June 2005 Israel photos
Our experience in Israel was, as one might expect, quite different from our experiences in the other Middle Eastern countries we visited. While there are ancient sites in Israel (notably, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Masada), there is much more that is new - whole cities that didn't exist 50 years ago, and even in old places, new problems and new interpretations. This Adventure chronicles our tours and explorations in Israel, more or less in the order we experienced them, though we "did" Israel twice (once with Jessica Burshell, once with Carol Robinson) so we've combined our impressions from the two visits.

One advantage we had in Israel is that we had friends there, so we were able to stay in the homes of Israelis and discuss our experiences and impressions with them. Other Israelis were very welcoming, too: we were invited to the homes of two families we'd never met before coming to Israel, and Jessica and Rob were invited by an Israeli sailmaker to race with him on his 40-foot sailboat. That also meant having drinks and dinner with him, his family, and his crew, with lots of discussion about everything from sailing to politics. All this close contact gave us insights into the culture and politics of the country that we simply couldn't get in, say, Turkey or Lebanon.

First, some overall impressions about the country: Oddly enough, the thing we noticed first in Israel was that the signs and product labels were almost exclusively in Hebrew, with few translations into other languages. This was in striking contrast to, say, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, where many signs have English or French translations as well as (or in place of) the local language. The lack of English translations in Israel was particularly striking to us because we had naively assumed that with that country's strong ties to the UK and the US, lots of signs and labels would be in English. Admittedly, the main Israeli road signs were in Hebrew, Arabic and transliterated Hebrew, and some store names were in English or Russian in addition to Hebrew; but most other signs were exclusively in Hebrew, as were almost all food labels. This latter factor made grocery shopping a real pain. We were often reduced to looking at the pictures on labels to decide what was in the packages, or asking an Israeli shopper. (Most Israelis do speak English, as it's taught in school from about the 3rd grade, and there's the huge influence of English-language TV and movies.)

The second strongest overall impression we got is that Israeli Palestinians (whom the Jews call "Arabs") are segregated and marginalized. Arab dress is rarely seen on the streets (outside the souks or Arab markets), except of course in Arab towns, where the only non-Arabs are driving through in cars, or at most stopping for a falafel. Awareness about non-Jewish Israelis in the area around Tel Aviv was essentially nil, even though Arabs (including Bedouins) make up almost 20% of the overall population. One instance: there's a very good beer called Taybeh, made near Ramallah in the Palestinian West Bank. Although Taybeh is readily available in Jerusalem (where restaurants commonly serve it as their premium beer), our yachting friends in Tel Aviv had never heard of it, and in fact they unanimously maintained we must be mistaken, because no good beer could conceivably be made on the West Bank! Special laws bar Israeli Arabs from the Army and limit the amount of government support they receive, compared to Jews. If this were any other country, this contempt for and segregation of an ethnic minority would be declared "apartheid" in the US, and soundly condemned.

The wall that Israel is building through the West Bank is an extreme manifestation of the Israeli apartheid policy. It is huge, ugly, and intrusive, and runs almost the entire length of the West Bank territory. The wall is by no stretch of the imagination a "fence", as the Israeli government calls it - in most places, it's made of concrete some 30 feet high, with razor wire on top and periodic prison-style guard posts from which Israeli soldiers can look (and presumably, shoot) down onto the Palestinians. Of course, we knew that the wall does not run down the border of the occupied territory, but we hadn't realized that it winds around Palestinian towns such as Bethlehem, cutting the inhabitants off from the rest of the West Bank, and frequently cutting farmers off from their own fields or olive groves. The economic effect is, of course, devastating, and the psychological impact is awful. We know perhaps 200 cruisers who came to Israel, either with the EMYR or on their own, and, with the exception of one boat whose owner is contemplating making an aliya, we have yet to hear a positive comment from them about Israeli actions toward the Palestinians. Many of these cruisers went to Israel either with positive feelings for Israel or at least open minds, and for many, the sight of that wall so turned them off that they no longer support Israeli policies.

Unfortunately, opponents of the wall extend their antagonism to the US, because of our strong support of Israel and presumably its policies. In many places, the wall has been stenciled "Built with US dollars - Israeli Apartheid."

