The Queen had committed to going to a meeting in Israel before she knew she was definitely leaving NIH. It did not come at a good time since we will be leaving on our bike trip three days after we get back from Israel. One of the problems in going to Israel is that in over her 30 years at NIH the Queen has had many Israelis in her lab and has traveled to Israel frequently for meetings (10 times) so she knows lots of people there. As small as Israel is it is hard to get around and see everyone but we did try on this visit.
Jerusalem and Laura the Guide
Our first stop was Jerusalem. We stayed in the same hotel that we stayed at in our first trip to Israel together in 1993. It was then called the Windmill Hotel because it is located in an area near the Montifiore windmill. Sir Moses Montifiore was a very rich English Jew who established seven neighborhoods in Jerusalem in the early 19th Century. The hotel is now called the Prima Royale and is in a perfect location for seeing Jerusalem and I would recommend it for anyone going.
For those of you who visited our website from Rome you may remember that we had one visitor from Israel, a friend's niece Laura. Laura is the one that our upstairs neighbor, Graziano, thought was the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Even on this visit to Rome when we ran into him on the street he asked about Laura. She works as a tour guide in Israel and had volunteered to take us around on our visit to Jerusalem. She arrived at our hotel soon after we arrived by Sherut from the airport.
The Sherut is an Israeli institution that may be seeing its last days. The Sherut is a shared taxi and it only costs $10 per person for a ride that can be an hour long in traffic. They have completed a new rail link from the airport to Tel Aviv and are working on one from the airpoirt to Jerusalem. We knew we were back in Israel when we were delayed at the airport because the driver was arguing with the dispatcher that all the people in his Sherut were going to places far apart in Jerusalem. Then when we arrived in Jerusalem some of the passengers, who were Israeli, started to tell the driver which roads he should be taking and although they were all speaking Hebrew, which neither the King nor Queen understand, we got the gist of the rather heated argument.
This is a picture of Laura and the Queen with the Temple Mount and Western Wall in the background. The Golden Dome in the background is the Dome of the Rock, built in 685 CE. It is from this location that the Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven. The Temple Mount is where both the first (built 11th century BCE, destroyed by Babylonians in 586 BCE) and second Jewish Temples (destroyed by Romans in 70 CE) were located. The Western Wall is the only part of the Temple Mount where the Jews are allowed to go and pray. After the 1967 war the Israeli government turned over the administration of the Temple Mount to the Arabs.
There is always something new being uncovered in Jerusalem. Laura took us to the City of David. According to legend/bible the City of David (11th century BCE) was the area where King David had built a large palace on the hillside just below the hill where the Temple Mount and therefore the first temple was located. The actual Temple Mount did not exist at that time. Herod in about the 1st century BCE expanded the second temple and built the temple mount by removing and adding lots of dirt from the surrounding mountains to create it. They have just uncovered some new water tunnels and a massive stone foundation that they believe is the Palace where David lived in the 11th century BCE. In this area they have now found proof that corroborates that this location was in fact where David lived.
To me the most interesting find in the City of David was an ancient toilet. If you look very closely you can see a square stone with a hole in it. Not much advancement in 3000 years.
We did have Shabbat dinner at Laura's apartment. Laura has 6 children ranging in age from 5 to 15 and they live in a three-bedroom apartment with ONE bathroom!! Shabbat dinner was a family affair. Everyone had a job and they performed like a well-tuned army. I asked Laura if this was just a show for us visitors but she said this is the way they do the meal every night and that it would not work if they didn't do it this way. Their kids were incredibly mature... even the 5 year old who did have a melt down at dinner.
Jerusalem and Michael Elkin
On Friday morning Michael Elkin who had worked in Hynda's lab picked us up to take us on another tour of the new things that we had not seen in Jerusalem since our last visit 5 years ago. Michael and his wife are from Russia and they have four children. Michael took us to one of the new excavations at the south wall of the Temple Mount. You can get some idea of how far down they have to dig to uncover the really old stuff at the Temple Mount. Behind Michael and the Queen is a hill. At the top is the present level of the city of Jerusalem.
