Updates

Well, blog update first.

I’m afraid this blog has been hacked several times in the past year, resulting in the loss of quite a few posts. It’s a shame, as they were “fun” posts, mostly about our 2011 trip to the US and Canada. The hacking was political and I can only assume there will be repeated attempts occasionally. I guess my domain name is just too tempting for Hamas/Hizbulla supporters.

Looking forward now. And there’s a lot to look forward to! Those who know us in real life may already know this, but we’re about to embark on our next big road trip in May! We enjoyed the last trip so much, we are eager for more! Actually, we hadn’t plan on going on another long trip so soon, but life happened and circumstances which I won’t go into here meant we get another rare opportunity to leave for a few months.

Our last trip was five and a half months long. It covered mostly the western US & Canada, and then a hop over to the eastern side and back. Our route went something like this -

San Francisco > Yosemite > Monterey > LA > the Grand Canyon > Colorado > South Dakota > Yellowstone > Glacier NP > the Canadian Rockies > Vancouver > Seattle > Olympic NP > the Oregon coast > SF (again) > Kentucky > Smokey Mountains NP > Louisiana > Texas > New Mexico > Utah > California

My kids’ Jr badges collection is pretty impressive, I know. You can also get a glimpse of some of the places we visited in this album.

And so, come May 23rd, we’ll be hitting the road once again. I’ll be dedicating a separate post to our itinerary soon.

 

Posted in Traveling to America | Comments Off

Stop the Hatred – It’s Killing Us

Once again, I see the same dynamics in action.

An Israeli posting something negative, but true, about Israel. It could be criticism of the government’s policies in the West Bank, about soldiers mistreating Palestinians at checkpoints, or about some cab driver making a racist comment against Arabs. Things that happens in Israel, unfortunately on a daily basis, and deserve to be condemned.

Then come the responses from anti-Israelis, building up on this and making the exchange into another “Zionism is evil” chant.

“A racist cab driver? why, didn’t you know? All Israelis are evil racists.”

“Soldiers mistreated a Palestinian? Well, what did you expect? They are monsters in uniform, these Zionist soldiers.”

I am so sick and tired of this.

Of course Israel has issues. Big ones. Yes, there is hatred and racism. Way too much of it  – not that I know of a quantity that is “within limits”, but obviously these people feel other countries are within those limits.

Here’s the deal -

1. Societies are made of people and many people are bigoted and prejudiced.

2. Societies at war tend to become more extreme.

It’s not like Arabs or Palestinians are all Ghandi’s either. Oh wait, I forgot, I am not allowed to use this argument – it’s evading the core issue, that Israelis are all evil. I think I’m also not allowed to mention that there is a lot of racism in France or the US, right? Ok,  my apologies, I won’t. I know, perspective is bad as it distracts us from what should be the conclusion here, that Israel is evil. Sorry!

Sigh.

Criticism of Israeli government and society is a good thing. Turning these online debates into a feast of demonizing Israel and Israelis is a horrible thing.

It’s horrible when done in the other direction as well. You criticize some aspect of Palestinian policies or actions, and Jewish right-wingers are quick to nod, and join in with “well, what did you expect? they’re Arabs, don’t you know it’s a violent blood-thirsty culture?”

Same thing, folks.

Now, here why this is so upsetting to me.

You keep stressing on the negatives, painting a black and white picture (doesn’t even matter which side is the black and which the white), and you contribute towards more hatred and eventually more bloodshed.

Like it or not, there ARE two people living here on this tiny piece of the earth. Like it or not, both people will go on living here for the foreseeable future. Encourage, or even allow, the  hatred and you contribute towards more war and bloodshed.

And the blood shed is going to be mine and my children’s. Yours too, if you live here.

To clarify -

A critical view of both Arabs and Israelis, by all means, is more than welcome. The many dark corners need to be lit so we can fight racism and hatred. Constructive criticism is even better, if you can maybe suggest how to make things better, but it’s ok if you can’t – reporting bad things IS crucial.

Just please please stop with the hate orgies. Please enough with the “ALL” and the tarnishing of entire peoples and societies with one tarred brush. Not only is it not helping anyone – it’s hurting us.

