Israel, Part 1.

I decided that you can go to any site on Israel and see the same photos of the same famous places over and over again, so I am only going to show pictures that are important to me or have an interesting story to go with it. And I’m breaking it up into several parts so you can enjoy it in chunks.

Most of Israel is not what you would call “pretty”, at least not architecturally. It’s all built in the Bauhaus style, and some of it is excellent examples of Bauhaus, but most buildings are merely Bauhaus-esque, and they look like Communist prison housing. The main problem is everything is made of stucco and cement, and I don’t know if you know this, but stucco and cement need a great deal of upkeep to prevent them from looking like crap. They stain with rust and mold and they crack and when you spackle the crack it never matches the original color, etc. So the buildings, while structurally sound, look terrible. Here’s an example.

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My mom was born in Israel and this is the first apartment she ever lived in. She was born in 1936, so one can assume that this building is from the early 30s. It don’t look so good.

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I bet you’re wondering why the street signs are in English. It’s because for a chunk of time, about 1920 to 1948, Palestine was a British mandate. So all the signs are in Hebrew and English, or Arabic and English.

Israel has an interesting situation. There are cats running all over the place. Just hanging out, being catlike. Don’t belong to anyone. Some are feral and skittish, but a couple seemed to like people and meowed at me and would sit next to me on park benches and whatnot. I made a composite image of some of the kitties that crossed my path.

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Here’s another neat thing: It was the 60th anniversary of Israel, and the major newspaper printed a million and a half Israeli flags and gave them away in the newspapers so people could hang them outside their windows. The problem is they had them printed in China and apparently they didn’t explain how to orient the star in the middle. Long story short, all the flags are wrong. The newspaper gave them away anyway and people did hang them and it looked really amusing. Here is picture of both the correct and incorrect flags. The big one is the wrong one.

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One day we went to Ceasarea, which is this gorgeous port town from the time of the Romans. It had several nasty earthquakes (Israel lies on a major line between two tectonic plates) and so there’s just ruins. The entire time I was looking at this well I was glad there was a grate over it, because it would have been so tempting to yell “THIS IS SHPAAAAAAATAAAAA!!” and then kick some elderly tourist into it.

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I thing I found funny was the use of exclamation marks on signs. Some signs require them, don’t get me wrong:

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Like that one. But then there was this sign:

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Why does “Things That Will Blow Up When You Step On Them” get one exclamation point, but “Be Careful, It Could Be A Bit Slippy” get three? I would give the mine sign like, twenty exclamation points. And a big neon arrow pointing to it and blinking on and off.

The water in Israel is desalinated, so while I don’t mind the taste, most people do and so they mainly drink bottled water. They have really cute and beautiful bottle collection boxes all over Tel Aviv.

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Happy happy flowered recycling containers.

Jaffa is an extremely old city near Tel Aviv. It’s also an artist’s colony. They have these really cool street signs in the artist’s colony. Each street is named after a sign of the zodiac. And they have these lovely handmade ceramic signs stuck in the wall to tell you where you are.

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So this is Sagittarius Street.

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And outside #8 Sagittarius Street, this is on the side of the house. Isn’t that a charming way to organize a neighborhood?

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More to come tomorrow.

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