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Upon arrival in Israel, we had to go through special processing in order to take care of the paperwork associated with becoming new citizens. It was actually pretty easy. We mostly sat around until called, signed a whole bunch of stuff, and received a lot of stuff. When we were done with processing, we were able to go get our bags and walk through customs.

Upon exiting, there was a whole crowd of people there to greet us. At first, I thought they must all be friends of somebody in particular on the flight, but no, they were random people there for all of us. Some of them were singing Am Yisrael Chai, others were giving us candies with “home sweet home” sayings on them. Some were soldiers who were welcoming us to our new homes. Additionally, there were some reporters from the newspaper Haaretz who wanted to ask us some questions about why we were moving here. It was extremely touching that all of these people took time out of their day to come greet some 25 new immigrants as if we were a big deal. I definitely felt a bit special, but I'm sure they open their arms to all of the NBN flights this way.From the airport, the taxi ride to Karmiel felt so much longer than it was because I was tired and trying (unsuccessfully) to stay awake. When I finally arrived, the realtor let me into my new apartment and helped me to get a bit settled before leaving me to nap. In the evening, the weather was gorgeous, which made Karmiel seem that much more beautiful. I enjoyed the weather by walking into the main shopping area to pick up a few items. As I was walking, it was beginning to hit me that I had just moved to Israel and fulfilled the dreams of so many of my ancestors. I was starting to get verklempt at the thought that I'm now an Israeli in Israel, and then some guy drove past while whistling and making a kissy face, making me laugh and feel like I was back in St. Kitts. Dinner was pizza that was pre-topped with olives and corn. Corn just doesn't go on pizza in the US, but I was taught almost 8 years ago by a good Lebanese friend that it is very common in the US. I will always laugh when I see corn pizza, which I expect to happen a lot more now. Finally, I the late hours and long journey was beginning to take its toll on my energy level, so I headed home. I'm finally here- my home.

My new neighborhood

My new neighborhood


Park in my new neighborhood

Park in my new neighborhood

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Wanderings

Yesterday, I awoke in Akko and did some final touring of the city that included delicious breakfast pizza from some bakery at the north end. My original plan had me in Nahariya all day the day before and Akko all day yesterday, but I was done with both early enough today that I decided to go check out a few other places that people had suggested. I drove out highway 89, which is absolutely gorgeous. The views are stunning. If you're looking for a breathtaking drive in Israel, this is the right one. I passed through an adorable little town, I think it was Hurfeish. For a while, I just drove to get lost in this little mountain town. I ended up passing some religious men (I think Druze), some neat architecture, and all sorts of fun curvy back roads. I got back on the highway and headed to Rosh Pinna, which is just past Tzfat. I think I blinked the first time I passed it and had to turn back. Rosh Pinna is another cute mountain town, although I think it looked a bit wealthier. I toured around it for a bit, but again, there wasn't a whole lot to see or do. I stopped at a cafe at the mall that was filled with families and young couples. (I was so proud of myself that I was able ot order off the Hebrew menu there.) I also found an art store, Yaara M, at the mall that was selling locally-made pottery, jewelry, glass, and other similar items. Most of them were pretty expensive, but I did get a few of the less-expensive pieces as gifts. I headed towards Haifa, but the suburbs were full of traffic, the air was smelly, and it was pretty smoggy/hazy out so I didn't make it as far into the city as I wanted to. I'll tour more of Haifa a different time. I then remembered a cousin telling my parents a while ago about how great Caesaria was. Because of that and also because I used to play a video game where you could city-build it up, I had really wanted to see it, but didn't have the opportunity previously. So, I headed to Caesaria. The aqueducts are actually pretty neat. There are some other things to see as well, but it was getting late and everything shuts down at Shabbat, so I figured I'd better head out. I stopped for a snack at a gas station sit-down restaurant with crappy service, but I'm thinking the bad service (got order wrong, started mopping while customers were still eating, never brought me water) was just because it was so close to Shabbat and they were trying to get out of there.

After the snack, I headed to my cousins' house in Tel Aviv. We took a walk and spent the evening chilling and catching up with each other.

Saturday was a chill day with the family, and I headed back to the states Sunday so that I could make it back to St. Kitts on Monday.

