4 Stops in Shomron: See Old and New

4 Stops in Shomron: See Old and New

At first, I said no.

I had been on trips to the Shomron (Samaria) in the past.

The schedule seemed similar to previous visits to the Shomron and Barkan.

However, on Sunday morning, as the Jerusalem, Israel skies turned grey,

String Bridge in Jerusalem Israel on a cloudy winter morning

I was on a bus on my way out of town before the rain started to come down…

and come down long and hard on the very dry Jerusalem streets.

Arab village with nice and new houses in West Bank

As we drove away from Jerusalem, the morning sky was blue and clear.

Clouds gathered as we neared the Barkan Industrial Park in the Shomron.

Ariel Industrial zone from Shomron road

The view from the road to Barkan of Ariel Industrial Park was as impressive as ever.   The development and growth in the once-barren hills is amazing.

Israel Allies Foundation meeting in Shomron with Yossi Dagan and David Haivri

Stop #1 in the Barkan included greetings from the Shomron Council officials to the Israel Allies international parliamentarians.  These supporters of Israel had come from around the world.

Sierra Leone Thomas Coker and US SC Alan Clemmons take a selfie on Israel Allies tour to Shomron

I have an entire album of selfies.  Dr. Thomas Coker of Sierre Leone taking a photo with Alan Clemmons of South Carolina has to be the new favorite.

Full disclosure – one of the main reasons I decided to go was to meet Facebook friend Rep. Alan Clemmons who initiated the first US anti-BDS legislation in South Carolina. Over half the US states now have similar laws against Israeli boycotts.

 "Never Again will nations stand silent in the face of boycotts against the Jewish people," parliamentarians and sign

“Never Again will nations stand silent in the face of boycotts against the Jewish people,” stated this declaration signed by the international group of 25 ministers and parliamentarians.

MK Miki Zohar at Barkan Industrial zone for IAF lawmakers

MK Miki Zohar held up a photo of Kim Levengrond Yehezkel z”l  and Ziv Hajbi z”l as he addressed the delegation. The signing and speeches were held in the parking lot of the Twitoplast factory.

In October last year, this workplace of coexistence, that I had written about more than once, was the shocking scene of terror when the two young parents were murdered.

IAF Josh Reinstein, parents of terror victims and MK Miki Zohar at Barkan Industrial Park one year after murder

Ziv’s mother spoke as did Kim’s father (seated in center). Both asked the international lawmakers to get their governments to stop funding terror. Standing is IAF President Josh Reinstein, and sitting next to the podium is Yossi Dagan of Shomron Council.

No trip to the Barkan is complete without Moshe Lev Ran, who spoke to the international visitors in the Twitoplast factory.

Moshe’s smile and message were not new.

As I have shared in the past, these factories in the Shomron employ thousands of Arab workers. Work in these Jewish businesses means higher salaries and benefits than under PA.   If an Israel business is forced to close from the EU labeling restrictions and boycott, those hurt most are the families of the Arab employees.

Factory in Barkan Industrial Park

Each time I go to the factory there seem to be more products.

Israel Twito, the creative genius behind Twitoplast, has over 100 patents.

This graphic makes the areas A, B, C, clearer than if I tried to explain the complex situation of governance in Yehudah and Shomron.

Red signs forbidding Israeli citizens entry to Arab village

Roads in the Shomron in area “A” have red signs not allowing Israelis to enter.

As you can see the weather had changed by the time we left Barkan.

West Bank scene where person was killed by terrorist and memorial set up

The memorials of terror victims are along the road near intersections.

West Bank Israel scene from road of small village and rolling hills

Villages in the valley sit between the rolling hills that line the road.

New housing on the hilltops gets more impressive with each visit.

Stop #2 was also a repeat and as expected the Kabir Winery lunch was excellent.

The second reason I decided to go was that Leah Goldin, mother of Hadar Goldin z”l, was to speak after lunch.  For 5 years and 4 months, she has tried to get her son’s remains, held captive in Gaza by Hamas, returned to Israel for burial.

I was on a bus returning to Jerusalem from Soroka Hosptial in Beer Sheva after the supposed 2014 ceasefire. Rockets were still being fired, and we could see the Iron Dome at work.

Hamas killed and captured Hadar two hours after the “cease-fire” began- a war crime and against humanitarian rules of conduct. Goldin wanted to make the legislators aware and urged them to help in their home countries.

Stop #3 was in Shiloh.

Israeli Allies leaders at Shilon

This was done very quickly as the sun was setting soon.

Shiloh Alan Clemmons at Israel Allies IAF

Minutes after this it started to rain.

