Monday, July 28, 2014

Israel Trip Summary

The weekend trip to Israel was great.  Aside from the two rocket attacks everything in Tel Aviv was fine.  I ♥ the Iron Dome!!   And the beach was awesome!!  Except for the beach, I enjoyed Jaffa more as it had much more history to it.

Jerusalem was a good day trip.  Just enough to get the feel of things but many more days are needed in order to do it right.  Especially since we couldn't visit Temple Mount due to security issues on the day we went.

Israel isn't exactly the cheapest place to visit.  Prices are way better in Czechland.  But the €7 frozen mint lemonade on a hot day is so so worth it.

There were lots of differences between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  This weekend made me realize that I need another 10 to 14 days to go back to Jerusalem and see the rest of Israel and Palestine.

The list of places for future visits include Haifa, Nazareth, Beersheba, Eilat, Galilee, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Ramallah and the Dead Sea.

One of the cool things is that Israel no longer stamps passports.  Instead you receive a ticket that is used instead of the stamp.  It's a free souvenir and prevents future travel hassles.  An Israeli passport stamp would prevent entry to Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Libya, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and the U.A.E.  All of which are on the list of places to visit sooner or later.

Overall it was a super visit and Yad Vashem was outstanding.  Things looked way worse on the news then what we experienced.  I made sure to post daily Facebook updates so that everyone knew we were safe.  We made it back to Prague on Monday, all safe and sound, prior to the Tel Aviv airport being closed.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Couple of Czech Heroes

There are 114 Czechs honored by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations.  While at Yad Vashem, I happened to notice trees honoring two of these heroes.

Karla Andělová-Weisová
Karla Andělová-Weisová was active in the anti-Nazi resistance and was apprehended.  She served time in multiple prisons in Bohemia and Germany.  She eventually ended up at the  Ravensbrück concentration camp.

While there, other prisoners nicknamed her "Andělka", angel for having helped people.  She took a Jewish boy under her wing after his parents died in the camp.  Karla even brought the boy home to Prague after the war ended.  A tree was planted in her honor in 1978. 

Přemysl Pitter
Přemysl Pitter was a teacher and pacifist.  At the end of WWII, he managed to provide sanctuary to almost a thousand children.  The children were Jewish orphans from the concentration camps and Czech orphans whose parents had died in the fighting.

He even took in German children whose parents had been killed following the liberation of Czechoslovakia.  Despite the personal consequences he always provided assistance to those who needed the most help.  In 1964 his deeds were honored at Yad Vashem.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

Yad Vashem is the official memorial to Holocaust victims.  The center in Jerusalem opened in 1953.  It is a major research and education center.  After the Western Wall, it is the second most visited tourist site in Israel.

The Pillar of Heroism was erected in 1967 after the Six Day War.

The Hall of Names honors the millions of Jews who were murdered in WWII.

The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations honors gentiles who saved Jews from the Holocaust.  These heroes did so at great personal risk, and without financial or evangelical motives.  They simply did the right thing.

Trees for Oskar & Emile Schindler
Trees are planted in the garden to honor these heroes.  There are 114 Czechs and 539 Slovaks who have received this honor. 

Gertruda Babilińska's Tree

Years ago, I saw a TV program about Gertruda Babilińska.  She was a Catholic nanny who worked for a Jewish family in Poland.  She made a vow to look after the family's son, Michael, after the rest of the family died.  During the war she told everyone he was her son and hid him in plain sight of the authorities.  The penalty for assisting Jews was death.  After the war she took him to Palestine and raised him Jewish while she remained a devout Catholic.  A tree was planted in her honor in 1963.

Here's a video I found on YouTube about Yad Vashem.

©Yad Vashem

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, is one of the oldest cities in the world.  It is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, about 60 km (37 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv.  Jerusalem has a population over 804,000; roughly 10% of Israel's total.

Jerusalem is considered holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.  The Old City has an area of only 0.9 km² (0.35 mi²) but is home to some of the most sacred places to each of the three major religions.

In 1981, the Old City was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Tower of David near the Jaffa Gate
Jerusalem is one of the core issues between Israel and Palestine.  According to the UN, Jerusalem was to be an open city.  During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Israel captured West Jerusalem and Jordan took East Jerusalem (including the Old City).  During the Six Day War, Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan.  Israel considers Jerusalem to be its capital even though this is not recognized internationally.  Palestine considers East Jerusalem as its rightful capital even though Palestine is currently led from Ramallah. 

The Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, is a 57 meter (187 foot) section of the western wall of the Temple Mount.  There are separate sections for men and women.  People write prayers on slips of paper and place them into the crevices. 

Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is where Jews face to during prayers.  It is the third holiest site in Islam as the place where Mohammad ascended to heaven. 

View from the Cotton Gate

Due to security concerns the Temple Mount was closed to tourists on Sunday.  A view of the dome from the Cotton Gate is as close as Israeli soldiers would let us get to it. 

The Cenacle is known as the Upper Room and is part of the Holy Zion Church.  This is where Jesus and his disciples conducted the Passover meal, the Last Supper, on which the Catholic celebration of Mass is based.

King David's Tomb

King David's Tomb is located on Mount Zion, in the remains of an old Byzantine church.  David was the King of Israel.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a basilica and also known as the Church of the Resurrection.  This is where Jesus was crucified and contains the place where he is said to have been buried.  The church contains the last four Stations of the Cross.  The church was consecrated in 325 AD.

The Stone of Anointing is where it is said that Jesus' body was anointed before burial.

The Mount of Olives is adjacent to the Old City.  Olive groves once covered the slopes.  It has been used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years.