Hightway 89

Hightway 89


Rosh Pinna

Rosh Pinna


Caesaria Aqueduct

Caesaria Aqueduct

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Nahariya and Akko

I got up and had breakfast at Bordo's Cafe because it was close to the hotel. Later in the day, somebody recommended it to me. I agree with the recommendation. They gave me more food than I could eat, and all of it was delicious. The salad must have had a whole large cucumber and a few large tomatoes in it, and the dressing was perfect. The tomato part of the shakshouka was seasoned just right. (The egg part wasn't as runny as I'd like, but that could be because I let it sit for a minute while I worked on the salad some more.) The bread that came out with the shakshouka had the perfect texture. Fabulous! The service started out quick, but when it was time for the bill, it took me quite a while to get anybody's attention. I guess that's better than the other way around. In the states, the folks who come up and ask for money usually look a bit pitiful. Some of that I think is intentional to try to pull on your heart strings, but in some cases, that's their real situation. The guy who came up to me (and at least one other person) in Nahariya was wearing a nice Adidas track suit. He had a cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. I wasn't going to give him money anyway because 1) that's why I donate to social services and 2) spend your cigarette money on your kids instead of cigarettes and maybe then you won't need so many donations, but it did make me think about the concept of panhandling in the streets. I mean, how much do you have to have to not want to panhandle? Why are we more likely to give to somebody who looks dirty (but not too dirty) than somebody in a nice outfit? I'll leave that philosophical debate for a different forum, but it most certainly made me think. I walked around town a bit. In general, the streets were pretty dead. The boardwalk area was almost empty, but there were a few people sitting and enjoying the view of the ocean. The only area where there really were people was the main shopping street. There, people were hustling around trying to purchase. It very much is a beach town in winter. The architecture reminds me of every other beach town- all the apartments have balconies and a sense of openness. The only difference is that all of the buildings here are very tan instead of having the multi-colored or white buildings as elsewhere. The streets are very straight and flat- great for running- and they're lined with palm trees. If it had putt-putt on every corner, it would remind me of the residential areas of Ocean City in winter. It may be cleaner though- I'm not sure I saw a single piece of dirt anywhere.

The original plan was to spend the whole day in Nahariya, but there wasn't so much to see or do, so I headed to Akko (aka Acre, Acco) early. That is also a town on the shore, but it has lots more character (and dirt). Nahariya seems sterile compared to Akko. The north parts of Akko have apartments where people live. Many of them reminded me of Nahariya in a way that made me wonder if Nahariya in 50 years would look like those parts of Akko now. (Although, I have no idea if Nahariya is actually any younger than those parts of Akko or not.) As you get further south though, you begin to hit the Old City. I wandered about the old city for a bit, looking for my hotel. Unlike the rest of Akko, the old city does not have nice straight streets. The streets are all curled in on themselves and many are not car-accessible. There's a lot of history here. There's a Crusader Citadel, and old city wall, an old church, an old Mosque, and old synagogue, an old market, an old moat, old homes, etc. One thing I think is very cool is that one of the people I was talking to who lives here said "I love how Jews and Arabs live together side-by-side" here. This is a mixed city and from what I saw, a good example of how people can get along. Everybody I spoke with was friendly. The one thing she lamented is that the tourists don't stop here a lot. Everybody goes to Jerusalem and other places, and skips over Akko, but Akko has so much history that it doesn't make sense. I see her point though. This is my 4th trip to Israel, but my first time in Akko. Ok, Jerusalem has a more religious history and we get why people go there as #1. But, Akko has Roman history that beats out some of the other cities that people go to more frequently for Roman history. Akko has Templar Tunnels and Crusader history that beats out some of the other cities people go to for Crusader-era history. Akko has a Turkish bath house and some sort of museum. Akko has UNESCO World Heritage sites and is older than most of the other "ancient places" people go to in that it dates from the Phoenicians (which says it's almost 4000 years old). For people with money, you can even take home things that were dug up by archaeologists. (In this place, she had jewelry made from bits of ancient Roman glass and she had certificates that the glass was over 2000 years old.) Beyond the history, Akko has some other things going for it. There is some neat art being made here. (The David Miro gallery was amazing, although some of my excitement may be because it had so much shiny.) The circles in the newer part of town have art in them (similar to the way Karmiel did.) The walk by the beach was paved in an interesting design and there were some monuments along that way. The parks were small, but have natural beauty. For Americans looking for their last bit of Hostess, there is at least one vendor here who has some hohos left, but probably not for long. I was joking with him about how he could put them up on ebay and make a ton of money, and he was dead serious in saying that there were a lot of American tourist who were getting so excited to see them and were buying them up from him. On the food front, I was told that the best falafel in old town is Falafel Arafe, so I went there. They guy making it was so fast! He had his big bowl of dough and bam, bam, bam, the falafel was magically turned from a dough pile into individual falafels in the fryer. The guy who was making the sandwiches was just as fast. In just a few seconds, it went from a pile of freshly fried falafels to a stuffed pita with all the fixings. I should have gotten a video. The falafel was delicious, and I obviously wasn't the only person thinking so, because there were a bunch of locals greeting each other and eating from there as well. I'm glad I got there when I did though, as the other shops in town had started shutting down, and a few minutes later the falafel place was too. I don't know if everything closes early because it's Thursday, the last day of the workweek here, or if it's because all of the tour buses had left and so the streets were much quieter than they were during the day. In any case, I toured around the old city some more until it was getting dark, and then I headed back to the hotel.

