MESSAGE – Israel *Video*
I was only in Israel for 10 days – and I spent 5 of them volunteering at the fabulous nonprofit El HaLev. With such a short time, I was only able to take in a few cities: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, & Nazareth. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the Palestinian Territories, Eilat, the Galilee or the Golan Heights.
Although numerous people told me I should go hiking in the Golan Heights. Really? Hiking in the Golan Heights? I recall frequently seeing clips of the Golan Heights on our nightly news broadcasts – doesn’t appear to me to be a place for peaceful hiking. But I’m told I’m wrong (which most certainly wouldn’t be the first time!) Maybe the idea of hiking the Golan Heights deserves more consideration…
Here’re some of the cool places in Israel I did get a chance to discover:
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Tel Aviv Beach. Tel Aviv has a reputation for hedonism and, boy, does it live up to it! And people appear to be genuinely having a good time: playing paddleball, listening to music, hanging with friends. I have to admit, everyone was looking pretty fabulous in their swimsuits too. Very, um, Brazilian.
Just watch this video of the packed beach teaming with enthusiasm (and jellyfish!):
Can’t view this video? Click this link: Tel Aviv Beach
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Bagel with Lox. Cliché I know, but a toasted poppy seed in the morning with lox spread and fresh tomatoes is pretty hard to beat. Especially alongside a great cup of coffee. A very good way to start the day! I indulged at least 3 times…maybe more.
Favorites also include your typical Middle Eastern fare: falafels, hummus, and shawarmas.
SEE (Must-see Sights) –The Old City. Jerusalem’s Old City is divided into 4 quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian. I was very fortunate to be able to stay at an apartment in the Jewish Quarter, and I had most afternoons to explore. I heard it was best just to wander and get lost – which is exactly what I did….for hours….in the sweltering sun…
Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to three world religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Here’re a few sites not to be missed:
• The Western Wall – The most sacred structure to Jewish people, the Western Wall supports the western side of the Temple Mount. Surprisingly there were relatively few people during my visit. Live streaming video can be seen at: www.aish.com/wallcam
• The Dome of the Rock – A shine built on the spot where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven. Also the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Unfortunately, the Old City streets leading to the Dome of the Rock are blocked to non –Muslims.
• Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian and Coptic churches all believe that this is the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Religious Icons. Religious mementos of all sorts: menorahs, crosses, prayer rugs – you name it, the souks of the Old City have a wide assortment. Being a secular person, I bought none.
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Rent a Bike for the Boardwalk. Riding a bike with upright handlebars always makes me feel like Sally Field in The Flying Nun. Hair steaming behind in the wind and riding like a demon down hills. What could be better?!
Riding was particularly fantastic with the Med on my shoulder as I tooled around the Tel Aviv boardwalk. I stopped a few times for some fresh lemonade with mint. A perfect summer cooler!
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Access to Medical Care. I had to get my Yellow Fever shot for my upcoming Africa travels, so I visited one of the major Tel Aviv hospitals. While I was waved right through, an older woman with Palestinian Authority papers, was held up for quite some time.
Based on this experience, I decided to give a donation to a medical clinic in Al Aqaba that is setting up the 1st Birthing Center in the Jordan River Valley. The medical center will eliminate the need for moms-to-be and new moms to wait at checkpoints when they require urgent medical attention.
The GoErinGo! Fund will give the West Bank’s Al Aqaba Birthing Center a $400 donation to buy a delivery table for their new maternity clinic. The clinic with provide a population of 10,000 with family-centered birthing assistance, as well as pre- and post-natal care.
Click here for more information on the Jordan River Valley’s 1st Palestinian Birthing Center.
ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Jaffa Flea Market. It took me forever to find this place, I kept circling around and around. I must’ve asked at least 10 different people until I finally found it. But the effort was worth it. Only a few streets wide, the alleys were crammed with cool stuff (mostly made in India!).
I bought a few pieces to add to my Middle East “modesty collection” – mainly long-sleeved light cotton blouses and a long flowing skirt. My new skirt is purple, which gives me disproportionate happiness. )
There’s no doubt Israel has a rich history and I’ve only skimmed the surface, so I’m sure to go back – particularly since now I have an Israeli stamp in my passport – which means I can’t go back to too many other Arab Region countries. Oy vey!