Sunday, February 26, 2012

Galilee (northern Israel)

We spent a wonderful weekend in northern Israel (near the Lebanon border) with my friend, Miriam. First we took a public bus north. This was our first experience with public buses (we have always been with a tour group before). The bus was filled with soldiers going home for the weekend (Friday and Saturday), many of them with their rifles. Everyone was pleasant and the bus was comfortable.

My friend picked us up at the bus stop and took us on a tour of Rosh Pinah, a settlement founded many years ago. The northern part of Israel is very hilly. We could see Mount Hermon in the distance with snow on the top. It was a bit misty so I did not get a good photo.  We spent a little time hiking up hill in a pleasant area with a stream and olive trees (in photo above). Then onto Tzfat (Safed) which was the home centuries ago of the Jewish mystics.  We walked around and Miriam was a terrific tour guide.  She made a lovely Shabbat dinner at her house and we relaxed in the evening.

 Our tour the next day included two Crusader castles. The Montfort ruins were too much of a hike for me (I didn’t have hiking shoes with me) and we decided not to do that, just opted to take photos from the park.  Then we went onto the Yehiam National Park. That was more accessible and I took many pictures.  Joe loves forts and really enjoyed walking around and learning some of the history of the place. First photo below is Montfort, second one is Yehiam.

Finally we stopped for a late lunch in a Druze village and had Sambozek, a type of sandwich on pita bread. It was delicious.  Sunday is a regular work day, so Miriam dropped us off at the bus stop and we made our way back to Netanya. There is a definite advantage to having white hair here – a young woman soldier gave me her seat (the bus was full). A young man gave his seat to Joe. I think I like this senior status. J

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Near Jerusalem

Only time for a short post today. We went to an interesting army base near Jerusalem, unit #401, tank corps. The tanks are Merkava 4. We did get to look inside, it seems a bit claustrophobic to me.  4 men at a time. When they are in combat, they stay inside, no toilets. No thanks. We had a good tour and ate lunch with the soldiers.

Then we had a tour of Maale Adummin, a city near Jerusalem and near the border. It is built on hills and winds around them.  You can see some of the city in the photos.

We also stopped at the 9/11 memorial near Jerusalem and then at the Elvis Cafe before heading back to Netanya.  That's all I have time for now. Going into a lecture in a few minutes. This weekend we head to Tzfat (Safed) to visit a friend

More Photos

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hof HaCarmel

We had a rainy, windy, stormy weekend in Hof Hacarmel. On Friday artist Zvika Lazr  graciously picked us up at our hotel and drove us north to the Hof Hacarmel region, sister city to Manchester, NH. We had a full agenda despite the storm.
He dropped us off at Atlit, an immigrant detention camp when the British were in charge, before Israel became a state.  We learned about the immigrants who survived the holocaust, made it to Israel and then were thrust back into camps again. We had seen this camp in 2006 when we were in Israel in 2006, but this time we had a much more in-depth tour, with movies and a private guide. The camp has been preserved as a historic site and has a historic recreation of a ship (also with movies and mannequins) to give us an idea of how crowded it was on the ships that brought the immigrants there. I did not take pictures of the barracks and barbed wire fencing this time since I had taken those pictures in 2006. The boat was new to us.

Then artist  Ziva Kainer  picked us up and took us to Ein Hod, an artist colony nearby.  We walked past her burned out home (from the Carmel fires) and went to her rented studio for a good talk and cup of tea. She has been struggling and hopes to rebuild her home and studio. We had a short walk around the village and went into the Ein Hod gallery where we met other artists and saw their work. Picture below is artist Lezer Manole. 

Ziva showed us some of he  paintings that are in the gallery and we saw more at the next stop. (pictures below). She took us to meet David Berman, a member of Nir Etzion and he acted as our guide. We had a wet tour of the area around the hotel and I managed to get a few pictures in between the rain drops of the Arab village across the way and some of the artwork in the hotel, some of it Ziva’s. The hotel ( is quite luxurious and even has an indoor heated pool. They cater to a mostly religious (Jewish) clientele, but also host other guests. They were affected by the Carmel fire too, but the scenery is still very beautiful there. We had a tasty lunch in the dining room with David and Inbal Shahaf Gilad, our Sister City contact person, who did a great job making all these arrangements for us.

A fused glass artist, Bob Nechin ( (picture at top) picked us up and brought us back down the road to Ein Hod. We met his wife Sue, toured his studio, and rested a bit at their house before heading on to our host and hostess for the night, Naomi and Zev Verchovsky. Their house also burned during the Carmel fire, but not completely, and they have restored it enough to move back in. Naomi is a potter and lost some of her studio, but is back in a smaller space next to the house.  She also gives workshops.
Zev had a used book store which burned down and he lost most of his inventory and his shop. He has rented a shop and is cataloging what is left. He is using the internet now as well as his shop. We had a wonderful evening and they hosted a dinner with other artists as well. Zev is a blogger too.

