My First Trip To Israel

Derek Israel 94 Comments

My First Trip to Israel

How quickly everything changes in this land. From city to desert, from one religion to another, from intense culture to untouched nature…this is a land of extremes all packed into a very small space.

And in order to experience this country, you need to be prepared to process every one of those extremes, and to then rest and recover before you move on to the next. I learned this quickly during my recent trip to Israel, a trip that was far too short to get a full understanding of what a traveler can experience here, but that offered an eye-opening glimpse nonetheless.

Just imagine…

You enter Jerusalem and head over to the walled Old City. In just one small area, .35 square miles / .9 square kilometers to be exact, you will wander around four very different quarters – Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian.

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem

The main focal point is the Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary as it is known to Muslims, and it is home to some of the holiest sites in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The Dome of the Rock, a shrine built upon the Foundation Stone, is the location where Muslims believe Muhammed ascended to heaven. The al-Aqsa Mosque is where Muhammed was transported to, from Mecca, during what is referred to as the Night Journey.

The Foundation Stone, which is the stone from which Jews believe the world was created, is also the location of the First Temple where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. As a result, this spot has extreme significance as the crossroads between Heaven and Earth.

The Temple Mount also played an important role in the life of Jesus as the place where he challenged the Temple authorities and prophesized the destruction of Herod’s Temple.

As is quite clear, this one area is where important events from all three religions have taken place, and it’s all right up here, where, despite a few restrictions, an Israeli armed security presence and the occasional rioting, visitors can wander around in an attempt to grab a peek at the core of religious history.

Surrounding the Temple Mount is a wall, much of which was built as a retaining wall when the Second Temple was constructed some 2000 years ago. In the Jewish tradition, a section of this wall, known as the Western Wall, is now considered the holiest site for prayer given its proximity to the ‘gates of heaven’ and the original temple. Men and women pray in separate sections, visitors are welcome to approach the wall, pray or just walk around and it’s open 24 hours per day, every day.

Western Wall, Jerusalem

Western Wall 2, Jerusalem

Over in the Christian quarter sits the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where you can join the throngs of people from all over the world who have made a pilgrimage to witness the location where Jesus was crucified and thought to be buried. It’s also where Jesus is believed to have been resurrected. Inside you’ll find sections for various branches of Christianity – Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and more – each of which has certain responsibilities pertaining to the function of the church. Step inside, follow the flow of traffic to each important point and spend as much time as you’d like taking it all in.

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Church of the Sepulchre 2, Jerusalem

It goes without saying that apart from those main sites above, there are plenty of other places to visit in the Old City, such as the markets in each quarter, the rooftop of the Austrian Hospice, with its great views, and my personal favorite, Elia Photo Service, an interesting 3rd generation family-run photography shop in the Christian quarter with some amazing photos that depict life in Israel over the last 90 years.

Again, that’s all in one tiny, tiny area. It’s intense and mind-blowing and fascinating all wrapped together. When you consider the long history of this city (Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities on the planet after all), the importance of this location for Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the fact that this city has been the scene of such conflict over the centuries, you’ll want to stop every few minutes in order to take a moment to breathe, to contemplate, to comprehend it all, or at least attempt to.

Beyond Jerusalem

Of course, as incredible of a destination as this city is, there’s more to Israel than Jerusalem.

Once you venture out into the rest of the country, for example, you may find yourself standing at ancient, fortified Masada, built by Herod the Great high above the Judean desert, situated on a rock mountain. This is where 1000 Jewish rebels committed suicide, along with their families, instead of facing defeat at the hands of the Romans at the end of the First Jewish-Roman War in 73 AD.


An hour later, you could be as low as you can possibly go on this planet, floating in the Dead Sea, just bobbing around without any effort, giddy as can be, covering your entire body with its salty, therapeutic mud, and enjoying the view of the mountains in the distance, on the Jordanian side of the sea.

Dead Sea View

Kalia Beach Resort, Dead Sea

You could then be in the stunning Upper Galilee in the north of the country, riding ATVs through the countryside, completely surrounded by the inspiring nature and colors of the Hula Valley.

Upper Galilee, Israel

But a short time later, after a drive south, you could also be laying down among the crowds of sunbathers on the beaches of Tel-Aviv or participating in an intriguing alternative walking tour that focuses on the local graffiti and street art scene.

Tel-Aviv Beach

Alternative Tel-Aviv Street Art Tour

One meal you’ll eat such mouth-watering falafel, hummus, ful and labneh at a hole-in-the-wall eatery in the heart of the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem, the kind of local place I could eat at every single day, and for your next meal you may be dining on Middle Eastern fusion cuisine at a trendy cafe in front of a synagogue on the other side of the country, washing it all down with a dark Israeli beer.

Lunch in Jerusalem

There is much to see here. Much to do. Much to take in.

For such a small country, there is a never-ending list of experiences to be had, and again, my trip was unfortunately a short one. Just imagine what you can do with a longer stay.

A Complex Travel Destination

Yes, without a doubt, Israel is a complex place. It’s so complex actually that many people I met, and who call this country home, are just as unsure and conflicted about the situation here as any outsider might be.

A good way to sum it up is a message that an Israeli reader of mine wrote to me shortly after I arrived:

Enjoy this beautiful, conflicted, encouraging, bleeding, amazing country. Peace and love.

Israel is indeed all of that.

And I think that’s part of the reason why, when it came time for my trip to Israel to end, I found myself wanting to stay longer, much longer. I simply was not finished with my experience.

Perhaps, and I believe this also to be true, it’s the kind of country where one’s experience can never be complete. There are simply too many of those beautiful, conflicted, encouraging, bleeding and amazing layers of this land to learn about and to try to process as best you can.

And as every traveler I met in this country seemed to agree, regardless of religious or political views, it is this presence of such extremes in every single aspect of life here that makes Israel a truly fascinating destination to visit.

(There will be more posts to come about the people I met, the food I ate and some of the more specific and interesting activities I participated in while here.)

Have you been to Israel? How was your experience? If not, have you ever thought about visiting?

[Photo of Tel-Aviv beach by Or Kaplan]

*I was invited to visit Israel by the a-political, nonprofit organization, Vibe Israel, an organization that brings international online opinion leaders to the country for weeklong personalized experiences. Nothing at all was required of me in terms of promotion or content and everything I’ve written is, as always, 100% my own thoughts, interpretations and experiences.

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Comments 94

  1. Thanks for the post.
    You were doing a great service to travelers who plan to visit.
    Your understanding of the land is correct I totally agree.
    as well I agree with you saying “it’s the kind of country where one’s experience can never be complete”
    Next time come to stay at our ranch at the Golan Heights ( another beautiful, conflicted, encouraging, bleeding and amazing place )
    Our horse ranch is an amazing place overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

  2. Hi Earl! I stumbled on your blog through my google search about North Israel Christian day tours.
    Did you pay for any tours while you were there or just solo travel? I Would love to know some of your recommendations on the subject.

    1. Post

      Hey Anna – I didn’t pay for any tours on this trip as I was with a blogger group that was invited by a tourism organization. So they took us around the country. But there is so much to do and it’s easily accessible on your own…but of course, you can take great organized day trips from the main cities to other parts of the country, such as to the Dead Sea.

  3. This is so inspiring! I’ve been wanting to visit Israel, and this really made me determined to visit someday because currently my passport doesn’t really allow me to access Israel easily. Also, what I don’t get about these comments is that the Old City isn’t part of Israel? Huh? Really? Because last time I checked it is. No one really knows who started this whole madness over there. Not only that, they quote their evidence from Wiki? How reliable! Haha.
    What are some tips would you suggest on how to write an objective piece of blog post yet still manage to inject a sense of feeling into your piece? I find that your post is very objective and I’m really amazed. I’d really appreciate your response! Keep up this awesome work!

  4. Pingback: Israel Travel Recommendations - Sleep, Eat & Learn - Wandering Earl

  5. I am thrilled you had such a great time but disappointed I didn’t know you had actually arrived here cause as I wrote you a few weeks ago , I am privileged to live in Jerusalem and it would have been nice to meet you. Do come back and meantime spread the good word!

  6. Earl-
    Great website! It’s full of great information and will help me out a lot for future reference. I am 17 years old and full of dreams. Me and some friends plan to travel the world as soon as I am 18. There is so much to experience in this life it makes me excited just thinking about it!
    Btw… No ones political rants are going to make a difference so why bother?
    If you want to really make a difference, then go out there and inspire people to do better. The greatest thing someone can do in this life is impact someone else’s in a positive manner.

