Journey to the Holy Land: Part 1 – Tel Aviv

Posted: 3 June 2013 in Travel
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Living in Europe gives one a wonderful opportunity to see many things one would have a more difficult time seeing when living in America. I was able to travel to many places and see some pretty awesome things (not bragging, just stating facts). One of my most treasuring excursions was when I went to Israel. It wasn’t necessarily because I was there, but more upon why I was there. During my semester abroad in 2008, I had planned on making the trip. It didn’t happen. Then I moved back to England for my MA. The idea to go was still rumbling around in my head, but I hadn’t made any moves towards going. I even had a friend from Miami, Sam, who was doing an internship there. Everything was perfect for me to except one thing: the catalyst. When I was serving my mission in Germany, I became close to an elderly missionary couple, the Keils. The last e-mail I received from her (and thankfully responded to) was in January 2010 while I was in Spain. The next e-mail I got from her account was the following April notifying me that she had passed away. I was devastated. I sobbed all that morning and thankfully people were nice to me at work so I didn’t cry there. I sobbed again when I got home as I remembered her and our friendship. I remembered her commenting on how exciting my life was. Right then and there I decided to book a trip to Israel in her memory. I let Sam know my travel dates and made ready to go to the Holy Land.

Tel Aviv Skyline

Above isn’t the best picture of the skyline (it was taken quickly as I hurried to get to the airport), but Tel Aviv was unlike anything I had expected. But I guess that happens with most places you visit that you’ve never been before (like when I went to Jamaica).

So the whole trip to Israel was quite the learning experience. For those of you who have never been to Asia (or the Middle East), getting into Israel is not as easy as most other countries. When I got to immigration, the officer was not very nice. She asked me if I’d ever been to an Islamic country and I said that this was the first time I’d ever been to this region. She was very condescending when she responded that Israel was not an Islamic country. I really wanted to come back with a snarky reply, but didn’t. She wanted to know every move I was going to make, where I was staying, it was ridiculous. I then had to do it a second time after I ‘officially’ entered the country. This guy was at least nicer. Apparently, Sam had sent me all this info, but it’d been sent after I’d already left. Oh well.

When I got out of baggage claim, I looked around for Sam but couldn’t find him. It was like being in Spain all over again. I was able to contact my friend Dieneke and was going to have her get on my facebook to get his number when I saw him. I was so relieved. We caught a train into the city, walked to a mall to get something to eat (poor Sam lost his wallet so I got his dinner), and then slowly made our way back to his house. We had tried to catch a bus and waited for ages to find out that it was running, but eventually we made. We also stopped at a shop to buy some snacks and I bought some amazing coconut ice cream.

So the first night and full day was fairly chill. I met his housemate Max (who was way cool) and later a bunch of his other friends. My first day was spent hanging out with Max for the most part. We played games, talked about movies (he had introduced me to the internet show ‘The Guild‘ the night before), watched a few movies, and that was it other than a house meeting.

Carmel Market

The next day was a bit more exciting. He took me to the Carmel Market. It was reminiscent of the fashion district of LA. It was the first time I’d been anywhere like it. You could find all manner of clothing, accessories, novelty items, and even food. It was really cool.

Tel Aviv Beach

Later in the afternoon we went to the beach. A few weeks prior in England, I learned how to surf at Fistral Beach. I really wanted to surf while I was in Tel Aviv. Not this time though. It was nice swimming. The only thing we needed to watch for was jellyfish. Max and I swam out a ways but turned back when we began hitting ojects in the water (I hit something squishy). Turns out, I was the only one (other than one guy who never got in the water) to not be stung. I joked with them that I didn’t get stung because I was Christian (they were all Jewish). I did see a small jellyfish close to the beach. It was cool looking. On the last day I was there, Max and I were going to go surfing, but when we called they said the waves were low so we didn’t. I was sad. I haven’t been surfing since then.

White Night

White Night

The following evening was an event called ‘White Night.’ It was started in 2003 and is an event that last all night. It was awesome. The party ran all up and down Rothschild Boulevard. There were booths with music and dancers from all over the world. The two pictures above show scenes from the Brazilian and French booths. The French dancers were really good. I have a video of them, but it won’t let me upload it. Anyway, practically the entire city is open so we were able to get some food at a place. Then we headed down to the beach. There were stages set up for raves and such there. We chilled out on the beach for a few hours chatting. The sky was starting to get light by the time I decided to call it a night and head back.

Epic Water Fight

Epic Water Fight

The next day I was supposed to be taken to a safari, but they didn’t wake me up. It was fine although I really wanted to go. Instead we went to observe an epic water fight. It happens every year around the first week of July. I really wanted to participate, but it was ok that we didn’t since Sam had some errands to run afterwards. Some kid saw that I was dry and did shoot me so I feel that I at least was able to experience it. Gives me at least one reason to go back.

The rest of the day we ran some errands and other stuff. Before we went to the water fight, Sam took me to his University to attend a graduation. It was really cool. Then later we went back to Carmel Market. On saturday (the next day), I had made plans to go on my first official paid tour (this will get its own post). I learned that I needed to have my knees covered in order to enter certain holy sites on the tour as well as in Jerusalem. All I had was shorts so we needed to go shopping. I was able to get myself a decent pair of jeans for if I remember right about 120 shekels or something like that. I still have them and wear them often.

IMG_2456

As I left from Tel Aviv, I might as well describe leaving. Leaving was even more stressful than getting into the country. Before you can go up to the counter, you get talked to and then your bags go through a scanner. If there is something in question, you get sent over to a one section. If there is nothing wrong you can just go up to the check-in counter. Check-in is normal, and so is going through immigration. Before you could gain access to the gates, you have to go through a metal detector and put your luggage through another scanner. What happened next terrified me. They had me go through a few more metal detectors. Then they swabbed my shoes and my passport. I honestly thought they were going to escort me to some room and detain me and make me miss my flight. That didn’t happen though. I met Carl (in the picture with Lilith when we landed in London) who told me that they do that to everyone. I guess it was more extreme for me because it was my first time.

So my overall opinion of Tel Aviv is that I loved it. I had such a great time hanging out with Sam and Max and their friends. Truthfully, Tel Aviv is one of the few places I feel that I can live happily. I would need to learn Hebrew, but otherwise I’d be just fine. I love the food as well. One of the days, Sam got us falafels from down the street. Oh my goodness they were amazing. I could have eaten them every day all day. There are also many different restaurants and cafes. The ones we usually went to were on or around Rothschild Boulevard. It is definitely one place I’d recommend going. This might sound strange, but make sure you have detachable pages in your passport or you go when your passport os about to expire. That is if you have any stamps from Islamic countries. Some countries are friendly with Israel, but there are may that aren’t. Just to be safe, go just before your passport expires so if you want to see any Islamic countries you don’t have any issues. If you’ve been to Israel tell me what your favourite part was. Enjoy 😉

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