Shalom!! Join me as we explore the bustling streets of Tel Aviv, walk through the ancient ruins of Jerusalem, delve into the fascinating history of the Golan Heights, and discover the natural beauty of the Dead Sea. Whether you’ve already visited Israel or are simply dreaming of a future trip, I hope my experience will inspire you to explore this remarkable destination.
A small country with a population of approximately nine million, Israel is located in the Middle East, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. From the moment we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, I was captivated by the sights, sounds and smells of this vibrant country. Over the course of a week, we explored the country from north to south, meeting locals, visiting museums and archaeological sites, and soaking up all that Israel had to offer.
Israel is considered to be the birthplace and spiritual centre of three of the world’s major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These religions share many common roots and historical connections in the region and their histories and traditions are deeply intertwined.
Judaism is the oldest of the three religions that emerged in the region over 3,000 years ago. Jerusalem is considered the holiest city in Judaism and many of the religion’s most important historical sites are located in Israel, including the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, and the City of David.
Christianity has its roots in the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who was born in Bethlehem. Many of the most important events in Jesus’ life, including his birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection are said to have taken place in Israel. Therefore, it is also a significant site for Christians, as it is where Jesus was crucified and where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the religion’s most important sites, is located.
Islam emerged in the region in the Seventh century. The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, both located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, are among the holiest sites in Islam, and the city is considered the third holiest in the religion, after Mecca and Medina.
Any country is defined by its people. In general, Israelis seem very fit, are a good-looking and friendly lot with a very casual and chill vibe about them. Relations between India and Israel are one of admiration, partnership and friendship. Most of the people that I met have either visited India or have it in their bucket list.
A true example of growth amid adversity, modern Israel is a vibrant country with a rich history, culture, excellent food and stunning landscapes.
We landed in Tel Aviv, a bustling and vibrant city on the Mediterranean coast of Israel with a unique blend of ancient history and modern culture. The country’s cultural and economic centre, it’s a city with a modern flair. Founded in 1909, Tel Aviv was established as a Jewish suburb of the ancient port city of Jaffa. You cannot miss the street art, colourful murals and graffiti adorning large sections of its walls and buildings.
From its beaches and nightlife to its museums and cultural institutions, it offers something for every type. Here are some fun things I did in Tel Aviv.
Explored Old Jaffa: Jaffa is one of the oldest ports in the world that has been inhabited for thousands of years. You have to soak in its ancient alleyways and ruins and the beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea. Walk around the Jaffa Gate and Clock Tower, stroll to the famous flea market, have some gelato and shop your souvenir and all things evil-eyed. I just loved the vibe of this port town.
Visited the beach: Tel Aviv has a long coastline with beautiful beaches. The beach was just in front of our hotel. So we spent the evening at the beach, watching the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to have been built at the site where Jesus was crucified.
The Basilica of the Annunciation, where it is believed that the angel Gabriel told Mary that she will be giving birth to Jesus
Jaffa is one of the oldest port towns in the world
sunset. The people here are extremely fit and the beach was active with people running, skating and cycling. You can swim in the Mediterranean Sea if the weather permits. Oh! yes. Do check out the amazing restaurants along the beach.
Visit the Bauhaus architecture: Tel Aviv has the largest collection of Bauhaus buildings in the world, which have been recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Take a walk around the city and admire these unique buildings that have earned it the nickname The White City.
Enjoy the nightlife: There’s a reason they call it the city that never sleeps. Be ready to experience the vibrant nightlife scene with lots of bars, clubs and restaurants. We headed to the trendy Rothschild Boulevard for a night out. The crowd, the music and the whole energy is a delight for all the party animals. Bollywood Punjabi was popular amongst the locals. Pub crawling is the best way to maximise your night out. Rabbit and Supreme were amongst my favourites.
Take a food tour: Tel Aviv is known for its delicious food. We went to Levensky Market, a bustling open-air market and took a food tour and tried some of the city’s best dishes, such as hummus, falafel, olives and shakshuka. I bought some fresh Zaatar, sumac and other local spices. It’s a great place to buy nuts and cheese. The dates and figs here are jumbo-sized and taste great too. You could also check out Carmel Market.
Visit Yad Vashem: Take a guided tour of Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, which is Israel’s national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and close to every Israeli’s heart.
Experience the Kibbutz: This is all about collective community living where people live in accordance with a specific social contract. The primary focus is on agriculture and industrial development
Go shopping: Dizengoff Street is a trendy shopping street with a variety of boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Also, an afternoon spent strolling down Shabazi Street is a great feeling.
