Zichron Ya’acov-A town not typical of Israel…

When entering Zichron Ya’acov for the first time I was struck with how atypical the town appeared. We were greeted with the giant water tower (above) with the image of Baron Rothschild peering down on us as he is surrounded by bunches of wine grapes, a gentle hint of what waited ahead for us.

The main street named Rehov Hameyasdim (also known as Wines Way, is about four city blocks long. The popular area is closed off to traffic and is filled with shops selling all kinds of things including jewellery (sic), food, spices, bread, clothing, etc. many made by local artists.

There is also plenty of history to be found in Zichron Ya’acov. The original village was settled by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the man in the water tower.In 1883, Baron de Rothschild took over running the village and began planning to find the right agricultural crop to grow. Grape growing and wine making were found to be the most successful. Huge wine cellars were carved into the surrounding mountains and are still in use today by the Carmel Mizrachi winery. Which we did not visit and is another reason to return to the area.

The commercial area did not really excite us as it reminded in many ways of small towns back home on Long Island catering to tourists and shoppers alike. What we found most interesting was the part of Rehov Hameyasdim that reflected the long storied past of this community. Walking down the old part of the street we began to really see the history of this town.

We came across a winery located in a shed/garage behind a small house. The owner would not allow us to look at his wine making equipment. Not sure why but he didn’t.

A view of the winery...

There was an apparently abandoned synagogue…

Synagogue (or bathhouse)?

and abandoned residence dating back to 1833…

and even what is left of a small farm.

An old cemetery containing many of the graves of the original settlers in the area, as well as those who have recently died,  is located at the top of the street…

stones are placed on top of the gravesite by mourners visiting the grave...

Bet She’an National Park…

We visited Bet She’an, located in the northern Jordan Valley last week. When you first walk into the site you are immediately overwhelmed by the scope ans size of it. For sure, it was the largest historical ruins we have visited so far.

What I have come to realize is that here in Israel the history of this region dates back to over the “fifth millenium BC” and that civilization after civilization conquered and destroyed an area and re-built their own cities, many on top of former cities, villages and fortresses.

Natural disasters have also played a major part in the destruction In 749 AD, an earthquake hit  the region and devastated Bet She’an. Its evidence was prominent everywhere in the excavations.

During the Late Bronze Age (16th–12th centuries BCE), the Egyptians made Bet She’an the center of their rule over the area then known as  Canaan.

King David conquered Bet She’an and in King Solomon’s day it became part of an area encompassing the country’s northern valleys.
In the second half of the fourth century BC, at the time of Alexander the Great, Bet She’an was reestablished as a Greek polis, with all the trappings of Greek culture in the East: colonnaded streets, temples, theaters, markets, fountains and bathhouses. 

 

The Abbasid period saw a village established here. In the Middle Ages, settlement focused mainly on the rise to the south of the old city center, and the Crusaders built a fortress east of the destroyed amphitheater.

After the founding of the State of Israel, Bet She’an was reestablished and began to grow. The ruins, which are the pride of the city, have undergone major restoration and reconstruction, allowing special events and performances to take place in the ancient streets and theater. There is a lightshow presented daily but we did not stay to see it. It is now under control of the Israeli National Parks Authority.
 

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Jerusalem: The People…

Jerusalem…

Last Friday we spent the day in Jerusalem with Joy, one of Eileen’s friends, and her husband Shimone. We went to the Old City and walked through the Arab and Christian quarters. After that, and a short trip to the Mount of Olives, we went to the  Yahane Mehuda Market (shuk), which is a wonderful place.

I decided that for this day I would try and concentrate on the people who make this city so interesting.

Arab Quarter and Damascus Gate…

Christian Quarter…

 

 

Yehane Mehuda Shuk…





 

Yes, they threw a couple of weak punches...

 

Putting on (laying) tefillin.

 

Eilat-Israel’s southernmost city…

For Idan-"Dog in car window in Eilat...how could I not post this photo?"

Eilat…

Eileen and I recently flew down and spent three days in this resort city on the Red Sea. Eilat is Israel’s southernmost city. The  city is part of the Southern Negev Desert, located at the northern tip of the Red Sea on the  Gulf of Eilat (or Gulf of Aqaba). From our vantage point, sitting by the hotel’s second floor swimming pool, we could see Jordan and the port city of Aqaba to the east, Taba, Egypt to the south and Saudi Arabia in the distant hills in the southeast. Wow!

 

The hills of Jordan in the background

 

The city’s modern hotels,

Where we stayed. NOT!

beaches…

entertainment and nightlife…

desert landscapes…

beautiful vistas…

and shopping…

make it a popular destination for travelers within Israel and from abroad.

Eilat’s proximity to Jordan…

We did not have to leave the city proper to realize how close we were to the border with Jordan. While Israel and Jordan reamin on peaceful terms, there are signs everywhere showing how tenuous this relationship is.

Inactive (10 years ago) IDF (Israeli Defense Force) bunker...

