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!
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!