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Politics

Vanunu out of Prison But Definitely Not Free

Mordechai Vanunu was released from prison earlier today, but will have to live under some very restraining rules. The leader of the Israeli Opposition Party and founder of Israel’s nuclear weapons program Shimon Peres says the heavy restrictions imposed upon Vanunu are justified.

As I mentioned in an earlier post Mordechai Vanunu betrayed his country, Israel, by telling the world about its atomic weapons program. Vanunu is not allowed to speak with the media, he is not allowed to release any information about Israel’s weapon’s programs including information that has already been leaked. He must give 24 hours notice if he wishes to sleep at a different address and he is not allowed to communicate in Internet chatrooms unless specific permission is given. He is not allowed to speak to “foreigners”, he has no Israeli passport and Israel’s intention is to keep him within their borders preventing him from speaking to anyone about their secrets. Other restrictions will be applied if the government feels he is not cooperating.

Israeli Traitor Mordechai Vanunu after being released from 18 years of prisonAfter 18 years of prison, nearly 12 of which were in solitary confinement, I hope he’s learned that the government means business. It’s in his own best interest to go along with the rules that have been setup for him, and just try to start living his life. Given the picture of him here, flashing victory signs, I think he has other plans in mind.

Supporters of Vanunu have put up a special website on his behalf. Meanwhile news organizations like The Moscow Times, Jerusalem Post, and many more are running stories about his release and speculating on what he might do next.

Categories
Politics

The Man Who Knew (and then told) Too Much

Mordechai Vanunu is a political prisoner in Israel. He went to prison in 1986 for revealing to the world the existence and extent of Israel’s nuclear program. After spending almost two decades in high security lockup, Vanunu is slated to be released next month. He is already talking about the details of his alleged abduction by Mossad while in Europe — and Israeli authorities are not pleased.

I must admit I really have mixed feelings about this. The thing is, a lot of things have changed since 1986 — it doesn’t seem like knowledge of Israel’s Weapons of Mass Destruction are anything to worry about these days. But at the same time Vanunu breached their national security when he “spilled the beans” about the atomic weapons, and it sounds like he is a continual thorn in the governments side. Hard to prove that the Israeli government is fully justified though. He does paint them in a pretty bleak picture, even if he has a lot of reasons to vilify them.

Categories
travel

Trip to Israel Day 10

Today, the first thing we visited was the Western Wall (known more commonly as the Wailing Wall). Next we visited the Temple Square and saw the Dome of the Rock. We also stopped in at the church of the holy seplucer. I didn’t really like that place with all its gold and jewellry ornaments everywhere.

On our way through the old city where walked into a wide area, that seemed a lot to resemble a parkade, but instead of parking spaces it had very large rocks for the flooring, and there was a Russian imigrant playing her violen. It was probably the most beautiful sounding violin that I have ever heard. I asked her to play “Jerusalem of Gold” and she did. The sound of her violin echoed of the old rocks of the area, while a bright stream of sunlight flooded in. I really enjoyed it.

The city of Bethlehem has been closed for the last week due to civil unrest, but it was opened to tourists this morning so hopefully we will be able to go there this afternoon.

We stopped at the mall for lunch. After I finished eating, I took a look at some of the computer stores. The prices seemed either the same, or slightly higher.

The next place we visited was the city of Bethlehem. We visited the Church of the Nativity, (where Jesus was born).

We went to a wood carving shop in Bethlehem and saw how they make some of the olive wood carvings. I wanted to take a piece of olive wood for my dad, so I asked how much it would cost. When he told me $25 dollars, I told him that for a piece of wood that was too much. He said, “well, I could make a $100 item out of that wood, but I will give it to you.”

Next, we went to some shepards fields and saw the very place where the construction of new Jewish homes had caused so much protesting by arabs. There were military check-points, but no one was there protesting.

Ruth Tallstrup read from the book of Ruth in the bible, and I enjoyed the time I spent there. Someone found a turtle and I thought that it was cool.

Later that night, we stopped in David and Golieth country. We stopped at the same river where David picked up his five smooth stones. Ami set a rock up on a tree and asked us to see who coul d throw another rock and knock it down. I was the first person to knock it down (and with my first throw).Some U.N. observers stopped and came over and talked with us.

On our way back we passed the place called Bet Shamesh, the place where Deliela had men cut off Samson’s hair.

We went back to the hotel and after supper some people went to Ben Yahuda street for shopping. I was sick of shopping so I just went to sleep early.

Categories
travel

Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 9

We are driving on the East side of the Sea of Galilee and the city of Tiberius can be seen in the distance looking down over the large body of water.

We are getting out of the bus to see the Jordan River.

