Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 4

This morning we walked through a Kibutz. It's a bit like an Israeli Hudderite colony. They eat their meals together in a large mass hall, and work together on different things to bring money into the Kibutz, especially farming. The kids usually see their parents for only a few hours a day. Most Kibutz have their own schools, and they share a common faith. The Kibutz we visited was right along the Lebanon border, and so they have bomb shelters. There has been fourn years of peace with Lebanon, but there were many rockets fired in the past into this area.

The areas here are still named after the tribes. We stayed in Dan, by the Dan river. We drove through several places that are named in Joshua as we drove closer to Lebanon. It's interesting to see the Bible come to life as we drive through. Some people, however prefer to walk it, and there is something called the Trail of Israel, which takes three months to walk. A good deal of people ages 23-24 complete this trail, often after their army and university career are over.

We drove by the border manned by the army. There is a gravel, flat road on either side of the fence. The rake it every day so that they can see if anyone has been there. If there is so much as one rock overturned, they will not about it. They can tell how heavy the person walking on there is, and if they are carrying something or someone over the border.

The air around here is very clean, almost as clean as our mountain air in Alberta!

We stopped for coffee anon -coffee in the clouds-. This is an old army outpost, complete with bunkers and an amazing view over the 'valley of tears', or the Golan Heights. You can tell this is a war torn area, as most of the architecture is nothing but crumbled buildings and piles of rubble. Barbed wire is a very common sight here as well. It was in this area that we did a bit of off roading in our small mini van...which was interesting. ;)

We also stopped at a winery by the name of Chateau Golan, and had a tour as well as a small wine tasting. In Israel they don't ask your age, they just pour you wine, so I was able to participate in the testing. No worries.....it was only a very little bit. :)

Another stop today was at Bet-She'an, which has ruins from the time of Saul. Amazing, magnificent place, very ancient, Roman-type feel. Lots of columns and bath houses. Huge amounts of marble were needed to complete many of the structures.

Our tour guide took us through the area of the West Bank on our way to Jerusalem. There are areas where the Palestinians are still living, and you can tell where they live. Large amounts of plastic are strewn over their fields, and there is garbage everywhere. They do not take care of their land, and that is very evident here.

The terrain changes very quickly, it can go from desert dunes to green, lush areas well populated by trees and other vegetation in less than 10 minutes. Our tour guide took us to a remote place where it is believed that Jesus was baptized. There are caves here in the middle of the desert that the monks used to live in . He made us Turkish coffee, which is very very bitter and strong. It was an amazing place to sit and think and I could've spent hours there.

Israel doesn't have a history, it is still making it's history. Many people are willing to give up their lives in order to ensure that this country remains. There is a deep root of pride in the people here, and I admire it.

Dinner was had at Joy, a very good restaurant in the German Quarter of Jerusalem before crashing in our hotel room.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 3

Day 3-Sunday

Today was a day spent mostly in Christian sites, and driving into the North part of Isreal. We met our tour guide at 8:30 after eating a delicious breakfast, and headed out.
Most of the stories we heard today I have heard before, as most of them came from the Bible. However, our tour guide was very explanatory of many different things.

Once the Jew survived the camps, ghettos, and the plagues that followed and surrounded WWII they tried to start new in their own land. The British, however, didn’t want this to happen, and gave powerful positions and money to the Arab people. They didn’t thing the Jewish people could ever be something bigger. In Khron Ya’Aqov the Jewish people living there could see out to sea and were able to signal the ships carrying Jewish refugees as to whether or not it was safe for them to land in port. When we drove through this city today, it felt very European.

Another time period we learned about was during the time of Herod, who built Massada, and also the more Roman Caesarea. This was a very Roman fortress, and included an amphitheatre as well as Roman arenas. Herod employed some of the greatest engineers to build a safer place to live. They filled wooden beams with volcanic ash that, when in contact with water, immediately becomes cement. He used this to build a wall in the water around Caesarea. A problem here was also fresh drinking water, so he built about 40miles of canals on top of pillars at exact angles so that the fresh water would flow right into the city. They also were very smart about making their gates hard to penetrate. The doorways were very narrow, and often had a right turn. The reason for this was that people carried swords in their right hand, and their shields in their left. When they turned right, it left them more exposed. The doors and entrance ramps were narrow so that fewer soldiers could enter at one time.

