Israel 2017

Israel 2017-Day 1

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

We’ve been planning a first trip to Israel for ten years.  On two previous occasions we’ve had to cancel in the last minute because of family emergencies. Last November,  I received an email inviting me to  present a paper on something having to do with Shakespeare and the Bible at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem during a conference on “The Bible in the Renaissance.”  They would pay our hotel bill.



Israel 2017–Day 2

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Picture Gallery for this entry

We’re staying at the boutique Melody Hotel across the street from a park that fronts the Mediterranean.

After a sumptuous breakfast, our amiable guide, Gabi, ushers the group of 12 Gate 1 travelers under her care to the bus. Six are Russian speakers from New Jersey.  Our first stop is to be the Ayalon Institute, an “armaments factory” near the Weizmann Institute of Science and a big high tech park.

We enter a treed compound of tin sheds surrounded by old machinery and watch a movie introducing the facility. During the last years of the British Mandate, the Haganah, or Israeli underground army, was preparing for a war of independence against the local Palestinians and their allies, the surrounding Arab states. In order to placate the Arabs and keep the peace, the British were trying to severely limit immigration of postwar Jewish refugees and prevent the purchase or production of arms. (more…)

Israel 2017–Day 3

Friday, May 12th, 2017

24 Pictures

At 6:00 AM I go down to the big public swim area and join wetsuited surfers and guys with beards and moobs jumping in the water.  In the locker room on my way out, I see their tzitzit and big hats hanging on hooks.



Israel 2017–Day 4

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

26 Pictures

After the tour bus heads north without us, we are picked up at the hotel by Yair Caro. Before we left the States, Jan searched the internet for people we might meet in Israel and discovered that he was a second cousin of mine whose brother Gustave we had met in Grenoble in 1969 and whose grandmother, Ida Blum, was the sister of my grandfather Adolf Gruenwald. Ruggedly handsome, deep voiced and fluent in English and authoritative in manner, he drives through the Arab part of the old city, where elegant but dilapidated buildings are now being renovated, gentrified, and repurposed by the municipality. (more…)

Israel 2017–Day 5

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

30 photos

First stop today is the Hula Valley Nature Preserve, a national park providing a twice-a-year stopover spot for mass avian migrations from Europe to Africa and also attracting birders from all over the world.  Since its not migration time, we get a “fourth dimension” media experience, including 3D glasses, moving seats, air jets and bubbles describing the restoration of this large wetland from reclamation projects that drained it and channeled all its water for agricultural uses.



Israel 2017–Day 6

Monday, May 15th, 2017

18 Pictures

From the highest region of the country, today we head for the lowest point in the world at the Dead Sea, 1412 feet below sea level. The continuing haze produced by unusual heat for this time of year reduces visibility of the Sea of Galilee from our first stop, the shrine of the Beatitudes where Jesus is reputed to have preached the Sermon on the Mount. The place is packed with Christian pilgrim tour buses.



Israel 2017–Day 7

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Picture Gallery for Day 7

The natural fortress of Masada stands apart from the escarpment of barren mountains that rise above the Dead Sea depression.


Our bus pulls up to the elegant visitor center at its base, all pavement and walls faced with the “Jerusalem stone” that seems both to reflect and absorb light in a warm blend reminding me of the travertine marble of the Getty Center in LA.



Israel 2017–Day 8

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Photo Album for Day 8

We start the day at the lavish breakfast buffet on the eleventh floor of The Herbert Samuel“-named for a late 19th c. English colonial governor active in early efforts to prepare the way for making Palestine a Jewish homeland.

First stop is the Israel Museum, a huge complex near the Hebrew University where my conference will take place in a few days.  Gabi leads us to a model of the City during the first century BCE centered around the Second Temple, whose massive reconstruction was sponsored by Herod the Great.


Israel 2017–Day 9

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Photo album for Day 9

Our bus circumnavigates the Old City’s walls, passing the Mount of Olives, with the garden of Gethsemane at its base, and the Jewish cemetery, every inch packed with graves from 3000 years ago to the present.




Israel 2017–Day 10

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Photo Album for Day 10

After reading a draft of the paper about Shakespeare’s adaptation of the Bible’s resurrection narrative in The Winter’s Tale I’ll be presenting in a few days at the Conference, my friend George has suggested I provide the opening with more punch. This morning I get up early to avoid the crowds and walk through the deserted City back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to seek inspiration.