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A second go

A second post in one day!

Just come back from dinner at Canela restaurant. As the final dinner, we had some speeches, and this time I stuck firmly to white wine and coca cola – not getting into the red like last night. As a group we had got a present for our hosts, Irit and Ami – we had a group photo taken of ourselves outside the Menorah by the Knesset, which we had enlarged and framed. One for each of them and a third for our wonderful bus driver Yaacov who has entertained us with his ukelele all week. He didn’t drtive us this evening, so we’ll get that to him tomorrow.

It was a good job we had a private room – the impromptu karaoke session was rather loud, but lots of fun. Freddie – I’m sorry, we murdered your songs, but they gave us a lot of fun, especially Bohemian Rhapsody with our intrepid international choir hailing from Venezuela, Turkey, Mexico, Uruguay, Italy, Georgia, Australia, Romania, USA, Israel, and the UK. If I missed anyone I’m sorry!

Tomorrow we are touring disputed parts of Jerusalem, then we have a closing ceremony. I hope to get some shopping done afterwards, still have a few presents left to buy.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Tough Questions…. And how to answer them

I guess so far I can sum up today with the above title. Short version was that it was media briefings, and media training. Now those of you who do actually know me will know that talking one to one is fine, but a huge group – gives me the creeps. Oh well, not like public speaking is that high on the agenda at this precise moment in time!

Out for a final dinner later, so I may catch up later.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Yet another two in one…

Monday
After leaving the kibbutz hotel, complete with those people who had sore heads (we had a beach party and it apparently got late – I went to bed at one and have no idea what time my room mate got in as I was dead to the world!). First couple of stops were at lookout points, one where you could see Lebanon, the other you could see into Syria. I was 60km (a little under 40 miles) from Damascus and am please to report that no international incidents were caused by me or anyone else!

Then it was off to lunch on an army base. Oddly appropriate after a visit to Amuka the day before that we should be confronted by lots of good looking young men in uniform! Despite bing told that the food would be awful, it wasn’t that bad, which made me wonder if the soldiers were grateful for us turning up as it gave them better food! One of the officers talked to us about huis battalion, and what they did, then as they are an artillery battalion they took us out to see the guns. The emphasis was very much on how they could target their weapons carefully. and how they were all taught to do minimum damage to civilians. And yes, there were a few other soldiers around who spoke English that were willing to talk to us, and they all said much the same thing.

After that, well – Wine Tasting time!!! The Golan Heights has a fantastic winery and we had a quick whistle stop tour, including the delights of Motty the robot who stacked the pallets. But the star of the show was the tasting. I liked the whites, but not the Merlot. Didn’t buy any as it is the same price back home, so not worth carrying it.

Finally we went back to Tel Aviv, I think i slept a little on the coach, only waking up when we had a brief stop at a service station somewhere near Zichron Yaacov. All I can say about that is that the worst services in England are palaces compared to the facilities at this particular Israeli one – it was a petrol station with a small shop/restaurant, with lousy loos, and worst of all – NO CHOCOLATE!!!

Dinner was kebabs and chips, with salads. I managed to get a liver one – and Mum, you cook it far better! The meatball one was nice though.

Stayed at the Dan Panorama overnight – this time in a still nice, but not as nice room. But as it was for only one night it was not a problem. Went to the beach briefly at 10pm – only time it was cool enough!

Today (Tuesday)
Went to the Export institute for some meetings with people there. I have to say that the high tech talk, and the consumer goods talk were good, but the economics one went right over my head – I always knew there was a reason I hadn’t picked that subject at school!

We had a little free time after in Jaffa – went to the shuk there, which is really more of a flea market. Although I have added to my elephant collection, with a Mama elephant and two babies 🙂

Then it was off to visit a charity project at Wolfson Hospital in Holon. Interesting to note that after ther hospital was built, they built a small shopping centre outside it – we saw patients who were well enough going for a wander to buy books and sweets and things – there were clothes shops there, and a branch of McDonalds as well.

The Save a Child’s Heart project was truly inspiring, we met the Surgeon in charge, who talked to us briefly before he was due in theatre. They treat two types of issues there, congenital heart problems, and rheumatic heart disease, and the children come from the Palestinian territories, and all over the developing world (Africa, other parts of the Middle East, and oddly Romania). Today’s clinic was for treating Palestinian children, and I really felt for one of the mother’s there, apparently her child had something that was most likely inoperable.

