In April of 2009, I went to Israel for the 2nd time (I had gone less than 2 years earlier during my lengthy trek of the Middle East). This time around, I went with my buddy Markos in order to meet up with our friend Herman in preparation for Orthodox Christian Easter (Pascha). We arrived on Sunday, April 12th, which was our Palm Sunday as well as Western Christian Easter. Here's what we did that first day.
We arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport in the wee hours of the morning after departing Amsterdam. We hadn't slept in quite some time, so we were a bit haggard. Adding to our difficulties was the fact that Markos' passport had some issues (which I won't go into), and they almost didn't let him in (yikes!). I also was questioned (only for about 5 minutes this time around) about my previous visits to Syria and Lebanon in 2007. Believe me, I completely understand why Israel goes through these lengths, but it was still annoying at 2am.
By the time we got to our hostel in Jaffa (old Tel Aviv), it was nearly daylight. We met our buddy Herman, got a couple hours rest, and got up again in order to go to the Palm Sunday service.
The area near our hostel in Jaffa.
Walking in old Jaffa down to the Orthodox church.
I was cautious about photos (wasn't sure about cultural attitudes) but I still took a few. The service was in Arabic, by the way (99% of the people there were Israeli Arabs... we represented the other 1%).
This archbishop is known to our community back in California (he was at one point an overseer of the jurisdiction).
Yours truly and Markos, down at the port for some brunch after church.
Herman was in the middle of a trek similar to mine, which had begun in Cairo. But he often sports a long beard even when he's not on the road. ;-)
Nothing like a little meditation by the Med.
A view over to modern Tel Aviv and its beaches.
The Tel Aviv promenade, looking back towards Jaffa.
We were ultimately headed to Galilee for a few days before "going up" to Jerusalem. However, we wanted to see a bit of the coastline of Israel on our one free day. We took the route up to Caesarea to see some of the ruins (sadly, we got there just after most of them had closed).
A playground version of a chariot, starring Markos and Herman.
The coastline at Caesarea was pleasant enough.
Many folks were out for a stroll.
We simply had to walk out on the moss-covered rocks.
Very cool texture.
Just some colorful boats.
It was time to leave Caesarea and continue on north, to Akko (Acre), which is past Haifa and just south of the tense and closed border with Lebanon. I loved Akko the last time I was there, and wanted to show the guys what a cool city it was.
In Akko, they even had a corner waiting for us!
I sadly don't have any photos besides these two that came out, but trust me = Akko is magical at night, and really at any time.
Coming up = The Galilee. Stay tuned.