March 22-23, 2017
Here we are in Newark Airport, amid piles of snow. We’re on our way to Israel, on El Al, the Israeli airline.
We amused ourselves watching the scenery below (mostly clouds and water) and checking out the outside air pressure and flying height on the screen – in English and Hebrew. And, of course, following our plane across the ocean and past cities we had only read about … Rome … Florence … Naples … Marseille … Milan … Zagreb. Zagreb? Tom has a chess set that came from there — cool.
Going through Customs & Passport Control …
The words in the white sign above (in Hebrew and Arabic) and below in Hebrew and English across the hallway are pronounced “Broochim Ha-Ba-Im” (the “ch” is the gutteral H). It means “Welcome” but it means more than that. It literally means “blessed are those who come.”
Notice the guy above with the black coat and large hat (walking away). He is not Amish; he is Hasidic. The style of hat indicates which group he belongs to.
The picture of the sinkswas taken during a visit to the airport restroom – very modern except for the notice on the wall (in Hebrew and English) that the water is not for drinking.
You may travel from one end of the world to the next …. but it seems you will always be within reach of a vending machine. Below the Coke machine is bragging that their bottles are half liters (bigger, better, more satisfying). Actually, it is not clear if they are dispensing cans or bottles since a giant can is on the machine face, but the ad has a bottle in the circle. I suppose I should have bought one (for investigative purposes of course) but I didn’t do it. Next time maybe.
Something Tom notices right away is the plethora of solar panels on roofs — solar heating is not new, however – at least not for water hearing; when I lived in Israel back in the 1970s we all had solar water heaters. It’s the norm over there, whether you live in a single family home or an apartment.
I have no idea what this is but the words on the decorated tower or panel say “Ha-Layla Ha-Zeh” which means “This Night.” That’s the name of a traditional song of the Passover holiday, but what is it doing there?
We saw lots of modern buildings, and lots of palm trees and orange trees along the roads (not just in orchards). Most apartments — whether old or new — have balconies.
We finally reach our hotel – the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv – very elegant and beautiful, and a short walk from the Trade Tower pictured below.
Part of the hotel lobby. Rather than checking in, however, er left all our luggage in the group reception area and got back on the bus for a tour. Yes — we’d been on an airplane since the night before and (being as how this was a “senior tour” and some of us were in our 7th and 8 decades) most of us were more ready for a nap than a tour … but back on the bus we went.
We saw more of Tel Aviv and stopped in Jaffa, called Yafo in Hebrew. According to tradition, it was named for Noah’s son, Yafet, who founded it after the flood. Archeological digs and written history has confirmed that this harbor has been in use since 7,500 BC; In 1440 BC, Pharoah Thutmose III bragged in a letter how his general conquered it by hiding Egyptian warriers in large baskets sent as a present to the city’s Canaanite governor (the original Trojan Horse?)
The tiny white dots in the pictures below are birds resting on the water during their spring migration. It was explained to us that millions of birds from hundreds of species pass through Israel twice a year, such that Israel is one of the best places in the world to witness and truly experience bird migration if you are a bird watcher. We could not get close-up pictures of these birds but there were obviously hundreds and hundreds of them. If you want more information about the migrating birds of Israel, see Birding Month By Month
Here is Natalie explaining the view we can see from Abrasha Park on Tel Jaffa.
In the park Tom is standing by a modern statue called the Gate of Faith. The huge pillars are each four meters high, topped by a mantle of equal size. The carvings represent God’s promise to our forefathers, with Abraham binding Isaac on one side, Jacob’s Ladder on the other, and Joshua conquering Jericho across the top.
Here are some views of the port, and Tel Aviv as seen from there.
That black thing in my ear above is not a hearing aid … well, actually, yes, I guess it was – it was a device to help us all hear our guide talking (when it worked).
Below is a musician near the beach.
There were also some reminders that much in Israel is a lot older than anything we are used to seeing in the States.
Below is the Aladin Restaurant in a 600-year-old building overlooking the water at Jaffa Port. It looks like an interesting place for lunch, and TripAdvisor ranks it #12 of 99 restaurants in Jaffa, but we didn’t go there, so I have no pictures of the inside.
As we walked about, Natalie showed us some excavations dating back to Roman and even Egyptian times.
These iron cannons are from when Napoleon conquered Jaffa in 1799. They were used by the Ottoman Empire (Turks) in the early 18th century to protect Jaffa from Bedouin raids by land and from pirate raids by sea. They used to stand on the city walls until those walls collapsed late in the 19th century.
The Mahmoudiya Mosque on Ruslan Street is the largest mosque in Jaffa-Tel Aviv. Its three courtyards and minaret (in the picture) were built during the 18th and 19th centuries while the area was under Ottoman rule.
Below is a short video where you can here the Call to Prayer of the mosque. There has been some recent controversy about limiting the volume of the loudspeakers employed, but we can hear it from quite a distance.
There is a public fountain located near to the wall of this mosque. As you can see in the two pictures below, the fountain walls are made of marble – these slabs were brought in from the ruined buildings of Caesarea and Ashkelon. One slab had been installed upside down and nobody noticed until recently that it contains an inscription referring to an unknown “magnificent mosque” of the 14th century. The mosque’s original location has not yet been determi
The Jaffa Clock Tower, built in 1903, stands at what used to be the northern entrance of the old wall around Jaffa. The wall itself was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries by different rulers until it was mostly destroyed by an earthquake in 1836.
Seven of these clock towers were built in Palestine during the Ottoman period, and six of them are still standing. They are part of more than a hundred clock towers built throughout the Ottoman Empire at that time to honor the Turkish Sultan Abd al-Hamid II on his 25th year of rule.
I have no idea what this building might be. Its address is 7 Ruslan Street in Jaffa, but the only sign on the wall that might identify it is in Arabic. And the sign in front is certainly nothing I recognize. But I really really liked the door.
We noticed that civilian license plates were yellow with black letters – and on the left side was a blue rectangle with the flag, the country abbreviation, and “Israel” written in both Hebrew and Arabic.
Well, okay, that’s good to know. Even better was that there was no smoke being emitted.
Finally, in the evening, most of us went to Maganda for dinner. It is a Kosher Yeminite restaurant I had run out of energy for pushing the camera button by then, but here is a picture from their website: They had an abundance of salads, and everything was delicious. Tom ran out of energy a bit before me, so he stayed behind at the hotel for a nap and I brought him a plate prepared by the restaurant.