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Four weeks in Israel, November 2019

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
Thursday November 21 2019
Sunny and warm, 72F

Today was sunny and warm, as it has been all our time here in Zikhron. In the evening it gets cooler and we have the heat on in the cottage.

We drove down to Habonim Beach on the coast. It is about 15 minutes from here. There are two highways along the coast. Highway 4 goes along on the flat area below the cliffs and hills. Then closer to the coast is highway 2 which is more like an interstate or motorway and goes between Haifa and Tel Aviv. Between highway 2 and the water a stretch about a mile deep with agriculture and some towns. So from highway 2 you are not looking out on the water. It is a bit difficult in this area to get to the water. Up in Haifa they have parks and walkways along the water and the road goes beside them.

Habonim Beach is in a National Park. You exit highway 4, go on a bridge over highway 2, then drive across the train tracks. Then it is a mile or more of rutted out road until you come to a manned booth at the entrance to the park. We paid 36NIS, about $10, to enter and park.

The trail along the water is well marked. I think it only goes south. I have one hiking book that says you can hike all the way to Caesarea where we were yesterday. We did the Israel by Foot version which was from Habonim to Tel Dor and back, 5 miles.

This hike was lovely. It was sunny and warm, with a gentle breeze. The past few days have been windy so we waited for a not windy day for this hike. The water sparkled. The Mediterranean is such a beautiful body of water. We walked close to the water, across a few shell beaches, along interesting rock formations, on scruffy grass areas.

There was one large group of school kids ahead of us and we passed them while they stopped at a beach. I think this was a group of Arab school kids. There are a few large Arab towns nearby. (Israel is very segregated with Arab towns, Druze towns, Jewish towns.) At the end of the hike we saw another big group of school kids.

Tel Dor was the turnaround point. You can drive here. There are remains of a Canaanite port and town which were interesting. The area has not been excavated extensively but you can see a few walls and parts of columns. From Wikipedia: “Scholars who reconcile Bronze and Iron Age history in the Levant with biblical traditions write the following: Dor was an ancient royal city of the Canaanites, (Joshua 12:23) whose ruler was an ally of Jabin king of Hazor against Joshua, (Joshua 11:1,2).”

A great hike and we got back in the afternoon so had time to walk into the center of Zikhron while it was still light out. The main pedestrian mall is short and all galleries, clothing shops or restaurants - nothing that looked interesting to me. Everything interesting is on the block north of the pedestrian street. We stopped for ice cream again. Then into the bakery which is as good as the ones in Jerusalem. Nice bread, pastries, cakes. They will have challah tomorrow (Friday). Next into the candy and nuts shop to buy a bag of mixed nuts. These are as good as the ones we get at the Jerusalem market. After that into the very good fruit and vegetable shop. Everyone was very friendly and the shops are very nice. My opinion of Zikhron just went up quite a bit.

I am happy that we are staying here but am not sure if I like staying here more than in Haifa. It is easier to get out of town for hiking and day trips, but I Haifa has more to do in the town and better food shops and restaurants nearby.









I still remember exploring the little museum of Canaanite artifacts when we stayed at the adjoining kibbutz Nachsholim in 1993. It was an active archaeological site, rather than a national park, so we couldn’t officially visit.
I’m still enjoying your travels.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Saturday November 23 2019
Sunny and warm, 71F

Another wonderful hike. We drove into the Galilee to Ancient Yodfat (40 minutes) and met Erez, from Israel by Foot, and his wife Ronit. We walked from 11am to 3:30pm, walking on a long easy trail up to the top of Mount Atzmon. We sat at the top and had our lunch. It was a bit hazy so the views were not what they could have been. We could see the faint outline of Mount Arbel on the Sea of Galilee to the east and the Carmel Mountains where we are staying to the west.

