Tel Aviv

The private minibuses were exactly how Bandora described them: The drivers ensured loudly that everyone knew which bus was going where (“Tel Aviiiiv, Tel Aviiiiv, Tel Aviiiiv” “Beth-leheeeeem, Beth-leheeeeeem…”) and didn`t leave at a particular time but simply when they were full.

Despite telling me the price when I asked, the driver didn`t want to take money before I entered his bus nor before the journey started. All over sudden however, people started to rattle my shoulder from the back and gave me all this money, very obviously expecting that I did something with it. Noone spoke English, and various attempts at discussing the matter proved not fruitful. Eventually, another passenger got up, took the money off me, distributed change to the other passengers and then opened his hands to myself. I added my fare, the man smiled and handed two handful of money to the driver who tucked them away without checking.

I gathered that I was sitting in the wrong seat and chose a middle one on my journey back, but the same thing happened again. Finally, an English speaking passenger explained that everyone hands their fare to the person in front of them, who is also responsible to ensure s/he receives the correct change, and the best thing is really to chose the back seat if you don`t want to get involved.

The journey went to Tel Aviv bus station, where my bag was raided when I entered (bathroom!) It felt strangely safe.

I found a bus which went to the harbour, which I had heard was especially pittoresque. But after a lengthy journey through a notably larger city than Jerusalem, I was finally asked to exit in front of numerous industrial buildings, which were definitely not pittoresque: “Finish here.” It turned out that there were two harbours: the Jaffa Harbour (which is the tourist attraction) and the industrial harbour (which is the one I was looking at). I didn` t know, so I didn` t specify which harbour I was wanting to see.

I found out that the beaches were just round the corner, and the Jaffa Harbour was in the same direction (but about an hours` walk in the blazing heat), so I just started walking, hoping to see a bus stop soon.

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I actually walked the whole thing, but not without switching from beach to back streets, craving shadow and food, and I stopped at a fantastic little place, where I paid a flat rate for being tossed a salad with as many ingredients as I chose from their large display. I then pulled out my tablet and skyped my husband, who laughed when I said that he saw me sitting in Tel Aviv.

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Eventually, I started to see the Jaffa harbour in the distance, but it always seemed closer than it was. When I finally reached it, bought myself a fresh lemonade as well as a bottle of water and just sat for ages with both before walking around and having a look.

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The skyscrapers in the distance stood in stark contrast to the ancient Jaffa Harbour, as were the people. In Jerusalem, I had learnt to dress modestly by now, but in Tel Aviv, anything goes. Tiny bikinis could be seen next to full burkhas at the beach, and no one winked an eye to each other, and I was told the night live was a cut above many a “real” Western City.

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I didn`t see anything else, unfortunately. There were a couple of arts museums, which I had earmarked, but I never made it. When the sun started to come down, I took a bus to the bus station and was lucky enough to be one of the last few people to complete a minibus back to Jerusalem. There, I finally discovered the direct bus that went to my hosts` house (I knew about it, but just couldn`t figure out where it left) and came home long after the little girl went to bed, me and my throbbing feet.

But I was proud of myself. Me, who has no sense of orientation whatsoever, got lost in Tel Aviv, but made it to my destination and then back home without any further incidents!!

Jerusalem: the Jewish Food Market

On Thursday, I decided to travel to Tel Aviv. I originally planned to go by train, but Bandora explained where to find very reasonably priced private buses, which left, whenever they were full. So I was treated to a lovely morning walk through the Russian an Jewish Quarters, feeding a rather hungry group of cats, and just when I started to feel ready for breakfast myself, I saw this on the other side of the road:

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I had discovered the Jewish Food Market!

Of course, I entered – and thought I`d never see Tel Aviv!! I let Wikipedia do the rest and explain through pictures only:

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Israel: the Dead Sea

After Masada, we went on to the Dead Sea. We had already seen it from far, and driving along it was a bit like Loch Ness: it` a long and narrow sea, of which you can see the other side all the time, but never the start and end behind and in front of you.

