Happy 100 Tel Aviv!


Last night Rita and I gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to celebrate its 100 year birthday.  For us the night was even more special as it is the last time we will be in the city together before I move back to the states next week.  Let me just say this – Tel Aviv certainly did not disappoint us with their celebration festivities.  They had the whole square blocked off, a huge stage set up above the crowd, and put on a phenomenal show.  Rita said that it was probably the best thing she has done in Israel and I agree. 

I am also happy I brought my video camera.  I made a movie of some of the highlights from the celebration.  It is low quality (about 9-10 megs) and only about 10 minutes long.

Good bye Israel.  We will miss you.

 

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A walk in the Moshav

Rita and I often go for walks in our moshav and most of the time we forget the camera. Fortunately, on our most recent walk we remembered the camera because it is the most beautiful time of year here. The winter rains have brought blooming flowers and turned everything green. Here are the pictures.

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Another Dead Sea hike – Nahal Zeelim

This weekend Jon and Carrie invited us on a hike close to the Dead Sea.  I have heard people say that Mitzpe Ramon is the Grand Canyon of Israel but to me the topography on this hike represented the Grand Canyon a lot more (not that I have seen the Grand Canyon).  The hike started a few miles north of Masada and was a bit longer and tougher than we expected.  You can see the rest of the pictures on Jon and Carrie’s picasa site.

 

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Vegetables

You have probably heard us talk about how cheap and good vegetables and fruits are here in Israel.  I finally decided to take a picture of how cheap they are.  Here is what you can get in Israel for between 5-6 US dollars:

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  • 12 or so small red peppers
  • 4 small tomatoes
  • 10 or so cucumbers
  • A few pounds of red potatoes
  • A head of cauliflower
  • A butternut squash
  • 6-7 carrots

I wonder how much this would cost in the states?  Maybe I will run a similar experiment when we get back.

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TV in Israel

It’s Saturday night and I am wrapping up yet another weekend by sitting on the couch and watching American Idol.  Although I have been doing this for a year now, it is still weird for me to have to go to work on Sunday.  Many people have asked me about this and I meant to write this post for about 6 months now, so here it is.  What is on TV in Israel?  Lucky for us, many of the programs in Israel are in English.  Unlike France, the shows in Israel are not voiced over, so that part is very nice.  By the way, we did see Jerry Springer in France.  It was the car wreck we could not flip through.  Not that we care, but no wonder the French don’t like anything American…Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!!!  We have a lot of channels, but only a few shows with substance.  We even have such gems as Bachelor, Survivor, Amazing Race, Wife Swap, and the best of all Cheaters.  We also have ESPN, Fox News (I like Bill O’Reilly and Hannity, sue me) and CNN (I think…).  Best of all, we have the E! channel, my total guilty pleasure.  I even make David sit through Oscar’s Fashion Policy every once in a while because I am evil.  In my defense, I have watched more WWII shows than I care to…compromises, compromises.  However, I still have not gotten to the best part…NO COMMERCIALS!!!  It’s amazing and crazy how short shows are without them.  The only drawback is not flipping through and watching two shows at the same time.  By the way, you should all feel sorry for David because I am addicted to the remote control and constantly switch between shows.  No, I don’t use drugs, I just have a hard time concentrating for a long time.  I do have to mention one very important thing, the shows are about 6 months behind.  So often, the top Yahoo! news would be who won the Bachelor or Survivor and that of course kind of ruins the show.  You could argue, that I should not be watching such crap anyway and that it does nothing for my intelligence.  Seriously though, after a 9 or so hour work day, who wants to know about the atomic bomb, or zebra migrating patterns???  Tell me something juicy now, Ryan Seacrest.

