Bha còmhradh againn an seachdain mu dheidhinn ar lèithean-saora, agus tha mise air a bhith mu dheidhinn Ìosrael a ràdh.

Dè seòrsa aimsir a th’ air a bhith ann?

Tha an aimsir air a bhith uabhasach fuar! Tha uisge air a bhith ann h-uile latha agus bha sneachd ann cuideachd!

Dè tha thu air a bhith a’ ceannach? Aodach, prèasantan do dhaoine eile, càil dhuit-fhèin…?

Tha mi air a bhith mòran cuimhneachan agus prèasantan do mo theaghlach a cheannach. Chan eil – agus cha bhith – mi air a bhith aodach a cheannaich. Chan eil mi air a bhith càil a cheannach dhòmh-fhèin ach geansaidh blàth no dhà.

Cò ris a tha am biadh air a bhith coltach?

Tha am biadh uabhasach snog. Tha a h-uile biadh air a bhith “kosher”. Tha sinn air a bhith siùpear “basariy” ithead agus tha feòil ann, agus tha sinn air a bhith breacàist “cheleviy” itheadh agus tha càise agus bàinne agus ìm ann. Chan fhaod mi bànne no ìm no càise ith agus cha toigh leam breacàist an-seo a-riamh!

A bheil thu air biadh ùr fheuchainn no deoch ùr a ghabhail nach do dh’fheuch no nach no ghabh thu a-riamh roimhe?

04 - Hyssop

A’ deanamh labaneh (pizza Druze)

Uill, tha mi air “labaneh” fheuchainn an seachdain. ‘S e “Pizza Druze” a th’ ann agus tha iosop aig. Agus tha mi air a bhith mòran sùgh gràn-ubhal a ghabh.


Càite a bheil thu air a bhith a’ dol airson biadh ithe?

Tha mi air a bhith aig an òsdal a fhuirich agus tha breacàist agus siùpear ann. Tha mi air a bhith a’ dol dhan bùth falafal airson shuwarma airson dìnnear. Tha shuwarma ann an Ìosrael coltach ri yiros ann an Astràilia. Tha mi a’ smaoineachadh gur e “kebab” a th’ ann yiron ann an Alba. An e sin ceart? Tha feòil agus biadh-luibh ann àran-pìota.

Dè cho daor ‘s a than a prìsean air a bhith?

Glè dhaor. Tha a h-uile càil air a bhith nas daoire na tha e aig an taigh ann an Astràilia.

Dè seòrsa daoine ris a bheil thu air a bhith a’ tachairt?

Uill, tha a h-uile duine ann mo ghrùp às Astràilia no Sealainn-Nuadh, ach tha mi air tachairt ri daoine èile às na Stàitean-Aonaichte agus às Ìosrael-fhèin. Tha mi air tachairt ri Raghnaidh (Rachel) eile ann am bùth ann an Tel Dan. ‘S e ainm glè chleachdail a th’ ann “Raghnaid” (Rachel) ann an Ìosrael.

Ciamar a tha thu air a bhith a’ siubhal air feadh an àite? A bheil thu air na busaichean no na trèanaichean no tacsaidhean a ghabhail?

Tha mi air a bhith dol ri bùs comhla ris a h-uile daoine eile ann mo ghrùp.

A bheil thu air turas a dhèanamh ann an gondola no air druim càmhail?

Tha mi air càmhailean a shealtainn, ach chan eil mi air tùras air druim càmhail a dhèanamh. Ach mi air turas thairis an Loch Gailíl ann am bàta a dhèanamh.

Dè seòrsa àiteachan air a bheil thu air a bhith a’ tadhal? Àiteachan eachdraidheil agus cultarail? Eaglaisean no taighean-tasgaidh?

Tha mi air tadhal air mòran mòran àiteachan inntinnich – mòran àiteachan eachdraidheil agus cultarail agus Bìoballach. Tha mi air tadhal air Nàsairet agus air Ièriùsalam, agus tha mòran mòran eaglaisean ann an an Ièriùsalam.

Dè an cànan no na cànanan a tha thu air a bhith a’ cluinntinn?

‘S e Eabhrais a th’ ann an cànan ann an Ìosrael, ach tha mi air a bhith a’ cluinntinnn Eabhrais, Arabais, Beurla, Spàinntis, agus Rùssais.

