Well, this is it. I’m wrapping up our four-part trip journal only four months after our return from Israel. If I can write about our July beach trip and Soren’s August birthday before the end of the year I’ll consider my 2013 memory documentation a huge success.
We spent our last Israeli Shabbat driving north from Tel Aviv to Yavne’el, our home for the next couple of days. Along the way, we stopped at Caesarea, another one of Herod the Great’s elaborate endeavors.
From Caesarea, we continued north to Tiberias for dinner. We made it to the Sea of Galilee right around dusk, so Shabbat was coming to a close and people were starting to materialize.
We knew we couldn’t check in to the Villa Ramona until well after Shabbat was over, so we killed some time walking the Tiberias promenade, which was definitely on the touristy/kitschy side. We eventually got back in our tiny rental car for the short drive to Yavne’el. It was after 9 p.m., so Soren was angry and wishing he was in bed, and Tim was in a panic about navigating since the battery on my cell phone was 99% dead. And we had received an email from our hosts saying that many of the previous guests were still in the process of checking out. All a little stressful for a vacation. So it was fitting that where we were headed was not a giant hotel or big-city apartment (like the two previous places we’d stayed), but a peaceful zimmer. None of knew what a zimmer was before arriving, but it’s the word the rest of the world uses to describe a private accommodation tucked away in the countryside. It’s where the Israeli urban-dwellers go for an escape from the hectic city life.
When we arrived around 10 p.m., Shmuel and Chana were still cleaning the suites after the previous tenants’ late departures, but they welcomed us with warm muffins and sliced watermelon. (Apparently, there had been a revered rabbi in town from New York, so everyone stayed late to have a moment with him.) Because we had to check in a few hours late, Shmuel and Chana offered us an additional zimmer for the duration of our stay. Jackpot.
In the morning, we were better able to check out our surroundings.
We ventured to Mount Tabor (the Mount of Transfiguration) on our first morning in the north. We started late enough in the day that we needed lunch first. Turns out it’s not easy to find a restaurant when you’re in the middle of nowhere. Yavne’el had literally zero places open for lunch. On our drive to Mount Tabor we pulled off and drove through a couple of other small towns hoping to find something. Nothing. Eventually I spied what looked like an eating establishment behind a gas station. Winner! There was not a lot of English spoken there, but the food was excellent.
A few thousand years ago, we would’ve had to walk up about 4,340 steps to reach the top of Mount Tabor. Since we could, we decided to drive. The Church of the Transfiguration sits at the summit, and it’s divided into Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic areas. The gardens surrounding were nice to walk through. The views of lower Galilee were hazy, but pretty neat.
On our drive back home, all the gas station ads for cool drinks got the better of me, and I decided to drink my annual soda. I don’t always drink Coke, but when I do, I prefer it to be from a foreign country.
Our next stop was the River Jordan — a really beautiful but very commercial place.
We then made our way to the Sea of Galilee for an evening dip. The beach area was quiet at 6 p.m. Just a few families swimming and smoking their hookahs.
Then back to Yavne’el for dinner — at one of the two restaurants in town. I’m not sure if we should even call it a restaurant. It was more of a shack. There wasn’t exactly a menu, and definitely nothing written in English. The lone man who worked there knew a few English words, and he was able to make some recommendations to us. To this point, nearly all our meals had been very similar — hummus, falafel, shawarma, etc. All tasty, but not a lot of variety. But this dinner was different and wonderful. We had pizza! And a couple of other items that were so good, but I have no idea what they were called. Delicious, flaky dough with hard-boiled eggs and gooey cheese, all dipped in tomato sauce.
The next day was our last day. There is something a little bit relieving about packing up to go home after nearly two weeks away.
We checked out of our zimmer, said farewell to our friends/hosts, and made our way south. We left the 100% Jewish town and spent most of the day in Nazareth, also known as the Arab capital of Israel.
After I accidentally attempted to enter a church that was for Arab males only, we found the Basilica of the Annunciation. This was one of my favorite sites of our trip. Sometimes I wonder if I was meant to be Catholic, because I’m a big-time Mary fan.
But since most of our trip was about food, we made our way to lunch, following the recommendation of one of our guidebooks. Nazareth isn’t a huge city, and the old part of the city (where we were) seemed mostly reserved for tourists. So we weren’t surprised to find ourselves alone in the restaurant. Our private chef whipped up us his best dishes.
The meal left us full beyond belief (we decided to fill up before the long, long plane ride), but that didn’t mean we couldn’t go to the bakery to fill our suitcases with treats. On our way, we stopped in a little park so I could nurse the babe. While we sat, an Asian tour group entered the park with a very special-looking box. They all gathered round the box, and we were surprised to watch them releasing a pigeon into the air. No idea what that was about.
I won’t write about the plane ride home, because it was 12.5 hours of misery. I think the photo below, taken during our short layover in Philadelphia, shows what we were feeling.
I swore I’d never get on a plane again, but I guess the bad memories disappear quickly since we flew to Virginia less than a month later. Now we can dream about our 2014 family trip to Europe (right Tim?).