Shiloh with international IAD parliamentarians

Very quickly the group posed for a photo next to the new colorful display of the Twelve Tribes.

I went prepared for the day with an umbrella and plastic bags, however, they were on the bus.

Ancient tabernacle of Shiloh and Jewish holy ark in new hologram movie

We ran up the hill in the dark and rain to shelter in the Shiloh hologram show of ancient Shiloh, and movie reenactment with actors.

For 369 years ancient Shiloh was the site of the Tabernacle before King Solomon built his temple in Jerusalem. You will have to come to see for yourself, as rainy nights are not the best conditions for photography.

Stop #4 was the Psagot Winery.

Psagot Winery restaurant

Another ride up a winding, narrow road to a mountain top, to the warmth of a fine restaurant.

Psagot Wine bottles at Winery

And wine. Good wine. Psagot owners went to the ICC international court to try and reverse the EU labeling against Jewish businesses in the Shomron. They lost, but they plan to keep trying. With 200 disputed territories in the world, they ask why only Jewish Israelis have to be singled out with special labeling?

Having been in the Shomron, it was good to see and hear the old and new.

Plenty was happening on the Jerusalem streets, besides heavy rain.

UN Ambassadors at Israeli President's house on tour led by Danny Danon

A tour of Ambassadors to the UN, led by Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon was at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s House.

For most of the international diplomats, it was their first trip to Israel.

In Jerusalem a group of Arab high school students going to Islamic Museum

While they were in private discussions with President Rivlin, across the street, a group of Arab students was on their way to the Islamic Museum

More from Leah Goldin speaking about humanitarian and legal issues.

More Facebook Shomron photos of the trip HERE 

More from what’s happening in Jerusalem, Israel next time.

King Herod of Judea-Builder of Caesarea

King Herod of Judea-Builder of Caesarea

One thing Jerusalem, Israel does not have is a good view of the sea.

An attempt for a beach in Liberty Bell Park was a poor substitute.

So a trip to the coast and the sea was a welcome treat.

Beach front sign in Hebrew Caesarea port

The sign “The Sea” between palm trees greets visitors to Caesarea coastal park.

Caesarea excavations

Here part of the remains of Herod’s Sebastos Harbor has been exposed.

Roman bath house excavation in Caesarea

But other portions are being worked on carefully by archaeologists.

Visitor Center in Caesarea

The trip was to attend the launch of the new Visitor Center.

Visitor center in Caesarea

Josephus wrote of Herod’s tribute to Caesar in the first century BCE.

Herod the Builder. Herod the Great. Ruler of Judea. Builder of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Builder of the fortress, Masada. Builder of Herodion.

Scene of old port of Herod in Caesarea

Herod built Sebastos to honor Caesar Augusta and the goddess Roma.

In this photograph from the video in the new Visitor Center video, we see his vision.

Image of port Herod built today Caesarea

One scene illustrated the hundreds of boats that came through.

Herod’s building project took ten years to complete. Tons open tons of cement went into rafts sunk, along the coast which had no natural harbor.

Herod or Hordus as he is called in Hebrew began globalization in the region.

From video in visitor center in Caesarea

Caesar Augustus attended the gala opening of the one mile long piers and temple.

Screen shot of video in visitor center of Caesarea of Herod's port

However, this massive building project lay in ruins for 2000 years.

Artifacts found in port of Caesarea

Now, located in one of the fourteen vaults Herod built to support the platform of the temple of Augustus and Roma, the new Caesarea Visitor Center is open to the public.

The once-thriving area was rebuilt and hosted many rulers over the centuries – pagan, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Samaritan.

Roman remains from building of Caesarea by Herod

In the museum, artifacts from various periods are on display.

Caesarea Visitor Center menorah

An ancient menorah was placed next to a modern visual box, hard to catch in a photograph.

Layers of history in Caesarea Israel

Visuals of the past help the visitor to see how the 60-acre site would have looked.

King Herod’s gateway to the Mediterranean Sea was constructed in the 1st century BCE.

Pieces of pottery over the years found in harbor

On display are recovered pottery pieces that span the centuries.

Visitor Center in Caesarea at sunset

This was the outside of the vault of the Caesarea Visitor Center at sunset,

Roman baths in port of Caesarea at harbor

and next to it an area where Roman baths greeted weary seafarers.

Bottles of wine at event to launch Caesarea visitor center

The Caesarea project was funded by the Rothschild Foundation and featured family wine at its launch.

Sunset by the beach of Caesarea

As the sun set, this was as close to the beach as I could get.

Because of the tight security, I was afraid if I left I might not get back in.