Israel has some major internal problems, independent of (or at least separate from) the conflict with the Palestinians. One such problem is the conflict between the minority of ultra-conservative religious Jews and the rest of the Jewish population, which is overwhelmingly secular. As elsewhere, extremists sometimes drive policy, or at least prevent the government from carrying out reasonable policies. For many Jewish extremists, Israel's right to exist, and its rights to land in Palestine, are not matters of UN resolutions, international agreements, or even treaties signed by Israel. In their minds, all Israeli rights derive from God's Covenant. So, this gives Israelis the right to build seafront homes in Gaza, or walls in the West Bank, or vineyards in the Golan Heights, even if the Israeli government has never claimed those territories - because God told them they could. This wouldn't be a huge problem if either the Labor or Likud parties could hold a majority in the Knesset; but unfortunately they can't, and so the two major parties must either form a coalition with each other (as at present) or form a coalition with some of the ultraconservative religious parties. Such coalitions give the small parties disproportionate power and lead to concessions, such as the law that ultraconservative religious youth need not serve in the Israeli Army, or that more settlements can be built in areas that the government knows will have to go to the Palestinians if peace is to be achieved. At one point in our travels, a former Minister of the Interior was pointed out to us; it turns out he was convicted of stealing millions of dollars from the Israeli government - not for himself or his friends, but to funnel to extremist Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. He's out of jail now, and back in the Knesset.

One other striking feature of Israel, to us at least, is its apparent affluence. Tall skyscrapers grace the Tel Aviv skyline, and its streets are lined with upscale shops. Malls abound, everybody seems to have at least one car, and business is bustling. We had heard that the last 5 years of intefada had impoverished the country, but there's no sign of it that we can see - we've seen more closed-up stores and restaurants in cities and towns in the US than we saw in Israel. This prosperity is a bit disorienting, when one considers that aid to Israel makes up approximately one-third of the American foreign-aid budget. Somehow, we expected the people we give tax money to would be, well, not quite as rich as this. Of course, we don't give money to Israel to provide welfare for the populace, but to defend the country against neighboring countries and against terrorists. Still, the Israelis seem prosperous enough that one would think they could raise some money to reduce our contribution to that fight.


Our first port of call was Haifa, Israel. Unfortunately, the harbor where we stayed, though within sight of the city, was 20 miles or so from the city by road, and not serviced by public busses. We did manage to get into town by a combination of rides from friends, busses, and taxis, but were not very impressed by what we saw. Haifa has no ancient past (its oldest sections date from the German Knights Templar, whose trading houses were built during the 1800s). The central city is pretty nondescript, outside the huge Bahai Temple and gardens, which are really spectacular, and the port, which is pretty much like ports everywhere. Haifa is the most northerly large city in Israel, and some prominent citizens told us the city has high hopes of becoming the port through which goods from and to Jordan will flow. Pipelines and highways are being constructed for this purpose; all that is needed is peace between the two countries.

There is an ancient city nearby: Akko (ancient Acre), across the large bay from Haifa. We took a bus tour there during the EMYR, and were so interested in it that we returned when Carol was visiting. During the Crusades, Richard the Lionhearted made Acre his stronghold and headquarters, and the city was capital of the Crusader Kingdom for about 100 years thereafter. Upon its overthrow, its conquerors filled the halls of all of the Crusader buildings with dirt and debris, and then built new buildings over them. Today, those Crusader structures have been excavated and are being reconditioned, with Unesco World Heritage assistance. It was fascinating to see, especially with our new-found knowledge of Crusader fortresses gained from Crac des Chevaliers in Syria.

Acre is only about 20 miles south of the border with Lebanon, and we went to the point where the border meets the sea. The border is totally closed and very sobering. Of course we all ignored the "no photographs" signs, swallowing hard at the automatic weapons toted by teen-aged soldiers, and snapped away at the heavy metal gates and barbed wire. Through these, we could see the UN guardhouse and its gates (the blue-hats guard a no man's land between the two countries), and beyond that, the Lebanese guard-posts. We all thought hard about all the words of desire for peace we'd been hearing from all sides.

