Israel in January – Part 4

Heading North

Thursday is the last day of the workweek so Jason picked me up from the hotel and we headed north to a town recommended by a work partner of Jason’s, Zikhron Ya’Akov, and stayed at a fancy art hotel called Elma Arts.

Traffic sucked heading north because everybody else was too but we finally arrived after a few hours which is about an hour drive without traffic.

Jason’s work partner, Boaz, and his wife, Yonat, took us to dinner in Caesarea.  It was cool because we had to walk through the ruins of this ancient port that Herrod built around 25 BCE.  Close to the shore there were some shops and restaurants, we ate at Helena, their favorite.

When Jason was in Israel this past summer he told me Boaz took them here and the chef served them dish after dish and it was amazing.  We had the same experience tonight. Each dish was delish and so was the Israeli red wine we had.  The best meal I had on the trip!  and I totally forgot to take pics.

Friday Exploring Northern Israel

Boaz arranged for his nephew, Yoav- a professional tour guide, to spend the day with us.  Yoav explained that Friday is the day of prayer for Muslims so they would be out and about today.  The Jewish people were running errands and preparing for Shabbat at sundown, and the Christian’s holy day is Sunday.

We started in Haifa at the Bahá’í gardens . Amazing gardens and shrine and Spectacular views of the Med.

Ba'hai Gardens and shrine
Ba’hai Gardens and shrine

It was a busy day!  We spent time in the ancient walled town of Acre or Akko where we saw a room that the men used to sit on these toilet holes and have “meetings” and we proceeded to walk through some ancient sewer tunnels.  The call to prayer rang out as we were walking through the markets and when prayer let out we were also allowed into a mosque, which was pretty neat, but I had to cover my head.

Sea Grottos

From Acre we drove up to see the Sea Grottos right at the border of Lebanon!  It was really interesting to see the border fence, surveillance and security.  We took a super steep, super short gondola ride down to the sea caves and saw a short movie explaining the old railroad that was there many years ago to take people to/from Cairo-Istanbul.  The railroad tunnel now has a wall built…and it’s crazy to think that on the other side of that wall is Lebanon.

The Grottos were beautiful and amazing!  Naturally carved from the waves.

We drove along the ridge of the mountain range of Galilee which also happened to be the border with Lebanon.  The views were AMAZING!  There were tons of trees, especially evergreen trees and a rocky ground cover.  We stopped at a few overlooks and parks.  One had a Bedouin couple selling food and offering free coffee.  They were so sweet and the coffee is awesome!

The drive back to our hotel was absolutely stunning as we headed south from Galilee and could see the Sea of Galilee.  We will have to go back to this area on another trip.

Yoav is amazingly knowledgeable about everything Israel and the Middle East and it was awesome to have this insight along with the history.  We could ask him anything!  He is a very proud Israeli and it was such a pleasure to spend the day with him.

My last day in Israel

We had planned on doing more exploring today, like driving up to the Sea of Galilee, but Jason caught my cold and wants a day of relaxation before heading back to work on Sunday and besides, it was rainy today.  It was a good day for me to finish up my blog post, pack up, and do a little walk after we check out of the hotel.  I am really looking forward to getting home to my furry guys.  I miss them so much and there’s no place like home.  Although, this was an awesome trip!

Boaz and Yonat invited us for a late lunch at his home and to meet his sons.  It was a nice to see his home and have dinner with their family.  The boys were in their 20’s and very fun to talk with.  All of their English was perfect!  Boaz knows how much I love the Arabic coffee so he made some for us and sent me home with a bag! Ya! Here’s some of the food they made for lunch:

Now I’m heading home, back to my furry guys and the cold of Wisconsin.

Sum up my Trip

To sum up my trip to Israel – It was AMAZING!

The PEOPLE!  So friendly, helpful, they WANT you to have a good time in Israel!  They are proud citizens with passion for nationalism which was really cool too experience.

DIVERSITY! in the people, food, and geography.  From walking the beach to street art tours and holy places, from Orthodox Jews who are passionate about their religion, to proud Israeli citizens who would fight to the end for their country. From the desert of the Dead Sea with camels and vipers to the long beautiful beaches of Tel Aviv to the lush green fruit trees, olive fields, and vineyards… And from hummus to meat skewers…  You won’t find American bagels and matzah ball soup here!

I don’t know any Hebrew words other than Shalom and I usually try to study and learn some phrases in the language before traveling but didn’t do that this time because I can’t read it.  But the super friendly and welcoming Israeli’s were so helpful and most, in my experiences, spoke either perfect or pretty good English to help.

Israel was not on my bucket list…I’m not religious, history is interesting but I’m not a buff, and there were other places I’d rather go.  But, Jason had been in August for work and had the best experience and that interested me to want to come with him on this trip.  SO glad I did!  It’s in my top 5 favorite places I’ve been due to all of the things I experienced.  I went out of my comfort zone to explore new things and that was key!

You must love to explore, learn, and experience new things.  If you want to stay in your comfort zone, it’s not for you.  Jason and I both agree that visiting Israel is an “easier” way to experience the Middle East.

I did so much walking, from 17k-21k steps a day!  But I ate a lot so I know I probably gained weight.

I loved –

How mint is an herb they use a lot in their food.  I really liked it in tea (just hot water and mint) and in coffee.

My fav foods – chunky hummus and fava bean hummus, falafel, date honey, turkish and arabic coffee, hot water with mint leaves and honey, medjool dates, cheeses, fresh squeezed pom and orange juice, grapefruit, tabouli (who knew?)

Israel is not just to visit holy sites, that is for sure!

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