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December 2011

On The Road to a Virtual Voyage!

I figured a  “Throwback Thursday” would be a most appropriate time to wax nostalgic and invite you to join me on my next virtual vacation!  This weekend I will set off on a wondrous adventure “across the pond”  touring southern England!  As if that weren’t fabulous enough, I’m traveling with my daughter Sara, just the two of us, as her graduation gift before she heads off to college next month! 

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  During my 25+ years at ABC7, many of you have watched Sara grow up over the years - here’s the nostalgic part - and during that time she has become an incredible traveler! 








She took her first cruise before she was 2 - at 4, she was climbing pyramids in Mexico!

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At 6, Sara accompanied me and my Mom on a trip to Spain - 3 generations in our mother country! At 10, Sara was sightseeing through ancient Greece; at 12 she experienced the glaciers of Alaska!

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                         Alaska july 26 to aug 5 2008 146 (2)


I took her to President Obama’s first inauguration - we explored the holy land together with members of our congregation.

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I chaperoned a high school choir trip to Ireland, and back in the states we took road trips to our national parks and the entire stretch of Rt. 66!  Sara’s 18th birthday with a destination party to the “Happiest Place on Earth!”

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I now invite you to join us on our next adventure, as I share our discoveries in London and many other historic places in the UK.  We arrive at Heathrow Airport Monday August 4th; posts on Facebook and Twitter soon to follow!  As this is an “interactive vacation,” feel free to make suggestions, ask questions or give advice - this is the first time in the UK for both of us!

 https://www.facebook.com/RozVaronABC7   https://twitter.com/rozvaronABC7 

One more thing - a heartfelt thanks to my incredibly understanding husband for giving Sara and I this special bonding time while he stays at home.  Besides, someone has to watch the dogs, right?!


Bon Voyage!




On The Road to The Holy City

We will be spending 4 days in Jerusalem, but I feel I would need many more to fully experience this historic city.  Today's journey took us through the newer part of Jerusalem and several significant museums.  We began at the Herzl Museum and learned about the life of Theodor Herzl and the direct impact he had on the establishment of the State of Israel.

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Herzl was born in 1860 in Budapest,  but spent most of his life in Vienna.  An Ashkenazi Jew, he was not very religious as a child. As a young man he had several early careers, from law to journalism. Several anti-Semitic events deeply affected Herzl and inspired him to write "The Jewish State," in 1896.  The book expresses his beliefs that anti-Semitism could not be defeated, only avoided and the best way to do that would be with the establishment of a Jewish State.  Herzl did not live to see his dream - he died in 1904, but he set the wheels in motion for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.  In 1949 his remains were moved from Vienna and reburied on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

The dialogue this museum provoked was nothing compared to what our next stop would bring.


Yad Vashem is the largest Holocaust history museum in the world.  The exhibit is displayed in 10 rooms that tell the stories of Jewish European families before, during and after the atrocities of the Holocaust.  Cameras are not allowed inside the museum. There are personal stories, from victims and survivors. There are thousands of personal items, including artwork and letters.   I was brought to tears by a survivor recalling how all prisoners at the concentration camps over the age of 10 were forced to work - the Nazis had no use for young children and sadistically made the adults hand over their own children to be put to death, or suffer more killings.  I wanted to hold my daughter and never let her go.


The exhibit honors non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Remember "Schindler's List?"

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The final exhibit at the Holocaust History Museum is The Hall of names.  It is "a place where the names of Holocaust victims are permanently preserved. The victims, most of whom never received a Jewish burial, commanded us to remember their names...Yad Vashem will continue to collect the names of all the victims, of each man, woman and child, an entire Jewish World that existed and was destroyed."


Our last museum stop is the Israel Museum - where thousands of years of ancient history come alive!  When we first walked in we were amazed by the model of Ancient Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple.  It is an overwhelming exhibit, laying out the ancient city before it was destroyed in 70 CE.

