Schlagwort-Archiv: israel

IMG_1808

The Be(rlin)thlehem Wall

One thing you should not miss to visit when you are in Bethlehem is the great wall separating the city from its surroundings. The wall is around nine meters high and on top of it you can see barbed wire. It actually reminds me a lot of the Berlin Wall, which looked the same, just not as high as the one here in Bethlehem. You can also find a lot of paintings and slogans there on the wall that compare the Berlin Wall to the Wall around Bethlehem. Most of the wall is covered with paintings, slogans and graffiti. You can also find some pieces of the street artist Banksy here. He is honored like a national hero here. There is even a souvenir shop just for Banksy stuff in the border area inside Bethlehem. Again there is a lot of Israeli military around here in the so called Area C (under Israeli control).

 

We walked along the wall, breathing in the conflict, trying to catch the meaning of all those graffiti. There  is a ‘Wall Museum’ which actually contains lots of big posters, which are fixed to the wall. On those posters you can read the stories of Palestine civilians and their experiences with the Intifadas, the building of the wall and what it means to their daily lives. It really hits you emotionally. And yes when you wander around there, reading all those stories: yes – you feel pity, no matter if this is right or not.
We met a young Palestine woman, who lived right next to the wall. She was asking us if we had time, so that she could share her story with us: The street we were in used to be one of the busiest in Bethlehem. A lot of people were using that road to get to Jerusalem and vice versa. The family had a few shops in the street and was earning good money. As there was the last Intifada the Israeli army annexed the house, using it for strategic reasons and shooting, since it was right at the border. The military left, but then the wall was built – surrounding all the houses of the family, cutting off the busy street.
The wall ruined the family’s business. When they look out of the window there is this huge wall. The woman told us her daughter was crying that day ‘They buried us alive’. I have no idea if all of that story was true, But I guess it was. There was no reason for this woman to lie. Again I felt like the regular people living in Palestine just wanted to call attention to their situation, so that some foreigners would spread the message to the world. Looks like it turned out.
We walked further leaving the wall museum behind and arrived at the checkpoint where people cross the border to Israel by feet. There are two barred small lanes: oe for the entrance, one for the exit. It was late afternoon and the checkpoint was crowded with men. Probably a lot of men were coming back from their work in Jerusalem. This is also a big problem. A lot of people in Bethlehem work in the try close by Jerusalem. But you never know if the border will be open the next day and even if it is, Palestinians usually do not get a job in Israel.
As so often we were asked here where we were from. As usual people were very happy to hear we are from Germany. But for the first time one guy did not make a secret about, why he liked Germans: Germans used to fight the Jews. It happened a lot of times that people were very welcoming when they heard we were from Germany. I do not want to assume that all of them were thinking like that, cos there are also a lot of German volunteers in the West Bank. But the thought always crossed my mind. And obviously the German government is not too fond about helping Palestine.
When we came to Bethlehem we came here by bus. After we saw this busy checkpoint we decided to walk through it the next day on our way back to Jerusalem. It is easy to cross here for a German. The Israeli Military did not even check our passports, they just waved through the gates. Palestinians contrarily have to show their passports and identify themselves by their fingerprint. Not to mention that you have to go through X-ray security check beforehand.
Herewith the Palestine Experience had come to an end. We were back on our way to Tel Aviv, excited to hear what our Israeli friends would think about our trip.

flattr this!

Dead Sea - View to Jordan

The Dead Sea

Before rewarding ourselves with a floating bath in the Dead Sea, Kati and me decided to go for another hike around the area of Ein Gedi. The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve suggests itself since its just a stone throw away. There are a lot of tourists hiking here, which caused us to think we would not enjoy the hike. But nevertheless it some beautiful piece of nature you should not miss. You have the mountains here, caves, waterfalls, beautiful views and lots of springs for refreshment.

