with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Scrapbook of Our Life Living in Israel

We’ve collected up some of our pictures from our experiences and explorations of Israel to share with you here. We hope you enjoy these. If you are interested in our scrapbook from our life on the road and our family pictures, check out our general scrapbook page.

Lorelle and Doris dress up in Israel for PurimLorelle and fellow Uplan student, Doris, dressed up and celebrated Purim in Israel. Purim is not so much a religious holiday as a bible story holiday and it resembled Halloween as everyone dresses up in costumes. We were clowns. Unfortunately, Lorelle got a rash from the lipstick that left a rash in the shape of the smile on her face for two weeks.
Lorelle's Hebrew ClassLorelle’s Hebrew class on their last day. We had a huge party with dancing to Spanish popular music and teaching our teacher, Dina, to Salsa.
Lorelle's Hebrew Teacher, DinaLorelle’s Hebrew Teacher, Dina, celebrating the last day of class. She was certainly a joy to work with, making the task of learning such a hard language fun and enjoyable. She has since moved back to the United States where she lived for almost 20 years before returning to her homeland for a few years.
Brent and Lorelle at the Lebanon BorderOn a tour in Israel to the north and the Golan heights, another traveler took this picture of us at the Lebanon Border with Israel. A couple weeks later this became a hot spot of violence and media as Israel pulled out of Lebanon early, surprising everyone. For those who lived over 30 years in a “neutral zone”, with many of the citizens coming and going across the border to jobs in the nearby towns as there was little or no work to be had for many in Lebanon, this was very difficult and many lost their jobs when they couldn’t cross the border any more.
The Lebanese/Israel border, photo by Lorelle VanFossenA plaque is set up at the Lebanese/Israel border honoring those who died to protect this border. During the Six Day Way, much of the Arab world attacked Israel, including the Palestinians. While Israel was sort of surprised – okay, on several fronts they were really surprised – being attacked by Egypt from the south, Jordan from the east, Syria from the northeast, and Lebanon from the north, well, that was a lot to deal with. And Israel stomped some serious buns. They captured a good part of south Lebanon, part of Syria, a good chunk of Jordan, including all of Jerusalem, and the entire Sinai Penisula, which is like capturing Texas. That’s no small chunk of change. To keep peace with Egypt, they gave back the Sinai. To keep peace with Jordan, they gave back most, but not all of the “West Bank”. To keep peace with Lebanon, they gave back a little, but not much. To keep peace with Syria, Egypt and Jordan told King Hussian to shut up. To keep peace with the Palestinians, they gave them areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, gave the rest of them to Jordan, who took them semi-willingly (the Palestinians have long been considered the bottom of the barrel in the Arab world, but they have rights, too.), and let the rest leave or be put into refuge camps. From a non-political perspective, Israel did more than it had to to keep the peace. How many countries who conquer lands give them back? That’s not traditional thinking. And no matter what your perspective on the “Middle East situation”, you have to admit that Israel kicked some serious butt to win that much land in six days. Sure they had some help, but honestly, when was the last time you heard of a war doing so much in such a little bit of time. Can’t help but be a little impressed, right? Okay, sorta right.
Rabin Memorial in Tel Aviv, photo by Lorelle VanFossenThis memorial marks the spot where Itzak Rabin was assasinated. He had just given a speech on peace in the Middle East and the hope that he had that it would be finalized with the help of US President Bill Clinton within the next few weeks or so. The presentation took place from the big deck of the municipality overlooking a great square which is now named for the late Prime Minister of Israel. As he left the stage and shook hands with people waiting there as he moved towards his car, under full but lax security, a Jewish man came at him with a gun and shot him, injuring others too. He was caught and is still in jail, but Prime Minister Rabin was pronounced dead soon after. The crowd was in shock and the spot became an instant memorial as people placed flowers and candles there.

The memorial features lights glowing under large sculptured coals, symbolic of the burning embers of hope Rabin brought to Israel. Twice a year, on the Gregorian and Jewish calendar dates of the assasination in November, a memorial service is held in his honor in the square, now named Kikkar Rabin (Rabin Square), to remind everyone of the cost of peace, and the hope of peace.

