Michael has wanted to go to Israel for years. I'm not sure why, maybe fear of the unknown or concerns about safety or just because it seemed overwhelmingly complicated, I was not as enthusiastic. Now that we have almost two years of intrepid Senior Nomad travel under our belts, I was finally ready and perhaps it would prepare me for an upcoming visit to Belarus and a potential dip into the Ukraine. Regardless, I am so happy we spent ten days in this amazing part of the world. Israel will be a Senior Nomad highlight no matter where else we travel. And I am a better traveler for it.
In this blog I will stay away from any deep political opinions - those of you who know me, know that I don't let facts get in the way of a good story - and in this case I don't want to offend or misrepresent the situation in this complex corner of the world. While we were there, I read a book called The Lemon Tree by Stacy Tolan and it really helped me understand the background of the conflict here - but it was meeting real people that live their daily lives under often intense circumstances that taught me the most. I admired their pride, their courage and their history as well as their faith and hope for peace. Michael stays current on Israeli politics and should be the one to write this - all I can do is share my journey. So here it is.
|We were ready for whatever the week brought on!|
Had we given the dates a closer look we would have have realized we would be arriving during Passover - the holiest week on the Jewish calendar! That's like spontaneously deciding to go out to dinner on Valentines Day. As it turns out, it was also the week Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter, so we got a double dose of religious fervor.
Once in Israel - it was a good thing we didn't have a burning desire for bread, because during Passover that was off the table as the saying goes, and there were other quirky thou shalt and shalt nots, closures, shut-downs and, of course, extra security. Tel Aviv was a soft landing as it was more laid back about strict observance of Passover than Jerusalem. Beach life continued, bread was discreetly available, and there were fewer Jewish citizens in full regalia. In fact, a lot of citizens wore very little clothing of any kind both on the beach and on the streets.
|A long walk along the shore between new Tel Aviv and the Old City of Jaffa.|
|Tel Aviv curls up next to the Old City of Jaffa like a child on Grandma's lap|
|"What are you lookin' at?" The Guardians of our doorway in Tel Aviv.|
|Early morning prep at the tiny restaurant where we fought for two of the four seats.|
|A delicious, hot off the grill lunch in the Ha' Carmel market. Three little salads and a pile of fresh pita not pictured.|
During the initial deluge of e-mails we received after the article ran we flagged a note from a couple living in Jerusalem hoping we could spend a little time with them during our stay. They were very proud of Jerusalem and wanted to show us their city, and if there is one thing we have learned along the way - never turn down an invitation from a local! That is where the magic happens.
|Our new found "forever" friends, Ruth and Stu. They kept us safe, fed and informed.|
Ruth came to Tel Aviv on our last day to show us her favorite parts of that city - including a stop at Le Mamma del Gelato for the best ice cream and sherbet we've had on our entire trip.
|To say this Gelato was better than any we tasted in Italy is a bold statement. But true.|
|Stu and Michael could have talked politics for hours. Oh wait - they did!|
The next morning they came to collect us to share their favorite stalls in the famous Mahane Yehuda Market - a sprawling inner-city food mecca. Bakeries closed, of course. A few days later we visited their son's home, and met his wife and four of his six children. He is a Rabbi, and has just recently returned to Jersualem with his family after living in Los Angeles for several years - of course Ruth and Stu are happy to have them close, but worry about their safety. They live in a settlement about a half an hour out of town very near a lookout point where we saw miles of rolling desert, Bedouin camps, and in the far distance, the Dead Sea and the red hills of Jordan. Our lively discussions around life in this ever challenging country continued, and again, having so much time with people who actually live here made all the difference in our understanding of the Jewish perspective.
|A bird's eye view of the Mahane Yehude Market from a little known perch.|
|Our host Yishia at our front door in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City|
|One of the reasons it feels good to "Just say No!" to souvenirs.|
|It was fun to spend these colorful "Shekels" - unless you did the conversation rate. It was very expensive here.|
|We were tucked in the Jewish Quarter near the Western Wall.|
|Just one of the many streets in the Muslim Quarter where you lose yourself in the sights and smells.|
|The Kardashian clan visits the Old City with body guards and cameramen along side|
|A typical family in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter in the Old City|
|We took a moment to pray at the wall - it was a profound experience for any believer.|
|Just a few steps from our apartment we had a panoramic view of the Western Wall.|
|The vast site of Dome of the Rock can only be appreciated in person. Security was tight.|
|Standing along a portion of the security wall that now runs through Faten's family property.|
|Almost every surface of the walls on the Palestinian side were covered in graffiti. This was a prominent image by the world famous artist Banksy.|
|Other graffiti images were less peaceful and the difference in living conditions was eye-opening.|
By the end of our day in the West Bank, our heads were spinning with all that we had learned from Faten, Stu and Ruth, Yishai and Rivka and many others. It would seem the problems here are intractable and all we can do is hope and pray for a peaceful solution for our new friends.
|The full day at TEDx Jerusalem will go down as one of the best days of our trip.|
Without trying to gloss over the complexities and problems of this part of the world, I would end by saying that walking the streets of this holy place that has witnessed thousands of years of conflict and persecution, but also renewal and hope, was life changing for me personally and certainly sums up why Michael and I are on this journey.
Thank you for following along.
Debbie and Michael