Monthly Archives: April 2013

The 3 legged camel

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On our recent Passover trip to the desert we stayed in a campsite. It was not the kind of campsite I am used to staying in, it was what I would term ‘glamping’ (glamour camping).  No we didn’t all don high heels and dressed for dinner (only the boys), but because the tents were huge domed affairs with tiled floors, mattresses and duvets and although we had communal bathrooms they were cleaner and way more spacious than my bathroom at home.  The real treat of this place was the view.  Perched on the edge of a canyon it overlooked the valley below and out towards the mountains of the Negev.

view of canyon

On our first evening, weary from a long car trip with small childers we all sat and watched as dusk fell and the light changed the canyon walls from pale yellow to pink.  From down the valley we saw a line of camels walking past.  Stopping occasionally to check out the sparse greenery they followed each other until they were out of sight.  Lagging behind somewhat came a second line, moving slower and in less order than their predecessors these camels had one leg bent at the knee and bound with bandages.  At first we thought the leader was injured but as more went by, we realised that these camels must be the runners as they were all tied, presumably to stop them escaping.  Bringing up the rear was a man with a stick.  Where they were going is unclear as they were moving away from the tiny village, perhaps they liked to sleep al fresco, far from man’s encroachment on their desert dwelling.

Apparently this is called hobbling and is not just to keep the camels from moving too far from their owner but is also used for the more aggressive camels to keep them in order and if need be, to attend to them when they are injured.  They were moving slowly but they didn’t seem too bothered by their hindrance, perhaps because they didn’t have a choice but to get on with it.  To our eyes it looked terribly cruel but the bedouins and the ancient tribes have been using this method throughout the centuries to train and control their camels.

The camels became a symbol of our holiday for me.  Holidaying as we always do with a group of good friends and their children I often feel that I too am hobbled.  No, nobody ties me up (except the childers as they all demand simultaneous carrying, cuddling, play fighting), my hobble is due to my inability to fully speak the language.  Always one second (or 10 minutes) behind the conversation as my rusty computer whirrs the translation to English I find myself becoming more mute as time passes.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to keep up.  All our friends are amazing I should add and speak to me in English, they don’t ever intentionally ostracize me but the chat is obviously in their mother tongue and when plans are being made,  decisions being mulled I rely on my ever patient husband to translate when I lose the thread and oftentimes I stay out of it.  This is a big mistake and I fully accept that it is a problem of my making.  If you are in my situation you probably already know this, and if you don’t, take it from me, make sure you are involved as ignorance is certainly not bliss and inclusion as an expat is always the goal, in every situation.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being hobbled in everyday life in a foreign country.  When you are not used to the customs and culture or religion, when newspapers, magazines,  even signs are either illegible or take perseverance, when you don’t get the jokes and can’t join in the chat about pop culture because watching local TV and listening to local radio requires effort, remaining ignorant and therefore disabled in the short-term is the easiest option.  This however is a slippery slope and in the long run leads to isolation, frustration and eventually self-confidence takes a nose dive.

Like the camels we learn to live with it.  Like most situations in life, human beings have the ability to adapt and acclimate to just about anything.  The question  has to be though, when does it stop being so difficult, when does the penny finally drop and full absorption take place?  If it doesn’t, does that mean it’s time to pack up and go back to where we can fully understand the humour, the nuances, the slang?  I liked walking with 4 legs and when 1 is tied at the knee it’s hard sometimes not to just get tired and fall down.

 

We stayed at a wonderful place called Lev Ha Midbar (Heart of the Desert) http://www.levhamidbar.co.il/ in Tzukim about 90 minutes north of Eilat.

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Don’t leave me this way

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A new discovery about parenting raised its ugly head recently that I hadn’t yet considered.  My childers are still of nursery age, in Israel they are 6 before they start school.  I pick them up and they are with me for the afternoon from 4pm onwards, but what happens when they start school?  In Israel school is a morning thing, something us Brits can’t get our heads around.  School finishes in general around 12.30, so what happens afterwards, where do all the children go?  Here’s my horrifying new discovery, after age 8 or 9 (3rd Grade) they go home, ALONE.  OK not all of them (Grandparents, stay at home parents, working from home parents aside), but in general it is perfectly normal and acceptable for 8 and 9 year old children to take themselves home from school on foot or by school bus and spend the afternoon alone or with siblings until a parent arrives.

