Wednesday, March 31, 2010
"Though they won't admit it, Israel's largest problem is the Israeli Arabs." -Ahmad Amer. This quote is the basis for what I saw and how the government treats people in Kfar Qasem. Two nights ago we went to Kfar Qasem, an Arab city/village for a night. We stayed with the Amer family. My dad met Ahmad Amer when he went to Washington D.C. for a Fulbright meeting. Ahmad was one of the Fulbrighters from Israel who went to the U.S. earlier in the year. He, his wife, Manal, and two children, Sayyed age 10 and Fatima age 5, were all very delightful people. Their house was the cleanest house that we'd seen in Israel. The was no clutter anywhere and the floors were spot and dustless! It was amazing! As we drove into Kfar Qasem the scenery completely changed. The roads stopped being paved, the street signs disappeared, and trash started appearing a lot more on the streets. "We (Israeli Arabs) are treated like 10th class citizens." -Ahmad Amer. Even though Arab Israelis are Israeli citizens, they don't get the same services that Jewish Israelis receive. Israeli Arabs pay taxes and do stuff for the country. For example, Most truck drivers are Israeli Arabs. We arrived in Kfar Qasem at around 3:30pm and talked to Ahmad about what it is like to be an Israeli Arab and his thoughts on Israel. Listening to Ahmad gave me a whole new and different perspective on how Israeli Arabs are treated. I had no idea how badly they are treated. And why? Because they are Arabs. Yes, some Arabs are bad, but for that matter so are some Americans, some Europeans, some Asians, some Africans, and so on and so forth. We talked to Ahmad until we went to dinner at around 8:00pm. I haven't had dinner so late since we were in Africa 2+ years ago! But it is the culture here. People eat lunch and dinner much later than we do in America. When we sat down at the restaurant we went to for dinner, we were quickly served tons of mezze. Mezze is like appetizers. There were many salads, dips, and of course bread. The bread was really good, it was like a pita but flattened out. The hummus was also really good, its consistency was perfect. There was enough mezze that I didn't need any more food. However, after a little while of enjoying the mezze, the waiter came and asked us what we would like to order for our entrees. My parents and I were a little shocked that they expected us to eat more food, but we still ordered entrees. My parents ordered lamb kabobs and I ordered a chicken kabob. Though shortly after ordering I canceled my kabob because I wasn't that hungry and my mom and I decided to split an order. That still turned out to be more that enough food. The food at that restaurant was really good! It was definitely some of the best hummus I've had here in Israel. The next morning after breakfast, the Amer family took us on a tour of their town. Our first stop was on the "Green Line." The "Green Line" is the line that separates Israel from the West Bank. There isn't really green line, but that is what the border is called. It was really weird being on that line..... Once we were done at the "Green Line," we continued our tour to the Jewish settlement three minutes away from Kfar Qasem. I was in a car with my dad and Ahmad and my mom was in a car with Manal, Sayyed, and Fatima. At the border crossing to get into the settlement, my car passed through with no problem, but the car with my mom and Manal in it got questioned. They stopped the car because they could tell that Manal was an Arab because of her headscarf. The asked why they were going here and asked for my mom's passport. But my mom talked her way in. :) As soon as we got into the Jewish Settlement, the streets were paved, there were street signs, and there was almost no garbage on the streets. The people in the settlement get services. After we came back from a quick walk around the settlement we hung out at Ahmad's house and then had lunch. Lunch was one of the best meals that I have had in Israel. Manal made all of it too! My favorite dishes were these little pastry dough triangles filled with some sort of deliciously seasoned meat, zucchinis stuffed with seasoned rice, and lamb bone cooked perfectly. It was so delicious! Kfar Qasem was one of the most interesting places that we have gone in Israel and I will never forget everything we ate, saw, and learned.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Over this last weekend we went to Eilat. Eilat is a beach resort place that is on the very southern tip of Israel. Eilat is also on the glorious Red Sea. We were in Eilat for four nights, and we stayed at the Dan Panorama. It was a pretty nice hotel and the Club Room that we got to go to was amazing! The Club Room always had food, but really good food and it wasn't ever crowded because we went during a week when the hotel wouldn't be overly crowded. My mom's and my goal while we were in Eilat was to get somewhat tan so we knew that we were going to sit by the beach and or pool for at least a few hours everyday. We achieved our goal and are now somewhat tan, though I hope the tan lasts until we get back to Portland...... On our first full day in Eilat we went to the Underwater Observatory. It was a little crowded but the fish and other stuff we saw there was really cool! We saw a shark feeding which was