Middle East

Failaka Island, an island that was once busy and full of life, was deserted in 1991 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It is now rumoured to be haunted with the souls of the people that died in the war and they are forever stuck there haunting the island’s visitors. I decided to go to Failaka to find out for myself if the rumours were true.

To get to the Island you have to take a ferry from the mainland, when I first arrived on to the port, I instantly felt the blaring heat of the sun slowly burning my skin and the stinging sensation with a slight desire to sneeze from the salt and dust filled air. The first thing i noticed were the eerie abandoned houses littered with bullet holes and graffiti which mainly consisted of the names of people that perished and the words “Free Kuwait”.

As night was approaching I decided to climb up on the roof of an abandoned house to set up camp as I have heard  that there are scorpions at that time of year, after 15 minutes of setting up my tent the sky turned into a jet black colour with only a few stars scattered in the sky. I noticed in the distance there was house with lit up windows all alone, some people decided to go back to the island after the war had finished, as they loved the place so much, this gave me a strange feeling of hope and determination because there was nothing left of the island yet people were still so attached to the place, I would love to know what was so special about the place that it gave them this strong sense of attachment towards it.

There was definitely something about that place at night, I did not sleep all night as I was scared that a ghost may pop up at any moment. I kept on hearing a weird quacking like noise throughout the night, which at the time terrified me, but I later learned that there were animals on the island that were in a farm but now they roam freely.There was also an icy breeze that would appear out of nowhere and would chill my bones and make me shiver. I remember reading that when there are ghosts around the temperature usually drops. I found this strange as during the day the temperature was unbearably hot. Setting camp on top of a worn out, harrowing abandoned house covered with  bullet holes certainly did not help me ease my mind.  

The next morning I took the next ferry back to the mainland, there is definitely something odd about that place and the haunting rumours may be true, the atmosphere was very sinister, are there ghosts on this island or are they just some made up superstition, I am not sure but one thing I am sure of is that I will not return.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

hebron border
The border hut between H1 (Palestinian Hebron) and H2 (Israeli controlled Hebron).
palestine hebron
Downtown Hebron, but this city is divided and has been the flashpoint in the Israel – Palestine conflict for years.

Having grown up on the streets of Northern Ireland in the 1980s, cultural, political, religious and geographical divides have always been a part of my life. Whether I’ve wanted them to be or not. As my travel lifestyle has developed over time, I have become much more intrigued by the parts of the world that are sadly still experiencing war, hate and bloodshed and those trying to change from a history of problems and move on. Turning these problems into peace is every man’s dream. But the reality is, places like Hebron in Palestine are divided cities for a reason. Until you’ve been there, you don’t have a clue! So it was time to go…

hebron backpacking
Backpacking in Hebron’s Apartheid Street with a political edge to the adventure.

So I was backpacking in Israel and Palestine and decided on a full day trip to Hebron as part of a tour that allowed us to spend half a day on both sides of the city – I’d get to experience what life as an Israeli and life as a Palestinian is like. Our bus left from Jerusalem main bus station and yes, the windows are protected and almost “bullet proof”. Just to put things into context here, the week before my visit to Hebron, an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. This trip ain’t for the faint hearted. It’s an eye opener. In general though, it’s a safe enough trip and you’re advised to do it with a guide – besides you get a better insight into the situation with a local guide.

hebron palestine
With a fellow traveller and Mohammed my guide for Palestinian Hebron (H1).

The special thing about my trip to Hebron was that I got into both sides of the divide, on a “double narrative tour” run by Abraham Tours (they are based in Jerusalem and highly recommended). I was with a Jewish tour guide taking me through the Israeli controlled section, and I was with a Palestinian tour guide taking me through the Palestinian controlled section. It was Palestine in the morning, and Israel in the afternoon, well so to speak. Locally, in English at least, the sides are known as H1 and H2, almost as a cover up for the fact the city’s name is Hebron. Or to be . I’d prefer if it was called Israeli Hebron and Palestinian Hebron though, as throughout the day I got confused as to which part was H1 and which was H2.


hebron tour
Our tour group assembles in Apartheid Street to begin the Hebron Tour.

To start the tour we get off the bus on Apartheid Street. Nice introduction. With a name like that I had flashbacks to my time in Soweto and Pretoria. Here though, the meaning is the same. It’s two separate religions or cultures, separated by a street which these days nobody lives in. And why would they? The street was evacuated some years ago due to the high tension. All the houses are boarded up, they have turquoise doors and the place hasn’t seen any dwellers since the 1990s. Currently, that’s the way it will stay. We leave our Jewish guide at this point, and head to H1. H1 is a Palestinian area only. Israelis are not allowed in. Let me explain…

hebron border
The border hut between H1 (Palestinian Hebron) and H2 (Israeli controlled Hebron).

Modern day Hebron is a Palestinian stronghold and houses a Palestinian population of 160,000 or thereabouts. There are also around 700 Israelis living in Hebron giving it that divided edge. These figures don’t include the Israeli army that man the city day and night – 24 hours a day this place is under Israeli army control. They’re all armed. It is illegal for the Palestinian soldiers or police to carry a gun. It is illegal for Israelis to enter H1. For these reasons, Hebron is split into two and referred to as two separate parts – H1 and H2. H1 is controlled by Palestine and H2 is controlled by Israel. However the borders are manned by Israeli soldiers. You can feel the tension in the air. You can see it with your own eyes.

hebron border
The border blockades between H1 and H2 in Hebron.

We meet our Palestinian guide Mohammed and are taken through a security hut which doubles up as the border between H1 and H2. We leave H2 and we are now in H1. We’re on a prominent corner in downtown Hebron but we take a walk down a side street again and back towards the border. Mohammed points out the dividing wall. It’s a dead end street with bricks, bottles, barbed wire and a notable gap between what you could describe as Israel and Palestine. This is a world border right here. Hebron is sadly a flashpoint in the conflict here and this becomes apparent.

hebron H1
Above the market in H1, Hebron is proof of the bricks and litter thrown across the dividing line.

