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Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Holy Land of Israel

Alright my faithful readers we have made it through two countries, five days. We’ve got half the trip left to cover, but it is all in Israel so I will start a new post.

4th of July

We slept later than we had so far on the trip since every other day we were up with the sun. I think we slept till at least 9 (or was it 10) and it felt great. We got up and showered. I think we spent some time on the computer again just checking things out for our upcoming days. Then we went downstairs to the restaurant for our breakfast included in the price. Our choice was a sweet or salty breakfast. We both chose sweet. We had tea, some Indian tortilla type things with a small fruit salad and chocolate sauce. It was…. Fine. And while we waited for them to bring the food we chatted with another girl who was staying in our room upstairs that was from Portland. She did the “Birth Right Trip.” I hadn’t heard of this, but if you are Jewish, which means your Mother must be a practicing Jew you can get a free week trip to Israel where you are with a group and get a tour type package with lots of other birth righters. Not too shabby. She was staying a little extra though and then traveling a little bit beyond Israel after before returning home.

When we left the hostel we headed toward Jaffa. Jaffa is one of the oldest towns in the world. It is basically part of Tel Aviv whether or not it technically is. It is super cute. Tel Aviv is a HUGE city with skype scrapers and everything you’d expect to see in a large metropolitan area. Jaffa on the other hand has old buildings, a beautiful clock tower, a flea market, other markets, and of course our favorite part the beach was right there.

Jaffa was only about a 15 or 20-minute walk from our hostel. We met my friend Ari by the old clock tower at noon. It was so good to see her. It was like a piece of home brought all the way to Israel. It was wonderful. She had been doing an archeological dig for three weeks at Mount Megiddo in Israel. Megiddo is the site where many, many battles have previously taken place and where Armageddon is believed to take place in the future. It was so fun to hear about her dig. She had come to Israel a little early and was staying a little past her dig time. So we also talked about the places she’d seen and what she’d done when she first arrived, but her last few days she just stayed in Jaffa to relax and enjoy the Mediterranean.

Ari had a little last minute shopping she wanted to din in the flea market and surrounding souvenir shops before she left. And she had to take a cab to the airport at 1 am so this was her last chance. So she showed us the ropes of Jaffa and the best way to bargain with people in Israel.

From there we headed to the beach. We found some chairs under and umbrella. The sand was white, fine, and perfect. The water was gorgeous and the sun was hot, hot, hot, but we loved it. We each ordered an Israeli beer called Tuborg that I really liked. After awhile of sitting and chatting we got into the water. It was incredibly warm and felt so good. In the water along the beach were flags. Many of the flags were black which meant swimming was forbidden. The rest of the flags were red. This meant to swim with caution. I suppose there could be various reasons for the warning levels, but apparently the main reason is for jellyfish. The jellyfish are not deadly, but they do sting. Ari had already been stung a few times. She said that you don’t necessarily feel it when it happens but afterward you feel the stinging and then look down to see a red line. When we went into the water there were a lot of jellyfish so we tried to dodge them the best we could, but it didn’t make me inclined to stay in the water for a very long time.

Finally we decided it ws time to eat and we said goodbye to the beach. Ari took us to a delicious restaurant on Yefet St. the main street through Jaffa that had schwarma and falafel. Shwarma is the same as a kebab like I have talked about a lot previously in my posts. Ryan and Ari got schwarma and I had a falafel pita. They load so much delicious things in with your meat or falafel plus you get to go to the “salad bar” and take as much as you want of those things. They had eggplant, cauliflower both cooked really well, spicy marinated carrots, carrots and turnips marinated, interesting tasting pickles, and several tasty sauces, oh and our favorite whole cherry tomatoes marinated. We ate and ate and ate and then I felt sick from being so full. We also had fresh squeezed OJ that was heavenly. I didn’t think I’d eat again for a week….but guess what? I did. ☺

Then we went back to Ari’s hostel with her. They had a nice open roof top with a kitchen area, chairs and tables, even a washer, dryer, shower, and toilet. We learned from Ari that people can sleep on the roof on a pad. It was like what I expected our Petra experience to be like because this was actually open air. I wished we had just walked here to sleep on the roof rather than our place in the Florentin district, but oh well. We could hit it up the night before we left if we were back in Tel Aviv. So we just sat and talked for hours while looking out past the old city of Jaffa to the Sea. As darkness set in lights from a nearby Mosque shown bright in the sky but we were still able to stare at the stars above since we were outside of the big city far enough.

While we talked to Ari we, sort of, came up with a plan of attack for our time in Israel. I had thought we’d head to Jerusalem first which is an hour east of Tel Aviv. But instead we decided to head north along the coast the next day and then make a circle around to Jerusalem head a little south and then end up back in Tel Aviv where we were flying home from on the following Friday evening. So it was good to talk to her and get an idea of what our itinerary would be. Or at least what we’d be shooting for.

We left her place I think about 10 or 11 and walked back to our hostel. We quickly crawled in bed to rest up for our travels in the morning.

We needed this relaxed day more than anything after our none stop adventure for the first five days with very little sleep and no down time... other than that day in the ferry place if you can consider that down time. And it was nice to hangout with a friend from our home country on our nations birthday even though we were oceans away. It was a great great day!

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