On the Road to Haifa (October 25, 2019)

Shabbat Shalom (happy sabbath) to one and all! In recognition of the day Gabi showed us the Shabbat elevator in our hotel. It is put into service on the Sabbath and requires no human touch. It is programmed to open on the ground floor every nine minutes and automatically stop at every floor going up and down.

Our day started off with an easy picturesque ride north along the coast. We passed avocado and citrus orchards, vineyards, olive groves, and hundred of long, low, plastic covered quonset huts for growing produce of some sort. The two roadside surprises were a) banana fields covered in netting (to keep the birds out) and b) a flock of storks flying circles beside the bus. The Greek god of great weather blessed us once again: 78 and sunny. 

First stop:  Caesarea National Park. A fabulous 10-minute film whizzed us through the storied history of King Herod’s stunning port city on the sea. He created a thriving commercial center with a complicated breakwater, a 20,000-capacity hippodrome for races, theater for performances as well as mud wrestling, markets, temples, and an ancient version of a lighthouse to guide ships safely to port. King Herod designed himself a large palace complex in the city center with, of all things, a swimming pool built into the sea. We could see its outline from the shore. The film went on to show the changes, good and bad, of all the people who came to rule the area after the Romans lost their stronghold plus the ravages of a series of earthquakes. Rising water from climate change is the current threat to this seaside archaeological site. 

in 1882 lots of Eastern European Jews migrated to Israel. 65 families from Romania came to Zichron Ya’akov with plans to work as a group and eventually make a better life. The winery we visited today, Somek Estate Winery, is a fifth generation vineyard owned by descendants of one of the original 65 families. The first four generations of this particular family grew grapes and sold them all to wineries in the area. The young couple who now own the fields and hosted us today decided to branch out and produce wine themselves, the first of their lineage to do so. Most of their grapes are machine harvested and sold directly to other wineries, but the best are hand picked and kept for their exclusive wines. By the way, Somek means blush, as in wine can cause cheeks to turn red. 

Our lunch was a combination noon meal, served at a huge harvest table, and wine tasting in the charming yet sophisticated tasting room. We helped ourselves to locally grown cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes; two kinds of quiche; amazing (it bears repeating) bread; cheese; olives; walnuts; and two whites wines and three reds. I loved the most expensive red. Smooth as a baby’s bottom I tell you. 

We ended our day on Carmel Mountain overlooking the port of Haifa where our hotel, The Dan Carmel, is perched. Our large room on the seventh floor overlooks the port on the balcony side and the pool on the window side. Our bathroom has two unique features: a TV built into the mirror and a huge clear-glass window between the bathroom and the bedroom.

Before dinner we had an interesting Q&A with a local Christian Arab. Arabs comprise 20% of the population with Christian Arabs being a minority within a minority, so it was interesting to get his take on life in Israel.

Dinner fit for royalty ended our day.  There were multiple hors d’oeuvres served mezze style to include pate, salmon ceviche, salad, beef carpaccio, bread, soup, grilled peppers, and champagne to wash it all down. That was just a prelude to a plated meal. I chose barramundi. Then came dessert and mint tea. Thank goodness I swam 12 very cold lengths before dinner.

… Fun Facts …

Habokrim Steakhouse, located in a gas station in Haifa, is a replica of a 19th century American Gold Rush-era eatery. Owners Hana and Yossi Tochner opened Habokrim, which is Hebrew for “cowboys,” after a Jeep tour across Arizona.

In predominately Jewish cities there is no public transportation on the Sabbath (Friday evening to Saturday evening).

Lunch is the main meal in Israel except on Friday when dinner is the main attraction.
If employees are unable to go home for a hot meal at noon, companies
often provides one or provide lunch vouchers.

It is not mandatory for Arabs to serve in the Israeli military.
They can volunteer however.

There is no separation of church and state in Israel.


3 thoughts on “On the Road to Haifa (October 25, 2019)

  1. So many interesting facts! I keep wondering, do you have a notebook that you jot things down in and then share with us? Can’t tell you enough how much we enjoy the blogs and the photos! 😊

    Leni: guilt as charged. Sometimes I do take notes just to cement it into my brain. Thank you for being a loyal follower. 🤜🏼🤛🏻


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