We are taken through the market to meet the locals. On route there’s a sign that the Palestinians are hemmed in. They don’t appear to have any freedom here. There are bricks on top of wire fencing over the market. It’s not pretty on the eyes. It’s a hard life for them here, that’s for sure. You don’t make stuff like this up just to show the tourists. The bricks have come from the Israeli side, but the locals refuse to surrender to their demands. We have coffee with a local guy who lives right on the border – he’s been through it all, ten times over. One of our tour group asks him why he doesn’t move to a new flat, when his children are at risk. He gives the obvious and expected answer “this is my home. I’m not moving”. He also admits that for $100,000 US Dollars he also wouldn’t move. These are Palestinian family homes and have been for generations. For now we side with Palestine.

palestine flag hebron
There are a few reminders that we are no longer in the “Israeli part”: This is Palestine.

We head into the Ibrahimi Mosque. this Mosque has security gates on the way in, and we are on the Palestinian side. The Mosque is also a synagogue. This building has an entrance for Jews and an entrance for Muslims. Even the religious buildings are segregated. Probably the saddest and most telling part of the entire tour. There was a shooting here in 1994 – while Muslims were praying a Jew walked in and opened fire.

mosque ibrahimi palestine hebron
The marvellous interior of the Ibrahimi Mosque.

Inside its a holy Muslim place of worship, so we dress appropriately and take our shoes off. As we should and as you should too. However I get angry as I see a lot of disrespectful Jewish people walk on in, without removing their shoes, some of them even wearing shorts. I find it completely disrespectful to the Muslim religion. In a holy place. These Jews even have the audacity to take photos and laugh at the fact that Muslims are prayer. I’m a bit disturbed by it, as is Mohammed and most of our group.

ibrahimi mosque jewish
Some Jewish people came in and walked on the floor of the Ibrahimi Mosque on the H1 side without respecting the Muslim culture.

After this I buy some Palestinian coins in the local market for my collection. Palestinian banknotes are not available, and I have picked up some postage stamps in Bethlehem before. It feels like a different country. We head to a viewing tower which again shows how the Palestinians are denied freedom here. All around there a guard posts manned by Israeli soldiers. I thought of West Belfast for a second then realised – no, these people have no freedom, in West Belfast they do. It’s almost like their city has become a prison. For a Palestinian to escape their home town and go abroad is an arduous task. Getting to the border and into Jordan can take the best part of 11 hours.

watch towers hebron
One of many Israeli watchtowers staring down at Palestinian controlled H1, 24 hours a day.

Lunch is served politely, courteously and in generous portions as we eat hummus, salad and chicken with a local Palestinian family. After lunch, we are “relaxed” back into H2, the Israeli controlled side of Hebron for our tour by the Jewish guy. This is where things get odd. We’re now seeing the same city for a different point of view.

synagogue hebron
The exact same Mosque/Synagogue that I was in earlier, except this is from H2, the Israeli controlled side.

We walk into the same building we were in before (The Ibrahimi Mosque) and we are now in a synagogue with lots of Jews praying and reciting verses. There seems to be a denial or a disbelief that Jews viewed from the other side were wearing shoes and laughing at Muslims. I almost wanted to call Colombo (Peter Falk) and get him to investigate the case. Although, for today thankfully no homicide, just a mystery of conflicting views and opinions within the same building. Our Jewish guide insists this building belongs entirely to Jews and the Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to lay claim to it, as they took it illegally. Earlier we heard a similar tale from Mohammed our Palestinian Guide.

palestine death
A plaque at a memorial of one of the deaths carried out by Palestinians in the area.

We head to the point in the road where last week a soldier was shot. It’s a poignant moment and for now, we side with the Israelis. it’s an emotional sectarian drama before our very eyes – and we came here as tourists. Another spot in the road was the scene of a horrendous suicide bombing, where Israeli children were killed some years ago. This is sad. We visit the memorial, which is still there. A Jewish synagogue is also here and in good condition. It’s survived some bad times.

hebron israeli controlled
A synagogue in H2 – the Israeli controlled part of Hebron.

Murals on both sides seem to portray the exact opposite to one another. I have a chuckle at the “Free Palestine” and “Free Israel” signs. On a later trip to Bethlehem, I was also startled but not surprised to see the Israeli Jews being compared to Nazi Germans in a wall graffiti act bearing the Swastika. It’s interesting when you look at the world from someone else’s point of view. The Palestinians are the weak ones here – they’re enclosed in a vacuum.


hebron israeli controlled
In front of one of the soldier checkpoints and viewing towers in H2 Hebron (Israeli controlled).

The Jews are in the major minority in Hebron, but we catch up with a local lady who has been through family deaths and lives a tough life. We totally side with her and later walk up to a guard post. The Israeli soldier there talks for 5-6 minutes. He has no fear in life. He shows us the exact location where the Palestinian sniper came from the previous week and killed one of his army colleagues. It’s a matter of life or death in parts of Hebron and it’s truly sad. Israelis find it hard to trust any Palestinian.

hebron view
A decent view of Hebron from H2 (Israeli controlled side).

Our final part of the tour on the Jewish side takes us to the Jewish Museum, which I find biased. It completely only shows things from the Israeli side. There are no photos or mentions to the fact that the Palestinians are blocked in and controlled by the Israeli state who man the borders. Palestinians live here too and are good honest, hard working people for the most part. That’s the reality. But how can a tourist solve a problem which has been going on for years.

jewish museum hebron
The Jewish Museum in Israeli Controlled Hebron (H2)

A tour of Hebron is one of the biggest eye openers from my travel journeys and completely educated me on the whole problems with the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. I also visited Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho in Palestine, but Hebron is the place to see things at first hand.

hebron warning
A warning notice on the Palestinian H1 side of Hebron.

It’s sad to see the divide and how the Palestinians are completely enclosed. Whether a two party state or a one party state is the best option for peace, one thing’s for sure, closing people off from fellow humans is in itself absurd and inhumane. My heart goes out to everyone in Hebron. I highly recommend this to anyone visiting the region. By far this trip was more interesting than Masada, Akko, the Dead Sea and Nazareth.

To the people of Hebron, “Your destiny will keep your warm”

Peace, love and safe happy travels to one and all.

I constantly hear people talking about not seeing the draw of Dubai.  After visiting the country several times I realize that it is not the city that has a problem, it is the mindset of the travelers passing through.  Dubai has been turned from an everyday city into a booming business and cultural center as well as a cosmopolitan tourist destination.  When planning a trip, regardless of my destination, I always begin by determining how luxurious I would like my stay to be and how much I’m willing to spend to make it happen.