Posted in General, In the News | 7 Comments

Our Democratic School

The school year ended yesterday here in Israel. Today I took the boys to “Kaytana” which I think can be translated as “day camp”?

I think this is a good opportunity to finally post about the school my kids go to – the democratic school. I have been meaning to do this for a while, since whenever I mention the name of the school, it generates many questions. By the way, the school has an official pretty name, but as with every democratic school, people just call it “the democratic”.

So, it might be easier to format this post as an FAQ.

What is a democratic school?

The school is a community based on the principles of democracy. There is a parliament where school rules are decided – and children, parents and teachers are all equal members with equal voting rights. There are also many committees, made of kids and teachers, including one where disputes between kids are settled. There is a huge emphasis on mutual respect, tolerance and communication.

Democracy is also about freedom of choice. School kids choose their own lesson plans. They are required to include Hebrew and maths, but can otherwise choose any other subjects they want. Several hours of free time are also worked into their weekly plan.

The choice doesn’t end there. The kids are allowed to choose not to go to their classes. They’re encouraged to join the class, and the teachers work extra hard to make the lessons attractive, but if the kid decides to stay outside, that’s fine too. As you might guess, many kids prefer to stay outside and play, especially the younger ones. You may be surprised to know, that many do attend their classes.

Are there more democratic schools in Israel or elsewhere in the world?

I know about various experimental schools that were/are in England and the US, but as far as I know, this particular version of school is unique to Israel. The first democratic school opened in the town of Hadera, just over 20 years ago, with more schools opening or converting into democratic education every year. I know of a couple of dozens now, all over the country. There are three of them, within twenty minutes of where we live.

What subjects are taught in a democratic school?

Basically, the subjects are the same as in other schools. Maths and Hebrew are mandatory, but the rest are all optional. By the way, that also means Torah/Bible studies are optional which is very unusual in Israel. Specialty classes can be and are added by request and taught by the school teachers or by parents. Last year for example, third and fourth graders could attend a class of veterinary studies.

There are also many workshops and special projects, by teachers and parents. For example, IsraeliDad gives physics workshops to the first and second graders every couple of months.

What about homework and tests?

As a Mom, I am grateful to say there is no homework! Whew! I keep hearing from parents of kids in regular schools what a nightmare it is to help with homework everyday. It’s such a waste of a good afternoon too. In our school, kids that want homework do get them, otherwise, the afternoons are for playtime or after school activities.

No tests either, of course. Nothing is graded as such, but rather the teachers give each kid constant feedback on his or her work. Not numbers, just words and suggestions.

What does a day in the school look like?

School day in Israel normally starts at 8 o’clock sharp. In the democratic, the morning officially begins with a meeting of the teacher and the kids at 8:20 or 8:30 (each teacher has his/her own schedule). That means kids arrive anytime between 7:30 and 8:20, so even if you arrive after 8, you’re not late. Of course, even if you are late, it’s not a big deal. And of course, some kids decide to just stay outside and not join the morning meeting .

Next, there are lessons, and kids either go to their respective lessons or they don’t. If they don’t, they can play in the yard, supervised by the yard teacher, or they can go into their “Ba’it”. Literally meaning “home”, this is like a play center, supervised by a teacher, where they can play, draw, read a book or anything else they want to do.

Aren’t you worried about your son being in the schoolyard instead of the classroom?

This is something I used to hear a lot from the kids’ grandparents. One thing to keep is mind is that many kids opt not to attend classes. There is nothing lonely or unusual about playing outside. The kids are supervised by the schoolyard teacher and violence is very rare in democratic schools. Being outside isn’t devoid of learning either, as long as developing social skills is considered part of learning (it is, for me).

When do the kids learn how to read and write?

I would say about half of the kids can actually read and write by the end of the first year. Then again, who says kids HAVE to read and write at exactly the same age? Experience in democratic schools shows that once a kid decides he/she wants to learn how to read and write, they will, and fairly quickly at that. Kids are not that dumb – they realize what’s good for them and they see the need for reading and writing. Less pressure, and more trust in the kids, is the key here.

Is this part of the public education system in Israel or is this a private school?

Democratic schools are part of the official public education system. However, our school and the other democratic schools that I know of, gain additional budget from tuition fees paid by the parents.