Danger Mines!

No! I did not even try.

 

Border crossing.

Opportunity for grunge…

Walking along the beach we came upon this area. Seems like someone just decided to settle there and give me some terrific photo ops in the process.

 

 

Next blog: Bet She’an

Apollonia…a crusader fortress by the sea…

Apollonia National Historic Site…

Apollonia, was an ancient city and fortress located in  Israel, about 9 miles north of  Tel Aviv, and within the city limits of Herzlia where we now live. It is situated on a cliff above the Mediterranean Sea.  The city site, Tel Arsuf, was intensively excavated from 1994. In 2002 it became Apollonia National Park.

Eileen and I visited the site last week.

So far, here is what is known: the first settlement on the site dates to the 6th-5th Century BCE

Romans, Greeks, Muslims and Crusaders conquered and settled into the city over several centuries.

The crusaders used ‘ballistas’, that are catapaulted over the wall to fight any enemy that attacked the fortress.

Tha park like much of Israel is quite barren. This line of trees stood out.

 

Next blog: Eilat…

Tel Aviv-Bauhaus style and Independence Hall…


Tel Aviv-The Bauhaus (International) Style of Architecture…

In previous blogs, we highlighted several of the neighborhoods of Tel Aviv including Yaffo and Neve Tzedek. Last week we met Eileen’s friend Betty to walk around the center city to look at the architecture…primarily the Bauhaus style that predominates in Tel Aviv. Also known as the International Style,  Tel Aviv has the largest collection of buildings built in this style, anywhere in the world.

Bauhaus architecture began in Germany just prior to the Nazi’s taking over control of the government. When this happened, many of the architects move to Tel Aviv. It seems like you can’t go more than 1 or 2 blocks without seeing buildings built in this style.

 

What is Bauhaus Architecture?…

Bauhaus buildings are usuall cubic, they favor right angles (although some have round corners and balconies) and they have smooth facades.  Because this style of architecture was developed in Germany, it had to be adapted to meet the needs of a warmer climate. In Germany the windows were large. In Tel Aviv, windows were small and narrow so that the hot air could not easily enter the apartments.

There are over 1500 Bauhaus/International style buildings in Tel Aviv that are slated for renovation. Looking at some of the buildings already restored, one can only imagine how beautiful and modern the city must have looked in the 1930’s.

 

Inside an apartment…

Eileen struck up a conversation with a young couple who was moving out of an apartment. They said that they were moving and that we were welcome to look round at the empty apartment. They said the rent was going to be over $1,000.

I was particularly struck by the tile work in the bathroom. Yes, that is by design.

Independence Hall…

Along our route we happened to come upon Israel’s Indpendence Hall. It is a non-descript Bauhaus style building that we would ordinarily have passed if Betty hadn’t pointed out what it was.

On this site, sixty-six families gathered on April 11, 1909 to conduct a lottery for plots of land in a new Jewish neighborhood to grow and become the city of  Tel Aviv. The first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, made the proclamation of Independence at 4 pm on May 14, 1948 in the main hall. It is preserved today as it was in 1948.

Tel Aviv is a changing city, but it is doing it’s best to incorporate the old with the new.

Tel Aviv-The ‘White City’ is not as white as they say…

I changed my mind…

So, I was going to write today’s blog about the Bauhaus Movement in architecture, the predominant architectural style  found throughout all of Tel Aviv.  Hence (sic), the nickname The White City.   I was also going to write about our visit to Israel’s “Independence Hall”.

But, when I went over the images I shot that day, what struck me the most were the wonderful colors found in so many of them. Colors I didn’t realize I had found, but which obviously must have struck my eye while walking around Tel Aviv. They were found…

In the shuk (market)…

In shops…

In restaurants…

and On The Streets…

 

Next Blog: Tel Aviv-Independence and the Bauhaus Movement…

Part 2: Mt. Carmel: The site of the worst fire in modern Israel’s history…

The worst disaster…

On Dec, 2, 2010 Israel suffered the worst fire disaster in it’s history. Over 42 people were killed in the fire. Most of them were rescuers trapped in a bus heading to evacuate prisoners from the prison in that area. The fire broke out in a Pine and Cedar Forest on Mt. Carmel and quickly spread. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but a long drought had left unusually dry conditions in the Carmel Forest, so that the fire spread extremely quickly.

Burned bark on cedar tree

 

Mt. Carmel…

We drove up Mt. Carmel to observe the devastation. We were not alone. Others, cameras in hand, were there to record this horrible scene.

Mt Carmel forest fire

 

Kibbutz Beit Oren…

A kibbutz  is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today most of them have become privatized and act like a cooperative or community village.

Kibbutz Beit Oren was founded in 1939 by immigrants from Poland and Russia, part of the Hebrew Socialist Adolescence movement.