Burj Al Arab

Once this is accomplished, it is time to decide on which hotel and part of the city I would like to stay in.  Whether it is at the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah Island, The Dhow Palace Hotel in Bur, Dubai, The Golden Tulip in Al Barsha or for the high rollers perhaps the Burj Al Arab, Dubai’s self-proclaimed seven star hotel.  You’re hotel decision alone will determine to some extent how awesome or generic your vacation will be as well as how outgoing you will be.  For instance; on one of my many trips through Dubai, I decided to go with the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah Island.  The hotel was the attraction.  From the dimly lit, yet gorgeous aquarium in the basement to the attached waterpark and even the swimming pool and private beaches, I knew that visiting here meant I would not be doing very much sightseeing, unless it was of the hotel grounds.

For me, Dubai is a fantasy world waiting to be explored.  There are so many options available, it is impossible to put them all down without writing your own self-help travel Dubai book.  For you history buffs out there, the Dubai Museum holds a mass of pre-oil historical stories and heirlooms that date back to before Dubai’s booming pearl era.  A self-guided tour lets you spend as much or as little time exploring the museum as your heart can handle.

If you find your pockets lined with cash and would like to do a little shopping, why not head to either the Dubai Mall or The Mall of the Emirates to do just that.  If you get to the mall and find that you are feeling a little more daring, why not take a dive into the world’s second largest aquarium for some scuba diving with the sharks, or if that is a little too risqué, you may enjoy snorkeling in the shark cage or a glass bottom boat tour.  Not in the mood to jump in the water?  Dubai Mall also comes equipped with a state of the art movie theater, a fantastic assortment of delicious restaurants, a full sized ice skating rink, the world’s largest choreographed water fountain and the gateway to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.  View the entire city and surrounding area from the observation deck on the 124th floor.  A slightly smaller, yet equally thrilling display of awesomeness is located just down the highway inside of The Mall of the Emirates.  The mall showcases an indoor ski/snowboard resort with five slopes with varied difficulties, to include a black diamond run for you professionals out there.

If you are in Dubai and would like to get out of the city or possibly do a little more exploring, you could always get a chartered fishing boat, rent jet skis from Ski Dubai, head on out on a boat for a little scuba or get yourself a reservation to hit the dunes of the Arabian desert to include an authentic Arabian dinner with belly dancing and camping.  Watch a beautiful sunset like you have never seen it before from the top of the large golden dunes.

Dubai Cityscape

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if you are in Dubai for a day; a week or a month, there is something that you could be doing besides sitting inside of your hotel.  Unless of course the hotel you chose was the attraction.  I highly recommend that no matter how long your stay, that you get out and explore no matter where you are, you never know what you’ll find.  Sometimes the most magnificent experiences can be found in the seemingly ordinary places.

Haifa coastline coming into the harbor

Our 3rd visit to Israel was shorter than our previous trips. It was a 3-day stopover that was part of a Mediterranean cruise.  With only two days at the Ashdod port, we chose to spend one night in Jerusalem and return to memorable sites around Jerusalem. We spent the second night aboard the ship as it sailed up the coast.  On the third day, we disembarked in Haifa. We made a request to our private guide, Jacob Firsel, to escort us to a few less frequented sites in the Galilee.

Jacob asked if we were interested in visiting Naharayim (Hebrew for two rivers). Although neither one of us were familiar with this historical spot, we were curious. Why did Jacob insist that we spend our precious time visiting an abandoned hydroelectric plant situated on the former grounds of Kibbutz Gesher?

As we drove through the beautiful countryside of the Galilee, Jacob told us that Naharayim was a small piece of land on the border between Israel and Jordan where the Yarmuk River flows into the River Jordan. The area was historically significant for many reasons.

From 1930 to Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, this hydroelectric plant produced a significant amount of power for the British Mandate of Palestine. Naharayim was the realized dream of Pinchas Rotenberg, the founder of the Israel Electric Company. Like other early Zionists, he designed ways to improve the Land of Israel using modern technology and also saw the need to forge alliances with the neighboring countries. In 1927, Pinchas signed an agreement with King Abdullah I of Jordan to build the first hydroelectric plant in the area. The construction of the plant created canals with small islands.

Naharayim was also the place where Golda Meir purportedly tried to dissuade King Abdullah from participating in the war. Her words did not prevent the inevitable.

Border Fence at Naharayim

We parked the car in an empty lot. I immediately noticed a towering electronic fence. On the other side of the fence was the hydroelectric plant. During the day, visitors are allowed to walk through the gate. At night, the gate is locked and electrified. On the other side is a designated pathway that skirts the border between Israel and Jordan.

Mine sign at Naharayim

Warning signs remind tourists of more dangerous times.

The Jordanian Arab Legion and the Iraqi invasion forces targeted the kibbutz and Naharayim in the early stages of the War of Independence. To stop the Iraqi forces from attacking Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley, the sluice gates of the Degania Dam were opened. This action forestalled the Iraqi-Jordan invasion. The hydroelectric plant never operated again.


However, the abandoned structure remains standing as a constant reminder of its demise.

In 1949, the cease-fire agreement designated that the border would go through the Naharayim Lake. From that point until 1995, the dams, bridges, and artificial lake were inaccessible.

The 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed at Naharayim. Israel ceded the land to Jordan and the Jordanians leased it back to the Israelis. The people of Kibbutz Ashdot Yaacov were able to work on the land and operate the tours at Naharayim.

Israeli Guard Tower along Jordanian border at Naharayim

As we walked, we remarked on the peaceful feeling of the area. Israeli and Jordanian guard towers reminded us that we were straddling the border of a once hotly contested land. We could only imagine what life was like in earlier decades.

Memorial Sign at Naharayim

When we returned to the parking lot, I asked Jacob about a plaque that was written in Hebrew with faded pictures of seven girls. He pointed to the Jordanian guard tower and hesitantly told us about the tragedy that had occurred at this beautiful and peaceful spot. A few years after the peace treaty was signed, a Jordanian soldier of Palestinian heritage started shooting at students who were on a field trip. Following this horrific event, the late King Hussein of Jordan extended his personal condolences to the families of the 7 slain girls. Despite this, in 2011, Jordan’s Justice Minister released the Jordanian soldier.

