Saturday, 10 October 2009

Planning My Itinerary!

With little more than three weeks until I fly to Israel, I am excitedly counting down the days and planning the three months I will spend there.

I will spend six weeks each at two different farms. These are Sedot Micah, a small project run by artists in which they are planning to build a museum for the history of Morrocan Jewry. This looks like a really interesting project and something I will be pleased to be involved with. This farm is located roughly halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Apparently you can hear coyotes at night!

The second farm is a large established Kibbutz in the middle of the Negev desert called Neot Semadar. This is well known, having its own Wikipedia page, and looks stunningly unique. The architecture is amazing, they are completely self-sufficient and the whole thing seems like a hippy dream come true. I can't wait to look around and meet the people who live here full time!

note - this is just the Arts Centre at Neot Semadar! You want more? OK then...

This is the winery and some other random part of the kibbutz (right) which looks fantastic. There is a slideshow of more images available.

So taking the maximum duration available on a tourist visa, 3 months, and six weeks at each farm, this leaves me one week roughly spare. I've bought a Rough Guide to Israel and begun deciding what my itinerary must include.

I arrive in Tel Aviv in the early hours, so am staying in a hostel the first night. So my first day in Israel I'll have a few hours to look around "Israel's New York"; although I know this will be mostly time for acclimatising rather than trying to take anything in. Specific attractions will have to wait.

After my six weeks at Sedot Micah I'm going to go to Jerusalem (I think! This reminds me I need to look into hostels because this will be mid-December and not only will Christians be starting to flood the city for Christmas, but Jerusalem is a popular destination for Jews at Hannukah). There's far more to see there than I can possibly fit in but I must visit the Wailing Wall and the Temple Mount as well as the Al-Aqsa Mosque. There are about half a dozen important synagogues in the Jewish Quarter, of which I would dearly love to see all but I doubt this is possible. I will settle for seeing the four Sephardi synagogues which hail from the 17th Century. Hopefully I will also get to see some of the Old City's Christian history - the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sounds particularly impressive.

A particularly reverential image of the Temple Mount (I think that's Al-Aqsa Mosque on the far right)

Next I travel the c.300km down to Neot Semadar. There will be a noticeable increase in temperature as I enter the southern desert region - though I doubt I will ever be cold. "Winter" in Israel stretches from 16-25C. I plan to explore the desert during some of the time I'm not working. I'd love to see Qumran and Masada but I don't think I'll time, because...

Neot Semadar is relatively close to the city of Eilat, which borders onto the Red Sea. This is the tourist paradise of Israel - fortunately there is more to it than that as it is host to an amazing diversity of marine and bird life: being on one of the principal migratory routes for European birds fleeing the harsh winters. Hopefully I will not be too late to see some wonderful creatures there. I may lok into doing some scuba diving while I am there, though I will have only two or three days, depending on how much time I decide to spend in Jerusalem.

From here it will be back to Tel Aviv for a day before my flight back (at some stupidly early time in the morning...still trying to decide whether to book a hostel for the few hours sleep or stay up and sleep on the plane. Hmm...). And that's three months gone! It seems like such a short time!

I hope these pictures haven't spoilt anything. I'll be blogging as regularly as I can with my thoughts, experiences and pics.