(Yes, I’m copying the organizational prowess of one of my favorite sports writers)
Oh, and HERE ARE THE PICTURES)
I’m going to start with the somewhat boring details of my trip (I did this, we went here), then move onto more interesting topics
First, here’s a picture of our itinerary. Only 1 time did we stay in the same place 2 nights in a row, and that day, we took trips out of town, so it wasn’t like we sat and relaxed.
(Click the picture to enlarge)
Saturday (Day 1):
Ok, so we landed around 3pm, drove up to my aunt and uncle’s kibbutz, passing the largest yellow cheese factory in the Middle East on the way (LYCFITME). It was just how I remembered, it except for the new addition to the house, and the cars everywhere (driving on golf cart sized roads). Anyway, it still smelled like cow dung, and that’s what I really remembered. Rested, talked, ate, and went Afula for an hour or two to shop a little and get hot chocolates, passing the LYCFITME in both directions.
Sunday (Day 2):
In the morning we left for Haifa, and stopped on the top of the Gilboa on the way there. This “mountain range” separates the north part of the west bank with Israel and the Jordan valley. More specifically, it separates the kibbutz from Jenin.
In Haifa, we met up with my Saba (grandfather) and his girlfriend of 19 years. We drove down to Bat Galim, on the Mediterranean, which is where my father was born and lived until he was 8. We took the necessary “3 generation” picture, had a huge lunch down there at Yotvota and after walking a bit on the waterfront to my dad’s old house where we took the necessary picture, “Here’s me in front of the old house,” picture.
We took a cab back to the Hotel where we napped for at least 2 hours. From there we walked down to my grandfathers for dinner while I feared for what I was going to force myself to eat out of courtesy. To my surprise, the soup wasn’t terrible; there was no liver, or raisins or frog feet. The meat and potatoes were average and though the fact that I took seconds on went unnoticed, the fact that I didn’t ask for seconds on soup, or the strawberries covered in whipped cream dessert, was a personal tragedy to the chef. All in all: not a bad dinner. We sat and talked until 9:30 or 10 and then walked home.
Monday (Day 3):
Saba met us for breakfast at the Nof and then we headed down to the train station. Took my first train in Israel in 8 or 9 or 10 trips, and I must say, it was a wonderful way to travel. When we arrived in Tel Aviv, we walked a couple miles to our hotel, dropped our stuff off, and headed to the waterfront promenade. The promenade stretches from the north end of Tel Aviv, all the way to Yafo now, and we took it south, into Yafo, where I likely hadn’t been in 20 years (if ever). In Yafo, we saw some old stuff from 3200 years ago, and some cats (see the video below).
After searching unsuccessfully for falafel, we settled on shwarma and started the 4+ mile walk back to our hotel, stopping in the Carmel market. After our obligatory nap, we walked to dinner at Odeon to meet Anati, Shoshi, Chaya, Hadar, and the twins. We waited almost 1.5 hours for our meal and met Edan Reichal, a “famous” singer during our wait. We walked over 22,000 steps on Monday.
Tuesday (Day 4):
Lori got a ride up from Beer Sheva and met us in the morning before breakfast just to spend a few hours. We walked to Itzak Rabin square, through a park, and down to the north end of the promenade, where we were meeting our California cousins and my grandfather’s girlfriend’s daughter and grandson. 12 of us had lunch at Max Brenner, just sitting and enjoying the company for 2+ hours. Of course, I hung out w/the kids, Adam and Eden, who are really cute and really fun and I’d totally fly to California to babysit. Here’s a video of Eden I took.
We all walked on the pier for another hour or so before everyone split and we met Eli back at the hotel for the drive back to the Kibbutz passing the LYCFITME on the way. We picked up one of Uncle Eli’s friends and we went to a Bet She’an supermarket to buy $200 worth of Passover food (probably) and then give it to the girl standing outside the market for poor people. How nice.
For dinner, we went to the famous Gibloa restaurant, which likely has a real name, but that’s what we call it. On the way there and back, we passed the LYCFITME. Then I got a text message from Pink, over IM, and realized that for some reason, while I couldn’t call anyone on my phone, I could text people rather easily.
