A Travellerspoint blog

Israel

"Though you don't have this in England..."

Holy Land - Tel Aviv

sunny 25 °C
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After leaving the south coast, I then arrived in Tel Aviv just before the sunset, now just entering the Shabbat. Having checked in at the hostel I then headed off to Old Jaffa - the oldest part of Tel Aviv, where the Old Port was illuminated.

Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa was a pleasant surprise, being much nicer than I had imagined - Whilst Jerusalem is the Old City with all the history, Tel Aviv for the most part is a modern secular city, so to find some historic pretty buildings that looked so pretty was rather surprising, and gave me something to enjoy on my final night.

Jaffa Clock Tower

Jaffa Clock Tower


Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

I then headed up the promenade walking towards Tel Aviv proper, before heading back towards the hostel via McDonalds and the most amazing McFlurry I've ever witnessed (tonnes of M&Ms AND Mango Sauce, scattered throughout the ice cream).

Family Reunion

Family Reunion

The following day was my family reunion, as I was picked up outside of my hostel and taken to my aunty's house, by her husband and spent the day with her and her family. Having only met her once since I was little, it was also time for me to have a catch up and ask lots of questions about her life since she moved to Israel. I was taken on a tour of their village, where the wall separating the Palestinians from the Israelis is visible, as well as a tour of their house. "It's very much the same as you have in England...well, except this room" I was told as I was led behind the kitchen..."oh it might be a pantry or something" I was thinking, before I saw the thick walls and solid iron door that is clearly used as a shelter in the event of rocket fire. "We only used it four times during the summer" I was told...

Enjoying a lovely barbeque and catch up I was taken back to the airport after a week's long travel. Once again I was subjected to many questions, and ranked 5/7 on the security risk scale, but after few real problems I headed through into the departure lounge, where after a proper Granny wave I met up with Tim and Wendy from my Petra tour again, telling them all about my day with my aunty, and them telling me all about the rest of Petra after we left and they stayed an extra day. They then asked me what I thought of Eilat, or "Benidorm on the Red Sea" as they called it - not that they'd been to Benidorm - I agreed with them on that, and I hadn't been there either! We then made our way to the plane for a particularly boring 5 hour flight in the dark, with no newspaper, Internet, entertainment or view to look at. But eventually we landed back at Luton, and after saying goodbye to my new 'besties' I headed home to rest!

Despite being a little nervous about going after everyone repeated the same line - "oh, is that safe?", I'm glad I went as I saw so much, and it really did feel safe. Had I not seen the news and heard there was all the trouble going on, I wouldn't have even known. And anyway, I lived to tell the tale!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged city family holyland Comments (0)

"I'm just going to ask you a few questions..."

Holy Land - Eilat

sunny 30 °C
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The border

The border

Leaving Jordan was no problem, but coming back into Israel after walking across no man's land was not the case. As the lady at the border gate did a check through my passport there she saw my stamp from the UAE. Before I knew it, I was asked to place my bag down at the side, walk through the security scanner and sit on the bench on the side. Whilst she called for back up on her walkie-talkie and the guy with the huge gun turned up, I sat there and waited....eventually after showing my passport to her colleague another lady came and "asked me a few questions".

Where was I going in Israel? How long had I been in Jordan? How long was I going to be in Israel? Where had I already been? Who did I know in Israel? Where do they live? Who did I know in Jordan? With who else was I travelling? Why did I come to Israel? Why did I go to Jordan? Where do I live in England? What is my job in England? What did I study? What is the relevance of that to my job? Can I just clarify everything all over again?.....Even if I had written an autobiography on my life she still would have found something to ask me!

But I remained calm, answered her questions, for she was only doing her job, and she then escorted me to the security check, when she became more human and asked me if I liked Petra - yes, I said, it was still worth the effort of getting there. After passing this, I was then finally allowed to make my way to the border control. "Why are you coming to Israel" said the border guard - "Oh for God's sake...here we go again, can't she just ask the lady I just told my life story to?!" I thought to myself as I rolled my eyes..."I am holidaying" I said, before she asked me the standard, "who do I know in Israel?", "Where do they live?" questions. She then asked me what my job was...as I said admin. "Oh, computers?". I nodded "Why do computer people always travel alone?". As I laughed this off I then got the standard "Welcome to Israel" as I was handed my passport and allowed to re-enter the country and continue my journey.

The Gulf of Aqaba

The Gulf of Aqaba

On my final full day, I woke up in Eilat, and took a little tour of the city, heading down to the beach, before taking the bus back up to Tel Aviv.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged sea border holyland Comments (0)

Dead Sea

Holy Land - Dead Sea

sunny 25 °C
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The second part of my trip to the Holy Land took me outside of Jerusalem to explore the rest of the country. Leaving Jerusalem as another terrorist incident occurred, I boarded my bus that drove eastwards towards the Dead Sea.

Whilst Jerusalem and the area around was very hilly, eventually you get to a huge valley, marking the border with Jordan, which at the bottom is the Dead Sea. As you then wind down the hill side there are some plaques denoting the elevation. And it is not long before you reach the "0m - Sea Level" sign. Fair enough, except when you look out to your left, you see the valley continues even further. Then it goes down "-200m", and you're still barely half of the way down.

Ein Bokek

Ein Bokek

Passing by the Masada, I eventually arrived at the spa resort of Ein Bokek, lying 426 metres below the sea level, the lowest dry point on the planet. It is a scary thought that you are so low, but luckily the nearest sea is around a three hour drive away, and I wasn't there for too long.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

Getting out in a lovely 27˚C, I took a short walk to the public beach, and then took a dip in the Dead Sea itself. The feeling is quite sensational, as even in my tiny frame you start to float immediately, and in any position you fancy - arms spread out, arms crossed on your chest, arms crossed behind your chest. Swimming backstroke there is a beautiful view whichever side you lay. On one side you look at the resort town itself with the large beach front hotels with their palm trees and a backdrop of the stunning mountains, whilst on the other side you the Jordanian mountains reflecting in the very water you are lying.

The Beach & Resort

The Beach & Resort

After having a float for around an hour, I then took a shower, got back changed and took a little walk to the Petra Shopping Centre - the lowest place to shop in the world, before waiting at the bus stop for my onward bus to Eilat.

The Lowest Place to Shop in the World!

The Lowest Place to Shop in the World!

Eilat is the southernmost city in Israel and is separated from the rest of the country by the huge Negev desert. From Ein Bokek at the edge of the Negev it took around three hours of almost emptiness to reach the resort on the Red Sea.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged sea beach relax holyland Comments (0)

Yad Vashem

Holy Land - Jerusalem

all seasons in one day 19 °C
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My final day in the capital consisted of visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, which when I visited was absolutely full of tourists, including groups of Israeli soldiers, all with their huge guns. The museum has recently been improved and expanded, with it now being built through a hill. Entering on one side you walk through a Toblerone shaped building with rooms located on each side beginning with the Nazi rise to power in Germany in the early 1930s, and ending with the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Whilst I had seen a lot of things about the Holocaust, the museum was particularly interesting as it dealt with the before and after, rather than only covering the Death Camps. However, saying that most captivating thing that will stay with me was a huge model of the process of extermination at Auschwitz - with models of people waiting out in the snow, to enter the cellar, get changed, be gassed and then have their bodies removed and buried.

Hall of Names

Hall of Names

The final room is the Hall of Names, a circular room with a huge bookshelf on its outer edge. On each of the shelves were thousands of books, containing over 2.2 million names of Holocaust victims, which are being added to all the time. Leaving at the other end of the hill, you then have a view of the hills that make up the area, before going above the building and visiting the Eternal Flame, where every world leader visits on a state visit to the country.

Eternal Flame

Eternal Flame

Heading back to my hostel for the last time, my journey in Jerusalem was over, but the rest of Israel was waiting.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged history war torture holyland remembrance Comments (0)

The Old City

Holy Land - Jerusalem

sunny 22 °C
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Waking up nice and early in Jerusalem, I grabbed breakfast from downstairs and then headed off for the Haram el-Sharif/Temple Mount, racing through the Old City and past the Western/Wailing Wall, making the queue by 8:10.

Tower of David

Tower of David

The complex is only open for three and a half hours a day, from 7:30 until 10:00, and then 12:30-1:30. With major security checks I had read that the queue was particularly long, and already by the time I was there, the queue was pretty long. Not knowing whether I would even be allowed entry (last I had heard, only men over 50 were allowed up), I waited and eventually after an hour and a half I was up there.

First thing I noticed - screaming Palestinian girls...followed by touts telling me that, whilst I was non-Muslim, and therefore not allowed access to the Mosques, they could guide me to a window they knew where I could have a peak inside. I declined. The complex felt very Arabic, and much like Morocco. Whilst it had been a long wait, it was definitely worth it, and despite not being allowed in, the Dome of the Rock was very impressive. For this is the supposed site where God created Adam, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, and where Mohammed was transported to from Mecca. A good start to my travels.

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

I then headed back down into the Old City and headed up the Via Dolorosa, tracing Jesus's last steps after he was handed his cross until he was crucified. Whilst in some ways you feel like you are tracing back the steps of a man 2,000 years ago, seeing every step marked out with large plaques designating each spot (VII - Jesus falls for the second time) and the commercialisation of the route (7th station souvenirs, and guided tours) it kind of takes away from the genuine history, and makes it feel almost like a theme park.

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Following the route I eventually ended up in the Christian Quarter, outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - the church that spans the site of both the Crucifixion and the Tomb of Christ. Again this would be a site that whilst widely known, looks nothing like it would have been at the time the events it celebrates took place. Instead of finding a hill on the outskirts of the city where Christ was crucified, and a tomb located some distance from that - a 5 minute walk from the centre of the old city takes you right into the church that has both enclosed within it.

Tomb of Jesus Christ

Tomb of Jesus Christ

Going left once you enter the church, inside the Rotunda is the very place that Christ was laid to rest on Good Friday and subsequently arose two days later. Waiting for over half an hour, you are allowed thirty seconds or so to touch a slab covering the rock on which Jesus was supposedly laid to rest. Leaving this, and talking a walk around the corner and up some stairs, lasting no longer than 120 seconds, you arrive at the site he was supposedly crucified on, again waiting in a queue of around 20 minutes for 30 seconds or so of 'experience'.

Site of the Crucifixion

Site of the Crucifixion

After exploring the rest of the church, I headed out to the Jewish quarter to visit the Western Wall in more detail. Heading again through a security check, I donned a kippah and touched the wall. Before writing a message, shoving it through the cracks, and then sitting back down and observing the most sacred place in Judaism from a distance.

Western Wall

Western Wall

Hall of the Last Supper

Hall of the Last Supper

My last activity for the Old City was to head south, walk along part of the wall, and head to Mount Zion. Here is the location of the Hall of the Last Supper. Now turned into a Gothic Hall, and crammed with tourists, this room marks the spot that Jesus held the last supper, before being betrayed by Judas and arrested.

Kosher McDonalds

Kosher McDonalds

After this long day, and eating a Kosher McDonalds, I headed back of to my hostel, and took an early night before the next day, which I had planned to visit Bethlehem.

The time was now 6:30pm and I was in bed trying to sleep. Like. A. Pro.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged religion history jesus islam christianity judaism holyland Comments (0)

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