We have wireless! No more sitting on a park bench by the Mini-Golf restaurant, unless we choose to get a drink there.
The started off and everyone was tired (exhausted, almost), but that didn't deter us from our plans. We headed north to Tirat Carmel, which is just south of Haifa. Sima found a hike for us on the Internet. This one is not off the beaten path, but way off the beaten path. The instructions were to find the Pais Center and park in the parking lot and look for a green pole in the ground and take an unmarked path up the hill. Well, we found the Pais community center, but we really needed the Pais sport center. Not a big deal. We parked and the boys started scouting several paths up a hill in Park Mondheim. Mike didn't think they were looking in the right place and walked in the parking lot and found a sign indicating that the trailhead for Wadi Oranit and Oranit Caves started there. So, off we trudged up the hill up at a pretty steep incline. We felt like we conquered the hill after we meet up with the red path and made it to the crest, just to see another hill we needed to climb to get to the caves. Mike and Eitan decided that the garbage others left on the path was just too much so they started picking up other people's pach (Hebrew for garbage) - Marlboro packs, coke bottles, espresso cups (we kid you not). But, the garbage bag we brought for our own garbage was not big enough to hold all the litter. We made it to the Oranit caves - pretty dark and dusty but the views from there of Tirat Carmel, Ein Kedem, Haifa University and Mediterranean were spectacular. The directions then said to double back a bit and head down the steep face of the hill - on an unmarked path, to the valley below. We have no idea if we were on the right unmarked path, but we were on an umarked path. Actually, we found that our path was marked - by horses, and the kids really didn't like the idea of stepping in that or even smelling it. We made it down and picked up the junction of 2 other paths and made our way up another hill to where a natural spring comes out of the hill and joins a stream. The directions said that there was a pool in which to "bathe". We found it, through a hole in a concrete wall. We lifted the kids through and the 4 of them had a little walk alone down a path - about 10 feet. (We supported St. Louis-based Energizer by spending 80 shekels on 2 flashlights and 60 shekels on batteries, just for this hike.) We all ventured into a side tunnel and we found the source bubbling out of the wall. We took some great pictures. So, we then double backed (again) and aimed for Pais center to back to our car. Somehow we ventured onto a farm instead of crossing the stream bed and literally came face to face with a herd of cows, some goats and few horses. That wouldn't have been a problem except that Eitan was recently bit by a horse and really didn't like being that close to horses. So we quickly ventured across the stream bed and then we found ourselves at a barbed wire fence (with 3 other horses just down the path from us). Mike spotted a gate about 25 yards up so off through the thorn bushes to "safety". Oh, did we mention that many of the flowering plants in the Carmel region have lots of thorns. Our ankles, legs and hands (especially Naomi's) can attest to the many different types of thorns. The website said our hike should last 2.5 hours and that is exactly how long it took us.
Lunch of cheese and veggie sandwiches (again) and then onward to Akko (Acre). We drove through Haifa traffic and made it to the old city. Akko is an interesting spot for history and archaelogy - from a Phoenician city, to a crusader city, to a Muslim city (home of the 3rd most important mosque in Israel) and a place important to Bahai, to a British prison where Jabotinsky was imprisoned and 11 members of Lehi and Etzel were executed. We visited the British jail, which has been/is being restored to what it looked like at the time it was a jail. It was a little freaky in that they had full size metal statues of guards and as you we turned corners we all jumped a bit. Also, a little creepy in that the gallows are still there and the cells where the condemned prisoners are still there with a carving of the Etzel symbol made by one of the condemned. Below the courtyard, the authorities have excavated the crusader city - home to the Hospitaliers, including large halls, a church, a crypt, etc. It never ceases to amaze us how history is built upon history in this geographically small country. So many rich layers. The kids really reached exhaustion, so we headed back to Netanya. We decided to avoid Haifa rush hour traffic and got a bit lost but found Yokneam (St. Louis' sister city) and made it back to Netanya with 20 minutes to go until Dalia's party - 6 showers and 20 minutes later, we were back on the road (only 5 minutes this time) to just north of Netanya for the party.
The party was on the beach, at an amazingly gorgeous spot, and was a great time for all. Lots of dancing, great d'var torah by Dalia (another one!), a wonderful video with greetings from Jack and Merle, and even skyping back to them so they could feel part of the festivities. Great food - from pizza and quesadilla appetizers, to salads, pasta, quiche, etc. for dinner. Naomi and Ilana really danced up a storm with Dalia, her friends, the Perlmans, etc. Naomi learned all the dances on the spot, and blended right in with all the Israeli girls. The rest of the family joined the dancing too, and Sima especially enjoyed hoofing it to both the Israeli music and the American pop tunes. We are so fortunate that we could be with the Hartstein/Minsk family for Dalia's simcha -- there was something incredibly special about watching Naomi and Dalia and Ilana dancing together in the middle of the crowd, in Israel, so comfortable together, it brought tears to our eyes (ok, just to one of us and you can probably guess who).