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Friday, November 16, 2007
Hey, you're not still looking here, are you?
 
Because, may I remind you, we AREN'T in Tel Aviv anymore.  Check here.

Monday, November 11, 2007
Safely at Home, Look for Posts Here NO LONGER
 
But, I'll put a last one up one more time just to not confuse anyone.  I will open another "Posts from Home" page, which will promise to put you to sleep in minutes, as nothing exciting ever happens here.
 
Although we did eat the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD tonight at Vitale's.  Thanks God for Vitale's for restoring my faith in what a pizza should be all about!
 
Thanks also to all our DEAR, DEAR friends in Israel, and as I know they like to see there names in print, so it follows:  Effy, Efrat, Natassa, Maggie, Bocci, Cybil, Mali (even though she abandoned us for vacation), Roee, Rambo, Lehat, all other Whitehall Staff (!), Scotty, Sir Patrick, Serge, Eli, Tommy, Maeyer, JO (!!!!), McHenley.  We may not have been ther for a long time, but it was a GOOD TIME!
 
Oh, and Jo made us go to ONE LAST steak night on Friday, which is STILL in my digestive track (cause I felt you all needed to know that.
 
And TJ got sent to Athens for a little while.  Poor sod.
 
Also, I remembered I forgot to EVER take a pic at steak night, so here's a couple MIKE took (he is forever a photographer!  He just needs a little work!).
 
Love to Tel Aviv and all our friends there!

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Rambo, Roee and yours truly, on the real last steak night, Friday!

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Roee and I go arty and undercover, thanks to Mike and the camera

Friday, November 9, 2007
Dude, We Gots to Get Out of Here
 
If you would like your country/city/village's smoking laws changed, all you have to do is invite Mike and I for an extended visit.
 
For the THIRD TIME in 2 years, we've been in a country when smoking became forbidden in restaurants and bars.  Rome, Hong Kong, and now Tel Aviv.
 
And, we had no idea it was happening.  Until we went to steak night at the Whitehall last night.  For our final steak night in Tel Aviv.  AND - NO SMOKING. 
 
This has got to be the only country in the Middle East that could/would enact a law like this. 
 
Rambo and Roy tried to kill us with food and drink.  In addition to all the food you get with steak night (salad, bread, chicken wings, hashbrowns, veggies), we also had free calamari (YUM - they do it very nicely), 2 free beers, and shots of Jack Daniel's all around (GAG!).  Free dessert, too, of course. 
 
We staggered out in a food coma, and decided to brave the Buzz.  The madness down there was over, though.  We completely missed the game.  Had a couple and home to bed.
 
Sent Mike off to his LAST DAY OF WORK (for what could be a while) today.  He was grinning from ear to ear.  Poor man.  He's ready to go home for a bit.  14.5 months on the road will do that to a guy.
 
He's only working half a day, so I got about 3 hours to get my word count in over at NaNoWriMo, and instead I'm posting here. . .
 
What an idiot.
 
Jo's coming up from Arad today to spend the night, have a last dinner with us.  Her brother comes in from England in the morning.  We're going to a rooftop Indian restaurant.  And then (say it with me), to the Buzz.
 
And tomorrow?  WE GET ON THE PLANE HOME!

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Oh Me Oh My, It's Almost Time to Fly!
 
Oh Tel Aviv. . . I will miss you.  Your incredible LACK of weather, your noise, your dog poop on the sidewalk, your Goldstar Beer. . .
 
Today was the LAST laundry day.  Well, at least here.  Plenty of laundry to be done at home, just don't need to pack it up in my carry-on and tote it up the street, saving my 5 shekel coins all week. 
 
Taught TJ how to play Cribbage on Sunday night, up on the rooftop.  Brought the board down to the Buzz on Monday, crushed Mike and TJ three games in a row.  I'm sure they'll get their revenge.  Luck of the cards.
 
Mali (you remember Mali, my cutie patootie friend here who works at the Buzz) is in the US right now, Buffalo, NY, to be exact.  She's amazed at how FAT we Americans are.  In turn, I'm amazed at the Israeli version of if clothing fits. 
 
Clothing that fits means you can get it ON your body.  Which is all well and good if you don't have to actually RE-ARRANGE your FAT to get it in your clothes. 
 
Yes, at home we have girls who wear skin tight clothing all the time.  And, we have "special" names for them, too. . . heehee.  Here, it doesn't matter if you're 8 or 80, it's TIGHT.  I go and try things on, take them off because they're too small, and the shop girls are telling me it fits fine.  By Israeli standards, it does.  Just seems like I'd be buying everything two sizes too small.
 
In Israel's defense, the Greek women are just as guilty.  And well fatter. 
 
And the cleavage here. . . don't even get me started. . .
 
But, alas, our time is getting short and I am getting melancholy.
 
One thing I forgot to tell you guys about.  The DANCING RABBI's!  They just cruised by my house, in TWO vans.  They belong to some crazy sect of Judaism, apparently smoke pot and drink, and drive around in these vans with speakers on the top, stopping occassionally to DANCE (hence the name).  Here's a vid of them from You Tube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8-KtcBycHw
Hilarious. 

NANOWRIMO UPDATE:  I'm at 10,127 words as of yesterday, but haven't done JACK yet today, so I need to get cracking, quit wasting time doing laundry, watching the dancing rabbis, answering emails and this silly website!

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Dueling Vans of Dancing Rabbi on Dizengoff and Gordon

Saturday, November 3, 2007
We're Being Abandoned
 
The entire crew except TJ and Mike snuck out of Israel in the wee hours of the morning, leaving us three as the remainders for the week.  Not to mention Jo living off in some little, desolate town in the middle of nowhere called Arad.  And Mali being in the USA.
 
In the meantime, Mike is counting the working days, minutes, meals, hours, you name it, until we leave next Saturday night.  He needs a rest.  A break.  Some downtime.  New surroundings to drink in.  LOL.
 
Yesterday, he said he was going to hibernate for one month.  If anyone wanted to see him, they must show up on the doorstep and beg to be let in. 
 
I don't believe him.  Maybe for a day or two.
 
And we are getting home "just in time" for the holidays. 
 
I'm sure the malls at home (and in Hong Kong) all have their Christmas Decorations up by now, and "The Little Drummer Boy" is faithfully drumming away whilst people shop for Christmas presents for their dahlings.  After all, Halloween is OVER. 
 
I kind of dread that.  Scratch that.  I really dread that.  I'm not ready to succumb to the fact summer is over, let alone it's almost Christmas.  Ugh.
 
Not that I don't like Christmas, mind you.  I just prefer it to happen in December.  If you need SEVEN WEEKS to shop for junk for Christmas, maybe you are buying too much junk. 
 
And, if you can stand "The Little Drummer Boy" for SEVEN WEEKS, you might already be insane.
 
Speaking of insane. . . this is what I decided to spend my November doing.   www.NaNoWriMo.org  I'm 1/10th of the way to being done. . .
 
 

Wednesday, October 31, 2007
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
 
I have really not seen any sign that Israel celebrates Halloween, except for a poster at Mike's Place advertising a costume party.  I don't expect many trick or treaters. . . but I hope you all have a lot, and a trick-free Halloween (unless you're doing the tricking).
 
While my parents were here, we fell into a little store in Jaffa much like World Market.  They had an incredible wall hanging there I absolutely thought I had to have.  Despite it being from Bali (where we HAVE at least been), HUGE, and $200.  I've been thinking about going down and buying it for a week.  And crating it.  And shipping it home.  What has stopped me is the going down there and buying it, the crating, and the shipping. 
 
Oh, and that it costs $200!  And it's from Bali!  Where, had I seen it there, would have cost me probably around $20.
 
Yesterday, Jo called and asked me if I wanted to go to the mall.  She's moving to some desert town way down by the Dead Sea this week and must have thought she needed a little more civilization before she left.  I really didn't feel like going, my stomach was a bit "off", but as she is leaving, I looked forward to spending some time with her. 
 
We wandered aimlessly through the mall, searching for a few things.  Suddenly, I remembered this shop in the basement where I bought my $5 sunglasses.  And remembered they had TONS of stuff from Indonesia.
 
And I found a very similar wall hanging in there for $18.  Granted, it ain't as cool, or as big, but also not as expensive and will be easier (I hope) to get home.  Plus, I'm not paying 2000% mark-up.

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It looks way cooler in real life. . .

And, now I really must get myself to the laundromat, as those darn dirty clothes STILL have not learned to WASH THEMSELVES!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The Parents Have Left the Country

Last Day (Monday, October 30, 2007)

Another successful parental visit complete.  At 4:30 this morning I was down on the street in my pajamas with my cell phone and apartment key, making sure their taxi showed up on time to whisk them off to the airport.  Yes. 4:30 AM.  Yuck. 
 
And, I think they are probably sleeping off that flight in a anonymous hotel room near the Detroit airport right now. 
 
They saw a lot of Israel, Dad make it to Petra, and they had some "downtime" for rest and relaxation.  A good, well-rounded vacation/trip.
 
We were looking for something to do on Monday that was relatively low key.  Decided to walk the beach north up to the port.  Had lunch along the way at Benedict's (TWO orders of creamed spinach for me, starting to fear I'm going to miss this creamed spinach), and about an hours walk. 
 
The domestic airport is very near the northern end of the boardwalk.  There are typically commercial flights in and out all day.  During our walk and our rest, we hadn't seen a flight yet.  Lots of military air action, though.  Made us a little nervous, as the oil and gas embargo on the Gaza Strip had started that day. 
 
Later, on the way home, we did see ONE commercial flight land.  Weird.  Nothing in the news or anything about the airport closing, though.
 
It was a hot day with a pleasant sea breeze, and a pretty good walk.  Got home in time for the packing and planning, then decided on LaLa Land for the "Last Supper in Israel".   We've only been there once, but it's nice.  And right on the beach.  Then back early so the parents could have a nap before getting up at 3:45 AM.
 
Sorry about the following picture layout.  You will have to scroll sideways to see complete pics.  I was unhappy with the smaller pics from last week, but this is my only other option as of right now.  Or all in a line like I used to do.  Not sure what's better.  But, apologies for making you do extra work to see photos.  Will work on it.  Sometime.  Later.

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We walked up to the Old Port/New Port

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Had our Last Supper at LaLa Land, right on the beach

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The last walk down the beach to the Buzz Stop (at least for Mom and Dad), and Dad got a FREE T-shirt

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And stopped and had a drink along the beach

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Mom and Dad 8 hours before they need to get up to go to the airport

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TJ flirts with his date at LaLa Land

I think Dad had the same type of concerns about hummus as I did about the creamed spinach, as he had the hummus starter with pita bread, and then the hummus sandwich at dinner.  Someone needs to show Dad where they sell the hummus at Meijer. 
 
A funny thing about his love for hummus.  When he had it for the first time here and I told him what it was called, he said, "I've always tried to stay away from it, as I get it confused with Haggus."  Had to laugh.  He'd probably like haggus, too.

Beit She'an and Gan HaShlosha Reserve (Sunday, October 29, 2007)

Sunday was a family field trip back across the Megiddo plains (the plains of Armageddon) to see some old rocks at Beit She'an.  It is literally about 10 miles from where we were last Monday.  If we'd only known (and left earlier, etc).  Now the little car knows the way automatically. 
 
Beit She'an is the oldest still working archealogical dig in Israel, and has the largest intact amphitheater here as well.  And, it was really cute.  Even for someone who's seen a lot of old rocks.  Very close to the Jordan River and the Jordanian border.  Has been occupied for 8000 years.  Neat.  And hot.  And we climbed up to the top of Fortress Hill.  All 164 steps.  All of us.  Good job! 
 
