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Blackin Family Trip to Israel

The entire Blackin clan embarked on an adventure on June 23rd, 2012.  On the trip were my Mother, Father,  wife, three kids (13,12,9), my brother and his four kids (10,9,6,4). Table for 12 please was our battle cry three meals a day.

When we travel with my parents, we do it right. We stay at the nicest places, eat the best restaurants, and have a private, air conditioned bus for traveling around. This is in stark contrast to the first time I went to Israel.

First time I was 17 years old and went with the a terrific youth group called USY.  We had 80 high school kids, and we stayed in youth hostels and kibbutzim. That was more of a third class trip as opposed to the first class trip we took with my parents. The itinerary with USY was much larger and in depth since it was for 6 weeks as opposed to 10 days with my family.

June 23, 2012

We arrived at Newark Airport for our 3:55pm flight and took off “on time” at 4:30 ish. We started on Jewish time right off the bat. P1010739

Trip was happily uneventful. Everyone was very happy with the in-flight entertainment. Between the 166 movies and dozens of games, there was enough to keep the most picky 13 year old and care free 4 year old satisfied. Unfortunately, due to the high level of entertainment, very little sleep was had on the flight.

We flew over the alps and saw some spectacular terrain.

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June 24,2012

We landed around 10:30am at Ben-Gurion airport in Israel. After gathering our luggage we met our tour representative and boarded our bus. P1010756

We arrived at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Tel Aviv, right on the beach. The kids went wild “Lets go to the beach!”. So we got our luggage up to our rooms, changed into our bathing suits and headed out onto the beach. The Mediterranean is amazing. Such a beautiful blue color. P1010757 As if designed for our family, the depth of the water increased very slowly. Therefore even the youngest of our crew could walk out 20 yards into Mediterranean comfortably.

P1010759Kids had a great time on the beach. Considering most of them, and us adults, were awake for over 30 hours, we did quite well,P1010760

We got the kids off the beach around 3:30 so everyone could shower and we could get an early dinner. We had a delicious dinner at a place called Jessica’s. Only the two youngest fell asleep at dinner, My brother Mike’s sandal broke on his walk from the hotel to the restaurant. I called it a flat tire.  After dinner we tried to find a store to get him a new pair of sandals. We asked a couple of Tel Aviv residents, with Maya’s help where we could buy shoes.  However, even after trying to follow the directions, we were unable to find the store and we got back to the hotel with a shoeless Mike.

We went up to our rooms and very quickly fell asleep by 8:30.

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June 25, 2012

We got up around 7am to get ready for our first full day in Israel. Plan was to tour around the Tel Aviv area. We  hit the breakfast buffet and was incredibly impressed with it. The buffet definitely was up to the U.S. standards of breakfast buffets. P1010767 But it had an amazing view of the Mediterranean.P1010768 Our first stop was….a mall to get Mike some sandals! He was admonished at breakfast for going into the restaurant without shoes.

Once shoed up we headed on a driving tour of Tel Aviv. One stop was at the memorial for Yitzchak RabinP1010769 P1010771

Yitzchak Rabin was the prime minister of Israel in the mid 90’s. He was assassinated by an Israeli because he was working towards peace with the Palestinians and was discussing giving them land. Some Israelis were not happy with this and plotted to kill their own prime minister.

Lunch was just what we wanted. We went back to where we bought Mike’s shoes because there was a Shwarma and Falafel store there.P1010786 Leah had been asking “What is Shwarma?”. Well that answer was answered with a huge wrap. Everyone enjoyed!

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Since Israel is mostly a desert country where is hardly ever rains between April and November, beautiful flora is not naturally occuring in great quantities. To solve this problem, Israel pioneered a drip watering system all of the country to water plants efficiently so they do not waste precious water.P1010772 The most interesting stop of the day was at the Ayalon Institute. Back when Israel was still under British rule between 1945( when WWII ended) and 1948(when Israel became an official country), a most clandestine operation took place on this kibbutz. 