At the border, we saw a busload of tourists sitting around gawking at the barriers and at the deep-blue sea below. One of these tourists, a teen-age girl, was toting an automatic rifle, slung barrel-downward over her shoulder. This sight of civilians casually carrying automatic rifles and machine pistols around with them turned out to be a fairly common one all over Israel, but we never really got used to it. Some of the gun-toting civilians were soldiers, who are required to carry their rifles with them when they go home on leave; others were hired guards (many tourist busses have one or two armed guards aboard, to reassure the foreigners, though we couldn't imagine what they thought the guards would do to protect them against, say, a suicide bomber); and others are simply citizens. Nobody but us seemed to notice these people, and we have no idea how they cope with the security procedures to enter buildings - every mall, supermarket, and public building is guarded (plus parking lots, where guards routinely check every car's trunk), and we went through metal detectors and/or wand checks everywhere. Presumably, the gun-toting part of the population has permits; but how easy would it be to steal or forge such a permit, walk into a crowded building, and blast away? Or just walk into a crowded square in Tel Aviv and do the same?

Actually, we were surprised overall at the laxness of Israeli security, especially considering the number of people engaged in that activity. One guard asked Rob, as he entered the mall at Herzliya, "Are you carrying a gun?" When Rob said no, the guard gestured him through! Later in our stay in Israel, we drove our rental car to the airport. The guard at the entrance to the parking lots and terminal area didn't ask for identification or even look in the trunk (as guards at Israeli parking lots and shopping centers commonly do). Instead, he asked "Everything all right?" We assured him it was, and he waved us through.

Our next stop after Haifa was the city of Ashkelon, at Israel's south end, now just 10 miles north of the Gaza strip. The Israeli government was preparing to withdraw from Gaza, and this issue was very hot, politically. We kept noticing cars with orange streamers on their antennas, and learned that this was the symbol of opposition to the turnover of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. Several times, youths approached us with bundles of orange ribbons, clearly asking us to display them from our car antenna. Further away from Gaza, we began to see more and more blue and white streamers, symbolizing support for disengagement, but still, we'd guess that less than a quarter of cars on the road were displaying any ribbons of any color.

Ashkelon is one of those new Israeli cities and doesn't have much to say for itself. (Well, it did exist in biblical times, but was abandoned and the modern city was only re-established in the 1950's.) Of late, it's seen a huge influx of Russian immigrants, as has Israel in general, but more seem to have come to Ashkelon. (We're using the generic Russian as the Israelis do, to mean people from all of those former SSRs.) Many signs are in Russian as well as Hebrew. The reaction from long-tem Israeli residents to this Russian invasion is rather mixed. On the one hand, they are somewhat resentful and vaguely racist - reminding us of some Americans' reactions to Puerto Ricans in the 1960's. The resentment stems partly from the substantial government assistance that new immigrants receive: 6 months of free Hebrew instruction and job-search support, 2 years of subsidized housing, and 2 years relief from income tax. On the other hand, Russians are welcome because these immigrants tend to have large families - at least larger than most Israelis. Israeli Arabs, including the Bedouin, have very large families (10 children on average, we were told, though this is probably an exaggeration), so without the Russian influx, the population of Israel is fast becoming Arab. The recent Russian influx will delay the "crossover", when non-Jews will outnumber the Jews in this Jewish state, by 20 years.

We used Ashkelon as a staging area to go to the Dead Sea and Masada, again by tour bus. We were lucky to have an excellent guide, a former Ministry of Tourism mucky-muck. As we ascended the mountains that separate the coast from the Dead Sea and Negev Desert the vegetation and population thinned and the soil turned from rich reddish-brown to grayish tan. In the mountains, there are some huge pine forests planted by kids and the National Forest Funds, but mainly the land is extremely arid and rocky. We crossed the ridge dividing the Dead Sea valley from the Mediterranean drainage, and began descending, passing sea level and continuing down until the Dead Sea was visible below us at - 417 meters, or 1,373 feet, below sea level. The sea itself was pale blue and hazy, backed by the mountains of Jordan in the distance. The southern part of the Dead Sea is divided into flats, where minerals are mined. Interestingly, salt (as in table salt) isn't one of them, but magnesium and potassium are. Another interesting fact is that because the atmospheric layer is so thick this far below sea level, there's very little danger of sunburn there, even for fair-skinned people.

Today's Dead Sea today is much smaller than it used to be, and it continues to shrink. Due to heavy use of the Jordan River for irrigation, the shallow southern end of the Dead Sea would be dry if the Israelis and Jordanians didn't pump water into it from the deeper (i.e., 3 meter deep) northern part. They do this in order to evaporate the water and collect the minerals from it. There has been talk for years about bringing water from the Mediterranean or Red Sea to restore the former level of the Dead Sea, but nothing has come of it so far.

