Cities Visited: Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv Jaffa, Bethlehem, Ein Gedi, Masada
THANKSGIVING IN ISRAEL!!!!
Six of us took a cheap, non-stop flight from Germany to Tel Aviv, Israel and we will NEVER forget it!
Small Disclaimer:I'm writing this around the time that President Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (Dec 2017), sooooo... imagine being here 2 weeks before that announcement when everyone's happy and not focusing on rioting in the streets :)
This was the first trip we took where I wasn't the 1. Navigator 2. Planner or 3. Decision Maker. It's so much more relaxing to just follow the leader. Thanks to our German brother "Stefan," who had everything covered. He had been to Israel countless times before this so he took the lead. We flew into Tel Aviv and immediately bus taxi'd to Jerusalem. We stayed at the Abraham Hostel (highly recommend) and decided to eat in the city before "hangry-ness" kicked in. This was about the time I was introduced to my first Israeli beer and the most magical breakfast food in the country.... SHAKSHUKA!!!! This creamy spiced tomato dish came with peppers, herbs, and poached eggs on top. This is a life changing dish, you should definitely try it. Oh, and if that doesn't sound like your cha cha, then try the sweet potato ravioli with butter sage sauce, my wife just looked to me and said, "OMG that was Heaven in my mouth!" Also, you know how you enjoy your meal 10x more when the waiter you have is like your best friend that you never knew? That happened too, this dude was awesome and he made us feel so welcomed to his country #Facebookfriend. First impressions of Israel were tasting very nice...
So the uniform of the day in Jerusalem are ultra orthodox all black suits with dope a$$ flat bill Borsalino hats or.... a regular ol' modern day outfit with a kippa hat (AKA Yamakas). I left my Borsalino hat at home, so we all bought Yamakas and fit right in (sort of). Where we went next required a Yamaka, it was time for the Wailing Wall (Western Wall)!!
Women to the right, men to the left. Grown men are crying, there's praying, and continuous bowing. It got REAL HOLY, REAL QUICK! Stefan showed me inside to a continuation of the wall where the head holy man dressed in all white resided. I almost felt disrespectful for not taking part in all the Western Wall etiquette going on around me, but I was very happy to be a part of the experience and I'm humble to have witnessed all of this.
That night we drank at the bar in the hostel, and then randomly decided to go to Bethlehem the next day. Ok. There's no bus schedule in Jerusalem. You just show up and ask when they're going to Bethlehem and apparently it was right when we got there :) This is where things got weird, but then educational, and then really cool. When you take a bus into Bethlehem (which is in Palestine), there's a huge wall. The Israeli West Bank Barrier (think: kinda like the Berlin Wall). This separates the Israelis from the Palestinians and they are VERY CLEAR about not crossing that boarder if you belong to one of these countries. For us, and the rest of the tourists, it was GREAT! They dropped us off in the middle of the city and we were taken care of by two really cool Palestinian tour guides. We saw a ton of Bansky original artwork (our fav street artist), the Chapel of Shephard's Field (according to Catholic religion, this is where the angels first announced the birth of Jesus), the Israeli West Bank Barrier, and of course, the Church of Nativity (birthplace of Jesus). It's hard to describe the feeling of being in these places, it was eye opening. The West Bank Wall had so much peace and love art that it influenced me to get a couple new tattoos representing this movement.
PS: Don't throw away the little visa paper you get when you first arrive from the airport into Tel Aviv... it makes it a lil awkward to move about the rest of the country. Cough cough, Will...
Floating party on the Dead Sea. Check it off the list! Our next visit took us to the mountains of Masada and Ein Gedi. We woke up SUPER early to climb the "Snake Path" up the Masada mountains where we saw the most BEAUTIFUL sunrise! So worth the "easy" climb, right Stefan? Then we headed to The Dead Sea. There's so much salt content in this body of water that it kills all aquatic life (hints the "Dead Sea") and you're able to literally just float above water. It was like drinking beer on top of an invisible raft. Then the locals just throw mud all over each other and wash it off in the sea.... so, that's what we did. Ein Gedi was amazing, very quiet and peaceful, and a nice change of pace to the city life of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Last stop... Tel Aviv! Are we back in California?? I swear Tel Aviv could be an addition to the California coastline... on all levels. The people are all very different, super liberal, beach bums, surfers, gay & lesbian, and love to party. Kinda felt like home. If you go to Tel Aviv and don't buy a $4 falafel or shawarma from the street you're wasting your time. OH. MY. FALAFEL. Hella good. I would also check out ABU HASSAN Restaurant (lil difficult to find, so see pics below), the pita-hummus-fry combo is ultra famous. Get yo grub on and don't be intimidated by the waiters, they move fast, speak faster, and make loud sound effects, but they mean very well. They want you to have a fun time there :)
Last thing for all those people who think Israel is "scary." Take a chill pill, there's nothing to fear. The only thing that caught us off guard was from time to time (only in Jerusalem) you will see random guys with assault rifles around their shoulders. Some will be walking down the street, some will be working in a restaurant, and I actually saw one dude jogging down the street taking a selfie with one on... that's not dangerous at all (heavy sarcasm). Anyway, these guys are allowed to have them (kinda like our gun laws in the US), they're there for your protection as well as their own. You'll get used to it, or you might not even notice it. We NEVER felt unsafe, uncomfortable, or in danger. Most of the world consist of normal people like you and I who like to walk around and take pictures of cool shit, eat yummy food, and spend money on ridiculous souvenirs (or tattoos). So travel with a friend and be respectful. But..... be prepared to get grilled on your way back at the airport. Israeli "TSA" love to ask you a bunch of crazy questions about where you went, who you traveled with, and if you received anything from strangers. Very typical, very annoying, but very much worth every minute we spent in ISRAEL!!!!
Taylor Tip: "Shabbat" is Judaism's day of rest and seventh day of the week. Aka, get your "ish" together before 3pm on Friday night to 6pm Saturday night cuz EVERYTHING CLOSES. Happy Travels!