During the time of the Crusades, priests told Europeans to save the holy land, and take it from the Arabs. Only one third of the soldiers managed to get in Jerusalem. Even though they were here to conquer the holy land, they often fought amongst each other. Once the threat from Salam because more serious, they banded together to stop him. Salam conquered Tibera, and the king of that area came to the crusaders and said that his wife was in the palace, but Salam was too strong, it was not worth it to attack Salam. This Arab king put his tent on top of a hill on one side of the valley in order to have the best fighting spot. Raneau, a French commander enjoyed fighting and stirring up trouble. He decided, and managed to convince the Crusaders, that they should attack Salam. They started marching at around 1am since it took so long for them to dress. They walked through the wheat field towards the mountain that Salam was on. Salam ordered all the fields to be burned, and won this fight without letting loose a single arrow, or using any swords. They brought the leaders of the Crusader’s army up to Salam’s tent, where this French guy thought he would help himself to something to drink. In Arab tradition, if someone drinks in your house, they are your guest, and you can do nothing to harm them. So Salam cut off his hand, and wouldn’t let him drink, then becoming angry with the rest of the commanders, and ended up conquering Jerusalem. Because of this one man, so many people lost their lives. This type of tradition is also common among the Beduins, who believe that a person can live with you three days without saying anything, before you are given permission to demand to know why they are in their house.

We went for lunch in St. Peters, before visiting the place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, as well as where they believed Jesus appointed Peter as ‘Rock of His church’, and then the Sea of Galilee. This is the lowest place of fresh water in the world, and most of the water in Israel comes from here. We also learned that Starbucks got kicked out of Israel for having coffee that was too weak, they didn’t like it.

After lunch we went to the Christian sites mentioned above. Dinner was to be had at a small fish restaurant in the middle of the woods about 500 meters from the Lebanon border. Then we spent the night at a beautiful hotel inside a local kibbutz.

Day 2

I took a bunch of notes during our drive today. Nothing overly with a sense of order, but some interesting facts

First we drove through a few Kibbutz ( colonies of people often European immigrants wanting to live together). We learned a little bit about everyday live including the fact that the school children start learning English in first grade, and boys and girls must serve in the army at 18. Girls have to serve two years, unless they are promoted to a higher position, and boys must serve three years.

Every tree in Isreal is hand planted, often by immigrants who had no jobs. They used pine trees from Spain, but the trees couldn't endure the weather, so they all died. The biggest forest in Israel is right up against the desert, and every tree is individually watered through a complex irrigation system.

There were many events that the Jewish people consider miracles that occured during the wars. One such story was when they faced the Egyptians, who had a much larger, more organized army. The Israli people flew two planes, that had just been finished that morning, and dropped bombs that didn't go off. The Egyptians though they had an entire air force, and stopped their attack.

A constant problem in Isreal is the conflicts between the Jewish and the Arab peoples. Although there are many areas that they live peacefully together. You can tell the different areas where they live by two things. Israeli people have red roofs, and live higher on the mountains, which the Arabs prefer to live in the valleys, and their housese are built by layers, each layer representing another generation. In many of the areas, the hot water tanks are on the roofs of houses, painted black to keep pressure, and manyof the houses are only solar powered.

Although the Bedoins live in small, crumbeling houses, they have their own schools. A problem in these schools is that the girls often drop out at 13 in order to be married at 15. Although many people see Bedoins as nomadic people, they are developing entire citites. Keep in mind, however, that if they ever heard you calling them 'city people' you would have to learn how to run across a desert very quickly.

The Israli people are very interested in learning how to cultivate the desert land, and spend lots of money towards research into complex irrigation systems. One of the quickest ways to get water is during the few days of rain that they get in the desert. Unlike other areas, the water does not soak into the land, and even an hour of rain could close roads and cause major flooding. In fact, five minutes of rain shuts down the city of Tel-Aviv, as we learned yesterday. They would pull over to the side of the road in order to avoid driving in the rain.

After driving through the beautiful desert area, we spent a few hours at the Dead Sea area. First we went to an area called Massada. This was an enormous fortress built by Herod in 67 AD. The Jews that were living there were under attack from the Roman people during that time, and this castle was a safe place to be. Until the Romans started using captives from Jerusalem to begin building ramps up to the walls. When the Jews started shooting arrows at the workers, they realized they were shooting at their own people, and called a cease-fire. Unfortunately, the ramps continued to be built, and the 15,000 man Roman army was much larger than the 1,000 men, woman and children that resided in Masada. They were now faced with the dilema of whether or not to let themselves be captured and become prostitues, and gladiators in the areanas or to kill themselves, which was stricly forbidden. Deciding that living among the Roman people was a far worse end to their lives, every family drew lots. One person had to ensure that the whole family killed themselves, and that everything was burned. They were not to make a fuss, but they had to die quietly on their beds. Once morning came, the Roman soldiers came up to the city to conquer the people. When they saw what had happened, they marveled at the strength and courage of the Jews, and even though they had finally won after seven years of fighting, there are stories from the people who expierenced it that recal sad, mourful faces. Even now, the Israeli people say that never again shall Massada be conquered, and that remains a symbol of hope for them in all their struggels.

