zaterdag 30 november 2013

30th November, Shabbat, Akko, Ivar Lokhorst

30th November, Shabbat, Akko, Ivar Lokhorst

The fourth official day of the Wetskills program, and our free day for its Shabbat. Shabbat is the weekly day of for the Jewish, and therefore nearly the entire city is shut down. Shops close, busses are out of order and working is really not done. Today everyone was able to do whatever he wanted, but most of us went to Akko, a harbour village close to Haifa.

At 10 am seven of us left for Akko, and three decided to stay in the area. Because it’s Shabbat most busses were out of order, and only the Arabic ones could bring us to Akko. After sunbathing at the bus stop for half an hour the bus finally appeared and we headed off to downtown Haifa where we could switch to a minibus that could take us to Akko. The minibus drives a fixed route, but it’s possible to hop on and off wherever you want. Whenever we hop off we realise Akko is way larger than expected and that we might probably not have seen all of it before half past two.

We started with an original Turkish coffee at the cosiest place in town, an original style coffee house, with pillows all over the place. The first people were already enjoying their nagila, which is the Hebrew word for shisha. Unfortunately we all had to agree we did not like the coffee, both due to a large amount of sugar and due to the cardamom on the bottom that some of us accidently drink. The resulting faces on the other hand were fabulous. After a short walk through the souq (a market) we went to the Al-Djazzar mosque. The Al-Djazzar mosque was an oasis of peace and for some of us had never visited a mosque before it was a quite special experience. The Citadel unfortunately only sold combination tickets for several of the touristic attractions and since we had little time to visit them both we decide not to enter it. The gardens surrounding the citadel were wonderful though. Due to the gigantic rainforest-like trees the entire area was covered in shadow and cool, which was quite pleasant after a hot morning.

Lunch time: The lunches here in Israel remain an interesting experience, though the Israeli all have a normal posture, the little restaurants keep feeding us so much we are almost exploding. After enjoying pine Humus, falafel, and other typical dishes accompanied with loads of pita we continued our way through the bazaar. The bazaar sells products of all different kinds, ranging from fish to authentic music instruments and tourist hats. The bazaar ended at the harbour where a lot of (poorly maintained) ships are situated. After the harbour visit, we split up and half of the group went back to Haifa. The other half actually run into a protest against the Israeli plan to move the Bedouins into towns, but luckily they did not have any serious trouble, and it was actually an exciting story.

Once everyone got back to the guesthouse we went for dinner. We found a small restaurant close to the campus which sold typical Israeli dishes like “pasta Galilea”. Here we truly discovered the extraordinary eating skills of one of our group members, who seems to be never satisfied, but his/her name will not be mentioned.

 At the end of the very relaxed day most of us went to bed early because tomorrow the program’s getting more serious and we will start working on the different case studies. 

vrijdag 29 november 2013

29th November, Mekorot and the sea of Gallilee, Gerbert Pleijter

29th November, Mekorot and the sea of Gallilee, Gerbert Pleijter

After the first meeting with the Israeli students and university on Thursday, we met up again on Friday  to visit Mekorot National Water Carrier Project and the Sea of Galilee. In this way we would get to know Israel’s drinking water company and end with some sightseeing.
From the Technion in Haifa, we went to Mekorot in Eshkol Reservoir. This reservoir is an important link in the National Water Carrier Project of Israel and holds purification facilities. Origination from the Golan Heights, water accumulates in the Sea of Galilee and is transported to the reservoir at Eshkol. At this site, the water is purified using various fish species, flocculation and passive carbon filters. It was impressive to see how a careful selection of fish species results in a balanced purification system with minimum human or chemical interference. 
After additional cleaning by flocculation and passive carbon filters the water is distributed throughout the country. Besides the collection of runoff water, desalination is another important method for the production of drinking water. Distribution of this drinking water is executed using the Nation Water Carrier Project that consists of hundreds of kilometres of pipelines and canals supplying drinking water all over Israel, the Palestinian Territories and some neighbouring countries.
After the Eshkol Reservoir, we visited the Sea of Galilee, the Church of the Beatitudes and the Jordan River. The Sea of Galilee is both a historic site and an important piece in the National Water Carrier Project.  The Church of the Beatitudes and the baptizing location in the Jordan River were great to get familiar with parts of Israel’s history. We would like to thank professor Avi Shaviv from Technion University and Matan Hadarie of Mekorot for their efforts and enthusiasm during this day.
At the evening we made ourselves a royal diner at our guesthouse and celebrated Giel Hakman his birthday. Tomorrow is Sabbath, but we are looking forward to start the Wetskills program in two days and work on the projects that were introduced today.
Sabbath Sjalom

