I’m leaving Jerusalem for a few days of travel Up North, to visit Haifa, Akko, Caesarea, and Tel Aviv.
Then it’ll be back to Jerusalem for the last several days of my time in Israel.
Caesarea, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and Akko.
Caesarea! A huge complex of ruins from five or six different cities, each predecessor ruined by the ravages of war and more ruinously by the ravages of earthquakes.
Varda dropped me off here this morning so I could walk around for a couple hours.
It was King Herod, Herod the Great, who, from around 25-13BC, concieved to build a grand artificial harbor here on the site of Pyrgos Stratonos (“Strato” or “Straton’s Tower”), and his achievement in doing so was a marvel of its time.
After Herod died the Romans took control (sound familiar…from the Masada story). It was a massacre of Jews here in 66AD that led to the Jewish Revolt and the ultimate fate of the revolt at Masada.
As the Roman era came to its end Caesarea became the center of the Byzantines and hence early Christianity, in Palestine.
In the 7th century the city was conquered by the Muslims and slowly abandoned to agriculture.
“The walls remained, but within them the population dwindled and agriculture crept in among the ruins. When Baldwin I took the city in 1101/2, during the First Crusade, it was still very rich, nevertheless.”
“Saladin retook the city in 1187; it was recaptured by the Crusaders in 1191, and finally lost by them in 1265 this time to the Mamluks, who ensured that there would be no more battling over the site, where the harbor has silted in anyway, by razing the fortifications, in line with their practice in other formerly-Crusader coastal cities.”
And then off to the train for an outing in Haifa.
It’s Sunday and the trains were packed with military going back to duty after their weekend off. I mentioned about the universal service right out of high school, meaning that most of these soldiers are basically teenagers.
Teenagers, full of hormones and angst, with automatic weapons that they carry with them around town. They carry them around even when they’re off duty. One guy told me ‘of course, the gun is their private property’. I’m not sure of that one!
They do seem quite well disciplined though, and I never got the feeling I or anyone else was in danger.
Update from Hilla: ‘Once you are issued a weapon from the army you are obliged to keep it with you at all times. Anything that happens by use of that weapon is your responsibility.’ So now when I look at these kids I wonder about the ones who Don’t have weapons.
I walked through the German Colony, and this is the view to the Baha’i Garden from there.
The German Colony is a street of refurbished buildings from the era when Germans populated the area. It’s now a hot club, restaurant, shops, and hotel scene.
Notice the shrouded shape in the upper center. That’s the Baha’i Shrine, burial place of the Bab, under refurbishments. From here you can see the Lower Gardens…
All of the Upper Gardens looking down.
The opening paragraph of Ms Wiki’s article and you can read the rest any time:
“The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá’u’lláh in nineteenth-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá’ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories.”
Who are the Melites? “The Melkite Catholic Church retains its Byzantine roots and liturgical practices similar to those of the Eastern Orthodoxy while maintaining communion with the Catholic Church in Rome since 1729.”
I’ve seen so many churches in Israel, and there are so many more on the maps that I didn’t see. It does seem the churches and mosques are the most prominent buildings on the skyline.
The Stella Maris church and monastery, Stella Maris meaning Star of the Sea. This is a charming small church, not very big at all, yet the monastery associated with this church is the world center for the Carmalites.
Usually you light the candles along the side of the church but here you can see they have a cave-looking space, maybe because Elijah’s cave is right down the road? But come to think of it I have seen this style in other places too.
I’ve moved on to Tel Aviv today and wow I got such a deal. Mostly every single both-reasonable-and-good place was booked up they say because of the upcoming holiday of Shavuot but this place had an itty bitty single with a View of The Sea(!), that’s my view there!
For some lucky reason I got a block of days for a price I was willing to pay. It’s 25% less than the internet rate even and doesn’t good luck just make you feel all perky?
There was a sign listing important dates in the history of the Jaffa port – there were 35 entries. The last is as follows: “November 13, 1960 the Old Jaffa Development co was established by Tel-Aviv-Jaffa Municipality and the Government of Israel in order to bring an end to the “Shetach Hagadol” which had been, until then, a breeding ground for prostitution, drugs, and crime and to convert it into a tourists’ area consisting of an artists’ quarter and recreational facilities. In addition, the Company is responsible for all municipal services.”
So they got rid of the breeding-ground and tidied up for the tourists.
I had a bowl of fruit and yogurt here and it was pretty good too.
Then I went back (walk walk walk!) to do some housekeeping like all my laundry was waaay full of stinky sweat.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do tomorrow. Now I’m thinking instead of trying to rush through Akko (last train leaves at 2:25 because of the holiday) I’ll wait until Thursday and overnight. Just a thought.
One block from my hotel is The Old Cemetery “with a common grave containing the remains of victims of the 1921 troubles and the tombs of leading Zionists like Chaim Arlosoroff, Meir Dizengoff (first mayor of Tel-Aviv) and Max Nordau and the poets Chaim Nahman Bialik and Shaul Tchernikowsky.”