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London part 1

Well, we are finally back!!!  Actually we’ve been back for a while and I’ve been writing this post for a while.  Honestly, there is just so much to say that I don’t know where to start and I kind of find it overwhelming.  London and Paris were great, but we all know that there is no place like home.  It’s nice to sleep in your own bed, even if it’s crappy and nice to take a shower with some water pressure.  We loved both cities.  However, London was a big surprise, we didn’t expect to love it as much as we did.  We saw so much, it feels like it’s been months since we’ve been to London, but it’s only been about a week.  I guess when the days are jam packed with seeing new things, it feels like weeks.  I am sure you all know what I’m taking about.

First thing about London is all the national museums are free.  I know that museums is a very small portion of money spent on the trip, but come on who doesn’t love free?  We went to the London National Gallery to check out some of the impressionists.  I love impressionist art, especially Monet and Renoir.  There was plenty Monet (water lily paintings are my favorite), Cezanne, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro.  We also saw Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers.  Of course, we could have spent days there, but we saw what we liked and left.  Our next museum stop we the British Museum.  Here are some of the pictures I took there:

The British museum is huge and absolutely amazing.  Here is the view of the indoor “yard”, I am not sure what to call it:

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Burial of a man who died in 2100 BC

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Egyptian “mummies” and the reason I will never eat beef jerky again…thanks to David.

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Egyptian pharaoh’s.  Seriously, there is so much stuff from Egypt in the British Museum that it’s amazing that there is anything else left anywhere in the world.  Goes to show what an amazing civilization Egypt was.

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And one of the most famous attractions, The Rosetta Stone:

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There is so much in the London Museum from Iran, India, the Greeks, the Romans.  I guess that’s what happens when you colonize half the world.  Again, you can spend months there.

And the final museum that we went to is the Imperial War Museum, which also did not disappoint.

In front of the Imperial War Museum

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David checking out old tanks and other weaponry.

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I had to take a picture of the Soviet Poster that says ” Beat the enemy without pity” and the old Soviet flag.

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The museums were great, but our favorite activity was the London Walks.  We got the idea from the Trip Advisor.  London Walks got great reviews from everyone, so we decided to check it out.  Basically, it’s a 2 hour walk around the city with a guide.  The first walk we went on was Old Westminster by Gas Light.  Here is the description from their website.

This is the cornerstone, the seminal London Walk. Miss it and you’ve missed London. For Old Westminster is London at its grandest: the place where kings and queens are crowned, where they lived, and often were buried. It’s the forge of the national destiny, the beating heart of the Empire, the Mecca of politicians throughout the ages.

It was absolutely phenomenal.  The guide was entertaining, knowledgeable and had our attention for 2 hours straight (believe me it’s not an easy task).  There is so much fascination history with murder plotting, affairs, lies…very juicy stuff.  The fact that the walk was at night made it even more interesting and mysterious.   We found the walk so good that we went on 2 more the following day, The Secret London and Old London, both were good.  However, Old Westminster was the best.  Some pictures from the walk:

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Cannon gun reused as a light post.

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Victorian architecture:

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We went into many old churches during the walk that were built by famous architect Christopher Wren.  Christopher Wren rebuilt a big chunk of London after the fire of 1669.  This church, in my opinion is the most beautiful church I’ve ever been to in my life, it was simple, bright and warm, something I cannot say about most churches.  I guess gothic churches kind of freak me out. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name.

Altar at the church:

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Ceiling:

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View of the church:

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Perhaps the most famous Christopher Wren creating is the St. Paul’s cathedral:

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Inserting all these pictures takes forever, sorry to be so whiny, but it is time consuming.  Got to run and catch up on laundry, since our washing machine can only wash two things at one time.  Yep, another one of those things that I am really going to appreciate when we are back to US.  Of course much more to come and hopefully it will not take me so long next time.

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The proof is in the pudding

And in this case the pudding is in the picture.

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If you haven’t guessed we made it safely back from our trip to London and Paris.  Jon and Carrie were kind enough to yet again watch Waldo and Chaya.  And how does Chaya re-pay them?  She waits for them to take her for a walk and finds the biggest pile of crap to roll in.  I am glad Jon had his camera with him to document the mess. 

