Trips to Yad Vashem and Akko

(16th September 2003)

Dear friends,

slowly I'm approaching the end of my traineeship at the Tel Aviv University and although I enjoyed (and still enjoy) my time here very much, I'm also looking forward now to return to Germany and to my friends there.

For this weekend, I first planned to go to Eilat at the Red Sea but while discussing with the other trainees, we decided together to postponed it by one week. Instead, I went together with the two other German trainees who are in Tel Aviv to the holocaust museum and memorial site "Yad Vashem" on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It is a huge area dedicated to the memory and remembrance of the six million jews that died during the holocaust in whole Europe. Although this fact is well known, the museum really makes a big impression on the visitor and touches his soul and heart. The museum gives many examples from single persons, how they lived and experienced the holocaust and how some people managed to survive. And although we had planned to visit some other places, we did not do much more because we've had enough information and impressions for one day. When back in Tel Aviv, I took a short trip to the beach to enjoy the warm water of the Mediterranean Sea. Then I went to bed rather early because I wanted to get up early the next day.

So I get up around 6:30am and had to take a taxi to the central bus station from where the "sheruts" taxis are started that bring you very fast from one city to another and are very cheap. From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (65km), it costs 5 EUR, from Tel Aviv to Haifa (90km) the price is 7.5 EUR. And what I liked best about them is that they start as soon as all seats are occupied which usually doesn't take more than 10-15min. So one does not have to follow strict schedules but can go whenever one wants to. And these inter-urban taxis run even on shabat where they are the only public transportation means. Another really great thing is that these "sherut" taxis stop whereever there is someone who wants to get on or off. So they are very flexible and one of the preferred means of transportation.

Akko is a small town that was first mentioned 1500 years BC in Egyptian papyrii. Later Greeks, Romans, Arabs, the crusaders, mamelukes, beduins and Turkish came and imposed their way of life on the city. Nowadays, a lot of effort has been made to expose all the traces from these different periods in the history of the city. The crusaders used Akko as their main port and fortified the whole city and built a large castle/fortification in Akko. When the Arabs finally took the city back from the crusaders, they distroyed most of the crusader's buildings to make sure they won't come back. Many rooms and halls where simply filled with rubble and stones and the citadel was built on top of the ruins of the crusader's castle. Little by little these things are rediscovered and excavated and one can now see a lot of leftovers from the crusader's time. And the city seems to have a lot of secrets still hidden below the current city; just four years ago, in 1999, a long tunnel from the Templers was discovered crossing underneath the houses close to the harbour. We also visited the "Al Jazzera" mosque and an old storage complex which was used when Akko still was an important harbour and the main trading place for many goods on the border between the occident and the orient. I came back with a lot of pictures (have a look at my homepage) and many new impressions.

During the week, I'm at the university during the day and meet my Israeli friends quite often and they show me nice places (pubs/cafes) in Tel Aviv where we sit and have discussions. Not surprisingly, most of the discussions circle around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of the different groups and nations in this. And the more I talk with my friends and follow the news from Israel much closer than usual (thanks to English editions of the two major Israeli newspapers "Ha'aretz" and "Jerusalem Post") the more I understand that it is a very very difficult conflict and both sides have very strong opinions that cannot be easily overcome. I can understand some aspects on both sides but I feel it is really very difficult to make up my own understanding of the conflict.

For my last 10 days in Israel, I simply hope that the Israeli army I.D.F. (Israeli Defense Forces) will not attack Arafat because the Palestinian extremist's group have already warned that this would be the start of a huge wave of suicide and other attacks on all parts of the Israeli society.

Even though the tension is increasing during the last days, here in Ramat Gan where I'm living (a part of Tel Aviv north of the center), one does not see any changes in public life. Of course I will be even more careful now than before to avoid situations which are potentially dangerous.

With my best regards and best wishes for all of you !