We celebrated 71 years of Israel’s independence earlier this month. We joined thousands of Modiin’s residents to watch a fireworks display in the park.
It was a spectacular display, as usual, and we enjoyed all three parts of the show. I took my tripod with me to attempt some longer exposure photography of the fireworks. I switched to my 18-55mm kit lens, and I think the photos came out fairly nicely.
Yom HaAtzmaut starts at the end of Yom HaZikaron, a memorial day for soldiers and Israelis who died in terror attacks. This year, I decided to learn our national anthem, HaTikva, so I could participate when the anthem was sung at memorial events.
I learned it a few years ago, and then forgot most of the words since then. Having a better understanding of the words in this short anthem made a real difference (as you’d expect). It’s a beautiful anthem, and represents us as Israelis in so many ways.
We started off by taking a relatively new train to Jerusalem from the Ben Gurion Airport. This train takes about half an hour to reach Jerusalem, and shaves an hour (or more) off the previous train route that left from Tel Aviv.
We arrived at Yad Vashem at a pretty busy time. There were easily half a dozen tour buses there already.
We picked up two audio guides for a self-guided tour (although the guided tours are apparently really good too).
The main museum was pretty crowded, although the tour groups eventually moved past us as we walked through the exhibits describing the events leading up to, and the Holocaust itself in visceral detail.
Walking through the museum takes time, and I almost always felt like I was moments away from tears as I listened to the narrative describing how European Jews were first marginalised, dehumanised, and then eradicated in the many death camps they were shipped to like cattle.
It took us three hours to make our way through the exhibits, and each step reinforced why Israel is so important. Having our own country with an effective military means that Jews are no longer subject to the whims of other nations who repeatedly return to old stereotypes, and prejudices.
What still alarms me (even though I know better), is that we see the same rhetoric being repeated in various countries as the Nazis used in the 1930s, and other groups used in the centuries that preceded them. It seems that some things never change. Some people seem to drift back to anti-Semitism when they need someone to blame.
From Yad Vashem, we made our way to the Old City, towards the Western Wall.
We arrived at the Wall after lunch at a nearby schwarma place, and during preparations for Yom HaZikaron (our memorial day for soldiers and victims of terror attacks) two days later.
This photo of these three men sitting, facing the Wall reminded me of a previous visit where I saw three monks leaning over the railing, looking at the Wall and it’s visitors.
From here, we made our way back out of the Old City towards the train station, and home.
We had national elections in Israel this last Tuesday, 9 April. Elections days are public holidays in Israel, so we took advantage of the day off to have a family outing. We decided to head to the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.
I had been to the museum a couple times with our kids, but this was the first time we all went as a family.
There’s a lot to like about this museum. There are a number of static exhibits, and new exhibits that arrive from time to time.
By the time we arrived at the museum, it was almost lunchtime, so we had an early lunch at a restaurant just outside the museum called Anina. The food is pretty good, albeit it a little pricey.
The museum is more like a campus comprising various buildings housing exhibits, with a number of outdoor exhibits too. We started off in the Kadman exhibit that basically traces the origins of money both in the region, and in general, leading up to the New Israeli Shekel that we use today in Israel.
The Glass Pavilion is pretty impressive too. We pretty much had the hall to ourselves. There was a fun exhibit documenting aspects of Israeli society with glassware, along with a variety of other pieces.
One of the highlights of this exhibit was a suit of armour made from glass.
The photographer, David Rubinger, the Israel Prize laureate for Communication who died last year was one of a small selected group of photographers whose works are etched on local and international memory. His endeavor began at the end of the enlisted “Zionist photography” period, that dominated the local photography scene until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
I really enjoyed this exhibit. Looking at his photographs, I’m reminded that you don’t need the best of modern cameras to create meaningful, even profound, images.
We had an interesting experience when we stepped outside the exhibit. I took a little longer inside, and my wife and kids were waiting for me on a bench outside. I wanted to take a photo or two of the three of them on the bench, and we were interrupted by the exhibit’s usher who wanted us to rather take photos with some flowers she planted in the background.
This turned into a bit of a “lost in translation” family photo opportunity when the usher took my camera, and then spent a good 10 to 15 minutes getting us into position. My wife wrote about the experience on her blog:
One of the benefits of this experience with the usher was that she pointed us to another exhibit I hadn’t visited before. The Ethnography and Folklore exhibit is is a rich exhibit of Judaica that includes a recreation of an 18th century Italian synagogue, complete with its original doors, and ark.
We wandered through a couple of other exhibits along the way, including a flour mill, an olive oil press, and a few outdoors features.
It’s easily one of my favourite vacation destinations. There are a couple of other really great museums in the area, so if you’re looking for something to do, definitely consider spending a few hours at the Eretz Israel Museum.
I especially like how it was an interview with Israelis living in Tekoa, a settlement town, by an Israeli. If you’re interested in what seems to be a pretty honest perspective from Israelis living in one town, it’s worth watching this:
I also enjoyed the Vox documentary series (1, 2, 3) about Israeli settlements. Most of the documentaries I’ve watched tend to present pretty dramatic, skewed perspectives of the settlements, and the Vox documentaries seem to be more balanced, given my experiences in Israel so far.
Israel’s first, private lunar lander is on its way to the Moon after a successful launch onboard the SpaceX Nusantara Satu mission. If our lander makes it to the lunar surface, Israel will be the fourth nation to land on the Moon, and the first country to land SpaceIL‘s privately built spacecraft.