Like most modern countries, the majority of families have 2 parent’s working, if you are a single parent then of course you also work, so in essence that means you always need someone to take care of your children after school finishes at lunchtime until you can get home from work at 5pm, 6pm or shudder 7pm and later.  For pre-school, Grades 1 and 2 that means after school clubs which are privately run and are costly (especially if you have more than 1 child), or a babysitter.  Once they reach the 3rd grade  after school club is no longer available and a large majority of children here take themselves home, feed themselves their lunchtime meal (crisps and chocolate?) and entertain themselves.

This is no criticism on the parenting here, children and family life here is treasured and Israel in the main is a very safe environment for children (security issues aside).  It is a very child friendly nation, one of the reasons I like it here. There are very few cases of abduction and pedophilia in comparison to the States, the UK or Canada for example. It is out of necessity rather than choice that kids are left alone at what I would consider a very young age and I presume it is so commonplace that it doesn’t seem an issue.  However I can’t help thinking about accidents, about burglary, about bullying and quite frankly right now the idea of leaving my kids alone (when the twins reach 3rd grade their brother will be 11) quite simply horrifies me.  Perhaps I will think differently when they get to that age.

When I made my discovery I started asking around, both Israeli and British parents, what their take on the situation was, maybe I am just over-protective. In the main the Israelis think its normal, some have grandparents who call in, generally there is an older sibling, these are the days of mobile phones and they can constantly track where their little ones are.  The Brits, like me are appalled, especially those whose children haven’t reached this age yet.  The Brits were convinced that in the UK leaving a 9-year-old alone is in fact against the law.  Not so.  A quick bit of research reveals that there is no age specified by law in the UK when you can leave your child alone, however, ‘it is an offence to leave a child alone when doing so puts him or her at risk.’  Hmmm, what’s risk ? A bit more googling revealed that in Australia, Canada and most States in America also don’t have a minimum age, New Zealand however, says at 14 a child can legally be left alone or in charge of younger children, which rather puts into question my safe environment in Israel theory – surely New Zealand is uber safe?  I did discover one source that said children under the age of 6 cannot be left alone in Israel.  I’m not certain how reliable the source is but even so,  SIX?  Oh my good lord.nintendo ds

Let’s put safety to one side for a moment, I am sure many will argue that it is perfectly acceptable.  My next question-to-self was, what do they do?  Homework?  How many 9 year olds will do their homework without coercion?  (and by the way they have a lot of homework apparently, probably due to the fact they are only taught for half a day ie 3.5 – 4 hours a day).  I would hazard a guess and say computers and TVs play a large role, but I am no expert, my childers are still too small.  I know what I would do.  Also, if they are home totally alone with no siblings, don’t they get lonely?

When I was 9 school finished at 3.10pm.  I lived opposite my primary school and as my Mum worked shifts as a nurse, some days she picked me up.  On the days she worked in the afternoon my Grandma would be in charge and I would take myself back to her house (15 minutes walk away) or she would be at my house cooking up a storm (her culinary expertise was legendary – once she cooked custard in a pan she had cooked carrots in, forgetting to wash in between.  What are these orange things in the custard Grandma?).  I am 99.9% certain that I wasn’t left to fend for myself until I was in High School (aged 11) and my older brother was then in charge (age 13).  I should add that my younger sister (then 6) went to a child minder, we didn’t take responsibility for her until she was at least 9.

I think my horror and surprise was due to a few factors; yes safety, yes the question of amusing themselves, getting themselves home safely etc but also it’s just so strange that in a country where kids rule and family is sacred there is this illogical lack of support for working parents once school is out – why oh why do the schools finish so early? Especially because school is 6 days a week here.  Yes you heard right, kids go to school on the weekend so the parents get a morning to themselves.

If  we are still in Israel when our eldest gets to 3rd grade I don’t know what we’ll do.  Who knows what our situation will be then.  Right now I just feel sad for all the kids home alone every day (although they probably love it) and for the parents who must worry non stop, or maybe I am just being too damned soft…  What do you think?

