From Istanbul, we took a short (but expensive) flight to Tel Aviv, where we were prepared for the infamous third degree inquiry from the Israeli border police. Surprisingly, they were more than happy to let us in... however, in order for us to leave, it would take some work. Because Gil was born in Israel and is technically a citizen, he is required to have a passport to enter and exit the country. Fortunately, the process was relatively painless, and it allowed us to spend a little more time with Gil's cousins Sveta and Yuri and their daughter, Masha in Natanya. We owe them a debt of gratitude for all of their kindness and hospitality, the delicious home-cooked meals, and of course, all of their excellent advice about traveling in Israel that helped make our time there so wonderful! Thank you!
From Natanya, we took a day-trip trip to Ceasaria, one of the oldest and most important ports in the region. The remains were really quite impressive and still under excavation. Highlights were the well preserved arena for chariot racing, the palace with fresh water swimming pool and the enormous community bath with beautiful tile mosaics. Thanks to Sveta abd Yuri, we also got to visit a beautiful hacienda-style museum housing a private collection of works by Spanish and Latin American artists, including several surreal Dali scupltures.
We also visited the beaches in Natanya and South Natanya. If this is the Holy Land, then God must really love the beach, because the beaches in Israel are nothing short of spectacular. Fine, blond sand as far as the eye can see, with gentle waves lapping the sea shore. With a large population of French Jews settled in this area, it is sometimes compared to the French Riviera. I haven't been, but would like to if the beaches are anything like this!