Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jerusalem Hills

We are here in Tel Aviv for my partner's work.  He's in academia, and he's here on a two-year Fulbright post-doctoral grant.  While we are here, the Fulbright program sponsors trips and events around the country.  This past week we were supposed to visit Jerusalem and check out the Old City, but we had to change our plans due to the security risks.  Currently Jerusalem is in turmoil, especially in the Old City area. 

The new itinerary did have us in Jerusalem for one night, including dinner at Eucalyptus restaurant.  I wasn't able to take pics but everything was delicious, based on the seven species that are traditional to Israeli cooking, merged with an Arabic influence.

We scoped out the mazes of rock dwellings at Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park, including caves used to house and train doves, cistern systems, olive oil processing, and burial caves.

Columbarium Caves for dove training; each dove got a little nook to themselves.
Some caverns had high ceilings...
...while others were small little nooks.
Sidonian Burial Caves
Out of all the interesting art and ye olde graffiti, I decided to take a pic of the elephant, obviously.

The bell caves were much more spacious.  We saw a bride and groom taking pictures!
After the caverns, we passed through the agricultural terraces in Sataf, along with the Scroll of Fire, a Holocaust memorial sculpture by Nathan Rapoport.  The Scroll is located in the Forest of the Martyrs, which will eventually contain six million trees to symbolize the Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust.

View from the terraces.

Scroll of Fire in the Forest of the Martyrs
The right scroll represents oppression, the left represents rebellion and freedom.
Our final stop on the sightseeing tour of the Jerusalem hills was the Sorek Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve, the only stalagmite cave in Israel.  It was discovered fairly recently, 1968, so it is well preserved and has been carefully maintained over the years.

It was cool, but the lighting reminded me of a ride in Disney Land.  I half expected a mine cart filled with singing Pirates of the Caribbean to whip around a corner.
We closed out the trip with lunch at a funky little place called Grandpa's Gallery in Tzafririm that acts as a sculpture gallery, hair salon, Kurdistan cultural center, and restaurant (for larger groups, by appointment only).  Oh. Em. Gee. This. Food. Was. Flawless.  Very vegan friendly!  Everything was so simple, yet perfectly seasoned.  Even for the meat eaters, vegetables are the center of most meals in this area, which I love.
Counter-clockwise from upper left: vegetable and semolina dumplings in a stew; stuffed grape leaves, onions and cabbage; pickled vegetables; halva cookies; mint tea.
I wanted to buy at least four sculptures, or at the very least, just the peacock; AP said no.  Grrr.
I am so grateful that we have this opportunity to explore the beautiful countries of Israel and Palestine; we'd never have thought to explored these parks on our own, and we would certainly have never found the gallery!  It was a lovely way to start our overseas adventure.

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