"Israel has the ugliest roofs in the whole world!" our charming and knowledgeable guide, Alex, remarked as we gazed out on a sea of rooftop solar collectors.
In response, the sun-energy enthusiasts taking part in MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Solar Tour of Israel (cosponsored with Jordan College and Solar Age ) roared in protest. We felt that the solar water heaters — gracing almost every building throughout this Mediterranean country — were a beautiful sign of common sense.
The fact is, even the few people who had little interest in solar tours and originally viewed our Israeli trip as an inexpensive way to visit an exotic, historic land could hardly help being impressed by the commitment to sun power that this small nation has made.
Nor could such folks fail to appreciate the remarkable generosity with which Israel's solar scientists, manufacturers, builders, and researchers shared their time (and knowledge) with us. Whether we were visiting integral solar houses or methane digesters on various kibbutzim . . . exploring the potential of producing electricity from solar ponds on the Dead Sea . . . talking to Dr. Harry Tabor, one of the world's most respected pioneers in solar energy . . . or catching up on the latest developments in solar greenhouse design at the Desert Research Institute, all of our questions were answered with a courtesy and thoroughness that left no room for complaint.
On the other hand, the people who had come along on the tour strictly for the technical solar information it offered were — as a bonus — treated to a comprehensive and fascinating look at the rich history and culture that almost every inch of this ancient, rocky land exudes. We saw, for example, the valley where David battled Goliath . . . dined and shopped in partially restored Jaffa (from which Jonah departed for his encounter with a whale) . . . passed a cypress-dotted hill overlooking the serene blue Sea of Galilee where the Sermon on the Mount is thought to have been delivered . . . and explored Masada — Herod the Great's natural desert fortress — where 960 Jewish men, women, and children withstood the might of Rome's 10th Legion for years . . . before they were finally driven to defeat and mass suicide.
Our trip also included visits to 2,300-year-old Nabatean ruins, whose former occupants cultivated the barren Negev desert (their farming techniques are being successfully revived today) . . . as well as to the Roman port city of Caesarea, where fields of banana trees thrive amid tumbled marble columns.
And, when we arrived in Jerusalem, we found it easy to understand how this former Canaanite village — which was conquered by King David and turned into his capital city — has become, over the centuries, a shrine for three of the world's great religions: It doesn't matter whether you're meditating in the quiet beauty of the Garden Tomb, feeling the old stones of the Western Wall that have been worn smooth by millions of praying hands, marveling at the ancient and gnarled trees in the Garden of Gethsemane which still produce olive-bearing branches, walking shoeless across the fields of Persian carpets in El-Aqsa Mosque, or sipping strong Turkish coffee while bargaining with Arab merchants in labyrinthine streets filled with all the wonders of a Middle Eastern bazaar . . . the entire city radiates an energy that's easily described as "holy."
There was time, too on this educational solar energy tour to float effortlessly in the briny, healing waters of the Dead Sea . . . to sit in a sunny sidewalk cafe in Tel Aviv and watch a colorful array of shoppers patronize the elegant stores . . . and to taste the cosmopolitan fare in several of that city's fabulous restaurants.
The trip was so remarkable, in fact, that MOTHER EARTH NEWS had no hesitation in agreeing to join Jordan College in sponsoring another such learning adventure next year. Our second Solar Tour of Israel will run from February 20 through March 2, 1981 . . . with the possible option of spending an additional week in Egypt. And since we'll be able to apply everything we learned on our first trip, we expect next year's expedition to be even better!
The ten-day tour is tentatively (because airfares are so unpredictable) priced at $1,490 . . . and a $200 certified check or money order ($100 of which is refundable if you decide to cancel) will guarantee your participation in a remarkable blend of ancient history and modern technology.
When, at the end of the very successful Israel tour, Dr. DeWayne Coxon (who's the president of Jordan College) suggested that we should also join his school in investigating the sophisticated sun systems now in operation in Holland, Germany, and France . . . we acknowledged that MOTHER EARTH NEWS had been contemplating just such a tour.
Therefore, we've decided to offer a two week European jaunt for August 23 to September 6, 1981: a time period which just happens to coincide with the once-every-two-years International Solar Energy Society (ISES) conference being held in Brighton, England . . . our first stop. From there we'll move on to the Continent to see the best that Europe has to offer in both solar research and its practical applications.
While some of the details of this two week tour are still being worked out, we can already tell you that the price will be well under $2,000, including airfare . . . and that, again, a $200 deposit ($100 of which is refundable in case of cancellation) will hold a place on what's sure to be a popular trip.
Another journey that we're extremely pleased to offer is our forthcoming Alcohol Fuel Tour of Brazil, tentatively scheduled for January 22-31, 1981. By the time you read this, MOTHER EARTH NEWS staffers will already have traveled to South America to lay the groundwork for this exciting excursion into the end-of-the-year Brazilian summer.
So clear your calendar next winter for some sun and fun in Rio and in the bustling, vibrant metropolis of Sao Paulo! We'll arrange for you to meet and learn from the growers, distillers, car manufacturers, scientists, and government officials who are making it possible for Brazil to become the first nation in the world to make a complete conversion from an oil-based to an alcohol-fuel-based economy. More of the details concerning this unique tour will be revealed in our next issue.
Despite the fact that last year's trip to the U.S.S.R. was by far our most popular and successful journey, we have — as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. government's decision to urge a boycott of the Moscow Olympics in protest — regretfully canceled our Herbs and Wild Plants Tour of the Soviet Union that was to have taken place in May. There's no doubt, however, that the Russians have much to teach in the areas of herbs and herbal medicine . . . and we hope changes in the political situation will enable us to go on such an expedition sometime in the future.
On the other hand, our Food Production Tour of the People's Republic of China, scheduled for September 8 to 29 of this year, is already filled up! However, in case someone has to cancel — and also because there's a possibility that we might be able to open up the tour to a few more people — we're still taking deposits for alternates. To get on the waiting list, send us a $200 certified check or money order (all of which is refundable if you don't get to participate). But hurry . . . because alternates will be chosen in the order in which their deposits are received!
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