Israel is a blossoming new country in the Middle East, but ancient tensions plague the area. These tensions often spill over into modern news. The fighting paired with footage of old buildings made me fear Israel, so when my mom proposed a trip there for our Spring Break in 2010, I was apprehensive. However, my mother had attended a study abroad program there and we only lived a short plane ride away in England, so my mother got us packing.
After touching down in Tel Aviv, my family rented a van. Surprisingly it was much like an American vehicle. We first drove to Ein Gev, a resort on the eastern bank of the Sea of Galilee. The buffet of food mirrored the wonderful food we would enjoy the remainder of our trip with incredibly fresh Mediterranean cuisine. We also traveled to tourist attractions such as Caeserea Philiphi where you can hike to view lush waterfalls and the natural hot spring Gah Has Hosha that will make you wish you had packed your swim suit.
On our third day we traveled to the Holy City, Jerusalem where we found our “hotel”. Our holiday apartment was located in the Cardo of the Jewish Quarter. The apartment was well run by the kindly man Abraham who miraculously kept the 400-year-old basement with 4-foot thick walls fully furnished with cable TV and Internet.
Just a short walk away from our hotel gave us access to the Wailing Wall, The Dome of the Rock, Zedekiah’s Cave, the Garden Tomb, the Church of all Nations, the Garden of Gethsemane, shopping remarkable character, and so many fantastic restaurants that we were convinced it was the air that made the food so marvelous. We also made it to Bethlehem, where a huge wall surrounds the city creating quite a barrier for tourists, but getting passed it was worth the effort as we had a lovely meal and visited the Church of the Nativity. To wrap up our trip we visited Masada, then floated on the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea.
Had it been our choice, we would have returned home then, but thanks to an Icelandic volcano’s eruption, that idea was completely shot down. Interestingly enough, Israel’s independence day happened to land on the 19th of April that year meaning a packed Jerusalem forced us to wing it and jump around Israel.
Stranded, we searched for ways to get back home, but no airline would fly with so much debris in the air. We stayed one night in Tel Aviv at a hotel directly across the street from a beach with remarkably crystal clear water and tiny harmless jellyfish.
We stayed three nights in the resort town Eilat and enjoyed the surprise of American delights like Kosher McDonalds and modern shopping. Then in Netanya from our hotel we experienced a fantastic view of a beach that is off a cliff. We snorkeled in the blue Red Sea and saw an underwater aquarium, all things that I would have never expected from the ancient world of Israel.
After seven extra days, we were able to finally board a plane and leave, but our lives would never be the same. I had feared the country because I believed the news and thought past tensions would make travel there unsafe. As it turned out, safety was the least of my worries, opening my eyes to the modern and progressive culture that I was able to embrace, and now, love.
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