okay but my favorite part of going to the observatory was when we went underground (under sea level, but we were in a building) and got to see fish and coral. It was really amazing how they just swam right up to the windows. Though most of our pictures didn't come out because our cameras aren't really made to shoot stuff through glass underwater. We also went and saw the rare fish exhibit. Those fish were really funny looking. After we got back from the Underwater Observatory and had lunch in the Club Room, we went down to the pool and sun bathed for most of the afternoon. But of course, I went swimming a little bit too. :) For dinner that night, we went to Giraffe Noodle Bar. The food was really good! I had pad Thai with shrimp!! Shrimp has never tasted so good, shrimp isn't kosher so most restaurants don't have it. The pad Thai wasn't the best I've ever had, though because it had shrimp it was really good. My dad had the Afghan dish, which was chicken, bacon and rice in a soy caramel sauce. I liked that dish better than my pad Thai so when we went back to Giraffe the next night and our last night I ordered it. We went back to Giraffe three out of our four nights in Eilat. :) On our second full day we took a walk around the non-touristy part of town as well as the touristy sections during the morning and then went back to the pool in the afternoon. For dinner that night we went to a Tapas Bar. The tapas was so good! I loved all of the different types of tapas that we ordered. Though my favorites were grilled goat cheese with red peppers, calamari, and shrimp in a creamy garlic pesto sauce. I haven't had calamari in a while and this was definitely some of the better calamari that I've had. Also, it was such a treat to be able to have shrimp two nights in a row in Israel. And because I love goat cheese caramelized goat cheese was a special treat as well. I really enjoyed tapas and would gladly eat it again! During our last full day in Eilat we went snorkeling. When we were in Mexico I loved snorkeling, but my snorkeling experience in Eilat wasn't the greatest. When I got in the water and was going out to be able to see the fish, I accidentally kicked a piece of coral and cut my foot in multiple places. When you get a cut and put it in salt water it really stings. Then my goggles started leaking so I got salt water in my eyes which also really stings. Luckily before all this happened I put my head under the water and saw a ton of beautiful fish. The fish basically swim right up to shore so you don't have to go very far out to see the fish. After snorkeling we went out and walked the board walk before going to dinner. It was our last night and my parents asked me where I wanted to go and I wanted to go back to Giraffe for the third time. So we went. And like the second time we went I got the Afghan dish. It was just as good! :) Eilat was really fun and I wish we could have stayed for longer!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
On the way back from the Golan Heights last weekend we decided to stop at "Gan Gagroo," a park that has only animals and plants from Australia in it. It was really cool to see all of these Australian animals, first of all because I've never been to Australia and second because we are in the middle of Israel being able to be around animals that live no where near Israel. We saw kangaroos, koalas, cassowaries, tons of beautiful bright colored birds, ostriches, lambs, swans, and many types of plants and other animals that I can't remember the names of. I really wanted to be able to see a kangaroo jump but we didn't get to. But this made sense to me because these animals are cooped up in small spaces that are not in their natural habitat, so they really see no reason to go bounding around. I'm sure in the wild the kangaroos look healthier because they are free and can go and do whatever they want but here locked up in a zoo type place they can't go and do whatever they want so they all looked rather tired and worn out. They actually looked like big rats with huge tails. The koalas were so adorable! I found out when we were there that they sleep around 23 hours everyday, so obviously they were asleep when we were at the park. Though they were sleeping they were still adorable! I really wanted to just go and hug one. :) It is sort of funny how they sleep though, they sleep sitting up stuck between 2 vertical tree branches. The koalas were definitely one of the animals that I most enjoyed seeing. Before we went to this park I had no idea what a cassowary was. I quickly found out though. They are hard to describe so I hope the picture helps. They sort of look like a dinosaur mixed with a turkey mixed with an ostrich with some blue thrown in. We thought that they liked us when we were talking to them because the kept following us when we walked around the cage but then quickly changed our minds when it hissed very loudly at us. We decided that it was time to go see another animal. The birds were some of the prettiest birds I have ever seen. The colors were so exquisite and bright! My favorite bird was this bright green one with a few other bright colors on its neck and head. I had never seen a bird that was so brightly colored! I would love to go to Australia to be able to see these animals in their natural habitats!
