We had an amazing time on our recent break in Israel, visiting both familiar places (and restaurants) and new places (and restaurants!)
Sightseeing highlights included a walk at Ein Gedi, which was greatly enhanced by fascinating ibex and hyraxes and where we saw the remains of a fifth century shul; a trip to the Ramon Crater, with its stunningly beautiful and unusual scenery, and a Nabatean cavaranserai; the very clever audio visual presentation at the Herzl Museum.
Best restaurants: RYU for Asian comfort food, Benny Dagim (not surprisingly, for fish) and Moise for a great French restaurant experience. Don’t forget excellent website eluna for recommendations and money off vouchers for many restaurants.
We also had quite a few “only in Israel” experiences. On our drive along the shore of the Dead Sea, we visited Qumran, home to the Essenes, authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I was delighted to see several bus loads of Christian pilgrims there and in fact there were many pilgrims and other tourists everywhere we visited – the tourist part of the Israeli economy has certainly bounced back. Before you look at the ruins at Qumran, there is a short film about the community who lived there. The guided tour who arrived at the same time as we did were of Oriental appearance, so we weren’t surprised when having been told to go into the film, the guide came and told us “It’s in Korean!” Since the film largely consisted of hairy men wearing tefillin badly, and it had Hebrew subtitles, watching it with a Korean soundtrack was a novel experience.
On Friday morning we decided to take a bus to the market in Machane Yehuda and pick up a few bits for Shabbos. The bus arrived when and where it was supposed to, but as we were driving along, there was a thud, as though it had hit something – we thought maybe a bollard, until we saw a man somersaulting past the windows! The bus stopped, everyone got off, the bus driver called his company, and ambulance came and took away the man, who by this time was sitting up and having a drink of water, and we didn’t go to the market.
Also interesting to see that despite the constant slurs of apartheid against Israel, there were, as ever, many Arabs strolling around in central Jerusalem, riding the new Light Railway, and even eating in kosher restaurants, including one place where we saw a lady with a hijab and her husband, sitting at the next table to a man with a big kippah serugah/”settler” stereotype with no apparent concern on either side.
We are always amused by the poor standard of English translation on the signs in Israel, particularly given that there are millions of Israelis for whom it is their first language, and millions more who speak it well as a joint first/second language. We were particularly struck on this occasion by a sign for “(Name) Rrestaurant”, taking the rolled “r” to extremes, but the winners were on Har Herzl, where we found, next to Herzl’s burial place, a sign which said in Hebrew “Kever Herzl” and in English “The Grove of Herzl.” My husband was so disbelieving that he really thought they meant a grove,until I pointed out that there were no trees anywhere nearby! And my favourite, also on Har Herzl, where the signposts directing people to different areas of the gardens had one arrow labelled “Zionist Leaders Plot.”
Thanks as ever to all those involved in childcare and to the children for managing without us!