We walked back down on another long, easy route. There is a quicker, steep way down but we took the easier way. After the walk we walked up to ancient Yodfat. The site is well maintained and signed. This was a Jewish town from the Iron Age. It is called the Masada of the Galilee because the town people were slaughtered by the Romans in 67 CE in the Great Jewish Revolt.

After our hike we went to Erez and Ronit’s house in a nearby small town. What a beautiful spot! We sat in the garden having coffee and cake watching the beginning of the sunset.

Driving home took longer because of the traffic. It was the end of the weekend and everyone was heading home. There were a lot of people parked at Yodfat but the trail was not crowded. We saw only a few other groups. There are a lot of trails in this area.

I met Erez online last year when he was starting his Israel by Foot hiking website. We met up on our March trip and did a great hike near Nazareth. Erez and Ronit are great hiking companions.







 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Sunday November 24 2019
Sunny and warm, 72F

Tiberias, the main town on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret), sits around the middle of the western shore. We’ve driven by it but have never stopped in the town. It has a population of about 50,000 and starts at the top of a hill that goes steeply down to the sea. The historic sites, mostly from the Ottoman Period, are along the sea. There is a promenade, lined with cafes and restaurants, along the sea. The main part of town is a block or two up from the sea. The city sprawls up the hillside much like Haifa, with apartments with views on the top of the hill.

The downtown area is somewhat shabby, like Haifa, with closed shops, dirt fields for parking and a messy market area, but there are lots of people and shops and it is lively. I like Tiberias.

I’ve only once heard a good word about Tiberias. The Lonely Planet guide does not give it a good review and it is regularly trashed on the TA Israel forums. On our March trip I talked to someone who worked in Tiberias and she liked it. So today we decided to visit.

It was only 50 minutes to get there on good highways right into the town. Boy, Israelis can be aggressive drivers! No one is happy if you do the speed limit and if you are over the speed limit our car nags at you with this beeper that it has. People drive fast, sit on your bumper and pass recklessly. Oh well.

We drove down the hill towards the sea and found a parking lot just a block from the promenade. We walked along the promenade, found the tourist office, walked along the shopping area and the market, then found some of the historic Ottoman sights - remains of city walls, a fortress, old buildings. Also the Scots Hotel from the British Mandate period and some historic synagogues and mosques.

I had located a good looking falafel place on Google Maps and we went there for lunch. It was very good. They make your basic falafel and then you add the extras - pickles, sauerkraut, grilled eggplant, tahini sauce. We sat in the tiny place and ate them there. 36 NIS for two, $10.

We left for home around 2:30 not wanting to stretch the day out too long. I had thought of driving up Mount Arbel for the view but it was misty again. Next time.

We got home in good time and walked around Zikhron, picking up a few things at the bakery. They make very good poppyseed and raisin bread. We also like the bagels they have which are a cross between a regular bagel and those elongated Arab bagels

Today I parked like an Israeli at the supermarket, on an angle across the spot but still in the lines.

Only two more days! We fly home on Wednesday.











 

joe

500+ Posts
Today I parked like an Israeli at the supermarket, on an angle across the spot but still in the lines.
That's not even close to how Israelis park... ;)

BTW, will there be any dates left over for the flight back? ;)

Enjoy the remaining two days!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Monday November 25 2019
Sunny and warm, 75F

Hike - Damon Junction Loop 2 from Diana Barshaw website, 6.3 miles, 1,100 feet ascent, 4 hours

We drove north towards Haifa, then took a road up into the Carmel Forest. At the Damon Junction, where you go left for Haifa University or right for the Druze villages (which are no longer villages but one large town), we parked in a picnic area. It was only 30 minutes to get to this area which has a lot of trails. It is all forest and mountains up there.

There were two large tour buses in the parking area. Argh - school kids! We saw a group of them heading down a trail but it wasn’t our trail. We had a problem finding the start of the trail because it wasn’t well explained. The map was clear but I was a bit muddled because of her description. Eventually we walked back along the road and found the trail. The Gia GPS app helped.

