Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Israel with 11 other bloggers and the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
We swam in the Dead Sea. We walked where Jesus walked. I watched the sunrise at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm. We hiked the mountain where the Sermon on the Mount was delivered, where Jesus fed the 5,000 with the fishes and the loaves, and stood in the Garden of Gethsemane. We walked the Via Dolorosa.
I didn’t know anyone before going on the trip, but met some incredible people and made lifelong friends.
Is Israel safe? That is what kept troubling me over and over. We went to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Akko, Tiberius, and Jerusalem. The answer is yes, I felt 100% safe everywhere we went. I walked by myself. I walked alone with other girls. I didn’t feel threatened. There wasn’t military-style security everywhere. I didn’t feel I was constantly under surveillance. I didn’t feel uneasy. I would go again in a heartbeat.
How should I dress? We had cooler weather (70s) so I played it safe and dressed in long maxi skirts/dresses with cardigans, so my elbows and knees were covered. However, this was only really necessary in Jerusalem. Everywhere else, if I got too hot I took off my cardigan, so I was basically in a tank top with my shoulders exposed. In Tel Aviv I walked from the hotel across the street to the beach in just a swim-suit cover up. I did the same in Tiberius.
Israel was beautiful and steeped in history. We got to see Caesarea, located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where King Herod built his palace. That’s the outline of a swimming pool you see in the middle, where a courtyard would typically be. This is where Pontius Pilate lived when he ordered Jesus be crucified.
I was awed at the hippodrome, still standing, built for chariot races and gladiator fights in ancient Roman times.
This massive stone theater built by Herod could hold 5,000 people and is still used for concerts today.
The aqueduct brought running water to the ancient city of Caesarea. Herod build the aqueduct in the 1st century BC.
The aqueduct runs along the shore near the crystal waters of the Mediterranean.
We stood at the top of Mount Carmel in Haifa and took in the panoramic view of the Hanging Gardens and the expansive sea.
Such an incredible view.
We also went to Masada, an ancient fortification and home to another one of Herod’s palaces.
Masada is located along the edge of the Judaean Desert…
And overlooks the Dead Sea.
In 72 AD, the Romans sieged Masada from a Jewish settlement. Here you can see the remains of the ramp the Romans built to use a battering ram to attack the fortress.
That afternoon we got to swim in the Dead Sea!! We rubbed the Dead Sea mud all over our bodies and came out with soft, glowy skin.
We also learned that day that cameras and the Dead Sea don’t mix! We took a ton of fun pictures of us floating in the Dead Sea with our feet and hands in the air, but unfortunately none of them turned out. This is only one that came out even remotely recognizable. The water is so salty that it immediately dried on the lens and formed a thick film so all our pictures looked like a big gray blur. We were heartbroken. At least I got this one fun picture with my new friend Lesley who has a GORGEOUS travel blog at The Road Les Traveled. Get it? The Road Les Traveled?? :) We weren’t quite ready for the picture here, but I’ll never forget our float in the Dead Sea! :)
Also be sure and check out Gina’s post on Tips for Swimming in the Dead Sea. Gina’s another great gal I met on the trip!
Israel had AMAZING food!! I honestly had some of the most unforgettable meals I’ve ever had in Israel. I’ll talk more about that in the next post, but I had to show you this fabulous falafel first! :)
How cute is this tiny pineapple??! Every city we went had unique food and shopping markets that we explored.
You know I couldn’t pass up the ice cream! This is from Endomela in Akko, Israel. All the ice creams here are homemade with flavors native to Israel. I got vanilla bean and mint. I am still dreaming about that mint!! So fresh!
That night we ended up in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.
I watched the sun set on the Sea of Galilee, fell fast asleep, and eagerly awaited what the next day would bring.
In the next post: Jerusalem, The Sermon on the Mount, and the Via Dolorosa.