Prior to Israel’s indepedence, the kibbutz served the Haganah (the underground army of the Jewish settlers) as a Palmach (the elite fighting force in the Haganah) base for underground activities against the British. On  October 9, 1945, a Palmach unit set out from Beit Oren to free 208 illegal immigrants detained at the Atlit detainee camp.  After overcoming the guards, the freed immigrants were led past Beit Oren to Kibbutz Yagur where they were hidden from the British. The attack was the first anti-British action undertaken by the Palmach.

The fire…

By 2010, Beit Oren had about 200 members. On December 2, 2010, it suffered extensive damage. Parts of the kibbutz were destroyed by the fire, though the inhabitants had been evacuated to safety.

Desolation Row...

The woodworking shop…

I was shooting inside the remains of the woodworking shop where I met a gentleman who told me that he was the first child to be born on the kibbutz. He shared with me many stories about life in Beit Oren. The band saw (below) had been saved from another fire in 1951 and came through unscathed. It was working until the 2010 fire but is now destroyed.

 

Next-Tel Aviv and the Bauhaus movement…

We visit a “Detainee Camp” and the site of the worst fire in Israel’s history…

There is so much history in this tiny little country. Each day brings a new experience. Today was an emotional day for me. I am fully understanding the history of the modern State of Israel and realize how important it’s existence is.

I never knew that Jewish immigrants were sent to detainee camps at the time the land was under control by the British Mandate Authority. I cannot fathom how difficult it must have been for these “illegals” coming from the detention camps in Europe  to then wind up in detainee camps in Israel. Over 121,000 Jewish immigrants attempted to enter Israel. Most of them were sent to British detainee camps in Cyprus and Mauritius.

Atlit…

Atlit  is a coastal town located south of Haifa Israel. It was originally an outpost of the crusaders until it fell in 1291.The Crusaders built Chateau Pelerin,one of the largest citadels in the Holy Land. The ruins of the citadel are still visible but cannot be reached because it is now part of an Israeli Navy Commando base.

The Detainee Camp

The Atlit detainee camp was a detention camp established by the British at the end of the 1930s on Israel‘s northern coast 20 kilometers (12 mi) south of Haifa. The camp was established to prevent Jewish refugees, mainly Holocaust survivors, from entering then-Palestine. It was first closed in 1942 but was then re-opened in 1945. Today the camp is a museum.

The Disinfecting Barrack…

The new detainees were first brought into this barrack and separated men to the right women to the left. They were stripped naked and had their clothes put into the disinfecting vats.

All the detainees were sprayed with DDT to stop the spread of lice and other bugs and were taken to the showers.

Inside the barracks…

While shooting the images below Eileen met a woman who emigrated from Romania to Israel. She said that conditions then were much worse than depicted in the museum.

Lunch…

For lunch we went into the town of Atlit to a highly recommended seafood restaurant. We were not disappointed.

Our day’s journey continues in tomorrow’s blog…


We visit an Arab village in Israel…

NOT…

On Sunday we went to visit Eileen’s friend Kamal. He is also a nurse who worked with Eileen. He and his family live in the village of  Tira. It is an Israeli Arab village located near the border with the occupied territories. Kamal grew up in Tira and took us to several places he knew quite well.

In Israel, the Arabs and Jews live apart. While they work together they live, go to school and socialize separately. It’s clear that these villages get the ‘short end of the stick’ when it comes to receiving services. Streets are not paved…

 

 

 

 

 

 

no sewers and limited sanitation services. But Kamal says that it is a good place to live and raise a family and he’d want his children to live there as well. In fact, he has already purchased land for them so that at the appropriate time they will build a house on the land for their families to live in.

There are also signs that the village is on the upswing as more and more contemporary stores are moving into the downtown area.

 

 

Lunch…

For lunch we went to a traditional middle eastern restaurant. Kamal’s wife, also a nurse,  joined us before she had to return to work.

 

For starters we had the traditional salads and salads and salads…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The traditional breads that are eaten with middle eastern food are pita and lafah which is a middle eastern form of Taboon bread and is extremely popular in Israel. It is traditionally baked in a taboon oven. When the owner of the restaurant spotted my Canon 5D he came over and asked if I’d like to take a picture of their baking  lafah. This was the first of some interesting photo-ops today.

I don’t remember what we had for an entree, maybe because my photos didn’t come out! 😦

But we did finish up lunch with Arabic coffee, pudding and bacalava.

 

The Mosque…

There are two mosques located in Tira. I’m happy to say I did not get thrown out of either one of them.

In fact, Kamal was able to get special permission for me to briefly go into one of the mosques to take some photos.

 

Other points of interest…

Kamal then drove us around the village and it’s outskirts. We saw the remains of a British WWII gun turret that Kamal played in when he was a kid growing up in Tira.

Just a little different from MY play area when I grew up in Brooklyn.

 

We also could see in the distance the new Jewish settlements being built on or near the border…

 

and we went into one of the caves where many Arab families lived during Israel’s war of independence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Kamal and your family for your warm hospitality.

قد يكون السلام معكم!