourhood, to have falafel again but I checked on Google Maps and they are closed Sunday! Christian Arabs? Just a regular closing day? You can’t depend on closing days here when there are so many different religions practiced.

I had a couple of articles printed out for restaurants and one recommended a hummus restaurant in Carmel Center, Hummus Bardichev. This is a fabulous restaurant. A few tables inside and a terrace with more tables. Very casual. During the week restaurants always have one or two tables of women with babies, which makes it fun and lively. Steve had a small hummus with egg and I had Sabich - roasted eggplant, chickpeas, baked potato squares, tahina, egg and lemon preserve. Served with pita and pickles. I was surprised when my dish came and it was all on a base of hummus, but maybe that goes without saying. I love hummus so this was a good surprise.

We both love the hummus here, smooth and creamy and served warm, but we find it rich and can’t eat a full dish. Maybe over time we will adapt.

We wandered around our neighbourhood a bit, finally gave in to the wall of cookies in the bakery where we get bread, chatted with the fruit and vegetable seller (he knows us now!) while we picked up a few things to take with us to the next place (will we be able to buy vegetables in the Galilee? Probably), and then had drinks at the café next door. We are becoming regulars. I had mint tea – hot water with fresh mint leaves, Steve had coffee.

(Skip this if you don’t care about laundry.) We have a washing machine/dryer combo in the apartment which it took me two loads to work out last night. I wanted to run an empty load to get rid of some of the smells of standard washing soap but I ran only the dryer portion without noticing. Then I ran a load of laundry thinking it was washing but it was only drying. This morning I realized my error (the knob did not make it clear which setting you were on) and I started again. The machine looks new and doesn’t seem to be that “smelly”, so I washed a bunch of things. I have to be careful when we travel because we both react badly to synthetic fragrances and if our clothes smell of them it is hard for us to wear them. Even when I use the fragrance-free powder that I bring, there are usually fragrances in the machine. I always take out the soap tray and wash it – that helps. And if it is a washer only, I buy white vinegar and run a wash with that. I test the washer out by doing underpants first and if they come out not too fragrant, I can wash other things. Otherwise I have to hand wash them. Those are my fragrance-free travel tips.

Our hiking shoes were dry when we got home because they had been sitting out on the terrace in the sun all day.

Which reminds me, sunny and warm today, low 60sF. A bit cool when the sun went behind a cloud but I only needed a cotton sweater.

Yesterday I overheard Steve talking about me to Erez. He said “she was raised Catholic but she seems to be turning into a Zionist”. I think I could even turn into a Christian here. All the biblical sites are fascinating. I read a bit more about the Transfiguration of Christ. The bible has such great stories. Too bad I didn’t learn any of them while being raised a Catholic. No one ever suggested that I read the bible.

Tomorrow we leave and, of course, I am sad. At times Haifa has felt like too big and busy and noisy of a city, but for the most part I have really liked it here. It is no Jerusalem, but I have liked it.











 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Monday March 11.

We were able to get a late checkout from our apartment, so packed in the morning and did some grocery shopping. We left at 1:45 and arrived at Amirim before 3pm.

Driving across northern Israel the roads were busy and we passed by several large towns. It is dense here but the towns seem contained and do not have endless sprawl. We turned off the main highway starting uphill in the direction of Safed. Before Safed we turned into Amirim. There is a gate across the entrance, open during the day and closed at night, like most small towns in Israel. We were given a clicker to open it after hours.

Once in Amirim we drove up through the village, almost to the top of the hill, before turning onto a dirt road. Our place is at the end of it. We are staying in Beyond the Forest. The family that owns this has two other rentals on the property and lives here (it is a large property). They are also organic olive oil producers! The olives trees are here and on another area down in the valley. They planted them 50 years ago when they arrived.

Amirim is a vegetarian village! It was founded as one and remains one. If you live here you cannot bring meat dead into the village. Fine by me because I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 40 years. They are also against pesticides, so none are used here.

From Wikipedia: “In 1958, a group of people of various backgrounds banded together to create a moshav based on a vegetarian, vegan, and organic lifestyle and ideology. Among them were numerous Branch Davidian Seventh Day Adventist families under the leadership of Ben and Lois Roden. The founders of Amirim were among the pioneers of the vegetarian movement in Israel.”

Yes, Branch Davidians like the group in Waco Texas! I don’t know if there are any left. I asked our host and he did not know.

Itamar, who runs the rentals, checked us in, explained how everything works and went over what is in the village and nearby. I had thought we might be in the middle of nowhere but we are not. The village has a few restaurants (all vegetarian), a small but very good grocery shop and other villages nearby have good restaurants.

The apartment is lovely. 1 bed/1 bath with a big terrace. The floors, high ceilings, many windows. It is the upper floor of a building but is at ground level where you enter. I don’t know what is below us. The owners house is down the hill from us. There are many trees and bushes and wild herbs. And four cats!

The kitchen is lightly equipped since most people stay here just for a few days and go out to restaurants. I had a hard time finding any place with a kitchen in this area (Rosh Pina, Safed, Amirim). Two burner stove, no dishwasher - but we made a nice dinner tonight. You can get an Israeli breakfast delivered throughout the village and we will do that one day. Itamar told us about a good restaurant in a nearby Arab village where we can get lunch to bring back. They cook with the local herbs.

I just love this village! It is magical. It reminds me of some parts of Santa Fe, the dirt roads, the look of the vegetation, that old hippy vibe. Old Santa Fe.

We have a hot tub. When looking at rentals here they all feature hot tubs. The perfect Israeli holiday rental - hot tub and no kitchen. Young couples on weekend getaways. We went in the hot tub tonight. Clear sky, a sliver of moon, lights twinkling in the valley. Amirim has a lot of guest accommodations. How many people are in hot tubs right now?







 

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