Jordanian guard tower at Naharayim

Jacob candidly told us that he usually waits until after the tour to share information about this unprovoked and senseless shooting.

As we drove back to the Haifa port, I understood why Jacob had wanted to take us to this site often referred to as the Island of Peace. It represented the tenuous relationship between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Walking along the border, we saw first-hand how the border was only a simple line that separated two countries. And yet this area’s history was intertwined with both peaceful and tragic events. The peace between Israel and Jordan is based on the words written in the treaty. However, if the words are not supported by actions, then prolonged peace will not be possible.

To visit Naharayim arrangements need to be made through Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov info@ashdot-naharayim.com

Sandra Bornstein, an international educator and writer, has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses at the University of Colorado and Front Range Community College. After teaching in India, Sandra wrote May This Be the Best Year of Your Life: A Memoir and started a blog that focuses on Jewish culture, international education, worldwide travel, and living abroad. A book trailer provides a taste of Sandra’s India experiences.

Lisa writing on the overnight bus in India
Lisa writing on the overnight bus in India

Winter 2013–Inspiration: A Place You Love

WeSaidGoTravel.com invites you to enter its 2013 Travel Writing Contest with a $200 first-place prize and no fee for entry. The theme for the Winter 2013 contest is “Inspiration: A Place You Love.” We hope your article will encourage others to consider going to the place you love and travel more! Please see below for the full rules of our competition. Thank you for your participation in creating a growing global community of engaged travelers and concerned citizens. Writers of all ages and from all countries are encouraged to enter and share stories from any part of our planet.

THEME:  Inspiration: A place you love

THREE CASH PRIZES: 1st prize – $200usd, 2nd prize – $100usd, 3rd prize: Vagabond’s Choice – $100usd
First and Second Prize will be selected by the We Said Go Travel Team. The Vagabonds’s Choice Award will be selected through voting on the We Said Go Travel Facebook Fan page. All award monies will be paid through Check or PayPal in United States Dollars. The contest begins January 2, 2013 and ends February 14, 2013. All winning entries will be promoted on We Said Go Travel social media channels and the author names recognized as winners of the first We Said Go Travel Writing contest. Enter by midnight PST on February 14, 2013.


JUDGING: Richard Bangs and the We Said Go Travel Team
Richard Bangs, the father of modern adventure travel, is a pioneer in travel that makes a difference, travel with a purpose. He has spent 30 years as an explorer and communicator, and along the way led first descents of 35 rivers around the globe, he is currently producing and hosting the new PBS series, Adventures with Purpose.

We are looking for an article that “speaks to readers, transforms them and transports them either to a place they’d like to live or like to travel. Use “creative evocative writing that brings a destination to life” by combining “the tools of a novelist, the eyes of a journalist, and the general knowledge that comes from a never-ending education and a natural curiosity about the world around you—and its history.” When you are “capturing the essence of a place and engaging the senses,” you share your passion for the place you are writing about and everyone will want to read your writing. (Quotes from Travel Writing 2.0 by Tim Leffel)

Contests, Courses, Resources Page: Coming SOON! Know a great contest, course or travel writing resource we should have on our page? Add it to the comments or email us at Inspiration@wesaidgotravel.com

by Terrance Richardson

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to destinations all over the world. Book your next holiday on a ship and see some of the amazing places you’ve always wanted to visit.

Caribbean Cruises

With a name like Royal Caribbean, you know this is a cruise line that knows this area of the world well. With ships that visit destinations like the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Mexico, and more, you’re sure to have the holiday of a lifetime. Bathe in the azure waters, sun yourself on the white sand beaches, eat more seafood than you can possibly imagine, and take part in exciting shore excursions and water sports. It’s all part of the Royal Caribbean experience.


Imagine combining a fantastic beach holiday with city breaks and historical sights. You can with a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise. Visiting destinations like Venice, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Santorini, Sicily, Split, and Athens, you’re sure to get the best of both worlds.

South America

Indulge yourself and see the sights of South America. This vast continent offers everything from humid jungles to frozen glaciers, as well as beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and chic cities. Begin your journey in Santos, Brazil, where you can relax on the beaches of this port city. If you’ve enough time, you can explore Sao Paulo, located about 50 kilometres away. Next, stop off in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where the beautiful elite love to party, then head to the thriving, exciting city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. End your cruise of South America in Montevideo, the quaint capital of Uruguay and the perfect place to unwind after the excitement of Buenos Aires.

Emirates and Oman

Dip your toe in the Middle East with this exciting cruise of the Emirates and Oman. You’ll begin your cruise in Dubai, where everything is new and bigger is better. Try everything from skiing indoors to riding a camel in the desert before setting sail for Fujairah, located on the beautiful Gulf of Oman. Next, your cruise will take you to Muscat, Oman’s capital and largest city, before winding down in Abu Dhabi.


If you’ve ever dreamed of a holiday to the Land Down Under, dream no more with this exciting cruise from Royal Caribbean. Choose from 11 to 16 nights onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas while you explore gorgeous Sydney, thriving Melbourne, and nature-filled Tasmania.

Canary Islands

You’ve probably considered a holiday to the Canary Islands, but have you considered taking a cruise there? Royal Caribbean offers a 10-11 night cruise onboard the Independence of the Seas for an ideal beach holiday.


 About the AuthorTerrance Richardson is a keen writer, explorer and musician. He is particularly interested in music in different cultures but is also a big food lover.

by Lisa Niver Rajna

Danny White is a young man who falls off the continent of Europe into Morocco, becoming a true vagabond. He begins his story in Descending the Cairo Side, “I didn’t know how long the journey would take, what exactly my route would be, or with whom I might share the adventure. I took no guide books; any expectations obtained from advance research would only hinder the spontaneous nature of the experience.” His meandering tour introduces him to culture and memorable places including campsites, sweaty bus rides, new lovers and new friends.

Kit Herring’s first novel inspired me to take a camel safari in Merzouga, Morocco and will inspire the reader to think about travel, to get out and travel and to read more about travel and political situations.

Herring’s work reminds the reader of Paul Theroux’s books where the traveler’s senses are inspired by lush surroundings. When he writes: “The shouts of children and touts, calls from the muezzins in the mosques, throbbing antique motors, and a complete din of human activity all assaulted my ears. I was completely entranced…” I wanted to be in that scene. While reading, I had to remind myself the story was not yet a movie.