The next morning we had a tour of the artist colony and learned a bit about its history. We stopped at Sernoff Frohlich, a fine art gallery and looked at husband and wife paintings, both representational and abstracts. Our tour guide was Dan Ben-Arye and we met his wife Lea as well. Dan is a sculptor and painter and gives tours of the village. Lea creates wearable art as well as jewelry. We saw ceramic work and paintings at  Magal Ein-Hod  (also  where four generations of artists have created unique and beautiful work. We walked around (by this time the rain had stopped, but it was still cold and windy. We checked out the Janco Dada Museum and the Nisco Museum (music boxes and mechanical music), but didn’t have time for a full tour of that one. There are links to all the artists in the colony at the main website for Ein Hod Hod (
We stopped briefly at Tzvika’s studio to arrange our ride back and saw some of his work as well. He is also a painter (was formerly a captain in the merchant marine) and works primarily in an abstract painting style. Everyone we met was gracious and warm. They all had interesting stories. It was sad to see the devastation from the forest fires, but things are growing again, the area is green and the flowers are starting to appear. Many of the trees had buds on them already. Spring will come to Israel soon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Our trip this week took us to Ramla, an ancient city that was once the capital of the region. Today it is a combination of ancient and modern, with people from all three major religions living together. The mayor greeted us and gave us an interesting talk and booklet about the city.  Again, I loved seeing the public art in many places. We met some students from America who were studying at a school (Kivunim) in Jerusalem, but were at the municipal offices to meet some of the students from Ramla on this day.

We stopped next at the pool of the Arches, one of the historic sites. These cisterns were created in the 700’s and there are Arabic inscriptions on the wall. This is also known as Saint Helena’s Pool.
Then we went onto the White Tower (I think this was buit in the 1300’s), but most of us did not climb up. The stairs were old, dark and did not look safe for seniors.  We had a good lecture and enjoyed looking at the ancient ruins on the site. Ramla was built on a plateau so the tower gave good visibility for the guards. It also was a walled city at one time.

Our next stop took us to a beautiful synagogue built by the Indians who came from Bombay (Mumbai) and other cities in India and Pakistan.  They are still collecting money for a lift (elevator), but the synagogue is complete. It was built over a bomb shelter as that was the land available to them.

Our last stop took us to a cement factory tour.  Most of the construction in Israel (and there is a lot of it, you can see cranes all over) is concrete and stone.  I found it interesting that the conveyer that carries the limestone from the quarry to the factory was built high enough so that small animals could walk underneath it.

More photos

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Miracle of birth at Kibbutz Eyal

Photo above is artwork done by a kibbutz member.

We had an extra trip this week, along the border which is very close to Netanya (about 10 miles). We stopped first at a memorial to those killed at a bus stop in 1995 by two suicide bombers. First one blew himself up, then the second waited for the first responders who came to help. When they got there the second one blew himself up. They killed 21 soldiers and 1 civilian who were waiting at the bus stop and injured many others. Very sad.

We had a wonderful tour of Kibbutz Eyal which is along the border. It is both an agricultural kibbutz and they also have a factory that is involved with lens crafting and semiconductors.  We learned about the kibbutz movement and the way the Israeli government works with them.  If they decide to change a crop, they have to get permission from the government (so there is not too much duplication from others). If they do not farm the land, it gets returned to the government.

While we were walking around, we came to the large open-air sheds for the cows. One cow was in the process of giving birth. We could see the feet of the calf already sticking out. We waited around and I sympathized with her cries, knowing she was probably in distress and pain.  We did get to see the full birth and I took a movie.  The calf born was female and we named her “Hadassah”.  Quite a miracle to watch.  We also viewed the milking stations. The teenagers start working (part time) at 13.  They wash the stations, the cows and milk the cows. They work two days a week, but the milking is done three times a day by other kibbutz members.

Along the way we saw both Israeli Arab villages and across the way Palestinian Arab villages. We stopped at a border crossing to watch the Palestinians who work in Israel head back to their homes.

