Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Things I Loved About Israel

American Christians at the Jordan River. Standing near them in fatigues is a female Israeli soldier armed with an automatic weapon.
For two weeks last month I visited Israel on a long delayed bucket list trip. These are some of the things I loved about the country.

Sign warning visitors not to climb on the ruins of an 800 year old Muslim castle (Nimrod's Fortress) in the Golan Heights.
Before I arrived I worried needlessly that my eight word Hebrew vocabulary would be insufficient for traveling alone in a strange new country. Most of the signage in Israel is in three languages - Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Literally, everyone I met had a much better command of English than I did of Hebrew. When someone spoke to me in Hebrew all I needed to do was look sheepish, say the word angleet in an apologetic tone, and they would shift to excellent English.

I met a tour guide who effortlessly moved between Hebrew, English, and Spanish. A beggar on the Jaffa Road in Jerusalem schnorred with equal skill in Hebrew and English. Even a Bedouin offering photo ops with his camel gave his instructions in English.

Coming as I do from a country where many people throw hissy fits whenever anyone speaks a little Spanish, this universal multilingualism was a welcome change.

Remember those scenes from the epic movie where Lawrence of Arabia blew up rail lines? Well, when the Ottoman Empire built that rail line from Damascus to Medina in the early 20th century they cut down virtually all the trees in Palestine for the construction. Israelis have an almost manic desire to plant trees and their country is the only one in the world with a net gain of trees. The results are beautiful.

Really Old Stuff
The Greek Patriarchate St. in Jerusalem's Old City.
We Californians think we have some old buildings, the Spanish missions are almost 230 years old. But Israel has really old stuff.
  • The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated 1,700 years ago.
  • Masada was build by King Herod as a safe haven over 2,000 years ago.
  • Akko (Arce) has been continually occupied for 5,000 years.
  • The oldest structure in Jerusalem is the remnant of a stone wall that dates back to well before the Jewish people arrived in the Promised Land. It is over 7,000 years old.
Damn they are good. Especially the spicy ones.

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