Then, we made it back to the hot springs.  Mike hadn't been yet, and our first visit was pretty pressed and we didn't get to spend any relaxation time.  This time we arrived about 1:45, and got a brochure!  It said that Time magazine had chosen HaShlosha Reserve as the prettiest place in Israel and one of the top twenty most exotic places on earth.
 
No wonder I liked it there so much I had to go back. 

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Inside the Amphitheater at Beit She'an

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A look down the Cordo (main street) toward Fortress Hill

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Peeking through the columns (Dad's shot, and a GREAT ONE)

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Looking up the Northern Valley Road

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Old bridge ruins in the South Valley looking down from hill

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Coming around the other side west side, back up toward the amphitheater

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Mike gets a tour of the hot springs. . .

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Weazer Wilburbeast

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Mike, our tour guide, consulting the map

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One more view for good measure

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Byzantine Temple at bottom of hill, right before we climb the 164 steps

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Overview of the ruins from top of Fortress Hill

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On top of the hill was the Egyptian Governor's House. . . with hieroglyphics!

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From behind the amphitheater

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Water feels soooo good after being under the hot sun looking at old rocks. . .

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Four o'clock just comes too early. . . bye bye hot springs. . .

   
   

On Saturday the parents took a tour to Nazareth, Capernaum, Tiberias, and the Sea of Galilee, and followed in the steps of JC's miracles and Ascension.  They enjoyed the day very much.  And I stayed in Tel Aviv and did very little.  In hindsight, I probably should have went with them.  But, alas, I did not.
 
Lazy Dayz at the Beach in Tel Aviv (Thursday and Friday, October 26 and 27)
 
Thursday and Friday were spent at the beach.  Totally and completely.  Flatbacking on the beach with books and crosswords.  Except on Friday when the Herald Tribune FORGOT to put the crossword in the paper.  And the evenings full of food and drink.  And a full moon.  Basically, just easy, lazy days. 

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Our view for Thursday and Friday. . . not a bad view. . .

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Finally have dinner at Mike's Place, Calzone for all!

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Fish night. . . second round

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You KNOW I like moon pictures. . .

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And our view at lunch. . . pretty much the same. . .

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Dad and Mike share a moment over beers

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Big harvest moon coming up over Tel Aviv

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So here's one more. . .

   

The Weazer Drinking Hall of Shame

Like all of us here, Mom likes to have a drink or two on occasion.  But, she doesn't quite keep up with the rest of us.  And, she doesn't like having her picture taken very much, either.  So, because I'm evil, I started taking pictures of her everytime she was drinking.  Or at least tried to get one or two shots a day.  Sometimes she'd pose, sometimes she would look at me in disdain, and none of us really understood why it was funny or why I was doing it. 
 
But, I did.  And here's the results.  Some pics didn't make it in, but I'm pretty sure there's one for each day in here.  At least.
 
Good thing I don't take a picture everytime Mike or I drinks!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Catch-Up. . . and Mustard, Mayo, Pickles and Onion.  And Hummus for Dad.
 
Okay.  This will be quite the web update.  So, if you don't have the time now, you've been warned.  It promises to contain LOTS of photos, some historical data, some biblical data, possibly some repeated data, updates on the parents, updates on the husband, maybe some funny things, and various other tidbits of information.  Oh, and maybe some links where you can get more information, if I get tired and bored of typing all of it in. . .
 
Also, the timeline is completely backwards.  Therefore, the pictures/stories I owe you from my parents previous brief visit to Israel will start us off, and will progress to yesterday.  Yesterday they left at 7:15 for a half day tour to Bethlehem.  Were then left to their own devices in Jerusalem (read:  my Dad killing my Mom walking her all over any and every rock he missed the first time) from 1 til 4 PM, where again, on their own, they needed to catch a taxi to a hotel to get the tour bus back to Tel Aviv.  Apparently they made it fine, as they returned about 6:15.
 
Today, Dad is off on his own on a one day tour to Petra.  He left at 5:15 this morning.  That's why he is ALONE. . . heehee.
 
Anywaddle, you long time readers know why we had to all leave Israel a month ago, and why my parents returned.  There were a few people who were surprised, given the circumstances,  we actually did anything while we were stuck here in Tel Aviv for two days due to Yom Kippur/airline schedules.  Some people even expressed their surprise to my parents.  And, although it will appear we are just like any other tourists in the first two mosaics of pictures, I can assure you we were not. 
 
However, we could see no reason/purpose for sitting around the apartment crying for two days either.  So, we went off and did a few things.  Especially because at the time we did not know if the parents would make the return trip.  In fact, we thought they probably would not. 
 
Okay.  Enough said. 
 
JERUSALEM (Sunday, September 23)
 
Pre-initial parental arrival, the one thing I SWORE I would not do for/with them, is drive them to Jerusalem.  It is a total headache.  I had been once in a tour, and once with Jo and Nat.  I didn't really think I needed to go back.  Plus, I was afraid I would not be able to get them to all the sites I thought they should see, and a tour would serve them better. 
 
But fate and Yom Kippur intervened, as there was no way to book them on a tour for Sunday, because everything was still CLOSED.
 
So we loaded up the Fiat and drove to Jerusalem. 
 
And, it really wasn't that bad.  I found Mount Scopus overview after driving around in a circle three or four times (Dad navigating poorly, me white-knuckled on the steering wheel, no one to really blame, just how it happened).  Meandered down to the Garden of Gethsemane (again), and found free parking outside the wall of the Old City.  And did all the touristiky things there is to do there, including spending WAY, WAY too much on lunch. 
 
SIDENOTE:  We all had plenty to pray about that day, when we made our stop at the Wailing Wall (Western Wall), THE holiest spot in Jerusalem for Jewish people (and may I remind you, the Jewish faith does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God, they are still waiting for the Messiah to come). 
 
Being we had to split up again, boys and girls can't pray at the same place, Mom and I walked down to the woman's section, placed our hands on the wall and prayed.  Just as Mom was asking me if I thought it okay she was praying to Jesus at the Wailing Wall, a pigeon dropped a load on her arm.  Nice. 
 
May not have been a sign from above, but certainly came from above. 
 
Here's the pics with some brief explanations.  Plenty more pics available under the August 9 entry and the July 30th entry, if you just happened to miss them.

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Requisite picture from Mount Scopus, looking over Old Jerusalem

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Another overview shot, just in case you forgot where we were. . .

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And Dad taking his turn

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Looking up in the Christian Quarter of Old Jerusalem

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Looking down at the City of David from the Western Wall of Old Jerusalem

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Dad, not resting, enjoying the view and the day

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Mom and Dad in the Garden of Gethsemane

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Mom and Dad in front of the Church of the Crucifixion

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In the cave where JC was possibly buried. . .

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Looking over the Kidron Valley

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And then, outside the walls, some guys moving some meat in a wheelbarrow. . . but of course!

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Next stop, a $125 lunch! But it was good. . .

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Mom touching the hole where the Cross was

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Underneath of the Dome in the Church of the Crucifixion

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Touching the rock Jesus' body was annointed on, before burial

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Sitting on the wall, resting, on the way back to the car

     

CAESAREA  (Monday, September 24, my parent's 41st Wedding Anniversary, and the day we were flying home)
 
Caesarea is sea-side ruins of a Roman city about an hours drive north from Tel Aviv.  It was built by King Herod, and has had much restoration.  I visited there with Jo on August 17, in case you missed THAT!  More information and pictures there if you need/want them.
 
This time, we drove the extra 10 minutes further north to see the Aquaducts (Jo and I were too busy bimbling around to consult our guidebook and missed them).  They are set on a beautiful beach, probably one of the prettiest things I had seen yet.  Hence, the intensive amount of pictures I took, which a small representation of is featured here. . .
 

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All of us on top of Herod's Amphitheater

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Looking down on the old chariot raceway

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. . . and more rocks. . .

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The beach north of Cesearea, where the Aquaducts are.

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The dang aquaducts. Those Romans knew what they were doing. . .

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and another time. . .

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Looking south from the Amphitheater

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Mom and Dad going for a Chariot Ride. Not sure who is driving, though. . .

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. . . and some pillars, just to mix it up a bit.

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and again. . .

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. . . just in case you're still NOT seeing this. . .

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Mom and Dad pose on the idyllic beachside

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Overview looking north

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Rocks. . .

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And an autistic shot of an anchor chain. . . up close and personal

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and repeat. . .

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one last time for good measure. They were AWESOME! What a setting.

     

We arrived back home early afternoon in order to take showers and watch the sunset at the beach before jumping in our taxi at 7:30 to go to the airport.  And that was a whole other nightmare I don't feel like getting into right now except to say Royal Jordanian screwed up my parents flights (mine was okay), but didn't realize it was THEIR fault until we got to Amman, and then upgraded my folks to Business Class (not me, though, possibly due to the FIT I THREW at the Tel Aviv check-in counter).
 
And the rest of those two weeks have already been documented.
 
Now, we are back to the present past, starting last Tuesday night, the 16th of October when my parents got in around 10:45 PM and we fed them leftover Mexican Rice and poured beers down their gullets until they passed out.  They were tired.  And hungry.  And thirsty.  It is a LONG, LONG flight.
 
Wednesday morning started out pretty slow, obviously.  We thought about going down to Jaffa (only 2 km down the coast), but decided to just bum around Tel Aviv after having lunch with Mike at Mike's Place.  Hit the Carmel Market and Shenkin Street (the "Greenwich Village of Tel Aviv, although to a non-native looks pretty much like the rest of Tel Aviv) and got home early afternoon.  What follows are just some random shots around Tel Aviv the first couple days and nights Mom and Dad were here.  Including making Mom sit at the Buzz for TWO nights to watch play-off rugby games, which she thoroughly enjoyed. . . NOT.

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First stop on Wednesday (after lunch with Mike at Mike's Place) the Carmel Market

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Wandering throught the Armenian Quarter

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Dad made the beer run, complete with "trolley" in the elevator to the fourth floor

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Dinner at Hashdera 34, we got the "tree table"

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Now them's some beautiful peppers!

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Cute Beetle Bug in front of the fruit juice stand on Shenkin Street

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Random shot of a random toilet sitting in front of the art gallery. Was gone a couple days later. .

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Mike and I at the Buzz for Rugby World Championship, or whatever between England and S. Africa

And, in the first couple days in Israel, Dad has become a Hummus FREAK and ADDICT.  He cannot stop eating it.  He thinks he could live here on hummus and pita bread.  (SIDENOTE:  For those not in the know, hummus is just finely ground chick-peas or garbanzo beans depending on where you're from, with onion and garlic and lemon, sometimes they put red pepper in it, or eggplant, or anything else they can think of).
 
JAFFA (October 18, 2007)
 
Woke up Thursday with enough energy to walk down to Jaffa.  Very historical port, and you may remember was where Jonah started off on his boat trip that ended up with him in a whale's belly.  More pictures and explanations available under 7/23 entry.  The weather's been pretty warm, and it was quite hot walking down there, and then wandering through the old town, but saw Simon the Tanners house for Daddy-O (most exciting. . . NOT).  Decided to walk on back, and maybe wasn't the best decision.  We were all a bit whipped.  Well, not Mike, as he was at work.
 
If you require more in depth information, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaffa

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Mom and Dad go to Jaffa, and of course that's Tel Aviv in the background

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Dad doing the same. . .

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Uh oh, somethings burning in Tel Aviv. . . never did find out what

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Church of St. someone in Jaffa

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And, of course, Mom doing the same!