We continued along the border to the home of one of our leaders at Kfar Yair and had a wonderful lunch and home hospitality. I agree with Joe who feels that this trip has shown us not only the tourist sites, but the land and its wonderful people. It has been a pleasure getting to know them.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Trip to north of Israel

We had an interesting lecture the other night on the prisons in Israel. They are managed quite differently from the ones in the U.S.  When someone is arrested, whether by the military or the police, they are given due process, but all the prisons are managed by one agency (IPS = Israel Prison Service a/k/a National Prison Authority). The police are to fight crime and the military are to defend the country. IPS manages the prisons so the others can do their jobs.  They take care of lock ups and escorts.  There are detention facilities for the prisoners held before their trials.  There are separate detention facilities for illegal immigrants. It might surprise some of you to know that illegal immigrants are trying to get into Israel despite its political problems with the countries outside it. It is still a better life than what they have in their own countries. (These are not Jewish people trying to get to Israel.)  There are separate security prisons and military prisons, also women’s prisons.  It was a good lecture.

Our most recent trip was to the north of Israel, green with mountains and valleys. We had a wonderful guide who explained everything as we went along, desalinization plants, water pumping stations, agriculture, electric production from coal and gas, etc. We stopped for some sheep that were on the road. The herders moved them with their vehicle along with a bit of help from a border collie.  Then we went to visit Emek Hashalom which has nature trails, olive and wine presses.  This is an interesting area for “integrated nature studies” – they explained that to mean that the facility and trails are set up for people with varying handicaps. The trails have stones on the side so that blind people don’t wander off them. The teachers explain the olive presses with picture boards for the autistic etc.  Everyone is included, no one is left behind.  This area is a controlled area (biosphere) and limited building is allowed. Mount Carmel is in the distance.

We planted trees in the Lavi Forest (Golani Brigade area). I planted a carob tree this time, last time (2006), I planted an almond tree. We had a quick falafel lunch along the way, then headed to the main attraction: Hula Agamon Lake  (Click on English on home page)

The Hula Valley is in the Syrian African rift valley, along the flight path of many migrating birds. In the 1930’s the land was cleared for agriculture and to rid the area of the malaria ridden swamps.  Drainage canals were dug. Unfortunately the end result was excessive drying out of some of the peat earth, causing some underground fires and pollution to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).  In the 1990’s, the JNF (Jewish National Fund) restored some of the area and it is now a beautiful nature park for many migratory birds. They are wintering here and then go back to Europe. They have worked with the farmers in the area so the birds do not destroy their crops.  We rode on a caravan pulled by a tractor and went into the midst of the common cranes. They have about 33,000 there and it was fascinating as well as very noisy! The cranes will head back to Europe in March. More photos

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Winter in Netanya - article by Joe

(Article written to Reporter, the Jewish newspaper of New Hampshire. Photo by Roslyn Garber)

Winter in Netanya, Israel

Part One

Winter in Netanya didn’t begin in 2011 when we made our reservations with Hadassah.  It actually began when we visited Israel in 2006, when we spent ten days there with the Manchester Jewish Federation’s mission trip.  Linda and I realized we wanted to spend more than ten days in Israel.  The challenge was how to accomplish this idea.

 At first we thought we would rent an apartment possibly in the Hof HaCarmel region.  Hof HaCarmel is our sister city region.  We hosted Ziva Kainer, an artist who visited New Hampshire in 2009 for a Shabbat dinner.  She told Linda that she was more than welcome to use her studio when we visited.  Unfortunately, the Hof HaCarmel region suffered a tragic fire and many people lost their homes and art studios along with all of their artwork.  Ziva was one of those individuals.

Serving as the treasurer of the Manchester Chapter of Hadassah for many years, Linda learned about Hadassah’s Winter in Netanya volunteer trip.  We reviewed the offerings of either a four or an eight week trip and decided on going for eight weeks.  We signed up in October of 2011.
The flights to Tel Aviv depart from Newark, New Jersey so you must arrange for additional transportation to Newark.  Hadassah’s travel agency did that for us and saved us two hundred dollars.  Our journey began on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  We will return on Monday, March 12th.

We are staying at the King Solomon hotel in Netanya for six weeks.   Then we will spend a week in Eilat in the south and finally the last week in Jerusalem.  Neither one of us had to cook for the entire trip which was a nice change.  We had an enjoyable room with a balcony facing the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya.

The volunteering portion of our trip had us spending two mornings a week at a boy’s boarding school which has 80% Ethiopian immigrants.  We worked with students on English communication skills during four sessions each visit.  The second portion of our volunteering was to spend two mornings with the students at Tchernikovsky High School.   Again we provided English communication skills for students who were fluent in Hebrew and in English.  Everyone of our group benefited a great deal by working with each one of these schools.  These are lifetime memories.  Based on the relationships developed with some of these students we know they benefited as well.

We must tell you that we are only two of the six members who are first timers on this trip.  Others have come back with the group many times. The group ranges in age from 59 to 89.