Andi did the obligatory Dead Sea float (Rob elected not to try it). It's a very strange sensation to feel off-balance in water! You float so high that on your back, you're half out of the water and can easily raise your arms or legs without going under. If you try to roll to your stomach, your butt immediately bobs up and threatens to put your head underwater, something you definitely want to avoid. The salt content is over six times higher than in most seas, and you're advised not to shave for a day before going in, because the saltiness burns tender skin. The water was warm and felt rather greasy, and you could see the density. It wasn't unpleasant, but it certainly wasn't particularly enjoyable, and was rather weird. Ten minutes was plenty, then a shower. Later, Andi slathered on lots of lotion because her skin still felt so dry. (Note from Rob: Even after writing this description of her own experience, Andi wonders why I didn't do it!)

The highlight of our tour, though, was Masada, a mesa on the edge of the Dead Sea. Its top is 440 m above the Dead Sea (just above sea level), and it's surrounded by deep gorges. Masada was the site of a grand palace/fortress built by Herod the Great (father of the Herod we know from the Bible), but it's known and revered because at the end of the Jewish Rebellion, in 72 CE, it was a refuge for about 1,000 Zealots, a Jewish rebel cult. The Romans, deciding to eradicate this little node of resistance to their rule, besieged Masada with some ten to fifteen thousand troops and slaves. They established eight camps at the base of the Masada rock and surrounded it with a wall to prevent the Zealots from escaping during the night. But thanks to Herod, Masada had an ingenious system of aqueducts, cisterns and storehouses (still largely intact), enabling the Zealots to survive a long siege. When a yearlong siege didn't work, the Romans decided to build an earthen ramp up to the walls. That took about 3 months, and the ramp is still almost all there. When it became obvious that the Romans would overwhelm them, the Zealots decided to kill themselves rather than fall into Roman hands. Ten men chosen by lot killed everyone else and then committed suicide. When the Romans entered the fortress, they found only dead bodies.

It was very sobering to see those impressive cliffs and the siege ramp, over 1,000 feet high, and to imagine the state of mind of the Zealots as they watched their fate approach inexorably. Masada is highly symbolic to Israelis -- for many years, all members of the Israeli armed forces were inducted in ceremonies conducted here, swearing, "Masada shall not fall again."

(NOTE: Scholars differ on the details of the events of Masada. The only detailed account is by a contemporary Roman historian, Josephus, who wasn't actually there. He claimed the dramatic story of the Zealots' final moments came from a woman who had hidden herself and her children from the slaughter/suicide. Several aspects of his description raise doubts about its veracity, including the fact that he (and others) tell virtually the same suicide story about several other battles between large armies and overwhelmed forces, leading scholars to suspect it may have been a standard literary figure of the time. The eloquent and moving final speech by the leader of the Zealots, repeated often in modern Israeli texts and on monuments, was certainly written by Josephus, as even by his account no survivor heard it - the speech was addressed only to men, none of whom survived - and it is written in Josephus's florid style. Tellingly, the oldest Jewish history of that period, the Babylonian Talmud (550-700 CE), makes no mention of the Masada suicide. )

In ancient times, access to Masada was by a steep "Snake Path" from the Dead Sea side; today, there's a cable car. The ascent is breathtaking as the Dead Sea stretches out below, and the remains of the Roman camps and their walls are clearly visible. Excavations on the mountaintop have revealed Herod's sumptuous palace and fortresses, and their later adaptation for ordinary life by the Zealots. On many walls and buildings, archaeologists have painted a black line to indicate what was standing when they got there, and what has been reconstructed. How we wish other archeologists, from Granada in Spain to Palmyra in Syria, had been so considerate!

On our second visit to Masada, with Carol Robinson, we stayed at a nearby kibbutz, Ein Gedi, and Rob and Carol got up at 5 a.m. to hike about 45 minutes up the Snake Path, reaching the Masada plateau as dawn broke over the Dead Sea. They claimed the views and sunrise were worth it. Andi found the extra hours of sleep equally worthwhile.

