Friday, October 5, 2012

My Journey Through Israel

Danny Yoffee –
My Journey Through Israel
Continental Flight # CO84

Depart Newark, NJ January 2, 2011 3:55 p.m.
Arrive Tel Aviv, Israel January 3, 2011 9:15 a.m.

Depart Tel Aviv, Israel January 15, 2011
Arrive Newark, NJ January 16, 2011

Sent: Mon, Jan 3, 2011 5:53 PM

After a direct flight from Newark that took about 10 hours we arrived in Tel Aviv.  We boarded a 16- passenger bus that will be with us for the entire trip. After a stop for lunch at a restaurant called Dimona and later at a roadside memorial we arrived at Kibbutz Samar.  It was started in 1976.  Samar is also the name of a plant that grows in the Arava Desert near the Dead Sea.  

 Sand Dunes at Samar
(C) Daniel Yoffee Photography
There are 40 families living in Samar.  It is one of the few kibbutzim, which continue to maintain a lifestyle consistent with the original socialist ideas of the Kibbutz movement.  Their primary source of revenue is growing and exporting organic dates.  They have been cultivated in the Middle East for the past 6,000 years.

Sent: Jan 4, 2011 8:47 PM

Samar Date Plantation
(C) Daniel Yoffee Photography

We had a great breakfast at the Samar Date plantation that is run by the kibbutz and met with Nirit who works there who took us forty feet high in a date picker machine so we could see and photograph over the date trees.  There are about 7000 date palms on the plantation, which need 66,000 gallons of water a year for irrigation.  The water is recycled water brought in from the city of Eliat at the Red Sea.  We then met Digi Deke, a professional photographer who works on the plantation and lives in Samar. 

Improving Your Eye
(C) Daniel Yoffee Photography
After lunch and a half hour nap we met Raz who makes furniture in his workshop, which the kibbutz sells and uses in their homes.  We then met an Ethiopian Jewish artist and her family. She showed us a house, called a Tukul, an Ethiopian hut, which she is building, that is just like the one that she grew up in to have Israeli children come to visit.  It uses simple building techniques and makes excellent use of natural resources.  She also shared her artwork with us. 

We then took a short walk to see what is called a solar power farm.  It is the world’s first solar/gas hybrid power plant with solar reflector panels that provide power to Kibbutz Samar.  Then we stopped into see a beautiful house, which is insulated with hay and was constructed with many natural elements.  We them met Noga, a female artist who does most of the artistic tile work on the kibbutz.  She invited us for tea and desert.

Tree Shadows
(C) Daniel Yoffee Photography
After a two-hour break we headed off to dinner; then we met in the library to hear from Dr. Hanan Ginat an environmentalist who spoke of the geology of the Negev desert area, and Digi the photographer shared some of his black and white prints with us.  We then met to discuss the plans for tomorrow.  Tomorrow night we are staying in Petra.

Sent: Jan 5, 2011 2:59 PM

Glass Bottom Bloat
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography
This morning we had a very nice breakfast at the kibbutz.  We crossed the Jordan border around 11 a.m. local time.  It cost $45 for each person to cross through.  We met our tour guide for the next day and a half, Salach, who showed us around Aqaba, a coastal city in the far south of Jordan.  We had lunch at Al Mohandes, an Arab restaurant.  We were able to take photos of some of the locals and the street scenes.
The Photographer
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography

Later we arrived at our hotel called the Petra Taybet Zaman, located below the desert highway in the Taybet Mountains.  What was once an old Arab Village was transformed into a resort hotel while preserving its past.  We reached our destination with barely enough time to photograph the beautiful grounds of the hotel before darkness set in.  After dinner we explored further.

Sundown at Petra Taybet Zaman
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography
Tomorrow we go to Petra, which has been called the world’s most expensive tourist attraction.  It cost $130 per person.  I saw a wonderful Discovery channel program narrated by the King of Jordan.  It will be a two and a half-mile walk each way.  We will get back to Kibbutz Samar in time for dinner.

Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2011 9:16:00

Inside Out Petra – The Urn tomb, Petra
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography 
On the way to Petra we drove through Wadi Musa a Bedouin settlement and the nearest town to Petra.  We learned that the city of Petra attained it greatest importance under the Nabateans, an ancient people whose original homeland was in northeastern Arabia.  They migrated west during the 6th century BC, more than 2000 years ago.  It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabateans.

A Peek Through the Cracks
 - The Treasury, Petra
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography
Street of Facades – Petra, Jordan  
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography 
We are now on the way back to the Jordan border after spending most of the day in Petra. At one time it was home too as many as 30,000 people.  It was during this time that the most impressive structures of Petra were built.  Petra is called one of the seven new wonders of the world.  I wonder which one it has replaced. 

Mohammed, Donkey Handler,  Petra
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography 

Today I took a camel ride, and to escape the climb back to the visitor’s center we all ended up riding donkeys back to the bus. We just stopped at a Turkish gift shop where they treated us to coffee or tea.  I have taken over 1000 pictures so far. It is been a lot of fun. On the bus we had the Jordanian guide singing Hebrew songs.

Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2011 20:50:28

Tree Planting In Memory of Alan – Kibbutz Samar
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography 

Today we met at 7:30 am near the front of the Kibbutz so I could plant a tree in memory of Alan. Two others shared another tree in memory of a mom and in honor of a new grandson. 

Spiral Hill, Timna Park(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography 

Joe - Exploring Timna
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography
After breakfast we drove down the road to Timna National Park.  It has beautiful landscapes, rock formations, ancient copper mines and fossils.  Joe Nissim was our guide for the day.  He explained the rock formations and plants.  We learned that many of the formations were shaped by centuries of wind and water erosion.  We had a picnic lunch.  We hiked for a few hours.  I went up one of the short mountain ranges.

Textile Merchant – Eliat Beach Boardwalk  
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography
Then we went to Eliat, Israel’s southernmost city, a busy port and a popular resort, located at the northern tip of the Red Sea.  It is across the river from Jordan.  We were able to drive along the coast and see the border crossing into Egypt.  We walked along the boardwalk area.

Tonight, back at the kibbutz, we went to a Kabbalat Shabbat, which is a service to welcome the Sabbath, in the home of our guide Rachel’s sister.  We then went to the dining room for dinner. Instead of a lot of different salads we had meat.  I stuffed myself.

Tomorrow we leave at 7 a.m. for a visit to Masada National Park.  When we come back to the kibbutz we have been invited to a dairy farm.

Date: Sat, 8 Jan 2011 20:54:11

Lot's Wife
(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography
This morning we met for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and then left for Masada, which is about a two and a half hour, drive.  On the way we passed Saddam and saw Lott’s wife in the mountain.  We passed Storm Mountain, which is made out of salt. 

Masada, a site of ancient palaces and fortifications, is very impressive, as one person said awesome.  It is over 1000 feet above sea level and is located near the western shore of the Dead Sea, which it overlooks.  `We went to the top by cable car where we could look down on the remains of the Roman camps from the time of the siege. We spent about two and a half hours there.  I spent a lot of time walking around the Kings northern palace.  

The Highest Point - The Top of Masada(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography 

Afterward we had lunch at a beach at Ein Gedi at the shore of the Dead Sea, the lowest place in the world.  It is about 1,300 feet below sea level.  The water level has dropped severely over the past twenty years.  We saw only two people floating since it was a very cool day. 

On the way back to the kibbutz we stopped at an ice cream/market place, which gets a lot of its dairy items from Kibbutz Samar.  Once we got back to the kibbutz a few of us took a tour of the dairy farm and met a number of the cows.  Each cow has a computer chip placed around his or her neck, which is read by a computer and opens the feeding machine only when it is time to eat.

Column and Fresco Panels,  Masada(c) Daniel Yoffee Photography  
This is will be our last night at the kibbutz. It is been a fun and educational week. The families have computers but do not have wireless and no video game systems.  Many families went out of their way to host us.  It has been a wonderful experience. 

Tomorrow we are on the way to Jerusalem.  We will stay there for three nights.  On the way we will stop at another kibbutz to take a tour that is not open to the public.

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