Bonfire Night Israel style.

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As the smoke clears from a slightly damp Independence Day barbecue the important task of collecting wood in shopping trolleys begins for the next fire friendly festival in Israel, Lag BaOmer.  You would be forgiven for thinking that it’s just one big festival over here at the moment but in actual fact Jews are currently in the period of mourning which is Omer, the 50 day period between Passover and Shavuot.  Lag Ba’Omer is the one day (the 33rd day) that is a day of celebration during this time.

Here goes with the 39 & Counting rundown of the reasons for this holiday (Jewish readers look away now):

The Omer period is counted from the exodus from Egypt at Passover to the giving of the Torah at Shavuot

The Omer period of mourning is for the victims of a plague in the time of Rabbi Akiva, the Rabbi from the time of the destruction of the 2nd temple.

The mourning is lifted and celebrations occur on Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of Omer) because the dying of the plague victims ceased on this day.

It is also the day that marks the death of 2nd Century Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author and first teacher of the Kabbalah book, the Zohar.

It also marks the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire led by Bar Kokhba

The holiday is marked with bonfires symbolising the light of the Torah (other reasons are also given here) and in more modern interpretations, to celebrate the heroics of Bar Kokhba in leading the revolt.

As you can see it’s a confusing one.  As ever you can read more about it here and here.

For many Israelis Lag BaOmer means a few things in their modern lives.  Firstly it’s the only day between Passover and Succhot that you can get married, secondly it’s a time when children of all ages gather and make bonfires, everywhere and anywhere.  For me it’s the night 9 years ago that my husband proposed.

At least a week before, the hunt for the best bits of wood starts with none too ethical tactics being used by some older children to bag the best haul (didn’t we have a fence yesterday?) .   In the run up to the actual day the organised nursery and school fires take place culminating in the busiest night for the fire brigade when older kids try to outdo each other with the most enormous mountain of a fire possible.  Not the safest of holidays.

Luck is on the emergency service’s side this year because shock horror it has been raining, a lot, for a week.  This is pretty much unheard of at this time of year, it’s certainly the latest in the year that I’m still rocking my winter boots since I moved here.  The ground is damp, the wood is wet and instead of having a week of smokey smog it looks like it may only be a couple of days. So be safe kids and we’ll be wrapping up warm a la Guy Fawkes night when we’re huddled around the fire tomorrow night.

Trying to make sense of it all

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When you quasi speak in a different language on a day-to-day basis there are words or phrases that you find yourself using a lot, often as a bridge to the next bit of vocab that you have momentarily forgotten.  For example when I lived in France I always used ‘je pense’ (I think), even though most of the time I wasn’t thinking I was just warbling away and je pense filled any embarrassing gaps when I had run out of nonsense to spout.  In Hebrew I use ‘efshar’ a lot (which literally translated means, it’s possible/is it possible?) .  Efshar the bill, efshar to change this, efshar to pass, efshar to sit, you see you can use it in all sorts of situations and being the born and raised polite Brit that I am I find it difficult to just command as most Israelis do – ‘efshar the salt?’ instead of ‘give me the salt’.

My absolute favourite word in Hebrew is stam.  It doesn’t have the best music nor a terribly interesting meaning but you can use it in so many ways and there just isn’t a word to compare it to in English.

– the book was stam (OK)

– stam stam (only joking)

– it was stam (just) not interesting

– how’s your day? stam (OK)

– why did you do that? stam (no reason)

– I stam (just) wanted to say hi

Shame there’s no word like this in English.

There are a few words I like, simply because of their music, balagan (mess) is a good one and my eldest has just introduced me to achi ahoove alye which I think means, what I love the best – go on, say it out loud, it’s a beauty.  The other new phrase he says a lot is calay caloola which I think means easy peasy – love it.  Go on, try it, calay caloola, achi ahoove alye.  Having a bilingual house means that we also have a whole set of verbs and vocab that have no meaning in either English or Hebrew and yet we all understand, then on top of that we have the enormous amount of nonsense words that 2 year olds talk plus words my Dad invented when we were children  – anyone for a pa?(bath)