The Dead Sea was an amazing expierence. You walk a little ways out on the very hard, salty bottom, then sit and lift your legs up and float. Any cut or imperfection on your body will suddenly begin to sting, as the very salty water cleanses your pores, and heals the cuts. There are no living things in that water, as it is 13% salt. That may not seem like much, but most salt water bodies are only 3% salt. Sadly, however, the Dead Sea is shrinking by an alarming couple meters a year. The governments are trying their best to figure out ways of slowing, and eventually stopping the shrinking of the Dead Sea, in order to preserve much of the prosperity of the people around that area.

Some of the more humorous things that happned today:

Our tour guide, who served many years in the army, told us that one day they got a call that there was an Arab with a large gun that was walking around Masada. Naturally, they drove all their Jeeps out there, and got ready for a showdown. It turned out it was a Japanese tourist with a large amount of camera equipment. Glad I didn't bring my tripod....

At dinner tonight, when my mom and Janelle were being served desert, the waiter asked us where to put it, and my mom pointed out a spot between her and Janelle. The waiter's responce to this was " Always listen to the missus". This seems to be a popular idea around here. As our tour guide said " Every woman around here can operate a M16...you don't mess with them. If your wife tells you to take out the garbage....you're taking out the garbage".

Today was a very busy, very hot day. Although the locals say it was a cool day, as it was only 30 degrees. Apparently they usually get 40-50 degrees, especially in the desert areas.

That's all I've got for today! Tomorrow's journal log will be much of the same thing, as we are going to be touring around with a guide, and I like taking notes about facts so that I can remember them as we go along.

Day 1

Flights from Calgary to Germany.
No sleep was to be had on this flight, although I spent much of the flight in a bit of a musical daze. Thank goodness for iPods to drown out snoring. Listening to music is a lovely way to spend hours and hours of plane rides. A not so good way to spend one’s time is listening to your seatmate jabber on about this and that, and how horrid her last pedicure was, and how awful her hair must look right now. I felt quite sorry for the poor man who got to suffer through this ordeal for nine hours. Although, to be fair, it did ensure that the man exited the aircraft very swiftly, allowing all the passengers behind to exit more quickly.
Note to self…people who work in German airports do not like it when you attempt to race them down hallways, no matter how much caffeine you have had in the last hour. What they do like, however, is when you are asked to take off your sweater, revealing a small tank top. Especially if it is five am local time, and they are rather old gentleman. I have never been so thankful to get through security before.

Right now I am sitting in a lounge surrounded by people a language I do not know. An alarm is going off in the background, and there is a short Jewish man wrapping himself in leather straps, and what looks like a hand made shawl. He is deep in prayer, swaying back and forth, and tears are rolling down his face, He has Bible verses in the small square box strapped to his head as well as on the leather straps that now cover his arm. His hands are clutched to a small book in his hand, and he is quietly reciting the words over and over. No one is paying him much attention; they are more focused on the noisy alarm that is still going off.

We found out later that the alarm was not caused by the Jewish man being behind barriers; it was, in fact, Dad’s alarm that he did not notice because he was watching a movie.

Flight from Frankfurt to Tel-Aviv was uneventful at best, and I got a total of one hour of sleep the whole way here. Once in the airport, we were rushed through customs by a man who works for the tour guide company, and then we were escorted to our ‘buses. In Canada these would be called mini-vans, but here they are enormous inconvenient vehicles, no bigger than the Beast.

After we unpacked a bit at the hotel we ran..yes ran to the beach to dip our toes in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s amazing how much more energy we had when we saw the beach. We had dinner at a small, albeit fancy, restaurant. The atmosphere was lovely, between yummy seafood, the beach, and SEVERAL stray cats…apparently these are a common problem here.
After dining we strolled on the beach back to the hotel, where we decided we needed ice cream. So it was back to the beach where we stuffed ourselves with various sugar filled, creamy, delicious, ice cream.
Finally it is time to crash. Good night world.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Israel Trip

So over the next week I will be putting up a different kind of blog post. While I was here in Israel, I had a notebook on be at all times. A trait, I have learned, is particularly useful when people watching.

I am going to be typing up my blog posts and putting them up here, maybe with some pictures, depending on how much time I have to put it all together! :)

A lot of the journal entries for the days are just filled with facts, but they're things that I wanted to remember, things that I wanted to be able to tell people when I got home.

It's been a truely life changing expierence. I know that's a bit cliche, but it's so true. There's an inexplainable feeling inside that is excited, terrified, confident, unsure, trusting, thankful, happy, sad.

That being said, these journal entries will not be filled with what some might call 'sentimental crap'.

So bear with me, I'm excited to start sharing my trip! :)