Israel FAM 2012
June 12th - 17th - 2012  

Thursday June 14th  
(Overnight, Jerusalem)

Up the next morning to another jam packed day full of wonder…gosh I can’t believe what I saw yesterday and that was just the first day!

I started out the day driving to the Dead Sea and along the way I was treated to one of the most amazing sights…the desert and rolling hills all in this creamy colour sand. The landscape and the kibbutz’s spread along the way was an eye opener. These were the Bedouins, who mostly tended flocks of goats and sheep. I brought a scarf from one of them and also took a picture of another with his camel.

The palms you see are date palms…nothing in the desert on the way to the Dead Sea except groves of date palms…fully laden with ripening dates.

We had arrived at Ein Gedi Botanical Gardens…wow, what can I say. In this landscape of sand and sea, nothing but a few native trees and then this oasis…like a mirage but it was real and so very inviting. As I walked around waiting for our guide I could not believe I was looking at the Dead Sea…that picture of turquoise blue water is the Dead Sea…and the white around the shoreline is the salt!! I have to get my head around this…what had I thought of when I was coming here…what colour would it be? Certainly not this incredible blue I was looking at. OK, back to the botanical gardens…I was staring at some beautiful plants right now and ones I had not seen before so I must put my mind to that.

This botanical garden is run by a kibbutz and is the only botanical garden in the world that integrates the homes of residents of the surrounding community. The landscape grounds of the kibbutz were recognized officially in 1994 as an International Botanical Garden. It is the only international botanical garden to have a community resident in it, which is a tribute both to the gardening staff and to the population of Ein Gedi. In fact the development of the botanical garden and Kibbutz Ein Gedi are inseparable. I saw the very beautiful Sodom Apple and the Baobab trees…also know as the tree of life. Also note that I was very lucky in being able to get a photo of two of the flowers.

There are several prominent varieties of flora found in Ein Gedi, including:

* Date and ornamental palm - the leading motif (approx' 30 species).
* A wide range of desert plants from throughout the world.
* Tropical flora from various rain forest regions, grown with no exceptional cultivation techniques.
* Local species, such as the Sodom Apple, Moringa and Tamarisk.
* Unusual trees from various tropical regions throughout the world (several of which, in Israel, are only found in Ein Gedi).
* Species referred to an ancient Jewish texts (such as the Myrrh and the Frankincense) which were then associated with Ein Gedi.
* The Cactus Garden - A place to visit at the end of the tour through the Botanical Garden. It includes more than 1000 species and serves as a source for the several small cactus gardens throughout the Kibbutz.

I cannot wait to show you what I saw…incredible. This visit will appeal to many who love trees because there are so many unusual ones from many different countries that live here and are happy.

After our visit here we then drove to the Dead Sea, not far from the gardens. I was amazed to hear from my guide just how much the sea has dried up. She pointed to markers on the high rocks on the highway we were on and said the sea used to be this high, but not anymore. As we parked and walked down, way down, to the sea it was very evident and sad to see just how much it has dried up. This article tells the sad tale

As I held on to a rail to help me go down to the water without slipping, I was in such awe of this sea…its colour the shade of deep blue and as the water came closer to the shoreline, it changed to turquoise because of the salt laying just under the shoreline and along the shore. Inches thick. I put my hand into the water and it came out slippery and then tasted it. Wow, it burned on my tongue, it was so salty. Young people we in the water and as I watched I laughed because laying on their stomachs their legs went up and laying on their backs, they didn’t move, literally laying on top of the water. I didn’t have a chance to go into the water except for my hand but may well do it on the next visit. I took a photo of the sign to read before you go into the water but I also learned of another thing that you should not do before going into the water…shave. That goes for both men and women. I cannot begin to think of the pain that would ensue putting freshly shaven skin into this water. You would never forget that experience.

We drove into a nature reserve just for a few short minutes and in that time saw many ibex…beautiful animals. The other animal I saw a few of was the rock hyrax – cute and fun to watch but they run so fast it is hard to get a good photo of them.

Then another quick stop into Ahava. I knew that my tour guests would want to get up close and personal with some of the products from the Dead Sea and think this one will offer them not only the products but a good background on the production and their environmental responsibility

On our way back into Jerusalem I got a few more photos of highway stands selling pots and garden related items. Even one of a wedding car decked out…this is about as fancy as it gets here…

After getting back to the hotel for a quick shower and rest it was out again to the famous Machanei Yehuda Market. Many were out picking up food items for Sabbath tomorrow evening so it was a great time to see what the locals were buying and taking home with them. I found this market so wonderful and lively. Just look at the variety available. Look at those tiny little pineapples and the cherries were delicious. So was the halva. Mine had cranberries and nuts in it. Fresh figs, all kinds of breads and special items for Sabbath. Also must tell you that they wine shops were really busy. Plenty of other shops including kitchen shops. Lovely cafes to sit at and enjoy an iced coffee. Leather goods, jewelry and flower shops…such a great place. Know you will love it as I did.

We finished off the day with a beautiful kosher meal and a view to take your breath away…that of the old walls of Jerusalem. The evening show of lights was just starting…..


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