    1. Israel annexed east Jerusalem, as it did the Golan heights. What other countries recognize is politics, not reality. The reality is that unlike the rest of the west bank, every citizen and resident in east Jerusalem receives and is entitled to by law, all the services provided by the state, like any other citizen who lives in Haifa or Tel Aviv.
      That’s good enough for me.
      And don’t be so quick to provide the Intl. community as reference. The intl community is consisted of mostly tyrants dictators.

  7. I lived in Israel for 2 years. 1 year with an Israeli family and then one year with a Palestinian family. The jewish families hatred for Palestinians seemed to be fear based.
    The ironic thing was their son was brought up by a Palestinian babysitter and the father used to drive to the west bank each day to pick up Palestinian workers, some that had worked fro him for years.

    The west ban itself was mixed. Some parts still had bullet holes on the walls but at the same time 5 minutes up the road you can drink with Yasser Arafats adopted children in the exclusive bars where you need your best heels and bodycon dress to get in.

    Crazy place, the biggest thing that inspired me were the Palestinians resilience. They are so used to doing everything themselves that seen among the chaos of the traffic, I saw whole shops empty to direct the traffic and to assist the drivers in reversing and parking.

    Overall a mixed emotions on all of it.

  8. Hey Derek, This was a great read and brought lovely memories back. Israel was the first country I traveled to outside India and I found everything very different yet oddly familiar. Religion was in your face all the time, either overtly or covertly, but without the twisty trunk of Ganesha this time around, lol. I am very curious to hear how your experience was with exiting the country given the glorious nomadic references you have stamped in your passport. I was grilled for little over an hour, but then I had also been to the West Bank and tried getting to Gaza without much success.

  9. I’m going to Israel In September, I’m spending just 1 week in Isreal seeing a few sites then going to Palestine for 1 month . I’m volunteering/living in a refugee camp teaching English in the West Bank. Have you been to Palestine if so Any feedback or tips on traveling from Isreal into Palestine (I know there are numerous checkpoints) or any tips or must see sites inside Palestine. I’m interested in hearing how the people you met in Israel feel about the safety and conflict with Palestine, since I’ll be in both Israel and Palestine. Great blog!!!

  10. I’ve never been to Israel and to be honest, I’ve never even thought about going there. Not for any particular reasons, it’s just never been on my list. I’d consider it though, plus it looks quite interesting from your photos 🙂

  11. I’ve met a ton of Israelis while traveling, and it makes me wish I too was from Israel. They have such a strong network because they’ve all been in the army together. It definitely seems to create a strong sense of nationality. It sounds like a fantastic place to visit though.

  12. Funny that I should stumble upon this post now. Israel has always been on my list of countries to visit (a very long list) but last week I saw a film called “Dancing Arabs” set in Israel, and this has made me even more curious to visit. 🙂 Given the complexity of the country though, I think it would help if I had contacts there beforehand.

  13. I’ve just arrived back in Bangkok after a 10 day trip to this amazing country. It was well off my planned route and I was motivated by a friend that is studying in Haifa. I cannot stress how amazing this place is. At least where I am from, there is tons of misconception about the country and what goes on there. It seems like the only news that is put out is negative, and people therefore have such a negative view of the country as a whole. My mom was even nervous when I said that I would be going there to visit my friend. At the end of my trip I was genuinely sad to be leaving, and I cannot wait to go back. I loved everything about it. The history, culture, nature, food and individuals that I met. I had no plans, yet everything worked out in ways that were beyond perfect. This is a place that everyone should check out, regardless of your background or beliefs. I was reading your blog about chewing qat in Yemen (after reading that it was banned there) and it lead me to your most recent blog post that just happened to be about Israel. Good read! I envy your nomadic lifestyle. I have been away for 4 months and have another 6 to go, then I will be back home and going to school (counting the days until I can leave again.)

  14. I liked your interpretation of the country’s tormented image – those layers are indeed what makes Israel so conflicted but at the same time so interesting. As always, very thoughtful description of traveling experiences!

  15. We made our first trip to Israel at the end of March. This was way overdue as my husband has first cousins there whom he had never met and he has work colleagues/friends who have been asking him to come for years. It was everything you said in terms of complexity. None of our relatives nor friends had voted for Netanyahu. They oppose expanding Israeli settlements, but also have to have a hardened room in their house outside Jerusalem for when rockets are fired at Israel from Gaza as happened last summer. As our friend said, “We live in a complicated neighborhood.”

