Wednesday June 15, 2011
We’re on a Mission from BOG
The Dan Hotel has a GREAT swimming pool (salt water – floatability guaranteed) that looks out over the tayelet (boardwalk made of cement); beach and Mediterranean sea.
Today I ate lunch in a pergola in the middle of a vineyard. I always wanted to eat in a pergola. I’m not sure exactly what a pergola is but I like the sound of the word. We’ll talk about lunch later.
First comes breakfast. As we know, the Israeli hotel buffet breakfast consists of many of the 30 gazillion small plates of ‘stuff’ that show up at lunch & dinner except this time in big bowls since it’s a buffet.
Since we’re on the mission routine now, we actually had to be up, showered, dressed, and fed by a certain time (preferably in that order, too). 9:00am was today’s zero hour.
Our fellow missionaries, as I mentioned yesterday, are an interesting lot. There is one relatively common characteristic. They are all quite ‘comfortable’ (let’s just say that) which means that Debbie & I are regularly asking ourselves exactly what the heck we are doing in their midst.
That said, there are some very nice regular folk whose real names I will use as they are very nice and very regular: Brent & Sora from Winnipeg; Hart & Faith from Winnipeg; Ari & Leslie from Vancouver. All 3 couples are about our age with children about the same ages as ours.
Both Winterpeg couples are good friends with Ellen & Stewart (“they get around”) Pollock and so the Jewish geography game has, once again, been played well. Six degrees of separation perhaps are needed to get you to Kevin Bacon but with these guys pretty much 1-degree is all that’s required.
Brent & Sora’s daughter Jennifer is living in Tel Aviv for a month while she volunteers at “Save a Child’s Heart” centre (a place that provides free medical treatment to children from around the world who have heart issues). Jennifer is delightful and is the first non-Israeli young person that we have decided we’d like to put into an extra suitcase (that we’ll have to buy) and bring home for Ari (in this case) or for Lizzy.
Dozens and dozens (and dozens) of young Israeli’s have fit that bill, for sure, but we’re okay looking further afield (Winnipeg, in this case).
There are 20 of us Canadians on the Hebrew U Board of Governors that are traveling together for the next couple of days until we move onto Jerusalem and are joined by about 30 more from Canada and about 350 more from around the world. For now, however, it’s 9:00am and time to get on the bus!
Our bus driver Shlomo has a stop & go foot. He simultaneously applies the gas & the brake. This will be a long day in a hot bus with a multitude of narrow, winding roads to navigate. Wonderful.
First stop: The Eretz Yisrael Museum in Ramat Aviv (the northern suburb of Tel Aviv where Tel Aviv University is located). We are introduced early to the primary rules of missionary touring:
1. You don’t get time to see everything you might like to see.
2. You will get to ask questions of the guide (they are all experts and terrific) but you won’t get to ask your questions ‘cause the fellows who think they know more than the guide (but don’t) will waste everyone’s time asking their ‘questions’ (which are really more statements of how well-informed they believe themselves to be) instead.
3. Another subset of the questions fall into the “where are the bathrooms?” and “I think I left my hat/sunglasses/camera/wallet on the bus – can you all just wait here while I go get it?” genre of deep, probing questions.
Missionary touring rules aside, we had a chance to see an exhibit of “The Dolls of Israel from 1920-1980”. The dolls turned out to be actual dolls so while interesting it could have been more so, if you know what I mean.
We also saw an exhibit on “The Last Supper at Apollonia/Arsuf”. This crusader fortress fell to the Berbers in 1261. The exhibit displays the food and utensils from the last meal of the crusaders before they surrendered to and were slaughtered by the Berbers after a 45-day siege of the maritime castle in which they’d been holed up.
Personally, I think that the idea of being cooped up with the other crusaders for 45 days was what ‘caused them to abandon all hope. I’ve only been on the bus for about an hour know and I think I can empathize.
Lunch at the pergola in the Tishbi Winery vineyards in Binyamina (near Zichron Ya’akov) was delicious. You will never guess: 30 gazillion small dishes appeared on the table but the ‘kicker’ today was the pasta & pizza that showed up after (no French fries, sadly).
The Tishbi story starts in 1882 with the arrival of Michael & Malka Chamiletzki who started a vineyard soon after arrival on the appointment to do so by Baron Edmund de Rothschild (pretty pushy of him, don’t you think?). They took on the ‘Hebrew’ name Tishbi (an acronym for “they reside in Israel”) that was bestowed on them in 1925 by Israel’s poet laureate, Chaim Nachman Bialik (another pushy fellow!).
Anyway, until 1984 all the grapes they produced were processed in the Carmel Winery so we’ve all been drinking their wines for many years. In 1984, however, they started bottling their own wine and now, to my absolutely undiscerning taste, I can state without hesitation that the wine I drank at lunch was very nice. It was red, too.
After lunch we got to drive the windy vineyard hill roads (did I mention it was hot and we just had lunch WITH wine?) down to the coast to visit Tel Dor – a 2,400 yr. old (or more?) maritime port that has been the site of archaeological excavations for the past 30 years under the direction of Prof Ilan Sharon of Hebrew U., Dean of the Faculty of Humanities.
The archaeological site is on a hill that protrudes from a bluff about 60 feet above the beach next to the natural harbor formed by a small, secluded bay (which was the raison d’etre for the port) which is today the site for a gorgeous beach holiday resort. It was abandoned after the establishment of the port at Caesarea, about 15 km. to the south, by King Herod (the ancient maritime port that is, not the beach holiday resort).
The visit to Tel Dor netted me 2 great sea shells from the beach and an ancient potsherd that Ilan picked up as he & I were hiking up to the bluff and he handed me to show me that we were at an archaeological site. I asked him if he wanted it back. He said he’s already got a zillion of ‘em.
Our final tour today took us up to the windy, narrow roads of Mt. Carmel and a visit to the Carmel Forest with Prof. Jose Gruenzweig and his Ph.D. student candidat Khalil. They explained how the devastating fire last December had effected the land and the people of Mount Carmel.
They provided us with a vivid description of the horrific deaths of 41 cadets whose bus was caught in the fire on their way to helping with the evacuation of prisoners (all of whom were themselves moved out of harms way without incident).
We saw the scars from the fire as well as the new regrowth already starting.
By the time we rolled back into Tel Aviv at 7pm my body was pretty much ready to swear off buses and really in no mood for food. So, of course, we piled into taxicabs and headed to Jaffa to “Shipudei Yitzhak HaGadol” aka “Big Itzik's”. An icon, landmark and all around famous place, it’s what our version of the ‘go to deli for casual fun; great food; and lots of it’ would be in Edmonton ….. if we had a place like that.
Only, instead of the deli part, it’s the usual 30 gazillion small plates of ‘stuff’ followed by the ‘mixed grill’ of known & unknown meat parts (AND French fries!).
The end to each meal is a nice glass of hot water with fresh sprigs of mint and a Lipton Classic Tea Bag. Mint tea…. Mmmmm. Just the thing to wash down – what the heck was it we ate again?
I lied. Yesterday I said I’d reveal the contents of the 30 gazillion small plates but I’m too tired tonight to do that so it’ll just have to wait until tomorrow. Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll eat at least one meal with them again tomorrow so I won’t ‘forget’ what’s in ‘em.