We are now travelling in one of the most notoriously dangerous places in Israel, the west bank. Despite the image that the media puts on this place, it does not seem very dangerous at all. To our left is Jordan and on our right are some refugee camps, but almost half the people on the bus are sleeping. (Apparently they are not worried about the “danger”).

There are several anit-terrorist protections that Israel has. They have a mine field, a touch sensitive fence (if anyone touches the fence soldiers will come to investigate), a dirt road that is smoothed so that if anyone crosses it, their footprints will be left behind, and bunkers located all along the border with soldiers that keep watch 24 hours a day.

Jerrico, a city over 9000 years old is just over these mountains (hills). The children of Israel circled around Jerrico 13 times. Six times in the first six days and seven times on the Seventh Day.

We stopped at Jerrico for lunch, some people rode camels here, and then we headed back to the Concord Hotel for some sleep. It felt good to get some sleep after a long day of touring. Later that night we went to the Old City and Ben Yahuda street for some shopping and some well appreciated McDonalds’ fries.

When we got back some of the girls in our group wanted to do laundry but none of them had a bath tub in their room, so I told them they could use ours.

Categories
travel

Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 8

Today we visited the Mt. of Beattitudes where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount (St. Matthew 5,6, and 7).  Together we read through Matthew 5 and compared it to the things Jesus taught in 3 Nephi chapter 12.  After we read and talked we sat for a moment in silene, to reflect upon the things we had seen and felt.  I didn’t really want to leave that place but we had other places to see.

We are now looking at the Jordan River.  It is not very wide but looks very pretty.

Now we are driving through a mine field.  When Syria had control of the Golam Heights they planted mines and did not map them.  It is against International law not to map mine fields.

I just discovered that the film in my camera was not advancing so I lost a full role of pictures.

We stopped in Qazrin for a quick break and then off for some of St. Peter’s fish.

When I first saw the fish, I was quite surprised.  We were told that it was some of the best fish in the world, but some of the people insisted that it didn’t matter how good the fish was, they just didn’t like fish.  Dave told the people that didn’t like it, he would buy them something else.  Well, I don’t think that anyone who got the fish was disappointed.  It looked like fish, including fins, gills, and its head.  Despite the strange fully formed appearance of the fish, it sure tasted great!

After supper, we took a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. The Galilee area is beautiful and the cool breeze made the ride an even more wonderful experience.  We stopped and read some scriptures in St. Matthew 14. I really enjoyed the peaceful feeling.  Looking out over the Sea of Galilee, you knew without a doubt that Jesus really was there and that he did walk on the water, and that this was the place that it happened. I imagined Peter stepping out onto the water, and Jesus stretching out his hand and catching him. I will always remember that day.

The next place we visited was a kibbutz to see what the life was like there. A kibbutz is a small colony of people that live without income, but have everything they need provided for them.  It seemed a lot like the Hutterites there, but they had some major differences which might make life there more enjoyable.

The most amazing thing happened there.  I was feeling kind-of down and out, and we walked into the kibbutz gymnasium.  When it came down to a game of 5-5 I was sure to get on the old guys team (Phill Tallstrip, Jack Hickens, Dave Clark, and Bruce) because I’ve learned that the young team will hardly ever win, especially when it’s half court. I had a really good time playing with those guys. The rest of our group cheered us on from the stands. It really cheered me up. Even Phill Tallstrup told me he was pretty impressed. He said I could have easily played for his team in Magrath.

Later that night, some of the kids went swimming in the Sea of Galilee. Jesse slipped on the rocks and got his shirt a little wet and slimy, but he was ok and we all laughed, but felt bad for him. The water was pretty cold at first, but we all got used to it very quickly.

I love it here in the Galilee area.  We had a little bit of rain here, but it was so soft and didn’t last very long. It’s too bad we are leaving so soon, but that’s the way it has to be.

Categories
travel

Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 5

I woke up this morning to the sound of a loud ringing phone. I picked it up to hear a computer generated voice speaking in Hebrew. Dave told me that he never had our wake-up call arranged so it must have been our bus-driver. The reason our bus-driver would even care is because the hotel is situated in a very Jewish orthodox area of town and if someone drives after 9:00 (the third hour in Jewish custom) they will throw rocks at your vehicle. We were on time, so we never had any rocks thrown at us.

On my way to Church this morning I had my first view of the Dome of the Rock. My whole life I waited for this moment and this being the 5th day of my trip I was beginning to think I would never see it.

The Church Service at the B.Y.U. Jerusalem Center was probably the best service I have ever been to. Because our bus-driver insisted on leaving so early before the service started, we were left with an hour to look around the centre.

Unfortunately the main chapel was closed for renovations, but hopefully it will be open next sabbath. The view in the main chapel is hard to describe. There is a fantastic view of the old city with the Dome of the Rock in plain view. The seats of the chapel all face giant sized windows giving a panoramic view of the old city. Although I never got the chance to have service in there, I am sure the view and effect would be great.

Church went by so quickly. I would have really enjoyed going for another couple of hours at least. After church some people wanted to go back to the hotel. I was really excited to go and see the Garden Tomb. About 15 of us went together and walked from the B.Y.U. center to the old city. We were fortunate enough to be allowed into a small privately owned Garden right beside the commercial Garden of Gethsemany. It was a very nice park, but we were only there for 15 minutes, I would have enjoyed staying longer.
The next place we visited was the old city. We walked through the Lion Gate. We wanted to visit the Dome of the Rock, but the Temple Square was closed due to some threat of civil unrest.

We walked through the old city but did not buy anything today because it was the Sabbath.

Some of our group were tired and went back to the hotel, but a few of us kept walking and were able to see the grave-site of Oscar Schindler.

When we finally caught a Taxi back to the hotel, the Taxi driver did not know the way and had to ask directions. He asked a person on the street, and that person lied to him. The Taxi driver told him he was full of it, and then drove off. Our group thought that was kinda funny.
One of the turns we took trying to find our hotel lead us into a very orthodox region of town. The road was blocked off with carts that were full of garbage. The Taxi driver didn’t have enough room to turn around, so he jumped out and said, “I’ll move it myself”. I thought he was going to try and drive through this orthodox area. Mandy was in the front seat and quickly rolled up her window. But as it turned out the Taxi driver turned us around the first chance he had and no rocks were thrown at us.

Later that night we went to the Market on Ben Yahuda Street. I bought a couple of necklaces but that was pretty much it.

Categories
travel

Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 4

We are on our way to the lowest point on Earth.  1300 feet below sea level lies the Dead Sea.  One of the reasons it is called the Dead Sea is because it is a dead end.  The only way water escapes is through evaporation.  The other reason it is called the Dead Sea is because nothing can live in its salty waters.  It is made of 33% minerals.  The four main minerals in the Dead Sea are: potassium, magnesium, bromide, and ______.1

Ami told us that a swim in the Dead Sea will help for many illnesses.  If you are healthy, a swim in the Dead Sea puts five years on your life.  Another puts 10 years. One more and you may lose your pension.

We can see the mountains of Moab across the Dead Sea. (These mountains are in Jordan).

Before we swim in the Dead Sea we are going to visit the mountain fortress of Masada. King Herod built Masada as a summer palace and a place of refuge in the unlikely event of a revolt. He died in the year 6AD and never had to use Masada as a fortress.

In the year 70AD, 968 Jews escaped the Romans in Jerusalem and found refuge in Masada. They remained there for several years while an army of 10 000 Romans and 10 000 of their Jewish slaves attacked them. The siege was not an easy one (to say the least). Masada only had entrance before the Romans arrived; the snake path. When Roman soldiers would try to climb up the path, the defenders would roll huge boulders down on them. Finally the Romans realized that they would never make it up the snake path, so they had their Jewish slaves build a giant dirt ramp up to it. The 968 Jews defending Masada realized that when the ramp was finished they would have a life of slavery. All 968 killed themselves (except for three people, who lived to tell the story).

I ran down the snake path, and you could tell that it wouldn’t be an easy siege.

Our next stop was swimming at the Dead Sea. Ami told us that the water would probably be very cold, but as it turned out, the water wasn’t that bad. It was so awesome to be able to float with your hands and legs out of the water. The next place we visited was the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden when the Roman Army of 10 000 were seen approaching a small city. This was the same army that was headed toward Mt. Mesada.

The scrolls were found almost 2000 years later in 1947.

A sheep was separated from its flock, hiding in a cave. The shepherd through rocks into the cave to try and scare the sheep out. When he heard the sound of broken pottery he investigated and found probably the most important find of the 20th century—the Dead Sea Scrolls.

After supper Dave called a wood-carver “friend” of his named Omar. Omar is an Arab and an “entrepreneur”. Entrepreneur is Dave’s friendly way of warning us that he is a scan-artist. Well maybe scam-artist is a bit strong but he just wanted us to maybe take whatever Omar said with some reservations.

Omar and his two brother’s drove up to the hotel and this being Friday evening (the Jewish Sabbath) the hotel security was not happy.

Dave came and straightened everything out, but the security personnel were still mad.

When we arrived at Omar’s shop there were a lot of different wooden carvings filling the shelves.