    What struck me is that when one visits the “Holy Land” (or the Middle East in general) and learns the history of the region, it is clear that there are layers and layers of civilization, conquest and destruction. In Jerusalem, there are at least 9 layers. Why should anyone believe that the present isn’t just another layer? I found that very depressing. It appears that human beings are essentially tribal and intent on fighting each other.

    We visited northern Israel, using Nazareth as a base, a city populated by an Israeli Arab majority, but also the Biblical birthplace of Jesus and the location of St. Mary’s Basilica. There was some anti-Israeli political graffiti, but also a prominent billboard excoriating Christians for believing that Jesus was anything other than a prophet and for believing in the trinity when the only true G-d is Allah.

    There seemed to be super religious minorities of Muslims and Jews. My suggestion is to find somewhere where they can all go live in the 8th century which is what they seem to be striving for, so the rest of the people of good will on all sides can live in peace.

    1. Nazareth is where Jesus went after birth, according to the Bible. He was born in Bethlehem, in the West Bank. It is Muslim and Christian, from what I remember. There are a lot of Arab Christians there. It appeared to be pretty peaceful, but I wasn’t there long. There is a lot of religious extremists in the region though, for sure. I’d like the ones here in the US to find somewhere else to go live!

  16. Earl, friend of mine will be touring Israel with this group. I thought it may be of interest to you and others.

  17. I visit Israel years ago and is my favorite trip, i really enjoy the trip, you learn to much about history , culture and religion. Israel is a good place to visit i always said to my friends you have to go there to understand how beautifull it is.

  18. I haven’t been to Israel yet but I sure do want to. I had planned to go to a kibbutz after university, but I went to Eastern Europe instead LOL! I’m a lover of cultural and historical destinations and Israel would be so intriguing. I quite like the thought of walking through it!

  19. “Enjoy this beautiful, conflicted, encouraging, bleeding, amazing country. Peace and love.”
    That quote really does sum up a place like Israel, and for someone who considers himself to be religious, I have no excuse for not having been there. It’s long been a desire of mine to go see the place so many believe to be the birthplace of religion and our humanity, I just wasn’t sure what sorts of visas I’d need to enter and if they’d allow me to stay or photograph specific religious sites.

  20. I worked in Israel for 3 months in 1994 and found it an incredible country. During that time did I travel all over the place. Lets face it, it is small and does not take long to cross from the one side to the other.I walked from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.Absolutely doable.Try it.

    I visited again in 2012 and while I was standing on the hill at Jaffa, looking out over Tel Aviv ,I counted 18 building cranes. That is a good sign that the Israeli’s are going nowhere.

  21. Israel has been at the top of my ‘to go’ list for a years now and I am hoping that this year I will finally get to visit. I love history, I love architecture, I love learning about different cultures and religions – and I love falafel!

    We always seek out street art when we travel too so the alternative Tel Aviv tours sound absolutely perfect for us!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  22. Wow…..I really appreciated this post. I’ve wanted to visit Israel for a long time, but now I REALLY want to go! Are you planning any group tours there???

  23. Hi Earl,

    wow, this description of Isreal just made me add it to my long countries-to-visit list. How long did you stay in there for? Do you have any plan to go back soon? It really seems like a country that deserves a lot of time to discover and understand.

    We all want to hear more from it, so go back soon! 🙂


  24. did you not worry about being kidnapped and beheaded? Syria is only next door and you look like a filthy rich westener…

  25. I thought when I visited Israel it had so much to offer. It was an eye opener though that religion changes so quickly from one sector to another.

  26. I’m so glad I came across your post on Israel. I ABSOLUTELY LOOOOVE ISRAEL, especially Jerusalem and all of the different markets in the Old City. I enjoyed Tel Aviv as well and got to go an ATV adventure while in the hills of Galilee. As a matter of fact, it was this time last year that I was there. I miss it so much! Like you, I had that same feeling of my journey not being complete when I left. I will definitely go back again and again! Did you try some knafeh while you were there? I know you’ve been to Turkey, what about Jordan? They both have wonderful knafeh!
    Thanks for posting!


    1. Hey Carla – Definitely ate some kunefe…I’ve eaten it all over the Middle East and of course, there was plenty of good stuff to be had in Israel as well. And yes, I’ve been to Jordan as well.

  27. I’m so happy that you enjoyed Israel! It’s a special place for me 🙂 do you know about the Israeli national trail? It runs from Eilat up to Mt Hermon. As you mentioned, it is amazing to see Israel’s drastically changing geography and it would be so cool to see it all on foot!

