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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for January, 2009

An Israel Travelogue

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Well, I’m back in the business of writing and blogging.  I’ve been away for two weeks on a trip to Israel––– first time for me and my wife.  We flew into Tel Aviv and then on to Jerusalem.
The next day, in Jerusalem, we visited the Jewish quarter, the Western Wall, remnant of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD; the extraordinary Rabbinical tunnels; the Cardio, the main street in Jerusalem 2000 years ago; and the southern wall excavations.
On day 3, we headed for the Dead Sea and Masada, the site of the Zealots last stand against the Romans in 73 AD.  In the afternoon we floated in the Dead Sea (35%NaCl).
On day 4, we visited Yad Vashem in the New City of Jerusalem. Yad Vashem is the Holocaust Memorial Museum –– a startling, somber, sad experience.  It is quite different from the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C..  Much of the Jerusalem museum features the words of survivors and in the history of the Nazi takeover of Germany and the resultant horrors.
On Day 5, still in Jerusalem, we went to the Time Elevator, an interactive ride that tells the story of Jerusalem in a modern, multimedia production.  Next we went to the Israel Museum, which holds the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed.  We then traveled to the Machane Yehuda, the largest and busiest outdoor market in all of Israel.
On day 6, still in Jerusalem, we attended Bar/ Bat Mitzvah services at a Reform Jewish Institute, Beit Shmuel. After lunch, we visited the David Citadel Museum, which offers the best introduction to Jerusalem’s long, rich, and colorful history.  We walked back to our hotel through the Nachalat Shiva, a quaint oasis in the middle of Jerusalem, full of cafes, pubs, and small galleries.
On day 7, we traveled to the Galilee, took an exciting jeep ride through the Golan Heights and proceeded to the Orthodox Community of Safed, the center of Jewish mysticism, where we visited the Joseph Caro and Ha’ Ari synagogues. We then traveled on to our hotel in a kabbutz––Ma’ agan, Galilee.
On day 8, we began a trek to Tel Aviv.  We stopped on the way in a Druze village for lunch, and had a lecture about the Druze community.  We then left for the spectacular site of the ancient city of Caesarea, and the multimedia forums that brought the city to life.
On day 9, in Tel Aviv, we visited Rabin Square where the former Israeli Prime Minister,Yitzhak Rabin , was assassinated in 1995. After this, we visited the interactive Palmach Museum, which tells the story of the Israeli war of Independence and the development of the Israeli army. After lunch, we visited the lively, outdoor market, Nachalat Benyamin.
On day 10, still in Tel Aviv, we visited Independence Hall and learned about David Ben Gurion’s declaration of Israel’s Independence in 1948. Next we went to the predominantly Arab port of Jaffa. And high in the hills, we could look down on Jaffa and Tel Aviv in the distance. Next came the Diaspora Museum, which told the story of the Jewish people from the time of the Expulsion from Israel 2500 years ago to the present time.
On day 11, we left Tel Aviv, traveled through the Negev Desert, visited a kibbutz and all its manufacturing and agricultural activities, and finally arrived in the city of Eilat, the LasVegas of Israel (minus the casinos, outlawed in Israel).
On day 12, we traveled into Jordan and visited the city of Petra.  This city was founded by the Nabateans who began carving it out of the solid rock over 3000 years ago. Then the Greeks came into the city and occupied it, followed by the Romans, and then for hundreds of years it was forgotten. It was rediscovered in 1812. The entire city is hewn into the sides of a deep gorge. It is one of the great wonders of the Middle East.
On day 13, we luxuriated in the warm sun of this modern city, Eilat, on the Gulf of Aqaba.
And on day 14, we we landed in the United States after a 11-1/2 hour uneventful flight from Tel Aviv.

It was a long, exhausting trip, seven time zones away, but worthwhile in what we learned about ancient and modern history, just as another Middle East war began.

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