BootsnAll Travel Network

Israel- where I have been.

I am so far behind as I really have been hauling ass running around and checking things out that I will rely on my pictures for a better story.

In Israel, I stayed twice in Jerusalem the holiest of holy cities in the world and the most violently disputed. Here you find the Old City which is made up of the four quarters Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian. This was where all the cheap backpackers are and where I stayed (Muslim quarter.)

The most significant area is the Temple Mount or in Arabic Haram ash-Sharif. This is the site of the Dome of the Rock which covers the holies of holy for the Jews, and the wailing wall which is next to it. This will take way too long to explain all of the stuff but there is some interesting stuff on the net if you are interested. Long story short, a place that is very important to both Jews and Muslims enough so that they had to be seperated and neither is allowed entry to the other. Can’t we just get along. I will explain a little bit more about my knowledge of the Israel-Palestinian conflict on a different post.

Other important Jerusalem sites are Mt. Zion home of the Last supper, King David’s tomb, and the grave of Oskar Schindler (of Schindler’s list fame.) The Mt of Olives houses the tomb of the Virgin Mary, the place where Jesus took on the sins of the world, was arrested and later ascended into heaven. One of the must sees is also the new Holocaust Museum or Yad Vashem a $56 million dollar moving memorial to the six million victims of the holocaust.

Although this is a small list of some of the highlights, there are hundreds of other must see places, especially if you are a religious pilgrim and are coming to see some of the holiest sites in the world. For me, a big attraction was just wandering around the old city checking out the interaction between all four groups and the drastically different living arrangements. A very cool place that deserves a week of time to really see all the splendor even if you are not a religious zealot.

After getting religioused out, I went a hundred and eighty degrees to the wild night life of Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is the party town full of people who don’t want to deal with all of the stresses involved with living in a war/religious zone. It is the San Francisco/New York of Israel. People come to be free and to have fun. I asked a couple of people seriously what things Tel Aviv had to offer outside of partying. They could come up with nothing. For the three nights I was there it was pretty much strictly a night life place. Sleep till the evening. Get something to eat, hang out, and then head out around midnight, visit the clubs of the night, dance, drink, party till the sun comes up, head back to the hostel, and repeat. For the day people, there is the beach, coffee shops, and shopping. Very expensive for everything so it was a three night stop only. I did get to see Kelly Slater the surfer guy and about a couple of hundred surfers get together and put together a peace ring out in the ocean. Pretty cool. Beyond that, just a world class party place. Oh yea, Russian women, wow.

After too much night life I was off to Jaffa for a little recovery away from Tel Aviv even though Jaffa is now basically just a suburb of Tel Aviv.

On Saturday, the Jewish Sabbat, I paid double for a sherut to take me to Haifa, the northern port town of Israel. Not much there but a few beaches and a world famous garden.

Next was a trip to the Sea of Galilee and Tiberias. There I met an Aussie named Richard and a Canadian named Jordan. One of the days they decided to ride around the Sea, but I wanted to stay on the pilgram trail and headed to Nazareth for the day. Now you have to know Nazareth especially if you have ever lived through Christmas. Jesus grew up here, taught, and worked in his fathers carpentry shop. It is also where Mary was told that she would bear the son of God. Now, it was a decent day trip, but what really made the day special and one of the highlights of my trip to Israel was when Jordan offered to cover the cost of the cab ride out to a five star resort hot springs. It was about a $20US per way taxi drive which was way out of the budget of most backpackers. He let me and Richard tag along and it was fantastic. A full on resort with fancy dancy hot water pools, lounges, and full facilities. Oh, what a good time can be found just soaking in hot water. I am a converted spa man. Girly hell, it’s just plain precious.