The school is anything but rich. The extra payment goes towards paying for the extra teachers needed to maintain the system. Fees are not very steep – 600 NIS ($150) per month. A portion of the fees goes towards scholarships: funding families that can’t afford the fees.

So, there you have it.

There’s a lot more I could say, but I think I’ll keep this post fairly basic and hopefully refer to it in the future when I share stories from school life.

Let me know if you have more questions or comments. I love discussing schools and education – fascinating topic, always!

Posted in Israeli Culture | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Our Trip Plans – US West Coast 2011

First, a quick shout-out for two new hubs I created after writing my last post here about Israeli food. The first one is about the Story of Israeli Couscous and the second one is about what Hummus really should be, aka My Israeli Hummus Recipe. If you have a minute, please visit my hubs and vote for them. If you like them, by all means, spread the word!

And now for our trip plans.

Some of you may remember we have a big family trip in the works. The general idea is to travel to the US West Coast for approximately three months, leaving Israel in the second or third week of May and coming back in time for school, probably in the third week of August.

So, here’s our itinerary  – or what we have of it at this point -

Day 1-6: San Francisco and the Bay Area

Day 7-10:  Yosemite National Park

Day 11-14: Santa Cruz and Moterey

Day 15: Road no. 1 along the coast

Day 16-20: Los Angeles

Day 21-22: Anaheim (you know why…)

Day 23: Driving to Flagstaff

Day 24: Tusayan (Grand Canyon National Park)

Day 25: Page, Arizona

Day 26-27: Zion National Park

Day 29: Bryce Canyon

Day 30-31: Traveling through Monument Valley

Day 32: Durango, Colorado

Day 33: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Day 34-36: Denver, Colorado and the area

Day 37: Rocky Mountain National Park

Day 38: Driving to Teton National Park

Day 39-40: Teton National Park

Day 41-44: Yellowstone National Park

Day 45: Bozeman, Montana

Day 46: Great Falls, Montana

Day 47-50: Glacier National Park

Day 51: Driving to Calgary, Canada

Day 51-54: Jasper National Park, Canada

Day 55-58: Banff and Yoho National Parks

Day 59: Driving towards Vancouver

Day 60-63: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Day 64-65: Victoria, Canada

Day 66-68: Pacific Rim National Park, Canada

Day 69: Victoria, Canada

Day 70-72: Olympic National Park

Day 73-78: Seattle & the Area

Day 79-81: Portland, Oregon

Day 82: Oregon Coast

Day 83: Crater Lake National Park

Day 84: Lava Beds State Park

Day 85: Lake Shasta

Day 86: Lassen National Park

Day 87-90: San Francisco

This is it! Any ideas and tips, leave them here for me through the comment form, please! I’ve been doing tons of research, so I think I have the basics covered. There is actually a daily plan as well, for what to do in the big cities etc.

What we’d really like to do is meet people too along the road, so if you’re located along our route – let me know and maybe we can come over and say hi!

Posted in General | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

About Israeli Food

In a sense, even though the Jewish nation is thousands of years old, the Israeli nation is just about a century old (or, depending how you count, only sixty-two years old). Part of the Israeli journey towards a coherent cultural identity is culinary. The very question of “what is Israeli food?” is often the focus of public debates, especially around our Independence Day.

Felafel, Hummus and a fresh Salad

In fact, Israeli cuisine is effected by so many culinary traditions, it’s almost mind boggling.  Jewish people immigrated to Israel from literally every continent, bringing with them their unique flavors and spices, foods and recipes. Middle Eastern Jews, as well as local Palestinians, provided the connection to the local climate and ingredients. Not to play it up on the puns, but in this case, we are talking more about a culinary salad bowl, more than a melting pot.

Historically, Israel developed under a socialistic mindset. The leadership of the pre-state Jewish settlement was kin on building a solid healthy base for the new State. National health care services have been in place long before the declaration of the State of Israel. Healthy nutrition was high on the agenda with strict recommendations for lots of fruit and vegetables. With the authority figures being of Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, cow-originated dairy products as well as eggs, were considered healthy too. As for meat, there just wasn’t plenty of it around.

