They say: Jerusalem is the City of Prayer, Tel Aviv is the City of Fun, and Haifa, The City For Work. We’re now on a two and a half week vacation from Ulpan, so we’ve decided to travel around the country on “daycations” and see this new land of ours for ourselves. The weather is finally cooling down to be on the more comfortable spectrum, and we are trying to make the most of it. The first day of break was the day Max was coming back from camp in the States. We planned an early morning excursion to Tel Aviv/Yafo – about 2 hours south of Karmi’el.
Tel Aviv was the first modern city to be founded in Israel in the very early 1900s on the shores of the Mediterranean. Today it is a fast-paced, bustling metropolis, more closely like New York City than any other place in Israel. It’s known for its fashion, its Bauhaus architecture juxtaposed against modern high rises, its restaurants, concerts, and nightlife. Just to the south of TA lies old Yafo/Jaffa. It has Biblical roots in the book of Jonah, and is still home to ancient ruins and the old port. It too, was built up in the early-mid 1900s, but fell into disrepair and tenement housing for a long time. Recently, it has been getting a facelift, and is becoming a trendy mix of flea-market, boutiques, antiques shops, amazing restaurants and cafes, and artist galleries. Right up our alley!!!! Boho chic. A bit laid back. A lot of fun. the old apartments being transformed into upscale loft apartments and studios.
From Ben Gurion Airport to the southeast, we made a quick jaunt up the coast to Herzliya. It lies just North of TA, and is another upscale community (reminds me of a cross between Palo Alto and Redondo Beach). The residents of this coastal suburb work in Tel Aviv and adjoining Netanya, the Silicon Valley of Israel. It is the high tech capital. Theodore Herzl, the man with the vision to regather the Jewish Diaspora into their own country with their own language (1880s), is there perched atop the water reservoir to greet you.
Last Sunday, we thought another field trip was in order, and we really wanted to escape the heat of Karmiel, so we headed down to Haifa, 30 minutes south along the coast. Another early start, this time to find the cave of Elijah. Dear Hubby heard it was atop Mt. Carmel at Stella Maris Catholic Church. As we arrived, there was a Mass with a huge congregation of Phillipinos who work in the convalescent hospitals and retirement homes in the area. A Nigerian pilgrimage group was also there to visit the site. The church was gorgeous, with Baroque style frescoes in the domed basilica. The altar of the church was built atop the cave, lending a dramatic quality. We waited until after the Mass to go into the small cave. Was this where Elijah heard that still, small voice after the fire and the earthquake? Was this where ravens came to feed him each day as he hid out?
By the time we left, it was after 10 and the temperature was beginning to rise over the 100 degree Fahrenheit mark again – and I had a great (and mishuggeneh) idea to find the other cave. The one I heard about. It was at across the street, a 1.2 mile hike down the mountain, and, despite the protests of my family, I headed out with them in hot pursuit. I was on a mission and could not be stopped! Goodness, was it hot!!! The scenery was amazing! If only I had brought water with me!!! Yikes!!!
I finally arrived, hot and sweaty, caked in dust, to the ancient Jewish holy site. It was a huge grotto with two smaller side caverns. Perfect for dividing the women’s and men’s sections. Few people were there except for a small contingent of devout praying for the coming of Messiah. Benches along the wall; well stocked with prayerbooks and Bibles. This was the place, where just a few months earlier, mystic and Rabbi Amram Vaknin made his prophecy on future events concerning Israel and the world. I had found it!!! Whether this was the “real” cave, or the one atop the mountain, or another (Mt Carmel is a huge range), I’ll never know – but it was quite the experience. And while I spent the hour in prayer, my poor, wonderful husband hiked back up the mountain to bring the car back down to where Max & I were. G-d, please bless this amazingly good sport!
After lunch at the kosher vegetarian Cafe Luisa back at the top of the mountain, we decided to take in a movie.
Or two. It was so cool and comfortable inside the theatre. So – one in English with Hebrew subtitles; and one in Hebrew with English subtitles. Max and I came out confident, able to understand most of both. We’re doing really well after only 4 months! John enjoyed it all as well. Then, a lovely drive around Haifa, which is much like San Francisco. It’s on the bay, and built all up and down the mountain. Winding streets, apartments precariously on the incline, lots of people, and a real urban feel. We found a decent Kosher, Chinese restaurant in the newly renovated Nof Hotel, and took in some magnificent views of the city. From where we were, Karmiel can be hazily seen in the mountains (top,center) directly across Haifa Bay. We have the reverse of this view from our balcony.
Tuesday, Max’s friend from camp came to visit us for a few days. We did a some fun things including the beach at Nahariyya to the North (near Lebanon). The guys enjoyed a late afternoon swim, and as is typical for Israel, the town came alive at night. The streets were lit up in this summer beach town, and the boardwalk was bustling with vacationers, pizza and gelato vendors, arcades, souvenir stands and beachy things. Little did we know, but it’s customary in Israel for free events for families to happen all summer long. At the end of the tayellet (boardwalk), a stage had been set up, and a huge crowd gathered for some kind of free concert.
It turned out to be Israeli singing sensation, Sarit Haddad. She was voted best artist of 2011; her music is played all the time on the radio; she’s now a judge on the The Voice (Israel); and I had been singing a couple of her songs for years – except now, I could understand the words! Kolkakh sababa! Totally cool!!! Great time. Fireworks. Fun. And the boys were entertained – not an easy feat for late teens! What a wonderful few days, and vacation is not only halfway over. They next few days should be fun indeed…