Travel

Explore The Galilee In Northern Israel

ON my biennial trek to Israel, I always gravitate to the holy city of Jerusalem to rejuvenate my soul, bask in the artistic environs of secular Tel Aviv to sharpen my artistic senses, and on occasion journey through the parched Negev, alongside the Dead Sea, to reach Eilat where I partake of its hedonistic fun in the sun.

In January I had an opportunity to explore some of the interesting sites in the long neglected northern part of the country, as part of a press trip sponsored by the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA) and hosted by EL AL and the Israel Ministry of Tourism. It was an exhilarating 10-day sojourn in the Holy Land, quite educational, informative and exhausting. I filled up two notebooks and two memory cards to bring you these reports.

AKKO

FAMOUS as the Crusader underground city, Akko (Acre) has survived many conquerors including Canaanites, Romans, Christians, Turks and British until resurrected by the modern Hebrews in 1948. Fortunately the historic site has survived my excursion as well.

Crusader crypt 1290

Akko port, built during the reign of Ptolemais II (285-246 BCE), was the original gateway to the Israel hinterland. In the 13th century it was the capital of the Crusader kingdom in the Holy Land. After it was overrun by the Ottoman Turks it languished for many centuries as a fisherman’s harbor.

Crusader underground latrine

With the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War One, Great Britain ruled Palestine with a mandate from the League of Nations. The Brits turned the Akko Citadel (built by the Turks in the late 18th century on 13th century Crusader foundations) into its main prison in the north. The captives included hundreds of members of Jewish fighting forces like the Irgun and Haganah.

Here Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky was held in 1920, and nine Jewish underground fighters were executed on the gallows. The mass escape of Irgun hostages in 1947 was recreated here for the film Exodus.

Today the old port thrives with boutiques, jewelry shops, restaurants, museums and of course, fishing boats. After touring the Crusader parts, you’ll end up in the marketplace (souk, shuk), not a bad place to end the day.

Jewish prisoners broke out from the British prison in the Akko Citadel
Subterranean Crusader Halls
Men of Safed

SAFED

Safed (Tsfat), the highest town in Israel, has long been known as a prime destination for kabbalists, holy men and of course hippies in search of their souls…or art. The artist colony here is amazing.

Nicky Imber escaped from Dachau and dedicated his artistic life to perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust, never to forget. His sculptures are exhibited in museums around the world and available at galleries in Safed.

There are renowned Kabbalist prayer halls in the Synagogue Quarter, including Joseph Caro, Abuhav and Ha’Ari.

Resources Israel & the Palestinian Territories (paper, 464 pages, Lonely Planet, ,$24.99Amazon.com Price: $16.94) is one of the most informative guides on the market. Replete with maps, choices of destinations, background information of historic sites, plus a foldout city map of Jerusalem which you can detach and carry in your pocket. The section on the Gaza Strip is fascinating, but why go when the book warns it’s an unstable place, with kidnappings taking place regularly, and most countries advise against travel there..
On the street of Safed
Colorful marketplace

YIGAL ALON MUSEUM

Yigal Alon Center

In Kibbutz Nof Ginosar, the Yigal Alon Center and Museum displays the remains of a well-preserved wooden sailing vessel that dates from the first century. Two brothers, fishermen from Kibbutz Ginosar, discovered the boat in 1986 in the mud of the nearby Sea of Galilee. The mystery remains: Did the boat belong to local fishermen or did Jesus and his disciples sail the Sea of Galilee, or was it used by Jews who fought the Romans here?

Katyusha rocket remnant in window of Joseph Caro

Jesus enlisted some of these fishermen to leave their nets and become his first disciples, “fishers of men.” The gift shop is stocked with souvenirs, such as a Crown of Thorns, spice boxes and Judaica that would appeal to Christian pilgrims.

The Jesus Boat (or is it?)
Crown of thorns in the gift shop