    1. Hey Rebecca – Several people told me about the national trail and it definitely sounds intriguing to me!

  28. I laugh, not at anyone. But you are the one that has traveled the world & I only a few other countries, but Israel itself a few times. So that is why I laugh, I knew more than you, but so happy you made it to a wonderful place. Your right, there is so much to see & do. The people are amazing. Bethlehem & Nazareth & wonderful too. Thanks for sharing about a place I already love.

    1. Hey Suzanne – That’s alright, there are many people out there who know far more about many places than I do 🙂

    1. I agree with Armando. Much of Israel is a lie, and Palestine is where you see it.

      Bethlehem is interesting, Hebron is as well, but there is tension. I’m pretty sure it’s the only part of the West Bank with a settlement right in the middle of a town center. The graffiti is incredible!

      1. Ridiculous. How can you call a country a lie? Both Israel and Palestine are reality and need to coexist. Don’t spread hate.

        1. Nur, I am not spreading hate. I am sick of being called hateful or an anti-Semite for standing up for those being abused. Israel tries to conceal what it truly is in every way possible. They do their best not to allow journalists into Palestine, they have imprisoned journalists, bombed their headquarters, killed them, they regularly ban folks from traveling into the country. By ignoring the slaughter, occupation, displacement, destruction, and oppression of the Palestinian people, YOU are spreading hate with your complicity.
          Israel and Palestine do need to coexist, but Israel needs to chance A LOT.

          Earl and Amado, Israel is a beautiful and interesting country. I have spent a fair amount of time there. I have people there that I hugely care about. I also have people I hugely care about in Palestine, though. I worry about them constantly. I feel horrible that they’re being tortured by Israel. I remember a man in Palestine telling me not to forget “what they’re doing to us”. Settlers pointing guns at Palestinian children will never leave my brain. If you’d like to learn more, here is a bit by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is known for his role in the opposition of apartheid in South Africa, and has received a Nobel Peace Prize: Number of deaths during Israel’s “wars” are telling, and UN Sanctions give a lot of information.

          I legitimately wasn’t trying to start a debate. I just encourage folks willing to visit Palestine whenever I can. Anyway, I’m done here, as I realize you didn’t write about your trip to start debate.

          We are what we believe, what are we fight for, we’re also what we ignore.

          1. Jana, It is possible to be supportive of the Palestinian people and not be anti-Semitic. I did not call you an Anti-Semite but if, as you say, people are repeatedly accusing you of being one then I suggest you pay closer attention to what you say and the accuracy of your beliefs and statements. Calling Israel a lie is not criticizing a country’s policy it is more in line with an anti-Semitic statement. And using words like ‘slaughter’ is a word more appropriate for what some of the Arab countries do to their own people. Syria, is one example Israel is not. Are you speaking up and for those people as well? I can go on and counter much of what you say. It is a sad situation all around. Israel is not perfect but without doubt, your uninformed writing where you indiscriminately make accusations and throw words around does spread hate and misinformation.

            I give Earl credit for writing a very lovely post and dispelling any fears of visiting. I hope more people will visit All of the country and see for themselves.

          1. You’re arguing semantics, Nur. I actually am not anti that, words have meaning. What I meant was that Israel doesn’t honestly portray what it is when visiting.

            When you talk about Israel’s behavior, people automatically call you an anti-Semite. Calling Palestinians terrorists is also a go-to, as well as using the Holocaust to rationalize the violence against the Palestinians. I am Jewish, and not at all self-hating. I am critical of Israel because I don’t support things like apartheid, violence, and displacing folks.

            Here are some facts though, as you are the one who is uninformed, Nur. They’re mostly from the UN, some from other government sources, and maybe a couple of non-profits. Basically, none are from individual’s sites.

            Israel claims it is defending itself from Palestine. Let’s see how much sense that makes. The IDF is massive. They have over 200 fighter jets, 10 bomber jets, over 250 attack jets, 1,680 tanks, 50 patrol boats, in 2012, Israel spent $15.2 billion on its armed forces, one of the highest ratios of defense spending to GDP among developed countries ($1,900 per person). The Palestinians don’t have an army. They have no jets, no high tech weapons, no helicopters. They don’t have any tanks.

            During the Gaza Siege, which is sometime called the “Gaza War” (even though it was an assault on a population, not a war). The conflict resulted in between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinian deaths. and 13 Israeli deaths (4 from friendly fire). Mosques were targeted, as were schools.