The children that come in from overseas stay at a house nearby. We went to see it, and it was a really happy place with a good few children ready to actually head home tomorrow, including a really smily little boy from Ethiopia. We played with them, spoke to the volunteers there and it had a really good atmosphere.

Back on the bus we headed back to Jerusalem where dinner with a government minister, Yuli Edelstein, who is the minister for the diaspora awaited us. It was pretty good, and somehow, despite sitting opposite I barely managed two words – our man from Greece had a lot to say. Still, he gave a good speech, stressing that the main thing was to counter ignorance where possible.

As for now, well I’m in the second hotel room of the night. We got here, and discovered that a) none of us had keys that could open the rooms, and then b) our room only had a king size bed. Now my roomie and I are friendly, but not that friendly! So while I stayed with our bags, she went to ask about moving. So I write this now, sat on the top floor of the hotel, in a huge room with twin beds. It does need a little modernisation, but nothing that can’t be lived with for 3 nights – mainly a lick of paint and a newer air conditioning unit that isn’t quite so noisy – but this high up we can open the balcony door and not be disturbed by the road.

All in all, it’s been a long and intense day. I’m about ready to crash out and try my very comfy looking bed!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Three in one, or a menage a trois!

Actually an update on three days in one!

Friday
We left Jerusalem for Lod, which is one of the most deprived areas in Israel. It seems to have a majority Arab/Bedouin population, most of whom live in illegally built slum areas. This seems to be the cause of a lot of crime/drugs/violence in the area. But there is an amazing organization, the Lod Foundation that has a vision to ty to turn things around in the next few years.

We also saw the Church of Saint George – there is a very famous icon of him killing the dragon, and what is reportedly his tomb below the main building.

Then it was on to Tel Aviv, and a trip to the Carmel Market where you can get anything and everything – So Dad, if you are reading this, I have your chocolate! Also onto Max Brenner for a chocolate fondue, and then back to the hotel via Nachalat Benyamin. A quick shower and dinner – roast goose for the record, had to be tried, then a few of us went on a night walking tour of Jaffa, which was stunning.

Saturday
A day off!! I slept in, then after speaking to an old friend, agreed that they would come and meet me and let their kids swim in the hotel pool. So it was great to catch up, even if I did get my ear talked off about Doctor Who by an 8 year old who seems as obsessed as a certain 9 year old back in England! We had a picnic and ice lollies by the pool until it was time for me to meet up with the group.

We had a discussion about the projects people are working on, and how things have gone so far then, dinner, which included the bizarrely translated ‘Beef Language’ aka – tongue. There was a provate show arranged for us in the evening, called ‘An Israeli Love Story’ performed by Adi Bielski. Set against the backdrop of WWII and the lead up to the declaration of the State of Israel it was very moving. Girl meets boy, he doesn’t notice her for years then when they do fall in love, and plan a wedding… something tragic happens. It is a true story, and we were lucky enough to meet the author, whio was a truly incredible lady.

Sunday (today)
Left Tel Aviv for the north. The first stop was in a bedouin villiage Khawaled, where we were hosted by the familiy of Ishmail Khaldi, Israel’s first bedouin diplomat. His family were incredibly warm and welcoming, it is true what they say about their hospitality, although I think the youngest member of his family was the star of the show, a real charmer aged around a year with a cheeky smile and a love of being the centre of attention.

We were so long there, we missed lunch! It was then off to Julis, a Druze village, where we met the current spiritual leader and listened to a talk by a Professor of Hebrew Literature on the Druze and their situation in Israel.

Then a trip to Amuka, where it is said you can pray at the tomb of a famous Rabbi to find your soulmate. So if you are out there and reading this…..

A welcome dinner came next, and onto our stop for the night, Kibbutz Ginnosar.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Breaking the Law…

Okay – not literally, but after a trip to the Supreme Court I couldn’t resist it as a title!

Today we had some talks about the Middle East, in particular the issues surrounding the ‘Arab Spring’ and that old chestnut – Iran (well there has been civilisation there for 5000+ years so I think that counts as old). The speakers explained the issues and concerns, in particular the potential nuclear capability of Iran, which is pretty scary when you think about it.

There was also a talk on the maritime law issues surrounding the flotilla last year, which explained that the naval blockade was legal under international law and that Israel had followed the actions it was supposed to take in dealing with the ships. Of course, the one thing to point out is that even if they had got through – there is no commercial dock in Gaza that they could have used.

