Israel Chapt 2

Email to friends. 09/22/2008

Hi, everyone again.
So, here is the second and last chapter of this first time middle east adventure.
This time, I went north, along the Mediterranean Sea, all the way to the border of Lebanon, about 100 km from Beyrouth.
Starting with Ceasarea, I visited the ruins of the palace of Pontius Pilate (the guy who eventually let the crowd kill Jesus) and a Roman horse race track that was actually excavated only in the mid 90s.
In many instances, many of the Roman foundations and buildings have been dismantled by the Crusaders to use the stones to build something else.
The highlight of this trip, however, was the small but heavily fortified city of Acre (or Akko), that the Crusaders occupied during the 12th and 13th centuries, and that even Napoleon Bonaparte later tried to capture unsuccessfully against the French and British during his campaign from Egypt.
The Crusaders had many orders, representing many different European cities (in the case of Acre, mostly Italian big cities fiercely competing among themselves and French Templars).
The city of Acre, divided into different quarters belonging to different orders, became pretty unsafe with growing internal hostility between quarters. Eventually, Crusaders started to build underground tunnels to avoid going through certain areas.
The Templars had built one connecting their fortress, the strongest building on the other side of the city, to the port, just in case things turned bad (see the pictures). It was open to the public in 1999, but the main restored area was opened only last year.
The Templars’ fortress is still being excavated. Dozens of rooms had been filled with gravel over time, all the way to the top, and need to be emptied. The problem is that the walls have become very fragile, so, to keep them from collapsing, the Archeologists have to reinforce them first before digging deeper. And they are doing a really good job renovating the whole thing.

After Acre, we went to the border of Lebanon to check out limestone formations in caves that the Mediterranean Sea carved into the cliffs (see pics).
On the way back, we stopped in the city of Haifa to admire the incredibly gorgeous Baha’i gardens. They have also been called the Eighth Wonder of the world, and offer a beautiful view over Haifa. Unfortunately, my battery died right after the 2 first pictures of the gardens from the top terrace. So, I thought the best was to actually give you a short youtube video on the matter (see the link below the pictures link). Sorry it's not mine, but it gives you a good idea of what you feel when you are there.
The day after, I took a hike to Jaffa, in the southern part of Tel-Aviv. Nothing to compare to Masada, Acre or The Baha’i gardens, but still worth seeing.
And that was then end of my trip for this time.
Or so I thought: when arriving at the airport, I was taken aside by the security agents and questioned for 1 1/2 hour about the purpose of my trip to Israel, and why I had planned my visit specifically now (it’s a major Jewish holiday, and also Ramadan for the Muslims). They asked me to open my computer and show them my work for the past 2 weeks, and emails proving I had been hired by a company in Tel-Aviv. They took my graphic palette away for 1/2 hour to get it examined, and eventually, they called the Israeli producer at 11pm to confirm I had been working with him.
What I really wonder is why they actually grilled me on the way out, more than on the way in.
The Airline security had already singled me out and tripled checked all my luggage at LAX when I was leaving to Israel 2 weeks ago, but not like that.
So, I guess maybe being 42, unmarried, with no family in the US or Israel, 2 passports filled with stamps from all over the world and wearing cargo pants to get on a plane makes you a good target for terrorism suspicion…
Ah, traveling isn’t what it used to be.
And I don’t know if the places I have visited will ever remember my footsteps, but what I keep re-learning along the way is that, as westerners, we tend to take for granted the most basic things in life: food on the table, a roof on our heads, freedom, and most of all, not living in an area where hatred and conflict dictate how you’re going to go through your day. We are a small percentage of very lucky people on this planet. I try to keep that in mind every time I come back.

Anyway, here is the link to the pictures, and below it is the link to the youtube video for the
 Baha”i gardens. And by the way, this time, I mixed up the beginning and the end. So, you will see the last pics of the trip first: