Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Trees, Turtles and Trumpeldor

I haven't written a post about my adventures in Israel for some time. My kids are getting older and don't come out with me as much as they used to, but my Dad was here recently for the holiday of Sukkot and some time after. He was more than ready to come exploring with me, even if it meant that the explorations were at a slower pace than usual!
We made a return visit to the Ilanot National Arboretum, which was planted in the early days of the State of Israel to test the possibility of acclimatizing different tree varieties to local conditions. As the years passed the forest was abandoned and suffered from neglect, until the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) took it in hand and revived it. My Dad is a keen gardener and also helped raise money for the JNF for many years, so this was the perfect place to start his visit, and for us to get acquainted with some foreign, strange and wondrous trees, representing a great assortment of locations all over the world.
Later that day we revisited Gesher Hatzabim, or Turtle Bridge, in the Nahal Alexander National Park. Turtle Bridge is one of the only places in Israel where a population of giant soft-shelled turtle can be observed. They cluster by the bridge because they can be sure of an appreciative audience of visitors, usually feeding junk food to the unfortunate beasts. Sadly the peanut butter-flavoured snack Bamba is no better for turtles than it is for us, so really it's a terrible shame that people do it. However, the park is a great place for families to hang out, and Dad, Mister Handmade in Israel and I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon there, picnicking in the sunshine.
I had read about the Jewish Legions Museum (Beit Hagedudim), located in Moshav Avichail, north of Netanya, but had not visited before and didn't know quite what to expect. As it happened, we discovered an impressive structure housing the museum on top of a hill, overlooking the wide Hefer Valley.
The museum was established in 1961 by veterans of the Hebrew battalions (gdudim) of the First World War. It presents the story of Jewish volunteering to the British Armed Forces during World Wars I and II. They struggled to bear a Hebrew symbol on their uniforms, yet practically designed the base on which the Israel Defence Forces were later established. Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Yosef Trumpeldor, early Zionist activists, led the volunteer movement and the first battalion, the Muleteers Corps.
Jabotinsky's name showed up again when we visited the Etzel Museum in Tel Aviv, below. From 1931-1939, the Irgun or Etzel, as it is also known (an acronym of the Hebrew initials אצ"ל‎, or IZL), fought against the Arabs who attacked Jewish settlements and villages throughout Mandate Palestine. In 1939, when the British limited Jewish immigration, Etzel began to fight against the British as well. Etzel policy was based on what was then called Revisionist Zionism founded by Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
The museum explained the context for the Etzel’s formation and about events in the country at the time. We learnt about Etzel members and the many Etzel missions, the strategy for each attack and how it played out. The museum was informative, if a little dry. Dad and I were the only ones there and we had the whole place to ourselves on the day we visited.
Another day we visited the new Israeli Police Heritage Museum, in the same complex as the National Police College, near Beit Shemesh. This wonderful museum only opened in April 2015 and I wasn't sure what to expect. It turned out to be a real treat!
The museum presents visitors with the story of the police in the Land of Israel, from the Hebrew preservation organisations in the late Ottoman period and the British police, through to the establishment of the Israeli Police and operations over the years, up to the police as we know it today. The exhibition includes unique historical exhibits, which illustrate the development of policing in its earliest days to the present, as well as multimedia presentations that contribute to the experience of the tour.
And finally, towards the end of Dad's visit, we went off to explore beautiful Jaffa, thought to have been the port from which Jonah left in the story of the whale. It is also associated with the biblical stories of Solomon and Saint Peter, as well as the mythological story of Andromeda and Perseus, and of course later with oranges.
We started the day at the port (known as Namal Yafo), which used to be a hangout for fisherman, lone artists and the homeless. After major renovation of its old warehouse buildings, the port is now teeming with life and culture, from galleries and cafés, to some of the hippest nightclubs in the Middle East. Afterwards we climbed the steps up to restored Old Jaffa. After Israel’s independence in 1948, Jaffa was twinned with Tel Aviv. For 20 years, it was home to impoverished Arabs and Jewish immigrants from Arab countries. Then, in 1968 a decision was made to rebuild Jaffa. Old buildings, structures and alleys were restored. Parks and gardens were created. The beach was beautified. Over the years it has become filled with artist quarters, studios and art galleries. Shops with Judaica and jewellery now line its narrow alleys, which are named after Zodiac signs.
Visiting Jaffa without eating something would be a mistake, as it is home to a number of unique restaurants and food stands. Dad had yet to taste a falafel on this visit, so we stopped off at the famous Abouelafia and Sons. The legendary Abouelafia bakery, an Arab-Israeli-run establishment, has been in operation since 1879. Open 24 hours a day, it offers long bagels, many kinds of pita, sambusak stuffed with cheese, and savoury sesame-studded bourekas. We opted for a sit down meal in their second location opposite, and thoroughly enjoyed the freshly baked pita bread stuffed with hot falafel balls and creamy hummus.
Our final stop of the day was at the Jaffa Flea Market, or in Hebrew, Shuk Hapishpishim. This neighbourhood of alleyways, covered walkways and outdoor verandas has been operating for more than 100 years across the same sprawling streets, and is one of the highlights of Jaffa. Filled every day with tourists and locals alike, the market is a clash between the old and the new, a place where you can find Israeli antiques from the 1960s, second-hand clothes, brass, old Persian carpets and jewellery, along with some good restaurants and several boutiques selling new products that mix in flawlessly with the antiques. The market is lively and the atmosphere great! It was the perfect place to end our visit to Jaffa.

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judee said...

Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos and all the information. I've visited Israel many times but I guess I've done the more touristy sightseeing and the only place I've been that you talked about is the Jaffa Market! I'll keep some of the nature places in mind for our next trip.. thanks

NCSue said...

I wish we had more time to visit Jaffa when I was in Israel. It was a fascinating place. Of course everyplace we stopped held fascination of one kind or another.
I hope you enjoyed your holidays and your time with your dad. Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving in the States. I know this is not observed in Israel, but I hope you will nevertheless recognize many blessings in your life then and throughout the year!
Thanks for sharing at

betty-NZ said...

Thanks for taking us along on your visits around Israel! How wonderful to see the historical places and learn a bit along the way. Your photos are impressive of all these places :)

April Stephens said...

I got to go shopping at the Shuk in Jaffa this summer! Our Israel trip was the trip of a lifetime. I loved it so much. As a local, you know so much more about where to go! I'd never heard of so much of this.

Peabea Scribbles said...

Sounds like a nice day out with your Dad. The big turtles are amazing to look at, but am leery of getting too close in case they're the snapping kind. I've never seen any quite that big before. Thanks for sharing your adventures with Pictorial Tuesday.

Peabea@Peabea Scribbles

Unknown said...

Wonderful to hear about your trip with your father. The museums sound very interesting and I love your beautiful photos - the turtle shots and sunset in particular. Thanks for linking #citytripping

Anonymous said...

What a great outing Lisa. Jaffa - I keep that in mind -you made me hungry describing what all is available. That is a huge turtle! Come to think of it, you may have forgotten to link this one to All Seasons last week (Have to check and go back to be sure, if what I'm saying is accurate).
Also will comment on your share at All Seasons the end of November, so I'll go thru the chapta only one time (lol). I hope I am so energetic and full of life when I'm 80! He has quite a history! It's a smart post, since you did an older gentleman and a young boy in the same post:)
Have a great week!

Kay L. Davies said...

I will never think of Israel again without thinking of food...and a bakery with a history dating back to 1879.
I also love your photos of the fishing port, with the nets in the foreground. And who wouldn't love to see the turtles and then mourn that they are being fed peanut butter snacks? I've never seen a soft-shelled turtle before. My favourite turtle is the one spread out on the sun-warmed rock!
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

restlessjo said...

Thanks for adding to my knowledge of Israel. I'd love to see a full walk around Jaffa some day. It's a name that resonates. Have a great week, Lisa!