            The death toll in Operation Protective Edge was 66 IDF soldiers, as well as 6 civilians (5 Israelis, one Thai). Between 2,140 (according to Israel) and 2,310 Palestinians died. Over 69% of the Palestinian deaths were casualties. This doesn’t include deaths post the assault, as Gaza has been left without adequate sanitation, destroyed infrastructure, extreme poverty. People have died from weather, with over 100,000 homes destroyed during the attack.

          2. Jana –
            reply to your last post appears to be disabled.

            No doubt Palestinians suffer injustices. But you simplify a complex issue. Their own leadership has been corrupt since Arafat if not earlier. Stealing and impoverishing their own people.

            Spreading hatred and lies is not the way to help the Palestinian people. It is not a secret that fanaticism exists amongst Jews and Muslims. Join or support a NGO or grass roots organization in Israel that works to bring the people together. (New Israel Fund is an example.) Go volunteer your time among the people you want to help. But don’t post comments in order to insight hatred.

            On another note, I am wondering what brought you to Israel in the first place? Anything having to do with being Jewish? Let me point out that Syria has a great deal of Jewish history, artifacts…. I believe all has been destroyed.
            I suggest you visit there. If they allow you to visit freely, take pictures, contact people… And while you are there bring a friend.

          3. I’ve said nothing untrue or spread lies. Facts about something awful is spreading hate? THAT is hate. Breaking international law, racism, demolition of homes, ruining of land, IDF standing by while settlers heckle and point guns at small Palestinian children, THAT is hate.

            Nur, I don’t understand how people can ignore facts, how people can just ignore ethics. I’m not talking about fanaticism. I’m talking about a norm that needs to be changed. Things like IDF officers standing by while settlers attack women and children. I’m talking about a majority closing its eyes, while their government commits atrocities against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and even East Jerusalem. Youth that go to wars against full populations without asking any questions, and a country where no one is questioning why bloodthirsty, cruel, horrid human beings (I’m being generous in calling them such) like Ayelet Shaked can be justice minister (she has literally called for genocide against the Palestinian people), or Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who responded with “For now” during a debate when Ayman Odeh, stated that, “We Arabs in Israel are twenty percent of the state’s citizens”.

            I went to Israel as I like to go places. I love history. It sounded like an interesting trip. Then I spent time in Palestine, and the experience horrified me. My heart broke into pieces. Since I have researched Israel and Palestine as much as I could. So I can be called names, or have my life threatened (which has happened), be told I’m spreading hate or lies or whatever bullshit, but I will never ignore what is happening to the Palestinian people.

  29. I’m glad to know you enjoyed your visit in my little country. I completely agree with you, we do have lots of conflicts, we live in a complicated country and deal with hard situations, but we keep the good vibes and wake up with a smile, and that’s what makes it special.

    1. @Backpacking Panda – I did notice all of the smiles and good vibes…was one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been.

  30. Reading your post about your trip to Israel brought so many memories. I visited there eight years ago as part of a Middle Eastern exploration ( Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt).
    It was wonderful, sad, interesting and amazing. Petra was the most fascinating and beautiful place I have experienced to date, but I still remember roaming through the corridors in Jerusalem and was amazed how the three different religious sectors lived so closely intertwined but peacefully.
    Thank you for taking me back in time!
    Cheers to life,

    1. Hey Shelley – Sure thing and that must have been quite a trip you were on! This region of the world really makes for interesting travel.

  31. “… it’s the kind of country where one’s experience can never be complete”
    Absolutely! I went there on three different occasions, and every experience was completely different. It so much depends on the people you meet, really.

    I highly doubt the a-politcalness of this organization though, because well.. you really can’t be a-political in Israel^^ Be sure to visit amazing Hebron and Jenin next time, and also don’t miss the weekly demonstrations against the wall on Friday in Bil’in or Nabi Saleh. I’ve never experienced more hospitality than in these places, at the periphery of Israeli occupation.

    1. Hey Verena – I definitely am looking forward to going back and exploring some more of the area. My list of places I still want to visit over there is long!

      1. Don’t forget South Africa also, there’s so much to see here. Don’t want to take up space here promoting my country because I’m sure we’re all just a bit biased really, but we’d love to have you here and see an article about it.

    2. Verbena, couldn’t you just leave the comments as a-political as Earls post? Did you really have to go there? Should we talk about all the Jews in Israel that found themselves there because they were violently chased out of their family homes in Egypt , Iran, …? Maybe those countries can give back to those generations of families their land and homes when they were occupied.