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From the bus, we could already see a white crust of salt on most beaches, and while we approached our own beach (there are several beaches with amenities, that you pay admission for, and one public beach, which is for free), our guide filled us in with facts I sure once learnt at school, but had not appreciated now:

  • The Dead Sea is called dead because there is no life in it – too salty.
  • The Dead Sea is 33% salt an 66% water.
  • It is possible to drown in it, and rumour has it that it happens mostly to the Japanese. You are advised to lie on your back, for if you swim on your front, chances are that you`ll get water into your eyes or mouth. This is so salty that you want to wipe it, with your salty hands, and while doing so, you can drown. SWIM ON YOUR BACK!
  • The Dead Sea is the lowest accessible place on Earth and 400m below sea level. Some people have their ears “pop” when they descend to it, as if they were on a plane, and some people on my tour could indeed feel it.
  • the Dead Sea loses about 1m per year, and in about 200 years it will be no more. Guide pointed out a hotel, that was built right beside it in the Sixties, and although it`s still close it`s now a fair walk away!
  • I was told the Dead Sea smells of sulphur (and so do you afterwards!), but I didn`t notice.

After receiving instructions from our guide on how to make best use of our 90 mins at the Dead Sea (too little time!!!! I wrote that in the feedback form), and then the fun began:

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Big playground for adults:

  • You are advised to remove all jewellery, but I ignored that, and I was fine.
  • The water is REALLY warm. Nice!!
  • You cannot steer, which causes you to constantly bump into other people, which makes for a great laugh!
  • There are two kinds of mud – grainy and oily. It`s the latter that` s worth digging deep for and cover your whole body) not eyes.
  • Because everyone is digging for mud, there is holes EVERYWHERE. Some are really steep and deep, and I had to rescue one lady out of one, who almost dragged me in with her, if a total stranger didn`t get a hold of me… It was hilarious!!
  • My skin was really smooth afterwards, but I`d lie if I said this lasted longer than two days. Israelis, who have skin problems, are advised to come about twice a week if practical.

No more photos, unfortunately. As said, not really enough time on this particular tour.

Lots of Dead Sea beauty products for sale everywhere, but they didn`t differ in price or quality from what we can get at home. You can buy neat mud in bags for approx. EUR 10.oo though, which I`ve never seen before.

 

 

On Social Media and Holiday Snaps

I` m deliberately spacing the Israel photos out, and neither did I post many elsewhere. Somehow, I didn `t feel the need, even though it was such a special trip. I can` t quite put my finger onto why this is. Maybe because I split from most of the people who themselves post at least half a dozen pics per day, maybe because I thought more about my use of it since I took time out last year (BTW, I`m considering to do it again – even though I went back, I thought it was so good for me!) – but maybe, they` re simply too special to me to be thrown in between all the other stuff that`s on facebook.

I had a really lovely experience with a close friend of mine, which really underpinned the last thought. This friend passionately opposes social media and never ceases to impress me regarding how she still maintains relationships around the globe.

Last year, she went on a special trip to South America. When I asked her for pictures, she said she didn`t want to spoil her holiday trying to find a computer, chose photos and then reply to replies. “When I come back,” she said, “I` ll have you all round for coffee, and then we can look at them together, and I` ll tell you all about it!” And that` s what we did, and it was lovely.

Three days after I returned from Israel, she phoned me: She was dying to see my pictures. If she could come round for a cup of tea. Like, now. She came, and we were pouring over the tablet for 2 hours. We didn `t even manage 3 days worth, because she had so many questions and about photo.

“I` m so glad, I` m not on facebook,” she said when she left. “I wouldn`t have wanted to see them there. I wanted you to be there when I see them and really talk about them rather than just scroll down a tiny screen.”

I said they aren`t on facebook, just four or five of them, and then she said she now felt even more privileged.

I thought about this for quite a while. None of those, who are on facebook, came round to see my pictures or hear the details. They` ve seen five pictures and the video of Masada, all without the stories. Those who aren` t on facebook have seen and heard about the whole trip.