After our first visit to Masada, we split with the rally, rented a car and headed up the coast to Tel Aviv for a visit with Hava and Dani Ronat, friends of Jessica's aunt, Sandy Burshell. Hava and Sandy met in Chicago as art students and have been good friends ever since. Hava is an artist now working with glass beads; her husband Dani, an engineer with Gold Star breweries, has also gotten involved in this technical and fascinating art form. We learned a lot from them about glass-bead manufacturing and jewelry marketing, as well as about Tel Aviv and Jaffa, as we walked along the waterfront of the two adjacent cities and
tasted our first falafel. This Israeli national dish consists of deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas and spices. It's usually served in a pita or wrap with tahini (a sauce made of sesame), tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and other condiments. Falafel is frequently sold from little shops staffed by 2 or 3 Arab short-order cooks, and eaten while standing on the street.

After showing us Jaffa, Hava and Dani took us on an evening tour of some of Tel Aviv's cultural sights, including the beautiful Golda Meir Performing Arts Center and adjacent Modern Art Museum. Even with no events going on, we could sense the elegance and vibrancy of the plazas. We also stopped at Rabin Square to see the monument to Yitzhak Rabin. The square itself is huge, but the monument is quite small and simple, and is surrounded by messages and posters from ordinary folks. Its simplicity was quite moving.
After spending the night with the Ronats, we drove north (almost back to Haifa) to the kibbutz of Yagur, where Danny Gertman's family lives (see our 2001 Adventure with Danny in the Caribbean). It just happened to be the weekend of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates Moses's decent from the Mount with the 10 Commandments. Somehow, Shavuat has morphed over the ages to a harvest celebration. So, after a nice lunch and an exciting off-road 4-wheeler drive up Mount Carmel with Danny's old buddy Asaf, we all went and sat in the grass in front of the temporary stage that had been erected in the main area of the kibbutz and watched a country parade. First came the big machines with which the kibbutzniks plow, plant and harvest their fields. Next came schoolkids bedecked with flowers and carrying all kinds of vegetables and fruits, followed by several rather amateur but touching stage acts, including a song and dance by mothers and their sub-teen daughters. The final show was a display of the 22 babies who had been born in the last year -- another kind of harvest!

After the show, we were treated to some fresh corn on the cob. Then the Gertman family drifted over to Danny's brother Gilad's house, where we (of course) ate again. Mimi, the classical Jewish Mother, all but said "Eat, eat; it's good for you." We loved it.

Even though we were there for less than two days, we got some feel for the advantages (and drawbacks) of life on the largest kibbutz in Israel. Yoav has lived in Yagur since he was a child - he delighted in telling us stories about finding freedom fighters and arms hidden in secret locations around the kibbutz during the 1940's, and proudly showed us where the large arms caches were hidden. He and Mimi, and two of their children, have really known no other life than the kibbutz. Everything is provided, from housing to regular meals in the dining hall (Sabbath excepted), to use of a car from the car pool, to a lifetime retirement pension. There's only one hitch: they cannot move from the kibbutz without losing those benefits, and of course they have no money of their own -- even employment off the grounds of the kibbutz is difficult to arrange. Some kibbutzniks rebel from this womb-like protection and go elsewhere; our friend Danny is wandering the world (he's currently in Japan, teaching English) and his friend Asaf has moved to a private house in a nearby town. Others, such as Danny's brother Gilad, enjoy the many benefits of kibbutz life - he and his wife and child live in a nice 3-bedroom house, with spacious lawn and garden, all provided by the kibbutz. He runs the kibbutz's nursery, which grows flowers and ornamental plants for 5-star hotels; his wife is a psychologist in the Army.

As the kibbutz has grown and prospered, its original focus - farming and horticulture - has changed. Some years ago, the kibbutz's canned fruit and vegetable production became so great that it was more economical to make the cans themselves rather than buying them from other manufacturers. At another point, the Yagur kibbutz entered into a partnership with a Japanese company to make plastic tube containers for everything from toothpaste to beverages. These pursuits are more profitable and less labor-intensive than farming, so over the years, as the amount of business increased and the population of the kibbutz didn't keep up, the kibbutz has dropped many of its farming efforts. They still grow a few chickens, but now buy eggs to feed the kibbutz residents. They still have a dairy farm, but huge computerized machines now do all the milking, and a handful of kibbutzniks care for the cows. The olive orchards still produce fine olives, but the olives are pressed by a nearby Arab facility, which takes a share of the oil in payment. The swimming pool and child-care facility are open to outside membership, and the botanical gardens are fully booked for Israeli weddings. A number of kibbutzniks work outside, and much of the farm work is done by paid (generally Arab) workers.

