Israel, part two

Monday, 10 June 2013

It’s taking me ages to sort through all my photos, but here are some more ... (part one is here in case you missed it):

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

Zichron Ya’akov

My uncle and his family live in Zichron Ya’akov, so I spent a lot of time there. It’s a gem of a place. The city’s main street feels and looks like Tuscany, and is spotted with many cafes, restaurants and artisan shops, including one of my favourite jewellery shops in Israel: King Solomon Stones. But more than anything, this city is about family for me: catching up with my cousins, playing with my uncle’s cat (she’s pictured above with the brilliant green eyes), long conversations with my aunt, Friday night meals where my uncle cooks up a storm of many, many dishes (they do this every single Friday night). It’s when I’m there that I have thoughts of moving back to Israel, because I’m surrounded by people who just get me instinctively. It was hard to say goodbye.

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea was packed with French tourists when I visited, it was quite funny hearing a constant stream of French while gazing at antiquities. The first thought that comes to my mind about this place is basically, light. The light there was intense, and the blue of the sky deep and stunning. I don’t know if the photos convey this, but it felt quite surreal at times. It is also historically a very significant place and I do recommend using one of the many free volunteer tour guides who are there, as you won’t understand much of what you’re looking at without their knowledge.

Ralli Museum in Caesarea

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

Ralli Museum

I don’t know if many people know about the Ralli Museum, but it’s one of the most beautiful museums in Israel. It holds extensive collections of Latin American and Spanish art, including many pieces by Salvador Dali. There is also an antiquities wing and the building of the museum is itself an architectural beauty. And yep, that’s me above (with the green top), posing awkwardly as ever in front of the museum.

Mount of Beatitudes and Sea of Galilee

Mount of Beautitudes

Mount of Beautitudes

Mount of Beautitudes

Mount of Beautitudes

Mount of Beautitudes

Mount of Beautitudes

Mount of Beautitudes

Mount of Beautitudes

Mount of Beautitudes

Now, I got scolded at by a nun at the Mount of Beatitudes, but I won’t hold that against the place. I seem to have a knack for these things. Anyway, I was quite sick when I visited, so my memories are filtered through painkillers and tissues. But I do remember it being like a garden of paradise. It’s also another place that is filled with tourists at all times, since it’s considered a holy place. But if you can handle the crowds, it’s more than worthy of a visit. You can catch some glimpses of the Sea of Galilee, or the Kinneret in Hebrew, in these photos.

: : General Impressions : :

* I often feel like food is a barometer for a culture or a country. I would summarise Israel’s food culture with one word: generous. Everything about it is based on an unmeasured generosity. You order a meal, you also get a table filled with several salads, pita, bread, hummus, drinks, etc., beforehand. And the salads aren’t skimpy: they are large, colourful and intensely flavoured productions. You order a falafel in the simplest, most basic street restaurant, you get home-made chips and a selection of a million salads and dips too. I guess this food culture reflects the way many Israelis approach life: you don’t hold back, you don’t measure things constantly. Sometimes, this approach is overwhelming and too intimate; other times, I love it so much.

* But the way people drive in a country also speaks volumes! Saying that Israelis are aggressive drivers is stating the obvious. This is also indicative: the aggressiveness, the need to push in and take (sometimes to the detriment of others), is a part of Israeli culture that my mother often tells me was one of the reasons why she felt she couldn’t live there anymore. And I understand that, I really do. It’s just so strange to encounter this aggressiveness alongside the generosity of people.

* Back to the theme of literature and books: I fell in love with Etgar Keret during this trip. Quite simply, he’s a genius. I also became interested in another author: my father’s favourite poet, Ronny Someck, who was born in Baghdad and came to Israel as a young boy. I listened to an interview with him on the radio when I was in Israel, and he read out some of his poems. I remember feeling startled, and moved. Here is one from his website:

From this Distance the Tombstones look like a Flight of Storks

in the memory of N.

