Weekend Home – Wrap up for trip to Israel

I am finally home and enjoying time with my family… which includes boring them all to tears with my stories and pictures of Israel.   (I guess my trip story telling is not as exciting as actually being there…kids can be rough critics…)   I am going to rid myself of all of my desires to share my trip here… so in other words I will be boring all of you to tears!… (Sorry wished I could promise more… although there will be a weird picture or two)

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Ben loved the idea of a big “chess” game…  I showed this to him while video chatting.   I think he was more excited to see this than me.

I stayed at Herods in the city of Herzliya.  (I finally know how to say the name of the place) I want to share some pictures of my hotel… ya… I know… if you are like my children you are rolling your eyes. You can look at them quickly if this bores you too much.

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This is the garden in between the two buildings that make up the hotel. I love this hotel!!!  The first time I stayed in the one on the right and this time I stayed in the one on the left.   On the other side of both buildings you can watch the sail boats come in and out of the harbor.   (The water is on both sides of the building and also directly in front of this picture)

Umm… I know that I shared breakfast pictures last time I stayed but in keeping with my “bore you to tears” theme here it is again. This time I will share just a small subset of the amazing breakfast buffet. (Click here Trip to Israel (part 2) to see a more comprehensive view)

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I had fish every morning.   On the far left you will see the smoked salmon with a sign stating that it was salmon.   This is one of the only fish that I could recognize with certainty.   What I found interesting is that the rest of the fish didn’t have signs. I never knew exactly what I was eating.  I wonder if there were no signs because the cooks didn’t know what they were serving.

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I also ate some of the nuts and dried fruits but to be honest I mostly ate bread with the honey. There is something special about getting it from the honey comb and this made me want to eat it every day. (you can see the honey comb upright near the nuts and small jars of jam)

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And yes… I gave into the temptation offered by this part of the breakfast buffet. I do not think I have ever eaten so much desserts for breakfast in all of my life.   This might be my new favorite breakfast… pound cake, cheesecake, and halva!

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Near the hotel there are great beaches. I had only visited the one south of the hotel not realizing that there was a much larger/nicer beach to the north.  I had a goal to walk along the beach south all the way to Tel Aviv (16 km round trip.. here is a map) but I didn’t get the chance to do this… maybe next time.

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The harbor also has many restaurants and stores and is a fantastic place to wander around aimlessly.  I love watching the cats, people and boats (millions of stray cats everywhere… ummm millions might be a slight exaggeration) .  The food was fantastic as well.  Here are some pictures taken near my hotel at the harbor.

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If you look closely you will see some cats. One up by the orange sign was the only stray that looked… well like a stray… it’s face was mangled.   I avoided it.  The rest I had no problem being near and if you were eating they had not problem rubbing up to you under the table… eww just thought about the mangled one rubbing up against my leg. Even with pants it would be disgusting.  I would probably have to throw those pants away.

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My first night there we ate at the harbor at Benny HaDayag (the fisherman).  I was not really hungry but thought that I would get a light fish dish.  I ordered a Moroccan fish dish… I know… not very light but it sounded good.  I had no idea that the order included a bunch of other stuff.

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We had no idea that this was going to come.  I just wanted a small plate of fish.
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Here is my fish… it was delicious!

Ok… I am going to stop boring you… well not really…  I want to share some more random pictures… hopefully more entertaining.   I often speak of creating a “coffee table” book.(yes I am all talk no action).   Here is another coffee table book idea.  “Art crap you see by or in the road”… maybe too long of a title. I know, I could just call the book – “Roadside Crap”.

Here are some pictures for that book!

Ocean themed roadside crap!

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The happy blue whale!  This could only be improved by adding a “whale -spout” fountain
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Sea snail… kind of nice… well at least in the sunrise it looks kind of nice.

Military themed roadside crap:

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Old canon… umm… probably something historic?
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Dual function… art and protection!   They also added a fountain how beautifully scary.

Intimidating or unrecognizable roadside crap:

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Reminds me of my father when he would find out that I had done something wrong.
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umm… just don’t know…
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Big green thing?… um maybe an anchor?

