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Shabbat Shalom!

  March 20th, 2009

 We woke up to much needed rain in the Golan this morning. We made our way toward the Sea of Galilee (Ga lee-lee) and spent the early part of the day in the Hula Valley touring the previously drained Agamon Hula (little lake). The lake has been restored by the Kinneret Authority and is now a nature preserve. The wetlands are a major migratory stop for storks and cranes en route this time of year from Africa to Europe. The preserve also functions as training grounds for road cyclists. We saw birds as well as colorfully suited men cruising around the park in aerodynamic formation. The latter half of the day was spent in Beith Shean (Bet-Shane) touring the ancient Roman ruins of Scythopolis. The site was extensively excavated and made a national park only eleven years ago. We had an AMAZING tour of the grounds guided by Avi who pandered to our academic interests by using geography, geology and water management to explain the rich history of the ruins. The city was destroyed by earthquakes several times since its initial construction during the 5th Century BCE and Avi helped us identify the chronological age of ruins based on their (quake induced) placement in relation to one another. To day is the first day of the Sabbath, which lasts from sun down Friday to sundown Saturday. This is a period of rest that is practiced very literally. Everything from elevators to ovens and light switches are automated to keep to the tradition of the Sabbath. The town of Beith Shean was deserted by 3:00 in the afternoon as the work day ended and people headed home to spend the weekend with family. We ended the day celebrating Shabbat at our hostel. Everyone collected in a small makeshift synagogue facing south toward Jerusalem as is tradition. Women and men were seated in separated sections separated by a screen as the Rabbi led the room in chanting prayer. We unexpectedly shared the ceremony with a large group of Russian converts who came together to learn and celebrate their first Shabbat as well. This made for a multi-cultural experience not soon to be forgotten. Tomorrow we continue south and enter into West Bank to be hosted by Al- Quds University.    

Day Two

  March 19th, 2009

We headed to the beach at the quiet hour of 5:30am, taking full advantage of the jet lag for early morning exploration. As the sun rose we wandered to Fort Jaffa at the water’s edge. The fort, a two thousand year old cluster of ruins, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This particular corner of the city is a curious mixture of old and new. The fort abuts a string of sky high luxury hotels that run along two miles if sea shore. With the exception of the skyscrapers, the city has a whitewashed Mediterranean feel from the dominance of the textured white limestone brick. The State requires that all buildings be constructed with the regional limestone out of tradition and for aesthetic reasons. It gives a strong impression of uniformity and code.

My favorite way to explore any new place is to run. I was apprehensive about running here but my desire to take advantage of the chance to explore outside of the group of twenty won out. I was initially fearful of attracting unwanted attention or inflicting unintentional offense due to a potential lack of modesty. Luckily, it turns out Tel-Aviv is a modern and diverse city that is apparently bursting with recreational athletes. I ended up joining the stream of spandex clad foot and bike traffic along the surf and beach side promenade. The early morning crowds were dog walking and practicing tai chi and yoga. With the string of modern hotels and palm lined boulevards, I could have been cruising along Venice Beach or “Any Town” So Cal. Never the less, it was a relief to feel the freedom of safety and adventure around town without worry.

 Most of the afternoon was spent near the shore of the Eastern Mediterranean playing in tide pools (there’s only a one foot rise in tide) and speaking with a newly recruited marine biologist (and former OSU student) from the National Marine Laboratory. He discussed some of the ecological impacts of the Suez Canal and hosted our visit through the coral nursery, one of the world’s leading research efforts on coral reef regeneration. The latter part of the day took us through Haifa, a diverse port city at the foot of Mount Carmel. The Baha’i World Center is located along the hillside and maintains seven immaculately groomed tiered gardens. It was striking to learn the tumultuous history of a city that, like many others in Israel, has been repeatedly settled, destroyed, and resettled. The remnants of multiple layers of cultural and architectural themes that have dominated and retreated over time give the impression of frequent change. We ended the day winding our way out of the city and through the countryside near the Sea of Galilee. We watched the sun set over Lebanon and caught views of snow-capped Mt. Hermon whose peak is technically Syrian territory. Because so many borders meet here in the Golan region, the area is heavily fortified and the presence of electrified fencing, landmines (left over from previous conflict), and teenagers causally toting guns half their height in length have crept in as “natural” fixtures. Tonight we share our hostel with a lively group of high schoolers who will soon begin their 2-3 year mandatory military service.   