After my last trip to the UK I came home armed with CDs of kids songs in English.  Having based my entire Hebrew language learning on the kid’s songs that are played on repeat in the car, I decided it was time to teach the childers  English with some sing a long songs.  Beauties like Donkey Riding and Yankee Doodle are now top requests although I am not convinced how much usable English they are learning, ‘ what’s macaroni?’, ‘its a type of pasta’, ‘so why was the feather called macaroni?’, ‘umm’.  Then there’s the part which all English parents have to deal with, ‘ why did the goose throw the old man down the stairs?’ and my personal favourite ‘what’s whipped?’, ‘what’s soundly?’ ‘so why did she whip her children soundly’.  What is it with the English nursery rhymes that they are either nonsense or downright mean?

Recently number 1 son and I have had words because of language and in particular certain words that in Israel are not offensive but in English are, his Grandmother will have a fit.  He recently started saying ‘sit’ and it didn’t take a genius to work out that what he was actually saying was shit.  The good news is he didn’t learn it from me (he’d say shit not sit if he’d learnt it from me), and as shit, bullshit and even the dreaded f word really have no meaning in Israel other than for emphasis, it’s just a matter of time before I must have the conversation again to explain that there are certain words  that ‘we’ just don’t say.  A minefield indeed and this in a country where this ad for a teenage clothing store is on every billboard and bus stop.  tnt ad

 My childers will be potty mouthed urchins in English and as 50% of the time I don’t understand them in Hebrew they could well be the same in Hebrew.  Ah, the trials of an expat mother.

Smoke gets in your eyes

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haaretz

image: Haaretz.com

We are just days away from the barbecue bonanza which is Independence Day in Israel.  When every spare piece of ground has a group of family and friends gathered, barbecuing the b’geesus out of their kebabs.  When I say every spare piece of ground I mean parks, beaches, roundabouts, grass verges, bus stops.  You think of a space and you will find a metal tray of burning charcoal  set up and a group of people talking loudly aka arguing close by.

It’s a site to behold if you drive anywhere on Israel’s Independence Day, the lines to get into the national parks and the jostling for prime spots on the beaches, the parties being held in the parking lots of blocks of flats and the gatherings set up on the side of the road.  This is a day when the air by 1pm is thick with smoke and the smell of roasting meat – not great if you’re a vegetarian.

Israelis like to bbq.  No city park is complete without designated bbq areas complete with permanent bbq stands and picnic tables.  Independence Day is just the day when EVERYBODY does it but in general every Saturday the secular masses take to the countryside and get cooking or at least eating. One of the things I would miss if I were to live anywhere else is the Saturday outings; when we go for walks or picnics or build bonfires or barbecues or all of that, out in one of the many beautiful national parks.

Why Saturday, why food, why the outings? Well:

1. A large proportion of people in Israel live in apartments. This is a tiny country, over half of which is desert, with many, many people living here, so every Saturday people make for the parks and outdoor spaces in their droves as the majority do not have gardens or even balconies to hang out in.

2.  Saturday is the only full weekend day here.  The weekend is Friday Saturday and on Friday children go to school in the morning and some people also work.  (For the people who keep Shabbat this means that they really only have the non religious holidays to go out and about. Saturday is the day of rest where they don’t drive, cook, even turn on the electricity.  It also means that all household chores, food shopping etc has to be done during the week – no mean feat if you are a working parent.)  Just so you are clear this also means Sunday is a work day which takes a bit of getting used to when you’re from the West and as your friends and family are tucking into their Sunday roast you are at the office.

3. There is so much nature to see here.  Nothing is that far away if you live in the centre of the country.  2 hours could get you to desert, the Dead Sea, the Galilee and in less than an hour you can be on the coast, in the Jerusalem mountains in the Carmel region.

4.  People in Israel like to hike.  In my experience in the UK some people like to hike.  In Israel a large majority like to hike.  They also like to jog, do triathlons, mountain bike, road bike, climb, pothole, windsurf, kitesurf, surf surf, play basketball, football, handball (yes this is a game where you use your hand as a bat and whack a ball around a pitch – its true I have seen it in action).  Israel is the home of the fitness buff.  I’ll have to think hard on why that is… Anyway it stands to reason that come the weekend, when the whole family is together, the obvious choice is to merge the 2 favourite pastimes of an Israeli, exercise and eating.  Ah that’s the reason maybe, you can eat even more if you exercise first and in lieu of a back garden to go home to, you can bbq in the outdoor kitchen you set up in a park. Or if you are in my family, just skip the hike and go straight to the eating.

