Posts Tagged With: IDF

Romans and Roaming Camels

Jan 7 2009
Wake up was at 6:15am. It was awful! I went back to bed. I timed it close and ate my breakfast in the room. I only went downstairs for a glass of water. I dropped my bag off in the lobby and we all waited outside the hotel a while. We found out that something was wrong with our bus. We said bye to Hilla and took some pictures with her. I wish she could have stayed longer so I could have gotten to know her better. I went back to our room one more time to make sure we had everything and then I handed our key in.

We found out that we were going to be delayed in Tiberias for awhile because of the bus situation. Shabat had us walk back in to the hotel and use the 2nd floor bridge to cross over to the area by the water. We sat on the rocks as Shabat talked to use about the Sea of Galilee. After a while Anna took out her banjo and started playing and singing. When I was looking around I noticed a sign that said “Go in Peace” and next to it were our two armed guards. Nice contrast. I wasn’t really paying attention to the other members in our group, but all of a sudden I saw Sarit was bent over with her hands on her face. Then she started crying. Anna screamed for Lior, but he didn’t hear her. I screamed for him as well and he finally looked up. It turns out Sarit got hit in the face with a rock. Staci, Lior, Keren, and Guy took her to the hotel.

Not too long after that Shabat told us the bus was fixed and it was time to leave. Ali and I ran to the bus and threw our stuff in. We also reserved seats. We ran to the 2nd floor to use the restroom before our long ride. It took awhile to load the bus and other people had the same restroom idea. Plus others went to the “restaurant” in the hotel to get some eggs to snack on. I was upset we got up at the crack of dawn only to leave at 11:30am. I could have slept another 3 hours.

I enjoyed looking at Tiberias as we left. It made me wish that we could have had more of an opportunity to walk around.

We drove for a bit and then came to a pit stop. Shabat gave us no warning as to what we were about to see. The sign said Bet Shean National Park. Once we got through the gates I was amazed at what I was seeing. It was like stepping back in time and it reminded me of my trip to Athens. Needless to say I was on cloud 9! I noticed an awesome gift shop, but I had a feeling Shabat wouldn’t let us stop there.

As we followed Shabat all I saw were rows of columns. We finally turned a corner and entered into an intact amphitheater. It honestly took my breath away. It was 10 times better than the one I saw in Athens. How did I not know this place existed? Shabat had us sit in the theater and took out his map. He draped it across Anna’s head and body, which was hilarious. He explained that the Romans had left this place after they had taken over Judea. So it wasn’t Greek, but then again the Romans stole their architecture from the Greeks, so of course it looked extremely similar. Shabat gave us a history lesson and I had to jump in at a point. How could I resist not talking about the ancient civilizations? We then forced Julie to go down to the stage and test the acoustics. They worked!!!

Then we walked around the rest of the ruins, which was mainly bath houses and columns. Then Shabat said we had a couple of minutes to use the restrooms before getting back on the bus. My plan was to use the restroom and shop in the amount of time given. So I ran to the restrooms and was first. Then I went straight into the gift shop. It was so big and there was so much to see. I wound up buying a mini replica of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some pens, and some postcards. While I was paying Shabat walked in to rush us to the bus. We got back on our bus and continued our drive to the Bedouin area.

Then we started Bus 804 Karaoke. It was very entertaining. Dror and Roi sang a lot. Then it switched to funny jokes. Ricky told a great one and Lior did as well. I don’t remember the whole thing, but it had something to do with stepping on bunnies, being ugly, and being chained to someone. Shabat told a sexual joke, which surprised a lot of people. He even had this guy sitting on a toilet picture and you had to use your fingers to make him a butt. Then he talked to us about the Judea Desert and the Dead Sea Scrolls. I took a lot of desert shots as we drove.

We stopped for lunch at Beit Haarava, which is the lowest place in the world. It’s 394 meters below sea level. The two options for lunch didn’t look very good or very clean. They were fast foody. Jen didn’t want to buy anything, but Lior convinced her to buy a falafel. I ate my own food and took a bite of Jen’s when she didn’t want anymore. I had promised my NYC falafel guy that I would try some in Israel and compare. The Israeli guys in NYC have better. I liked watching the strange contrasts as we sat there. There were camels, our big tour bus, and a military vehicle.

