[Tour of Israel Part 8] Along the Coast

Tuesday, June 13 (יום שלישי, 19 סיון)

When I woke up at 06:45, I headed to the dining room after donning today’s clothes. I had a potato boureka and an omelet, as well as cranberries. An unexpected face showed up: Gary Hochman! Yet another “Can’t take Nebraska out of Nebraskans” situation! He is on assignment for NETV, and needed to be here for some reason. I love bumping into familiar faces unexpectedly like this! Oh, and the scallion-spinach omelet turned out well. I should try their technique (beat an egg and add the ingredients to a rice bowl or similar bowl, and pour it all at once onto the griddle).

Loading up the bus, we checked out of נוף גינוסר. The road took us the same way that we came on Sunday, but though there was some traffic, there was no wreck or fire slowing us down. We got out the road toward Highway 6, via Highway 77. By the way, the Hebrew word for highway is כביש (kveesh). This road took us toward the town of זכרון יעקב (Zichron Ya’akov), which was a mountainous community.

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Somewhere between Ginosar and Zichron Ya’akov.

The name of the town is a memorial to יעקב רוטסצ’ילד (Jacob Rothschild) (after all, the town’s name literally means “Memorial of Jacob.” A water tower or just a silo-like tower honors Rothschild. We walked through to the NILI museum. There was no entrance where we were, so we descended stairs on the west side of the museum to reach the auditorium entrance. Of course, people used the restrooms that were outside first. The seats in the auditorium were really low to the ground!

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The tower honoring Rothschild.

NILI (or ניל”י) was an acronym for “נצח ישראל לא ישקר” (netzach yisrael lo y’shakeir / the eternity of Israel will not deceive). NILI started as a spy ring in 1914, and sought to drive the Ottoman empire out of “Israel” (since the state Israel wasn’t founded for another 34 years!). A movie explained the story of Aaron and Sarah Aharonson, Avshalom (didn’t catch the last name), and the fact that Aaron’s experience with agronomy allowed him to pull the double-duty. Under the auspices of science, Aaron was able to run NILI.

Naturally, the story, with war and spies, had a lot of death. One of these was Sarah, who committed suicide to avoid further torture by the Ottomans. She hid a gun in her house and used it to kill herself when the torturer allowed her to shower (there was strong opposition in the international community to torturing women) and change clothes.

The story was repeated through the relics in the museum, and since I was allowed to take photos here, I will tell the story through a few photos instead of words (wow, that’s unusual for me!)

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Some of the faces of NILI

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Information about Sarah Aharonson.

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Intelligence in science leads to intelligence in the security sense.

 

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Not heroes in the eyes of everyone…

Well, the next part of our tour had photos forbidden — the houses on the site of the museum. Everything inside the houses is original (well, maybe a few things are updated). In the east house, it was one long corridor, from kitchen to bedroom to dining room to study and back (front?) door to the living room. I noticed that there was no bathroom, but maybe it was in a blocked-off area or there was an outhouse. The house looked like a rustic place, but would have been comfortable to live in, methinks.

The west house opened into the study, and went into the living room, which had the slot on the door jamb that hid Sarah’s gun. A bedroom was beyond the living room, and there was also an entryway with kitchen, bathroom access, and cellar access. Sarah had shot herself in the bathroom, and the cellar was a stone grotto! This whole story was fascinating, but I know that my account is not doing it justice.

We exited the museum, and headed down the street and were on a shopping and lunch break at 11:30. Some restaurants weren’t yet open for lunch, and we had to return to the bus at 12:45. I went rogue, but ultimately got company. .אכלתי שניצל בפיתה במסעדת שווארמה גוטה והיזמנתי רק בעברית (I ate schnitzel in a pita at the restaurant “Shawarma Guta” and ordered solely in Hebrew.) The Hamicksburg offspring, Rosses, Cohen, and Watches also ate there.

 

Before we caught the bus, we saw an old tree that had its roots coming down rather than going up (see the photo below). It was interesting, but I should have wiped my wet hands on it — לא היו מגבות בשירותים (there were no towels in the bathroom)! There was also the Rothschild Synagogue at our rendezvous point, but no further stories were given since it wasn’t part of our tour.

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The roots start at the top and go downward!

On our way down the mountain and on to Highway 20, Gili talked about the song אלף משיקות (Elef Mishikot / 1000 Kisses), which I have heard on the radio several times before. Evidently it is related to NILI due to the song being sung by the widow(?). Yep, I am fuzzy on the details because I might have started to reach Tour Overload. Others were also mentally fatigued, and some may have been physically fatigued. When we saw smokestacks near חדרה (Hadera), Gili gave a “Long Answer” with the joke of them being Roman columns. Be on your toes for that information! Oh, and the power plant was actually in Caesarea.

Our stop in חדרה was a school for Ethiopian Jews (specifically, it was בית-ספר הרב תחומי). We entered ביניין-תמר (the Date Palm building), and the principal and several students were there. Grace, the principal, was at Brandeis when she heard of Operation Solomon, which were the sequence of airlifts of Ethiopian Jews to Israel on 24/5/1991. An earlier mission on foot was Operation Moses, but only 8 thousand of the 12 thousand refugees in that operation survived. The Ethiopian Jews went underground after 0 CE, but re-emerged later, so that they have a lot of history to contribute to the overall Jewish story. The ENP (Ethiopian National Project) tries to aid these Ethiopian Jews with assimilation into Israeli life.

The project that our group visited was an after-school program where teens get to do activities. We played a version of “Chutes and Ladders,” where each square had either a question to answer or “DARE!” If you landed on a “DARE!” square, the dare was a physical activity or a question drawn from a deck of “DARE!” cards. The rules, cards, and board were English-Hebrew bilingual. This was fun! My group got to meet עופר (Ofer) and עידן (Idan), the latter who had a better grasp of English. The game seemed secondary to the socialization and sharing stories!