Ok, enough of that… sorry if the pictures were blurred.  I took most of these through a car window while riding in a car. (that was redundant… I can’t imagine a case where I would take a picture through a car window without being in the car)  I have just a couple more pictures to share.

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This was the most confusing bathroom I have ever visited.  The outer signs showed that the entrance was for both men and women.  Once you enter the door you have a women right and a man right set of signs.   I am sorry I didn’t take any pictures inside but from there it got more confusing.

Herzliya 26There were two doors and in between the doors a “man | woman” sign.   I figured that the door on the left would be the man’s door and the door on the right would be for women… but I wasn’t sure.   I was relieved when I saw urinals and started to do my business.  I looked up and then noticed the same “man | woman” sign above my urinal.  What did that mean?  Was this a “unisex” bathroom?  and my biggest question… Can women use a urinal?

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I am not sure what this sign meant… does it mean I should run down the stairs?.  On the other hand I knew exactly what the following sign meant.   “Danger of Death”… much better warning than “Danger of Electrocution”.

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For those wondering, A colleague of mine asked if McDonald’s was the same in Israel.(This would be very important to Ben) My colleague was told that it is exactly the same. You never want to just blindly trust what people say…and luckily we didn’t have to eat there to validate this since I was able to find absolute confirmation!

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I discovered a new candy bar…   CORNY BIG…   (I have been called worse)
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This is one of Ben’s favorite.  Not only did he like the big chess game, he loved what he called “EGG CHAIRS”

For the end, I want to share with you a statue I saw at a park in Ra’anana.  I was not able to get a picture so I borrowed one from the internet… (I usually don’t do that…  on this blog the photos are always mine).

I post this not just because it is fun to look at but it also serves as a public service warning.   For those of you who have not enough reasons for avoiding the accordion here is one big reason that should dissuade you from playing this awful musical instrument.

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Thanks for taking the time to read me again.

 

Weekend and Work Travel (Part 4 – Caesarea)

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This is part 4 of a one day site seeing visit to northern Israel (in the case you have missed part 1 – 3 here are the other parts)

After writing up all of this into blog posts and trying to only post a small subset of the large set of photos (about 600) I am realizing how much I was actually able to see in just one day.   (This is probably the huge advantage of visiting a small country so rich in history) I hope you have enjoyed these “touristy” pictures…because I really enjoyed being the “tourist”.

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Let’s finish all of this with Caesarea…  a city that was built by Herod in 22-10 B.C.   Herod named both the city and the harbor after Caesar Augustus…  (The port was named Sebastos which is Caesar in Greek).

 

The first place we visited was the theater.  I was surprised to learn that it is still actually being used for plays and concerts.  They have resurfaced the top of the seats but the rest is “kind of” in its original state.  I am trying to imagine going to a concert or play and on the way in passing actual antiquities.  You enter by a Vomitorium which is not what it sounds like… that is just what they called the entrances or exits.   I can’t imagine sitting in a theatre that dates back to such ancient times… very cool!

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Behind the theater is what I am going to call a “column graveyard”.  I am hoping that this is their way of showing what has been excavated and not the result of some out of hand rock concert in the theater.

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My favorite column top… The “sad lion” column. (not sure where this one fits in the classical Greek orders… Doric, Ionic, Corinthian… but it is my favorite).   Next we move to Herod’s palace.  He placed it between the theater and the hippodrome…   (Entertainment is important for men…kind of like have to big screen TVs on each side of his house).  There is not much left of his palace.   The materials were recycled into other buildings during later times.

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Here is the palace pool… wouldn’t expect anything less

On the plane ride over to Israel I watched Ben-Hur… so when I saw a hippodrome before me that movi’es chariot races came to my mind and I walked through augmenting all that I was seeing with what I had seen in the movie.  I would love to see an actual chariot race.  (I wonder if there was as much death and maiming in the real races)

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This last picture you can see the starting gates behind a statue that loosely resembles a chariot being pulled by three horses… (I can only imagine bringing someone back from that time and them saying what the heck is that…)  There was something also interesting about this hippodrome.  This hippodrome was covered over with pottery and rubble and another much larger one was built just a little more inland.   The excavators left a small square so you can see what they had to remove.