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45 of the 75 members of the Kibbutz were involved in this most illegal activity. Had they been discovered, by the British soldiers, all them would have been killed. They were making bullets. The Haganah was Israeli clandestine organization that knew that after WWII, that the British would be leaving and a war for their existence was going to happen with their neighbors. They charged these 17 and 18 year old settlers of the Kibbutz with this dangerous job. To keep it secret from the world, they build their factory 50 feet underground. It could only be accessed by moving an industrial washing machine on one end and a ten ton bakery oven on the other end. Over the three years that the factory was active they made over 5 million bullets. This contributed greatly to the success of Israel’s independence.

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After the bullet factory, we headed down to Tel Aviv University where the diaspora museum resides.

The Diaspora Museum is very interesting. The basic premise is that Jews have been spread all over the world because of all of the times that our people were kicked out of counties or fled to avoid various persecution.The big lesson is that even though we may be geographically diverse, we are all connected by traditions. A Jew in Ethiopia follows the same general traditions as a Jew in USA or one in Argentina. All will get married under a chuppa and have a Passover Seder no matter where you live.

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After the Diaspora museum we drove to Jaffa and walked around the old city. It is quite beautiful and hilly. The view back to Tel Aviv is spectacular.P1010820

We got some ice cream P1010818and the kids pet every cat they could find (there were a lot of them) There were also some interesting art,

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After Jaffa we went to dinner at the waterfront. We ate a nice restaurant with the same name as our friend.

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Then we walked back to the hotel along the promenade.

P1010826  Our friend Nimrod, stopped by for a drink or two with us. He is an Israeli who lived in the US back in the 80s. Nimrod  went to high school with Mike and college at NJIT before moving back to Israel.

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June 26, 2012

We got up early and packed. Had another breakfast that can’t be beat and loaded up the van northward.

Our first stop was Caesarea along the coast, north of Tel Aviv. Caesarea was originally built by King Herod around 22 AD as a deep water port. Over the centuries it was destroyed and reused by different factions based on who controlled the area.Roman, Muslim, British, etc. Since it was a center for trade, people coming needed entertainment. There was a hippodrome for chariot races and gladiator fights.and an amphitheater that they have restored and are using again,

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Next we headed to Kibbutz Ein Shemer to learn about kibbutz life and lunch. The kibbutz started around 1927 as true communal life. Children slept in the Children’s house and did not sleep with their parents. All money made went to the Kibbutz and the Kibbutz would give  money per need. Everyone was treated equally. Within 2 generations the kibbutz changed to be more like a moshav. People kept all of the salary they made ad paid a tax to the Kibbutz for common areas. This kibbutz  was primarily a steer and milk business. The kids enjoyed petting the calves and watching the machines milk the cows. Boy did the cows stink! We also had lunch in the communal dining hall.

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From the kibbutz we headed to meet our cousins at Shavei Zion. We were very excited to see and meet our cousins. The 4 who I had met before are my third cousins David, Dori,, Estee and Shai.  They have 7 kids among them.

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David and  Yona have two girls, Gal and Eden.

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Dori and Marev have three kids. Amit (B), Shira (G) and Yishai.(B) Maya and Shira were immediately attached at the hip yapping away in Hebrew.

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Estee and Rami have two kids. Alon (M) and Noam (G), They are so adorable.

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And Shai who is not married as of this publication.

We had an amazing meal with mini burgers, chicken kebobs, chicken wings, several yummy salads, homemade hummus and wine.

Dori took us all to the beach. Kids played with boogie boards, dug in the sand and got to know each other better.

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Unfortunately David’s family had to leave to go to a wedding as did Shai so they were unable to stay for dinner.

We took a picture of all of the kids that were still there at the end. Missing is Gal and Eden. We expect some of them to become e-mail pals and keep in touch.

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After dinner we headed to Haifa to the Dan Carmel hotel. Wow, what a gorgeous hotel. We had an unbelievable view of Haifa from the top of the mountain. 

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June 27, 2012

Happy birthday to my nephew Daniel.

We got up and packed since we were only staying one night. We went down to breakfast and again were pleasantly surprised at how good it was. This one had an omelet station where they made omelets to order. Yum.

