Asia / Israel

Israel in a nutshell.

Seven. The lucky number. 7 days in a week, 7 wonders of the world, 7 archangels. It symbolizes completeness and perfection and I’m in Israel for exactly 7 days. Is it enough? The country isn’t big – you can travel across it within a day, but it’s not about the surface this time. It’s about the number of places to visit. Considering the fact that getting here was kind of a nightmare I’m determined to squeeze out the most I can from this travel. So 7 days. Even the greatest strategist needs a good plan. Tel Aviv? Checked. I spent whole 4 days there simply swallowed up by the city. Committing the crime of laziness comes easier when you have 20+ degrees outside even in October.. but it’s high time I did the real thing now. Off we go to do some serious sight-seeing!

The Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea. No filter pic. Plastic seats, colorful umbrellas.

Israelis are deeply convinced The Dead Sea is the first place you want to see while visiting the country. Especially when you come from grey and cold Poland. 🙂 You have to keep in mind that a huge part of it belongs to Palestine so if your car has Israeli GPS it will warn you about the fact you’re approaching the “unfriendly zone” (yes!!). Driving the car you gonna see a huge wall. It’s the Israeli West Bank barrier – a separation barrier under construction by the State of Israel along and within the West Bank. It was build to protect citizens of Israel from Palestinians. I don’t want to judge the conflict between these two countries. I don’t feel I have a right to do it but to be honest Palestinians from Gaza zone live in a kind of ghetto, such a small territory, so many people. I wish Israelis and Palestinians found their way to communicate. Make love not war!

The Dead Sea – that name is quite unsuitable considering the number of noisy people lying under umbrellas. 🙂 Welcome to the Earth’s lowest elevation on land! By the way, technically it’s a lake not a sea. When you are in water it feels soooo weird! Walking on the mud isn’t the most pleasant experience. Yuck! You can’t swim in the water and you’d better don’t try to lie down on your belly if you don’t want to risk drowning. All you can do is.. relax.. and hope that it stops pinching you down there soon!! Remember – DO NOT SHAVE (anywhere!) before and if you did well… keep calm. Salty warm water is good for my skin is your mantra. 🙂 I put some mud on my body and face and I can go back to hide under an umbrella. Later on a quick shower, local beer in the lowest bar in the world and soon this very enjoyable day is over.

I buy some of that miraculous mud in the local shop where they want to rip out every shekel from my pocket. Funny thing is that at the airport they have to send it back to Poland in a separate box. This time the mud was more suspicious than me! 🙂

The lowest bar is a place to be! and sip some local beer..
No wonder why it’s called the “dead” sea LOL
The “before” picture…
…and after. My own mum didn’t recognize me!!

Caesarea.

Time Travelers love history. I do!

I quickly wear my toga (dress robe from ancient Rome) and accompanied by the music-theme from “Chariots of fire” I tell my mechanical horses to take me to Caesarea. Today I have a meeting with Herod the Great who initiated the construction of several facilities so the city could grow a lot.

Thousand years ago Caesarea hosted sports competitions like gladiator games as well as theatrical productions in its theater overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Later the history showed no mercy to the city – it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. It was a home of many religions if you look for it you will find their remains. Nowadays the Roman Theater is the place where big concerts and festival take place. And as for an event venue – I have to admit, it looks impressive!!! Next to the museum there is a shop where you can buy very unusual prints on canvas. So called ‘soft painting’ is a unique technique created the by local artists. The artwork is hand made with some synthetic fibers. That would be a perfect gift.. if it wasn’t so rudely expensive!!

Caesarea.
The little bay looks so beautiful!
chariots – faveourite sport of ancient Caesarea.
Caesarea is nowadays a huge archaeological site.
…and so many things yet to be discovered!

Haifa.

Before visiting Haifa my boyfriend tells me “it’s where they keep their secret weapon” but to me, more interesting is the fact that you can find there the shortest subway line in the world (6 stations,1,8km), or the famous Bahai Gardens with the Shrine of Bab.

Bahaism is a monotheistic religion which came from Persia. Nowadays there are an estimated five to six million Bahá’ís around the world. The Bahai Gardens are beautiful I really enjoyed my time there. As usual in Israel you can’t get inside without a security check. Beware that chewing a gum is considered a rude behaviour. There is about 700 volunteers working here to keep the Gardens look good. I wish I had such staff looking after me!

The entrance is free (I like it!) but when we get there some of the gates are already closed. So you’d better come in the morning if you don’t want to take pictures half hanging from the tree growing on the other side of the road. 🙂

Welcome sign – Entrance to the Gardens.
The Garden overlooking Haifa.
Simply the best of Haifa.

Jerusalem.

