Our Israel

IMG_1964

When I say Israel, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Maybe war, Bible, Jerusalem? Golden beaches? Lots fo headlines from news? Sweet oranges? Jesus? Or something else?

Golan Heights
Golan Heights
IMG_1227
Sandra in Jerusalem’s City of David
IMG_1943
Tel-Aviv – Yafo

For me it was so much more than all of the above, it was so wonderful and beautiful and old and so so complicated. Very small in size but huge in reality. I could write a book of all I experienced and if you’ll reach the end of this you’ll probably think “well that was like a book…” So sorry in advance since I’m terrible at putting things shortly 🙂 I just get very excited.

IMG_1250
One happy girl in Jerusalem

As I told in one of my previous posts, I went there mostly because of my friend, Sandra. She’s one of my best and oldest friends and also happens to be half Israeli and also speaks fluent hebrew. She’s born and raised in Finland but visited there many many times to see her family etc. So what started years ago as a joke like ”Oh I’m coming with you!” on some cold winter when she was leaving turned into reality when this spring I said that this time, I really am coming with you. And few things in this world make me happier than the fact that I did and most of all had the chance and it’s all thanks to her. It makes me feel incredibly privileged and humble that I am this lucky to know a girl like her and getting to experience all this through her. She also pre-read this post and added something so thanks to her for that ❤ I was there the entire time with her as my guide and also especially one of her many aunts was such a great guide for us and took us to all the best places. Never ever have I experienced that warm welcome and being treated like a family member with such love and care. So obviously I owe everything to Sandra and her family there and I’m grateful beyond words. 

IMG_1416 (1)

So, what did we do? We visited the north for a few days to see Sandra’s relatives and do all sort of exciting things like this gorgeous nature reserve called Banias Waterfalls in Golan Heights. Over 30 degrees celsius but somehow when you’re walking in a place like this it doesn’t really matter.

IMG_0803

IMG_0804

IMG_0806

And also some kayaking happened! Some of Sandra’s relatives were kind enough to take us kayaking to the Jordan river. Okay, basically it was more like being in a little boat in a stream and with two paddles trying not to crash to the sides or get tangled to the plants. It felt like a moment from The Jungle Book or something.

IMG_4274

IMG_4288

IMG_4291

We stayed very close to the Lebanon border and I think the border area is considered Palestine, and now you think ”OH it must be very dangerous” but actually it’s quite safe nowadays so the most dangerous thing we did was stealing a couple peaches from a peach field across the road.

IMG_0965

IMG_0951

IMG_4332
The quality isn’t the best since it was taken with a phone but the view is so pretty! Somehow distantly reminded me of Tuscany.
IMG_0979
A stolen peach…

I also got to spend my first ever Shabbat which if you don’t know is Judaism’s day of rest which normally means the family and relatives gathering together to eat (A LOT) and spend time together. Obviously they make the food themselves and it was so so so good and there was A LOT of it. It was such a nice evening, somehow very peaceful.

Shabbat dinner. Or more like just a little part of it.
Shabbat dinner. Or more like just a little part of it.
Imagine having you down apple tree in your garden
Imagine having you own lemon tree in your garden

On our way back to Tel Aviv we visited Haifa’s Bahai Gardens which was an interesting experience, especially getting to know about the religion. I should probably mention here that I am very much an atheist but also very interested in religions. Or to be honest I hate labels so let’s just say that I believe in energy, vibes, feelings. But not in any higher power. I just think it’s important to mention something here as this trip made me think about religions a lot and in so many new ways and the whole country is so different depending on what you believe in or don’t believe in. The main idea in Baha’i faith, now I’m shamelessly quoting Wikipedia to say this simply, ”emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind- -” and “- – the unity of religion, that all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God; and the unity of humanity, that all humans have been created equal, and the unity in diversity, that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance.” They also see no difference between men and women which I see as a very crucial value. I think this faith stands out in a really respectable way and has some values that I personally find very important, like the unity; that people and world itself should have less boundaries since I think we all are really exactly the same no matter what we believe or don’t believe in.

IMG_1040

IMG_1030

IMG_1034

IMG_1035

Tel Aviv then. I loved it. It’s just the perfect combo, you know city + a beach, can’t fail. And beach is where we spent most of our time. And shopped of course because Israel just has got so beautiful and different clothes and the prices are soooo much lower than in Finland for example. I almost never shop in Finland, so whenever I go abroad I usually buy some pretty clothes 🙂

IMG_1120

IMG_1128
A kitty in a market place!
IMG_1133
From Dizengoff, one major and lively street in Tel Aviv
IMG_1153
One of Tel Aviv’s beaches, colored by some bar’s lights

IMG_1120

Also right next to Tel Aviv, or in fact they are more like combined as one, is Jaffa or Yafo if you like. It’s a really old harbor town with a lovely old town and bazars and market places. The old town had such nice sleepy feeling in it. The only thing to break the silence was a dog barking from a window and waves crashing just little outside the walls.