We headed out for a driving tour of Haifa and stopped at the Baha’i Shrine gardens. Our tour guide explained that the gardens were built by a Muslim guy who claimed to be the new prophet. He started a new religion and this was built to honor him. It is quite beautiful. When I was here the first time, we were able to go into the gardens. Now you can only view it from the top or bottom.

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After the Baha’i Gardens we drove to Akko (also called Acre). This another port city like Caesarea where control of it changed over the centuries. Originally built as an international deep water port in second century BC, it was taken over by the crusaders in 13th century when they built several fortresses. The ottomans in 18th century neglected it and filled in all of the old fortresses, tunnels and dungeons with rubble, P1010929

The British used it as a a jail during their control of the area. In the 1960s the excavations began in the area and all of the old layers of buildings, tunnels and fortresses were unearthed.

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It was here that we did some haggling and bought Serena an interesting necklace. It is a Star of David with two side pieces that when brought together makes a Hamsa.

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Since today was Daniel’s birthday, at the shop that I bought Serena the necklace, an artist made a nice surprise for Daniel. Everyone was mesmerized watching him make it.P1010953 P1010955

From here we went to lunch. We filled our bellies with delicious fresh lemonade, shwarma and falafel,  At lunch we met a family from Boston there on a Bat Mitzvah tour. The mother graduated Tufts 2 years after I did. We coincidently saw them again at Rosh Hanikra.while waiting in line for the cable car to take us down to the grottos. We may bump into them again in Tiberias.

After lunch we headed north to Rosh Hanikra. Our bus driver got pulled over by a an Israeli policeman for almost forcing the cop off of the road. He did not get a ticket as he explained that he was in the Bus’ blind spot and he did not see him till it was too late. Since he had a clean record he did not get a ticket.

Rosh Hanikra is on the Lebanese border. The only evidence of this is a row of buoys and a cable in the water as well as a big barbed wire gate. All was quiet on the northern front. What wasn’t quiet were the three bus loads of South American teens on line to get on the cable car to descend to the grottos.

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The grottos were worth the wait. Absolutely beautiful. Not just the grottos themselves but the surrounding Mediterranean.

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After Rosh Hanikra we boarded the bus and headed for Tiberias, We arrived at 5:30pm at the Rimonim Galei Kinnereth right on the Sea of Galilee. The contrast of the blue water and the desert mountains is quite impressive.

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At dinner, since it was Daniel’s birthday, we sung Happy Birthday in Hebrew and English and they gave him a sparkler in the dessert which he tried to blow out.

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After dinner we went outside and watched a water/light show over the water. Then we went to bed. P1020033 P1020035

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June 28, 2012

We woke up, had another great breakfast and headed out to the bus. We had a full day ahead of us.

We took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee / Kinneret. We had the boat all to ourselves. We viewed the sights and danced to Jewish music as we sailed on the Kinneret. Fun was had by all.

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From here we went to plan a tree. A Mitzvah that everyone should do to help add forestation to the desert country. There are drip pipes all along the rows where we planted so they could be well watered and grow to be mighty trees.

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Next we headed to a shooting range to shoot GUNS! Everyone was so excited to shoot those hated targets.

All of the kids, Serena and my mother shot .22 rifles. Dad and I shot a Glock and Mike  shot a 9mm. Those targets didnt stand a chance.  The Glock surprising had almost no recoil. It felt so smooth. Leah, after her turn declared that she wanted to buy a gun and go to shooting ranges at home. Great fun was had by all.

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After the adrenaline wore off we headed to Safed, an artist colony, Here we saw spectacular views, beautiful art and mass produced art.

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We wanted to buy something for the house, but, I wanted something locally made. We found a painter who had lovely water color and oil originals. The artist was on site, selling his own wares. We saw a watercolor of a representative street in Safed but there were no people in it. I mentioned that I would buy it if he had people. He said he could add the people in for us. So while we watched, he added a father and child to the scene.  P1020130

We also visited an ancient Sephardic synagogue, lots of stores and a talis making factory where the tallit were hand made on a loom

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After Safed we headed back to the hotel in Tiberias. We had a buffet dinner with tasty food, sat outside for a while and went to bed.

