Monthly Archives: February 2011

Flash! Bang! Update!

So, I have been incredibly lax with the updating. Sorry guys! That was combination of hebrew intenseness, alot of outtings, and a couple of nights of to much arak. I’m gonna break this down short, sweet, and simple.

Acre: Crusader City

So, I went to this place called Acre (pronounced: Akko). It is opposite Haifa on the bay. Acre was the main port for northern Israel for something like 3000 or 4000 years before the British developed Haifa into a deep water port in the 20th century. The city of Acre is interesting because the old city of Acre is one of the best examples of crusader architecture still standing. It is also pretty neat because people still live in some of the old crusader buildings. Also, if one knows what one is looking for once can very clearly see remnants of the the various civilizations that had control over Acre. In particular the Muslim and the Crusader influence. It was fascinating to see.

The only downside to this place was the fact that we went went on the rainiest and coldest day I have been privy too since coming to Israel. And we traipsed around in the rain and the cold for the entire day. This is going to sound awful but it is hard to notice the history of a place when one is trying to find shelter from driving winds and freezing rain.

Bottomline: I need to go back to Acre. I cannot say that I appreciate Acre as much as I could had I been dry and warm when I visited.

The Jewish Diaspora Museum

Mark Spitz: He's Jewish?!

Honestly, I didn’t get the point of this. Well, I do but I am not its prime audience, so some significance was lost on me. The Jewish Diaspora Museum (aka Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People) is from what I can gather supposed to be a museum that demonstrates the significance of the Jewish diaspora for Jewish culture and a preservation of pieces of the culture. To tell you the truth my museum experience could have been a little more information rich. We had a tour guide who took us through the museum. Maybe it was because we were all Americans, but she didn’t really give us any new information. That is a feat in and of itself considering how little I know about Jewishness. Also, the exhibits didn’t have a lot of information in them. I guess part of this comes down to the simple fact that, being a non-Jew, I am not the main audience of this museum.

I think that is one of the hardest parts about being in this country. All though all of the Israelis I have met have been warm and welcoming I often feel like an outsider here by virtue of the fact that I am not Jewish. It is a very strange experience to be surrounded by people who are Americans, some of whom are like me and have never been to Israel, who by virtue of their religious identity are able to feel more at home than I am.

Ceasarea and the Napa Valley of Israel

The seats in the ampitheather

Last weekend, we went to Ceasarea. That was cool I guess. Roman ruins, no matter where you are, all kind of look the same in my opinion. There are two very cool things about Ceasarea: the amphitheater and Herod’s Palace. The ampitheater is about half the size it was during the Roman times, however, it is still used for concerts today. How cool is that? In the same place that ancient Romans 2000 years ago used to go to watch plays, modern Israelis can come to watch modern artists perform! Seeing the remains of Herod’s Palace was cool because he was such a baller. Herod had an indoor fresh water pool in his house. A house who’s back porch looked over the Mediterranean Sea. So, Herod was able host pool parties with beautiful women and plentiful wine while listening to the sound of waves from the Meditteranean sea crashing against his back porch. Tell me that is not completely unreal and totally awesome.

Quaint, no?

After we were done at Ceasarea, we went to a town called Zikhron Ya’akov. I would describe this town as being a cross between Nantucket and the Napa Valley located in the heart of Northern Israel. It has all of the quaint and adorable shops that Nantucket has but has the wine industry like Napa. As a quirk from its history it has a lot of European architecture that makes it a very scenic little city. It was a great place to walk around and get some lunch. It has some great little boutiques and a really wonderful ice cream place. I would like to go back one day for a wine tasting. Also, I might be making this up but I think someone told me that this was the first place in Israel to have running water.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

There are a few last things I want the folks back home to know:

I am done with my Hebrew ulpan! I no longer have to sit in a classroom for 5 hours trying to learn me some Hebrew. It was great while it lasted and I achieved my goal of learning some basic Hebrew. But man, the 5 straight hours was killing me. (Also, the Sunday classes were not doing me any good.)

Because Ulpan is over, I start real school on Monday. Fun stuff: Arabic, Arab-Israeli Relations… It is going to be a good semester.

Finally, bwahahahahahaha!

The weather in Haifa tomorrow...

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Elijah's Cave: Or Just Another Pilgrimage Site

The domed chapel that was formerly a windmill.

The day was an absolutely brilliant day. It was hands down the most gorgeous day I’ve had since coming to Israel. A rainstorm the day before had cleared the air so that you could see the reflections of the clouds on the Mediterranean. Our tour of Elijah’s cave started at the top of Mount Carmel and worked its way down. At the top of Mount Carmel are two sites of interest.

The first was the Stella Maris Monastery. We did not go in because we were with Jewish tour guides who seemed a little reticent to go into a Christian holy site. The site of the Stella Maris Monastery played an important role in Napoleon’s attempts at conquering the Holy Land. I think it is the sight of a battle in which Napoleon got his butt so firmly kicked that he decided to cut his losses and get out the Holy Land all together. The monastery also at one point was destroyed, rebuilt, used as a military garrison and as a hospital.