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Next… the port…   This port was almost completely washed away so you are only able to see what remains on the south side along with a crusaders tower.  I think that tower use to be a light house and was changed to be a fort by reinforcing it with parts of the surrounding buildings.  If you look closely at the picture (the building with the green naked guy in front of a building) you will see columns laid down in the walls.. .I imagine this was done to add strength.

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They were actively excavating the port’s vaults…   (….little shovels and dust brushes) I wanted to stay and watch the process but I was on a “whirlwind” tour… and well they were not doing very much at all.

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Here is the Nymphaeum… hadn’t heard of that word… so in my mind this was a small pool “stocked” with very pretty naked women… I am sure I have to be somewhat correct right?

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Another column graveyard…   lots of marble and granite… which all would have been imported (you can’t find either in Israel)

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This outer wall is the last picture I will be sharing on Caesarea.   This is where I caught the bus and headed off for the other locations I visited.   This is also the last post of my “site seeing” day…  I will have one more general post on Israel with my kind of pictures. (you know the weird ones)

Weekend and Work Travel (Part 3 – Acre)

Acre (Akko)

The secrets of the city above and the city below.

-some… Tourist Brochure

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Part 3 of my site seeing day is in Acre (Akko).   I “quoted” the tourist brochure because in Acre you will see an old city with an even older city buried below. (and because it is much more clever than anything I would have written)   The city below  is a preserved (brochure stated “perfectly”… but that is not completely accurate) Crusader city and you can witness all of the efforts that have been made to unearth it and bring it back to life.  You can also witness the influence of the city’s conquerors and their religions.  (Canaanites, Romans, Crusaders, Turks, and British)

I am going to try to offer a quick glimpse of the Acre through my pictures…  but I first I want to jump to my favorite place…   Latrine Hall

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I love this image…   “Ummm…. Are you looking at me?”….

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You will note that all of the toilets are placed in two rows… and the actual places you sit are “face to face”… kind of curious…but what I found even more fascinating… This “Latrine Hall” was were double deckered.  You are looking at the lower hall and there was a hall right above it.   Not sure I would have wanted to use the lower hall.   Oh ya… they used rain water to flush the waste down below into a large cavern… (This is a very dry place… and I imagine that their  “rain based flushing” was a very infrequent thing…   another reason not to use the lower hall)

Here are the rest of the pictures… hope you enjoy.

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Entry into the old city

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The fist courtyard is an amazing place to sit… not only because of it’s beauty but because of the shade

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This stairway was completely buried and if I remember correctly in 2000 they started to excavated this area

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From this new level (old city level) you can enter the buildings.   Entering these old buildings is amazing!   In the pictures you will be able to tell “original” from the new based upon how smooth the stones are.

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We walked a long tunnel from one hall to another leading to an ancient church.  This part is probably the only uncomfortable part of the walk… (especially if you are claustrophobic)

In these pictures you will note the Ottoman empire influence on the city of Acre… including a clock tower… not sure what the clock towers have to do with Ottoman but this is the second one that I have seen in Israel attributed to the Ottomans… the other one I saw was in Jaffa.

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That small island was called “Island of the Flies”…   wonder why?

 

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Lunch…. I had a shawarma…

 

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I will end with this tree…. look closely it is half embedded into the wall yet has a beautiful top…   fascinating!   I have one more post on my site seeing day in Israel… please come back.  (By the way Isabelle… Napoleon was unable to conquer Acre!!!)

Weekend and Work Travel (Part 2 – Haifa)

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I was told that in Jerusalem you pray… in Tel Aviv you play… and in Haifa you work. (I was kind of disappointed that it didn’t rhyme).   Haifa is the third largest city in Israel and this is a continuation of a single day’s worth of whirlwind site seeing.  If you haven’t read part 1 you can read it  at Weekend and Work Travel (Part 1)

I didn’t get to spend much time in Haifa… just 30 minutes and they were all spent looking down at the Bahai Gardens.   What an amazing site to see….  not only can you see the gardens but you have a fantastic view of the city and the port.  Before I share those pictures… here is one for my wife.