So, with that background in mind, here are a few more things you may want to know about real Israeli food -

  • Meat, chicken and fish are consumed, but in lesser quantities than in most Western countries. Obviously, pork is not part of your typical Israeli menu – although it is popular with new immigrants from the former USSR.
  • Salads are huge part of the Israeli diet. The classical Israeli salad has tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, some shredded lettuce, and sometimes onion and carrot shreds too. It is served with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • The Israeli breakfast, worthy of a post in its own right, usually has a large salad (see above), at least one type of soft low-fat cheese, eggs and some bread and butter.
  • Some foods are uniquely Israeli and go back to the poverty-stricken years of 1950′s. Chocolate spread that contains no chocolate, Ben Gurion rice that has no rice (a variety of it is now known as “Israeli couscous), and “chopped liver” with no liver.
  • While there is a very strong Middle Eastern tendency, generally, food is slightly less spicy compared to that served in neighboring countries.
  • Israelis have adopted foods from across the globe, often giving them a unique local interpretation. For example, schnitzel is made of chicken, rather than veal, and typically consumed inside a pocket of pita bread.

I plan on developing this tasty theme in future posts and perhaps in Hub Pages too, so stay tuned for more and do ask me anything you want to know about the delicacies (and roughies!) of Israeli cuisine ;)

Posted in Israeli Culture | Tagged , | 3 Comments

I am Me and I’m Back

I haven’t posted in a few weeks and before resuming normal service, I want to explain why I was taking time off.

It all started with the Gaza flotilla.

People on Twitter began attacking me like I was the head of Shin 13 (the Israeli Seals). I’m used to attacks on Israel, but the flotilla incident kicked it up a few notches and frankly, made me sick.

Now, obviously, nobody knew too many actual facts on the day. Fog of war, if you like, even heavier at sea. Not that is stopped some people from going ballistic – who cares about facts when you already have an opinion, right?

And I guess this is where I really annoyed some people. Some extreme left-wingers were jumping of joy, or so it seemed. At last, they got what in their mind’s eye was solid proof of the true form of Zionism – they shoot peace activists too. Poor harmless peace activists doing nothing more than carrying food and medicine for the children of Gaza. And there I was, their pet Zionist who wouldn’t acknowledge the sheer evilness of the deed.

I didn’t actually support the Israeli response to the flotilla, but I refused to play along to the “evil Zionists” mantra. For one thing, I generally do not believe the world is black and white. It upsets people who like to brand one side – either side – as cosmic dark forces of the devil.

Which leads me to the more general notion I try to convey, not always successfully: I am proud to be Israeli and a Zionist, even though I completely and totally do not support the current Israeli government and its actions. I am me, myself. Not the Israeli government.

I think the current government’s actions are anything but real Zionism. They contradict the Zionist idea and its ideals. And I can assure you, I am not the only one who feels this way. This is what Zionism really is.

So, there. It wasn’t much fun being called names, and it made me stay away from blogging and from Twitter for a while. I just don’t need the headache and heartache. I do that occasionally, take these breaks, and then after awhile, I get back into the swing of it all.

Oh, and I’ve been busy doing other things, like planning our big trip to the US next year! I now have a plan for 90 days in the West Coast – beginning in San Francisco and ending there. I will post it soon for feedback and reviews. So much more fun than writing about politics!

Posted in General, peace | 7 Comments

Using Public Transportation in Israel

I often get questions from people about traveling in Israel. A common question is about using public transportation, buses and trains while touring Israel.

The answer, as always with this country, is complicated. Let’s start on a positive note: Yes, you can use public transportation in Israel.

Buses in Israel

Israel has a fairly extensive system of buses covering practically every city, town and village (or kibbutz!). This doesn’t necessarily mean frequent buses. In some places, usually inside big cities, buses run every 7-10 minutes. In remote areas, some villages may have a bus going through only once or twice a day.

The buses are modern and most won’t be overcrowded, although you could end up standing  if you go during rush hours. Using buses requires careful planning, but it’s doable, especially if you’re not in a hurry.

Prices vary according to the length of your journey. Expect to pay under 10 shekels for most in-city buses and 30-80 shekels going in between cities and towns. Children under 5 don’t pay, and there are discounts for senior citizens.

