That time we went to Israel.
Updated: Dec 4, 2018
Growing up I remember my grandparents being out of town a good bit. They played a very active role in my life so for them not to be there for 6 months at a time was very noticeable to me, even at a young age. My grandparents have spent a good deal of their time in the early 90’s traveling to Israel and Ukraine involved in mission work with their church. Needless to say, they have been so many times it is an iconic place for them in their lives. This year my grandfather turned 80 years old! For his birthday he said he wanted to go back for what could be the last time he is able to make the journey. So, we planned for a year and 6 of us would make the trip around the world for a 2-week period.
My grandparents, my great Aunt, my mother, and then of course Deeds and I. Everyone but myself really being a world traveler. I’ve only been to Ireland about 3 years ago and then Alaska, but that’s really the extent of my world travels. Deeds is a Marine Veteran so while he has many countries under his belt, this was the first time leaving the country since being home. The months leading up to the departure date, I just kept telling Deeds, I can’t believe I’m going to be looking at you in another country!!
The months turned into days, the days into hours, and then before we knew it; we were on our first 9 hour flight to Rome, connected flights, and went another 6 hours into Tel Aviv. We stayed our first night in Jaffa for a night to get settled, eat, rent our car, eat, and rest. We got out that night after everyone settled and walked the streets just the two of us so we could have some familiarity in our first big day. Finding legal graffiti down every dark and war stricken street we explored with bewilderment. A few blocks into the town we found a more updated part of town, lots of bars, people with tattoos, and nightlife. We made a few loops and headed back to wash off the day. The first night, I don’t think Deeds even slept 2 hours. (AND he didn’t sleep on the plane) His mind running with ideas for photography as the excitement and anxiety rolled over us both relentlessly.
We woke up our next day and went to Mt. Tabor. This was a super touristy big church mentioned a lot in the bible. It’s pretty trashy there, litter and like little campsites everywhere. This stop offered big views and old ruins. They are doing construction here as they are constantly digging for new bits of history. It was pretty unreal with how hot the temperatures soared. I literally stayed in a frogg toggs cool wrap the entire two weeks as I DON’T do well with the heat. Deeds actually bought this for me before the trip. It was a LIFESAVER! The next spot we stayed at for two nights. This was a place that overlooked the Sea of Galilee in Tiberius. We were greeted the first morning with a killer sunrise! Here, we drove into the desert and went to Capernaum, a place that’s said where a lot of the biblical history went down. We rode in a wooden boat on the Sea of Galilee with just the 6 of us and a boat captain that seriously couldn’t have been any better to us as he was super enlightening and playful.
After our two days in Tiberius, we then moved onto an apartment in a very traditional orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. Like, I’m talking everyone is fully covered in black and white, Jew curls, big fuzzy hats, and lots of big confused looks at us. This is where we learned about the Jewish culture and their holiday Shabbat. Shabbat is where every week religious Jews observe the Sabbath, the Jewish holy day, and keep its laws and customs. The Sabbath begins at nightfall on Friday and lasts until nightfall on Saturday. During this time, they are required to do no work. So extreme to where they don’t touch the elevator buttons in their apartment buildings. The elevators are set up to just start at the top and go down to every floor and open at every floor all day, then when returning to the bottom goes back to the top and starts all over again. No switching any light switches, no laundry, no cooking, no nothing. This place we stayed at here had two sinks in the kitchen. We learned here about what being Kosher meant. Religious Jews do not mix their dairy or meat. (like no meat lovers pizza) Therefore, they have two separate places to prepare and wash those items and are never to be mixed. We learned that we look VERY different in these neighborhoods and here, I had to stay covered up. We learned that Jewish people are very used to the heat and we were dying in shorts and no sleeves while they wore long coats and pants. Lots of culture here; lots of old ways and old views. Not our favorite spot but necessary to see for this experience.
While staying at this location, we also drove out into the Judean desert and went to Masada. This is said to be where King Herods Palace is, lots of ruins, roman style bath houses, lots of history overlooking the dead sea as it sits high on a rock mesa. We rode a cable car up and then back down as the walkable path was closed due to the high temperatures. On the same day we went swimming in the dead sea. THIS WAS THE COOLEST THING EVER!!! The water in the dead sea is actually not refreshing at all, it’s hot. We were already soaked with sweat from being out in the sun all day, and then dipped into this salty hot bathwater known as the dead sea. So needless to say, the outside showers to rinse off after the dead sea will forever go down as being the best feeling of my life. It is called the dead sea due to the amount of salt that is in the water. Nothing lives in it, and your body naturally floats. My aunt was actually able to bring back some of the big salt crystal balls that fill the bottom of the dead sea. This was something we will never forget and could be something we will never get to do again as the dead sea is dropping rapidly every year as it’s mined for beauty products.