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This is not a great picture… but Haifa has an Ikea… (took this through the window as we drove by)

Now… to the Gardens… The Bahai gardens are known as the “hanging gardens of Haifa” These terraced gardens surround the Shrine of Báb.   When I was told this… I thought  it was the “shrine of Bob”…  a much funnier name.   I am not very familiar with the Bahai religion but I can tell you that their gardens are breathtaking.

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Here is the gate at the top of the gardens.  I could not get an unobstructed view so I took just the top part of the gate.   There is something intriguing about the white glass ball and the iron work around it.   Fantastic Gate!… I think this could be a new love affair… I am very fond of this gate.  (It was also awesome because our guide got in a huge argument with the guard at the gate… our guide left us while yelling… “I will not take responsibility for all of these people… they are adults…. You are all being insulted by this guard”)

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As you enter you view all of the “levels”…. and how the gardens are immaculately groomed.  You will also note the incredible view of the city below.   This would be an amazing place to have a drone camera.

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The gardens have really interesting places to explore and even share a romantic moment.  This couple was enjoying one of those “romantic” moments until they realized I was lurking in the back of this tunnel trying to take a picture of that “moment”

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Is it weird taking a picture of someone you don’t know who is taking a picture of someone else?… and would it be weirder if they didn’t’ know each other?  (I wanted to ask if they knew each other… but I talked myself out of it… would have been too hard to explain why I was asking)

It is getting late so I am going to share two last pictures and while I do that… I will be wishing that I was a better photographer… My pictures just don’t seem to do this place justice.

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Please stay near…. Part 3 will be coming soon!

Weekend and Work Travel (Part 1)

Get ready… (please insert your own sound of excited anticipation… if you have a sound for that… or…  a nice high pitched squeal or breathy gasp would do…)

Rosh HaNikra

As promised in the last post… I am telling everyone where I am.   For those of you who are not familiar with the above mentioned place or who do not recognize the feature picture…  I am in Israel!    I have returned back to the same hotel in Herzliya (Herods)  and will be here for the next week.

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ARRIVAL – Saturday evening sunset with my back to the hotel looking out at the sea…
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FIRST MORNING – Sunday morning sunrise view from my hotel bedroom.   I took this at 6:00 a.m. as I anxiously waited for the “site seeing” day before me. (we left 1 and a half hours later… and I honestly felt that I  had waited forever)

I will be working all week but fortunately have one day to get as much site seeing in as possible.   I will post this day in a series and this is the first part… Rosh HaNikra.   You know you are visiting somewhere awesome when you have no idea how to say the places name and when that name has an extra odd ball capital letter  “N” in the middle  of it.

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Israel and Lebanon border!… when the solder opened the gate several kids ran onto the Lebanese part and then quickly back.  They all claimed victory stating they just visited Lebanon.  I was soooo jealous… but I just could not do it… the guy opening the gate had a machine gun.

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Rosh HaNikra is right on the boarder of Lebanon and Israel (205 km from Jerusalem and 120 km from Beirut… can’t believe I dropped off the 2 and the arrow on the left side).  It is on the coast of the Mediterranean sea and has white cliffs with amazing grottoes!

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Here I am looking down from the top of the cliffs at a shoreline that is breathtaking… even the road on the left is interesting… love the way it is carved down into the rocks. (no mocking… I really do think the road looks cool).  If you think looking over a cliff is cool… Wait…  this gets much better…   We went over and down the cliff on a cable car that claims to be the steepest in the world. ( a gradient of 60 degrees)

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At the bottom the fun doesn’t stop not only do you get a better view of the water… and the white chalky cliffs…   there are “GROTTOES”.   (Grottoes…  what a an awesome word… much more manly than the word “caves”).   I loved walking through the grottoes and seeing the blues of the water contrasted against the white chalky walls.   As I looked closer the myriad of colors became more and more amazing.  Again I feel poorly equipped to offer descriptions that truly represent what I saw… So I am going to just share a bunch of pictures.  (Yes… less words… I am imagining you sighing in relief right now)

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The two guys in blue (matching… and I am sure it was planned) are co-workers… Let’s call them “Nate” and “Sean”…

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It is hard to pick out the best pictures… and not just share all of them.   (wished I could share all but I think I might have close to 100… a tad too many )

This is the end of part 1…  keep an eye open… (or browser) for part 2!