Monday, March 15, 2010
This past Friday we drove up to the Golan Heights so that we could celebrate Shabbat and spend the weekend with my dad's friend, Elaine, and her family. On the drive up drove around the Eastern part of Israel along the Jordanian and Syrian borders. It was very odd to see the border fences of Jordan and Syria. The drive up took about 3 hours and we arrived at Allone Habashan, Elaine's neighborhood at around 4:30pm. When we arrived the family was still cleaning for Shabbat. Elaine's family is Orthodox so they celebrate Shabbat very differently than I have ever celebrated it. Shabbat is supposed to be a day of rest, you aren't supposed to work or use electricity or anything like that that doesn't happen naturally. For example, Elaine's family does not use their computers on Shabbat and they don't turn on the lights either. They also don't write on Shabbat. Shabbat is a time to rest and not go about your life like every other day in the week. Shabbat starts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. It was very odd to not be able to use my computer or be able to do most of the stuff that I do everyday. Back to our time at Elaine's, not only did we celebrate Shabbat with Elaine's family, we got to celebrate it with two old friends of Chaim, Elaine's Husband. Chaim and his friends are Yemenite and are very interesting people. Chaim spent the first few years of his life in a camp and met his friends, Effi and Zichron, in College. Elaine and Chaim had 6 kids though sadly one of them was killed in a terrorist attack so now their are only 5. We met 3 of the five, Michal, Orit, Avichai. I don't know if Effi has any kids and if he does they weren't at Shabbat dinner. Zichron's daughter Avigal was there with him. At around 6:00pm we went to Shabbat services at the synagogue that is in their neighborhood. Since it is an Orthodox synagogue, men and women must sit separately. Not only do women have to sit separate from the men, women have to sit in the back with a curtain blocking them from being able to see the men. It was very odd to me because at the synagogue that we go to in Portland everybody sits together. After services we went back to Elaine and Chaim's house for Shabbat dinner, candle lighting, and other blessings. Shabbat dinner was amazing. There was soooooo much food! I can't even remember all of the dishes but there were at least 5 courses! I haven't had that much food in a very long time. There were salads, meat dishes, lots of Challah (Jewish bread for Shabbat), potatoes, hummus and other dips, tons of wine though I didn't drink any, cakes, frozen fruit dipped in chocolate, and so much more. It was like a feast! Dinner went on for around 3 hours because we said prayers, sang a ton of songs (or they did, we couldn't because the songs were in Hebrew), talked and ate. At around 11:30pm my parents and I decided to go to bed, though the rest of the group was still up and eating sweet cakes. The next morning my parents and I got up at around 8:00am because we decided that we didn't need to go to services Saturday morning. Because everybody else went to services, we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. This "neighborhood" isn't like the kind of neighborhood that we think of in America, it is called a Moshav. A Moshav is a community where families live near each other in a small area and on this Moshav they farmed dairy. We did a few loops around the Moshav and on one of the loops we went and saw the barn with all of the cows. There were a ton of cows, baby cows, younger cows, and huge cows. It sort of reminded me of being in Oregon at Tillamook or in Hillsboro at the farms. :) At around 11:00am everybody came back from services and it was time to start preparing for another meal. Lunch was about as big as dinner the previous night. There were tons of salads, hummus type dips, fish, macaroni and cheese and another cake. We ate a lot of food over the past two days. After lunch we walked up a hill to see the Syrian border. We stood on an unused Israeli bunker and looked out over Syria. We saw some towns and cars and of course military stations. It was extremely weird and scary to be standing that close to a country that I'm not allowed in and that would like to see me dead. We stood in awe for a few minutes and then walked around the bunker for a little while and then proceeded back down to the Moshav. This weekend was a very interesting experience and was something that I never expected to do.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