IMG_1818

IMG_1873

IMG_1903

IMG_1953

IMG_1895

IMG_1901

IMG_1898

IMG_1846

IMG_4826 (1)

IMG_1841

And then Jerusalem. I think you would get as many different experiences from there as how many people you’d ask. But it was so impressive for me as well and it had much more to it than just what I had expected and what people usually think about it. We visited the Wailing Wall of course and to give you a little background if you don’t know, it’s the holiest place for Jews since once this very big temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the wall was everything that was left. And it’s been named like that because very religious Jews have come there to grieve the temple’s destruction. And so it’s been used as a place where people come to pray and also write their hopes or griefs to little pieces of paper which they then stick into the holes in the wall. And as I said I believe in vibes and energy. So I don’t know if that’s the reason I found the place quite impressive. Or somehow wondrous. I think it’s because people there are feeling such strong emotions and somehow their grief and hoping and praying filled the air so in a way I think I could feel it. It wasn’t that full of people this time so it was pretty quiet, although you could here men singing their prayers on the other side of this man-made wall that divides women’s and men’s areas.

IMG_1161

IMG_1169

IMG_1184

IMG_1181
And there were lots and lots of beautiful pigeons which lived there, in these wholes in the wall, in the middle of everyone’s hopes. Made me wonder, who knew more, the pigeons or the people?

We also went to the room where Jesus is believed to have had his famous last supper. And there to be honest all I could feel after walking in the heat for too long was ”OH GOSH this floor is so nice and cold!!”

IMG_1292

IMG_1304
She matched so well with the wall 🙂

IMG_1316

IMG_1155

IMG_1313

IMG_1323
My first pomegranate tree in the garden of the holocaust memorial place.

IMG_1269

IMG_1267

When the evening started to fall and it was a bit colder we went to walk on the wall that goes around the old city, or has gone all the way in the old days. We were the only ones and it was so pretty, the city starting to sparkle with its lights and streets. The steap steps felt exhausting after walking the whole day but it didn’t matter. Sandra and I were singing Viva la Vida and laughing how terrible we looked after sweating the whole day. The calls for prayer started to come from the minarets and I felt my mind was one place richer.

IMG_1438

IMG_4508 (1)

IMG_1413

IMG_1411

DSC02259
Yes, I know I’m wearing this hat in many photos and look like such a wannabe hipster, but that was SO useful there because of the constant sunshine. I don’t remember seeing any clouds during the two weeks.

I’m sure you all know how Jerusalem is a holy place for many religions but visiting there you really understand it. The good and bad I mean. It’s half Palestine and half Israel but it doesn’t mean that it would be clear what is whose and all that. Arabs and Israelis have their different neighbourhoods and which ever way I pointed from the wall they could tell me which people lived there. And they have their different churches and holy places and even shops and I just find it somehow so incredibly sad. That there is something so huge that divides people and makes them fight over which belongs to whom and where some can go and where not. And in a way it’s hard to understand how something that one believes in has to make them fight over places and wanting people who believe otherwise away from those places. I cannot see the good or the meaning in justifying that with religion.

Outside the Old Town's walls
Outside the Old Town’s walls

We also made a two day trip to Eilat which is probably the most touristy place in Israel, also because it’s considered one of the safest places. We had one reason to go there: the beaches and the water which is aaaamazingly clear. Okay and Sandra definitely wanted to see dolphins. There are lots of huge and expensive hotels but we stayed at one tiny but so cozy apartment from airbnb, if you haven’t used it do it the next time you travel, sorry I just have to advertise this a little. We have saved a ton of money with my family while traveling and got to stay in such nice places. Basically anyone can rent their homes or apartments that they own or in this case a part of their bigger house and I’ve always loved them because they just have a much nicer and cozy feeling in them rather than a normal plain hotel room. And the price range differs but most of the apartments are a looot cheaper than hotels so I definitely recommend it, we’ve had nothing but good experiences from there.

IMG_1461

IMG_1464

Anyway, back to Eilat. We pretty much accomplished our goal, we were on the beaches and swam. Also that’s more or less the only thing you can do since Eilat is basically at the end of the Negev desert, so the temperature could climb up to even over 40 degrees celsius. Everyone was like ”oh don’t go there, it’s too hot, you can only be in the shadow” but we said ” You know what, in Finland we spend usually the whole year in a f*****g shadow so this is just perfect for us” and we definitely didn’t complain, we agreed not to since we would instantly regret it in Finland.  And it was hot, yeah, but it wasn’t something unbeareable, it was quite nice since you could go into the sea whenever you wanted and maaaaan did it feel good after all the heat. Water, drinkable or in the sea, became like a holy thing for me during the trip and I learnt to appreciate it in a whole new level. The feeling after being outside and then getting a litre of water and drinking almost all of it within a couple minutes became the most heavenly feeling. There was this almost holy silence when we walk in from outside and go straight to fridge and just drink. I’ll never look at a water bottle the same way I swear.

