Saturday, January 30, 2010

Israel 2010, Part 2

Israel 2010, Part 2
©2010 David Talbot

January 29, 2010, Or Akiva/Caesarea Israel.

The Holy Land.
For many people of faith around the world, the image of Israel is a reflection of their religious experience. And it is true; the country is of unique significance to the three major religions of the world. Jews, Christians, and Moslems all feel a special relationship to the biblical land of Canaan. However, to the first time traveler, the country could be a disappointment or a confirmation, or both, of the expectations one may have of the land of Israel.

While Israel is a very modern country, and suffers similar social problems as do all countries around the world. It is also a very ancient land with ancient cultural roots that persist even today. Here in this mystical land, religious tradition and secular non-observance co-exist, mostly peacefully throughout.

A goal of this series of reports is to describe how the cultural differences can work to make your trip to Israel more just another vacation.

Is it safe to visit Israel?
Short answer, yes it is safe to come to Israel. In fact, in almost every city and town, crime is less of a problem than in most US cities. However, most people who wonder about safety are actually thinking about terrorist activities, not common criminals. The answer is the same. It is safe. Last year over 2,000,000 tourists chose Israel as their travel destination. December ’09 saw 225,000 passengers come through ultramodern Ben Gurion Airport (TLV), an all-time record. There were two terrorist related incidents in 2009, neither of which involved visitors.

Travel Tips.
Purchase a travel guide at your local book retailer. We use “Frommers Israel.” Doing a little research and planning for sites of interest is critical here, because there is so much to see.

Bring a little cash (dollars) for an emergency. More important, bring an ATM/Debit card. They all work here and it’s safer than carrying a lot of money. US credit cards are accepted everywhere. Discover is unknown, but MC, VISA, Diners, and AMEX all ok.

Learn a few words and phrases in Hebrew. Important: Eyfo Ha Sherutim (Where are the toilets?) In order for Israeli kids to attend university, they must be fluent in English. As a result, almost everybody here speaks at least a little English. All streets, most shops, and malls, have English language sign.

Most US cell phones will work here. Calls to the States are expensive, but text messages are not, on most calling plans. There are internet cafes everywhere and they’re not expensive, so unless you need it for some reason, leave your laptop home.

Caesarea Israel
If you take a tour in Israel (More about tours in a later report), this is usually the first stop. Located about 40 KM (25 miles) north of Tel Aviv, is one of the most beautiful cities in Israel. But that’s not why the tours start here. Caesarea is, according to Frommers, “the spectacular city of Herod the Great, 37 BCE- 4 CE.” You can find many excellent reference books on the history of this community. However, here’s what you’ll see at the site: The Roman Theater, Hippodrome, Crusader City, Roman Aqueduct, and more. It is an awesome site, important to Jews, Christians, and Moslems, all of whom met their fate, at one time or another, here.

Next time: More travel tips, Akko, and Haifa.

Until then, Shalom from Israel.

David Talbot

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Israel 2010

Israel 2010
©2010 David Talbot

Special For Readers

Every year, my wife and I travel to Israel not so much to renew our Jewish roots, but to get a better understanding of life for the average Israeli family. This year we are sharing some of our experiences with 575 readers. We have several reasons to bring you along with us.

The primary purpose of this series is to dispel any misconceptions you may have about coming to Israel. In addition, we want to illustrate, as much as possible, the exceptional recreational, educational, and spiritual opportunities available, and in some cases only available, in this unique country.

Here are some of the things we’ll describe as we go along, through March 1, 2010: Is Israel safe to visit? Is there any reason why a non-religious person might visit Israel? I don’t speak Hebrew, will I be lost there? Is it expensive to travel to the Middle East? Should I take a tour or go it alone? Are Israelis friendly? When is the best time of the year to go? Can I rent a car, book my own hotel, rent an apartment online, use my credit cards, and in general, do all the things I do when I’m on vacation in the States, for my vacation in Israel? And there will be more, much more.

If you have ever considered traveling to the Holy Land (more about this expression in the next installment), and have questions you always wanted to ask, here’s your chance. Send me a note, and I’ll respond from here in Or Akiva or Tel Aviv. And, since I am not a travel agent or tour operator, you can be sure your name will not be on some list flooding your mail box with unwanted “Special Deals.”

When you send a question, please indicate if you wish your name to be included in the response. In any case, your email address will never be included in the discussion.