Trip to Israel (final)

This is my final post on Israel.  While I am grateful to be home in the arms and love of my family,  I can’t help but feel that I didn’t spend enough time in Israel.   What an incredible place…. one that I hope to return to and share with my loved ones.

For this last post I want to share less “touristy” pictures.   While I did enjoy some time as a “tourist”, what I truly love is unique experiences.  I being who I am always look for “weird-weekends” moments and that is how I am gong to finish all of my posts on Israel.

The first thing that I would like to share  I was not able to capture since I was not carrying my camera and my phone went dead. You will have to trust me that it happened and hopefully I can use my words and a random video to describe the event.

Wednesday night I had decided to skip dinner and go to bed early to try to catch up on my sleep.  Before I went to bed I decided to take a small walk around the hotel area near the beach.   I came across a crowd of orthodox Jews (or some kind of Jewish group… not sure) near a van with lights and large speakers.   They brought out a torah and started playing music…and not the kind of music I expected to hear played by this type of group (I know nothing about them… so I should not have had preconceived judgements on the music they would play.)   The music sounded like club music (Hebrew club music)… and they played it loud.

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I can’t tell you how confused I became… especially as they brought out drums and several shofars and began pounding and blowing them ( banging the drums that is and blowing the shofars… which are really loud…I mean… really load … shofars are horns…an example is pictured above).   As crazy as all of that sounds… it got much crazier as the dancing began and they started moving down the street.   I tried to ask someone in the crowd what the heck was going on and I couldn’t find anyone that spoke English.   An elderly lady said… “Torah”… and then said “Come”.  I was hesitant to “come”… but as they moved down the street they started throwing candy.  That made it an easy decision.   I followed them down the road all the while picking up candy.  I was given a brochure by someone that was dancing but it was in Hebrew so I still didn’t know what I was following.

 

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Here is the brochure I was given… you can see the van in the bottom right.   If you are familiar with this please leave a comment and help me understand.

At the very end of the walking, the group stopped and I think a prayer was offered followed by the horns.(I wished my faith would use horns after praying… it is awesome)  They put the torah away and the music started back up.   I guess they decided I should not just be a passive follower.   I was “inducted” and forced to participate by two men who came and grabbed me. (not in a bad way… just pulling me into the middle of the group)  I became part of a circle consisting of about 5 men all holding hands and dancing round and round.   I remember thinking that this is one of the weirdest and coolest things I have done in Israel and being mad that my phone was dead.   Their joy was so contagious (or there was something in the candy) and I could not stop laughing nor dancing.  Next thing I notice was fireworks going off over our heads.  (I hope fireworks and not just candy hallucinations)   The music eventually stopped and I was hugged by over ten people all saying something to me in Hebrew and then touching my face (probably telling me that I needed dance lessons)… What an awesome experience… boy can this religious group party!  I wished I had actual footage because you should all have been there.  Crazy…

In an effort to help you understand better what I experienced, I searched you tube (started my search with “dancing Jews”) until l found something that was similar.

Here is a video.

 

I wonder if any of my readers can explain what I was involved with?… if so please leave a comment for me and the rest of the readers.

The next thing I want to share was an interesting experience we all shared while taking a short cut from the hotel to the freeway.   I was not the driver so I can’t be held responsible for anything. (a small disclaimer…)

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This is our rental car and you can see the consequence of our short cut… (It got much worse by the last day).   The driver was a co-worker from Southern California, lets call him Chris to keep his identity safe.  Chris was an excellent person to have along and he was always willing to put forth any effort so that all spare moments  would be “thrilling”.  He wanted to make sure we were living life to the fullest.   This was evident in his driving and also the reason some other co-workers refused to ride in the car while he was driving.

