Israel's Good Name

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Achziv

In Galilee, Israel on September 30, 2013 at 3:34 AM

Last week, during Chol HaMoed Sukkot, my father and I took a little trip over to Achziv, a small national park preserving ruins and a little section of tide pools and beach. Despite living here for over four years now, we have never really found this place. There is another beach a bit south which is called Achziv (Banana Beach) and then there is the Betzet Beach a bit north that is open and free all the way up to Rosh HaNikra – where we usually go for a pleasant trip to the Mediterranean Sea.

Achziv Beach

Achziv Beach

Achziv is the end of the Nachal Kziv (Kziv Stream) which runs from Mount Meron to the Mediterranean, just north of the Achziv park. The Achziv site includes ruins from numerous eras including the Canaanite, Biblical Jewish, Phoenician and Arab. A coastal city, Achziv was utilised by many civiliasations and empires, focusing on its location between Akko and Tyre – both ancient coastal cities.

Elegant ruins on the beach

Elegant ruins on the beach

In the Crusader era (possibly my favourite era of ancient times), in 1104, a fortress was built and called “Casal Humberti”, designed to protect the coastal road leading down to Akko, which was, for a period, the Crusader capital in the Holy Land. A stone tablet with Christian symbols found onsite is now on display at the Louvre in France. In 1256, the Achziv region was leased to the Teutonic Knights who commanded the nearby Montfort, the castle near my house.

Cactus and mosque

Cactus and mosque

Later, during the Mamluk and Ottoman eras, a village called El-Zeeb was founded and sometime during this time, the above mosque was built. Achziv, or to be more precise, the bridge over the stream just north, saw action in 1946 when the Israeli resistance group, the Palmach, attempted to blow up the bridge in efforts to isolate Israel and prevent neighbouring and the local British armies from advancing and receiving reinforcements by rail. With fourteen Palmach members killed, the Achziv bridge was the only failure in the “Night of the Bridges” operation.

Choppy coastline to Rosh HaNikra

Choppy coastline to Rosh HaNikra

After passing the ruins, we descended to the water and climbed onto the rocks leading to the tide pools and rock shelves. The water was cool and the rocks were uber-grippy, the porous texture a safe surface for walking. However, the rough, craggy rock is very sharp and so falling is ill-advised.

Razor-sharp porous rock

Razor-sharp porous rock

Looking back at the calm swimming area – or shall I say, lagoon – there was a pleasant blend of warm shallow water, soft sand and ancient stone ruins on the shore that makes Achziv Beach quite picturesque:

Swimmers in the lagoon

Swimmers in the lagoon

I scoured the tide pools looking for sea creatures, hoping to find an octopus in particular. Back when we lived in Miami, my father and I took a little trip to the west coast of Florida and I found a small octopus hiding in a conch shell – it was a very cool experience. As I scoured and climbed about, large waves periodically attacked me, dousing me with cool seawater.

The waves sneaking between the rocks

The waves sneaking between the rocks

I found no octopuses, but did pry a little sea snail from a smooth underwater rock. Here I am, crouching in the rocks, inspecting the little marine gastropod:

Crouching in the tide pools

Crouching in the tide pools

Thankfully, this snail was a bold little bugger and he came out of his shell, waving his feelers about – or are they eyestalks? I know land snails and some sea snails have eyestalks, although with this particular snail the shorter appendages on the sides of his “face” look more like functioning eyes – many someone who knows can share his/her knowledge in the comments below.

Interesting little sea snail

Interesting little sea snail

After a little photoshoot with the compliant snail, I replaced him – giving him a great home where he would not be stepped on – and we left the rocks. We explored the ruins, as photographically displayed above, and got back in the car for the next trip location – Arak Masada, a small arak factory in the Christian village of Mi’ilya, just minutes away from my house. That post is next, stay tuned.

A special thanks to Avi Kessner for a little CS5 touch-up.

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Renaissance Festival at the Yehiam Fortress

In Galilee, Israel on September 24, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Yesterday we took a little trip down Road 89 to the old Crusader castle, the Yehiam Fortress, for a 2-day Renaissance Festival. Just 15-km from our house, and 10-km from the nearby Montfort Castle, this area of the Galilee was the home base in the Holy Land for Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Yehiam Fortress

The Yehiam Fortress

Built sometime after 1220 by the Teutonic Knights, the fortress was then called Judyn (and then after its destruction, the local Arabs called it Khirbat Jiddin – or “Ruins of Judyn”). Today we call it the Yehiam Fortress and it was at this magnificent ruin that the Renaissance Festival was hosted.

Renaissance Festival logo

Renaissance Festival logo

Now, despite the fact that I grew up in Detroit and the Michigan Renaissance Festival was a pretty big annual event, this was my first time attending a “RenFest.” This event, in Yehiam, ended up being more of a crafts fair set in and around a Crusader fortress with a sprinkling of Renaissance flavour added for good measure. I’m sure that if they hosted it next year at Yehiam, but under expensive American production, it would be far more epic than anything you’d see in the USA.

Metal silhouette against fortress wall

Metal silhouette against fortress wall

First, after parking the car under the watchful gaze of the fortress, we saw a trail heading to the Yehiam Stream. We turned, followed the trail for a few feet and were greeted with a lovely view overlooking the valley of the Yehiam Stream. There was a little stone wall protecting us from the dangers of the abyss but some like to take a ride on the wild side:

Living dangerously

Living dangerously

So, after that little detour, we entered the park and meandered through the fortress grounds, passing tables of crafts and various themed products for sale (wooden sculptures, carved toys and musical instruments, edibles, etc). There were also costumed individuals performing on-stage and on the paths. One such performer, a man dressed in a red gown, told me that my unruly beard made me look like a “vilde chaya” (“wild animal” in Yiddish, his words). That was a bit odd but I explained that I was on break from the army and thought it would be fun not to worry about hair length for a few days…

Stage performer

Stage performer

We headed on inside the fortress and saw the end of a musical performance by three musicians and a voice actor, which was actually the main featured concert of the day. The name of the performance can be translated to “The Wonderful Journey to Greek Mythology with Accompaniment of Greek Musical Sounds.” Set on a breezy terrace overlooking the grounds of the fortress, the Yehiam Stream below and the Mediterranean Sea over the gentle green hills.

A glimpse of the grounds

A glimpse of the grounds

Inside, below the terrace is a great hall with many, many arches, magnificently built by Dahr el-Omar in the 1700s. Here is the southern wall with its array of small windows:

Arched wall with windows

Arched wall with windows

Back outside we stopped by a table bedecked with wine bottles and glasses, the presentation and sales table of Kerem Ben Zimra winery, a new kid on the block. My father sampled the wine, pronounced it “good” or something and we relieved them of two bottles. I think it’s fun visiting wineries and buying wines but sadly, I cannot abide the taste of wine – although there is a really delectable port, Har Sinai by Or HaGanuz winery, introduced to me by a friend, which I rather enjoyed. I personally prefer the world of the micro-brewery, and have a newfound love for stouts (current favourite: Salara Smoked Stout). But, regardless, I love to support these wineries and breweries and so I write about them and link their sites to my blog, so do take a gander.

Jester banner

Jester banner

And our last activity, the crafts tables where hordes of children clamored about constructing art out of natural ingredients (and glue from glue guns) which, technically, fits in the “RenFest” setting. Nissim, my little brother, made a superb little knight, see for yourself:

''PineKnight''

”PineKnight”

Bringing this post to a close, here is a photo I needed to include simply because I love the rich colouring and the metalwork, a Crusader soldier bearing a flag of sorts:

Crusader soldier

Crusader soldier