Wednesday, August 15, 2012

8/9/12: O Beautiful North- Our Weekend In Akko/Karmiel

After living in Israel for over a year, telling myself over and over again that I would eventually visit the town that captured my grandparents heart's so many years ago, I finally made it to where they lived over 30 years ago when they, themselves, became Israeli citizens. After talking to dear family friends of my grandparent's, who they have known since they lived in Karmiel, a city situated in the lower Galilee region of Israel in the north, we decided that Thursday we would leave to meet them, and we would spend the whole weekend discovering this enchanting area of Israel. I, personally, was very happy to get away from Tel Aviv for a weekend since Frenchy had just left for Australia for 3 months and I was a bit sad; plus a get away is never a bad idea!

In order to get to Karmiel you have to take a train to the Northern city of Akko and then take a sherut the rest of the way, and this was perfect since my sister had never seen Akko, and it is one of my all time favorite cities in Israel. When we arrived in the old city we made it just in time to hear the gorgeous call to prayer and then we were off to the port to have a delicious seafood lunch at my favorite restaurant- Abu Christo. I was only here once before but I remembered the food being pretty much to die for, and we were not at all disappointed by our meal. Deciding that we wanted to have this be our big meal of the day we pulled out all the stops and indulged.

On the train to Akko! 

One of my favorite Old Cities! 

Gorgeous view from our restaurant 

Abu Christo 

After much deliberation in terms of cuisine Elana finally decided on an amazing breaded shrimp dish and I settled on the decadent muscle dish in a cream, garlic, wine sauce (DELICIOUS). But before we could enjoy our meal I told Elana that since she was at a delectable Arab restaurant she had to be introduced to Labne (a tart Middle Easter cream cheese served with olive oil and cucumbers). It was a great decision since my sister loves cheese! At the end of our meal we were completely stuffed but we decided that since we were doing this meal big we would get two individual cheesecakes for dessert. All in all the meal wasn't very Kosher but I figured that I would be forgiven, by both God and Stephane (who keeps Kosher), since I gave up pork while in Israel. I'm thinking this whole Kosher-ization process will be a VERY slow one!

My muscles! 


Elana's shrimp dish 

Enjoying our dessert 

I looooove cheesecake 

After we were stuffed to the brim we decided it was time to get back to the sheruts and head into Karmiel. Our family friends weren't able to receive us until around 7 so we figured we would get into town, explore a bit, and then catch a cab to their home. The sherut ride to Karmiel from Akko was beautiful and reminded me of driving in the hills of Northern California. For a moment I felt I was back in Berkeley with the mountains and the lush greenery that lined every hill and mountain despite being in the height of summer. When we arrived to the newly built up center of town we enjoyed a few hours of walking around, shopping, and getting a feel for our new surroundings. It was so quiet compared to crazy Tel Aviv but it was a very fun, quaint city, and it had a beauty that couldn't be measured.

The New City center 

We were thinking of our Mommy and Muzzy when we saw this

Gorgeous new apartments in Karmiel 

Around 7pm we met up with our family friends, had a lovely dinner, and spent the rest of the night relaxing since it had been a long day. The next day we were up around 11am to take a driving tour of Karmiel including a tour of the site where Leah's daughter would be getting married in just a few days. (Leah and Yakov are the name's of our family friends). It was a lovely few hours spent exploring the city, seeing all of the Arab villages around the area, and then venturing back for a lovely Shabbat dinner. However, before dinner began Leah and Yakov's son and his family came over for a little visit and we spent a good hour or so talking with them and catching up on the Olympics. After dinner two other family friends came over who knew my grandparents very well and we were lucky enough to be able to skype with them in California while everyone was in the house!

Beautiful Karmiel 

The wedding site! 

The Shabbat meal was absolutely delicious (roasted chicken, quinoa, rice, challah, tehina, and other delectable dips), we ate until we couldn't move, and then we decided to relax, read, and get a good night sleep. We were about to have a busy last day in Karmiel so we wanted to be very rested. 

The next morning (Saturday) we were, quite unfortunately, woken up around 8:30 am for breakfast. I don't think I have seen 8:30 am on a Saturday morning for... my entire life... But we were troopers and tried to at least pretend we were a bit awake at that hour! After a very filling breakfast we were off to explore the lower Galilee of Israel. The first stop on our tour was the Jazareel Valley which was home to a very famous cemetery that housed the remains of famous men such as Moshe Dayan and astronaut Ilan Ramon. The cemetery looked out over the entire valley and was a beautiful, and very peaceful, final resting place. It was so humbling and almost surreal to see the graves of Israeli soldiers who died in the various wars at 18, 19, 20+ years of age, and as we looked at the grave of Ilan Ramon we saw his 21 year old son buried next to him; his son was in the Air Force and died in a plane crash while training. I couldn't help getting chills despite the heat as I walked through the rows of graves. 

The grave of Moshe Dayan 

The cemetery overlooking the Jazareel Valley 

After the cemetery we traveled to possible one of the greatest places I have visited since moving to Israel. Many years ago there were Christian pilgrims who got a bit lost and ended up in the lower Galilee region. When they asked if they were in Beth Lehem (Bait Le7em in Arabic), the local who they were speaking to said that they were because Bait Le7em means butchery so they settled there thinking they were in the holy city where Jesus was born... They were in for a nasty surprise when they found out the truth I'm sure. In short, we were journeying to Bait Le7em of the Galilee which houses one of the most fantastic spice houses I have ever seen! When we entered I was overwhelmed by hundreds of different smells that blended beautifully with one another. I wish we had more time there because I would have ended up buying something from each spice barrel! I felt like I was back in my beloved Arab shuk in Jerusalem :-) 

Spice Market in Beth Lehem of the Galilee 

After the spice market we decided to make a stop at a very lovely winery located fairly close by. This winery actually has a spectacular story and is located near a little village that houses people with various mental disabilities. These men and women work at various places around the village and there are a few who come and work at the winery. We were able to taste amazing wines and meet one of the men from the village who worked in the winery. It was such an amazing experience, and the wine was delicious! I'm very glad we were able to stop here! 

Gilli and Natan! 

Elana and me with Leah and Yaakov 

When we finished with the winery we went to a really nice Arab restaurant and enjoyed a whole array of delicious salads. We finished eating fairly quickly and then went back home for a Shabbat afternoon rest. It was a very hot day and we had been awake since 8:30 so a rest was most welcome! 

Amazing salads  
Leah and Yaakov 

After a two hour, much needed, nap, we had one last stop before we were to be taken half way back to Tel Aviv. The two friends who had come over the night before after our Shabbat dinner were the couple who swapped houses with my grandparents when they moved to Israel. My Bubby and Zayde went to their house in Karmiel, and Menachem and Michayella went to their house in Denver for two years. We were meeting them at the house where my grandparents lived and I was so excited to see them again and see the house where my grandparents lived. After renovations I'm sure it looked much different than it did 30 years ago, but it was so beautiful and I enjoyed meeting Menachem and Michayella so much. They were so wonderful and it was so fantastic meeting everyone this weekend!

The walkway to my grandparents old house 

When we caught up a bit and had a good look around the house it was time for us to be on our way. Leah and Yaakov were going to Netanya so they agreed to take us, and from Netanya we caught a sherut headed straight back to Tel Aviv. It was truly one of the best weekends I have had in Israel since moving and it was so wonderful connecting with family and family friends.

Stay tuned for updates of my trips to Zichron Yaakov, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Caesarea!

Until tomorrow,
Jordana Simone 

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