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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Israel! Elisse & Dan Do Armageddon! (Plus Haifa's subway, trains & Fine dining!)

On the way from Vered HaGalil ("Rose of Galiliee") horse ranch to Haifa, Dan & I went to Megiddo - Armageddon- a place I hadn't been since I'd toured Israel with my father in 1973! The ongoing archaeological excavations at Tel Megiddo  National Park make it a truly an extraordinary place to visit, and Dan and I were lucky enough to hook up with a great tour guide who let us tag along with his group! (Without a knowledgable guide or a self-guided tour, archaeological sites can often seem like "just another pile of old rocks"; it's REALLY important to have a guide in order to fully enjoy them and get something out of your visit!) Strategically perched above the most important land route in the ancient Near East, Megiddo dominated international traffic for over 6,000 years- from approx. 7,000 B.C.E. through biblical times. As civilizations came and went, succeeding settlements at ancient Megiddo were built on the ruins of their predecessors, creating a multi-layered archaeological legacy that abounds in unparalleled treasures that include monumental temples, lavish palaces, mighty fortifications, and a remarkably-engineered water system- all of which we visited! Megiddo is mentioned in Egyptian writings, and was forecast to be the site of Armageddon in the Christian Book of Revelations; it is one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel. Tel Megiddo was a key location on the Via Maris, as the Romans called the sea road that led from Egypt to Damascus, and has a long history of upheavals and conquest. The nearby springs and fertile ground drew settlers from the earliest ages of antiquity; it was a city with formidable walls 5,000 years ago. One thousand years later it fell under Egyptian rule; then the Canaanites conquered the city to be followed by King David. King Solomon refortified the city, which reached the heights of it powers under King Ahab around 2,900 years ago. Ahab turned Megiddo into “Ir Rekhev” and built impressive water works. Israelite Megiddo fell to the Assyrians in 732 BCE, and was finally demolished by the Egyptians in 609 BCE. Tel Megiddo's paths lead through the main sites such as the City Gates and the Ivory Palace, where a treasure of ancient ivory objects and jewelry were discovered- the richest Canaanite treasure ever discovered. Others sites include the stables from Ahab’s time, and the waterworks, which include a 25-meter deep shaft and a 70 meter tunnel that leads to springs. The northern part of the Tel has a spectacular view of the Yizre’el Valley, while the southern part has an arbor for prayer. Because of Megiddo's great significance for both Christians and Jews, the site was chosen as the historic meeting place for the historic 1964 visit of Pope Paul VI with Israel's President, Zalman Shazar, and Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, the first visit of a pope to Israel.
Map of the 20 layers of 30 cities of Megiddo (Armageddon)

Entrance to Megiddo

Dan, atop Megiddo

Religious alters at Megiddo


Grain silo, Megiddo

Dan in the ancient water tunnel, Megiddo
Dan with the modern Megiddo waterworks :-)
Charioteer Dan!


From Megiddo we drove to Haifa, Israel's 3rd largest city, a beautiful port city that literally climbs the mountain above the Mediterranean.

Baha'i Temple, Haifa

 Although you can take a cable car to the top of the Carmel, the first thing I wanted Dan to experience in Haifa was the "Carmelit", the famous 6-station funicular "stair-step" subway system built in 1956 that makes it speedy and fun (8 minutes!) to get from the sea to the top of Mount Carmel! I remember riding the Carmelit with my Dad in 1973, and though it's been fully modernized, it's still a fascinating experience to ride Israel's one and only subway! An engineering marvel when first constructed in the 1950s,
1956: Building the Carmelit
the Carmelit was totally revamped in the mid-1980s, and the renewed subway has modern, air conditioned passenger cars that operate on an elevator system. The wheeled passenger cars move on a track and are pulled by cable operated automatically by the central control station!
Dan, Carmelit Station, Haifa

The Carmelit

Dan and I took the Carmelit to the top of the Carmel so we could have a glass of wine and take in the magnificent view from the top at twilight...
Here comes the Carmelit!