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The whale that got Jonah

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Another part of the Southern Jaffa Wall

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Holding my horoscopal sign on the wishing bridge, looking out to sea

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Picturesque

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Cute little stairway on the outside of the southern wall

Masada and the Dead Sea (October 19, 2007)
 
 

Masada is a large mesa overlooking the Dead Sea.  King Herod "inherited" this huge fortress just about the time of Christ.  It has deep symbolic value for the Israeli's, as the Jews took Masada from the Romans in 66 AD, but then lost it again in the first century.  The common Israeli "slogan" is "Masada shall never fall again", and the Israel Defence Force (IDF) has their swearing in ceremonies atop this rock. 
 
The story goes that during the seige, the Jewish people on Masada killed themselves and their families and burned their possessions to prevent falling into enemy hands.
 
So, basically, it's a big hill with some scattered ruins, that was a sight of a couple slaughters.  And it's way out in the desert. 
 
And we saw it.
 
Then we drove to the Dead Sea at Ein Gedi, had a picnic lunch, and bobbed around until about 3 PM.  Mom and Dad skipped the mud baths, leaving me with no photos of their mud-encrusted bodies.  Not very nice.
 
And I drove there and back again, with only one minor detour in Jerusalem (unintentional, I just can't seem to FIND THAT SIGN that says Dead Sea!)
 
If you absolutely, positively need more info, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masada and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ein_Gedi

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Masada - where we are headed

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View from the top, looking down at the desert and the Dead Sea

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Remains of a Byzantine Church

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Just outside the Turkish bathhouses

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Desert shot on the way back to Ein Gedi to go bobbing in the Dead Sea

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Can you guess what this is? It's a SALT-ENCRUSTED rescue board. How can you drown? Impossible!

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Path down to the Dead Sea "beach"

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On the way to Masada, stopped along the shore of the Dead Sea

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Overlook to sandstone mountains

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Mom and Dad hanging on top of the rock

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Looking down to the North Temple

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At Ein Gedi National Park

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Mom floats. . . .

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And even big ole Daddy-O floats in the Dead Sea!

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On the way up the cable car to the top

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Down in the bottom of the water cistern. The windows are on the CLIFF

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Solitary tree overlooking the desert

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And another shot in the park

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I float. . .

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Climbing back out of the beach area, back to the car, back to Tel Aviv. . .

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The sign I've missed twice on the way to the Dead Sea, Dad caught a picture of it yesterday

     

And, after we returned, showered, had a couple drinks, it was STEAK NIGHT at the Whitehall.  Daddy likey-ed.  As we all do. Then we went to the Buzz.  As we always do. . .

SATURDAY (October 20, 2007)
 
Saturday was "Mom Day".  She deserved one.  We got up late, sat around and then moseyed down to Benedicts for brunch.  Finished up there around 2, and came home.  Mom decided it was too late to go to the beach, so we did very little.  Went to dinner early in order to get to the Buzz for good seats for the Rugby Match. 
 
Mom and Dad (and us, for the most part), still a little shocked at how expensive it is around here.  They're going through shekels like water. . .
 
AKKO  Sunday (October 21, 2007)
 
 

There's this little Arab town up in the northwest part of Israel I've been meaning to get to since we've got here.  It's supposed to be the most "original" in all of Israel, meaning the ruins are more intact.  It sits on a narrow spit of land that pokes into the sea with cool narrow alleyways and underground secret passages, vaults, crypts, and HUGE halls.  Mostly all built during the Crusades, and the Templar Knights used to hang out there.  In fact, we crawled through their tunnel. 
 
The towns existence dates back to the 19th Century BC and is supposedly where Hercules went to recuperate from his wounds (? Not familiar with this part of the Hercules myth).  It has always been an important port.
 
It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  And it was cute.  But not sure it was worth the drive all the way up there.  Jaffa's pretty cute, and so is Old City Jerusalem.  And really, how many mosques, narrow alleyways, and minarets does one really need to see.  But, Dad enjoyed it, and it was a nice family day with Mike, too.
 
For those with more enquiring minds about Akko, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akko
 
But by the time we got home, I was EXHAUSTED.  The last couple days had finally caught up with me, or I was PMSing or something.  I took a shower, put on my "scratching clothes" (sweats and a tank top), ordered pizza, drank two bottles of wine and Mike and I kicked the parents butt in Eucher.  Twice.

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The clock tower (DUH!) at Akko

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Inside the courtyard of the clock tower building

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Three mosque domes, almost all in a row

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Mike and I at the gate

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View up and out of the Great Hall

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Daddy-O squeezing through the tunnel from the Crypt to the Turkish Bazaar

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Mosque peeking up above the prison walls, on top of the Citadel

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Oh lordy, we are losing daylight! We'd better scoot back to the car!

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Part of the old sea wall

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Hanging out, catching some sea breezes along the wall

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Wall along the Citadel

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Citadel with Israeli flag upon it. . .

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Inside the Great Hall . . . not sure what the big icon(s) where for, there were several

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Cruising through the Knights of the Templar Tunnel

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THE mosque

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The marina and wall

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More old rocks along the sea

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Inside the citadel, looking at the prison

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Inside the Knight's Halls, underneath the Citadel. Five long, big halls

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These are some rocking big ole columns!

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Peeking over the Southern Wall of the Citadel at the sea

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Looking up at the Church of Scotland

MEGIDDO (Monday, October 22, 2007)

I thought I had Monday all planned out to be a neat and easy day.  And, for the most part it was.  We didn't leave the house until about 11 AM, and our first destination was to the Northeast (a direction I hadn't traveled in yet) to Megiddo, better knows as Armageddon.  It's only about a 70 minute drive, and we figured we could see all there was to see there in about an hour, then head down toward the Galilee to the Gan HaSholosha (Sachne) Reserve for a quiet afternoon swimming in the hot springs, having lunch, and lounging around.
 
Megiddo is the site that St. John predicted would host the last great battle on earth (Revelation 16:16).
 
Things looked pretty calm around there, so I don't think we are in any imminent danger of the world ending.  Lots of agriculture. 
 
But, the area has seen lots of spilt blood, dating back to bloody battles as early as 1468 BC.  And it has been populated since 4000 BC, with lots and lots of layers of old rocks.
 
The last thing you do there is check out the water system, which leads you down 183 steps, though a tunnel, then up 80 steps and kicks you out about 3/4 of a mile from the park entrance (and our car), so you get to walk back there.  Nice.
 
Even though we had to literally push Dad out of the museum, we still were pretty much on schedule.  Until we started driving the 12 miles that separate Megiddo and the Hot Springs.  And I picked the wrong place on the map.  And we drove over a mountain and back three times.  And what should have taken about 15 minutes took an hour and a half by the time we got straight where we were going and where we were supposed to be going.  It was a EVIL EVIL road.  One paved lane, no guard rail, some approaching traffic (not much, Thank God), twisting, winding, climbing, descending.  Three times.  WHEEEE!
 
But, we finally got to the springs at 2:45, having not had a bite to eat since the morning, nothing to drink (and I don't mean alcohol, people, I mean NOTHING).  And the park closed it's gates at 4.  So we quickly dined lightly at the only restaurant there, which had pretty good food and was quite reasonably priced for a place with a monopoly on food, changed into our suits, dived in, swam around for about twenty minutes (except Mom, who thought the water too cold and just sat on the steps and let the fishies suck the junk off her toes). 
 
Dried off, changed back into our clothes, made it through the gate at 3:57 and headed back to Tel Aviv.  Had to drive the last 30 minutes in the dark, which I DO NOT like.  Oh, and dead nuts into the setting sun for a large stretch as well.  But, we didn't get lost, turned around, on the wrong road or anything, and it only took about 90 minutes to get home.
 
Out to Havana for Cuban food for dinner, then back home.  Haven't been to the Buzz since Saturday.  They probably think we died or something.

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What we will see the ruins of once we get out of the museum!

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Looking off into the valley through the ruins

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These are the old stables, from sometime in the past. . .

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Mom and Dad heading down into the water tunnel, 183 steps down

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Mom and I on the overlook on the WRONG ROAD WE DROVE THREE TIMES on the way to the springs

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The pools are all connected by waterfalls and wading pools, and surrounded by lush grass

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On the way up and inside

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Dad and I in front of the same view

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Mom and Dad "entering" the stables

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An oasis in the desert (or at least in the Gailee)

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Dad and I finally make it swimming. . . for about 20 minutes!

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Looking out over the plains of Armageddon from the top

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Trying to catch some shade under a date palm tree

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The leaning pillars of Megiddo

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Mom and I about half way down

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Looking back the other way, other way, other way. . .

 

If you are dying for more information about Megiddo, you can check it out here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tel_Megiddo

Weazer and the Chocolate Factory (Today, October 24, 2007)
 
Today, while Dad did his 16 hour one-day trip to Petra, Mom and I decided to induldge ourselves.  I had planned on taking Mom to THE CHOCOLATE BAR while she was here, as of course, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to make Mike take me. 
 
And, in fairness, it is ALL the way across town, and we WALKED there and back.  And did some shopping along the way.  Mom got some scarves and I got some pants.  And Mike got some Baltika Beer.
 
It was a cute little place a dude opened about 10 years ago.  And he seems to know how to make chocolate anything. 
 
They had chocolate pizza, chocolate soup, chocolate waffles, and of course, chocolate fondue, bars, truffles. . . ice cream, milkshakes, must I go on????  AND, good DIET ice coffee (only 60 calories for those of you watching your waistline.  Mom and I watched ours get bigger today).
 

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Mom preparing to head into the chocolate zone. . .

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HEAVEN!

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That's a big ole vat of chocolate to bathe in

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I'm getting delirious

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Our lunch. . . that white thing on the right is dark chocolate fondue!

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We gave it our best effort. . . it was YUMMY, of course. . .

Sunday, October 21, 2007
This site temporarily suspended while Parental Units are here, or until they leave me alone long enough to update. . . :-)
 
Busy, busy, busy.  Jaffa, Dead Sea, Massada, Akko, Tel Aviv, to name a few.  And me driving like a mad woman around Israel. . .
 
Projects I'm working on for you all:
  • The Weaz (Mom) wall of shame drinking montage
  • Top Ten Things not to do in Israel . . . (just kidding)

Just for now, here's a picture of Dad in jail.

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Looks pretty calm for a dude who's incarcerated. . . .

We put the Weaz in a separate cell. . . .

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The Weaz in lock-up

Thursday, October 11, 2007
Safely Back in Tel Aviv
 
Whew.  I forgot about jetlag.  I haven't suffered from it in a while, since adjusting to Hong Kong time, I guess.  We were pretty good going to Athens, and then from there to here we stayed in the same time zone.  But two weeks home and then back has seriously disrupted my circadian rhythms. . .
 
Meaning, I completely passed out at 3 PM yesterday!  Only for an hour, but I was OUT!  And groggy until dinner.
 
And then I made Mike stay out too late last night.  Although in all fairness, I can't really make Mike do anything.  So, I'm not taking all the blame. 
 
Haven't done much since I've returned besides unpack, make a much needed grocery run, and dinner last night.  Have a coffee date today with Mali, if I can stay awake.
 
Here's a few pics from Grand Haven beach (Michigan) on OCTOBER 7!  It was 91 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 32 degrees Celsius for you non-Americans) when I left Detroit on Monday.  That's amazing.  Hurray for Global Warming!  We don't really need Florida, do we?