IMG_1494

This became my favorite hobby which is just laying in the water and playing with sand. Sooo nice when it's so hot.
This became my favorite hobby which is just laying in the water and playing with sand. Sooo nice when it’s so hot.

I don’t know if I’ve told this but I’ve always loved to dive. Since I was a little girl I’ve found it so extremely fascinating just to be underwater, how the silence is so sweet and different there and everything else is blocked away. Someday I want to try scuba diving but until now I’ve just stuck with snorkling and it’s so much fun. So we visited the Coral Beach Reserve and it was breathtakingly beautiful and the fish were so colourful and all different and they weren’t scared at all. I could almost touch them, in the final moment they swam away and looked at me suspiciosly. They just seemed so happy and free (yes, I can tell if a fish is happy, haha)

IMG_1485

IMG_4599

IMG_4561

And then Dead Sea. Well that was something. The first amazing thing was the Negev desert in the middle of which it’s located.

IMG_1601
I have no idea how that’s possible since there wasn’t ANY path whatsoever.

IMG_1590 IMG_1593

IMG_1599
And then 420 meters down…

IMG_1605

It’s the lowest place on Earth, 420 meters below the sea level, in the middle of nowhere and full of so salty water that nothing lives there. The water being almost hot in some areas and the beach being orange like rust because of the minerals and salt, it was one of those experiences that are so odd that you can’t really compare them to anything. It would be false to describe it as swimming, because you can’t swim. You can float and try to move around with your hands but basically it’s just laying. It’s such a weird feeling, I just cannot describe it otherwise.

IMG_1613

IMG_1617

IMG_1636

IMG_1743
Salt
The stones there have been discolored orange because of the minerals.
The stones there have been discolored orange because of the minerals.

And there’s the famous mud, maybe you’ve heard of it. You can just grab it from the bottom and then rub it to your skin. It’s the world’s most famous natural beauty supply and it’s believed to have healing and good effects, and I really don’t question that since tons of minerals have squeezed and packed there to the bottom for hundreds of years. Most of the fun though is covering you (and your friend) with it and trying not to start a mud war. Made me feel like a little kid, just playing in the sand box with some nice wet mud.

IMG_1679

Hands down the ugliest photo ever taken of us.
Hands down the ugliest photo ever taken of us.
It's so soft, it's like playing with dough :)
It’s so soft, it’s like playing with dough 🙂

IMG_1745

And I want to tell about the food as well! Being vegetarian or vegan should be quite easy in Israel, I mean it’s full of fresh fruits and veggies and HUMMUS (!!!) Also Kosher can be very plant based or you can easily find good vegetarian dishes there. If you don’t know Kosher, it’s basically what Jews consider ”clean”, holy, food, the food that you are allowed to eat. Most people only know the rule that you can’t mix pork and dairy but there are so many other rules as well and I didn’t get to know almost any of them. I just happily ate what I was offered, mostly by Sandra’s wonderful and so kind relatives who make crazy good veggie couscous for example. And hummus, oh hummus. Maybe it tells something that I bought a kilo of it and brought it to Finland. You can find all different flavours from sundried tomato to lemon. I ate it without a doubt every day at least once and didn’t get bored. And the falafel as well is so great. The best you can find if you ask Israelis.

IMG_1908
Just a little appetizer
IMG_1911
Lafa bread

IMG_1912

And the fruits… Amen. Especially watermelons and mango. They are SO RIPE AND JUICY and heavenly! And sooo much cheaper than the ones in Finland, the prices were just crazyyy. Never have I ate that much watermelon in two weeks. And it’s also a good source of hydration since you have to drink ridicilous amounts of water if you want to keep going.

IMG_1570

IMG_1571

IMG_1123

IMG_1125

And then there was this luscious idea that I haven’t come across earlier which is like frozen yoghurt turned into ice cream, so it’s like yoghurt cream. Basically you can fill a cup with all frozen goodies like different berries and fruits, dates, figs, chocolate, biscuits. Then they take that and a cup of yoghurt which has been frozen and put it into a machine and make it into an ice cream. I don’t know if this was new to you but at least in Finland I haven’t seen these and it’s just such a perfect idea! It’s the best thing in the world I swear, okay after water, when you’re in 38 degrees heat and don’t really feel like eating (the heat did that, I didn’t want to eat during the hot day which was very disturbing, not a normal condition for me) but still you need to eat something.