This is a picture of the Hulda Gates that were the southern entrance to the Temple Mount. The gates have been sealed up as you can see in the picture. This picture was taken at 11AM on Friday and we could not go down to the gates because the Muslims had already started to pray on the Temple Mount. The stairs going up were built with different widths to slow people down because on some holidays thousands of people would come. It is estimated that some 300,000 Muslims could fit on the Temple Mount to pray today. The hillside in the distance is the Mount of Olives. The side of a mountain is a cemetery that is important to the Jews because it is the closest place to the Temple Mount and when the Messiah comes back they will be the first in line to get resurrected. Jews have been buried there since the 1st century. When the Jordanians controlled controlled the Mount of Olives between 1948 and 1967 they used the stones in the cemetery for construction purposes.
On Saturday we went to Michael's house for Shabbat lunch and then did a three-hour `orthodox' stroll around Jerusalem. In the area where he lives it appears to be all Orthodox and there were bumper to bumper strollers. We walked through the German colony that was built in the late 19th Century by the Templars. They tried to make it look like Europe. The picture shows the house of one of Jerusalem's most famous `ladies-of-the-night' who lived here through the British Mandate period (1917-1948). Business must have been good.
This picture is one of Ehud Olmert's new house who as of this writing is in the lead to become the next Prime Minister of Israel. There is some controversy over this since he is not paying list price but is getting a good deal from the developer. What's new?
Michael has four children and here is a picture of two of them (Sarah and Levi) playing on a sculpture on our walk.
This second picture is of Noam. Noam was cute but we were warned that he is dangerous. I was picking him up just as they warned me he and he grabbed my lip and started pulling it. I put him down and told him in my best stern voice not to do that (he does not understand English) and he spit at me. Needless to say I did not pick him up again.
The Seaside in Herzylia
The Queens's meeting on Calcified Tissue and Stem Cells (Huh??) was in Herzylia. Herzylia is one of the wealthiest areas in Israel. It lies on the Mediterranean, about 30 minutes north of Tel Aviv. Many wealthy people have second homes here. The King took a walk along the beach and the pictures shown are looking South and North. The one to the South shows our hotel. It is the first tall building on the left.
The one looking North shows a mosque that was built in the 12th Century.
My Day With Biunky
For those of you who are returning to the Kleinchik website you may remember my trip to the concentration camp at Tereisenstadt with one of the scientists that Hynda had met at some meetings. Biunky is on of those individuals that you take an instant liking to. While the Queen was at her meeting, Biunky picked the King up at our hotel to spend the day with me.
Biunky Buys Two Cars
The first thing that Biunky asked me when I got in the car was “How would you like to go and buy two cars today?” I said that would be fun thinking that he was just kidding. The next thing I knew we were in a Toyota dealership bargaining for two new cars. This turned out to be very interesting. I learned that the cars in Israel are almost twice what we pay in the US. He bought a Corolla and a Varig, a model of Toyota that I had never heard of. The Israeli government has a 70 percent tax on the car that they dealer pays.. well actually the buyer pays it in the price but it is not called out as a tax when you sign the papers. Then the tax that the purchaser pays is 16.5 percent so you are actually paying 80 percent taxes.
The night before Biunky had told me that he was going to take me to Caesarea and Akko today. When he picked me up he said that his friends had told him that the country was on high alert because of the pending election and they suspected that there would be a terrorist strike and Akko would not be a good place to go - it has a very high proportion of Arabs. Instead we would go to Latrun, a city on the way to Jerusalem that played a key role in the 1948 War of Independence.
As we proceeded on the number 1 road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem I noticed that at one point there was a checkpoint set up on the opposite side of the highway. After the checkpoint there was no traffic on the other side. Then we ran into a barricade on our side of the road. We were about 20 cars from the stopping point. The traffic on the other side was stopped at the same point.
Somehow the police had learned that a suicide bomber had gotten into Israel from the West Bank and was traveling in a van. They had stopped a van on the way to Jerusalem with 10 Arabs in it with about 5 kilos of explosives. We sat on the highway for one hour. All the Israelis got out of their cars and waited calmly. When we were allowed to drive by they have all ten on their stomachs with only tee shirts and underwear on and spread out all over a field.
The picture is of the closed highway. You can see the traffic stopped in the other direction. On our side just beyond the stopped cars you can just make out something that is actually the van the terrorists were traveling in. I did not want to get any closer since we learned early by listening to the radio that they had found explosives. This would have been an absolute disaster if they had gotten to Jerusalem.