My mom and I decided to go to Tel Aviv for a night because my dad would be working all day Monday and Tuesday. We were looking for hotels when our friend, Katherine, who we met on the Fulbright trip, said that we could stay at her place in Jaffa. Jaffa is part of Old Jaffa but it isn't the old part. We took a sherut to Tel Aviv. A sherut is a mini-van that hold around 10 people. They go much faster than the buses so the ride only took like 35-40 minutes instead of 55-60 minutes. Once we arrived in Tel Aviv we took a bus to Jaffa. We weren't exactly sure where to get off the bus because we had never taken buses around Jaffa before, but this nice soldier told us where to get off. When we finally arrived at Katherine's place it was already noon and we were ready to get to the beach. Katherine's place was amazing, all the walls were colorful and the tile floor was colorful and had a very cool pattern. Her apartment is like the exact opposite of ours, hers is very colorful and ours is basically all white. Once we had said hello to Katherine and put our bags down we quickly changed into our swimsuits and started to walk to the beach. While we were walking we got very hungry because it was already 12:45pm. We got a falafel, which was very good, and continued our walk down to the beach. The falafel was very hot and crispy and the hummus was good to. Once we got to the beach we put down our towels and sun bathed for around an hour, though every now and then we would get up and go put our feet in the ocean. :) It was not to hot, but still plenty warm so the breeze from the ocean felt very nice. After we were done at the beach we went back to Katherine's to change and take showers before we went out for the evening. After relaxing, we walked up the beach to the north of Tel Aviv and the Tel Aviv port to go to this shop where we bought gifts for some of our friends. But of course we needed to get a gelato on the way. :) We wanted to get a gift for Katherine and this shop had good items. Once we had walked around the port and looked at the ocean for a little bit we decided that it was time for dinner. For dinner, we went to my favorite restaurant in Tel Aviv, Benedict. We went to Benedict our first week in Tel Aviv and it has remained my favorite restaurant ever since. I get the chocolate pancakes whenever we go. People in Israel don't eat pancakes, waffles, or french toast a lot for breakfast, they eat salads, bread, and feta cheese. The chocolate pancakes are amazing because the chocolate medallions that are melted on top are very delicious and the pancakes are some of the best pancakes ever. I wish there was a restaurant like Benedict in Portland! At Benedict, our waitress's name was Noa and she told us that two girls at another table were also named Noa so my mom took a picture of all of us. I'd never met so many Noas at once. The name "Noa" is very common in Israel for girls, it is sort of like "Mary" of Israel. After dinner we walked around some more and then decided to go back to Katherine's because it was going on 9:00pm and we don't like staying out late on the streets in Israel. For breakfast the next morning I got to have the other half of my chocolate pancakes from the night before because the portions are huge and I can only eat of it for one meal. The pancakes were just as good the second time was they were the first! We hung around Katherine's apartment with her for most of the morning and decided not to go to the beach that day because it was over 90 degrees and humid with a hot wind coming off the sandy desert. The weather wasn't very pleasant that second day. We did a lot of my favorite activities on that trip to Tel Aviv and I really enjoyed doing all of the things that we did.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Today we went to the Herzl Museum. The Herzl Museum is a museum that explains and shows the story of Theodore Herzl's life. Theodore Herzl was a huge Zionist. (A Zionist is someone who believes that the land of Israel should exist.) He was born on May 2nd, (my birthday!!) 