Israel FAM 2012
June 12th - 17th - 2012  

Tuesday June 12th  

After I finished up with my Italy tour this past June, I decided to also visit a couple of other countries to check them out for a possible tour. I didn’t know what to expect, certainly wondered how many gardens I would find in Israel and would they be good enough for a tour. I am so pleased to say that I was thrilled with what I discovered. Just in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv there is enough to work with…but I wanted a bit more so saw Haifa and the Dead Sea. Now on the 2014 tour that I have coming up there is still more being added…that is the beauty of trips like this. We see, make changes and additions and come up with what I think will create some of the most memorable experiences you will ever have.

My 2014 tour will be limited to no more than 20 people. These 20 people will see a country that is vibrant, young, happy, helpful and oh so beautiful. If you have never been here before, you are in for a very pleasant surprise. The tour is scheduled for April 27th to May 6th, 2014 With the hotels I have chosen for you – one of them is in a Kibbutz – you are in for a very pleasant and special surprise.
Email me at donna@icangarden.com  to be put on the list to receive the tour information as soon as I get it done….Donna

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Tuesday, 12th June, 2012
(Overnight, Jerusalem)
I arrived into Jerusalem and from the airport taken to my hotel.


Wednesday, 13th June
(Overnight, Jerusalem)

Before our visit to the Jerusalam Botanical Gardens, I discovered that they also had a fantastic garden center so we spent some time in there before meeting our guide. This garden center has so many plants in it that we grow…you will see many you recognize. The nice thing about this garden center is all the plants are grown in Israel.

You go through a gate to go into the botanical gardens and once in are greeted with such green and colour it is breathtaking. The Pennisetum glacum stood up proudly as we arrived…and mixed with the Echinacea in that stunning shade of orange was a real welcome. We began our journey with a visit to an authentic burial niche. Here I saw a burial chest that would have been used by the Jews around 20-15 BCE. The niches you see are original. They would prepare the bodies and they would lay here for at least a year until the bones could be collected and placed in these ossuaries. Ossuaries were often embellished with vine leaves and grapes, fig leaves and figs, lilies and pomegranates.

On to discover other delights…like the Banksia ashbyi with its gorgeous orange flower. The tropical green houses full of plants. The next beauty was the Xanthorrhoea or grass tree at 150 years old here. When they got it, it stayed in quarantine for 3 years. I think this is the species johnsonii. Rosemary and lavender plants are every where.

The team running the garden now as so passionate. Sue Surkes, Director of Development is originally from England and has so many wonderful ideas on how to grow this garden to showcase its full potential. It’s happening…3 years ago they had 80,000 visitors and now they have 200,000 visitors a year coming to enjoy the bounty, learn about plants and the various areas in this garden (by the new signage), and enjoy the meals in the beautiful restaurant. On her business card it reads, ‘A place where plants grow people’ right on the mark.

I did not know that Israel had over 2300 native species of plants, nor did I know that 414 of them were on the endangered list. The garden is arranged in phytogeographic sections, featuring flora of various regions around the world. The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1985. The tropical conservatory opened in 1986 and the South Africa section was planted in 1989. The Hank Greenspan Entrance Plaza, Dvorsky Visitors’ Center and restaurant were built in 1990.

We then visited the Wohl Rose Garden to get an idea of what it was like…it was past the major bloom time of April but just seeing what was there gave me an idea of what roses it held. I took photos of the powerpoint so that you can get an idea of what they have here. I also took some photos of some of the roses that were still displaying their beauty.

Then it was lunch time and what a nice place for a gardener to enjoy lunch…a garden center. Had the most delicious meal here surrounded by people and plants…delightful! It had the prettiest jacaranda in bloom. Itamar is a definite place to eat on our tour. It was so bizarre to see historic areas like the Dome of the Rock, and then behind it a row of these huge apartment buildings…such an incredibly unique city.

I checked out our hotel too…the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel. You will not be disappointed! From the moment you step into the lobby you are greeted with flowers…the rooms are lovely and big and just minutes from old Jerusalem. A perfect hotel for my guests.

In the evening I was treated to a very special event…the Festival of Lights. On the way to this we had to pass through a wonderful shopping plaza filled with sculptures from local artists and of course so many shops. I loved so many of these sculptures! One of the buildings stands out for obvious reasons…I ask why the numbers on the bricks…. This was Steimatzky’s book shop which is in a building taken apart and rebuilt brick by numbered brick. Known as Herzl’s House (the Zionist leader stayed there for one night), the bookstore-cum-café includes Herzl memorabilia, including his trademark hat. This area is fascinating…especially at night when the soft lights illuminate the old city. It is surreal to stand here among the Tower of David and thoughts of Kind David and the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon play in my mind. Designed by Israel-US architect Moshe Safdie, the renovated boulevard, complete with original facades fronting ultra modern buildings, provides a vibrant thoroughfare from King David Street to the Jaffa gate.

Then from this mall to the souq or shuk where you could spend all day just seeing what was for sale…

And then there was the Western Wall or the wailing wall. Religious or not, it is very hard to not get emotional when seeing this wall in person and walking up to it and putting your hand on it….simply amazing and very emotional. I as on the ladies side which was not a packed as the mens side. Women were there sitting against the side with prayer books in hand, others were standing and slightly swaying forward and back, some had their hands over their faces…it was really something to see and appreciate. I also found out that the plants growing on the wall were the caper plants.

The we had to have something to eat…and so it was a gyro or what they call it in Israel, the shawarma. Classic, Israeli on the go food. In Israel, turkey or chicken is used with tahini as the sauce. Instead of serving the shawarma in a pita, most places in Jerusalem use a laffa – a large, thin pita – to wrap the meat and vegetables, then the whole thing is wrapped in paper so you can eat on the go. Mine even had French fries in it…totally filling and there was no way I could even eat half of it. That’s my story ?

The Festival of Lights was beautiful…different strings of coloured lights took you to the different areas where the festival lights themselves were…so follow the strings of lights and you could see all of them. We only saw two or three before leaving but it was amazing and full of families and children who were all in a happy mood watching the lights, snacking on the various foods and just enjoying the perfect night time temperatures.
 

 
 

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