Standing still is boring. Get outside!

Haifa, the life!

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The airbnb apartment in Jerusalem was on the 5th floor and after a full day walking around it was nice to use the lift. But the lift was pretty slow and one of those old school ones where you open a door, get in, press the button, wait for 3 mins before a gate would fold close, then the door would shut and you could move. The lift was tiny; you were pushing it having 2 people in there, especially if you didn’t know each other very well. If you, while trying to maneuver yourself in the small small space got in the way of the gate it would open and you’d have to wait all over again. It was so annoying you’d usually just walk.

Yet the morning we packed up and left, Sue and Andrew needed to get their big suitcases down all those stairs and we thanked the heavens for the lift. As they trundled down to the lift Jono and I locked up and walked the stairs with our packs on our backs. We get to the bottom and wait. And wait. We wait for so long we think something must have gone wrong until Sue arrives walking down the stairs alone absolutely killing herself with laughter.

They’d both pushed themselves and their large suitcases into the tiny lift. The gate would start to shut, then catch on something, open again, wait again, they’d try another time and another, after a certain amount of maneuvering the gate had finally shut but before the lift moved Sue found it way to claustrophobic and had to open the door to bail. Andrews getting fed up, he says ‘you walk down the stairs ill take the luggage and meet you at the bottom’. Fine says Sue, she closes the door and waits for the gate to shut. As it finally starts creaking across Andrew says ‘see you downstairs’ but Sue hears ‘Sue!’ and opens the door to speak to Andrew. The gate pulls back and he’s back to square one. If looks could kill Sue would never have made it past that morning.

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It was an easy drive from Jerusalem to Caesarea and we headed straight to a cafe for a falafel pita, which was a good one.

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It was incredibly hot and sweaty yet the salty sea breeze was deliciously cool on your skin. We wandered the old harbour, checked out the hippodrome area and sat in the palace house ruins where Paul was presented before Agrippa. How awesome!

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There was the remains of a theater Herod had built and it had been reconstructed enough to use for concerts. We wandered onto the stage for a bit of a view, there were quite a few families and tour groups drifting around the seats so when Sue got up onto the stage next to Jono he grabbed the attention of the 40 odd tourists in the stands and told them that his mother was going to sing them all a song.  You’ve never seen Sue move so quickly in all your life. One minute she was on the stage next to Jono, the next she had vanished in a red faced blur while we fell around with laughter.

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Before leaving Caesarea we had a great swim at a beach we shared with the ruins of a roman aqueduct. The water was bliss, like a cool and refreshing bath, we floated around for ages loving life.

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Mid arvo we all troop back to the car and we start the drive to Haifa, where we are staying for the next few nights. We’d been driving for about 2 mins when Andrew stopped at a sign pointing up a path to a bird mosaic. We payed him out, did he really need to see a bird mosaic? The answer was a resounding ‘yes!’ because “they wouldn’t have a sign for it if it wasn’t really, really good”.

After getting confused by the directions we embarked on a slightly painful process of trying to find the street where the airbnb apartment was. We finally called the lady who sent her husband to look for us and we checked into another cool Airbnb unit, once the owners had gone we all shared a good laugh at Andrews expense as one of the primary reason he had chosen this apartment was its advertised 2 person bath!! Of course it didn’t even had a one person bath, it meant it had 2 bathrooms.

Haifa near where we were staying was pretty dead and dirty, we went out to find food but a kebab shop in kebab shop central (literally 5-6 all together) was the only thing we could find open, no supermarkets or anything!

We took a day trip up to Akko and Jono and I were pretty determined to keep driving to the border of Lebanon  until we realized you can’t even cross if you wanted to, there’s no roads. Akko or Acre is a cool place, right on the coast, there’s an old city with high walls shining bright in the gleaming sun, aqua water sparkles and sea breezes float deep into the dark, cramped souks.

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We wandered for ages in the heat along the waterfront into the old city where we called timeout and recovered with an iced coffee under an umbrella, the sun literally fried you. We wandered down into the tunnels under the city made by the crusaders and then up through the busy market streets of the wicked old city.

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At a stall we bought Turkish delights and amazing halvah while drooling over the spread of delicacies the guy had arrayed. Sue asked the young guy selling it all if he made it; he looked sheepish for a minute and then admitted his mother made everything! In the souk we sidestepped children, dodged the fish drooping off the fishmongers bench, ducked our heads for the toys, lanterns and clothing hanging from the roof and politely declined the calls of ‘look at this, hello there, special price for you, these are the best quality dates you can get’. I love the bustle of the market place, the smells – good, bad and everything in between, the shouting and tangible feelings of excitement in the air. We stopped for pomengrate juice and baklava soaked it all in.