I have read up on the poop rolling and the most commonly quoted explanation is that it relates to their roots and the desire to cover their scent for hunting purposes.  I also read a not so common explanation that perhaps they are showing off to the pack – hey look what I found!  Judging from the picture she sure does seem like she is showing off, doesn’t she?

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Suggestions anyone?

There are two things that Chaya is completely fascinated with.  First and foremost is, of course, eating.  She is always on the look out for pita, hummus, bread and whatever else people left behind.  There is no two second rule in this house.  Basically, if it hits the ground, it’s gone, and by it, I mean everything and anything.  It includes such goodies as: onion peel, pepper stem, cucumber peel, carrot peel and I can go on forever.  It is nice sometimes to have an indoor compost, very few things go to waste.  I am also proud to say that she’ll never grab anything from the table.  For one, she can’t reach it and she knows there is going to be hell to pay if she does.  We have to lock her in cage while Waldo eats because otherwise she’ll eat both bowls.  For some reason Waldo is not very protective or excited about his food.  Never was.  Before we got Chaya, he never finished his food right away.  He would usually have a snack at 2 in the morning.  Let me tell you, nothing like being woken up by a chewing dog.

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Stop reading if you are eating or plan on eating anytime soon.

Her second fascination is poop.  This dog loves everything related to poop.  It’s disgusting.  At first, we were hoping that crap eating was part of the puppy stage and she’d grow out of it.  Oh how wrong we were!!!  Well, now she has a new hobby, looking for poop and rolling in it.  A couple of weeks ago, we went for a run.  Chaya managed to find a pile of crap and roll herself in it.  Dave didn’t see it one her because she happens to be brown…just like poop (coincidence?).  As he tried to put the leash on her, he got it all over his hand.  You should have seen how thrilled he was.  Nothing like getting poop all over your hand and being 5 miles away from your house.  I know, we could keep her on the leash, but it’s nice to have her run around and it’s hilarious to watch her chase birds.  I think she honestly thinks she can get one.  Chaya also loves to find toilet paper on hikes, used diapers and other disgusting things.  Honestly, I don’t know what is wrong with this dog.  How do you wean a dog from poop rolling.  Perhaps, I should google it.  Suggestions are of course encouraged and welcome.

Well, enough about our poop eating child, we love her anyway.  Earlier this week we had a visitor on our window.

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He was a pretty big one!

And another news report.  We are going on a trip to London and Paris.  We are planning to fly into London spend a few days there and take the train under the English Channel to Paris.  I am super excited, can’t wait!

Our friends Carrie and Jon are watching the dogs, so maybe I should publish the poop eating/rolling post after we come back :).

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Jerusalem – The Kotel Tunnels and the Mount of Olives

Through our time in Israel we have come to love Jerusalem.  I have been thinking about why we love it so much, and quite honestly it is extremely difficult to explain.  From an architectural perspective the buildings are not grand, nor very beautiful and upon first glance don’t offer much.  The crowded market streets can be uncomfortable and the store owners can be pushy and rude.  So what continues to draw us into the Old City walls?  Maybe it is the thousands of years of history that unfold in front of you as you explore?  Maybe it is the extremely diverse and devoted religious population, from Jews, to Moslems, to Christians?

