Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blog 2 From Israel

Blog 2 From Israel

January 28, 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

Things have been very interesting for us here and so we want to write again to you before we leave tomorrow for a week with friends in Istanbul. We have spent the last several days just outside of Tel Aviv with Peter's cousins in their beautiful, very modern house. It is as nice as any you would find in the best neighborhood of Seattle. Part of it being so nice, is that they have a beautiful lemon tree and a beautiful pomela tree in the front yard. Yesterday, Michael, our cousin, shook the pomela tree to get a fresh pomela and one did fall off, but then another one fell down from about 6 feet up and hit Peter right on the head. It weighed a couple of pounds and it hurt him. We all had a good laugh. Lucky it was soft.

We continue to be taken with the contrasts in this country. There are all kinds of them, and the one that is foremost is between Israeli/Jew, and Arab and/or Palestinian. Last night while watching the news we heard a very disturbing report about a young Arab man who was severely beaten in Tiberius by a gang of Israeli's. As we traveled through the beautiful Galilee area in the north of Israel, we were warned by our relatives and friends to stay out of Arab villages since emotions are running high about the Gaza situation, and that tourists may become victimized. We did go through a number of Arab villages and had no problems., including having lunch in a fun Bedouin restaurant.

At "The Wall" in Jerusalem we watched very religious Jews praying next to young soldiers with guns on their shoulders, and in the Old City we saw beautiful young Arab women wearing hijabs (head covers) and at the same time wearing short skirts and high leather boots with spiked heels arm in arm with older Arab women who were nearly completely covered from head to toe. Similarly, there are many young Israeli women dressed in very low cut blouses and very short skirts and boots and nearby are orthodox Jewish women in long dresses whose hair is also covered. With both the Muslim women and the religious Jewish women, the head coverings and long clothes are for purposes of modesty, but also show a lot of contrasts.

In Jerusalem, a city more than 3,000 years old there are ultra modern structures nearly atop much more sedate and perhaps hundreds if not more years old. Jerusalem is one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen, the old mixed with the new all sitting atop high hills make for a delightful sight. There is a new train being build in Jerusalem and it is the most modern structure we have seen, it has many stations and the main station is atop a suspension bridge, similar to the Golden Gate bridge in the US with an ultra modern sculpture at the end. What a sight!

Life is very stressful here for most people – and for those of our generation there has never been a period without some kind of war. We went to Sederot near the Gaza strip where rockets have rained on that city and it's resident daily for the past 8 years and imagine how stressful that is. We went about 300 meters from the Gaza border where we found it remarkably quiet and peaceful, not knowing that earlier in the day an Israeli military truck had been blown up and an Israeli soldier killed and three wounded. Then last night the Israeli Air Force bombed Gaza. By that time we were far away. However, when we were in the north a couple of days ago we did see a number of fighter aircraft flying around and also trucks carrying tanks away from the war area. Even with all of this, the people of Israel have been able to create an extremely modern country with all the modern conveniences, high tech and high fashion. Many tell us that Israel is really the 51 st state of the United States. Except for being at war all the time and the different language, it could be.

The north is very green with beautiful rolling hills and lots of olive orchards, banana groves, orange groves and lots of other fruits and vegetables. The Sea of Galilee is drying up because of the drought and it is a national crisis since it provides Israel with one third of its drinking water. For the past few days, the air has been full of dust or fine sand which blew in from North Africa – Libya and the visibility has only been a few hundred meters or less. Yesterday and today has been much better.

Also in the area around Gaza, it is extremely fertile and there are fruits and vegetables of all varieties. Here in Israel, we see radishes larger than tomatoes, and the most beautiful vegetables. The other night in the north we stayed at the kibbutz – Deganya Bet and for breakfast ate in the dining hall. We don't have enough space to describe how many different kinds of cheeses, breads, vegetables, yoghurts and other dairy products, cereals, fruits, etc., etc. there were, and all of it grown there and as healthy a breakfast as imaginable.

Tonight is our last night in Israel before leaving for a few days in Istanbul. We are looking forward to seeing our old friends and eating wonderful Turkish food. We must admit that Israel has come a long way in their food preparation since we first came here in 1962. There are really good restaurants and coffee houses everywhere. Even so, we still love the falafel and shwarma the best.

We will write again from Turkey, Love, Hinda and Peter

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hinda in Jaffa, Israel

Israel January 22, 2009

January 22, 2009


Hello Everyone,

We are writing this blog from Israel a couple of days after watching Barack Obama’s Inaguaration, probably along with millions, in not billions of people around the world. Everyone here in Israel is very optimistic about the Obama presidency, and what it will mean for this very tormented part of our world. And we also, as most of the people here are very hopeful.

When we arrived here a few days ago, the war in Gaza was still in full swing, and the day before yesterday a cease fire came into effect. Will it last? Who knows.

One of the reasons that we are writing this is to bring you some of the feedback about the war in Gaza that we have been trying to gather from many different types of people.

More than one person has told us is that there is no “left” in Israeli politics at the moment because nearly all Israeli’s are supportive of their government’s position in Gaza. It seems to be a pretty unanimous feeling here.

Simply put, after nearly 8 years of rockets fired from Gaza into Southern Israel by Hamas, Israel finally has had enough. And for these past 8 years, Israel pretty much just “bit it’s tongue”.

The timing of the Gaza action is interesting as well. Of course, there are lots of logistical reasons that we are not privy to, nor are most people here. However, there are many who believe that it may have been initiated under President Bush’s watch knowing of his strong support of Israel, and while everyone here is hopeful about President Obama, he has not yet had the opportunity to implement his Mideast policy, and so until he does, people are a bit cautious.

It is a really interesting time to be here. For us, who have close family here as well as very close friends, we have always been worried about their well being. No one is happy or gloating about all of the civilians who have been killed and wounded, however, there is no question that Israeli’s from all walks of life and from the entire political spectrum feel that the actiion was their only choice.

Now that Barack Obama has become the 44th President of the United States of America there is a lot of hope that his leadership will not only improve things here in Israel and the Middle East, but throughout the world as well, especially for our country, nd of course we hope so also.

We have been enjoying ourselves here spending these first few days with family and friends, but also having some time to ourselves to do a little exploring. Tonight we are going to "Ha Kotel" – "The Wall" in the Old City of Jerusalem, because we want to see it at night all lit up and hopdfully get a good photograph that we can share with you.

Yesterday we spent in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and visited the open market in the Yemeni Quarter of Tel Aviv and also spent the afternoon in Jaffa which is over 4,000 years old and very beautifully restored. Had dinner with our oldest friends, Zeev and Rachela who we have know since we were in Turkey together in 1961 and 1962. Our lives have grown in parallel ever since.

We will spend the next few days here in Jerusalem staying with our cousins and then go to Turkey for a week to stay with friends whom we first met there in 1960. When we return we will spend a couple of days in the desert and then we are not sure.

We have a rental car and one of our cousins lent us a GPS to help us get around. The GPS is funny because we can only input the addresses in Hebrew, but we have programmed it to give us the directions in an English speaking voice. Lucky Peter can read and write Hebrew.

OK for now. Once again, let us hope for a continued peace and a brave new start for America.

Peace and Love,
Peter and Hinda