  March 19th, 2009

After 14 hours of flying, we’ve arrived bleary eyed in Tel-Aviv. Though more than twenty strong, our group blended well next to the silver-haired throng of south Texan pilgrims and their oh-so-audible twang ‘n drawl. Our first task was to make it through Customs without a passport stamp to ensure a smooth border crossing at the West Bank and to avoid future travel trouble. Mission semi-accomplished. Some of us were met with compliance on the issue, others were less fortunate. None of us are quite sure what this will mean yet. We’ve been assigned a tour bus (sans a toilet), equipped with a PA system and our permanent driver, Meir (May-or). Tonight we stay in Jaffa, just west of the city, in modern hostel rooms equipped with bunk beds and verandas overlooking the hustle and bustle of the coastal town. A whimsical pre-dinner walk serendipitously brought a small group of us to a regionally- acclaimed pita bakery offering traditionally herbed pita and, lately, less traditional pizza-like options. A fortunate start to culinary adventure here. The night-time stroll took us past a few smaller vegetable markets offering buckets of tomatoes, dates, melons and enormous heads of cabbage and leek. Dinner was served on the second floor of the hostel, doubling as a dining hall and social space. Several carts of roasted eggplant and peppers, sautéed fennel and purple cabbage, hummus and baba ganoush, kabobs, soups and breads were offered up buffet-style. The unexpectedly gourmet meal was well received as the first to follow several less palatable in-flight ones. Tonight we crash out, explore a few Turkish coffee shops near the seaside and enjoy the city nightscape from our rooftop access. Tomorrow we go north…

The Golan Heights

  March 19th, 2009

Today was decidedly and unanimously breathtaking. The consensus of the group at the ended of the day was amazing. I will tell you of the things we did and all the places and people we saw. But it is with bitter sweetness that I tell you without the words of poet to help you capture the smell of the sir, the feel of the wind and the spray of the waterfall. So, I will need your help as I share our journey. Today we went from border to border to border looking and learning about the beauty and complexity of the Golan Heights.  We started in Banais Garden and The Roman Temple of Pan. We saw the ruins of Ceasara Philliphighi, where in biblical history Jesus came to speak. Here we hiked up into the mountains and we saw the beautiful gushing springs and waterfalls.  Next we met up with Hielm who spent the day taking us all over the Golan Heights. He talked about water use and water politics, volcanic and geologic formation. We went up to the border of both Syria and Jordan.  One of the highlights of the day was when we pulled over and talked to some young Israel soldiers. They talked to us about the tanks they were using and let us take lots of pictures with them. That was really amazing. All the paces we went to were filled with children on field trips.

We had time to just stop and realize how beautiful the place was; the sunset was amazing, and we watched it while talking to local people that said “Israel has the most beautiful sunset in the world”.

We also stopped by and smelled the local Golan Iris flowers and saw a cow going into a mined field! A place full of folklore, divisive history and beauty!  

We saw the past in the ruins of the ancient temple of Pan and abandon military barricades. Breathtaking beauty of the Golan Hieghts in the abundant wildflowers and mountain views. We whirl in a whirlwind bus ride stopping at the National Park.

Second Day – Ocean Day

  March 18th, 2009

Good morning!

