Thursday, August 20, 2009

An August for the Ages

...And the weeks go by. Another week has come and gone, bringing with it adventures, wondrous thoughts & sights, new friends, challenging hikes and a slue of beautiful sunrises and sunsets giving drama to time. The Klezmer Festival in Tzfat was amazing. Jewish gypsy music live on every corner, people gathered from all over the world, and a crew of newly acquired friends. After the Klezmer, I attempted to meet a friend and her family for Shabbat. Once again the race was on and as the hours wore on, it appeared as though I was losing. After missing the last train to where I needed to go, it took incredible effort and ingenuity from my friend, serving as central intelligence guiding my every step as I called from random cell phones, arranging rides and coordinating our impromptu Plan B with incredible precision. After a series of rushed buses and a cab ride only a fool rushing to make Shabbat would pay for, I arrived at her house twelve minutes before Shabbat arrived. Incredible! I spent the weekend with Shira (said friend and intelligence agent pulling the strings of my travels from an undisclosed location) and her family, which was a treat of the highest order. Meeting her grandparents, whom have lived lives of literally historical significance, was one of the most interesting experiences I've been fortunate enough to have since being in Israel. Her grandfather, a physicist whose work on Atomic Energy has taken them all over the world, her grandmother, a woman whose very presence puts you at ease yet instills a desire to learn more, try harder and take nothing for granted, both escaped Nazi Germany and lent their hands in the War of Independence for Israel in 1948. Their stories were epic, their presence steadfast, and the fact that they not only spoke to me, but actually did so with genuine interest was ultimately humbling. I only wish I could record a snapshot of the conversation and antics that went on around the Shabbat table. It was a history lesson wrapped in a Woody Allen film.

After a memorable Shabbat, several friends and I set out on a three day hike that would take us through a Druze village, along the only river with water in Israel at the moment, and end in a day at the most beautiful grottoes along the Mediterranean. My compatriots were three amazing compatriotets, each very unique in their own way, all such beautiful souls. It was quite the hike. Aside from the first night onslaught of mosquitoes and the occasional dog sitting on your head, our hike went very well. We would occassionally hitchike from place to place, often breaking into groups of two and meeting up at our final destination. A bit like the Amazing Race. After our hike concluded with a beautiful sunset over the Meditteranean, Shira (one of the three musketeerets) and I hitchiked to the north and crashed a beautiful wedding. It was an ideal ending to several days of hiking.

This brings us to today, as I'm about to set out with Shira #2, currently sitting right next to me, to hitchike (a favored form of transportation here) to Haifa for a beer festival, then on to Jerusalem where I'll spend Shabbat with my good friend Benny. For those of you following this blog, I wish you all unexpected inspiration. Below is a note from Shira, her lovely personality and incredible spelling ability shine through. She's a gem, no doubt. Till the next post...

Aside from that the best time that l had in Tzfat was not yet come- l am going with my best friend Shira (the littel one...) to a beer Fastevial in Haifa, the city l hate!!! but l would do any thing just to spend time with Shira!!! l would even buy here dinner tonight, when she will be hangrey, and stay intuch with here for ever!!!!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

...With A Little Help From My Friends

Well, I safely arrived in Tzfat, though not in the same condition as I left Nahariya. It was an exhilarating, exhausting and most of all an inspiring hike. As has been habit for the last several weeks, remnants of my still lingering New York penchant for expediency, I once again found myself in a slightly stressful, just slightly, race against Shabbat. Racing against Shabbat in order to enjoy Shabbat. A contradiction no doubt. But once again, I was catching the last train, that would connect to the last bus, that would drop me off in a small town that would no doubt be abandoned in preparation for the Shabbat celebrations once I arrived. And indeed, this is just what happened. So, with 3 days worth of food and water packed on my back, I wandered the empty town until I found a cab that would take me to the beach where the head of the trail I would begin to hike the next day was, and there I would camp for the night. This would be where I would celebrate Shabbat. Fortunately for me, as has been the case over and over here in Israel, the random person of my encounter, in this case the cab driver, would prove to be integral in not only getting me to the next phase, but would once again do so with grace, humility and a caring bond that distinguishes friends from strangers. Nava, which means "beautiful" in Hebrew (the cab driver), when she found out my plan to hike the Yam L' Yam alone, though I had yet to be able to find a map or a flashlight, proceeded to take a detour upon her own volition, in search of my needed provisions. Though we were unable to find a map, which would unsurprisingly prove problematic along the way, she rummaged through her trunk and found a perfect flashlight she insisted I take. When we arrived at the beach, she gave me her card and insisted I call her if I need anything during my hike. This is the cab driver mind you. She then went on to tell me that when she saw me walking alone earlier, she felt drawn to me for some reason, and after having spent the last twenty minutes together, she was certain that we had known each other for a very long time. Somewhere, somehow, we had been friends before. She wished me luck with a mother's concern and went about her way.

As I turned to take in the atmosphere where I would welcome in Shabbat in solitude, the scene was an instant affirmation of a quick and intuitive decision I had made several days prior. When walking around Haifa, a city in the north, I decided, literally within the scope of about five steps, to turn around at that very moment, pack my things, head to Tel Aviv to gather supplies and set off on this hike. Three days of running errands and gathering supplies found an undeniable affirmation in this moment. After taking a moment to appreciate the fruits of my brief labor, I snapped a few pictures for memory's sake and hiked up the tallest hill that punctuated one end of the beach and found a perfect camping spot, a hilltop that practically leaned over the ocean with an unobstructed view from every angle. I quickly set up camp and then stood and watched a fiery sun emanating shattered rays fade behind a purple and blue haze. After a few moments, I made a 180' turn and watched a rustic moon, almost identical in size and color, rise from the other horizon, directly in line with where the sun had set. It was a beautiful Shabbat evening.

The next morning I rose with the sun and greeted a day that I knew would be both invigorating and bittersweet. As I set out to hike the twenty kilometers that would be the intended first leg of my journey, I was thinking a lot about all that had transpired over the last two years that had brought me to this point, a place of unique fortune born in the wake of unprecedented pain. This day would have been my mother's 51st birthday. She would occupy the majority of my thoughts on this day as I walked alone, taking great pleasure in the clarity and intimacy of my memories. I add this in an attempt to offer a glimpse into the inner atmosphere of this day.

