As they say Shalom! I apologize for being MIA for the past few weeks. I was hoping to be able to upload my journey along the way, but during my first few nights in Jerusalem, my computer charger wasn’t actually charging my computer and with little wifi, it made that mission nearly impossible. However, it somehow miraculously started working. I have SO much to share with you all but so much information and pictures, that I’ll have to do in parts so it doesn’t overwhelm. I’d like to start out by saying how beautiful Israel was, from the people to the country, even being there during some pretty intense times, I managed to have an amazing time and meet some amazing, beautiful people. So, before we left for Israel, I had heard about and was following the kidnapping and killing of three teen Israeli’s and was initially nervous and concerned for mine and my sisters safety. I had no clue how this conflict would escalate to what began to occur and is still occurring today between Israel and Gaza. I had little to no knowledge of the history of the land or the conflicts and wars that have occurred in this region over the past 20 years let alone centuries. I will talk later about some of the things I have learned and issues and topics that have come up since traveling there. I have never met such warm, friendly, caring and peaceful people than the the people who live in Israel. I unexpectedly fell in love with this tiny country, and have seen and experienced just a small piece of the difficult situations and circumstances that the people of Israel face every single day.
Gambling in the Vegas Airport, waiting for flight #2 to New York.
Sleeping in my cocoon, during a 19 hour wait to catch our Flight at JFK Airport.
After a 6 hour flight to New York, 19 hour wait in the airport before flying to Israel, we finally arrived exhausted, and looking less than cute! Day #1: Arrival to Israel– First night in Jerusalem Meeting the Soldiers So the first day, we arrived in Israel in Tel Aviv, as soon as we exited the plane we were greeted by the ten Israeli soldiers that would be traveling with us the entire trip. When I say soldiers, you might think they were just there to protect us if anything went wrong. But, they were ten young people either younger than me, my age or older. As I came to discover later on, they were so similar to Americans around my age, with the exception that they have to serve in the army upon graduating high school, whereas we think of what colleges and parties we’ll be attending. We played a fun activity to get to know each other, and headed to our beautiful hotel The Crowne Plaza, in Jerusalem. After relaxing and settling into our rooms, we met for our first of many, daily buffet dinners, and had an opening get-to-know-each-other group activity to start off the trip.
First night hotel room bonding! First stop, view of Jerusalem and some Pizza. Group Bonding session outdoors in Jerusalem.
Overlooking beautiful Jerusalem. More of Group Session. First impressions.
Day # 2 Masada, The Dead Sea, Machane Yehuda Market place, and our very first Shabbat! Day two was a very early start, with a busy–to the schedule day kind of day. On the itinerary was an early wake up, breakfast at the Crowne Plaza in Jerusalem, with a lavish buffet of food. From traditional Middle Eastern dishes such as shakshuka (eggs poached in Spicy tomato sauce which was AMAZING), hummus, and various Israeli vegetable salads, to mixed cheeses, breads, quiche, breakfast potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, fruit arrangements and my favorite Rugelache (a pastry type breakfast dessert made from rich cream-cheese dough, filled with either jam, chocolate or honey). After stuffing our faces with this delicious food, we headed for the Masada for a hike, and to learn about the history and mythology of Masada (an isolated rock plateau overlooking the dead sea), where King Herod built palaces for himself during his ruling of the Kingdom.
Our ride up to Masada. Inside the City walls of Masada View of Remnants of King Harod’s Personal Palace overlooking the dead sea. The Dead Sea in the distance. Tiny people once inhabited?Thousand year old Roman Baths atop Mount Masada Our Wonderful Guide Yariv teaches us about birds n things. Remains of Roman campsites during the battle between an ancient jewish civilization. Mount Masada from the bottom. Original floor tile work, preserved from thousands of years ago. It was so beautiful atop the mountain, extremely hot, but learned some great historical information and enjoyed a fun hike down the Snake Path.
Now for the most anticipated part of my trip/ most painful part of the day, the Dead Sea! If you didn’t already know, the dead sea is full of so much salt content that you literally float without trying. You CANNOT dip your head in because the salt will literally make your eyes burn with pain, and what they did not warn us about…the unmentionable parts…that burned so intense it was almost hard to enjoy. However, I did enjoy putting the mud from the soil near the dead sea, all over our bodies, said to have amazing properties for the skin. I’m not sure I would ever attempt another swim in the Dead Sea just from the sheer pain, however, glad I can check it off my bucket list!
After an already exhausting day, we rushed over to the Yehuda markets to do a bit of shopping before the entire city shut down for Shabbat. Hard to believe an entire city actually shuts down for almost a day and night. If we wanted snacks or anything for the evening or next day, being that everything stays closed–our time was now, and we definitely made it happen in 45 minutes.
The market was similar to your farmers market, with many different treats like sweets, the delicious pastries (arugula) and so much more. After choosing some cherries, candy, and amazing fresh out-of-the-oven Rugelache, we met up with the group to depart back to our hotel to prepare for Shabbat dinner. This was my first Shabbat experience, and best way I could go into one. With a feast that could feed the town, a ceremony with prayers to break bread, which my sister and I led (in hebrew) with some practice, and an amazing night with a new family of 40, we definitely had a wonderful Shabbat and introduction into a special two days that jews take time to partake in, each week. We had a fun “bonding” evening afterwards and definitely had an amazing evening with new friends.
My sister Jessie and I’s first Shabbat together! The Girls on Shabbat. Hangin into the late evening with some friends in my new Elephant pants purchased at the Market. That about wraps up the first two days. Hard to believe I have a whole other 8 days to share, so lots more pictures to come, but hopefully you enjoyed this first part!