So we headed out only to see a huge group of school kids join the trail ahead of us. We headed into forest and down a narrow rocky valley (nahal) behind the kids. They were young, maybe 10 and there were so many of them. I would guess at least 100, probably more, in groups of 30. They were not walking fast, stopping for selfies, and talking loudly non-stop. Some adults pulled their group to the side to let us get by but many didn’t. So for nearly an hour we walked in a crowd of shrieking kids on a tricky, rocky trail. We would have been walking slowly anyway, the trail had a lot of rocky parts to scramble down. This was a gorgeous trail but I didn’t get any photos because I was focused on getting past the kids, thinking that at some point we would leave them behind, but we did

We reached the end of the valley, at the Little Switzerland area (this is nothing like Switzerland) and the crowds of children turned right while we turned left. Thank goodness for that. All at once it was quiet. We saw some little marmot-like creatures on the trail. We walked along a good wide trail, mostly flat, with views to Haifa and the sea. Then it was more downhill to the site of an ancient Roman quarry.

Down more to another valley, Nahal Oren. We sat on rocks and had lunch. A large group of kids walked by in the opposite directoon. A group of hikers with big packs went by and took another trail. Then, coming on our trail towards us, past an old arch, was a group of cows. It was funny to see them walking on the trail. We gave them the picnic spot and headed onward.

Down another beautiful narrow valley then up and out to the wide Alon Valley. A couple more groups of older kids came towards us. These were all girls and religious with most of them in longer skirts and headscarves.

With all this walking down we had a long uphill back to where we parked. My leg was hurting a bit and the last half hour was difficult but I made it. A great hike! But do it on a weekend when the schools are closed.

We stopped at the Zikhron Mall on the way home for coffee at Aroma (an Israeli chain).

One day left and it is forecast to be 80F. I think we will do a short walk followed by a long lunch.








 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Tuesday November 26 2019
Sunny and hot, 80F

A good sunny and hot day for our last day here. We went to Ramat HaNadiv, the nearby park, to do the last of their 3 hikes. The others were pretty easy and this one, the Vultures Trail, started out similar but after walking for 30 minutes we started going down the hill into the Wadi and it was getting steep. We came to a small rock cliff, maybe 10 feet high, that we had to climb down and I called it quits. It doesn’t sound like much but there were no handholds or steps down and I wasn’t sipire how I would get down. It must be possible but it was going to be tricky. So we climbed back up the steep hillside and ended up with a nice 2 mile walk. It was sunny and hot but the trail went through an area of short oak trees so we had shade.

There was a mist today so we did not have fabulous views.

We drove on to Pardes-Hanna Karkur, two towns south of Zikhron, to the Elhanan Bread Culture, that restaurant on the edge of town where we went the day we arrived. We had a lovely lunch sitting out under the trees. Perfect for a hot sunny day.

We drove to the coast after our lunch, to say goodbye to the Mediterranean. It was only 20 minutes west to Caesaria. We went to the Aqueduct Beach, a long sandy beach with an Ancient Roman aqueduct running along it. There were not many people but as we were leaving a tour bus arrived. We did a nice walk on the hard sand. This is the nicest beach in the area, with parking at the beach and good roads. The town of Caesarea is like an exclusive American town with manicured streets, large houses set well back and Israel’s only Golf course. You don’t think you are in Israel driving around there. But the beach, the aqueduct and the archaeological site are well worth visiting. This was a major Roman port and town.

I have enjoyed staying in this area. It is a well populated area but there are many wooded and open areas. We didn’t go into Haifa because we spent a week there in March and I know we will stay there again, but it is only 30 minutes drive north. Plus you can easily get to the southern Galilee.