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Just proving Tel Aviv ain't the only place with beautiful beaches!  Although, admittedly, we have nice sand, but it ain't talcum powder sand like here.

Thursday, October 4, 2007
Cheating, Because I'm Still at Home.
I Dare You to Call Me on It.
 
Needless to say, this has been the hardest 10 days of my life.  I never would have made it without my awesome family and my great friends.  Thanks for all your prayers, thoughts, sympathies, shared memories and support.
 
We did have a mini-golf outing in my brother Denny's backyard on Sunday, the 30th of September.  The First Annual Brian Memorial Golf Tournament.  Won by one of the few non-family members there. . . figures.  Brian playing tricks on us still. 
 
And I had a chance to reconnect with lots of friends.  A shopping trip and dinner with Kenya, drinks with my little bro's girlfriend Amy, dinner with Mark and Cindy, a play with my sister in-law Jennifer (Menopause - that's the name of the play), a renuion of Vestalites at The Vestal Inn (our local pub), a visit with a bunch of old car buddies, playing with Becky in a Big Hole Golf Tournament in Kalamazoo tomorrow, then dinner with Andrea and Kerri to celebrate Andrea's 39th birthday, and hopefully sailing on Saturday. . .  And, of course, a lot of good quality family time. 
 
And the requisite dentist and doctor visit.  It sure sucks to not have good health insurance in America.  And since when did going to the dentist feel like going to the Used Car Lot (no offense to Used Car Salespeople, as I used to be one), but really, do I get rustproofing with that????
 
Sunday I guess I should clean the house and wash the sheets.  And my clothes.  And pack.
 
My parents are planning on returning to Israel on October 15-30.  I'm so glad. 
 
I leave Monday to return to Tel Aviv. 
 
Thanks again, everyone.

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Chris, Jen, Denny, Lolita, Todd, Cindy, Me, Amy and little Elisabeth playing golf

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Doesn't appear the Rockette's have anything to worry about

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Ye "Olde" Vestalites

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Chance meeting with friends from WAY back, Laberta and Carrie (and Carrie's boyfriend Jon). Cool!

And, I do owe you some pics from Jerusalem and Casearea with my folks.  I'll get right on that. . .  :-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Indescribable
 
While my parents were in route to Tel Aviv my youngest brother Denny called me to inform Mike and I that my second oldest brother, Brian, had passed away. 
 
I am at home now.  The memorial service will be held on Friday, September 28, at 11 AM. 
 
There is a beautiful tribute to his life at http://www.lifestorynet.com/memories/28273/
 
Your thoughts and prayers would be greatly appreciated.  Our grief is beyond words.

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Forever in our hearts

Thursday, September 20, 2007
The One Where I Wonder Where the Past Week Went
 
I know this week isn't officially over yet, but it might as well be.  My parents arrive tomorrow morning, coinciding nicely with Yom Kippur, the most important Jewish Holiday of the year. 
 
I will risk life and limb (and a little Yellow Fiat Panda) to go to the airport and pick them up, only to return to town and have 3 hours before everything closes down and it's ILLEGAL to drive your car (and eat on the street, or in a restaurant, or at the beach) for over 24 hours. 
 
Today I will dutifully shop for groceries to stock the larder, make chilli (HOPEFULLY today will be the day I find some HOT PEPPERS!) for our rooftop chilli party tomorrow night (I am the new restaurant), and possibly join Mike for lunch.
 
Things I finally completed this week:
  • Our 2006 Federal Taxes!  WOO-HOO!
  • Washing the four pair of new pants I ordered from Lands End for Mike that showed up smelling of some industrial type solvent.
  • All our other wash.
  • Eating a piece of fruit every day to help offset all the other bad things I do.
  • Two posts here (not including this one)
  • A new outfit!  At 70% off!
  • Securing a month long parking space in a ramp sorda near our house so we can quit worrying about where to park the dang car!  After driving around for 45 minutes looking for said lot. . .
  • Learning a new Jewish Joke to bring to dinner everynight (and promptly forgetting them after they were told).
  • A bunch of new pictures of random images around Tel Aviv.

Oh yeah, and it's Thursday Steak Night!  Oh, the bliss, the bliss. . .

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Monday, September 17, 2007
The One Where I Rant About Crocs
 
Not to be cruel to all you Crocs-lovers out there, but I HATE these shoes.  It's possible my hate stems from knowing they will never be cute in a size 10 on my feet.  With anything.
 
But they seem to be the national footwear of Israel.  Today I took my camera out for about 10 minutes to capture some of their natural beauty for you.
 
Your welcome.
 

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I especially like them with socks.  NOT.
 
Of course, if you just can't keep your feet out of these ugly things, you do have this option:

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The Mary Jane Croc

Monday, September 17, 2007
The One Where I Drive to the Dead Sea and We Fall Back
 
We had to change "steak night" last week to Friday, due to Rosh Hashana, which was okay (the changing part, of course the steak was DEE-LISH!).  And then the usual drinking of the beer at the Buzz Stop.
 
Saturday we had a late start, but did go to the beach and snorkel in the afternoon.   We went to "our" beach, which is now the one in front of the Sheraton Hotel, and it was much cleaner than in the past.  Hardly any plastic to contend with.  Felt nice. 
 
We decided to go to the movies on Saturday night.  Saw The Bourne Ultimatum.  It was at a theater in the Israeli Center, which is a big mall with office space above it.  It is a REALLY nice mall.  I better stay away from there.  Israeli movie theaters exactly like stateside theaters, except the popcorn is a bit cheaper.  Tickets, however, are not.  And, we had 20 MINUTES (I SWEAR) of commercials before the movie.  And after one hour, an intermission.  Whatever. 
 
We had decided on Friday night that we would road trip to the Dead Sea on Sunday (TJ, Jeff, Mike and I) and I would drive.  We planned on leaving around 10 AM, but after a very late night at the Buzz, Mike and I slept until 11 AM.  Oops.  Figured we could still get there and back before dark, so ran around like crazy people getting the cooler packed, stuff together, going to the store.  Left around 11:30.  I was driving, TJ was navigating.  Suppose to be a 2 hour drive.  Somehow we got lost in Jerusalem.  After stopping for gas and McDonalds (which greatly helped our hangovers), it ended up taking us almost 3 1/2 hours to get there.
 
And, uh, you're NOT going to believe who forgot to bring their camera to the Dead Sea.
 
Yep.  That's right.  ME.  And Jeff brought his camera without the memory stick in it.  And TJ?  Well, TJ DOESN'T have a camera, but he's been using our old one.  And he DID bring it, with the memory stick.  So, we did get a few pictures, but I don't have them yet.
 
Mike and I were at the Jordan side of the Dead Sea almost exactly 5 years ago (OMG!), on 9/14/2002.  Never thought I'd make it back.  Jeff was our only Dead Sea Virgin, as TJ had made the trek when Natalie was visiting. 
 
It was quite a panoramic view on the way there, more so then on the Jordanian side.  But it's also very, very desolate.  They could really do with a bit more industry/hotels/restaurants in the area, but it is still rather a de-millitarized zone from the war with Jordan.  Still many areas you can't walk or drive in due to landmines. 
 
When we arrived in Ein Gedi (beach on the Dead Sea) there were very few people around.  I forgot how rocky the seashore and seabed are, some water shoes would have been nice.  Got in and bobbed around.  The water feels really slimy, almost like baby oil, and is very therapuetic.  And you seriously cannot sink.  Impossible.  It's like lying on a cloud.  It's craziness. 
 
We swam down to where the mud pits were and did a little spa therapy on our bods.  Let it dry, rinsed, bobbed around in the sea for a little while longer.  A big tour bus of people arrived just as we were getting ready to leave, so we watched them get in the water and proclaim its "weirdness" and bob around.  Then decided we'd better hit the road. 
 
We wanted to go to the springs at Ein Gedi, but will have to save it for another day, as we needed to get home by dark.  I can't remember why we're not suppose to drive after dark.  But, we're not.
 
Drive back was uneventful, made it home in 2 hours, no getting sidetracked, didn't miss any exits. 
 
Figure we'll spend next weekend almost exactly the same, except with the parents.  Everything will be closed down for Yom Kippur on Friday afternoon until Saturday evening, so will hit the beach on Saturday, then drive to Massada and the Dead Sea on Sunday.  Minus the hangover.  And, hopefully, the detours.  Will probably need to give Mom a valium or two to keep her relaxed in the car.  And definitely WITH the camera.  Idiot.
 
AND, when we returned we figured out it was Daylight Savings Time.  Everyone else had  set their clocks back Saturday night.  Except us.  But, we handled that, informed the rest of the crew so they didn't arrive to work an hour early, and went and had dinner at Havana's, a Cuban restaurant near the house we've been walking by for months. 
 
And guess who got up an hour early for work this morning?
 
Mike.
 
Oops.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 or Tuesday, Tishrei 1, 5768
This is our THIRD New Years this YEAR
 
We had the regular, traditional Gregorian calendar New Years on January 1, ushered in the Year of the Golden Pig in Hong Kong on February 18, and now the Jewish New Year of 5768.  I hope that doesn't mean I have to age three years.
 
And today it is deathly quiet outside.  It's like The Day After.  Which was a terrifying movie and should never be shown to children under the age of 35.  It is eerie around here, though.  Nothing is open, no cars in the street, no busses.  Where did all the people go?
 
And it's almost 1 PM and I haven't left the house myself.
 
 

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Sunset on the last day of 5767, on the way down Frishman street

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And, repeat

Tuesday, September 12, 2007
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
 
At midnight tonight it will be the Jewish Year 5768.
 
What are we going to do?
 
TONIGHT WE'RE GOING TO PARTY LIKE IT'S 5799!
 
I guess they started their calendar by adding up all the ages of important prophets in the Old Testament (Torah) to determine when the world was "created", although they don't really believe the world was only created 5768 years ago, it's not that literary.  Or something like that. 
 
As of today, I officially and legally have access to a car!  Jo is kindly sharing her little yellow vehicle with us.  Cool.  Which means I will be the designated driver whenever we use it.  Not cool.  But worth it.  Will be nice to be able to chauffer my parents around the country.
 
Now I just have to get up the guts to drive it.
 
Big shout out to the idiot American talking on his cell phone who my friend Mali and her friend Sharon overheard while walking over to meet me for lunch.  He called Israel a hovel and the people barbarians.  Outloud.  On the street.  Into a cell phone.  Nice, dude. 
 
Besides the fact he must either been gay or 130 years old, as any warm-bloodied male in this country would not notice ANYTHING other than the scantily clad, large breasted, good looking woman walking around.  Which is probably why Jeff can't find his new apartment by himself yet. . .
 
Just kidding, Jeff.  I know you can find your way home.  Most of the time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
A Day of Remembrance, Promised Pictures, and a NEW WEB LAYOUT!
 
Six years ago today, Mike and I were playing darts in a pub in Seoul, Korea when the first plane hit the first tower of the World Trade Center.  It was just after 10 PM there, and we were in a bar where many times they would show movies.  I remember the bar suddenly becoming very quiet.  I walked over to look at the big screen and asked a guy sitting at the bar what movie was playing.
 
And he told me it was real.
 
It didn't feel real.  But as we sat up all night watching CNN and AFN, it became much more real.  Like any defining moment in history, I will never forget exactly where I was and what we did in the 15 hours afterwards.
 
Although I didn't know anyone in NY at the time, nor did I know anyone on those ill-fated planes, it was MY country being attacked.  And I felt very violated.  And very, very sad.  It was the end of an era of innocence for Americans.  We were vunerable, and attackable, on a grand scale.  And, if that sounds cliche, I'm sorry.  But it seems almost impossible to write about it without all the same cliches we've been saying for six years. 
 
