We arrived in Israel on May 31st through the Wadi Araba border crossing between Aqaba and Eilat. It was a national holiday in Israel and we were a little worried we wouldn’t be able to get a seat on a bus to Tel Aviv but the gods were with us and we had no problems. The bus ride was about 5 hours and took us through moonscape in the South into lush agricultural lands as we slowly proceeded North West towards the Mediterranean and the city of Tel Aviv. We found a lovely boutique hotel, the Blue Sea Marble located one block from the beach. We were going to only spend two nights and then try to get an Airbnb to save some money but after spending several hours looking through dozens of listings we realized we should stay where we are. All the listings we saw for under $160.00 were dumps! People were obviously just trying to make a buck during the summer. The pictures showed unmade beds, dirty kitchens and cluttered bathrooms, if they showed any bathroom pictures at all. Our hotel includes breakfast, is convenient to the city centre and beach and we get room service every day if needed. In this case, Airbnb was not worth the hassle and the likely unwanted surprises we would likely encounter. We will be doing some full day tours on the 5th and the 7th and in between will be lots of beach time and exploring Tel Aviv. Next week is Gay Pride Week with the grand finale next Friday the 9th being the Gay Pride Parade.
After a relaxing evening and expensive meal on the beach side promenade with undoubtedly the worst service we have ever experienced we headed out the next morning to explore the Old Town of Jaffa, the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv, and ancient port city and it’s nearby flea market. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and St. Peter as well as the mythological story of Andromeda and Perseus. Jaffa is one of the oldest port cities in the world.
On Monday June 5th we did a full day tour to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. First stop was the top of “Mount of Olives” for a panoramic view of the city of Jerusalem. Next stop was mount Zion to visit King David”s Tomb, the Room of Last Supper and the Dormition Abbey. We then entered the Old City and walked through the Armenian and Jewish quarters to the recently excavated and restored Cardo, the Roman road. We checked out the Jewish Wailing Wall, the Kotel and continued to the Christian quarter. We walked along the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus took to his Crucifixion, and visited the church of Holy Sepulchre. The church contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the 4th century, the two holiest sites in Christianity; the site where Jesus was crucified and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he said to have been buried and resurrected. We then continued on to Bethlehem which is located in Palestinian territory on the West Bank to visit the site where Jesus was born, the Church of Nativity and Manger Square. Although Joyce and I are not religious it was none the less an interesting and educational experience.
View of Old Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock
The Roman Road (Cardo)
Part of the Via Dolorosa
Entrance to the Church of Holy Sepulchre
The spot of Jesus’s Crucifiction
The marble rock bed Jesus was laid upon after his crucifixion
The Wailing Wall and Dome of the Rock
The Church of Nativity
Entrance to Jesus’s birth place
The spot where Jesus was born
June 7th we did another full day tour, this one to the Pearls of the Western Galilee, North of Tel Aviv along the coast to the border with Lebanon. First stop was the ancient Roman capital and port city of Caesarea where we walked among the Roman theater archaeological ruins and excavations. The city was built by King Herod for Julius Caesar but since Julius lived in Rome, he never actually visited or lived there so King Herod took it for himself. He was a smart fellow this King. he built a swimming pool beside the ocean, aqueducts from the far away mountain springs and even converted the theater into a swimming pool to host aqua sports. There is a giant drain in the center of the theater which would drain the pool when not needed. The theater is still in use to this day and utilizes all of the original sandstone seats and theater acoustics. After visiting Caesarea we continued North to Haifa, the northern most city in Israel built in tiers extending from the Mediterranean up the north slope of Mount Carmel. Next stop, Rosh Hanikra where we descended by cable car into the underwater grottoes. The grottoes are located metres from the border with Lebanon. Final stop was Acre, the Old City recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
Outdoor swimming pool
In the distance, one of the silos for the “Iron Dome” built by Israel to defend against rocket attacks
A huge dining hall used by the Knights of the Crusaders. This site was excavated only 28 years ago
After 10 days in Israel we are on our way to Johannesburg to begin our 14 1/2 week African adventure.
We have a long journey ahead of us. Tel Aviv-Istanbul, Istanbul-Dar Es Salaam and finally Dar Es Salaam-Johannesburg. Total travel time including Israel hotel to Johannesburg hotel will be about 22+ hours but hey, we’re travelling Business Class so it shouldn’t be too uncomfortable.
We enjoyed the people, the history and the food of Israel. We did get a little tired of shawarmas and hummus so we are looking forward to a change. Israel is also very expensive so we’re also looking forward to less visits to the ATM! Overall a great country and we would highly recommend a visit.