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June 29, 2012

Last day in Tiberias! We packed up and after breakfast we headed out on the bus. First stop was Kfar Kedem. They make the past come alive. We all dressed up in period garb from 1800 years ago. We talked about the fact that the Mishna was written at that time by one of the residents of the area. The Mishna is the traditional interpreted laws of from the torah such as Bar Mitzvah at 13 and weddings under a Chuppah.P1020164

We milked a goat, made goat cheese, cooked pita and ate some yummy hummus.

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After the snack we loaded the younger folks onto donkeys and went on a donkey ride. After the donkey ride we washed up and hit the road.

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Next we went to Beit Shean. This is an ancient city from the time of King Saul. We took a tractor ride around the old Roman ruins. We looked at an old map of the city and saw how much of the city still needs to be excavated.

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We walked over to a mall next to the ruins and ate some lunch. Some kids had Kosher McDonalds, some of us had pizza and some had Falafel.

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We stopped the lovely oasis called Gan Hashlosha (Sachne) for a swim. It is a a series of natural pools connected by man made waterfalls and broken down slides. In theory this sounded great. Problem was, there were a ton of people and the water was a bit polluted. There was a ton of garbage and Rachel cut her foot on broken glass. We were supposed to stay till 4pm but left early.

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After we left we headed to Jerusalem. We stopped quickly a road side store and to let the kids ride a Camel. They had two camels and all of the kids got to ride and scream. They screamed because when the camel sat down, it drops it front legs first so everyone feels like they are going to fall forward.

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We passed by many Bedouin villages. They live in make shift tents. Some made of scrap metal and parts of things they they found laying around. We saw lots of sheep and goats on the desert mountains of the west bank.

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The kids cheered when we come up to Jerusalem and saw the old city and Dome of the Rock.

We arrived at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem and had a nice dairy dinner in the plush lobby.

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June 30, 2012

.Had a nice cold breakfast. Since it was shabbos there was nothing hot. Were plenty of choices.

Today is a big day. Everyone was excited. We headed towards the Dead Sea. Along the way we passed the Qumran caves where the Dead Se Scrolls were found.

First stop Ein Gedi! It is a very hot day today (108) so we thought we would start it off with a swim in a waterfall along the Jordan River. The juxtaposition of the lush flora along the waterfalls with the desert limestone and Dead Sea in the distance was impressive. We enjoyed playing in the waterfalls before heading off to Masada.

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Next Stop Masada!  It was very hot so we eschewed the snake path and took the cable car up to the top. Here we walked around a little and looked at the map of the top that they kindly placed under a shade tent. Then we crossed over to the other side and looked at the remains of the ramp that the Romans had built to break into Masada.

I have been on top of Masada twice before and know the famous story well. However, learning the history of who has used this flat mountaintop is interesting.

  • Jews first fortified Masada during the years after the Maccabees drove the Greeks out of Israel and became masters in their own land.(100 BCE)
  • King Herod, who ruled Judea on behalf of the Roman Empire at the end of the first century BCE, was the next to build up the mountain.
  • Following Herod’s death, a Roman garrison remained to guard Masada. At the beginning of the Great Revolt (67-73 CE), in which the Jews of Israel rose up against the Romans. A band of daring rebels overcame the mountain’s guards and captured Masada. These are the famous inhabitants that the stories are about.
  • During the fifth and sixth centuries, monks lived in caves and cells on Masada
  • The site of Masada was identified in 1842 and extensively excavated between 1963 and 1965
  • In 20th century Masada became a symbol of courage for the emerging modern Jewish state. It was a pilgrimage site for youth movements and Haganah members. In 1949, at the end of War of Independence, the Israel flag was hoisted on Masada’s summit.

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Next Stop Dead Sea! We were all looking forward to this. Unfortunately some members of our family had cuts and scrapes that kept them from truly partaking of the only unsinkable body of water in the world. Those of us who went in enjoyed a good float. We even floated vertically after floating out to the deeper water.