My friend is ill and we haven’t been to Jerusalem yet! To go or not to go alone. Although my first words were “I don’t go! I’m too afraid and I don’t understand what people say!!” I decided to pack my bag and catch a bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And you know what? I’m glad I did it. Jerusalem is the real cream of the crop. It’s the last thing I saw in Israel and also the most impressive one.

Jerusalem is unique. Not only it’s the informal capital of Israel (according to the Israeli law) but also it’s the home of the 3 most important religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Small surface of 1km2 is divided into 4 boroughs each of them with its own separate history. I got some instructions how to get to places I want to visit and a map.

The moment I step out of the bus I’m totally lost. Lovely… “Do you need help?” – I notice a guy smiling at me. Well, I wish I could say I didn’t. But I’m desperately looking for someone who knows how to read this damn map! I only hope he doesn’t want anything from me. He explains me how to get where I wanted to get adding:

“Well I knew you couldn’t be from here. You’re wearing shorts. Women in Jerusalem don’t wear shorts.” Damn it!!! I forgot about my camouflage!!! I feel such a shame I take my long skirt out of my bag and pull it on behind a bus stop.

Feeling much more comfortable I reach Yad Vashem – official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953. Good news – the entrance is free. I spent there 3 hours and it was an EXTREMELY MOVING EXPERIENCE. No words can describe it. Although it was full of people I felt like I was alone. Alone with the history, the pain and the loss.

Yad Vashem.

 

People say you can’t live in the past. But should we totally forget it then?
I tried to take a pic with my mobile (that’s why the quality is so poor) hiding myself round the corner just like a spy, to show you young Israelis during their military service learning about their history. Look at the gun!!
Righteous Among the Nations is an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save the Jews from extermination by the Nazis. Everyone honoured with such medal has his own tree in the garden in Yad Vashem.
Did you know that among all Righteous Among the Nations there is 6,339 Poles? They have their own alley in Yad Vashem Garden. It makes me proud of being a Pole!

I take a tram to the Old Town. What an enchanting place! I know exactly what I want to see – all Stations of the Cross of the Via Dolorosa. The Old Town is full of little twisting streets and on each of them hundreds of little shops. Street vendors shouting from every corner. At least they are nice and show me the way to the Western Wall. Yet another security check before getting closer. Males and females are separated. Prayers written on small pieces of paper left in the holes inside the Wall. I take some pictures and continue my trip to the mosque Al-Aqsa, the one with the golden dome called The Dome of the Rock. Unfortunately it’s already closed. In Israel it gets dark really fast. Not early. Just fast. 10 minutes and it’s pitch black outside. As if God just turned off the light. I try to find other things from my list and.. I get lost again 🙁 It’s been a long day and I’m tired so I sit on the pavement next to a guy smoking a pipe. “Can you show me how to get to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?” – I ask him with no hope. Believe me or not he accepts the challenge and this is how I found my own private guide. People ARE good and friendly, sometimes we just have to give them a chance. What happens next is the fastest sightseeing tour I ever had.

Jerusalem – Old Town City Wall.
Jaffa Gate one of gates leading to all mysteries of the Old Town.
The Old Town – twisting streets with little shops.
The Western Wall.
Orthodox and non-orthodox praying.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a very busy place. Upon entering the church, the little stairway to the right lead to the Chapel of Golgotha and three Stations of the Cross – where Jesus was stripped, crucified and removed from the cross. Inside the Church there are 5 Stations in total.

I’m not the most religious person but my guide obviously doesn’t give a f**k about what this place means to us – the Christians. His lack of any respect annoys me but I can’t complain – if he wasn’t here I wouldn’t find it.

Next to the Holy Sepulchre there is a Coptic Chapel St Helen. I personally think that this is one of the most interesting places in Jerusalem. It’s almost empty, to get to the very inside of it you have to go through some narrow dark corridors. Underneath the church there is a huge open lake. This chapel is a cistern providing water to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It looks mysterious. (Unfortunately there was dark inside so I don’t have any good quality pictures I can post. But I hope I come back one day with a brand new camera!).

After sightseeing my guide invites me for a cup of tea (I try to hide my disappointment when I discover it’s just “Lipton”!!!) It turns out his family owns a hostel . What a location! We go to the roof where other guests are having dinner admiring the white roofs of the Old Town.

After the Sun set I have to go back to Tel Aviv. Good night Jerusalem!

Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the most important christian pilgrimage destination. 
The Stone of Anointing, also known as The Stone of Unction, which tradition claims to be the spot where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. Many people queue to touch or even kiss it.
Just look at the queue!
Sumptuous Greek Orthodox Chapel. 
One of many chapels inside the Church

Goodbyes are always difficult. (Especially when you have to go back to Poland in winter!) So to the Israel for it’s history, weather and people. MAZEL TOW!

Sipping local beer at the beach. The Dead Sea, Israel.