Monday, July 26, 2010

During our time in Jerusalem, Becky and I went to volunteer at a Palestinian day camp called Tent of Nations. We taught West African and Turkish folk dance. After I finished teaching, I would tag along with a group (there were 5) and do their activity. Some kids spoke a little English which was fortunate for me. The counselours were very nice as well. A group of Germans were painting a miral on the Seperation Wall in Bethlehem called 'I look at you, you look at me'. It had sunflowers with two profiles in them facing each other. I was shy on the first day, but on the second I felt more comfortable. Some girls would have small conversations with me about where we live or about our families. It was very fun teaching and learning with Palestinian kids.

By Amali :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Here are my impressions about staying in the Aravah Desert. I really liked staying at Kibbutz Grofit. Partly because of John and Mandu, a cat and a dog, who were BFF's. I also liked the community. Everyone knew each other, and to me it felt like everybody was a big family.
While we were there, we took a trip down to Eilat. There, we snorkled in the Red Sea. I was amazed at all the sea life I saw. There bright-colored corals, long needle-fish, and spiky black sea urchins. Everyone looked funny in the snorkels and life jackets!

By Amali :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Amali working on an art project with Palestinian kids at the Tent of Nations camp near Bethlehem

We wished we could have spent more time with these kids in this program. We encourage you to look the Tent of Nations up on the web.

Amali and Sivan at the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount

At the Dead Sea -- the water stung a bit, but the mud was wonderful

The rock hyraxes of Ein Gedi are oddly enough, taxonomically related to Elephants more than to other mammals

Sivan and Amali in thfe springs of Ein Gedi -- four days ago

Sivan climbing at "King Solomon's" Pillar, Timna, Israel, near Eilat

Been really busy, but here come some pics of where we've been

This is our fourth night in Jerusalem. My mom has joined us and Becky is leaving us tomorrow for Jenin. We spent 3 nights at a hostel right in the heart of The Old City, literally around the corner from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and five minutes from everything else. Becky and Amali spent two days in the West Bank, near Bethlehem, at a summer camp teaching African and Turkish dance to Palestinian children (I tried to teach them to play ultimate frisbee, but without much success). In Jerusalem, we have visited holy sites of the 3 faiths based here, we have visited historical museums, we have toured the walls of the old city, and eaten more Humus than we probably should have. We participated in a rally against the displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem by Settlers. And we have visited with some old friends here as well. Jerusalem is a city divided. Orthodox and Secular, Palestinian and Jew, Modern and Old, Cheap and Expensive (At some locations we purchased coffee for prices that make Starbucks seem like a bargain).

Becky and I are both disturbed by the depth and nature of the divisions we have observed and by the activity of Settlers within East Jerusalem, displacing and destroying neighborhoods that have been traditionally Palestinian (South of the old city, in the area called "David's City" -- historically the site of Jerusalem in the time of King David -- Arab homes were demolished and families rendered homeless in order to build a parking lot!). The tragedy of Jerusalem's expansion and systematic displacement of it's Arab population has definitely made this a rough stay for those of us who were here 20 years ago. On the other hand, the development and improvements in West Jerusalem, are exciting and stimulating. See the pictures above.

More soon,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Ein Gedi and The Dead Sea

A few days ago we drove from Kibbutz Grofit to Jerusalem. On the way we stopped at Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea. At Ein Gedi we did a very beautiful hike that went along a stream called Wadi David and ended up at a big waterfall. We were all wearing tennis shoes so in the end we got them all soaked. After a small hike we then drove to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. The water in the Dead Sea is somewhere around twice as salty as normal ocean water. It's so salty that if you lie back you float on top of the water. I tried it and at first the water stung a little bit on my arms and legs, but i got used to it. it hurt my sister and dad too much so she and my dad went out. After my mom and I floated awhile we took a mud bath. The mud in the Dead Sea has minerals of some kind that make your skin very moisturized and soft. I slabbed mud all over my arms and legs and face. We let it dry and then rinsed it off and I felt the difference. We foated aroung a little more and then drove to Jerusalem...
Sivan :-)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 3 in Israel -- already!!!!

Sorry for the delay -- here is what we have done in brief -- arrived monday 12.7 at 1 am. We were the last to get out of the airport from two flights that arrived at that horrible hour, because Amali's suitcase came out last because it had lost its routing tag. But luckily it arrived. Then we had to rent a phone, and then a car, which took a long time, and then, at 3:30 am, we hit the road to Matan, a small community east of Kfar Saba, right on the green line. We got to Adina Greenfeld Hirshhorn's (a old and dear friend of mine from many years in the past) at 4 am. Adina led us upstairs to her sons' vacant bedrooms and we slept til noon. Afternoon walked about the neighborhood (she lives 2 blocks from the Separation Wall). Then headed to Kfar Saba for ice cream. That night, Adina and Ariel and her son nadav and we drove to renovated Yafo to walk around and snack at Abulafia's famous bakery.
Next morning slept in again -- then after noon headed in to Tel Aviv for some lunch and beach time with Becky's dear Chicago childhood friend Gili Sherman and her daughters and son. Then dinner in Herzeliya with my former Habonim shaliach and co-worker Yaron Raz and his family -- his son, now 32 was 12 when I last saw him, and his daughter was only 5. Amazing what 20 years will do to a 5 year old. Then we woke at 6 am to hit the road by 7 to Dimona to see Sivan's and Amali's half-sister, Liat, which is where we are now. Ate two great meals in Beer Sheva, and enjoyed meeting Liat's friends and coworkers and learning about their amazing accomplishments. Terrific experiences.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Beautiful "Blue" Danube

The Danube River flowing through downtown Vienna

Amali in Vienna, eating gelato and enjoying the sculptures

Currently in Vienna -- hot and muggy 90 degrees F!! Amali and Becky took advantage of the five hour layover here in Vienna to take the train downtown and wander around. Sivan was feeling sick and she and I decided it would be best to stay behind and rest up.
Sad, but we'd only have about 2 hours in town and it is important to be healthy for the next stage of our journey. Europe will just have to wait. Anyway we shared (Actually, I ate, and Sivan picked at) some Viennese pastry and gelato, while I had a wonderful cappucino. Amali and Becky should be back soon with pictures to upload.


The carriage ride to Karnak Temple in Luxor -- Sivan and Amali actually got to drive

The tenth pylon of Karnak Temple

On the boat from Isis Temple... in Aswan

Making funny faces, Dad and Amali are attempting to look like puffer fishes.

Sivan just had to try Dad's Sheesha... choke choke cough cough

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Becky and Amali talking to a Nubian man

Chuck at the entrance to the Temple of Isis

This morning, we took a motorboat to the Temple of Isis. Because of the Aswan High Dam, the temple had to be taken apart and built back together somewhere else. Isis would not have been happy if her temple was flooded! A lot of the carvings showed Isis with her child Horus. A chapel for Osiris was built and there was a little side temple for the goddess Hathor. I'm glad we went to that temple for our last because I found it really exciting as did the rest of my family.

By Amali :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

After seeing Karnak Temple at night, we went to see it in the morning. We went to a lot more parts of the temple during the day. An amazing thing is that sometimes, there was still paint on the carvings from more than 200 years ago! In the part that Ramses III made, it showed his family on the walls. The carvings on the columns in the Hypostyle Hall were very deep. I thought about how long it would take to do that on 134 columns. It was amazing to see Karnak Temple up close, at night and day.

By Amali :)

Second Pylon with lotus-column in front

In front of the large granite scarab

On monday night ,we went back in time with a cheesy sound and light show at Karnak Temple. The narrators were supposed to be the different pharaohs who built parts of the temple. Red and white lights lit up the hundreds of giant columns in the Hypostyle Hall. It reminded me of being in the set of the movie "The Ten Commandments". The show ended at Sacred Reflection Lake, where it was believed that the egyptian gods and goddesses would purify themselves. As we left it that night, we were excited to explore more of Karnak Temple the next morning.

By Amali :)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Today we went to the Valley of the Kings. We left the hotel at 7:30 AM and got on our donkeys we were supposed to ride to the tombs in Valley of the Kings. We went to three tombs: Ramses III, Tuthmosis III(longest tomb), and Tawosret-Sethnakht(double tomb). We didn't go to the tomb of Montuhirckopshef because we couldn't pronounce his name. ;-)
By Amali

At the entrance to Hatshepsut Temple...

Our trusty steeds!!!

Day 6 -- early rise, breakfast of omelets and fresh feta, whole wheat pita, fresh tomatoes and cucumber slices, oversweetened lemonade, and yogurt with honey, all eaten with the dawn breaking over the nile on the rooftop restaurant of our hotel. Then rush downstairs to meet our donkeys which our guides assured us would get us to the Valley of the Kings in half an hour. 90 minutes later, after riding west into the hills above the nile valley, climbing a narrow trail that ran along the top of a daunting cliff below us (a few moments of nervousness, when I wondered if my donkey could keep its' footing on the weathered shale), over the Temple of Hatshepsut, and down into the valley of the Kings. We left our guides to take our mounts back to town, while we descended into the Valley. The girls were hot and tired as the temperature at 10 am rose past 37C. We hoped the deep tombs would offer a respite from the heat, but our first, Tuthmosis III, went so deep into the mountain that we were clearly inhaling the exhaled breaths of previous tourists. Stiffled by the heat, we persisted and perspired looking at the comic-strip style account of the book of the dead -- how the pharaohs were transported to the realm of the gods -- in detailed color paintings and heiroglyphs -- painted by artists of the middle kingdom, 3,500 years ago. All this in lofty Cartouche shaped rooms carved 350 feet into the limestone.

No photos allowed, but you can see what we saw by finding the photos posted by those who broke the rules about no photos. We went to two other tombs -- Ramses III and the combined tombs of a king and his daughter-who-became-queen after her husband died and she simply extended his tomb a bit deeper and made a burial chamber for herself. All beautifully painted and carved with images of gods and pharaohs and baboons and crocodiles and a 3 headed winged snake with legs and beheaded prisoners and slaves being flogged and harpists serenading gods...