Today`s photos show a magnificent sunset over the Holy City – probably one of the most overshared motives in the world, but I just can` t resist the allure of it either. I love nice architecture and interior design and clothes and things like that, but here` s some even more stunning beauty, and it`s all natural (no photosphop – just filters!) and not man made at all!

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Israel: Masada

On Wednesday, I did my only organised day trip, which combined Masada in the morning with a plunge into the Dead Sea in the afternoon.

The journey through the Judean desert led us past some real Bedouin tents (no photo stop, sorry). They didn`t look particularly homely from the windows of our tourist bus, but look at this!! A 2-day trip to Petra would have included an overnight stay in such a tent, but I didn`t want to do such a long and costly trip on my own. We also passed Jericho, which is supposed to be the oldest inhabited city in the world. It looked small; little more than an oasis. I would have loved to stop, but great to pass by, too. No photo stop, but I swear I`ve seen it 🙂

We reached Masada around 10.30am. You can walk up the path you can see in the video, if you don`t mind the heat (40 Degrees and no shadow), but like most, we opted for the cable car. I was fortunate enough to get on first and be able to film this amazing ride from this amazing perspective:

After a little more than 2 mins, we arrived at what was once the palace of Herode the Great. Rather helpfully, someone had drawn a thick black line (second and third picture, about 3/4 up the doors) on the walls to show what was original (below the line) and what was reconstructed (above).

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You could still see the tiles in his jacuzzi! By that time however, I had seen that cave in Bethlehem which (host had seen them with her own eyes!) contained the tiny bones of all the babies he had killed, so, truth be told, I wasn`t that interested.

There is however another story about Masada, which I find rather interesting: when the Romans conquered Israel, almost 1000 people hid in Masada, and when they realised the Romans were coming, they saw no escape. So to avoid slavery and torture, the men each first killed their own wives and children, and then each other. The Romans found them all dead. This story seems really important to the Israelis and their pride (probably also in relation to Palestine?), and it made me ponder about situations where suicide really seems the better option. I don`t think you can say point blank there is always a solution or help, and ending one` s own life is, as a rule, selfish and coward.

The water in the background is the Dead Sea, and the mountains beyond that are in Jordan. I didn`t realise we were so close when I pulled my phone to do a selfie and saw the following text:

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Humans of Jerusalem

If I could name one single best thing of the photography course I attended last year, this would be the fact that you are indeed allowed to photograph people in the street  (and other public places) and publish the the results:

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The next one was shot right next to the Jewish Food Market (to which I need to devote an entry of its own!!) At first, I thought those were poor people raiding bins, but they were actually selling what looks like their own belongings on blankets. Not generally into poverty porn at all, but there is something about this picture that makes me want to include it:

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There may be more (once I`ve been through all 700 of them!) but here is once again my favourite, which I already included here:

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Jerusalem: the Western Wall

The following pictures are a summary of quite a few visits to the Western Wall. I learnt to see it (or the Jaffa Gate) as a central site from which to remember directions to all other – particularly from the Bazaars in the Old Town, where I was still getting lost on my last day!

When I first arrived at this very holy site, it looked like this:

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I had to show the content of my bags before I was allowed through (free of charge, but then again – can people be charged for praying? Still, I never found it overcrowded, which, given its great importance, I found really surprising.)

Do you see the woman behind the desk, under the umbrella where you come down the stairs. She hands out, in a very unobtrusive and friendly manner, additional clothing items to women who need it, and once again, I got mine because my skirt didn`t cover the knees.

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This beautiful fountain with cans is for washing your hands before and after prayer, and I`ve seen them in bathrooms, too. Not generally one for souvenir shopping, I did buy one for myself, which is now standing prettily on my window sill in the bathroom, holding flowers.

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After I was, once again, in a very friendly way, directed to the correct section for women, I was finally there:

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(The picture of the men was taken from the tunnel above, which is leading to the Temple Dome, btw)

I am not a very religious person and never leave notes where it is custom to do so, however, it felt almost overwhelmingly special to be here – I can`t exactly explain why, but it might have something to do with this place being so widely associated with Jerusalem, and me wanting to come here for so long, and now, I was finally here, proudly taking a selfie:

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