Omar seemed very friendly assuring everyone that the carvings in the store were all carved out of high quality dry olive wood. He said that all the wood was dried for at least seven years before he carved it. He also said that he did most of the carvings himself and that he did all the important features, like the faces, himself. I asked him if he had any blocks of olive wood to sell but he said no, which raised my suspicions. Why wouldn’t he have olive wood in the back of his shop if he actually did all the carvings himself. I asked him what kinds of tools he used for carving and he didn’t seem like he wanted to talk about it at all. He answers quickly, “I use diamond tipped cutting tool.” And that was all I could get out of him. Later I talked to Dave about the guy and Dave explained that Omar couldn’t carve anything if his life depended on it. However, some of the carvings truly were beautiful. He had statues of Jesus, Moroni, Lehi, Mormon, the Liahona, Joseph Smith, Joseph and Hyrum, and a lion with a lamb, the BYU cougar, and many more.2

1. This was left blank because I couldn’t keep up with the tour guide. Looking this up in 2019 I found that the forth element is sodium chloride. Israeli companies generate around US$3 billion annually from the sale of Dead Sea minerals (primarily potash and bromine), and from other products that are derived from Dead Sea Minerals.
2. Before we went to Omar’s, Dave told us that it was probably a good idea not to buy anything tonight, but that we would come back next week. Well, I don’t know what happened but in the excitement I think I was one of the few people who didn’t buy that night. Oh well.

Categories
travel

Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 3

The flight was long! We are about 180 miles away from Tel Aviv right now. I am sitting in a window seat because Greg, one of the people in our group, was nice enough to let me sit here. The view isn’t that great though. All I can see is clouds and blue sky (and the wing). We have started our dissent and are currently at 35,500 feet above the ground (actually above the Mediterranean) The movies I watched were “The Mirror Has Two Faces” and “Ransom”.

Jesse commented on the fact that we were going to “get bread”. Greg asked what he meant and Jesse said, “get bread, lots of it, from peoples hands… Just give them a dime and BREEEEAD!” (Jesse is kinda a big guy so you could tell he would like some bread. Yum.

We have arrived in Israel! The airport check-out went smoothly and I loaded onto the bus eager to see the sights. Our tour guide explained to us that our weather looks pretty good and that on his last tour it rained the whole time. He also explained that the sites we have seen on CNN will not be on our tour.1 The countryside is beautiful. It is very green here. I have already seen soldiers with their guns. Some other places we passed our Golan Heights, and the place where Joshua lost the battle of _____.2 We are on our way to Jerusalem and past the point where the road was cut off in 1947 when Jerusalem was under siege during the war of liberation. We are climbing the mountains (hills) of Judea or the Mountains of Jerusalem. There are a lot of rocks and stones in the soil here. (Limestone). I just saw the first camel here. (eating grass in an Arab village).

We are entering Jerusalem from the west side so we can’t see the old city yet. After 1967 and the 6 Day War, Jerusalem was able to double its size. Right now it has about 1/2 million people. There are many terraces (steps on the mountain) for growing food / vegetation. Some of the terraces are from biblical times. Welcome to Jerusalem! We are going to have “Porters” carry our bags in. OK just regular bellboys. We are at our hotel now. The hotel is nice and very big. It is a very orthodox/Kosher hotel.

After almost an hour to get set up and cleaned up we took a bus to see Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is a park honouring the lives of those who were killed in the holocaust. One of the most beautiful things I saw there was a very tall room (more like a long, tall hallway) that was dimly lit by the reflection of only five candles. Although there were only five candles they were reflected millions of times giving the appearance of candles leading into infinity. In the background a tape recording read names of children who were killed in the Holocaust. To hear the same name twice you would have to come back to Yad Vashem in 2½ years.

After we left Yad Vashem I was very tired and fell asleep on the bus.

The next place we visited was the model city. It was so cool. (I have lots of pictures.) It showed a 1 to 50 scale representation of the city of Jerusalem during the year 66AD. The detail that was put into the model is really amazing.

Before we went to Yad Vashem the tour guide took us to Israel’s answer to the greasy spoon. “Clean” in the Middle East actually means “Clean enough. The North Americans will eat off anything.”

So we all got in line for some food. This meal was not paid for ahead of time. I got up to where the food was and it dawned upon me that I would not like ANY of the food. I had already grabbed a Sprite so I opted out for the rest of the meal. 600 shekels, or some sort of Hebrew currency anyway, round up on the machine. I said, “American money”. He said “two dollars”. Ouch I thought.I had already grabbed a Sprite so I opted out for the rest of the meal. 600 shekels, or some sort of Hebrew currency anyway, ran up on the machine. I said, “American money”. He said “two dollar”. “Ouch,” I thought, “for a can of pop?” Luckily, I didn’t order any food as the rest of the kids did. Theirs cost between $10 and $12 USD and they thought it was the most disgusting thing they had ever eaten. Live and learn I guess.

1. During this time there was intifada in Israel and some places were not safe for travel.
2. I think this was left blank in my journal because I couldn’t keep up writing as fast as the tour guide was speaking.