Explore: The best way to get a feel of the city is to go around on foot. Visit the museums. Go to a concert or show, check out the schedule and attend a show. Tel Aviv is a bike-friendly city with many bike rental stations. Rent a bike and explore the city at your own pace. Relax in a park, have a picnic and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Israel being a comparatively small country, most of its cities can be explored as a day trip. After having lunch the local way at the Old City of Jerusalem, we started a walking tour. Jerusalem is one of the world’s most historic cities and is considered holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims and is the capital of the country.
Many important events in the life of Jesus Christ are believed to have taken place here. Our first stop was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to be at the site where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. We explored the ancient alleys of the Old City, which is divided into four quarters: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian.
Our tour ended at the most important Jewish site, the Western Wall, which is also known as the Wailing Wall. After relaxing over coffee at a picturesque cafe, we headed back to Tel Aviv from this fascinating and complex city with a blend of ancient history, religion and modern culture.
Sea of Galilee in northern Israel is essentially a freshwater lake that is also known as Lake Kinneret
The delightful farmto-table experience
A variety of food at the Levensky Market in Tel Aviv
This is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The most famous attraction is the Church of the Nativity, which is built on the site where Jesus is said to have been born. The church is one of the oldest continuously operating Christian churches in the world and a Unesco World Heritage site.
We explored the city’s historic streets, which are lined with traditional Palestinian buildings, markets and cafes. The city is known for its olive wood carvings, which are produced by local artisans and sold in shops throughout the city. Despite its significance and attractions, Bethlehem still faces ongoing political and economic challenges.
The Dead Sea was a fabulous and unique experience. Believe me, the drive from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea was breathtaking, with views of mountains and desert. About 430m below sea level, the shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest land point on Earth. It is essentially a saltwater lake with high mineral content and mud known for its therapeutic properties. So here’s the deal, enjoy and have a relaxed and chilled afternoon, grab your beer, apply the mud all over and go float in the sea. The high salt content allows for effortless floating. Don’t forget to carry your newspaper for that iconic picture of you floating while reading the papers. And ladies, don’t forget your retail therapy of spa products and mud packs.
Nazareth, a vibrant city in the northern part of Israel, in the Galilee region, is believed to be the childhood home of Jesus Christ. The drive to Nazareth is a delight to a nature-lover like me.
Dead Sea, the shores of which is the lowest place in the world on land
The author with Old Jerusalem in the background
It is home to several significant religious sites, including the Basilica of the Annunciation that has been built at the site where the angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary and announced that she would give birth to Jesus. The church is one of the largest in the Middle East and is a popular destination for Christian pilgrims.
The Golan Heights is a fascinating region located in the northern part of Israel and bordered by Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. It is a mountainous area with a rich history and strategic importance. The drive from Tel Aviv to Golan Heights was just fabulous with stunning natural beauty. The region has been the site of numerous conflicts over the years, including the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel captured the area from Syria.
Since then, the Golan Heights has been under Israeli control, although its status is still a matter of dispute. We went to the furthest point from where you can see the Syrian border and also went inside the bunkers which were used by the army. We were in Golan on the eve of Memorial Day and visited memorial services at the local community centre.
This region is also home to numerous wineries that produce high-quality wines from grapes grown in the area’s volcanic soil. We toured the wineries and headed for a curated farm-to-table lunch accompanied by local wines and learnt about the history and techniques of winemaking. The cuisine here had a very distinctive flavour. The salads, cheese, falafel and freshly made pita sprinkled with farm-fresh olive oil and Zatar were surely a meal for the soul!
SEA OF GALILEE
The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret, is a freshwater lake in northern Israel surrounded by picturesque hills and valleys. It is believed to be the location where many of Jesus’s miracles took place, including his walking on water. The area around the lake was dotted with ancient ruins and historic sites. It is known for its traditional Arab and Jewish foods, as well as its excellent wines and olive oils.
A historic coastal city located halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa, Caseria was a thriving port during the Roman Empire. It has been inhabited by various civilisations throughout history, including the Byzantines, the Crusaders and the Ottomans. (Remember your history class?)
The ancient ruins of the city, which include a Roman amphitheatre, a Crusader fortress and the remains of a hippodrome, really make you visualise ancient days. After exploring the ruins we went and parked ourselves at the boho cafe near the harbour. It was a perfect sunny afternoon soaked in the cold breeze in a perfect ancient setting. The yummy hot chocolate and straight-out-of-the-oven croissants were heartwarming as we headed to the airport — and homewards.
My trip to Israel was a fascinating and rewarding experience, with a unique blend of ancient history and modern culture. Whether you’re interested in history, art, religion, relaxing on the beach or sampling the delicious local cuisine, Israel has something for everyone. I was rejuvenated by its simplicity yet modern and vibrant atmosphere.
Here are some fun Hebrew words that I learnt:
Yalla: Come on, let’s go!