Akko Church

Akko Church


Old City Akko

Old City Akko


Akko market

Akko market


Akko Old City

Akko Old City


Akko Old City Wall

Akko Old City Wall


Akko Moat

Akko Moat


Akko city street

Akko city street


Fisher in Akko

Fisher in Akko


Akko Mosque

Akko Mosque


Nahariya boardwalk area

Nahariya boardwalk area


Nahariya almost-empty boardwalk

Nahariya almost-empty boardwalk


Nahariya beachy street

Nahariya beachy street

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Friendly Karmiel

The drive from Tiberias to Tivon was very pretty. I don't know if it's because I miss the open highway as there none on St. Kitts, but the drive made me feel so alive!

Tivon is a very cute little town in the mountains. If you blink, you drive right past it (the way I did) and have to drive all the way down the mountain before turning around. The neighborhoods I drove through are cute, and there's a single “downtown” area with a few little shops. I didn't stay long or really explore, but I can at least say that the hot chocolate at Bruno's cafe is good. From Tivon, I headed to Karmiel. I had stopped in Karmiel once before to transfer buses, but I was groggy, half-asleep, and I really didn't remember it. Even the bus station in Karmiel is gorgeous. The architecture of the whole city is just amazing! So many of the buildings are new and funky. There are these apartments called the “Het buildings” that have part of the building suspended. There are all these adorable homes with balconies and gardens and fancy windows. I understand why- the views from here are amazing. I even saw a spot that you can see the Mediterranean from on a clear day. Beyond just the living areas and the shops, even the industrial sites had some cool buildings (in addition to the standard box factories). One site also had a bunch of flowers and what looked like olive trees. And <u>everywhere </u>there are statues. The city appears to be covered in art. Each traffic circle has something in it. Each park has something in it. Sometimes, there are just random pieces of art on the roadside. Between all of the cool “built” stuff, natural stuff, and the fact that the city is kept extremely clean, I have to say that it is one the most aesthetically pleasing cities I've ever been in. Beyond the architecture, the people were extremely nice as well. As an example, I walked into a store that looked like it sold USB cables (my phone was acting up and I needed a new one) and I ended up sitting and talking to the guys there for quite some time as if we were old friends. We talked about all sorts of things- including some things that you generally don't talk about with strangers in the states. But, we didn't feel like strangers. Another lady wanted to know if I'd be around for Shabbat and invited me into her home. Everybody was just soooo nice. It reminded me of all of the super-hospitable small towns in the US midwest (except that there was more diversity). I say “diversity” as it's meant in that there appeared to be people from all over the world and all sorts of backgrounds there, but also in the “different from me” sense in that there are a lot of new Russian immigrants. So many of the businesses have signs in Russian first and Hebrew second. (Ok, I'll buy that it's not that different from some of my Lithuanian or Ukrainian great-grandparents, but I most certainly do not speak a lick of Russian.) I get why the immigrants from colder places would prefer to live up in the mountains of the north compared to some of the hotter places south or at lower elevations. Don't get the wrong impression though- it's December, I'm used to tropical weather, and I was just fine in jeans a long-sleeve shirt and a sweater during the day. I only wanted a coat at night.