donderdag 28 november 2013

28th November, Jerusalem and Haifa, Erinke Siegersma

28th November, Jerusalem and Haifa, Erinke Siegersma

What we have learned from this specific Thursday:
           Schedule extra time when you are going to use public transport abroad and have an appointment you want to catch;
Actually do not take the public transport because it will take longer. Call a cab;
3    Third, watch out for the kind of cabdriver you choose. The cabdriver might not know where he needs to bring you…
Now you’re wondering, what happened? I will start at the beginning and tell something more about our unfortunately short visit to Jerusalem. Thursday morning we woke up quite early so we could spend our last hours in the Holy City. In the late afternoon we were going to meet the Israeli participants at the Technion University in Haifa, which is an industrial port town located on the other side of the country. This is not a big distance from Jerusalem -Israel is even smaller in comparison to the Netherlands- but still at least a two hour drive.
In the morning we planned to go to the Temple Mount, one of the highlights of Jerusalem.  Temple Mount is known in Hebrew as Har haBáyit and in Arabic Haram al-Sharif. These different names shows the cultural mixture in Israel, specifically for Jerusalem. All these religions –Judaism, Islam, Christians and even more- live together in a country which has just been established 70 years ago. This results from time to time cultural differences, which we see on the news. These daily difficulties became clearer when we spoke to the Israeli Jewish students. It is really interesting being in Israel and every day I learn more and more.
Returning to the Temple Mount, this closes from 11:00 to 14:30. We were waiting in the queue for less than an hour when the entrance closed. The waiting time was not a waste. Most of us had the chance to take the time to read the information in the Lonely Planet guidebook. This was nicely interrupted by passing families celebrating Bar Mitzvah. We sometimes recognised the rhythms of the music. It made me feel happy to see these families and friends singing and dancing around their son/brother/friend. It was not one group, no there were many. If I had counted them I think it will be over the amount of ten.
After the plan of visiting the Temple Mount failed, we split up so everybody could do what he or she wanted. With the majority I went to the Old City of David. This was quite funny because we took the so called Hezekiah’s tunnel route in the old canals. We checked out the old water system by walking the old passageway that led to the Gihon spring, which was the water source for Jerusalem. The spring was located outside the city walls. Therefore the builders had to create a protected passageway, which we visited.
Around 2 o’clock we left the hostel and went to the central bus station in Jerusalem. So far so good. After we found the bus that was going to Haifa, which is really crowded and chaotic, there was the decision to take the private bus instead of the public one.  Just after the departure we got stuck in a huge traffic jam around the city of Jerusalem. Finally on the highway, Deirdre mentioned that it was strange the bus driver did not take the direct route to Haifa but the one via Tel Aviv, shown on the direction signs. Two and a half hours later we were in Haifa. The busdriver stopped and asked passerbys something in Hebrew. Within a couple minutes it became clear that he had no idea where he was, which was confirmed when we passed the old port as we knew that the port was not close to the Technion. The atmosphere in the bus changed, we were constantly chuckling to ourselves about the situation. How idiotic is it when you conclude you are in a bus with a driver who does not know where the destination is where you should bring your passengers? In Jerusalem he ensured us he knew where to go, but sadly he clearly didn’t… Even a call with Professor Avi could not help him, so the driver decided to ask a taxi driver to guide the way. This is the first and probably the last time I was in a bus that was escorted by a taxi. Ashamed because we were so late and at the same time happy because we made it, we arrived at the Technion for a dinner with the participants and supervisors of Technion. “Just” two hours too late. The delegation from Israel, our apologies. Maybe this story makes it clearer why we were late.

woensdag 27 november 2013

27th November 2013, The Dead Sea and Jerusalem, Gerrit van Zwol

27th November 2013, The Dead Sea and Jerusalem, Gerrit van Zwol

The day started in the Florentine hostel, located in the beautiful modern city of Tel Aviv. The Florentine hostel is situated close to the old city of Jaffa, a really charming and wonderful district with a lot of small markets, shops and nice places for a break. As it was located near the beach, we had already taken a quick dip in the sea the day before. The agenda was to head to the Dead Sea and thereafter to explore the city of Jerusalem. The journey was nice and easy and it felt we were drifting peacefully in the Dead Sea just a few moments after our departure.
The Lonely Planet was our main guide during the journey and provided us with some interesting facts on the journey towards the Dead Sea. Did you for example know no bird can cross the Dead Sea because the air and the chemicals over the Dead Sea are making it impossible for birds to fly? In the old years of the Egyptians and the Persians, they made thankfully use of this fact to flee from mosquitoes and other insects and birds. Today the Dead Sea is shared by Israel, Jordan and the Palestine Territories. In the past the Dead Sea was a perfect hiding and refuge place for King David, King Herod, Jesus and John the Baptist. Another reason why you should go to this place, is because it is the lowest place on the face of the earth, at an astonishing 425m below sea level. The water is coral blue and the many minerals and mud are an excellent way to stop you from looking older. 