      1. Earl,
        If you ever find yourself in Hebron, definitely check out the graffiti on the separation wall. I was taking pictures of some street art and my taxi driver was trying to ask me something, then he turned the wrong way and I was thinking “Really?! He’s one of those taxi drivers?”, then he stopped in front of the most amazing messages and art I’ve ever seen (and I’ve followed street art for over 15 years). It was incredible, and I would have never known that section was there.

        I also met with a non-profit there that gave me a political tour. It’s all these old folks who go where they believe Jesus would be if alive today, and help folks. In Palestine they do things like check wells, as settlers poison the Palestinians water, keep in eye on the IDF, and walk children to school, so they aren’t attacked. I’m not religious, but they’re amazing! They go into some of the most dangerous parts of the world. They are instructed to bring what they want to be buried with with them. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as in awe of anyone as I was of these folks.

        All I’ll say here to you is ignoring injustice is participating in injustice. There is no justification for what Israel is doing. You can love your country and oppose unethical practices. I love the US, do I support our bullshit wars? No! I suggest you look at facts, numbers (deaths on both sides during “wars”, UN Sanctions, list of folks who have not been let into Israel/Palestine, differences in military strength). It becomes very clear that Israel isn’t defending itself when you actually look at the facts.

        1. Jana,
          When was the last time you have posted something about the mass killing in Syria? Slaugter in Congo? Recent news from the Ukraine?
          I suggest you take a deep look into your obsession with Israel, it might not be the victim you are so obsessed about, but maybe the so called “opressor”, I wonder why.
          As a digital nomad, reading comments like yours make understand how valuable is Israel for the Jewish people.
          Carry on obsessing, I just pity the people you have mentioned that you call friends to in Israel, after calling their country a lie and quoting Dezmond Tutu the saint on Israel right to exist.
          Glad Jews are out of your country and established their country, haters gonna hate, Israelis will keep on developing and creating new inventions and technologies, thats our power and value and what seperate us from the norm is our neighbourhood.

          1. Eli,

            I’m sorry for not commenting on every atrocity in the world! I’m focused on Palestine because I’ve seen the abuse with my own eyes, because I have friends there who are suffering because of Israel’s apartheid state, and maybe because someone needs to care about Palestine, since Israel and the US ignore Israel’s behavior.

            Criticizing Israel’s apartheid system is not criticizing Jewish people. I am Jewish, if you insult something I cook, it’s not an anti-Semetic comment. I’ll give you the same facts I gave Nur. If you can’t look numbers and think critically, then continue living ignorantly.

            The IDF is massive. They have over 200 fighter jets, 10 bomber jets, over 250 attack jets, 1,680 tanks, 50 patrol boats, in 2012, Israel spent $15.2 billion on its armed forces, one of the highest ratios of defense spending to GDP among developed countries ($1,900 per person). The Palestinians don’t have an army. They have no jets, no high tech weapons, no helicopters. They don’t have any tanks. It makes no sense to believe Israel is defending itself. It’s just simply untrue.

            The Gaza Siege, which is sometime called the “Gaza War”, even though it was an assault on a population, resulted in between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinian deaths, and 13 Israeli deaths (4 from friendly fire). Mosques were targeted, as were schools.

            The death toll in Operation Protective Edge was 66 IDF soldiers, as well as 6 civilians (5 Israelis, one Thai). Between 2,140 (according to Israel) and 2,310 Palestinians died. Over 69% of the Palestinian deaths were casualties. This doesn’t include deaths post the assault, as Gaza has been left without adequate sanitation, destroyed infrastructure, extreme poverty. People have died from weather, with over 100,000 homes destroyed during the attack.

        2. Jana,
          Your comment once again shows your level of obsession about Israel.
          The obsession existed dozens of years ago, and it lasts to this day, only in another form.
          Thanks for the kind reminder of why Israel is needed, and why is it worth fighting for it. Every time I think of myself as a global citizen, people like you remind me again that such term doesn’t exist, especially not for Jews.
          I do not wish to continue this discussion since you honestly scare me.. 🙂

      2. Nur, don’t you have anything better to do than criticizing other people’s comments? Is there anything wrong about visiting Hebron? Hm?

        I didn’t even lose a single word about my opinion on Israels policies towards its non-Jewish minorities, because I knew someone like you would show up in the comments sooner or later. All I did was recommending to visit some of the places that make it way too easy to close your eyes in front of all the wrong things that happen.

