Israel trip

It is not expected for you to click all o’ these links! Just read through and visit the Flickr gallery at your leisure.

Sunday, July 8
Woke up at 4AM to be driven to SFO by my Mom, and took an hour-long flight to LAX.
There, I met a few kids from my Birthright group and did the whole El Al security thing before finally hopping on the plane.
There, they had this really weird seat controller.
The flight was pretty horrible seeing as I can’t sleep on flights and there was this screaming baby next to me the entire time. Oh well!

Monday, July 9
Eventually reached David Ben-Gurion Airport.
Got all our stuff, got our cell phone, exchanged some cash, and hopped on our trusty air-conditioned tour bus.
Our first stop was Jaffa, where we were given a little orientation.
After being driven around Tel Aviv a bit, we stopped by the Independence Hall, where Israel’s independence was won… in a hall. I would have enjoyed it but I was too tired so I fell asleep.
Later in the evening we had this great dinner at Hayekev Restaurant by the beach.
Later, we headed to the Kibbutz Lavi guest house, where we’d stay for two days.

Tuesday, July 10
Woke up in the morning and headed toward the Golan Heights. Drove to Jillabun and took about an hour-long hike, which was quite pretty through and through. Hot, thoughmade sure to keep hydrated. I brought a Nalgene bottle along and must have gone through about three fills of it.
After the hike, we headed to the Ramat HaGolan Winery, and were given a tour, complete with wine tasting.
Then we stopped by this awesome place up near the border of Syria where I drove an ATV around and other people drove some Jeeps! Total off-road extremeness! We also stopped by this abandoned Syrian officer training building which was somewhat demolished and had some plants growing in it. Forgot to bring my camera!
Afterwards we headed to the city of Tiberias! A fun little city with some nice shoppin’ areas. Later in the evening there was a boat ride on the Kineret where everyone got wasted while a few of us danced to musics.
Woo woo! Then back to the Kibbutz.

Wednesday, July 11
The morning was spent in Meron, a place where the Zohar is believed to be buried. Went t
hrough this prayer-type place where men and women were separated.
Then it was off to Safed, where I went wandering narrow corridors and got a tour of this candle place with a lot of clever models of stuff made out of wax.
There was also this cute cat, which was probably diseased just like all the other stray cats, but he was cute anyway.
After some wandering, we learned a bit about the Kabbalah, thanks to local artist David Freedman.
That night we headed down south and stayed in Tel Aviv. And I saw Shiranne for the first time in almost a year! We walked along the beaches, had some pizza, and took a taxi back to the hotel! All very good times.

Thursday, July 12
Woke up early to drive to the desert, checking out the Dead Sea along the way.
Our first stop was the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, where we had an especially hot walk through the desert, but finished with a dip in one of the waterfalls.
Then we took a short drive to the Ein Gedi Spa, where we swam in the Dead Sea, covered ourselves in mud, and washed off slightly adequately! The ground was intensely hot and I totally forgot to unpack my flip-flops, oh well.
After that it was off to Massada, where we took a gondola ride up to the top after some hokey video in some touristy place at the base.
Took a small tour around the place, looked at some ancient sites like a pool and a mikvah, looked off into the distance, yelled really loudly out to a series of canyons and got a haunting echoey reply, and eventually walked down an ancient ramp built by the Romans to a place where there were some more cats.
After being picked up by the bus, we headed to Kfar Nokdim, a tourist spot with Bedouin tents and food and the like.
We went on a camel ride to start out withweren’t enough camels for everyone, so we switched off and also rode on donkeys.
Later in the evening, we had this musician tell us about Bedouin culture (but not about how it was bastardized and turned into a tourist attraction) and later in the evening we reached into the barn and secretly fed camels some stuff.

Friday, July 13
We headed to Jerusalem!
Our first stop was Machane Yehuda, a shuk (marketplace) at the center of town.
After a bit of shopping, we checked into the hotel (where we’d be staying for five nights) and got ready for Shabbat.
We started Shabbat at the Old City, the the original walled-off city of Jerusalem. There was this crazy song and dance party thing to commemorate some couple getting engaged.
We then headed to the Western Wall and hung around there for a while, then eventually had Shabbat dinner at the Sephardic Center.
Of course, we didn’t take a bus ride back – no vehicles on Shabbat – so a few of us headed back through Jerusalem all the way back to the hotel.

