Sunday, October 09, 2005
Tiberias and Golan
I had myself an interesting weekend! (in Israel the week starts on Sunday, not Monday, so my weekend is over) We took a quick trip to Tiberias before heading to the Golan for shabat.

Tiberias is an eclectic little town situated on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). It is obviously steeped in a long history as it has significance for Christians as well. For this reason it is an interesting mix of people, souvenirs, languages, races and food. I saw secular people, religious people, Jewish souvenirs, Christian souvenirs, heard all manner of languages as I saw blacks, whites and Chinese people roaming the street (a BIG Chinese tour was embarking on the town when I was walking around and it made me very happy to see that tourism is alive and thriving. In fact, I read in a newspaper here that the Chinese are beginning to arrive in droves to Israel as tourism and good relations improve between the two countries).

On the hunt for a new pair of comfy walking sandals (to replace the ones the fox ran off with on the three day hike) I wandered the streets and took in the sites and sounds. I found the shuk (market) where everyone was running around and doing their last minute shopping before sundown and the coming of shabat. Fruit, vegetables, candy, meat, fish, clothes, spices, cigarettes, you name it…. It can all be purchased at the shuk (shoo-k). I didn’t buy anything I just walked through and took it all in, as the shuk is my favourite thing in Israel.

As I continued to wander around Tiberias I headed down some cobblestone pedestrian streets lined with cafes, restaurants, stores and boutiques. The atmosphere is very much different on these streets than the shuk, where people are shouting out prices and deals as you stroll along. Here there is much more decorum and not quite such a feeling of hurry. I continued on in search of food, the Sea, and most importantly… a bathroom.

Now, there are all kinds of food stands to choose from to eat. I have found most of these stands are actually pretty good but the problem was that a bathroom was not available in them. This left me with but one choice, an option I swore I would not take while in the Holy Land; McDonald’s. The McDonald’s was right by the water and what with the palm trees surrounding the sign and all, how could I resist? It had a bathroom and it had food, so in I went. In an effort to maintain SOME kind of Israeli experience I opted to eat the McKebab. Oh yes, you heard me… a kebab, McDonald’s style. For those who are unclear, a kebab is basically a hunk of ground beef, deliciously seasoned, and either flattened into little mini oval patties, or formed into fat little rolls, shorter than say a hotdog. I got into these when I had an Israeli friend whose mother made some damn fine kabobs. Behold the McKebab!

Steps to eating a McKebab:

Step One.
Take a second to savour the moment. This is McDonald’s afterall, and this could be the only point where you actually feel good about the food. Experiences can be hit and miss so just pause and take note about how good you feel about it all at this moment.

Step Two. Take hold of the tear strip halfway around the packaging on your McKebab and pull it around and off. This removes the top portion of the cardboard for easy access to the food, but leaves you with a bottom part of the cardboard for holding on to the tasty McKebab without getting your hands filthy. Gander at the lettuce, tomato, red onions kebab and sauce (don’t ask, I don’t know). Smell it. Still seems like a good idea, right?

Step Three. And here you have it… the McKebab. Mmmm.. doesn’t it look good? Of course it does. Bite in and enjoy. Have some fries and Coke with that. Who knew kosher could taste so good?

Ok, so I didn’t finish the whole thing, but I rarely do when I order McDonald’s. It was ok, but I have certainly had better kebabs. It did the trick, filled my belly and then I was free to use the little girls room. Sweet relief!

After dining on a McKebab I walked down the pier a little and got myself an ice cream cone, or more precisely, a banana gelato cone. If it’s one thing Israel is good for it’s banana flavoured food items (gum, ice cream/popsicles, and my fav… banana milk). When my two hours was up I met up with the group back at the bus and it was time to move on to Adve Etan, in the Golan.

Details were sketchy on what to expect for our overnight stay in the Golan except that we would be staying in some kind of Bedouin-style setup and may be doing some hiking around. Upon arriving we found several hut with woven straw (?) walls and one tent off to the side. The girls took the two huts on one side, the boys on the other. The tent was for the group leader and his family. There was another roofed enclave that had a fridge, hotplate and bbq and there was a building with showers and bathrooms. It was pretty simple and the weekend laid back.

We did the usual shabat activities, singing, jumping and dancing while the sun went down and then more singing and table pounding around the dinner table. The food was served up the staff of the moshav (semi-private farm) that we were staying on, which was a nice change (both in food and cooking duties). The food was great and the company entertaining as always. Afterwards we went into another tent/hut where we had our oneg, gathering in a circle on the floor we drank beer (or in my case mint lemonade), shared stories and experiences, and laughed and talked the night away. Heading back to the sleeping huts we heard the sound of the jackals as they continued their bizarre calls well into the night.

The next day was wide open for relaxation. Breakfast was at 7:30am though I was the only one there when I grabbed a coffee and cake. People slept in and basically we lounged the day away. We walked the area, sat and talked, and others took a hike to some nearby waterfalls (I looked at donkeys and feed some rabbits, guinea pigs and goats). Lunch was at 11am (more singning, etc etc) and then it was back to lounging in the light of a beautiful day (though I *really * wished I had remembered to bring a book!). At night we had the usual havdala ritual and then it was time to back up and head back to Tzfat.

Today I skipped the hike that the rest of the crew is on (shhh!) so I could take some time to run errands and get ready to leave Tzfat to head back to Jerusalem. I sent two packages home, a postcard to my grandma and did a little shopping for lunch and snacks. When the group returns there will be Hebrew class, dinner and then packing to leave. Tomorrow morning our luggage heads to Jerusalem as we head to the Judean desert for a 2 day hike. Sleeping in the desert should prove to be interesting…

(a question to those who are smarter with HTML than I: I am having problems copying what I write from Word 2000 to my blog; when I run spellcheck it can't do a proper job because although things look fine when I am reading, writing and editing the post, it shows up all funky in spots that have "...." or an apostrophy (ie: it's). These two cases show up all weird which isn't a problem when I publish the post, but it renders the spellcheck useless, and when I use this post on my blog for friends and family it shows up all jumbled and screwy. Any idea why? The only solution I have found for my other blog is to physically go back into the post and replace the ... and ' with ones that I type in, that is to say, I have to go back in, highlight each problem spot, and retype it.. then it's fine. wtf??)