The Dead Sea is 1200 feet deep at it’s deepest part. The bottom, which we quickly discovered, has large salt crystals everywhere that felt like jagged rocks when stepped on. So we walked out a few feet before the rocks began and floated out. All we needed was a foot of water before floating on our backs out to sea.

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Kids had fun with it as did the adults.  The Dead Sea water was very warm. Had to be at least 102F. The Dead Sea water minerals seemed to really retain the heat. Sometimes we would hit a cool spot while floating and my brother felt that it may have been where someone peed in the Dead Sea.

After floating for a time we headed over to the pool and splashed about and played.

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After Splish splashing for a while we header back to the the hotel for dinner and bed.

I had heard about the Israeli Microbreweries popping up around the country and luckily found one at the bar in the hotel. It was not on the menu. I happened to see it in the refrigerator behind the bar. It was quite good! The beer came from Jems Beer Factory in Petach Tikva.

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July 1, 2012

We had our usual nice breakfast but this time with hot food. I had an omelet. Then we met the bus and heard about the fact that former Prime Minister and giant in helping to found the State of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir died at the age of 96 and would receive a state funeral tomorrow.  Our tour guide indicated  that we had to change our plans for today since much of the city will be closed for the funeral.

We started out the day in the Southern Wall Excavations at Jerusalem Archeological Park. Here they are excavating the Southern part of the temple mount wall and the rest of the the western wall that is south of the Kotel. This western wall is the same wall that we celebrate as the Kotel but is not free to access. Also, the Kotel is the closest point that is easily accessible to where the 2nd temple once stood. We also learned of Robinson’s arch which was a gateway into the western side of the It was built to link the Tyropoeon Valley street, a major traffic artery in the Second Temple Period, with the Royal Stoa at the southern end of the Temple Mount platform

P1020332 a drawing showing a wide staircase leading up from a crowded street then turning right with steps ascending over a series of arches before turning right once again and going over a final large arch spanning the street below and passing under the columned gateway high above the streets below

The part of the western wall that we saw in the excavations is an egalitarian section where men and women can pray together. The holier part, the Kotel has women and men separate.

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Just as we saw that the Kotel is just a section of the western wall and that there is more of the retaining wall all the way to the southern end, now archeologist have found that the retaining wall, all the way to the north end, is in tact. Since people live right up to the temple mount where the Dome of the Rock exists, Archeologists have been unable to see what lies below. Until now. Archeologists have tunneled under the city all along the western wall creating the Western Wall Tunnel. We went under the city to walk along the rest of the Western Wall. At one point there were people praying  in the tunnel. This is the actual closest spot on the western wall to where the 2nd temple was. We saw cisterns, mikvahs, and old city streets along the western wall tunnel.

Another interesting thing is that the second temple was only in use for 70 years before the Romans came in and toppled the city. They knocked down the walls in the temple mount but did not destroy the retaining walls. The retaining walls, which were an incredible feat of engineering were designed to level the temple mount despite the northern and southern ends being of considerable different altitudes. King Herod was quite the architect. In fact, the style of having a smooth border and an rougher outset middle is called Herodian style.

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Next we went to the Israel Museum. Here we had a quick lunch and headed in to view the scale model of Jerusalem in the time of the Second Temple. This was quite interesting considering we had just viewed the ruins earlier in the morning. So seeing the model with Robinson’s arch and Wilson’s Arch after seeing the ruins was quite timely.

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After discussing the model and more about the second temple time, we turned our attention to the Dead Sea scrolls at the museum, also called the Shrine of the Book. My kids had visited the Dead Sea Scrolls when they were in NY but Serena and I had not.  Essentially, scrolls were found in clay pots in caves near the dead sea. The scrolls were written in normal Hebrew. Most of the scrolls contained laws for an ultra-sect of Judaism called Qumran. They fled Jerusalem during the 2nd temple time and hid out in caves. They wanted a much more orthodox, and much more strict way of life, so they moved to do their own thing, They hoped that one day, they would be able  to move back to Jerusalem and spread their extreme teachings. They made the Hasidic seem too lax about things.