1860 in Budapest, Hungary (or then, the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and died in 1904, at the age of 44, in Edlach, Austria Hungary. He died of heart failure. At the age of 18 he and his family moved to Vienna, where he spent most of his 44 years. Though Theodore Herzl was only dedicated to Zionism for a little less than ten years, he put those ten years of his life fully into trying to get the land of Israel to be a land for the Jews. He planned the First Zionist Congress in 1897 in Basel, Switzerland. He was elected president until he died in 1904. There six Zionist Congress meetings in total, the last one in 1903. At one of the Congresses the delegates came up with the "Uganda Project." The "Uganda Project" was an idea that the Jews would be able to have a state to call their one in Uganda; most of the Jews didn't like this plan and that is why the Jewish state is Israel, not Uganda. Herzl wrote a book, Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). It was a book that announced why Zionism was needed, it was written in pamphlet-length political program. If you would like to read more about Theodore Herzl's life please go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Herzl The museum that told us all of this information was very nicely put together and designed. It is on Mount Herzl (named after Theodore Herzl). The museum wasn't like any other museum I've ever been to, there were a bunch of rooms with movies that our group stopped and watched about Herzl's life. Though the movies weren't typical explaining-history movies, they were movies that showed how a actor who was going to play the part of Herzl in a movie learned about his character, Theodore Herzl. Watching that kind of movie was much more interesting than watching a typical-learning-about-history movie. One of the rooms was Theodore Herzl's actual study! It was shipped from Vienna. After we were done with the tour we walked around the grounds that surround the Herzl Museum. On the grounds there are a lot of graves, it is sort of like Israel's version of Arlington National Cemetery. Many famous people are buried there, as well as many soldiers. We saw Herzl's grave as well as Yitzhak Rabin and many other famous Israelis. This cemetery was very beautiful and every grave was well maintained and I could tell that these people were very well loved and will always be remembered.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Purim in the U.S., or at least in Portland, is very different than Purim here in Israel. Purim is a holiday that is celebrated annually and recognizes when Queen Esther caught Haman, the evil royal vizer to King Ahasuerus (Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus were married), plotting to kill the Jews. The King replaced Haman and that saved the Jews. As I've seen Purim celebrated over the years, I've seen the little "carnivals" in temples for the little kids, and there has always been some special food at temple and at places that sell Jewish food, but I've never seen Purim be a holiday that people get more into than Halloween or New Years. But here in Israel, people of all ages get very into costume for 2-3 days! People get way more into Purim then Halloween or New Years, or for that matter the two holidays combined! When we were walking down King George street today (King George street is one of the major downtown streets in Jerusalem), we saw this HUGE carnival with towns of "clown" type people on stilts, tight rope, juggling, dancers and many more types of people getting into and preforming at this carnival. It is hard to describe everything that we saw at this carnival and of other people just on the streets so I hope that the pictures help. Because this is Israel, every event, big or small, has lots and lots of security. There were even soldiers with big guns on top of buildings! Anyway, after we were done hanging out and looking at the acts at the carnival we went to lunch at this fabulous restaurant called Resto Bar. It was amazing! My mom, dad, and I all got the burger. Which was fantastic! One of the best parts was that you could order the burger with cheese because the restaurant wasn't kosher! That made me so happy!!!!! :) It is hard to find cheese burgers in Israel because a cheese burger isn't kosher and most restaurants are. There are many rules to having kosher food but one that makes cheese burgers not kosher is that you can't have meat and dairy together. Not only was the burger good because of being able to put cheese on it, but the actual burger was fabulous! We could tell that the meat had been freshly ground and was cooked just perfect! Also, the french fries that came with it weren't exactly french fries but they were still amazing! They were large slices of fried potato, were the outside was crispy but the inside was creamy. I would gladly go back to Resto Bar again! Today was a very fun and different type of day.