It was extra intense, the way all the graves are side to side, head to toe with each other and then all with these elaborate headstones.
Nearby is another market street, Nahalat Binyamin Market that I think is in action only Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s also streets and streets, these of handmade crafts.
I could walk through here as the claustrophobia factor was quite low, comparatively speaking. It was 95% crafty decorative and gift items, and of pretty high quality too I thought.
Here’s something interesting first about Tel Aviv and also about the UNESCO World Heritage designation for a neighborhood called The White City:
“Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 and developed as a metropolitan city under the British Mandate in Palestine. The White City was constructed from the early 1930s until the 1950s, based on the urban plan by Sir Patrick Geddes, reflecting modern organic planning principles.
“The buildings were designed by architects who were trained in Europe where they practiced their profession before immigrating. They created an outstanding architectural ensemble of the Modern Movement in a new cultural context.”
This tells us Tel Aviv is relatively new (Jaffa (at the time an Arab city) being the ancient place) and there is a The White City which, when I asked the guy at the hotel ‘where is The White City?’ he drew a huge circle on the map and said ‘around here’.
So I went around there and it was quite marvelous.
Take this building which is clearly in desperate need of refurbisment but is still in use as a night club.
…and streets full of every type of entertainment – shops of every trendy description, eating-drinking-dancing, and several ice cream places on every block.
These guys are having a wine tasting with the fellow in purple leading the discussion. Maybe he was a salesman or maybe it was a staff orientation, either way it was a serious proposition.
What works best for me for long days walking – 3 hours walking, 1 hour snack stop, 2 hours walking for a 6 hour day…longer only with more snack stops!
It just doesn’t always work out that way. Like today… late start, more than 4 hours walking without a break, back at the hotel for a rest, and a late night snack from the Equadorian chicken place down the street.
We went up to my room to look at one of Hilla’s projects on the computer and she said ‘oh, it’s the American Embassy.’
I’ve looked out this window 100 times in the last two days and never noticed! Right under the medallion it says Embassy of the United States of America. And then the flag should have given it away.
I mentioned before how the skylines seemed dominated by church steeples and mosque minarets. I never even notice the synagogues and now I know why. This is a synagogue that Hilla pointed out. There is no big obvious universal symbol or shape, nothing sticks up, and no English which is why I’ve probably passed who knows how many and not known.
I left Tel Aviv this morning to take the train to Akko. It was fun in Tel Aviv, and interesting. I’m glad to have visited.
Just one small thing. The flies. I felt like a horse, stomping and shaking my leg and if I had a tail that would have been good too. Also there was a lot of smoking. Between the smoke and the flies it was not so easy to just sit outside. (An exception – lunch with Hilla was outside without smoke and without flies. I was SO happy!)
Arriving in Akko I walked from the train just in some general direction to get to the Old City. My plan was that once there I would 1) find a visitor’s center, 2) get a map, and 3) find my hostel.
1) and 2) worked out fine but the woman at the visitor’s center said ‘very confusing’. She said she would call the hostel and someone would come to walk with me. Good thing I guess!
Akko’s history is much along the lines of all the others in this part of the world, although here a lot more of various original buildings survived.
Here we go: The Helenic period; Romans; Byzantines; Arabs; Crusaders; Arabs; Ottomans; British mandate; Jewish state.
The most complete buildings, continually being revealed and restored is the Crusader era fortress.
btw, The English name for Akko is Acre.
“In the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Acre was designated part of a future Arab state. During the war of 1948, Acre was besieged by Israeli forces. … Acre was captured by Israel on May 17, 1948 and about three-quarters of its Arab population (estimated at 13,000 in 1944) became displaced as a result.”
…with a programmed tour, kind of like a Disneyland thing where the speakers kick in as you move through the rooms. Not speakers, but your headset that is programmed for whatever language you specify.
It reminded me again how dirty one gets when ‘on the road’ and how glorious a nice scrub-down would be.
They are serious about their tourism here in the Old City of Akko. Once you get there, you are quite sure to get to the major sites since soon enough you will run into these signs.
There’s a new city too that I walked through when coming from the train. No tourists go there except the Baha’i pilgrims as their holy sites are not inside the Old City walls.
Walking back through the market streets after everything is put away. Three hours earlier it would have been nearly impossible to pass. (No big fly problem in Akko, not even in the stickiest, ickiest part of the market.)
It’s hard to see, the guy in the white chair has got out his hookah. As I passed through the streets around 7pm it seemed everyone was settling into their ‘spot’ ready to put down the cigs and enjoy an evening hookah.
This place met my street-food criteria – if there’s a line of people clammoring for food, get in that line. There was a line and the line didn’t stop the whole time I was there.
It’s a falafel shop and that guy who is pointing, he’s a regular falafel makin’ maniac. It was indeed a very tasty falafel.