A Travellerspoint blog

Down to Tel Aviv

Today we headed south from the Galilee, mostly through the coastal plain, to Tel Aviv. Along the way, we stopped at Sepphoris (Tzippori in Hebrew).

Sepphoris is quite a spectacular site. It doesn't have all the arches and pillars found in other places. But you can look out over the dig and see the layout of the ancient city, including its main street and intersection. The city has a fascinating history, not least because it remained a center of Jewish life and learning well into the Byzantine era. Evidently, churches and synagogues flourished there until the time of the Islamic conquest. It would have been fascinating to spend hours there, going through the site with a guidebook, but it was not to be. I even skipped walking down to see the mosaic floor of the old synagogue, as I didn't feel like climbing all the steps back in the heat. I rather regret this. However, the mosaic floor of a Roman villa is most impressive. It includes a panel people often call the "Mona Lisa of the Galilee."

On the way, we drove through Haifa, where we could see its huge port. Haifa is a city where Jews and Arabs still live together and interact normally, an increasingly rare situation in Israel. While there, we got off the bus briefly to take pictures of the spectacular Baha'i gardens that sweep down the mountain toward the sea.

We stopped briefly at a sandwich place along the way, where we had excellent beef shawarma, and then it was on to Caesarea. Two years ago, we spent well over an hour here. This time, our guides actually considered skipping it due to the overwhelming heat and the lack of shade. But we gave it 20 or 30 minutes, and it is of course as gorgeous as ever, with the golden ruins and sand spread out along the Mediterranean. Caesarea is an artificially constructed port, part of the many projects of Herod the Great. It includes an amphitheater, hippodrome, gladiator arena, temples, and Herod's villa, complete with a swimming pool that connects to the sea.

Finally, after driving through Old Jaffa, we arrived in Tel Aviv. We stopped briefly at the site of Itzak Rabin's assassination. Yuval made the somber observation that this might be the only time in history where someone really did change the course of history through assassination. Very sad indeed.

After checking in to our hotel, we walked through the neighborhood in search of one of Yuval's restaurant recommendations. As was the case in Jerusalem, we were not disappointed. We went to Ernesto's, a really authentic Italian place. Marty and I shared an incredible antipasto of a huge pile of arugula topped with bresaola, all of which we piled on foccaccia. Then we had pasta. Mine was with olive oil, mushrooms, and capers. As we sat there, several other people from our group came in. All agreed that it was a great place. After all our travels, I think lots of people craved Italian food. Two years ago, I ate by the sea in Jaffa and really loved it. But I was not disappointed to stay near the hotel and see a bit of contemporary Tel Aviv.





Mona Lisa of the Galilee

Mona Lisa of the Galilee

Posted by mlld3536 17:00 Archived in Israel

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