Sunday, March 30, 2008

Israel Day Four

Today the Israelis that my mother worked with took us on a personal tour around Israel. The first place they took us to was up to Mount Hertzl. Mount Hertzl actually means Mount of Memory, and it is the national cemetery for Israelis. Famous Israelis along with fallen soldiers are buried there (much like America's Arlington). People such as Golda Meir, Yitzhak , and Leah Rabin's grave. It was a very beautiful & peaceful place.
The next thing we did was head up to Yad Vashem. This is the Holocaust museum in Israel. It was built into a mountain, and we were not allowed to take pictures of the interior as a respect issue. There are ten interior rooms each dealing with a different aspect of the Holocaust. It was so incredible moving. The Holocaust is something I could never wrap my mind around. How could something like that ever happen? One of the most touching things was the Hall of Names, which contained pictures one after another of victims, along with their testimonies. At the end of the tour in a private conversation with our tour guide, he told us he had lost 83 members of his own family during the Holocaust. That is something I couldn't even begin to fathom.

Next we went to eat, and along with the usual humus and other fixins, we were served an unusual entree. And I hope I don't get any hate mail for this, but we were served baby duck kabobs. I was hungry, I was in Israel, and I was living in the moment. They were pretty good, but I would never eat them again. I would feel too bad. I have a guilt complex, don't ya know.

After our “lovely” lunch, we went to the City of David. I had never realized that David's City was outside the walls of Jerusalem. Today it is the ruins and debris of centuries of history. Going down into the tunnels was one of those moments, when what I pictured Israel to be, completely aligned with what Israel was. While there we got to explore Hezekiah's Tunnel-the tunnel that would serve as a water supply, if the Assyrians laid siege to the city (as King Solomon feared). When we came out of the City of David, we were smack dab on the Muslim side. There was territory graffiti on all the buildings, and most of our surroundings looked pretty third world. There were adorable kids that followed us everywhere we went, and even though the tour guide told us not too-we couldn't help but give them some shekels.

We paused for a while at the Mount of Olives; we could see the entire city from there. I mean everything is really amazing, how tiny it really all is. There were camels available to ride, and people offering palm leaves as a sign of peace. We drove past the Garden of Gesthamine, and we asked to stop. But our tour guides didn't even know what the Garden of Gesthamine was, but I guess it’s not a big part of Judaism.

The last thing we did was take a tour of mini Israel. Mini Israel is literally a scale model of all the landmarks in Israel. It was a lot of fun to see absolutely everything there was. I had fun seeing the Dome of the Rock, the wailing wall (with real moving wailers), and Mosada all in miniatures. I mean it was definitely touristy, but I love that kind of stuff. They even had a mini coca cola factory and our hotel. This is also where we realized that a crazy looking building near our hotel was actually an insane asylum.

As always my entire photo set is on flickr.

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