The other amazing exhibit at the Israel Museum is the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Once again, cameras are not allowed inside, but to know you are looking at pieces of the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence (150 BCE to 70 CE) is something of a miracle.


On our way back to the hotel, we needed some levity - so, our wonderful tour guide, Arie, stopped at Shuk Mahane Yehuda. This is a very large, open-air market, selling fruit, pastries, cheese, fish, clothing, and much more.  The thing is, today is Friday - Shabbat - and everything shuts down by sundown!  These merchants need to sell everything NOW, and the buyers know it!  Controled chaos at its best.  We tour Old Jerusalem tomorrow.  Shabbat Shalom.









On The Road to Jerusalem

It is with a sense of awe that I share with you today's travel adventures.  On our way to Jerusalem we stopped at two ancient ruins - the first, the mosaics of Beit Alpha.

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On December 30, 1928 members of Kibbutz Beit Alfa discovered a mosaic floor in the nearby fields. Excavations revealed a highly decorated and well preserved mosaic featuring a zodiac and many human and animal figures. The ancient Jewish art dates back to the Byzantine period, roughly 500 CE. Debates continue regarding the Greco-Roman influence to include a non-Jewish symbol as the zodiac in the artwork of a synagogue.


We continued on through the Jordan Valley to our next stop, the ruins of Beit She'an. When you enter the ancient Roman city, it leaves you breathless, each site more magnificent than the last.  

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The city, known as Scythopolis, flourished during the 2nd and 3rd centuries as the Romans introduced international trade in the region.  It was a city of great wealth, but also a culture of great extravagance.  




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The bath house, wet sauna and massage room offered many temptations.  From the imported granite pillars to the mosaic floor along the entire main road, the city was one of excess.


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When mosaic tile went out of style, the expensive artwork was covered with a new marble road!  The Roman Temple was built on the mountain with an incredible panoramic view of the city.  Scythopolis came to an abrupt end in 749 CE when an earthquake destroyed the region.

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Our final destination today - the Holy City of Jerusalem.  As we drove through the check point, I must say, much to my surprise, this was the first time I saw any military presence since our arrival 4 days ago. Thank you to all of you reading this blog who have commented, concerned for my safety - maybe I'm being a bit naive, but I have felt safe the entire time I've been here, and am confident that will be the case throughout the trip.  As we approached magnificent Haas Promenade, our tour guide had us get out to take in the view.  It is nothing like I have ever seen and so much more than I could have imagined.  I am filled with emotion as I take in every essence of this spiritual place.

We pause to say a prayer over wine and bread...


...and prepare to explore Jerusalem tomorrow!





On The Road to Mystical Safed, Tel Dan Nature Reserve and Golan Heights Winery.

Our adventure begins today, footsteps from our hotel!  We spent the night at Kibbutz Ginosar on the shore of the sea of Galilee.  The Yigal Allon Museum on kibbutz property houses an incredible ancient artifact.  The Sea of Galilee Boat, also know as the Jesus Boat, was discovered by 2 fishermen brothers in 1986 along the shores of the Galilee.  The remains of this ancient fishing boat date back to the 1st century (the time of Jesus Christ) and had been preserved by a thick covering of mud!  After a painstaking excavation process, the boat is now on display to the public.  It is still being studied for its archaeological, scientific and traditional significance.

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We now have an opportunity to see the magnificent countryside of northern Israel, as we take the winding roads to the city of Safed, 2400 feet above sea level.
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Since the 16th century Safed has been considered one of Judaism's Four Holy Cities.  It was in the mystical city of Safed where Kabbalah, or Jewish Mysticism was born.  We gathered in the centuries old Sephardic synagogue and learned that Kabbalah is so much more than a passing celebrity fad!  We saw a 400 year old Torah, that is still used today. 

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We walked the cobblestone streets of the artist colony and ate falafel until it was time to head to our next stop, Tel Dan Nature Reserve.