With an obscene amount of weight on my back, I set out through a field of banana farms, leaving the Mediterranean behind, walking directly into a rising sun. Without a map in my possession, I was relying solely on instructions I had gotten from the internet to be my guide. Throughout the day the trail would have many faces, from fields, to roadsides, to wooded valleys set between rolling mountains, but the trail itself was very poorly marked and I soon found myself on top of a hill that took two hours to hike up, but which culminated in a Moshav (a neighborhood, with cultisacs, pools and neighborhood dogs that seemed infatuated with the strange guy passing by with tons of food on his back.) So I knocked on a door, received shaky directions, and decided to hitchhike back down the hill to take the "other road". After a few minutes, a car arrived and a man in his forties with his two young daugthers (6 and 8) sitting in the front seat greeted me warmly. As I explained what I thought was my situation, he assured me, "Don't worry, we'll take you wherever you need to go. Just get in and we'll figure it out." Once again, an amazing soul sprouting from the fertile soil of Israel.

As we continued to drive, he trying to figure out where exactly I wanted to go, me not entirely sure, I told him where I was supposed to end up by the end of the day, which happened to be the town he was born in, and he quickly did a U-turn, heading back up the hill again. Watching him with his daughters was an incredible treat; they practicing their English with me and asking the curious questions that entertain the minds of children. The car was filled with their laughter, cutting straight through more mundane conversations of where I was trying to go, where I was from, etc. His youngest daughter, being quite the character, often had both of us in fits of laughter. We drove on, mind you it was now about 95 degrees outside at this point, and he offered to take me as far as I wanted to go. I decided that since the first leg of this hike went mostly through towns and ran too close to roads for my liking, he could take me several more kilometers and dropped me off where I should have been the morning of the next day. Not bad. What was a setback had suddenly put me a day ahead, and in this heat, with this weight on my back, that was a very nice luxury to be working with. As we said goodbye, me with my many 'thankyou's, and he, like Nava, writting down his number and insisting that if I need anything I not hesitate to call, that he would be happy to help from the phone, or could come get me if need be. He would not be the last good Samaritan of the day.

From where my hitchiking adventure ended, my hiking adventure began. I descended down into a valley, running along side a dry riverbed (this is summer in Israel after-all), and hiked through dry forests nestled between large rolling hills. Stopping periodically to eat and write, the day was taking on a more tranquil, though equally exhausting tone. After several hours of hiking and once again losing an elusive trail, I hiked up a steep incline, stopping at a gas station, completely exhausted, and began trying to gather as much information from the gas station attendant as possible, who made no qualms about expressing his astonishment and feelings of general absurdity at my idea of walking to Tzfat. "Why walk when you can drive?" was his general sentiment. When I spoke with the other attendant, neither of which knew where the trailhead was, she told me to wait a few minutes until her boyfriend arrived, maybe he knew. So I waited and when he arrived we got to talking, he showing me on the GPS on his phone (a high tech modern convenience he was quite proud of) where I was and where I wanted to go. It was essentially straight up hill, alongside a road. Lovely. As we spent more time together, he asked if I wanted a ride up to the town at the top of the hill. Such sweet words. I was seriously considering pitching a tent behind the gas station, I was so tired at this point. We drove up to Hurefish, a Druze village, which sits at the base of Mt. Meron, the biggest mountain in the area, and what, in theory would constitute the next day hike. However, as we went on he mentioned that just yesterday he told his girlfriend that he wanted to go up to Mt. Meron to clear his mind, but she convinced him to stay home and study. "Would you mind if I took you up to the top of Mt. Meron?" he asked. My love for the people of Israel only deepens as this day goes along.

When we arrived at the top of the mountain, the view was absolutely breathtaking. Lebanon to the North, Tzfat to the East, farms and small Moshaves dotting the valley between, and the Mediterranean to the West. We stood on top of the mountain and talked for about an hour and a half, him telling me about his experiences as an Israeli and a Jew, being born of a Polish mother and an Uzbeki father. He was intelligent, articulate and had a variety of passions, including flying airplanes. He told me about avoiding bombings from Gaza, being from Ashkalon, the town that borders Gaza. He told me of experiencing the bombings up where we currently were from Hezbollah in 2006. His stories and perspective were quite unique.

As he departed, like those that came before him, he gave me his contact information and insisted I call him if I need anything. I set up camp on top of Mt. Meron, where it was strikingly cooler than below, and slept for what felt like days. With bleeding feet (agressive hiking sandals) and a back that was screaming protests, I have never been so tired, but I had successfully covered almost three times as much ground in one day then I had planned... with a little help from my friends.

The next morning I got up, a beautiful day, and hiked down Mt. Meron, where, as the heat began to set in, I opted for a ride to Tzfat, which took all of about ten minutes. So, no I can't say that I successfully hiked the Yam L' Yam hike. The weather, lack of map, and surprisingly ailing body (a blunt reminder of my mortality) left me quite open to the help of the many extended hands of Israel. What I gained in return was a string of unforgettable experiences, all contained within a single Shabbat.

I'm now in Tzfat, reunited with several good friends and the Livnot Chevre I've come to love, awaiting the beginning of the much anticipated Klezmer festival, which will last the next two days and fill Tzfat to the brim. Here I have found time to decompress, reflect, and give thanks. I apologize for the lenght of this post, maybe there are unnecessary details embedded within. But I wanted to give those of you who are interested as accurate and intimate a look as I can offer into both the unparalleled generosity and love of the Israeli people, as well as the thoughts and inspirations carrying me along the way.

For those of you who have contacted me about your having prayed for Dave, I thank you and as soon as I find out his status, I will update you all.

I will leave you with another quote from Abramham Joshua Heschel, a continued presence on this trip. Thank you for reading and enjoy. Most importantly of all, enjoy.

"Israel exists not in order to be, but in order to dream the dream of God. Out of the wonder we came and into the wonder we shall return."
-Avraham Yehoshua Heschel

Friday, August 7, 2009

A thought... just a thought

This posting will be brief. I'm on my way to catch a train to Naharyia in the north. I'm going to hopefully arrive as Shabbos is coming in, enjoy the evening in solitude on a beach somewhere, and then rise early and begin the Yam L'Yam hike, which essentially connects the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee. The hike should take about three days. A tent was provided by a friend I met in Sinai. A sleepingbag was offered by a good friend in Jerusalem. Israel, the people who make Israel what it is, provide for you. It's quite amazing really. There is much that I would like to say in this post. Many thoughts and inspirations have come to me that I want to share with you all. But for the moment, I must make haste. But I will share this very simple thought that keeps visiting me during peak moments here. It's a sort of a mantra really, something that is continually echoing in my mind, enhancing every moment and giving rise to a more purposeful and appreciated tomorrow. The thought is this:

There is so much magnificence.

