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Two Weeks in Israel, March 2018

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
I don't know Haifa really at all, haven't stayed there since our first trip in '69 but I did visit and look over the Bahai Gardens with my cousins last spring, very beautiful panoramic view over the sea. So, can't give much advice but yes, driving in and out of Israeli cities is not easy.
I did visit Zichron Ya'akov a number of years ago, and it's quite lovely but, again, built up over the past decade or so; people from my synagogue recently bought a second home there (largely because there's a nice Conservative/Masorti synagogue in the town). But if you do decide to stop there and are up for a small museum, I recommend Beit Aaronson, commemorating the "Nili" World War I espionage ring. We visited 25 years ago and I still recall how moved we were by the story and the little adjoining cemetery.
Beit Aaronson
OR ----- Hang out in Haifa on your porch and look at the sea! You deserve a day off.
 
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ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
Or ---- for something different ---- you might want to visit the excavations at Tel Dor instead of Caesarea which is probably an overwhelming site. This is maybe my own personal tastes as for me a little Roman ruins goes a long way. Tel Dor is where they've found ruins from the "Sea Peoples", the Phoenicians, etc. When we stayed at Kibbutz Nachsholim (very very basic in 1993) we wandered over there and now I think it's an official site for tourists.

Ha'aretz article on Tel Dor
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Today was hot! High 80sF. We switched to daylight savings time this morning (the UK switches Sunday morning). The weekend here is Friday and Saturday, so it makes sense that they switch a couple of days earlier.

We headed out this morning and walked for several hours. Of course today was the day we forgot the backpack with our water bottle in it. We walked through Carmel Center - more modern and busier than I expected. Where are the charming cafes? Everything is compared to Jerusalem now. This ain’t no Jerusalem German Colony. It is Friday morning? Where are the stacks of Shabbat Challah?

We walked over to the magnificent Baha’i Gardens which spill down the steep hillside to the German Colony below. We could not walk down the gardens (don’t know why) so walked down the hill on the road. At some point there were stairs.

The German Colony was busy. A big wide street lined with restaurants. We visited the tourist office. No information about hiking in Mt Carmel Park, but a free map of Haifa. We walked through the small lanes of Wadi Nisnas, the Arab section. I had the address of a natural foods store and using my phone and google maps we found it - right in the middle of the fabulous Talpiyot Market! We wandered around amazed at the food shops flowing out onto the street. We found a good looking bakery and, following an orthodox Jewish man, found the good challah. Steve said “buy what he buys”. We got some pastries too. Then we went a Main Street and got a taxi back up the hill to the apartment.

We walked over 3 hours, but it was only 5 miles. It was hot but the sky was overcast and there was a breeze. At home we had lunch on the terrace, then long late afternoon naps.

Maybe we are refreshed enough to do our tour of the Galilee tomorrow, or a modified version as Amy suggested.

I love our apartment but I am not loving Haifa the way I expected. It feels busy and full of traffic. Places are far apart. I like our neighbourhood a lot but there is only one coffee shop close by (but, you only need one). There is a good vegetarian restaurant a 15 min walk away, but we haven’t been to it (Umm Kulthum).

Temps go down tomorrow from high 80sF to 70.









 

Pauline

Forums Admin
More photos of the market.












 

Terry

100+ Posts
Pauline and Steve, I’m enjoying reading about your trip and seeing all these photos. Late for giving advice, but here goes: tomorrow consider going to the Upper Galilee. SKIP SEFAT. It used to be an artist colony; it’s now VERY run down, with very little maintained. A major disappointment. Instead, if you can manage a drive up to Nimrod Castle in the Golan Heights, you will be highly rewarded with a beautiful edifice and amazing vistas and views of the Hula Valley. While there, take a side trip to Tel Dan Nature Reserve, and take a hike to the source of the Jordan River. I think you may have to pay an entry fee but it’s worth it. Interesting ruins there too. If you can’t do it, don’t miss it on your next trip. My SIL/BIL live on a kibbutz in the Hula Valley called Kfar Blum.
 

