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Just a few months after moving to England, Timothy and I were back in Israel! Our good friends Dan and Shirley were getting married (it went off without a hitch!)! It was my first Jewish wedding and it was awesome! The Rabbi did everything in Hebrew, and then he would explain it in English! The wedding was beautiful, the couple were so happy and beautiful,  the venue was beautiful, the food was good, and the party was a lot of fun. We are so happy we were able to share in our friends happy day!

Since we were going back to Israel, we wanted to do some things we didn’t do before, and also do some things we loved! First we went to Jaffa (South of Tel Aviv), Eilat, and Petra (see post below), which were places we hadn’t visited! Then we were back in Haifa, where we met with friends, spent 2 days at Hof HaCarmel swimming and had fun, we ate a lot of Israeli food, and drank LOTS of Hafuk (Israeli lattes!).

Enjoy the pictures! (Click to enlarge the gallery!)

We are so excited about 2015! We have so many plans for the new year and we are excited to share our new adventures with you all! We are really hoping 2015 will be a BIG year for us and you! Happy New Years!

Here are some Israeli memories from the past year (pictures from our friends Dan & Shirley!)…

(Click on a photo to enlarge and view album)

We took a spur of the moment trip to the beach on Christmas Day to watch the sunset at Hof HaCarmel in Haifa… it was beautiful and a wonderful way to spend the evening together.

This past week, I got to spend a wonderful week with my dad in Israel. It was a trip both of my parents wanted to make, but I’m glad my dad was still able to come before we move. What was really cool about this trip was that it was Timothy and my first time visiting Ceasarea, and my first time visiting the Sea of Galilee area. It was nice to have some new experience with my dad. Below the itinerary for my dad’s trip along with information about the different sites we saw and of course pictures.

December 6- Dad arrived in Israel and Lunch at the beach

Day one of dad’s trip, we went to the Beach (Hof HaCarmel) for lunch/dinner and walked the promenade. It was a great way to start my dad’s trip.

December 7- Ceasarea and Hof HaCarmel Beach

On day two, Timothy, my dad and I took the train from Haifa (Hof HaCarmel Station) to Benyamina, and from there took a taxi to the Ceasarea National Park. On our way back we enjoyed drinks on the beach and the sun setting.

About Ceasarea: First founded as a small Phoenician port city, the city was called Stratons Towers, an apparent distortion of the name of the Sidonese god Ashtoreth. In 90 BCE, the town was captured by Alexander Jannaeus and annexed into the Hasmonean kingdom.

In 31 BCE, after winning the Battle of Actium, Augustus Caesar gifted the town, along with the entire shoreline of Eretz Israel, to Herod. Herod, for his part, named the town for Augustus. He built the city between 22 – 10 BCE, constructing a major port, numerous recreational facilities, bathhouses and temples. The port was built in Ceasarea because of its location in the center of the country, in close proximity to agricultural lands and convenient access routes. (From National Park Website)

December 8- Laura’s Personal Tour of the Old City- Jerusalem

Day three, Timothy had an early flight to Montreal, and my dad and I took the bus from Haifa to Jerusalem. I was pretty impressed with my ability to communication and navigate the trip, while not getting us lost! Since I have been to the Old City several times (even on an official tour), I felt confident enough showing my dad around the city by myself. We entered through the Jaffa Gate, and visited the Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We then went to the Western Wall to pray and to see a good view of the Dome of the Rock. Then we went out the Lions Gate and walked to the base of the Mount of Olives to see the Eastern (Golden) Gate. We walked throughout the old city, enjoying the sites, sounds, and the holy places there.

December 9Tour of Masada and Dead Sea

Day 4 professional tour of Masada and Dead Sea. About tour: As we descend 1,200 meters from Jerusalem through the wilderness of the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea, we pass the Inn of the Good Samaritan and stop briefly at the “sea level” marker. In the distance we see Jericho, the oldest city in the world, perhaps due to its luxuriant oasis and its proximity to the Dead Sea, an ancient source of salt and we recall the conquest of Jericho by the Israelite tribes, lead by Joshua, who had just crossed the Jordan River into the Promise Land. (Josh 6) We continue along the shores of the Dead Sea to Masada. As we ascend in the cable car, we look down the Snake path which was used two thousand years ago when King Herod build this fortress like palace. In fact, there were two palaces, as well as a swimming pool and a well-preserved beautiful bath-house. Maintained by a small Roman legion after the death of Herod, it was seized by Jewish zealots at the beginning of the Jewish revolt against the Romans which culminated in the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. We stand over the ramp, built for the Romans by their Jewish slaves, which facilitated the breaching of the wall after three year siege. The synagogue, which was built by Herod, proved conclusively to those who doubted that there were synagogues even while the Second Temple stood. We see where the first piece of the parchment to be discovered in an Israeli archaeological excavation was found… On our return journey we pass the oasis of Ein Gedi where David hid from the wrath of King Saul (1 Sam 24:1) and Qumran where the two thousand year old Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Finally we enjoy a therapeutic swim in the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, wehre the water is almost 35% salt and even those who can not swim can float. (From Bein Harim Tours website)