Every thing around you at every moment, the very breath you are taking at this moment, which in itself requires you to be submerged in a sea of oxygen (which to our untrained eye appears as nothing), held in place by atmospheric pressure nurturing an oxygen rich rock that is very precisely spinning around a meduim size star at just the right distance for energy to infuse rather than consume, a process that has been coming into this state of being for approximately six and a half billion years. It's all at such a perfect balance, for this moment, and you not only get to experience it, but you essentially are the experience of it. So enjoy, because there really is so much magnificence that you might just miss it.

On another note however, there is something else on my mind, which by comparison makes these writings and adventures seem all too trivial or incredibly fortunate at best. I have a very good friend of mine who will be undergoing his second brain surgery today. He's an amazing person with incredible courage. Yet, as you can imagine, he's scared. Regardless of your beliefs, religious or otherwise, I'm asking each and everyone of you who reads this to please take a moment, a real moment, and think or pray or do whatever it is that you do within the depths of your own self when something really matters to you, and think of my friend Dave Sommer. If you care to know his story, or are moved to donate to his parent's ever-growing financial burden for his medical care, please visit his blog at Any and all positive messages are welcomed.

I thank each of you for reading and will write again when I can.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Year in Jerusalem....

You'll have to excuse the recent slack in writing for this blog. Jerusalem is a place that more or less dominates your focus. Things turn upside down, inside out, and yet at the end somehow feel more balanced than ever before. Let me try to recap, though explaining might be out of the realm of my capabilities. Actually, I'm fairly certain it's out of the realm of language period.

So I've been in Jerusalem for over a week now and what a bizarre week it has been. After hitchiking/bus riding/budding up with strangers and catching rides up to Tzfat for a much needed Shabbat, I headed back down to Jerusalem by way of Tel Aviv, having made friends with the chevre that were currently enjoying Israel through the lens of Livnot. A friend, more of an angel really, took me and my old college roommate who decided to come to Israel to visit me in for two days. The first full day of Max's arrival we met up with a man I met in Nuweiba (Sinai) who lives in Jerusalem. He was born and raised here, works as an architect, and has many other interesting "hobbies" we'll say. He took us all over Jerusalem, showing us many amazing sites and giving us a walking history lesson. (Side note: I had no idea just how appropriate Antiquity Walking would be as a title for this blog.) After going all over Jerusalem, Max and I caught a night bus to Tel Aviv so as to show him the "other" side of Israel. We spent the next day in Tel Aviv, enjoy sunshine and the Mediterranean, relaxing in the evening with one of the chevre from my Livnot crew, sharing stories and spending most of our time in fits of laughter. If you don't know Max, he's a man with stories that could make even the Pope die laughing. The next morning we caught an early bus to Jerusalem hoping to take a West Bank tour with a non-profit group called Breaking the Silence. Unfortunately the bus we caught wasn't early enough and we missed the tour. Something to look forward to I hope. So we spent our day enjoying the Old City of Jerusalem, going to many of the Christian sites associated with the crucifixion of Jesus. Needless to say these were very intense places where the flashes of tourists' cameras illuminated the tears of the most devoted. It's hard to describe these places. There's a sense that it is supposed to have remnants of the divine, that it's a "holy" place, but with all the tourists and commotion that comes along with people, it becomes more like a heavy laden Disney Land. However, when you find an empty corner and take the time to just be, there is something of a silent power here, even if it's only the incredible energy coming from people's beliefs, there is definitely a weight and sensation indicative of "holy" places. But I digress....

So after a day of wandering the Old City with my old roommate and newly acquired chevre, we met up with Benny again. Now Benny, well he's an interesting guy (to say the least). I'm not quite sure how to describe Benny, but I can give you the basics. He's 51 & an architect that works for restoration here in Jerusalem. He's born and raised in Jerusalem, having served in the military he experienced many of the intifada first hand. Those are the basics. Now for the more "interesting." About fifteen years ago Benny became a monk, of sorts, a mystic really. He studies Kabbalah and Tarot, took a vow of chastity, the whole nine yards. He's probably the best story teller I've ever known, with a bald head and rotund belly that jiggles with his contagious laughter, and after spending an evening with Benny your mind is absolutely spinning. There's no way I can really retell the events of this evening or the incredible scope of conversation, but after Benny had told us of the process of his enlightenment and the things he had seen and experienced since accepting his enlightenment (stories that in the end leave you asking, "Is this guy crazy or am I in the twilight zone?") he proceeded to give my friend Max a most uncanny Tarot reading, one that I'm sure he won't soon forget. This was something he did for me as well in Sinai and earlier in the evening gave me another Tarot reading in Jerusalem that only echoed the same sentiment in Sinai. Apparently, "The Cards Don't Lie" (insert Jamaican accent).

After a night of mysticism, we woke to greet Shabbat. We returned to the Old City, Max and I finding a hostel in East Jerusalem, and Max, myself, and my travel companion from Egypt, Sari, all went out to enjoy Shabbat in the Old City, a Shabbat like no where else. We wandered with no real direction, wishing others "Shabbat Shalom" as we walked on, at times singing ancient Jewish melodies, led mostly by Sari who has a knowledge of Jewish music and a voice that sounds as though it has been singing since Creation itself. We went to the Western Wall where Max got his first taste of enthusiastic Jewish community. A packed crowd of such diversity, from soldiers to hassidim, dancing and singing, celebrating the return of the Jewish people and the fact that they have the opportunity to celebrate where their ancestors could only dream of. The experience is truly inspiring, whether you join in the celebration or watch from a distance, there is something so natural about bringing in Shabbat in Jerusalem.

The next day Max departed back to Dubai, vowing to return to Israel within two weeks time because, in his own words, "This is the most incredible place on the planet." We'll see if his sentiment carries him back here. In the meantime I have been enjoying some much needed solitude. Walking the Old City alone, visiting places such as the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and other quintessential Jerusalem sites. I've also been spending much time reading a most incredible work by Abraham Joshua Heschel entitled God In Search of Man. The beauty of these thoughts, I believe, could not possibly originated from the mind of man, but instead come from incredible dedication to the study of Torah, which is exactly what Rabbi Heschel did. Though there is much to see and discover here in Jerusalem, I believe this book may be the greatest find of all.