Street in Tel Aviv, photo by Lorelle VanFossenThis is the street we live on in Tel Aviv. It’s called Dubnov, named after a famous Jewish poet who came here to Israel and helped create the State of Israel. We live on a beautiful city garden park filled with beautiful trees from all over the world, and a lovely fountain, as well as a small children’s park. The homes lining the nearby streets are old homes, but not the oldest in the city. Built mostly in the early 1950s, the original residents still live here with caretakers, or they have been rented out to middle aged folk. Most of the people still care about their gardens and plants in the building grounds and courtyards, as well as from their balconies. The colors are ablaze throughout much of the year with the temperate heat and humidity. It’s a peaceful and lovely neighborhood.
Signs of peace and commercialism in Tel Aviv, photo by Lorelle VanFossenSigns of peace and commercialism are part of the day-to-day building decorations in Tel Aviv and throughout Israel. One large sign declares Israel will not give back the Golan heights taken by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967. The sign reminds many that too much land won in that war and others have been returned as a price for peace. The flag of Israel hangs in the window of many homes and off balconies. Blatant patriotism is the norm here in Israel.

Below the apartment building windows, the stores which line the street feature all the commericalism that comes with a democratic and capitalistic society. They are selling Coca Cola and Agfa film among other goodies.

Counting the dead in Israel from the Intifada of 2000-2001, photo by Lorelle VanFossenIn Kikkar Rabin (Rabin Square) a block from our home in Tel Aviv, not long after the current Intifada began a hunger protest group set up a tent in the square and started counting the dead on a huge sign where all the traffic driving by could see it. Watching the number go up day after day, it’s unnerving. They also “planted” white plastic silouettes representing the dead in flower pots with sand. Some people brought flowers and little toys and ornaments to place in the pot. We watched this White plastic silouettes mark the number killed in the Intifada in Israel, photo by Lorelle VanFossengrowing crowd of white human outlines grow as the weeks turned into months. After three months the tent and silouettes were removed. I wonder, with the number now over 500, how much of the square would be filled with the potted people now?
The birthplace of Mary, Jesus's mother, photo by Lorelle VanFossenTucked away in a rarely visited spot along the Via Dolorosa in the old city of Jerusalem is the birthplace of the mother of Jesus, Mary. This is her parent’s home, located now in the basement of an apartment building near Lion’s Gate, the start of Via Dolorosa.
Riding the camels in Mamshit, Israel, photo by Lorelle VanFossenThey say you can’t come to the Middle East without riding a camel, but we’re here to tell you that you can. But we did it anyway. It was fun. Mamshit Camel Ranch is open to tourists on organized tours and is located in the south of Israel, in the northern reaches of the Negev. You ride a camel through the wadis (valleys) and get some very interesting tips and information on how camels are used in the desert, then partake in a “true” Beduion style lunch. I’m not sure how true it was, but it was enjoyable. If you have nothing else to do for a day in Israel, this could be a great brainless adventure. Check with United Tours or Egged Tours for information. Great for the kids.
Closeup photograph of the Israel SheqelsGoing overseas means getting used to money that is different from our own. We have really grown to like the Israeli Sheqel (or Shekel) as each denomination is very distinct in colors from the others and color coded on the ends so you can quickly tell which bill is for which amount. Red is 20, orange is 50, and blue is 100. Currently, the sheqel is about 4 to the US Dollar.
Carmel Caves, Israel, photo by Lorelle VanFossenVisiting Israel is like stepping back into time, but not always through the footsteps people associate with Israel. People associate religion with Israel, but I found older history in Israel overlooked by tourists. In the northwest of Israel you will find the Carmel Mountains. In the foothills facing the sea, not far from the town of Zikhron Ya’akov, you will find the Carmel Caves, better known as Hahal Me’arot Nature Reserve. These caves represent more than 150,000 years of continuous human occupation and, basically, civilization. If you want to really step back through time, this is the place. Excavated in the 1920’s by an all female archaeological team led by Dorothy Garrod of Englad. They found both Homo sapien and Neanderthral skeletons here, evidence that both lived here. This raises all kinds of questions about the relationship between the two groups and whether or not they lived together simultaneously. There is a well done movie in the largest cave, the Nahal, which gives you the feeling of really stepping back in time to understand what life was like by the earliest people on the planet. And you think you have problems living today? Imagine being threatened by great monster creatures and being dependent not on whether or not the local grocery store is open but by the weather conditions. I would put this near the top of things to explore in Israel. It only takes an hour or two and is well worth it.
Notes stuffed into the cracks of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, photo by Lorelle VanFossenThere are a lot of emotions associated with visiting the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. On one hand it is another step back in time by its symbol of the ancient Jewish Temple destroyed not long after Jesus Christ walked through it throwing money changers out of the temple, as well as its symbolic nature to the Jews. On the other, it is a circus to see the bobbing and weaving of the different Jewish sects and how they worship and pray at the wall. The segregation of men and women still cracks me up. Men on one side (the larger side by the way) and women crammed into the other side with a flimsy wall between them. From another perspective it is a work of art as all the visitors wear all kinds of clothing and colors from jeans and t-shirts promoting a favorite Hard Rock Cafe to punkers with purple hair, to Ashkenazi Jews in their colorful scarfs and prayer shawls to Haradim Jews in their clothing perserved from the Ghettos of Poland in heavy wool fabrics of black and darker black with black mink or felt hats strapped to their heads. It’s a parade.

