Posted by Amy
On top of Masada with the sun rise
Israel is our first stop and has been a great place to experience all of our firsts on this trip. Beginning with our first night in Jerusalem, we were witnesses to democracy in action as 20,000 people marched down Ben Yehuda street after Shabbat. Apparently that was small compared to the numbers assembled in Tel Aviv (300,000). We had a great view as we sat outside our falafel stand eating our first meal in Israel. From what we could gather and have been able to read about in the days since, Israelis are very upset with the economic and social policies practiced by their government today. They feel that someone with a good degree and a job shouldn’t have to struggle to find affordable housing and pay for gas (9 and a half dollars a gallon!). The amazing thing was how organized and peaceful the protestors were.
This morning, I just read that similar concerns were being voiced in London, but if you read the news you know that peaceful and orderly did not describe the London protests. Since we are headed there in a couple of weeks, I certainly hope they get with the program there and fast.
To the Israeli government’s credit they have already set up some sort of commission to address these concerns and may help mitigate the problems with a decrease in some of their VAT taxes. We shall see. I wonder how this would play out in the US. I think these same problems are smoldering back home, but as of yet, only the Tea Party is organized to speak about much of anything.
Demonstrators on Ben Yehuda Street
That first night, we also bumped into our first familiar face in a faraway place. Marching with the protestors, the kids actually saw someone they knew. They said, “We know that woman from camp. That’s Eli’s wife.” Naomi Rockowitz was walking down Ben Yehuda and we picked her out of the crowd. Small, small world. Naomi was the guide on Davd’s last trip to Israel and her husband works at Tamarack as the head of Jewish Programming. I have to say it again, small, small world.
Other firsts have included our first lost retainer. Yes, one down on day two, swept away with the breakfast dishes at the Hotel Dan Panarama. Don’t worry, Dr. Rubin was smart enough to send us with two retainers. Also, our first doses of anti biotics for both Rikki and Maya. One eye infection and one sinus infection. Good thing we have our doctors here with us on this first part of the trip. Thank you Aunt Laurie and Uncle Greg.
As for the sites, they have all been amazing. Our guide, Yitzak, is great. He gave us one of the most comprehensive tours of the City of David that I have ever been on. This is just a small part of the Old City, but even still so much has changed since I was here last almost 20 years ago. You would think how much could change in a part of the city famous for being old, but the amount of archaeological excavations going is amazing. We walked through water tunnels, still filled with water built by King Hezekiah about 2100 years ago in order to allow the city to have access to a water source outside the city walls. He saved the city from siege because of these walls. They connected up to Roman sewers that we also walked through. The kids loved walking in a tunnel once filled with Roman poop. And in the newspaper the very next day, there was news of a discovery of a Roman sword, 2100 years old, right in those very sewers! We all were very curious what kind of soldier would be so careless as to lose his sword in the sewer.
We have learned all about King Herod. Yitzak has told us, “If it is beautiful, it was probably built by Herod.” Yitzak’s other famous line is “All Jewish holidays are the same. They tried to kill us. There was a war. We won. Now let’s eat!”
Other highlights have included hiking up Masada at 5: 00 in the morning, already hot at that time., floating in the Dead Sea, going on an amazing archaeological dig – and actually finding ancient relics, or at least pieces of ancient relics! Planting trees, touring Yad Vashem with David’s friend and Holocaust Witness Elie Ayalon, touring Caeserea , also beautiful and also built by Herod. Almost lost retainer number two there and did lose me there! Don’t worry, I was eventually found and so was the retainer. Tomorrow is up to the Golan and also over to Tsefat.
It is especially amazing to be sharing all of these firsts with the Katzes and Aunt Susan. It is making the beginning of our year of touring seem very easy and this will be a great transition to whatever comes next. We really couldn’t be asking for anything more. Wish you were here!
Notes left at the Western WallOur whole group in Caeserea. Mediterranean Sea behind us.