Ahh, what every winter-weary Canadian wishes for. At 8:30 am, it was 19 degrees Celsius, the bus tells us. By midday it was 30 degrees.
Boker Tov, or Good morning. We have formally met our driver, Gotde-al. Or Good deal as we called him, and he is aptly named. The man could park that huge bus into a matchbox, I am sure!
We had breakfast, a fabulous affair that offers eggs, fish, cheeses, salads, pastries, and excellent coffee. Jewish people enjoy salads with every meal.
We begin our day learning about the history behind how the State of Israel came about after the Ottoman Empire up until the League of Nations. Britain was given the mandate to set up the Jewish homeland. The UN offered the Jews a nation that was only 14 km wide and also offered the Palestinians a homeland too. The Jewish people took the offer, but the Palestinians refused it, wanting more land. The day after the State of Israel was declared, the Islamist Palestinians invaded it. This was the Jews' War of Independence.
I found this interesting, albeit from a Jewish point of view. I had no idea about the 'why' behind the fighting. A lot of Jews lived in Arab countries and flooded in, and Israel gave them citizenship. But those Muslims who went to Arab countries didn't get citizenship there.
High school students must learn about the Holocaust and those in certain studies must help at archeological sites.
Rafe talked about the Roman occupation, too. We learned that in 100 BC, a tsunami hit Crete and many people, called Philistines, came to Israel. Seeing this, the Romans gave the name of those people to the area, which eventually became Palestine.
I did not know that Hilter wanted Israel, which caused the Jews here to have their own army fighting the Nazis. Later in our tour, we saw a British war cemetery in Jerusalem, a rarity in Israel.
The country is barren and this area has many sand dunes. Our guide is funny and cheerful, and proud of his country.
We passed a coal-fired power plant that had virtually no emissions. It was operating, but there was no smoke, that's how advanced it was. The coal comes from Russia and South America.
Rafe tells us that all houses must have solar domestic hot water heaters, and his house was the first in Jerusalem to have solar power panels.
We passed banana trees, all growing under nets, as the country is not warm enough to grow tropical fruit. There are also oranges, lemons, etc, all growing under customized nets. Because grey water is recycled, it's used for watering crops. Rafe tells us part of the daily prayers include praying for rain, and God takes away the rain when the Jews misbehave.
Houses in Netanya are expensive, with even the PM keeping a home here. And yet, there are also McDonalds here, and those with a green canopy are 'healthy' McDonalds. They serve only healthy food.
Because land is at a premium, it is often reclaimed, and those sections too wet are turned into fish farms. There are many Kibbutz here, and I will talk of them later.
We visited a Baha'i Shrine in Haifa, a stunningly gorgeous site overlooking the city. The Baha'i religion came from Islam about 200 years ago.
Allan bought me a necklace from a
Druze, a secret sect of Islam started many centuries ago, which allows
no converts. Interestingly, they believe in gender equality, dislike
ISIS and Muslims, and have strong patriotism.
And all the the men have mustaches, Rafe reports.
We discover that it's against the law to proselytize here. That is, evangelize, or try to convert people. Probably a good thing considering the tension here.
From there, we visited Mount Carmel, an important site for Catholics. There, we learned of German Lutherans who call themselves Templars (not to be confused with the Crusaders) and who believed them must help the Jews prepare for the Second Coming. But along with them, came, during the Second World War, Nazi spies.
I'm finding it is getting so complicated, and the Holy Land is often fraught with religious tension.
At the top of Mount Carmel, we could see the fertile plain of Armageddon and interestingly, there is an Israeli Air Force base at the centre, which makes you wonder if that has any significance. Many have asked me if I felt unsafe. No, never. The security here is the tightest in the world. And the most serious. But I will talk more of that in a later post.
It was in this area that David slew Goliath and Jezebel lived. Jezebel means 'garbage', so don't name your girls that. At Mount Carmel, we learned that this is the site where Elisha built an altar, soaked it and asked God to light it. 1Kings 18:38 tells us:
Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood,
the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
Shortly after, we stopped for lunch at a Druze restaurant, and it proved to be a typical lunch of pita breads, felafels and mixed salads.
And then, it was on to Nazareth. But that and a wonderful treat, will come in the next blog.