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Diary of a week in Israel

#DREAMOFISRAELNOWTRAVELLATER

As we’re stuck home missing human contact, freedom, spontaneity, security,... between some Netflix binging and online sewing classes (I’m ‘that’ close to achieving my Britney-Spears-stage-8-mask!), sometimes I allow myself to dream of the day after Corona. And here’s how my week post-apocalypse would look like.


Christelle Borms - Operations Manager at OUTstanding Travel

Tel Aviv beach
Day 1

I wake up in my beloved Tel Aviv and head for a sunny breakfast at Tony&Esther in the Florentin neighborhood. On my way out I’m hit by the smell of spices and warm burekas from the bustling Levinksy market. I can’t resist buying pistachios in the shop on the corner of Zevulum Street and refill on some Rose Flower tee from the woman a few shops further.

After that, we wander on Rothschild Boulevard, I check out the Grandpas’ playing petanque, thinking fondly of my mum that likes it so much. We go through Shenkin street to check out some clothes and sneaker shops. My girlfriend finally gets her ears pierced at Kipod on King George (I had to repeatedly tell her no to her wanting ME to do it throughout the whole lockdown). I can’t resist crossing the street to Gan Meir park to check out the cute doggies that are up for adoption there every Friday. I manage to control myself from running away with one and make a donation instead.

It’s 3 PM, everything starts closing for Shabbat, so we join our friends at the beach. We hug as if we’re coming back from a year abroad, we catch up, we play some Matkot (Israel national beach sport) and of course, we run to the water. We end up at one of the beach bars to grab some beer as we watch the sun go down.

Dinner at Santa Katarina will be followed by some drinks at Phi before we finally head to the Oman club for a mixed gay party. I soak in the music, still in disbelief that I’m surrounded by so many people. I start hugging strangers. We go back home drunk in love.

 
Jaffa Old City
Day 2

After a few hours of sleep, we go for a reviving brunch at Puaa Cafe in Jaffa. We wander around the old city and the flea market, enjoy the laid back atmosphere, grab some cocktails and dance at one of the numerous street bars playing some joyful music. We hit the port (one of the oldest in the world) and catch a table at The Old Man and the Sea - a popular restaurant where you get dozens of little salads for free to go with a delicious meal of fresh fish or meat. Happily stuffed, we walk back home along the promenade, through Charles Clore Park and the lovely old neighborhood of Neve Tzedek. The art galleries are open and there’s a perfume of orange blossom in the air. There’s a line of people without masks, so close to each other, I can’t help but stare. Oh damn, I realize it’s Anita Gelato. I can’t resist. Ice-cream before bed it will be. 

 
Jerusalem
Day 3

Today I’m in the mood for some traveling. We head to HaHagana (Tel Aviv’s main train station) and try out the new fast train to Jerusalem. Half an hour later we’re already in the Holy City. Today I feel like starting with a bang, so we head to the Tower of David to get a stunning view over the Old and the New City, before a stop at the Western Wall. They recently cleaned it off it’s praying notes, so I grab my chance to write my wish for a safe and everlasting healthy future and place it in one of the cracks. As it’s lunch-time, we head to Abu Shukri, in the Muslim quarter, to grab the best hummus in town. We then decide to just wander around the old streets and the Arab market a bit. We take a break to grab some mint-thee before going to the new city for some shopping at Mamilla Mall/Avenue. This got me all slightly hungry again and I’m up for a threat, so we enter the Mamilla Hotel and manage to catch a table at their wonderful Rooftop Restaurant. I look down and see the streets filled with people, I look up and I see a sky full of stars, I feel blessed.

 
Dead  Sea
Day 4

As things were quite heavy for a while, I feel like floating around & pampering myself. We rent a car and drive to Ein Bokek, one of the thermal stations along the Dead Sea. On the way, we stop in the Judean desert to get a view of the amazing Saint George’s Monastery. Hanging on a cliff, this monastery is built right under the cave where prophet Elijah is believed to have taken shelter and been fed by a raven… (feels oddly familiar right now, as a magnificent raven is croaking from the building across).