December 10- Tour of Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee

Day 5 professional tour of Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. About tour: Passing Herzliya and Netanya, we travel north along the scenic coastal plain and then turn eastward through the plain of Armageddon (Rev 16:16), with a view of biblical Megiddo. (11 Ch. 35:20-27) As we make the assent to Nazareth we briefly stop at the Mount of Precipitation (Luke 4:28-30). Our first stop in Nazareth is the beautiful Church of Annunciation built on the site where the angel Gabriel appeared before Mary (Luck 1:26). Adjoining it is the Church of St. Joseph, recalling the carpentry where Jesus and Joseph worked. As we leave Nazareth on the way towards the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, we pass Cana, site of the first wonder performed by Jesus, the turning the water to wine. (John 2:1-12). On the sea front at the Mount Beatitude, we visit both Capernaum, home of Peter, and the Benedictine Church commemoration the miracles of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fish. (Mark 6:30-44). Continuing along the shores of the Sea of Galilee we recall how Jesus calmed the stormy waters and walked on them. (Mark 4:35-41 and 6:45-52). With the Golan Heights in the background, we pass modern Tiberias, built on the ruins of the city built two thousands years ago and named in honor of the Roman emperor Tiberius. ON the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, at Yardenit, there may be an opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River. (Mark 1:9-11) On our return journey we will pas Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration. (Matt 17:1-9) (From Bein Harim Tours website)

December 11– Acre (Akko/Acco) (Happy Birthday Lyle!)

Day 6, since I have been to Acre several times, I gave my dad a personal tour of Acre, also known as Akko. We took the bus from Haifa to Akko and back. About Acre: It is a city in the northern coastal plain region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. The city occupies an important location, as it sits on the coast of the Mediterranean, linking the waterways and commercial activity with the Levant. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world. Historically, it was a strategic coastal link to the Levant. In crusader times it was known as St. John d’Acre after the Knights Hospitaller of St. John order who had their headquarters there. (From Wikipedia)

December 12– Bahai’ Gardens and German Colony

Day 7, Fridays can be a tricky day to travel since at sun down shabbat starts, so we stayed local and visited the Bahai Gardens which is about a 20 minute bus ride from my apartment. After the garden tour, we went to the German Colony for a drink before taking a bus home and preparing for shabbat. About the Gardens: The Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa comprise a staircase of nineteen terraces extending all the way up the northern slope of Mount Carmel… At its heart stands the golden-domed Shrine of the Bab, which is the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith. (From Gan Bahai Website)

December 13– Relaxed on Shabbat and visited the Technion Campus (Timothy’s work)

December 14– Flight back to the US

 

Just hanging out at the beach

Just hanging out at Haifa beach…

As our time in Israel is coming to an end, here are a few things we have loved about living in Israel, and some things we have not, along with a few tips.

Loves

  • People. We have made a lot of great friends here in Israel. They have made our time much more enjoyable.
  • History. It’s been so cool to see places from the bible and from other points in history.
  • Cafés! Tim and I really enjoy having breakfast at local cafés. Our two favorites are: Israeli Breakfast (eggs, salad, bread, and tapenades and jam with coffee and juice. So good! And Shakshuka (a spicy tomato stew with poached eggs) served with bread, coffee and juice.
  • The beach! Warm water, nice promenades, tasty restaurants, and beautiful sunsets.
  • The weather! Not as hot or cold as Texas, with lots of sunshine and cool breezes.
  • Coffee. Israeli version of something between a latte and a cappuccino, but way more awesome.

Dislikes

  • Distance. We are so far from our family and it takes so long to get to the U.S. Also, the Timezone differences stink!
  • Not being Jewish. It makes security more a challenge. It makes TSA look like a picnic. Also, the Jewish calendar follows the lunar calendar and changes every year. It can make knowing when a holiday are confusing.
  • Language. While Tim has enjoyed the challenge of learning a foreign language, it has not been as fun for me. Also when at an English movie, subtitles of foreign or fictitious languages (Star Trek or the Hobbit) are in Hebrew.
  • Shabbat. While a day of rest is nice, it limits our ability to travel and experience more of Israel since there is little to no transportation available, and few places open.
  • Grocery stores. They are just not the same as the U.S. and non-perishables and hygiene products are very expensive.

