We left off most recently with trip reports on Israel, talking about venturing to Sderot and seeing how the people there live their lives in one of the most fortified cites in the world. It’s now been a few months since my (most recent) visit to Israel, but I’ve still got a ton of photos left, so you guys are in luck.
I know you’re all waiting with bated breath to hear my next country of visitation. Bad luck for you all, I’ve already been there. Good luck for you all, I went to a bunch of new places! So, where did I go? Israel, of course.
I’ve brought this up once or twice, I know, but this issue stands at the forefront of my mind. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is something I keep coming face to face with, and I’m constantly struggling with my own thoughts about it. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?
But since this topic happens to be one that particularly interests me, I’ve tried to make the most out of the time I’ve been spending in the Middle East. What does this mean? I want to learn both sides, see both narratives for myself and figure out just what exactly I believe.
Now, when I had planned originally on coming to Israel, I had signed up to go visit Hebron (since the Gaza Strip is closed from the Israeli side, I figured Hebron was the next best), and also arranged for a trip down to Sederot, the nearest Israeli town to the wall that seals off Gaza. Like I said, I’m trying to be the best student I can.
Unfortunately, my trip to Hebron was cancelled, due to conflict in Hebron closing down the Old City. That was truly unfortunate. Next time, I suppose.
Fortunately, though, I managed to spend some awesome time in East Jerusalem, visiting the Garden Tomb (where Jesus may have been buried?)
and walking around, eventually meeting a nice Palestinian girl who inquired if I was lost (in English). I answered her, in Arabic, and we became fast friends, her taking me to lunch and then to her workplace, hanging out there before boarding a bus to…somewhere else? A church somewhere? Anyway, we walked around, walking and talking, and I had an excellent time. We were supposed to meet up again, heading to Jericho for the day, but unfortunately never got back in touch.
You all know that the best times I have are when I learn to stop saying “no” and just go with things. So it was with her, when she dragged me on the bus and out of town we went, stopping for a photo of “the best view in town.” She wasn’t wrong.
Next up, my visit to Sederot, (probably) the world’s most fortified city, and an excellent insight into certain aspects of life in the Middle East.
I’m writing to you from the roomy excess of Economy+, where I shelled out an extra seventy bucks for the ability to recline my seat more than two inches. I know, I’m fancy.
So yesterday I told you all about how I got to Israel, and promised lots of stories on the things I did while there. First up is the city of Jerusalem.
I’m going to try to keep this as apolitical as possible. That seems like an impossible task, doesn’t it? Suffice to say that Jerusalem, and Israel as a whole, is a divisive country. Of course everyone already knows that, but it’s one thing to read about in the newspapers and another thing entirely to witness it firsthand.
Take for example, the choking air of intentionally lit forest fires, struck simply to cause terror and otherwise defile the city. Or the ominous clattering of armed guards gathered solemnly in a market, an overt presence that no one fails to notice. In short, it’s tense.
That aside, it’s a remarkable country, and a true joy to visit. This wasn’t actually my first time here. I made a short stop in Jerusalem awhile back, but didn’t get the chance to really explore like I did this time. Even better- you guys remember Harrison, of Ethiopia fame? Remember how I said he lived in the Middle East? Yeah, this meant that I had an awesome place to crash, which was excellent because hotels in Israel are *disgustingly* expensive. (Minimum $200/night! And no points redemptions!)
So here we go!
Jerusalem is packed with things to see and do. I spent most of my first few days simply wandering around, hitting up famous places like the Western Wall:
And Machne Yehuda, the bustling market where fruit vendors vie for attention with tiny bars and hole-in-the-wall restaurants (with the best food).
As well as the Old City, whose narrow corridors are packed with shopkeepers and their wares, each shouting louder than the last in order to sell you “real Dead Sea mineral mud from Israel!”
I even ventured out to the Israel Museum, which is enormous and whose archeology department is one of the ten best in the world. I spent an hour and a half here and only managed to get through this one section. It’s huge and very cool- definitely worth a visit.
Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the Al-Aqsa mosque (Temple Mount), as things were…in a bad way. Just a few days prior, there had been an attack at the mosque and several people were killed. Thus, it was closed. Next time?
I did, however, have one of the best meals of my life. (This was actually from my first time here, but I’m only just now getting to write about it). There’s a restaurant called Machneyuda, owned by 3 famous chefs, where apparently there are tons of lines and it’s nigh impossible to get a reservation. Luckily, Harrison managed to snag one for us and we celebrated by eating approximately all the food. Seriously, we did a tasting menu, which was like…seven courses long.
I even ate things I’ve sworn off of for forever, like tuna (raw!), scallops (what was I thinking?), halibut (no but seriously I swear I don’t eat fish), and bone marrow, which was surprisingly my least favorite thing on the menu. I don’t recommend it.
It also came with five different desserts, which I somehow managed to eat all of because everyone knows that your dessert stomach is separate from your food stomach.
Unfortunately for us, we had a lunch reservation rather than dinner, which meant that after eating the whole day was shot. I think I trundled back to my room and watched crappy Hebrew tv for the next five hours. I’m a superstar tourist, you guys.
Anyway, Jerusalem is really cool. It’s this weird mix- in which ultra-Orthodox Jews mingle past girls in daisy dukes clutching frappuccinos. (Ok that was me). There’s new next to old, and an ever-expanding city that promises a respite from the harshness of the desert via A/C and deeply tinted windows. (And, like, nice designs too, I guess).
Up next- a day tour to Bethlehem and Ramallah, because of course I did.