Hidden Valley Waterfall

Hidden Valley Waterfall

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Holy Land

Ok, been a bit delayed, but I'll post about that later. Anyway, time to highlight Israel. I originally wouldn't have thought so much about going to Israel, but after making some great friend from there this past school year, I figured why not. I am glad I got a chance to go.

Not being a religious person, some friends joked as to why else would you want to go there. Well, there are lots of great things to do in this tiny country. One of my favorite experiences was floating (not swimming) in the Dead Sea.

At -100 below sea level...

Just floating around...it was shallow enough here, but even in the deeper areas, you just naturally stay afloat due to the salt. 

Yes, I have been to the lowest place on Earth. :) 

The salt crystals in the water were like little snowflakes - only not as soft.

This is an aerial shot of the Dead Sea from my plane back from the Red Sea. 

Of course, my favorite part was seeing my friends, and letting them help me eat all of the amazing foods that Israel has to offer. Of all of my stops this summer, my favorite for food was hands down Israel. I think I put on 10 pounds here! 
 This is Halva, a sesame based treat. It comes in many flavors, but the original is just as yummy to me. 

We did LOTS of eating this week. This is an old restaurant in Jaffa, which serves endless salads, including hummus, with your meals.

And these two angels made my day!! These are former students, but forever my kiddos!!

OK, back to sight-seeing. I covered many areas in only 6 days. The Dead Sea was on my first full day there. The next day, we went to old Jerusalem. We walked the Via Dolorosa, which is the path that Jesus walked from the first church, where he was sentenced and told to carry his cross, to the final stop - his tomb. It was an experience that I can imagine many people would be grateful to have. Here are some pictures from this walk.

Aside from this path, we also visited the Western Wall. Here, it is legend that if you write a wish on a piece of paper and put it into the cracks in the wall, it will come true. Well, I'm all for taking a chance. The worst that can happen is it doesn't come true, right? So, here is me putting in my wish. :)

After we toured around the old city, we took a taxi to a look-out point where you could see the city, with the old walls, etc. And of course, they try to get you to have your picture on a camel. We just agreed to stand behind it (for free) and get our picture. 

Another religious area that we visited outside of Old Jerusalem was the Baihi Gardens in Haifa. I love big, beautifully manicured gardens and this one was definitely beautiful. Haifi is considered to be the "Israeli San Francisco" because of the hills, location along a bay, etc. It's also the third largest city in Israel. We didn't do the tour, as it didn't start for another two hours from the time we were there, and to be honest, it was just too damn hot. lol.  But, we did enjoy the morning here. 

We also went to Akko, which has a lot of history itself. There is a citadel there, where we were able to tour, including underground passages. Akko also has a restaurant that is known for their hummus. The restaurant is located in the market area, and people line up out the door and wait, because it is that good. We were lucky enough that we didn't have to wait long, as we got there at a good time. You only have three choices of hummus. It comes with a plate of pita and a veggie plate. That's it. Just a big bowl of hummus for lunch. Oh, I was SO FULL after that. It was the most delicious hummus though. :) Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of that.
Me, underground in the citadel.

I am a huge fan of snorkeling. There is something about hanging out in the water with the fish that just seems to natural to me. I wish I weren't so afraid of diving. I would love to do that. But, snorkeling is a good alternative for now. So, I spent two days at the Red Sea (southern Israel) by myself. It took me about 35 minutes to get through security to get there. I was already in the country! Geez. Anyway, Eilat itself is kinda shady, and not the greatest water-based city I've been to, but the coral reef there was nice and the amount of fish I saw was spectacular! I had a great day just floating around watching the fish, who often were swimming right up to you. I loved it. 

I believe it was in Akko where I took the last picture I am sharing. If you know anything about Israel, you know there is a lot of tension and fighting going on, predominately religion based. With Jordan and Egypt borders, security around the entire country is extremely tight, even at malls, etc.  So this picture sums it up so well, but unfortunately, many just don't work to make it better - only to be right. 

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