Saturday, July 14
Woke up late.
Headed all the way to the Old City and took a nice, long walking tour.
Later, it was the end of Shabbat back at the Sephardic Center, where we had a nice speaker talk about right vs. wrong and how Jews see it, etc.
Also Shiranne headed over just as Shabbat ended! Walked from the hotel to Ben Yehuda Square where we saw that everyone in the group was having a great time puking on each other.

Sunday, July 15
The morning held for us another speaker talking about Israel’s history through Biblical times to Roman rule to the conflict up to the present. Pretty boring!
But then we headed back to the Old City again and took a tour of the Southern Excavation of the Western Wall.
Then in the evening we went to the Mega Event, some extravagant thing that the main Birthright organization puts on to entertain its participants. Lots of singing and dancing and nationalism! I was sort of overwhelmed, but still pretty bored. Not a lot of substance.

Monday, July 16
We started the day off by volunteering at Yad Eliezer, one of many food organizations that feeds the needy. Some people in my group complained for some reason, and we were sort of inefficient in packing the boxes (assembly lines are sort of a foreign concept), but it was worthwhile nevertheless!
We were supposed to go to the Knesset, but it was closed. So instead we went to the nearby Malcha Mall!
Afterwards, we headed to the Israel Museum, where we saw a model of the Old City around the time of the Second Temple, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Later in the day we had a great speaker, Neil Lazarus, talk about the Middle East and infighting between Palestinian and other Arab factions. Didn’t really focus on Israel itself at all, which was a welcome change.
That night we ran over to the Old City again and trekked through the Kotel Tunnels, which are this long stretch of underground passage moving along the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Pretty rad!

Tuesday, July 17
Today was sort of a “let’s feel really sad toward Israel and angry toward everyone else” day.
We started off with a PowerPoint presentation called “Why the Jews?” which basically stated that the entire world hates Jews because they have the moral high ground.
Then we headed off to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem. Also had a survivor talk to us.
After that it was a walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel at the City of David. A really awesome tunnel I visited again later with S
hiranne and Dori – it’s pitch black, has water running through it, and you just walk in one direction with no forks for half an hour. Fun!
In the evening we had anothere PowerPoint presentation called World Perfect, talking about how the Greek and Romans were polytheistic and it wasn’t until the words of the Torah that the world started practicing a life-valuing monotheistic culture. While I liked that the presentation was somewhat objective in its view of ancient cultures, it was still sort of misleading.
After that presentation, most people were free to go, but they did screen a movie called Obsession, this horrible documentary that ties radical Islam to Nazism and pushes moderate Muslims to shake their fingers at the more radical sect. Pretty stupid.

Wednesday, July 18
On our final day we started off at the Har Herzl Military Cemetary, where Theodor Herzl is buried. Walked around other graves and even saw those who died not more than a year ago in the 2nd Lebanon War.
We took one last walk through the Old City.
And one last shop through Ben Yehuda Square.
Finally, we had a dinner at the Ticho House, said our farewells, and headed off to wherever we were all going!
Shiranne picked me up from the airport and I’m typing now from her room.

The rest of the trip!
We’ve gone and done some cool things.
I made some linguine fra diavolo, minus any meat. Kosher!
Also made another ganache, which was pretty danged tasty.
I’ve been hanging out with Shiranne’s siblings and parents. We saw Harry Potter 5 at a mall in Tel Aviv, and bought book 7 as well. Been reading it a bit.
Shiranne and I met up with Dori one day and headed to the Old City and walked through the tunnel again. Also headed to the park in the center of town and tried getting a tour of the Knesset, to no avail.
Also went to the beach one morning!
We also went and saw a baseball game run by the newly founded Israeli Baseball League and ate some kosher hamburgers and onion rings!
Headed to Jaffa one evening and had dinner at a nice restaurant with Yasmin, a friend of hers.
Also this weekend we went to Kibbutz Ein Harod Ihud, where Shiranne has a room. Met up with a few more of her friends and hiked around a bit.
And tomorrow’s my last day here! We plan on beaching again and then just lounging around the house and playing some video games.

Yep overall this trip has been spectacularly amazing. Once again you should totally check out the Flickr gallery for some more recent pictures from the trip. That is all!

Also check out this panorama I took from the Old City!

Update please

I’m working on a MASSIV post to talk about Israel, so I won’t say anything now.

But I do have a request: if any of you posted about something of note within the past 10 days, do speak up and tell me! I read my LJ friends page to keep updated so don’t feel at all bashful about telling me about / linking me to some cool stuff that might have happened. There’s just no way I’m going to go through ten days of friends pages. In my case of 200 friends, LJ simply isn’t built for that.