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Here is a map of the short cut.  I am not sure that it was much shorter than taking the actual roads but it was obviously much more fun… and in the evening… well much more strange and uncomfortable.  I renamed it “field of dreams” after the evening experience (another co-worker had to add the “if you build it they will come” comment but I want to keep this somewhat appropriate… so I wont say that)… but before I share that unappropriated experience I will share with you a video I filmed during a day time drive.

Here is a video of our drive… The first time I road with Chris before we took off he started singing the song that I chose for the background music.   I think I should have realized from his singing that the drive was not going to be a normal “on your way to work” morning drive.

After experiencing the field of dreams during the day I was a tiny bit reluctant to put my life in the hands of Chris during the night.  The 13 year old boy in me would not let me miss out on this off-roading opportunity… so in the back seat I climbed.  Once on the dirt road  I noticed immediately that in front of us was a strange and numerous grouping of cars.   They were all circling randomly (not to be confused with the danse I mentioned earlier). I joked that it looked like we were in the middle of some odd automobile mating ritual. Chris said “Bingo”.

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When we arrived in the heart of the grouping I noticed that this car dance was not an exclusive waltz for cars but a duet for people and cars.  Those people being mainly female or at least females in disguise and they seemed to be the motivation for these swarming cars.

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We were in the middle of some disgusting drive through dating service and Chris found it amusing to high beam the couples as they did their courtship dance all the while yelling challenges like “I am going to tell your wife”… and “you are going to get a disease”.  I giggled in the back until he trapped a newly formed couple on a side road and kept the light on them until they decided that their love was not meant to be… after this I ducked down.   I guess I am not as brave as I thought… especially as one of the manlier women opened the passenger door… I think I may have whimpered then.

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I want to be serious for a second.  I have described this in a tongue and cheek way but I was incredibly disturbed by what I saw.  I do not want to judge any of the participants but there is definitely something missing in both participants lives.  I can’t imagine the toll this takes on their individual lives as well as mental health.   I honestly wished there was a way to reach out and help these people.  (stop it… I mean reach out in an appropriate way… even if it is just to buy them some dresses that cover there underwear)

I worry that I have just made this spot a new must see destination… Please readers… don’t try this at home… stay in the tours… and stick to the historical sites.

Let’s move on to the third thing I want to share…   I ate a new fruit.   In my opinion there is nothing more exciting then eating a new thing for a first time.   If I had my way we would heavily invest in space exploration just to discover new food.

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A co-worker from Israel brought me some carambola from one of his trees.   I know many of you may have already tasted these but I had not and was extremely excited to try them.  I was not sure if I needed to peel them or just eat them as they are.   I washed them and just ate and I really like them.   I believe they have a lemon/apple taste… not to0 sour and not too sweet.

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After the field of dreams this is a pretty boring addition but look at how awesome they become when cut up.

I think I will end this with a couple of picture from Jaffa… hmm back to the touristy stuff.   We only had a couple of hours to spend there before our flight.   Jaffa is the oldest (I think) part of Tel Aviv and an ancient port.   I wished I could have seen this in the day.

Here are some pictures.

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Thank you for taking the time to read all of this… I hope I offended no one with my “field of dream” talk.

 

Visiting Jerusalem (part 2)

I would like to add more pictures to my previous post of pictures from Jerusalem.  I would like to in part 2 continue the idea of letting the pictures speak for themselves… These will be more of the typical “tourist” pictures… but I promise next post I will show my kind of pictures and maybe even a video.  (Next post will be the conclusion of my trip to Israel)

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Looking back at the next series of pictures… I noted that my market pictures are mainly food.  There is much more than food in these street markets… I was just hungry.  (I had not eaten since early that morning at 6:30 am)

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I do have some non-food market pictures… but not many… most of the small markets sell non-food items… so don’t let my hungry stomach obsession warp your idea of the shops you will see in Jerusalem.

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It quickly became night (too quickly for me… since I was just getting started and wanted to see so much more)

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I did finally get something to eat around 9:00 pm.   The picture above is taken from the restaurant I ate at (Cafe Rimon – Mamilla mall).   Fantastic food one of the items we ordered was “Mexican nachos”…   close… except they used pitta chips instead of tortilla chips.

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