Lights go on at launch of Visitor center at Caesarea Isale

The lights went on, the program began.

Woman and man dressed as statutes at nigh event in Caesrea to launch new visitor center

Musicians played and the statues turned. Oh my, they turned out to be live performers.

Israel president Rivlin speaking at launch of visitor center in Caesarea

President Reuven Rivlin arrived after a tour of the new museum and spoke.

President Rivlin and Arianna Rothschild cutting ribbon at new visitor center in Caesarea, Israel

Cutting the ribbon with Baroness Ariana de Rothschild before he headed back to Jerusalem.

Then the party and music really got going.

Perhaps that is why the neighbors were invited along with media and dignitaries?

Fancy ladies loo at launch of Caesarea visitor center.

Though I do not usually take selfies, this outdoor portable toilet fit for royalty needed a photo. Sorry, I cannot share the pleasant smell. This was not your usual portaloo.

The Caesarea harbor is to be once again a major stop for visitors.

I took a short clip from the video, which should be the first stop on a visit to the new Caesarea Visitor Center.

King Herod. King of Judea. Hard to describe in a few words in a blog.

Visitors can now experience parts of his story in Caesarea.

 

Lag B’Omer and Meron

Lag B’Omer and Meron

In Jerusalem, Israel, there were people of all ages, who in spite of the heat wave made their medurot, bonfires, on Lag B’Omer.

On Lag B’Omer smoke and fire are a tradition.

bonfire on lag b'Omer

Remember this RJS photo? Medurot are not little fires to roast marshmallows or cook potatoes in the coals. Many are crafted with all types of wood collected and saved for months.

Lag B'Omer bon fire in Jerusalem

In Jerusalem for Lag B’Omer  five years ago, I saw this controlled fire raging. This year there was no authorized huge fire in the area. Fewer individual bonfires as in the past could be spotted. Perhaps the 500 shekel fine controlled them or the official warnings?

But for Lag B’Omer, Jerusalem, Israel, is not the place to be for serious celebrants.

There are those who go year after year to Meron for Lag B’Omer.

Meron trip in July

Estimates vary, it is hard to count, as tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, converge into the mountain location, from all over Israel to these simple roads.

In preparation for Lag B’Omer, I took photos of what Meron looked like on a normal day, without a million people crushing together in the dark around a huge medura.

Building site in Meron

‘Nah Nachman MaUman’ was graffiti written on the wall of future visitor center.

Art seller in Meron

A vendor was selling portraits from a trailer.

Tourist gift shop in Meron

Souvenirs were available for tourists. It was a regular hot summer day. People come to Meron to visit or pray not just on Lag B’Omer. 

Entrances for men and women in Meron

There are separate entrances for men and women.

A large sign warns in bold Hebrew letters to “dress modestly.”

July day at Meron

There is more than one sign concerning dress code. I did not notice any no smoking signs.

Women at Meron

Inside, the tomb of Rabbi Eliezer Ben Shimon Bar Yochai, or Rashbi.

Meron women praying

On this quiet summer afternoon, a few women were deeply into their prayers.

Meron chair outside in sun

Outside, was this special chair. Many three year-old boys come to Meron for their first haircut. Especially on Lag B’Omer day, this would be one busy item for those traditional first snips of fine baby hair.

Meron synagogue inside

There was one small room, the study hall named in memory of Asher. It could provide some relief on a hot day for that hair cut.

Blue dome at Meron in day light

This blue dome over the tomb was easy to photograph in the sunshine. Now imagine it with hundreds of men crowded in it at midnight.

Lighting candles in Meron

This is a sign pointing to a room designated for lighting memorial candles.

People having lunch in Meron in summer

On a regular summer day, you can sit and eat on a covered outdoor patio. The view of the mountain range is spectacular.

Meron new tourist center

This was a sign announcing a project to build a guest center for study of Torah, in honor of Rashbi. 

But on Lag B’Omer night, Meron has medurot at its center. With singing and dancing, well into the early hours. Participants often arrive back home in time for dawn’s light. Hours are spent getting to Meron and then more hours are spent trying to return home.

Meron birds in tree above

I noticed the birds above watching over us that day. In the smoke and confusing of Lag B’Omer night, they would hide away in safety.

As I did this year, I was home with windows shut to keep out the smoke and heat.

Maybe one day I will finally get to Meron for Lag B’Omer.

Meanwhile, this video came up a on search for Rashbi.

Kinneret as seen from bus leaving Meron

A view of the Kinneret, Sea of Galilee, is always worth the trip up the mountain to Meron.

It amazes each year how there are not more serious injuries with the heat, fire, and crowds.

Another Israel miracle?