*A lot of people ask us about safety. Thankfully Haifa is a very safe city and is far enough away from most of the conflict. Still, the conflict between Israel and Palestine was a major concern for us. However, we practice something I learned as a military dependent call “OpSec”. It also boils down to common sense. Be aware of threats (watch the news or get alerts on your phone) and don’t go to dangerous areas. I’ve often described visiting Israel is a lot like visiting NYC. There are certain places you have no business going day or night or times of conflict. Watch your stuff and don’t advertise anything that will make you a target. If you do these things, you will be safe, just like you would be in the U.S.

 

Tips for Living in Israel

  • Learn the Hebrew alef-bet. Hebrew is phonetic and relatively easy to learn (not so much to understand). It will make shopping, reading menus and traveling much easier.
  • Understand basic Kosher laws, especially regarding food. Parve (foods with no animal products). Kosher Dairy (some fish is okay) vs. Kosher meat. You can not mix dairy and meat, so no cheese burgers in most of Israel (except for non-kosher places).
  • Befriend both international friends and locals. Don’t limit yourself. Plus it will help you to emerge yourself in culture.
  • Emerge yourself in Israeli/Jewish culture. Attend Shabbat dinners and Passover Saders. Ask questions and enjoy local foods, and traditions.
  • Subscribe to a good VPN service. This will help you to watch your Netflix subscription and other American TV shows.
  • Get a library card before leaving the U.S. (maybe at your parents). Most libraries have an online borrowing system, which is nice to have access to, if you enjoy reading. Plus the Kindle app is free!
  • You can make free U.S. phone calls through Google Hangout! Very helpful.
  • Wake up early on Friday mornings. If you don’t get groceries early enough, it will be a long and hungry Shabbat. Plus the longer you wait the crazier the markets get.
  • Get a “Rav Kav” bus card. When buying tickets in bulk (usually 10 at a time) you save 10%. Also, in Haifa tickets are good for 90 minutes, so you can hope on and off.
  • In Israel 10% is the standard tipping at restaurants. Also, you will have to ask for your bill. Like in Europe, they will leave you pretty much alone for most of your meal, so you can talk with friends and family. This can be frustrating as an American, since we are use to waiters are always checking on us.
Isn't it wonderful?!?

Isn’t it wonderful?!?

First and foremost:

Thank you for your prayers regarding our safety here in Israel and also for our moms! They really mean a lot to us! (Also, sorry this is going to be a LONG POST.)

The situation in Israel: 

As many of you know, Israel is currently in conflict with Hamas in the Gaza strip (this is in the southern part of Israel). Most of the attacks from Hamas have been targeted at the southern and central part of Israel. Where we live, Hafia, is in the north. We are about 100 km (63 miles) north of Tel Aviv on the coast. There have been a couple of rockets aimed at the north, but thankfully no damage was done to our area. Last night (3:30am) was the first time the sirens have gone off in our area. It was scarey, but we prepared and know where to go for safety. Again, thank you for your prayers. Hopefully there will be  a cease fire agreement soon.

Now for the Long Overdue Update:

Where have we been? That is a great question! Sometimes Timothy and I aren’t even sure where we are! So here is an update of what has been going on in the past 6 months since I last posted.

February & March: Honestly, I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure we were in Haifa the entire time. Timothy was really busy with work and had several conference deadlines. And I was finishing up a project with Texas A&M.

April: On April 4th, Timothy and I ran in a charity run. It was a lot of fun. We ran a total of 10k! Then, on Palm Sunday, Timothy and I visited a Kabutz and one (of many) Church of the Annunciation in Nazerath (http://www.basilicanazareth.org/index.php). We also got to visit Mount Precipice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Precipice). It was a nice day trip.

April/May, Timothy had to go back to the U.S. to get an Israeli working visa (crazy right?!), because he was promoted from a Post-Doctoral Fellow to a Senior Researcher. To make the most of his trip to the U.S. he arranged to work with a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for a month. He even got to spend Easter with his family.

During this time, I went to California to visit my family. I got to spend Easter weekend with my parents and my younger brother, Lyle. Thankfully I got to stay with my parents for 7 weeks! I’m very blessed to have gotten this time with my parents, especially my mom. I got to go to her Chemo and doctor appointments. I also got to keep her company while she was in the hospital.

June, Timothy was in Beijing, China for the International Conference for Machine Learning, where he presented two papers (Previously Timothy went to this ICML in Scotland and hopefully next year, where it will be in France). Then in September Timothy is going to a conference in Heidelberg, Germany. He is also working extremely hard at publishing lots of papers and in the fall will be applying for jobs in the U.S.

Also, Timothy and I are Aunt & Uncle once again! My brother Lyle and his wife Rachel had Savannah Marie on June 22, 2014! She was 7lbs 6.5oz and 20 ½ inches long! Most importantly she was healthy and beautiful! She looks like Lyle, so I’m wondering if she will look like me.

July, We had a very nice 4th of July. We went to the beach (Hof HaCarmel). We went swimming, got sun burnt and had lunch. Overall, a great day.

In other news: I am still working for Texas A&M. Dr. Outley, my masters advisor, who had me work on a grant for her doing online course development referred me to another professor after the grant was finished. Thanks to her, I am now working with a professor in Animals Science helping with online course development! It is really a blessing! I hope I keep getting referred!

Mom Updates:

Bonnie Mann- Hopefully Timothy’s mom will be starting a new radiation therapy called “Proton Therapy.” It will be 5 days a week and she will have to travel to New Jersey for treatment. Please pray for healing, strength, and travel.

Dee Ramirez- My mom has in and out of the hospital the last month and 1/2. Due to her cancer, chemo and medications, her blood levels have been off. She has needed several blood transfusions and she has had some blood clots. Last week we found out she also had a mini-stroke, which has caused my mom to be confused and tired. My mom started a new chemotherapy this week and is doing much better. Please pray for my dad as he is taking care of her and it has not been easy. Please also pray for healing and strength for my mom as well.

I think that is everything for now. I hope to update more regularly, but that is easier said than done!

One year ago today, Timothy and I moved to Israel. It’s hard to believe we have lived here for a year now.

So what does 2014 have in store for us?

We have decided to stay in Israel for another year. Timothy is working very hard at the Technion. This has been such a great experience for him. Last year Timothy got to travel a lot for work, and it looks like this year will be the same. Already, he has one paper accepted to the International Conference for Machine Learning held this year in Beijing (http://icml.cc/2014/). We will also have to go back to the U.S. sometime this spring regarding Tim’s visas and we will be able to visit my parents on the west coast.

On a sad note, as many of you already know, both Timothy’s mom and my mom have cancer. Timothy’s mom (Bonnie) has been battling cancer for the last couple of years and unfortunately her cancer has returned. She will be starting chemo tomorrow. My mom (Dee) was diagnosed with cancer in November and shortly after started chemo and is still doing chemo. We pray the chemo will help heal our moms, and pray for our dad’s as they take care of our moms. I’m not really sure what else to say, besides cancer sucks.

As I say every year. I hope to be better about posting. Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers. We truly appreciate them.

-Laura & Timothy

P.S. See our Montreal pictures below!

P.S.S. Thank you to everyone who sent us a Christmas card. It was awesome!

In October, Timothy’s parents, along with his older brother Jonathon and Jon’s wife Ruolin came to visit us in Israel. We hired a private guide who gave us a tour of Masada, the Dead Sea , Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. Then we explored Haifa and the surrounding areas on our own. Jon and Ruolin took a day trip to Akko (Acre), and another day trip to Ceserea, when Timothy’s dad was under the weather. And Timothy’s Mom stayed for an extra week, so we got to visit Akko (Acre) and Nazareth together.

It was fun showing Timothy’s family our new home. We even got to celebrate a Shabbat dinner together thanks to our friends Daniel and Shirley. We had a really nice time together and took a ton of pictures. Here are just a few.

It has been almost 5 months since we moved to Haifa! Time is going by fast. As of yesterday summer is officially upon us. Luckily the weather here has been really nice. It has been in the mid-80s to mid-90s, with a decent breeze for several weeks. 5 years in Texas definitely prepared us for the heat. So far it hasn’t been as bad as Texas, but I’m sure it will be soon. 🙂

Last night (June 21) we went to a beach BBQ with several friends to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We got to go in the water (Tim got his ankles wet, where as I was more adventurous), watched the sun set over the Mediterranean (again! It never gets old), and enjoyed veggie kabobs. We had a lot of fun.

Then today we went to Daliyat El-Carmel, a a Druze village high on the slopes of Mt. Carmel (Click for more info) with our awesome friends Nadav and Zarish. It is about a 30 minute drive from Haifa and along the way we saw some of the most beautiful views. The Druze village was really neat. Lots of shops and outdoor markets. We also had an amazing lunch and some tasty desserts. Then we went on a short hike and saw so much of northern Israel’s landscape. We could even see Nazareth! It was cool.

This week we will be finishing up our Hebrew course. Tim has learned so much. Unfortunately I am not as studious as Tim. My Hebrew is about as good as my Spanish. 😦 We also have a busy summer ahead of us. In August Tim will be going to a conference in Germany.  Hopefully I will meet him there and we will spend a week traveling around my old stomping grounds. We also hope to take a trip to Caesarea and Nazareth.

We hope you all are well and have a fun, adventurous summer.

Earlier today Timothy sent me a message saying he wanted to have a picnic at the beach for dinner.  I made a salad and packed some hummus and crackers. Once Timothy got home from work, we were off to Hof Carmel. The beach is only a 20 minute bus ride away, which is really nice. Once we got to the beach we sat on a grassy outdoor auditorium where we had a perfect view of the water and the sun setting.

The food was good, the company was great, and the view was beautiful.

Israel definitely has its perks.

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