Valerie

100+ Posts
These places are so amazing; I have goosebumps reading about it. The history is so incredible! And those markets!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Well we managed a day of driving and saw some of the Galilee! Our car makes me worry with the loud noises it makes when turning or breaking, so that was a reason we were avoiding the drive. Plus the hot days really tired us out.

It was much cooler today (70F) and lightly overcast but there was a layer of mist or fog. We could not see across Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). On the drive home the most was heavier near Haifa and we had a 5 minute rain storm.

We drove to Zippori to find the organic olive oil shop that Joe told me about. It was only 45 minutes from here and traffic was good. The entrance to the village was blocked by a large gate. We waited with a few other cars and it finally opened. We found out that the gate should be open during the day and people who live there control it via their phone, so when a local came along they opened.

The gate is there for security from theft of cows and cars. There was a manned gate to get into Ein Gedi. I see many gated neighbourhoods.

We drove into the village and there was a map but nothing written in English. We drove through the village and saw only Hebrew signs. Suddenly Steve said “that’s it”. I was wishing I had written down the Hebrew version of their name from the website, but it turns out Steve could read enough Hebrew to figure it out.

It is Rish LaKish. http://www.rishlakish.com

We parked but could not see an obvious shop, but finally found it. A very nice shop, shopkeeper speaks English, you can taste the oils. I got a set of 3 small bottles with flavours and a 2 litre can of oil made from their oldest trees (150 shekels for the 2 litres I think, $43).

From there we went to the nearby Zippori National Park, remains of a Roman City. Much small than Beit Shean, but they had some very good mosaics. We had lunch sitting under huge olive trees (our old standby, peanut butter sandwiches).

The terrain there reminded us of northern New Mexico where we used to live, but with more olive trees. Dry, rocky, low trees. We could see the sprawl of Nazareth.

We drove towards Tiberius to get a glimpse of Lake Kinneret. It was covered in mist but we saw it. We drove along the shore a bit, avoiding Tiberius, then drove north to Rosh Pinna. On the TA forums several people recommended staying here but I could not find a vacation rental with a kitchen (they have a small fridge and a microwave, but no stovetop). On AirBnB they all seemed to feature a hottub in the living room. I found a nice looking rental in Safed but then had my doubts about staying in that town, and changed to Haifa, which has worked out well.

I like Rosh Pinna. It is larger than I expected and looks like an American town when you enter - modern shopping mall with chain stores - but then you drive up the hill to the old part of town and it is quiet and charming. A few restaurants, many crafts shops. We walked around and went to a viewpoint that was dedicated to a young man from the area who was killed in a recent war with Lebanon. An Israeli guy with his kids who was there pointed out all the things that were covered by the mist - Syria, Lebanon, Mt something. We were very close to the Golan Heights.

Next time we stay in Rosh Pinna.

We skipped Safed (good thing, after reading Terry’s comments) because we were out of time. I wanted to see much more in this area!

I did some of the driving home to give a Steve a break. The roads are very good with many that are 2 lane highways.

Tomorrow night Tel Aviv. Then we fly home.








 

joe

500+ Posts
The sign at Zippori National Park said the hours were:
16:00 - 8:00
You read it from right to left of course! That fooled me at first.
Actually, most signs in Hebrew that are connected to working hours display the hours (numbers) as usual : left to right (even though the content is written in Hebrew from right to left). The one you saw is more of an exception to what is usually done, and you could say is an older way of displaying this type of info - reflecting a time when "right to left" was king....

