I am lucky that I visited Israel this year. It is a beautiful country, it is an ancient land and yet it is modern too. I visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and the Dead Sea. I loved them all. A lot of places that I visit I will call them fun, Israel is more than that. It has a gravity along with the levity.
Old Jerusalem is a world in itself. It is an ancient place and somehow, somewhere you feel it. It leaves you in awe! I visited the room where ‘The Last Supper’ from Bible is supposed to have taken place. And even though I am not a Christian, it still gave me goosebumps.
It is important for the Jews because that is where their Ancient Temple was built. It is the holiest place for the Jews. They used to go for their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem since ancient times. The Wailing Wall is supposed to be where the temple was. Once again I am not a Jew but I did stand with the crowd to touch the wall. It was a truly humbling experience.
Jerusalem is important to Muslims too as it has the Dome of Rock, the Islamic sacred Shrine. Due to lack of time I could not visit the mosque.
Jerusalem has now grown much beyond the old city. The Israel Museum is a fascinating place to go if you have time. They have the Dead Sea Scrolls on display their. I also particularly liked the Anish Kapoor sculpture that reflects the museum above the sky! The Mahane Yehuda Market in the city is also worth visiting.
Dead Sea is actually a lake and it is totally a fun place to be. The lake has 33% salt content, the highest in the world. So nothing living is found in it, hence the name the Dead Sea. The high slat makes floating so easy, you actually struggle to get up from the water!
The water is good for the skin due to all the minerals found in it. But do remember not to get any water inside your eyes or in your mouth. It really stings like mad if it goes into your eyes and it tastes truly weird, you will never like to taste it again, if you tasted it once by mistake!
The Dead Sea minerals are used in many cosmetics products. The best is to put the Dead Sea mud on your body and rinse it off in the water. But if you wish to carry some of it home, then you can buy face masks, foot creams, cleansers and whole lot more and carry it back home. They are really popular as gifts back home!
In Tel Aviv I stayed by the beach. Tel Aviv is the party town. It is a fun place to be, the vibes of the city are energetic. I loved being at the beach the most.
When you want to do something else try out Ilana Gur Museum, it is a collection of the artist’s own works plus her collections from across the world! Carmel Market is also nice, you can pick up nice jewelry among other things like fresh fruits and vegetables!
I would remember Haifa for its beautiful view of the town from the top of the Baha’I Gardens. However out hotel stay was the highlight there. We stayed at the Bay Club Haifa Hotel. It is a beautiful boutique property. However, I will remember it most for Pavel, the friendly receptionist. He gave us our keys and told us, “Ladies here are your keys, the lift is to your left, I hope you will find the room comfortable. If you need anything, or just want to talk dial the reception!” We all laughed so much!
They have a happy hour in the evening where they serve, tea, coffee, wine and light snacks, all on the house. They have a lovely outdoor seating area which is covered with glass, so it lets you enjoy the sky with the air-conditioning. I wish I had more time to explore Haifa though.
Israel as a Vegetarian
It was easy for me to enjoy my trip to Israel as a vegetarian. Falafal is there, I got pasta, there are salads and delicious breads but there are entire vegan restaurants. Nanuchka is one such restaurant in Tel Aviv that I enjoyed.
Nana Shrier the owner and her staff do wonders with the vegan food. Shawarma which is a meat preparation, has a vegan avatar at the place, so I too got a chance to see what it tastes like! I also remember my dinner at Baba Yaga in Tel Aviv fondly. The vegetarian selections were part of the main menu, they were not added as an afterthought.
I hope I will go back to Israel sometime in the future.
PS. My trip to Israel was in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism Israel.