We got back on our bus and continued our drive. We had to stop at a military/police checkpoint. We drove through lots of desert before we spotted a group of trees in the distance. The trees were where our Bedouin tents were. I was excited and nervous. We really were in the middle of nowhere.

We got our day packs off the bus and went into the giant tent we were directed towards. It was extremely hard to get into the tent. You had to lift this heavy carpet material off the ground and then scoot in under it. For tall people this was a problem especially with having a bag. I placed my stuff near one of the metal poles.

Then we were given an opportunity to shop at the little Bedouin store. A lot of the girls bought hand knit scarves. Ben bought a shirt/jacket/hoodie thing that officially made him look like Moses. I bought a bag for Gayla. We dropped off our purchases and then went to the camel area.

There weren’t enough camels for everyone. So a little less than half the group could ride into the desert on a camel. The rest would have to be on donkeys. I didn’t want to ride on a donkey so I walked along with a couple of others. I’m glad I didn’t choose a donkey because they were low to the ground so the feet of the people riding them hit a lot of rocks and donkey poop. We got halfway into the desert and it was time to switch. I walked over to the 1st camel and waited for a partner. Ricky joined me. I was in the front of the camel and Ricky was in the back. It was a lot of fun!! Who would have ever thought that I would be riding a camel through the desert as the sun was setting?! The camels had extreme personalities. They made this loud screaming kind of noise and one even tried to eat Jordi’s hair.

After the camels we went to a tent all the way in the back of the village. They made the vegetarians and the meat eaters divide up. I was of course in the veggie group. They gave us this huge elevated tray for our group. It contained rice, bread, water, and vegetable skewers. I stuck to bread, rice, and the water. I had some cookies that I brought for dessert and I gave some to Anna as well.

After that we went into the main tent to listen to some music. It was a lot of fun and very entertaining. It was called a drum circle and pretty much was one big exotic jam session.

After the drum circle we went back to our sleeping tent. The Israelis were in a group talking. They all had dark sunglasses on. We knew something was up. Then they yelled at us to stand in straight lines in rows. They taught us how to salute properly and how to respond to commands/orders. Anyone who laughed or messed up had to do push-up’s. They were showing us what it was like to be in the IDF.

Afterwards we went for a walk in the desert. We sat and laid back in the sand while looking up at the sky. We talked for a while. When we went back to the tents a couple of us hung out at the bonfire outside our tent. I stayed only for a little bit. I preferred to get some sleep.

I waited on a long line for the bathroom area to change and wash. Then I went to bed. There were only a couple of us that chose to go to bed “early.” I slept on the mat and blanket they gave us. I used my coat and scarf for a pillow. Surprisingly, I slept.

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Categories: Asia, Food, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Jerusalem

Jan 4 2009
One of the cell phone alarms went off at 6:15am. I let the other girls sleep until the 6:30am wake up call. We went to breakfast, which was yummy. I ate my bagel from last night and a lot of cake. I packed up croissants and cake for lunch. We then got on the bus for our ride into the heart of Jerusalem.

We stopped at the Haas Promenade where we listened to music, drank grape juice, ate challah, danced, took pictures, and listened to Shabat lecture. It was beautiful to see the Dome of the Rock in the distance. I was so glad to finally see it. The grape juice was really good and the challah was the best I have ever had. There was no bathroom so I was mindful of how much I ate and drank. I really enjoyed watching everyone dancing and the Israeli music was great. Shabat started to lecture us about the City of David. Staci stopped him to remind him that we had soldiers waiting for us. Shabat brushed her off and continued talking. There was a stray cat walking around that freaked Collin out. One thing I liked was that Leo called the cat over to him and was petting him. It was a strange contrast the gun and the petting of the cat. While we were at the promenade there was thick black smoke in the distance. It was scary and reminded us that they were in the middle of a war.

We then got back on the bus to head to the Old City. The Old City was interesting, but we went through it very fast. The buildings were amazing to look at. It really transports you back in time. We saw the room where the last supper took place. I honestly didn’t know it was located there. It was not how I imagined it. The room was empty, plain, and boring. If Shabat hadn’t told us that was the room I would not have been able to guess it. Shabat took us through a maze of side streets and then stopped us to tell us about the Kotel (Western Wall). Then we were able to take some pictures of the Kotel and the Dome of the Rock from a place adjacent to the wall.