So this pretty much brings us up to date. I've been extending the network of friends here in Jerusalem by participating in couchsurfing, a network of people all around the world that host travelers. I stayed with a young married couple for a few nights, getting a healthy dose of the purely secular side of Jerusalem, and am now staying with an artist who seems to know everyone in the city. (Every time I stopped to use someone's phone to call him, they had his number saved in their phone. Popular guy apparently.) I'll be in Jerusalem for another few days, hopefully through Shabbat, and then I'm heading to Bersheeva, the largest city in the Negev Desert, to visit a friend from the Livnot trip. He's a commander in the Israeli Defense Force, recently released as of two days ago, and is one of the most incredible people I've ever met. I can't wait to spend a few days seeing life in Bersheeva and meeting his fiance.

Well, that about sums up the last week or so, a very eventful and slightly disorienting (or maybe reorienting) week. I hope all of you who are reading this blog are finding great inspiration and joy in life wherever you may be. Out of a desire to share some of the magnificence of this place and the Jewish people in general with all of you, I'm going to include a quote from the book I was referring to in every blog post from now on. I hope it evokes as much thought and wonder for you as it has for me. Till the next post....

"There is only one way to wisdom: awe. The meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in the small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing, the stillness of the eternal."
- Avraham Yehoshua Heschel

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pictures! Pictures! Pictures!

According to the few readers of this blog that I've been in touch with, apparently pictures are a good thing. So, in light of that fact, I present to you... pictures. Here are a few images of the last few weeks in Egypt and a few from Israel. Hope you enjoy.

A newly found family, a tightly formed Chevre!

Petra. Amazing ruins in Jordan.

Three travel companions. One amazing tomb. Petra.

The supposed "burning bush" of Moses. (And my friend's hand.)

Bakers baking the subsidized bread for the Cairo community.

The scene of our feast at Es' house in the West Bank of Luxor.

Sari's, my travel companion through southern Egypt and Sinai, portrait on the Nile.

Family portrait of a Cairo family.

A look at Islamic Cairo from within.

Deliveries & shops in Islamic Cairo.

Playing futbol with the neighborhood kids in Islamic Cairo.

An amazing whirling dervish performance. (And free!)

Mosque of Sultan Hassan on left and Mosque of Al Rifa'i on right.

Inside one of the oldest mosques in Egypt.

An epic scene with best buddy Eli at the pyramids.

So there are a few pictures for the imaginative to work with. The landscape is amazing, the architecture is surreal and the people are out of a Marquez dream. I hope those of you following this blog have found it enjoyable to read and now visually interesting as well. Wishing all of you my best.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Well, we've arrived. Finally back to Israel, having now spent more time away than I have spent in the country. But that's about to change.

Nuweiba was a dream. I would have to remind myself periodically that this was in fact real and I was simply passing through for a brief stay. The beauty was imposing, epic and you began to feel as though life and dreams were interweaving in just about every way. Unforgiving mountains with not a drop of water to spare would meet the bluest and clearest waters with incredible reef lining all along the shoreline. Night skies were brighter than city lights, music was a shared language, and our food swam in the waters just before us. Sinai is a very interesting place, where three distinctly different cultures converge on paradise. There are the Israelis, who about thirty years ago owned Sinai as land taken during conflict with Egypt. Many still feel a deep connection with Sinai and consider it their home away from home. There are the Bedouins, who have inhabitated this very unforgiving land from time immemorial. They have become accustomed to a more "modern" (and I use this in the most minimal sense) life and now rely primarly on tourism as a form of livelihood. However, due to the rising tensions, Israelis don't come to Sinai as much any more and Israelis are the primary tourists, and the preferred tourists by the Bedouins, to this area. Then there are the Egyptians that come to escape the summer heat of Egypt. There is no love loss between the Bedouins and the Egyptian government, as the differing parties with their particular perspectives all converge in this place and attempt to deal harmoniously with one another in order to enjoy the wonder that is Sinai. Your ear hopscotches between Arabic and Hebrew continuously, while English appears so much more heavy laden of a language and thus disposed only to necessity.
The camp we stayed at was called Saba Camp and it was essentially twenty or so huts lined on the beach. Mosquito nets were your best friend at night and the rising sun, with intensity only found in Sinai, would wake you and invite, if not demand, a morning swim as the feeding frenzy around the reef reminded you that some things are indeed quite active in Sinai. The crew that inhabited our camp was quite the eclectic bunch, but a chevre (family) nonetheless. A young married couple living in Tel Aviv came for the weekend, teaching us Israeli card games and welcoming in Shabbat with everything from Hebrew hymns to the Beatles. The head architect of restoration in Jerusalem had brought several of his nephews and their friends (Americans) for a few days. He sat and smoked cigarette after cigarette, speaking about topics of great wonder and inspiration, and gave the most uncanny and insightful Tarot readings to everyone individually throughout the weekend. There was the middle aged couple, having met recently at a rave, that brought a comic and somewhat carnal element to the table. We all enjoyed each other's company, sharing meals, stories, music and the other simplicities that structure your days when the ammenities and distractions of modern life aren't around. And now it's back to the modern world, having arrived in Tel Aviv late last night. I'm currenlty staying with a member of the Chevre from Livnot and making plans for the next six weeks in Israel, which will hopefully include spending a few days with my long lost brother Maximus. We'll see where the next few weeks goes, but I'm hoping to get involved in several programs here in Israel, focused on community service as well as language immersion. I'll be making my way back to Tzfat soon enough to volunteer with Livnot and spend some time in the great mystic town. But for now, the white city of Tel Aviv...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Adrift on the Nile