After our visit in the nature reserve we made our way to the Ein Gedi Beach, the only public beach in the area. You change your clothes and walk down the steep and rocky shore. The rocks in the water itself are covered in salt. And then – lay down and float! It’s a strange feeling to lie in the water. But it’s even more strange when you try to swim cos you legs are swinging up and it’s hard to actually have them in the water to swim. Luckily it was a very hot day (28°C) and the water was not too cold. When we went out of the water to dry ourselves in the sun a white encrustation was evolving on our skin.

 

After a quick shower we jumped in the car again and drove on to Jericho, which belongs to the West Bank (Palestine Territory).

flattr this!

Salt Rocks

On the Road to the Dead Sea

After leaving Mitspe Ramon we were heading on by car to the Dead Sea. I can highly recommend this route, it was the most beautiful we were riding these days.

Going through the mountains there was still incredible. The nature is rough and lonely here. Unlike around Mitspe Ramon you won’t find tourist busses here when you take the trails to the lookouts. Every now and then we stopped, almost overwhelmed by the harsh beauty of the mountains.

We were still driving through rough desert area, crossing Dimona and Yeruham onwards to the Dead Sea Area where you arrive at some huge salt pools before going up north to the Dead Sea itself. Shortly before you arrive at the salt pools you can enjoy a great view from the mountains. Over the huge white salt rocks and the pools you can look as far as to the reddish mountains on the Jordanian border. It’s feels like your looking over a moonlike landscape. I guess so far this was the most beautiful place I have ever been to. It was breathtaking. Kati and me even stopped talking, just staring over the white rocks sparkling in the sun.

We then continued our way down the mountains and took the road along the salt pools, stopping at Mount Sodom for a quick hike to enjoy the view over to the mountains of Jordan. Riding into the sunset we were relishing the contrast of the very blue Dead Sea and the red illuminated mountains (I picture myself the Mars must look like this). When it was almost dark we arrived at the youth hostel in Ein Gedi.

flattr this!

Teresa watching Negev

Negev – Endless Desert

After a long breakfast in Tel Aviv last Sunday we decided to rent a car to visit the Negev, the big desert area of Israel. After approximately one and a half hour of driving in the green the landscape changed into yellow dunes and harsh rocks at the area around Be’er Sheva. We stopped there just to feel the sand between our fingers, then we kept on driving further south. Our final aim was to reach the small town of Mitspe Ramon right in the middle of Makhtesh Nature Reserve. It’s a good starting point for hiking in the desert and you have a breathtaking view over the whole crater of Makhtesh.

We checked into an EcoCamp called Desert Shade with a beautiful view over the Makhtesh and small mud huts to sleep in. One of the guys working there was Adam, a young and very welcoming Israeli who originally came from the North of Israel and had dark and wild curly hair. There were also prisoners doing some kind of community service and a group of difficult teenagers. That night we talked to Adam about the military service in Israel and to another Israeli guy who comes over to the desert every once in a while to work with the kids.

The next morning we went for a hike in the Makhtesh. By car we went to Saharonim. From there we started to hike for a few hours in the desert. Unfortunately there were some school excursions to that hiking trek as well so that we were not the only ones on the trail. But nevertheless although hiking in the sun of the desert can be exhausting, it’s worth it in any case.

The next day we made our way to the Cisterns of Lotz. Although this area still belongs to the desert you will find (cos of the cisterns) a lot of spring flowers here. It’s a peaceful place and not a lot of people are around. It was easy to hike here – no big mountains, just hilly steppe.

flattr this!

_MG_1155

From Galilee to Golan

On Saturday we had a quick breakfast at Ido’s place. His dad was making some Arab coffee for us. Then Ido, Noa, Kati and me left by car for the Sea of Galilei where Jesus walked on water and the miracle of loaves and fishes happened. You will see a lot of pilgrims here. But there are also quiet places and the Sea of Galilee is a beautiful place anyway.

