Sunday, June 12, 2016

Israel Day 2 - Jerusalem

Jerusalem Friday,  May 27, 2016

Decided not to go to Eilat because I'd be stuck there until Saturday night since there's no transportation available from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon because of Shabbat and Eilat is a super expensive place. (There, I wanted a luxury hotel and they run about $500+/night!)

So I figure I should go to Jerusalem instead, that way I can also do the West Bank sooner rather than later. 

There's an Abraham hostel in Jerusalem, that is the sister hostel to the one in Tel Aviv. I liked the first so why not try it? Big plus: They have a free shuttle bus between hostels! So off I go. I made a detour and misjudged the time, so I ended up running the half hour walk from the beach to make the shuttle in time. An hour later, around 5pm, we arrived in Jerusalem, me barefoot (my hippie heart loves not wearing shoes). The city was buzzing with people rushing to get last minute errands done before Shabbat when everything in the Jewish neighborhoods (not the Muslim and Christian ones, though) shuts down. 

For 40 Shekels, the hostel offers the experience of Shabbat dinner.  So glad I did this! About 20 of us guests "helped" the chef (an amazingly patient man!) cook a giant meal for about 40 people. We learned about the ceremonies, prayers and songs that are part of the Shabbat dinner tradition. And then we feasted.

Afterwards, I walked for two hours searching for the Western Wall unsuccessfully (thanks GPS). But walking alone in dark quiet cool air (the Jewish part of the city is completed abandoned then because everyone is inside observing Shabbat), was kind of wonderful. Somewhere around midnight, I collapsed in bed, sated and happy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Israel Days 1 & 2 - Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, May 26-27, 2016

Mixed feelings. It's truly is awe-inspiring what the Israelis have created here, but I can't let go of the sense that the Palestinians were robbed of land for the sins of Europeans. I'll try to suspend those thoughts, though and just take this place in.

The direct flight from Newark was pretty bad - delays because of mechanical issues plus the flight was 100% packed and I was in one of those dreaded middle seats. But my seat neighbors were nice and we made the best of it. Arriving at Ben Gurion airport, my phone died just as I reached customs, so I had no way of showing the customs agent that I had a return ticket and since I'd still not decided on where I was going (straight to Eilat or stay overnight in Tel Aviv), I couldn't provide an address of residence. Not sure why the Israeli guards, normally known to be fierce, were so accommodating. After just a few minutes, they let me pass. No questions about whether I was planning to visit the West Bank (contrary to what my guide book advised).

Friends of my brother in law had suggested a place called Abraham Hostel so opted for that and it was awesome. I booked a private room - because I still don't want to be the old lady at the hostel sleeping on a bunkbed in a dorm room....but I didn't want to "waste" money on lux hotel for just the first night. So a private room allowed me a little bit of separation and privacy. The advantage of hostels is the social environment, when you want it. And it worked out perfectly. Met cool people at the bar and had a great time., then went off wandering on my own.

I skipped all the usual tourist sites as I'm not too into the history of the making of the nation. What I wanted to experience were its people, the food and the beach. Check. Check. And check. Good times.









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