When most people think of Israel, oftentimes political things come to mind. I’d also been a victim of the fear mentality that as an American going to Israel I was going to be an automatic magnet for trouble. Can I clue you in on something? Any time you enter a foreign country and open your mouth, “American” flashes over your head like a neon sign. They all know, y’all, and honestly, if you mind your business, are respectful, and have some basic understanding of the culture you are walking into, everyone will be better for it.
I loved Israel so much! It is somewhere I would love to go back to one day after visiting other countries in the Middle East. The people are always honest (so don’t get your feelings hurt, they just shoot straight), the history is enthralling, and the food is fantastic!! If you do plan to go, I recommend visiting with a tour group first and then venturing out on your own whether while still there or some other time. It has so much to offer and is just an amazing place to be.
So, what are the things you need to do while there? Obviously, go to Jerusalem. The Old City is stunning, the ruins and history there are beyond cool, and if you have a chance to, go by the Dome of The Rock for a glimpse at some of the Middle East’s finest architecture. Aside from that, there are a few things I think you need to experience that might not be on your radar.
Oh my goodness, this dish changed my life!! And no, that is not an overly dramatic response to it. The combination of the sweetened cheese with the thin pastry-type topping DROWNED in simple syrup. You don’t even understand how great this is, so you’ll have to try it! There are recipes for it all over the internet if you fancy trying to make it at home! Sometimes it is rolled like in the picture above, other times it is simply done in a pan.
Jacob’s Well, Nablus, Palestine |
For this stop, you will likely need to be on a tour. There are rules to crossing the Israeli/Palestinian borders and the signage around them makes them seem much scarier than it is, but we always opt for “better safe than sorry.” This well is a holy sight for those who believe in Jesus Christ because it is the place in John 4 where Jesus meets the woman at the well and basically (in the nicest-most-Jesus-way-possible) airs out her dirty laundry. I know it sounds terrible, but it is remarkable because the woman was a Samaritan, someone a Jew wouldn’t associate with because of the racism that had permeated their societies for centuries. Aside from that, the well dates back to it belonging to Jacob, the father of the 12 brothers after whom the tribes of Israel would be named, making it a couple of THOUSAND years old.
A Greek Orthodox priest spent 38 years working on the church that stands over the well now and it is an immaculate building. He was such a precious man, and he risked his life to build the church. The guide from my tour knew him personally and had gone to the site many times. We all bought little jars of the well water (which we also drank and it was deliciously refreshing) and stood in awe of the building for a few hours before making our way out. There was a peace in that place I have only felt one other time in my life when I was on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. God speaks in mysterious ways.
The Mediterranean via Caesarea Maritima |
When landing in Israel, you’ll come through Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, and you’ll be a short drive from the stunning coast that runs into the Mediterranean Sea. The water is SO blue and if you stop by Caesarea Maritima on your way to the aqueduct ruins (where you can conveniently snag some shade after a hot Sunday swim because Sabbath in Israel shuts things down from Friday evening – Saturday evening) you can have a quick history lesson and walk through ruins of the hippodrome (think chariot races) and the amphitheater that sits just a few hundred yards from the water. When visiting Israel, grab as many historical site visits as you can per day because you won’t have to worry about crowds there if you decide to do a return trip at any time.
Some honorable mentions to visit would be Tiberias, Capernaum, and Golan Heights. Especially for Golan Heights, toss out your Western View of Israel and approach it with open eyes. Bordering Lebanon to the North and Syria to the East, Golan Heights is the site of the Six Days war and also an adorable coffee shop! United Nations soldiers often sit atop it on guard to make sure nothing crosses the border. If you visit at a time where tensions have been high in Damascus, Syria, our guide noted that you’d likely hear rocket fire or see smoke rising to the sky, but when I went it had been quiet for some time. It is a unique spot that I’d definitely return to.
Has anywhere in the Middle East been on your bucket list? Do you have hesitations about visiting there? Remember that not all is awful in places where the news says so, and your best bet is to do your own thorough research before visiting. So get going and as always,
#travel #travelblogger #lifestyle #visitisrael #jessunleashed