The Armored Brigade Memorial
In Latrun, we visited the location of one of the key battles of the 1948 War of Independence. Latrun is one of the first hills that overlook the highway that goes from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Arab Legion had a siege on Jerusalem and the Jews living in Jerusalem had no water, food or ammunition. The Israelis tried to capture Latrun as a first step toward opeing the road but never managed to do it. It remained in Arab (Jordanian) hands until the 1967 war. The Israelis actually built another road in another location and that was the road that people took to reach Jerusalem until 1967. This hilltop is now the location of the Armored Brigade Memorial and they have a wall with every soldier from the armored brigade that was killed in battle. They also have a large number of tanks they have employed over the years and that they have captured.
Biunky lost two brothers-in-law during the 1967 war within 4 days. Both were in tanks, one in the Golan Heights and one in Gaza. We found their names on the wall.
The next stop for Biunky and I was at Mini Israel. Mini Israel is sort of like a miniature of Israel that you walk around in. They have models of the important buildings in all the locations with some written material. When we arrived there were hundreds of Nigerians at a ceremony of some sort. Laura was the first one who mentioned the Nigerians to us. It seems that during the first intifada when absolutely no one was coming to Israel the only ones that came were the Nigerians. Their government was paying for the trip and giving them spending money to buy gifts. She said they kept the guide industry afloat for two years. Michael told us that when he moved back to Israel during Intifada II he and his wife were the only ones in a hotel for three days. On the fourth day the entire hotel filled up with Ethiopians. The hotel we stayed in had Hynda and I and Nigerians. Here is a picture of a large contingent of Nigerians at Mini Israel celebrating something.
On Shabbat the elevators in our hotel (it was Kosher) operate by themselves… that is.. you do not push buttons.. the elevator stops at every floor. Hynda and I were getting on the elevator on Shabbat and it was filled with Nigerians who told us not to get on because it was broken and stopping at every floor.
Dinner at Biunky's
One night we had dinner at Biunki Sredni's home and he promised to make it an interesting evening. He invited Rafi Eitan. He is 80 years old and was the head of the Mossad for 25 years. Before he was head he was sent to Argentina in 1960 as the head of the team that kidnapped Adolph Eichmann. He told some very interesting things about the operation. He was also the case officer for Jonathon Pollard, the US citizen in jail for spying for Israel, and Eitan cannot enter the US anymore for he will be arrested. He is running for the Knesset in the March 28th elections and the polls indicate that he and two other members of his party should get in. He was a very gentle, nice person and was very small. Not at all what you expect from the head of Mossad.
Lunch at Bar Ilan
Biunky is a professor at Bar Ilan University that is located north and east of Tel Aviv. It has a large beautiful campus and the Queen gave a seminar there. We went out to lunch afterward with Biunki and his wife Devora.
Emir Cuts It All Off
The King decided to resume his tradition of getting a haircut on his international trips. Near the hotel we stayed at in Herzylia there was a little village with three hairdressers. I chose Emir's shop because he looked the most interesting. My hair was pretty long since I have not cut it in a year and a half. I wanted to get it cut before we began our bike trip since I think it will be easier to manage. Emir did not want to cut it. He kept coming up with alternatives which included keeping my ponytail but cutting it so it was higher on my head. He reluctantly agreed to cut it short.
Calcified Tissue and Stem Cells
The meeting at Herzylia was arranged by a good freind of Hynda's. This is a picture of Hynda and Dafna.
One night we were taken to a Middle Eastern restaurant and sat around a big table and ate salad.
Kiss My Ass
On our last day in Israel another friend Muriel picked us up. We spent the day at Caesarea. Caesarea is an old Roman port city on the Mediterranean shore about a half-hour north of Herzylia. Like many forts and cities in Israel, it has been run and overrun by all sorts of people over the ages, from Romans to Arabs to Crusaders, each adding their own mark to the place. This first picture is of the Queen and Muriel at lunch at the port area.
After lunch we wandered around the site. This is an old Crusader church behind Muriel and the Queen.
In our wanderings we ran across some juvenile delinquents who gave me the finger, were smoking cigarettes and yelled at me `Kiss My Ass' among other things. I guess they did not like the fact that I was trying to take their picture.
This is a picture of Muriel with her parrot Mickey Bird.