Here’s a link to the website that has the timetables for all the bus companies:

Bus Routes in Israel – in English

Trains in Israel

Trains will get you anywhere from Be’er Sheva in the south to Nahariya  in the north, with several stations in Tel Aviv in the middle.

Trains usually go on time (more or less) and you travel in modern air-conditioned carriages. It can get crowded on Sundays and Thursdays and during rush hour.  Expect to see a lot of soldiers on the train during these times – many armed. Don’t worry, they’re just our kids going back to base or back home.

There is also a regular and reliable service going to Ben Gurion Airport and you can get from the airport to Tel Aviv and most other stations day or night using the train. Very convenient, as the train gets right inside the terminal.

You could even get to Jerusalem on a train, although the route is curvy and slow and it takes several hours to get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this way (as opposed to 45 minutes by bus).

Train tickets cost anything between 25-50 shekels, with discounts available for senior citizens.

Israel Railways website – with timetables and routes.

Taxis in Israel

Cabs, or taxis, are available in every big and medium-sized city and town. They usually wait for passengers in designated places at central bus stations and near train stations. You can also hail a taxi on the street and you can phone in for one.

Prices vary according to the length of your trip. Israelis don’t usually tip cab drivers, though you may want to if you have a lot of luggage and you get a good service.

You will almost always be offered a fixed rate for your ride, but you can ask to have the meter running. It’s illegal for the driver to refuse so you can insist. As with cab drivers worldwide, there is always a risk of them overcharging (either with a high fixed rate, or just “taking the longer route” with the meter running). Tip: tell them in advance that you’re going to need a tax receipt. That way they know they can be traced if they cheated you.

Your chances of getting a good service are better when you go with a recognized operator. Avoid people who “hassle” you to go with them as you go out of a train or bus station. Keep walking until you get to the official taxi point, which is signposted and supervised. Alternatively, if you’re not coming out of a train/bus station, call in for a taxi.

So, Should You Rent a Car or Use Public Transportation in Israel?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, right?

I think a car would definitely be more convenient. Israel is a small country and you can do a lot of sightseeing in one day with a car. Driving for 20-30 minutes will get you from one attraction to another so that you could visit several places on the same day.

For example, with a car, you can head out of Tel Aviv and be in Nazareth in an hour and a half, visit the town and be at the Sea of Galilee half an hour later. Travel the various sites along the coast of the lake, including Capernaum and Tabgha, each about 10 minutes away from the other in driving distance.  Then drive on to Sefad, the Upper Galilee, the [[Hula Nature Reserve]] and even the Golan Heights and you can even drive back to your hotel in Tel Aviv. All in the same day without rushing it too much.

You just can’t do that with a bus. You’d be lucky to do both Nazareth and a bit of the Sea of Galilee and head back to the center. And you’re likely to be spending a couple of hours at least just waiting for your bus to arrive.

Car rental can be expensive though, so you need to consider your options.

Here are some things to consider -

  • The length of your visit – if you have several weeks and intend on taking it slowly, you can certainly rely on trains, buses and the occasional taxi. However, if you want to cram a lot of sightseeing into a week or two, you would definitely need a car.
  • Traveling with children – if you travel with kids, you probably want a car where you can keep a change of clothes, toys, snacks etc. You’d want to avoid the potential waiting times at various bus stations, some of which could be remote.
  • Shabbat (Saturday) – trains and buses stop on Saturdays, the Jewish Shabbat. Service stops on Friday afternoon and resumed either on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. If you rely on public transportation, you should plan on spending Fridays and Saturdays in a big city where you can get around on foot or with a taxi.
Posted in General, israel travel | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Happy Shavu’ot and Why You Shouldn’t Have Cheesecake

I love cheesecake, myself. I’m definitely making one for tomorrow, only it’s going to be a non-dairy cheesecake. Just wanted to clarify, before diving head first into the heavy stuff :)

What’s Shavu’ot Anyway?