The final result! It's quite fruity, with banana, mango, dates, honeydew, lychee to mention some
The final result! It’s quite fruity, with banana, mango, dates, honeydew, lychee to mention some

Precious moments. Those are the best things I got. Sandra and I laying on her aunt’s trampoline at night and singing Fame, don’t know why, and trying to see some stars. Trying to straighten our apartment’s key which had apparently twisted from the heat with a little rock while giggling and also panicking if we’d get it fit again. We did, we are handy like that. Sandra’s cousin’s broad smile when I braid her hair like I braided Sandra’s. Walking in Tel Aviv’s harbour at night and trying to run from the waves that crash to the shore. Watching an old man dancing salsa next to a bunch of tanned girls and having the time of his life. Meeting a camel for the first time and how it almost looked like it was smiling. Meeting people that I think are so different than me but end up being so very similar. Seeing things that are hard to understand but I really try and maybe end up thinking differently than I did at first.

It's smiling!
It’s smiling!
IMG_1783
My very black humor definitely came in handy there. This is taken near Jericho where I asked Sandra: “What did that sign say?” She said “It says danger, that there can be mines and you shouldn’t go there.” A little silence. “Oh, okay.”
In Qiryat Shmona in the north
In Qiryat Shmona in the north

Most of all this I owe to Sandra.  She’s the happiest, craziest and most genuine person you could ever meet. Lots of people were saying before we left that ”you know, even though you know your friends, traveling with them can bring out sides of them you didn’t know before” but I knew Sandra. I knew that you know what, everything’s going to go well because she knows me far too well and I know her. So that wasn’t the case with us. She’s the last person I would get fed up with, only consequence was me calling my sister Sandra for a week after we came back, haha. Maybe she’s the universe’s happy pill for me, otherwise I don’t know how I once got so lucky to meet her. I love her so much and thank you because all this wouldn’t have happened to me without her and now that feels like the scariest thing.

She's my babe <3
She’s my babe ❤

I hope the image that people often have of Israel wouldn’t be so black and white, so one sided. And this applies to so many other countries as well. Because if something astonished me was that I could never have believed that so many different things could be fit into a country that little. I was in the northernmost point in Metula and then in the southernmost in Eilat. There’s mountains and waterfalls and then suddenly huge cities and then little old villages and suddenly you are in a desert and then an hour and there’s a big turqoise sea in front of you. And it’d be eight hours since you left the mountains.

IMG_0746
From Tiberias, a town in the lakeside of Sea of Galilee, also known as Genesaret Lake.
IMG_0747
Sea of Galilee

IMG_1788

Yafo
Yafo

IMG_1958

Many people see it as just the Holy Land but it’s so much more. Some also have prejudices based on the image they’ve got. Sandra has heard things like ”There is waging war in Israel, is it safe to travel there?” or concerning the people ”I’ve heard Israeli people can be arrogant and aggressive”. And that’s a terrible generalisation. So that’s why it feels so sad in a way that there’s a country that beautiful and diverse and what most people know about it is maybe headlines about conflicts and bombings and fights. Because it can be that but it’s also so much more and I wish the world could see even some of that.

IMG_1943

The whole place has got this very special, somehow forever-like feeling in it. A lot of it comes from the historical significance of the whole place but I don’t think that’s all of it. Even though a lot of the cities are very new, built after World War II. But still, everything has been there for a long long time and I felt like the place somehow knew it and wanted to let people know. It felt that even though things around of it are changing and moving the spirit of it stays still. Do I sound crazy? It’s very hard to explain.

IMG_1799
Camels!

IMG_1950

Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv.

Someone asked me when I came back, what would I say to people about Israel? Based on my trip, how it was for me, I’d say go. Go without expectations or boundaries or worry. Go and see and try to understand its complicated, unique ways. And I promise you one thing; you’ll be a lot wiser.

IMG_0899

Love,

Julia xxx

P.S. Just a little disclaimer: As I previously said I don’t represent any religion and see them as equal. I’m also not on any side whatsoever in the whole Israel-Palestine conflict even though the trip definitely made me think and understand the situation so much better. And I find it very fascinating discussing these sorts of topics but I just didn’t want to ruin this post by talking about politics or taking any sides (that’s most of what people know about the country anyway) since I think you can find all that from news etc. So once again, I went there open minded and I’d recommend that for everyone since that’s the best way to see and experience I think. Just in case someone was wondering and since this is a touchy subject for so many.

Advertisements

6 Comments Add yours

  1. darshanakoirala says:

    Loved this post!

    – glimpsesofadventures.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Julia B. says:

      Thank you so much Darshana!! 🙂

      Like

  2. Ajay Kaul says:

    Very well captured! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Julia B. says:

      Thank you so very much! That means a lot 🙂

      Like

  3. Paula Brown says:

    Very interesting! Now I’m off to make some hummus…😉

    Like

    1. Julia B. says:

      Haha, then the purpose of this post is fulfilled! 😀 And sorry for the late reply, my finals are killing me… :/

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s