Just got back to Jerusalem from Haifa last night. Haifa was beautiful, and the Bahai Gardens tour was enjoyable. Couch Surfing continues to go well, as I had a great time with the people I stayed with in Haifa. They're friends with the CS community in Haifa, and we all spent some time together over coffee and later at a party. Good people. Now back in Jerusalem, I'm staying at the same CS apt. I was at before, and am happy to be so centrally located, and with pleasant hosts.
More on Haifa: it's a port city, and the Bahai Gardens overlook the water, so some really beautiful views. I was there over Shabbat, during which much of the country shuts down, so I didn't go out too much on Sat. Fri. though, I left the apt. early and picked up some pastries, then headed over to the home of a family friend for a very pleasant breakfast and an informative interview. After breakfast and coffee, the Rodeh's dropped me off at the entrance to the Bahai Gardens, and we said goodbye.
The gardens themselves are part of a large monument to one of the Bahai prophets, whose remains are buried under the building with the golden dome (currently under construction) which you'll see in the pictures. With 9 terraces above the monument and 9 below, including some 700+ steps from top to bottom, the walk took a lot out of me, especially as the English language tour started at 12 noon. It's a holy site to the Bahai religion, so one has to dress modestly to go on the tour. This means shoulders covered, and no short-shorts or mini-skirts. One of the women ahead of me had on a tank top, so I offered her the extra shirt I had in my camera bag. She's the one w/a white hat and a blonde pony-tail w/a red t-shirt around her shoulders in one of the pictures. Yes, I bought the touristy "Coca-Cola in Hebrew" t-shirt. A really neat tour.
A bit about the mundane - Israel, especially Jerusalem, reminds me of Michigan, as everywhere you look, something is either being built, or is under construction. Jaffa Rd., one of the main streets in Jerusalem is torn up now due to construction of a new light-rail system. Jessica, one of the flat-mates of the CSer I'm staying with in Jerusalem, made the following comparison: Jaffa road now is like if Market St. (in Philadelphia, at points a 5 lane rd.) was narrowed to one lane, and they cut ten feet off the sidewalks on both sides. When you're stuck behind someone walking slowly, you're really stuck. Fortunately, I've been able to take my time, and not get as stressed out about being stuck behind "slow-walkers" as I would in Philadelphia.
Hard to believe I've only got a week left before I fly back to Philadelphia. So much more to do and see.
View from one of the upper terraces in the Bahai Gardens
View of the dome and of the woman wearing my other t-shirt
It's been a hectic and fun week. I have an interview scheduled in 2 hours, and want to catch up w/ my blogging.
Last Wed., and Thu. I spent some more time in Tel Aviv just enjoying the sites. Also, as I couldn't keep up with my interviewees typing, I bought a dictaphone and some tapes, and recorded an interview on Thu. night. Fri, I took the bus with all my stuff down to Oded and Alon-Lee's place, friends from the demonstrations, and spent the weekend hanging out, going to the beach, and interviewed them as well.
Sun., I took the bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, about an hour long trip. The bus was packed, and these obnoxious kids behind me kept shouting and singing which I didn't mind too much as it gave me a chance to listen in on some Hebrew, but many of the other passengers were less than pleased. I got help from people on the street and on the bus in finding my next couch-surfing (CSing) destination, and have been here for 3 nights now. Most likely, I'll stay tonight too before heading up to Haifa.
On Mon. I met up with Michael, a CSer from England who overlapped with me for a night at Niros's, where I was staying in Tel Aviv. We rendezvoused at the central bus station, which seems almost as big as the Port Authority in NYC, or 30th St. Station in Phila. From there we toured the Old City. My Hebrew helped us out somewhat, but his sense of direction was of more use, as the Old City is a complete maze, and many of the vendors in the little stalls there speak English.
Attaching some more pics.
Michael and me with the Western Wall in the background Mon. night.
Monday approaching the Old City. Dome of the Rock in the distance.
Oded and Alon-Lee Sat. Aug 15 at the beach in Tel Aviv / Yafo
It's hot here, but that doesn't keep me from going out and finding people to interview. Currently, cooling off w/ an iced decaf americano - they don't do American style drip coffee here, so you have to order espresso w/ water (americano).
I plan to be in Tel Aviv through the weekend, then to Jerusalem for a few days, and after that, traveling to Haifa and staying there Wed - Sat of next week. The current plan is to come back to Tel Aviv, but depending on how things go in Jerusalem, I may need more time for interviews there. I'll keep you all posted.
Saw this article in the NYTimes today, and thought it was pretty interesting.