Herring skillfully shows us situations and travelers who make a large range of choices and have run-ins with locals, police and other nefarious characters. Danny White’s conclusion that “the law does not care to distinguish intentions from actions, and we are judged not by how we see ourselves, but rather by what effects our actions have on others,” could be about the law in any country and how we fit into our own society or another we are visiting in our travels.

Descending the Cairo Side grapples with choices we all must make whether we stay at home or choose to travel. And whom we choose to love. What actions are worthy of our time and attention? As a society, we often feel constrained to make the correct choices without landmarks for what is right and wrong. At a time when so many people spend their time in online communities with no human contact, it is refreshing to read about characters boldly setting out to discover new territory in far away lands. In the end, Herring tells us more about who we are and where we started from, than about the new lines we draw on our map.

While traveling we learn about ourselves and while he says, “so never mind the insecurities and fear. Sometimes trusting strangers is the best option of all,” most travelers really learn to trust themselves. I relate so well when he says, “Who can say what happens when we interrupt our lives with new choices and take a sudden detour?” Travel allows us the opportunity not only to explore new places but new parts of ourselves, to fully become the person we are meant to be.

Buy the e-book on Amazon

The area known today as Yemen was named by the Romans as Arabia Felix, a moniker that holds less truth in the current age.

Before 1972, Yemen, then split between the old British protectorate to the south and the feudal country of North Yemen, was closed to outsiders.  The north opened suddenly, and with that new window to the world, foreigners arrived in droves.  As a terribly poor country, well-meaning but misguided officials from a variety of international agencies moved in, armed with grandiose plans for development, most of which came to naught.  The Yemenis were a proud people, disdainful of central government, and treated these strangers like the fools most of them were.

The architecture of Yemeni cities rivals that in any country but the adult men’s penchant for wearing rhino horn knives has decimated world-wide populations of the animal.  Yemen is a true country of contradictions.  The population uses most of the arable land to grow khat, an amphetamine-like substance that takes the place of food and robs its citizens of  life’s longevity.  Nevertheless, it is not our business to judge.

Their music runs to the wildly frenetic, with lute-based instrumentals and voice accompaniment.  Their hospitality is legendary as is the severity of their violence.  In 1977 I hitchhiked with my brother around the country, braving rides with 15 year-old kids driving pick-up trucks toting AK-47s strapped to their shoulders who held complete disregard for traffic laws.  Hardly better were the foreign aid workers who sometimes gave us a lift.  Their dislike of the country was often painful to absorb during extended conversations over the bad roads.

We stayed in shabby hotels, camped in the ruins of Ottoman-era forts, and wandered the country at will and were almost always warmly greeted.

Somewhere in the south a British business person picked us up, and for once we departed the paved highway.  He was headed to a remote area to talk to tribal leaders about water supplies or cheap-labor factories or whatever English commercial salesmen do these days.  (We even met a shoe seller from London near Mocha when traveling along the Red Sea).  We wanted to get away from the main road, if the “highway” could even be termed as such, so we asked him to let us off at the edge of a tiny village, miles from anywhere.  Not knowing what to do with ourselves, we started walking along a dirt track at the edge of a planted field. Without warning rocks came whizzing by our heads.  We were getting stoned, and not in the sense that Bob Dylan used the expression.

Turing toward the incoming missiles we saw a small group of teenagers yell and pick up more rocks. We became frightened.  Had we trespassed on land forbidden to kafirs (non-believers of Islam)?  What would become of us?  Now grown men rushed to where we stood, immobile with fear.   We could have been killed and buried and our embassy (with whom we hadn’t even registered) would never have been the wiser.

But the men sat us down and apologized profusely for the behavior of their children.  With great gestures and loud voices they bade us to wait while women folk arrived with a huge picnic lunch, which we were invited to enjoy and share.  Expensive canned drinks were produced, pre-packaged snacks, and other goodies that these kind farmers could scarcely have afforded to offer.  Over lunch the men told us that the boys would be severely punished.   They pantomimed the act of cutting off hands.  I was horrified, as was my  brother.  Surely such teen-age silliness would not be so harshly dealt with.  I tried, again with my  limited language ability, to ask that the children be subjected to lesser sanctions.   Perhaps the adults were exaggerating their intentions,  perhaps not.  But the afternoon was a tense one.  We felt ourselves responsible  for the trouble, and despite the fine show of gracious hospitality we left the village depressed and walked back to the main road, praying that our visit had not resulted in the permanent disfigurement of any young boys.

But this was Yemen, a rough land with tough inhabitants who lived by their own code of conduct, and nothing we could have said or done would have changed their mind-set.


1) Yemeni men

The country today is much maligned for the governmental elements that support al-Quaida, but I suspect most of this is propaganda created for the benefit of the Western politicians who wish to use fear to control and scare their “democratic” constituents. I do believe that there are radical fundamentalists among the Yemenis, but most of the land’s citizens are more interested in their own lives and probably think little about the outside world.

I remember a lesson in Islam given to me on one occasion by a small boy. He asked simply, “Where does the sun come from?”  I said I didn’t know.  He then said, “Where does the moon come from?”  Again I admitted my ignorance.  He looked at me with disbelief and said, ‘From Allah, of course.”

When we first arrived in the capital of Sana’a we were quite intimidated by the chaos in the streets, the automatic weapons, and the rampant drug consumption.  But we soon learned much of this bravado was strictly for show.  The market in the city was a fascinating place, full of spices, bargaining merchants, and exotic (if sometimes illegal) goods.

2) The entrance to the old city, Sana’a

3) Khat trader, Sana’a

Prices in the Sana’a market gravitated to the expensive side.   Those famous rhino horn-handled knives were going for tens of thousands of dollars, although I would not have been tempted to buy one at any price.  We also saw plenty of jewelry of uncertain provenance, but were not knowledgeable enough to consider purchases.  I did buy an old silver gunpowder pouch, but its current whereabouts thirty years later are a mystery.

Obtaining food was always an issue.  What few restaurants we found looked like grubby dens, and served mostly unidentifiable gruel.  We ate a lot of hard-boiled eggs and flat bread with cheese as viable alternatives. This held true almost everywhere we journeyed although fresh fruit was available in the lowlands around the sweltering city of Hoddaida, and most Yemenis were fans of that delicious sugary fruit “juice” and offered it as a matter of course for hospitality’s sake.