Shavu’ot or Shavuot, or if you like, in the traditional Yiddish/American weird pronunciation, Shavuos, is a Jewish holiday. Literally meaning “weeks” in Hebrew it is also known as the Festival of Weeks. I think I covered all possible Google search terms here ;)

This holiday is about two things -

1. It’s a traditional harvest festival. The focus is on wheat harvesting, but also about the first fruit and vegetables of summertime. Kibbutzim have, or used to have, huge processions for Shavuot showing off the fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as the young lambs, calves and babies born on that year.

2. It’s a celebration of being given the Torah by God, supposedly on this date some thousands of years ago. Religious Jews congregate in synagogues tonight in a prayer marathon, with the idea that heaven opens up at midnight. Or something along those lines – can’t say I’ve ever done that myself.

So, What Do We Eat on Shavu’ot?

I don’t know about gentiles, or even about Jews abroad, but here in Israel, we Jews have special foods for every occasion. Special pastries and sweets are usually the key markers of Jewish religious festivals.

Hannuka? Have a doughnut! Purim? Stuff yourself with poppyseed filled cookies (Ozen Haman)! Rosh HaShana? Just eat as much as you can on dinner and don’t forget to have some honey cake.

Ask any kid what do we have on Shavu’ot and they’ll tell you right away: cheesecake! Also, cheese and dairy puddings and if your Mom is really into it, then blintzes are on the menu as well.

Cheesecake???

Here’s the thing though – dairy products are a fairly recent addition to Shavu’ot. The holiday of harvest, remember? and of the first fruit and vegetable of the season. I checked on wikipedia and it says this on the practice of consuming dairy products on Shavuot -

One explanation for the consumption of dairy foods on this holiday is that the Israelites had not yet received the Torah, with its laws of shechita (ritual slaughtering of animals). As the food they had prepared beforehand was not in accordance with these laws, they opted to eat simple dairy meals to honor the holiday. Some say it harks back to King Solomon’s portrayal of the Torah as “honey and milk are under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11).

Well, I am all for having a non-meat meal for a holiday. A welcome change in the menu, as far as I’m concerned. The only problem is that it does not explain the need to consume milk-based products.

I highly suspect that the ancient Israelites ever had cheesecake. Or blintzes for that matter. A meal without meat would have been based on grains, legume, nuts, vegetables and fruit.

Wanna know where the cheesecake came from? Same place shopping for gifts entered Christmas and heart-shaped chocolates became one with St. Valentine’s Day. It’s called marketing.

The milk manufacturers (love the term, as if they were the cows) lobby is huge here. Agri-industrialists that pride themselves on using a variety of methods, including but not limited to, genetic selection, to increase milk production in cows to extremely high levels. Extreme is the key word here. Inhumane is another word. Antibiotics for injured sick over sized udders is another. Ok, key phrase there, not word, so I’ll give you hormones as another single word. Overcrowded sheds – is that one word or a phrase? How about horn amputation with no anesthesia?

But hey, who cares, as long as we can have our cheesecake!

Well, not for me this year. This year, IsraeliDad and myself are celebrating the first year of going vegan. Tomorrow, we shall have a Shavuot feast that will be entirely vegan. Cheesecake will be made of tofu cream, and dishes will focus on grains and vegetables. Back to the roots, if you like.

Hopefully, the time will come when enough people will demand better treatment for farm animals and we shall see more humane standards introduced. I don’t really care about animal rights, myself, only about animal welfare. Cows should receive the same consideration of pain and stress as our cats and dogs. That’s all. When that happens, I’ll be glad to go back to a real cheesecake.

Happy Shavuot everyone!

Posted in Holidays | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Our Big American Road Trip

The decision has been made. The Universe willing, we’ll be going on a road trip in the US and Canada in the summer of 2011.

I am working on a general plan these days, just to see that the idea is feasible, in terms of driving distances, things to do etc. Our time frame is a flexible three months.

The general plan looks something like this -

  1. Arriving at LA. Taking a few days to get over the jet lag and then heading out to –
  2. The Grand Canyon
  3. Page, Arizona (Lake Powell)
  4. Zion and Bryce National Parks, Utah
  5. Option A: Canyonlands and Arches National Parks
  6. Option B: Monument Valley and Mesa Verde National Park, Utah & Durango, Colorado
  7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
  8. Colorado Springs
  9. Denver
  10. Mt Rocky National Park
  11. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
  12. Glacier National Park
  13. Calgary, Canada
  14. Edmonton
  15. Jasper National Park
  16. Banff and nearby Parks to the west of Banff
  17. Vancouver
  18. Victoria and Vancouver Island
  19. Olympic National Park, Washington, US
  20. Seattle
  21. Portland, Oregon
  22. Crater Lake National Park
  23. Road 101 along the coast
  24. San Francisco and the Bay Area
  25. Yosemite National Park
  26. Road 101 again
  27. Los Angeles

Whew.

