From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a week
Israel, so close, yet so far. It can be reached in just three hours of flight, but you enter inside a completely different world, this is guaranteed. A world made of shades of sand and gold, colors that seem almost burned by the sun. A world made of incredible oxymorons. A world made of penetrating, sometimes hypnotic perfumes. A world made of Mediterranean cuisine but mixed with spices and rich of Middle Eastern contaminations. Here are what I felt during my 6-day itinerary in Israel, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Going through the Dead Sea and Masada.
Israel is a patch of land of 24.000 km with an incredible botanical, human, historical and cultural crossroads. Exploring the country far and wide has the distinct feeling that Israel is a crossroads between the old and the new world, between the oriental and western culture. It goes without saying that moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (in just over an hour’s drive) I have seen the landscape and lifestyle change radically.
Some call it the city of sin. And it is just like that, especially when compared to the nearby Jerusalem, the holy city. But sin doesn’t mean something dangerous: for what I was able to see in two days, Tel Aviv seemed to me a city dedicated to entertainment, a Miami of the Middle East where it is fair to wonder, watching people on the beach at any time of day, if someone works. Or maybe not. Perhaps it is better not to ask and enjoy its goliardic atmosphere without asking too many questions. Scooters, skateboards, nice boys and girls running (yes, it seems that in Tel Aviv the concentration of beautiful boys and girls is really high), surf boards and even a beach dedicated to dogs. This metropolis is a world unto itself, a very young city (the average age is much lower than in other places in the country) where what matters is having fun and spending money. Because mind you: Tel aviv is not cheap. But it’s worth living at least for a couple of days. Here is a small list of what you should not miss in this destination.
Taking a walk along the promenade, both day and night, is the best way to familiarize yourself with the place. And it is curious to see how during the day hundreds of bathers in beach wear populate the long strip of sand while, in the late evening, the many restaurants and bars with sea view come to life and the dress code becomes more elegant.
Tel Aviv, an exuberant and avant-garde city, where unbridled fun is combined with the tradition and the decadent buildings of Jaffa, the old city. The very strong sun, the golden light that reflects on the buildings. The phrases dedicated to free love. Yes, because Tel Aviv is also one of the world cities with the most developed LGBT soul, with many gay-friendly clubs. A city where what matters is the desire to party; no one cares about sexual orientation. The rainbow is everywhere to remember it: from the beach to the old city, up to the street of the locals.
Tel Aviv is a new city. Since 1909 it has begun to build beyond the old city Jaffa. So, from the small patch of town land, people came out: Jews, Christians and Muslims. Since 1909 Jaffa has remained small while Tel Aviv has developed incredibly. The authentic heart remains Jaffa and it is here that I recommend to go to all those who want to immerse themselves in the Israeli tradition, among vintage shops and emerging boutiques, between typical restaurants and stalls.
Carmel Market is another must place to visit to be catapulted into local everyday life. It is a popular place, among the most characteristic of Tel Aviv. Colorful, it is the ideal place to taste good falafel and shawarma. The perfect place for street food lovers.
Eat With a Local
To taste the real local cuisine, in addition to street food, I recommend the Eat With experience, that is a dinner at a local person’s house. This allows you to live on your skin a cross-section of local daily life while enjoying the traditional delicacies prepared not by a chef, but by a normal lady. A lady who, as she would do for a party with friends or relatives, offers her home cooking. Without a doubt this was one of the most particular and appreciated dinners of the whole trip.
Moving from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea, it is evident how the trees disappear as the desert begins to exist. It comes down so much below sea level (422 meters below sea level, to be exact) that due to the strong atmospheric pressure there is a discomfort in the ear. The experience in the Dead Sea is marvelous: imagine yourself plunging into the water and feeling a thrust that leads you back to the surface. Here it is. And it is an experience that can only be experienced in two places in the world: in Israel and in Jordan. I loved walking on the salt crystals at the entrance to the desert, where these particular environmental characteristics have created a fabulous, unique landscape. I recommend you bring here in jeep, it’s really worth it.
On the way to Jerusalem, it is required a stop in Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was Herod the Great who built this fortress built on top of a mountain to protect itself from the Romans. Today it is possible to admire what remains of the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 73 bC, when after the siege of the Roman army there was a collective suicide of the Jewish community. It is a place steeped in history, extremely fascinating.
The peak of the journey to Israel was reached in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not just the Israeli capital. It is not only the Holy City for the three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islamism). Jerusalem is something you can not take into account, which you can not imagine if you do not live it. Jerusalem is pure emotion and it does not matter which religion you profess. It will upset you. Assuming that for the visit to Jerusalem it takes at least 2 full days, below you will list what should be taken into consideration for a city tour.
Mahane Yehuda Market
Also called “the shuk”, this market represents the soul of the city and brings together more than 250 street vendors. Here you can find everything from vegetarian to centrifuged, from falafel to burgers, to spices. If you are looking for centrifuged coupons, fresh fruit or natural products, stop by Etrogman, a colorful market place run by jovial boys.
The Old City
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
A maze of alleys that absorbs and upsets. The old city of Jerusalem is a real jewel, a leap in time that has never been satisfied. And in fact, in three days I came back three times. I walked the Via Dolorosa, I got excited in front of the Wailing Wall. Yet the most intense moment was another: the visit of the Christian Quarter and the visit of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This church is a mystical place in which I recommend entering with a bare heart, ready to be welcomed by these walls full of history, religiosity, tears, hopes. It is a place rich of emotions of those who visit but never saturated with them. This place upsets and definitely touches the soul.
Another very special place is the Temple Tunnel, an underground place that was created because one wanted to understand how deep the area was. Here too, as on the surface of the Wailing Wall, the prayers of the faithful are interlocked in the cracks. Here, too, in the subsoil, people pray. And it’s touching.
The most touching Holocaust museum I have ever visited. I will not talk about it much because to understand certain sensations one must live them. This center is a memorial to never forget the 6 million Jews who have been killed. And not to forget the others: the non-Jews who helped the Jews, the so-called right people. For all the right people, carob trees have been planted here. For the visit, cut out at least three hours so as to enter the atmosphere of the place, perhaps by being guided by a staff member of the museum. The building (it is the most visited museum in Israel) is a sort of obstacle course: until the end of the museum (the light) there are obstacles that represent the horrors of the history of Nazism.