April 3, 2014
Earlier this week Maarya and I went to the home of Khaled, a technician in the cardiac catheterization lab. He lives in a village near Karmiel in a flat with his wife and three children; his parents live in the upstairs unit and his brother’s family lives in the unit below. Like all of the Israelis we’ve visited, Khaled and his wife Maali were outstanding hosts. We started out with home made falafel with all of the fixings, and proceeded to be served several rounds of dessert.We had a great time meeting their three children and 14 year old niece who stopped by for dinner.
After the kids went to bed, Khaled and Maali took us to the old city of Akko, which is on the Mediterranean Sea. Though it was late and dark out, the city was beautiful. It’s one of the oldest cities to be consistently occupied, and has been ruled by just about religious group around. Napolean Bonaparte even made a run for the city, but wasn’t able to conquer it in the end. We ended the night in a restaurant overlooking the sea by getting even more dessert- by this time we were quite full, but the hosts insisted!
April 1, 2014
We’ve had a great time in Israel so far and the hospitality has been incredible. Here are some more highlights from our trip.
Dr. Farbstein gives us a tour of the brand new emergency department. Our first time in the hospital!
We got the chance to visit a camp for children with chronic illnesses in the Jordanian River Valley. We toured many parts of the beautiful facility and got to see where the children made art. Here is some of the impressive artwork made by the children.
Orienting to Israel!
Our day in Jerusalem was filled with so much history. Here is the group in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Golan Heights tour. Dr. Farbstein is the best tour guide and knows his history!
During the trip, we have been invited over to see the towns and homes of people we met during our stay. Little can compare to the fresh homemade food and warm hospitality we have been fortunate to receive! (Homemade breakfast complete with Labeneh, apple jam, and coffee!)
March 31, 2014
Road block #1
This weekend, the three of us rented a car and headed south for the Dead Sea and Masada. The journey was a beautiful drive down 90, along the Jordanian border where the scenery went from green to desert seemingly instantaneously. Along the way, we encountered a few road blocks–the first was the most hazardous.
Masada from below
Hiking up the snake path
We went to Masada first. Masada is an ancient hill-top fortress. It was mainly built up by King Herod, but inhabited by the Romans and Jewish Rebels at various times throughout history. We hiked up the “snake path” which zigzags up and took about an hour. In retrospect doing this at midday is not ideal.
The top of the fortress is a large, mostly flat area of crumbling walls and most likely fascinating historical sites–which we did not pay to hear about. The views were stunning and if we had more time I’m sure we would have learned a lot. However, we were pressed for time, so we wandered around and then took the cable car down.
As we drove to the sea sea, we encountered our second road block, where shockingly young-looking Israeli soldiers waved us to stop and asked if we were OK. The sea is a salt lake that’s 427 meters below sea level, making it the lowest place on land. The sea is known for it’s mud benefits, which we tried (some more than others). The sensation of floating is very strange. We were warned not to attempt to swim on our bellies “because your head will dip down and you will drown!” Well, that’s not really true. Tipping onto your belly is very easy when you are floating like that, yet we all made it out alive.
After falafal on the road, we made it past our third roadblock, where our passports were checked but otherwise we had not issues. We made it home around 8pm, proud for having done it without one wrong turn despite no GPS!
March 26, 2014
This past Monday we had the opportunity to take a day trip to Safed (for a large number of alternative spellings see the title above). At 900m elevation it is the highest city in Israel and legend has it that it was founded by a son of Noah after the Great Flood.
In the morning we met with Dr. Ilana Farbstein who works as a psychiatrist in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Ziv Hospital in Safed. She gave us an overview of the the mental health services in Safed and at the associated satellite clinics they have established in other areas of Northern Israel. We also had the opportunity to tour the school where adolescents with mental health issues are enrolled. Students who attend the school are either currently admitted to the inpatient ward nearby, or they are enrolled in the mental health day clinic program. There is also a separate school for adolescents with eating disorders.
Afterwards we took a tour of the Medical school of the Bar-Ilan University in Safed and met with the Dean. The Medical School was established in the past few years and has not yet had a graduating class. The students often do their clinical rotations at Poriya and we have been working with a number of them on our ob/gyn rotation.
We ended the trip with a stroll through the city which consists of winding alleys and beautiful old buildings. Safed is known for their art and jewelry and we stopped in many shops along the way.
March 24, 2014
We made it to Israel! We arrived one week ago, and our time has included quite the whirlwind of activities. The first 6 days of the trip were spent sightseeing and of course eating. There is rarely a 3 hour period that goes by in a day without some sort of snack or meal, but that is a topic for another post.
For me, the highlight of the sightseeing week was our visit to Jerusalem. This is arguably the hottest real estate in the world, as it houses holy sites for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam alike. The city has been built up and destroyed numerous times throughout history as various groups conquered the area. Currently, the old city is roughly divided into quarters: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian. However, these quarters are not exclusive and there is some overlap between neighborhoods. It was amazing how close the Church of the Holy Sepulchure, the Western Wall, and the al-Asqa Mosque were located to each other. The sites were crowded with tourists from all over the world, but our tour guide Dvir did a wonderful job of also taking us off the beaten path. We saw an Armenian Church that was beautifully decorated, and overlooked the city from the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchure. This roof has oddly enough become the home of the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem; the laundry hanging outside seemed so ordinary to top such a place but the view was incredible.
We needed to get to work eventually, so today marked the beginning of our clinical rotations at Poriya Hospital. I’ll be on the cardiology unit for the next two weeks- more to come on the rotations soon!
March 23, 2014
Dr. Hatib Mahanna (at left) , Chief of the ICU service, hosted us to an excellent “Arabic-style” dinner on Saturday. We were joined by Dr. Mahanna’s daughter, Lenora (second from right), a 5th year (equivalent to our 3rd year) medical student at the Technion in Haifa. We learned a lot about med school life in Israel–overall another great night of food and friends! Having complete their week-long orientation to Israel, our students will begin clinical rotations tomorrow (Sunday on the Ob/Gyn and Cardiology services)–more to come…
March 23, 2014
On Friday night, we were treated to a wonderful dinner at the home of Drs. Ilana and Yacov Farbstein. In attendance were the Farbstein’s son Dan, a final-year MD/PhD student; and daughter Maya, a psychology grad student. In addition, the students met the Director of the Poriya Hospital and the Chief of the Ob/Gyn service.
March 19, 2014
Yesterday we visited significant Christian historical sites near the hospital. One of these was the Yardenit, which is the site commemorating the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.
Because America is so young, we generally know the actual location of historical events. When you go to visit Gettysburg, for example, you can be pretty sure it’s the actual site of the action. Likewise with the Alamo, Plymouth Rock, and Little Big Horn. Not so for antiquities, however–when you get down to specifics, even the Yardenit guidebook says that nobody is exactly sure where Christ was Baptized and the commemorative site is almost certainly upstream of the actual site. But the current site is nice, equipped with good parking, refreshments, and a souvenir/gift shop (where I purchased a jar of delicious orange-infused date honey) so there’s no way it will be moved anytime soon!
Once my wife and I visited Bruges, Belgium and witnessed the Procession of the Holy Blood which occurs annually on Ascension day. During this festival a small sample of cloth stained with Christ’s blood from the crucifixion is paraded through the streets. The story of the of how the blood traveled from Jerusalem through Constantinople–and eventually arrived in Bruges on April 7, 1150–is long and convoluted. When I asked the priest in charge of the ceremony whether he believed that this was really the blood of Christ, his reply was “Monsieur, does it really matter?” I guess that’s how history is.