Where is John Lama? travel blog

Israel declares statehood on May 15, 1948, with the support of the...

Tel Aviv is a modern city situated along the Mediterranean Sea.

German Bauhaus-style modernist architecture is common in Tel Aviv since many Jewish...

I met my Israeli friend Ashira in Cuba three years ago. We...

Ashira and I also visited the old port city of Jaffa just...

Old guys feed the pigeons in every city in the world.

Ashira and I stopped by a flea market in old Jaffa.

There is some great architecture in Jaffa's old city.

More of Jaffa's old city.

Israel is famous for their fruits and vegetables which are exported throughout...

The streets and buildings of old Jaffa are quite a contrast from...

We met up for coffee with Ashira's cousin and another friend.

We also went to a really interesting neighborhood in south Tel Aviv...

Neve Tzedek has some beautiful spots, so many couples like to take...

I saw three couples taking wedding photos in this neighborhood the day...

There are a lot of great restaurants in Neve Tzedek as well.

Another restaurant in Neve Tzedek.

This is a park in Neve Tzedek. This area is much more...

Next Ashira and I went to the ruins of the ancient Roman...

In the year 6 BC Caesarea became the headquarters of the Roman...

Caesarea is located on the Mediterranean coast and a huge artificial harbor...

The waves crashing along the breakwater at Caesarea were amazing!

Caesarea was an active city until the Muslim Marmelukes conquered it in...

There are still a lot of archealogical ruins to see at Caesarea.

This huge amphitheatre was built by Herod for horse racing and shows...

Next Ashira and I went to the Israel wine country and the...

Zikhron Ya'akov was founded in December 1882 by 100 Jewish pioneers from...

This is a great little coffee house and restaurant in Zikhron Ya'akov.

When I met Ashira in Cuba she was traveling with her friend...

Lenore was a professional basketball player in Israel, and now she has...

My tour with the Michael Medved group began at the Dan Panorama...

The Medved tour group was great, especially my roommate Nick and our...

There are some crazy fruits in Israel.

We didn't know what it was, but Nick wanted to be a...

Michael broadcast his radio show live from Israel, which is heard daily...

I was ready for action in case Michael didn't return from his...

Next our group of over 100 Medved listeners boarded our two tour...

Our first view of the Sea of Galilee from the bus as...

We stopped by a cemetary near the shore of the Sea of...

One of our tour guides Marty explained the significance of the tombstones.

Jews often leave a stone on a grave, a tradition maybe originating...

Next we were off to the border with Syria in the Golan...

Famous general Effie Eitam, adviser to current Israeli PM Netanyahu, spoke with...

There are still fortifications existing on this hill along the border of...

I was able to explore the tunnels and fortifications here.

Next we drove just 15 miles across Israel to the border of...

The border with Lebanon is still heavily monitored since there was just...

We were able to meet a group of Israeli soldiers who were...

The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers here were doing target practice when...

A number of tanks are ready to respond in case Hezbollah mounts...

Here is part of one of the thousands of Katyusha rockets that...

Heavily armored IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozers are used to detonate booby traps...

After visiting the Lebanese border and a local kibbutz farm, we planted...

Next we were off the to Inter-Disciplinary College (IDC) in Herzliya where...

The IDC school has a great broadcasting department, and this is their...

There was artwork all over the campus of the Inter-Disciplinary College.

Next we had a personal seminar on the threat of international terrorism...

And finally Michael Medved gave a talk to us and the IDC...


$1 = 3.8 Israeli Shekels

I have always wanted to visit the Middle-East, specifically Israel, since it is has such a long and incredible history. I listen to a radio show broadcast in the US by Michael Medved, focused on politics and pop-culture, and every year Michael brings a group of his listeners on a tour of Israel. Since Michael is well-known and connected, our group was able to meet some of the more influential people in the country, and visit many places not on the typical tour such as Palestinian controlled Bethlehem and Hebron, and a Jewish community located across the Green Line in the West Bank. We were also able to spend time with Michael's friends and family who live in Israel which was a great experience.

Many of the most important religious sites of Judaism, Islam and Christianity are packed into this tiny slice of land along the Eastern Mediterranian, smaller than New Jersey. That makes for interesting traveling, and also as we see in the news every day, a lot of friction among the locals. The result of that unrest is that you see a serious military presence in Israel, and in fact all of it's citizens, young men and women, are required to serve in the military.

One discovery on this trip was that, although Israel is the country with the highest concentration of journalists in the world, there are still a lot of misconceptions about the country. I found the Israeli people to be warm, open and generous, and suprisingly welcoming to the 1.5 million Arabs (20% of the population), almost all Muslims, who are Israeli citizens. Arabic is one of the three official languages in Israel, and Israel has enacted affirmative action policies to help its minority citizens achive full social and economic equality.

After visiting Jordan and Egypt later in this trip, it seems that Israeli society gives more opportunity to Arabs than do Arab states to their own citizens. Israeli Arabs and Muslims have the right to vote and to hold public office, like every other Israeli citizen. Nearly one-10th of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, is Arab; there is a mosque in the Knesset building for those who are Muslim. One of the justices of Israel's Supreme Court is an Arab Muslim; so is a minister in the Israeli cabinet. Arabs are active in Israeli commerce, media, education, and law. I spoke with several Arab Muslim citizens of Israel, and while many pointed out shortcomings of their country, they all much preferred to live in Israel rather than in the Palestinian controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza, or neighboring countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

We also experienced the most controversial issue in the region, Jewish settlements in the Palestinian controlled West Bank, by actually visiting one of these communities. There are absolutely legitimate differing opinions on this issue, but I found that the reality of these communities was much less sinister than you read in the news. This land is typically barren and unoccupied, and purchased by Israelis from Palestinian landowners. Many times these communities are built on land that these families owned decades or centuries before their families were expelled during the 1948 war when Israel declared its statehood. As of today, Israel settlements beyond the Green Line cover less than 1.7% of the West Bank, and they are almost all close to the border, so peace negotiations can incorporate these communities with minor adjustments to the border without having a significant impact on Palestinian population centers.

I think one other misconception about Israel that needs to be dispelled is that the Jewish people arrived here after World War II and took over this land. The reality, which is rarely discussed in the media, is that Jews have continuouly lived in the area we now call Israel and the West Bank for the past 3,000 years. In fact, Jerusalem was the capital of ancient Israel during the reign of King David and his son Solomon, around 1,000 years before Christ, and more than 1,600 years before the birth of Islam.

Ok, so enough history and politics. I was fortunate to visit Israel during their annual Purim festival which was a lot of fun. Our host Michael Medved also celebrated the traditional Shabbat weekly ritual with us in Jerusalem, followed by a Sabbath dinner. It was very cool to be able to participate in Jewish life and tradition first-hand.

I actually arrived in Israel two days before my Michael Medved tour began to hang out with my friend Ashira who lives near Tel Aviv. Ashira and I met three years ago in Cuba, and we stayed in touch on Facebook. She is a police officer stationed in the town of Ariel. Ashira showed me all around Tel Aviv and Jaffa, and we also drove up North to see the ruins of Caesarea, and the Israeli wine country of Zickron Yaakov.

So I hope you enjoy the photos and videos from this trip. It was a fascinating journey for me.



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