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The last day…

So it came at last, the end… It seemed so far away to start with, but then I actually got here, and things went so fast.

The day started with a trip to see disputed areas of Jerusalem – we saw from a lookout point the palestinian cities of Beit Jallah and Beit Lehem (Bethlehem), and could clearly see the security fence, which is not a wall for the whole length despite what people say. There are stretches that are just a fence, and some that are a wall – most of it is a fence. Then down to the checkpoint at Bethlehem, and then onto Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzaddik, an areadeemed to be Israel, but mostly arabs living there until recently when Jews started to move in. There was no sign of guards about, and to my eyes at least it looked a normal, if a little run down area of the city.

We also went to the Tayelet (Promenade) in Talpiot which gave a panoramic view of the city, and to the Kottel (Western Wall) where I think most of us took the chance to go and leave a note there, it is a holy place and there were clearly people of other faiths praying there and leaving notes, as well as many Bar Mitzvah celebrations taking place.

Lunch was back at the MFA, then we had a closing session, where certificates were presented, and photos taken. We ended with singing the Hatikvah, then it really was time to say goodbye.

Since then, well I went back to the hotel and dropped my stuff off, then walked to Ben Yehuda street to do some last minute shopping. Now, i have a sherut ordered for 3am, so time to repack my bags, then shower and crash out for a bit. See you again at home.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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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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