5.  Food is key here.  I have yet to meet someone here who does not cook, or go to friends or parents that cook. Food is a regular topic of conversation for all ages. Gathering over a meal is just about the single most important part of any holiday, weekend or just for the hell of it.  The restaurants are amazing (in the main), even stopping at a service station will be a culinary experience.  As everyone originates from a different part of the globe the choice is vast and each nationality has huge pride in their national food – don’t ever suggest to a Romanian that Turkish kebabs are better.

So back to Independence Day.  Keeping in mind that it’s a bonus day off for just about everyone (secular and religious alike), what better way to spend the day doing these favourite activities, except that as it’s also a day of celebration and parties, you can handily ditch the exercise bit, gather as many people as possible and just get eating.  Like most, we have a traditional gathering of the same group of people every year.  Before everyone’s childers the bbq was held on a tiny balcony or a city roof but these days we are all ‘of the age’ of suburban living so the families gather (what was 20 people is now at least 40 including the rug rats) at our friend’s garden to bbq prawns and kebabs, steak and sausages and drink beer and put the world to rights.  The kids run riot and I usually go home early evening with a hangover and an over inflated stomach.  Marvellous.

Oh pants

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Ah toilet training, what joy. The time has come for the last of the childers to go through this rite of passage.

As any veteran parent knows the best way to toilet train a child is to let them do it themselves.  Arm yourself with even more patience than usual, bulk buy enough cheap underwear to clothe a kindergarten and cross your fingers.  With number 1 son I did none of the above.  Foolishly I decided that nappy changing 3 babies was just not on.  Poor kid and his controlling mother. At just turned 2 and with 2 freshly delivered siblings I began his ‘training’ to use the toilet, it’s not like he had any other change to deal with right?  1 week, 1 stop beside a tree that lasted 30 minutes (are you sure you need to go?) and a very stressed child later the nappies went back on and there they stayed until he was approaching 3.  Hope I haven’t scarred him for life.  When he chose the time himself it took a few days.

Number 2 son was a surprise when at 2 he whipped off the Huggies and demanded pants.  1 week later and he had it sussed with only the odd accident.  His twin sister wasn’t so inclined – she couldn’t get the concept of sitting to pee not standing like her brothers, so 7 months later here we are and she has decided she’s ready.  Quick dash to the dollar store to stock up on sickly coloured (read throwaway) underwear and she’s well on the way.  Having taken 10 minutes to decide which colour pants she would like to wear first she promptly peed through chosen pants, on my shoe and onto the rug.  Never mind hey the poor rug has so many patches of cleaning detergent stains another one won’t matter  Six pairs and 10 minutes later and I am wishing I had bought 1 colour of pants so that she didn’t keep changing them to coordinate her outfit.  Girls hey?

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There are a few changes to introducing girls to a world without nappies that I had previously not considered.  You can basically remind a boy and he can pee on a tree, in a bush (at one time in an ambulance, in a cup), not so with girls.  What is that holding them akimbo, your arms outstretched to avoid spray, with their feet in the air at the side of the road?  I haven’t mastered it yet but I’ve seen others do it so it must be the right way.    Luckily she seems to be catching on pretty quick and after 3 days she is pretty much dry and not requiring umpteen changes of clothes.

I suppose it’s a rite of passage for me too, the last of my babies losing their last sign of babyhood.  Having changed nappies for 5 years, well four years and 10 months I will be lost without my trusty packet of wipes and crumpled nappy in the bottom of my bag.  Still, I am sure the environment will benefit and frankly I will not be sorry to see the back of what comes from the back – see how delicately I phrased that?  So goodbye Huggies and Pampers and those cheap copies that with twins you are always tempted to purchase.  Goodbye toddler toddle and the knowledge that a fall on the bum has been padded.  Hello even more washing and a permanently damp bathroom floor.

