How Fast Is In­vis­i­ble?

A WON­DER­LAND

iD magazine - - Contents -

The un­ri­valed air­craft that flies in the face of physics

On the Sab­bath, we all must rest. This line of divine in­struc­tion from the tenets of Ju­daism al­ways leads to sur­prises for trav­el­ers vis­it­ing Is­rael. Who’d guess that this com­mand­ment ap­plies to a toaster and cof­fee ma­chine at a ho­tel’s break­fast? That ATMS will refuse to fur­nish you with funds on the Sab­bath? Or that plenty of en­ter­tain­ment dis­tricts go com­pletely dry for 24 hours at sun­set on a Fri­day?

Haifa’s tran­sit sys­tem comes to a halt on the day of the Lord. The sys­tem is com­posed of an un­der­ground ca­ble rail­way that con­nects the wa­ter­front area with up­per por­tions of the city, travers­ing 900 feet in al­ti­tude. On the Sab­bath day, Satur­day, which is known as Shab­bat, this means: 500 steps to climb. But the view and the Bahá'í Gar­dens and Shrine are worth the ef­fort: In­side a splen­did Per­sian park stands the gold­domed Shrine of the Báb, the mar­ble mau­soleum that is the fi­nal rest­ing place of a prin­ci­pal fore­run­ner of the peace-lov­ing Bahá'í Faith.

As tele­vi­sion only broad­casts bad news from the Mid­dle East, the Holy Land is por­trayed as a so­ciopo­lit­i­cal mine­field. But see­ing the coun­try dif­fers from what is de­scribed in head­lines: While travers­ing breath­tak­ingly lovely land­scapes in a coun­try not quite as big as New Jersey,

Mys­ter­ies of three world re­li­gions, myths from 5,000 years of his­tory, en­chant­ing cities, and breath­tak­ing nat­u­ral land­scapes: id vis­its the Holy Land…

which con­tains 8.5 mil­lion res­i­dents de­scended from 140 na­tions, vis­i­tors bear wit­ness to 5,000 years of his­tory and the cra­dle of three re­li­gions.

The cos­mopoli­tan me­trop­o­lis of Tel Aviv is a “beach with a city”: 6 miles of pow­der-fine sand lines the high­rise sky­line along the Mediter­ranean. Here peo­ple bask in swim trunks and biki­nis even in Fe­bru­ary. But on the south­ern out­skirts of the city it’s a dif­fer­ent story: Next to mod­ern Tel Aviv, the an­cient port city of Jaffa looks like the set­ting of a folk tale from One Thou­sand and One Nights. To the north the beaches and sea­side re­sorts con­tinue un­til Rosh Hanikra, where the white chalk cliffs mark the bor­der with Le­banon. At the half­way point lies the cap­ti­vat­ing city of Haifa, which is sit­u­ated on Mount Carmel above a vast bay. Here there’s even a Ger­man Colony founded by Ger­man Tem­plars in the 19th cen­tury. To­day it is a lively, trendy district with bars and out­door restau­rants lin­ing Ben Gu­rion Boule­vard. Verses from the Bi­ble writ­ten in Ger­man can still be seen above many of the front doors. From here the lush gar­dens of the Bahá'í Tem­ple area are vis­i­ble. The Ara­bic neigh­bor­hood of Wadi Nis­nas is a land of plenty. In a small mar­ket al­ley vis­i­tors are greeted by en­tic­ing aro­mas of soups, falafel, and kebabs. A spot in the sun is free at Fausi’s fish restau­rant, where out­door ta­bles are set with plates of mezze ( ap­pe­tiz­ers): hum­mus, fried egg­plant, sal­ads, goat cheese, pita bread, which pre­cede en­trées that are grilled to per­fec­tion. All around Ara­bic and He­brew can be heard: In tol­er­ant Haifa coex­is­tence still works, al­though such a state of af­fairs has be­come very dif­fi­cult to main­tain in many other parts of the coun­try. At night the moon glint­ing off the sea re­in­forces Haifa’s po­si­tion as one of Is­rael’s most beau­ti­ful cities.

The north of the coun­try is wor­thy of still other su­perla­tives. The bib­li­cal Galilee and Jor­dan Rift Val­ley are like Is­rael’s own Gar­den of Eden: sprawl­ing fruit and veg­etable plan­ta­tions, green mead­ows and vine­yards, forests and wa­ter­falls in the con­ser­va­tion area, and olive trees so knotty and gnarled it’s as if Je­sus had per­son­ally planted them. Right next door is Nazareth. A trip to the Golan Heights re­veals why this pow­er­ful bor­der zone of plateaus has been fought over so in­ten­sively: From the sum­mit of Mount Ben­tal you can see ( and shoot) far into Is­rael as well as Syria.

The jour­ney to the south shows the va­ri­ety of Is­rael’s land­scapes: along Lake Tiberias, through the oc­cu­pied West Bank, from fer­tile Galilee to the desert of stone near the Dead Sea. On a 1,445-foot-high plateau of rock stands the for­ti­fi­ca­tion at Masada— a sym­bol of free­dom in Is­rael as well as a UNESCO World Her­itage Site. This is where 967 Jewish de­fend­ers com­mit­ted sui­cide in AD 70 be­cause they had re­fused to sur­ren­der to the Ro­mans who be­sieged them. To­day a ca­ble car runs up the side to en­able vis­i­tors to eas­ily ac­cess this his­toric point of in­ter­est. While you’re tour­ing the site you might share a gon­dola with a bat­tal­ion of young sol­diers on a field trip, each with an au­to­matic ri­fle slung over his shoul­der—even in their pri­vate lives, the Is­raeli sol­diers never leave their weapons be­hind.

When it’s time to un­wind, a so­journ in the Kib­butz Ho­tel Ein Gedi is just what the doc­tor or­dered. The re­sort is lo­cated at the edge of the Ju­daean Desert over­look­ing the Dead Sea as well as the hills of Moab. Ein Gedi is an oasis with heal­ing sul­fur springs and a na­ture pre­serve com­plete with a moun­tain river and wa­ter­falls—a par­adise for hik­ers 650 feet be­low sea level that some con­sider to be the most beau­ti­ful place in the world. From time to time a sand­storm will blan­ket the desert oasis, re­mind­ing vis­i­tors that even the most idyl­lic lo­cales are not ex­empt from Mother Na­ture’s caprices.

Last but not least is Jerusalem— with its prom­i­nent and sto­ried his­tory this 3,000-year-old city, which is key for three ma­jor re­li­gions, is among the great­est marvels in Is­rael. Peo­ple of nu­mer­ous faiths flock to this holy city to re­con­nect with re­li­gious roots.

1,600 YEARS OF FAITH In the Kidron Val­ley east of Beth­le­hem in the Ju­daean Desert is Mar Saba. The Greek Ortho­dox monastery was founded by Saint Sab­bas the Sanc­ti­fied in the fifth cen­tury. COL­OR­FUL MIX The women of Is­rael are known for their exotic ap­pear

SPA AND NAT­U­RAL WON­DER No one can sink here: The high salt con­tent of the Dead Sea makes all those who bathe in this lake par­tic­u­larly buoy­ant— and helps com­bat many ail­ments. IS­RAELI COPACA­BANA Tel Aviv’s beaches are com­pa­ra­ble to those of Rio de Janeiro

DANCE BY THE SEA The young peo­ple of Tel Aviv ex­hibit their joie de vivre: In the evenings there is of­ten danc­ing on the beach.

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