Showing posts with label Travelling in Israel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travelling in Israel. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Pesach 2016 תשע"ו

It is Pesach (Passover) in Israel (and around the world) and it is a very important and widely celebrated holiday here.  There are laws that prohibit stores and restaurants from selling bread and other Hametz for the whole holiday.  Students are off for more than two weeks.  Many others have taken a week or two off or are working at a half-time pace.  Even many soldiers are off....

Although Pesach is also called Hag Ha-Aviv - the "Spring Holiday," it certainly feels more like summer.  Temperatures are in the 30s throughout the country.  Combine all of these things and what do you get?  Thousands of Israelis travelling - out of the country and all over the country itself.  There are traffic jams everywhere.  National parks across the country are filled with people and the beaches are packed.
Hexagonal Pool Trail
We decided to join the crowds and take a day trip yesterday.  We drove up north, just past the Kinneret to a national park featuring the "Hexagonal Pool."  From Central Israel, this is about a two hour drive.  We left early to try and beat the traffic but it wasn't quite early enough. We faced our share of highway congestion.
Hexagonal Pool Israel
We still managed to arrive before the park was completely jam- packed.  The site entrance is right near "Had Ness" a small community north of the Kinneret.  On entering the park, you have a choice of taking a five hour hike, a 2-3 hour hike or 1 to 1.5 hour trip.  These are all the suggested times.  We chose the medium length path.  This is essentially a downhill hike through a winding path (at times involving moderately difficult climbing).  The trail is about 2.5 km - with the option of adding on about another kilometre.

At the bottom of the hike - Nirvana.  A beautiful Hexagonal pool serving as the base of a waterfall and the collecting pool for water from the Jordan river.  The water was about 18C - quite cool and refreshing.  The pool reaches a depth of 17 metres at parts.  But when it is 35-36C outside and you have just hiked down a 3 km trail, 18C water is incredible.
Hexagonal Pool, Israel

When the swimming is over, the fun starts.  Time to walk back up the trail - 2.5 km of uphill path.  The trail is reasonably steep and includes some very rocky areas and some real climbing.  In mid-day summer heat, after having walked 3 km down - this type of activity offers some challenge for people like me....but it was well worth it.

Golan Heights Winery
We got back to the car and considered other possible activities.  Amazing how Google can help with suggestions.  As it turns out, we were only about 10 minutes away from the Golan Heights Winery so we decided to make a quick stop.  I had been there before several years ago - but it is quite a nice place to visit.  We did not have time to do the tour and tasting though we browsed in the gift shop for a few minutes.  The prices were simply the same as one would find all over the rest of Israel though they had some wine selections that are hard to find.

We decided to find something to eat.  Since it was Pesach, we had, of course, brought along lots of food, featuring delicious Pesach rolls.  But no one really wanted another one of those rolls.  So we decided to look for a Kosher for Pesach Restaurant.  This can be a bit tricky.  Many restaurants are closed for the holiday.  We couldn't find anything suitable in nearby Katzrin - so we decided to drive down to Teveria (Tiberias) and find a place there.  We settled on a South American meat restaurant that was "Kosher l'Mehadrin" but, for kitniyot eaters of course.  We decided to eat there anyways and told them to hold the kitniyot.  They get lots of requests for this, apparently, so we were fine.

The whole kitniyot thing on Pesach is still confounding us.  Although the Conservative movement in North American opted to permit Conservative Jews to eat kitniyot this year - and many Israeli rabbis (Orthodox Ashkenazi included among them) have made that same decree in the past, we have continued to stick with the traditional Ashkenazi mode of avoiding rice, corn, beans and other legumes during Pesach.  This is particularly challenging if one wants to eat out.  We see restaurants across the country open for Pesach serving corn flour bread and rolls - and other kitynot-based bread substitutes.  But after 50 years of doing things a certain way, it is difficult to make the leap to switch over and start eating all of those other things on Pesach.  It is also creates an even bigger gap between Israeli and non-Israeli Jews.  So we skipped the tehina and humus and ate our skewers with matzah, cabbage and some other vegetables.