So, I ask you all to take a moment today and remember the patriotism you felt on 9/11/01.  And remember the victims aboard the planes, in the towers, and in the Pentagon whose lives and families lives were forever destroyed.
 
(A MOMENT OF WEB SILENCE)
 
Okay.  Are you ready for those pictures of silliness I promised of our boys drinking in their underwear?   Because, ready or not, here they are!

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And, yes, as you can see by the familiar faces in the pictures above, you ARE at the RIGHT website.  I just decided we needed a big ole facelift.  SO, here it it!
 
What do you think?  Better?  Worse?  Email me at rachelle@aroundtheworldin80beers.net

Monday, September 10, 2007
Welcome to our Neighborhood and Wedding Dress Mysteries

I have no idea what fruit is actually in season here, but there sure is a plethora to choose from.  One popular snack we haven't tried yet (after almost two months of threatening) is watermelon and bulgarian cheese (which is pretty much like Feta).  It sounds good, when you think about how salty feta is, and how some people put salt on their watermelon. 
 
Maybe later this week we'll give it a go.  Or maybe not.
 
Regardless, you will not develop scurvy in Israel.  I think you absorb Vitamin C just walking down the street.

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In the land of fruit. . .

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MORE fruit. And nuts and honey, too. Just no pictures.

Sunday we had a late lunch at Benedict's, which is about a 15 minute walk from our house to the north.  They have ham AND bacon on their breakfast menu.
 
SIDENOTE:  I don't know if you are familiar with Jewish dietary laws, but they are a bit strict.  If you are eating "Kosher", you can't have dairy products and meat in the same meal.  Bye Bye cheeseburger.  And even spaghetti with parmesan.   AND, you are not allowed to eat the meat of a cloven-foot animal (read:  pig).  So a definite good-bye to a tasty Ham and Cheese Sandwich or Omelette.  Also, no shellfish and other certain creatures of the sea.  Not too clear on this law.  Needless to say, we've spent a fair amount of time trying to find non-Kosher restaurants. 
 
It's a cute place owned by a relocated Jewish family from New York.  I had blueberry pancakes with a side of HAM.  Mike had the eggs benedict.  On toast.  Apparently English Muffins haven't made their way to Israel yet.

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Mike consuming non-beer calories at breakfast.

Mali and Enat told me last week where the closest bowling alley to our house was, so we decided to go and check it out.  Looks pretty much like a bowling alley.  Rather expensive, though.  29 Shekel/per person/per game.  Which is about seven US dollars.  Per person.  Per game.  Plus beer.  If you are familiar with the way we roll (HAHAHAHA), you know this is an $150 US adventure for us.  Rarely do we roll fewer than 5 games, and rarely do we drink fewer than 9,867 beers.  Probably will go and do it, but probably not as often as we might like.  We need some out of bar experiences.  I guess.

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A very tall and lonely palm tree

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Uh-Oh, look what we found. . .

Taking into consideration I was married over seven years ago, and we didn't have a big wedding by any means, and I haven't shopped for a wedding dress since the early 90's, I still don't think I'm so out of touch with wedding fashion that ANYONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would actually consider any of the following dresses so outrageously showcased on our street.  The big pink and white one?  Seriously has what would appear to be an ENTIRE comforter attached to the back of it. 

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Getting married Madonna style

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Getting married. . . to your BED!

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Business inspired wedding wear for the hip-challenged

I don't think I could keep a straight face rising for a bride wearing any of these of my favorite three. . .
 
About the height of our excitement on Sunday.  Ate in (roasted yard bird from the supermarket) and went to the BLOCKBUSTER (oh yea, an actual BlockBuster videos) and rented Fracture with Anthony Hopkins.  Think it was out in the states last fall.  Remember the parental units raving about it.  We liked it.
 
This morning was the dreaded laundry morning, and this afternoon has been pretty much lazy. 
 
Upcoming Jewish New Year holiday coming Wednesday and Thursday.  Rosh Hashanah.  This will officially end the year of 5768 on the Jewish calendar.  (2007 is Jewish Year 5768, ending at midnight on 9-12).  It is considered the holiest of all Jewish holidays.
 
Our main concern is where and what WE will be eating, as pretty much everything will be shut down tight.  No steak night at the Whitehall this week.  Well, maybe on Friday.  If I make reservations.  Which I had better do.  Especially if we starve over Wednesday and Thursday.  We'll be HUNGRY!

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Our house. . . on the right side of the street.

Sunday, September 9, 2007
I forgot. . .
 
Friday night we shlepped across town for dinner at the Betty Ford.  So, now I can say I've been to Betty Ford.  Also have pictures to prove that.  Dang it, Jeff.  I NEED those pictures!
 
NOTE:  For those of our foreign readers who may not know who/what Betty Ford is, she was the wife of former President Gerald R. Ford, who was from our home town, Grand Rapids, Michigan.  His wife, the lovely Betty, had a bit of a drinking problem (is it something in the water?) and opened up one of the most famous alcohol rehab centers in the country, called the Betty Ford Clinic.  Which we always joke should be the next stop on our trip. . .

Saturday, September 8, 2007
Although I'm lying, because it's really Sunday morning
Oh. . . those things you do. . .
 
Because my parents are coming VERY SOON and I am an idyllic child who only wants to ensure her Mom and Dad have the BEST of times when they arrive, I willingly sacrificed my ENTIRE Friday to go 30 minutes north to the beaches of Herziliya with my friend Jo.
 
We've heard these beaches are THE BEST, and definitely more clean than in Tel Aviv.  So, we said, "Why not?".  (And, again, this was so I would have no pleasure of my own, just so I would know if it was a good place to take my parents, because, really?  Laying on the beach all day with a good friend and a good book?  Not.  So.  Fun.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA).
 
It truly WAS a beautiful beach.  Very wide and sweeping.  Clean sand, too.  And also right next to a large shopping mall.  PERFECT. 
 
The water was a bit choppy, so swimming wasn't really an option, but we did wade out and get wet a couple of times.
 
With a butt-load of PLASTIC! 
 
ARGHHHHH.
 
Ironically, there was a huge article in the paper today (as it is Sunday on Saturday here, their holy day) about how much plastic is used in Israel.  5 billion pounds a year in shopping bags alone.  Think about that for just a minute.  5 billion pounds of plastic BAGS!
 
Done?
 
That's a lot of freaking plastic, friends. 
 
So, ANYHOODLE, tonight we go to Molly Bloom's Irish Pub for dinner and a hundred or so beers (as you do) and TJ brought an Israeli friend of his.  She asked me how I was liking Israel, and I said it was all well and good. 
 
Then I told her how we went up to the fancy-shmancy Herziliya beaches yesterday (or Friday, because right now it's 1:30 on Sunday morning. . . whatever, it's STILL a tecnicallity right now, and did I mention I possibly may have had a beer or twenty tonight?).  And she says, . . .
 
(OH. . . YOU DEFINITELY NEED TO WAIT FOR THIS)
 
"Did you know they closed the beaches there down because of the rampant sewer pollution and possible toxic and nuclear waste that is existing in the water right now?"
 
(Okay, maybe she just said pollution, but we did have a "glowing" look when we left the water.  And I did have to WASH plastic off my NETHER REGIONS when I got home!  GAG!  GAG!  GAG!  And, I promise to never mention anything THAT GROSS again here.  Maybe).
 
We wondered why there wasn't very many people at the beach that day.
 
And, I don't have any pictures of the beach because I didn't dare bring my camera as I still don't trust that it won't get ripped off.  I did, however, lug all my snorkel gear and Mike's boogie board, which neither were touched except to tote them to the beach and back 2 times.
 
Rightfully so I should be worried about stuff being stolen, as was evidenced by a wild Friday night which culminated with TJ, Jeff and a couple of friends going swimming at 3 AM while we babysat their wallets and cell phones at the bar (without having another beer. . . AHHAHAHAHA.  Believe me?  You are so gullible. . .)
 
When they returned they were in their underpants.  Someone stole Jeff's clothes.
 
And TJ was wearing a GIRL'S halter top (think spaghetti straps and a cute cut, right above the waist).  Which, there are pictures to prove, I just need to get them from Jeff.  And they are HILARIOUS.  So you all just need to stay tuned for them!
 
So, they sat and had a couple more drinks with us . . . in their underwear. 
 
Where else can you sit in a bar and swill alcohol in your WET UNDERWEAR?
 
Being fairly well traveled, we could think of no where.
 
 

Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Another Day, Another Neighborhood
 
Made the big move to our new "house" on Saturday, now living at the Dizengoff Suites at the corner of Dizengoff and Gordon.  Really nice location, a beautiful tree lined and store filled street.  Our apartment is okay, not living in the lap of luxury anymore, though.  Maybe we shouldn't have spent 6 weeks at a five star hotel.  Makes everything else feel kind of drab. . .
 
Did find the five shekel store ($1.25), though.  Good and close to the house.  I love "dollar" stores.  You can always count on them to have all the same junk, no matter where you are!  Bought a bunch of crap there, as you do.
 
Had a little housewarming party on the roof top patio last night.  Bought a cooler and filled it up with beer and wine, bought some snackies and stuff to make sandwiches, invited "all" our friends (TJ, Jo and Jeff) and sat up there and ate and drank all night.  Spilled wine all over my green shorts which I'll never find the same color of and matched two of my new shirts.  Did laundry this morning and threw them away as the wine did not come out. 
 
I should stick to beer.
 
TJ moved on Sunday to our building.  He's slumming it down on the first floor, though.
 
After laundry and ironing this morning, I did some shopping but bought NOTHING.   Then at 4PM I met our friend Mali and her friend Enat at a local restuarant and watched them have lunch while drinking free drinks the staff kept sending over.  The reason will be evident when you see Mali's picture. . .
 
Haven't been swimming but once since our birthday snorkel gear arrived.  We are lame-O.

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Looking down Dizengoff from our roof

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And looking up the street

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That tall building is our old house. . .

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And this is a dream roof top patio. . . not ours, across the street

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Mali and I at a neighborhood restaurant that I forgot the name of but just left like 15 minutes ago.

Monday, August 27, 2007
A Few Pics from Last Weekend's Adventures

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This is what you look like when you get old. . .

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So endeth another day

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Haven't subjected y'all to a moon photo lately

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The Gang

Sunday, August 26, 2007
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
 
Seems I've made it to 38 and Mike to 54.  Have been making a mad run at having fun on our birthday's since Mike's on Thursday.  Did the WhiteHall Steakhouse as planned for dinner, and in addition to all the yummies we normally have, we got free calamari and two desserts!  A couple drinks afterwards at the Buzz Stop and free champagne, too! 
 
Friday we were tired, but Saturday we went after it again, and at midnight TJ narced me out to the bar and the band, and we had free hot fudge cake and ice cream and a birthday seranade.  Tonight we are off for seafood at the Manta Ray restaurant on the beach with TJ, Jo and Jeff. 
 
And, I've got lots of nice emails from friends and family telling me that 38 ain't old.  Starting to believe it.  Except, I did 60 squats yesterday and can hardly move today!  Definitely need to get back on the exercise program!  OUCH.
 
Our birthday presents to each other were snorkeling gear, but they shipped late and haven't made it yet.  Something to look forward to this next week in our old age. . .

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Honestly!  I STINK at this lately. . .
 