Just when we thought things would get really hot, we got in an airconditioned cab to hatshepsut temple. This scene is reminiscent of something out of Kipling or Edgar Rice Borroughs -- 3 flights of steps the width of a road rising out of the desert to the tiered temple carved into the cliff walls above. The heat really set in here and Sivan and Amali just wanted to get back to the cool of the pool...which is what we did...and where we are right now...

Just us at the nile valley hotel. Later we will cross the nile and head to the Luxor bazaar for --- more shopping!!! Seems to be Sivan's favorite part of each day... go figure.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chuck at the smaller pyramid--day 2

The Camel is Posing


Day 4-5

We have arrived in Luxor. The 10 hour train ride was tolerable -- A/C, lots of leg room, reclining seats, a nice couple from Monterrey, Mexico on the plus side, but very grimy and a large group of loud beer guzzling Poles keeping everyone awake past when we wished to go to sleep. Got to the train station at 6 am, took a taxi to the ferry and paid a dollar to get taxied across the Nile to the Nile Valley Hotel. Got to our suite -- Luxury in Luxor -- separate room for the girls with their own TV and A/C, fridge etc. Best two things -- beautiful pool and rooftop breakfast patio right on the Nile and directly across from Luxor Temple. Pictures to come. Napped in the a.m.. Now hanging out poolside. Girls are watching our videos taken on the Flip camera. Becky is reading, and I am writing to you. Later, when the temperature drops to a tolerable 38 or 39, we will venture out, cross the nile again, and take in the kitschy laser light show at Karnak temple. Great adventures await. Tomorrow we will visit tombs of Kings and Nobles and the great Hatshepsut Temple. The following day, the Temples of Luxor and Karnak on the East bank, and some more shopping in the Bazaar (The girls' favorite activity). And of course, eating more schwarma and kushary.

These are the two largest pyramids (Cheops the largest is under Sivan's left hand).

Friday, July 2, 2010

After riding camels and climbing pyramids, we took a taxi to the Egyptian Museum. There, we saw all sorts of things that were dug up from more than 2000 years ago! There were lots of sarcophaguses in many different colors and sizes. We looked at mummies of Egyptian Pharaohs and queens in the Royal mummies room. Some of them had glass eyes and some still had hair. The 'King Tutankhamen Room' was extremely fascinating! All the things that were buried with him were on display...except the stuff that tomb robbers stole. Everything in the room was made of gold and other beautiful minerals. It was a sight to see!


Day Dos!!!

Day 2... One adjective to describe the day is HOT!!! Another maybe sandy, dusty, camelly? We woke up at six in the morning and ate crepes and toast. We got out of the hotel at about 7:30 AM and got a taxi with a really nice man. He drove us to a poorer neighborhood right by the pyramids. As we drove through the neighborhood we saw at least five small donkeys pulling huge carts of watermelons through all of the cars and people. (The driving in Egypt is CRAZY!!! Most of the roads don't have lanes and the are hardly any traffic lights or stop signs. At least every other second the is another honk. People also walk through the streets through all of the crazy cars. I'm kind of getting used to the traffic system and the walking through crazy traffic.)
The taxi dropped us of at a corner where they gave camel and horse rides through the pyramids. We were going to ride camels to the pyramids and the sphinx!!! We ordered two camels and one horse. I started off on the horse. Three younger boys led the horse and camels while the guide rode his own horse. It was awesome!!! We went right from lots of apartements to the sandy, barren desert. And as soon as we started walking through the desert, we saw the pyramids right there almost in front of us. We rode through and saw the pyramids and the sphinx (see pics) and met some nice people who sold souvenirs.
After seeing the pyramids the owner of the camels brought us to his son's perfume and oil shop. they were very hospitable. He gave us samples and then we bought some for my aunt. He also gave us two small hand made glass perfume bottles as gifts.

Then we went to the museum...
by SIVAN :-)

Amali Kissing the Sphinx (taken by an egyptian girl for a small bakshish)

First posting from Cairo

Dear friends and family, we are all relaxing in the rooftop patio of our home for the last 4 days, Hotel Osiris, near Tahrir Square in Central Cairo. These days have been hectic and full. After a relatively unpleasant flight from JFK to Cairo (2+ hours sitting on the JFK Tarmac) followed by 9 hours flying with mediocre food and crying babies, and kicking children in the row behind, we arrived tired and bedraggled in Cairo. Of course our four bags were among the last to escape the bowels of the airport (while families with 20 giant pieces of luggage were already through customs). Got to the hotel with prearranged driver (pricey, but reliable) from the hotel and checked in. Some raw nerves and fussiness on day 1, but we managed. Explored a bit in the area, ate yummy kushari (skipping past McDonalds, Hardees, KFC and Pizza Hut), and settled in our hotel to try to overcome the jet lag (we were all asleep by about 7:30 pm). End Day 1
Day 2 to be added by Sivan and Amali -- Pyramids, Egyptian Museum, and Shwarma.