Remembrance

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In 1986 at age 14, I heard for the first time in a History lesson about the Holocaust

In 1997 I met someone who told me about his grandparents who lost parents, partners, siblings and children in the Holocaust

In 2005 I saw a number tattooed on an old man’s arm as he played backgammon in a coffee shop and I cried

In 2006 I saw the many other names written on my Grandmother in law’s gravestone to honour her parents and her siblings who perished, they did not have the luxury of a grave until their surviving family member died.

Every year I stand in silence for a minute with the rest of Israel when a siren of remembrance is sounded across the state, when the cars pull over at the side of the highways, when the supermarket tills stop ringing and the televisions and radios stop broadcasting.

8th April 2013. Holocaust Day in Israel.  We must never forget.

Holocaust Day

A question for the day

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If someone can explain to me why you would put fake bullet hole stickers on your car, I would love to hear it.
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Is it that old age thing creeping up on me again?

Is it because where I live there is a bigger chance of it being real than in say, Chipping Norton?

I should point out that the driver of said car was in his 60’s.

The first time I spotted a car with these stickers was way back in my early days in Israel and yes I thought they were real (despite the fact the car was literally riddled in them and had no other damage).  Luckily these days I am not so easily spooked but really, if anyone can explain the appeal I’d love to hear it. Realistic though aren’t they?

 

7 fail safe ways to impress first time visitors to Israel.

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Thank you to everyone who commented and shared this competition entry for www.expatblogs.com writing competition, no, I didn’t win, but it’s the taking part that counts right?!

For those of you who didn’t see it, here is my entry.  Despite what you may see and read in the press there is a side to Israel that most people don’t know, so if you fancy a visit this is what you can expect to see – especially if I am your guide!

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The Israel most people don’t see

1. Jerusalem. It goes without saying that any first time visitor to Israel should visit this most awe-inspiring city. Not only is Jerusalem geographically impressive, historically extraordinary and religiously remarkable it is also a bustling, noisy city of everyday people in an urban melting pot. Start with a view from the Hebrew University over the whole city then wind down by the Garden of Gethsemane to do a tour of the old city; the religious sites cannot fail to impress. Don’t forget to take an empty stomach to feast on the street food as you wander, from fresh bagels and zartar to hummus, kube, knafe (traditional Arab cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup), lahmabajeen (meat on pitta) and tamarind lemonade. Watch as your guest’s senses become bloated, as their minds try to absorb the languages, cultures, religions and sheer enormity of the importance of the city to so many. Take some time to visit outside of the old city walls; to the Machne Yehuda Market to taste halva and listen to the shouts of the market traders, to walk through the ruins of David’s City and wonder at the ancient ruins, to sit in the shade of the Montefiore windmill and take in the sights. Leave to the sound of church bells and calls to prayer ringing in their ears via a short hop to Ein Kerem or with a glimpse of the road down to the desert to tease their expectations for what’s to come.

2. The Dead Sea. No matter how stinky and stingy the water of the Dead Sea might be to some, no first time trip to Israel is complete without the compulsory photo reading a book whilst floating on the Dead Sea. Make your visitors strip off and cover them in mud (cameras at the ready), remind them to shower vigorously afterwards and then sit in silence on a cliff top whilst they take in the view. Arrive in the morning and spend the day in the desert so that the true beauty of the changing light on the barren land is fully appreciated. For the historically minded a visit to the majestic Masada fort is fascinating and even for those not so inclined, take them anyway. The view from the top is more than worth the climb or the cable car ride and the story cannot fail to move. Finish the day with traditional coffee in a Bedouin style tent on the shores of the sea, for extra ambience enhancement for your guests, take your guitar (and someone who can play it) to strum as the sun goes down.

3. Tel Aviv sea front and Jaffa. A walk or bike ride from one end of the tayelet (promenade) to the other will take your visitors from the modern cafes and restaurants in the Tel Aviv port, passing the sun worshippers, kite surfers and boogie boarders on the long white beach to the tranquil historic beauty of Jaffa port. A good guide-book to explain the significance historically and emotionally of the port is key, plus a comfy pair of shoes to climb the stairs into Jaffa itself. Once in the buzz of the town, food is once again crucial to the experience so put diets aside and make your visitors tuck into malabi, hummus and shakshuka, pausing for mint tea in the flea market to people watch and pick up an unusual bargain (odd shoe anyone?). If their feet can stand it, make the short walk to the old train station and into the oldest part of Tel Aviv, Neve Tsedek where the tiny run down cottages rub shoulders with designer jewellers and gourmet ice cream parlours and eat dinner in one of the atmospheric restaurants.