Anyway, they were all killed when the Romans, enroute to Masada, found them and wiped them all out. Only the clay pots with their teachings remained.

We drove passed the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament building and all of the other ministry buildings.

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We arrived at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. You need to be over 10 to enter since there are a lot of vivid pictures and descriptions of what went on. After much discussion, only My parents, Serena, Rachel and I went. Everyone else headed to the hotel pool.

It was very interesting. I had been to Yad Vashem twice before and to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC before. This one spent more time on the ramp up before Hitler implemented his “Final Solution”. Showed how he slowly and methodically, since the 30s started taking away liberties from the Jews until he took their lives.

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Overall I was disappointed with how they had redone it. There wasn’t the same emotional connection that we had felt before in other museums and in Yad Vashem of old.

We headed back to the hotel and rested for an hour before heading out to dinner at a meat restaurant across from the hotel called Olive and Fish.  After eating dairy for 3 days, everyone wanted meat. My brother only wanted to find a restaurant where he could get bacon. I told him that would be near impossible. Dinner was yummy, I had Mango Chicken and a micro brew from Shapiro Brewing company right in Jerusalem, Again, we had to ask if they had any of these micro brews because it was not listed on the menu.  The micro brews are WAY better than the mass produced beers.

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After dinner we went to the Sound and Light Show at the Tower of David Museum. The Night Spectacular moves us through the sands of time chronicling the history of the city of Jerusalem from Creation to modern day as told by the pages of countless books. It was quite cool how they used the walls of the citadel as the canvas to project the scenes. Below is the same citadel, the left is normal and the right is the projection of the garden of Eden time.

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After the show we hopped into cabs and headed back to the hotel and to bed.

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July 2, 2012

After breakfast we headed out to the bus. First stop was the Hadassah hospital and the Chagall windows. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed. I did take some from the outside but it doesn’t show much other than how they are put together.

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The 12 windows represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Cool thing is Rachel’s parsha for her Bat Mitzvah was Jacob telling his sons what he thinks of them. The windows depict the sons and things about them. It was nice to relate it together.

We hit the mall attached to the hospital for some needed items and some Hebrew books for Maya. Cool seeing popular books in Hebrew. One of the books that she bought was Captain Underpants in Hebrew.P1020403 P1020404

We stopped at a park for about 15 minutes where a famous Monster Slide resides. Maya had heard about this park from her teacher and the kids had fun with the cool triple slide.

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After the park we headed over to the Kinnesset and the big Menorah. The Menorah is the national symbol for Israel. The Menorah has many famous biblical scenes on it. When we were there it was Yitzhak Shamir  funeral. The flags were all at half staff and the security was extra tight.

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FYI – A menorah has 7 branches. A Chanukkia has the 9 branches (8 plus shemash).

After the Kinnesset, we headed over to the Old City. We walked through much of the Shuk and had lunch at a place the our tour guide Yahaloma (Diamond) brought us to. It had fantastic Shwarma. The lamb Shwarma was fantastic. Mike bought pizza from Jerusalem Pizza for the kids who didn’t like the Middle Eastern food.

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After lunch we went shopping in the Shuk. Kids got to witness the bargaining cat and mouse game that both sides seem to enjoy. We bought a couple of beautiful dresses for Rachel and Leah. We bought the pair for 200 Shekels, 100 each.  The price he originally quoted was 320 shekels and he said it was his best price and he is making no money on it. Gotta love the lies and deceit. Since I didn’t have 200 shekels in cash the next game how to pay began. He took me to a money change place which had a crappy rate.  Learning from what I saw happen to my brother, I made them charge my card in Shekels rather than dollars so the bank would convert rather than the rip off booth. After some back and forth they capitulated and the deal was struck,

We also bought a Kafir for my brother in law. That was another fun one. Started at 60 shekels and finally purchased at 30 after I had walked out of the store.

