The world is a big place…I was picked up at 3am to travel to the Mumbai airport for a 6:40am Turkish Airlines flight, which flew seven hours from Mumbai to Istanbul. After a couple of hours in the chaotic, crowded, and very international Istanbul airport, I flew two hours to the Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv Israel. Met by Susan, we traveled half an hour by taxi to the town of Rehovot, where Susan’s sister and her husband have lived for many years.
I arrived just in time for the beginning of Shabbat, the Sabbath, the day of rest, which starts around sunset Friday night, lasting until sunset Saturday evening. This day of rest was perfect timing for recovering from the jet lag and long day of travel. It was something of a shock to be in cool weather again after Mumbai’s perpetual warmth. I pulled out the long sleeve shirts and windbreaker that I hadn’t worn since Amsterdam. The Shabbat dinner was a feast prepared by a friend of Susan’s sister that we had met several times previously. Also in Israel, I would finally recover from the respiratory affliction that I suffered from during my last ten days in Mumbai. There’s something about the air pollution of Mumbai that seems to get me every time.
The Sunday after Shabbat was a full tourist day for Susan and me. We had a taxi hired for the day. Unfortunately, her sister and husband were forced to cancel coming with us at the last minute due to health issues.
Leaving a 7:30 in the morning, the first thing that happened was that we got caught in Tel Aviv’s traffic rush hour. Tel Aviv is a huge bustling city that we will visit next week after spending our week in Jordan sight-seeing and attending the International Nursing Conference.
The first stop was the Roman ruins of Caesaria. This former Roman outpost was developed into a major Roman port for the Palestine area around two thousand years ago. In typical Roman fashion, an amphitheater, temples, and typical columns were built. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area passed from local to Crusader to Moslem control. The larger Roman buildings exist only in the museum reproductions. Only the amphitheater remains largely intact. It is the site of regular concerts from symphonies to operas to pop concerts. The Romans certainly discovered the correct acoustic formula for constructing large outdoor amphitheaters in which the actors and musicians could be heard throughout the theater to the most distant seats even without modern amplification.
Our next stop was near the ancient city of Tiberias at the origin of the Jordan River at the southern edge of the Sea of Galilee. This is the spot where Christians celebrate the baptisms begun by John the “Baptist”. Many Christians visit this as a pilgrimage spot to be baptized in the Jordan River. It is a beautiful spot. The bible verse shown here in English is posted in many languages, some of which I did not recognize at all. Israel is remarkable for containing so many locations mentioned in the bible, which have meaning for Christians, Jews, and Moslems.
Our final tourist destination was the ancient and currently artistic village of Tzvat, also known as Safed. It is in the north, within view of the Golan Heights, which overlook the Sea of Galilee and were taken from Syrian control in the 1967 “Six Day War.” We were also near the Lebanese border. Israelis are very defensive to being the targets of crude rockets fired from Lebanon and Gaza indiscriminately into Israel. The rhetorical Israeli question is, what would the US do if Canadians or Mexicans fired thousands of missiles over the border into the US? How would the US retaliate?
We visited two old synagogues in Tzvat dating back hundreds of years. The streets, buildings, and alleyways have not changes in centuries. But now there are many artisans living and creating in the village, which attracts tourists such as ourselves. We did our duty as good tourists and bought a piece of original art, a beautiful acrylic sculpture, which will be shipped to us from Reno, since our luggage is already full.
I saw more of the Israeli landscape on this trip than I ever had previously. Israel has been very efficient in “making the desert bloom.” The Israelis invented “drip irrigation” which is now used around the world to maximize water when it is scarce. Israel is a fertile land for technical entrepreneurism and innovation.
Unfortunately, there is the unfortunate drone of the unresolved Palestinian issue. The West Bank and Gaza have been effectively isolated and controlled by Israel since the 1967 war, and a final treaty to normalize the Palestinians’ status has never been formalized. It’s interesting that the brutality of ISIS in Syria has done more to unite the Middle East (against ISIS) than anything previously. I would hope that Israel could use this time when its traditional enemies are preoccupied with ISIS to make progress in freeing the Palestinians from their de facto imprisonment. Lacking their own country and being denied Israeli citizenship, Jordan is the only country to which Palestinians can freely travel. This is why our international nursing conference is held in Jordan. More about this in my next blog.