To Israel and Beyond

by - 6:00 PM

See what I did there, with the title? The Toy Story reference? Okay, I'll stop with the bad jokes now, but I found it very fitting: in June I visited Israel, Palestine and Jordan. It was the first time I left the continent without my parents, the biggest adventure of my life so far... Needless to say, I was scared to death when I left.

I landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, just a few minutes before midnight on June 13th. Even though it wasn't my first time in Israel, I felt pretty lost. I had no memories to rely on: my previous visit was in 1997, when I was exactly one year old. All I know about that trip is that I cried in the Dead Sea and that my cousin ate four popsicles a day.
 Lucky for me, I wasn't all alone in the Holy Land: I'd booked a tour with a group (to my fellow Dutchies: never book a Kras trip via TUI!). I turned out to be the youngest one there, the average age of the group being somewhere around 60, probably above it. Not that age mattered all that much in this group; I got along pretty well with the oldies and mostly hung out with a young couple from the north of the Netherlands.

After a very short night in Netanya, we paid the quickest visit ever to the Roman city of Caesarea, Haifa and Nazareth. I felt like one of those Asian tourists who travel through all of Europe in two to three weeks. Quick picture stop here, bathroom break there and on to the next tourist trap. The tour guide was not a big fan of photography, as he only gave us as little time as possible at monuments and viewpoints. Luckily our bus driver understood the need for good snaps, which led to actions like driving three full circles on a roundabout at the foot of the hill that's home to the Bahai Shrine in Haifa.

The pace of our trip didn't slow down after that first jampacked day. Soon I'd visited Tiberias, the Golan Heights, and many, many, many places where Jesus had been. Also a lot of places where people committed mass suicide. The Bible says so. Very uplifting...
On the third full day in Israel, I already distanced myself from the group every time the tour guide pulled the Bible out of his pocket. Unlike many others in the group, I hadn't come to Israel for its religious significance. Sure, it was interesting to hear about things that had happened there according to religion, but I was more interested in tracing the footsteps of my family from that 1997 trip. I was there for the desert, for the three major religions coming together in Jerusalem, for the art on the West Bank Barrier.

The tour guide wasn't a big fan of my plan to visit the West Bank Barrier, but I didn't let that stop me. As soon as we had some time off in Bethlehem, I was checking out that wall. Even though Jerusalem was beautiful, I enjoyed this Palestinian city more. One of my former coworkers had lived there (in case she's reading this: Hi! I hope you and your family are doing okay!), which made my visit a bit more special. This is the place where I watched football with locals, ate at the KFC with the best view in the world and almost went deaf when the call to prayer started when I was right next to the mosque. Bethlehem will always have a special place in my heart.

After a visit to the Dead Sea, we crossed the border into Jordan, my first Muslim country ever. I was glad to be there, since I'd come to learn more about Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but the latter had been almost completely ignored in Israel. Jordan was a whole different story. My eyes grew wide at the sight of Amman's King Abdullah Mosque, but also when I saw street signs in Arabic and women in beautiful niqabs. My family and friends back home were a little worried that I'd get in trouble for being a blond girl on the streets of a Muslim country, but the only time I felt unsafe was when I walked to a supermarket in Madaba, a city with a Christian majority. Apart from that, I felt welcome in Jordan, way more welcome than I'd felt in Israel. I also liked the place better because we got a new tour guide once we crossed the border, and this guy gave us more time to ourselves. Thanks to him, I got the opportunity to explore Petra on my own terms. I saw it at night, by day and burnt to a crisp in that legendary ancient city. I wish I'd had even more time there, but we soon found ourselves in the desert of Wadi Rum and the Roman city Jerash. Before I knew it, I was on a plane home already...

Looking back on my trip now, almost two weeks after coming home, I smile (but just a little bit, because I had my wisdom teeth removed two days ago and my jaw is killing me). It was a scary trip, a real adventure. It was also expensive, but I decided to spend my money on experiences, not things. I'll never regret that decision. The pictures are amazing, the memories and stories even better. As always, I can't wait to share all of them with you.

x Envy

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4 Fellow Ramblers

  1. It sounds like you had an amazing time!
    Shame about that first tour guide though. I like time to take it all in when I go somewhere.
    Cora |

  2. That sounds so cool!! That whole area is so history filled I feel like it would be amazing to get to visit it. :)

    Nabila | Hot Town Cool Girl

  3. WOW now gonna go read the rest of your posts about Israel. It's totally on my list of "places to visit someday" XDD

  4. Hi Envy, yes! I am reading this, and yes, we are doing fine. I enjoyed your post, glad you liked the place. Hope you're doing well. (You did put a sticker on that wall, didn't you.) A big hug from me. Falafel for everyone!


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