A bheil thu air mòran Gàidhlig no Beurla a chluinntinn?

06 - Ireland

maoiseach Gaidhlig Eireann ann an Nasairet

Tha mi air a bhith mòran Beurla a chluinntinn – tha mòran daoine an-seo às na Stàitean-Aonaichte. Chan eil mi air Gàidhlig a chluinntinn a-riamh, ach tha mi air maoiseach anns a’ Ghàidhlig Èireann a shealltainn ann an Nàsairet.


A bheil thu air beagan den chànan ionnsachadh?

Tha, tha mi air beagan Eabhrais innseachadh. ‘S e “boker tov” a th’ ann “madainn mhath” agus ‘s e “laila tov” a th’ ann “oidhche mhath”. ‘S e “Shabat shalom” a th’ ann “Latha na Sàbaid math” agus “todah rabah” a th’ ann “tapadh leibh”.

‘S e “aniy lo medeberit ivrit a th’ ann “chan eil Eabhrais agam”.

No English translation this week. You guys have already read all this.


Israel – The Things They Don’t Tell You – Modern Art

This is the third and final instalment of my pictures and discussion of Israel’s infrastructure – the nitty-gritties of every day live which help form the character of any given place, but which no-one talks about.

Previously, I’ve discussed public toilets, service stations, recycling and bottle depositories, town planning, and washing. Now I’m moving on from sensitive issues to talk about something a bit different: modern art.

It’s everywhere. If there’s one thing which characterises the modern Israeli city or town, I think it would be modern art. And the occasional Big Thing.

Big Things - Nveh Atiyv, Golan

Big Skis in Nveh Atiyv, Golan

Big Things - Ein Gev, Galilee

The Big Orange in Ein Gev, Galilee, looks distinctly more orange-like than Berri’s version (South Australia)… even if it is smaller.

The modern art sometimes made sense, as in the case of this whale sculpture in Joffa, the port from which Jonah left:

Modern Art - Joffa Old City

Even if it has a strangely happy, slightly creepy face.

Sometimes it didn’t.

Modern Art - Joffa Old City 1

Okay, it’s an orange tree. Joffa used to grow oranges commercially. That’s why Jaffas are orange and round.

Still, it’s a hanging tree growing out of a giant egg.

And some made less sense that that.

Along the path to the top of Mount Ben Tal, in the Golan, are a series of scrap-metal creatures.

You can probably tell I don’t really get modern art.

Modern Art - Near En Gev, Galilee

A giant fisherman overlooking Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee)



Israel – The Things They Don’t Tell You – Toileting

When I travel, I take notice of unusual things. Sort of everyday infrastructure things most people either don’t notice or don’t think worthy of mentioning.

For example, in the US, light switches are off when they’re in the Australian “on” light-switch position, and vice versa. Also, in the US, curbs are a little higher than in Australia.

With that in mind, here are a few things about Israel that you’re probably not going to hear anywhere else. It’s the little, commonplace things that give every country and area its own distinct “flavour”, but which also go unnoticed.

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of as many things as I’d hoped – such as toilet-door locks and common brands of service station – because I ran out of room on the SD card and deleting the pictures by accident along with the ones I’d already saved!

Let’s start with the most important – but also most unspeakable – aspect of day-to-day life…


Toilets in Israel are European-style (as opposed to American-style or Asian-style). This means that they’re sit-toilets with a whole-circle seat and a low water-line.

Because Israel is a moderately water-conscious country, almost all most toilets (at least, all of the ones I went to) have dual-flush systems. They appear in two main configurations:

Toileting - Flush 1

Two buttons on the top. Note that they’re not in the centre like Australian two-button systems. But this is how they looked, on the side. This is the more common style.

Toileting - Flush 2

Two front pull-tabs. This is a little less common, no doubt because at least 75% of the ones I saw had lost the white half-flush tab.

Toileting - Flush 2 Broken

Toilet cells are fully enclosed to the floor on both sides (although some are open for about a foot at the top), and doors are rarely more than an inch or two from the floor. Goodness, that must make it hard for Americans.