     Since my last post I have had the opportunity to experience the many wonders and wonderousness (sp?) of Luxor Egypt, which used to be known as Thebes, the ancient capital of Lower Egypt.  We're talking seriously ancient.  And seriously hot as well.  Like 115' F hot!  But we braved the heat and set out to walk the footsteps of Pharoahs past.  After arriving in Luxor on a less than sanitary and staunchly segregated train (we weren't allowed to sit with the Egyptians in second class, but were instead told we had to be in first class with the other "tourists", but if what we had was first class, I don't want to see second class) we rested for the day and then set out on a sunset felugga ride on the Nile.  This felugga ride would single handedly determine the rest of our experience in Luxor.  Our guide, Captain Es, as he liked to be called, was a character of the highest order.  Jovial, loving, and good natured to the core our relationship with Es would more than cross the line from "tourists" to "habibi" (family in Arabic).  After our felugga ride, Es invited us back to his very modest home with his mother, father, sister, and many nieces and nephews for dinner.  By most Western standards they live in pretty drastic poverty, but relative to the West Bank in Luxor they were doing pretty well for themselves.  As I mentioned in the last post, this was the evening of beard "threading", an experience I won't soon forget.  So after our tour of the West Bank the following day, which included the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut, and several other ruins all of which date to around about 2500 BCE, which means they are about four and a half thousand years old.  Ancient!  And inspiring.  And also a bit disturbing as well.  Anyone who takes in these wonders is instantly struck by the magnitude and incredible decadence and thus effort required to erect these places.  But I started to think of all the strife that went into building these colossal buildings.  Slaves' strife.  Blood.  Sweat.  Tears.  Certain death, there can be no doubt.  Working in this heat to build something that the Pharoah believes his immortality is riding on.  The agony and pain that must have been inflicted upon those that actually built these temples with their bare hands... suddenly the walls look a little different.  They're still magnificent in their craftmanship and historical value, but they begin to seem trivial and extremely egomanical.  I don't want to deter anyone from seeing these ruins.  They are quite simply incredible and there is nothing else like it.  But it's bizarre when you realize all this was done to essentially "buy" immortality and in doing so their cost to people's lives is immeasurable.  Just a random thought from a plebian passing through.  
       The next day... more ruins.  Karnack Temple, the oldest temple in Egypt and one of the most incredible sites I have ever beheld, a massive temple that many different Pharoahs added to in an effort to one up the previous Pharoah to demonstrate their greatness.  We're talking "jaw-dropping-can't-believe-this-actually-exists-and-people-are-the-source-of-it" big.  After Karnack we headed over to Luxor Temple, it's smaller and just as impressive cousin.  They are actually connected by a 3 km road that used to play host to a huge procession in ancient times when priests would drink and be merry and carry the statue of the Sun God, Amun-Ra, and his wife from Karnack to Luxor for a 24 day "honeymoon".  Apparently on one of these visits the Moon God was conceived.  Yeah for the moon god! 

     After a day of exploring temples and ruins and only hours before catching an all night train back to Cairo as we now begin to make our way back to Israel (oh how sweet it will be), we met back up with our faithful captain Es for a final ride, brought to us courtesy of his hospitality.  After sailing to the West bank for dinner, we set out for our final sunset on the Nile.  We parked the boat in some marsh, got out and bathed/waded in the Nile.  After watching the sun set from within the Nile, we all laid together on the front bow of the sailboat and watched the stars grow brighter and brighter.  Here Es started singing some of the Arabic songs he had taught us and we in turn sang the responses he had taught us.  He sang another song that he translated for us as being thankful for the many brothers and sisters Allah brings into our lives.  He then asked us, in his broken English, to teach him some songs.  We decided to share with him several of the incredibly beautiful Hebrew songs that we sang with the Livnot trip.  Strikingly they meant the very same thing.  Arabic & Hebrew.  Muslim & Jewish.  Both so beautiful and so similar in so many ways.  Es just stared off as we sang him our songs.  As we finished and silence decended, I looked across the river and a sliver of the brightest, reddest, fullest moon I have ever seen began to rise steadily over the water.  When I saw this I unconsciously let out an "Oh my God!"  As Es turned to see what I was talking about, in a strikingly similar tone he said "Sapon Allah", the exact same sentence in Arabic.  We were collectively humbled and unmistakably aware of how beautiful this experience we were sharing was.   There we sat, after having just shared unprecedented intimacy, and watched the full moon rise over the Nile in silence.  It was an experience without comparison.
     As the moon cast her light onto the river, Es and I began to row our sailboat back across the river to the East bank so we could catch our night train.  We said goodbye to our newly acquired friend, vowing to send pictures when we get back to America, and set off to Cairo.  And that is where we are now.  I lucked out with a really great find on a website called Couch Surfing and am being hosted by an amazing guy here in Cairo with an amazing penthouse apartment that overlooks the entire city.  He's a photographer (bit of a kindred spirit) and has been an amazing help to us as we now prepare to head to Nuweiba Sinai for a few days of being in the middle of nowhere with local Bedouins on the Red Sea.  Apparently the norm is to sleep in huts on the sand, hang out with local Bedouins who will go out and catch your dinner for you for a fair price.  Should be lots of interesting travelers, some music around the campfire, the quintessential bright stars of the Sinai and then back to Israel.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Egypt On My Mind

