Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Golan

On Tuesday we went up to the Golan. It is absolutely magnificent. Our first stop was Banias Falls.
 The hike down to the falls was hot but thankfully short!
It was much cooler when we got down to the falls.
Like one of those giant misting fans
The hike back up
I can't imagine how beautiful the Golan is in the spring.

Our next stop was a very quirky Israeli petting zoo/ play area in Odem. This was the sign to the petting zoo/play area. Most of the signs that I see in Israel have Hebrew and English this one was just Hebrew. I think we were the only non-Israelis there.

All Hebrew sign in Odem.
T on a pony!
This was a giant tricycle ramp/course
Cute Goat!
Cute goats with their lamb best friend!
Soft Chicks!
The turtle on the bottom was the fastest turtle I have ever seen. He was walking so fast that he's a blur.
Fluffy bunnies!
This was the trampoline and giant inflatables area. I love that the floor is covered in old oriental rugs.
The kids playing on giant inflatable. Z looked ridiculously large on them!

They had 3 trampolines for the kids to jump on. Unfortunately Z was too old and big to play on them. I can't imagine that there would ever be a public place in the States with trampolines because they are considered too dangerous. 

The girls having a blast!

It was definitely a wacky kind of a place but the kids had a great time. The whole time I was there, though, I kept trying to figure out where I had heard the name Odem before but I just could not remember. As we were walking back to the car I noticed some barrels and a grape press. There was a small building so I ran up to see what it was and it was a winery! Now I knew where I had heard the name Odem before. J and I told the kids to wait outside while we went in to check it out. 

Grape press and oak barrels
The Odem Winery

Hipster, foodie, Israeli wine guy.

We returned to the kids very happy and with 2 bottles of wine that we have not seen in the states. As we were about to leave J suggested that we try and find the OZ 77 War memorial at the Valley of Tears. I was not entirely enthusiastic about making this stop. I imagined that it would be just a statue or stone memorial but I was wrong. It was breathtaking.

First we saw these beautiful vineyards

 And then parts of the memorial
 They had 3 groupings of tanks. Here's Z in front of one.
An amphitheater was part of the memorial too. 
You could see all the way to Syria.

After we left the memorial we stopped at the De Karina Chocolate factory in Ein Zivan. We missed the last chocolate workshop of the day but the participants who had just finished looked very happy, especially the kids who were carrying the chocolates that they had just made! We did buy some chocolate and it was delicious.

That evening for dinner we ate at the fabulous Macom B'Sejera restaurant at Moshava Ilaniaya (5 minutes from Kibbutz Lavi). All of the food served at the restaurant is either grown or raised at their farm. Everything was organic and the meat was pastured. The food was simply prepared with lots of delicious home grown herbs. 

We started with the hummus made with sprouted chickpeas and sauteed mushrooms served with just made whole wheat pita bread, a vegetable salad and stuffed grape leaves. R had fresh pasta with freshly made tomato sauce which was excellent. Z and T had the tenderest boneless rib eye, D had boneless grilled cornish hen (yum!) and J and I had kabobs made from a mix of lamb, beef and duck (wow!) Amazingly they had delicious lemonade made with fresh stevia (not the yucky processed white stuff). I let my kids drink as much as they wanted! We were to stuffed for dessert but my guess is that it would have been excellent.

Macom B'Sejera delicious and beautiful.

Next up Hebron....

Saturday, August 27, 2011


This trip was a long time coming and we are thrilled to be here. We took the 7:00PM flight from JFK and it worked out great. It was hard to believe that we were on a 10 hour flight. After dinner (I bought some schnitzel and string beans I made myself since airline food is so bad! ) J and I read while the kids watched a movie. Everyone was asleep by about midnight and up by 4. The next thing we knew the flight was over. We rented a car at the airport and drove for about an hour and a half to Kibbutz Lavi in the Galil. We have not been up north for over 12 years and I had almost forgotten how beautiful it is.

We settled in and spent the afternoon exploring the kibbutz which is really quite lovely. All the kids enjoyed the "dangerous" Israeli playground. Z said it's much more fun than the "safe" ones you now find in the US and I agree. 
Check out the wooden seat on the swing. It's way more comfortable to sit on than the flexible seats they now have in New York but I suppose they hurt if they hit you.
Out of control merry-go-round. It goes ridiculously fast, especially when a 15 year old boy is doing the spinning!

We spent Friday relaxing at the Kibbutz but ventured out to Teveriya (Tiberias) to a nice Italiandairy restaurant Raefelo's for lunch and a walk on the waterfront of the Kinneret. We were suprised at how close Teveriya was to Kibbutz Lavi. This meant we had lots of options for dinner.

On Sunday, after a relaxing Shabbat, we were ready to start exploring. Kibbutz Lavi had an excellent travel guide who gave us some great ideas for what to do. We decided to go to Kfar Bulm to kayak down the Yarden River (Jordan River). We had a blast.  It's really nice not to have a baby or a young child anymore since now we can do things all together with out me being left behind with the little ones. The Yarden is not grand like my favorite New York river the Hudson is but it is absolutley beautiful, almost magical.
The Yarden

Next, we headed to Suf Manara (the Manara Cliffs) to ride the cable car. The views were unbelievable. They also have an alpine slide and bungee trampolines which the kids loved. 
    The view on the way down the mountain
Here's T on the bungee trampoline. I think she looks so cute!
    This was the view going up. The bluish gray squares are aquaculture fields.

