Friday, November 25, 2005

Whirlwind W Week in Israel

Over the course of a week, W met his second cousin Dany Rasz in Haifa, visited the Golan Heights, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, placed his hand in the hole where the cross had been placed in Jerusalem, swam in the Dead Sea, and further integrated specialized software for a remote controlled catheter system with an Israeli firm. Purple and blue traces show where W travelled in Israel.

Meanwhile life went on in Israel. There was a border skirmish with Lebanon thirty miles away and Ariel Sharon resigned from his Likud party in order to further his goals of disengaging from the Palestinians.
Due to his recently sprained ankle, W traveled to Israel while walking on crutches and using a wheelchair in the airport. This provided a new perspective on travel, and aside from slowing things down a bit, was not too trying. W was thrilled to discover that upon removal of his cast in his hotel room that he could walk with only a slight limp and would no longer require the crutches. The hospitality of the company that W visited could only be described as fit for a king. As soon as W and his colleague got off the airplane, even before passport control, they were met by a company representative, who whisked them through security to a waiting driver. The driver drove them two hours north to Haifa, a medium size city quite similar to La Jolla, California. One difference from La Jolla was that there are a few hotels on the top of the hill, one of which, the Dan Carmel, is where W stayed. The view from the hotel could only be described as spectacular; the Mediterranean could be seen on three sides, along with the not too distant mountains of Lebanon to the north. W was additionally impressed to note that he had been put up in the “Marc Chagall” suite; his room contained four Chagall prints signed by the artist.

The first evening W and his colleagues were invited to a dinner in the “German Colony” portion of Haifa to a very nice restaurant called 1867. With one exception, every restaurant that W went to during his stay in Israel had a security person sitting at the front. The next day W visited Biosense Webster Israel, which was the actual purpose of his trip. He called Dany Rasz, who is one the two sons of Aunt Leah, and found out that Dany Rasz owned a company only 300 meters from Biosense, and also that Dany had done some contract work for them. The evening featured a very sumptuous dinner at a restaurant called Neptune. A huge fish was served on a platter along with all manner of Middle Eastern salads and spreads, and other seafoods. None of the Biosense workers appeared to practice kosher eating practices, and indeed were thrilled to be eating shrimp and scallops.
View of Haifa, with W's travels overlaid

W’s weekend plan had been to rent a car and visit Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, but the Biosense representatives offered some tour possibilities and discouraged the idea of traveling by private car, so W and Paul took them up on this. Thus on the weekend W took a tour of Bible sites around the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights, followed the next day by a drive to the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. The Golan Heights was the most interesting to W, as he could see Syria and Jordan across mine fields and hear a lot about the history of the area from a veteran of the Six Days war. W began to space out on all the places that Jesus had been, feeling lucky that Jesus had only lived to age 33 or else he would have had to visit more places with the tour. Still there were interesting things to learn, how Jesus had traveled from Nazareth to Caphernaum so that he could preach where he wasn’t known simply as a carpenter, how there were so many Jewish laws that they could only be represented by the number of seeds in a pomegranate, and that the mall in nearby Haifa was nicknamed the “Scud mall” because that is where Saddam’s scud landed rather than on the oil refinery that it was aimed for in the Gulf war.

The drive to the Dead Sea was long but interesting as the crammed van (18 tourists) passed through some West Bank areas along the border between Jordan and Israel before arriving for a very brief visit to the northern end of the Dead Sea. W took a quick dip and found it saltier and cleaner than the Great Salt Lake of Utah. W revels in healthy Dead Sea mud

Then it was off to Jerusalem. W finally understood the big conflict there. Apparently Mohammed blasted off to heaven in almost the exact same place as Jesus, and the Romans destroyed the original huge Jewish temple that stood in almost the same place. The famous Wailing Wall was the only thing left where the temple had once been, and meanwhile the Muslims had gone ahead and built a mosque on top of it, since Mohammed had gone to heaven there. But this seemed to W to be the only thing that protected the Wailing Wall, since if somebody blew up the wailing wall, they would also blow up the mosque, and vice versa. W decided to slip a prayer in the wailing wall simply hoping that Muslims, Jews, and Christians could live together in peace. From there it was up the street to follow Via Delloroso, which is the road that Jesus carried his cross up. At the top was of course a church, apparently controlled by Greek orthodox Christians that contained the actual location of the crucifixion, and the burial place of Jesus (he was entombed and then resurrected three days later). At the coordinates of the crucifixion there was a shrine and a small hole that a person could put his hand into and feel the place where the cross had supposedly been pounded in. W wondered if he would receive any revelation as he inserted his hand, but came away with no grand spiritual awakening, but it was Saturday (Shabat), which is the holy day for Jews, rather than Sunday and perhaps this prevented any communication from getting through. No sooner had W walked away from the crucifixion than he was upon the site where Jesus had been encrypted. In contrast to other sites, this site had a long line required for visitation. After about 15 minute wait in a surging/pushing line, W finally was ushered in, but almost as quickly he had to be hustled out because somebody lit too many candles. A holy guy came rushing in to get the candles, and then there was a wait while more holy people went back to purify the area, and then W was allowed in. Finally, the tour was led to a german church, populated with actual Germans (in Israel?), this church was the place where Jesus had his last supper. This was simply a room, surprisingly bare of adornment, and with some Muslim writing and ancient (ca 500 AD) german graffiti in it.

Picture shows Efraim(?) (son of Dany), W, and Dany Rasz

W’s visit with Dany Rasz was extremely interesting. Dany met W at Biosense and they had lunch together at a nice seaside restaurant. W learned that Dany’s father Ernst had been an outstanding inventor and had come to Israel in 1934. There he invented some kind of device that could detect water underground using some kind of seismic analysis. The device was of enough interest that the King of Jordan invited Ernst to dinner in Jordan and they sat down together in a huge tent and ate food on the ground in the Arab manner with their hands. No slouch as an inventor himself, Dany took W to his company and showed him some of his own inventions which were extremely impressive and comprehensive, covering a wealth of technologies. W was most impressed by a video of a wheelchair that could go up and down stairs, using a very clever mechanism embedded inside the wheels.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Walter off to Israel, sprains ankle!

Walter has left for Israel. Unfortunately, shortly before leaving for Israel he sprained his ankle badly. It happened not because he was leaping for joy, but rather because he was retreating rapidly from the possibility of a swarm of stinging yellowjackets. W and N had noticed the strong evidence of a yellowjacket nest in the backyard, but were unable to find it due to thick weeds. W made the unwise decision to tell Renny about it. R, despite repeated commands from his father to cease and desist, could not resist, and raised a stick and beat the bushes where the yellowjackets were. At the same moment, the famous dog Bingo was being held by W so that he wouldn't unleash nerve-shattering barks at the 7 year old neighbor kid who was innocently asking "what'cha doing". W attempted to retreat rapidly with the dog in hand and as he came down some steps managed to severely sprain his ankle. Badly enough that he thought it might be broken and so it was off to the emergency room. There W received x-rays and a temporary cast and some crutches. W is looking on the bright side. He did not get stung. Posted by Picasa