Email from Israel #2

Tel Aviv Travel Blog

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Bauke and Ben at Souk ha-Karmel.

Shalom me'Israel!!!

So, the second week in Israel is nearly over...and my volunteer period is ended this morning. I am in Tel Aviv again now for the day, and one volunteer Ruben from Belgium and I are going by bus to Eilat (on the Red Sea) late tonight for the weekend. We leave Eilat Sunday, he goes back to the base to do his 3rd week of volunteer, and then I go direct to Jerusalem for 3 days to finish my stay in Israel.

The volunteer period with the Tzahal (Israel Defense Forces) was exactly what I hoped -maybe more.

At Theresa's send off -the famed watermelon we schlepped from Yafo to the beach. And Ben smuggling large knives around!
Each soldier that I talked with was very surprised that people from abroad would care enough about them and Israel to come here on our own and do volunteer work.

We heard very much good feedback and appreciation, and especially this last week did enough physical labour to make up for not having gone to gym in a long time.

On last Tuesday we had a day-off and excursion...went to Zichron Ya'akov, a lovely and historically significant Jewish settlement south of Haifa...walked around, toured a museum...more to tell on that later.

But it was so beautiful...for anyone who's been to Carmel, California it was so much like that...but nicer still.

Then we drove up to Haifa, and went to the Bahai gardens....and I am confident that there is no place on Earth with a more beautiful view.

Auf Wiedersehen Theresa!
..we did not spend too much time in Haifa, but I realised that it was probably my favourite of the larger cities in Israel (I know at least ONE person who is saying "I told you so" right now!)...then we took in some shopping at a large mall called the Grand Canyon. OK, so I got the idea but my Arizona driver license shows a picture of the real Grand Canyon for reference. Hmmmm....

The weather has been rather warm...mostly rather humid, especially by the coast...but now the evenings started to get cooler. It's so beautiful.

The Galil region is remarkably beautiful...so many hills, and towns...some Jewish, some Muslim. I have been using as much Hebrew as I can, and have been learning more...and have been trying to use the few words in Arabic that I know as well when we went to shops in Arab areas.

The hostel we stay at in Yafo is in a Muslim area, so one evening (last Shabbat) we took a walk down Jerusalem street to take a look...drew some curious looks from people, but the Muslims have been equally friendly to us. That night was volunteer Theresa's Berlin last night, so we bought a watermelon that we would take later on when dark and the moon is out to the beach to take in some water, then carve up the watermelon. It was a strange send-off for her by us, but it was fun.

The security here is remarkable...think of the security at the USA airports, and this is what you face here at every shopping center and bus station and train station, etc. If you have a foreign passport such as US or from EU, then you sometimes get a break and they don't check your bags as much or at all. But you never know, just have to be prepared for it.

I've never felt as comfortable travelling in a country as foreign as Israel....it is so Middle East, but it also feels kind of European and in a strange way sort of Japanese. Bus stations for example are such big places with many levels...and every possible kind of shopping.

The Souk Ha'Karmel (Carmel Market) in Tel Aviv is such an experience....everything imagineable for sale, and you bargain there, but the prices are generally already so cheap that it seems hard to ask for a lower price!

I have not yet bought very much from here because then I have to carry it around all over...but will do more shopping in Jerusalem.

Have not done a lot of the things I wanted to do, for example have not seen a single museum in Tel Aviv because I just hung out with people in our group, but when I am on my own in the capital, I will do these things.

I already know that the days are few before I leave Israel and it is making me sad. I get this way when people who I don't know take me in and make me feel at home...and I cannot tell you enough just how beautiful it is here and how compleltely wonderful the Israelis are. I will definitely do this volunteer program again next year, and will count Israel as my place where I go to for holidays as well...I hope to get the chance to show as much of you some of what I am knowing here as well...first with my pictures, then with trips here.

If you need more inspiration, then I have to point out that the Israelis are I think maybe the most beautiful people in the world too...must be that Middle Eastern and European blending!

So anyway, in Eilat Ruben and I will do some snorkelling, and hanging out. He wants to check out scuba there too, but I don't have the certificate for that and I think it's expensive to do it. So just snorkelling for me, I think.

OK, I will answer some of the individual emails I got now in the few minutes remaining in my one hour of web time...

So maybe more later from Eilat or from Jerusalem...

And I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Have a wonderful weekend in the meantime.

Love,

Stephen

PS...for people from work...I have to admit, except for when people ask what I do, I really have not thought about work at all. :-)

SHALOM!

mellemel8 says:
did you go to the kotel? sounds like you had a good time.
Posted on: Aug 19, 2007
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Bauke and Ben at Souk ha-Karmel.
Bauke and Ben at Souk ha-Karmel.
At Theresas send off -the famed w…
At Theresa's send off -the famed …
Auf Wiedersehen Theresa!
Auf Wiedersehen Theresa!
Tel Aviv
photo by: JulieFrenchi