People who visit the Wall often bring notes with prayers, wishes, dreams, or thoughts written on them. They stuff them into the cracks of the wall as if the wall represents a telegraph service straight to God’s ear. There is also a web site or two on the Internet where you can email your note and the service will stick it into a crack in the wall for you without you ever visiting Israel. Modern conveniences, huh?

Jewish graves abandoned next to the old city of Jerusalem, photo by Lorelle VanFossenAround the old city of Jerusalem are many burial grounds, both for the Jews and the Arabs – of all religions. Some are maintained in glorious fashion while others are left as abandoned historical ruins. They help give Jerusalem, at least in the old parts of the city, the air of ancient history.

The Jews, and most Arabs, bury their dead above ground, as per tradition dictated in religious teachings and writings. Historically, this tradition has been in place for thousands of years in the Middle East as little of the ground is condusive to digging and burial, with much of it hard stone. With little choice, the people were left to bury their dead covered by rocks or within stone tombs or caverns.

Penguins invade Tel Aviv, photo by Lorelle VanFossen
Throughout the summer of 2000, Penguins invaded Tel Aviv. Sounds like a horrible headline, doesn’t it? But it is the truth, as surreal as it sounds. A software company here in Israel wanted to attract attention and make a goodwill gesture to the city, so they purchased well over 100 plastic 6 foot (2 meters) tall opaque penguins and over 100 artists took over from there. The artists created penguin masterpieces. These artful penguins were distributed around the city throughout the summer. People had great fun with them. They created treasure hunts to see who could find the most penguins, or specific penguins. The one with antennas poking out of it’s head like a hi-tech punker was a favorite of mine. As was the one totally wrapped in ace bandages and standing in the frame of a wheelchair with crutches under its arms. You would walk along the street and there on the corner would we a human sized penguin with psychodelic paint on it. Great entertainment. An audition of the penguins was delayed when the Intifada began in the Fall, so they were still here when my mother came to visit in February 2001. They were gathered together in the square outside of the Tel Aviv Art Museum where the auction was held. It was amazing to see all these overdressed penguins in one of the hottest places in the world.

These penguins in the photograph stood guard in Kikkar Rabin (Rabin Square) not far from the hunger strike tent.

Election banners from the 2001 Israel Election, photo by Lorelle VanFossen
With a total lack of confidence in Prime Minister Ehud Barak after the start of the Intifada in October 2000, the Kinneset (Israel Congress) pushed and shoved Barak until he resigned. Left without a Prime Minister, an election was held in February between Barak and the eventual winner, Ariel Sharon. As wearing as the election process can be on its citizenship, Brent and I agreed that we think the US and other countries should follow the process Israel uses to elect their officials. The campaigning is not allowed to begin publicly until about six weeks before the election date. In the USA, we are assaulted by 18 months of ad campaigns, negative blasts, television debates, endless news stories, and massive propaganda, until you really don’t care who wins as long as they stop talking. Which probably accounts for the recent bizarre US election between Bush and Gore. If that wasn’t apathy as its finest, I don’t know what is.