What can you say after a week in Egypt? Things are very... interesting. After the Sinai climb, my two travel companions and I set out on an all night bus journey for Cairo. I seemed to have left my health somewhere on top of the mountain so needless to say it was a very enjoyable bus ride. We arrived in Cairo at around 6 am, seemingly the only hour Cairo is relatively calm. After parting through all the jockeying taxi drivers, we wandered the streets of downtown Cairo until Mustafa, who would become the archnemesis to one of my travel companions, plucked us off the street and gave us a deal "we couldn't refuse" at his hostel. We made up our hours of sleep and eventually headed out to take in some of the sights and sounds. Cairo was hot and bustling by then and we were little prepared for the chaos that regularly orders this enchanting yet aggrevating place. The next day we went wandering Islamic Cairo, where the architecture is like anywhere else in the world and time is cloaked in many different masks. The beauty of Islamic Cairo is similar to what I imagined 1001 Arabian Nights to be like as a child. Minarets echoing calls to prayer through tiny alley ways lined with shops of every kind, weaving its way around opening up to awe striking mosques every several hunderd feet. There are kids riding bikes with hundreds of loaves of bread on their heads, pppppsssssssss air through their teeth dividing the crowds they ride through. Men line the streets smoking 'sheesha' with little else to do. And the mosques are simply incredible. From the invading bustle you step through a single, though enormous, doorway and inside instant serenty and silence. Over the next several days we visited many mosques, ranging in age from 8th Century CE to the 19th Century. As the sun sank on the second day and temperatures dropped with it, we found are way to the Al-Ghouli cultural house for a free performance of whirling dervishes. I apologize that I cannot upload the images from that performance because I am writing this from an internet cafe computer. It was a magnificent performance, dervishes of many different colors and levels of advancement dancing while drumming while others were in upper balconies playing essential Arabic music. It was an incredible sight to see.
The next day we went through the National Egyptian Museum in Cairo and took in the copious decadence of Tutenkhamen. After a day at the museum we set out for the citadel to view the mosque of Muhammed Ali (not the boxer). As we stood up on the citadel and looked out over Cairo, Turkish mosques dotted the cityscape, Mamuluk graves portioned off sections of this bustling city to ultimate abandoment, and the ancient pyramids stood in the distance. Three major empires. One city.
The next day we did what any person that comes to Cairo does... we went to the pyramids. It's true, they are impressive. Such incredible feats, so many tourists. Unfortunately some of the majesty of these structures is lost by all the tourists and hustlers that accompany said tourists, but it is incredible to stand in the presence of something so awe inspiring. We had fun taking quite impressive pictures that I'll be sure to post next time. Let's just say, men floating next to the pyramids. It was interesting.
It was here that I had to say goodbye to my two trusted travel companions Ben & Eli. They were on a shorter time line and longed to be back in the embrace of Israel. So as they headed back to Tel Aviv, I prepared to go further into Egypt, picking up another travel companion along the way. We headed out Sunday night, having said our goodbyes to Cairo and all its madness, and headed to Luxor, the modern version of ancient Thebes. Ruins are abundant and the heat is devistating. We're are currently right on the Nile Valley, right next to the Luxor Temple. When we arrived in Luxor, once again going through the rigamarole of hoteliers and taxi drivers, we found a place to stay, rested through the heat of the day, and set out on a felucca ride (a mini sail boat) down the Nile for sunset. Our captain was quite the character and after our journey had ended he insisted on taking us back to his house in the West bank for dinner. We agreed and thus set out on a journey of a different sort.
When we arrived at his house, his family greeted us very warmly and with little language, as we speak no Arabic and they very sparse English. Their house was a very small home and very modest, even by Egyptian standards. After meeting the family and eating some dinner, the captain insisted on taking me to a friends place to trim up my wildly growing beard. We arrive three deep on a motorcycle, having left my female travel companion back at his house with his sister, and the friend kindly opened his shop, where a single chair sat centered within turqouise blue walls with a hugh painting of Jesus as a shepard on the door behind the chair. It was a room that deserved to be in movies. I sat down, he lit a cigarette, and turned on some beautiful Arabic music. He gestured to some string, I nodded and what ensued I didn't even know was possible. Holding string in his mouth, he 'threaded' my face, clasping hair within the strings and rolling them so that he hair is pulled out of your face. Yes, it was quite painful. He did this around the ears, eyebrows, the entire forehead, etc. Then he powdered my face, lathered my neck, ashed his cigarette, and began cleaning up the unattended mess that was my neck. It was quite the experience and I have to say, it looks much better. So much so that today when we were touring the Valley of the Kings (a huge necropolis of former Pharoahs) two people separately commented on how nice my beard and moustache was. They have an eye for these things apparently.
That brings us to present. Today we went and toured the West bank of Luxor, seeing the Valley of the Kings and several other ancient temples. Our captain hooked us up with a driver and we were very well taken care of. We'll enjoy our last day in Luxor tomorrow and then begin heading back to the land of milk and honey. I look forward to returning to Israel even more than my initial arrival. It is a place of such love, common understanding, and spirit that the term "nation" does it little justice. That is the update for now. All the Egyptian people I have met want me to personally invite all of you to Egypt. They love Obama here by the way. Usually the first words out of anyone's mouth when you say your an American. "O-Bama, very good!"

Till the next post.... "Sha Allah" as they say here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An Entry of A Different Kind


A little note before you read further...  I sat down to write a blog entry because it's been about a week since I last wrote and I've been wanting to keep friends and family up to date.  As you can imagine, traveling everyday in this part of the world, days start to take on different meaning, and by the time a week is up, it feels like a lifetime has passed.  Scenes are different.  Smells are different.  You're either really tired the moment you sit down to write, or rushed, or overwhelmed and unable to process everything you're experiencing.  It is simply intense, everyday it's intense in every possible way and the task of putting it into words seems utterly exhausting on top of it all.  So there is that to keep in mind as you read.  
    For an update:  We are now in Cairo and have been here for two days.  It is an indescribably intense and insufferably hot place.  After two days of hectic adjustments from all night travels, we found ourselves in Islamic Cairo this evening.  This scene is going to have to be for another post, I haven't yet been able to process what I saw today and thus cannot really write about it (there is definitely a several day lag between your initial experience and when you are able to begin to take in).  In short Islamic Cairo is a mix of amazing Medieval architecture, dirty crowded alleyways, never ending shuks (bazaars) with men desperately trying to get you into their stores, all accented by the occasional call to prayer serenading from atop minarets dotting every corner of the narrow sky.  We wandered through Islamic Cairo until we arrived at the Mausoleum Al-Ghouli for a free Sufi Whirling Dervish performance.  It was incredible and I plan to write about it very soon.  However, as I came back to the hostel this evening and sat down to write a post, the following is what came out.  I thought about editing, possibly cutting it and keeping it for my own personal writings and writing a more "practical" update filled with the "what's" and the "where's" and the "when's".  But I decided instead just to leave it.  It is genuine and thus accurate.  I hope you enjoy and catch a glimpse into what this experience has been like thus far.  I thank you for reading and will try with greater effort to put these experiences and thoughts into words to share with those interested in reading them...

 'So, it's been a week.  And what a week.  After arriving in Dahab for a few days of re-coup, several friends and myself headed out for a sunrise hike of Mt. Sinai.  As we drove through the midnight desert, pitch black darkness brought out equally bright stars.  We took turns leaning our heads out the large side van windows, holding on to the luggage rack as we dangled in awe under the canopy of stars.  From horizon to horizon a bright white dusty band connected the two skies.  Our own galaxy smiling back at us.  We all lay in amazement.  Thinking about this moment.  Just a moment.  And yet, there are innumerable moments.  But in this moment, there was such depth, such magnificence, experience simply overflowed, as if a gallon were poured into a cup.
     As our two hour ride under a starry night sky came to an end, we were greeted with tour buses on all sides, coming from all countries, all faiths & all ages.  Devout and curious alike, lines of tourists began making their way in droves with guides leading, modern torches lit, towards the "camel path", a slight incline ramp wrapping around the mountain were many prefer the camel's labor to their own, culminating in a 700 foot mountainside stairway.  A 1 am hike with tons of youth church groups.  So much for serenity.
    Then we met our guide.  Quite and kind.  Before we set off on our hike we mention to our guide that we'd like to take the "Steps of Repentance", a travel book recommendation I read about.  He look surprised.  He repeated our statement to us in the form of a question.  I answered, "Yes please."  He nodded and we walked on, veering to the right and breaking away from the lot.  We begin climbing a much steeper incline... alone.  3000 steps carved out by 5th Century Orthodox monks living at St. Katherine's Monastery, nestled at the base of the mountain, built around what is believed to be the "burning bush" of the Exodus story, where twelve monks still reside today, a site we were privileged to take in after our descent six hours later.  Following the sandals of Massud, our soft spoken guide, the five of us climbed straight up the side of Mt. Sinai for almost two hours.  Complete silence.  Complete solitude.  Complete awe.  There simply aren't words.  So I won't try.  But I can offer a picture.  Boulders as big as time is old.  The Milky Way pouring out of the jagged shadowy mountain horizon, reaching across the entire night sky, like a starry rainbow.  Thighs that burned with repentance and knees that tightened like rubber-bands.  And silence.  Active silence. 
     As we reached the top there were several other groups, the 'fast' camel path walkers.  Our serenity was being chipped away.  During the final ascent we were pretty well mixed in with several other groups, flashlights intertwined like strings of dots connecting the top to where we found ourselves.  Once we reached the top and groups began to congregate, our guide asked us if we wanted to be "with lots of other people" or "alone".  That was literally his question.  When we quickly opted for the latter, he took us 'his' way, down some very narrow, very ancient stairs, and over several large boulders, away from the crowd out onto a rock ledge just big enough for the five of us, jetting out far enough to the north for an unobstructed view of the east.  I'm sure our dreams would have come far short.  
     We all huddled together, wrapped in blankets (3 am on top of a desert mountain) and we laid together in awe, of the hike we just experienced and the stars we were now laying under.  In awe of the the life that we are each living.  That we have each been given.  Given has never been more clear.  I was actively trying to experience, as much as I was able, knowing that with every breath something was absolutely escaping me.  I was, by definition, overwhelmed.  Left in a state of complete, thoughtless awe.  Laying, side by side with friends I did not know three weeks ago but now cannot imagine not knowing in the future, under the brightest night sky I've ever seen, waiting for sunrise to reach Sinai.

