Israel…interestingly was never high on my travel list. For no particular reason – had just never really come across it! Scott started doing business with a company there over the summer/fall and when he came back – he was like, WE HAVE TO GO! So we went. Over Thanksgiving. And honestly sits high in the ranks of places traveled for me!
The crazy part about Israel is that you are in the middle east, but it feels so…safe. Tel Aviv is a bustling western beach city – clean, great food, fun places. I think the thing I loved the most was when I landed, we went out to eat at around midnight and the streets were PACKED. Young, beautiful people were sitting outdoors at hip looking food and drink spots EVERYWHERE. We ate mussels and drank wine at midnight and honestly, it felt like it was 7 p.m. with the energy around us.
We only had just over a week and wanted to see as much diversity of the Country as possible, so we rented a car and took off exploring. We drove through the West Bank (after some serious debating between us on whether it was safe) – and hit the desert, with a quick stop at Ein Gedi on our way – an amazing oasis in the middle of some pretty crazy desert scenery. We stayed at a Bedouin camp near Arad which was a bit touristy, but pretty cool. We met some nice camels and even rode one. From there, we went to the Dead Sea – the lowest elevation on earth at 1388 ft (423m) below sea level. It was truly a strange and fascinating place – almost like a Reno or something with all these hotels built along a strip. We stayed at a beautiful little hotel (Hotel Milos, a throwback to our recent Greece trip!) and beached. We put on some mud, floated and just took in the awe of this crazy place. The craziest part was that military planes zipped past us almost at perfect 15 minute intervals – I was so concerned something was up, I asked the front desk if it was “normal”. “Ah, yes, normal. Always.”
From there we hit Jerusalem – one of the most fascinating (if not THE most fascinating) cities I’ve ever visited. You feel like you are literally IN the birthplace of humanity. We thought we were seeing some ancient ruins in Greece… but Jerusalem – it’s got thousands of years over Greece. There is a Jewish quarter, a Christian quarter, an Islamic quarter and an Armenian quarter, all crammed into the old city. As contentious as these groups of people can be to each other in the world, they all make it work in Jerusalem, living at the epicenter of their holiest places. I remember learning in my Religion class how Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share similar beginnings, but you really see it here and live it. My favorite thing was going to see Temple Dome during one of the limited times non-Muslims can go, and then later doing a tunnel tour of the city and learning how it came to be. Jerusalem has been sacked and rebuilt (on top of itself) SO many times, and it’s unbelievable to see it all first-hand. Plus, it has incredible food and an amazing market – we really loved it here!
So – if Israel is low on your list too, I recommend you bump it up. It’s an incredible place with amazing food, history and people – I can’t wait to go back!