But again, what always astonishes the first-time visitor is the architecture found in Sana’a and the other major towns.

4) Centuries ago, the Yemenis became masters at building multi-story houses of mud and stone

One of the most amazing buildings is fifteen kilometers from Sana’a and is a former palace of the Imam Yahya.  Located in Wadi Dahr, the tower was built on top of a high rock for protective reasons.  The locals grow a lot of khat nearby, and we had fun watching them climb the trees, shouting to each other in glee when they found a particularly potent branch of the stuff.

5) Dar al-Hajar, Wadi Dahr

Especially interesting is the portal near the top of the house, from where night soil was dumped over the years, staining the walls an interesting shade of brown and yellow.  Not the most hygienic system, but it  functioned well enough for the purpose.

Near Wadi Dahr I had another instructive conversation with a local fellow, this time about the moon.  Nixon’s administration had given Yemen, along with all the countries on Earth, a moon rock, which they proudly displayed in the main museum of Sana’a.  (Recent studies have found that many of these “gifts”  were fake.  I especially wonder about the sample, which now rests in Hanoi, that the American government bestowed on the government of South Vietnam.)

In the event, we began to discuss the moon launches.  The man asked me, “So, we hear Americans went to the moon. Is this true?”

“It is,” I said.

“Well, we hear the project was filmed in Hollywood.  But if the story is true, what did they find there?”

“I’m quite sure the landing on the moon was real, not that they found much.  You must know one of the moon rocks is in Sana’a.”

“So they found nothing?”

“If you want put it that way,” I said.

“Hah,” he replied.  “It is just as is written in the Koran.  The only life in the universe is here on Earth.  Americans waste all that money, and for what?  To bring back rocks.  We have plenty of them here.” He laughed without mirth. ” You people have no sense.  Money should be given to poor countries like Yemen so we can improve our lives.”

Again, I was at a loss for words, confronted with a logic that could not be refuted with my limited understanding of Arabic.  This kind of exchange became the norm during my time in Yemen, and I was often flustered by the implacable belief system, although I did my best not to show uncertainty.  One always has to maintain face in these situations and countries.

On another occasion, we decided to thumb to Taiz, hoping to see that beautiful city first brought to the world’s attention by Ibn Battuta.

6) Minaret

We didn’t have time to get there before dark, and so asked our driver to drop us off at the bottom of an imposing hill, on top of which was an abandoned castle – one of the series of those fortifications I later learned was built by the Ottomans in their stupid,  futile attempt to control the country.

7) Ottoman-era fort

We made our way up the hill to the stone fort.  Inside the building the architecture was beautiful, with graceful archways and a stone courtyard, in the middle of which a pleasant pool and fountain had once provided soldiers respite from the heat.  We settled our sleeping bags under a covered cloister, and just after sunset thousands of bats, awakened either by us or by their nightly urge to hunt, swooped and swarmed around us in huge swarms.  At first we were alarmed, but the bats meant no harm; they exhibited natural curiosity only.  Of course nowadays the medical world says they are frequent carriers of rabies, but since none of them chose to bite us we didn’t find out if this bunch carried that peculiar affliction.

8) area around Taiz

But now we must come to problem that Yemen represents in its modern incarnation.  The media tell us of disaffected Muslims, anxious to kidnap foreigners while at the same time disdaining well-meant aid.  We hear that the increase of khat production, the bush being a thirsty one, is rapidly depleting aquifers that will be necessary for future agricultural production, given the current explosion in population growth.  Statesmen pontificate, the Saudis bribe, and various countries, notably China, covet Yemen’s proximity to the Red Sea and the crude oil passageways.

None of these facts mean shit to a tree, to borrow a phrase.  The Yemenis are people who deserve to live, to be left alone if that is what they wish, and above all, they deserve to create their own future, free of Western intervention and attempts to “democratize” their tribal society.  They are an honorable race whose ethics we should admire rather than criticize.

The Al Quaida elements now entrenched  in the country have arrived as a direct result of decades of European and American meddling and deal-breaking.  From the first broken promises of Balfour after World War One to the recent American perfidy in Iraq, hardly an iota of respect has been given to the Arabian Peninsula’s inhabitants.  When oil was discovered  in the Saudi desert, dishonest Western businessmen arrived like flies on a freshly killed goat, ready to devour the sudden and unexpected feast.  Yemen, fortunately, was largely forgotten in the feeding frenzy; the north of the country possesses almost no crude.  But being untouched became akin to a two-edged sword.  The country ended up all but abandoned by the rest of the world.

Now in the post 9/11 age,  Predator drones fly and kill, Yemeni citizens have been turned over to the tender mercies of the Americans at Guantanamo, and the ensuing radicalization of Yemeni politics grows ever faster.

9) Yemeni woman, probably a lot younger than she looks

Does the country need Delta Force operators roaming the hinterlands with their newly-grown beards and clumsy native attire?  Does Yemen need the massive aid projects that create mountains of plastic waste and garbage, all paid for with Saudi slush funds and the IMF?  I don ‘t think so.

They are a strong, intelligent people who should be given the advice they will need to modernize in their own way at their own pace.

10) Traditional village south of Sana’a

Yet at the same time we romanticize the country in the same manner Rousseau yearned for the return to the state of nature found in the “Noble Savage.”  This attitude is little more than a modern form of racism.  The Yemenis need a better electrical grid, better government services, schools, and a list of amenities too long to document here.

God help them, and God help us for our shabby mistreatment of a proud people.  We can only hope that one day the country will once again become Arabia Felix.

11) Sadeh, a town in the mountains near the border with Saudi Arabia, said to be completely off-limits to foreigners now, due to strenuous disagreements between the residents and the weak central government

12) The town of Thula: no sign of modernity

Post Script:  The year after my brother and I traveled around Yemen we convinced our parents to go as part of a group with Lindblad Travel.  As long-time friends and business associates of Lars Lindblad, they were among the first Americans to travel with a tourist group to Yemen.  As a favor, I provided Lindblad Travel with an English-Arabic phrase book, since Yemeni Arabic is far different from the dialects spoken further north in better-traveled countries such as Lebanon and Jordan.  Arabic-language questions such as, “May I take your picture?” and “Would you mind flipping the safety back on that AK?” came in handy on many occasions during my parents’ visit (just kidding about the second query).