Next stop was switching houses again but this time closer to the old city of Jerusalem. Now, we were close enough to the old city that we could walk to it. The old city was about a mile walk from the house but it was better than getting in a car. The driving was very aggressive here. I’m convinced the car horns have to be replaced once a week as they do NOT stop honking. About 50% of the traffic here is moped or motor bike, and everyone has that me-first syndrome. We were walking down the sidewalk one morning and watched two guys stop and get out of their cars in the middle of the road to fight each other. We were told this is very common. This was very hectic and stressful. So, if we could walk anywhere, we did.
Here, we went into the old city of Jerusalem. We went to the wailing wall, saw and felt the insane energy of all the prayers tucked into the creases of the wall. Found out that those little pieces of prayers are removed twice a year by a Rabbi and buried at the Mount of Olives. Here, we were minorities and that was screaming with every step we took. Hundreds of children right out of high school carrying large riffles. In Israel, it is mandatory that the males go for 4 years and the females go for 2 years and serve under the Israeli Defense Force. They are required to do this and learn the history of what and why they are protecting in their county. There can be violence in the old city as there are so many very strong cultures here. The old city is divided into 4 quarters, the Jewish, Christian, Arabic, and Muslim. So, because of this, lots of conflicting things can arise. This made our already over observant senses heightened, so it almost felt exhausting to go to the old city if that makes sense. None the less, we went several times while we were staying at this location for the next few days.
We got to experience a shook, which is an outside market. Lots of fresh fish, fruits, pastry, olives, everything, such a beautiful thing to watch. Rows and isles, tables, and coolers, colors, textures, smells, and heavy white noise from the hundreds of people buzzing around us. We rode public transportation this day. Explored the city with shopping and eating some of the best ice creams we will never forget. Our time was coming to an end. At this point we were over half way through the second week. We had three more nights close to Tel Aviv to end out our trip. Here, we got tattoos from some really cool guys that we still keep in touch with on social media. The tattoos we chose were the Hebrew word/phrase for Go and Flow. We had gummy bears and good laughs with them, we needed that little familiarity as the home sick was creeping in. We got to have a beach day in Tel Aviv and got to miss our dogs as we laughed for hours watching all the happy dogs on the beach as there were almost as many dogs as there were people on the beach. We did a good bit of shopping here, who knows the next time we would be here so we took advantage of all the culture we could possibly purchase. We purchased items we knew would speak to us, stay with us, and gave us a story to tell. As rude as we felt some of the people were, we really had some conversations with a few people that will forever stick to us. Conversations with total strangers that connect you in ways that were totally unexpected.
The last day there, in the last few hours before going to the airport we got our yummy ice cream ONE MORE time and watched a sunset you could have written a story about. Soaking in the last few hours of not hearing English, not knowing where we are, and enjoying this wild ride we are almost off of. We dropped our rental car off at the airport at 10PM, we sat/slept at the airport all night with all our luggage until 5 AM since it was going to be too much trouble to deal with traffic in a cab and did not want to run any possibility of missing our flights. Ended our time with a 6-hour flight to Madrid, a 9-hour flight to Chicago, and then a 2-hour flight back into Charlotte that everyone made it on except my mother. The last two-hour flight had a really close layover. The airline had people at the end of the ramp with fast pass tickets with my family’s names on them so we could hurry to our next terminal. We had to run the entire time to make it to our gate and my mom actually ended up not making it through security in time. She was lucky enough to snag the next flight to Charlotte which was only about an hour behind ours.
It was truthfully a trip of a lifetime. We all need each other in life regardless what you believe, as for Deeds and I, our Race is Human, and our Religion is Love. We went to the oldest place in the world. The words to express how grateful I am to make that trip with my family will never exist. I was really proud of Deeds and I as well. That was our first time going on a really big trip out of the country together and for TWO WEEKS. But we came out of it stronger together, with some killer knowledge, and some serious inside jokes. Do things that impact your life! This was scary, financially trying, and hotter than Satan’s kitchen….but we got through it, and we will forever be different people because of it.