Thursday, April 07, 2005

My Trip Up North

was pretty neat! I hadn't realized how badly I needed to get out of Jerusalem for a change of scenery.

A few observations:

1) I love the train. I love the train. I love the train.

2) The Haifa Tower Hotel is clean and quiet, which is all I ask of a hotel. It is also very VERY well-priced ($50 per night for a single room) and the views are amazing. However, it has few, if any, amenities (only 2 channels on the TV, for example), and the lobby, hallways, and elevator banks are run-down. They also do not have any non-smoking rooms. For anyone traveling to Haifa on a budget, though, I recommend it, as the other hotels I looked into were much more expensive. Another factor to consider is that the Haifa Tower is in the center of town, in the middle of the shopping, whereas there are other (nicer) hotels closer to the water.

3) The Technion has a very pretty campus.

4) How fitting that Haifa and Boston are sister cities in the Partnership 2000 program! Both are coastal, mid-size cities situated north of bigger cities whose reputations overshadow them. And if the Technion campus didn't remind me of Brandeis, then I don't know what!

5) How refreshing, being in an Israeli city (Haifa) where there are a lot of different religions represented without the same kind of heavy stressful feeling we have in Jerusalem. In Haifa, I saw Arabs and Jews just hangin' out. Who have thunk it? And I saw women's clothing stores that had, in the same window, one mannequin in a modest skirt and long-sleeved shirt, and another mannequin in pants and a halter top. Stores catering openly to religious and non-religious women! Who would have thought of such a thing? Not so many people in Jerusalem, that's for sure.

6) The Bahai temple in Haifa is stunning. I have never seen anything so aesthetically pleasing (and man-made) since I got to Israel.

7) Have I mentioned that I love the train?

8) It is not an easy walk from the train station in Acco to the beach. The beach sure is refreshing, though. Ah, the clear water of the Mediterranean. I got to sit and stare at it for half an hour in between meetings. Gorgeous.

9) In Acco, any taxi ride you take cannot cost more than 10 shekels as long as you stay within the city. The poor taxi drivers! How do they earn a living?

10) Kids who live in Shlomi, Israel, go to a primary school with a gorgeous view of both the Mediterranean and a high mountain. The town is right next to the mountain. On the other side of the mountain is Lebanon. Pretty weird for me. I always think of Lebanon as being in black and white and full of the sounds of gunshots; probably the way other people think of Israel. This trip made me think that Lebanon must be very pretty. It's not like the topography changes just because the border does.

11) My taxi driver in Shlomi was saying that "someday there will be peace, and then we'll be able to go siteseeing in Beirut! We'll be able to drive all the way from Shlomi to Turkey!" It made me think that it must be very frustrating to live in a place where the only direction one can safely go is South. The mountain and everything beyond it beckons, but they cannot cross the border. Think how much the Lebanese tourism industry would benefit if that were not the case. Israelis itch to spend their money in other countries.

12) There is nothing to do in Shlomi, Israel except look at the view. It must be very hard to be a teenager there.

13) The Western Galilee College in Acco also has a nice campus, but the proximity of a farm or petting zoo or something that they've got there (part of a program they run for children with developmental disabilities) gives it a sort of farm-y smell. Reminds one that one is not in Manhattan anymore. Their science building happens to be amazing, though, with a stunning atrium.

14) The people up north are also very excited that the Jerusalem train is re-opening! I never thought of that . . . as badly as I want new ways to get out of Jerusalem for a change, they want easier ways to get INTO Jerusalem to visit family or for work. The whole country is relieved! Long live the glorious train!

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