May 30, 2007

Visitors, plenty to tell

Dear all,

I feel quite talkative tonight, because I've had visitors from abroad who gave me both the opportunity to tour places I would not have been to normally, and understand what is astonishing here, what I like, etc.

Safed, Nazareth, Tiberias, Ein Gedi, Bethlehem, the beach in Tel Aviv: places I would not have thought of visiting by myself!

I'm scheduled to visit Hebron this Friday with a group from Shovrim Shtika.

My spoken Hebrew for casual conversation and to listen to the news are improving nicely, but I yet have to start reading the newspapers at a reasonable speed and with a reasonable percentage of known words. A handheld electronic dictionary from Babylon may help, their software version is good (although the Hebrew is not vocalized so it's not really fit for beginners).

Today we had a sharav (hazy day) but pretty cool.

So what about those visitors. A coincidence made three of my friends book flights to visit Israel and your servant at almost identical dates. I took the opportunity to rent a car and together we first drove to the Galilee, where we visited briefly Safed (Zefat), spent some time running into closed churches in Nazareth, arrived at Capernaum just in time to turn around because it was closed, and finally landed on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a.k.a. the Kinnereth. Our next expedition was the dead Sea: while I worked half a day, my visitors climbed to Massada (well... climbed with the help of the cable car, but the temperatures are really high these days) and we met afterwards for a dip in the cool waters of Wadi David and some floating on the Dead Sea at Ein Gedi! It was the first time I floated on water, and with the view of the mountains of Moab (Jordan), I must say it was one of the best experience in my life, on par with swimming in the Mekong.

Water being the symbol of both life and death of course according to Freud, it is not a surprise that great experience comes from our interaction with water. Why did I write this?

Our last excursions involved Tel Aviv for a bit of avant-garde art, a touch of trendy bars and a lot of sunbathing and a dip in our third sea in a week.

Sounds like I was on vacation too, doesn't it?

Bethlehem was very interesting, I would never have been there by myself, but it's not complicated after all: an East-Jerusalem bus from the Damascus Gate to the wall/checkpoint outside Bethlehem, go through the checkpoint and then walk or take a cab. It was actually my first time in the Palestinian territories, outside of Jewish settlements and roads. I enjoyed it: we had a nice walk in the town, visited the Church of the Nativity and were greeted very kindly by most people.

The checkpoint and the wall are of course important "details". The wall is of dark grey concrete with a big gate for cars. One gets the impression of entering a prison. The part of the wall we saw meanders between houses, a few meters from their windows.
The checkpoint is a mix of a swimming pool's locker room and an airport security check... well, I guess that's a bit of an understatement, it's more like a high-security prison if you get searched thoroughly... I expected the checkpoint to be a line in the open-air but it's more like a modern workshop.

Thanks to my friends, I've also discovered my cinema on Emek Refaim street: Smadar has a good choice of movies, a friendly atmosphere and excellent vegetarian food!

No comments: