Thursday, July 4, 2013

Deep Into Israel

Today we woke up very early, again, and decided to walk to the old city and explore the Jewish and Arab shuk. Sadly, very few places were open at 8am, but we got to go up to some roofs and see a great view! 

In the afternoon, after getting lost once again, we met up with Shachar from Israel Extreme. He took us to a cave near Beit Shemesh that was very off the beaten track, and we repelled into it. It was just a small hole in the mountain, and when you looked down it, all you saw was black. It was a truly amazing experience to go down into the dark depths of an unknown cave putting all of our trust into a man we had met twenty minutes before. In the cave, he took out a little stove and made us tea from spices that we drank with cookies. As we called through many narrow tunnels and explored the caves, Shachar explained to us the things we were seeing, he archeological evidence, and told us many stories. 

These specific caves that we crawled through were caves that the Jews build to hide from the Romans (Hannukah story). We saw the strategic structure the caves had that the Jews had thought out, including the difficult jumps from tunnel to tunnel instead of doors. We also saw the holes that the Romans had made in the tunnels to stick knives through and the fire damage that is thought to be from the Romans setting fires in the tunnels to force the Jews to run out the other side. Learning the history of the caves really took the experience to a new level, and it morphed from being just a fun outing to a meaningful adventure. 

After we made it out of the cave, Shachar took us to a village close to Modin where Jews, Christians, and Arabs all live, and we went to a very authentic, not touristy, restaurant owned by Arabs. Shachar ordered three desserts for us, one jelatin, rose petals, and coconut thing, one goat cheese and spice thing, and Baklavah. The first two were disgusting, but it was a great experience to eat at a place that wasn't on Ben Yehuda and that didn't cater to tourists. 

All in all, it was a great third day in Israel and we can't wait to see how the rest of the trip will turn out!

Liat and Andrew

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