Anyway, there are three main sorts of lock. The most common is a large black plastic tab sbout 15cm long and 5cm wide, rounded, which flips over across to the doorframe – tucking into a notch for inward-opening doors, or just sitting there for outward-opening ones. The second-most common is a tiny little metal circle, about 2cm wide, with a ridge for grip, which turns and operates a mechanism inside the door. Finally, the only one for which I have a picture to show, is a plain, old-fashioned bolt.

Toileting - Lock 1

Public toilets are generally pretty good quality. Quite a few had damp floors in the stalls, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was because it was raining most of the time we were there. Aside from that, they were pretty clean, and had all the necessary parts. A few in more remote places seemed a bit ramshackle, but only once did we have a no-toilet-paper problem. Privately-owned toilets (mostly on Catholic-owned sites) have a fee of two shekels; we only encountered two or three of these, though (and didn’t go in).

In short, public toilets in Israel are better than public toilets in Australia. I went to the toilet in a town called Buninyong (you can tell it’s rural Australian) the other weekend which didn’t even have toilet seats!

Outside the toilet stall, the only other thing to note is the taps, which for the most part prefer to come straight out from the wall and hover about a foot above the rim of the sink. They’re mostly operated by a single knob and emit freezing cold water (I’m sure it’s warmer in summer). The hotels preferred to have those awful swivel-temperature-control taps. And I encountered one or two sensor-taps in places like the Israel Museum and the airport.

Toileting - Tap

Another thing which should be mentioned about sinks is that many public sinks in Israel come equipped with a large two-handled cup chained to the tap. After spending the whole trip wondering about it, I Googled it after my return and discovered that the cups are part of a mivkeh-avoiding purification ritual.

It’s not really related to toileting, but I lack enough pictures to post on the matter, so I’ll talk about service stations (petrol stations? gas stations?) here, although I only went into one and didn’t go to the toilet there.

Basically, there are three major chains of service station in Israel, each with a seemingly inseparable café chain attached. The first, which seems to be most common around the coastal plains area, is called Sogol (the café is So Good), which is white-based with a large red flower. The second, which was more common around Galilee and the Golan in particular, was red-based, and I can’t recall the name of it.

The third, which I saw more of down south, was called Petz (or some other vowel), and was yellow-based, with an appropriately-named Yellow café chain attached.

Service Station - Petz Yellow

I think I’ll just about leave this post here, since there’s not really much else to say on the toileting front. I’ll move on to less awkward matters on the next post, but before then, feel free to check out my observations in toileting in the USA.

I know some nationalities seem to think “toilet” is a rude word, but perhaps many don’t realise just how toilets (and the accoutrements surrounding them) change from country to country.

In England, many toilets still flush with a chain, while in German and Europe, some come with a “shelf” upon which you may inspect your leavings. In America, toilets have seats split at the front and are filled to within a few inches of the top with water, while in Hong Kong (Airport), they flush by means of a foot-lever. In rural Australia, the toilet might not flush at all, but simply drop leavings and paper down a long, long hole to decompose. (The more modern ones include special chemicals to reduce smell and quicken the decomposition process).

And that’s just the sit-toilets. The world is peppered with squat-toilets, from France and Italy to Singapore and Korea. Some toilets in India have extra-wide seats with foot-grips to allow squat-toilet-users to do so on sit-toilets. In Singapore, as with many countries with high Muslim populations, toilets include a small tap or shower-head on a bendy pipe to allow for washing.

And it occurs to me as I type these last two paragraphs that I may have an unhealthy obsession with toilets.

A Quick Weekend Jaunt

Abair turas mor! What a long journey!

Sorry for the delay in another post (I know you’re all waiting with bated breath to see whether I actually got home or whether the ‘plane crashed somewhere perhaps over Mount Gambier), but for much of the latter half of last week I was completely incoherent with jet-lag, and for the last fifty hours, I’ve been in a car.

Well, I haven’t been in a car for all of it, but I have been for about twenty hours of it, which means I’ve spent just as long in a car this weekend as I did in an aeroplane last weekend. And didn’t get nearly as far.

It was entirely my fault, of course, as I didn’t have to go and I chose to.

And, unfortunately, I left my camera at home (again – this is becoming a habit) so I don’t have any pictures to share with you of the trip (the scenery isn’t nearly as exciting or rapidly-changing as in Israel). However, I may or may not be making the trip again in two or three weeks, so there may be pictures then.