Yesterday was our first full day here, and it was packed! First before we left Jaffa we walked up to aview point where we could see Tel Aviv in the distance and Aaron went over the brief history of the past 3000 years (VERY brief)! Then we got on the bus and headed north and met up with Aaron friend, Giel (sp?), who used to work with PISCO at OSU for 3 years and now just started working at the National Institute of Oceanography here in Israel (his home country). His expertise is in marine ecology so we went down to the Mediterranean Sea and got a leasson on the ecology of the area. We spent time by the water, getting our feet wet and enjoying the beautiful view! Next we drove to the National Institute of Oceanography building in Haifa where Giel works. We got a tour of the building and some of the work that goes on there. The coolest thing I learned was that they are growing coral to be transplanted into rocks later once they are larger (so awesome!). Following this, we went to the Baha’i Gardens which over looking Haifa. We learned that Haifa was in the missle range when Lebanon was firing in 2006…it is amazing to see what a largly inhabited city it is that was having to evacuate during this time. After this, we started to head farther north towards Tel Hai (where we are staying for two nights), on the way we stoped up near the border, in an area where to the left was Lebanon with Syria in the background; this was right at sunset and it was gorgeous.

We are going south today to the headwaters and et cetera. We’ll update you again when we get back! Hope all is well in the states and Anthony says “what up to the 301.”


First Night, in Jaffa!

  March 17th, 2009

Hello everyone!

We arrived in Tel Aviv and then hopped on the bus and came to our first hostel, in Jaffa. The hostel is VERY nice with a great dinner served for us last night. After diner a few of us walked around exploring…and found the Mediterranean Sea! Below are some pictures from the walk, so enjoy!

Arrived in Tel Aviv!

  March 17th, 2009

Shalom and Salaam

Wow! We have finally arrived (safely, all heads accounted for) in Israel. The journey was 14 hours in-flight from Portland to Tel Aviv via Frankfurt. We crossed 9 time zones, which wreaked havoc on our biological clocks, and quite a few of us couldn’t sleep at all. After all, who could pass up Lufthansa hospitality?

A few other students and I were briefly questioned immediately after landing about our reasons for visiting Israel, and I gave a floundering response that somehow satisfied the officer. As a group, we then received a few glares and passport stamps from immigration agents – since an Israeli stamp invalidates your passport for much of the Arab world, many students opted to not have their passport stamped. Of course the immigration agents don’t like this.

A few photos are attached of the group’s progress thus far: Several trip members on our first flight out of Portland, Tuesday’s sunrise over Europe on the first leg of our journey, students disembarking from the Airbus 340 in Frankfurt, one of our first glimpses of Israel as our plane banks to land in Tel Aviv, Tuesday’s sunset from the window of our bus to Jaffa, and the view from our hostel window in Jaffa.

We’re staying here at the Ma’agan Michael in Jaffa (the town Jonah set sail from) for the night and tomorrow we depart early for somewhere to the north, along the coast. Aaron’s keeping the trip itinerary fairly mysterious, which just makes me curious! Well, I’m off for a short walk around town and then some sleep after a 30-hour day.

Lots to talk about, lots more to come!

Evan Miles

Hello world!

  March 11th, 2009

Hello! This will be the official blog for the Oregon State Geo Club and Hydrophiles spring break ’09 trip to Israel and Palestine! We will be updating every night while we are there; below I’ve outlined our rough itenerary so you’ll already know where we will be updating from. We will be trying to incorporate as many pictures and video as we can, along the way. It’s hard to believe we leave in less than 2 days, but everyone is excited to start this adventure!

Tuesday March 17                   1500 arrive in Tel Aviv, night in Jaff

Wednesday March 18            Day at the coast, night in Tel Hai

Thursday March 19                Headwaters, border region, night in Tel Hai

Friday March 20                     Hula, Kinneret, night in Beth Shean

Saturday March 21                 Nablus, al-Auja, night in Jericho

Sunday March 22                    Jericho, Wadi Kelt, night in Jericho

Monday March 23                 Academic morning at Al-Quds University, night in Ein Gedi

Tuesday March 24                   Dead Sea region, night in Ein Gedi

Wednesday March 25             Makhtesh Rimon, night in Mitspe Ramon

Thursday March 26                 Avdat, Ein Avdat, Zin wilderness, night in Mitspe Ramon

Friday March 27                      Head to Jerusalem, night in Jerusalem

Saturday March 28                  Free day in Jerusalem, night in Jerusalem

Sunday March 29                     Jerusalem, night in Jerusalem

Monday March 30                    0500 depart Tel Aviv