BTW, AirBnB is becoming more popular here for home/apt. owners looking for a way to make money on their real estate assets - I'm pretty sure that by your next trip you'll be able to find an apt. in Rosh Pinna that will suit your needs.
 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
I’m so glad you got to Zippori, spent hours there when I visited the Galilee/Golan in 2015. But then I just love the mosaics. I’m sure you saw the famous “Mona Lisa” of the Galilee, but also the Amazons and the Nilometer. When I was there in the summer of 1993 with an academic group we were lucky enough to be led around by the great archaeologist Ehud Netzer who had been, I think, Head of the most recent excavations.

WHEN you go back and stay in Rosh Pina you can visit all the excavations in the region and have a mosaic feast!

The olive oil farm sounds wonderful. For some reason I am enamored of Israeli olive trees, fig trees...,,,

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Pauline

Forums Admin
And the trip draws to a close. We left Haifa this morning, stopped at the Roman Ruins of Ceaserea, then drove to Tel Aviv and dropped off the car. Traffic was heavy coming into the city, but moving. Now we are in the hotel getting ready to do a good walk around the area. We have tomorrow morning too because our flight is not until late afternoon. :(
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Today was sunny and warm, 70F. Caesarea is different from the other Roman Ruins we have seen here. It is a National Park, but has more of a theme park feel. You enter into an area on the sea with some of the ruins and several restaurants and shops. We had a late breakfast at one. Past that area is the site with a large hippodrome where they did chariot races, then a theatre. These are along the seafront. There are remains of a harbour too. Some interesting mosaics in the remains of houses. I liked this site but Beit Shean was the best of the three we saw.

It was a good highway from Haifa to Tel Aviv, with large towns visible on the inland side. One thing we have noticed is all the new towns in the Galilee area and where we drove today. Dense towns with modern low rises and high rises. It really feels like the population here is increasing.

My favourite thing about Israel, and I may be wrong and have to research it, there is only one golf course and it is in the town of Caesarea, which looked like Palm Springs, or at least where we drove.

A friend of a friend in the UK said he went to Israel but it was just like the US, McDonald’s everywhere. You wouldn’t think that in Jerusalem or Ein Gedi, but I can see that you might think that along the highway in the northern Galilee or between Haifa and Tel Aviv. Rosh Pinna felt like American suburb until you got up to the old town. Haifa reminded me of San Diego in some ways, with pretty hills and huge shopping malls. Tel Aviv in some ways feels like an American big city but not totally. The Dead Sea is sort of like the American southwest, driving highway 10 from Phoenix to San Diego. But I’ve never seen anything like Jerusalem.

There, I’ve reduced Israel to a smaller version of the US. After only 2 weeks of travel.

I drove us into Tel Aviv. We dropped our luggage at the hotel and got rid of that squeaking car at Hertz.

Then we walked for 2 hours along beautiful shopping streets, stopped for fresh pomegranate juice from one of the many juice bars, found a natural foods shop and had fun looking around, walked through the Carmel Market and bought halva from the Halva King (recommended by @ItalophileNJ ), had a fabulous vegan meal in a Georgian restaurant, and walked for another hour along Shabasi Street and then on the seafront walk (recommended by @joe ) and back to the hotel. Wonderful! It was cool at night (I needed a sweater) and the breeze off the sea was lovely. There were a lot of people out walking, running, biking.

Tomorrow Old Jaffa then home.











 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
I’m so glad you got your halvah! I didn’t realize they had a Tel Aviv branch but of course, why not.

Tel Aviv is fascinating architecturally, particularly the “White City” built in the years when the Bauhaus architects fled from the Nazis and built the new city in what was then British Mandate Palestine. I really hadn’t spent time there in decades until my visit last May. And Neve Tzedek and Florentin, fascinating old neighborhoods.

Interesting what you said about Caesarea: I have instinctively avoided visiting it since one of my first trips. I’m not sure, but even my most Anglo cousin doesn’t play it.

As for the reported American and McDonalds comment : It’s a real country but i think some group tours treat it like a Biblical theme park.