A brief cold restless hour and a half and the east began to grow brighter and brighter.  As the mountaintop began to stir with the whispers and clamors of excited pilgrims, we rose to greet this day, on top of Mt. Sinai.  After several minutes of anticipation, the sun pierced the horizon and rose steady, sweeping over the majestic barren desert mountain range between us.  Celebration.  We greeted the day in ways most fitting of ourselves, with hugs and cheers, pictures and laughs.  But there were other people on the mountain as well.  And they were greeting this day in ways most fitting for their lives.  I was first struck by the cries and wails of the Nigerian Evangelicalists, wrapped in all white robes, lamenting with melodies I simply cannot produce but yet recognize deep within myself.  I climbed up from our privileged place of solitude and found clusters of people embracing this morning on Sinai.   As I looked to my right there were Nigerians, dressed like angels, lining the walls at the edge the cliff, getting as close to the sun as is humanly possible on this mountain.  I looked to my left and saw three people huddled together in a sitting circle, hands held, bibles in lap.  A father, his daughter (maybe 17), and a woman in her mid-thirties appearing to have a platonic relationship with both.  They were gathered in a small circle, hand in hand, each taking turns praying, each with precise intention and emphasis.  The man began to pray in a muffled quiet while the background echoed with the cries of the Nigerians releasing their souls atop this 'holy' ground.  As he prayed his face clinched, his hands doing the same, a feeling instantly shared by his daughter and their relative, and tears began to stream down his cheeks as his prayer grew more vehement.  They appeared to be either in mourning or desperation.  As I tried to take in this scene, the depth of meaning for everyone involved, the different expressions of "holiness", a Japanese tourist family walked by me, smiling cordially, quite amused by all the antics.  I thought, "This is either the epicenter.  Or a vortex."  
      Also amused by the Nigerians were the several "mountain boys" who make their living off renting you blankets, thin mats, selling you coffee, candy or sweatshirts on top of the mountain.  Sitting with several of their buddies, smoking cigarettes while on break before having to lead everyone back down the mountain again, they sit and enjoy the Nigerian Evangelicals wailing and singing, hallelujahs rising sharply out of African cadence.  And here I stand.  In the middle of all these people, taking one step to the left and one step to the right, admiring and trying to understand the pronounced diversity huddled around the top of this single mountain, a mountain among countless other mountains, surrounded by several taller mountains.  But this is a 'holy' mountain.  And as I stood on this "holy" mountain, limp camera in hand, I felt overwhelmed and slightly out of place, yet at the same time feeling there was never a better moment to connect.  So I walked back down to where my friends had remained, passing them by as one did yoga, another meditating while two others slept, and I walked out onto a ledge on the other side of the mountain.  Isolated and hovering over vast space below.  There I sat, silence wrapping itself around every existent thing.  Here I offered what I had to offer.  Celebrated what I had to celebrate.  And mourned what I had to mourn.  And it was here that I felt connected.  Connected with myself.  This moment.  And this life.'

Friday, June 26, 2009

... And now for Egypt

    So it's been a very crazy and exciting week, thus to lack of posting.  After completing the Livnot trip on Sunday, which was such an incredible experience, myself and several friends headed down to Tel Aviv for an evening on the Mediterranean.  As with the best travel plans, we had none.  No place to stay, only friends of friends we could contact in hopes something would work out.  As the sun was setting on the sea and an impromptu modeling shoot broke out (see images here finally something gave way and we had a place to stay.  Our very good friend Tehila contacted a good friend of hers and her brother, who had never met Tehila, invited us into his home (four of us mind you) for as long as we needed.  His roommate moved out of his room to make way for us and slept on the couch.  As you can see, the giving atmosphere here is incredible.  So now we find ourselves with access to a beautiful apartment in the middle of Tel Aviv.  Got to love serendepitous travels.
     So we got our Egyptian visas, which took 24 hours, and spent the second day wandering the old city of Jaffa.  We walked through the extensive Shuk (marketplace) and met some incredible people.  We finished the afternoon off with a swim in the Mediterranean and then headed back to the apartment for a final meal with our hosts and then a late night bus ride to Eilat, the southern most city in Israel and the equivalent of Las Vegas.  
      We arrived in Eilat around 6 am, got a hostel and spent the afternoon in the Red Sea.  The next morning we got up and headed to Jordan to enjoy Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world.  After haggling and dealing with quite pushy Jordanian men, we arrived at Petra, for no cheap price unfortunately, and wandered through the ancient ruins for the afternoon.  Needless to say, it was incredible.  It's where they filmed Indiana Jones, the Last Crusade, for those that remember.  Unreal.  
        We left Petra that afternoon, headed back to Israel, crossed back into Israel, caught and cab and then crossed the border into Egypt.  Three countries, one day.  Only the Middle East.  So the evening was spent, once again, haggling and dealing with Arabic men who have little patience for our lack of Arabic language, understandably.  We arrived in Dhaba, a beautiful beach town in Sinai, late last night.  Such a long and exhausting day.  Never been so dirty.  Never been so tired.
        Woke up this morning to the bluest water I've ever seen and calls to prayer ringing from Minarets in every corner of the horizon.  Dhaba has some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world, so this afternoon we went snorkeling and verified that fact.  The place is a bit touristy, but the locals are incredibly kind and welcoming of Americans.  They love Barack Obama, that's for sure.  
       So our plan for now is to relax in Dhaba, enjoy Shabbat and then climb Mt. Sinai on Monday or Tuesday.  After Mt. Sinai, it will be on to Cairo and the pyramids.  As you might imagine, this trip is a little too much to process while experiencing it, but there's definitely a perpetual feeling of being completely overwhelmed by everything.  The sights, the sounds, the people, the culture, and just the incredible opportunity to experience this.  My travel companions are amazing guys, both unique in their own ways.  An actor and a surfer.  Entertaining,  down to earth, and hilarious.  
      For those that have been following, sorry I haven't been able to update more often.  It's a bit tough to find internet readily available.  Hope this finds you all well and thanks for reading along. 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sun Sets on Another Week

