Archive for February, 2011

Trip to the Golan Heights and the Galilee

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

With Colin and Wendy at Galil Mountain Winery

This was a fun and busy week. We had a three-day weekend last weekend, so Sunday morning, we headed north to Israeli wine country with our friends Wendy and Colin. It was pretty overcast and rainy, but it was still great to get out in the countryside.

We went to a couple of wineries in the Golan Heights on Sunday before getting to our lodging for the night. Driving through the Golan was interesting – signs warning of land mines, crossing the Jordan River, and feeling like you were on the top of the world.

We booked cottages at Vered Hagalil, overlooking the Sea of Galilee (or the Kinneret, as the Israelis call it). It’s a very rustic, laid back place. We went out for a nice dinner at Muscat, where I had a delicious pumpkin soup.

The next morning, we saw a very modern, funky building across the road from us and decided to explore. Next thing we knew, we were on a tour with a Catholic monk. I’m no expert in monasteries, but this one was very odd. I’ve posted a photo of their library below – it looks like the intergalactic chamber in a science fiction show!

After that, we went to two wineries that we really liked a lot: Galil Mountain and Dalton. The folks at these places were super-friendly and I think we tasted every wine they had. On the way back to Tel Aviv, we stopped at a little Arab restaurant for a schwarma plate. I don’t think they get gringos there often! Click here for all of our photos from the trip.

It was back to work on Tuesday. We’re in the middle of remodeling our offices at work, so everything is topsy-turvy. We had only a few hundred clients at the beginning of the week, and, other than emergency cases, we’ll be closed until week after next.

Aside from being our 15th wedding anniversary, Thursday was Consular Leadership Day. It’s a day for teambuilding, learning, etc. We spent the morning at a local animal shelter where we painted some of the walls to help brighten up  the place, and we played with the dogs. It was a great experience. This is a private shelter, and pretty primitive; they were very happy to have our help. In the afternoon, we gathered at an Arab-Israeli community center for a laughter workshop and some other activities. It was a fun day. Click to see photos from the animal shelter.

That night, we had a New Professionals Association happy hour where we had a chance to unwind and visit with friends and co-workers.

During the week, I worked on several emergency visa cases. Some of them were cases where the US government has a special interest, while others are for emergency medical treatment in the US. While it’s not always fun to stay late or come in on a holiday to get these done, there is a great degree of satisfaction it in.

Last night, John took me out for a nice anniversary dinner at Whitehall. Hard to believe it has been 15 years already. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Monastery Library with blue plastic dome

With my friend Erika at the animal shelter

A different world

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Last Sunday afternoon, my friend from work, Issa, took me to a center here in Tel Aviv for Sudanese and Eritrean refugees. It was like walking into a different world. I see some Africans on the streets of Tel Aviv and in the Embassy occasionally, but the refugee center is in a part of town dominated by them. I had no idea that there are around 30,000 refugees in Israel.

Their status here is largely undefined. The Israeli government doesn’t want to give them true refugee status. They are not really supposed to work, but the government generally turns a blind eye.

My friend Issa has volunteered with that community since high school, and I appreciate him introducing me to the people at the center and showing me the neighborhood.

Thursday night, I went to book club here for the first time. It’s a women’s group, and we discussed “The Good Earth,” by Pearl Buck. It was a good discussion and a fun evening.

John took me out to dinner one night, to our favorite restaurant, Whitehall. It’s nice to have  a place where they know you and treat you well.

Speaking of that, we heard last night that there was a shooting at our favorite restaurant in Juarez, very near our old house there. We immediately thought of the manager and waiters there who were always so nice to us, and we hope they are OK. It seems that the violence there just keeps getting worse.

Happy birthday, LJ!

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Today is Mom’s birthday! I’ll call her later tonight – we are 8 hours ahead of Arkansas, so I’ll have to wait. From what I hear, she has probably been snowed in since last Thursday.

It’s sunny and cool today here in Tel Aviv.  John and I went back to Hertzliyya this morning for an appointment, with an obligatory breakfast at Benedict’s up there. I had a delicious spinach omelette.

Last Monday night after work, we went to our DCM’s home for an NPA meeting; we had a guest speaker, Barry Rubin. He is a fairly well known author and Middle East expert. It was interesting to hear his take on the events in Egypt.

The week was pretty quiet around here – just work as usual. I was very happy last Sunday afternoon to find an excellent nail salon. I had let my nails go and they were in terrible shape. I’ve been intimidated about going to a salon here – silly, I know. But this place is great and I will definitely be back there this week.

We stayed in on Saturday, which was nice. I needed to get organized with our taxes, so I spent several hours with that. I finished reading an excellent book, “A Simple Plan” (you may remember the movie with Billy Bob Thornton), and we watched “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”

Blue skies

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

The big news of the week is the civil unrest in Egypt. Two of our co-workers went to Cairo to help with the evacuation of Americans there. The rest of us got Egyptians visas in our passports, on the off-chance that we will be needed, too. Many of us also worked on the task force several evenings this week, entering data from emails from concerned Americans into a data base.

Last Saturday was a nice day. I spent the morning watching the Australian Open Women’s Final, then we met our friends Ben and Jen for a nice dinner at Kimmel. I had a seafood in cream sauce that was out of this world.

Sunday I went with my manager to Jerusalem to represent the US Embassy at an event honoring volunteers in Israel. It was a fun afternoon. Thousands of kids, especially from Germany, come to Israel for 3 – 12 months to volunteer with local groups. Many of them are not Jewish, but come to work with Holocaust survivors here. This was a ceremony to honor them and we learned about their work.

We had a nice time Friday night with Petite, Howard, Mike and Katie. We had a good dinner at Whitehall, then came back to our place for nightcaps.

Yesterday was quiet; we stayed home and watched a couple of movies, then ventured out in the evening to a party for co-workers. We had a couple of drinks and visited with everyone; it was a nice night to be out walking there and back.

This morning we drove up to Hertzliya. It was a beautiful morning and we had a nice breakfast at Benedict’s and walked around a bit. I tried to get diplomatic plates for my car, but they had to order a special size for me, so I’ll have to wait for that.