Today the temperature in Israel was even hotter - a veritable heat wave.  But there are predictions that things will cool off to "reasonable" by Friday, the last official day of Pesach in Israel this year.  Of course, Pesach will actually continue for those who observe it until Saturday night - since there would be no time between the end of Pesach and Shabbat to change over dishes, buy back Hametz, etc.,

So now we have a few days to find a Moroccan friend who is hosting a Maymuna (an end of Pesach celebration).  But until then we still have time to enjoy matzah brie, matzah lasagne, matzah rolls and other delicacies.  Chag Sameach to everyone - and make sure to eat lots of prunes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Guest Blog - On Gay Pride and Visiting Jericho

My friend and colleague, Arnie Zweig, was in Israel last week.  He has contributed a guest blog...thought some of you might enjoy it:

So besides the usual unusual encounters in Israel, two events that Sherry and I attended may be worth your read. 

On Friday morning we made our way down Ben Yehuda Street to join together with about 100,000 others from Tel Aviv to celebrate Ga'ava;   gay pride parade in Israel;  in a county where some believe  to have been founded on the Torah and where the Torah forbids homosexuality, it is especially worth noting the outwardness of this  parade and the intensity that it is celebrated by those in Tel Aviv.

I say Tel Avivians since the rest of the country seemed not to have cared less.   When we spoke to others in Jerusalem or from other cities in Israel, they dismissed the parade as something that was foreign to them and not part of "true" Israel;   Of course, each Israeli has their own version anyway of what is true Israel;

It was virtually impossible to distinguish the gays from the non- especially in the parade-(on the gyrating beach on Hof Gordon-it was not so difficult to distinguish)-but the marching of the parade seemed to be for everyone;  anyone that wanted to walk was able to walk and join in with the heat, with the water spraying guns and with the dancing;

There were some major "floats" in which the obvious talented gay dancers displayed their acumen; however after 20 minutes of heavy techno music with no variation in the songs nor in the rhythm, the parade became a bit on the boring side;  there was no creativity in  the floats or the costumes or in its presentation;

The message of celebration of the manner of living gay was pretty evident;  it would have been a lot more fun if the celebration was thought through and presented with some clever costuming, themes or even outlandish dress;  Not even a gay Homer Simpson?  boring.......

After a restful Shabbat , we headed off for a bit of a desert adventure in the Negev;  since we have been to the Dead Sea before we decided to do the north part and headed to a resort called "Bianquini."  Good thing we didn't read the Trip Advisor before, otherwise we would never have spent a second there.  Trip Advisor gave it 9 out of 100.   The food and accommodation, lack of cleanliness, lack of service all added up to a failing grade.  However the two macho guys who had rented their tsimmer (room  for rent) beside us with their quite voluptuous blond busty prostitute didn't seem to be quite as picky as us. (Not sure if that would have increased the rating or decreased it - I will leave that one to the reader. )  

However we made up for the experience by going to the oldest city in the world-Jericho- for dinner.

When we entered there is a big red sign "NO ISRAELI CITIZENS PERMITTED TO ENTER".  so we kept our Canadian passports close to us and entered Palestinian Authority territory. 

We were told about a restaurant called "Limona" as the best in town; the town by the way is quite small being only a population of 18,000; very poor, no alcohol that we saw; no movie theatre that we saw.

Limona however turned out to be a great restaurant and the food was plentiful and excellent from the great grilled fish to the roasted potatoes and rice and baskets of wonderfully tasting pita as well as the 12 salads they brought out as an appetizer and ending with a huge bowl of fruit as part of the meal included.  You couldn't eat everything.  There was no rush to leave as eating a large meal and sticking around for a couple of hours is part of the culture and there is nothing else to do anyway.   So we hung out and watched a large screen television of "Arab Idol" until we headed back to our one star accommodation at Bianquini before heading out the next day for a hike in Wadi Qelt in 33 degree weather.  

As always-many different worlds live in a small country.  

Arnold Zweig