During my first sojourn, I did in fact see two or three groups of European tourists huddled around one another in Sana’a, but the hinterlands were still completely unvisited.  The State Department warnings about travel in Yemen during the 1970s were as dire then as they are today.

I drove across Turkey in 1976 in a Ford Econoline van with two friends and a few new acquaintances, on the way from Athens to Kabul.  Some of this trip’s highlights have been related elsewhere, but events in Eastern Turkey stand out, even after all these years.

The western portion of the country is a marvelous place, full of ancient ruins from a variety of civilizations that still bask in Mediterranean warmth.  And by and large the population is friendly and hospitable.

1) The tourist’s image of Turkey: a land of ruins, sea, and sun – Photo by KG Herring

We didn’t linger in Anatolia very long.  Frankly, everyone in the van was paranoid.  The movie Midnight Express had yet to be released, but we knew the details of its reality by heart.  Turkey was famous a country where travelers did not want to be stopped by the cops while in possession of drugs.  No.  Turkish jails were rumored to be black hellholes worthy of the Oliver Stone screenplay that eventually described them so well.

So we made our way east and north as fast as possible, keeping away from the tourist routes.  In retrospect this was a shame; we missed many glorious sights.  My parents, who in these matters were usually smarter than me, traveled extensively in Anatolia and its surroundings, even buying in Izmir a beautiful carpet that now graces the living room of my house.  The rug is a Hereke, named after the group of villages that have traditionally produced large carpets for mosques and royal retreats.

2) The Hereke carpet in our Seattle home

But carpets are not the focus of this story.  After spending a few days in Istanbul, a city we considered huge, unwieldy, and extremely polluted, with overhead street wiring hazardous enough to electrocute half of its population in a heavy rain, we departed for more distant lands.

On one memorable occasion we arrived in a small village, whose name I have long forgotten, quite late in the evening.  We were tired, hungry, and the village had gone to bed for the night.  We did find an open store and stopped to ask about accommodations.  Word of our arrival spread like a fire in New South Wales.  Soon the entire population of the town woke and gathered.  A restaurant was opened for our enjoyment, the local police showed up to join in the festivities, and soon an epic arak-drinking contest began.  Everyone concerned felt it a matter of honor and duty to swallow as many shots as humanly possible.  I used to have a photo of my friend Renée, drunk and hugging an equally inebriated police officer, she sporting his uniform hat on her head, he grinning like he’d just married the finest white woman in all of Asia Minor.  The hospitality of these people was truly astonishing, one of the finest examples of a true welcome I have ever witnessed.

At last, well after midnight, the party ended.  Rooms were provided for us above the restaurant and the village retired, soused and sleepy.  We slept like tranquilized babies and woke fresh in the morning to continue our journey, pushing ever eastward.

The going got more sketchy as we made our way into the arid mountains of Eastern Turkey, after a brief overnight stop in Ankara to visit Ataturk’s tomb, a rigid monument to grandiosity and the cult of personality.  The road passed through increasingly dry terrain, and after a couple of days we found ourselves in a rugged, desolate landscape, devoid of greenery or people.  We had heard that this stretch of Turkey was dangerous to travelers.  Bandits regularly descended from the hills at night to waylay big-rig trucks, hippie vehicles, and any other traffic they could find.  Often drivers vanished without a trace, and nobody thought alien abductions were the cause of the disappearances.

3) The road east: Photo by KG Herring

So we made a decision to turn north and head to Trabzon on the Black Sea.  I liked the idea.  Located near the edge of Turkey, not far from the border of Iran and Russia, I imagined we might glimpse views of the Caucasus Mountains from the shoreline, and be embraced at an ancient crossroads of humanity, where great armies had passed over the centuries, warring with one another as Europeans clashed repeatedly with the cultures of Asia.  Besides, I had never seen the Black Sea, and of course wondered if the body of water would indeed look, well, black.

We arrived in Trabzon in the late afternoon.  Our first night there, we headed east of the town and camped on the beach, a most unsatisfactory arrangement.  The weather was cold and damp, and the beach sand had the consistency of a dirty landfill.  Furthermore, the Black Sea looked gray and the water was cold.  Of the legendary Caucasus Mountains, little could be seen except some high peaks that drifted in and out of a dank fog.  Perhaps they were in Georgia, then part of the Soviet Union, or they could have been in Turkish territory.

The second night we elected to find a hotel in town, somewhere to warm up, take a hot shower, and sleep in a warm bed.  On one of Trabzon’s main streets we found an inexpensive place to stay.  But for reasons no longer recalled I didn’t like the feel of the place so I elected to sleep in the van for the night.  The others haggled with the owner about the price of the rooms and came to an agreement.  The cost of a habitation was on the expensive side, considering the quality of the establishment.  It seemed like the kind of place where bedbugs and cockroaches might rule the late hours.  The van, with its basic interior of bench seats, at least would provide a relatively clean space to stretch in my sleeping bag.

The following morning I woke early.  None of my friends had yet appeared from the hotel, which was across the street from the van.  I hadn’t yet seen Trabzon’s harbor, so I took a walk to the water’s edge to move my legs and shake the sleep from my bones.  The port proved to be a disappointment, with only a few shabby fishing boats moored at the docks and dirty water lapping at a rocky patch of beach.   At least here the Black Sea was black, probably more from pollution than from a poetic visual perspective.

Returning to the van, I noticed that a group of men had gathered around it.  Not thinking clearly and still groggy from lack of sleep and coffee, I thought little of the peculiar scene and continued slowly toward the vehicle.  Suddenly one of my friends opened the rear sliding door and shouted, “Jump in, quick!  We have to get out of here!”  I reacted with startling speed and raced to the van, throwing  myself through the door.  Something was seriously amiss, that much was clear.

No sooner had I climbed inside than my friend slammed the door shut.  The group of men around the van, I quickly discovered, had not gathered to pay us their morning respects.  They were screaming at the driver, who yelled back in return.  Suddenly a Turk opened the driver’s side door and dove inside, knife in hand.   The driver wound up and punched him in the face, hard enough to send the the man flying back out of the van.  Then the other traveler in front reached into the glove compartment and grabbed the 12 gauge starter pistol we carried.  The men outside began to rock the Ford, trying to turn it on its side.  Our redoubtable navigator leaned over our driver, opened the window with amazing speed and fired point-blank into the crowd.  “Floor it!” he screamed, and the van took off like a vehicle  in a Steven King novel, possessed with demons.  The crowd ran close at our heels.