After that we made our way through Galilee up North to the Golan Heights close to the border of Syria. We came here in the best time of the year. Spring is immersing the hills with light green spots and lots of flours. You can see carpets of purple and yellow flowers, every now and then lanced be red poppy seeds and grazing cows. In general the Golan Heights are worth a visit – it’s nature is vast, rough and graceful all at once. It’s a pity you can not hike here since the land is full of mines. We stopped at Mount Bental. From there you can have a wide look over Israel but also to Syria. In the middle of this vast nature you are standing in this sun, it’s chilly and you can see the snowcapped Mount Hermon which partly belongs to Syria, partly to Israel. It’s an area of conflict, which Ido again explained to us. We sat down for a rest and Ido made some coffee for us on a gas cooker. Even nowadays this is not a carefree place – that day bombs were dropped in the border area right after we left.

Not knowing about the bombing we went unharmed on through Golan to Gamla – a nature reserve (with eagles) and an ancient Jewish settlement. We hiked around the area, visiting the Jewish settlement. Ido was very ambitious in being a good guide – he told us all the stories about Gamla. We hiked the hill on which the settlement was built and which looks like the back of a camel. I really liked the view on top of that hill. One had a view over the mountains until the Sea of Galilee.

After our hike we had some hearty food in the Israeli Brewery of Golan in Katsrin. Right after this refreshment we got back on the car to go back to Ido’s place in Tel Aviv.

flattr this!

Galilee

Getting to know Ido’s Home in Galilee

Last Friday, together with Noa, we made our way back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. There Ido was picking us up by car to go to Timrat, a small town in Galilee where his parents live. We enjoyed the ride in the car. The landscape in Israel is pretty green at spring time, which has already started here.

We had a quick stop in a small town to have some hummus and pita. Ido said it was one of the best places to have hummus: the lousier the houses, the better the hummus. True.

Later on we arrived at Ido’s place: a beautiful house in the mountains with a garden full of flowers. On top of the roof there was a guesthouse in which Kati and me could stay for the night. The view from the terrace was wide and beautiful. At night one could watch the stars and the lights of the city from afar. Before dinner Noa, Ido and us were having coffee on the terrace talking about Israeli (David Grossman) and German writers (Bernhard Schlink).

That night we had dinner with Ido’s family: his mother and father, his sister, his brother and his wife, the grandparents and Noa. Idos brother and his wife only eat kosher. We learned that for kosher dinner you have to separate milk and meat and that glass dishes are always kosher. The brother said a prayer before dinner and a glass of wine and some bread with honey was passed round the table. Then we started to eat four courses: soup, artichokes with mayonnaise, zucchini and other veggies with rice and a slice of cake with fruits.

We also learned a lot about Israeli politics and history, cos Ido’s parents would spend some more time with us at the table, telling stories about their country. Ido was showing us all places of interest in Israel in a very old atlas. I especially liked Ido’s dad a lot. He was very welcoming and very much interested. We had a good conversation that night and we were laughing a lot.

flattr this!

From Crying to Laughing (Yad Vashem)

When you are in Jerusalem there is no way you could not go to Yad Vashem, which is the Center for Holocaust Commemeration here. The museum is located at the edge of the city in the woods and it is surrounded by a park with lots of memorials for the victims of the Holocaust. Entrance is for free.

Even before we were going to Yad Vashem I already felt kind of oppressed: a German going to the Jewish Country to the Holocaust Museum. There was nothing really new to Kati and me. We read about all this before, which actually was a surprise to our Israeli friends. They even admitted that we probably have the bigger knowledge about the whole Holocaust thing.

It was also very interesting to see how people were experiencing Yad Vashem. Some were rushing through it, rather superficially interested. Some took a lot of time, some were crying. I am almost sure that most of the people I saw crying in the museum have been German. I was struggling myself not to fall in tears. I did not succeed. It’s a strange thing when you are in a museum in foreign country which shows the horror that people are able to do and you can read all the samples, because it is in your own language.

The building of the museum is shaped as a triangular tunnel. There are no windows, just above you, the peak of the triangle is made out of glass. In the beginning it’s rather dark and the closer you get to the end of the exhibition, the brighter it gets. When you exit the museum you will find yourself on a platform with a beautiful view over Jerusalem.