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Quiet in Jaffa port

4. North to the Sea of Galilee. The drive from the populated centre of Israel up into the hills of the Galilee should be savoured with regular stops for your visitors to appreciate the abundance of scenery changes on the way. Take the coast road for maximum effect, alongside the turquoise of the sea, the mountain pine forests and city of Haifa and the cliffs of Rosh Hanikra. As you drive inland make sure to point out the Keshet caves, the lonely impressive Montfort, tell the stories of the kibbutzim and their history and make a stop in the ancient and mystical town of Sefad high above the lake’s shore. Pause to take in the history and spirituality of the town, marvel at the views; east to the Golan, north to the Hermon and Lebanon, west to Mount Meron and south to Tiberias and the lake itself. Drive down to Rosh Pina to amaze with the choice of culinary experiences and then head to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) itself. I’ll bet they don’t know it’s a lake.

5. The Sea of Galilee. Depending on the age and interests of your visitor, the lake and its surroundings to stun all tastes. The religious sites and churches on the banks marking the locations of Bible stories from Old and New Testaments, Roman ruins, Jewish holy sites, Byzantine mosaics and a 1st Century fishing boat, to name but a few of the historic and religious gems in the area. For the thrill seekers; white water rafting on the Jordan River (in season of course), windsurfing or jet skiing on the lake and for the nature lovers a walk around or up from the lake promises a wealth of bird life, wildlife, and evidence of ancient life. The views are majestic and don’t forget to keep one eye on the sky to catch a glimpse of impressive preying birds swooping and hovering. End your day with a dip in the lake, in summer the water is warm and the muddy bottom slips between your toes. Don’t forget to take along your shesh besh (backgammon) board, your gas burner and finjan (pot) to make the coffee as you watch the sunset.

6. The Negev. So you took them to the Dead Sea and they had a glimpse at the desert. Now you need to head further into the Negev and show them the Israel they had probably imagined. Camels, donkeys and long stretches of road with nothing but rocks and sand, eagles overhead and Bedouin tents in the distance. The Negev has a stark beauty that cannot fail to impress, especially visitors from the Northern hemisphere. Pack your binoculars and the ubiquitous coffee-making equipment for unscheduled shady stops to listen to the silence and wonder at the dry enveloping heat. Your goal is to get to the town of Mitzpe Ramon where your visitors get their first glimpse of the impressive crater, stock up on all the knowledge there that they need to fully grasp the enormity, geographical wonder and history of the massive natural crater. Remember to make friends with the nosy ibex that wander around the hot town’s streets. Take them for a walk in the crater’s floor to pick up ammonite fossils and get a glimpse of the geological curiosities which crowd the area. Don’t forget to show your insider knowledge by leaving via the small crater and your descent by the Scorpion’s Ascent, a steep and winding road down to the main desert highway. As night falls, pull over to watch and listen to the desert come to life as the temperature drops. For the more adventurous, pull out your sleeping bag and sleep under the stars but only if you can handle it, nothing worse than your host panicking when there’s a rustle in the sand.

7. Tel Aviv by night. Any self-respecting local knows that the nightlife in Tel Aviv only starts after 11pm so pre-warn your visitors to take an afternoon nap and prepare to be out ‘til dawn. Book a dinner at one of the many notable culinary establishments Tel Aviv has to offer, think Middle Eastern, your visitors want a taste of the local fare not a bowl of spaghetti. When setting out to the restaurant take a walk down Rothschild or Nachlat Binyamin streets to get a taste of Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus past. Stop for a quick cocktail in one of the multitude of bars. Once full and astounded by the quality of their dinner you can start to head to the bars spilling out onto the streets. If they are still able, at 1am head downtown to one of the clubs where the music is loud, the drinks are shots and the dancing is sweaty. A sleep on the beach as the sun comes up followed by a quick dip should sort out the ringing in their ears and clear their heads for the day ahead.

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