We pursue to the ancient fortress of Masada - just to remind ourselves of this story of Jewish pride and bravery, where freedom is valued higher than anything (the people of Masada indeed choose suicide over enslavement by the Romans). Before reaching the Lot Hotel just in time to catch lunch, indulge in the saltwater swimming pool, cover ourselves in mud and float at the private beach…


This whole experience left me quite happily tired, but hey it’s Monday and I won’t miss the first post-Corona Seveneleven! This weekly girls' party-bar is the perfect occasion to meet almost forgotten acquaintances or just catch up on the dance floor with truly missed friends. By 1:00 AM the tiredness is long forgotten and we decide to hit the Lima-Lima club before calling it a night. It was a long day, it was a wonderful day.

 
Sea of Galilee
Day 5

As we kept the care, we thought a trip to the North would be reviving. As we are reaching Tiberias, we make a stop at Arbel Cliff National Park. The view is stunning. On the edge of the cliff, I’m taking a deep breath and I’m struck with an instant feeling of regained freedom. Suddenly I see a movement in the corner of my eye. My survival mode is reactivated. I’m not moving, but turning my head slowly… And then my heart melts, as I see the cutest animal ever. I just met the Rock Hyrax! My day can’t go wrong from thereon. 


We’re heading down to the Old City of Tiberias to have lunch at Decks. We treat ourselves to a feast of grilled fish & meat overlooking the Sea of Galilee. We start chatting with Ido, 4th generation owner of this family business. He ends up insisting on taking us for a tour on the lake with the “Baby Jesus”. Say what?? Turns out Ido, next to feeding hungry pilgrims and navigating the Lido is also a passionate carpenter and history lover. He thus decided to build a replica of the boat Christ himself would have sailed the Kinneret on. As we start floating on this masterpiece of craftsmanship the sun finally breaks through and it all starts feeling like a mystical experience.

 

On the way to our Zimmer, we stop at the Greek Orthodox Monastery in Capharnaum on the shore of the lake. Before we realize it the sun is going down. It’s colorful, it’s peaceful, it’s gorgeous. 


We finally reach Had Nes 229 for the night and it’s time to play out my romantic card! We indulge in our very own ecological swimming pool with a glass of Golan Heights wine under a sky full of stars, while the room’s jacuzzi is filling up… Good night!

 
Golan ghost city
Day 6

After our lovely host, Havivit, served us a reviving breakfast, featuring a selection of delicious local cheeses, we meet with Yaniv at Merom Golan. He’s taking us for a Jeep tour of the Golan. 


Or rather a walk through history, from the Six-day war and the fascinating story of Israel’s most famous spy, Eli Cohen, to the recent civil war in Syria and the ghost town of Kuneitra. I feel grateful for life and health more than ever.


It’s time to head back to Tel Aviv, but my second half has a craving for some knafeh, so we stop in Nazareth and go for a spin at the market. We also catch some delicious laffa bread.


In the evening we join some friends at the Shagat (or Sphagirls tonight to be precise) for a drink and a mac&cheese. Life’s somehow getting back to normal. The new normal. One where everything looks the same but feels different.

 
Bahai Gardens Haifa
Day 7

I feel like closing this week with a trip along the Northern Coastline. Especially as I’m quite obsessed with archeology and for some reason, still have not visited the renowned Caesarea National Park. The restored Herodian port city was indeed named Best Tourist Spot in the Middle East in 2020 by Travel & Leisure. What an exciting journey! 

But it’s only the beginning. Next stop, Haifa. We visit some friends and family, before taking a walk in the Bahai Gardens on Mount Carmel. These terraces are a testimony of the unique Baia faith. You probably heard little about it, but with some 7 million followers, it’s the world’s fourth and latest monotheistic religion.

We continue our “pilgrimage” with Akko - also Baha'is holiest city btw, as their second prophet was banished here, to what was back then one of the Ottoman Empire’s most infamous prisons. Anyways, this charming old port city has seen them all: Byzantines, Crusaders, Islamic and Ottoman rulers,... We would not miss out on a fun visit to the Knight’s Hall and the Templars Tunnels. And, of course, we would have a late lunch at Uri Buri. On our way back we stop at Amphorae Winery to bring some bottles home. You never know when the next time you get stuck home with a craving for good wine...

 
 
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