Kati and me spend more than four hours in the museum and some more time outside at the memorials. It was an emotionally exhausting day.

In the evening we met Noa, my Israeli friend from Jerusalem and some friends of her in a bar. They said it was the IN place in Jerusalem right now. I can not remember the name, but it was close to Mahane Yehuda and its name translated to English means neighbors.

There we were: Kati and me and a bunch of Israelis together at one table. There is nothing more bizarre than crying in Yad Vashem during the day and having drinks at night with Israeli friends while joking about German, Israeli, Arab and Jewish stereotypes. I feel very lucky about it. Very lucky.

flattr this!

Muslima

The Holy City of Jerusalem

Last night, after a quick stop at Idos and Asafs place, we headed to Jerusalem by bus. We arrived in the late evening at Noas place which is a little offside the city centre.

In the morning we woke up early cos there is a lot to see in the Holy City of Jerusalem. We had breakfast in a café called Kadosh near the city hall, which Noa recommended to us. When you realize you, an atheist and an agnostic, are having a conversation about religion before breakfast, you must be in Jerusalem. We had fresh muesli with fruits and nuts, they also have good pastries there. After the morning refreshment in the sun at Kadosh we first visited the Old City which is divided into a Christian, Armenian, Muslim and Jewish Quarter. We started our tour at Jaffa Gate (like most of the people do) where you have the tower of David and first and foremost a bunch of souvenir shops. We then walked through the different quarters towards the Western Wall which we call in German ‘Klagemauer’.

The Muslim Quarter is the busiest and most colorful one. You have a lot of shops here and there is a lot of Arab stuff to eat. Unexpectedly Noa told us that this is the quarter you have the least to mind about veiling yourself. At the very end of Old City when you come from Jaffa Gate there is the Western Wall – the most important Shrine and place of pilgrimage of the Jews. Women and men are supposed to pray separately. The larger part of the Western Wall is for the male prayer.

What the believers do is, they read in the Torah. They go to the wall, say their prayers sometimes by holding their hands and foreheads against the wall. They rock themselves for- and backwards while they are praying and in the end stick a piece of paper with a prayer into the wall. It is said, that when you put your paper there God is more likely to hear your prayer.

It is a quiet place. I stood in front of the Western Wall, touching its stones with my eyes closed and since I am not religious instead of a prayer I made a wish. This experience was very intense. Especially because the two women left and right next to me were not only mourning, they were actually crying while standing at this wall. I also put a piece of paper in the wall – with a wish for someone else and one for me – then I left the prayer area.

In comparison to Tel Aviv you obviously see a lot of  Jewish people here: men wearing the Kippa, orthodox Jews with black suits, hats and curly at their temples, women covering their heads with scarfs or wigs (yes wigs!).

After our visit of the Western Wall we made a detour to the big Muslim Cemetery right behind the Old City. On our way a taxi driver slowed down next to us, asking if we wanted him to take us to the Mount of Olives. As we refused he cursed us and reminded us to watch our heads, they might be stuck somewhere. Well, I’d rather do not take a taxi in Jerusalem though.

Back from our detour to the cemetery we fell in line for a visit of the Temple Mount. It’s a very spiritual place cos this is where Judaism, Christianity and Islam combine. In the center of the Temple Mount is the Dome of Rocks with its beautifully blue decorated ceramics and the big golden dome. Unfortunately you can only enter the dome if you are Muslim.

So we left that special place and continued our walk to Via Dolorosa where Jesus started his walk with the cross. We walked Jesus’ path and followed the stations he lived through, ending up in the Church of Holy Sepulcher. This is the place where he was nailed to the cross, buried and where he resurrected.

Just right when you enter the church there is a stone in the ground. This is the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. People here kneel to the stone and kiss it.

