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Posts Tagged ‘Jaffa’

A Step Back in Time

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk   Spirit Elements

“If you learn to really sit with loneliness and embrace it for the gift that it is…an opportunity to get to know YOU, to learn how strong you really are, to depend on no one but YOU for your happiness…you will realize that a little loneliness goes a LONG way in creating a richer, deeper, more vibrant and colorful YOU.”
Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

I had really enjoyed my wandering around Tel Aviv. After 12 days I was still awed by the flow of life which seemed a constant all day long. The Boulevard seemed like a true social gathering place. The coffee shops, restaurants and ice cream parlors were fabulous and the beach side bars had an ambiance all their own. I found myself relaxing and as I continued my walks along the Boulevard I also noticed I was breathing easier, the tension was finally leaving my body. It was so strange but so good at the same time. I couldn’t remember when I had last felt this lessening of tension. How long had I been carrying that around?

However, I wasn’t going to wander around for my entire stay in Israel. I had decided to go on a three week tour, 9 days in Israel, 7 in Egypt and 5 days in Jordan. It was a historical tour, but not a religious tour, which was exciting.  On day 13 of my stay the people who were going on the tour with me arrived in the hotel, and I was pleasantly surprised to find another Australian amongst the group. M was a vivacious young girl, the same age as my daughter, and we hit it off from the outset. The rest of the group comprised mainly Americans with a couple of Canadians, two people from Brazil and an English couple just married. It promised to be a great trip.

Early the next morning we set off and the first ‘adventure’ a walk around the old port city of JAFFA! It was so different from my solitary wanderings as we heard the history of the site. We had been blessed with a tour guide who had studied archaeology and so the history became a living breathing excursion. If I went over all the history of each place I’d need a novel, so I scribbled when I could and took pictures instead. Standing at the top of the hill and looking out   over the ocean or looking towards Tel Aviv there was a feeling of freedom. I was fulfilling a dream, a dream both Mum and I had shared for years, and I was learning more about myself each day.

As we walked around Jaffa, it was astonishing to see the additions of rooms to the outside of buildings as they ran out of room to expand, and the giant hanging orange tree. My notes said,” The Hovering Orange Tree, in the centre of Old Jaffa is supposed to be a symbol of Israel’s prosperity, and some see in it a metaphor for the Jewish people, hanging between heaven and earth with their sufferings.”  Hundreds of years old it made me feel as though the people of yesteryear were walking past me to water the tree.

Irrespective of what the travel brochure said, it’s an incredible sight to see. We saw the miniature city of Tel Aviv and walked along Ben Gurion Boulevard, through the Hacarmel markets and got to soak up the atmosphere of Tel Aviv. The markets were an incredible experience. Crowded like nothing I’ve seen before there were stalls offering so many different things it was difficult to take it all in. There were the traditional type of craft stalls, beautiful clothes, so much colour it hurt the eyes, and food, so many smells to tempt the hungry, but we had a special dinner arranged so we had to get back to the hotel. It felt as though we had wandered into another world and when we left we walked out into this world.

The next day we left by bus and traveled up the coast up to Haifa and then on to Caesarea.  Walking through the ruins and listening to the multifaceted history of life from the Byzantine era through the Roman era to present day was mind blowing. I should add I adore history and this was history made live before my eyes. Yes, I was excited.  It was believed built on the ruins of “Straton’s Tower’, captured by Jannaeus in 90BCE until taken over by the Romans in 63BCE. Herod the Great renames it Caesarea in honour of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. He built a deep sea harbour, markets, and held gladiator games in the theatre. Caesarea also flourished during the Byzantine pe

The area became a serious farming area until the Crusader conquest in the 11th century. The farms were buried under the sands shifting along the shores of the Mediterranean. The Mosque on the site was converted into the church of St. Peter in the Crusader times. From then it had a chequered past, seeing the area inhabited by various people until the Israelis took control during the 1948 conflict.  I felt as though I was travelling away from all the problems I had back in Australia and I was being whisked away back in time. Despite the throngs of people there were occasions I was alone and then there were chills at times, as I felt someone from a bygone age brush past me.

From here we went to Acre or Akko as the Israeli now call it, at the northern end of Haifa Bay. It has a historical lineage like Caesarea. It has been inhabited by the Greeks, Jews and Romans. We traveled in our explorations from the Byzantine era, Persian¸ 1st Crusades, to Saladin then the 3rd Crusades (Richard 1st of England), to the Mamluks, Ottomans and eventually the British. It was during the British Mandate that Acre’s fort was converted into a jail where the early Jewish underground fighters were imprisoned and shot. In May 1947 the Irgun broke into the jail, freeing the other activists and around 200 Arab prisoners. In May 1948 the Israeli’s captured Acre and it has remained in Israeli hands ever since.  Parts of the jail are still in use although it is possible to see those areas which are no longer used.

As we walked around, seeing the layers of history as we went through the ruins and up to the level the jail was at the top was a strange experience. It felt, at times, as though there were crowds of people whispering behind you, all in different languages. There was a real sense of impending doom and death in certain places.  My skin would suddenly ripple with gooseflesh, I would almost hear the sound of screams, and once I felt the definite pressure of a hand on my shoulder.

It seemed that as my cares back in Australia fell away and my mind was freed from thinking about them, I was open to hear and feel more of the spiritual experiences I had begun to feel I’d lost, when Mum had passed away. In a strange way, it also felt as though the years were dropping away too, and I became more carefree and light hearted. This was what I needed. I was finally beginning to find myself.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
― Rumi

Blessings, Susan x

Next week – More Revelations

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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A Blend of New Worlds

image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

Apart from my trip from England to Australia, which I admit is quite a trip, I hadn’t traveled overseas much. I had been to Tasmania, which is considered part of Australia, just not attached to it, and to Fiji, which was my one overseas trip.  This however, was my one REAL overseas trip since I was doing it alone. So, everything I saw and experienced was with the eyes of a novice. It was fresh and unknown.

