Tour of Israel and Jordan

Mike and Judy Henderson
November 14-27, 2017

I'm going to leave this map up so that you can see where we are.

[After creating this page, I realized that I can only convey a portion of the experience of visiting Israel.  I have to limit how many pictures I put on the page (or you'd never read it:-) and there are sights, sounds, smells and interactions with local people that can never be conveyed in this medium .  I hope this taste will interest you in making a visit someday yourself.]

[Added note 12/14/2017]  One of the interesting things I learned about Israel is that 93% of the land is administered by the Israeli Land Administration.  Only about 7% is privately owned, about half by Jews and half by Arabs.  The non-private land can be leased for long terms, perhaps 99 years.  See this article about land in Israel.

11/15/2017 (Wednesday)  Today we go to Jaffa, which is fairly near the hotel.  On my first visit to Israel I walked to Jaffa from here, but we're older now and some people in the tour group may have mobility problems.

I didn't comment about the weather yesterday, but I think we chose a good time to come to Israel - the temperature is pretty moderate, in the 70's right now.  It can get VERY hot in Israel in the summer so that's not a good time to visit.  Later in the year, I understand that they have a rainy season but right now no rain is predicted.

We started the day at 9am with a group meeting in the hotel.  Mark gave us an introduction to the day's activities and covered administrative details.  Here's the group in the conference room.  You can see Jacki in the back, waving.

We were introduced to Or Rein, our tour guide for the day's activities.

After the meeting, we boarded the bus to Jaffa.  While Jaffa is ancient, perhaps 4,000 years old and reputed to be the first port city, there's not a whole lot there.

Here we are in Jaffa, with Or getting everyone connected with the wireless earphone system.  It doesn't work well for people with over-the-ear hearing aids.  I hope some day the tour groups get earpieces that work with hearing aids.  After all, most of their clients are older and many wear hearing aids.

St. Peter's Church, a Franciscan church, was very close to where the bus dropped us off in Jaffa, and we took a quick look inside.  Front view.

We didn't want to interrupt the service.

As we walked to our next stop on a hill in Jaffa, I was able to get this picture of the church.

From the hill in Jaffa, you can get a good view of Tel Aviv.

We continued into Jaffa and walked through part of the bazaar.  The pictures I'm posting here don't come close to showing the size of the bazaar area.  It's really huge.  This area was "garage sale" stuff.

But there were MANY alleys like this with established shops in them.

We got back on the bus for a short ride to the edge of Tel Aviv.  Between Tel Aviv and Jaffa is a park, including this dog park.  Apparently, lots of people have pets, especially dogs, in Israel.  Israel is a very dog friendly country - dogs are welcome in most restaurants and many stores.

It's important to recognize that at the time of partition (1948), Jaffa was predominantly Arab, while Tel Aviv was Jewish (in fact, Tel Aviv was founded by Jews in the modern time).  The first Israeli-Arab war war started on May 15, 1948, the day after the Jewish Agency declared the foundation of the state of Israel, and the day of the expiration of the British mandate in Palestine.  This area between Jaffa and Tel Aviv became a front line in the war.

Not too far from the dog park was our restaurant for today, Dallal.  It turned out to be an excellent restaurant.

Here's most of the tour group in Dallal.

There was lots of good food, served in many courses.  The cheesecake for dessert was especially delicious.

 Steve and Carolyn, of the tour, are in front of the restaurant, after lunch.

We boarded the bus and headed further into Tel Aviv, specifically Rothschild Boulevard to see examples of Bauhaus style buildings.  After about 1930, when the dangers of Nazi Germany became apparent, Jewish architects emigrated to the British Mandate area in Palestine and began building structures that were a departure from the common architecture of the time.  The buildings were basically flat in front with asymmetrical placement of building elements, such as windows, balconies and doors.

Many were built along Rothschild Boulevard and are referred to as the "White City".  Here are a few of the buildings.  For more information on Bauhaus and the Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv, follow the links.

This building is Independence Hall, where Israel's Declaration of Independence was signed.  It has been renovated inside and will have an exterior renovation soon.

Not far from Independence Hall is the Founder's Monument which lists the people who are considered to have founded Tel Aviv


We joined the bus and went to the Rabin Memorial where Rabin was assassinated at the Tel Aviv City Hall. 

These brass plates mark where Rabin and his staff were standing when the assassin shot him.

This is a memorial that attempts to represent the "political earthquake" that occurred in Israeli society upon the death of Rabin.

We then boarded the bus and returned to the hotel, where Judy and I took a nap.  That evening, we went to dinner with our friends at Bellini, an Italian restaurant not far from the hotel.

11/16/2017 (Thursday)  We were up early this morning for our 9am departure to Caesarea and Haifa.  The hotel staff took our bags down to the bus and they were placed aboard the bus.

Zivit Sari, our tour guide for the next portion of our trip was introduced to us.

We headed up the coast road to Caesarea Maritima, the archeological site of the ancient port of Caeserea.  Here's an aerial view of the site.  The black arrow points to the theater, the yellow arrow to the aqueduct, and the red arrow to the hippodrome.  These were the major sites we visited.  It was built about 22-10 BCE by Herod the Great.

We began our visit with a video that described the history of Caesarea Maritima.  I won't give the details here, but check the link above.