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LAST FIVE DAYS:
  • Humorously found a remote control to an air conditioning unit in my purse at lunch Saturday.  Small and black, looked enough like my phone to pass (if you've had some alcoholic beverages or just not paying attention).  Spent an hour Saturday afternoon tracking it's rightful owner down.  Belonged to Mike's Place on the Beach.  Swiped it Thursday night, apparently.  Funny, my purse really isn't all that big, you'd think I would have noticed it before Saturday.  Just glad to get it back "home".
  • Went to an AWESOME fish restaurant on Saturday night with Jo, TJ and Jeff (and Mike, too).  Was SOOOO very good, and pretty much the FIRST fish we've ate since we've been here, if you don't count fish 'n chips (which neither do I eat or like) and the one serving of fish I did have prior that was pretty good, but NO WHERE NEAR as good as this.  It was in Jaffa, and they first brought you out all these little shell shape dishes of yummies, like TZATZIKI, and hummus, and pickled corn, and red cabbage, and saurkraut, and some hot spicy stuff, and olives and other stuff I can't remember, plus some delicious homemade pita bread to dip and scoop  with.  It was TO. DIE.  Oh yea!   Then the FISH.  Three different kinds on a huge platter.  And we ate it ALL.   Definitely will be back (if we can find it, a little out of the way).
  • Sunday dawned with Mike having a horrific cold.  Laid low most the day.
  • Monday Mike came home from work with said cold at 10:30.  We called the doctor and took a cab to the hospital to have him checked out.  Mostly concerned with his cough (which he's had, in various forms, since April 18).  A little long for a cough, wouldn't you say?  So, they took a chest x-ray.  Should know what that said sometime today.  Room service and sitcoms last night.  What is it with "Yes, Dear"?  Is this the longest running horrible sitcom ever?  And why do they have to export it to every country?   I HATE IT.  Although last night's episode was about MALE MENOPAUSE, which I didn't even know existed, and was pretty funny.  (Did I just say THAT?)  Mike feeling much better today after two doses of his antibiotics, and hardly kept me awake coughing last night. . .
  • Went to a Second Hand Boutique today and bought a jean skirt and a cute dress.  It was destined to be, as they both fit me better than almost everything in my closet.  Sigh.  Still fat(ter).  Need a few new tops, though, just to stay FRESH. 
  • Weather.  Unbelievably the same every. Single. Day.  Hot, a little humid, sunny, some clouds in the late afternoon.  It's crazy, man!
  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY SISTER-IN-LAW ANNETTE!
  • HAPPY NEW KITTY TO CHRIS AND JEN!  He's so darn cute!  His name is Dusty and I hope he's as sweet as he looks.  Or maybe not, because then I might eat him.
  • My Great-Uncle Ira died yesterday.  I haven't seen him in a long time.  I guess he had Alzheimer's.  His wife, my Great-Aunt Luwenna (my Gramma on my Dad's side's youngest sister, I think she's the youngest) is 89 and still going strong physically and mentally.
  • One month until the arrival of the parental units. One month to learn how to drive here (and get a car, that will help).
  • Bought two sets of snorkeling gear off the internet last Friday so we can join in the nightly fun of looking for a big crab and checking on the little fishies.  My "wings" hurt from swimming.  In a good way.  Must be using some muscles!  Although TJ's flippers give me crazy charliehorses everytime I put them on.  OUCH!  Hopefully they will get here this week.

And I do believe that brings us pretty much up to date!  Oh, and have read at least three books since Friday, the Sunday New York Times Crossword (almost finished) and about 50 Sudoku puzzles. . .  Oh, the life I lead.

 

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DUSTY! Ain't he almost edible?

Friday, August 17, 2007
It's kinda like posting from home, only better
 
You know how when I'm at home I rarely update my website?  Because, really, who wants to hear about me dusting, doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher, laying around on the coach?  It's a little like that here.  Haven't been doing much, ergo, not much to post about.  Besides the inane. 
 
You probably DON'T want to hear about my hour long search for coffee filters, or the 2 hours I spent ironing yesterday after visiting the laundromat, or even about the big stain of unknown origins on the back of my white skirt (DAMN IT!).
 
See?
 
And maybe you don't want to hear about my birthday anxiety.  Next week Mike turns 54 and I turn 38.  That means in 12 years I will be 50.  And I met Mike 12 years ago.  Which seems like yesterday.  Therefore, tomorrow I will be 50 (or next week, or whatever!).  Mike does not seem to be suffering at all about turning 54.  Strong man.
 
We did go snorkeling last night again with Jeff and TJ.  We need gear!  I think I have solved that particular problem, thanks to my trusty friend the internet.
 
After our dip in the ocean we went to Whitehall Steakhouse and gorged ourselves on red meat.  It's a Thursday night tradition!  And it's very, very yummy.  The food highlight of Israel so far.  A steak.  How exotic.
 
And Tuesday I had food poisoning most of the day from the Mexican pizza Mike and I shared.  Apparently only my side had salmonella or whatever on it. 
 
Wednesday, though, Jo and I went to Caesarea while the boys worked.  That's were Mike, TJ and I were supposed to go last Sunday but didn't due to car troubles.  It's about an hour and a half drive north on the coast.  Was interesting.
 
We were going to then continue on to Acca, but decided it was too far for an afternoon trip.  So headed south to check out a winery, only to arrive in the suburb it's in and discover by reading the SECOND paragraph in the guidebook that pre-bookings are required.  Decided just to head back to Tel Aviv and buy a bottle of wine.  Nuff said. 
 
Here's some pics from Caesarea.

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Least crooked picture. . . sigh. All that money and technology wasted on me. . .

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Jo messing around with the art

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Down by the BOARD-WALK

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Down by the SEA-EE-EE-EE-EE

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Looks amazingly like Lake Michigan shore up here

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Afternoon Debauchery, Incident Reports and Good Samaritans
 
Our Sunday trip was cancelled, Mike's friend Les's car broke down, so no wheels.  Will try and reschedule for next weekend.
 
Instead we met him for breakfast at Benedicts and had. . . yep, eggs benedict (WITH HAM!!!), Bloody Mary's and salad (!).  TJ and Jo joined us, then left to go look at apartments while Mike and I went with Les to his apartment (very nice), then to the bar for a couple of hours.  Then home for a nap.
 
Hit the beach from 4-7, not much in the way of waves, but we all played with TJ's snorkeling equipment.  Now Mike and I want masks, too.  Want want want want want.  We are so materialistic.  People starving in India and all we can think about is seeing fishies under the sea. . .
 
And plastic. 
 
TJ and I tried to start a clean the beach campaign.  You know, the whole "lead by example" thing?  We picked up about forty pounds of plastic along the waterfront.  Others just smirked at us.  C'mon peeps!  Lend a hand!  Or, swim in it tomorrow, what do I care?!?!?
 
But, I DOOOOOOOOOOO.  Therefore, I pledge that everytime I go to the beach, I will pick up OTHER PEOPLE'S GARBAGE!
 
And now for the fun stuff.  I'm going to try and tell this story in the nicest way possible ('cause you all know I'm nothing but NICE, LOL), but it's going to be hard.  It involves a certain person who is on this project who WILL NOT BE NAMED.  Let's call him Employee Z. 
 
Employee Z has a infamous history of attracting negative attention, performing strange acts, wearing odd things, having his head beat into the ground by a 90 pound Thai girl, and just being an all around nut job.  It's as if he purposely tries to alienate people.  And, he has been pretty successful at it.  TJ calls him an Attention Whore (so, now you know Employee Z is not TJ - WHOOPS!). 
 
If you are thinking, "I thought she was going to be nice", let me assure you, I AM.  Because I could thrash Employee Z so much harder than this without even trying.  But, I'm being NICE.
 
Anyhobble, it appears on Sunday Employee Z went to visit the ATM, located right outside the hotel door, where all of the rest of the Employees (A, B, C, D, E and wife of Employee E) go to get money.  With no reported incidents.
 
And, the machine was not working.  So, after the ATM gave back Employee Z his card and informed him it wasn't working, Employee Z ASSUMED (and we all know what that means) the bank debited his card the $600 he was trying to get out, but didn't give him any money. 
 
INSTEAD of talking to someone at the bank, trying a different machine, checking his bank account online or the plethora of other options available, he decides to discuss it with the bank guard.  Who tells him to leave the bank.  Twice.
 
Whilst Employee Z continues along this avenue, another guard comes around the corner and points an Uzi at him.  Employee Z now gets that he should probably leave and pursue other options of obtaining money.
 
And spends the rest of the weekend and Monday too traumatized to leave his room or go to work. 
 
Now, I'm not saying having an Uzi pointed at you is NOT traumatizing.  What I am saying is having an Uzi pointed at you is highly avoidable, as evidenced by the rest of us being here a month and NOT having this occur.  Even after drinking. 
 
A lot.
 
Speakin' of drinkin', this is HILARIOUS! 
 
And, did you know (brace yourselves, as this is HIGHLY INTERESTING) I haven't had a haircut since May 8?  My last haircut was influenced by the upcoming visit of my parents and this photo. 
 
As any girl with a Mother know, there are certain hair issues Mothers and daughters have.  I thought it just better to get a haircut then listen to my Mom tell me what I should be doing with my hair.  However, I really need someone to tell me what to do with my hair.  Just not my Mother.  I hope I don't wait until the end of September to get another haircut (just before the arrival of Mom and Dad). 
 
And (another great fact), I've gained 2.3 pounds (just over a kilo) for every country visited this year.  Yeah me. 
 
Oink Oink piggy with a bad 'do.  Loving it.

Friday, August 10, 2007
Ah, Those Silly Romans
 
Going on a field trip to Caesarea on Sunday with TJ and a work colleague of theirs.  Old Roman ruins (again), so more pictures of old rocks to be forthcoming.  It's north about an hour and a half on the Mediterranean, was built originally by King Herod and Pontius Pilate is said to have lived there.
 
Off to go look at some more apartments, hopefully. 

Thursday, August 9, 2007
Shalom, Y'all
 
I know, I know.  You've been checking here everyday to see if I've updated, and I HAVEN'T, have I????
 
And why, you might ask?  Have I been tremendously busy?  Having too much fun?  Wasting away at the beach?
 
No, no, and no. 
 
I have been a little busy, as in going to Jerusalem again on Tuesday with Natalie and Jo.  There has been some fun, I must have had too much fun on Tuesday night based on how my head felt on Wednesday morning.  And, we wasted away at the beach on Saturday and every night this week on the boogie boards with TJ and Jeff, the girls, and sometimes Drew.
 
But, not much else, really.  Laundry, emailing, searching the web for a suitable apartment for September and October (going to look at two today, hopefully one will work as I'm tired of calling and leaving messages for people who DON'T CALL ME BACK!). 
 
But, I've mostly been not doing anything.  How's that for sentence construction!?!?!
 
So forgive me for not posting about my uneventful days and nights.  It's not that I'm bored, I haven't got there yet (but I see it looming on the horizon), just completely unmotivated.  I get this way periodically, and I'm trying to just let myself be okay with it, but it does kind of grate on me when I can't get my nose out of a book and my butt off the couch to go and do something. . . ANYTHING!  And then it leaves me with not much to write about, and less of a desire to admit to my slothfulness. . .
 
BUT, I did have fun going back to Jerusalem.  We wandered around a bit more than was possible on the tour (and got lost a LOT more), and did a trek around the outside walls by accident (we weren't 100% sure where we left the car in relation to where we left the city).  It was a nice walk, though, if not a little warm.  And Jerusalem is definitely a neat place in the world to be.
 
