Archive for November, 2011

TFran and Miguel in Israel

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

With TFran and Miguel

We were so excited to have our good friends and neighbors from Juarez, TFran and Miguel come to visit for the Thanksgiving holidays! They arrived Thursday morning, and we spent the day exploring old Jaffa, including lunch at Dr. Shakshuka. That evening we went to Ben and Jen’s for Thanksgiving dinner – they had almost 20 people – lots of fun and really good food. So nice of them to include us in the festivities again this year.

Friday morning, we set off for Jerusalem. While TFran and Miguel explored the Old City, John and I walked around downtown Jerusalem, just enjoying the sites and sitting at a sidewalk cafe. That night back in Tel Aviv, we had a great dinner down the beach at Manta Ray with Petit – we had a great time together.

With Miguel, Petit and TFran at Manta Ray










Saturday the four of us drove to the Dead Sea (stopping outside of Jerusalem for camel photos, of course). The Dead Sea is really pretty. It was blue blue blue, that beautiful aquamarine shade. It’s even more breathtaking because of the huge desert mountains that come so close to the shoreline. We made a stop at a funky beach where Miguel was the only one of us brave enough to get in the water and load up on mud.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Masada – wow! It was really incredible and the view is out of this world. The cable car ride up was fun, too. It’s hard to imagine a whole city of people living up on top of this mountain.

At Masada with Dead Sea in background











Back in Tel Aviv, we grabbed take out schwarma for dinner, then went over to the beach to stick our toes in the Mediterranean, the last chance we had to do it, since TFran and Miguel headed out before sunrise this morning. We sure had a great visit with them. Click for more photos.

Earlier in the week, we saw another of our A100 classmates, Rubani, who was in the country visiting our friends in Jerusalem. He took the train over Monday night, and we stayed up late drinking wine and yakking with him.

Beach cat waiting for his dinner, on the way to Jaffa


Backgammon on the beach

Back to the routine

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Flavie loves to climb on her tree!

This week seemed almost boring after all of our excitement and travels from last week! It’s also nice, though, to get back into a routine.

On Wednesday, we met our friend Jeff for drinks after work – he is heading to Manila for his next assignment. He was a charter member of John’s book club, and was a great contributor to the club – we’ll miss him.

Thursday evening, we attended a premiere of a documentary about Theodor Hertzl at the Ambassador’s residence. It was interesting – he is considered the father of Zionism and worked for the establishment of a Jewish state.

Yesterday, John and I volunteered to work at the annual holiday bazaar – he made balloon animals for the kids (a big hit!) and I worked at the refreshments table. On the way home, I was thrilled to stop at a full-service grocery store and load up the car with groceries!

Friend-filled week

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

This has been one of the most fun and busiest weeks we have had in Israel, filled with visits from friends.

It started last Saturday (John’s birthday) when Mary, Jimmy and Will came over to have brunch at Benedict’s with John, Jimmi and me.

Later that night, we hosted a great birthday dinner at John’s favorite new restaurant, A Place for Meat (delicious steaks). Here’s our group:

Jimmi, Howard, Petit, Jess, John, Jen, Ramona, Ben











Sunday, John, Jimmi and I hopped in the truck and headed north for our favorite Golan-Galil tour. We added Mt. Tabor Winery to our stop. It’s at the foot of Mt. Tabor where some people believe the transfiguration of Jesus took place (I was surprised to see a mountain in Israel named after a mountain in Arkansas where my mom was born! Just kidding.)

We had a good lunch at Kibbutz Ein Gev on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. They have delicious fish (I had smoked trout), and it was lovely to sit next to the water in a pretty setting.

Smoked trout at Ein Gev











Afterwards, we checked into our cabin at Vered Hagalil and watched the sun set over the lake.

Monday morning, Jimmi and I took a quick trip down the hill to the Mount of the Beatitudes, which was even more crowded than last time.

Parking lot at Mount of the Beatitudes










We drove over to Rosh Pina, a charming town built on a steep hillside, where we wandered around art galleries and jewelry shops, and admired their assortment of artistic and comical cats.

In an artist's garden

Cute cross-eyed cat, Rosh Pina




















We pulled off the road to explore a tranquil Jewish cemetery, where I was fascinated by this grave decorated with gnomes.

Gnomes in the cemetery











We made our usual stops at Galil Mountain and Dalton wineries to re-stock our supply, stopped in Jish for a good Arab lunch, wound around the Sea of Galilee at sunset, then headed home.

Jimmi went to Jerusalem on Tuesday to visit our friends there and do some siteseeing, and John and I went back to work. We went to a fun Marine party on Thursday night.

Friday was a holiday, so John and I walked up to the arts and crafts market and moseyed around, then had brunch at a cute cafe. When Jimmi got back to town from Jerusalem in the early afternoon, she and I repeated the outing, and also walked through the regular market next door, where Jimmi had a yummy wrap made by Druze women – they were baking thin bread over a rounded convex pan, then stuffed it with hummus, cheese, and spices and wrapped it up burrito style.

While we were out shopping, John went to the airport to pick up our friend Justin from Barcelona. Friday night, we all went to Whitehall for dinner, then sat on the beach and had a glass of wine.

Sadly, Jimmi headed back to Calgary Saturday morning. John, Justin and I headed out for a whirlwind tour of Israel, since Justin headed back to Spain before the sun came up this morning. Click for more photos from Jimmi’s trip.

Justin is a huge war and history buff, so he was elated to stop at the Israeli Tank Museum. I mean, he really loved it. He can tell you all kind of details about tanks. Lots. Believe me.

John and Justin










I have to admit, I had fun, too!

Jeeps, too!











Then we spent several hours in the Old City in Jerusalem, walking through the crowded market. We went to the Wailing Wall, and got a pretty close look at the Dome of the Rock. And we saw most of the stations of the cross.

Dome of the Rock










From there, we headed east toward the Jordan border, and stopped along the way so Justin could have his picture made on a camel. He said it was terrifying.

Justin and the camel, outside of Jerusalem










We took Highway 90 north through the West Bank. While we are not allowed to be in the West Bank, we can drive on this highway through it. It was a very interesting experience – landscape is stark and brown, not many towns to be seen, goat herders living in tents along the side of the road, etc. Before returning to green line Israel, we had to pass through Israeli security where we went to secondary for brief, but additional, screening.

Then, within minutes we were back in the fertile valley south of the Sea of Galilee as the sun started to set. We found an old battle site off the beaten path and we poked around the remains of the trenches and bunkers that faced the Golan Heights and beyond to Jordan.

Old military site in the Golan Heights










We drove for a bit through the high Golan, which was a completely different experience in the dark, being able to see the lights outlining the lake and all of the towns and villages in Israel, Jordan and Syria.

Click for more photos from Justin’s visit.

Then home, pooped! Justin was gone by the time we woke up this morning, and we got word that Jimmi had arrived back in Calgary. We’re so lucky to have good friends here in Israel, and also around the world to come visit!

Happy birthday, John!

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

We’re celebrating John’s birthday today! Looking forward to a fun day with good friends.

Speaking of good friends, our A-100 classmate Jimmi flew in last Sunday for a visit. It’s great to get the chance to visit with her. On Tuesday night, she and I went to see the Martha Graham Dance Company at the Opera House. It was a cool performance.

Thursday we hosted book club for “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.” The author, a now-suspended Foreign Service Officer, Skyped in to answer questions from the group. We had another friend Skype in later from Barcelona.

Last night Dave came over from Jerusalem and we all went to dinner at Nana – a good meal with good company!