Then we went to the theatre, where Zivit described how it was used.  This picture was taken after we moved away from the theatre so that I could get it all into a shot.  Note that the theatre has been rebuilt - this was not the condition it was found in after hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years.

Next, we worked our way to King Herod's palace where there was a stone (replica) with the name Pontius Pilate.  This stone is important because it is perhaps the only physical record of a person named in the bible.

From the site of Herod's palace we could see a power generation station.  Zivit explained that almost all of the power generated in Israel is from coal fired plants.  This generating station has a dock (far right in the picture) for the coal ships to dock at and deliver their coal.  I was surprised that coal was being used essentially exclusively, although I understand that new plants will be natural gas.  Solar is apparently not used a great deal, except to heat water.

Next, we walked to the hippodrome.  This picture is a panoramic view so it distorts the perspective.  You can see how it's really laid out on the aerial shot, above.

The chariots would start at the far right, then circle the center area seven times.  It wasn't clear exactly where the finish line was, but I expect it would be right in front of the stands. 

The belief is that combat was also held in this arena between Jewish gladiators, and later between a Jewish gladiator and various animals.  However, the arrangement of the stands did not lend itself to Jew-animal combat because of the danger to the spectators.  Later amphitheaters were built with higher stands to prevent hungry animals from jumping up into the spectator areas.  

We continued walking through the excavation area. The number of mosaic floors was impressive, and so many have been discovered that some were re-covered by a layer of sand to protect them.  

Much later in the history of Caesarea, during the time of the Crusades (about 1100 to 1200), the crusaders took over Caesarea and fortified it with a wall and a moat.  Here are some of the remains.

We had lunch at this restaurant on the site, overlooking the sea.

It was the typical Israeli lunch of many meze.  We've begun to learn how to pace ourselves on all these food courses.

We then went to the aqueduct.  Roman aqueducts required amazing calculation to accurately carry the proper grade so that the water would flow properly and not have any pooling along the way.

Here's a wind-blown Judy at the aqueduct.

Then we bused to Haifa, the second most populous city in Israel and a major port.  Israel is very small so it doesn't take very long to get between major cities.  We're going to the Bahá'i Center in Haifa, the second most holy site in Bahá'i.

We began at the top of the Bahá'i garden, which is located on the side of a fairly steep hillside.  From the top, we had a good view of Haifa, including the jetties of the port.  There are two cruise ships in the port.  Can you see them?

Here's a plaque that does a pretty good job of explaining the Bahá'i Garden.  Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last messenger of God and that he brought the true message and faith to the world, and, because of that, there will be no more messengers of God.  Therefore, the Bahá'i belief that the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh were messengers of  God is considered blasphemy in Islam and the Bahá'i believers in many Muslim countries are persecuted - especially in Iran.

Here's a view of the Bahá'i Garden from the top.  There are about 700 steps down to the golden dome tomb.  This picture doesn't really show how the land drops off so I'll do a second picture that shows it better.  The golden dome tomb building is pretty far down, and it is only the half-way point.  Visitors must exit there, though. 

I'm jumping ahead, but here's a view from the bottom which shows how steep the hillside is.  The previous picture was taken from the top of the hill.

But to go back, here's some of the group going down the 700 stair steps.  

Here's Thomas and Phoebe from the tour.

From the stairs, we got a good look at the houses of Haifa.  Look at all those white "dots" on the top of those houses and apartment buildings.  Those are hot water tanks.  Associated with those tanks are solar water heaters.  Israel has lots of solar hot water units, but I didn't see a single solar electric panel.  Integrating solar electric into the electric distribution system has it's issues, but with the amount of sunlight in Israel they really should encourage solar electric installation.  Germany, which gets a lot less sunlight because of the higher latitude, has a tremendous amount of solar electric installed.  And Germany gets snow which blocks the sunlight from reaching the solar panel. 

However, I assume that most water heaters in Israel are electric (since natural gas is not plentiful) so having a solar water heater is saving electricity and may be more efficient than converting sunlight to electricity (maybe 25% efficient) and then using the electricity to heat the water (close to 100% efficient).  I have no idea what the efficiency is of using sunlight to directly heat water.

One other observation about saving electricity is that I did not notice any traffic lights in Israel that were LEDs - they all seem to be incandescent.  Where we live, in southern California, they've changed essentially all the traffic lights to LEDs and the reports are that it saves the local government a lot of money in electricity costs.

We all made it down the 700 steps to the area of the golden dome tomb facility.  Here's a better view of that building.

The bus picked us up at the exit, and we went to the Stella Maris Monastery where there's a small church built around a grotto that is reputed to be where the prophet Elijah lived.

Here's a view of the alter built over the grotto.

And a closer view of the grotto with a supplicant praying at the small alter there.

We then went to the Dan Carmel hotel to check in.  It's a nice hotel but has very slow Internet access - almost unusable.  At 6pm, there was a group of four people representing four of the five religions in Haifa.  The religions represented were, from left to right, Arab Christian, Judaism, Bahá'i, and Islam. Missing was a representative of the Druze.

Mostly, they talked about how the religions got along in Haifa.  The elephant in the room is that Israel is a Jewish state, not a secular state like the United States.  While non-Jewish people can hold Israeli citizenship, they will never have the same opportunities and status as Jewish citizens in Israel.

After the panel discussion, we had a buffet dinner and collapsed into bed. It was a very full day.


Our adventure continues here