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Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

Hancock...
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Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

At the end of the wonderful TA dinner in Jerusalem on Nov. 10 I was pressed to write a trip report which I said I would do. But it will not be a complete trip report since so many impressions and experiences need first to be sorted out in my mind since for me this was a trip marked by a series of emotionally and spiritually charged experiences, each powerful in its own way. So I won’t get into all that. I will report on experiences that might have more general interest.

I began my trip by staying 4 nights at the Arbel Guesthouse where I had a nice room and where, at an additional charge, dinner and breakfast are available. I did not take all meal there, but I had 2 dinners and 2 breakfasts and they were, in a word, amazing in every way. The only possible negative about this guesthouse is that it is located on a moshav where cows are raised and it has a kind of “tangy” aroma in the air which I don’t mind, but some would. Here’s the contact info:

Sara & Israel Shavit

Tel: 972-4-6794919

Arbel Village Lower Galilee 15282, ISRAEL

www.4shavit.com

You could not find more gracious hosts than Sara & Israel Shavit.

I found early November to be a good time to be in Galilee. I wanted to see the Christian sites and all the usual places are great. My advice for the major sites is to get up early and beat the tour buses. I failed to do this on my first try at visiting Capernaum and could not get near the place for all the buses. On another day I got there at 8:00am and had the place to myself. Ditto for Bethsaida and the lace where Jesus was baptized.

The highlight of my stay in the north was a full day spent in the Golan with a really great guide whom I met through a contact I found through this web site. His name is Joe Sofair (email him at joe@mevohama.org.il). He has lived at the Mevo Hama kibbutz on the Golan for almost 40 years and knows every inch of the Golan. He took me to Susita (Hippos), an ancient Roman city overlooking the Sea Of Galilee and explained the whole incredible story of the place. He then took me all over the Golan showing me interesting places you’ll never find on your own. We had lunch at the Nidal Restaurant on the main drag in Masada, a Druze village near Mt. Hermon. Joe knows the owners and we were treated very well. W ended the day at Hamat Geder, which is owned by the Mevo Hama kibbutz. There we had a swim in the hot springs and relaxed after a long, but memorable day. I can’t tell you how much I learned and saw and how enjoyable the whole thing was. Joe has a passion for the Golan and is a natural-born teacher.

I know someone will ask, so I’ll say now that Joe is not a licensed guide. I know all the arguments for only using licensed guides and agree with most of those arguments. Nonetheless, I would enthusiastically recommend Joe if you’re interest in seeing the Golan. Sorry, but I'm not interested in debating this.

Mt. Tabor is worth a trip. Be sure to walk on the paths that circle the summit and have a look at the two churches there – Roman Catholic and Orthodox. A very beautiful place with rich biblical connections for Jews and Christians.

I spent Saturday Nov. 7 on the road from the Tiberius area down to Ben Gurion airport where I had to drop off the car before going on to Jerusalem. I got up early, had one of Sara & Israel Shavit’s fabulous breakfasts, and made stops at Akko and Caesarea on the way. I had plenty of time to see the highlights of both cities and still drop off the car and get a sherut to Jerusalem in time for dinner there.

Jerusalem simply blew my mind and I will start babbling if I try too hard to describe all I experienced there. Four nights there was a minimal-length stay.

Two words of warning: Don’t let anyone charge you more than 5 shekels for a bottle of water and don’t let yourself be taken in by a friendly guy who offers to show you around (he will eventually demand money for services rendered and will be very hard to shake off).

The highlight of my stay in Jerusalem was a half-day tour with the fabled Madeleine Levine who has been much lauded on this site by Douglas Duckett and others. She knows the Old City like the back of her hand and will show you places no tourist would every find or see without someone “in the know” to take them there. She is a fun, funny, and all-around delightful person and a joy to be with. She will also introduce you to her friends in the Old City and show you reputable merchants from whom you can get quality goods. Don’t go to Jerusalem without engaging Madeleine for at least a half day (madl@zahav.net.il, cell: 054-4504098).

A few of the Old City merchants Madeleine introduced me to:

• Lina’s – a famous place for hummus in the Christian Quarter

• Moses Aintablian – a jeweler in the Christian Quarter (shop #27) who does very creative and beautiful work. His son-in-law also makes lovely ceramic tiles with biblical scenes that are really nice

• Josef Natsheh Emporium – a dealer in Bedouin jewelry, Bukhara carpets, and Suzani embroidery – really nice things at reasonable prices

Another highlight, of a different sort, was a visit to Yad Vashem - The Holocaust martyrs' and heroes' remembrance memorial. I took the bus from the city center and needed about 2 hours to go through the place (others might want a bit more or les time). Be prepared to be moved to tears and even sobs by the time you get to the end of the exhibits. Don’t miss this place.

