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Friday, May 27, 2005

Reflections on Israel, Part I

Various readers have asked for some more details about my recent trip and I thought I’d share some highlights of the recent trip to Israel and some of my impressions of that continually astounding country. 

We started off our Israel trip in Jerusalem , enjoying the extraordinary hospitality of my cousins Tzippi and Elad, who live in the Kiryat Yovel section of Jerusalem.  Notwithstanding the fact that I had lived for a year in Jerusalem ten years ago on a Dorot-Harvard fellowship and had been there many times before a few times since, Elad took Wendi (whose first trip to Israel this was) and me to a few neighborhoods that undergone extraordinary renaissances during the last ten years. 

Ein Kerem in particular is a place that few foreign travelers get to because it’s a bit hard to find, and not easily accessible through public transit or by foot from the heart of Jerusalem.  But it’s a magnficent place, with winding roads, cafes whose outdoor seating is layered with lush overcover from the trees, and hidden oases of quiet and space in an otherwise bustling and teeming city. 

We stayed in Jerusalem for a few days, where we saw, among other things, the fantastically powerful and newly renovated Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum

that Marty Peretz wrote elegantly about a few months back here.  We stopped by to say an impromptu hello to Shimshon Zelniker at the Van Leer Institute on our walking tour of Talbiye, and ended the day with an extraordinary meal and conversation at the bookstore café, Tmol Shilshom, with my friend David Ehrlich, the writer who, eleven years ago, decided Jersualem needed a magical reprieve where ideas and yummy food could commingle among foreigners and Yerushalmis alike. During our stay in Jerusalem, we also took the very instructive and fun tunnels tour at the Western Wall in the Old City (take note that reservations are necessary). 

This trip marked the first time I rented a car in Israel.  Sadly, Israel is known for having lost more people on its roads in car accidents than during wars or acts of terrorism. But I can see that things have improved markedly over the last ten years.  Although I speak Hebrew reasonably well, I found the roads incredibly well-marked in English for tourists and the maps are very helpful in avoiding getting lost (too often).  I was also impressed by the quality of the roads and highways: Israel has spent lots of money on developing a good infrastructure for travel, and especially if you avoid travelling at peak hours, you can traverse a great deal of the country in surprisingly short amounts of time, which allows you to enjoy a good amount of Israel’s variegated geography without having to lose a ton of time in travel.

Ok, enough for now. In Chicago for Wendi’s brother’s wedding. Must be sociable now…

Posted by Administrators on May 27, 2005 at 04:03 PM in Odd World | Permalink

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