From this distance the tombstones look like a flight
of storks, or a flurry of doves
that a certain Yemenite trained for the opening
ceremony of the Fifth or Sixth Maccabiah.
At night, when the pigeons scattered home, N. flung
stones at them and brought down two or three.
The sky was clear of stars, who were called
Lennon or Joplin or Hendrix,
who at the time were playing, all along the watch tower.
in the south of Tel-Aviv. N.’s friend,
the Jazz pianist, was dying.
On the record player, Billie Holiday had shortened
her skirt by five centimeters. She stood photogenically
in one of the street near Levinsky. By the way,
how do you translate the word “junk” into Hebrew?
Why have I knotted this question to somebody dead?
I could have asked it about someone alive,
but no: Death swirls in a failing memory through the streets
in an ambulance. Stretchers and sirens.
If this were a genuine alert
rising and falling sirens would be sounded.
Here’s N.’s sister for the eighth time in the same dress-
black satin cut so that her lovely
clavicle and throat ambush our eyes.
If a silver tray is needed after all,
let them serve vodka on it as well as soldiers,
and thus we could drink in memory
of the furtive scrap of paper he kept at fourteen,
listing the names of the girls who’d begun to wear bras.
I was the only one who knew about that,
and now I’m the only one who can remember it.

Translation: William Matthews

There will be a part three soon ...

11 comments:

Sally said...

Welcome back, Hila, and thank you for sharing your trip. I've greedily drunk in all the varying landscapes and works of art you captured (as well as all the cute dogs and cats!). Looking forward to the rest!

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said...

What fabulous photos!

Amelia said...

" food is a barometer for a culture or a country" - that is the ultimate truth!

(I'll just comment here for both posts so I don't spam you)

I really enjoyed reading both posts and getting to see Israel through your eyes.

I'm really glad you decided to share the photos and your thoughts with the internet.

Unknown said...

I just want to stay and look at these pictures over and over and have you sitting beside me telling me all the stories that go along with them. :-) I love the cats on the wall, the eggs in tomato sauce (now I'm craving them!!!), the thought of people who "get you instinctively" - that is rare and a treasure. :-) I hope you get to return soon. xo

GRACIA AND LOUISE said...

Yes, your uncle's cat really does have the most "brilliant green eyes"... and I am so glad you had a wonderful and fulfilling time away, enjoy "many, many dishes" and long conversations with your aunt. It really does sound like it was the best of holidays for you and I can easily imagine why it was hard to leave. That beautiful link though, it is hard to break. Perhaps its a cloak, on second thought, or a second skin to wear like a hug.

G xo

Teresa said...

Thanks so much for sharing these pictures from your journey. It's wonderful to be able to glimpse parts of the world I would never normally see.

The cat mural is adorable!

Hila said...

Sally: And I greedily took pictures of all the art, cats and dogs.

Andi: Thanks.

Amelia: Thanks, it's my pleasure, I enjoy compiling these posts.

Unknown: Thank you! I hope I get to return soon, but it's very expensive for me (which is so sad).

Gracia: It really was the best of holidays, I can't remember one that moved me as much. It was just so sad returning this time. I'll try to wear the holiday like a hug.

Teresa: But I do hope you get to see it in person - never say never.

Mariella said...

How I understand your mother. I think this is exactly the reason why I would be a bit worried if I ever found myself living there. I love the country and the people but I wonder how would my very "mellow" European personality would fit into the Israeli society. And I also love Edgar Keret , I read three books by him, long time ago and I love them.

rooth said...

It looks absolutely gorgeous there - Israel is now on my list because of your pictures

Hila said...

Mariella: My mother was born and grew up in Israel and didn't know anything different, but she still felt out of place when it came to this aggressive mentality.

Rooth: ha, thanks!

Debie Grace said...

I want to visit Israel! Seems like a very artsy place to be in. I like the cat paintings on the walls. :3