I also spent a half day with Sam Salem in Bethlehem. This is Sam’s home town, so he knows it intimately and will show you all you will ever want to see there. It was sad to see the concrete wall separating the West Bank from Israel on the day the world was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I pray this one will come down soon as well.

While in Bethlehem I had the opportunity to meet Sam’s wife, two beautiful little daughters, and his mother-in-law. It was an honor to receive their gracious hospitality. Sam’s contact info: guide.holy@gmail.com.

Walking and exploring – that’s what I did the rest of the time. And I seized every opportunity to talk with the locals about themselves and their lives in Israel.

The TA dinner on Nov. 10 was a great opportunity to meet and talk with others who have used this forum and have contributed so much to it. Thanks to all who were there for making that a memorable evening.

Beautiful country, beautiful people, beautiful experience. Israel is place full of sharp contrasts. I’m planning my next trip there already.

Steve White

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1. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

Hi Steve,

it was a great pleasure meeting you. I am happy ou enjoyed your visit and hope you'll come back soon!

Cincinnati, Ohio
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2. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

Steve, I loved reading every word of this report. It is kind of you to share that information. And I join Anon in saying how much I enjoyed meeting you, sharing a beer at the YMCA, a walk to the German Colony, and our meal with the group at Joy. It was lovely having both you and Rosekind join our group of friends -- you both fit right in! In my world, there is always room for new friends. Thank you for joining us, and for sharing your experiences and your kind heart with others.

Safe travels home. Please keep in touch.

Douglas Duckett

In Jerusalem

israel
Destination Expert
for Tel Aviv, Galilee, Israel
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3. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

Hi Steve

I did not attand the Jerusalem dinner and I missed the opportunity meeting you. Maybe next time. I am so glad your trip was enjoyable.

mid-hudson valley...
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4. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

Steve, as it was me who instigated the "pressing" for a trip report -- thanks! I enjoyed our chat at the dinner and I know I speak for everyone on the forum when I say if there are any more thoughts you want to share about your trip, we'd love to read them. Hope you'll stick around!

Daphne

Cincinnati, Ohio
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5. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

Amen to that.

Douglas Duckett

New York
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6. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

Hi,

I agree with DW325, please share more of your thoughts. As I am preparing to leave for Israel in late December, reading your posts makes me want to leave TODAY. Writing down many of the sights that you have seen and went to so that I may share that experience with my family and go there as well.

Thank you for your posts!

Sharon

Paragon
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7. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

Loved every word!!! If you have more on your heart I hope you will share that, too! Thank you!

Kathy

Haifa
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for Haifa
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8. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

I have only one comment about the "not a licensed guide" issue (and I don't hide the fact that I am one since 1987),

Guiding without a license is not legal and it is subject to a 3,000Nis fine (790$).

Now you may think that it is maybe not your problem but let me tell you and all the others, it could be a great problem to you if something would have happend.

You see, in order to guide private tours with a car in Israel your tour guide license is not enough. Taking tourist in a car needs a special driving license (public trasportation driving license) and a special car like Eshkol car which is a special car you can take only tourist with or a car that have a special licence to chrarge payment for the trasportation of people that is called in Hebrew "otobus za'ir" (translation - tiny bus) with a special car license. In both cases the car must have also a special insurance, since regular insurace does not allow you to charge money for the use of the car. That means that while you've been taken by an unlicensed guide through out the Golan Heights you were un covered by the insurance! Now since thank god nothing happened than everything is OK with you... but what if????

There was one case like that that came to court in Israel. A licended tour guide took a tourist on a private tour with a car without the needed driving license and car insurance. Not like in your case they had an accident and they both were injured. The insurance company, in which the car was insured, refuse to pay for the medical cost or for any damage that occured because it claimed that the guide used the car for an ilegal use by charging for the ride against his the guiding and the car license.

The guide sue the insurance company claiming that he didn't charge for the driving but only for the guiding and the trasportation was for free. He lost in trial and the judge ruled that since the payment for the guiding exceed the usual charge for a guiding it is obvious that the payement included the trasportation cost and that you cannot make an artificial distinction between the 2 actions - driving and guiding - on a private tour and they all come in the package.

After this long explenation I would ask you only 2 last question:

1. Do you thing that there is any fairness toward us - the licensed tour guide - when you hired an unlicensed one?

Would you like someone to do the same to you in your profession?

israel
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for Tel Aviv, Galilee, Israel
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9. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

Very well said!!!

10. Re: Trip Report: Galilee, Golan & Jerusalem

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