View of Jerusalem from the Austrian Hospice
Sightseeing in the Old City alone can be history and religion overload.  This is a city that you need a few days in so that you really appreciate everything.  Sounds like a return visit is in order. 

Not far from the Old City is Yad Vashem.  Established in 1953, it is the official memorial to the Holocaust victims.  Well worth the visit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv, תֵּל־אָבִיב, is the second largest city in Israel.  The city has a population of 414,600 but the metropolitan area is home to over 3.46 million people.  Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 on the outskirts of Jaffa.  While Jerusalem is the country's capital, this is not recognized internationally so Tel Aviv is home to all of the foreign embassies.

View of Tel Aviv from Jaffa

Tel Aviv sits on the Mediterranean.  It enjoys 14 km (8.7 miles) of beautiful coastline.

Getting around the city is pretty easy.  The street signs are all in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Armed soldiers on Rothschild Blvd

Rothschild Boulevard is a 1.5 km long residential boulevard.  It's lined with great cafes, restaurants and some interesting architecture.

The Levine House was designed in 1924 in the Eclectic style.  In the 1950s it served as the Soviet Embassy.

Many German Jewish architects fled Germany are brought the Bauhaus style to Tel Aviv in the 1920s and 1930s.  With more than 5,000 Modernist-style buildings in the city, the city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

The Carmel Market is the city's largest food and vegetable market.  You can also find there anything else you could possibly want to buy.  Very crowded but fun. 

The Great Synagogue was completed in 1926.  It was renovated in 1970.

The large square in front of city hall is named after Yitzhak Rabin where the Nobel Peace prize winning prime minister was assassinated.  The large sculpture commemorates those who perished in the Holocaust.

As Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath there were very few people out and about in the morning.  It's a great time to get out and explore the city.  It was a little creepy at first; kind of like one of those zombie movies where all the people have vanished.  And we were pretty sure that it had nothing to do with Friday's rocket attacks.  Eventually we found everyone.  They were all having a great time on the beach.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Touring a Bomb Shelter, Israel

When we arrived at the Tel Aviv Airport on Friday, one of the first things we noticed were signs indicating the nearest bomb shelter.  Given the current situation in Gaza right now it seems like a good precaution.  Other than the the airport shelter signs I couldn't tell that anything was going on in the city.  Things in Israel definitely looked worse on the news.

Jaffa Free Walking Tour

After lunch in the city and a stroll by the beach, it was time for our free walking tour of Jaffa.  Again, everything was fine.  No worries.

About an hour into our tour, around 6 pm, we heard the air raid sirens go off.  Our guide, Yariv, calmly said that we had about 70 seconds to seek shelter.

Our bomb shelter
He guided us to the nearest shelter where we safely waited underground.

We heard a few explosions that indicated that two rockets were taken out by the Iron Dome.  We then just had to wait for the debris to fall.  After a few minutes we resumed the tour.  Thanks Yariv!

Now how many people can say that their holiday included a trip to a bomb shelter?  It was amazing to me that it all happened so quickly.  And as soon as it was over, life went right back to normal.  You would never have known that something had happened.      

Around 9:30 PM we were walking back to our flat and we heard the air raid sirens go off again.  It was now dark and we took shelter in a building archway.  It was dark and I actually saw three Gaza rockets get intercepted by Israeli missiles.  It was all over after a few minutes and we made it home safely.  I ♥ the Iron Dome!!

This was our only excitement in Israel.  No further incidents in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel

Jaffa is one of the world's oldest ports and dates back about 4,000 years to the Canaanites.  It's thought that this is the port that Jonah left from in the story of the whale.

Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 on the outskirts of Jaffa but Tel Aviv's growing population eventually outpaced the port city.  In 1950, Tel Aviv and Jaffa merged into a single municipality and Jaffa became Tel Aviv-Yafo, תל אביב-יפו.  Jaffa is home about 60,000 people.

The clock tower was built in 1906.  It was built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Sultan Abdul Hamid II's reign over the Ottoman Empire.

Built in 1897, the facade and columns are all that remain of the Saraya which was the center of the Ottoman government. 

The Mahmoudiya Mosque is the largest mosque in Jaffa.  Initial construction began in 1730 but most of the complex was completed in 1812.


The Statue of Faith sits on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean.  The sculpture depicts several biblical scenes including the Binding of Isaac, the Conquest of Jericho and Jacob's Ladder. 

St. Peter's Church is a Franciscan Church.  The Baroque style church was built, in 1888, on top of an old Crusaders' citadel.

Mar Michal Church is a Greek Orthodox monastery complex.  It was first built in the second half of the 17th century.  Today, services are held on Saturdays and Sundays in Russian and Romanian.

The Floating Orange Tree was done in 1993 by sculptor Ran Morin.  The orange tree in an earthenware pot hangs from chains in an alley.  The work is a representation of the Jewish people who were uprooted by the Romans in 135 AD.

The House of Simon the Tanner is an important site for Christians.  This is where Peter the Apostle had a dream which he interpreted as divine permission to teach Christianity to Jews and Gentiles alike.  So this is where Judaism and Christianity started to split.

The Sea Mosque is built from sandstone blocks.  The exact date of construction is unknown but it dates back to at least the early 17th century.  Muslim sailors and fishermen would pray here before going out to sea.

Apparently, 157 Americans sailed from Maine, in 1866, with wooden houses to establish an American colony in Jaffa.  Not sure if it still exists but there's a monument for it.

The Jaffa Railway Station was built in 1892 as the terminus between Jaffa and Jerusalem.  This was the first railway in the Middle East.  The station was closed in 1948.  Today, it is part of an entertainment and leisure venue.