This summer I had the privilege of going to one of the coolest places in the history of the world….the gorgeous and captivating country called Israel.
When my husband first asked me to tag along with him on this work trip, I almost said no. Was it really even safe there? Isn’t that where the news reports of bombs exploding in the Gaza Strip and West Bank?
My husband chuckled a bit when I mentioned this! He’s been a few times to Israel and reminded me that the news media can get carried away.
He assured me that it was mostly a peaceful place. “We go to Chicago all the time, and it has one of the highest crime rates in the country. Besides, Tel Aviv is nowhere near Gaza or the West Bank.”
Well, ok, then – point taken! I packed my bags and tagged along…….and it ended up being one of the best travel decisions I have ever made in my life! If you ever get the chance – take it. Israel is spectacular and like no other place on Earth.
Two Amazing Cities:
Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are two cities awash in culture, history and some of the most gracious people I have ever met. Both are diverse societies with open-minded people. After my first day there, I felt almost silly about my original hesitation.
Tel-Aviv: Jaffa Port
Just a short walk from our hotel in Tel-Aviv is Jaffa, one of the oldest port cities in the world. It’s a maze of stores and cafes that spill out into Jaffa’s flea market, offering ceramics, clothing, and antiques.
The clock tower in Old Town Jaffa.
Get lost in Twelve Signs, an array of narrow winding alleys that snake through the charming streets. Learn about the history there.
Then head to the port to dine on some fresh seafood. Tel Aviv Port is another great beach, and also a hub of restaurants, shops, and other attractions.⠀⠀⠀⠀
@isrotelhotels Royal Beach Hotel. This high-rise hotel is across the street from the beach and offers luxurious 5-star amenities and amazing customer service. The pool there was spectacular!
Kalamata in Old Jaffa: @kalamata.rest. It is a short walk from the Royal Beach Hotel and offers patio tables with sweeping views of the Mediterranean and some of the most mouth-watering hummus I’ve ever eaten! The restaurant at the Setai Hotel is also a wonderful destination for foodies.
The most popular and trendiest stores are located in the heart of Tel Aviv on Sheinkin and Dizengoff Streets. If you are into high-end fashion head to Neve Tsedek or Kikar Hamedina, where you can find local or international brands. Stop by shops like Les Bourgeoises for cool accessories and chic women’s clothing. Mel Boutique had a great selection of women’s shoes and jewelry. The shopping here was a fun experience! The boutiques here offer a mix of boho and classic styles, mostly with a European influence.
When in Israel – visiting Jerusalem must be on your list!
About an hour’s drive southeast of Tel Aviv, it makes for a great day trip. Only one square kilometer in size, Old Town Jerusalem is perhaps one of the most staggeringly beautiful places I have ever visited.
It is undoubtedly one of the most holy cities on earth – combining both the ancient and modern, with several different faiths co-existing at once.
Some of the most important religious sites encompassing Christianity, Judaism, and Islam can be found. You have to respect the fact that these faiths all co-exist together – quite peacefully.
At the center is the Old City and it is like stepping back in time. It’s surrounded by a grand wall, and you can learn a lot about religious history here by going to places such as the Church of Holy Sepulcher, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall.
The Old City is divided into quarters: the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters. For even more history, visit the museums outside just the grand wall, such as Yad VaShem, the holocaust remembrance center.
Enjoying the view from the top of The Tower of David.
Here are my must do’s for visiting Jerusalem:
Hire a tour guide to take you through the old town. They have a deep knowledge of the city and its history. They can share stories that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else.
The Tower of David, right next to the Jaffa Gate entrance. This is unquestionably one of the main historic landmarks of this historic place. Head to the top and enjoy the sweeping panoramic views, unlike anything I have ever seen before. Be sure to have your camera handy!
Next, visit the Church of the Sepulcher. This is a church built on the site of Jesus’s crucifixion. You can touch the stone where his body lay and view the empty tomb where he was buried.
Stop by the “Wailing Wall,” a limestone wall that is named for the tears that are shed as one prays upon it. I witnessed young Ulta-Orthodox Jewish girls, weeping and praying as they laid their heads on their hands, resting upon the wall.
L-R: Merchant in the Arab Market, at the top of the Tower of David, Old Jerusalem Tower of David Flags, me shopping in the Jewish Market.
Many people visiting the wall wedge written prayer notes in between the cracks. I wanted to follow the tradition, so I also left a prayer behind, working my tiny paper into the overflowing cracks, hoping it would stick. I walked away with a deep sense of connection, feeling somewhat awakened spiritually and more than a little emotional after a day in this most holy city.
I had the most incredible time in Israel – it really opened my eyes to other parts of the world. It also made me appreciate other cultures and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone!
I’ll wrap up with a few of my favorite videos I took on the trip: