University of Haifa International School Student Blog
The visit we made to Acco and Rosh Hanikra was probably one of my highlights in Israel so far. In Acco, a largely Arab community, there was a loud celebration for the end of Ramadan (Eid Mubarak). There was jammin’ music in Arabic piping over the loudspeakers of a small carnival, and I later saw a boy holding a large snake over his shoulders. It was a freaking party and I so wanted to join in. The visitor’s area in Acco was also the nicest I’ve been to in my touristing, since it had these awesome trees that afforded a great deal of shade.
The thing about Israel is that most structures here are insanely old, so it’s not that surprising when the visitor’s center was once a building housing crusaders a bajillion years ago (come on, you don’t read this blog for name and date accuracy, real talk). We toured the multiple stone-vaulted crusader buildings, including the most amazing dining hall, where I learned the origin of the legal term “sub rosa” (under the roses / between you and me) came from that very crusader hall, with roses carved into the ceilings over where the tables would have held hungry hungry hell-fearing men. The crusaders have origins in France, so there were many references to their homeland, such as stone-carved fleur de lis on the walls.
It’s amazing that the buildings I visited were once largely underground. My guide, who will also be my professor for the study tour, and gave a very long lecture on Israel the evening before, said that one of the courtyards we were standing in was filling with Earth, and above, many scenes from the film, Exodus, were shot above. Thanks to archaeological excavations supported by a wealthy and entrepreneurial man from Acco, enough public support and funding was garnered to make Acco a large site for digging, and eventually tourism to display the fruits of the archaeologists’ labors.
We descended a staircase that took us through tunnels beneath the buildings, which was so freaking cool. Many people had to crouch over because there was only so much room to stand. There were secret passageways blocked off that I was dying to enter. I love tunnels, I love stone buildings, and I love caves (AND SHADE), so I was having a good time. I also learned the origin of the word hospital, as people would come to the building the Crusaders called hospitál for some shelter and hospitality, especially if they were ill. Acco had a great influence on the Crusaders when they returned to Europe. I also learned that the Austrian flag looks the way it is because its leader wore a shirt that was white and got it bloody at a battle in Acco, so they raised it on a flag, which is now red-white-red.
Since Eid Mubarak is a large celebration, our guides wanted to get us out of the north as quickly as possible to avoid further traffic. Eh, this did not really happen. After Acco, we drove north to Rosh Hanikra, on the border with Lebanon, to see the grottoes. Rosh Hanikra was AMAZING and beautiful. We took a small gondola from an overlook of the beach down. Off the coast, an Israeli navy ship sat quietly on the water, probably running drills and surveying the area. We could also see the buoys that marked the Israeli-Lebanese border in the water, not too far away. Also from our view, we could see Haifa Bay and Eshkol Tower, the huge building on the campus of the University of Haifa. This country is so miniature!
In the grottoes, the beautiful turquoise water lapped against the cave-face, and continued to carve the rock round. It was a very special experience and I took many photographs. Hopefully the dim lighting won’t detract from the grotto’s beauty.
After emerging from the cave (Plato reference), we watched a film on Acco, and learned the myth of a young bride who was sent to fulfill an arranged marriage, but her horse fell off the cliff with her, and she was never seen again. Eek. The film was very comical to me because we watched it in a non-water-sloshing cave that had ambient lighting that was coordinated with the events of the film.
Once the film ended, Rosh Hanikra showed off its last surprise, with a beautiful pink sunset over the Mediterranean. I watched the sun disappear over the horizon, or to be more astronomically correct, I watched the Earth rotate in the opposite direction of the sun.
Most people were very hungry after a day of no food breaks, so on our return home (it was much later than expected) we stopped at a supermarket, where I had hopes of picking up some Benadryl. In less central areas of Israel, I have learned that not everyone speaks English. I tried to ask some of the women who worked at the supermarket if they have Benadryl, and they looked at me like I had five heads. So Benadryl: no go.
We had a funny bus ride home, complaining about the time, hunger, the need to use a bathroom (sherutim), and perfecting our Israeli accent imitations.