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Eventually we got to the Turkish bath house you could do a tour of which was a great way to get rid of $5 we didn’t want and not much else.

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For the evening back in Haifa we headed down to the waterfront for a sunset picnic of nibblies and wine! The sun set over the west and the little strip of grass and beach was teeming with families soaking it all in. Perfect!

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That night we made our way up on the Carmel range and had a few drinks discussing what terrors and joys await us in South Africa before a delicious Thai dinner at ‘Giraffe’ restaurant! Travelling has made me realize how much I rely on Thai food and how much I eat, I think i’d cook it at least 2 times a week and as it has been so difficult to come across over here I gorge eveytime I possibly can, and I smile while I do it!

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We left Haifa and headed straight to Megiddo, not such a great start for Andrew as he took off on the wrong side of the road. I wish I could tell you this was the first or the last time that happened 😉 Everyone started yelling all at once! Megiddo was great!

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Nerdy insert here – Tel Megiddo is an artificial mound (tel) that sits on the western edge of the Jezreel Valley. Archaeologists have discovered twenty-six different layers of civilization at the site, with continuous and uninterrupted settlement from the Neolithic period (approximately 7,000 BCE) to the Late Babylonian Period (approximately 586 BCE). Megiddo was both a strategically economic and military site because of its location along the Via Maris, approximately the midway point between the Empires of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

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Anyone who had traversed the valley en route to one of the empires almost inevitably stopped at Megiddo’s spring or stayed within its massive city walls for the night. Megiddo is mentioned specifically  12 times in the Hebrew Bible. Joshua 17:11 tells us that Megiddo fell into the tribal inheritance of Manasseh. Nonetheless, despite Deborah and Barak’s magnificent defeat of Sisera in the Valley of Armageddon (Jezreel), as reported in Judges 5, the city would remain in Canaanite control until at least the period of Solomon. According to 1 Kings 9:15, Solomon built the wall of Megiddo, and great controversy has existed among scholars whether indeed it dates to the Solomon or to the ensuing period of Omri and Ahab. According to 2 Kings 9, Ahaziah King of Judah was killed at Megiddo and in 2 Kings 23, Josiah the King was shot with an arrow by Pharaoh Necho in the plain of Megiddo. According to John (Revelations 16:16), the final battle will be fought at Armageddon, the Greek rendering of the Hebrew ’Har’, which means ’Mountain’ and ’Megiddo’.

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From the hill of Megiddo there were amazing views down the Jezreel valley! You could see Nazareth, Mt tabor, the Hill of Moreh and The Gilead mountains in the distance. Is Armageddon going to happen here? Napoleon thought so, when he saw it he said “All the armies of the world could manoeuvre their forces on this vast plain.”

There’s tunnels here that take water from a spring under the city walls to provide the people with uninterrupted water, maybe Hezekiah could have got the idea from here!

After the morning at Megiddo we drove up to the Nazareth precipice! What a view!! I never realised Nazareth was on a hill! It makes this passage make a little more sense (Luke 4:29) “And they (the people of Nazareth) rose up, and thrust him (Jesus) out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.”

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We had an awesome lunch in Arabic take away shop. The guy made us an amazing chicken rice dish! They were so friendly and even though we had trouble communicating a bit they gave us magnate of their shop and there were handshakes all around. We finally found a fruit shop!! I was so happy (have had trouble finding things open), it was owned by Muslims, which meant it was actually open (today is Sabbath for the Jews). We stocked up on lots of fruit and veges and it only cost 48 sheckles ($14)!! Andrew did his thing, a quick scan of the shop could find him chatting to the owner, getting tips on how to look after the dates – apparently stick them in the freezer overnight, then out in sunshine for 5 hours, lop them off the branch and devour.

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Last stop of the day was to Zippori N.P. Jono drove and promptly got lost thanks to Google maps, we drove around for ages and asked random people who all pointed us in different directions. We finally made it and they let us in after cut off time to Andrew’s relief and Sue and I’s slight disappointment 😉 Andrew and Jono did the full look at all the mosaics while Sue and I chatted to a really friendly Israeli family who gave us delicious rice wrapped in grape vine leaves. They were so sweet and proud of their country.

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What an epic day, we have really been smooshing everything in! It was late that evening when we finally collapsed on the couch in front of a sweet view over the Sea of Galilee from our new airbnb apartment! Happy us.

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