February 13, 2016 – The view of the Mediterranean Sea from Jaffa Beach. Just around the corner is the world’s oldest known port located in the Old City of Jaffa. Archaeologists believe it had been established over three millennia ago.
February 13, 2016 – Looking north of Jaffa Beach is Tel Aviv. In the distance you can also see some surfers catching some waves. I’m told that the beaches are a popular go-to-place on the Sabbath for secular Jews.
February 13, 2016 – I wonder if I can get a license to sell ancient history.
February 13, 2016 – One last photo of Old Jaffa. I cannot even begin to fathom how much story each stone holds. In Canada, we have a new country whereas Jaffa and the Middle East have seen many millennia of human history and civilization.
February 14, 2016 – Got a tour of Tel Aviv University’s Nano Center. Here you can find one of their AFMs (Atomic-force microscopy). They explained to me what it did, but it was a case of in one ear and out the other.
February 14, 2016 – One of the clean rooms at Tel Aviv University’s Nano Centre. They didn’t go into detail on what they do in there, but you have to submit to a fingerprint and retinal scan to get in.
February 14, 2016 – Tel Aviv’s Heseg House where we met with Haaretz’s Chief Military Correspondent and Her Excellency Ambassador Victoria Berkcovici. Heseg House houses the HESEG Foundation, which is a charitable foundation created by Canadians Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman to provide scholarships to former lone soldiers (servicemen and servicewomen without family in Israel) who serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
February 15, 2016 – Visited one of Christianity’s holiest sites, Capharnaum (also known as Capernaum). Capernaum was a fishing village in the time of the Hasmoneans, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and is said to be the home of Saint Peter.
February 15, 2016 – You’re looking at what’s believed to be the home of Saint Peter. The outer walls are the ruins of the church that was built around his home and believed to be the first church ever (though the concept of a church wouldn’t be introduced till many centuries later).
February 15, 2016 – It’s hard to comprehend as a Canadian given our vast geography, but just on the other side of the hills in the distance is Syria. 35 km from there is territory controlled by ISIS.
February 15, 2016 – The view from Misgav Am (Fortress of the People), a kibbutz in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel. Everything in view is Lebanon.
February 15, 2016 – This fence represents the Blue Line (the Israeli border with Lebanon). Without going into great detail (it is complicated), while there is no UN clause disclaiming this line as an international border, it’s treated as the de jure international border of Israel and Lebanon.
February 16, 2016 – Sobering and serious pictures aside, check out this awesome and very colourful breakfast. Unlike traditional Canadian (and Chinese) cuisine, food in Israel consists of many fresh fruits, vegetables, and cheese. Oh so much cheese.
February 16, 2016 – tl;dr hear siren, go to bomb shelter (pictured here).
During dinner, we received a briefing on what to do if we hear a siren go off. A siren could represent a rocket attack or any number of different things. Though we were fortunate to not have a siren go off during our stay at the kibbutz, this is the reality that Israelis face each and every day.
February 16, 2016 – Music and song is something that all can enjoy regardless of race, religion, or any number of different things that humanity uses to divide us. We had the chance to listen to these exceptional musicians during dinner at Piccolino in Jerusalem’s aptly named Music Square.
February 17, 2016 – The view from the top of the cable car of Masada, a place of triumph, tragedy, and tremendous history. In the bottom middle, you can find a reconstructed Roman camp. It was one of three camps that garrisoned the six Roman legions that surrounded Masada.
February 17, 2016 – The Knesset. This is where decisions are made in Israel and the bastion of democracy in the Middle East. There are 120 MKs or Members of Knesset, and unlike the first-past-the-post system that we use in Canada, Israel uses proportional representation.
February 18, 2016 – On our way to the West Bank and eventually Ramallah. The highway we are on is Israeli territory, while everything on the left and right is Palestinian. Though the first bit of the West Bank was Palestinian land, it was under Israeli security and administration (known as Area C). When we got to Ramallah, we entered Area A, which means both security and administration are provided by the Palestinian Authority. Suffice to say, it is a highly complex situation over here.
February 19, 2016 – As a result of the increase in stabbings and suicide bombings, security by Israeli border police has been significantly increased. Behind that pole is an individual being searched for weapons and anything that may be used to harm someone. Outside looking in, there seems to be an extreme ratio of police officers to suspects (I count 10) but this level of precaution was reached only after increasingly more violent attacks, instituted to respond to the escalation of violence.
Pictures are worth a thousand words, but it doesn’t always provide the context to completely appreciate what we may be seeing in the picture.
February 19, 2016 – I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but everyday life in Ramallah looks like just another city or place in Israel. For those who don’t know, Ramallah is the capital of the Palestinian Authority and is Area A, which means its security and administration is provided by the PA. Also, fun fact: any car with a CC or CD license plate means it’s a diplomatic vehicle, which is what we were travelling in. It was heavily armoured and the doors took some real effort to open and close.
February 19, 2016 – The green tinge on this apartment window indicates that it’s bulletproof. During more violent times and before the security barrier was created, the residents of this community were at constant risk of gun fire from terrorists in neighbouring Bethlehem, which remains under Palestinian control.
February 19, 2016 – Visited the security fence separating Israel from the West Bank. I found out that, contrary to what the media have purported, these 9-metre-high concrete walls only comprise 5% of the fence – hence why it’s a ‘fence’ and not a ‘barrier.’ Why so high you might ask? I did. Well it’s 9m to deter anyone who is looking to climb over it. We can jump at 3m and even 6m with minimal risk. 9m will give someone pause and thus provide security forces the time to stop them as they climb up / over / down.
Also, why a concrete barrier at all? The concrete is only used in the 5% of the fence that crosses wide-open spaces. Prior to its construction, snipers were targeting civilians on the way to school, driving to work, or just going about their day. Last thing I will remark on is the dramatic decrease in terrorist attacks from somewhere over 1,800 per year to 17 in 2014 since the security wall was built, minimizing casualties – both Israeli and Palestinian. I think all will agree that even one life lost is too many, but the fence has proven to be a valuable tool for safety, security, and the preservation of life.