As my driver pulled up to the Sheraton (Yes, I really went all out on my first big trip), one doorman rushed over to get my door and another went around to get my bags. Luxury was the name of the game. I didn’t want to stand and gawk but I tried to look everywhere at once, I wanted to savour the idyllic splendour of this incredible place….. until a loud voice in my head yelled “Get it together girl! You don’t want to look like a country yokel, wet behind the ears, a little more aplomb please!”

A New World

image from http://www.colourbox.com“Never been anywhere before”.

Alright, I was back on track and my image not too tarnished. I signed in and was taken up to my luxurious room. I had traveled in Australia and seen my fair share of hotels and motels, but this was something else. A huge king sized suite – just for me. For the first time ever, I had this huge bedroom for my own personal use. No-one coming to me for anything, no-one to share it with, it was just for me. It was totally surreal.

A New World

Room to move and then some

I started to unpack but the lure of the sunshine through the window, and wondering what was there drew me, so I threw on a pair of joggers and decided to go for a quick walk. I was never one to ask for directions, I always managed to get lost anyway, so deciding to throw caution to the winds I took my rough bearings, crossed the driveway and away I went. The traffic! I couldn’t believe how much traffic came flying down the road. Everyone jaywalks in Australia- at least we used to.  Taking a long look and gauging the traffic, how fast it was flowing, I dashed across the road.

The esplanade was amazing. It was so wide and the paving in geometric designs as far as I could see. It seemed as though there were seats arranged in nooks and booths everywhere and people were sitting, talking, reading or walking, jogging, running, cycling along, on roller blades or skate boards. It was a hive of activity and at the same time an oasis of calm. The sand was a refined golden carpet and the ocean, the Mediterranean, was the most amazing blue imaginable.

A New World

Tel Aviv Boulevard       This open air exercise area was used nearly the entire day and night.

Mesmerised I didn’t get too far that afternoon. The beach seemed to stretch for ever and the different architecture, from the ultra-modern to ancient almost next to each other. It was a glimpse of the Old world and new side by side. In the distance I could see the old town of Jaffa. It was to be my destination the following morning.  Retracing my steps I once again took my life in my hands as I charged across the street to get back to the hotel. I decided if I was to stay in Israel for any length of time I had to work out how to cross the roads, or at least where to cross them.

For someone who was not a great breakfast eater, the temptation to go into the dining room and simply watch the world go by was too enticing. Once in there I had to have a look around and with freshly squeezed orange juice in hand I could hardly leave without trying a few dishes, could I? I cannot remember the names of the dishes I decided to try, but, a tasty tomato, cucumber and parsley salad with a tuna, mayo and onion dish and I felt my batteries charged. So, fortified with some traditional Israeli breakfast I set out.

A New World

Breakfast salad, a new idea

I rounded the corner from the hotel and, not dashing across the road walked along the footpath towards where I could see a crossing. Five minutes later I found myself surrounded by six giant, well-armed American soldiers. The funny side of the situation hit me and I started to smile, then giggle and I was not making the soldiers any happier. After all, I was a mere 5’7″ and these fellows were all giants, at least 7’ tall, or so they appeared to me.

Demanding to know what I was doing did not help. I really tried to explain I was just walking up to the crossing, but it appeared I was committing some serious crime, and I couldn’t work out what it was. The tension mounted and I simply could not stop the chuckles. Eventually someone asked me where I was from. Once I said Australia I heard a grumbled “Bloody Aussies” and there was an immediate release of tension. Apparently I had transgressed onto the US Embassy grounds. Apart from three foot high bollards there was nothing to say I had moved onto a prohibited area. One of the giants pointed a finger skyward so I craned my neck and saw a US flag on the top of the building. With a stern warning to “watch where I was going” I was allowed to leave, still holding in the chuckles until I made my escape.

That morning was the first time I walked from my hotel into the old town of Jaffa. There was a great view from the top of the area around the marina and along the boulevard to the high rise buildings along the foreshore. After breakfast and around midnight each day I would make this walk to Jaffa, listening to my iPod and watching the whirlpool of people passing by. There was a constant flow of people, walking, running, on roller skates, skate boards or little scooters. People walked their dogs and groups of people would be sitting and chatting until the early hours of the morning.

I’m not certain what the hotel staff made of my nocturnal jaunts but I received a smile each time I returned. I still wasn’t sleeping very well or for very long but these nightly walks were soothing. During the day I explored the city. Being geographically challenged (I got lost easily) I saw a few areas more than once, but it was fun, almost as much as my first excursion to a shopping centre.

My map was great, my sense of direction not so good and my Hebrew non-existent, so the fact that I found the shopping centre was amazing. As I walked towards the doors I was surprised when a man, not much taller than I, suddenly popped out of the corner of the entrance,  dressed all in black and carrying – a machine gun. (I’m no expert so I’m not guessing and he didn’t tell me exactly what it was). At that time all people not recognised by the guard were stopped and had their bags checked. Okay, it wasn’t that long since the Gaza problems so I could understand it, but it did make me stop and think. Since my natural reaction would have been to resist someone grabbing at me it could have been a different outcome. It appears I had my guardian angel sitting on my shoulder each time I ran into an armed and dangerous person. It was good to know.

A  New World

image from http://www.reuters.com     Israeli soldiers, a fact of life.

This strange new world still felt like home and I was excited about exploring more of it.

Next week…….. History comes alive and a new friend.

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