We then went down to the Kotel. I was shocked that the men had so much more room than the women. There were barely any men there, but there were tons of women. There wasn’t any room to put our notes in the cracks of the wall. All the cracks were full. I touched the wall, but sadly did not feel a connection to it. A lot of the people took out their phones to call home and have their family members pray at the wall through the phone. I did the same thing and my mom answered the phone.

After we left the wall we all joined in a circle to talk about it, but a guard came over because we were all holding hands. Male and female students shouldn’t be touching. Most of us were disappointed by the wall. We then were given some time to eat lunch.

I chose to shop instead of eat lunch. I quickly shoved my breakfast leftovers in my mouth and started to wander in and out of the stores. In the 1st store I bought a Kippuh for my dad. I also bought bracelets for my mom and I. I also bought a charm for my grandma’s necklace. I went to another store where I bought some postcards and a pen. In the last store I got some more postcards and some keychains.

After we went shopping we went back to the bus to meet our soldiers. 4 of the soldiers were male and 3 were female. They were all in their uniforms. They were given role call #’s. The male soldiers are Roi, Idan, Guy, and Dror. The female soldiers are Karen, Sarit, and Hilla. All but Roi sat in the back of the bus. Roi told us that he teaches rookies and has about 3 months left in the army.

We then went to the military cemetery. The graves are different from what we are used to. They are all above ground and they are all the same. Shabat told us stories about some of the soldiers that had died. Roi told us about a soldier who jumped on a grenade to save everyone else. We also saw them starting to prepare the graves for the soldiers who had died in Gaza the night before. That was really emotional for me. Then we learned about some of the soldiers who were captured and mutilated. Shabat showed us pictures of other soldiers going through the sand looking for body parts to bury. That was so moving.

We got back on the bus and started our 2 hour drive to Tiberias. I fell asleep for a little bit. I woke up right before we got to a security check point. A man got on our bus with a gun at the check point, which was scary. I’m glad I woke up before he got on the bus.
Our hotel was Moriah Gardens and our room was 1206, which was another corner room. I was happy about that. I was also happy that we were on the 4th floor so we could walk if we wanted to. I was done with 16 flights of stairs or forever elevator rides. The room had a mini fridge, which I was thrilled about. I could finally have cold water and juice! The only problem was that there was one bed for 3 girls. I would need a bed. The door to our bathroom was broken, but the shower didn’t flood.

At dinner I found out our room was the only room not to have an extra bed, cot, or sleeper sofa. The dinner was disgusting!!!!! The rice was cold, the potatoes were spicy, the bread was hard as a rock, there was no dessert, and the carrots were nasty. I went back to the room and ate some of the cereal I packed. The tap water wasn’t bad. It tasted less salty than the bottled water and the tap water in Jerusalem.

We broke off into two groups to have a discussion about faith. All the soldiers aren’t religious except for Hilla. Guy’s comment about the Israeli Army protecting any Jew anywhere really struck me. The soldiers seemed upset that American Jews don’t give them more help. They were also very shocked to hear our stories about what it is like to be a Jew in America. They’ve never been in the minority. Then we played some games in the basement of the hotel.
Then Ricky, Kevin, Alan, and I continued the faith discussion in my room. It was nice to have an intellectual conversation. Then we went to hang out in Jacob’s room. Julie, Lindsey, Jordi, Jen, and Jacob were already in there. Marc, Leo, Rachel, Roi, and Josh floated in and out. We watched football, listened to music, and gossiped. Then Deb came and told us that she had an extra bed. I wanted it! I gathered the whole crew and we went to Deb’s room at the other end of the hall. Alan orchestrated the movement of the mattress, frame, and bedding down the hall. All the guys and I had the frame. A couple people had the mattress and someone else had the bedding. It was a team effort and it was a lot of fun. I wound up going to bed around 2am. However, most of our tour mates were drunk and passed out much later.

Categories: Asia, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Postcards from Israel

Here are my postcards from Israel. This should be all of them. If I find more I will add them to the set on flickr. To view the set click here. To view the slideshow on flickr click here.

Categories: Asia, Israel, Postcards | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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