Safed, Galilee, Masada and Tel Aviv

Safed or Zefat

We headed out of Jerusalem on a clear, bright and warm day and drove north toward the city that is revered as the spiritual heartland of Israel — Safed. This is the city where the Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism originated and so I thought if Jerusalem had all these holy people and places this place must be …. I really didn’t what to expect.
Safed (it has several spellings) clings to the side of a mountain and you wind your way up a curvy looping road, trying to read small road signs until you enter a normal looking small town. So far the place looked normal …. whatever that is. Safed is a helter-skelter collection of mediocre art galleries, inns, falafel joints and pizza parlors. One of the “must sees” is a cemetery that has separate paths for men and women leading to it. For all the build-up of this as a “holy place” well, I just didn’t feel it. As far as I could see it was a tourist town with over priced restaurants, pizzas without pepperoni, service people who could care less about service and buses full of “birthright” kids — young Jews brought (many times free) to Israel from other countries to experience their homeland. Strangely this small spiritual town did have, I’m not sure how this ties in with the Kabbalah spirituality, four small kiosks selling lottery tickets. It seemed like a lot of lottery outlets for such a small town. I guess spirituality isn’t what it used to be. We did take a hike and Climbed up Mount Meron. At 1,208 meters (3,963 ft) above sea level, Mount Meron is the highest peak in Israel. Of course many of you come from states with taller mountains and this can be best described as a “sort-of” tall mountain. Anita was thrilled that her new knee was working wonderfully and she could hike without a problem

After three days in Safed soaking up Kabbalah spirituality we drove south down along the Sea of ​​Galilee, what is part of the “Jesus Trail.” Jesus came from this land and there are many cities and areas mentioned in the Bible. Buses of Christians drove up and down the roads stopping at cities and holy sights mentioned in the new Testament. The land is quite green and beautiful with rolling hills. We stopped in a bustling little city of Tiberias and walked around on the board walk. This was December and it was very unbusy. From there we drove to Beit She’an and stayed a night at a hostel where we were two of four people staying there. The place could hold a hundred people or more. Again, December is slow tourist time in this part of Israel. This is a place where Anita thought she had died and gone to heaven — they served salad for breakfast. Heaven for her, purgatory for me.
We did go to a great ruin Beit She’an, (see pictures) It is one of the best ruins of its kind we saw so far and really unknown and empty .

Masada

Next day we headed out early to another hostel near the Dead sea and at the base of the famous mountain plateau called Masada. (In case you don’t know, Masada is the place where a small group of revolutionary Jews fought off the Romans in an uprising circa 77 AD. The 900 or so people killed themselves rather than be taken prisoner by the Romans. The place has special meaning for Israelis (I liken it to the Alamo for Americans.) The view from this place overlooking the white earth of the desert, the delicate brown desert sands and the turquoise of the Dead Sea is wondrous You can take the “Snake Trail” up to the top of Masada or a tram. We took the tram. Many people journey up there in the dead of morning to see the sunrise. We took the tram around 8 am after a hearty breakfast and some salad. Masada is quite something and well worth the trip if you are in Israel. Just don’t go up there in a windstorm or in the dead of summer. You are on top of a mountain with very little cover.

While we were there at the hostel at the base of Masada we drove some miles away and swam in the Dead Sea. Indeed you do float quite high in the water due to the salt content. Plus there is a high mineral content to the water which coats your body with a slick oily residue. Some Australian young women, always the daring nationality, went topless. The lifeguards on duty (guys) didn’t say a word. They did carefully monitor the women with binoculars to make sure they didn’t drift away and drown. We also hiked up a narrow canyon to see “David’s Waterfall” at the gorgeous Ein Gedde Nature Preserve. Then we took another really steep seriously difficult trail that wound up into the rocky clifts above. Anita was thrilled to be able to do this. Again the views of the Dead Sea and surrounding desert were fab. I did notice that the water that cascaded down the waterfall was pumped up in large hoses.
Tel Aviv.

Having our fill of Masada and the desert we headed for Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv was a pleasant surprise. Anita thought the place would be just another large city. It is not just another city. Compared to Jerusalem it is Sodom or maybe it is Gomorrah. I always get the two mixed up. Tel Aviv is a NEW city in Israel, it was founded in 1909.Today is is a city of about 350,000, so not really too big and very walkable. The city is bustling with restaurants, shops and a young hip population that spends night and day in cafes and more time walking the streets with cell phones attached to their ear, more cell phone users than any place we have visit so far. I understand prices for phone service are very low and everybody, I mean EVERYBODY, has a phone.

An interesting aspect of the city is Tel Aviv’s White City , designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, comprises the world’s largest concentration of Bauhaus buildings. (See pictures) In the 1930s many architects fled Nazi Germany and settled in Tel Aviv and consequently designed many of the apartment buildings. There are very few single family dwellings, and the ones that exist are small. As I mentioned Tel Aviv was a pleasant surprise and a great city. If we return to Israel this place deserves more discovery and exploration. It easily would be a place to spend some time. BTW everyone spoke English in Tel Aviv.

Shalom

I have been posting only a small selection of the many, many photos I have taken. I have stored my photos on Dropbox and if anyone would like to see them just let me know and I will give you access to them and tell you how to see them.

For the current photos go to: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151184105286516.448589.667416515&type=1&l=1ec1df56ae

 

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