So Israel only had to suffer through six weeks of intense campaigning, and this was an emergency election, too. Fairly simple and easy. Complicated, sure, but the process was made simple by the shortage of time. Unfortunately, unlike the rules in many states and cities about the campaigning parties being required to clean up their signs and posters, there are no such enforced rules here in Israel and the signs hung in the sun until they literally fell down rotting in the dirt.

Alex Ivershin stands outside the Post Office in Tel Aviv, photo by Lorelle VanFossenI started teaching English to a couple of Russians here in Tel Aviv in the Fall of 2000. Alex Ivershin was my first student. Of course, Lorelle don’t do nothing normal, so our teaching classes involve taking walks, shopping, and lots of just plain silliness. Here, we went to the Post Office to pick up a package from Lorelle’s mother for Christmas. Alex holds it proudly, excited about every opportunity to practice English that he can get.

Alex is a child heart surgeon and anesthesiologist from nearly Vladivostock. He and his family wanted to get to Canada, but Israel is easier. So this is a stopping off spot on their path to Canada, as it is for many Russians. Unfortuately, here in Israel his medical training and certificates are not recognized, and they are certainly not honored as he doesn’t speak Hebrew well enough. He took 6 months of Hebrew school, but his heart wasn’t really in it. So he learned the word “detour” in English because while once he thought he would be a doctor for his whole life, he now cleans apartment buildings and does manual labor while waiting for approval to go to Canada. There he might be able to work in some kind of medical facility, but it could be that his doctor days are over. An interesting life detour, but life in Russia is so bad, many take anything they can to escape.

Men pray at the Wailing Wall, photo by Lorelle VanFossen
The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is divided into two sections for men and women. There are chairs lining the flimsy wall on the women’s side dividing the two groups. Many women stand on these to see the men and young boys praying at the wall. There are no chairs on the men side looking over to the women’s side. From these chairs I stood up and photographed the many men in their different traditional and religious outfits preparing to pray at the Wall.

As a side note, For more than 12 years a group of women took their case through the courts to get the right to pray in the traditional male fashion. Last summer (2000) they won the right to pray in this traditional fashion. Good for them. The case is under appeal, so who knows what the future holds, but it shows an amazing persistence as these women have held a 24 hour vigil at the Wall for more than 12 years for the right to practice this way.

Brent and Lorelle on the bow of a boat crossing the KinneretA fellow passenger sent us this picture, a moment of togetherness as we sailed across the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Kinneret, in Israel. The Kinneret is a major source of water for Israel. The source, the Jordan River, gets its water from the snows of Mt. Hermon which once was in Syrian hands and after the Six Day War, it now belongs to Israel. Unfortunately, the rest of the water for the lake comes from rain. The past few years have been horrible for rain levels. Terrible drought conditions keep the water level of the lake low, but the biggest problem is the tremendous impact of the country’s citizens.

Arab law of the land states that if the land is occuppied and “in use” it is “owned” by the occupier. In an attempt to work within Arab law, as well as to create a “force” by population, Israel has worked hard to occupy every milimeter of the country and open its doors to just about anyone and everyone, especially those who claim Jewish descent. As of 2000, it is estimated that there are over 6 million people in the country, the most this land has ever hosted. And everyone needs water to survive, as well as water their gardens, make their fountains pretty, and wash their cars. Unfortunately, the Kinneret is now way below its lowest level in recorded history.

In the summer of 2000, a group of rabbis went out in a boat to pray for rain. Anything that works. So far, the spirit isn’t moved and the drought continues.

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  • […] is the third time we encounter animals in a city. The first ones were penguins in Tel Aviv (Scroll down), unfortunately I couldn’t locate any photos of them, I think it was in 2000 or […]

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