While supposedly “they” are talking about building a hotel in Karmiel (or so I'm told), there really isn't one there now, so I headed to Nahariya for the night. Nahariya is very much a beach town- it's a strip with a promenade and most shops right on the strip. It's also relatively dead on a winter evening.

The hotel was easy to find as it's on the main road towards the beach. It is such a cute hotel! The guy at the front desk was so nice- he came to the room to make sure everything worked (tv, minifridge, hot water, etc) and show me how to turn everything on. He gave me fresh flowers for the room and a cute little plate of cookies. The room itself was charming- the cute little table had a nice table cloth on it, the bedsheets were clean with a bright comforter, and the nightstand had a bright little lamp on it. There was even art on the wall! I don't know if they redid it recently or are really good at upkeep, but this place is very nice, albeit small. (Although it feels cozier rather than small everywhere except the bathroom, which just feels small. However, because of the bright shower curtain, the bathroom still felt bigger than the one yesterday.) the bathroom was mold-free. The only negative thing I can say is that the front desk is unmanned part of the time, but it's not a big deal as they leave you keys to the door and gate so you can get in and out whenever and there is no “curfew.” If I ever needed a hotel in Nahariya again, I wouldn't even bother looking elsewhere. I'd stay here again in an instant.

After getting checked in and settled, I headed out for dinner. There weren't a ton of choices, but there were some restaurants and cafes on the main drag. I ended up at ChinaBar/SushiBar, where I got the noodles recommended by the lady behind the counter. They were eh. They were pretty standard for generic Chinese takeout. I walked around a little more, but there didn't seem to be much to see in the dark, so I headed back to the hotel to sleep.

Karmiel Bus Station

Karmiel Bus Station


Roadside art in Karmiel

Roadside art in Karmiel


Cool architecture

Cool architecture


roadside art

roadside art


Hey buildings

Hey buildings


Statues in roundabout center

Statues in roundabout center


streets of Karmiel

streets of Karmiel


View towards Mediterranean

View towards Mediterranean


One industrial area

One industrial area


View of Karmiel

View of Karmiel


Motel Ha Ga'aton

Motel Ha Ga'aton


Tivon city center

Tivon city center

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Gorgeous, friendly Tiberias

In the morning, I got up, had breakfast, and went off to the local mall to square away my phone situation. Unfortunately, the Orange desk at the mall couldn't help me un-deactivate my sim and referred me to some other place 20 minutes away with no directions. Most of the other cellular stores (including the one I originally got the sim at) didn't have prepaid sims, and wouldn't give me a sim with any sort of plan without an Israeli ID, which I don't have. They kept referring me to another store until I finally found one that would sell me a new sim card and put some minutes and texts on it. I also picked up a paper road map so I could find my way around.

I headed to another cousin's house that was up past Nazareth. I had never been to Nazareth (and really, I still haven't as I'm not sure driving through counts.) However, from what I saw, it is a pretty city with very windy mountain roads and nice views.

My “quick visit” with the cousins turned into a longer stay as I was invited for “lunch.” This meal was not a noonish meal, but a meal for much later, when the kids came home from school. It was good, standard Israeli fare. After a nice chat there, I headed to Tiberias much later than I had originally wanted, but it was totally worth it.

Upon arrival in Tiberias, I drove around the city for a bit, just taking in the lovely views. One of the reasons I love Tiberias so much is that the Kinneret (Galilee) and mountains meet in such a majestic way. Several of the locals I spoke with said that one of their favorite things about living here is the Kinneret or the beauty, and they each had their own way of wording it. Beyond the natural beauty, the city has a lot of charm because it is very old. Even the modern apartments remind you a times past, both from their age and from the laundry hanging out to dry. I passed a cute little vegetable market that offered local fruits, veggies, meats, and fish out of little stands. In the states, it would be the hip little farmers' market filled with yuppies, but it seemed more like the market in St. Kitts where the everyday people go to get their food, which further added to the charm. Not all of the “old” is new-old either. A lot of the tourist sites are really ancient- graves of famous Rabbis, Crusade-era churches, Roman-era ruins. After my wandering, I checked into the Panorama Hotel, which I found by coincidence earlier as I was driving near the waterfront. The hotel is in a really fabulous location and some rooms have great views towards the Kineret, I suppose. My room has a view of the city, which is still pretty neat. The room is small with a very compact bathroom, but it was very clean- not a drop of mold anywhere. As I only really needed to sleep there, the smallness was fine by me. (It also had a TV and mini-fridge, for those reading who find that important.) The guy at the front desk was interesting. We had gotten to talking and when I asked about book-related activities he said, “you still read? Nobody reads anymore. All the information is on the TV.” He was pretty amazed at how “backwards” I was. (Despite those comments, there is at least one bookstore in Tiberias that I saw, and the lady there mentioned a couple of libraries, so I know it's not a view everybody here holds.) Fortunately, he also warned me about the rude guy at the restaurant next door. When I went out, the guy was very pushy and really wanted me to eat there, despite the fact that I wasn't nearly hungry yet. When I turned him down (politely) and kept walking, he definitely called me a bad name, which may have given me a bad view of locals if I hadn't been pre-warned that he was like that.