Next Installment: The Holy Land, Is it safe to travel to Israel, and Caesarea.


Here’s how you can contact the writer:

David Talbot

Monday, January 18, 2010

I think it’s almost time…

I think it’s almost time…
©2010 David Talbot

June 1967, from “In 1967 Israel did not wake up one morning and decide to go to war - she woke up one morning and found she had to defend herself.” After the war ended, Jordan relinquished control of Jerusalem and, as they departed the West Bank, desecrated all Jewish and Christian, cemeteries, holy places, and many structures.

Baghdad, Iraq, March 2003. The United States and 4 allies invade Iraq to topple Sadam Hussein’s regime and eliminate weapons of mass destruction and their capability to make them. Iraq fires missiles into Tel Aviv, and the United States tells Israel not to retaliate.

Gaza Strip, September 12, 2005, from the Associated Press: (AP) “Flames shot skyward from four abandoned synagogues in the Gaza Strip on Monday, as thousands of celebrating Palestinians thronged through former Jewish settlements and headed straight for the only buildings left standing.”

Following the IDF withdrawal from Gaza on 9/12/05, a steady stream of rocket and mortar fire rains down on Israeli towns until last year when Israel finally had enough, and they went in to try and eliminate the threat.

January 11, 2010, an earthquake levels most of Haiti’s capitol city, killing and wounding many thousands of innocent civilians. And, one week later, looting and riots are escalating. One of the first assistance units on the scene? The Israeli Defense Forces, who establish a fully staffed field hospital and begins treating patients. The EU, Palestinians, and their allies condemn Israel for the effort saying the dirty little secret is Israels ignorance of the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza. From HAARETZ, January 18, 2010, “…the remarkable identification with the victims of the terrible tragedy in distant Haiti only underscores the indifference to the ongoing suffering of the people of Gaza.”

I think it’s almost time for Israel to state, in no uncertain terms: No on the division of Jerusalem.

I think it’s almost time for Israel to accept the fact that the Obama administration doesn’t have any interest in Israel, only in getting Israel to make yet another concession that will ultimately raise up and bite them.

I think it’s past time for the United States to realize that promises from the PA and/or Hamas are stalling tactics with the ultimate goal of wiping Israel off the map.

I think it’s past time for the world to admit that North Korea and Iran will have the bomb and that China and Russia are facilitators.

And, I think it’s time that Israel should say, ENOUGH…..

Anyway, that’s my opinion.


David Talbot

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A New Year's Resolution

A New Year's Resolution
©2009 David Talbot

Every December, I make resolutions, all with good intentions, that nevertheless seem to get pushed into the background of mydaily life after the holidays have come and gone. Things like: I’m going to loose 10lbs this year, save a little more, travel more, etc. You’re probably familiar with this annual ritual.

This year is different. A member of my family is dying of cancer. The particulars are only important to the family. However, the current situation has caused me to make a new resolution this year. And I have already made good on my commitment.

I know, you probably expect me to say something like: I resolve to be kinder, laugh more, cry often, love deeply, say I’m sorry, worry less, enjoy life, and other things we see in countless emails throughout the year. While these are admirable suggestions, that’s not what I did.

When our relative got the diagnosis, we also learned there is no Will, no Advance Directives, no Health Care Power of Attorney, and no idea what to do next. And, my relative is not capable of doing any “end of life” planning at this late date. He’s comfortable with the notion that “everybody knows what I want.”

As the extended family met to discuss medical options and legal issues, it became clear that most of us had not done any end of life planning. That’s when I made my 2010 New Year’s resolution, to take care of my immediate family.

My wife and I sat down with an attorney and completed all the documents necessary to insure that “everybody knows what we want.” This includes physicians, hospitals, the legal authorities, and all our relatives. It didn’t take long and it didn’t cost much. It’s a comforting thought that we have taken care of all the details. Now our children won’t be burdened, at the worst possible time, and our assets will transfer to our loved ones quickly at minimum expense.

Estate Planning requires that a person face certain facts about their own mortality. However, it is a beautiful expression of how much you care for your family, not just here and now, but for a long time in the future.

So, for 2010, resolve to: be kinder, laugh more, cry often, love deeply, say your sorry, worry less, enjoy life, and take care of your family by doing a little advanced planning.

Anyway, that’s my opinion. Happy New Year.


David Talbot