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Ofer and Idan.

Our generation may be the last to hear first-hand stories of the שועה (Holocaust), as well as the Operation Moses: the walking to Sudan to catch the airlift. So we heard the story of טובה (Tova), in Hebrew and with Grace providing the translation. She lived well in Ethiopia until the age of 8, and loved school. One day, her grandfather kept her from school in order to prepare her to leave Ethiopia en route for Jerusalem. In 1984, the 3-4 week walk was survived by everyone in her group, but once their food ran out, the Sudanese food did not agree with their systems. In the refugee camp, she lost her mom and siblings to diseases.

I could tell that she was pained telling this part of the story. She mentioned that whenever something bad happens, something good is bound to happen soon. For example, her Dad remarried after meeting a fellow refugee on the airlift. She loves her current job with this program. Maybe a far cry from her background in graphic design, but college majors are not necessarily career paths!

The holiday of Sigd is celebrated in Israel, and it originated as a yearning for the return to Jerusalem. Moreover, the 4000 people who died during Operation Moses are commemorated on יום ירושלים (Jerusalem Day, observed 43 days after the first day of Passover). I should consider getting her book, סיפור חיים כעף שתול. Though it may be hard for me to read since it will be fully in Hebrew, I would welcome the challenge!

Back on the bus, we drove on the highway toward Tel Aviv. The road system has even numbers for north-south roads (and Highway 90 is the longest road in Israel), and odd numbers for east-west roads. We were on the Ayalon Highway: Highway 20. Gili explained how the Tel-Aviv/Yafo area is a megalopolis. My attention was split because I was trying to set up a lunch rendezvous with Taglit friend(s) for tomorrow. We quickly reached the Rabin Center.

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Entrance to the Rabin Center.

Before our tour began, I listened to Aunt Lori speak of over-saturation on the trip — she can’t take more information. I could somewhat see that in myself as well, but push on I must! We entered the museum’s main part by ascending stairs and going into a circular room where footage from the peace rally on 4 November 1995 and the news reports immediately following were given.

The museum had a downward helical slope (wonder if there’s symbolism here akin to Yad Vashem?), with off-shooting rooms. On the helix was a chronology of יצחק רבין (Yizhak Rabin), and on the offshoots were exhibits about the State of Israel, both before and after its formation. I will just share what I found interesting. Another name for תל אביב (Tel Aviv) is עיר לבנה (White City). The pride of Zionism was pioneerism, farming, and labor. Rabin was in the IDF as a commander and later as a chief. The עולים (immigrants) helped to build up Israel’s economy, as the country was impoverished at its formation. These עולים lived in transit camps to start. Israel’s war victories were amazing to consider when thinking about how badly outnumbered they were.

Rabin became an ambassador to the US in 1967. Though Israel won the מלחמת יום כפור, it may have been a Pyrrhic victory. However, Rabin later became prime minister of Israel. When Israel later ceded Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace, the Jewish settlements there were dismantled too. His vision for peace caused factions in Israel including some that compared him to Hitler. Rabin’s study room was preserved for this museum, and the television program that he watched prior to the peace rally was an Israeli football match.

Before we left, we went to the porch for a group picture with Tel Aviv in the background. We then drove seaside on the bus toward the Dan Panorama, in a lot of traffic. Part of the drive went under a hotel, which is now the Leonardo Art. Six years ago, it was מלון מרינה (Marina Hotel), where my Birthright group stayed for one night.

In fact, during this stretch, Gili was in the back of the bus, and I commandeered the microphone to get some laughs: pointing out that hotel, as well as the bike-share bikes that were visible, and also the flashing חינם (FREE) on a sign for a parking area. Maybe I have some sort of tour guide impetus in my brain! After a while, we arrived, but before going upstairs, said farewell to Liz and the Slevins, who were leaving tonight. I had received no responses from Israeli friends, so I went to dinner with the Corens as well as Esti!

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Yep, this hotel underpass passed underneath the room I stayed at six years ago! Noah being the proxy tour guide!

Walking down the crowded Kauffman Street, we looked for beachfront restaurants. Our first option was Manta Ray, but it was non-kosher, expensive, and crowded. Moving on, we left the beach and found the תחנה (Tachanah) district, which was a decommissioned train station like what we found in Jerusalem. The kosher restaurant רג’ינה (Regina) was full-up, but our next stop, איטלקית בתחנה (Italian At The Station), was available (albeit non-kosher-certified). We ate there anyway, everyone ordering something vegetarian.

I got a margherita pizza, as did Jemma and Nancy. Ken got… oh, I forgot, and Esti shared pizza with the Corens. We talked a lot about language, as I read the Hebrew menu for kicks. The talk about עלייה was mentioned, and how Israel supports its עולים in getting started on their new life in the country. The אולפן (ulpan/Hebrew school) model must work out well! Some movies were discussed at dinner, and it was outside of my area of expertise and interest. Oh, and we ate outside and saw them retract the awnings. That was pretty cool!

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The dinner bunch. Counterclockwise from left-bottom: Jemma, Charlie, Ken, Noah, Nancy, Esti. Photo credit: Ken Greenfield. 

We all returned to the hotel together, before splitting up. I went to the pool deck: the door was open, but the pool had closed at 18:00. So I ascended to Room 529 and looked out the window at the sea and the pool at the next hotel over. For the evening, I listened to Israeli radio on the RLive app, and journaled. When Seth returned from his dinner with a friend that he hadn’t seen in 25 years, it was about 23:00. That’s a good time to fall asleep!

>> TO BE CONTINUED…

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(Dirty?) Thirty: 5 days

Nebraska Regional: 39 days

Semester Kickoff: 70 days

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