What’s happening is that my sister is going to uni interstate (nearish Melbourne) this year, which is probably an 8-hour trip if you speed and don’t stop for food or the toilet. With the academic year starting in a few weeks, we went over this weekend to sus out student housing for her. And found a rather good houseshare, it has to be said, for all of the five daytime hours we spent at our destination.

That’s enough of cars for a while, I think.

Funnily enough, Adelaideans travelling to Melbourne for the weekend isn’t particularly remarkable. And I mean, it’s not like you live in Jerusalem and you’re going to Tel Aviv or Ber Sheva for the weekend (yes, I’m still comparing everything to Israel, as in Israel I was comparing everything to Australia). After all, the trip from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv is probably about forty-five minutes in rush hour. It’s not even like you live in Glasgow and you’re going to London for the weekend – although it would probably take about as long by car, it’s not neatly as far.

I’ve been telling myself for a few years now that Australians drive distances, and no Australians bat an eyelid at it. We drove from Dallas to Iowa City and barely thought anything of it as we did it over three days – but the locals we mentioned it to were amazed! Then again, I had a conversation with a lady in a shop in Tiberia who was amazed that we’d come “all the way” from En Gev to visit her shop. That was about 16km as the bird flies (about 30km by road). Yeah, I literally go that far by road to do the weekly shopping. Although admittedly it would be only about 16km to my nearest supermarket.

But one of the people we spoke to near Melbourne thought we were crazy for driving that far for the weekend (it’s ten hours one way). “I’d fly!” he said. But flying’s more expensive. And more difficult to do at the last minute.

“We wouldn’t drive to Sydney for the weekend,” we told him, “That’s two days. But Melbourne – no-one thinks anything of it.”

Which is true. If you mention a weekend jaunt to Melbourne to someone in Adelaide, the most involved response you’ll get is, “Stop every two hours for a rest and don’t leave at 4am to get there at lunch time.”

The truth is, whenever there’s a football game involving one of our teams in Melbourne, thousands of Adelaideans leave on Friday night to drive to Melbourne for a Saturday night game and then drive back on a Sunday. The trip simply isn’t remarkable. The road is dead straight. You don’t even have to turn off at any point – just slow down now and then to go through the odd town.

That doesn’t make it any less wearing, though – although I do think I’ve conquered my jet-lag. That’s what I was hoping would happen with going along on the trip – exhausting days in the car and early mornings at motels near major freeways with thin curtains and no soundproofing. Eastward jetlag always hits me harder and the four nights I’d already had at home hadn’t seemed to have done anything to help it.

So, there you have it. Yes, I got home safely. Then I left again. Now I’m back. At some point, I’ll have to get myself sorted for uni.

The Last Day – Bet Tzion (Negev)

Back on the bus, and after seeing a marvellous sunset which we totally failed to capture on camera, we were let in on the surprise we had been promised.

The truth is, most of us had a fair idea what the surprise was, but we hadn’t let on to Yuval and Tzion, and acted excited and surprised when they told us.

Discerning Hebrew-understanding readers will recognise that the title of this post, ‘Bet Tzion’, means ‘Tzion’s house’, and that’s where we were going!

Map - Bet Tzion

Tzion lives in a city called Ofaqim, about fifteen minutes from Ber Sheva, with his wife and two daughters. One was too shy to come down.

01 - Tzion's Family

Tzion with his wife, Tamar, and younger daughter, Shai. Shai is seventeen and goes to school at a kibbutz nearby. It’s more expensive but apparently the education there is much better. She speaks pretty flawless English, but with an American accent. She can speak with an RP accent but says she has to concentrate harder.

She’s pretty excited about her service next year and wants to stay on for longer and become “a warrior”. I think she might have translated that wrongly. Her older sister is 22 and finished her service a while ago. She wasn’t too keen on it and became a field nurse, and is now working in a hospital.

Tamar had put lots of snack foods and drinks out for us.

02 - Food

After staying for about an hour at Tzion’s house, and then left to make our way back to Tel Aviv.

Map - Airport

The trip to the airport took about an hour. I was a little worried about facing security again, but it all went smoothly, and we were in the waiting lounge for about an hour before leaving. I went and bought a bottle of water and a bar of chocolate. There were Ritter there, which is my favourite, and another group member bought a block, but I thought, “Why buy something here I can buy at home?” (and they didn’t have my favourite flavour), and bought some Israeli chocolate. That was a slight mistake, since apparently the Israeli taste in chocolate has been influence buy American chocolate, so it had that sour milk taste.

