Monday, July 28, 2008

Asleep by the Sea

Tel Aviv and Jaffa share the Mediterranean shoreline. One is the modern city of skyscrapers, open-all-night clubs, great shopping and traffic jams. The other retains its old city stone finish, crumbling streets and is famous for baklava and fish restaurants by the sea.

But the best thing to do if you're only 2-years-old in 100 degree heat is enjoy some ice cream and take a nap. Alex slept to, from and during the day trip, which made the excursion easier on the rest of us.

I made my first trip to Tel Aviv more than a decade ago to the clubs. It was great at the time, but what seems like a lifetime later was a lot more fun with my son. Seeing the world through Alex's eyes is greater than seeing it through my own. He'll have to save the all-night partying another 20 years to really enjoy the experience of its white nights, but maybe by then he'll stay awake for the trip.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jet Setting Jet Lag

Alex's preferred method of getting through life is to jump. Running and climbing are both excellent too, but its not any fun at all to walk. So, how tired do you have to be to fall asleep standing up? Alex didn't grasp the concept of hours of airline travel that took him speeding through timezones across the globe and switching night to day. Try explaining the concept to a 2-year-old when its 3am, you haven't slept for days but he still wants to jump, rock 'n roll.

It took Alex five days and five nights to adjust to the ten hour time zone change from the Pacific Coast to Mediterranean Shoreline. It took me 5 more to recover from not sleeping for a week. By then, it was just in time to fly home again and I was falling asleep standing up.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Floating on the Dead Sea

Alex saw a dolphin in the Dead Sea.....and a Humpback Whale. Since the sea is so saturated with salt nothing can live in it and its saliency allows your body to float without effort, its hard to imagine how he saw these creatures, but I'm his mom, so I believe him!

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on the planet at 420 meters (1378 feet) below sea level, and the second saltiest place on earth. It's bordered by Jordan and Israel/Palestine. For centuries, travelers have come from near and far come to cover themselves in the boiling mud and float. The healing effects are well known as the salt & mud is packaged and sold in spas and malls worldwide. The mining of the sea has caused it to drop well below natural levels leading environmentalists to wonder for how many years future tourists may even be able to come to enjoy its effects.

We arrived mid-morning with temperatures reaching near 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The bumpy, two lane road through the West Bank to get there included passing through military checkpoints and a Separation Wall that divides Israelis and Palestinians politically and geographically. Unconventional tourists, we stopped for lunch in the ancient city of Jericho and drove up to the border crossing with Jordan and looked across with talks of our future trips. The newly paved freeway that connects from Jerusalem for the Israelis guided us back. Even on vacation, its hard to avoid the reality of the geopolitical and national conflict that challenges the Palestinian and Israeli people. The juxtaposition of nomadic bedouin tribes alongside newly constructed 4 Star hotels within minutes of each other is hard to miss. Neverthesless, the trip is worth the effort.

When floating with children on the sea, be aware that the salt stings the eyes, the rocks burn the toes, the mud boils and Alex warns it is "dirty." Oh, and most importantly, watch out for unexpected dolphins!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Old City of Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem is holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews. Inside its ancient walled City, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Al Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall, the holiest of sites for the Abrahamic faiths, are just footsteps apart. Nevertheless, its not so easy to navigate by stroller. The ups-and-downs of the uneven stone steps, its small passageways and the seething heat of the summer sun make it a challenge for even the most rugged 2-year-old traveler.

As Alex longed to run free and I jetted behind, I couldn't help think about the reality of the life for the Jewish and Palestinian children who call this Old City their home. Though they are stacked in small flats on top of each other and neighborhoods that bleed together, these children will not play or study together; they will not meet and get to know each other as equals. They will grow up on opposite sides of a national conflict prepared to take up arms against each other. While Alex is having the chance in his life to mingle with children of different faiths, ethnicities, cultures, traditions and geography, the children of Jerusalem live in the shadow of hopes for peace and the reality of a conflict all around them.

Like all parents of the 21st century, we worry about the food our children eat, who they play with, where they will go to school, if they will dart out into traffic, and if they'll break their arms when they fall from trees. But, we need to do more to place our own fears aside and teach them equality, respect, mutual understanding. It's easy to know that broccoli should be on the dinner menu, its harder to instill a culture of peace in a child. But, the future of humanity for all of us depends upon our healthy bodies and our healthy hearts.

As for Alex, peace in the Middle East wasn't so much on his mind. He liked the french fries at Abu Shukri.