I have just returned from my very first visit to Israel, and honestly I have so much to say I don’t even know where to start!
I spent 6 days touring the country as a guest of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, exploring Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the Negev Desert and Tel Aviv. Up until last week I had never been to the Middle East, so it was exciting for me to visit a new region of the world.
I loved every minute of it, so much so that I found myself wondering how much an apartment would cost to rent in Tel Aviv.
Israel was my best adventure yet! I had a fantastic time there and it was unlike anywhere I have been before.
Here’s some of the reasons why I loved Israel:
I couldn’t get enough of the food. Breakfast in Israel doesn’t really involve much cooked food, but it does involve lots of healthy salads, cheeses, seeds, grilled vegetables and fruit, so I piled my plate high! I became addicted to the tahini, the hummus, the grilled eggplant and the falafel shawarmas! I loved walking through the markets which were full of vegetables, tomatoes, spices and nuts. I also tried lots of Halva, a sweet food made out of sesame and honey.
A big highlight of my trip was abseiling into the Makhtesh Ramon crater. This crater is 400 metres deep and has been formed by erosion over millions of years! I have never abseiled before in my life so I was a little bit nervous, but once I had done it I felt such a sense of achievement! Floating in the Dead Sea was an interesting experience - I wasn’t expecting it to feel so oily!
Tel Aviv is famous for its nightlife, but it was Jerusalem that really surprised and intrigued me. I loved Jerusalem’s quirky pubs and bars with their microbrew beers. In Jerusalem, the bars are the kind of establishments where you can grab a stool, sit at the bar and chat to the bartender while he refills your glass all night. Definitely my kind of place!
Tel Aviv was more of a ‘scene’ with hip bars and late night clubs; it’s quite typical to start your night at 1am and finish at 6! The city was voted the world’s best gay city in 2011, and it’s definitely a great place to visit if you are looking for somewhere that is gay-friendly.
Driving through the desert we saw some spectacular landscapes and the view from Masada out to the Dead Sea was incredible. I think the picture speaks for itself!
The Religious Sites
Jerusalem is an important holy place for 3 faiths - Judaism, Islam and Christianity. There is an energy about the city and it is incredible to see so many important religious sites in one place. I saw a view of the Dome of the Rock from the Mount of Olives, walked down Palm Sunday Road, visited the garden of Gethsemane, stopped to see Jewish women pray at the Western Wall, walked through the Arab Souk, saw the 12th station of the Cross and visited the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are located. All in one day!
I knew a fair bit about Judaism because I have Jewish friends and I learnt a lot from religious studies in school, but it was really quite fascinating to experience some of the Jewish traditions - from a Bar Mitzvah celebration in the street to “Shabbat”, the Jewish day of rest.
I also got to learn about the Bedouin way of life when we visited the Sfinat Hamidbar Bedouin Camp in the Negev Desert. We drank coffee with our host and asked him lots of questions about the Bedouin culture. Serving coffee to visitors is an age old tradition; if you are welcome they will serve three half cups, but if you are unwelcome they will serve full cups, which is a sign you must leave.