My friend Karen and I did a whirlwind trip over the southern half of Israel over the last 4 days. First stop was Jerusalem. There we went to Yad Vashem and a biblical village exhibit which is outside of Jerusalem. Yad Vashem is the Holocaust museum in Israel. There are several exhibit buildings on the campus. The main one is long and triangular. The interior is ice cold with concrete walls creating a disorienting and uncomfortable environment fitting to the subject matter contained in the rooms which are off to the side. A narrow hallway runs through the center of the building but it is impossible to just walk straight through. To pass to the other side one must enter the room off to the side alternating left and right all the way down. Each room represents a year or country. In contrast to the dark pain represented inside, outside is a exhibit dedicated to those who made an effort to preserve life. Outside is a grove called the "Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations." Small trees line the pavement. Beside each tree is a small plaque with the name of an individual who at made an effort to rescue Jews.
The biblical village display is set up like a mini city to give an idea of what life was like 2,000 or more years ago. It was fun walking through on our own and taking pictures of the lovely scenery but we should have scheduled a tour and I am sure we would have actually learned about what we were looking at.
The next day we took a bus to Eilat where we stayed for the next three days. After a long ride through the Negev Desert, we arrived in Eilat where we stayed in an interesting little hostel. We bunked with 5 German girls and a vivacious woman named Leora who is originally from New York and made aliyah in May. Like me, she is on vacation from Ulpan only she is studying in Jerusalem. I had a wonderful time with Leora comparing thoughts on our teachers and where we are in the syllabus and commiserating over how challenging it is to grasp this language.
I also met a woman at the hostel who hiked the entire Israel Trail. The National Israel Trail is 600 miles long. It runs the entire length of the country over mountains, through the Negev Desert, past three seas, and winds through ancient landmarks and modern cities. I have met people who have biked or hiked segments of it but I couldn't believe I was actually talking to someone who completed all 600 miles! It took her and her husband 40 days of walking to complete it.
Eilat this time of year is blisteringly hot. The temperature hit 105 F while we were there. The sun feels closer in Eilat than anywhere else on the planet or at least anywhere I have ever been. I introduced Karen to snorkeling in the Red Sea so that kept us cool for most of the afternoon on Saturday.
Five things I learned while traveling this week:
5) When it comes to packing less truly is more. If it is not necessary to bring that extra shirt then don't bring it. Well thought out packing can save your back while traveling by foot in the heat from point A to point B and make it easier to keep track of stuff when moving from place to place.
4) DO pack several granola bars. They can be a lifesaver when lethal hunger pains strike and you are in a bus in the middle of the desert!
3) It is possible to make 4 colorful ankle bracelets and listen to all of the music loaded on two iPods during the bus ride from Tel Aviv to Eilat.
2) Always, always, always print out the time table for the bus numbers on your route. This can save you from missing the last bus of the day by 1 minute (which happened to us in Jerusalem!!).
1) When in doubt always, always just go to the Central Bus Station.