        I currently find myself in a town that escapes description but begs to be experienced, every back alley way, every person, every shop and artistic community begging to be explored.  The town is called Tzfat.  It's a quaint semi-magical (that's an understatement) town where almost everything is made of limestone.  The people operate on a different level of consciousness, quite blatantly and unabashedly.  There is no rush, there is no hurry, anyone will stop and talk and deep spirituality is at the core of almost everything here.  We've met with potters, kabbalists artists, painters, Middle Eastern scholars, Arab Israelis and we've listened.  Every day is filled with so much information, so much sensory stimulation, so much to think about that Shabbat could not come soon enough.  The town is now completely silent as Shabbat is only hours away.  All the shops closed hours ago, people wishing one another a good Shabbos, and a calm peace has swept over the entire town.  I'm sitting on the balcony of an ancient building looking over the slopes of the Galilee, watching the sun draw nearer to the hills and I can't help but think how much "better" this feels than the alternative.  The rush, the distraction, the plans and expectations.  People here are fully here.  Many have left their homes in America and other parts of the world to live on this holy ground.  They speak with deep sincerity, listen with honest interest, and live with a highly cultivated sense of self awareness.  As I said when I started writing this... this place escape description, but begs to be experienced.
      I will leave Tzfat on Sunday, but only temporarily.  I have two friends that I have made on this Livnot trip that are going to Egypt with me.  We head to Tel Aviv on Sunday, get our visas for Egypt, and head down to Cairo, Giza and the Nile Valley for two weeks.  From there I am tentatively planning on doing some camping in a few Bedouin villages in Sinai, climbing Mount Sinai, and then meeting another friend I made on this trip, a commander in the Israeli army in Ber' Sheeba for a few days.  I have no idea what will follow that, but I plan to come back to Tzfat and work with Livnot, the community organization that brought me here, to do some work.  The excavate old ruins, teach english to kids, and many other community building programs.  The people are so inspiring, so steady in their pursuits that I'm sure it can only be a positive thing to spend more time here.  
      A brief summary of other things I've done, since internet has been a bit elusive.  We've hiked Masada (Herod's famous desert palace where the Jews had their last stand with the Romans), we've swam the Dead Sea, which is such a bizarre place, reeking of sulfur we bathed in mud and floated in minerals, we hiked Gamla, a historic Jewish village that was destroyed in 67 CE by the Romans in defense of Jerusalem, we hiked the Golan Heights swimming in fresh water springs and pools, we spent two days in the desert where I was one of the few who caught a violent stomach bug and spent the better part of a night getting painfully sick, we went to several Arab Israeli villages with a Middle East educator promoting co-existence and all the while learning so much history, music, dance, and general spirituality that I now find myself slightly exhausted and reeling from two weeks that have been like none other.  
     So this is the update.  I apologize that it doesn't read so light and humorous, but intensity is a bit more prominent at the moment as we reflect on the last two weeks.  I'm looking forward to this Shabbat in Tzfat and then on to Egypt.  Until then....

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Brief Summary

     Well, I'm not sure where to begin this entry.  The last week has been filled with so many intense and incredible events and experiences, processing them is sure to take much longer.  So, here are some of the highlights.  We celebrated Shabbat in Jerusalem, going to the Western Wall Friday evening.  We then went to various households throughout Jerusalem for Shabbat meal on Saturday.  Yesterday we went and hiked Masada, a mountain in the desert where Herod built a palace, but the Jews then used seventy years later as the place for their last stand against the Romans.  After hiking Masada, we went and floated in the Dead Sea.  It's incredible, you literal can't go under water if you try.  There is so much salt and so many minerals, because it's the lowest place on earth, that you just float.  
     Spending several days in Jerusalem was incredible.  Such an amazing city.  We're now up in the Golan Heights, going for a hike tomorrow through waterfalls.  The terrain here varies so drastically from place to place.  After two days here in the Golan, we'll be in Sfat for four days, an ancient town in the north where Kaballah came to fruition.  
     Needless to say, these postings are a bit scattered and not as coherent as I normally write; an indication of my thought process.  Israel is intense on just about every level, so trying to write about it while being completely immersed in it is a bit disorienting.  The people are incredible, the youth are full of purpose.  Anyway, this has the tone of rambling at this point so I'll sign off here.  Thanks for reading.  

Monday, June 8, 2009

Old City, New to Me

      So this posting is going to be brief, primarily because I'm so tired my fingers can barely move.  After a long flight, which began with me thinking myself fortunate for having landed an aisle seat but things quickly shifted a bit more nightmarish as the Jewish version of Jon & Kate plus.... that's right..... 8 came and sat in the row next to me, I finally landed in Tel Aviv at 8 am this morning.  The tantrums of a teething toddler and, we'll just say, very "liberally" parented children left little chance for sleep.  But no worries.  We pushed on and before the day had ended I found myself in the old city of Jerusalem, taking in the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock.  Two incredibly iconic and deeply moving places to see.  I look forward to going back several more times, when crowds are thinner and silence more near.  This place really is amazing.  If you think New York is stacked on top of itself, you should see Jerusalem, the epitome of invaluable real estate. 
     Tonight I'm going out with some friends into the new city, then a day of hiking tomorrow in the hills and woods of Jerusalem.  There are several Israeli military officers hanging out, so getting to talk to them has been fascinating.  Discipline is a far greater currency here I can already see.  
    I hope to have some images to share in the next few days.  Until then... 

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Preliminary Post

    At the request of concerned family and curious friends I will be posting blogs throughout my travels in the Middle East this summer.  I leave June 7th and hope to return August 31st.  Here's to hoping...
    I'll be posting updates and images from my travels, so check back when the time comes.  Until then, happy living...