This is a rough sketch, of course. I am working on pinning it down on a map these days (thank you Google Maps!). I have already discovered that the distances are HUGE. I mean, they’re even longer than what you might think, because the roads are winding.

I have no idea how people used to go on road trips before the days of the Internet. I am continuously hooked up to several sites these days, Trip Advisor, Google Maps and a local traveling forum in Hebrew. The National Parks site is also visited frequently, as well as various State Parks sites.

So, now you all know where I disappeared to.

If you have ideas, thoughts, tips or if you think you’d like to meet us along the way – leave me a comment here!

Posted in General | Tagged | 7 Comments

Independence Day and Naqba Day Thoughts

Israeli Independence Day

My apologies for another “heavy duty” post today. It’s sort of a “heavy” week here in Israel, with the Holocaust Memorial Day, followed a week later by the Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers and then, the very next day, Independence Day.

Today is Memorial Day. The saddest day in the year in Israel, as we mourn the loss of so many lives to the war. Memorial Day is as personal and intimate as it can be. Practically everyone has either lost someone, and/or knows many people who have. People go to work, but are allowed time off work to visit the cemeteries where dear ones are buried and where services are held today at 11.

In about 12 hours though, everything changes. Memorial Day is over and bam! It’s Independence Day! Celebrations galore, with shows, parades and fireworks. It’s weird, but you get used to it. In a way, it makes you “snap out” of what otherwise would turn into a national depression.

The Palestinian Naqba Day

As Independence Day sets in, many Palestinians choose to mark Naqba Day – the Day of the Catastrophe. It’s their day of national mourning. And this is actually what I wanted to discuss in this post.

I can relate to the aspect of Naqba Day which mourns what happened to the Palestinians in 1948. It doesn’t matter if they fled the country or were expelled, the fact remains that entire communities were uprooted and turned into refugees. A tragedy, not only on the national level, but on a very personal level as well.

The date for the Israeli Day of Independence was chosen because it’s the day when the “Declaration of Independence” was signed. It really is the date of the establishment of the State of Israel.

What about the Naqba? If it’s about the suffering of the Palestinian people, about their humane catastrophe – an aspect I think more Jewish Israelis should be aware of – then it should be commemorated sometime towards the end of May and the beginning of June.

When you set it up specifically on Israel’s Independence Day – following neither the Gregorian nor the Muslim calendar but the Jewish calendar! – you are sending us a different message. You are saying that the tragedy isn’t in the uprooting of people, but in the very existence of Israel.

That’s a big problem when it comes to the Israeli-Arabs – 20% of Israel’s population, full fledged citizens. It’s a huge obstacle in the way of peaceful co-existence. Here’s why -

1. It means Jewish Israelis can never join their Palestinian friends in mourning the tragedy of the Palestinian people. Not only because they’re busy BBQ’ing, but because you’re making it into an anti-Israel day.

2. It means 20% of the population is not supposed to identify with the official Day of Independence. There are Arab soldiers in the IDF for example, where does that put them?

3. It makes the entire thing into a contest, IMO. I see a lot of Arab families in our local Independence Day celebrations. They come in from nearby villages and towns in Wadi Ara – I guess their kids want to see the fireworks too. Why make them choose? Why can’t they have a day respecting their national tragedy – why can’t we all have a day commemorating that?

I respectfully call out to my fellow citizens, the Palestinians who make up 20% of the population of our country – let’s unite around human suffering, let’s focus on finding common grounds, rather than on separation and hatred.

I hope that someday, Israeli Arab and Jewish children will learn at schools together. They will celebrate the Day of Independence together, and they will commemorate Naqba Day together – on different dates.

Posted in General, Holidays, peace | 1 Comment