I get to visit the Holyland

Many Saturdays of my happy childhood were spent around the many reservations and national parks in Israel. The parents loved to travel and took us everywhere. I hated every moment and couldn’t understand why would they not just go to the city center instead and sit in a Cafe where I could just eat my cheesecake with the other “amcha” (common people).

Twenty years later, I finally appreciate the gift they gave me, and feel the appreciation of the many wonderful natural and historical corners of our country. This past weekend, a Japanese classmate was in town and so I joined her and another israeli friend who was giving her a tour.  I spent Friday in Tel Aviv, visiting some of the old neighborhoods like Nachalat Binyamin and Neve Tzedek, with their cute shops and cafes, surrounded by the eclectic mix of new and old. We had lunch at the famous “Orna and Ella”, whose other location was featured in the film the “Bubble”, where it blew up in a midst of a suicide bomber attack. The food was to die for. Especially, the pumpkin pancakes which I plan to learn how to make in the future. For dinner we went to a Jewish Persian restaurant, “Edna”. I tried to translate the menu to our friend, but was utterly unsuccessful since I didn’t know any of the dishes myself. The night was finished at Dizi-Frishman bar and I soon observed the animal kingdom in action. The girls were sitting around the bar and having a glass of wine or another light drink (must stay in alert mode..). The guys were standing around the corners and pretending to have conversations while diligently observing any movement around the room, especially monitoring the doorway for entrance of fresh meat.  I realized I forgot about the pickup bar scene but thankfully, this experience reminded me once again.

The next day, we drove to Masada, a place which was a palace in the mountains built by kind Herod around 30 BC. It was later the grounds of the final Jewish rebellion against the Romans around 70BC. Masada holds a very special place in the hearts of many Jews as a symbol of patriotic resistance. The rebellion ended very sad when the rebels (around 1000 of them), chose to commit suicide (including killing their wives and children), rather than surrender to be slaves to the Romans.

These people were somewhat of a cult in my opinion but the symbolic value their actions hold is still very important. Anyways, the view from the mountain overlooking Jehoda Desert was  breathtaking, and we were very impressed with how these people were able to build such an elaborate imperial complex in 30 BC, seriously in the middle of no where!!  I guess a lot of slave labor was required…

Masada was followed by a short trip to the dead sea, from which we continued to Jerusalem. I got to see the Wall that separates the west bank from Israel. It’s amazing what difference it made on stopping terror attacks since it was built. I saw many cars with Palestinian plates and was surprised to find out that they are allowed to enter Israel’s territory after they pass inspection (doesn’t sound like extreme limitation to me…).

In Jerusalem, we visited the old YMCA building, beautifully built and furnished inside in old colonial style and drove around the city, finishing out visit in Arab village Abu Gosh, for some Hummus and Falafel. yum yum! The waiters I guess could not get rid of us fast enough so they started washing the floors right below us.. that was not so pleasant.. oh well.

We were passing by this new apartment complex, bearing the sign “Holyland”.. I asked if this was modeled after Disneyland, only catered to some rich old Jews. Then I was reprimanded for my ignorance. This was THE apartment complex because of which former prime minister Olmert was kicked out for taking bribes. Those guys bribed half of the country to get the construction permits. As possessors of so  much money, I don’t understand how they couldn’t figure out that the matter won’t come out to the public eye in our small country.  My friend explained that what they didn’t anticipate was the fact that the public attorney office and police would suddenly become less corrupt and actually prosecute them.. who would have known?? About such things we say “Only in Israel”.

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