Wednesday (Day 5):
We left rather early in the morning, stopping at a market in Bet She’an and driving up into the Golan Mountains. We stopped at various times for scenic overlooks, 2 wineries and one olive oil manufacturer. We had lunch overlooking a dead lake and continued driving along the Syrian boarder. After finally making a turn toward the west, we went to a bird sanctuary in the Hula valley that millions of birds pass through each year on their summer migration routes from Africa to Eastern Europe. When it got dark, we made our way up to the northern most town in Israel, Metula, on the Lebanese border. Dinner at Forcaccio outside the city.
Thursday (Day 6):
Up early again on Thursday and right away took a walk along the Lebanese border…going under waterfalls that flow only in the summer, very nice, very scenic. From there we stopped at a War of Independence memorial, at the Quirat Shemona market and then drove back up into the mountains, continuing west along the border with Lebanon. We stopped at 2 wineries, one where Daniella spent 3 months and one of which makes wine and after dinner drinks from a specially developed sweet pomegranate. I’d say it was yummy. We had lunch in a Christian Arab village or a Non Arab Muslim village, I can’t remember. Then we took a shortcut from the Drews village to Bet Jan. When I say shortcut, I mean really skinny road w/no cars for 4 miles in 20 minutes. From there it was off to Carmiel where I shopped for clothes while Karen, Eli and Doron had chocolate milk shakes. Then back to the kibbutz, passing the LYCFITME along the way. Corn Flakes for dinner. Lori and Maureen arrived from the south around 11pm. Went to bed and Israel had its Daylight Savings Time, so I lost an hour of sleep, AGAIN.
Friday (Day 7):
More Corn Flakes and then off to a Ricanati winery near Hadera, passing the LYCFITME on the way. Just for the morning, the first thing I did without my dad since the trip started. Nothing wrong with going wineries for 3 days in a row, esp if the last one was this posh, yuppy tasting that we spend 2 hours at, standing around drinking. Lori, Eli, and I drank while Maureen visited an friend and then was designated to drive us back to the Kibbutz, passing the LYCFITME again. Lunch at my favorite Burger King and then walked around the kibbutz for a few hours, stopping at my grandmother’s grave. Saba and Erna arrived. We all had dinner…a few more came over for dessert and I stood outside, gazed at the stars, and talked to my grandfather for a few hours.
Saturday (Day 8):
Straight to the airport with Karen and Lori, passing the LYCFITME along the way. I purchased some shot glasses as souvenirs for my roommate and coworkers. Ambien on the plane, combined with book, The Holiday, and Happy Feet, and I’m home.
PHEW THAT WAS BORING!! NOW FOR THE GOOD STUFF:
The trip was a nice change of pace. I’m surprised how much I did drink, even though I was with my family the whole time. I likely averaged at least 3 glasses of wine a day, even though I was with my family. While we did touristy things, they were not American touristy things, more like Israeli touristy things. We didn’t see many historic sites, religious sites, or war sites, but we did see a whole lot of nature, and cities.
I spent a good deal of time talking one on one with my grandfather, something I hadn’t done the last few times I saw him. It was really great, and though he’s 92, he’s still in very good health. We discussed why he originally left Israel (very similar to the Alberto Gonzalez scenario, where he was a prosecutor, and didn’t want to join the ruling party, so he was reassigned. Instead he just left). We discussed how even though he was very hurt when he had to leave, he still feels enormous gratitude to the state, and how it saved his life, and thus is the reason that I’m alive as well. How without Israel, his fate would have been the same as his family’s fate. We discussed how Israel my well have been formed with or without the Holocaust, however, it may not have gotten the western sympathy (that only seems to be running out now) and financial support that it did w/o the Holocaust. We discussed G-d, and how to be Jewish without G-d, and how to raise a Jewish family without religion. We discussed how even if you don’t believe anything in the religion, you can still be very Jewish, and feel a strong tie to your ancestors.
