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Saturday, November 27, 2010


We leave Tel Aviv to explore some of its surrounding areas and are immediately struck by strange looking contraptions on the roof tops. They are solar hot water heaters. Each appears to be a big hot water tank hooked to one or two solar panels. 98% of Israel uses solar hot water! Each unit costs only about $300.00! Amazing, inexpensive, and efficient.
solar hot water
Our conversation turns to Israel’s accomplishments in the past 62 years in using the environment in a more friendly manner. Today Israel recycles about 70% of its water for agricultural use.

The conversation continues as we drive through Rehovot, the city known as the City of Science and Culture, Israel’s tech center as well as its citrus center. We see citrus groves all along the road north to one of Israel’s National Historic Sites, the Ayalon Institute, for a bit of modern Israeli history of the period just before Israel’s creation as a state in 1948. After the War of Independence this site became the kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, and The Ayalon Institute’s goal is education.

Remember that the British restricted Jewish immigration in 1939, effectively sealing off escape routes for European Jews, and they outlawed weapons even as the Arabs refused to accept the 1947 partition of the land into an Arab and a Jewish state. No one doubted that a war would ensue. The Jews would have to protect themselves.

At this site, originally a training camp for agricultural workers, the Haganah opened a bullet factory that produced more than 2 million bullets between 1946 and 1948. The machinery was smuggled in from Poland beginning around 1938. The Haganah arranged for delivery, but it took seven years to get the machines in, assembled and ready for use. The site was the camp’s laundry and bakery, and the factory was below the laundry in an area 100’ long, 35’ wide and 35’ deep. This area was completed in a mere three weeks. There was an underground connection to the bakery.

ammunition factory
Locating the factory beneath the laundry was a stroke of brilliance. The noise of the laundry muffled the noise of the factory. Fresh air was channeled into the factory through the laundry’s chimney. The bakery’s chimney was used to exhaust stale air from the factory. The heavy laundry machines had to be moved in order to gain access to the steep stairway leading to the factory.
ammunition factory
ammunition factory
The soap on the floors of the laundry as well as the odors covered the smell of gunpowder. The bullets made here were important in the early stages of the War of Independence—the war that commenced almost as soon as Israel was declared an independent state.
ammunition factory

Our day is not over after this eye-opener. We head to Tel Aviv University for lunch (yes, everything in my last post and up until now occurs in the AM) and then to their on-site Diaspora Museum (no photos allowed) where we look at art, models, artifacts, and displays of Jewish communities throughout the world dating back 2,500 years when the Jewish tribes were exiled from the land of Israel. There are stunning exhibits of Jewish communities in different countries of the world. Very often there are models of synagogues created by Jews reflecting the cultures, architectural styles, and fashions they absorbed in their new countries while still retaining their religion and identity. It’s a stirring museum one should not miss.

As we drive back to our hotel, we have a great deal to ponder. We’d seen sites dating to the Bronze Age; we’d seen homes with solar powered water heaters. We’d seen evidence of exile, self-determination and struggle. Yes, a great deal to ponder…but no time to worry.

This evening is an opening dinner dance and we meet Wendy Morse, owner of our tour company and learn that there is a member of the family on every tour the company offers. She’s personable and friendly, and we understand that her presence means everything the company says will happen will meet her high standards and our expectations! Our dinner dance in a ballroom of the Dan Panorama Hotel is strictly for our tour. The music is fine, and we are up and ready to dance the night away!

travel trips vacations destinations tours "Third Age Traveler" "third age" photography "travel photos" "travel trips" "Margaret Morse Tours" world "middle East" Israel "Tel Aviv" Rehovoth fruits citrus science solar "solar hot water" recycling kibbutz agriculture weaponry bullets factory war education "Tel Aviv University" "Diaspora Museum" synagogues culture architecture dancing

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My earliest memories of my grandfather’s Passover seders include the hopeful words for all Jewish people, “Next year in Jerusalem.” This year I made it. Not only did I welcome the Shabbat at the Western Wall but also I became Bat Mitzvah on Mt. Scopus overlooking Jerusalem. Little did I realize how the fulfillment of that yearly Passover wish would release feelings I didn’t know I had.

Mixed up with travel, religion, and history in our two-week trip to Israel is an emotional component both surprising and enriching. Our Margaret Morse Tour was, by far, the most perfectly orchestrated Israeli experience I could have imagined. Our guide, David, displayed encyclopedic knowledge, and as I share my experience and photos with you, I must say, “Go to Israel!”

How apropos to begin our trip to Israel in Tel Aviv. The name itself comes from Theodore Hertzl’s “Old New Land” or “Tel” meaning “old” and “Aviv” referring to the Spring of the year (new). This city and its environs reflect the bustling modernity of business, architecturally modern skyscrapers, and first rate hotels juxtaposed with Jaffa, not only the oldest part of Tel Aviv but also the oldest port in the world!
Tel Aviv
Jaffa is quite an eye-opener as we drive from our beautiful Dan Panorama Hotel overlooking the Mediterranean. Jaffa was a crowded walled city in the 1790s when it was the entrance to the land. Israel, in restoring this area, seeks to maintain its original character. The narrow, twisting cobblestone streets and stone buildings and steps remain as do the zodiac signszodiac in Tel Aviv on the buildings, a reminder that the inhabitants were fishermen who lived by the stars.

A hostel to help newcomers learn the ways of the country remains as does the apartment where the idea of an army to protect the immigrant farmers out in the country. That army developed into the Haganah.
Tel Aviv

By far the most stunning reminder that we are merely blips in a long procession of civilizations is our arrival at Tel Jaffa. “Tel” is an archeological dig, and there are 22,000 tels in Israel, most waiting to be studied because of the enormous expense. Uncovered at Tel Jaffa are 25 levels of civilization, and we visit an Egyptian section where the wall dates to 3,300 BCE (Before the Common Era). That’s the Bronze Age.
Tel Jaffa--Tel Aviv

Not only do we see the wall, but also rooms.

Tel Jaffa--Tel Aviv
I’ve never seen anything like this outside a museum, but here the tel exists along a walkway to a park, a natural part of the landscape.

Tel Jaffa--Tel Aviv

This is just the beginning of jaw-dropping moments because Jaffa’s history is phenomenal. While today’s Jaffa has its artist colony, nightlife, and restaurants, it is difficult to forget it was founded by Noah’s son, Japhet, that cedar trees from Jaffa were used by King Solomon to build the Temple in Jerusalem, that the Greeks believed that in the waters here Poseidon chained Andromeda who was rescued by Perseus, that Jonah sailed from here only to meet a whale, that one can still visit Simon the Tanner’s house where St. Peter stayed and realized the gospels had to go beyond Judaism’s confines, that Richard the Lionhearted built a citadel here that was promptly taken by Saladin, and on and on.


St. Peter's Church  Tel Aviv
St. Peter's Church

In Abrasha Park overlooking the Mediterranean stands the Statue of Faith illustrating Jacob’s Dream, the sacrifice of Isaac, and the Fall of Jericho.Statue of Faith   Tel Aviv I can see past the city of Tel Aviv across the entire country to the Judean Hills, and I am acutely aware of Israel’s vulnerability and the fragility of its 8,500 square miles.

This, we are soon to learn, is Israel, a dichotomy of old and new continuing the struggle of its existence.

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