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Sam-I-Am Violin on the streets, fundamentalist Judaism, planting organic vegetables, and the like.

In The Shadow of Baha'ullah

ISRAEL | Wednesday, 12 March 2008 | Views [867]

Flora of Haifa

Flora of Haifa

One day until Lena arrives in the Holy Land. My week-long Galilee adventure is almost up. I'm just coming back from a free private tour of a museum exhibit on 'grain' at the Beit Dagon silo in Haifa Port. No joke. Call me "cereal grain shipping expert".

I've been to Tiberias, Nazareth, Akko, and Haifa in the last seven days. Nothing individually extraordinary like being taken in by a legendary Palestinian family, so I think I'll just lay down how it all went, town by town.

a) Tiberias. Met a German landscape architecture student and hiked up the mountainside against which the town is built (its in a valley by the Sea of Galilee). Then the next day we biked around the lake, which was characterized by numerous fruit orchards (yellow grapefruit, red grapefruit, lemon, banana, cactus fruit by the road, unverified orange groves), places where Jesus went big-time, and of course sheer beauty.

b) Nazareth. Not so much to do as far as a list of sight-seeing activities go (excepting a number of churches), but the hostel is glorious. I stayed for three days largely because of this, and because of Nazareth's Arab Israeli population. Everyone speaks both Arabic and Hebrew, and you don't feel the tension of Jews and Arabs like you do in Jerusalem. I splurged on traditional Palestinian restaurant fare and hiked among the outskirts of Nazareth. Mount Tabor requires a lengthy walk through the entirety of a small Arab village where I stuck out more rather prominently. Giggling groups of girls walking home from school, groups of mustachioed men sitting in circles drinking coffee by the side of the road, boys practicing their Hebrew, "Shalom!", and "Me'eifo atah?" (where are you from). The hostel, by the way, is a converted old Arab mansion in the Old City, with a marble-tiled living room dominated by wall-length windows overlooking the city.

c) Akko. The city is as remarkably well-preserved as advertised. The Crusader halls underneath the Ottoman Citadel are reminiscent of the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings, if you're into that. Which I am. The Old City is right on the water, I hadn't seen the Mediterranean in a little while. Before Haifa went big time, Akko (Acre) was the giant of Eastern Mediterranean ports. It didn't fall back into its current lazy town of calm until after the Jews, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, and the French were done with it. Apparently Napoleon staged an epic but failed seige on the city in 1799; Dad you should come to Akko just to wander around looking for the UNESCO World Heritage Site signs explaining where the grenadiers launched their assault, and where Ahmad the Butcher Al-Jazzar built his auxiliary wall to keep out le French.

d) Haifa. Back in the big city, in a manner of speaking. Haifa is dominated by the Bahai Shrine and Gardens, and though I knew this, I didn't really know anything about the religion. Call it my newest fascination. I especially liked reading about the vision of a mega-metropolis adjoining Akko and Haifa, where the two holiest Bahai sites are, and dominating the world's shipping, being the forerunner of Bahai tenets (universal language; complete tolerance; full compulsory education, etc), and generally being a light unto the world. I talked late into the night with a bunch of pilgrims, who have to wait up to ten years on a waiting list to come to the Gardens, and come from literally all over the world. My conversation partners included an El Salvadorian dermatologist, a Kurdish man living in Texas, and a Persian living in New Zealand, all Bahai's.
Apparently Jews are not the only ones who got a raw deal after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
So nothing ridiculous to report, sadly, but significant exposure to the people and places of the world. I'll take it.

Tags: outdoors, people

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