Driving through the mountains we were able to see Mt.Hermon, the highest mountain in Israel.  At 6000 feet, its summit has snow year round.  Tel Dan is a lush, fertile nature reserve, located on the northern tip of Israel in an area we're told is referred to as "the meeting point of Israel, Syria and Lebanon."  The Spring Dan and River Dan are the main sources of the River Jordan.


Beyond the river are ancient ruins from the second location of the Tribe of Dan, from biblical times.  We are told many judges lived within this community and made the judicial system transparent by holding trials at the city gates, out in the open.  Gives pause for thought.

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As we continue our tour of the northern part of the state, the entire group is thrilled to visit the Golan Heights Winery for a tour and wine tasting!  Because of the range of geography and weather in a small area, they are able to grow 22 varieties of grapes, and produce 40 different wines!  Most of the wine is sold locally, but 25% is exported.  Somehow, it tastes better drinking it right where it is produced!



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One more quick stop at the nearby Capernaum Vista Olive Farm and we're heading back to our hotel for dinner and SLEEP!  Off to Jerusalem tomorrow!



On The Road to Tel Aviv, Ceasarea and Kiryat Tivon

Today was a whirlwind of experiences, emotions and sites so amazing it's almost impossible to put into words.  I did not know what to expect of my first trip to Israel, and our first full day was so much more than I could have imagined - if that's even possible!

We began in Tel Aviv, at the Israeli Museum at the Yitzhak Rabin Center.  The museum is built in a downward spiral, telling 2 parallel stories - a time line of Israel's history and a biography of Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was known for his peace efforts; the ultimate irony was his assassination on November 4, 1995 at a peace rally.   Comparisons were made to the assassination of President Kennedy.  It reminded me of the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.  So many lives lost in search of peace and freedom.


We learned much about Yitzhak Rabin - the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the State of Israel at the time of his death - about the turmoils in this volatile region and the continuing struggles of so many.  From everyone I spoke with before, during and after this tour, the sentiment is that the majority of Israelis favor peaceful resolution to the conflict.  My lasting impression comes from a quote at the end of the exhibit by Yehuda Amichai regarding tolerance - "From the place where we are right flowers will never grow in the spring."

Our next stop goes back in history some two thousands years!  The ruins at Ceasarea are north of Tel Aviv, along the Israeli Mediterranean coast. We first stop at the aqueduct - an ancient engineering marvel!

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We continue to the Roman Theatre and the other magnificent structures that once made up this ancient city.  Amazing doesn't begin to capture it!

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As if that weren't enough, our next stop is at the Bet She'arim National Park, built on the top of a hill, over an underground Jewish cemetery!  The caves date back nearly 2 centuries, but weren't discovered until 1936 - by accident! Once excavated, the public was allowed to explore the winding caves and ancient sarcophagi.  An incredible historical experience!













Our final stop is a visit to our Sister Congregation in Kiryat Tivon, one of only a handful of reform congregations in Israel.  We light the last Hanukkah candles together, led by Rabbi Corrie Zeidler of Congregation Ma'alot Tivon.  Incredibly moving.


More adventures to come!





On The Road to Israel

Traveling to Israel has been on my bucket list since before I knew what a bucket list was!  During the 2 weeks of winter break, that dream vacation will become a reality!  In a short while I will be boarding a plane with my daughter and 32 other members of our congregation for the trip of a lifetime.

Like many of you, I have vacationed in several places in the good old U S of A - I have also been fortunate enough to have visited a couple countries outside of the U.S., but never have I traveled to a place so far and so foreign as Israel.  I can read Hebrew, but do not know the language.  I have traveled through many airports, but none with the presence of soldiers carrying automatic weapons.  I have visited fascinating landmarks, but none that compares with the Western Wall in Jerusalem.  I have been swimming in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but do not know what to expect of the Dead Sea.  

It's as though I'm going on this  trip with a child-like innocence, experiencing so many things for the first time.  I would like to share this experience with you.  Through my blogs and pictures I hope to bring this trip to life for you.  We arrive in Tel Aviv early Monday morning, December 26th. I'm not sure what to expect, but whatever it turns out to be, I am sure it will be amazing!