I later squished it by sleeping on it in Bangkok.

The Last Day – Ber Sheva (Negev)

After Matsada, we drove south-west for about an hour to reach Ber Sheva (Beersheba).

Map - Ber Sheva

We start at Tel Ber Sheva, which is basically much like any other tel we’ve been to, to be honest.

01 - Tel Ber Sheva

Except that it had a facsimile of the four-horned altar found there.

02 - Four-Horned Altar

This altar in particular is mentioned somewhere in the Old Testament, I think Kings somewhere, but I can’t remember where exactly (if it were mentioned).

The gates were pretty standard.

03 - City Gates

We climbed up a small tower to get a view of the landscape.

04 - Old City

the Old City of Beer Sheba

05 - Charge of the Light Horse

the Charge of the Light Horse happened on the green area between the Old City and the New City. That area is where the Ottoman incarnation of Ber Sheva was.

After climbing back down to the carpark, we drove into the modern Ber Sheva, which wasn’t far away. People kept saying it was a town of no more than half-a-million (a small town of half-a-million?!!) but there were lots of apartment buildings going on for ages.

Ber Sheva is a booming university town.

Finally, we reached Australia Park. It’s actually funded by an Australian company and has been specifically designed for special-needs children. If a special-needs group books it, the entire park is closed and made secure for them.

07 - Australia Park

At the far end is the Charge of the Light Horse memorial.

08 - Memorial

There were at least twelve brigades of Light Horseman from across Australia and New Zealand who were fighting in this area in WW1. Two of them, 4 and 12, made the charge and took Ber Sheva back from the Ottomans – so something that the Crusaders failed to do, and Napoleon failed to do, to win Israel back from the Muslims, was achieved by about 800 boys from farms in a country only 16 years old.

09 - Me

Taking Ber Sheva opened the way all the way up to Jerusalem, so Australians and Kiwis were some of the first people to set foot in Jerusalem after the Ottomans.

Not surprisingly, there’s going to be a massive ceremony here in the latter half of next year, with modern ANZAC soldiers dressed in period uniform.

We went a little Australia-crazy.

10 - Australian Nelson10 - Australian Jacqui


The Last Day – Matsada (Dead Sea)

Today began slow and leisurely. Some of us went “floating” and then packed in a panic. I spent the morning wrestling with the internet and then saying goodbye to a few items of clothing and some lollies.

01 - Goodbye

That includes a dress, two petticoats, two pairs of socks, and a pair of leggings. Most of it I don’t care about, but I’m still trying to convince myself abandoning that dress was the right thing to do.

Anyway, we then headed back up north to Matsada, which we’d caught a glimpse of yesterday.

Map - Matsada

02 - Matsada

Matsada is another of Herod the Great’s building projects, a hill fort which was later used as a last refuge for the Jewish resistance against the Romans.

03 - The Green Koala

the “Green Koala” tells you to put cans and bottles in the bin

We met a tour guide originally from Melbourne who was rather excited to see us.

We saw a short movie, and then caught the cable-car up to the top.

About one thousand Jewish rebels sheltered here for about three years until 74AD.

04 - Storeroom

Herod had left full storerooms…

08 - Water Cistern

… and water cisterns.

The Romans built eight camps around the fortress to intimidate them.

06 - Roman Camp

As we stood at the top, we saw some military planes flying below us. Apparently a lot of people come here to practice flying because it’s a long stretch of below sea level, which means the instruments don’t work properly.

Eventually the Romans built a land bridge and put a battering ram against the wall. The remaining rebels made the decision to commit mass suicide rather than become slaves.

Yuval kept saying, “But who won? Who won?” This seems a bit of a silly question to me, because almost 2000 years later, there’s no Roman Empire, but there is a state of Israel.

But there was a good view from the top.

05 - View

There were quite a number of school groups there.

Most of us caught the cable car back down…

11 - Cable Car Stats

… but some walked.

10 - Stairs

At the bottom, we had lunch. I bought a pomegranate and a passionfruit slushy for 35 shekels (about $12).

12 - Before

13 - After