Perhaps a story will do.  Last night Rita and I were walking by the Western Wall Plaza as sundown and the start of Sabbath/Shabbat approached.  We have heard the Western Wall was quite a magical place to be on the eve of Shabbat so we decided to hang out in the plaza close to the Western Wall to observe the festivities.  By this time hundreds of Jews had gathered at the Western Wall and many were involved in intense prayer.  In the plaza hundreds of young men and women gathered singing songs and celebrating the coming of Shabbat.  I glanced over at Rita during all of this and I swear I saw a tear in her eye.  She won’t admit it and couldn’t explain it but the environment in the plaza was simply moving – and that is the power of Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day we traveled to Jerusalem to meet our friends for a tour of the Kotel (Western Wall) tunnels.  The tunnels travel through a huge section of the Western Wall that would otherwise be hidden from view.  The tour lasted about 2 hours and when we were through we headed to our favorite market – Mahane Yehuda.  The market was bustling with activity as people were out performing their pre-Shabbat shopping.  We purchased a few items and had our friends drop us off at the foot of the Mount of Olives.  Mount of Olives is covered in tombs as Jews have sought to be buried there for thousands of years.  The Bible (Zech. 14:4) states the resurrection will begin on the Mount of Olives when the Messiah comes.  Of course (we have heard) to be buried there now takes special connections and a lot of money.

We headed up the mountain stopping at a few sites (Dominus Flevit Church, Church of All Nations).  We arrived at the top of the mountain rather quickly and sat and soaked in wonderful views of the Dome of the Rock and the Old City, a great way to end a great day in the Old City.

 

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The Western Wall, from our tour of the Kotel Tunnels, our guide David on the right.
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Tombs on the Mount of Olives.
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Church of All Nations – enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest.

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View into the old city and the Dome of the Rock from the Mount of Olives.

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The Russian Church of Maria Magdalene on the Mount of Olives.

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Gathering at the Western Wall – Sabbath Eve (Friday February 6th), the Dome of the Rock in the background.

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Israel Bucket list

As I have previously posted my Israel assignment is going to be shorter than expected.  How much shorter?  No idea.  I am guessing we will be back sometime within next 6 month and that’s the best estimation I have.  The original return date was May 2010, so either way it will be much sooner than that.  So, in light of changing events I wanted to make a list of things, I want to see and do before we leave.

1.  Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum – David went with my parents when they came to visit.  I had to work that day, and was too scared to go.  Let’s just say I am very sure that I will lose more than one night of sleep after going, however I know I must go.  It is history and it happened, and I feel that I must go to pay my respect to the victims.  I will try and mentally prepare myself for this, but I am sure I will not leave the museum without leaving a few tears there.

2.  Kotel Tunnels –  These tunnels are located under the Western wall.  We have not gone yet because you have to schedule a tour many weeks in advance and we are not good at planning things in advance.  I plan on calling and reserving a spot right after I get done with this post.

3.  Mount of Olives –  A mountain in Jerusalem covered by 150,000 graves of important rabbis and other historical figures.  It’s also an important biblical site.

4.  Herodium –  Fortress palace of King Herod the Great and location of his tomb.  The only thing that makes this trip a bit tricky is the fact that Herodium is located in the West Bank, so you have to go through the security post that is closed on Shabbot.  Why do I want to go?  Just look at the pictures.  Looks pretty cool.

5.  Blooming tulips of the desert.  Every time we have gone hiking in the desert, I have seen tons and tons of tulips growing everywhere, something I did not expect.  I bet the site of seeing them bloom is amazing.  I sure hope we don’t miss it.

6.  Beit She’an –  More ancient ruins, that date back to 1st century BCE.

7.  Timna National Park – A park located in the Negev Desert with neat rock formations and the world’s oldest copper mines.  We drove past this park on our way back from Eilat and the “mountains” look beautiful.

8. Istanbul or Athens.  Why is that on my Israel bucket list?  Because the flight is less than 2 hours and I feel like if I don’t go now, I don’t think I will ever go.  I heard great things about Istanbul.  This trip will depend on how much longer we have here.

I feel like we have done so much, but there is still so much more to explore in this tiny country.  Dave and I decided to skip the Egypt trip for reasons I don’t want to talk about in this blog.  I am sure the pyramids are a site to see, they are one of the 7 wonders of the world after all, so maybe they will be on our real bucket list when we are 80 or so.  Let me know if I left something out.

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