I am so enjoying your trip. I would make plans to go again next spring but my granddaughter will likely spend her spring semester in Florence and grandma needs to go and check it out. ;-)
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
We are home now and exhausted. It is only a 2 hour time change, but daylight savings adds another hour. Plus it was a long travel day getting home.

On Monday morning it was warm and sunny in Tel Aviv. We walked along the beach. Then we took a taxi to Old Jaffa and explored it. The historic center is all art galleries now but is interesting to walk around. Then a taxi back to the hotel (very heavy traffic! - everyone warned us about the traffic in Tel Aviv).

We left the hotel at 1pm and the taxi took only 30 minutes to the airport. We arrived 3 hours ahead of our flight as recommended and we needed it. I had upgraded us to Business Class for the return flight (we flew out in Premium Economy) thinking it might help us get through security lines faster. No such luck. Everyone goes into one long line before the check in area. We spent an hour in this line but did get to talk to an American couple who did a "Christian Tour" of Israel in 10 days and I heard the details of their itinerary which was pretty interesting. They saw a lot more than we did, but they thought it had been too fast. I wonder what percentage of tourists to Israel are on Christian Tours. You see a lot of tour buses at the major sites.

After the hour in line we got to the first security checkpoint and they looked at our passports and asked a few questions. Then we lined up for the airline checkin and checked our bags. Then regular airport security. After that, passport control. You can line up for manned booths or do the biometric scanner when it scans your passport and compares the photo to your face. Mine failed the first time and asked me to do it again. That time I took off my glasses and the machine spits out the piece of paper that you need to exit the passport control area (you scan it and the gate opens). The biometric scan didn't work for Steve (he uses to enter the UK and it works, so don't know what happened) so he had to line up to talk to a person. But finally we were through.

A quick snack in the lounge and then we were boarding. The flight got into Heathrow at 8pm so we stayed at the Sofitel and drove home this morning. I thought I would not be happy to be home because the trip had been so great, but as we got closer to Dorset everything looked very beautiful (some sun, some rain, no leaves on trees yet, colder) and I was happy to be home.

On the drive home we talked about when we will go to Israel next year (earlier) and what we will do (Jerusalem again, then the northern Galilee and we will stay longer). Steve loved the trip as much as I did and in the end he felt like it was a roots trip for him.

It was a great trip and I would like to thank everyone for helping me plan it. The posts from people while we were traveling helped. Extra thanks to @joe who kept in touch by private message and helped me figure things out while we were there. Plus he sent us to the Zippori olive oil producer and finding that village and buying the oil was really fun.





 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Interesting what you said about Caesarea: I have instinctively avoided visiting it since one of my first trips. I’m not sure, but even my most Anglo cousin doesn’t play it.
I would not avoid it because of the restaurants and cafes. They are in one area and the rest of the site is as you would expect. Having the site right on the sea made it different from others we visited. The Hippodrome was pretty amazing. They were having a sports car event in it while we were there! It is nice to see an ancient site being used like this. It is worth a stop if you are in the area.
 

Terry

100+ Posts
I am happy you enjoyed your visit. I enjoyed following along. Great notes and pics. Glad to hear you have plans to return. There’s a lot to see and enjoy in the North (also in the South - the Negev desert is very cool). I will look for your new trip thread - came a little late to this one. Rest up and welcome home.
 

Amy

100+ Posts
I am so glad you enjoyed the trip! Israel is such a fascinating mishmash of cultures and influences, and still very much itself. People tend to have little sense of the reality of the place until they actually spend some time there. I've been five times on professional trips where I'm visiting schools and colleagues with some touring thrown in, and have yet to go and totally play tourist. Now that Larry is retiring, perhaps it is time.
 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
I would not avoid it because of the restaurants and cafes. They are in one area and the rest of the site is as you would expect. Having the site right on the sea made it different from others we visited. The Hippodrome was pretty amazing. They were having a sports car event in it while we were there! It is nice to see an ancient site being used like this. It is worth a stop if you are in the area.
I realize that I mistyped my comment about Caesarea and conflated it with my comment about golf in Israel. I have been to Caesarea, I think most recently in 1993 when we were staying at Nachsholim, but not in any of my more recent trips. And of course it's GOLF that my most Anglo cousin doesn't play. Although he doesn't race chariots either.
 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
We are home now and exhausted. It is only a 2 hour time change, but daylight savings adds another hour. Plus it was a long travel day getting home.