After some more relaxation in the Dead Sea, it was time to head for our main target of the day, Jerusalem!  Once this city was in our sight, everyone was looking out of the window of our private taxi to catch a glimpse of this special and spiritual attractive city. First we checked-in in probable one of the most gorgeous youth hostels of Jerusalem. The first two floors were excavated out of rock, resulting in a wonderful ambiance and nice cosy places for a chat. We quickly dropped our baggage, because we wanted to see as much as possible of Jerusalem with our tight schedule. First we went down towards the holy sepulchre church, which is seen as the centre of Christianity because Jesus  maybe was crucified there. However other people say this place was outside the city centre, located on the North of Jerusalem. In the church we listened to Catholics singing their songs and burning candles. Most of us have been in a church before, but this was a special experience. After the church we did a small walk around the city wall to see the Mount of Olives. This Mount is located on the North-East of Jerusalem and is covered with many white stone graves. Most of us felt a mystic feeling by seeing this mountain and all the graves. We entered the city again trough the Lions gate and followed the via doloroza, the road Jesus walked with a cross towards his crucifixion. Today most of this road are characterized by markets and shops on both side of the street. But in the evening when all these shops were closed and the streets were still, this gave a special feeling by walking this road by night.
 The highlight of the evening was the wailing wall. Man and woman were separated at the entrance by security. We were not aware today was also the celebration of the first day of the Chanoeka, where the Jews celebrated their victory to the Greeks 2000 years ago. The light the first of the seven candles of the menorah. This reminds them of the wonder during the fight against the Greeks, the menorah burned for eight days. This was a wonder because there was only oil for one day. Back to the wailing wail. Ivar and my where the first that dared walking towards the wall, after being clothed appropriately by wearing a yameka. The wall was full with all kind and sizes of letters, most likely prayer of the Jews that cry out for the temple to be rebuild. We were amazed by the intense prayer attitude of the Jews. On each side of the wailing wall a small bibliotheca was located, with all kind of Hebrew books, probable filled with hymns and words from the Old Testament. But nobody of us could read Hebrew, so we will never know;)  

After this really learning full day, it was time to drink a beer of some wine at the hostel and enjoy the warm breeze together with other travels from all over the world at the wonderful balcony of the hostel. We talked with some Americans who where studying in Jordan and visited Jerusalem for a short break in their study. We all enjoyed seeing this wonderful city and were highly determined to use the next morning to see much more of this special city. We can recommend everybody to come to Jerusalem and explore this city! It is modern, cosy, religious and the source of a lot of religions. Come and see.

dinsdag 26 november 2013

26th November, Arriving in Tel Aviv, Deirdre Clark

 26th November, Arriving in Tel Aviv

Deirdre Clark

Wetskills in Israel officially started this evening in the city of Tel Aviv. This is the 11th trip Wetskills has organized and I am ecstatic to be a part of it! 

First, a little history about Tel Aviv for those who have never been. Tel Aviv was founded on the outskirts of the ancient port of Jaffa (Yafo) by the Jewish community in 1909. Jaffa has been a port, according to some sources, for at least 4,000 years and is mentioned several times in the Bible. The two merged together into one municipality in 1950 and is now the second most populous city in Israel with a population of 414,600. It is the country’s economic hub with the second-largest economy in the Middle East after Dubai and is also known for its nightlife and performing arts.

As everyone arrived at different times and days, we all were set to meet up at the well-recommended Florentine Hostel in the evening. Most members of our group arrived yesterday or this morning and were able to walk around Old Jaffa and along the beach to enjoy the warm sunny weather, which is such a welcome after the cold, rainy days of the Netherlands. I personally arrived early Monday morning and stayed with a friend in Tel Aviv and had lots of time to roam around all the neighborhoods of the city and take a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. Let’s just say, it is only day two and my feet are so sore and I have only just started the two weeks here!

A funny event of the afternoon was when two members of the group were sitting at the Jaffa port observing two seemingly idiotic people swimming out to Andromeda’s rocks. Unbeknownst to them, the two said people were actually part of our group and they had no clue that they were swimming out to an infamous set of rocks. (Backstory: this rock outcrop is associated with the Greek mythological story of Andromeda, who was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster that was ravaging the coast as a result of her mother, the queen, boasting of her beauty.) Eventually when we met up at the hostel, the story came out, giving us all a good laugh.

After a filling dinner at a local restaurant, Casbah di Florentine, and a walk around Old Jaffa at night, we are now relaxing and enjoying each other’s company on the hostel’s roof terrace. Soon we shall turn in, as we set off early to go to the Dead Sea. Here’s to a welcoming start to a good trip!