Visit to Zichron Yaakov

For the second part of Passover and through the following week, Noah and I had very special visitors:

IMG_7400

Noah’s parents visited for about 10 days, and we had a great visit. It was a lot of fun to have visitors, and it was also a real treat to travel more throughout the country and see some new places. To begin the visit, Noah and I met his parents at the Tel Aviv airport.

Small interjection about one of the “so Israel” things that I love about this country, the man waiting at the arrivals corridor next to us was reading the Talmud Bavli. Oh, Israel. ❤

IMG_7372

When Noah’s parents arrived, we picked up a rental car at the airport, and then drove together to Zichron Yaakov. Zichron Yaakov is at the base of Mt. Carmel, south of Haifa and was founded in 1882 as part of the First Aliyah movement. The settlement was founded by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, a Zionist, French Jew who provided the financial backing for much of the first aliyah movement.

In Zichron Yaakov we stayed at the Purple House, a lovely place that Noah’s mom found on Air BnB.

Adorable, yes?:

IMG_7397 IMG_7395

AND, with a lovely garden:

IMG_7392 IMG_7394

Upon our arrival, we went for dinner at a restaurant called Casa Barone at the Beit Maimon hotel. It was kosher l’pesach and had various meat-y items – I had a burger with fries (the restaurant was dark, so no good pics).

The next morning, we had a nice breakfast at Cafe Kilimanjaro, a coffee shop that Noah’s mom found to have a lot of good reviews on Trip Advisor.

IMG_7398

Breakfast was delicious…

IMG_7404 IMG_7405

…and Noah ordered the cafe’s signature drink – some sort of chocolate/coffee mixture:

IMG_7401

After breakfast, we strolled a bit around Zichron Yaakov’s main pedestrian street, peeking in windows and (of course) posing with statues:

IMG_7406 IMG_7407

The day’s primary activities began with a trip to the gardens of Ramat Hanadiv – beautiful sprawling gardens in the memory of Baron Rothschild.

IMG_7416

At the gardens, we watched a brief movie about the Baron Rothschild and then spent a couple hours walking through the various garden paths and admiring the trees and flowers, as well as visiting the grave of the Baron whose tomb is within the gardens:

IMG_7411 IMG_7415

After the gardens, we drove to Caesarea and explored the ancient ruins there. The ruins included – among other things – a Byzantine fortress wall, Roman theater, and various rooms and storehouses used by the area’s previous inhabitants:

IMG_7417 IMG_7431 IMG_7429 IMG_7418

My favorite part of the ruins was the Herodian amphitheater:

IMG_7439IMG_7441

The ruins were right along the coast which provided some great views of the water:

IMG_7424

The area was quite sprawling and a bit overwhelming to make sense of without a guide, but luckily there were some informational panels smattered throughout the ruins providing information:

IMG_7425

After leaving the ruins, we made a quick stop at the (impressively intact) remains of the Roman aqueduct and then went back to the Purple House for a relaxed evening:

IMG_7446

Other posts about visiting with Noah’s parents:

Ein Hod Artist’s Village and Acre (Akko) – Crusader’s Fortress and market
Exploring in the north and Hamat Gader spa and hot springs

Masada and FOOD

In addition to hiking in Ein Gedi, my family also did a hike up Masada during our Israel travel.

Masada is a flattop mountain in the Ein Gedi area that has earned fame for its role as the site of Jewish rebels’ last stand against the Roman Empire. A magnificent palace was first built atop the mountain by Herod the Great in the 1st century. Years later, after Herod had died, the Jews rebelled against the Roman Empire in 66 CE. The Romans destroyed the second temple in 70 CE and essentially ended the revolt then. A group of slightly less than 1,000 Jews, however, fled to Masada where they – historians believe – lived for over a year. One might think, why would the Roman army even bother with them anymore? I don’t know…maybe it was a matter of pride or finishing the job ‘right,’ but the Romans pursued the Jews to Masada and built eight camps around the mountain as they spent months preparing an assault ramp that would enable them to ambush the mountain.

All that is known about Masada’s tragic end comes from one survivor. The story states that, knowing the Roman forces couldn’t be held off for much longer, the Jews atop Masada decided that they would rather take their own lives in freedom than serve the Romans as slaves. Lots were drawn to determine 10 men who would kill the rest of the community, and, then, a final lot was drawn to determine who would kill the other nine and then commit suicide. One of the most interesting archeological finds from the site were pottery shards bearing names – generally thought to be evidence of the lots.

Today, Masada has become a site emblematic of both bravery and tragedy within the Jewish community during the time of Roman rule (and, more broadly, throughout history). The mountain is a popular site for Birthright groups, children having their Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Israel, and essentially any Zionist trip touring Israel. The iconic Masada experience is to hike the mountain just before dawn, reaching the top for sunrise.

Despite the pre-sunrise hour, my family acquiesced to hiking the mountain bright and early. The hike up the mountain took about 40 minutes at a pretty quick pace, and we reached the top a few minutes before official sunrise:

IMG_1310IMG_1308

Unfortunately, it ended up being a cloudy day and the magic of the sun was fairly obstructed by the clouds. Nonetheless, it was still a great hike with awesome views from the top…and, even if we didn’t get the full splendor of a clear sunrise, it was neat to see everything come into full color! 🙂

IMG_1313 IMG_1307IMG_5910

Me with my “baby” bro:

IMG_1316

This is a picture of the tiered palace that served as Herod’s living quarters when he resided on the mountaintop:

IMG_1322

With all the hiking, biking, and swimming, there was – of course – also lots of eating during this vacation. A few quick highlights include…

Fresh honey at the cafeteria at the Ein Gedi Kibbutz:

IMG_5911

Yemenite street food in Tzfat. We ate a Lachuch Original where we had sandwiches made with malawa bread and filled with vegetables and cheese:

IMG_5960 IMG_5961

Finally, we ate at a meat restaurant called Habikta in a town called Ramot by the sea of Galilee. The restaurant offered a broad menu of smoked meat dishes, burgers, homemade bagels and a salad bar:

IMG_6010 IMG_6009 IMG_6011

In closing, I must share the incredible coincidence of finding this poster hanging in a small lodge in the northern Galilee:

IMG_6017

This poster recalls the capture of the Jesse James Gang in Northfield, MN – the site of my alma mater. The historic capture continues to be remembered even after all these years through the annual ‘Jesse James Days,’ and I have very fond memories of attending the festival each year as a college student. 🙂