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No. 115 / 2017

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Crusader crypt 1290
Crusader crypt 1290

Explore The Galilee
In Northern Israel

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.

Crusader underground latrine
Crusader underground latrine
Akko port, built during the reign of Ptolemais II (285-246 BCE), was the original gateway to the Israel hinterland. In the 13th 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.

With the 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.

Here Revisionist 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 Akko Citadel
Jewish prisoners broke out from the British prison in the Akko Citadel 
Subterranean Crusader Halls
Subterranean Crusader Halls 
Colorful marketplace
Colorful marketplace 
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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.

Men of Safed
Men of Safed 
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.

There are renowned Kabbalist prayer halls in the Synagogue Quarter, including Joseph Caro, Abuhav and Ha’Ari.

On the street of Safed
On the street of Safed
Gallery Row is packed with artists’ quarters and shops
Gallery Row is packed with artists’ quarters and shops

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
Yigal Alon Center
Katyusha rocket remnant in window of Joseph Caro
Katyusha rocket remnant in window of
Joseph Caro
The Jesus Boat (or is it?)
The Jesus Boat (or is it?)
Crown of thorns in the gift shop
Crown of thorns in the gift sho

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AJPA president Marshall Weiss helps inscribe a letter in the EL AL Torah 
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
Elyezer Shkedi, EL AL president/ceo, and Offer Gat, EL AL vice president of global sales 
EL AL Promotes Unity
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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