Explore The Galilee
Crusader crypt 1290
N my biennial trek to Israel, I always
gravitate to the holy city of Jerusalem to rejuvenate my
soul, bask in the artistic environs of secular Tel Aviv to
sharpen my artistic senses, and on occasion journey through
the parched Negev, alongside the Dead Sea, to reach Eilat
where I partake of its hedonistic fun in the sun.
In January I had an
opportunity to explore some of the interesting sites in the
long neglected northern part of the country, as part of a
press trip sponsored by the American Jewish Press
Association (AJPA) and hosted by EL AL and the Israel
Ministry of Tourism. It was an exhilarating 10-day sojourn
in the Holy Land, quite educational, informative and
exhausting. I filled up two notebooks and two memory cards
to bring you these reports.
FAMOUS as the Crusader underground city,
Akko (Acre) has survived many conquerors including
Canaanites, Romans, Christians, Turks and British until
resurrected by the modern Hebrews in 1948. Fortunately the
historic site has survived my excursion as well.
Akko port, built during the reign of Ptolemais II (285-246
BCE), was the original gateway to the Israel hinterland. In
century it was the capital of the Crusader kingdom in the
Holy Land. After it was overrun by the Ottoman Turks it
languished for many centuries as a fisherman’s harbor.
Crusader underground latrine
disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War One,
Great Britain ruled Palestine with a mandate from the League
of Nations. The Brits turned the Akko Citadel (built by the
Turks in the late 18th century on 13th
century Crusader foundations) into its main prison in the
north. The captives included hundreds of members of Jewish
fighting forces like the Irgun and Haganah.
Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky was held in 1920, and nine
Jewish underground fighters were executed on the gallows.
The mass escape of Irgun hostages in 1947 was recreated here
for the film Exodus.
Today the old port
thrives with boutiques, jewelry shops, restaurants, museums
and of course, fishing boats. After touring the Crusader
parts, you’ll end up in the marketplace (souk, shuk), not a
bad place to end the day.
Jewish prisoners broke out from the British prison in the
Subterranean Crusader Halls
Safed (Tsfat), the highest town in
Israel, has long been known as a prime destination for
kabbalists, holy men and of course hippies in search of
their souls…or art. The artist colony here is amazing.
Nicky Imber escaped
from Dachau and dedicated his artistic life to perpetuating
the memory of the Holocaust, never to forget. His sculptures
are exhibited in museums around the world and available at
galleries in Safed.
Men of Safed
There are renowned
Kabbalist prayer halls in the Synagogue Quarter, including
Joseph Caro, Abuhav and Ha’Ari.
On the street of Safed
Gallery Row is packed with
artists’ quarters and shops
YIGAL ALON MUSEUM
In Kibbutz Nof Ginosar, the Yigal Alon
Center and Museum displays the remains of a well-preserved
wooden sailing vessel that dates from the first century. Two
brothers, fishermen from Kibbutz Ginosar, discovered the
boat in 1986 in the mud of the nearby Sea of Galilee. The
mystery remains: Did the boat belong to local fishermen or
did Jesus and his disciples sail the Sea of Galilee, or was
it used by Jews who fought the Romans here?
Jesus enlisted some
of these fishermen to leave their nets and become his first
disciples, "fishers of men." The gift shop is stocked with
souvenirs, such as a Crown of Thorns, spice boxes and
Judaica that would appeal to Christian pilgrims.
Yigal Alon Center
Katyusha rocket remnant in window
The Jesus Boat (or is it?)
Crown of thorns in the gift shop
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EL AL Promotes Unity
AJPA president Marshall
Weiss helps inscribe a letter in the EL AL Torah
Elyezer Shkedi, EL AL president/ceo,
and Offer Gat, EL AL vice president of global sales
With A Universal Torah
EMBERS of the American Jewish Press Association, at a dinner hosted by EL AL Israel Airlines at the Dan Tel Aviv, were invited to help a scribe insert a letter or two in a special EL AL Torah.
Elyezer Shkedi, president/CEO of EL AL, related how the Torah project came about. President Shimon Peres of Israel was invited to address the Bundestag in Berlin on Jan. 27, 2010, to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. He would representing the Jewish people, speaking in Hebrew.
Shkedi told Peres that he would accompany him. And he said that the pilot and flight attendants of his EL AL flight, in their snappy flight uniforms and Magen David on their caps, would escort the Jewish president into the German parliament.
“Do you have a Sefer Torah with you?” Shkedi asked. Sadly Peres said no.
That’s when Shkedi decided to embark on a mission to have a Sefer Torah written in a symbolic way dedicated to the unity of the Jewish People. “We flew with this Torah around the world from the U.S. to Europe and China,” he said.
Thousands of people have inscribed a letter, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's President Shimon Peres and Noble laureate Elie Wiesel. In Washington this past December, the Torah was signed by several senators and members of Congress, including Joe Lieberman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Eric Cantor. At the United Nations, Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor also added a letter to the Torah.
The Torah contains 304,805 letters in 249 columns. It is to be completed in May at the synagogue of the EL AL head office at Ben Gurion Airport.
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