Every Tuesday we had a day trip visiting a site in Israel that continues to shed more light on the magnificence of this great country and its people.  To date we have visited parts of Jerusalem we were never in before including the Burma Road which saved the security of the state in the war of Independence.  We visited the city of Petach Tikvah which began in 1878 as an agricultural settlement and today is over 230,000 people.  The final part of last Tuesday’s trip took us to Hadassah Neurim.  It is a boarding and day school where Hadassah is a sponsoring partner.  It felt good to see how our contributions to Hadassah were working.  Tomorrow we are off to the Hula Valley to watch the bird migration that Gershon Peleg told us about last September.

Gershon took us to his kibbutz the first weekend we arrived and gave us the full tour of the fish processing operation and the lagoons which are netted to aid in keeping the migrating birds from eating the fish.  He provided lunch for us at the community center and we met his wife Rina who joined us.  Rina invited us back to their home for coffee, tea and cake before Gershon drove us back to Netanya.

If you would like to learn how to speak Hebrew there is a beginner’s level class and an advanced level class in the afternoons on the four days when we work in the schools.  Fridays and Saturdays are our own time to do as we wish.

As we write this article, it is February 7th and we visited the Hula Valley in northern Israel.  If you heard one of Gershon Peleg’s presentations last September you would have heard him mention the bird migrations in the Hula Valley.  Our trip ended today with a visit to the area of the valley where the birds migrate twice a year once in spring time and again in the fall.  We were hauled around in a long carriage with forty-eight seats pulled by a John Deere tractor.  The carriage held our group and others.  The driver drove us right into the swarms of birds congregated on the ground waiting while the feeder truck dropped food for them (corn).  There were thirty-three thousand birds in front of us.  Try and imagine looking at thirty-three thousand Euroasian Common Cranes with wing spans of 180-210 cms.  They are over a meter in height when fully grown and weigh 7-8 kilograms.  It was so amazing I had to call Gershon to thank him for his presentations as they made the day that much more meaningful.

We also need to mention that on the way north we visited an Ecological Farm called Emek HaShalom (Valley of Peace).  This farm which grows olives and oranges is the only handicapped visiting center for all types of handicaps and is fully accessible to everyone.  It was a heartwarming experience.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Petach Tikva

The week has flown by very quickly and we have become used to a regular routine. We are still tutoring 4 mornings a week, 2 mornings in a boys boarding school primarily made up of Ethiopian immigrants. Some are new immigrants who have only been in Israel a few months. They are learning both Hebrew and English for the first time and it is difficult for them.  The other school is a regular high school and those students have been learning English for several years. They consider it a very hard subject.

In the afternoons we have Hebrew ulpan. I go to both the beginner and intermediate classes.  Some of the language is coming back and I recognize some words. I consider this a very hard subject!

 Petach Tikva On Tuesday we went to Petach Tikva, another city in Israel. This one started as an agricultural settlement in the 1870’s when some people from Jerusalem bought swampy land from the Arabs who lived there (near the river Yarkon). They had to deal with malaria and other problems.  The city is quite interesting now and no longer farmland. We went to a cultural building for a film about the development, saw an original mud house that had been preserved (you can see these in my photos at this  link ), had wonderful falafel  downtown and went to a zoo and memorial for fallen soldiers. The mud house had an old printing press (no longer working), one of only two in the world from that time. It was used to print the logos for the paper that the oranges were wrapped in. We toured a beautiful old synagogue too.  I am continually impressed with all the wonderful public art in Israel, both statues and murals. I loved the zoo and recognized some of the birds there. Some I had only seen in pictures before. We also took a brief walk through a high tech park there before heading out to the next stop.

We finished the day with a tour of Hadassah Neurim. This is a boarding and day school. Hadassah supplies about 7.5% of its budget.  We enjoyed meeting the students and toured a “family” home there. Each home has about 10 students plus “parents” who live with them. They have very comfortable rooms and are much better than the dormitories I remember from the 60’s when I was at Boston University. We also saw the study center (library) where the students can get tutoring as well as books. It was good to see the positive things that our Hadassah dollars are used for. (I am the treasurer of my local chapter of Hadassah for those who don’t know me.)

We have been trying to walk every day and today went to the local mall. I thought it was a bit boring compared to the interesting shops along the streets.  Even Best Buy is here in Israel.  Today we have the day off to prepare for Shabbat and tomorrow we rest. Sunday is a regular work day again. Last evening we figured out how to hook my new computer up to a large screen TV and I learned how to put on the closed captions. We watched the movie “Sarah’s Key”.  I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the movie since I had read the book and it was a very good book, but the movie was good too.