I also ate way too much and might have to go hungry for a few days to shrink my stomach back to its normal size so that I don’t put on weight by eating and eating to capacity. I also didn’t shave for 10 days which was fun, but itchy, and ultimately, unsuccessful.
Quote of the Week #1:
“Ben, you have two chins” – My cousin Maureen’s first words to me after not seeing me for a year.
Quote of the Week #2:
“If there is a g-d, there would be no holocaust” – Saba, while speaking emphatically about his thoughts on Israel, Judaism, and religion.
Stat of the Week:
In 1922, at the start of the Zionist movement to populate Israel with Jews from abroad and reestablish a Jewish homeland from the British, there were 12,000 inhabitants of Tel Aviv. In 1953, there were 350,000.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me:
So many Israeli’s go to India for a vacation and to detox after leaving the army, that many people in India think there are as many Israelis as there are Germans and American’s combined. In actuality, there are around 45,000 (or just under 1% of Jewish Israelis) in India at any given time.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week 1:
Ambien worked, but only for 4 hours on the way there and 3 hours on the way home. I really was hoping for more sleep both directions.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week 2:
My personal TV on my flight home wasn’t working well, so I opted for a movie with less need for visibility, Happy Feet. I don’t care what anyone says, the movie was funny, but really stupid. The main penguin’s lack of singing ability as a plot line was stupid. They should have just made him gay, since the plot of the movie revolved around how he was cast out and discriminated against for lack of singing abilities, like a homosexual child of a republican. Instead, while this movie is trying to make a point about discrimination, in actuality, it's quite racist. About 20 minutes into the movie, the main character stumbles upon shorter, Mexican accented, penguins, which talk rudely to people in broken english and treat women with disrespect. A few people have said I’m nuts for calling this racist, however, all I know is that my reaction, 2 seconds into hearing these penguins speak, and act, and taunt the women penguins, was disgust and shock. The argument that Latin people “Do do that” is the definition of stereotyping and racism!
Here quotes from the first 2 articles that came up when looking for Happy Feet reviews, “The only flaw in Happy Feet, besides the blatant racism (a seeming trademark in animated film), is the unfortunate unattractiveness of the adult penguins, who dominate the majority of the movie.” And “The appearance of a species of groovy penguins who all seem to speak like Tony Montana is vaguely racist -- but Happy Feet is so cheerful about it that it doesn't much matter.” It’s also the same exact story as A Bug’s Life and Ants, but whatever at this point.
The ADL would flip if it had Jews lending money and complaining about everything or something like that and I know Arabs were upset at the opening song to Aladdin for calling them “barbaric, but hey, its home.”
Because my personal TV was blurry, I took 45 minutes out of my life to realize that I get no satisfaction out of Suduko’s. I’ve never really done one before, but screwed up a “5” with only 4 boxes left and did a “4” pretty easily. It kinda feels like I should be able to get any puzzle, and thus, what’s the point, and where’s the satisfaction?
Ten Things I Think I Think about Israel:
1) I think the markets in Israel, which are the size of a city block, have almost everything that Wal-Mart has. It may not have the variety, but if you want pots and pans, or linens, or fresh produce, or kid’s games or clothing, these markets have them all.
2) I think about Spaceballs each time I hear about a Drews village. I think princess Vespa was a Drewish princess, or a royal pain in the ass.
3) I don’t think there will be another war along the northern Israeli border in a long time. While people in Israel are upset with leadership because they were unable to stop the rocket attacks and did not wipe out Hezbollah, they did absolutely destroy the Lebanese infrastructure, and I don’t think Lebanon wants that to happen again.
4) I think I constantly had Hebrew songs stuck in my head during the whole trip. Sometimes they were religious prayers and such. Weird.
5) I think Corn Flakes in Israel are so much better than those in the US…as is Fanta Orange (actually, that one is better anywhere outside the US; more taste, more sugar, less carbonation, more orange).
6) I think I really like buying new clothes in Israel. The clothes are cheaper, original, and European styled. I think I like the style better, and I know that I won’t see someone else wearing the same shirt.