Another interesting aspect of travel: using a guide book to get the general idea, but not minding taking an accidental wrong turn and getting lost is a great way to get to know a city. Plus, it's a good incentive to practice my Hebrew when asking for directions.
2 views of a pedestrian bridge over a busy intersection in Tel Aviv:
I went out w/ Mitch, Uri and Ali, back to Yafo/S. Tel Aviv, to a club called "Ha'Tayahtron," The Theater; please forgive me for the debatably awful transliterations. This last Fri. night was a "line," a cognate from Eng. meaning an event people line up for, called "Big Boys," a monthly (?) gay party for guys over 29. We had a good time, better than some of us expected, as Ali is straight.
Uri, Ali and I returned to Herzliyya. Ali left early Sat. for the Palestinian Territories, and I spent the late morning/early afternoon relaxing around Uri's house. In the afternoon I returned via Shey-root, as the busses don't run on Shabbat here in Israel, to Tel Aviv. I got a little lost getting back to the center of the city from the bus station, but I got some water and asked a bunch of people for directions and walked for a while 'til I stumbled onto a street I recognized.
Later that evening was the rally for gay rights/equality to honor/memorialize those who were killed last Sat. night, 1Aug09. The rally took place next to city hall in Rabin Square, renamed to honor the late Prime Minister who was assassinated there. What's weird to me is that even though there were threats of violence not only against the gathering itself, but against the drivers who brought busses of people from Jerusalem and from Haifa, 20,000 + people still attended. Hundreds of police officers surrounded the square checking bags and waving people with metal detector wands for any weapons or bombs. The event went off without a hitch, and the President, Simon Peres, as well as many other political figures and singers spoke and performed.
I stood with Uri and Communist friends in front of a statue w/ a good view of the projection screens simulcasting the event. We were too far to see the people on the stage directly. Friends of my Aunt Debby, Sandy, about whom I've already written, as well as Bobbi, and Judy's son David also attended. It was a really powerful event, my limited comprehension of Hebrew notwithstanding.
I stayed at Uri's in Herzliyya again last night, and then took the bus back into Tel Aviv this afternoon (Sun.) to relocate to a friend's place. I met Niros from couch-surfing, a website which I recommend to anyone who's traveling on a budget. Niros is a vegan, so we made rice, salad, and some not so vegan ravioli that he had on hand for dinner tonight. And last night, after the protest, a few of us went to a burger place that has tasty vegan fake burgers and steaks. I had a regular burger, which I thought I wouldn't do, as I can get them in the states, but they were right, the place has good food.
Some photos attached are from Herzliyya and some from Tel Aviv.
Sculpture in Independence park next one of the entrances to the beach in Tel Aviv.
Sign in the park w/ view of the beach.
Uri and I in Herzliyya, before I left for Tel Aviv.
Wed. I had a great rest of the day, went to the beach, swam a bit and relaxed. The only downside was when this dead sea turtle washed up on the beach. It smelled horrible, but within 1/2 an hour, the beach patrol came by and took it away. There's a picture below in which you can kind of see the turtle.
I then met Galia at Rabin Square, renamed after the former Prime Minister Rabin that was assassinated there in 1995. We had dinner at a little place near her apt., and she recommended that I try the malawakh (I'm not sure about this transliteration). It's a flaky round dough, roughly the size of a large pancake or medium pita, but not as fluffy/with no pocket in the middle. It's very buttery, and you eat it by tearing it off, and dipping in the hummus or this crushed tomato sauce, closely resembling more watery mild salsa. Very very good! The first one they brought out was burned on top, and though my Hebrew isn't so great, I understood Galia when she sent it back because of the "burnt kippa" (head covering that some Jewish men wear).
From there we went to a club/restaurant on the 4th floor roof deck of a hotel in downtown Tel Aviv. We were walking down the boulevard to get in, when I thought I felt a bug land on my shirt. It was actually bird poop. Everyone says this is supposed to be good luck, but I didn't feel so lucky.... Galia and I got some of it off with a leaf, and though I got the stink eye from the woman at the door, we were still able to get in because Galia's name was on the standing guest list. She knows one of the part-owners of the bar. Anyway, it was a pleasant evening, and fun to people watch, especially once some of the other patrons started swimming in the bar's pool built into the roof. I had a great evening, bird poop aside.
Thu. I went back into Tel Aviv, then caught a more timely bus to Bar-Ilan, where I met and spoke with one of the students there. I'll go back later when Sandy's students are a bit more confident with their English and interview them as well. After coming back to Sandy's place and having dinner, and a short siesta, I went out again, and met up with some of my new friends from last Sunday, and joined them for a short march of solidarity. Then, like all good demonstrators and protesters, we went to a nearby bar for drinks and conversation. I met some more very interesting people and hear some really interesting political views. These people are on the far left, and I plan to contact them and hope to set up interviews before I leave.