The second, is a military garrison that was formerly a luxurious Ottoman summer home. It was taken over by the British Mandate and turned into a military garrison a purpose that it still serves today. The building is perched on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean and obviously has stunning views. Our guides told us that one of the uses of this particular outpost during WWII was to spot the boats of illegal Jewish immigrants trying to escape the Holocaust. When spotted these boats were either sunk or they were captured and the families on board were detained and deported. This history is all too eerily similar, in my opinion, to what happens in Florida with illegal Cuban immigrants.

From the top of the hill we started on a path down the mountain. The path was a little hard to find and part of our group got lost trying to find it. The path was gorgeous and afforded us beautiful views of the sea and sky. Halfway down the mountain there was a domed chapel that was formerly a windmill. It was locked but would be interesting to go into. From there we continued down the path. It took us about 15 minutes of careful walking to finally make it to Elijah’s Cave.

The tie things inside the cave. I hate taking pictures inside holy sites so this is the only picture I have.

Elijah’s Cave is said to have been the cave to which Elijah escaped after insulting a king or something. Wikipedia has other ideas. All I know is that the cave is supposed to have magical healing powers for mental illness and barrenness, and that Elijah lived there until he went to heaven on a chariot of fire. I was, honestly expecting something a bit more natural. Maybe some stalagtites or something.

In front of the cave was a series of patios with places for people to light candles and to ritually clean themselves. Once one goes into the cave it is like any other site of pilgrimage I have ever gone too. The cave is giant square room carved out of rock and lit by awful fluorescent lights. Men and women are separated by flimsy wooden partitions. The women’s side is bigger (I think cause of the whole barrenness thing.) On the women’s side there is a place to ties bits of cloth as you pray.

I think I was so disappointed by this site because I wanted it to be different from all the other sites of pilgrimage I’ve been too. The only thing that distinguished it from the sites I’ve been too in other countries was the fact that everything was in Hebrew.

My disappointment with Elijah’s cave was quickly salved by going to the German Colony and getting ice cream.

The sun setting on a beautiful day.


Elijah’s Cave: Or Just Another Pilgrimage Site

The domed chapel that was formerly a windmill.

The day was an absolutely brilliant day. It was hands down the most gorgeous day I’ve had since coming to Israel. A rainstorm the day before had cleared the air so that you could see the reflections of the clouds on the Mediterranean. Our tour of Elijah’s cave started at the top of Mount Carmel and worked its way down. At the top of Mount Carmel are two sites of interest.

The first was the Stella Maris Monastery. We did not go in because we were with Jewish tour guides who seemed a little reticent to go into a Christian holy site. The site of the Stella Maris Monastery played an important role in Napoleon’s attempts at conquering the Holy Land. I think it is the sight of a battle in which Napoleon got his butt so firmly kicked that he decided to cut his losses and get out the Holy Land all together. The monastery also at one point was destroyed, rebuilt, used as a military garrison and as a hospital.

The second, is a military garrison that was formerly a luxurious Ottoman summer home. It was taken over by the British Mandate and turned into a military garrison a purpose that it still serves today. The building is perched on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean and obviously has stunning views. Our guides told us that one of the uses of this particular outpost during WWII was to spot the boats of illegal Jewish immigrants trying to escape the Holocaust. When spotted these boats were either sunk or they were captured and the families on board were detained and deported. This history is all too eerily similar, in my opinion, to what happens in Florida with illegal Cuban immigrants.

From the top of the hill we started on a path down the mountain. The path was a little hard to find and part of our group got lost trying to find it. The path was gorgeous and afforded us beautiful views of the sea and sky. Halfway down the mountain there was a domed chapel that was formerly a windmill. It was locked but would be interesting to go into. From there we continued down the path. It took us about 15 minutes of careful walking to finally make it to Elijah’s Cave.

The tie things inside the cave. I hate taking pictures inside holy sites so this is the only picture I have.

Elijah’s Cave is said to have been the cave to which Elijah escaped after insulting a king or something. Wikipedia has other ideas. All I know is that the cave is supposed to have magical healing powers for mental illness and barrenness, and that Elijah lived there until he went to heaven on a chariot of fire. I was, honestly expecting something a bit more natural. Maybe some stalagtites or something.

In front of the cave was a series of patios with places for people to light candles and to ritually clean themselves. Once one goes into the cave it is like any other site of pilgrimage I have ever gone too. The cave is giant square room carved out of rock and lit by awful fluorescent lights. Men and women are separated by flimsy wooden partitions. The women’s side is bigger (I think cause of the whole barrenness thing.) On the women’s side there is a place to ties bits of cloth as you pray.

I think I was so disappointed by this site because I wanted it to be different from all the other sites of pilgrimage I’ve been too. The only thing that distinguished it from the sites I’ve been too in other countries was the fact that everything was in Hebrew.

My disappointment with Elijah’s cave was quickly salved by going to the German Colony and getting ice cream.

The sun setting on a beautiful day.