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After we made it out of the Shuk with our lives and dignity we walked through the Jewish Quarter and talked about the recently rebuilt Grand Synagogue and why there is a mosque in the Jewish quarter. We exited at the Zion gate. The gate area is riddled with bullet holes from the War for Independence in 1948 when the Israelis battled the Jordanians here for control. Israelis were outside the gate battling to get in. So the realization here is that the bullets manufactured in Ayalon Institude, in the bullet factory before the war could have made these holes.

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Also, if you ever go to Israel, be sure to buy water bottles at stores and buy it in packages of 6 big bottles. This costs around 16 shekels for the 6 bottles where buying one bottle half that size in tourist places and restaurants costs 8-10 shekels for one bottle half of the size of the one in the six pack. 

After the Jewish Quarter we hit the road again over to the Time Elevator at Beit Agron. The Time Elevator is a great experience. It is a multi-sensory presentation that takes you on an exciting journey through 3,000 years of Jerusalem’s history. This tied in very nicely with the Light show we saw the night before. They both took you though the history of Jerusalem in different ways.  We all enjoyed that Topol played the main character in the show since we all love Fiddler on the Roof and Flash Gordon.

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After the Time Elevator we headed back to the hotel and went for a swim.

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Then dinner downstairs. Now that it is not shabbos, we were able to order the hot food. So during our meal we watched a dozen orthodox couples come in and and talk. Looks like date night at the Inbal hotel. I saw one young couple come in with an older man. I assume that it was the father of the bride and the young man was asking him for his daughter’s hand. We enjoyed making up  little stories about what they were talking about and how the date was going.

After dinner we went up to bed. We are all very tired from touring all day, every day. I am going to need a vacation from this vacation.

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July 3, 2012 – Last full day in Israel 😦

After breakfast we headed to an active archeological dig at the  Tel Maresha Dig at Beit Guvrin National Park.

In the late Persian period a Sidonian community settled in Maresha, and the city is mentioned in the Zenon Papyri (259 BCE). During the Hasmonean wars Maresha was a base for attacks against Judea and eventually suffered retaliation from the Maccabees.We excavated caves that had been filled in by  people who lived there when they left the area. They had filled in the caves with everything that they didnt take with them,

Everyone digging found at least some pottery pieces. My brother found part of a tool. Leah found part of a jug that contained wine. You can see the wine sediment on the piece. Everyone had fun digging in the dirt and uncovering 2000 year old treasures. We learned that these caves had been used for many purposes. Cistern, grain store, olive store, raising pidgins, and many many  more.

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After digging and separating dirt into buckets and “finds” into other buckets we carried the dirt buckets up out of the cave and sifted through the dirt. We could more pieces of pottery, bones and shells that were missed in the initial inspection.

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We then went spelunking through candle lit caves that haven’t been analyzed yet. We saw pidgin holes all over these caves. We had to bend, duck, crawl and drop to get through the maze of tunnels. After 20 minutes going through the caves, we wound up surfacing from a hole only 30 feet away from the one we started in.  I cant believe the small openings that I had squeeze myself into.

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After washing some of the dust off of us we headed to Latrun for the Armed Forces Tank Museum.

This museum has dozens of retired tanks ranging from the 1930s up to today. Before being a museum, this site was the border with Jordan and a key battle in the war of Independence in 1948. Now it contains a memorial to all tank soldiers who perished in service to Israel and the old tank museum.

Kids had a lot of fun playing on the tanks. They were able to climb all over them. But they were not able to go into the tanks. Much to their chagrin.

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.At the end of the tour we said goodbye to our tour guide Yaholoma (Diamond) as she went off to get ready for her next group. We boarded the bus and our driver Mickey took us back to the hotel.

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After returning to the hotel I went out and met my friend Josh whom I worked with 5 years ago at IDT. Was very nice to see him again. He bought me a nice coffee 🙂

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Dinner was in the hotel and then off to bed. We had to get some sleep as we needed to get the bus at 7am to head to the airport to fly home.

P1020518 Fly home, not horsey home!

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July 4, 2012 – Fly home

 

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