View of Haifa Bay, from the Carmel

Haifa at twilight from Mt. Carmel

Wine bar on Mt. Carmel

Back on the Carmelit!
Carmelit Station

Haifa is also a living, functioning symbol of outstanding co-existence and tolerance between Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and the World Center of the Baha'i Faith with its golden dome and gardens is a focal point of the city. (The Baha'i originated from the Bab sect which separated from Iran’s Shi’ite Islam in 1844). Atop the Carmel, holy to Christians, is the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery, and in the monastery’s church is a cave considered by Christian tradition to be the grave of the Prophet Elijah. Israel’s only Ahmadi Muslim community is based in Haifa, as well; the Ahmadiyya is an Indian sect of Islam, founded in the late nineteenth century, which promotes peace among nations and opposes religious coercion.

World Center of Baha'i Faith, Haifa

Dan, holding up the Temple...

Arriving with no reservations, we were lucky to find a guest room at the lovely historic Colony Hotel at the foot of the Baha'i Gardens in the city's  charming German Colonyfounded in the nineteenth century by Christian German Templars. The beautifully restored Colony Hotel dates from 1905, and it was a splendid, quintessentially Haifa place to stay!

At The Colony Hotel

Morning coffee at The Colony...

That night we took a cab down to the port area and had a truly amazing gourmet dinner at HaNamal 24- truly a world-class culinary jewel. This was a dinner that was So good I took notes! You want to drool? Click on the link and look at their menu! This was truly one of the "great, good meals" of life...
Salmon ceviche on fruit salsa, soy ginger sauce, and cream of bell peppers
Liver pate brioche and liver pate-filled ravioli with toffee sauce
Beef fillet on pureed peas, with red gnocchi, with a Bordelaise Sauce and Parmesan cheese
Fillet of Mullet on pear risotto, with a pear stuffed with goat cheese, cardamom and saffron.
Pear filled with chocolate cream, an almond roulade filled with Marscapone
Vanilla panna cotta and citrus caramel, and a berry soup
Accompanied by Israeli wine, of course! Unreal!!!!

Enjoying a Wonderful dinner!

Mullet fillet... 
Beef fillet...

A happy Chef Dan!


Luscious deserts!

Looking up at the Bahai Temple,
on our return to our hotel...

The next morning after breakfast at The Colony
we went to the excellent Israel Railway Museum- NOT easy to find, even with our trusty map, and damn near impossible to get to, but we drove around and around and up and down, and Finally figured out how to get in! And it was truly worth it- this was one of Dan's favorite places in Israel! Located in the old Turkish-era railway station of east Haifa, the museum  offers a tour through the past with the sight of modern trains passing by, and provides an historical overview of railways in the Holy Land and their part in the development of the country, from the first line between Jaffa and Jerusalem opened in 1892 under Turkish rule, through two World Wars, the British Mandate, right up to the revitalized Israel Railways of the 21st Century!
The refurbished main exhibits building of the museum was once the locomotive shed of the famous Hedjaz Railway which carried Muslims making the Haj pilgrimage to the cities of Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia, back when it was also possible to travel by narrow gauge steam train from Haifa to Damascus in Syria and to Amman in Jordan. The main building houses historical locomotives, coaches, wagons, and displays, including the last authentic steam locomotive to survive in Israel: 0-6-0T No.10 built in Germany in 1902 for the Hedjaz Railway!
The docent was kind enough to make us coffee (and invite us to his home for Passover Seder!), and as we were the only ones at the museum that morning we had it all to ourselves!
Israel Railway Museum, Haifa

1922  Birmingham RC&W Saloon Coach, used by David Ben Gurion, The King & Queen of Belgium, and Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

Dan peering into the Saloon Coach Kitchen

The last steam loco in Israel: 0-6-0T No.10, built in Germany in 1902 for the Hedjaz Railway

Brake Van 1419, Built in 1939 by La Brugeoise, Belgium
 for the Egyptian State Railways.
Captured  by Israel in the 1956 Sinai War.

From Haifa, we drove to Tel Aviv to see Sol Baskin, whom I hadn't seen in years, and take him to dinner...

Next: My Jerusalem! Home!