We've also been thinking if we find a cheap enough apartment we might rent a car for the rest of our time here.  Although I am a little afraid of driving (after riding with Jo to Jerusalem, not her driving, but the other people's), I think it would help me to get out and about more. 
 
Which leads to worrying about parking.  They have these incredible "car removers" here.  A flat bed truck with a lift on it pulls up next to the illegally parked car, lifts it up onto the flat bed and takes it away . . . in less than a minutes time (Mike's been timing them).  And they are working constantly.  It's amazing.  I feel sorry for all the people who come back to where they left their car and it's either gone or another car is sitting in its place.  I wonder what they do or who they call.  Probably 50% of the cars we see getting "lifted" are rental cars.  Would definitely add to the rental bill if I have to go get it out of hock twice a week. . .
 
And, not to complain too much, but the beach is starting to get on my nerves.  What appeared to be unspoiled, beautiful beaches have turned out to be plastic infested waters.  And possibly feces contaminated.  It's a bit unsettling to be swimming around in debris.  Things rub up against you, and you reach down and pull up a plastic bag.  Or, like Natalie, a plastic HANDCUFF.  There are pieces of plastic almost as big as a TENT.  It's a little gross.  Actually, it's ALOT gross. 
 
And, we didn't know, nor apparently did anyone else at the beach, but last week for three days the beaches were supposedly closed due to "pollution" (READ: sewage) in the water.  Niiiiiice. 
 
Needless to say, this has bothered me more than a little. 
 
On the brighter side, still looking forward to many weekends out of Tel Aviv, lots of time yet to visit the Dead Sea, Golan Heights (in the north), Eilat (in the south on the Red Sea), Caesarea, and other points of interest. 
 
Here's a couple "new" pics from the Tuesday in Jerusalem.  I'll try to post more regularly.  Sorry!

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Looking back at the Yeshiva built around the site of The Last Supper and the Tomb of King David

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Contemplating the meaning of life. . . or how to get an ice cream. . .

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Arabic candies. . . oh, you know we bought some!

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Tower of David. . . wandering around lost in the Christain Quarter

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A nice example of the different architectures and periods inside Jerusalem

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Time out for lunch with Natalie and Jo

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Inside the Messonic Chapel inside of the Church of the Crucifixion

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The Damascus Gate from our walk around the walls

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A MUST HAVE for all Americans. . . .

Saturday, August 4, 20007
How We are Getting Our Exercise
 
As a rule, we don't live the most healthiest of lifestyles.  Sure, we don't have a car thus making us walk more than the average American, but a lot of times we are just walking to get beer, smokes or pizza.
 
But the surf here is solving this problem.  We've been going swimming/boogie boarding almost every night when Mike gets home from work.  And, it's exercise!  The surf throws you all the way up to the shallows, and then you must battle the waves to get back out there for the next ones.  Which tend to knock you down, spin you on your head, fill your bathing suit with sand, and force quarts of sea water down your throat.
 
You can so feel it the next day.
 
As another part of my intensive exercise regime (HA!), I walked up to the mall yesterday to score some face powder, hairspray and cheap sunglasses.  I donated my last pair of sunglasses to the sea the other night (surf and sunglasses do not go together), and although TJ found me a replacement (in the sea) almost immediately, they were pretty beat up.  They lasted a day.
 
On the face powder frontier things are a little sadder.  I've been using the same face powder since my teens (!), and it's just been discontinued!!!  ARGH!  Sent my parents out to find some to mail to me with my Israel guidebook, but alas, to no avail.  So my first experience with "new" face powder will be with some Israeli brand.  Let's pray I don't LOVE it, God knows I'm loyal, as I'm sure I'll never find it anywhere else in the world.
 
It's amazing they can get $25 US for a Maybelline blush here ($7.99 in the states).  I was afraid to go to the Clinique counter with such prices on the cheap stuff!  And, I don't care, $8 US for a can of WellaBalsam is INSANE!  It's cheap hairspray! 
 
But I did score two pairs of sunglasses for $10 US.  SWEEEEET.  Will try not to sacrifice them to the sea immediately.
 
Now if I could just find some shoes that don't have that little thongy thing between your toes and cost less than $150 US.  I just can't wear them!

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WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Thursday, August 2, 2007
This is SOOOO Not Going to Fit in the Suitcase

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Mikey's new toy

Mike never fails to entertain me.  Yesterday, in a truly hungover funk, I accidently stumbled upon the boys out having lunch.  They were watching the waves crashing onto the beach, and Mike said, "I want a boogie board,".  Being the good wife I am, I immediately went and bought him one.
 
And then, when he came home from work, we went to the beach and played in the surf.  With Jeff and TJ. 
 
I would have paid (insert any unreasonable amount of money) just to see him smile like an eight year old boy as he rode his first wave in, picked up his board, and skipped (yes, SKIPPED) back out through the surf to do it again. 
 
He is truly adorable.  (GAG!  I KNOW!) 
 
But, he is.

Monday, July 30, 2007
Fasten your Seatbelts for a Whirlwind Tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem
 
Full bus on Saturday morning, as everyone opted for the tour except Drew.  Nice, as it meant a private tour just for the crew.  Left a 8:30 on the nose for the hour drive to Jerusalem with our trusty guide, Ramey.  Also, very little traffic, as it is Saturday (Shabbat) and religious Jews are not suppose to drive.  Make our way through Tel Aviv and the suburbs, not a lot to see on the way, except a slight part of the route that goes through the West Bank, so we can see the wall. 
 
First stop, The Mount of Olives for a view of the Old City and the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus fled to after the last supper and was betrayed with the "Judas kiss".
 
There were also a couple dudes up here with camels you could ride, for a small fee.  Everyone passed.
 

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This one looked like he was going to make a break for it. . .

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OMG! Our first view of the old city from top of Mount of Olives

Back into the bus to ride down the mountain to see the Church of Gethsemane and the Garden.  Here's where it gets a little strange.  You see, everyone wants a piece of the holy land.  Everywhere anything important happened in the life of JC, everybody wants a bit of the action.  So, there's a BUNCH of churches all over the area, and the big church in the pic was built from donations from every country with a Christian denomination in it.  We (OOOSA), have a whole dome!  Yea Us(A).  Small garden still exists in the courtyard with some dang old olive trees.  They have some large trunks on them!

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Mount of Olives olive trees outside church, some are 2000 years old (the trees)

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Church of Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley just outside the Western Wall

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The altar inside Church of Gethsemane

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Facade of Gethsemane Church on the way to Jerusalem

There were many more churches tucked away in the trees and the valley, but in the picture above you can see the Russian Orthodox Church on the sight of the Garden of Gethsemane.
 
Wind through the City of David, formed outside the walls of Jerusalem, past the Western Wall to the North wall gate of Zion. 

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Our entry point, the Zion Gate

This is the starting point of the walking part of our tour.  Should take around 3 hours and about the same number of bottles of water.  It's a warm one today, and as the city is WALLED, not a lot of breeze blowing.  And, you will notice in most of the pictures I have a shawl on.  This is not because I'm COLD, but because I need to be MODEST and cover my extremely exciting bare shoulders in the holiest spots of the tour.  And also why the guys all have pants on.
 
We entered into the Jewish Quarter, and as it is Shabbat, everything is closed.  Maybe this is why we got to go free today?  Hmmmm. 

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Alleyway in the Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem, Old City

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View of Herod's Palace from upper area of Jewish Quarter

I don't know, it may surprise some of you, but that big, gold dome in the middle of Jerusalem (called the Dome of the Rock) is actually a mosque, so as unclean infidels, we are not allowed to go in there (not that I would be, anyway, as I'm a chick). 
 
But, we can go to the Wailing (Western) Wall, boys one side, girls the other.  This is one of the most holiest places in the Jewish religion, as it is said to be the remains of the Temple of Solomon of the Temple Mount.  They go to weep for the destruction of the temple.  But, as it is now a mosque, this is the only part of the ruin that is accessible to them.  Hence, the name the Wailing Wall. 
 
You go and put your hands on it and pray.  Or, you can write your prayer and stick it in the holes between the stones.  Or, if you can't make it to Jerusalem, you can email your prayer and they will put it in the wall for you.  I'm DEAD SERIOUS.  That's funny stuff.
 
We split up, me on the ladies side, the boys on the other side.  I don't know what they did (I couldn't see), but I said a prayer for peace in the region.  Met up in the tunnel which leads to the Muslim Quarter.

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Wailing (Western) Wall. This is a close as you can take a picture, but we went down and touched it.

And, my friends, this is where the tour started to take a wrong turn for us.  We are walking the 14 stations of the cross (well, at least some of them), the path that JC took while carrying his cross through the city of Jerusalem to his crucifixion on Golgotha Hill on Mount Zion.  Which goes through the Muslim quarter, whom of course, do not believe in JC, so it's a BAZAAR. 
 
A little hard to feel the sanctity of the place amongst "Shalom, Ya'll" mosaic tiles and Hard Rock, Jerusalem T-shirts.  Not to mention the aggressive vendors.  This continues all the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built over the actual sight of the crucifixion

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Bread seller in the Muslim Quarter

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Silly Muslim's. . . :-)

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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

We finally make it to the Church.  Inside is where Christ was crucified, the stone on which his body was laid in preparation for his burial, and the supposed spot that his body was placed, as well as another cave that might have been it, too.  Also inside is the place where the Romans disposed of the three crosses (another cave) so the Jews would not try and "find" the actual cross their King was crucified upon and cause a riot. 
 
It's a little hard to believe after all these years they know the exact spots/rocks/caves these events took place on/in, but you roll with faith and go and look at them all. . . or throw your body prone upon them and weep, which we saw a bit of as well. 
 
Again, filled with tourists and tour groups, chatting in a variety of languages, so a bit un-ceremonious.  Also a place with a whole lot of different "chapels", so depending on your religious denomination, there's a "proper" place for you to say your prayers.  No vendors, though. 

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Touching the hole in the rock where Christ's cross stood

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Greek Orthodox and Armenian altar above where I was kneeling

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Two floors below where I was kneeling, deeper into the rock, with a seismometer

Alright.  This was truly a cool experience and when you think of the absolute power and history of this place, it's a bit mind boggling.  And a nice reaffirmation of faith, too. 
 
But, also kind of commercialized crazy.  I wish it had been left alone, without a church built over it, but just the bald rock on a hill in a barren landscape, with a hole in it where the cross stood.  It would probably feel more like Calvary (Golgotha; samesame), and possibly more of an emotional experience then seeing some rocks encased in glass that you can put your hand through a hole at the bottom of an altar and touch.
 
I couldn't help but compare it to the Church of St. Peter at the Vatican, the holiest of holy places on the world for the Catholic religion.  Missing here in Jerusalem is the ornate building, the invaluable pieces of art and sculpture, the climbable dome, the mosaics and frescoes, the hushed tones of the tour guides, and tourists filing though in an orderly fashion with awed looks of reverence on their faces.
 
Yet, it seemed holier here somehow, in it's own worn-down way.  Not so much a showplace, but a REAL place where monumental events happened. 
 
I'm not Catholic, so that may be part of it, but I didn't pray once in St. Peter's any of the times I visited, but found myself praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  And, it didn't matter to me who's altar I was praying at.
 
And then it was lunch time.  Ate shwarma's and falafael in the Muslim Quarter and then sentenced to souvenir shopping.  For an hour.  It suckethed.  Badly.  Mike, TJ, Jeff, Donnie and I were waiting (im)patiently outside the shop our tour guide left us at (he had to take Corbett in search of his magic girl oils) when the shopkeeper next door basically dragged Donnie into his shop.  And held him hostage looking at coins "from Jesus' time" for $45.  When Donnie didn't buy, this guy had a hissy fit.  Then yelled at us for standing in "his" shade. 
 