That night we went to an Israeli restaurant called Avi's Place in Teveriya. The salads were so fresh and tasty and the beef kababobs were super tender and very yummy.
Here are 2 of my very loud kids making a a bit of a scene in the restaurant. They are  quite skilled at this. I think my 4 kids may be the loudest kids in the world. 

The next day we went to Haifa and found this brand new (4 days old) lovely restaurant Cafein by mistake. Another delicious meal is Israel. It was the kind of place that I wish existed on the Upper West Side.

Here are the happy customers! Check out the size of these salads.

After lunch we went to the MadaTech science museum in Haifa. I have to admit that we were not sure how the kids would feel about going to a children's science museum. When we walked in and saw the first floor that was for little kids we were sure we would not last the almost 2 hours we would have to wait until we could get into the Sports Science exhibit. Low and behold we needed to push the kids out of the permanent exhibit to get them to the Sports Science exhibit in time for our 5PM reservation. Ironicaly the Sports Science exhibit was good but not as much fun as the rest of the museum.
 The kids loved the "Time Machine". It was a video camera with some sort of a delay that made things seem like they were happening at a different time.
 Beware! Your teenager might have fun at this museum.
It was also engaging for the adults

We got back to Kibbutz Lavi at about 7 and we ended up going into Teveriya for dinner to eat at  Pagoda, a chinese restaurant which is located on the Kinneret, has beautiful outdoor seating and good but not great food. The end of another beautiful day in Israel. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Problem With Genetically Modified Food

We used to have a visiting day ritual of taking the kids to Walmart and letting them go crazy and buy junk food to bring back to camp. Having grown up as the only kid in my camp bunk whose parents actually followed the camp's rule that no candy should be sent to campers or brought on visiting day I knew how hard it was to be the only kid in your bunk with out mountains of junk. Each year I just threw up my hands and said OK. It was one of the few times each year that I gave them the green light for commercial junk food.

This year, however, there was no green light at Walmart. The reasons why is that I don't want my children to eat anything that contains genetically modified food and most processed foods today contain it. I have been reading about genetically modified food (GMs or GMOs for the term genetically modified organisms) for the past few years and the more I read about it the more I grow to believe that it should be totally avoided.

There have been several studies on animals fed GM feed that have had disturbing results such as increased infant mortality, sterility, stillbirths and organ abnormalities. Two studies in particular caught my eye. One was done by the Russian scientist Alexy Surov for the Russian Academy of Science and the National Association for Gene Security that showed a higher infant mortality rate (25% versus 5%) and higher sterility rate in many of the rats fed a GM soy diet versus a non-GM soy diet. Surov also found that some of the rats grew patches of hair in their mouths after being fed GM soy for three generation. Surov believes that more studies must be done on the safety of GM foods.

The other study done in Canada and accepted as a peer reviewed paper for the Journal of Reproductive Toxicology was on pregnant and non-pregnant women who were eating a typical Canadian diet. The study found the Bt toxin (which acts as a pesticide in Monsanto's GM corn, soy and potatoes) in the blood supply of 93 percent of the pregnant women, in 80 percent of the fetal blood taken from umbilical cords and in the blood supply of 69 percent of the non-pregnant women. According to Monsanto the Bt toxin is entirely destroyed in the digestive system.

There have also been reports of farm animals who were fed GMOs and developed many of the same conditions that the animals in the studies had developed. Back in 2000 and 2001, Iowa farmer Jerry Rosman found that some of his pigs were becoming sterile and if the pigs did become pregnant some were delivering empty bags of water instead of piglets. He was able to trace it back to his GM corn feed. Every time his story was told in the media he received calls from other farmers who were experiencing the same phenomenon.

After digesting everything I had read and deciding that many of these studies had been done by reputable scientist and were indeed quite scary I decided that I was going to try and eliminate GM food from my family's diet. The big question for me was how was I going to do this? It seemed totally overwhelming but in truth it's not that hard. All you need to do is keep a few things in mind when you are buying food.

1. Buy only organic food because organic food producers can't use GM food intentionally.

2. Buy food labeled as Non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project.

3. Download a free copy of the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.

4. Make sure to check all of the ingredients in your food. Unless it is certified organic or Non-GMO avoid soy, corn, canola oil, cotton seed oil and sugar beets (which are used to make sugar).

5. Look for products that are made with safflower or sunflower oil instead of canola oil since there are currently no GMO versions of these.

6. Make sure that all of your animal products come from animals who were not fed any GM feed.

As far as my kids go I have explained to them why we don't buy GM products and they have been totally cool with it. It's not like there are no yummy treats to eat that have no GMOs in them. Just ask them about the non-GMO organic lolly pops, chocolate, cookies and potato chips that I brought for them on visiting day which they and all of the kids in their bunks loved!


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