Going to bed

Tomorrow is the BIG DAY! I wake up in 5.5 hours to hop a plane to LA, where I will hop a plane to Israel. I don’t know if anyone noticed how soon this was!

The first 10 days will be spent on the Birthright trip, tourin’ all around Israel and staying in fancy hotels and hopefully hangin’ with some cool dudes. And maybe FINDING MY SPIRITUAL SIDE (anti-god forbid.)

Then after that it is hanging with Shiranne for about 2 weeks which I am excitedly jazzed about! I think we will also be goin’ all around Israel but she’s also got work to do so I might be off on my own for some time. But her parents were heck of nice and offered to put me up for those two weeks, so I’m really grateful about that.

That’s about it! This last week has just been a bit of work, a bit of gaming, and packing up. See all y’all when I next blog… plus 10 hours due to time zones.

Celebrations

The last two days were pretty rad. I’ve been the dropper/picker for the past few days – driving Lily to the airport, picking up the cleaning lady, dropping Java off at the groomers, and then picking my parents up from the Airporter. Yesterday after all that jazz, I headed to the Marin County Fair to meet Mom.

Saw the usual art and other exhibits, had some surprisingly cheap fair food, then got ourselves some blanket space for two performances: the Village People, and KC and the Sunshine Band. Both were extremely awesome! The Village People played all their own favorites, while KC played the classics and what I’m pretty sure was some newer stuff, too. He’s still making records. The shows were really fantastic: a lot of dancing, lights, costume changes, and what seemed like multiple encores. Finally: fireworks over the pond.

Today was quite similar. Started packing for Israel, then got up and headed to Paolo’s in Oakland, to grill up a whole menagerie of things: pizza (failed: burnt to a crisp), italian sausage, beef franks, hamburger, turkey legs, and then another pizza (moderate success). After quite the tasty meal, Paolo and I BARTed over to Pier 39, where we saw Tainted Love, an 80’s cover band. Very rocking. Check out their setlist just to see all the stuff they played. Their encore was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” The encore went right into fireworks, which is pretty cool off the north coast of San Francisco due to two identical shows going on in synchronization. Paolo and I got to an area where we could see both at once.

BARTed back, drove home, and finally noticed the familiar smell of charcoal on me. Should probably wash that off.

The next few days are just preparations for Israel! Shouldn’t be too difficult. What I did tonight was “kept” Resident Evil 4 Wii, that is, I paid for it so they would send my next game, Puzzle Quest, ASAP – I need it so I can have some airplane entertainment.

Parents coming back

I’m blogging mostly because I really like this song! Totally listen to it and stuff.

Anyways, this past week has seen a great amount of chilling and relaxing. Not working too much, but still getting my first paycheck, seeing Lily off to New York, and later today seeing my parents back from France. Spent some time with Mom, helping with computer problems and the like, as well as going to the Marin County Fair later today with her.

Hannah had come back from Boston for a few days, so she, Beau, Brendan and I hit up Point Reyes for the day, stopping off at this great beach at the end of a residential street, Shell Beach. Really, really pretty. Earlier, I had an oyster omelet. Although it was tasty, it’s probably the last time I try that in a while! My digestive system just ain’t what it used to be.

I’ve been playing a lot of games in my free time. I mentioned earlier that I got the PS2 GTA trilogy for $30, and after trying GTA3 a bit, I jumped straight to San Andreas. I’m enjoying it a lot – I just got to San Fierro, which is a pretty faithful parody of San Francisco. Transamerica Pyramid, Lombard Street, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. I’m also slowly playing RE4 for the Wii, which I rented off GameFly. Never played RE4 before, but it’s quite fun on the Wii, and I’m sure it’s a pretty different experience from trying it on another console. And finally, I got Star Fox 64 for the Virtual Console, and I’m trying to go through every level in that.

Finally, both my dog Java, and our cat whatever-his-name-is, are warming up to me, which is nice. I guess it comes from Lily and me being the only humans in the house for two weeks, but Java’s started sleeping with me, and my cat came and sat down on my keyboard, allowing me to pet him for a bit and get cat hair everywhere.

So yep! Work, games, friends, family. Good start to the summer. In a week I ship off to Israel for 3 weeks and get to see Shiranne for two of ’em, yay.

<JeffreyAtW> aaaawtf
<JeffreyAtW> my speaker system
<JeffreyAtW> it is BUZZIN
<JeffreyAtW> this isn’t a cell phone thing
<JeffreyAtW> if it is, AT&T is sending detonation codes to it
<JeffreyAtW> ohhhh
<JeffreyAtW> it was the secret track on an M83 song hahaha