On Monday morning it was warm and sunny in Tel Aviv. We walked along the beach. Then we took a taxi to Old Jaffa and explored it. The historic center is all art galleries now but is interesting to walk around. Then a taxi back to the hotel (very heavy traffic! - everyone warned us about the traffic in Tel Aviv).

We left the hotel at 1pm and the taxi took only 30 minutes to the airport. We arrived 3 hours ahead of our flight as recommended and we needed it. I had upgraded us to Business Class for the return flight (we flew out in Premium Economy) thinking it might help us get through security lines faster. No such luck. Everyone goes into one long line before the check in area. We spent an hour in this line but did get to talk to an American couple who did a "Christian Tour" of Israel in 10 days and I heard the details of their itinerary which was pretty interesting. They saw a lot more than we did, but they thought it had been too fast. I wonder what percentage of tourists to Israel are on Christian Tours. You see a lot of tour buses at the major sites.

After the hour in line we got to the first security checkpoint and they looked at our passports and asked a few questions. Then we lined up for the airline checkin and checked our bags. Then regular airport security. After that, passport control. You can line up for manned booths or do the biometric scanner when it scans your passport and compares the photo to your face. Mine failed the first time and asked me to do it again. That time I took off my glasses and the machine spits out the piece of paper that you need to exit the passport control area (you scan it and the gate opens). The biometric scan didn't work for Steve (he uses to enter the UK and it works, so don't know what happened) so he had to line up to talk to a person. But finally we were through.

A quick snack in the lounge and then we were boarding. The flight got into Heathrow at 8pm so we stayed at the Sofitel and drove home this morning. I thought I would not be happy to be home because the trip had been so great, but as we got closer to Dorset everything looked very beautiful (some sun, some rain, no leaves on trees yet, colder) and I was happy to be home.

On the drive home we talked about when we will go to Israel next year (earlier) and what we will do (Jerusalem again, then the northern Galilee and we will stay longer). Steve loved the trip as much as I did and in the end he felt like it was a roots trip for him.

It was a great trip and I would like to thank everyone for helping me plan it. The posts from people while we were traveling helped. Extra thanks to @joe who kept in touch by private message and helped me figure things out while we were there. Plus he sent us to the Zippori olive oil producer and finding that village and buying the oil was really fun.





A return trip, possibly next year, how great! I assume you are saying earlier to avoid some of the heat --- but just be aware that February can be extremely rainy in Israel. You were lucky, in a sense, to have sunny weather for this trip. When I was in Israel in March 2014 or 2015, there was a bit of rain practically every day. Not huge storms, and of course Israel needs the rain, and in a good year for Israel there's quite a bit of it in March.
As for Christian tours ---- what is now referred to as "Christian tours" are what we might have once called Evangelical tourism. They are a very very big part of the tourism industry, and generally limit their stops to the places involved with the life of Jesus, particularly the Galilee. In October 2015, a rather scary time to be visiting, I traveled in the Galilee and the Golan for three days and the only place we saw crowds of tourists were the busloads of Christian tourists at Tabgha.

Here's an interesting article from Ha'aretz about the tourists visiting Megiddo (Mt Megiddo = Har Megiddo in Hebrew = Armageddon) I volunteered at that dig for a few weeks in 2000 and our t-shirts read "I survived Armageddon", given what we expected at the turn on the millennium.

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/travel/.premium-at-armageddon-some-topics-are-best-avoided-around-jews-1.5791569
 

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