Whatever.  This was NOT the way to spend an hour after coming out of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 
 
I hate tours for this main reason.  Not to mention the fact that I didn't see ONE UNIQUE THING in any of the shops (well, maybe the "shalom ya'll" plaques).  I actually bought a dress EXACTLY like the one I bought on the beach in BRAZIL from one guy (I wrecked mine at a pig roast in Cambodia, have been looking for a replacement for 1.5 years!).   There were some goblets in one shop I liked, and I was trying to remember where I'd seen them before.  It was at the Dead Sea in Jordan.  That didn't seem so odd until I showed them to TJ, and he said his Mom has the EXACT ones, which she bought in ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO!
 
The whole world comes from some factory in China.  I swear it.  And, will probably kill you.
 
 
 

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The walkway to HELL

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Rooftop view of the Christian Quarter

Wound our way up and down and around and out through the same gate we entered, and back into the van.  Originally, our tour was supposed to continue with an overview of Bethlehem.  You see, Bethlehem is located in the West Bank and is under Palestinian control.  Most tours going to Jerusalem do not go to Bethlehem.  But, Ramey, being the cool dude he was, asked us if we wanted to go.  YES! 
 
Ramey couldn't take us there (he's an Israeli, not a Palestinian, and Israeli's are not allowed into Palestine), but he called his "buddy" who picked us up at the checkpoint, piled us into another van, and took us to the Church of the Nativity.
 
Now, this is a border crossing of sorts.  But we never showed a piece of identification to anyone on the way in or the way out.  Strange but true.
 
So, we went to the Church of the Nativity!  And then to a souvenir shop, OF COURSE!

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Palestinian checkpoint at the city of Bethlehem

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Church of the Nativity, Armenian and Greek Othodox side

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Outside of the Catholic Church of the Nativity

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Mike enters the Church of the Nativity

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Inside the Armenian/Greek Orthodox Church of the Nativity

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Touching the actual birthplace of Christ

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Jeff and TJ lay hands on the manger

Again, this is a church built OVERTOP of an actual holy spot, the spot where Mary and Joseph stopped at the inn and Mary gave birth to JC.  So, you have to go down, down, down to the basement where the event took place (again, kind of a faith thing), where they actually differentiate the spot she GAVE BIRTH and the spot where the manger was (about 6 feet away from each other). 
 
So, in the matter of 3 hours I put my hands on where He died and where He was born.  Pretty cool, eh?
 
And then we bought a $50 US olive wood statue for Mike's Mom's upcoming 80th birthday at the said souvenir shop.
 
At the beginning of the tour we were promised by Ramey that if we "behaved" he would take us to a special church on the way home.  One unlike any other in Israel.  After being dropped back at the border crossing, doing a drive-by tour of the government buildings of the New City of Jerusalem we were on our way back to Tel Aviv. 
 
Ramey asked us if we had any idea what kind of church he wanted to show us.  Now, we were all pretty tired, hot, worn out, etc., and not really in the mood for guessing games, so he didn't get much of an answer out of us.  Until he pulled into the parking lot, and we all starting laughing. 
 
It was an American Style diner, devoted to the other King.  The King of ROCK AND ROLL.  ELVIS "THE PELVIS" PRESLEY!  We went in and had some beer!

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The King and I

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TJ in the Elvis Shrine, waiting for a ice cold IPA (Israeli Pale Ale)

Seemed as good of way as any to wrap up the day.  Got back around 6 PM, took a shower, took a nap, then went out for dinner. 
 
Sunday was a low laying day.  Did mostly nothing with some naught thrown in for good measure.

Thursday, July 26, 2007
Don't Hate Me Because I'm Going to Jerusalem on Saturday!
 
I've really always wanted to go.  I remember very well standing on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea in 2002 and cursing the fact we couldn't go (the Embassy denied us the trip) due to all the unrest at that particular time.  So, you see, I thought I had lost my chance.  Oh me of little faith. . .
 
We leave at 8:30 am for a panoramic overview of the old and new city from the Mount of Olives, then travel along the Kidron Valley to view the Garden of Gethsemane and the walls of the city.  We will enter through the Armenian Quarter to the Western (Wailing) Wall square, check out the local bazaar to the Christian Quarter and the Stations of the Cross and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the site of the crucifixion).  Then, a walk along the 1700 year old Byzantine main street, the Cordo, and the renovated Jewish Quarter to ascend Mount Zion and see the hall of the last supper and David's tomb.    Then a short stop at the Garden of Gethsemane and an overview of Bethlehem and the Judean Desert before a tour of the new city, Kneseet, Menorah and government buildings.  (COPIED ALMOST WORD FOR WORD FROM BROCHURE. . . I KNOW WHAT ABOUT 2/3rds OF THIS MEANS).
 
It should rock, and I will have lots of pictures of old things for you next week.  Until then, we will probably just continue on our program of eating out every night and drinking lots of Maccabee beer.  It's yummy.
 
Oh yea, the trip is FREE (a very nice price) as a thank you from the hotel for staying with them.  And TJ's going with us.  Maybe others.
 
And, I went to the mall this morning and didn't buy ONE THING!  Sigh.

Monday, July 23, 2007
Promised Pictures and Other Information
 
A little "background" of where we are.  Yes, we are in the Middle East (and I'll swear by that, although some reference pages are referring to Israel as ASIA, but when you are surrounded by Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, I don't know how you can call it ASIA, but whatever).  And, although at least one person on the crew will argue with me, it is a predominately Jewish State (DUH), with about 75%, and the other 25% Arab (primarily in the Gaza Strip). 
 
It's a small country, just a hair smaller than New Jersey, so nothing is very far away and violence and political problems have country-wide implications.
 
The official language is Hebrew, although you'll hear a plethora of language spoken, and most Israeli's speak some English.  Their main tourism period is RIGHT NOW through August, and the beaches of Tel Aviv will be literally invaded by Western Europeans.
 
The kibbutz's (communal settlements) of the region make a lot of cheeses, wines, clothing and even beer, giving a wide variety of products to choose from.  The two main Israeli beers in Tel Aviv are Goldstar and Maccabee (not MAC-a-bee, but MU-cob-bee).  We haven't done any wine yet, though.
 
The money is the NIS (New Israeli Sheckel) with an exchange rate of about 4 to 1 against the US dollar.  A pint of beer costs around 18-22NIS and a pack of smokes is 19NIS.  It seems about the same expense wise as Athens, which I find surprising.
 
The population of Tel Aviv is just 330,000, but the surrounding area supports another 1.7 million, and the entire population of Israel is just under 7 million.  They are the only country left which requires mandatory military service for both men and women, 2-3 years for the men and 21 months for the women.
 
The security is high here, with bag checks and pat downs at the mall and most bars.  They haven't had much violence here in Tel Aviv since last year's 34 day conflict with Lebanon and the Hizballah political party. 
 
Bodies of water to note:  The Med (duh), the Dead Sea, and the Sea of Gaililee, and the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea.
 
Okay. . . still with me?  So, a recap of our last couple of days. . . hmmm, what HAVE we been doing. . . ????
 
Oh yeah!  Having fun and getting our bearings.  Friday I walked the beach down to Jaffa (this is apparently where Jonah started his voyage that ended him in the belly of a whale).  It is one of the most ancient ports of the world, with documentation stretching back as far as 1470 BC.  Here's a few pics. . . so you don't fall asleep.
 
 

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An oasis of shade on the beach

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View of Jaffa from the beaches of Tel Aviv

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A view of Tel Aviv from the hilltop in Jaffa

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A little Roman influence to make us feel at home, in downtown Jaffa

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Wishing bridge. You hold your zodiac sign, look at the water, and make a wish. . . ok.

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A cutie little mosaic visible through one of the windows

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Looking down into the artist's sections

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Over the walls looking at the lighthouse in the port of Jaffa

The Jewish Holy Day of Shabbat starts at sundown on Friday night until "three stars are visible in the sky" on Saturday night.  So, Saturday was our first Shabbat.  Some shops and restaurants open, most closed.  TJ, Jeff and Mike and I walked half-way to Jaffa, had a pop on the beach, and walked back. 
 
TJ and Jeff got a nice sunburn, and TJ is now a preppy red-neck (V-shaped burn on his chest and neck).  It was very warm, so when we returned to the hotel we hit the rooftop pool for a little while, then cleaned up and went to dinner at Mike's Place.  Mike (my Mike) met an English dude who's lived here for 18 years while playing pool and later he walked us over to another bar called Scott's Place (too bad Scott ain't here with us, for a variety of reasons, but mainly because Mike and Scott could both have namesake bars!).  Had a couple there, and Mike and I called it a night.  Rest of the boys continued on. . .
 
Sunday was shopping and the beach, as I mentioned yesterday, then Mexican for dinner and home early to watch the end of the British Open (thank you Mr. Harrington for kicking Sergio's butt at the end there).
 
So far it's been fun and sun, and haven't felt any iota of danger.  Although yesterday while we were in the water at the beach there was a huge, dark smoke cloud in the sky suddenly, right in town.  No one seemed very concerned and we haven't heard ONE THING about what was burning.  But something definitely was.  Apparently there was an air strike in the Gaza Strip yesterday, but we wouldn't have been able to see that.
 
But, it surely isn't what you see on CNN here in the heart of Tel Aviv.  It's more like Miami (minus the hispanic influence!).  And, we are encouraged to visit all the sights, and even have the ability to rent cars and drive ANYWHERE without restriction.  Obviously, Israel is a "hot-bed", but the dangers are pretty isolated overall.
 
To be continued. . . as always!

Sunday, July 22, 2007
I've been very naughty. . .
 
And have been having too much fun to post! 
 
"Convinced" (huge arm twisting involved here - NOT) my parents to come and visit late September.  We should have new digs by then.  Dad's already been checking airfare. . .
 
Two bar/restaurants on the beach, Mike's Place and the Buzz Stop which have been getting a lot of our business, plus a nice steakhouse up the road.  Went to the mall today to get Mike and TJ some clothes (TJ's been here luggage-less since Tuesday, this was his second trip to the mall), then hit the beach.
 
The sand here is like powder.  I have never seen such fine, fine soft sand anywhere.  The water is WARM and the guys enjoyed the scenery. . .
 
Friday while Mike slaved away I walked down to Jaffa (about thirty minute walk) and did a self-unguided tour.  I have no guide book for here, and no idea what I was looking at, but it was nice.
 
Will post some pics tomorrow.  Too lazy today and we're about ready to go check out the Mexican restaurant and drop off our laundry (I'm on VACATION, VACATION, I don't have to do LAUNDRY).

Thursday, July 19, 2007
We Be Here
 
Safely arrived, no big deal.  Easy little jump across the Med.  Really pretty here, although it looked a lot like Greece on the way in from the airport.  HUGE, SANDY beach right across from the hotel,  and a bar called Mike's Place.  And guess what?  We went there and had drinks and dinner last night with the new crew.
 
Big shout out to TJ's Mom,  Cathy.  HI CATHY!  I'm sure she's back with us now. . . heehee.  Your son looks good, think he lost a few pounds over there in Oman. 
 
Not much to report yet, obviously, except the weather is good, our suite is nice (and very expensive) and the beer is cold.  Will catch up later!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Not Yet, Fool!

What are you doing here???  You know we ain't there yet, you just came from the homepage. . .
 
Be patient.  I promise I will post ASAP!

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We're Lee-ving, on a jet plane. . .