That title says it all – Israel truly is incredible. And not just a tiny-bit incredible, but shouting-from-the-rooftops-INCREDIBLE. I was fortunate enough to visit the country back in 2011, and have been itching to go back ever since. What can I say? The falafel was THAT good. 🙂
During our time in Israel, we climbed up mountains, woke up at 4am to watch the sunset, rode donkeys and camels, floated in the Dead Sea, visited some important museums, ate too much schwarma and havala, and hung out with Bedouins. I met some truly incredible people, and learned more about my Jewish background than I ever did in Hebrew school.
Read more about the organization that made it all happen >> Accepted! My Birthright Israel Experience
It’s been almost four years since I stepped on middle eastern soil, and I thought this was a good time to re-live the memories. I’ll take you on a brief tour of our 10-day itinerary through the country. <3 [To see more photos like these, from Israel and beyond, you can follow me on Instagram.]
Ever wondered what it was like to live thousands of years ago? Before cell phones, microwaves, and electric cars were even a thought. Our journey to Neot Kedumim was just that- we were able to see how Biblical Israel looked, smelled, and sounded like. This Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel is the only nature preserve attempting to re-create the physical setting of the Bible in the world. And it sure was an eye-opening experience.
The Negev Desert
Looking out the bus window while heading to the desert, (where we would be riding camels), was something I had never laid eyes on before. There was nothing out there. Nothing out there at all. No cars, no streets, heck, even no people. Hardly any movement at all. Just the occasional sway from a bush from the light wind. It looked so peaceful and quiet. All I could make out was a teeny tiny settlement in the distance. That’s where we slept one night- in a 30-person tent with the Bedouins.
Read More >> First Views of the Negev
Read More >> Bedouin Hospitality in the Negev Desert
The Jewish Quarter
Walking around the Jewish Quarter, you feel just that, Jewish. Israeli flags on every corner, attached to doors and posts, and synagogues that are 400 years old. I really felt at home here. Even though the area dates back to roughly 1400, the quarter looks almost brand new and sparkling clean.
Read More >> On Being Jewish in the Jewish Quarter
Camel and Donkey Riding in the Desert
No words can describe my initial thoughts of the camels. They were HUGE. Absolutely huge. Bigger and taller than I had imagined. And to be honest, pretty ugly and really smelly (which was even more pungent up close I quickly discovered). “How was I ever going to get on top of that thing?” was my first question. And oh yea, a donkey collapsed on me.
Read More >> Old School Transportation in the Negev: Camel Riding
Read More >> Into the Negev: My Donkey Hates Me
Haas Promenade, properly known as the “Tayelet” in Hebrew, offers fantastic views of the entire Jerusalem landscape. From this vantage point, one can see the entire Old City in just one glance. It definitely is a great way to get your bearings of Jerusalem before heading out into the city itself.
The Western Wall
The Kotel, Wailing Wall, Western Wall, whatever you want to call it, is commonly believed to have been constructed around 19 BCE. That’s a long, long, looooong time ago. The wall is simply gorgeous and faces a large plaza that is set aside for prayer. I took out my slip of paper, wrote my prayer to God, and walked up to the Kotel. Boy, was every nook and cranny literally stuffed with meaningful and significant prayers. Some even on bubble gum wrappers! Whatever works, right? Bet you didn’t know there’s a whole world to discover just on the other side of that wall…
The Dead Sea
Floating in the Dead Sea, waters with the highest salinity in the world, is something you’ve just go to experience to believe. It is a magical experience, albeit possibly pretty painful at times, something no one will easily forget. The Dead Sea is one of those remarkable places on Earth that is indescribable. There are just no words for it. Stunning, captivating, tranquil… they just don’t do it. No words. For reals this time.
Read More >> Floating at the Lowest Point on Earth: The Dead Sea
It was 3am when we were awoken by our guides. Once we arrived at the foot of the mountain, it was still pitch black out. The group was half asleep, but ready to make this treacherous ascent to the top of Masada in the abyss of the darkness. 888 steps later, we were greeted with the most beautiful sunrise overlooking the Dead Sea…
Read More >> Sunrise at Mount Masada
Read More >> Masada: The Hike Down on the Never Ending Snake Path
We had the opportunity to get lost in the super busy Jerusalem Market, Mahane Yehuda (יהודה מחנה שוק), commonly referred to as “The Shuk”. This marketplace, originally all open-aired, now partially covered, is popular with both tourists and locals alike. The market is home to over 250 venders, including fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods (which I would have loved to got my hands on), fish, meats, and cheeses, nuts, seeds, and spices, wines and liquors (oh, yummy!), and even clothing. And shoes. And housewares. And Judaica. Just about everything. I could have stayed there for hours.
Read More >> 5 Goodies You Must Try at the Jerusalem Market
And last but not least, my favorite picture from the trip <3 <3 <3
Now, who wants to go to Israel?!
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