You will also find a lot of chapels, the Calvary where the believers kneel down to pray as well and the tomb of Jesus in here. Around the tomb people were lining up to enter. There was this couple right next to me. She asked him: You wanna go inside the tomb? He answered: I see this huge queue, I don’t want to go inside, I want a felafel. Well, we needed some refreshment too. For me the Church of Holy Sepulcher was a strange place. I could feel the spiritualness of this place and its meaning. But at the same time it felt like I was carrying the burden of Christianity inside those walls. We relaxed in a café in the Christian Quarter, having an arabic coffee, listening to the muezzins singing.

Our next aim was too explore some of the city center. So we carried on to Zion Square and then to King Georges’ to end at Mahane Yehuda market. Mahane Yehuda is mostly covered and you mostly can buy food. The sellers are offering you sampling of their nuts, sweets and olives. We bought some delicious olives and dried figs here.

In fact we wanted to visit the Israel Museum afterwards, but unfortunately it was already closed. But at least we could get a glimpse of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

flattr this!

IMG_0772

Exploring Haifa

Tuesday morning we got up rather early to catch the train to Haifa, which is a northern harbour city in Israel and only an hour ride away. It was again a very hot and sunny day. Under a clear blue sky we walked from Haifa Merkaz station to the Bahai Gardens with its Temple. Unfortunately the temple was not open, so we could not enter. Nevertheless the garden is worth a visit.

The Arab quarter “Wadi Nisnas” of Haifa is just a stone throw away from Bahai. There is not much to say except for that it is a very nice neighborhood with very friendly people. You can get lost in the tiny lanes and enjoy the felafels here.

After some refreshment by a felafel and some lemonade we walked through the city until we reached the subway. According to our friend Asaf, who is originally from Haifa, this subway is the shortest in the world (there are only six stations) and the only one in whole Israel.  It’s a cute little train that goes up the mountain at the outer edge of Haifa. We only travelled three stations and got off at Masada. If you buy into Asaf it’s the only “cool” street in Haifa, where the young people go to hang around. The Masada street is very short, but Asaf was right: its cool.

We spend some time in Masada sitting in Zebra Café, which is a small, hippiesque coffee shop with homemade cakes and pastries and read some book and took it the easy way. Afterwards we threw ourselves again in the little train and went up on top of the mountain, where you have a beautiful view over the city, can visit the Zoo and a (not too fancy) garden.

Haifa View

From the top of the hill we went down a narrow stairway to the city. Somewhere on the way we got lost and found ourselves somewhere in an industrial area. In the end we succeeded in finding the way back to the Merkaz Train Station.

Next stop: Jerusalem. Noas Place.

flattr this!

_MG_0730

Another day in Tel Aviv

It’s Monday, another day in Tel Aviv.

We had not set an alarm so that we slept late and had breakfast in the Roladin Café, which actually was not a breakfast anymore. After Israeli sandwiches and salad we threw ourselves on the green city bikes to take a look at the city again. After a small detour to a Square (which is btw awesomely ugly and boring) where they have all those posh designer shops we cycled to the beaches in the North of the city. Tel Aviv is a good city to hang out. You will feel relaxed the moment you make your first step into this city. And so we sat again on one of those beaches and watched the children play for some time.

IMG_0649

Back on the bikes we cycled along the beach promenade and then into the small lanes of Tel Aviv, where they have beautiful houses, sometimes with colorful decorations.

Our destination was the quarter of Florentin, which is supposedly the “Kreuzberg of Tel Aviv”. Since Tel Aviv is not too big and easy to orient, you can find your way through the alleys, without looking too often at a map. Sometimes this might cause you a little detour. But it’s the detours that make your trips more exciting. Florentin has beautiful coffee places, lots of shops for hipster clothes. Somewhat more distant from the hip cafés you will find some more alternative shops, felafel stores and fruit stalls. It’s a good area just to walk around, feel the spirit of the city and have a coffee to watch the people come and go (like we did).

From there we continued our way by feet. We wanted to go to Old Jaffa again, cos we heard it must really beautiful at night. And it is. But I would nor recommend to have dinner in the harbor. The food is good but the waiters are annoying. Nevertheless you should come and the the old houses Jaffa in the dark.

flattr this!