I can honestly say that it was a tremendous treat to have one of our closest American friends visiting for a week. Preparing for Flip's visit was a lot of work, but with the help of a good friend here in Jerusalem, I was able to put together a pretty good trip. We were able to experience many different faces of Israel, from the Druze near Haifa to the Black Hebrews in Dimona. I will do my best to remember each and every funny and interesting event from his visit.
First of all, renting a car in Israel is very different from renting a car in the States. First of all, the cars are very small, and they get terrible gas mileage. With gas prices being as high as they are, that's a double whammy. I picked Flip up from the airport in Tel Aviv and we stayed at a very simple but nice hotel called Center Hotel in Tel Aviv. Flip was a real trooper as we went out quite late for a beer with an Israeli friend his first night!
We awoke fairly early the next morning to begin our tiyul (trip). We started at Independence Hall, where the country of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948. It was a pretty amazing sight! I had been there before, but it was nice to be there again. What was interesting here was that no Israelis knew what we were talking about. We even asked a few police officers about a block away where it was and they didn't know!
We left Tel Aviv and went to Cesaria. Seeing this place was a lot of fun, with a great amount of ruins! The Roman aquaducts were pretty great to see! It was a good day of weather too! From Cesaria we drove up to have dinner in the Bedouin village of Dalyat El Carmel. These people were very gracious, and the food was great! We tried to visit Akko, but there was a big festival going on, so we couldn't get in!
We stayed at a nice hotel in Ma'alot called Hacienda Forestview. The food was great, and the putt putt course was very funny, to say the least. I certainly didn't expect to see putt putt in the middle of Israel! We were able to stop in Tsfat, and it was nice to stroll through the Old City! Our day had only began, as we went to visit the border with Lebanon in Metullah, and then went to see Syria at Har Ben Tal (Mount Ben Tal). Our drive down through the West Bank to Jerusalem was uneventful, thank God!
While in Jerusalem, we visited the Old City, all of the major sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Tower of David Museum, and we also went on to the Temple Mount to see the Dome of the Rock. Of course, it was really exciting, and a wonderful new experience for me! We also went through Hezekiah's Tunnel in the City of David, and although it was very cold, I love going through that tunnel! What was an amazing experience was being at the Kotel on Shabbat evening. It was full of Kavanah (intention/focus), and it was very inspiring to watch as Flip went and prayed at the stones of the Western Wall.
One of the most inspiring parts of Flip's tiyul was our encounter in Dimona with the Black Hebrews. I was totally impressed with the Black Hebrews. They were very welcoming, and they are a very determined people who lead simple lives based on what they feel is the right way to live. What is the most special about the Black Hebrews is that they are very welcoming and not critical of others. They don't expect others to "do it there way," but are always willing to talk and explain their lifestyle.
There were other things that were amazing, like our sunrise Massada hike, but as this blog is already very long, I am going to wrap this up. I was sad to see Flip go, but our trip was so much fun and so worth the work to get it ready. I hope Flip had a great time, as I surely did!
Check out the pictures I posted!