From there, Richard and I headed back to Jerusalem where I was planning on using the hostel as a base for my trips to the Palestinian territories. We ended up teaming up with a couple of Kiwi’s and sharing a cab for the day and hitting Qumran (home of the Dead Sea Scrolls), Masada (The last strong hold of the Jews and very revered as a place of honor.) The story goes that a thousand Jews fled Jerusalem when the Romans sacked Jerusalem. They built a fortress on the top of the desert mesa. When the Romans came, they were held at bay for a long time until the Romans built an earthen ramp and tower. The night before the emminent invasion, ten men were selected and they sacrificed all of the other people. One final man slayed the others before commiting suicide himself. It was like the last flip of the bird to the Romans when they did finally enter the fortress. Now, apart from being revered, Israeli soldiers come here to pay homage to the fallen and to show their faith. There has been the addition of a cable car to take up the package tourists, but we opted for the hot trek up the Snake path to the top. From there we went to Ein Gedi to do a float in the Dead Sea. People will probably know the Dead Sea as the place where fat tourists come to float on top of the super salty water and take photos of each other reading newspapers. Well, it is freaking fun as hell. It’s just so kitsch but the feeling is great. You not only float with most of your body above water, but you can stand up at about chest level and just run in place, in fact, you can’t sink. The other thing is that you can’t swim naturally because you legs from knee to feet will just pop out of the water. Also, the natural properties of the water are very beneficial and soothing. I became known as K-Y man a new super hero. Oh yea, mud. There are these holes dug into the sides of ledges with nice and stinky clay that you can spread all over you just like they do at spas, and all for free. It was the most fun I have had in a long time. Highly recommended regardless of how lame it sounds. A quick stop in Bethlehem for some black market cigarettes and we were back.

One of the highlights was getting a chance to meet up with Noa and Omri the Israeli’s I met in Ethiopia down in South Omo with the Tribes people. We had kept in touch a bit and I was able to get a hold of them while I was on my second run in Jerusalem. It was not the best time for either one as both of them had just started University the week before as well as just starting new jobs. Noa was actually moving to Be’ersheva the next day to her now apartment. I took an Italian girl who I met at the hostel and we had a good night out hitting a couple of bars and me getting to eat an excellent roast beef sandwich with all the fixings. It was so funny rehashing our Africa stories and what happened after we seperated. Me almost dying, them exploring the northern refugee camps of Uganda. We even met people afterwards who had run into us after we had seperated (the Swiss guy who I helped get a truck into South Omo when I was recovering and they bought me lunch.) Also this weird American Jewish guy from New York who forgot his passport way down in South Omo and he missed his flight and then couldn’t get a truck back to Addis. I actually ran into him in Tiberias. Anyways, the next day Omri got hold of his moms car and we ended up going to his apartment where we stopped at the Jewish market and picked up a crap load of stuff for a huge Jewish breakfast, then we took a drive around town before heading into the hills and doing some hiking to these small springs that dot the mountain sides. It is one of the places where the Israeli travelers go when they can’t travel. We met a few people who had the same idea as us and we took a dip (Omri did at least) and then had some of his specially brewed coffee. The others shared some fruit and we also met some ex-pat Swedes. From there we continued on to the plains just before Tel Aviv to the settlement where Omri’s parents live. They live in a very nice suburb type place on a hill side covered on one side with pine trees and the other with some ancient ruins that are supposedly one of the holiest religious sites (thats what the sign said.) We took out his quad runner and did some off roading and hung out until night time on a fire tower where we were able to see almost all of Israel. Back at his parents house I got to meet his mom and we had a typical Israeli dinner with about ten different side dishes. Schnitzel was the favorite food, kind of like fried chicken breasts. After that, since we had not made plans of how to get the car back to Jerusalem and back to his mom, we decided to hitch hike back. That was a good day and perfect for me. Having the home cooked meals and some daily routine stuff like doing the dishes was very high on the scale even though to others it would probably seem lame. It’s all about how you are living I guess.

And that is pretty much the Israeli circuit for me. Of course, the border post and the roads leading to it from Jerusalem are considered Israeli even though they pass through the Palestinian territories.

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