7) I think the street signs in Israel were pretty funny to me. When I saw signs like “narrow shoulders” I would chuckle to myself as I pulled my shoulders toward the middle of my body (yes, I’m that corny).
8) I think every time I got to Israel, while my family has to go to the Fish restaurant or the Gilboa restaurant, I need to stop at the Burger King that’s ½ a mile from my aunts kibbutz.
9) I think I miss fun dip and pop rocks. Someone should buy me some.
10) I think its obvious why dunkin Donuts and Starbux didn’t survive in Israel. While they are oasis’s of taste here in the us, especially in suburban and rural towns that have no character, in Israel, flavor filled drinks and foods exist everywhere. Max Brenner didn’t even do well in Israel (until purchased by a big company) because there are large coffee shop / chocolate factories all over the country with a much better selection of food than Starbux and DD and a much sweeter drink. Israeli’s def like their sweets.
I think these are my non-Israel thoughts of the week:
a) I was buying a movie ticket today at an automated ticket machine when a kid came up to me and asked me to buy him a ticket to a rated R movie. Looked like he was 15, said his friends were inside, and considering I was going to the same movie the next night, I did it. I’m not sure if the under 17 thing is a rule or a law. I hope it’s a rule.
b) Some woman standing in the rain this morning yelled at me “cut your long hair you fucking hippy rock star” I love New York.
c) As my family becomes more religious, I feel more and more alienated by them. I think I don’t like the holidays as much as I used to now that they are more focused on religion and less focused on Judaism. I do not think being Jewish and practicing a religion are the same, or even similar. While I consider myself very Jewish, I do not consider myself religious at all, and therefore the new religiousness that is introduced into my family’s customs are foreign and unwelcome in my belief structure. I think my family needs to realize this, and be mindful of this, and tailor their actions and words in response to this, just as I have had to tailor my customs toward theirs over the last few years. I think I feel the “I am better than thou” condescension because I have no desire to be that way, embrace that way, or even support that type of practicing religion. However, I am not the wicked son, I’m just not the simple son. I think Ariel gets this. I think the further my family moves toward more religious family customs, the farther it will push me away wanting to be a part of them.
d) I love when you bump into someone you haven't seen in 10 years and they give you that utterly shocked look which says "wow, I haven’t seen you in 10 years and wow, got really good looking. I should have been nicer to you growing up.” That look lasts almost 1/8 of a second, but says at least the previous line, if not more.
e) Here’s a great article, which states that cleaning is actually unproductive. I’m sure writing for a website while at work is only slightly less productive.
f) I just got home from volleyball a few weeks ago and got an email from my friend Elle telling me to call my cell phone because I left it in a cab. Not only did the cab driver drive back to my apartment 20 minutes later to give me the phone, he wouldn’t take any money. The only thing I don’t understand is why he ended up calling Elle. She’s not in my speed dial, she wasn’t one of my recent calls and she’s the SIXTH “EL” in my phone. So either the cabbie typed “EL” and moved down 6 spots and called, or he typed “EL” waited 3 seconds, typed another “L” and hit send and told my friend I’d left my cell phone. I just don’t understand A) why he randomly picked that person, and B) how he even got to her in my phone.
g) My cell phone feels like its going to die soon. Sometimes, it just shuts off randomly.
h) My little sister and little / bigger BIL just closed on their new apartment. It might be time I started looking for my own.
i) Somehow Rutgers Women’s basketball team made it to the NCAA finals. They beat the #1 team in their bracket when Duke’s player of the year in the ACC missed 2 fouls shots with 0.1 seconds left and Rutgers up by 1 point.
j) I’m constantly questioned about my “life purgatory theory” and how wrong it is. Well, here’s some empirical evidence. During the last 2 summers, I had at least 4 weddings in each, while this summer, I don’t have any.
k) Citrus Twist Tic-Tacs are terrible. They taste like Mr. Clean mixed with tart. And yes, I drink a lot of Mr. Clean, so I know what I’m talking about.
Some professional wrestling mistakes: