Sunday, March 18, 2012

Winter in Netanya, Israel, Part Two

As we write this portion for the Reporter it feels like an oxymoron to write, winter in Netanya, because of how winter is in New Hampshire.  The second portion of our trip’s weather was mostly sunny and warm in the sixties and seventies.  On our own we visited artist friends in Ein Hod and another friend in Tzfat on weekends. We had a tour of Tzfat, Rosh Pinah, a Druze village and the roads close to the border with Lebanon. We enjoyed seeing the ruins of two crusader forts. With the group we toured an army base and the city of Maale Adummim on the border during the week.

After spending six weeks in Netanya volunteering four mornings a week helping students with their English communication skills, and afternoons taking Ulpan classes, we moved off to visit Eilat in the very southern tip of Israel. Eilat is normally a four hour ride south of Netanya.  However, we spent time at a war memorial in Dimona making the trip longer.

We arrived in Eilat in the late afternoon and stayed in a relatively new hotel named “Central Park Rimonim.”  While the three hotels we stayed in were good, it is always interesting to note how each one handles guests and dining.

The day following our visit to Eilat, Linda and I walked around the city to locate what kinds of things we would enjoy doing and seeing.  Linda had spent time in Eilat in 1963 working on a summer program as a teenager.  She actually spent six weeks that summer in Israel and she notes that there was no air conditioning then.

We booked a trip to the Marine Underwater Observatory which is a wonderful park for adults and children.  The observatory had a circular building which you could walk out to.  It was located some distance off the beach and when you went downstairs you were actually six meters underneath the surface of the water.  As you walk around the interior you are actually viewing many types of beautiful fish in their natural environment in the coral reefs.

There are numerous other exhibits you can visit as well as a movie theatre showing a film about whale sharks which has seats that move around giving you the rocking motion of a boat.

Our group was able to share in the sixty-third anniversary celebration of the freeing of the city of Eilat at Um Rash Rash from Arab hands.  It was a wonderful celebration with dancing, music and its own style of fireworks.

As a group we were able to have a private guided tour of the Eilat museum.  The curator personally gave us this tour and he was very passionate about the city and its development.  Next door to the museum is an art gallery which was displaying art with the theme for the year of the woman.

On March 6th, we boarded our bus for the trip to Jerusalem with one more kibbutz to visit along the way. The visit to Kibbutz Ketura taught us about mariculture and the importance of research and development in a desert environment.

We arrived in Jerusalem at the Prima Kings hotel just in time for dinner.  Linda and I were getting a little weary of those long drives even though we had comfortable buses to travel in. The Prima Kings is located in the center of Jerusalem and diagonally across from the Conservative Temple.  There is also a Chabad Center adjacent to the hotel and when we spoke with the Chabad rabbi he gave us his card to pass on to Rabbi Krinsky.  They know each other.

Wednesday March 7th, we toured both of Hadassah’s hospitals.  It was impressive to see firsthand what Hadassah has accomplished in its first one-hundred years of existence.  We saw the new tower which has fourteen floors above ground and five floors below ground.  We saw how the trauma centers and the below ground floors are constructed as bomb shelters due to the second intifada.   There is also a new mother and child care center.

During our tour of Hadassah’s first hospital in Jerusalem on Mt. Scopus, our tour guide, who is the executive deputy director, gave us a tour of the facility plus all of the historical facts about the hospital.  She explained why it was evacuated in the war of independence and how it reopened after the six day war. That hospital is now used as a rehabilitation center.

We celebrated Purim at the Conservative Temple across from the hotel.  The next day Linda and I toured the city on foot and found numerous celebrations along main streets for Purim.  Jerusalem seems to go all out for the holiday with musical events and its residents wearing costumes at all ages.

On Saturday morning the Conservative temple held a Shabbat service run completely by women.  Those who attended found it to be a warm and energizing service.

Linda and I walked to the Old City one more time before we departed.  The weather was fantastic all the while we were in Jerusalem and a great time to move around the city on foot.

Saturday evening Linda and I met with one of her cousins who resides here in the city.    It was good to see her cousin once more as it was six years since we saw her last.

It was Sunday and time to do some last minute touring, packing, shopping and a final farewell to our group over dinner before the flight home.  Linda went with a group to the Herzl Museum and cemetery in the morning and had the experience of riding on the new train.

This trip brought us closer to the land of Israel and its people.  Israel is definitely worth more than a 10 day tour and we are both happy to be retired now so we had the time to do the 8 weeks with this group.

(This article was written by Joe for the May issue of The Reporter, the monthly newspaper for the Jewish community in New Hampshire. I still  have more to post about Jerusalem and will do that soon. Part 1 is also on this blog, posted February 8th.)

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