That is it for our trip. We fly tomorrow afternoon, overnight at Heathrow, then drive home (3 hours). We’ve had a great time and have a lot to think about. We’ve been thinking about moving here (that’s how much we love it) but this trip showed us that it is not likely. The summers are very hot and can be humid near the coast, it is very expensive to rent or buy here, regular living expenses are high, and then there is the whole political situation. I think Israel for us will be a place we visit once or twice a year, like Switzerland, Italy and France. My favourite place here is still Jerusalem. That place is just magical.






 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
Thanks for taking us with you on your travels through Israel. Hope you had an easy flight and drive back home.

Wow, move to Israel, interesting. But so expensive... my young(er) friends who recently made aliyah (moved permanently to Israel) bought a place in Beersheva largely because they could not afford to live in central Israel (and they don't mind heat... ).

I agree with you about Jerusalem; I could just hang out there forever. But I don't hike.

For me, maybe next October in Jerusalem..
 

berliej

10+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Thanks for taking us with you on your travels through Israel. Hope you had an easy flight and drive back home.

Wow, move to Israel, interesting. But so expensive... my young(er) friends who recently made aliyah (moved permanently to Israel) bought a place in Beersheva largely because they could not afford to live in central Israel (and they don't mind heat... ).

I agree with you about Jerusalem; I could just hang out there forever. But I don't hike.

For me, maybe next October in Jerusalem..
Have enjoyed reading your travel journal, especially enjoyed meeting up with you and Steve finally in person. Hope we will catch up again next time you are here. Stay in touch!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Thanks for taking us with you on your travels through Israel. Hope you had an easy flight and drive back home.

Wow, move to Israel, interesting. But so expensive... my young(er) friends who recently made aliyah (moved permanently to Israel) bought a place in Beersheva largely because they could not afford to live in central Israel (and they don't mind heat... ).

I agree with you about Jerusalem; I could just hang out there forever. But I don't hike.

For me, maybe next October in Jerusalem..
I think October is a better month in Israel than November, when we went, because the days are a bit long. We had lovely weather but by 3:30 the temperature would drop and the sun was low in the sky. It made for a short day out because we never manage an early start.

I think our next trip will be spring 2021, but we are still “digesting” this trip. I feel like we’ve had some great Israel-time and seen a lot of the country. I would like to spend more time in Jerusalem. I felt a bit short-changed this trip because my leg was at its worst during our week there and Jerusalem requires a lot of walking. I also want to spend more time near the Sea of Galilee.

Yes, Israel is expensive, too expensive. Our idea of moving there was probably never realistic. We talked about moving to England for 10 years before we did it and did plenty of research during that time. I love to see how happy Steve is in Israel because it brings back childhood memories for him and he feels like he “belongs” there. But coming home to Dorset we were both very happy to be here. The problem with us is that we never really settle in a place.
 

Tbk

10+ Posts
Really enjoyed reading about your trip to somewhere I know little about. Quite fascinating! Thank you for sharing.
 

joe

500+ Posts
I think our next trip will be spring 2021, but we are still “digesting” this trip.
Spring is indeed perhaps the best time of year to visit Israel - the only time of year that things are truly green. As long as you're not here during Passover (Pessach), you'll be OK! This is one holiday that is a real bad time to do anything in the country, whether it's hiking, driving, shopping or eating.
 

Anne

100+ Posts
I'm so glad you enjoyed your trip! I'm disappointed we weren't able to connect when I was in Akko...as I mentioned on whatsapp, my time there was constrained by a sick travel companion. Fortunately she was on the mend by the time we moved on to Bethlehem. I love Bethlehem, the people there are incredibly warm and hospitable. One of my trip highlights was the Christmas tree lighting in Manger Square - est 10,000 people gathered. One of our local friends is a municipal councilor and she got us cards to get into the seating area, which was very cool. I'm not normally a fan of being in the midst of big crowds, but the energy and joy in the air that night was electric, and the performances were beautiful. My whole trip was incredible, both the vacation part and the work part. I was sad to leave, and I already want to go back. (I kept saying "next time" so often that my friend Yusef joked that "soon you will be living here!" LOL)
 

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