Fri. started off well with a run around Petakh Tikva, and then I packed up my things and met my friend Uri who drove by to pick me up at Sandy's apt. We stayed in Tel Aviv before picking up Uri's friend from the states, Ali, who came into Tel Aviv from Amman, Jordan, via Haifa, Israel. We had lamb kabobs for lunch at a Palestinian run restaurant, where it was an interesting experience to hear Uri and Ali speak with the gentlemen there in Arabic. My Hebrew's not great, but my Arabic's non-existent, so I picked up on the gist from body language and inflection.
We headed back to Herzliyya, had a siesta, and later, toured around Yafo/Jaffa, which borders/ is an extension of southern Tel Aviv (depending on who you ask, these geographical phrases all have political implications, so please don't read too much into my phrasing here, as I'm not trying to weigh in at this point). I'll include some photos of Yafo below as well. Great architecture. Later on that night we met up with another friend of mine from Philadelphia, Mitch, who was in Israel for a week or so. We actually arrived on the same flight. Then the four of us went out and grabbed a bite to eat, and returned to Yafo to go to a club.
The rest of the day yesterday was really enjoyable. The Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market) was packed with clothing, fruit, meat, spices, junk, cds, dvds, art and more. From there I took the bus to Bar Ilan University to meet Sandy, and the trip that was supposed to be 40 mins with a transfer took 1.5 hours. I'll get there earlier and meet with the students tomorrow, but yesterday I got there just in time to hop in the car and head to Herzliya for the Beatles cover group concert by a group called the "Magical Mystery Tour." It was a really enjoyable show, and the audience was a surprisingly mixed demographic. From there Sandy and I went to Tel Aviv to sit by the ocean and have a beer and then back home to crash at 3 am.
Today I'll head into Tel Aviv in the afternoon, and meet up with Galia and friends in the evening. More on that later.
Yesterday was good. Went for a run in the am, then went to Tel Aviv, met a guy in a coffee shop and interviewed him for my project. Then walked along the boardwalk, and enjoyed peoplewatching. Came back to Petakh Tikva and had dinner with Sandy, then relaxed around the apt.
Today's been good so far too. Went for another run, had lunch, then took the "shay-root" (mini-van) into Tel Aviv, and am blogging from a coffee shop off Dizengoff St. (one of the famous main drags of Tel Aviv). Will head over to the market in town, then over to Bar Ilan University to meet up with Sandy and interview some of her students, and then over to a Beatles Cover Band Concert in Hertzliya.
I've arrived in Tel Aviv. The plane ride was 10+ hrs, and went without a hitch. Customs and the passport authority were no problem, and my aunt Debby's best friend, Sandy Ashri met me at the baggage claim. I practiced my Hebrew and bought a 1/2 watermelon (avatiakh).
The best cure for jet lag, I've found, is to sleep for 14 hours in a row. I conked out at 10 last night, and woke up at noon today.
Started my first full day in Israel with some "jachnun," a typical Yemenite breakfast that Sandy's neighbor made. It's a simple flour and water dough rolled up into cylinders and baked in a ton of margarine! Really good but really heavy! Sandy drove us straight into Tel Aviv, it took 15 minutes because on Shabbat there's no traffic coming from Petakh Tikva (the suburb of Tel Aviv where she lives). She found an amazing parking spot a block from the beach and then we went straight to the shore, and relaxed for 1.5 hours, people watched, went into the ocean - I put on lots of sunscreen and the sea's kinda like bathwater, but it was very nice. Then we saw Galia, Sandy's daughter, who works w/ an ad. agency in Tel Aviv. Went to this salad place for lunch, had great salads, then ice cream, then back home. After a shower, a nap, cleaning up, and trying to reconnect Sandy's DVD player, it's quarter after 9 pm here, and we'll sit down to dinner in a while. Petakh Tikva's pretty quiet, even on a Saturday, but I'll head out later to check the scene.
Just setting this up so I can keep you all posted while I'm traveling. For those of you who don't know already, I'm heading to Israel for a month. I leave Jul. 30 & return Aug. 30.
While I'm there, I'll have an Israeli temporary phone that will forward calls to a Philadelphia # to my phone there, so all of you in the US don't have to dial international to reach me. Here's the digits:
US #: 267.297.4549
Israel #: 052.6047840
Tonight, dinner with friends, then laundry & packing, round 1. I'll go to work tomorrow & Tues., and then have Wed. and most of Thu. to finish prepping before my plane takes off for Israel.
Looking forward to the trip, and wishing you all a great start to your Augusts!