As some counter examples- everybody else I spoke with throughout the evening was extremely nice- I even got an invitation into a home on a future trip. Like midwest USA, many of the drivers were stopping for me to cross, even when I wasn't in a crosswalk and was waiting patiently or when they had the right-of way. (Not all of them were like that, so don't go running out in the street like you might in podunk USA.) The other people hawking food were friendly about it and most certainly didn't say anything bad when I declined. One local I spoke with even said that one of his favorite things about the city is the friendly people, which leads me to believe I'm not the only one who sees it. The meat restaurant guy seemed to be the exception to the rule, but there always is at least one.

Despite being dark out, there were tons of people out and about as this is a tourist town, and I was in the touristy part. Plus, it's Birthright season, so there were several swarms of college-aged young adults milling about. I wandered around that end of town, stopping to look at all of the old architecture. It's just blended into the city, which I think is so neat. You might be walking around a little shopping center and- BAM- right in the middle is an ancient stone building that was an important building 500+ years ago, just sitting there like another shop. Some of the ancient buildings have other uses today and house restaurants or other businesses. I just think that it's so cool that the history is right there and so easily accessible. By serendipity, I wandered past the town's art gallery, Amdur Fine Art, and popped in for a look. The pieces there were very cool- several of which were definitely my taste. It made me wish I had my home to put art in. My favorite was a HUGE painting that reminded me of nature and would have gone perfectly on the wall behind my couch, although it may have been bigger than my wall and not actually fit now that I think about it. There were also some with the shiny that reminds me of the stuff I LOVED when I saw at Kunst Haus in Vienna. Plus, it had some cool sculptures. It's definitely worth a look if you're in Tiberias. For dinner, I stopped on the Promenade at Coffee Bar Bolenat, which has a very cool-looking wooden counter. It reminds me of a fence made out of petrified forest wood or something. In any case, that was the coolest part. As they also had homemade pasta, I asked the waitress what her favorite was and what her favorite sauce was and ordered that (gnocchi with sweet potato sauce). It was good in concept. The gnocchi tasted right and had the right texture. However, the sweet potato “sauce” appeared to be creamed and mashed sweet potatoes. The flavor was nice, but it was unexpectedly gritty, there were skins in it, and not all of the sweet potato was mashed all the way, so there were chunks of it in addition to the gnocchi. While I most certainly will go home and try to make something similar because I really like the concept, it just wasn't well-executed here.

After dinner, I passed through the tourist markets selling toys, skirts, and souvenirs and went to the area of the waterfront where they have a light show every hour starting at 7:30. They use fountains to squirt up water either as a misty screen to project “movies” on. It was a cute show about the history of Tiberias and the music suited it well. It was a nice end to the day for me.

I really really really love Tiberias- everybody was so friendly, the city is very charming, the views are gorgeous. I think that this is a fabulous city. It's both great for a visit and, as I was told by several people from a restauranteur to the guy in the hotel lobby who invited me to play poker on my way in to bed, it's a great place to raise a family. Some day, I would love to have a little bed and breakfast here (or very close-even better would be someplace greener but nearby) overlooking the Galilee. I think it's my dream to someday be here (but not something I'm ready for now).

hills of Tiberias

hills of Tiberias


Cool-looking building

Cool-looking building


cute veggie market

cute veggie market


ancient city wall edging a parking lot

ancient city wall edging a parking lot


old synagogue

old synagogue


light show

light show


light show

light show


favorite at the gallery

favorite at the gallery

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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