Dazed and baffled, I demanded, “What happened?  Why are these men so angry?”  The van continued to accelerate and was now doing close to 100 kilometers per hour on the busy street.

“We got into an argument about the price of staying in the hotel.  The owner wanted to double the rate he agreed to last night.  We said no, so he ran outside and called to his friends to come help him make us pay.”

“Jesus,” I said.

“We refused and they became even angrier.  They were going to kill us!”

“Holy shit!”  I added, now bewildered.  My aimless walk to the harbor might have been the last walk I ever embarked on, had I not returned to the van in time.

“We wondered where you were.  What the fuck were you doing?”

“Um, just taking a morning stroll to the water.”

“You could have got us fucking wasted.”

“Sorry, how was I to know?”

Meanwhile we had now escaped downtown Trabzon.  We fired a few more rounds for effect from the starter pistol, our collective adrenaline pumping like acetone in a cocaine factory.

And so that was that.  We had been attacked but managed to escape.  Had the Ford stalled before we left the city, we would have been thrown in jail or worse.  Surely the blast from the starter pistol, shot into the throng of men from only a meter away, had caused serious bodily injury.

But we carried on and soon forgot about our brush with disaster.  Such was the way of travel in those years.  A few days later we stopped in Erzurum where we were treated to some of the finest Turkish food to be had in the country, and we delighted in the sight of the famous Cifte Minareli Medrase, one of Turkey’s architectural gems.  The people of Erzurum proved kind and helpful.

But we experienced a final negative encounter at the border between Turkey and Iran.  Before arriving there we had wonderful views of Mt. Ararat, its volcanic cone soaring into the heavens, and I thought of Noah and Gilgamesh and the Native American boat survivors who washed up near the summit (depending on which version of the world-wide legend a person chose to believe) long ago during one of Earth’s great cataclysms.

4) Mt. Ararat from Yerevan, Armenia: Photo by KG Herring

At the frontier we halted behind a long line of commercial trucks that plied the route between Europe and Asia.  Slowly the line advanced, and soon we saw a Customs and Immigration shack on the side of the road.  We wondered if we would be able to check out of Turkey before nightfall, when the border probably closed until the following morning.

A Turkish border guard opened the door of the mud-brick hovel and lurched in our direction.  Dressed in a slovenly uniform, with half its buttons missing and the fly unzipped, he staggered to the van.  He had his hand on his sidearm, a large and nasty handgun.  Leaning into the open window on the right side of the van, arak fumes emanated from his breath into the interior as if he was exhaling gasoline.  “You!” he barked.  “I want woman!”

“Excuse me,” the English driver said.  “What may we do for you?”

“Woman!” he repeated, waving his free arm through the window in the direction of the three women travelers.  “I want!”

This was bad news.   He had absolute power at this lonely outpost.  The truck drivers would do nothing to interfere with his authority.  “Well,” our driver said, “we can offer you a nice carton of cigarettes.”  He pulled a long box of Rothmans from under his seat, kept there for such emergencies.

“No.  You give me woman. I take.  Bring back later.”

I had an idea.  We also carried with us several bottles of Johnny Walker whiskey to use as informal bribes should an unpleasant situation demand a “gift.”  “Listen,” I said, holding up a bottle.  “Let’s go back to your office and talk.  We can have a drink and discuss matters of mutual interest.”

My friend Steve now said, “Yes, sir.  Wouldn’t you like a taste of good American whiskey?”

The border guard assumed a befuddled expression.  He’d planned to have his way with one of our female passengers, but on the other hand, American whiskey was a tempting offer.   Before he could answer, Steve and I exited the van, bottle prominently displayed.  I took the bold step of putting my arm around the official and gently led him away from the Ford to the Customs House.  “It’s a cold day,” I said.  “A drink will do us all good.”  I didn’t dare look back at my other companions.

So we entered the man’s office and sat down.  He had a metal barrel he used as a stove and heater.  Taking a jug of alcohol or maybe straight petrol, he poured it into a metal hole on top.  The fire roared and I still wonder why the thing didn’t explode into a fireball.

And so we sat and chatted, perhaps for two hours.  He turned out to be a simple fellow, if not exactly likeable.  But we sympathized with his plight, stuck here in the middle of nowhere with the great mountain of Ararat as a forbidding backdrop to his station.  He told us of his family, far away in another district, and how he seldom saw them. He told us how little he was paid, and how the truck drivers treated him with disdain, while his superiors demanded ever longer work hours with diminishing pay.

Finally Steve and I became nearly as intoxicated as our host.  We rose to our feet and engaged in a group hug with the Turk.  Tears streamed down his cheeks as he bid us farewell and safe journey.  The two of us returned to the van, weaving and slurring, beaming with the conclusion of what might have turned into an ugly scene.  Very ugly.

And so our Ford Econoline departed Turkey.  We jumped the queue and drove to the Iranian checkpoint.  Steve and I positioned ourselves in the rear seat and prayed that the booze on our breath wouldn’t be noticed by less alcohol-tolerant Iranians.  Turkey fell behind us, a land of startling contrasts and fascinating people.  The question of right and wrong as related to our actions there, both in the legal and moral sense, is one for which we have no answer.

The moon. Photo by Lawrie Cate/Wikipedia/Flickr
The moon. Photo by Lawrie Cate/Wikipedia/Flickr

Recently I was invited by the Jewish Journal to write about the RACE BACK TO THE MOON!! My article begins like this:

I have always wondered who will be the next to land on the moon. My parents remember vividly when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969 and said, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” As a student and now a teacher of science, I hope to inspire the next generation of engineers who will create rockets to take us to the places of our dreams.

It seems that a team from Israel may be the next to touch down next on the moon. (From the website http://www.spaceil.com/)

“Our mission is to become the first to successfully launch, fly and land a small robotic spacecraft on the Moon, operate it across the lunar surface and transmit video, images, and data back to Earth by the end of next year. By doing this Israel will become the third nation on the moon!” Learn more about SpaceIL on their site: http://www.spaceil.com/