Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Step Tours and Crazy Sunsets

Many people know about the Bahi’I Gardens and the shops and restaurants in the Carmel Center, but another activity that is unique to Haifa is the Thousand Step Tours that take you from the top of the Carmel to the bottom. There are four paths you can choose, each taking you down a different route through one of the neighborhoods at the bottom. Given the weather has been so beautiful, I thought going on one of these self-guided tours would be a great way to see a new part of the city and to be outside and get some exercise at the same time.

Becca and I went on Thursday afternoon, and it was Take 2 for us. We had set out to do it the week before but neglected to bring our maps and before we even hit the 50 step mark, we lost the official step path and proceeded to make our own route down the mountain. It was definitely fun, but we wanted to do it the right way. This time, we set out to go down the Red path to Wadi Nisnas, an area neither of us had really seen yet. The photo on the left is from the beginning of the Thousand Step Tour, at the top of the first staircase before the four paths split from each other. Descending down the stairs, we walked through some residential streets that were reminiscent of suburbia with all the trees and gardens surrounding some of the houses. As we continued west and down the mountain, we approached the Bahi’I Gardens before cutting back east into Wadi Nisnas. After completing the Red path, not only do I now want to do the other three paths, but I’m planning to take a day to walk up the Thousand Steps from the bottom to the top…talk about some exercise!

Ariel came in for Shabbat and we made a delicious dairy dinner (oh Channel 7…) of a salad with feta cheese, salmon steak, and a noodle kugel, and two different kinds of ice cream for dessert. The three of us went on quite an adventure on Saturday. We took a sherut to Akko and walked along the water en route to the Old City. The stone walls are from the days of the Crusaders and there are paths along the Ramparts to walk on top of them, so we went up to see the views from a bit higher. While up on the walls, we stopped to watch some of the waves crash near a lookout point directly below us. There we saw a highlight of the day – a group of kids were watching the waves, when a big one approached. Most of them ran from the shore, but one kid stayed and got drenched by this huge wave! From there, we walked through the shuk, which on Saturday consisted of mainly Arab businesses, and found a restaurant for lunch. It was this really nice place with arches carved into the stone interior, and we gorged ourselves on pita, hummus and falafel.

Ariel’s friend from summer camp, Amir, met us at the restaurant and wanted to take us somewhere to go walking or hiking. So we started driving north planning on going for a short hike and then to a Crusader fortress. But since we were so far up north, we decided instead to go to Rosh Hanikra, the beautiful cliffs marking Israel’s border with Lebanon along the Mediterranean. We first saw the dramatic scenery from high up at the top of the cliff, and then went down to sea level to sit and watch the waves crash and the water splash on the rocks along the coast. We stayed for sunset, which as you’ll be able to see from my pictures, was all sorts of crazy colors – (so many colors even I could see!).

Amir then took us to his house in Mitzpeh Hila for some tea. As we turned onto his street, there was a poster reading “Gilad, we’re waiting for you at home” – referring to Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped 3 and a half years ago and is being held in captivity by Hamas. I didn’t think much of it as we passed it because many places in Israel have posters in his honor. But as we slowed down to turn into Amir’s driveway, he pointed to the house across the street, he said, “That over there is Gilad Schalit’s house”. He said it rather non-chalantly, but it was very powerful. Gilad’s captivity, and the proposed prisoner exchange with Hamas to bring him home is a controversial, yet gut-wrenching political discussion. And regardless of how I feel about the exchange itself, there’s no way to deny the pain of knowing that one of Israel’s soldiers is being held by Hamas and is living in untold suffering, unable to be visited by the International Red Cross or any other human rights organizations.

But back to happier things – on Sunday, Becca and I went up to Katzrin for two simchas. Eli and Elisheva had a birthday party for Ma’or, who just turned three years old. In addition to the Elmo Cake and lots of very good food and goodie bags for the kids, Ma’or got his hair cut for the first time and got his first kippa and tzitzit to wear. It was also the first time we got to meet their beautiful newborn daughter, Hallel Shira.

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