Then we went to the Supreme Court – a very impressive building, less impressive was having to leave all our bags outside while we were in there, and I mean outside. I ended up taking all the things I couldn’t stand to lose in my pockets (money, passport etc). Odd thing was that phones and cameras were perfectly acceptable! We were given a talk about the Israeli legal system – most of it did go right over ny head as while I do work for a law firm, I’m not a lawyer and the technicalities were a bit much. One thing I did pick up on is that the courts and legal system are based on the British model, magistrates courts, then district courts, then the supreme court at the top of the tree. Apparently anyone, Israeli citizen or not can petition the supreme court if they feel they have been wronged by a government decision.

Tommorrow it’s off to Tel Aviv via Lod. And at long last comes some well deserved free time, in which I may have to gently toast myself by the pool!

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Two days in one!

Tuesday

I returned to the scene of the crime – well not literally, but we went to Ashkelon, where I had a very mis-spent youth! I was a volunteer there – well too many years ago. One of the things I did at the time was do some work with the hospital radio station, and we went back to that same hospital. Of course nothing was as I remembered it, Ashkelon has doubled in size, and given the proximity to the Gaza strip you could see signs of damage in the area.

We also went to the command bunker for any emergency in the city – it is not just there to be used for rocket attack – it would be called upon in case of natural disasters such as earth quakes or tsunami – and they do have evidence of such events in the past.

After that – lunch, then well there is only one thing to say – ‘Carlsberg don’t do israel semiars, but if they did they’d look like this!’ Yup, a trip to the brewery and it would have been very rude to refuse the tasters afterwardds (hic!)

On to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai – there is a museum there dedicated to the memory of the man the Kibbutz is named for, the 24 year old leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Mordechai Anilewitz. It shows the ghetto in Warsaw, with a detailed model and a reconstrcuction on the bunker the fighters used, it then goes on to sho the history of the kibbutz, which was destroyed by the Egyptian army during the war of independence and reclaimed into the beautiful place it is now. They seem to have found a use for all the old farm equipment, it has become art as part of various sculptures around the place. There is also a look out point over a reconstruction of the battlefield – you could clearly see Gaza.

After that – up the coast road to Tel Aviv to the most amazing cafe/theatre. The waiters and waitresses are all deaf, so you communicate via sign langauge and writting things down – it was surprising ly easy as the table clothes all have some signs on them to give you a starter. There is anothe restaurant there called blackout – it’s in the dark and all the waiters are blind, but they couldn’t take a big group.

The show was amazing – the actors were all either blind, deaf or had some degree of both. They made bread as the show and through music, dance and with the aid of able bodied assistants and interpreters told the story of their hopes and dreams while the bread baked. Then we got to meet the actors and try the bread.

Wednesday

A slight balagan as the locals called it – we couldn’t get into the building where we were supposed to be meeting up, for some reason the security man was a little paranoid. But once we got past that part, we had some talks about the real figures to quote when people try to demonize Israel, and the author Saul Singer came to talk about his book Start Up nation.

After lunch (with thorough security!) we went to the Knesset (parliament). We met two members, one in government, Dr Einat Wilf PhD who explained the Israeli electoral process, and Shlomo Mula, an Ethiopian born MK who was part of the opposition, he spoke about how a government was formed and what his party’s view of the peace process should be.

We then went back to see a film – Srugim – the nearest way I can describe it is an Israeli version of Friends. It was very good and I think I may have to hunt down the DVD

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Israel at last!

I made it!

So, took forever to get through passport control, think I Picked the wrong queue, or the man in the booth was being very thorough! Anyway – got myself an Israeli sim card in Steimatzky and a taxi to the hotel.

Last night se all met up for an Indian in the hotel restaurant. Chicken Tikka Masala – yum. Then a few of us walked for what seemed like forever to Ben Yehuda for a beer.

So that was yesterday – well today we were out for 8:30, and walked to the Ministry buildings to have a few(!) meetings with people. As always, some speakers were better than others, I can recommend the incoming Israeli Ambassador to the UK (if not his choice of football team – Manchester City for those who care).

Lunch – well after a typically huge Israeli breakfast, then came – wait for it – the chicken schintzel! It wasn’t alone though, there were salads, and hummous too. And meatballs, and more chicken! So not going to lose any weight with this!

Right – have to go as we are going out soon for dinner.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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