We visited the Gertmans twice: once with Jess for Shavuot, then again when Carol was with us. For the second trip, we didn't stay on the kibbutz. Instead, Yoav took us on a day-long tour of the Golan Heights. A botanist by avocation as well as profession, Yoav conducts tours for botanists from around the world, and seems to know the Golan like the back of his hand. He pointed out various plants and their importance as we drove mainly on secondary (or tertiary) roads, winding around, through, and past small hilltop villages. Yoav named each, told us a little of its past, and named its ethnicity: "that's a Druze village, that's an Israeli settlement, that village has ultra-orthodox Jews - see the Sabbath fence by the edge of the fields? They can walk to there on the Sabbath, but walking beyond the fence is considered to be work." For a while, we were driving along the barbed wire fence separating Israel and Lebanon. "From over there, the terrorists used to shoot with rocket launchers onto the village on the other side of the road. They also blew up a bus on this road, but it's quiet now," Yoav informed us. The fields on each side of the road were marked with signs warning "caution, unexploded mines." Perhaps we ought to have been frightened, but we felt safe in Yoav's hands.

We saw the sources of the Jordan River and as we climbed a ridge, came upon Nimrod's Castle, the final Crusader castle that we would see. It's not developed for tourism, so we just admired it from afar. It was held for a while by a Muslim sect called the Hashishin, after their founder "the old man of the mountain," who is said to have encouraged their daring exploits by feeding them hashish. Their name became corrupted to our word assassin, for their favorite tactic.

On to recent history. We passed Mt. Herman, Israel's highest peak, and a funny kibbutz near it where most houses look like Swiss chalets, and where they rent rooms to skiers in the winter. We then drove on a dirt road through some orchards to the top of Mt. Hermanet, a hill that Yoav commanded during the 7-day War. Near the top, we noted some abandoned tanks facing Syria. "We left them there," explained Yoav. "During the war we had only about 40 tanks up here and on the next hill. The Syrians came at us with 500 tanks in a line." He paused. "We lost a lot of men."

From atop the bunkers at the top of the hill, we had a sweeping view north-northeast to the flat valley of Syria. Yoav called it "The Valley where Bad Things Happen;" our Lonely Planet guide calls it the "Valley of Tears." "That's a good name," agreed Yoav. It was easy to imagine the sight of those Syrian tanks along that flat featureless land, and the horror they must have invoked in the outnumbered Israeli troops. Much like the Zealots watching the Romans built that ramp up to Masada!

In the valley is the abandoned Syrian village of Qunetra, once the Syrian capital of Golan. When Israel returned it to Syria in 1974, it was in total ruins. Rather than fix it, the Syrians built a replacement town nearby and left Qunetra as a silent reminder of the ferocity of the war (or of the Israelis). There's a Syrian army outpost close by it. We could clearly see the border, or "Disengagement Zone" as the UN calls it, marked as it is by parallel fences around the UN-patrolled no-man's land (and, bizarrely, the border itself: a dotted white line painted right down the middle of the road through the no-man's land). Turning 180 degrees from the barren desert of Syria, we looked southwest over the Golan. The difference was striking: To the southwest, in Israel (well, in Israeli-occupied Golan), the land was green, cultivated, planted and irrigated, fully used and productive.

Before our tour ended, we descended along the southern edge of the Golan to the Sea of Galilee. Like the Dead Sea, it's also below sea level, but "only" 200 meters below. It's actually a lake, called Kenneret by the Israelis, formed by the Jordan and 2 other rivers, and the source of about 1/3 of Israel's water. Aside from its many Biblical (mainly New Testament) associations, today it's a popular resort area, and a lovely sight as you come down from the mountains.

We were overcome by the sights we had seen and the insights we had gained from this very special tour and our very special tour guide.

The remaining major feature of our Israeli trip was, of course, Jerusalem. But that center of religion and conflict deserves a story of its own -- see Jerusalem.

(See our photos accompanying this Adventure)