30 June 2006

the old city and haifa.

While Jerusalem's old city is fascinating, today's tour was excrutiatingly dull, even by the low standards of an organized group tour. Since we arrived in Israel a day late, we missed our originally scheduled tour and had to find a guide last minute. Since it was a Friday, Muslim and Jewish guides were not available, and since it's the height of summer, good guides book early. Hence, we ended up with a chatty but uninteresting Christian Arab guide. From his tour, you'd think the Muslims and Jews had never visited Jerusalem. We saw every remotely relevant Christian sight in the city, and heard a nearly complete recitation of the Bible before finally visiting the Western Wall. (Al-Aqsa mosque was off limits because of Friday prayers). I was disappointed - I wanted to hear about all of the religions in Jerusalem, not just the one I knew the most about already. To make matters worse, he took us to an overpriced bazaar instead of turning us loose in the market to shop because his friend owned the shop. Bad tour aside, the city is still beautiful.

After the tour, we bid farewell to Jerusalem and the lovely Ambassador Hotel (no sarcasm intended - free wireless internet is always a winner in my book) and went our separate ways to our internship locations. There are ten of us in northern Israel, including my roommate and I in Haifa. We arrived at the Dan Panorama Hotel, which, although lacking free internet, is lovely. Pool, fitness center, and since somehow we've been designated "executive guests," we have access to the business lounge on the 20th floor, overlooking the city and the bay. The lounge has free appetizers and drinks all day long, which will save us a small fortune in food costs and keep us out of the minibar (whose contents are now piled along the closet floor so we can use the fridge). Interestingly, the hotel is very supportive of orthodox Jewish guests - the room service menu is kosher, and there is an elevator that stops automatically at every floor on the Sabbath. Since we're in a foreign country with excellent local cuisine, we decided Chun-ling Chinese Restaurant would be an lovely choice for dinner. We were the only ones in the restaurant for most of our meal, but the food was delicious (made even better when paid for by credit card). But the best part was definitely the music, which included "Silent Night." In June. In Chinese. Nothing more to say.

To top off an excellent Chinese meal, we also discovered a gelato shop just blocks from our hotel. The twenty some odd flavors were overwhelming, but the english-speaking guy running the shop let us try pretty much all of them before we decided. Then he told us about the hundred other flavors they rotate in and out. Between that, the nearby ATM, pharmacy, business lounge, pubs, mall, Chinese food, metro station, and beach access, we're in heaven. The ice cream man, i.e. my new hero, asked us what we were doing in Haifa while we sampled everything he had to offer. We explained our internship program, and when I mentioned Isha L'Isha, he recognized the name. I asked him if he knew of it, and he said simply, "I have lesbian friends." He told me more about what the organization does, and assured me that they work on serious issues, and aren't like the crazy "bra-burning, bearded, flannel shirt, and baseball cap" women of a more radical organization in the area. It appears some stereotypes can cross oceans and cultures. Either way, I'm glad to hear Isha L'Isha isn't a boring knitting circle sort of group - bring on the excitement and controversy! I start work on Sunday morning (weekends are Friday/Saturday in Israel to account for worship days), and I can't wait to find out what sort of projects I'll be working on! Since internet is no longer free (unless I have access at work), this is the end of posts with pictures since it takes too long to upload them here and on photobucket, so just look for them there in the meantime.

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