        The only one really making an issue out of this is you – kudos to Jana for having the nerves to get back to this discussion again and again.

        1. Verena, it’s nice that you recommend people to go on Friday demonstration against the “occupation” and then say you didnt say anything about politics, are you kidding?
          So much racism and obsession in a post about traveling to a country. I really suggest you leave the readers who are interested of reading about Earl travels in peace without your political posts and Jana’s analysis of the evil bloodthirsty Zionists.

          1. Ohh well.. if the word “occupation” is already too much for you, then I of course apologize.

        2. Verena,

          It would be better if you read what I wrote before you respond. I wrote that one should travel in all of the country and see it all. I even posted a link of a tour company that was started by an Arab and a Jew that takes you to all areas. So what the f are you talking about Verena?

          My points were simple;
          1. This is not the forum or the way to help the Palestinian people.
          2. Israel is not perfect and things do need to change.
          3. I will piggy back Eli who said that the other writer has an obsession with Israel and I suggest that the reason it is easy to have such an obsession is because Israel is one of the rare countries in the Middle East, that comes close to being a democracy allowing YOU and journalists to report and write freely and visitors to travel freely. In the ‘occupied’ territory, It was Hamas that threatens and kills Palestinians if they say speak out. Just try to go to Syria, Yemen, Iran and do the same.

          In conclusion, there are many Israelis who want to do better for the Palestinian people and also want to know that rockets, tunnels etc. are not coming their way. There are extremists on both sides and for peace to exist we need to hear the majority and not the extremists. Palestinians and Israelis will have to coexist. Israel is not going anywhere.

          I hope this ends this debate on Earls site.

          1. My points were also simple, at least that’s what I thought 😉 And if you’re so annoyed by this debate, then go back and try to find out who started it..

  32. Yes, very complex place, and spending time with people and putting it all into perspective is a big job. I think it is important to also visit the West Bank. I was so shocked by what I experienced there that I couldn’t write about it, even though I fully intended to. It is necessary to see it all at the coalface and not just read the news.

    1. Hey Julie – Absolutely, and I do plan to make it to the West Bank on my next visit. Lots more to learn about first-hand over there.

  33. So glad you finally made the trip. I have been there several times and there is no place like it on Earth. From crazy to beautiful, from ancient to modern-hip it is all there.

  34. Glad you went here, Earl. This is a fascinating pat of the world. Yes, I have been to Israel and many of the surrounding countries. Enjoyed my travels there. It’s important to travel to the West Bank as well as Israel, to get perspectives from people living there as well.

    1. Hey Stephen – You’re indeed right, it is important to get various perspectives and the West Bank will be on my itinerary next time. Just didn’t have time unfortunately on this trip.

  35. great that you have made it finally Earl, Israel is indeed one of the most fascinating countries on the face of the earth, and actually an anchor of stability in volatile region.
    Come back for more time next time and let me know when you are here :- )

    1. Hey Eli – Good to hear from you and I had no idea you were there! I just assumed you were elsewhere!

  36. Hi Earl, I am thrilled you had such a great time but disappointed I didn’t know you had actually arrived here cause as I wrote you a few weeks ago , I am privileged to live in Jerusalem and it would have been nice to meet you. Do come back and meantime spread the good word!

    1. Hey Pam – Sorry about that! The trip all happened relatively last minute and before I knew it, every day was filled with activities and I was busier than I ever imagined. But the next time I’ll take it more slowly and I shall look forward to meeting you in Jerusalem!

  37. I wrote earlier on where I would recommend that you took to living; in IL. I know it is no easy task to choose, when the heart is wandering and the family is safely in one place. But maybe they too one day will go to (or even take to) Israel. I’m very happy to hear that you got around to visiting it. By your comments you sound very eager. I told you you would be happy to be there, particularly as it is so multi faceted. I hope you enjoyed Shavout there also. We enjoyed it in the Land during the Jewish Pesach this year; visiting friends and taking vacation.
    You are very welcome to write a personal reply on my comment. 🙂

    1. Hey Niels – You were indeed right in terms of me finding the country quite appealing in its own way. I need to explore it some more to get a better understanding. But I wasn’t there for Shavuot, had already left. Hope you’re doing well!

    1. Hey Paul – Thanks for that and you definitely should visit. As a history lover, you probably will never want to leave.

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